Tag: New York Times

The aesthetic beauty of mathematics!

Sorry! Did you say the beauty of mathematics?

Those of you that read this blog fairly regularly know that from time to time I drift away from all things dog and potter in the garden of simply fascinating ideas.

Such is the case today.

It is an article on mathematics that was sent to me by Jim Goodbrod. He had read it in The New York Times in April.

Read it and see if you, too, find it as fascinating as I did!

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The World’s Most Beautiful Mathematical Equation

The most beautiful dagger of them all!

This is the wake-up call that we humans simply can’t afford to sleep through.

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This stunningly beautiful image is of an Antarctic iceberg, with a cavity. It belies the power of ice to destroy the world that we currently experience, and that “we” is not just humans but vast tracts of nature and, of course, our dogs.

So what has got “my knickers in a twist“? Answer: A reminder that the potential melting of the Antarctic ice sheet is a real and tangible threat; something that mankind has understand within the next few years.

First, let me share some of the material from the website of Antarctic Glaciers.

Ice shelves, icebergs and sea ice

Ice shelves

An ice shelf is a floating extension of land ice. The Antarctic continent is surrounded by ice shelves. They cover >1.561 million km2 (an area the size of Greenland)[1], fringing 75% of Antarctica’s coastline, covering 11% of its total area and receiving 20% of its snow.

The difference between sea ice and ice shelves is that sea ice is free-floating; the sea freezes and unfreezes each year, whereas ice shelves are firmly attached to the land. Sea ice contains icebergs, thin sea ice and thicker multi-year sea ice (frozen sea water that has survived several summer melt seasons, getting thicker as more ice is added each winter).

You can see the flat, floating ice shelf is almost featureless.
You can see this flat, floating ice shelf is almost featureless.

With this in mind, let me turn now to a recent post from Patrice Ayme in which he spells out very clearly the metaphorical dagger hanging above all our heads.

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Ice Sheets Melt: Academics Waking Up; New York Times In Denial

There has never been a more important moral, philosophical, military, civilizational, psychological, sociological and economic issue than the concerted holocaust of the biosphere by Homo Sapiens, presently passing one tipping point after another. Thus I will not present excuses for keeping abreast of any advance in understanding in the field. Even if it is just to confirm what I have long said.

The first scientific paper including computerized models of ice sheets melt predicts the obvious: if we burn all PROVEN fossil fuels reserves, ice will completely melt, all over Earth. Yet it is a big surprise to most scientists

This is humanity as a geologic force,” said Ken Caldeira, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, an author of the paper. “We’re not a subtle influence on the climate system – we are really hitting it with a hammer.”

Nice to read. Nietzsche was doing philosophy with a hammer, we went further: we are doing climate with a hammer. Hopefully, it will crack soon: nothing like a great catastrophe to bring further fascism. Nihilism is bad thing, naivety, even worse. To please the powers that be, and thus to be taken seriously, serious climate scientists have made unwarranted, profoundly unscientific, over-optimistic declarations about the ice sheets. Now their time is up. In truth the GreenHouse emissions are completely out of control, and still increasing… At a geological scale, every year:

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50 Gigatons Per Year: This GreenHouse Is Bigger Than CO2 Alone.

I didn’t expect it would go so fast,” Dr. Caldeira said. “To melt all of Antarctica, I thought it would take something like 10,000 years.” Didn’t they all. Why? Because only then would one be invited at the White House. Thinking correctly means, first, to think in a way that pleases those with power.

“Combustion of available fossil fuel resources sufficient to eliminate the Antarctic Ice Sheet” [Ricarda Winkelmann, Anders Levermann, Andy Ridgwell,, Ken Caldeira]:

“The Antarctic Ice Sheet stores water equivalent to 58 meters in global sea-level rise. We show in simulations using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model that burning the currently attainable fossil fuel resources is sufficient to eliminate the ice sheet. With cumulative fossil fuel emissions of 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC), Antarctica is projected to become almost ice-free with an average contribution to sea-level rise exceeding 3 m per century during the first millennium. Consistent with recent observations and simulations, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable with 600 to 800 GtC of additional carbon emissions. Beyond this additional carbon release, the destabilization of ice basins in both West and East Antarctica results in a threshold increase in global sea level. Unabated carbon emissions thus threaten the Antarctic Ice Sheet in its entirety with associated sea-level rise that far exceeds that of all other possible sources.”

The famous Doctor Hansen and his collaborators upset the establishment two months ago by predicting a rise of three meters within 85 years (they use the reasoning I have used before, namely that paleontological data show sea level rise of 5 to 9 meters, with a rise of just one degree Celsius; actually the reasoning was obvious since 2009, when I pointed out that “2C Is Too Much“). The new paper potentially confirms Hansen’s findings. As I said, the new paper tries to NOT upset the powers that be (differently from yours truly, who view most individuals and institutions in power more than suspiciously, and it shows). Thus, one has to read between the lines to deduce that, from the paper itself, interpreting it optimistically is completely unwarranted.

The paper says: “Consistent with recent observations and simulations, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable with 600 to 800 GtC of additional carbon emissions.” Hmm… Let’s see, how long would that take, at the present increasing rate? Now emissions of CO2 itself are around 35 Gt, per year. That’s a number often brandished, but, left at that, it’s disinformation. With other GreenHouse Gases, we are at 50 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent emission, per year. Sorry for taxing the mathematical capabilities of our great leaders: 12 x 50 = 600. This fits perfectly my “Ten Years To Catastrophe” essay. Thus, the West and EAST Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes unstable in TWELVE YEARS (according to this paper; I obtained the same rough estimate with a paleoclimate approach).

The United Nations has said that the rise of the sea would not likely exceed three feet in this century. Some island nations will be wiped out (oops). Yet experts officially hope that major cities could be protected from it, in the richest countries that is (re-oops), though at a cost in the trillions of dollars (contemplate the enormous works to protect London or Venice).

The New York Times mentioned the paper above, which say the ice sheets will start melting irreversibly within a decade, to argue, in Politically Correct fashion, that ice sheets respond slowly enough to changes in the climate that it simply takes longer than a century for large-scale melting to begin. As if that notion was in the paper. It is not. Far from it. As I have argued before, that notion is ridiculous.

Indeed, warm water will rush below the ice sheets in West Antarctica, and East Antarctica’s immense Wilkes and Aurora subglacial basins.

antarctica-subglacial-basins
Subglacial Basins Are The Achilles’ Heel Of The Biosphere.

{WAIS = West Antarctica Ice Shelf; WB = Wilkes Basin; AB = Aurora Basin.]

Yet from that (tipping) point on, the paper found that thereafter, the sea would rise at the rate at a foot per decade, ten times faster than now, the New York Times admitted.

However the real text is much more alarming. Here is an extract:

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is severely affected by high carbon emissions through both the marine ice-sheet instability and surface elevation feedbacks. On the time scale of millennia, large parts of the ice sheet melt or drain into the ocean, raising global sea level by several tens of meters. Most of the ice loss occurs within the first millennium, leading to high rates of sea-level rise during this period (Fig. 3; for more details, see also fig. S6). Our simulations show that cumulative emissions of 500 GtC commit us to long-term sea-level rise from Antarctica of 1.15 m within the next millenium, which is consistent with the sensitivity of 1.2 m/°C derived with a different ice-sheet model (33, 34). Paleo data suggest that similar rates of sea-level rise have occurred during past warm periods (35). If the 2°C target, corresponding to about 600 GtC of additional carbon release compared to year 2010, were attained, the millennial sea-level rise from Antarctica could likely be restricted to 2 m. In our simulations, this would keep the ice sheet below the threshold for the collapse of the Wilkes Basin. However, if that threshold is crossed, the Antarctic ice cover is significantly reduced in thickness and area (Fig. 4). If we were to release all currently attainable fossil fuel resources, Antarctica would become almost ice-free. It is unclear whether this dynamic discharge would be reversible and, if so, on which time scales.”

As I already said, since 2010, we have added another 230 Gigatons. So we are within eight year of the Wilkes ice sheet, the largest in the world, to become unstable. The paper admitted that about half the Antarctic ice sheet would melt or fall into the sea in the first thousand years.”

The New York Times’ interpretation that it will take nearly a century for dramatic melting to start was obviously tainted. It is just driven by political Machiavellianism: let’s admit there is climate “change” just as there is sea level “change”, and misinform about the unfolding catastrophe (although Main Stream Media had to recently admit the snow pack in California last April was the lowest in at least 500 years). How do I know this? The scientific paper used computerized models of the huge ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland. It is the first paper to do so. Yet, according to the biased New York Times, it would have found exactly what the UN found, during this century… Although the UN did not incorporate the ice sheet melt models.

