Funny How that Timing Worked

So if I have my facts straight, on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week The New York Times talked to our President-like Product* and asked him if, hypothetically, Mueller’s investigation of the Republican collusion with Russia were to be expanded to include Trump’s finances, would that be crossing a line?

Trump responded, with his usual thoughtless bravado, that such an expansion would indeed be crossing a line. Totally unacceptable.

Then on Thursday, it became known that Mueller has in fact extended his inquiry to include Trump’s finances. Whups!

There are a a handful of important takeaways here:

1) The NYT almost certainly already knew the investigation was expanding.
2) Trump did not know.
3) NYT was not above baiting Trump to say something he would regret later.
4) Trump is easily manipulated.
5) Trump can’t spot a trap question to save his life.
6) That same guy talks to Putin, who is no slouch at interrogation.

Number four above is the one that scares me most.

But let’s not lose perspective on the actual news. People with the power to arrest criminals are looking at Trump’s tax returns. No matter which side of the aisle you sit on, that has to be a good thing. If you believe he has nothing to hide, you will naturally embrace this chance to see him exonerated while keeping his finances private. If you think he’s up to his eyeballs in foreign entanglements, well, now’s the time to find out.

This is a good thing, as long as you believe in truth.
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* I promised, after the election, to suck it up and no longer use disparaging names for our then-president-elect. Today I was unable to live up to my own standard, so I’m calling myself out to save you the trouble.

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Je suis encore avec l’accord

Francophiles, please pardon me if the machine didn’t translate the title idiomatically, but that’s about what I would have said back in the days I was more facile with French. So it represents me. And, I have to say, it reads really well.

I am still with the Paris Accord. I will reduce my carbon footprint 25%, and I will do it long before 2025.

When it comes to carbon (and other greenhouse gasses), almost every American is in the top 1%. Because I live in a temperate climate, my greenhouse gas production is low for an American, but that doesn’t exempt me from doing what I can — directly, measurably — to reduce the damage I do. Our government has abdicated its responsibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t step up as individuals.

Fuck Washington.

If I want to reduce the harm I cause, I have to know: Where do I produce the most greenhouse gasses?

Gasoline, of course. That’s a big one. Beef, sadly, is another. Methane. I read today that Chicken is less greenhouse-gassy, as is fish. (As I type this I’m listening to the neighbor’s chickens.) Heating and Air Conditioning are a factor, even here. And then there’s just stuff. Buying things I don’t need packaged in materials that never die. Also, almost everything I use consumes electricity, and around here that mostly comes from natural gas.

It’s kind of too bad they couldn’t get nuclear right. We’ve traded the potential localized disaster of a nuke plant popping with the guaranteed global disaster of coal-generated power.

But mostly for me it’s food and transportation. And stuff. Which leads to my max-hippie-point morning:

I was delighted as I rode my bike to work today to see a farmer’s market setting up in a parking lot I ride through. An excuse to sleep an extra 30 minutes on Fridays, so it will be open when I pass through. How the veggies fare after a 15-mile ride home will have to be determined.

At the other extreme:

As soon as I get back from my 3000-mile road trip this summer, I’ll definitely cut back on the miles I drive. Definitely. Hey, I’ve got until 2025, right?

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Scientific Survey

Pharaoh heard that in his prisons there lived a man who could interpret dreams. He called for Joseph, and his soldiers brought the young man before him.

“I have had a dream,” Pharaoh said. “In my dream there are seven fat cows, and seven thin cows. The thin cows eat the fat cows but they remain thin. What does it mean?”

Joseph pondered, and quietly asked God for guidance, and said, “it means that there will be seven years of plenty, and Egypt will prosper like never before. But there will follow seven years of hardship, and unless Egypt prepares now, by saving as much of the plenty as this great nation can, there will be great suffering.”

Pharaoh nodded, seeing the wisdom of Joseph’s words. It only made sense to prepare for hard times while things were going well, even if the precision of Joseph’s prediction was questionable.

