Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Does Disconnected Modern Life Trigger Drug Addiction?

We tend to think of drugs like heroin as the cause of broken communities. But what if it's the other way around? What if bad communities, disconnected lives, and a lack of fulfillment are what drive people to addiction?

That would lead to another set of strange ideas. Think of all the money we currently spent on enforcing drug laws - police, prison, the Coast Guard, and military operations. What if we spent it instead on building stronger communities - better health care, improved transit, and public works projects?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Asked About Climate Risks, Trump is on to Cincinnati

Donald Trump sat down with the Washington Post editorial board and revealed in 2016's Republican Party, you can win the presidential nomination without knowing anything about anything.

Trump talked about how "double sanctions" work better than sanctions, that infrastructure is all about luxury airports, went on a 738-word rant about his hands, and rambled incoherently about Iraqi oil. The full transcript is worth reading to really soak in how much, in terms of chance of winning, it doesn't matter whether Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders - either will mop the floor with Trump, who sounds way over his head the minute he can't shout his way out of a jam.

For climate activists, the section on global warming is the must-read. There are science deniers who know how to sound like they can talk smart, like Ted Cruz's made-up speech about satellite data. And then there are people like Trump who don't know anything at all about climate science (other than they're supposed to be against it) but can't help themselves from blabbling anyway:
HIATT: Last one: You think climate change is a real thing? Is there human-caused climate change?

TRUMP: I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes – if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using “extreme weather” I guess more than any other phrase. I am not – I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room – but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.

STROMBERG: Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?

TRUMP: Well I just think we have much bigger risks. I mean I think we have militarily tremendous risks. I think we’re in tremendous peril. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk to the world, to me – I know President Obama thought it was climate change – to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That’s – that is climate change. That is a disaster, and we don’t even know where the nuclear weapons are right now. We don’t know who has them. We don’t know who’s trying to get them. The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.

RYAN: Thank you for joining us.
In this answer, nuclear weapons seems to be Trump's version of we're on to Cincinnati. Don't like the question or any of the possible answers? Answer a different question!

Meanwhile, January and February shattered global heat records and climate scientists are now warning the climate crisis may be much worse and happening much faster than we thought. Thank you for joining us!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Winter" in Boston

Running on thin ice"Winter" 2015-2016 in Boston so far:
  • December 2015: 10.6 degrees above average (warmest on record)
  • January 2016: +3.5
  • February 2016:  +3.0
  • March (through 3/12): +4.8
It was the second-warmest meterological winter (December-February) on record in Boston. All of the three warmest have come since 2001.

Hey, it's hard to complain about a winter in Boston that was closer to Washington, DC temperatures. But what's a New England winter without pond hockey? And my wife got her first bug bite of the year yesterday, a reminder payback comes due in the spring and summer when pests run wild after warm winters.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Time for Trump to Embrace Climate Action

I've been watching the Republican primary debates, mostly because my wife enjoys hate-watching them in the Jon Stewart eating popcorn sense.

Here's what I don't get: Why is Donald Trump, who embraces radical thinking on Social Security and trade deals, embracing the same old climate denial? Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are hardcore climate science deniers. Trump himself is softening his previous climate science denial but mostly ignoring the issue.

We all know Trump has only a binary policy world view, where the two options are:
  1. WE'RE GONNA DO IT BIGGEST AND BEST AND AMERICA'S GONNA WIN AGAIN (border wall, torturing harder, banning Muslims)
  2. THESE CAREER POLITICIANS ARE TOTALLY WRONG ABOUT HOW AMERICANS ARE GETTING SCREWED (opposing trade deals, opposing cuts to Social Security & Medicare)
Trump's current climate science sorta-denial doesn't fit either of these frames. He attacks climate action, but in a way that makes him totally vulnerable to getting called a loser:
All Hillary Clinton has to say is, "China led the world in solar AND wind capacity added in 2014. It's happening. They're beating us. And my opponent's answer is 'let them keep winning?' SOFT."

That's why Trump should embrace climate action: It fits both sides of his policy world view. I'm gonna do the best, toughest climate deals and we're gonna win 'em AND I'm gonna do the biggest, most amazing clean energy and finally stop screwing Americans like these career politicians of both parties (beholden to energy donors in a way Trump is not) have been doing.

But isn't climate science denial embedded in conservative culture? Republican denial is like support for cutting Social Security and Medicare - near-universal among party leadership but surprisingly divisive among the rank & file. In fact, 56% of Republicans support cutting climate-disrupting carbon pollution and 64% support tax rebates for clean energy.

Think about how a pro-clean energy Trump would play in Republican debates. Trump's current denial just makes him agree with Cruz and Rubio. No daylight between them. Bad!

But imagine a Trump who said: "Look, climate deals are gonna happen, whether I like it or not. They're gonna happen! IT'S MY TURN TO TALK NOW LYIN' TED. We have to get a piece of the action and I'm the guy to do it because I do the BEST DEALS. I'm gonna make China do all the work to stop climate change, and I'm gonna make them buy our solar panels, our windmills, and our electric cars. And the American factories are gonna be opening up so fast, Mexico is going to be BEGGING ME to let their people through my yuuuge border wall so they can come work here. And you know what I'm gonna tell 'em? NO YOU CANNOT THESE ARE AMERICAN JOBS BACK UP WHO SAID YOU COULD TOUCH THE WALL."

Nah, he'll just stick with the same old denial, if climate change is ever mentioned at all in this campaign. Both Republicans and reporters have completely ignored it so far and I'm happy for Republicans to stay deeply in denial until the Democratic nominee uses climate action as a winning political issue in the fall.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Least Accidental Car "Accident" Ever

The #CrashNotAccident movement asks us to stop referring to vehicle collisions as "accidents." A great example of why it's the wrong term to use comes from my local New Bedford Standard-Times, which used the term three times in describing a recent incident downtown.

Police say 38-year-old Heather Gonsalves:
  • Got drunk, then got in her car despite having a suspended license
  • Hit a parked car
  • Hit an 85-year-old woman
  • Left the crime scene
  • Came back
  • Almost ran over a firefighter
  • Refused to stop for a police officer
  • Went the wrong way down a one-way street
  • When police finally stopped her, she was still drinking in the car
Whoops! An accident! Like when I dropped an egg in my kitchen this morning!

Why is it so important to use the right language? From
Before the labor movement, factory owners would say "it was an accident" when American workers were injured in unsafe conditions.

Before the movement to combat drunk driving, intoxicated drivers would say "it was an accident" when they crashed their cars.

Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions.

Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let’s stop using the word "accident" today.
Despite it all being totally accidental, for some reason police are charging Gonsalves with:
  • Leaving the scene of personal injury
  • Operating a car under the influence of alcohol
  • Negligent operation of a motor vehicle
  • Operating after suspension of license
  • Failing to stop for a police officer
  • Leaving the scene of property damage
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon
  • Possession of an open container of alcohol on a public way