Once the ice sheet melting is incorporated, faster melting ought to have been predicted, for THIS century. However that grim prediction would have upset the powers that be. We don’t want that to happen. Now that they have the drone habit, killing throngs of people they know nothing about, who knows what’s coming next if one disparages them? Beheading and crucifixion at the most esteemed Saudi plutocracy?

For plutocrats, the Saudis are a model of Human Rights: thus they elected them to head the UN panel on Human Rights. And ice sheet melting is perfect: all great catastrophes call onto what Obama calls “leaders” (our masters). If a bit of engineered inflation could bring Hitler, imagine what an inflating ocean can bring! A great future for the few who rule us, tax free.

Patrice Ayme’

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Let me close with two pictures:

sea-ice
That is a very great deal of water locked up in that ice!

and this one that shows how at least one would have a wonderful view of the sea from your room at the Boston Harbour Hotel!

The dagger has fallen!
The dagger has fallen!

 Interesting times!

Loving life unreservedly!

The appalling attitudes of those who kill wild animals for fun!

You will recall that in yesterday’s post, I referred to the fact that Jean and I are supporters of Oregon Wild. If you drop in on the OW blog, one of the items you will read is A New Year for Oregon’s Wolves.  Here’s how it starts:

Jan 12, 2015 | Rob Klavins

Photo of a young wolf from the Walla Walla Pack taken on Feb 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of ODFW.
Photo of a young wolf from the Walla Walla Pack taken on Feb 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

A new year provides opportunities for reflection – and prognostication. For wolves in Oregon, 2014 was a good year. Journey finally found his mate and Oregon continued a management paradigm where killing remained an option of last resort. The result was a small but expanding wolf population and a continued decrease in conflict.

However, it’s not an understatement to say that 2015 is poised to be among the most consequential years for Oregon’s wolf recovery since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

After a hard-fought legal settlement, Oregon’s fragile wolf recovery is back on track under the most progressive plan in the country. Though the plan is working for all but the most extreme voices, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) is re-igniting old conflicts by caving to political pressure and giving serious consideration to weakening basic protections for wolves.

Moving on but staying in theme; so to speak.

For a few months now, I have been subscribing to a blog called Exposing the Big Game.  Here’s a little from their About page.

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This blog site is a haven for wildlife and animal advocates, a wildlife refuge of sorts, that’s posted “No Hunting,” as any true sanctuary should be. Just as a refuge is patrolled to keep hunters and poachers from harassing the wildlife, this blog site is monitored to keep hunters from disturbing other people’s quiet enjoyment of the natural world.

It is not a message board or a chat room for those wanting to argue the supposed merits of animal exploitation or to defend the act of hunting or trapping in any way, shape or form. There are plenty of other sites available for that sort of thing.

Hunters and trappers: For your sake, I urge you not to bother wasting your time posting your opinions in the comments section. This blog is moderated, and pro-hunting statements will not be tolerated or approved. Consider this fair warning—if you’re a hunter, sorry but your comments are going straight to the trash can. This is not a public forum for animal exploiters to discuss the pros and cons of hunting.

We’ve heard all the rationalizations for killing wildlife so many times before; there’s no point in wasting everyone’s time with more of that old, tired hunter PR drivel. Any attempt to justify the murder of our fellow animals will hereby be jettisoned into cyberspace…

Well two days ago, Lydia Millet wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that was republished on Exposing the Big Game. It was about the American Gray Wolf.  I asked permission to republish it in full here.

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Opinion: High Noon for the Gray Wolf

By LYDIA MILLET JAN. 18, 2015

In December 2011, a wild gray wolf set foot in California, the first sighting in almost a century. He’d wandered in from Oregon, looking for a mate. In October 2014, for the first time in almost three-quarters of a century, a gray wolf was seen loping along the forested North Rim of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. She had walked hundreds of miles, probably from Wyoming or Idaho.

The return of these animals to the homes of their ancestors — however fleeting — was a result of their 40-year protection under the Endangered Species Act.

OR-7, or “Journey,” as schoolchildren named the first wolf, had been born to the Imnaha pack, the first one in Oregon for many decades. When he wandered south, his brother, OR-9, wandered east. Shortly after he crossed into Idaho (where wolves are not protected), he was shot dead. OR-7 lived on, after his repeated incursions into California (where wolves are protected), to sire a litter of pups just north of the state line. He became the subject of a documentary — in California, even a wolf can be a star.

The story of the Grand Canyon wolf, though, may be over: Three days after Christmas, it appears, she was shot and killed in Utah by a man media outlets have called a “coyote hunter.” (A DNA test is pending.)

For almost two centuries, American gray wolves, vilified in fact as well as fiction, were the victims of vicious government extermination programs. By the time the Endangered Species Act was passed, in 1973, only a few hundred of these once-great predators were left in the lower 48 states. After numerous generations of people dedicated to killing wolves on the North American continent, one generation devoted itself to letting wolves live. The animals’ number has now risen to almost 5,500, thanks to their legal protection, but they still occupy less than 5 percent of their ancient home range.

Since 1995, the act has guided efforts to raise wolves in captivity, release them, and follow them in the wild. Twenty years ago this month, the first gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park.

But this fragile progress has been undermined. Since 2011, the federal government has moved to remove federal protection for gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) and in the western Great Lakes (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan), the two population centers. Management of the species was turned over to these states, which responded with a zeal that looks like blood lust.

Relying on the greatly exaggerated excuse that wolves threaten cattle and sheep, the states opened their doors to the killing of wolves. (In some states, bait can be used to lure the animals to their deaths; in Montana, private landowners can each kill 100 wolves each year; in Wisconsin, up to six hunting dogs on a single wolf is considered fair play.) Legions of wolf killers rose to the challenge, and the toll has been devastating: In just three and a half years, at least 3,500 wolves have been mowed down.

There’s been an outcry from conservationists, ecologists and people who simply like wolves, but this has not stopped the killers. Some say wolves are a threat to their livestock investments (despite the existence of generous rancher-compensation programs in all wolf states save Alaska); others invoke fear of wolves; still others appear to revel in killing. Online, you can find pictures of wolf carcasses held up proudly as trophies and men boasting of running over wolves with their cars. Judges have started to step in. In September, a federal court decided that wolf management in Wyoming — which had allowed people to kill as many wolves as they wanted, throughout 84 percent of the state — should be returned to the federal government. In December, also in response to a lawsuit, another federal court reinstated protections for wolves in the western Great Lakes. These decisions should make clear that the states alone simply can’t be entrusted with the future of our wolves.

In Washington, the threats persist. The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a proposal that would strip federal protection from almost all gray wolves in the lower 48 states, not just the ones in the Rockies and the Midwest. Meanwhile, right-wing Republicans in the new Congress are champing at the bit to remove the wolves from protection under the act — politics trumping science.

President Obama should direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to retain protection for wolves; if it doesn’t, they could be wiped off the face of the American landscape forever. A unified wolf-recovery plan for the nation is required. Not only do wolves play an important role in keeping wilderness wild, but they were here long before we were, and deserve to remain. Not for nothing was the environmentalist Aldo Leopold transformed by the sight of a “fierce green fire” in a dying wolf’s eyes.

I’ve seen wild gray wolves only once, as they trotted across a dirt road in front of my own family car in a New Mexican forest. There were three of them on the road, no doubt a wolf family, and three of us in the car: my husband, my daughter and me. In the back seat, my little girl was engrossed in a picture book and didn’t look up fast enough. I want her to have another chance; I want her to keep living in a world where something beautiful and wild lurks at the edge of sight.

Lydia Millet is the author, most recently, of the novel “Mermaids in Paradise.”

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Going back to that blog post over on Exposing the Big Game, I was inspired by many of the comments. Here are two examples:

From Rosemary Lowe (who blogs over on EARTH for Animals)

I so agree with your comments, Roger. Here we are, staring at the Faces of Extinction, while, so-called “wildlife groups” grovel, hat in hand, to these agencies, and to the ranchers and hunters, offering yet another “collaboration” or “compromise” so we “can all work together.” I am sickened as to how many of these groups make no apology about having hunters/ranchers on their boards and on their staff. An all out War against these special interests, and their agencies does not seem to be on group’s agenda. So much has already been lost. As you stated, so little is left: the massive slaughter of native wild animals & wild habitats since the 1800’s is criminal, yet there seems to be little passion about it.