“Um… Pharaoh,” said the trusted advisor on his left, the chief architect of the pyramid project about to launch, “Seven years of plenty! That’s great! If you ignore this man’s advice, I can make the monument to you even more magnificent.”

On his right, another adviser spoke. “If bad times follow the good, it is the will of the gods. WE will survive, OUR families will not starve, even if millions of the working class who just finished your pyramid die. That, too, is the will of the gods. The workers will die happily, knowing they contributed to your eternal might.”

Joseph listened to this discourse and said, “No, seriously, It’s going to be bad. I’m 99.9% sure it’s going to be really really bad.”

“Aha!” cried the architect. “So you’re not certain!

Pharaoh looked from his advisors to Joseph and back. “Make the monument bigger,” he said.

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That Carbon Dioxide Tipping Point

I file this under politics because it is politics that is blinding us.

The oil industry* and their paid shills (known as deniers)** made a few waves recently when, in a carefully-worded survey of climate scientists, fewer than half were willing to single out carbon dioxide as the single greatest contributor to global warming.

“Half of all Scientists disagree with climate change!” was the nonsensical conclusion. A slightly-less-nonsensical conclusion was “Humans create carbon dioxide; if that’s not the primary driver of global warming, then warming is not because of humans.”

But let’s look at that for a moment. There’s another conclusion, and while it’s much more reasonable, it’s also much more scary: Carbon Dioxide isn’t the the primary driver of global warming any more. We’ve crossed a tipping point.

Meet Methane, and the point of no return.

While CO2 was the problem, there was something we could do about it: produce less CO2. Let the algae and the rain forests (whoops!) absorb the surplus back, and let our planet return to its previous equilibrium. We dithered, and denied, and the tundra began to thaw. Now the tundra is burping up enormous amounts of methane.

As a greenhouse gas, methane makes CO2 look like a punk kid with missing teeth.

So if many scientists don’t think Carbon Dioxide is the biggest contributor any more, that doesn’t mean they don’t believe the surface of our planet is getting hotter, it means that the game has changed. It means things have moved to a stage that we cannot reverse just by suddenly not being so selfish and short-sighted. It means there is nothing we can do to stop the change, and the sooner we turn our efforts to dealing with it, the less it will hurt.

But man, it’s gonna hurt.

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* shorthand for all carbon-based energy companies
** almost all the publicized climate-change deniers are on the energy company payrolls. I say “almost” only because there are probably a few who are just stupid.

Moving On

Well, Donald Trump got almost as many votes as Hillary Clinton (some people’s votes don’t count as much as others), and now he’s going to be our next president. I’m going to have to take the same advice I would have given Trump’s supporters had the election gone the other way: “Suck it up, buttercup.”

In the interest of healing a fractured nation, and focussing my resolve, I will no longer (publicly) insult Trump. I will certainly criticize flaws in his policies (should he ever articulate any policies), and I will comment on all current and new criminal investigations brought against him. But no more (public) name-calling.

The same goes for his followers. Some of them will realize, as time passes, that their jobs are NOT coming back — in fact they’re vanishing faster than ever — and the community college system they could have used to move to a new career is withering and dying. They will realize that even more people are being grievously hurt by drinking their own tap water, and that pollution from fracking is killing their children. They will notice that terrorism didn’t just vanish.

Some of the people who voted for Trump yesterday will realize that they’ve been hoodwinked, and perhaps make another decision in four years. Others will continue to blame whatever scapegoat they are handed next and respond with the logic “If Trump’s not getting it done, what we need is more Trump.”

There’s not much I can do about that latter group, but name-calling won’t help. All I can do is be civil, provide a contrast to the shouting coming out of their noise-boxes, stand up for the truth, watch out for my neighbors, and hope that after four years the thieves leave with all they can carry but don’t actually light the house on fire.

Whoops. This is going to be really difficult.

