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an inconvenient truth and a convenient lie October 29, 2007

Posted by xenothrone in Human activity, Politics.
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I finally got to watch Nobel Peace laureate Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth last night and I must say that, despite some soft-headed thinking on display at times, it makes a compelling case for global warming. Do I believe it? Yes I believe that the planet is warming up. Do I think that humans are playing a major part? Yes, very much so. But as to the other half of the movie’s equation, that we can do something about it, I must demur and that, my friend, is The Convenient Lie.

First let’s look at some of the above mentioned “soft-headed” thinking. Mr. Gore wows the audience by giving them the results of ice core samples that go back 650,000 years, samples that indicate a long overall warming trend punctuated by dramatic spikes in recent years. This obviously impresses the carefully picked, sympathetic audience but it would hardly impress say a geologist who routinely looks at climate change in the millions of years. This is just one example of anthropocentrism, a theme one finds consistent throughout the movie.

A second example is the touting of the surveys of scientists which purports to show that no scientist in the last 10 years has disagreed with premise of human-drive global warming. And I quote:

There was a massive study of every scientific article in a peer reviewed journal written on global warming for the last 10 years, and they took a big sample of 10%, 928 articles and you know the number of those that disagreed with the scientific consensus that we’re causing global warming and that it’s a serious problem? Out of 928… 0!

This sentence flies by so quickly that I had to back up the DVD and listen to it again, the fact is that these statistics represent only a 10% random sampling of the data. Hardly convincing and indeed one can now see scientists who disagree on 60 minutes.

But the main problem I have with the movie is the final conclusion that he draws seemingly out of a hat. That we can do something about it. As proof he brings up the elimination of slavery, the granting of women’s suffrage, and human beings walking on the moon (all American accomplishments btw.) Nowhere does he address the central problem which is how are we to engage the world’s entire population in the effort? Because that’s what it’s going to take. Given the 80/20 rule (which with my gloss states that 20% of the maladjusted, misanthropic, pathologically motivated population always and everywhere ruins things for the average majority of 80%) this would seem if not outright impossible then at least extremely improbable.

Another interesting point made was the devastating effect of modern technologies which put ever more destructive and powerful tools into human hands (they compare the shovel with a backhoe.) Missing their attention is probably the deadliest tool ever invented as far as global warming goes: the gas powered chainsaw. Whereas while it used to take two men several hours to fell a tree, it now takes one man a matter of minutes. In some South American countries they are so consumed by the greed for lumber they even cut it from the bottom of lakes and rivers with underwater chain saws.

What can we really expect to be done about global warming? Sadly very little and much more likely nothing at all. Even setting aside for a moment all the politically powerful commercial forces that have vested interests in the international industries that contribute a very large share, and even granting for another minute all the nations of the world banding together and agreeing that yes it is a problem of our own making and yes something must be done, the poor and needy of the world, those vast third world masses who slash and burn to eke out a meager existence, those who see the forests as a God given resource, they could never be stopped.

The forest fires of the world burn night and day all over the undeveloped zones of the globe, sending unmeasured mega-volumes of carbon into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The earth is ultimately merely a resource that is steadily and continuously being consumed by humans who will not stop until they are forced to by natural causes. When mother natures takes a hand and strikes back with devastating drought and super-storms, conflagration and flood, when the tipping point is finally reached in the ongoing Holocene extinction event, then maybe the human race will stop. Or else maybe make way for another smarter, gentler species.

leading cause of death on death row? old age September 25, 2007

Posted by xenothrone in Politics.
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Ralph Baze used an assault-type rifle to ambush two police officers in Kentucky in January, 1992. Each officer was shot three times in the back. One officer was executed with a shot to the back of his head as he tried to crawl away. Baze was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Today the Supreme court decided it will hear a challenge from Baze and another inmate on death row in Kentucky (Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr.) who sued the state in 2004, claiming lethal injection (consisting of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer, and a substance to stop the heart) amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Baze, overcome with emotion while considering the plight of his fellow man, stated: “this isn’t just about me. It’s not just about Kentucky. It’s about being humane and compassionate in a very tough circumstance, for all involved.”

The names of the two murdered officers are: Steve Bennett and Arthur Briscoe. Steve’s wife Rose was tending to her 4-month old son when on the police scanner she heard her husband had been shot. That boy, who never knew his father, is 15 years old now. In school he learns that we in America forgo our right to seek justice on our own, we allow the state to assume that responsibility.

Pray they don’t quote Gladstone to him: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Lethal injection ruling won’t change much for death row inmates
Deborah Denno in Associated Press, December 17, 2006:

Prisoner is first of many sick, aged in line at Death Row

necessary war September 20, 2007

Posted by xenothrone in Philosophy, Politics.
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Ken Burns, in reference to his new film about WWII simply called “The War”, talks about the concept of a “necessary war.” WWII was one. The war in Iraq is not. He thus unwittingly reveals the utopian idealist underpinning of his populist work and thought.

All war is necessary. When wars are over it becomes the prerogative of the prevailing survivors to judge them as “good” or “bad”, “necessary” or not. It hardly needs to be said that if the Germans had won WWII they certainly today would view it as necessary and judge it to have been a good war.

Go back as far as you can in written history and you will find humans heatedly debating the nature of war. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus declares that creation and destruction are essential components of the operating system of the world. Look around you. All things are built up and then destroyed. War is a natural part of life, part of its destructive phase. So he reminds us: when things are destroyed the path is cleared for the new to take hold and grow. Without war there would be stagnation.

In Plato’s utopia, The Republic, there is an essential place for the warrior class. Indeed, the Greeks understood the fundamental need and the inevitability of war (which explains their endless appetite for it.) The idea of a world without war seems to be a relatively modern one, a product of the Enlightenment where the power of reason is first heralded as the salvation of mankind. Today science has placed powerfully destructive technology into the hands of the irrational. Reason itself, as a product of the human mind, has a more that even chance of going extinct.

Would that be a tragedy? We humans look upon previous mass extinctions as necessary and good. The dinosaurs that once ruled the Earth were wiped out by a Zeus-like thunderbolt thus making way for the mammals and their crowning evolutionary achievement: humans. Perhaps, in another millennium or so, another species, pondering the archaeological remains of human civilizations, will look back upon our extinction as necessary and good.

Politics as Television Drama September 12, 2007

Posted by xenothrone in Politics.
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Last night I went to the TV to hear a report on the long awaited assessment of Gen. Petraeus on the war. After being told the “gyst” of what happened and that the General’s report was over-optimistic, they provided a total of 4 words out of his mouth. So here is provided a copy of the general’s report.

Petraeus Report