Here from Sharon Lee Davies-Tight (who blogs over on Word Warrior Davies-Tight)

Thanks for the article. Strange isn’t it – the killing spree for sport against the wolves for their predatory behavior, yet these same people aren’t calling their behavior or the behavior of hunting dogs predatory?

Finally, here’s the trailer to that film about the wolf OR7

Please do all you can to ensure that federal protection for gray wolves in all US states is maintained.

How we treat wild animals defines how we treat the planet – the only one we have!

The book! Part Four: Compassion for self.

That one can not truly love another until you love yourself is a truism that is well-known.

If only it was that simple!

As an earlier chapter, The process of change, illustrated, albeit in a anecdotal manner, loving who one is rests fundamentally on knowing who one is and that, for a sizeable chunk of people, I don’t doubt, is a significant journey of self-awareness.

Stepping lightly over that last sentence, for this section is about change in thoughts and deeds, and focussing on the title to this specific chapter, compassion for self, leads one to pause and ask two questions: exactly what do we mean by self-compassion, and how is self-compassion different to self-esteem?

To be perfectly honest, until I started thinking about the answers to those questions, the differences between self-esteem and self-compassion had previously never occurred to me in the many (too many) years of my life. Yet another surprise that has been visited upon me as a result of writing this book!

But, of course, as soon as one thinks about it, there is a difference between self-esteem and self-compassion! Almost as though the former is an outward-looking perspective of oneself and the latter is the diametric opposite; an inward-looking perspective

Or as Kristin Neff, an associate professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas, Austin, puts it in an article published online by the The Greater Good Science Center, University of California:

Most of us are incredibly hard on ourselves when we finally admit some flaw or shortcoming: “I’m not good enough. I’m worthless.”

And of course, the goalposts for what counts as “good enough” seem always to remain out of reach. No matter how well we do, someone else always seems to be doing it better. The result of this line of thinking is sobering: Millions of people need to take pharmaceuticals every day just to cope with daily life. Insecurity, anxiety, and depression are incredibly common in our society, and much of this is due to self-judgment, to beating ourselves up when we feel we aren’t winning in the game of life.

So if self-esteem is the judgement or evaluation of oneself, self-judgment in other words, and may only be measured, by definition, through comparing oneself to others, then what is self-compassion?

An article published in February, 2011 by Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times offers an insight that isn’t immediately obvious to one. It opens:

Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?

That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.

Tara Parker-Pope then refers to Professor Kristin Neff; as follows:

But Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.
I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent,” said Dr. Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin. “They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.

Fear of becoming self-indulgent restrains people from being more self-compassionate! I find that counter-intuitive but readily admit that it had never crossed my mind. The article then continues:

Imagine your reaction to a child struggling in school or eating too much junk food. Many parents would offer support, like tutoring or making an effort to find healthful foods the child will enjoy. But when adults find themselves in a similar situation — struggling at work, or overeating and gaining weight — many fall into a cycle of self-criticism and negativity. That leaves them feeling even less motivated to change.

Self-compassion is really conducive to motivation,” Dr. Neff said. “The reason you don’t let your children eat five big tubs of ice cream is because you care about them. With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.

Now that started to make sense to me. Still, if at this point in my learning journey I had been challenged to define precisely what I understood by self-compassion, I would have been bound to display some lingering uncertainties.

Therefore, how does one understand self-compassion in a clear and easily understood manner? Thank goodness for more guidance from the good Professor Neff. Back to that article published by the University of California.

As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness — that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.

Self-kindness, recognition of our common humanity and mindfulness. Wow! What a trio of wonderful components.

I took a writing break at this point and went across to our living-room where some of our dogs were larking around. To my eyes, the group of five dogs, from old man Pharaoh, he of the front cover, down to young Oliver of less than a year old, were displaying kindness for themselves, an obvious recognition of their common doggyness and what seemed to me as mindfulness!

Then when I returned to ‘the book’, I couldn’t resist Kristin Neff’s concluding words from the above-mentioned article:

An island of calm

Taken together, this research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By tapping into our inner wellsprings of kindness, acknowledging the shared nature of our imperfect human condition, we can start to feel more secure, accepted, and alive.

It does take work to break the self-criticizing habits of a lifetime, but at the end of the day, you are only being asked to relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself. It’s easier than you might think, and it could change your life.

Relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself.

Those words should be framed and hung on the walls of every house in the land.

For they provide passionate reasons for changing how we think and, inevitably, how we act.

1,185 words. Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

Running on empty!

Is it just me?

It is my usual pattern to awake around 5am, sit upright in bed and browse the latest news on my tablet computer. Jean sleeps on most times next to me.

Thus it was last Friday morning that I am sitting in bed reading the latest goings on around the world.

But, unusually, that morning’s wanderings left a bleak mark on me. See if you feel the same way when I share the stories that I read.

From Naked Capitalism.

The Tragedy of the Soma Mine-Workers: A Crime of Peripheral Capitalism Unleashed

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Yves Smith

Yves here. This post explains how the horrific mine explosion in Western Turkey, which has officially claimed nearly 300 lives as the death count continues to rise, was not an accident but the direct result of privatization and circumvention of safety standards. And unlike the West, where industrial and mining accidents are met with short-term sympathy but little if any real change in working conditions, protests have broken out, not just in the mine town of Soma but also in major cities. As Mark Ames has pointed out, American has airbrushed out much of the history of labor’s struggles for safe workplaces and better pay. Violence against efforts to organize workers was common. Henry Ford had a private army of thugs for just this purpose. The tragedy in Turkey should serve as a reminder of what has been won, and how fragile those gains are.

By Erinç Yeldan, Dean of the faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Yasar University and an executive directors of the International Development Economics Associates. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

One of the greatest work-crimes in mining industry occurred in Soma, a little mining village in Western Turkey. At noon-time on Tuesday, May 13, according to witnesses, an electrical fault triggered a transformer to explode causing a large fire in the mine, releasing carbon monoxide and gaseous fumes. (The official cause of the “accident” was still unknown, at this writing, after nearly 30 hours.) Around 800 miners were trapped 2 km underground and 4 km from the exit. At this point, the death toll has already reached 245, with reports of another 100 workers remaining in the mine, yet unreached.

Turkey has possibly the worst safety record in terms of mining accidents and explosions in Europe and the third worst in the world. Since the right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power in 2002, and up to 2011, a 40% increase in work-related accidents has been reported. The death toll from these accidents reached more than 11,000.

(Read the rest here.)

From the BBC News website:

In just over five years Britain will have run out of oil, coal and gas, researchers have warned.

A report by the Global Sustainability Institute said shortages would increase dependency on Norway, Qatar and Russia.

There should be a “Europe-wide drive” towards wind, tidal, solar and other sources of renewable power, the institute’s Prof Victor Anderson said.

The government says complete energy independence is unnecessary, says BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

The report says Russia has more than 50 years of oil, more than 100 years of gas and more than 500 years of coal left, on current consumption.

‘Decisive action’

By contrast, Britain has just 5.2 years of oil, 4.5 years of coal and three years of its own gas remaining.

France fares even worse, according to the report, with less than year to go before it runs out of all three fossil fuels.

(Read the rest here)

Again from Naked Capitalism:

UK Survey Finds High Levels of Depression and Desperation Among the Young

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Yves Smith

If you’ve been keeping half an eye on economic news, the UK has of late been looking pretty spiffy relative to its advanced economy peers, with 2014 growth forecast at 3%. Even though unemployment in the UK is at its lowest level in five years, the young and the long-term unemployed haven’t benefitted to the same degree.

One issue that doesn’t get the attention that it merits is the destructive psychological impact of being out of work. Work doesn’t just provide money, as critical as that is. It provides a way of organizing your time, social interaction, and a place in society, even if that place is not really where you’d like to be. Being unanchored is extremely taxing. Recall that the Japanese get people to quit by giving them a desk and nothing to do. The lack of legitimacy, the implicit shaming of being isolated is sufficiently punitive as to induce workers to give up their pay and being able to tell their families they have a job.

The BBC reports on the results of a survey by the Prince’s Trust called the Macquarie Youth Index, which is based on a survey of roughly 2200 16 to 25 year olds. 13% were what the survey called Neet: not in employment, education, or training.

I will return to the terrible implications of this report after I declare a past interest.  Before I left England in 2008, I was an active volunteer with the Prince’s Trust. My years of being associated with the Trust taught me that helping young persons discover their strengths, enable them to maintain and defend a positive self-image, and offer them real hope for their future lives, was and is the most important role of society; without doubt!

