If Global Warming’s Real Why Is It Cold?

Climate Change Is a HoaxI find it profoundly frustrating to talk about global warming. I don’t mind ignorant questions. Ignorant questions lead to informed clarity. What I hate are disingenuous questions. A common question that fits into both categories is, “If There’s Global Warming… Why Is It So Cold?” But I think most people now understand the difference between weather and climate. And they understand the difference between local and global. And they understand that global warming can cause unusual weather that we can’t predict. So when I hear that question, I now assume it is either just a global warming denier or it is someone whose thinking has been polluted by a global warming denier. Regardless, it is a question we must continue to answer.

The follow video answers the question, “If There’s Global Warming… Why Is It So Cold?” In addition to answering the question, the video shows the difference between global warming deniers and the scientific community that overwhelmingly accepts global warming as a fact. The scientist interviewed is not willing to say that the polar vortex is the result of global warming. She says that it is consistent with it, but that’s as far as she will go. Because evidence matters to her.

On the other side, there is nothing but propaganda. I’ve been shocked at what global warming denier scientists (some of whom, like Fred Singer once did good work) are willing to say. The cherry-picking on that side of the debate is an embarrassment. But most of the scientists are not like Singer; most are “scientists”—people with a science background who have spent their whole career working in conservative politics. So when you hear about that small percentage of climate scientists who don’t except global warming, that’s pretty much who they are.

This is why I don’t even like talking about the issue. But I’ve very glad to have this video to send around:

Afterword

See my article It’s Raining, But Not for Long, for a discussion of how different conservatives think about global warming. It is a progression. Every time their argument becomes untenable, they simply come up with another one.

Otzi, the Iceman, Cometh a Long Way

Otzi or OetziLast night, I watched a great NOVA episode, Iceman Murder Mystery. It tells the story of the natural mummy Otzi, a man who died 5,300 years ago in the Austrian Central Alps. He appears to have died fairly directly from an arrow that was shot into his back. After that, he either died from the resulting fall, or someone helped by beating on his head. It is amazing how much we know about the man. For example, we know that he had brown eyes and suffered from Lyme disease.

One part of the episode bugged me. Everyone involved just assumed he was murdered. I don’t see it that way at all. Now the great thing about these kinds of investigations is that you can come up with an endless number of theories to suit the facts. Indeed, I think it would make a great writing exercise to take the facts and create a narrative to explain it. I have a number of stories, some of which are epic in scope. He was, after all, 45 years old—he could have traveled a long time to get to that mountain that he died on. But I also have a very simple narrative.

Two words: hunting accident. We know that the diet of the man included cultivated crops as well as Alpine ibex, a large species of goat. So I figure Otzi was a member of a hunting party. It had to be fairly large. The ibex can weigh 200 pounds or more. His body was found at 11,000 feet—two miles above sea level. So the party would have to slaughter the goat and then carry the meat back down the mountain, along with all of their gear. Regardless, you don’t hunt ibex alone. I figure, they were on a hunt and an arrow was carelessly released with tragic consequences.

Otzi AxThe reason I like this explanation is that it explains why Otzi was left with all of his stuff, including a very valuable copper ax. When the rest of the party found that Otzi was dead, they were forced to leave the body there. I like the idea that they buried him under rocks (the ground would be frozen) at the scene, and out of respect, they left him with his stuff. Or it could be that they panicked and ran back down to the village. Or, as my father suggested, maybe there were only two of them and the guy who killed Otzi went down to get help so they could bring the body back to the village for burial, only to be unable to find him on return.

The main thing is that all the talk of murder makes it sound too much like a Chalcolithic Columbo episode. The scene of the crime was many miles from the villiage. Otzi had had a very large meal within an hour of his death. All his stuff was left with him so that no one would discover the murder. It sounds far fetched. And as we know from modern life, accidents are far more common than crimes. These were not recreational hunters with high powered rifles. They would have to chase down these ibex and get close. It would involve a lot of logistics, with people getting in each other’s way. Getting hurt and even killed would not be all that unusual.

I will admit, however, that I want it to be an accident. I never want to think that one human intentionally kills another. I know that it does happen. But I want to think that Otzi was killed in a work related accident. I don’t want to think that fate preserved his body for 5,300 years just to remind us of the worse things about us. But I encourage you to watch the episode. It is only 53 minutes long and it is really really good. Regardless of why Otzi died, we see the best of what we humans are in the work done to figure out his life and death by the hundreds of people involved with him over the years.

Afterword

The standard style on this website is just to replace non-standard English character with the standard English character. So “Otzi” ought to have an umlaut over the “O.” Normally, this would mean the name would be Oetzi in standard English. I don’t know what I should do about this. I am using “Otzi” rather than “Oetzi,” even though I think the latter is probably better.

The Ever Clear Mark Eitzel

Mark EitzelOn this day in 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born. As you probably know, I don’t do politicians. But FDR wasn’t a politician; he was leader of the free world for 12 years. I’m not a huge fan on the man. (I’m much more a fan of his wife.) I think of him the way that I think of Barack Obama: he was the best president we could reasonably expect. The fact that he was so much better than Obama gives you some idea of just how much our politics has disintegrated.

