December 26, 2015

Needed on #climatechange: Negative carbon emissions

If the Paris climate deal is to be anything more than the lipstick on the pig of Copenhagen 2009, as I called it, if it's going to be reality, we either need to stop ALL fossil fuels use NOW or else start extracting carbon dioxide from the air NOW.

Here's the details.

While it's tough extracting meso-level climatic variations from normal and saying how much is based on climate change, nonetheless, an unusual El Niño that has given Seattle plenty of rain, but Los Angeles and San Francisco none, while also helping the Southeast (and other places in the US) break Christmas warm-weather records, is surely tied to climate change in part.

That extractiveness could include planting more trees and other biomass. It could, on paper, include chemical methods such as seeding the ocean surface with iron to stimulate some plankton. (I say "on paper" because one trial wasn't fully promising. Also, as with most human geoengineering, it's certain to have at least one hidden trap door problem.)

And, speaking of geoengineering, there's wild-eyed ideas about sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Cutting fossil fuel use immediately, while painful, is easier. It would also, if cutting natural gas use is part of that, cut methane leaks into the atmosphere, which are themselves a growing problem, as a monster leak in Los Angeles shows.

December 24, 2015

Someone else who "gets it" on not voting Hillary, but voting Green

Ben Spielberg, co-founder of 34Justice, says he "gets it" on Hillary being the lesser of two evils, but also, like me, and like Brains, also says that he "gets it" on that not being good enough if she beats out Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Here's the start:
The Supreme Court and heads of agencies are, in my view, the biggest concerns in this vein. I'd have low hopes for Hillary Clinton's appointees but no doubts that they'd be better on balance than those offered by a Trump, Cruz, or Rubio. 
Yet I will not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. While I understand the lesser-of-two-evils mentality, I disagree with it; most of Clinton's policy positions are unacceptable to me. If Sanders loses the primary, I will probably vote for Jill Stein.
Laid out nice and neat.

He notes, that like me, Brains and others, he's prepared to be called an idiot. But, he shows the "but the SCOTUS" and other arguments are wrong, by quoting famous Texas iconoclast Jim Hightower.
The premise of these questions, however, is completely wrong, and not just because, as Jim Hightower documented at the time, voting records show that "Gore was the problem, not Nader," in the 2000 election. 
Bingo. Brains tackled the 2000 election bullshit in-depth, here

Here's where Spielberg really "gets it":
If my vote will impact the outcome of the election, I may have to decide which matters more: (a) the differences between a bad Democrat and worse Republican over the next four years or (b) the degree to which I'd undermine our chances to enact fundamental change to a broken political system in the long-run by pursuing a lesser-of-two-evils voting strategy.
Yep. That's bullshit which I would co-sign if I voted for Hillary. 

And, those who are “Democrats right or wrong” types? I can’t do better than Spielberg:
(T)hose who disagree can continue to accuse people like me of "helping the GOP" in the 2016 election by pointing out that the Democrats have extreme flaws and don't always deserve our support. But it would be a lot fairer of them to acknowledge that millions upon millions of people have suffered at the hands of lesser-of-two-evils candidates over the years, that an open commitment to support a lesser-of-two-evils candidate robs voters of bargaining power, and that the Democratic Party has brought voter discontent upon itself.

Exactly.

Go read the whole thing

That said, re some of Bernie's politics, like his political-based stances on gun control and him being a bit of a war hawk, I'm more sanguine about him than Spielberg, as is Brains in his first-linked piece.


December 23, 2015

#GnuAtheist outfit FFRF may sue Greg Abbott; could both lose, please?

Let's hope so, and let's hope that Abbott loses yet another lawsuit, this time as the defendant, not the plaintiff.

This is juvenile only if you don't understand the U.S. Constitution AND
only if your personal religious beliefs are afraid of challenge.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation erected a, well, a freedom from religion secular "nativity" display at the Texas Capitol.

Gov. Strangeabbott, calling it "juvenile," ordered it pulled down.
The display was a cardboard cutout of the nation's founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty looking down at the Bill of Rights in a manger. It had been set up in the Capitol's basement, hardly a high-traffic area, and didn't generate much of a public response.  
But after finding out about it, Abbott called it a "juvenile parody" in a letter asking the State Preservation Board to remove the exhibit. 

More on the background:
The Preservation Board approved the exhibit days earlier. But after receiving the letter from Abbott, the agency reconsidered. Executive Director John Sneed snapped a picture of it and texted it to Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who chairs the House Administration Committee. Geren said to take it down.  
"The governor wanted it down and I told John that, if I were him, I'd take it down," Geren said. "It was an inappropriate exhibit."
FFRF is "considering its legal options."

