Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Musings: The Real Threat

The moon, rising late and shrinking, was hanging in Venus’ cloudy neighborhood when Koko and I went out walking in the gray of pre-dawn, long after the roosters had awakened, and just as the other birds were stirring.

Getting out for walks, and to the beach at dawn and dusk yesterday, has been a nice break from the total immersion in “stuff” that characterizes moving. I’m making progress, and got my phone hooked up yesterday, but the Internet isn’t working. Luckily, I’ve been able to get on line because the Airport feature on my Mac automatically picked up a wireless signal from someone living nearby.

I was on the phone, telling a friend about the details of my new house, when he interrupted to say, “Yes, but does Koko like it?”

What’s not to like? She’s got tons of new smells to sniff, ample opportunity to mark new territory, and when she’s outside, the neighborhood kids all want to pet her.

“I might actually get some trick-or-treaters for the first time ever this year,” I remarked to a friend, surveying the keiki that move like flocks of birds from one yard to another on my street.

“Garans ball bearin’s,” he replied.

A parade of kids has stopped by over the past few days to tell me their names and ask about Koko. Dogs are great for initiating conversations with strangers, like the old Filipino man this morning, who was walking his Golden Retriever puppy down to the store, where he planned to meet a friend for a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and yesterday, the dumpmaster, who took the old pillows I was tossing to use as bedding for his four dogs while asking what I fed Koko to give her such a glossy coat.

“I cook for her,” I answered, and he nodded, saying he made food for his dogs, too — Costco chicken, vegetables and rice — and did I have any suggestions on what oils he should use as his bulldog had a tendency toward dry skin.

If only we could so easily strike up friendly conversations with world leaders. Maybe Obama would make more progress if he took family dog Bo with him on his global rounds. Then perhaps we wouldn’t have to spend $80 billion to expand the war in Afghanistan and keep it going in Iraq. The $106 billion bill approved by the House also includes $5 billion for the IMF’s line of credit, a $1 billion incentive package to get folks with old cars to buy new ones and nearly $8 billion to “fight” H1N1 Flu.

Gee, I wonder how much of a role the automobile, pharmaceutical and defense lobbyists had in drafting that bill?

No one in power really wants to cut military spending, aside from a few anti-war Democrats like Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was quoted on Democracy Now! as saying:

“We’re destroying our nation’s moral and fiscal integrity with the war supplemental. Instead of ending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan now by appropriating only enough money to bring our troops home, Congress abdicates its constitutional authority, defers to the President, and asks for a report. That’s right. All we’re asking for is a report on when the President will end the war."

And even if a war were to wind down in one place, Pentagon officials and people like failed Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain are busily fanning the flames of fear elsewhere. Take North Korea’s missiles. As the Associated Press reported after covering a Senate missile defense hearing:

North Korea’s missiles could hit Hawaii or Alaska in as few as three years if the reclusive rogue nation continues to ramp up its weapons system, Pentagon officials said today.

Wow. They're breathing down our necks. Maybe we shouldn’t cut that $1.2 billion from the missile defense budget after all.

But if you read a little more, things get a bit murky, what with all those qualifiers like “if” and “could,” not to mention the unanswered question of why, or even whether, North Korea might be inclined to launch a missile at Alaska or Hawaii.

[Deputy Defense Secretary William] Lynn did not immediately know how long it would take North Korea to build a powerful enough missile to hit Alaska or Hawaii.

But Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the West Coast of the United States.

“That’s assuming a lot of luck on their part in moving forward,” Cartwright said during questioning by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

Of course, focusing our attention on external bad guys makes it easy to ignore the gravest threat yet to “the homeland” and America’s materialistic way of life, even as the Obama Administration released what the Guardian called “the most authoritative report to date on the effects of global warming in America.” Its article quotes Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as saying:

"I really believe this report is a game changer. I think that much of the foot-dragging in addressing climate change is a reflection of the perception that climate change is way down the road in the future and it affects only remote parts of the world," she told a press conference today. "This report says climate change is happening now. It is happening in our own back yard."

"The most important thing in this report is that the impacts of climate change are not something your children might theoretically see 50 years from now," said Tony Janetos, one of the study's authors and a director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland.

"The thing that concerns me the most is that we have a whole host of impacts that we now observe in the natural world that are occurring sooner and more rapidly and that appear to be larger than we might have expected 10 years ago. If anything we might have underestimated the rate and the impact of changes in the climate system."

