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23.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Saving our planet Permalink to this item

Project Drawdown is one of the best (or maybe the best) thing going assessing "what can be done," and anything that gets people interested in responding to the planetary crisis we've got ourselves into is good.

But two questions into this clickbait quiz that CNN cooked up earlier this year (revived in my Facebook news feed), I found the interactive design annoying. We presume the choices are misordered for us (but they might not be), so the first thing we get is (probably) wrong information. Then we'll try a reordering, which, chances are, is also wrong. (I'm a bit more than passing familiar with Drawdown, but couldn't get either of the first two sets ordered correctly on first try.) As an evaluative instrument, this makes it strong; you have to know the stuff to get it right. As an instructive tool, putting (likely) wrong information ahead of right information—twice—is not helpful.

The payoff of "How did I do?" downplays the most important part of the comparison, the size of the potential contribution. The first example's choices, measured in "cars off the road" units, are 495, 464 (a tie, essentially), 111, 16. Those wildly disparate numbers are represented with small icons that are graphically swamped by the "Correct!" and FAIL lozenges. The result presentation promotes "how did I do?" harder than the information.

So let's just cut to the chase, click the "How Did I Do?" on the last of the 8 questions, to see the Top 5 solutions, and the links to the Drawdown site itself.

  1. Manage refrigeration chemicals could be equivalent to 629 million cars off the road.
  2. Install (more) onshore wind turbines; 593 million cars.
  3. Cut down on food waste; 495 million cars.
  4. Eat more plants and less meat; 464 million cars.
  5. Restore our tropical forests; 429 million cars.

Those are tagged in one or more of three categories: what individuals can do; what industries can do; and what policymakers can do.

Project Drawdown's Solutions page (same, best link to their site as above, imho) shows the top 10 solutions by rank, with a tie at #6, cast by CNN's writer as Empowering Women in the penultimate (and very guessable) quiz question. Educating girls, and family planning taken together have the potential of reduction equivalent to more than 720 million cars. That is, EMPOWERING WOMEN is the #1 thing to do.

Project Drawdown data

Without doing the full-on technical analysis, it seems to me that second on the "policymakers" list has to be DISEMPOWERING IDIOT MEN such as you-know-who here at home, and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, currently cheering on the exact opposite of tropical forest restoration, the slashing and burning of the Amazon. That has the potential to change from rainforest to savannah, with presumably disastrous consequences for the planet. (NASA's caption for its latest view of the fires from space—part of its Fire and Smoke section—says "time will tell if this year is a record breaking or just within normal limits."

16.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Back to the future Permalink to this item

It's probably not that interesting to my regular reader (a wholly fictional concept, of course), but these occasional spam attempts to get me to incorporate someone else's content here fascinate me. The outline is simple:

  1. found something on your site that relates to our "business";
  2. have a look at our great content on this topic; and
  3. give us a link, will you?

With almost two decades of blog posts maintained available for random data mining, there's always something to connect to, right? In most cases, my monthly serialization throws them off, slightly. As in today's:

"I'm reaching out because I really like your post- (this one: http://fortboise.org/blog/201605.html), and wanted to see if you’d be interested in working together."

Haven't checked statistics in detail, but May, 2016 had 46 posts in 31 days, about average back in the day. (Twitter's ability to capture the "short-take" has vented some of my political steam lately.) I had fun reliving some of my past blogging, as I looked for "business" to track down the post that caught his eye. Turns out, I could have found it quicker with his key word, "hustle." He must have a Google Alert set for the word, and only Google knows why it turned up a 3-year-old issue for him. Get some hustle on this weekend was the headline for a breezy take on a listicle about "easy side hustles" you can do in between what passes for real jobs these days.

Today's mystery spammer's elevator pitch is that he "helps people in the 21st century to hustle better and make more money online," hooray for that. An only slightly revised version of MAKE.MONEY.FAST, when you think about it. And with that last-millennium-sounding "21st century" to boot. That reminds me of...

That TV show from my formative years, originally "The 20th Century" (running from 1957-1966), renamed to 21st in early 1967, when "the show's focus changed to the future and to what humankind could look forward to" as some Wikipedia wag put it. Walter Cronkite was the star, and it was cancelled after three seasons, but I paid enough attention to remember the show's sponsor, with its all-good and powerful-sounding name, Union Carbide. (That was after a mining disaster I'd never heard of, and before the 1984 Bhopal pesticide plant blew up, in arguably the worst industrial disaster of all time.