The Trib has selections from Abbott's letter, and his previous defense of an unconstitutional nativity scene.
The removal comes a week after Abbott publicly expressed his support for a Nativity scene outside the city of Orange municipal building. He argued that the city had a Constitutional right to display the religious imagery.  
In his letter Tuesday, he cited the Constitution again.  
"The Constitution does not require Texas to allow displays in its Capitol that violate general standards of decency and intentionally disrespect the beliefs and values of many of our fellow Texans," Abbott wrote.  
The display is offensive, doesn't serve a public purpose and doesn't educate anyone, he wrote.  
"Far from promoting morals and the general welfare, the exhibit deliberately mocks Christians and Christianity," said Abbott's letter, which also called it a "juvenile parody." 

That said, I'm not a blanket supporter of FFRF.

First, whether because my name is on the infamous Gnu Atheist Block Bot or whatever, I'm blocked from following them right now. I've Tweeted the account of co-president Dan Barker. We'll see if he replies, let alone takes action to have its corporate account unblock me.

Second, I did call the group Gnu Atheists, along with calling bullshit on it when it claimed that Abraham Lincoln was an atheist.

Third, while FFRF may not be as bad as American Atheists and its leader, David Silverman, I've questioned elsewhere the deliberately confrontational stance it has sometimes taken over the nativities in the public square issue.

That said, in this particular case, FFRF pulled its punches, and arguably undercut its constitutional case. It should have sought placement on the Capitol lawn next to the nativity there. That would be a stronger constitutional case rather than appearing in a space by itself. It would also be a stronger PR case, if that's what FFRF was after. Frankly, were I a federal judge, due to the misplacement, and previous interpretations of this issue all the way to SCOTUS level, I'd rule against it, should it sue.

(Update, Feb. 27, 2016: FFRF has filed suit.)

Besides, it seems kind of chickenshit to not throw sharp elbows next to the Capitol grounds nativity. It also seems chickenshit to build something that small, too. 

That's like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Seriously, that thing's smaller than Donald Trump's hair or the lifespan of his schlong comment. (It's bigger than his actual schlong, though, I'm sure.)

In other words, if you want to fight Greg Abbott on this, man up!

In light of the suit actually being filed, I stand by everything I just wrote, whether specifically in the last three paragraphs, or further up.

Fourth, once again showing its actual legal cluelessness, FFRF backed Michael Newdow in his suit over "So help me God" as part of the presidential inaugural oath. (A Gnu Atheist Internet troll popped up his head over that one, too.) Indeed, I found this stupid enough I did a second blog post about it two weeks later.

All of these are examples of intellectual dishonesty, which isn't the humanist way of doing things. But the back of hand to forehead martyrdom is the Gnu way of doing things, oftentimes.

FFRF and AA are probably swimming in the same general, smallish pool of donors. Both may have plenty of activist followers, but donors is a separate issue.

That said, the old "flies, honey and vinegar" cliché (ignoring that bullshit catches even more) comes to mind. But, FFRF and AA both seem to want to practice SJW-type back-of-hand-to-forehead "martyrdom" as much as anything. (Remember, there's just one letter's difference between SJW and JW.)

So, if Dan Barker doesn't want to unblock me, I'm OK with that, too. I'll keep calling them like I see them.

Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta tries to make the argument for FFRF. My thoughts in response?

  • First, did FFRF explicitly ask for the Capitol basement while all other displays were on the lawn? If so, further shame on FFRF. And, the State Preservation Board should have rejected the application in that case. That said, if it's not already the case, the SPB should change its application form to stipulate where on Capitol grounds such displays are or are not allowed.
  • Second, the nativity scene doesn't belong on the Capitol lawn without the proper secular fig leaf. Abbott's wrong, just like about the Orange display. But, two wrongs don't make a right.
  • Third, shock me that Abbott is parading a fake George Washington quote. Three wrongs don't make a right, either.
That's my hot take on his take. Well, adding that an apparent worshiper of his on Facebook called this "just a blog," to which I replied, "Well, isn't that what Hemant does?"

Also to that commenter, as I said there? Three other letters are GFY.

As for your idea that Mehta was reporting or something, rather than blogging? Wrong! And, just to not "tip jar" him, with followers like you, I put the "no follow" attribute on the link to take away pageviews. (And stopped reading your comments on Facebook.)

Speaking of this, a staff wrter at Austin Chronicle, who also wrote about the kerfuffle, is such an in-the-tank Gnu that according to him, people like me aren't really atheists; we're "fence-sitting agnostics."