Now back to that report:

The survey found high levels of suicidal thoughts and self harm among this group, and high levels of stress among the young generally. Key excerpts from the article:

The report found 9% of all respondents agreed with the statement: “I have nothing to live for”…

Among those respondents classified as Neet, the percentage of those agreeing with the statement rose to 21%.

The research found that long-term unemployed young people were more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed anti-depressants.

One in three (32%) had contemplated suicide, while one in four (24%) had self-harmed.

The report found 40% of jobless young people had faced symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks, as a direct result of unemployment.

Three quarters of long-term unemployed young people (72%) did not have someone to confide in, the study found.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people.

(Read the full report here and the BBC report here.)

Then there was the report from the NASA study team that key glaciers in West Antarctica are in an irreversible retreat. First seen by me on the BBC News website, from where the following photograph was taken.

Thwaites Glacier is a huge ice stream draining into the Amundsen Bay.
Thwaites Glacier is a huge ice stream draining into the Amundsen Bay.

To really understand the message that Planet Earth is sending out to us humans, I would recommend reading Antarctica’s Glaciers Disintegrating over on Patrice Ayme’s blog.  Here’s how Patrice finishes that essay:

We imparted acceleration to the biosphere. We are pushing the biosphere around. And we know that the force we are applying is only augmenting. That means the acceleration, and even more the speed of the change, is going to get worse quick. That’s basic dynamics, first quarter of undergraduate physics.

Of course, neither the leaders of France, Great Britain, or the USA has taken such a course: they are basically ignoramuses at the helm (and Angela Merkel, who knows plenty of physics, made a risky bet she seems to be losing).

Clearly, we should instead apply the brakes to the maximum (instead of flooring the accelerator). What would be the price of this cautious? None, for common people: hard work to de-carbonize the world economy would require dozens of millions to be employed that way, in the West alone.

That, of course, is a scary thought for plutocrats, who much prefer us unemployed, impotent, and despondent.

Patrice Aymé

All of this is sending out a message. The message that if we are not very, very careful this could be the end-game for human civilisation on this Planet.

But do you know what really puzzles me?

It’s that this message is increasingly one that meets with nods of approval and words of agreement from more and more people that one sees going about one’s normal life.  Perhaps, because there’s more and more reporting from a wider and wider range of sources. Like The Permaculture Research Institute website recently publishing This Collapse is a ‘Crisis of Bigness’.  Like Grist publishing Walmart is the last place Obama should be making a clean energy speech.

Like Ian Welsh publishing Equal Rights to Profit from Impoverishing People and Causing a Great Extinction Event. Like Patrice in an essay last Friday about the way in which Main Stream Media is Manipulated. Viz:

Main Stream Media (MSM) has been the instrument of control of the People ever since there were oligarchies. It used to be about temples and priests, now it’s more about controlling papers, radio, TV, and the Internet.

and later on:

This crudeness, and vigilance of censorship by the owners [of the New York Times], is why the Obamas, Clintons, Krugmans, and Stiglitzs have to be careful. After all, they are just employees enjoying the perks of the system. Yes, they don’t own it. Ownership is everything. If the servants want to keep on thriving, those “leaders” will have to please the owners. So they “lead” where the real owners are willing us all, the herd, to be led.

Patrice rounds his essay off, thus:

The plutocracy focuses on direct control of the world imperial system, and that means controlling the giants (especially the three military leaders of the West). This is where the propaganda is the thickest.

The New York Times is considered to be the “newspaper of record” in the USA. However, the bottom line is that this is the third century during which it is owned and controlled by a particular family. How can these two elements be compatible? Why is that particular family “of record”?

Even in the Middle Ages, the most absolute kings there were, those of France, actually owned relatively little property. Francois I himself may have worn expensive clothes, but Italian bankers paid for his trips around France. Francois I did not own the media of the time.

What we have now is different. We have an ascending plutocracy that tries to grab the minds ever more. What Putin is doing in Russia is just a particular case, part of a whole.

Hopefully, people will see through this, and get their news from somewhere else than plutocratically owned media, thus bankrupting the MSM (the Internet can support journalists directly: see the successful Mediapart in France).

But I haven’t answered my earlier rhetorical question.  “But do you know what really puzzles me?” Implying that a growing number of people sense there is a problem with today’s world.

That question will be answered tomorrow. Do please return.

Different ways of looking at life.

A fascinating essay by Corey Robin

Like me, I suspect you haven’t come across this author before.  The connection for me was made by a link in Thursdays selection of Links from Naked Capitalism. It was “Socialism: Converting Hysterical Misery into Ordinary Unhappiness for a Hundred Years Corey Robin (martha r). Today’s must read.”

I was intrigued and went across to Corey Robin’s website to read the article. On the website I learnt a little more:

Corey Robin
Corey Robin – Photo by Sasha Maslov

I teach political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. I’m the author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin and Fear: The History of a Political Idea. My articles have appeared in the New York TimesHarper’s, the London Review of Books, and elsewhere. I also blog at Crooked Timber and Jacobin. I am currently working on a book about the political theory of the free market.

I live in Brooklyn with my wife, daughter, and too many cats.

So to the essay.

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Socialism: Converting Hysterical Misery into Ordinary Unhappiness for a Hundred Years

In yesterday’s New York Times, Robert Pear reports on a little known fact about Obamacare: the insurance packages available on the federal exchange have very high deductibles. Enticed by the low premiums, people find out that they’re screwed on the deductibles, and the co-pays, the out-of-network charges, and all the different words and ways the insurance companies have come up with to hide the fact that you’re paying through the nose.

For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple.

Insurers devised the new policies on the assumption that consumers would pick a plan based mainly on price, as reflected in the premium. But insurance plans with lower premiums generally have higher deductibles.

In El Paso, Tex., for example, for a husband and wife both age 35, one of the cheapest plans on the federal exchange, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has a premium less than $300 a month, but the annual deductible is more than $12,000. For a 45-year-old couple seeking insurance on the federal exchange in Saginaw, Mich., a policy with a premium of $515 a month has a deductible of $10,000.

In Santa Cruz, Calif., where the exchange is run by the state, Robert Aaron, a self-employed 56-year-old engineer, said he was looking for a low-cost plan. The best one he could find had a premium of $488 a month. But the annual deductible was $5,000, and that, he said, “sounds really high.”

By contrast, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average deductible in employer-sponsored health plans is $1,135.

It’s true that if you’re a family of three, making up to $48,825 (or, if you’re an individual, making up to $28,725), you’ll be eligible for the subsidies. Those can be quite substantive at the lower ends of the income ladder. But as you start nearing those upper limits (which really aren’t that high; below the median family income, in fact), the subsidies start dwindling. Leaving individuals and families with quite a bill, as even this post, which is generally bullish on Obamacare, acknowledges.

Aside from the numbers, what I’m always struck by in these discussions is just how complicated Obamacare is. Even if we accept all the premises of its defenders, the number of steps, details, caveats, and qualifications that are required to defend it, is in itself a massive political problem. As we’re now seeing.

More important than the politics, that byzantine complexity is a symptom of what the ordinary citizen has to confront when she tries to get health insurance for herself or her family. As anyone who has even good insurance knows, navigating that world of numbers and forms and phone calls can be a daunting proposition. It requires inordinate time, doggedness, savvy, intelligence, and manipulative charm (lest you find yourself on the wrong end of a disgruntled telephone operator). Obamacare fits right in with that world and multiplies it.

I’m not interested in arguing here over what was possible with health care reform and what wasn’t; we’ve had that debate a thousand times. But I thought it might be useful to re-up part of this post I did, when I first started blogging, on how much time and energy our capitalist world requires us to waste, and what a left approach to the economy might have to say about all that. It is this world of everyday experience—what it’s like to try and get basic goods for yourself and/or your family—that I wish the left (both liberals and leftists) was more in touch with.

The post is in keeping with an idea I’ve had about socialism and the welfare state for several years now. Cribbing from Freud, and drawing from my own anti-utopian utopianism, I think the point of socialism is to convert hysterical misery into ordinary unhappiness. God, that would be so great.

• • • • • •

There is a deeper, more substantive, case to be made for a left approach to the economy. In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives. That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.

The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts—one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government)—and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not. Indeed, if Republicans (and some Democrats) had their way, we’d never retire at all.

