Thursday, December 8, 2016

How much does beef production contribute to global warming?

From Quora: I was surprised when I was attacked for saying that beef production contributes to global warming worldwide. The attacks came in the form of misinformation, primarily from a white paper by Frank Mitloehner, a professor at UC Davis. Mitloehner’s opinions are published in the form of a white paper, not an article in a peer-reviewed journal. But a group of scientists from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has provided a detailed response that fills in some of the details that Mitloehner omitted from his paper.
In looking over their response, I find their points well-taken. Mitloehner concentrates on improvements the meat industry has made in their production methods over the past 50–70 years. But these improvements do not address major problems that will always exist in an industry that slaughters 15 billion animals each year (total of all animals, including chickens).
The US meat industry fails to account for the fact that the US imports large quantities of beef from overseas. Thus, some of the efficiencies claimed by the industry merely result from the export of problems—such as emissions from deforestation and feed-crop production—to other countries. The US currently imports about 2 billion pounds of beef annually.
Mitloehner’s figure of 4.2% greenhouse gas emissions resulting from livestock refers to US figures and doesn't represent the true scale of the problem. GHG is a world-wide problem where it is impossible to separate the US contribution from the rest of the world. World-wide, animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of GHG, while world-wide production of GHG from transportation is slightly less.
The reason I described that cutting beef consumption is “low-hanging fruit” is because cutting consumption does not require an onerous life-style change. Clearly, since according to Dr. Mitloehner’s paper transportation accounts for 27% of US GHG production, there are many larger cuts that must be made in the transportation sector. These necessary cuts, however, will require lifestyle changes that Americans will find it difficult to make.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Is Obama a radical? or is he the Great Compromiser?

We progressives consider that Obama was a centrist democrat because
  1. He used a model for health care that was originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Liberals in the party wanted a single-payer universal health care, like those in England, France, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. But the Democrats in Congress were blocked by a few conservatives in their party who refused to cooperate. Of course, none of the Republicans agreed to cooperate. The major problems with the ACA are caused by the refusal of Republican Governors and Health Care Corporations to cooperate with the program, which Obama considered a compromise that would be acceptable to all. But since the Heritage Foundation had made its proposal, the Republican Party had moved to the right so they were unwilling to accept any universal health care proposal.
  2. He refused to institute a carbon tax that would require carbon polluters to pay for the damage their actions were doing and would continue to do into the distant future. Republicans, who once had agreed that global warming was a problem of epic proportions, one that all mankind had to cooperate to ameliorate, had again moved to the right by denying that global warming existed or that the US should do anything at all to prevent its damage. In this opinion, the Republicans rejected the testimony of nearly all climate scientists. Again, there was no possibility for compromise with the Republican dead-enders. Your statement that Obama was the one who refused to cooperate beggars belief. It takes two parties to compromise, and the Republicans refused to compromise on this issue.
  3. Obama ended the credit crisis caused by Wall Street brokers during the Bush administration, but he did it by bailing out the banks who had caused the problem. None of the people responsible for the nearly catastrophic melt-down of our financial system lost their jobs or went to jail for what they did, the effects of which are still being felt today. Obama compromised plenty by putting Wall Street insiders in charge of the Treasury department. This compromise has led to a rollback of safeguards against another crash like the two that happened during the Bush regime. Notice that there were no crashes during the Obama administration, at least partly due to the moderate reforms he pursued. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, there will be another serious crash during the Trump administration because his advisors are the very people who profited from the last two and these greedy con artists would dearly like another shot at the big apple.
  4. Obama refused to institute marijuana reforms. The marijuana laws are laughable, since they state that marijuana, like heroin and cocaine, is addictive and has no legitimate medical value, regardless of the fact that millions of people world-wide are currently using marijuana to treat a number of chronic conditions. Since marijuana is known not be be physically addictive, the perpetrators of these laws had to make a new definition of addiction, one which would apply equally to coffee, aspirin, and numerous over-the-counter drugs that are actually more harmful to the population than marijuana.
  5. Obama said nothing about Americans’ addiction to sugar, even though research indicates that the dietary guidelines for sugar were written by the same man who falsified results to make it appear that cholesterol, not sugar, was responsible for increased risk of heart attacks, as well as the current epidemic of obesity.
  6. Obama made no plans for converting to a society without petroleum despite scientific agreement that oil will soon run out and that society is unprepared for a petroleum-free environment. While practically every other country in the world has reduced its petroleum use through taxation and regulation, the US policy under Obama was to continue allowing exploration and development of coal and oil while also providing moderate subsidies for clean energy. Once again, his position is a compromise between those who profit from the sale of oil and the environmental and health organizations that campaign against its use. Yet you say that Obama never compromises. I say that Obama compromises way too much, especially with those who actively seek to undermine sensible environmental policies.
  7. Obama did not move to reduce defense spending and wasteful spending on unnecessary weapons systems. Here again, no compromise position was ever offered by the right, despite the claims of tea party politicians that they opposed all government waste.
  8. Obama did not campaign strenuously against the disastrous Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United, that has led to unlimited spending by polluters, lobbyists, and financiers to buy a President and a congress who would not oppose them in any way. This was the single most disastrous “moderate” position that Obama took because it has led to exactly what people feared: enormous campaign spending by corporations and the wealthy, who now have bought control of both houses of congress and the Presidency.
  9. Obama also failed to campaign against gerrymandering and voter suppression laws, even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed many practices beloved by Republicans.
There are many other examples I could give where Obama was slow to propose progressive policies. It is meaningless to claim that he was more liberal than other presidents because times change and issues that are pressing today, like climate change and unlimited spending on elections, were not known to earlier presidents. I will note that Republican President Nixon proposed a guaranteed annual income and Bill Clinton proposed a universal health care act, so Obama was not more liberal on those issues.