Richard Whitaker? And, claiming I use "Gnu Atheist" like a smear when you do exactly that with "agnostic"? And, thinking that I think atheism is something more than a philosophical stance, when it's Gnu Atheists, not me, that think that way. Our Twitter exchange gets more bizarre the longer it gets.

Gnu Atheists: Once again proving that fundamentalism comes in many flavors. This also gives me a good reason to practice my Neo-Cynicism, and, per Harvard, my sarcasm is helping my creativity.

December 22, 2015

#Cardinals sign Mike Leake: "meh" is my best response

Mike Leake: Your new
nondyanmic Cardinal
So, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has signed a B-grade John Lackey in former Reds stalwart Mike Leake, after losing the original John Lackey to the Cubs this offseason, for the same per-year price as Lackey, only for at least three if not four years longer.

Actually, that's not quite fair, perhaps. Leake is maybe a B-plus John Lackey, not a B-grade Lackey. But, we didn't need a back-of-the rotation pitcher so badly as to sign one to a five-year deal, let alone with a sixth option year. (It's a mutual option, not a player option, so that's not quite so bad as a player option.) He may not be a No. 5 starter, but he's no better than No. 3.

Mo had earlier promised no "dynamic signings." Well, this isn't a dynamic signing, and I'm not sure it's that good of one in general.

Seriously, unless a clear No. 1 or No. 2 starter was available, Mo shouldn't have been signing a pitcher to a six-year contract.

Unless Mo has clear evidence he's not telling the public about Carlos Martinez's shoulder (which is always possible), a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Martinez, and Jaime Garcia (with allowance for his injury history) and a fourth/fifth starter would work out fine while Lance Lynn was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. I'd rather the team had continued to explore seeing if Mark Buehrle wouldn't do a two-year deal to slot behind the big three.

Also unfortunately, this means Mo is probably done "big game hunting" unless he uses some Memphis-level pitching like Tyler Lyons or Tim Cooney to make a trade. It means that the likes of Chris Davis are surely off the table now. I don't know if a Denard Span or other outfield addition in free agency, which I said would be acceptable when paired with a pitching upgrade, is going to be done, either.

And, at St. Louis' paper of record, and paper of overpaid publishers, Ben Hochman tries to sell fandom on Leake, with a very selective column. When you ignore his low K rate and tout him as a batting pitcher (when in reality he's nowhere near a Zack Greinke and hasn't been plus-.200 since 2012), you're stretching.

Worse, shock me, Jeff Gordon is right, and for the second time in a week. Somebody must have spiked his coffee. Gordo honestly calls him a No. 4/5 starter (while noting that he's a good ground ball pitcher that could benefit from pitching in St. Louis). Even as contracts inflate, you don't give those guys what Mo just paid. (That said, note to Gordo: Tyler Lyons was 27 himself last year. Same age as Leake. There's no more "too soon" or "rushing him." He's not an MLB starter, not from this corner's perspective.)

Bernie Miklasz, who departed the P-D to ESPN radio (with Hochman replacing him under an acute version of Peter Principle) makes a somewhat better case than Hochman, but still falls short. He's right on noting Garcia's fragility is an issue, and that Lyons and Cooney aren't all that, but still, if he, like Hochman, is reaching into the "great hitting pitcher" bag, he's stretching.

If the Cards are going to overpay in free agency, I'd rather they overpaid for a potential Big Kahuna, not a "meh."

Ot, that Mo had paid what the Cubs did, or a bit more, for Lackey.

#GMO #Frankenfood folks? It's in your cheese, your baguette, and more

A couple of years ago, GMO peed in ant-GMOers organic cornflakes with its series of mini-articles entitled "Panic-free GMOs."

A fancy, stinky cheese? Full of GMO-made enzymes. /Grist
The gist of the series is that two-thirds of what anti-GMOers claim about GMO safety, inspections, etc. is totally wrong and of no concern, one-quarter is of minor concern and one-twelfth is of modest-moderate concern.

In fact, for me, the piece is a litmus test of how open-minded anti-GMOers are. I point out when I post the link that it's from "noted, respective environmental magazine Grist." If they still write it off, I mark them as not very open-minded. If they mark it off and for bonus points, claim Grist is on the take or whatever, they're the type of people I'll then block on Facebook or something.

Anyway, Grist is at it again. This time, with what can only be called a bitch slap for the anti-GMO wing of foodies.

Your organic, pesticide-free French baguette flour?
Full of mutagenic, irradiated wheat. / Grist
Artisinal cheese and GMOs? French organic wheat in Parisian baguettes and GMOs PLUS mutagenesis? Quelle horreur! But, yes, and yes and Grist has the details.