About the time we all ticked over to the 21st century, Dow Chemical took over the enterprise, which forges ahead with a product line comprising "bulk chemicals, ethylene and ethylene derivatives."

You see, you just never know what sort of interesting rabbit hole is buried in a run-of-the-mill spam.

It's not quite the same as watching a YouTubed episode, but the 10/10 star user review posted in 2011, capturing a first-person recollection under the subject "In to the future (cuz the present sucked)" on the IMDB rings a bell for me, even without a dad who railed against The Long Hairs, Dr. King, President Johnson and so on.

13.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hell in a handbasket Permalink to this item

Reading about Saudi Aramco saying it's "ready" for an initial public offering (without a definition of what such an IPO would be, or anything actually planned in that regard) brought to mind an old chestnut:

It was born about a million years ago
There ain't nothin in this world that it don't know
They saw Peter Paul and Moses
Playing ring around the roses
And they'll whup the guy what says it isn't so

Excerpt of Ahmad Jadallah/Reuters image for commentary

And I contemplated the image of the Shaybah oilfield, natural gas flaring over a landscape of orange sky, and orange sand, wondering what it would be like to have that be one's life work.

Now that Saudi Aramco has entered the bond market, it has to show the world some of its finances. Their first-ever earnings call was a doozy: The company "said... that it had generated net income of $46.9 billion in the first half of the year." Down from $53 billion for the first half of year. That's five times Royal Dutch Shell's latest report, and nearly ten times Exxon Mobil's.

Despite "not hav[ing] a clear policy on dividends," they managed to disburse $46.4 billion to their lone "shareholder," the government of Saudi Arabia. And like rich people the world over, it never seems to be enough.

"Aramco’s move toward disclosing more information coincides with the company’s becoming increasingly acquisitive, especially outside Saudi Arabia, in ways that could add to its need for more financing. The bonds issued in April were meant to help finance Aramco’s $69 billion acquisition of a government-held stake in Sabic, a Saudi petrochemical company."

A company that made over $100 billion in profit last year needs "more financing," what?

But anyway, with all those billions floating around looking for new homes, we sure as hell won't be talking about the murderous crown prince "MBS" in charge of the operation, will we? You want to make an omelette, you've got to crack some eggs.

Looking to see what the Washington Post might have to say on the subject, I found Liam Denning's Bloomberg opinion instead: Saudi Aramco Puts the ‘Brief’ in ‘Briefing’. With my emphasis:

"The first-half numbers just published confirmed Aramco is a cash-flow juggernaut, generating free cash flow after capex of almost $38 billion and paying its sole shareholder a dividend of more than $46 billion. The details beneath such numbers matter, though. After all, it’s immediately obvious that, despite generating more free cash flow in the first half than BP Plc, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and Total SA combined, Aramco borrowed to pay that dividend to the government. While net debt is just 2% of capital employed, there was a $28 billion swing in net indebtedness in the space of 12 months. And Aramco’s capex in the first half looked low – which is why it was questioned – and Al-Dabbagh did allow that “timing” was one reason for that, suggesting it would rise in the second half of 2019."

Buddy can you loan me a dime? Anything helps! This seems nuttier than making campaign donations to the "really really rich" dotard in the White House for his second go at widespread looting. Denning goes on to analyze whether the business might be accurately valued at $2 trillion (as MBS is bragging it up), or only half that. In case you've got some money to burn.

10.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now for something completely different Permalink to this item

Most of the news is bad news, because, well, we feel like we need to know about bad things happening, for our own protection, right? Most of the time, this is an error in judgement, because bad news can make us anxious and fearful, and often for no (or not enough) good reason. The chances of being hit by lightning are really, really small, but it does happen, and if someone gets hit, we feel like we should know about it.

Long preamble shorter, here comes some good news. Maybe you've already heard about it? Because even if it's good news, if it's unusual enough, it's deemed worthy of circulation.

And this is plenty unusual.

JP Morgan Chase decided to close down its credit card business in Canada, a year ago March. Instead of continuing to track down the payments due, or selling their asset/their customers' liability to another bank, they said what the heck, we'll just forgive the debts.

They're not saying much about how many customers, or how many millions of dollars they're giving away, but enough for a jolly handful of feel-good stories. The bigger a credit card customer's unpaid balance, the better for them!