But comparisons of this sort are meaningless because we need dynamic leadership to protect our workers from foreign competition and climate change. We certainly won’t get that from Trump, a dynamic leaders who doesn’t understand the foreign policy initiatives of the past 50 years and who appoints extreme right-wingers and fringe politicians to his cabinet. Obama, lest you forget, appointed a republican as his Defense Secretary. But I guess you don’t count that action as a sign that the man could have been called, The Great Compromiser.

Peak Oil Production: What is it and when is it?

How can we tell when peak oil has been reached?

We can't tell by the price, either by the barrel or at the pump.

The price of oil in the US is kept artificially low.
  1. Oil companies receive subsidies for exploration and drilling from the federal government.
  2. Much of the oil currently being harvested comes from oil leases on federally owned land. The price of these leases is kept low in what amounts to another subsidy granted to the oil companies. The rationale for this quasi-subsidy is that the oil belongs to the nation and the government should not profit (very much) from its sale. This oil belongs to the nation, however, and not to the oil companies, who should pay full price, with the proceeds going to federal programs or income tax rebates.
  3. The price of oil does not reflect the actual cost of burning the fuel in the air. This cost should include the cost of disease caused by inhalation of toxic chemicals as well as the cost to clean up the environment after oil spills. Note that it is not possible to entirely clean up the environment, since oil is persistent in the environment and does not readily degrade. The cost of global warming caused by the oil burned should also be included in the cost of the oil.
  4. Tar sand deposits yield a low grade of petroleum, but it comes at a high cost because the deposits must be heated before it can be refined. In Canada, this is accomplished using natural gas that otherwise would go to waste since it is too expensive to remove from the site of its extraction.
Regardless of the price reductions caused by these factors, the price of oil, like temperature in a warming atmosphere, does not rise evenly at all times. The price of a barrel of oil rose to $140 during the last recession in 2008, but fell rapidly within 6 months to just $40 a barrel as a result of low demand.

A condition deemed critical to the price of oil is “Peak Oil”, when oil production has reached its highest level. Some estimates suggest that peak oil has already passed, possibly in 2014, but experts disagree both on when peak oil will be reached and what the consequences will be.
One of the conclusions reached by Matthew Simmons, who predicted that peak oil would come in 2007–2009, is that
"peaking is one of these fuzzy events that you only know clearly when you see it through a rear view mirror, and by then an alternate resolution is generally too late."
If the world’s top experts can’t enlighten us better than that, our own understandings about peak oil and what we should do to prepare for it must remain a matter of individual choice. This alone is clear: Peak oil is coming and it will bring great changes with it.
My sources for this post are

Peak oil - Wikipedia
US Cost to Produce Oil Is $36 a Barrel
Gas prices around the world 2016 | Statista

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ruth Bader Ginzburg has a right to tell the truth