So where's the $80 billion appropriation to deal with that threat? And more important, when are we going to stop waging war on nature?


Anonymous said...

for that posting there are plenty of answers, and corrections

anyways, here are some smart, rational and informed people talking about reality, problems, and solutions:

very high quality stuff, if one is interested in such things


Dawson said...

"Wow. They're breathing down our necks. Maybe we shouldn’t cut that $1.2 billion from the missile defense budget after all.

But if you read a little more, things get a bit murky, what with all those qualifiers like “if” and “could,” not to mention the unanswered question of why, or even whether, North Korea might be inclined to launch a missile at Alaska or Hawaii."

Your lack of fear of External Bad Guys is disturbing.

Obviously, you're not watching enough TV news. Take 3 hours a day of Wolf Blitzer, and you'll notice an immediate improvement.

Dawson said...

P.S. And at least 10 hours a week of Fox News. It'll completely cure that bothersome rationality without rotting your liver or impairing your ability to drive.

Anonymous said...

That's what's wrong with having the military in Hawaii. It makes us a target.

Anonymous said...

I watched the Bjorn Lomborg video. He said that the biggest problem that we have is that we all die. Imagine our problems if no one died. Really high quality stuff (not).

Anonymous said...

"He said that the biggest problem that we have is that we all die."

-- a WSJ article today had noted him, and this KE post today seemed like it would benefit from his Ted talk on the cost-benefit analysis of various things...hence my comment and link. in any event, sorry if that was your take away understanding of his thesis


Anonymous said...

That's what he said. Can you interpret it in any other way?

Anonymous said...

"Can you interpret it in any other way?"

-- interpret or understand as presented, his talk? sure i can, as can anybody with a bit of general knowledge of the world, a little honesty, and a few sparks in their frontal lobe

the "biggest problem that we have is that we all die" noted in the comment above was the speakers attempt at humor by ~ "speaking to the pit" (in the globe theater, Shakespearean sense of the term)

the thesis, or argument, presented is that it makes much economic and humanitarian sense to take most of the monies currently being discussed for climate change prevention and instead use those same monies to literally wipe out hunger, illiteracy, and a few killer diseases...globally. as such, one does far more "net good" for far, far many more humans than had the same exact amount been spent fighting climate change which would "save" far fewer lives 100 years from now

other experts have (in my view rightfully) noted that ~ "ya, makes sense" but dont completely abandon serious carbon reduction efforts and policies


Anonymous said...

What he said wasn't hard to comprehend and he wasn't kidding when he said that the biggest problem that we have is that we all die. He followed this by saying that we don't have the technology to solve that problem, and that led to his point: we should not prioritize problems but should instead prioritize solutions. Hardly profound.

Dawson said...

All right, here it is -- real, genuine, gut-wrenching Fear of External Bad Guys.

No more screwing around: you people appear invulnerable to levels of fear-mongering that would wither John Wayne; you're immune to Opiates of the Masses that would stupify a Skinner box full of lab rats; you're hopelessly tone-deaf to the profundities of Sarah Palin.

Time for the big guns.

Forget cigar-smoking bearded Cubans parking missiles off Florida and baldpated Russians banging their shoes at the U.N. and swarthy desert dictators with WMDs -- this is the real deal.



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States could defend itself should North Korea launch a missile toward Hawaii and that U.S. officials are carefully monitoring the reclusive nation's military.

North Korea is preparing to launch a missile over Pacific Ocean waters, Japanese media reported Thursday.

With missile interceptors and radar equipment deployed in and near Hawaii, "we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory," Gates said Thursday.


So! How's that? Pretty terrifying, eh? Let's see you intellectuals stay focused on global warming for ten minutes now, boy!

...What's that...?


You want facts to back up the administrations claims that there's any credibility to the threat?


Anonymous said...

We're not in deep kim che until you see all the locals here empty the store shelves of rice and toilet paper. That's a sure sign of impending disaster, usually reserved for threatened barge strikes.

Anonymous said...

In the New York Times today:

The new federal report on climate change gets a withering critique from Roger Pielke Jr., who says that it misrepresents his own research and that it wrongly concludes that climate change is already responsible for an increase in damages from natural disasters. Dr. Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, asks:

[Why] is a report characterized by [White House] Science Advisor John Holdren as being the “most up-to-date, authoritative, and comprehensive” analysis relying on a secondary, non-peer source citing another non-peer reviewed source from 2000 to support a claim that a large amount of uncited and more recent peer-reviewed literature says the opposite about?