In real (or at least our preferred) life, we do have other, better things to do. We have books to read, children to raise, friends to meet, loved ones to care for, amusements to enjoy, drinks to drink, walks to take, webs to surf, couches to lie on, games to play, movies to see, protests to make, movements to build, marches to march, and more. Most days, we don’t have time to do any of that. We’re working way too many hours for too little pay, and in the remaining few hours (minutes) we have, after the kids are asleep, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done, we have to haggle with insurance companies about doctor’s bills, deal with school officials needing forms signed, and more.

What’s so astounding about Romney’s proposal—and the neoliberal worldview more generally—is that it would just add to this immense, and incredibly shitty, hassle of everyday life. One more account to keep track of, one more bell to answer. Why would anyone want to live like that? I sure as hell don’t know, but I think that’s the goal of the neoliberals: not just so that we’re more responsible with our money, but also so that we’re more consumed by it: so that we don’t have time for anything else. Especially anything, like politics, that would upset the social order as it is.

…We saw a version of it during the debate on Obama’s healthcare plan. I distinctly remember, though now I can’t find it, one of those healthcare whiz kids—maybe it was Ezra Klein—tittering on about the nifty economics and cool visuals of Obama’s plan: how you could go to the web, check out the exchange, compare this little interstice of one plan with that little interstice of another, and how great it all was because it was just so fucking complicated.

I thought to myself: you’re either very young or an academic. And since I’m an academic, and could only experience vertigo upon looking at all those blasted graphs and charts, I decided whoever it was, was very young. Only someone in their 20s—whipsmart enough to master an inordinately complicated law without having to make real use of it—could look up at that Everest of words and numbers and say: Yes! There’s freedom!

That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race.

That’s not what the left wants. We want to give people the chance to do something else with their lives, something besides merely tending to it, without having to take a 30-year detour on Wall Street to get there. The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more.

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Heads I win: Tails you lose!

How the foreclosure crisis was a boon for the super wealthy.

For some time now, must be quite a few years, I have subscribed to Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism blog.  I do so for a number of reasons.

Thus it was that a few days ago I read with a mixture of anger and disgust an article about the consequences of the foreclosure crisis on the wealthy.  Within a few hours of me requesting by email permission to republish that article on Learning from Dogs came the reply from Yves granting such permission.

Try not to get too angry!

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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2013

How the Foreclosure Crisis Made the Rich Even Richer

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It’s a welcome departure to see Adam Davidson’s weekly column in the New York Times, which usually puts a happy face on how the 1% are winning the class war in America, have a guest writer look at the other side of the story.

Catherine Rampell has a short but compelling piece on how the foreclosure crisis was wealth transfer from lower and middle income families to the rich. Her points are simple: the typical person who lost their home wasn’t a greedhead who bought too much house or refied to buy flat panel TVs and go on cruises (if you hang out with mortgage types, you’ll get a big dose of profligate consumer urban legend). The people who were like that (and there were some) for the most part were in subprime loans that reset in 2007 and 2008 and were in the early wave of foreclosures. The people who’ve lost their homes in later foreclosures were overwhelmingly people who had the bad fortune to buy late in the housing bubble (so when the bust hit, they had negative equity and couldn’t use lower rates to refi into cheaper payments) and took economic hits as a direct result of the crisis (hours cuts and job losses; other people who were hurt were in the more typical “shit happens” categories, like suffering medical problems, with their situation made much worse by their inability to sell or refinance their home).

Rampell’s contribution is to look at the phenomenon of investors, both big and small, and how they’ve bought properties at foreclosure and then flipped them. Separately, Josh Rosner recently released the astonishing statistic: that sales of owner-occupied properties showed only a 1% gain in the last 12 months. The gains that have been driving the indexes were all in investor owned properties. Some flipped to other investors. In hot markets, local investors have been doing “mini-bulks,” acquiring small portfolios to sell to private equity investors, some without renovating them, others with modest fix-ups. Others sold them to homebuyers.

Rampell uses the example of a couple who believed that renting was throwing away their money, and had the bad luck to buy a moderately-priced fixer-upper in early 2007. Each wage earner saw their income drop and unable to get a loan modification, they lost their home. Their $309,000 Seattle home went to an investor for $155,000 in the summer of 2011. That investor just sold it to a homeowner for $290,000, not far below what the hapless couple paid for it. But the new buyer paid all cash.

Rampell tells us:

Of the 87,062 foreclosures in the last five years that were bought by corporate investors and have been flipped, about a quarter were sold for at least $100,000 more than what the investor originally paid, according to [an online real estate listings site] Redfin (Although it’s impossible to know how much investors spent on upgrades or renovations.)….

The boom-bust-flip phenomenon is just one of the most obvious ways that research suggests the financial crisis has benefited the upper class while brutalizing the middle class. Rents have risen at twice the pace of the overall cost-of-living index, partly because middle-class families can’t get the credit they need to buy. That means “landlords can raise rents with impunity,” says Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin. And according to a report by David Autor, the M.I.T. economist, job losses during and after the recession were concentrated in midskilled and midwage jobs, like white-collar sales, office and administrative jobs; and blue-collar production, craft, repair and operative jobs. Employment for higher-skilled workers, on the other hand, has grown substantially.

There is a second way foreclosures have served as a wealth transfer to the capitalist classes. Foreclosures don’t necessarily result in evictions. Banks often leave properties in a “zombie” state, starting foreclosures but not completing them, leaving the owner who thought he was foreclosed on still on the hook for property taxes. Another variant which is much less damaging is to leave the homeowner in place. I recently met an investor who is acquiring homes in Atlanta. The day after he buys a house, he goes to introduce himself to the former homeowner to see if he can work out a deal to keep them in place as tenant. In the overwhelming majority of cases, he can. “They were paying $1100 on their mortgage and the bank wouldn’t give them a mod. I’ll let them rent for $700, which is way above what they’d have gotten if they wrote the principal down to the price at which I bought the house. And I tell the tenants I’d be happy to sell the home to them.” We didn’t discuss details, but it sounded as if he’d be willing to structure rent to own deals (where part of the rent would go to a down payment on the house).

He was clear that his business depended on what he saw as value destroying behavior by banks. He described how he’d recently bought a home and when he went for his usual visit to the house, a well-dressed black man met him and invited him in, saying he’d be out in 30 days and assumed it wasn’t a problem. The new owner saw the house was in impeccable shape. He chatted with the owner a bit and found out he was a bodybuilder with a high-end training business. He asked the homeowner: “You look like you take good care of yourself and the house. You’d been paying on time. What happened?”

The trainer told him that he’d bought the house at the peak of the cycle for $160,000. The house was clearly now worth way less. He tried to get the bank to modify it to a principal balance of $100,000. The bank wouldn’t consider it. “So I bought a house which is comparable to this one for $50,000 and gave this one up.”

In this case, the homeowner had enough cash to arbitrage himself. The investor told me he’d bought the foreclosed home for $40,000. Had the bank cut a deal for $100,000 (and who knows, the homeowner might have accepted a higher number), it would have come out way ahead. But that also assumes that the bank owned the mortgage. It’s pretty much a given that the bank was a servicer, and as we’ve seen again and again, servicers don’t have the incentives or the infrastructure to do mods. So investor in the mortgages lose, homeowners lose. The winners are the banks as inefficient looters (the money they skim off the servicing is chump change relative to the damage done by negligent and predatory servicing) and the investors who profit by picking up the pieces. This is isn’t a well-functioning economic system, it’s rentier capitalism. And it’s looking more and more like a doomsday machine for what remains of the middle class.

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Can’t add anything polite to this!  Except, to say it’s a very long way from integrity!

Our broken ways.

Our many broken ways!

Introspection warning! Long rant from me!

On the 21st., I published a post Be in peace this day! It was noting this year’s International Peace Day.  One of the comments left by Patrice Ayme, in response to an earlier comment from Alex Jones, was this:

Alex: I read your message, and I approve it. Very well put. As Lord Keynes said: ”In the end, we are all dead.” Death seems pretty violent to me. Yet, one can live with it, and embrace it, because, as there is no choice, we may as well.

War is not anymore a problem than peace is. What matters most is the harmony of the society with the environment, not strife within. Plutocrats have unbalanced the environment, so they should be reduced, and that means war, because peace certainly will not reduce them.

Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.

To which I replied:

Patrice, as much as I deeply respect your intellect, I fundamentally am at odds with the sentiments you express. But rather than hide behind a short reply that few will read and even fewer take notice of, I’m going to write a post exploring my reactions in detail. As always, your comments are welcomed.

This, then, is that post.

But where oh where to start?  Perhaps by me setting out this general premise.