Supreme Court Justice Ginzburg has recently criticized Donald Trump as being unfit to serve as President of the United States. In return, Ginzburg has received criticism from Trump that attacks her for being old:
“Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot—resign!”
Amazingly (sarcasm intended) some legal commentators agreed with Trump, including New York University law professor Stephen Gillers, who wrote that judges who speak out on political matters undermine the "rule of law":
“To protect the rule of law. We want the public to view judicial rulings solely as the product of law and legal reasoning, uninfluenced by political considerations. Acceptance of court rulings is undermined if the public believes that judicial decisions are politically motivated.”
Notice the absurdity of this criticism. Gillers says lawyers want the public to believe that rulings are the product of law and legal reasoning, even though he knows that they are not, and anyone who has followed the history of recent Supreme Court rulings knows they are not. But, he says, Ginzburg undermines the rule of law by telling the truth about Donald Trump.

Sorry, Gillers, your rule of law is a fantasy which the legal profession has concocted. Ginzburg should not be criticized for undermining a fantasy. She should be praised for revealing the truth. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A vote for HIllary is a vote for Dr. Jekyll; forget that she's also Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886 wrote a great novel called, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The leading characters in this book were Dr. Jekyll, a kindly, selfless gentleman who was kind to small children and dogs, and Mr. Hyde, an alcoholic seducer of women and all-around bad guy. The author invites readers to admire Jekyll and despise Hyde. But the truth is that Jekyll and Hyde are the same man.

So now in 2016 we are presented with 2 candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, whom Clinton supporters portray as the dastardly Mr. Hyde. These diehard Hillary fans have very little to say about their candidate, except that she's honest and not a crook. They claim Hillary and Trump are as different as night and day when in fact they are just two sides of the same coin. In fact, they are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Progressives turned against Hillary in 2012 because they were presented with an attractive alternative, Barack Obama. But now she's back and she's claiming the progressive mantle she has torn from the shoulders of Bernie Sanders. Trump is wicked, she says. He's against climate control. He favors the banks over the people. And he's sexist, too.

Hillary claims she's way better than Trump. But only last month, Charles Koch, he of the coal mines and pipelines, said it was possible that he would support Hillary. He added that her actions would have to be different from her rhetoric. Hillary fans breathed a sigh of relief and Scopes claimed the idea that Koch would support Hillary was false. He said he wasn't serious.

But the idea that Hillary's rhetoric would not be matched by deeds is not far-fetched. After all, this woman once claimed that blacks were "super-predators" when she supported the laws that resulted in millions of blacks being locked up for non-violent crimes--the sorts of crimes that whites were never charged for.

What is being missed by Hillary supporters in this election is that the main issue, perhaps the only important issue, is whether this country should continue to be governed by the one percent of Americans at the very top of the income pyramid. I think people understand that Donald Trump is one of those. Very few recognize that Hillary Clinton is another. So Republicans can honestly boast that the Democratic party is run by millionaires and billionaires.

Except for Bernie and his backers. Which side are you on?

Posted on Quora: Is being a Democrat in the Southern states frowned upon?

Yes. I lived for 6 years in Florida, certainly a Southern state, although some say it’s not a “deep south” state. That’s only because it is large enough to have several different communities. I was very much interested in helping Obama win the state in 2008, so I canvassed neighborhoods for him door-to-door. That was an eye-opener. Every one of the names in my first neighborhood belonged to a black person. This may not seem strange, but Florida is so segregated that you will not see a black person in a white community.

This comment does not concern Southeast Florida, where there are plenty of non-whites. But in West Florida, where I lived, there was hardly a dark face to be seen. The latinos who collected trash lived 20 miles away. I don’t blame them. One of my most disturbing recollections came during that election when a bunch of our neighbors, some of whom we knew personally, ambushed us at a crosswalk shouting tea party slogans at us.