Hot enough for you? Permalink to this item

Photo from yesterday

One moment on a train ride in 1981 has stuck in my mind. I don't remember there being a dining car, but there was a snack car, where you could buy cold sandwiches and what-not. Attempting friendly conversation during a brief transaction, I said something about how hard his job was or wasn't or used to be, I forget. But what he said: "Nothin's hard these days, 'cept farmin'."

Alan Sano is a farmer who took some time out to write an op-ed for the NY Times, dateline "FIREBAUGH, Calif.": Farmers Don’t Need to Read the Science. We Are Living It.

"Here in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing. The drought of recent years made it hard to ignore; we had limited surface water for irrigation, and the groundwater was so depleted that land sank right under our feet."

"The sky was blood red in places but waning into absolute black."
Paradise, Calif., Nov. 2018

He goes on about how many days were at or over 100° lately (15 last month, the hottest on record worldwide; 26 consecutive last July; 22 back in 2005), the disappearing winter tule fog and how it threatens crop yields, the decline in snowpack, the fires. (Which reminds me of the emotions brought out by reading last Sunday's NYT Magazine piece on the Paradise fire—interactive in the online version—confronting the choice of who you think you can save, who you'll have to leave to the fire.)

The bad news is, without “action on a sweeping scale” the warming climate will intensify “the world’s droughts, flooding, heat waves, wildfires and other weather patterns” and speed up “the rate of soil loss and land degradation.”

Sano goes on with the good news, all the things farmers can do to "be part of the solution," what he's doing, how it has been good for their business, too, working with UC Davis Extension, and ending on a more hopeful note than you can imagine after seeing the lead photograph of rows of dead almond trees in the Central Valley in 2015.

"With state-of-the-art science, innovation and sound public policy, farmers here and elsewhere in the United States can work to make sure this latest dire warning about the warming planet does not become self-fulfilling."

Sound public policy. Government (and university) assistance to encourage best practices, for cost-sharing, for learning how to deal with unprecedented change. As opposed to distorting and suppressing research, hardening the attack on science, reining in the US Geological Survey, pre-rewriting the next National Climate Assessment, comparing the "demonization of carbon dioxide" to the Holocaust and so on.

Let's do get started with some of that sound public policy.

9.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Word Permalink to this item

Marc Johnson spells it all out in his latest for the Lewiston Tribune, leveraging his headline from the leaders of our National Cathedral: Have We No Decency... From Marc:

"The most serious presidential misconduct in our history, carefully documented in a textbook example of prosecutorial diligence, is intentionally ignored as if facts about malfeasance at the highest level of the Republic are, what, suddenly OK because our side won?"

And from the National Cathedral:

“We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.”

Bumble bee and coneflowers

8.8.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Emperor's new fashion show Permalink to this item

Did not know when I read the RT'd thead from a friend, but the author, Robert E. Kelly, Professor of Political Science at Pusan National University, is aka "BBC Dad." Oh, that guy. But anyway, smart as well as likeable, and chock full o' nuts and insight as to "the last few weeks of the Trump Show," in which "T says the quiet parts out loud" and strips away the fig leaf that some people like to pretend covers up the GOP's blatant... well, call it what you will. (Also available unrolled by the Thread reader app.) In a nutshell:

  1. Gun rights advocates think routine massacres are an acceptable price to pay for access to guns.
  2. A lot of Trump voters are racist.
  3. Evangelicals couldn't care less about personal virtue.
  4. It's all about the tax-cuts and judges.
  5. Budgetary restraint is for Democratic presidents only.

And so... perhaps there is a beneficial conclusion? No more GOP smoke screen of law and order, moral virtue, and fiscal discipline? Not sure I'd count on that, given the staying party of the self-righteous frosting on Marie Antoinette's cake. But come the reckoning, here's how it will have come, by Kelly's estimate:

"[Trump's] inability to mouth appropriate platitudes, to lie convincingly, has inadvertently revealed a lot about the GOP coalition and destroyed a lot of its most useful pretenses, e.g., crime, not race, is the concern, or mental health is the culprit of gun violence. This myth-busting is a 'progress' of a sort, which the GOP will come to regret after Trump is gone and no one knows what it stands for besides racism and upper income tax cuts. Aligning with Trump is a faustian bargain, and the bill will come due. But by demolishing useful, deflective GOP myths, Trump is accelerating that reckoning."