Wherever one looks, it seems there are examples of madness bordering on the criminally insane.

In so many ways and at so many levels we are running the very real risk that by 2050 the end of this present era of human civilisation by the end of the century will be unavoidable.  Ergo: Born after 1980? Then brace yourself for the end times.

The only solution is to adopt the core values of humanity.  Very soon!

So on to a few examples of the present madness (and I would be the first to admit that I am, perhaps prejudicially, inclined to see the darkness of our present times).

First: Climate Change

The recent IPCC report made it clear that climate change is most likely a result of man’s activities on this planet.  As the summary for policy makers says (selected extracts):

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

and

Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.

and [my emboldening]

Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes (Figure SPM.6 and Table SPM.1). This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

George Monbiot in his blog on The Guardian newspaper, wrote:

Former Irish President, Mary Robinson.
Former Irish President, Mary Robinson.

But denial is only part of the problem. More significant is the behaviour of powerful people who claim to accept the evidence. This week the former Irish president Mary Robinson added her voice to a call that some of us have been making for years: the only effective means of preventing climate breakdown is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Press any minister on this matter in private and, in one way or another, they will concede the point. Yet no government will act on it.

As if to mark the publication of the new report, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now plastered a giant poster across its ground-floor windows: “UK oil and gas: Energising Britain. £13.5bn is being invested in recovering UK oil and gas this year, more than any other industrial sector.”

The message couldn’t have been clearer if it had said “up yours”. It is an example of the way in which all governments collaborate in the disaster they publicly bemoan. They sagely agree with the need to do something to avert the catastrophe the panel foresees, while promoting the industries that cause it.

It doesn’t matter how many windmills or solar panels or nuclear plants you build if you are not simultaneously retiring fossil fuel production. We need a global programme whose purpose is to leave most coal and oil and gas reserves in the ground, while developing new sources of power and reducing the amazing amount of energy we waste.

But, far from doing so, governments everywhere are still seeking to squeeze every drop out of their own reserves, while trying to secure access to other people’s. As more accessible reservoirs are emptied, energy companies exploit the remotest parts of the planet, bribing and bullying governments to allow them to break open unexploited places: from the deep ocean to the melting Arctic.

And the governments who let them do it weep sticky black tears over the state of the planet.

The BBC News website published some reactions from notable people.  Take this one:

Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester

What has changed significantly since the last report is that we have pumped an additional 200 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Annual emissions are now 60% higher than at the time of the first report in 1990 and atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest they have been for over two million years.

So what are we doing in the UK to help reverse this reckless growth in emissions? Record levels of investment in North Sea oil, tax breaks for shale gas, investment in oil from tar sands and companies preparing to drill beneath the Arctic.

Against this backdrop, the UK Treasury is pushing for over 30 new gas power stations, whilst the government supports further airport expansion and has dropped its 2030 decarbonisation target – all this alongside beleaguered plans for a few wind farms and weak energy efficiency measures. Governments, businesses and high-emitting individuals around the world now face a stark choice: to reduce emissions in line with the clear message of the IPCC report, or continue with their carbon-profligate behaviour at the expense of both climate-vulnerable communities and future generations.

OK, let’s move to another example of our collective madness.

Second: The way we treat the natural wildlife.

Last Thursday, the New York Times published an item about a recent report confirming the terrible cost to our wildlife of fragmenting their habitat.  Here are the opening paragraphs, including the leading photograph in that NYT piece.

In Fragmented Forests, Rapid Mammal Extinctions

27zimmer-articleLarge-1
An isolated forest in the Chiew Larn reservoir. A Thai government project to supply hydroelectric power to the area transformed 150 forested hilltops into islands. ANTONY LYNAM
By CARL ZIMMER
September 26, 2013

In 1987, the government of Thailand launched a huge, unplanned experiment. They built a dam across the Khlong Saeng river, creating a 60-square-mile reservoir. As the Chiew Larn reservoir rose, it drowned the river valley, transforming 150 forested hilltops into islands, each with its own isolated menagerie of wildlife.

Conservation biologists have long known that fragmenting wilderness can put species at risk of extinction. But it’s been hard to gauge how long it takes for those species to disappear. Chiew Larn has given biologists the opportunity to measure the speed of mammal extinctions. “It’s a rare thing to come by in ecological studies,” said Luke Gibson, a biologist at the National University of Singapore.

Over two decades, Dr. Gibson and his colleagues have tracked the diversity of mammals on the islands. In Friday’s issue of the journal Science, they report that the extinctions have turned out to be distressingly fast.

“Our results should be a warning,” said Dr. Gibson. “This is the trend that the world is going in.”

On a similar theme, many will recall my post back on the 19th, Pity the bees; pity us when I drew attention to the drastic reduction in the numbers of wild bees, including the quote  “the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.

Guard their future - and ours!
Guard their future – and ours!

Third: Money and power.

Again from The New York Times but this time an essay by Paul Krugman.

OP-ED COLUMNIST

Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted

By 

Published: September 26, 2013

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group, said something stupid the other day. And we should be glad, because his comments help highlight an important but rarely discussed cost of extreme income inequality — namely, the rise of a small but powerful group of what can only be called sociopaths.

For those who don’t recall, A.I.G. is a giant insurance company that played a crucial role in creating the global economic crisis, exploiting loopholes in financial regulation to sell vast numbers of debt guarantees that it had no way to honor. Five years ago, U.S. authorities, fearing that A.I.G.’s collapse might destabilize the whole financial system, stepped in with a huge bailout. But even the policy makers felt ill used — for example, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, later testified that no other episode in the crisis made him so angry.

And it got worse. For a time, A.I.G. was essentially a ward of the federal government, which owned the bulk of its stock, yet it continued paying large executive bonuses. There was, understandably, much public furor.

So here’s what Mr. Benmosche did in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: He compared the uproar over bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South — the real kind, involving murder — and declared that the bonus backlash was “just as bad and just as wrong.”

OK, that’s enough ‘copying’ from me so please go and read more about the plight of those poor billionaires.  But if the NYT and Paul Krugman will forgive me, here’s the paragraph towards the end of the Krugman essay that makes me sick [my emboldening]:

The thing is, by and large, the wealthy have gotten their wish. Wall Street was bailed out, while workers and homeowners weren’t. Our so-called recovery has done nothing much for ordinary workers, but incomes at the top have soared, with almost all the gains from 2009 to 2012 going to the top 1 percent, and almost a third going to the top 0.01 percent — that is, people with incomes over $10 million.

(Patrice Ayme has a parallel essay over at his blog.)

Staying with the struggles of our billionaires for a moment longer, try the recent report on Bloomberg about the recent Monaco Yacht Show that included this:

As the yacht size has stretched — this year saw the launch of a record-holding 590-footer called the Azzam — so has the list of distractions onboard. Soaking in a jacuzzi, shooting hoops on a floating court or playing a baby grand Steinway piano no longer cut it.

“There is a change in attitude of super-yacht owners,” said Bert Houtman, founder and chairman of the Netherlands-based U-Boat Worx, surveying two of his submarine models on display quai-side in Monaco. “They’re fed up with drinking white wine and riding jet skis so they’re looking for another thrill.”

later including:

“A lot of guys who are billionaires have profound financial accomplishments and are now concerned about their legacy,” said Deppe. (Marc Deppe, Triton Subs vice-president of sales and marketing.)

It’s enough to make one weep!

Fourth: Politicians and governments not serving their peoples.

Making this my last example.  Simply because a recent item published on Naked Capitalism had so much detail on what is wrong with our leaders; in this particular case regarding the American Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This is how the article opens:

ObamaCare’s shameful and lethal three-year history — and future

Many people, and especially Obama supporters, characterize the ACA (ObamaCare) as “just starting” or a “work in progress” and then go on to urge that the program will have “glitches,” needs to be “tweaked,” isn’t yet “fully implemented,” and so forth. We think it’s a mistake to see the ACA as just starting. We also think it’s a mistake not to weigh the costs of ObamaCare’s stately three-year progress toward partial coverage for the the American people, and just as important to weigh the opportunity costs.

The ACA was passed in March 2010, incorporating many features designed to meet Republican objections to the Bill. Yet, in the end, Democrats never put Medicare for All on the table, abandoned the public option and many other features, and did not get a single Republican vote in either chamber.