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Voted! But dang…

I sat down with my ballot and reference materials today, and went through each choice. It took a couple of hours, and only went that fast because I had read some before. Choosing the candidates was relatively easy; but this is California, and that means a host of propositions and measures to vote on, some of them interdependent. A few impressions:

  • Some are obvious rich-people-buying-legislation ploys, while others are actual power-to-the-people moves. Others are rich-people-proposing-something-that-sounds-like-the-power-to-the-people-to-confuse-voters initiatives.
  • Less confusing, but annoying, are the legislators-dodging-doing-their-own-jobs propositions.
  • And let’s not forget the complete-waste-of-time “advisory” initiative.
  • It’s often hard to vote simply on principle. I couldn’t vote on improving public transportation and non-car infrastructure without also voting to dump billions more into roads. I was given a choice of helping the homeless in a way I’m skeptical of, or doing nothing to help them (at a government level) at all.
  • Schools in California are absolutely dependent on debt. If all the bonds are rejected, will our government finally be forced to put education in the actual budget?

I can’t imagine doing something this complicated just showing up at a voting station. California’s proposition system makes voting far too complex for traditional voting methods. Fixing it will likely require a complex proposition, which will be buried on a ballot with other rival propositions designed specifically to prevent anything from changing.

Things I Would Say as a Candidate…

… and why I would never get elected.

  1. Those jobs are gone, buckaroo. They’re not coming back. Worldwide, manufacturing jobs are declining. Don’t blame the Chinese and the Mexicans, blame the robots. (Side note, this is exactly the reason we were so excited about robots forty years ago.)
  2. The retirement age has to go up. The whole idea of Social Security was sort of an enforced savings account. Regular folk didn’t have the foresight to save for the future, so the government decided to do it for them. But rather than structure it as a regular savings account they did the math assuming you would die at a certain age. As people live longer, the math has to change. No biggie, right?
  3. Except they looted Social Security anyway. The system is living hand to mouth; all those savings gone. What should be a vault with trillions of dollars instead has a slip of paper in it with the letters “IOU”. The problem is, the people who borrowed the money don’t show it as a debt on their books. As if they had no intention of paying it back. People at Enron went to jail for exactly this. The workers at Enron never recovered.
  4. Miami is fucked. So is New Orleans, and other great coastal cities. If you live in one of those places, sell now before people catch on. Where I live… borderline, but I won’t get storm surges (even when the typhoon track turns north). It is simply too late to change our energy policies enough to save those places.
  5. Oil is too damn cheap. The low price of oil damages far more than you know. Just one example: While massive boats burn incredibly dirty fuel, out-polluting entire cities to bring us cheap foreign goods, local businesses wither. You want to bring the jobs back home? Stop buying things brought to our shores for practically free, only to pay the price later when Corpus Christie is evacuated.
  6. We are in conflict with radical Islam because of oil. If we weren’t propping up dictatorships in the Middle East, if we weren’t pumping great piles of cash to some pretty terrible people, if we we weren’t knocking over governments to keep the oil flowing, we could be part of the solution, rather than the bankroll for the problem.
  7. Fracking… At the risk of harping on oil too much, the environmental free pass frackers have been given makes me sick to my stomach.
  8. Military spending should be based on effectiveness for a relevant mission. Not jobs, not kickbacks to politicians. This isn’t welfare, it’s the security of our country.
  9. Give me your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. We’re going to need those guys as we get older and Social Security goes belly-up. And maybe we take “breathing free” for granted. Ask people fleeing oppression what our nation stands for. Sometimes we forget.

There are more. I could probably say one thing a week to keep the memes humming over the course of a hopeless campaign.

There are other things I would also say, positive things, about the really great things this country is and could be. About ways to Keep America Great. Because this is a great country. We have some tough choices to make in the coming decades, and we will be challenged to overcome the sins of past leaders who dodged those questions. But if we can find a way to work harmoniously with the majority of nations on this planet who act like adults, there’s every reason to believe we can come through the coming trials intact.

We just have to stop fooling ourselves first.

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