There will be some bumps in the road on the journey. Such as a week ago at the Mineral County Fair, in Superior, Montana, nestled along the Clark Fork and I-90 cut through the Lolo National Forest. The story is that some guy noticed a young teenager still wearing his hat while the national anthem was being played, and, according to the charging documents filed in Mineral County District Court on Tuesday, "he asked the youth to remove his hat because it was disrespectful, to which the youth responded by saying '(expletive) you.'" That's all very Montana-flavored, as is what happened next.

"Brockway told the deputy he grabbed the boy by the throat, lifted him into the air and slammed the boy on the ground."

Brockway is 39. The boy, now with a concussion and a fractured skull, 13.

Brockway's attorney, Lance Jasper, is blaming this bad behavior on a 19-year-old traumatic brain injury from a car accident, and President Donald Trump's various incitements to violence.

7.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's a software problem Permalink to this item

A "special registration renewal notice" from the Idaho Transportation Department came today. "***PLEASE READ***," it said. You have my attention! About our Prius, from the Registration Program Supervisor. It says that "due to current software restrictions," the DMV won't be sending our usual renewal. Tell me more.

"During the 2017 Legislative session, the Idaho legislature exempted some, but not all hybrid vehicles from additional registration fees. There is not currently available a 100% accurate method to determine whether any given hybrid vehicle meets the exemption. ..."

It goes on to say I should contact or visit my local county DMV office, and "Software available through the county office can calculate the fees correctly."

The 2017 legislative session, which ended 2 years and 4 months ago. There is not currently available a 100% accurate method... at the ITD. But the counties are all set.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused."

Update: Naturally, I was curious. Says here on the ITD DMV site (where I can't point directly, but "Registration/Plates" tab, and "Registration Fees," the BASIC annual registration for passenger vehicles is:

Indented like that, as if those add-on qualifiers applied only for older vehicles, which, no, they don't. So, the DMV can't tell (but counties can) if our vehicle is (all) electric, or plug-in hybrid.

3.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The shooting Permalink to this item

Something really out of the ordinary happened in our neighborhood yesterday, less than a mile from our house. I was riding my bike home in the heat of the afternoon, 4:30 or 5, and there were all sorts of police cars along the way. I saw at least 6, wondered if there was some sort of bust going on. After I was home, I saw there was voicemail on my phone, the police broadcast system telling me I should lock my doors and stay inside my house, there'd been a shooting, and the suspect was at large.

We were just about to walk across the street to the Art Zone for their First Friday barbecue, and didn't really feel like cowering in fear. Neither did the rest of the patrons, most of whom would not have got the call, I'm sure. Not long after we came back home, we saw on the news that they had the suspect in custody. (There wasn't an "all clear" phone call to follow-up, I guess there's no urgency in that.)

News is, one of the two victims died, and the 24-year-old surrendered (after calling dispatch to ask for directions, no less). He's charged with murder, aggravated battery and use of a deadly weapon. We've been here 35 years this summer, and this must be the most dramatic thing to happen in all that time, other than maybe a house that burned. Given how many worse things are in the news day after day, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. I wouldn't have even bothered mentioning it (other than in conversation) had it been for what happened today in El Paso, Texas. (Even before we sorted out what happened last Sunday in Gilroy, California.)

Facts to follow, but the nut of it is that no good guy with a gun prevented a bad guy with a gun from killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens more. The 21 year-old suspect was taken into custody "without incident," which is to say, he's white.

We'll be thinking and praying about this. We're damn sure not going to do anything about it, not least because the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is a staunch opponent of all sorts of gun control, and in favor of more guns. (NO on background checks at gun shows, YES on loosening license requirements, rated "A" by the NRA.) And not least because we have a psycopathic, race-baiting president inciting violence to pump up his ego, and his base.

Zero sum conservative principles Permalink to this item

The Post Register's editorial board called out the Idaho Freedom Foundation for its cynical spat-making, and was nice enough to host Wayne Hoffman's retort at them, expressing how wrong "neo-segregation" is for Idaho (a bon mot cadged from another one the conservative astro-turfs, the hoity "National Association of Scholars"), and casting himself as the victim.

"I'm not really surprised that the Post Register would choose to use its editorial page to snarkily insult the Idaho Freedom Foundation or the many good people who have supported our work for the last decade."