The Democrats even saw to it that the bill was fiscally neutral over a 10 year projection at a time when the tanked economy needed more deficit spending and the jobs that would have brought. And to do that, they postponed implementation of most of the bill for more than three years, until now, allowing people to go without care, to die, to divorce, and to lose their homes or go bankrupt due to medical bills, just so they could argue that the bill was fiscally neutral. In gauging the record of the bill, these 3 to 3.5 years of waiting for its implementation and their real costs to the people of the United States must be taken into account.

It also must be taken into account that in the year before the ACA was passed there were some 45 million Americans uninsured, and they were dying at the rate of 1,000 more for every million than in the general population. That is, lack of insurance was causing more than 45,000 fatalities per year. (The cost of those deaths in money terms: $1.38 trillion).

This is how the article closes [my emphasis]:

That’s what we’ve lost by not trying to pass HR 676 and by trying instead to take a bipartisan insurance company conciliation approach to passing the ACA. This post, gives the total for the anticipated opportunity cost by comparing Romney’s 2012 alternative to the ACA, the baseline of no reform at all, the ACA, and Medicare for All over the period 2010 – 2022. Bottom line: the ACA is projected to cost 286,500 lives through 2022, assuming no change. That’s a lot better than the baseline and a lot better than Romney’s 2012 alternative. But it’s still terrible compared to what we might have had if we had a President who really represented people rather than Wall Street.

What if an effort to pass HR 676 had failed in 2009 because too many Democrats in the Senate defected to pass it? Well, I think this would have been very unlikely with the very large Democratic majority and the popularity of the president at its height, but even if it would have failed, then the Democrats could still have compromised with members of their party to pass enhanced Medicare for All for everyone under 26 and over 45, or under 26 and over 50, or whatever compromise would have moved those wayward Democrats up to the 50 vote mark. Such a compromise bill would still have lowered the fatalities substantially by providing insurance for those who needed it most and by enhancing the Medicare program for seniors (full coverage and no co-pays). It would also have been something Democrats could have run on and built upon in each successive election year, rather than having to defend the sorry ACA with its package of inadequate goodies, silly mandate, IRS enforcement, high cost for lousy coverage, and Rube Goldberg eligibility determination. Again there would have been no Tea Party, because Tea Partiers like Medicare, and there would have been no Republican nationwide sweep in 2010, no gerrymandering, no voter suppression, no anti-woman bills, and none of all the rest of the nonsense we’ve seen because the Democrats did what they did.

Earlier in the post I offered a general premise that included, “Wherever one seems to look there are examples of madness bordering on the criminally insane.

To my mind, these examples support that premise. Trust me, there are countless more examples.

So what to do?  Because I am fundamentally at odds with the sentiment expressed by Patrice Ayme; “Force is the truth of man. Everything else is delusion, even the vegetarian style.

The answer takes us to tomorrow’s post, A return to integrity.

And, yes, it does mention dogs!  Rather a lot as it happens!

The growth of empathy.

As they say in the old country, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow anyone any good!

So often when I stare at the screen wondering just what on earth to write about, along comes something to fire me up.

In this case, it was a small clutch of disconnected items that seemed to have a common thread for me.

The first was reading the links in this morning’s Naked Capitalism summary and seeing this:

The REAL Fukushima Danger

Posted on September 14, 2013 by WashingtonsBlog

The Real Problem …

The fact that the Fukushima reactors have been leaking huge amounts of radioactive water ever since the 2011 earthquake is certainly newsworthy.  As are the facts that:

But the real problem is that the idiots who caused this mess are probably about to cause a much biggerproblem.

Specifically, the greatest short-term threat to humanity is from the fuel pools at Fukushima.

If one of the pools collapsed or caught fire, it could have severe adverse impacts not only on Japan … but the rest of the world, including the United States.   Indeed, a Senator called it a national security concern for the U.S.:

The radiation caused by the failure of the spent fuel pools in the event of another earthquake could reach the West Coast within days. That absolutely makes the safe containment and protection of this spent fuel a security issue for the United States.

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen and physician Helen Caldicott have both said that people should evacuate the Northern Hemisphere if one of the Fukushima fuel pools collapses. Gundersen said:

Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.

Former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura calls removing the radioactive materials from the Fukushima fuel pools “an issue of human survival”.

So the stakes in decommissioning the fuel pools are high, indeed.

But in 2 months, Tepco – the knuckleheads who caused the accident – are going to start doing this very difficult operation on their own.

The New York Times reports:

Thousands of workers and a small fleet of cranes are preparing for one of the latest efforts to avoid a deepening environmental disaster that has China and other neighbors increasingly worried: removing spent fuel rods from the damaged No. 4 reactor building and storing them in a safer place.

The Telegraph notes:

Tom Snitch, a senior professor at the University of Maryland and with more than 30 years’ experience in nuclear issues, said  “[Japan officials] need to address the real problems, the spent fuel rods in Unit 4 and the leaking pressure vessels,” he said. “There has been too much work done wiping down walls and duct work in the reactors for any other reason then to do something….  This is a critical global issue and Japan must step up.”

Apologies, that’s more than sufficient to ruin your day!  If you really want to read to the end, the item is here.

However, the next item carries a much more positive thread.  It was an essay that was highlighted on Linked-In back in June.

The Number One Job Skill in 2020

What’s the crucial career strength that employers everywhere are seeking — even though hardly anyone is talking about it? A great way to find out is by studying this list of fast-growing occupations, as compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sports coaches and fitness trainers. Massage therapists, registered nurses and physical therapists. School psychologists, music tutors, preschool teachers and speech-language pathologists. Personal financial planners, chauffeurs and private detectives. These are among the fields expected to employ at least 20% more people in the U.S. by 2020.

Did you notice the common thread? Every one of these jobs is all about empathy.

In our fast-paced digital world, there’s lots of hand-wringing about the ways that automation and computer technology are taking away the kinds of jobs that kept our parents and grandparents employed. Walk through a modern factory, and you’ll be stunned by how few humans are needed to tend the machines. Similarly, travel agents, video editors and many other white-collar employees have been pushed to the sidelines by the digital revolution’s faster and cheaper methods.

But there’s no substitute for the magic of a face-to-face interaction with someone else who cares. Even the most ingenious machine-based attempts to mimic human conversation (hello, Siri) can’t match the emotional richness of a real conversation with a real person.

Coincidentally, that thought about the ‘magic of a face-to-face interaction’ really echoed in me.  Why?  Because, I was ruminating on the wonderful world of human interaction this world of blogging delivers.  It seems to combine all the benefits of meeting real people with a global consciousness of those same real people spread way beyond our own local domains.

Hence  the reason why I offer the next seemingly unrelated item. The recent post from Sue Dreamwallker that I am republishing in full.

A Big Thank You to you ALL.

by Sue Dreamwalker

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This is just a short post to say a Big thank you to all of my readers and to those who visit regular and comment upon my posts. You Bring with you such light and encouragement, and I often at a loss to say how much your kind support means.

I logged onto my Blog today and discover that my readership has swelled to 400 followers and so I just want to say a Big thank you for all of my oldest friends who have been with me since my beginnings of Windows Live Spaces days when I started in 2007, My first real post after transferring was called Finding Answers  here on WordPress.  And I remember well spending the best part of a Day getting to know and personalise my header  and  Blog back then as everything was alien that day was in Oct 2010.  A move I am so pleased to have made, as I just love the W.P. Community of friends we have gathered here and whom I have got to know and love.

And I just want to say a big thank you to all of my newest arrivals who have clicked the follow button.. I hope to get around to discovering your blogs as soon as time allows.And to say thank you to my email subscribers also.. And Welcome, I hope you enjoy my thoughts and if not please don’t be shy to air your opinions for that’s how we grow and learn by sharing knowledge and understanding.

Today I just want to post what I have been up to in recent days besides  the ‘Day-job’ in picture format.. So if you click the photos, you should be able to read more in the caption headings.. [Photos available on Sue’s blogsite.]

Take care all of you and I have a busy week a head in my Day Job, so I will catch you when I can…

Love and Blessings

~Sue~

Still the resonances continued.  For Rebecca Solnit published yesterday an incredibly powerful essay over on TomDispatch.  It was called Victories Come in All Sizes.  As always, Tom writes a wonderful introduction.  Let me skip to Rebecca’s opening paragraphs.

Joy Arises, Rules Fall Apart 
Thoughts for the Second Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street 
By Rebecca Solnit

I would have liked to know what the drummer hoped and what she expected. We’ll never know why she decided to take a drum to the central markets of Paris on October 5, 1789, and why, that day, the tinder was so ready to catch fire and a drumbeat was one of the sparks.

