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f4b4c944b8be152236ddfbafcc9da630Click over to a must-read post from James Hansen, one of the top climate scientists in the field.  This bit got me to thinking back to something:

The scientific community agrees on a crucial fact: we must leave most remaining fossil fuels in the ground, or our children and future generations are screwed.

I thought back to Chris Hayes’ brilliant 2014 piece in The Atlantic, The New Abolitionism.  It described how asking oil companies to abandon $20 trillion+ of oil reserves was basically what we asked slaveholders to do in the lead-up to the Civil War, with slaves/slavery at that time worth around $10 trillion, in adjusted terms.

The leaders of slave power were fighting a movement of dispossession. The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out. Imagine a modern-day political movement that contended that mutual funds and 401(k)s, stocks and college savings accounts were evil institutions that must be eliminated completely, more or less overnight. This was the fear that approximately 400,000 Southern slaveholders faced on the eve of the Civil War…

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion…

Given the fluctuations of fuel prices, it’s a bit tricky to put an exact price tag on how much money all that unexcavated [oil in the ground] would be worth, but one financial analyst puts the price at somewhere in the ballpark of $20 trillion. So in order to preserve a roughly habitable planet, we somehow need to convince or coerce the world’s most profitable corporations and the nations that partner with them to walk away from $20 trillion of wealth. Since all of these numbers are fairly complex estimates, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we’ve overestimated the total amount of carbon and attendant cost by a factor of 2. Let’s say that it’s just $10 trillion.

The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865—and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought.

The underlying point is pretty unassailable.  We’re screwed.

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Another Republican child star heads to the dark side. My take on this phenomenon is that it’s mostly aimed at suburban parents who are truly terrified at their kids being attracted to the siren’s song of liberalism, and to a lesser degree at older and sentimental types. That so many seem to wind up taking that exact journey should worry them, perhaps?

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It isn’t being said much, but while the Republican Party deserves the lion’s share of credit/blame/mockery for creating Donald Trump–“grown-up establishment” just as much as the Bircher types, if not moreso–the media deserves a significant amount of it as well. There’s the obvious sense in which it’s true: the media has loved giving coverage for decades to a man who would, under normal circumstances, be a local celebrity at best, best known for ruining Atlantic City, having a ridiculous outsized personality, and erecting a bunch of buildings that nobody likes. But they asked what he thought about issues. They patronized his presidential non-runs. And the coverage they gave him at the outset of his current campaign turned him from a guy with terrible approvals into a very strong Republican contender. But apart and aside from that, Trump’s just playing the incentives of the system as well as anyone. Sure, he’ll get criticism from some quarters of the media for making shit up about Muslims cheering about 9/11. But most outlets will print his claims in a larger size font than any criticism. Headlines like “Trump Wrong About 9/11 Claims” might not be so great for Trump (or they might be), but come on, we’re not going to see those. Trump knows that he can basically say anything he wants and at most he’ll have to deal with a little bit of “opinions differ” stuff, while he will get to set the emphasis thoroughly. Because the media buys so thoroughly into a very specific notion of civility, it cannot help but be complicit in turning itself into a vehicle for untruth, and it clearly has no idea how to stop:

At least in the eyes of the political press, Trump is by far the campaign’s worst offender when it comes to exaggerations and falsehoods. According to fact-checking project Politifact, Trump has so far clocked in with 41 percent of his statements rated as “false” and 21 percent as the most egregious level, “Pants on Fire.”

He’s also still leading Republican primary polls.

More mild untruths are hardly limited to one candidate, or one party, either.

Politifact rates Trump’s closest contender, Ben Carson, as having 43 percent of his assertions rated “false” and 13 percent rated as “Pants on Fire.”

For Hillary Clinton, it’s 11 percent false and 1 percent “Pants on Fire,” although she’s also racked up 16 percent of statements dubbed the insidious “mostly false.”

So taking Politifact’s ratings arguendo, Trump and Carson lie almost half the time, Clinton a little over one tenth of the time, but hey, no party is to blame here, clearly! One twentieth the “pants on fire” whoppers of Trump, but hey, she has some “mostly false” (i.e. less untrue) claims too! Admittedly, not as much as Trump and Carson’s outright lies, but I put “insidious” in there, so nobody can suspect me of being biased! (Except, spoiler alert, they’re definitely going to, because conservatives’ belief in media bias is a first principle, inherently believed among the masses and furthermore propping up a multi-billion dollar entertainment venture.) Nobody’s to blame because everybody’s guilty! That this bit of CYA comes before a long list of data points about the public’s mistrust of the media makes it even more delicious. I don’t think that Joe Sixpack has a sophisticated view of how the media has failed to point out the truth, but I think he understands overall that people are being wrongly protected and misinformation is being aggressively pushed. Which is true.

Also, relatedly, Steve Doocy insists that he saw Muslims cheering on 9/11 too. Remember when conservatives were obsessed with George Orwell for a minute? Oh, the irony!

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Much as austerity is presented as just plain common sense, it’s ultimately just a choice about economic resource allocation, nothing more.

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God what a horrible week. Here’s an underappreciated David Bowie gem that remains relevant:

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Something that needles me to no end:

Trump and Carson … received similar “trust” ratings for several questions in the Reuters/Ipsos survey.  Only on economic issues did Trump take a commanding lead, earning 59 percent for his ability to manage the economy.

Continue reading »

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New poll shows Trump getting his gaudiest numbers yet. This was predictable, and predicted: Trump is very well trusted by Republicans on these issues, moreso than Rubio and the others. And unlike Rubio, who understands that there are some limitations he has to follow to keep him electable with the general electorate (and that he has an interest in preserving the reputation of the party he wants to lead), Trump has no limits and doesn’t worry about going too far. So while this could be a moment for Rubio to shine, there’s Trump, advocating for frankly fascist measures to be taken against a suspect class. Rubio cannot top that, cannot match it, without seriously harming his reputation as a serious person. I guess the thinking is that “the base” will recognize that Trump is just insane on these issues, and that they need Rubio. Instead, the opposite is happening.

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