Saturday, October 13, 2012

OK, I got carried away.

Sharon Astyk posted a very good piece, De-Partisaned: What Would You Sacrifice to Save the World? One of the comments set me off.  JDA commented:
From an outside view (lefty but not US) it looks to me as if the US left (if they deserve such a label – I mean the democrats) is plenty willing to compromise on just about anything. It’s just that the Republicans aren’t.

I mean, on climate, the way it looks to me is that the Dems say “let’s do something about AGW – a carbon tax!” Reps come back with: “carbon tax? typical liberals, taxes are the answer to everything! we’d prefer a market-based solution: cap and trade!” Democrats respond something like “OK, that could work too, let’s do cap and trade.” at which point the Republicans switch to “Cap and trade!? That’s COMMUNISM!!!” and nothing happens. . . the republicans look like they’ve lost all touch with reality, but no, I’m pretty sure they’re genuinely unable to compromise or even negotiate like grownups. But of course they keep taking advantage of the left’s willingness to compromise at every possible turn.
Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Politicians have a vested interest in keeping their office — they have families to support, and a community of politicians and bureaucrats (both governmental and in their respective political organizations) to support, to honor pledges made, in order to receive the support they need to continue in their office. In a democracy, they also have to adjust, along with their political organization, to changes in values and goals of their constituents, *and of those that vote for them*.
Large communities change slowly. If they are surviving (and sometimes when they are not surviving) they fear change as being worse than what they have. Change, after all, is measured in pain. Always. Call it learning, training, call it development or revitalizing, people’s lives lose at least an understanding of what tomorrow brings, and usually add burdens of learning new processes, new expectations — a return to a secure expectation for tomorrow will acquired only with the passage of time.
It doesn’t help the AGW community, that like the Democrats that measure success and graft of a federal program by whether all the money was spent according to Federal Acquisition Regulation specifications, the focus has been on wealth redistribution. They pursued, back in my day, methane *from cows*, on *leased* *federal lands*, in the *western United States* as causing holes in the ozone layer. My understanding is that less than 3% of released methane comes from animals. No one has shown me that there is more methane released from an acre of pasture with a cow on it, than that same acre left unpastured with the grasses left to grow and decay naturally. And no one has shown me that grazing by cows produces more methane that grazing by wild critters from bacteria up through mooses and elephants, including the full cycle of feeding through decay of droppings.
The AGW community could have made razing of forests their poster child for “we have to change”. Brazil’s claim to success a few years back “Poachers only destroyed 1,000 square miles of rain forest last year, we are winning!” or something like that, seems more on point. The Kyoto accords and followon plans targeted countries with money, not those with the least efficient and growing uses of fossil fueils. Emerging countries were targeted to receive money from rich nations to *expand* their use of fossil fuels. Either fossil fuel use is harming the environment, or money talks and the rest is just intended to keep the rest of the rabble entertained and distracted.
The Democrats and Republicans, like the financial gurus from Greece to Spain to Germany, have vested interests in their own security and their own ways of life. Criticizing that way of life is as effective as expecting the whales to emerge from the oceans and teach us all to swim.
The tyrant, the brutal, the bully, can certainly step in and actively destroy the security, the infrastructure, of those that they believe should change. We do that regularly. We potty train our infants, we make arrangements for our sick, injured, and elderly “for their own good.” And we strike and protest to deny cities and employers the ability to function and produce, we fund this revolutionary and that person that needs assistance, establishing ties and dependency into the future. We can paint our opponents as demons and evildoers, to disable their base of people that believe as they do. These are all effective ways to wield money and power. Most lose their effectiveness over time, to rebellion, loss of the leader — uncovered mis-truths.
According to Leo Frankowski, in a novel, the strength of democracy is that it resists change. The most efficient form of government is, I was taught in school, the benevolent dictator. The weakness of the benevolent dictator model is that before hand you cannot assure who the dictator will be benevolent too, nor can you assure a peaceful regime change to succeeding benevolent dictator. Democracy, on the other hand, makes it terribly difficult for anyone to do anything either astoundingly good or horribly bad. This is one of the aspects of the current administration that particularly horrifies me, a President that “cannot wait” for Congress is out of control, and a destroyer of democracy.
As an outsider, my take is that the Transition movements have made progress for some people, under governments tolerant of the different, the strange — those living their own lives as they choose and not as the government dictates.
Greenpeace generates lots of enthusiasm — and operated solely in the realms of finance. They raised funds, and ultimately only achieved temporary interruptions in flows of wealth. Money games don’t seem related to the air we breathe, and whether the garden produces this year.
Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, these are money games. They were invented not to mitigate AGW — they were intended primarily to redistribute wealth. They were intended, at Kyoto, to enable developing countries to develop the ability to pollute and consume fossil fuels as their basic right. At least, that is how I understand the agenda and the effect.
I think there are some things we could be doing, like emphasizing re-tooling existing vehicles, instead of sending them as scrap across continents to be remanufactured. We could be emphasizing co-located residence, shopping, and employment, so that walking and bicycles make sense, rather than more efficient cars to commute 10 miles — or 50 — each day. It isn’t mass transit that is needed, but eliminated centralized business (i.e., wealth concentration) districts, and housing development as a wealth generating device rather than a long term place for generations to live. I haven’t seen much emphasis on that kind of thing, outside Transition efforts, My personal climate change bugaboo, massive and progressive deforestation, seems to me to be even more threatening than loss of farmland to city sprawl and highways, and loss of farmers, yet it receives only lip service if mentioned.
So keep your eyes on the Republicans and Democrats. They pay good money to keep you distracted that way.

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Sorry, Sharon, that got way too long for a comment.

Monday, October 8, 2012

If I could recommend some things to Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, on Foreign policy.

First step is to re-evaluate every foreign relationship, to repair the damage to America's interests in a stable, healthy world, and to establish where America's best interests lie.

Just as the mere stance and determination of President Reagan established a new dynamic after the appeasements of the Carter administration, President Obama's appeasement and one-world-order surrender of American will to other nations stands ready to be redefined -- and desperately needs to be redefined.

America's foreign interests should include freedom for Americans and American business to conduct their affairs in relative security, that America should be capable of responding effectively to threats against our nation, our citizens, and our military (in that order). Foreign aid works like welfare, it makes nations and citizens dependent on the priorities and direction of the government. Within reason, this can be a powerful social and diplomatic tool.

Energy independence of the US will be useless, as long as we depend on stable fuel access to international transport and manufacturers. Use of energy overall has to be brought down, we must localize our lives. The energy answer is less about gas mileage, than about living within walking distance (bicycles) of work, shopping, food, and modest amenities like furniture, clothes production, etc. High speed rail and solar cells to empower investors today won't answer as the foundations of our artificially energy-dependent lifestyles continue to erode. Building out to a local model can be done less painfully, if pursued on a global scale while we still have the transcontinental networks and relationships in place; now is the time.

Thank you.