I personally believe that anyone who admires the tea party is a sucker looking to be fleeced, as Trump’s success in the current election cycle has proven. But these elderly white folks aggressively approached my wife and I at a public intersection. Apparently they believed that everyone who lived in our small town was a Republican. Perhaps they were right. There was a Democratic campaign headquarters in a house near ours, but we never passed by when it was open. I twice tried to attend announced Democratic committee meetings but on neither occasion was I able to find the address advertised on the announcement.
I did attend a focus group for “Democrats”, but found it was being trolled by a libertarian who wanted to talk about shutting down the federal reserve board. It was the first time I had been confronted with anyone who believed we should go back on the gold standard; I had no arguments to answer him with. When I suggested that we should discuss legalizing marijuana, one of the ladies was shocked, as if I had proposed legalizing armed robbery, or inter-racial marriage. There were no blacks at that meeting.
In my travels around the state, I discovered 2 segregated black villages. One was on a back road, far from any city. Suddenly, there were blacks all around us, with black stores and fast-food chains. Then I was back on the white road, where nary a sign of blackness could be detected. The other black neighborhood was in Gainesville, site of the University of Florida. I stumbled on the black district by accident while visiting a state park. The nearest neighbors to that district were about 200 alligators, so it was clear why no whites ever lived there. The park ranger told us that the alligators were getting birth defects from the birth control pills the white college students used. I had never heard this particular fantasy before and had no way to argue against it.
For the most part, though, I kept my mouth shut, even if I did have good arguments to use. While touring one of the few plantations in Florida, I listened dumbly as the guide explained that southerners opposed abolition of slavery because it would be an economic loss to them, just as if they had been forced to give away a cow. I’m sure she was correct, but I would have liked a few words on the monstrosity of the institution of slavery. Crickets. The slave quarters had all been torn by when the plantation was renovated by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
The creed of southern whites is silence. Never mention racism. Never report any racist activity. Never talk to any blacks. Their intent is to convince the northerners that racism in the South has been abolished. The only thing that has been abolished is talking about racism.
So yes, being a Democrat in the South is “frowned upon.” The Democratic Party is so disorganized that the last election for Governor featured a Tea Party Republican vs. a Republican who had changed his registration to Democrat. The Democrats were not sufficiently organized to get one of their own on the ballot. Not surprising when I couldn’t even find the Democratic Committee HQ for my county.

Monday, May 23, 2016

My Facebook Response to A Young Male Sphincter-With-Legs

On Facebook recently, I defended a young woman friend of mine from a young male acquaintance. My friend had posted a science-based meme of Bill Nye, and stated that "Women deserve more reproductive rights, not fewer". The acquaintance made a number of lengthy comments which essentially stated that men should not be forced to pay for babies they father, if they don't feel like it. I will include only the final few lines of his comments here.. it didn't seem necessary to reproduce all the rest. Note that I had tried repeatedly to reason with this guy, to no avail. My (final) response follows his. : 
"Actually, as long as it's not rape it's two people's decisions to have sex. unprotected or not, I just don't see how it's fair if the woman gets to decide it was a bad idea and drop everything while the man is stuck with the bill.  I support a woman's AND a man's right to choose.  Men deserve as many reproductive rights as women, I don't see how men having to pay for a woman's lack of foresight (not being able to afford a baby and having one anyway) is fair when the opposite is not true.  While it's true this isn't the biggest issue in the world dismissing it as only the man's fault is quite sexist."

Kyle... (sigh)... yes, each person is responsible for their own actions. However, you do NOT get to tell a woman she has to carry a baby to term, if she doesn't want to. Neither do you get to avoid responsibility for any lives you create by CHOOSING NOT to wear a condom. Lots of men don't want to wear condoms. But if you don't wear a condom, and you create a life, and the woman doesn't want to abort it...? Guess what, you HAD your chance to choose, when you chose to have unprotected sex. After that... it's up to the woman, which is as it should be, because she ALREADY has to bear the burden of her own (idiotic) decision to have unprotected sex with you. SHE is the one who will be MOST affected by whatever decision she makes. SHE is the one who will have to suffer, whether she decides to have an abortion, or endure nine months of pregnancy and then either spend the rest of her young life raising the child, or suffer the anguish of giving it up for adoption. NONE of these options is either cheap, or easy. For you to condense it all down to money, shows how very little compassion you have for the mother, or the child, or anyone but yourself.

Anyway, to simplify it for you: by not wearing a condom, you give up your right to object to being "stuck with the bill". Clear yet?

As for calling me sexist... that is a classic troll tactic, and you are a classic troll. It is YOU who are sexist, because you keep talking about women taking your wallet, and sticking you with the bill. It is clear to me that you do not like or understand women. My suggestion is that you get a vasectomy... then you will never have to worry about getting "stuck" with anything!

Oh, and you needn't bother to respond to this, because I will be blocking you immediately. I have suggested to R that she do the same, so as not to be further harassed by you.