Saturday, March 4, 2017

Trump's new order

Trump tries to squirm away from another attack, or rather series of attacks. The focus of these attacks seems to be serious investigations into the Russian interference in the election. Trump is calling for an investigation of the Democrats, because they wire-tapped Trump tower. He apparently got the idea after reading an article in Breitbart that accuses Obama of trying to sabotage Trump’s election.

He still doesn’t understand where the attacks are coming from. He understands they are getting ever closer to the truth, which is that Trump himself was at the center of the Russian conspiracy to defeat Clinton. It has been admitted that Flynn and Jared Kushner met with the Soviet ambassador in Trump tower, but only for a brief, courtesy call.

Unfortunately for this lie to cover up the truth, reporters had the lobby of Trump tower staked out at all times, so the ambassador would have had to enter through a back entrance. So this meeting between top Trumpists just before the election was not a courtesy call, but a negotiation to decide what Trump would do in exchange for Russian sabotage of the democratic candidate.

By now we all know, or should know, at least a part of what Trump promised in exchange for Russian support:

• An end to EPA interference in the fossil fuel industry. This is important since the rest of the world has agreed to reduce their dependence on Russian oil.
• An agreement that Russian steel would be used to build American pipelines. Trump signed an order today that enforces just that.
• Doubtless other things we haven’t found out about yet.

Trump’s biggest mistake has been to assume that once he controlled the presidency and the congress, no one would be left to oppose his will. He overlooked the fact that people in the intelligence community, spies if you will, would act to preserve American democracy. And they have been acting by releasing, bit by bit, every piece of the espionage puzzle that makes it perfectly clear what the Russians have been up to, and that every member of the Trump White House was part of the conspiracy, up to and including Trump himself.

Right now, Flynn is gone. Sessions is still Attorney General, but it is not known how long he can last after lying to Congress. Lying to Congress is perjury and is punishable by 5 years in prison. It’s not even barely conceivable that a man can hold the highest legal office in the US after he lies to Congress to conceal his involvement in a conspiracy to take over the government with the help of a foreign government. That is what is called a coup and can’t be tolerated in a Democracy.

Republicans had to resort to a coup to take over the government because they realized they could not win a fair election. So they sold out their country for wealth and power.

What happens now? The Constitution did not foresee this vast a conspiracy. The Framers always assumed that American property-owners were honorable men and would never desert to an enemy en masse, as they have obviously done. If the word “honorable” implies “honest”, it is becoming clear there is not a single honorable man in the Republican Party.

What can be done to rectify the situation?

I suggest the Congress should appoint ex-President Obama to take over the government until a new election can be run. In the meantime, he can begin to undo the terrible damage the Trumpists have inflicted on the government and the country.

The USA is now in extremis. We must act before it is too late.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Problem of Trump


Donald Trump is functionally illiterate, and certainly lacks sufficient literacy standards for the office. Time and again he indicates that he is ignorant of important foreign policy documents, like the START treaty with Russia, limiting strategic nuclear weapons. Trump hadn’t heard about the treaty but told Putin he thought it was a bad idea. The START treaty, like many other issues, was debated in depth by people who cared about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and had good reasons for wanting to control them.

Trump had no idea what they were talking about. He just wanted to kill the treaty because Obama had negotiated it. The major reason for the treaty is to limit the possibility of nuclear war. Trump has no idea why that is important to do. He was apparently sleeping in a cave during the nuclear crises of the 1950s and 1960s, doesn’t know why the Cuban Missile Crisis happened, and is even ignorant of why there was a thing called the Cold War, because he is a strong admirer of Vladimir Putin and the Soviet System that he represents.

The USA is founded on simple principles that have been admired and copied all over the world for more than 200 years:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (US Declaration of Independence, 1776.)
Trump does not understand how important these rights are, or how vital they have been in creating a world where human rights are respected, where women and children and those who are physically weaker than others can still expect to be treated fairly and live happy, fulfilled lives. He doesn’t understand it because he didn’t read about it in school or because he wasn’t paying attention. Certainly he had the opportunity to know these things.

Trump is like someone who was born yesterday. He has no clear vision of why the world is like it is or how men and women of good will have been trying to improve it since the Age of Enlightenment. He has been born into a world that is free and well-regulated by enlightened governments. He imagines that freedom has always existed apart from the governments in which it thrives. He believes so many false things that it would take many volumes to explain them all.

The question is, will Trump’s ignorance destroy the civilization that has been so carefully built by wise and industrious men and women? Just now, the answer to that question is open to doubt. So you see, it is absolutely essential that all of us who know the truth or even a small part of it should shout it from the mountaintops so that even Trump and his fellow oligarchs can hear it. As Martin Luther King said,
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
Recently, Trump protested because a reporter said that Martin Luther King’s portrait had vanished from the Oval Office in the White House. Trump values that portrait, he says. Although he may value the portrait, he does not value what the portrait represents. King’s portrait remains in the White House but his ideas and his spirit have been carefully erased from government web pages.

Trump and his kind may succeed in erasing the words from the walls, but they will never succeed in erasing them from the hearts of men and women everywhere.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

US Senate silences Senator Elizabeth Warren for telling the truth

The US Senate, or rather the Republican Senate, for the Republicans have taken over the Senate to use as their own toy, voted to stop Elizabeth Warren from speaking about Trump's nominee for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that Warren was "impugning the motives" of Sessions. The impugning amounted to reading letters from Coretta Scott King and Edward Kennedy. King, Martin Luther King's wife said Sessions as U.S. Attorney
had used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.
Warren quoted Edward Kennedy, who
 referred to Sessions as a “throwback to a shameful era” and a “disgrace” to the Justice Department. 
These words from the grave must have struck a nerve with the Republican Senators, who are trying hard to pretend that racism no longer exists in the Senate or the South. Like their leader, President Trump, they are lying about the truth and then lying about their lies.

Can such brazen indifference to truth win out over honesty? Will the Republicans succeed in rewriting history and making their party appear to reject racism while its members embrace it wholeheartedly? Phoniness and subterfuge are the hallmarks of the party, but they are not the hallmarks of the American people, at least not the people I care about.

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.