To the beat of that drum, the working women of the marketplace marched all the way to the Palace of Versailles, a dozen miles away, occupied the seat of French royal power, forced the king back to Paris, and got the French Revolution rolling. Far more than with the storming of the Bastille almost three months earlier, it was then that the revolution was really launched — though both were mysterious moments when citizens felt impelled to act and acted together, becoming in the process that mystical body, civil society, the colossus who writes history with her feet and crumples governments with her bare hands.

She strode out of the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City during which parts of the central city collapsed, and so did the credibility and power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI that had ruled Mexico for 70 years. She woke up almost three years ago in North Africa, in what was called the Arab Spring, and became a succession of revolutions and revolts still unfolding across the region.

Such transformative moments have happened in many times and many places — sometimes as celebratory revolution, sometimes as terrible calamity, sometimes as both, and they are sometimes reenacted as festivals and carnivals. In these moments, the old order is shattered, governments and elites tremble, and in that rupture civil society is born — or reborn.

It really is an essay that you need to read in full.

However, this further extract covering the closing paragraphs explains why it resonated so strongly with me in terms of the rising consciousness of all the millions of ordinary people just trying to leave the world in a better place:

Part of what gave Occupy its particular beauty was the way the movement defined “we” as the 99%.  That (and that contagious meme the 1%) entered our language, offering a way of imagining the world so much more inclusive than just about anything that had preceded it. And what an inclusive movement it was: the usual young white suspects, from really privileged to really desperate, but also a range of participants from World War II to Iraq War veterans to former Black Panthers, from libertarians to liberals to anarchist insurrectionists, from the tenured to the homeless to hip-hop moguls and rock stars.

And there was so much brutality, too, from the young women pepper-sprayed at an early Occupy demonstration and the students infamously pepper-sprayed while sitting peacefully on the campus of the University of California, Davis, to the poet laureate Robert Hass clubbed in the ribs at the Berkeley encampment, 84-year-old Dorli Rainey assaulted by police at Occupy Seattle, and the Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen whose skull was fractured by a projectile fired by the Oakland police. And then, of course, there was the massive police presence and violent way that in a number of cities the movement’s occupiers were finally ejected from their places of “occupation.”

Such overwhelming institutional violence couldn’t have made clearer the degree to which the 1% considered Occupy a genuine threat. At the G-20 economic summit in 2011, the Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said, “The reward system of shareholders and managers of financial institution[s] should be changed step by step. Otherwise the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ slogan will become fashionable in all developed countries.” That was the voice of fear, because the realized dreams of the 99% are guaranteed to be the 1%’s nightmares.

We’ll never know what that drummer girl in Paris was thinking, but thanks to Schneider’s meticulous and elegant book, we know what one witness-participant was thinking all through the first year of Occupy, and what it was like to be warmed for a few months by that beautiful conflagration that spread across the world, to be part of that huge body that wasn’t exactly civil society, but something akin to it, perhaps in conception even larger than it, as Occupy encampments and general assemblies spread from Auckland to Hong Kong, from Oakland to London in the fall of 2011. Some of them lasted well into 2012, and others spawned things that are still with us: coalitions and alliances and senses of possibility and frameworks for understanding what’s wrong and what could be right. It was a sea-change moment, a watershed movement, a dream realized imperfectly (because only unrealized dreams are perfect), a groundswell that remains ground on which to build.

On the second anniversary of that day in lower Manhattan when people first sat down in outrage and then stayed in dedication and solidarity and hope, remember them, remember how unpredictably the world changes, remember those doing heroic work that you might hear little or nothing about but who are all around you, remember to hope, remember to build. Remember that you are 99% likely to be one of them and take up the burden that is also an invitation to change the world and occupy your dreams.

Rebecca Solnit, author most recently of The Faraway Nearby spent time at Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland, and Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and wrote about Occupy often for TomDispatch in 2011-2012. This essay is adapted from her introduction to Nathan Schneider’s new book, Thank You, Anarchy (University of California Press).

Copyright 2013 Rebecca Solnit

The final element was from an email yesterday in from Chris Snuggs.  Chris has previously written guest posts on Learning from Dogs, the last one being In Defence of Politics back on July 8th.  In that email was the following photograph.

"You touch my mate and I'll have ya."
“You touch my mate and I’ll have ya.”

Let me draw out the thread that I saw in all these items.

That is that the 1% that Rebecca Solnit wrote about are incredibly powerful people, with access to more power, money and control than one can even imagine.  But what that 1% cannot control is the growing consciousness, the growing mindfulness and awareness of millions of people across this planet that something as simple and pure and beautiful as unconditional love will conquer all.

The most fundamental lesson that we can learn from dogs!

The King of dogs.

A reflection on the history of the German Shepherd dog.

Yesterday’s account of getting to know GSD Duke a little better caused me to find a post that had been sitting in my Drafts folder for a couple of years.  It was about a piece published in The New York Times, Sunday Review, October 8th, 2011 under the heading of Why German Shepherds Have Had Their Day.

Why German Shepherds Have Had Their Day

By SUSAN ORLEAN

SUCCESS can be a drag. You yearn for it, strive for it, and then, when it finally arrives, it sets off repercussions you never anticipated that sometimes undo that success.

Take the German shepherd. Originally bred to the exacting standards of a German cavalry officer, it became one of the 20th century’s most popular working breeds. But in recent years that popularity, and the overbreeding that came with it, has driven the German shepherd into eclipse: even the police in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who had relied on the dogs for years, recently announced they were replacing them with Belgian Malinois, because the less-popular Malinois were hardier and more reliable.

But there is good news about this bad news, if you are a lover of the breed, because less visibility, especially in inspiring roles as public servants, is likely to mean less demand for the dogs. That means less reason to produce too many puppies, which is the best thing that can happen to any purebred dogs.

The article continued with the history of the breed.  But rather than stay with the NYT piece, for more about the breed history I’m going to cross over to the website of the British charity, German Shepherd Dog Rescue (GSDR). They have a comprehensive account of the History and Origins of the Breed.

History and Origins of the German Shepherd Dog

A brief insight into the development of the breed

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The German Shepherd breed appeared late at the end of the 19th century in Germany and they were first exhibited at a show in Hanover in 1882. They were not like German Shepherds as we know them today though being rough coated, short tailed and rather resembling mongrels. The German Shepherd Dog as we now know it didn’t really appear until after the Second World War.

The breed was actually created by the cross breeding of working sheep dogs from rural Germany by an ex cavalry officer called Max von Stephanitz whose aim was to create a working dog for herding which could trot for long periods.

A breed standard was drawn up and the first breed show took place in 1899 following which the GSD became firmly established across Germany. In 1906 the first dogs were exported to the USA .

Since then, the breed has grown enormously in popularity and is now one of the most popular pedigree breeds in the UK as a pet as well as being the favourite working breed for many forces, especially the police. They are widely used for security purposes because of their strong protective instincts.

Many people in the UK still call these dogs Alsatians which may partly be due to the fact that when they were first bred, the Alsace region of France, where these dogs were very popular, was part of Germany . I still get people who think that Alsatians are the traditional short coat black and tan dogs and that German Shepherds are the long coated dogs that have become popular.

GSD’s make wonderful family pets and will protect family and home.

These dogs are highly intelligent and will show undying devotion to their master but they are dogs that need company and stimulation to be at their best. It is however, important to remember that this is a working breed and that they do have certain characteristics that some people might find difficult to live with. The German Shepherd should be steady, loyal, self assured, courageous and willing and should not be nervous over aggressive or shy. Nervous aggression is something that we are now seeing more often as a result of bad breeding. It is sad but there has always been indiscriminate breeding of German Shepherds right from the start, which has lead to problems with temperament and health.

Before leaving the GSDR website, please read more about this important charity, “We are one of the longest standing and largest German Shepherd rescues in the UK.” and if there is any way at all that you can help, please, please, please!  (And fellow bloggers, consider a post spreading the word about this wonderful charity and these most magnificent of dogs.)

So a few memories of German Shepherds closer to home.

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Young Pharaoh 12th August, 2003 when he was just 10 weeks old.

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We are friends for life! Each for the other.

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Pharaoh, ten-years-old, and King of his Castle!  Taken on the 3rd June, 2013 at our home in Oregon.

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 The arrival of young Cleo!

I suspect Pharaoh is explaining to Cleo that there’s only rule of the house – his rule!

Picture taken April 7th, 2012

Little Sweeny and Cleo

From puppy to Big Dog!  Cleo resting where she shouldn’t be! February, 2013.

What magnificent animals they are!