Beyond that, as Grist notes, the real issue is that depending on exactly how you define the phrase "genetically modified organism," you could kill almost the entire modern food supply.

And, by "modern," for people who lament the lack of simplicity in today's Big Ag, I mean all corn of the last 80-90 years, for example.

Unfortunately, until 1992, the US allowed many of the same genetically modified organisms in the organic-labeled food supply that the EU still does. Unfortunate in general, because despite myths here in the US, the EU is not some anti-GMO bastion. Unfortunate in particular, because US anti-GMOer foods can't be hoist over a petard while eating a baguette. (They still can while eating a fancy cheese, whether from France or Merika.) I've already covered the petards hoist with mutagenic crops, like Rio Star grapefruit and beer barley.

And, beyond close-mindedness, and a wish for a "good old days' agricultural simplicity that's as much naivete as reality, anti-GMOism in general, to me, is getting closer and closer to things like the gluten-free world. Food snobbery combined with food porn.

That said, for people who aren't snobby but who are in the nutbar wing of greens, whether small-g or capital-G of certain members of the Green Party (which is why I'm not a registered member), stances on this issue, like on vaccinations, undercut claims to be in the reality-based community, or decrying climate change denialists for not following the science.

As Grist goes on to point out, following the science shows genes jumping species boundaries on their own. That's the way evolutionary biology works; it's weirder yet that the original Darwinian version, as the modern neo-Darwinian synthesis has noted.

And, THAT is the reality-based community.

Oh, and beyond genes, plants are full of chemicals, too. And, lab-created meat is not yet "just around the corner," but it's getting closer. And, yes, I'd eat it. And, anti-GMOers, yes, I'll use it as another petard against you as needed.

December 21, 2015

TX Progressives looks at Ted Cruz, Green Party, Christmas pablum, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes Ag Commissioner Sid Miller a happy holiday as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff reviews who filed for what in the Democratic primaries in Texas.

The Green Party of Texas filed almost sixty candidates for state and local offices for the 2016 election, reports PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

SocraticGadfly dips into the archives and offers up thoughts on that Christmas chestnut "It's a Wonderful Life," including what a remake might look like, and a follow-up post about all of what's wrong with the original.

Greg Abbott reacts to children coming to America by sending troops. Obama looks at solving problems in Central America.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is disgusted that the only tools Republicans have are military force, fear and hate.

Neil at All People Have Value said that we would be better off with the values of Christmas rather than with the values of commerce. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

===============

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast has the latest prosecutorial stupidity over Waco bikers.

Mean Rachel wishes Rep. Elliott Naishtat a fond farewell.

Texas Watch is pressing the TEA for more information about school bus safety.

Next City believes that urbanists will like Houston Mayor-elect Sylvester Turner.

Christopher Hooks analyzes the recent mock mass shooting.

Chris Brantner has some advice for cable cord cutters.

John Wright proposes five New Year's resolutions for the LGBT movement.

Paradise in Hell tries to distinguish between Ted Cruz's lies.

Kyle Jack lists outgoing Houston Mayor Annise Parker's top ten snarky tweets.

Fascist Dyke Motors is taking a short sabbatical.

Somervell County Salon says last week is the last straw on not voting for Clinton.

The Isaiah Factor covers school district fingerprinting.

Texas Observer has five gay rights suggestions.

The Lewisville Texan Journal hints that the Dallas Morning News may have taken hype to the point of lying about Lewisville Dam and Lake earlier this year. (Editor's note: On the other hand, any good enviro knows not to trust the Corps of Engineers more than absolutely necessary.)

Huckleberry J. Butchmeup leaves Prez race

Goodbye, Huckleberry. (Screen capture from CNN debate)
Never exploring possible support by the Log Cabin Republicans, which would require him to confirm that certain long-standing innuendo might be true, Lindsay Graham is the latest AAA-level clown to leave the GOP's major league clown car.

Per my poll at top left, that means Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, and the real What D. Fuck of vanity candidates, George Pataki, still haven't seen the light, for whatever reasons.

I think both of the first two are dumb enough to hold on to Iowa and hope they get more than 2 percent of the evangelical Religious Right vote. Fiorina still thinks she'd be as good a president as she was a Hewlett-Packard CEO. Pataki is just in love with himself.

I mean, seriously.

Anybody at the kiddie table (or who should be, Carly, Rand Paul) and who is either dumber, or more vain, or both, than soon-to-be-former Louisiana gov. Jenga, for doorknob's sake, is either one stupid mofo, or one egotistical one.