The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-ExuperyOne of the founders of the Mayo Clinic, William James Mayo, was born on this day in 1861. Singer Nelson Eddy was born in 1901.

And the great, great, great special effects master Ray Harryhausen was born in 1920. Harryhausen only died last month. He is best remembered for his films Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. His work holds up surprisingly well in this world of computer animation where literally anything can be done. Something to note about his films is that the look of them is not dictated by his special effects. That is a common complaint of mine about many more modern special effects.

Here is a short Turner Classic Movies tribute to Harryhausen:

Addiction guru but mostly idiot John Bradshaw is 80 today. Actor Gary Busey is 69. And comedian Richard Lewis is 66. When I was younger, I though he was hysterical. Now I find him kind of annoying.

The day, however, belongs to author Antoine de Saint-Exupery. He is best known for The Little Prince. He sadly disappeared on a reconnaissance mission during World War II at the age of 44. Here is the first part of the book read aloud:

Happy birthday Antoine de Saint-Exupery!

Lagunitas and Computer Crashes

Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' AlePeople complain. They say, “Do you know that your website was down for over two hours today?” And I tell them, yes. My provider totally sucks! But they suck at less than half the price of my old provider. (Actually, my provider is great and they offer the best customer service I’ve ever gotten. If you have a little website, I highly recommend them.) Look folks, right now the site gets about 2,500 visitors per day. That’s actually quite good. And yes, I really should start putting advertising on the website. But there’s a problem. Most of my daily traffic is just repeat traffic because I have such a dedicated following. And I am grateful—believe me! Of course, you’re all crazy. But I love you.

Here’s the deal. Once the site gets up to 10,000 visitors per day, then I’ll upgrade. I’ll get really great, redundant hosting—the kind of thing that costs hundreds of dollars per month. But for now, you will just have to put up with our occasional glitches. Sometimes you will just have to wait a couple of hours for your Frankly Curious fix. But isn’t it satisfying when it shoots up the dropper’s neck and that Frankly Curious rushes through your bloodstream and the endorphins are released and all of the day’s troubles fade away?

And make no mistake, I work very hard at this. When I wake up, I am in a near panic. “What am I going to write about?” I think. I was in a high state of stress this morning because I was traveling and I couldn’t write anything until after noon. I thought I was letting you all down. I managed to get a couple of articles up, which led to a certain level of calm. But I was still working. I got another idea for an article. And before I could even start I got yet another idea. So I went to the site and: nothing. It was down. The next two plus hours were agony because I knew that I was letting all of you down.

Well, we’re back up now. The only problem is that now I’m a little drunk. Speaking of which, Lagunitas Brewing Company (located in my very own county) makes arguably the best beer on the market: Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Is it better than Arrogant Bastard? In general, I would have to say no. The two are the best beers that I’ve ever drunk, and I make it a habit of drinking good beers. I am also a light weight, because I’ve only had 12 fluid ounces of Little Sumpin’.

So these are my suggestions for you. First, recommend Frankly Curious to all your friends. Second, relax with a good beer like Little Sumpin’ or Arrogant Bastard. Sure, you can drink something like Negra Modelo, I won’t hold it against you. I will hold the following partial list of beers against you: Budweiser, Coors, and Corona. It isn’t because those beers are bad. They aren’t bad necessarily. But you will pay as much for them as you would for a decent beer. Where was I? That’s right, third, drink responsible. Don’t drink and blog! And fourth, recommend Frankly Curious to all your friends. Wash, rinse, repeat!

Global Warming in Perspective

HellscapeI know it’s not global warming. Weather is not global warming. But here is the seven day forecast for my hometown of Santa Rosa, California: 106, 106, 106, 106, 95, 97, 91. Three days ago it was in the 60s and pouring rain. This is not typical weather for this place at any time. The truth is that in the last decade, this area hasn’t been getting as much rainfall as it normally did. I suspect that’s global warming. I suspect that we will be seeing more and worse heat waves because of global warming. That’s the thing about climate science. We’ve never been that concerned that average temperatures would go up by a couple of degrees. The big problem is extreme weather events. This five-day period of 100+ temperatures (yesterday was the same) will cause people to die unnecessarily. They don’t die because it is a bit hotter on average. They die because a two day heat wave of 99 degrees is now a five day heat wave of 106.