Computer scientist Douglas Engelbart was born in 1925. He died last year. He is known for having invented the computer mouse, an invention he got no royalties for. I won’t get into the politics of that, because I know what conservatives would say; rest assured, I have a counter argument. But the main reason I mention Engelbart is that he’s dead. How can the inventor of the mouse be dead? Well, there is this:

The World Chess Champion Boris Spassky is 77 today. He still has a FIDE rating of 2548, which is damned good for a man in his late 70s who seems more interested in the good life that chess has allowed him than chess itself. He is the guy who Bobby Fischer beat. But Spassky was a great player who wasn’t a total freak. There is a lot to be said for that. Looking back, I tend to think that Fischer was not as dominant as he appeared. I think that all of Fischer’s bad behavior at the beginning of the tournament had a bad effect on Spassky. I really hate the way that Fischer behaved. And to a large extent because of that, I have a soft spot for Spassky. And face it: if you got to choose which life to lead, it would be Spassky. I’d rather have a great life and be remembered as a great chess player than have a tormented life and be remembered as one of the best chess players.

Dick Cheney is 73 today. I was going to give the day to him. But then I checked and saw that I had not give the day to Hitler on his birthday. Does this mean I think Cheney is is bad as Hitler. I actually do, but in a different sense than you might think. I believe that there are lots of megalomaniacs around today who under the right circumstances would have been Hitler. And just the same, had Hitler been born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1941, he would have turned out very much like Cheney. Certainly we can all admit that Hitler’s megalomania would not manifest in modern America by an explicit genocide. He would probably be a conservative who claimed that the poor deserved to die of hunger and lack of medical care. It’s a mistake to get too hung up on Hitler. There are plenty of evil men around America today who are well respected and well rewarded. Dick Cheney is one of the best examples of this.

Other birthday: trumpet player Roy Eldridge (1911); film director Michael Anderson (94); film director Delbert Mann (1920); comedian Dick Martin (1922); actor Dorothy Malone (89); actor Gene Hackman (84); actor Vanessa Redgrave (77); singer-songwriter Marty Balin (72); documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield (66); comedian Brett Butler (56); and actor Christian Bale (40).

The day, however, belongs to singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel who is 55 today. I just wrote an article about one of his songs, I’ve Been a Mess. So I’m not going to add a bunch. The main thing about him is that his songs are deeply felt but with a great sense of humor. There is no better example of this than the American Music Club song “Hula Maiden.” And I got smashed on the beach. Yeah, I was thinking of you… That’s brilliant.

Happy birthday Mark Eitzel!

The Rich Are Afraid of Democracy

Howard BealeYesterday was Paddy Chayefsky’s birthday. That got me thinking about the movie Network. That’s the film where just-fired longtime news anchor Howard Beale gives his farewell to the viewers and goes on to rant, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” It’s a sentiment that pretty much everyone can identify with. The world is not fair and if you focus on on it, it is bound to make you angry.

It is the ultimate example of populist rage. And so it isn’t surprising that the rich might be afraid of it. This morning in Politico, Ben White wrote, Why the Rich Are Freaking Out. As he put it, “The nation’s wealthiest, denizens of the loftiest slice of the 1 percent, appear to be having a collective meltdown.” And why? One example: “Residents of Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side say the progressive mayor didn’t plow their streets as a form of frosty revenge.” The heart bleeds for these people!

It reminds me of when I was first driving. My greatest fear was that I would get a traffic ticket and my insurance rates would go up. That is the kind of thing you worry about when you basically have nothing to worry about. Now I worry that the police will arrest me for looking at them wrong as I walk down the street. Other people worry that my government will drop a bomb on their houses. It’s all relative and I don’t blame the rich for freaking out over such little things. But that doesn’t mean anyone else should care that the lives of the rich are so great that they see revolution behind every snowplow delay.

Much of the concern that the rich feel comes from the Occupy Movement. But they never struck me as particularly angry. The group from the last few years that most exemplifies Howard Beale is the Tea Party Movement. They are the angry ones. They are the hysterical ones. They are the revolutionary ones. If we should be concerned about social disruption, it is the Tea Party and not Occupy that the rich should focus on.

People tend to forget what happens after Beale gives his big populist scream therapy session. First, of course, he becomes a big populist star. But increasingly, Beale talks about corporate control. This causes the rich to freak out, so Beale is taken to see the network’s chairman who, lit as though he were God, convinces Beale to preach the new world order where the little people don’t matter. Instead of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” it is “I’m mad as hell and there is nothing I can do about it.” So Beale is turned from a populist into a corporate mouthpiece. Unsurprisingly, rating slide and so the network assassinates Beale on the air.

There is a connection here to the Tea Party. Of course, the Tea Party was never populist. The group was basically a corporate creation. If it hadn’t been for Fox News and hate radio pushing it, it never would have gotten off the ground. That’s to say nothing of all the money that the Koch brothers and others put into it. And above all, the Tea Party didn’t start because of the bailout of the big banks. It was only after the government tried to help homeowners that the group started. So the Tea Party was never populist.

But in the beginning, they sounded populist. But very quickly, they became nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. Now they are for the common conservative definition of economic freedom, which is just the idea that the rich should be able to do whatever they want. Constraints caused by poverty or private businesses are simply defined out of existence. They believe in the theoretical freedom to get rich and once rich to do whatever they please. It’s like they follow that evil bearded Spock in “Mirror, Mirror” with the philosophy: the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many! (“I have been—and always shall be—your enemy.”)

Thus the rich do not fear the Tea Party Movement, regardless of how marginal they are with their rhetoric about armed rebellion and their embrace of gun culture. They do fear the Occupy Movement, regardless of how bureaucratic they are with their economic policy reports. But that’s the thing. Howard Beale is not the real threat that the rich fear. They aren’t worried about an armed rebellion. They are worried that the people might wake up to the unacceptable level of inequality that we face. They are worried that their taxes might be raised a little bit.

This is what’s behind the anxieties of the rich. To them, closing the carried interest loophole would be Kristallnacht. Maybe it’s already happened. Maybe that was what last year’s increase of the top marginal tax rate to 39.6% was. Regardless, they don’t fear populism; they fear democracy.