I'm certainly happy to snarkily insult Wayne and his libertarian lobbying front, but the editorial board was actually quiet gentle with him, not snarky in the least. Even before they hosted his rebuttal. Is he grateful? He is "surprised" and "frustrated" that the board is "unwilling to even entertain the possibility" that it's the reverse racism that's so "bad for the wellbeing of our country." (Perhaps they did entertain the notion, before dismissing it?)

Boise State University's new president seems to be taking it all in stride, as reported by Betsy Russell in the Idaho Press. Responding to a new concern, that an expiring federal grant might mean cuts in veterans services at Boise State University, Marlene Tromp was able to "calm fears," at least those of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder.

One of the concerned parties cited, Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell (with retired Army colonel bona fides) wondered if maybe we could help veterans by hurting someone else? "Perhaps you could scale back on paying to provide special treatment for various groups and use that money to bolster Veterans Services."

This is what the IFF and their funding ideologues are so good at, sparking dissatisfaction at any sort of program that helps one group, because (in their zero-sum mentality), that has to hurt all others. Lots of workers don't have pensions, for example, so why should state employees have PERSI? It's a race to the bottom, disingenuously goaded by those on the top.

2.Aug.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Step 0: Impeachment inquiry Permalink to this item

You have to start somewhere. Bit-biters like to start with 0, so here we go. Call it an inquiry, "an investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment," as the House Judiciary Committee did in a court petition last Friday. As constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe explains in USA Today, "articles of impeachment have been formally referred to the Judiciary Committee for its consideration," and now they need to consider the evidence, including those redacted parts of the Special Counsel's report, underlying transcripts and exhibits that may have been referenced in what was redacted, and the evidence from the grand jury.

Stop me if you've heard this before, and read my last Sunday's "Article II powers" post, but that was so last month, and I know there are a lot of distractions this time of year, and Congress having its August recess. In spite of all that, we see that support for the inquiry is growing in the House.

“The president’s repeated abuses have brought American democracy to a perilous crossroads,” [chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot L. Engel of New York] said. “Following the guidance of the Constitution — which I have sworn to uphold — is the only way to achieve justice.”

Whose turn? Permalink to this item

What a time to have an increasingly random debate between two dozen contenders! David Brooks says Marianne Williamson knows how to beat Trump ("an uprising of decency," he says, nevermind the "wackadoodle" parts, uses "subtly" twice to describe what's happening under Trump, and laments the Democratic inability to promote "faith" and "soulcraft"), Charles Blow's yearning for more Yang ("a nonconformist—in the best way"), Michelle Goldberg wonders why not Cory Booker? (With Biden at 26% and Booker 3, "the 23-point margin between them is almost exactly the same as the one between the front-running Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at this point in 2007.") Beto got something right according to David Leonhardt (Medicare and the border). Timothy Egan provides the collective noun for the pundits (his fellow pundits), brilliantly as "Beltway magpies" on his way to pointing out that attacking Obama's legacy is the worst Democratic strategy yet. The worst next to having these 2 x 2 x 10 debates, that is. Egan links to a year-ago Pew Research Center poll of Best President in Your Lifetime with two non-surprises: it wasn't close, and yes, 10% had Lord Orange as their first choice. Like they were born yesterday.

"With 66 weeks to go until the election, Democrats tasked with saving a sinking ship of state have shown that they would rather drown in a sea of self-righteousness than steer the Donald Trump-rotted hulk to a fresh shore. ...

"I know politics ain’t beanbag, but beating Trump is: make it about him, and his horrid, racist, anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-environment, anti-science, anti-truth, anti-progress, anti-city, anti-American policies. He has no discernible governing philosophy but to rant and rage, to divide and belittle. People are begging for change."

As we descend into the the third circle of hellish, kleptocratic kakistocracy, led by the Executive Time Shitter Twitterer and his Helicopter Shouting psychopathy, the opposition bludgeoning each other with policy debates is beyond counterproductive. We already have the party of Me, Me, Me and the 53 Toady Senators. What's next needs to be the party of We, We, We, the people. The idea of going back to normalcy seems boring by comparison to the maelstrom we're in. Deliciously boring.

David Brooks' imagined "values we still share" seem more aspirational then accurate just now. If it's just the bold-faced words, Unity, Honesty, Pluralism, Sympathy, Opportunity, sure, why not? But there are devils in the details, and there is a constituency for division, dishonesty, xenophobia, indifference, and libertarianism, and right now, it's solidly behind our Sociopath in Chief.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007