The other issue, perhaps even more important, is rainfall. Hotter surface temperatures will lead to more rainfall. The problem is that all that extra rain and then some will be falling over the oceans. Agricultural areas like my hometown will be screwed—as will all those avocado farmers in the valley. In fact, over the next hundred years, most of the really productive farm land in the United States will go away. Things are looking mighty good for Canada! (Not that they weren’t anyway.) Siberia is likely to become very fertile land as well. (The reasons for this are complicated, but the main thing is that carbon radiative forcing affects polar regions much more than equatorial regions.)

Of course, all of this is very directly focused on humans. We don’t really know what’s going to happen to the ecosystems of the world. There is little doubt that global warming is going to be great for insects. So there’s that. Whether it will be good for bees, specifically, we can’t say. And if bees die out, we are basically screwed. Or it could mess up the thermohaline circulation and then we are basically screwed. Or… We are basically screwed.

But what does any of this matter?! I mean, ExxonMobile only made $41 billion in 2011. What are extra deaths, the destruction of American farming, and the decimation of ecosystems compared to shareholder profits? Really: we have to have priorities and it is clear what those priorities are. After all, you start cutting into oil company profits and soon it is a Stalinist hellscape. Except it would be cooler than the world we are headed for.

Meanwhile, it’s still too darned hot:

What Choice Do Republicans Have?

White RepublicanSteve Benen is a smart guy, but he suffers from a common tendency among liberals to misunderstand conservatives. He has entered the discussion that I wrote about earlier this week, Sean Trende’s belief that the Republican Party can continue to win elections by pandering only to white voters. Benen has the usual very reasonable objections: Republicans will have a hard time getting white voter turnout ever higher and making whites vote in ever higher numbers for Republicans. Alas, Mr. Benen is so thinking like a Democrat!

The Republicans can’t come right out and say it. But we’ve been dealing with them for a long time, so we should all know. Republicans are experts at subtext. There are two ways that they can increase the percentage of white voters. They can increase the number of whites who vote. This is what people like Benen logically, but incorrectly, think proponents of the “white party” strategy are suggesting. But they aren’t. They are suggesting the other way that the white voter percentage can increase: decrease the number of non-white voters.

This isn’t rocket science. Hell, this isn’t even paint by the numbers! The one thing that Republicans have really been working on the last two years is voter-ID. Now, I understand that the rank and file Republicans really do think that Democrats steal elections because every Monday before an election, the party buses in millions of Mexicans to vote illegally. They know this because everyone they know is a Republican. Just look at Fox News: people would have to be America hating latte sipping communists to vote Democratic. Just ask Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm. But the elites know what they’re doing. They know that there is no voter fraud; voter-ID is about one thing only: limiting non-conservative voters.

But I am again left to ask the obvious question that liberals don’t seem to have an answer for: what else are the Republicans to do? They really are trapped. And trapped by the Democratic Party. The Republicans cannot move even a little bit toward the center without effectively becoming Democrats. The only solution is for the Democrats to start fulfilling their traditional role as a liberal party. Understand: I am a Democrat. But the Democratic Party is the villain in this story. It is common to note that the Republican Party doesn’t really seem to stand for anything. I make that argument myself all the time. But over the last 35 years, the problem has been that the Democratic Party didn’t stand for anything. It was more than willing to co-opted any and every conservative idea. And thus, the liberal party became the conservative party. And the conservative party just went insane.

The Republicans can abandon their base, which will almost certainly spawn a third party. If they liberalized on economic issues, they would be the same as the Democratic Party and this would likely lose them their big money economic conservative base who more agree with the Democrats on social issues anyway. If they liberalized on social issues, their voting base would disintegrate. They really don’t have any good options but the continuation of the Southern Strategy. The Democratic Party is already Republican Lite. The political landscape cannot support the Republicans becoming Democratic Heavy.

Afterword

There is one option that I think might give the Republicans some breathing room. They could become a libertarian party. They wouldn’t stay that way. The truth is that libertarianism is not very popular. So it would degenerate into old fashioned conservatism. But it would provide the Democrats some time to liberalize their ideology and eventual create a space for a traditional conservative party that the Republicans could occupy.