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Many Happy Returns

Returns Department

December 27, 2016

Returns: Next customer in line; may I help you?

Voter: Yes, I want to return this Trump I voted for last month.

Returns: And what day did you vote for Trump?

Voter: November 8

Returns: Hmmm, that’s a ways before our 30 day refund policy.

Voter: I am sorry. It was during one of your pre-Black Friday offers, and I got so excited with all the hoopla that I couldn’t wait.

Returns: I see. Do you have a receipt?

Voter: No. All I have is this I Voted sticker.

Returns: I guess that will have to do. Now, why are you returning your Trump?

Voter: Well, he was all exciting before the election. He wasn’t politically correct like the other candidates. He spoke his mind.

Returns: So, what is your problem?

Voter: Well, after the election, I realized he isn’t just politically incorrect. Actually, he’s crazy. He wants to start a new arms race. His tweets may get us in a nuclear war. He’s saying a bunch of stuff that will destroy the environment and the economy.

Returns: So you are saying your Trump is defective? Did you try turning him off and back on again? You know, a reboot?

Voter: Yes, I have tried that a bunch times, and each time he says even nuttier stuff.

Returns: And he didn’t say nutty stuff before the election?

Voter: Well, I guess he did, but I didn’t take it seriously. I mean the stuff Trump says about global warming! I’ve got beachfront property in Miami! A Trump presidency will ruin me!

Returns: And you didn’t consider this before the election?

Voter: No, I guess it didn’t.

Returns: And you didn’t read any of the product reviews?

Voter: No, and I guess I should have been suspicious when I went to vote and the Trump voters around me were wearing white sheets and hoods. The man behind the counter was covered with swastika tattoos.

Returns: So what do you want now?

Voter: Can I get my vote back?

Returns: Sorry, all votes are final. All I can do is substitute a different candidate.

Voter: OK, I’ll take the Hillary. I was going to go for Hillary before, but people told me I needed a Bernie instead. Then, I couldn’t have a Bernie so I took the Trump. Now, I want the Hillary.

Returns: Sorry, the Hillary is no longer available.

Voter: Are you sure? She really was a good candidate. She had reasonable policies. She was actually a lot like Obama. In fact, I really like Obama. Can I have an Obama instead?

Returns: Sorry, that selection is being termed out in January. You can’t have an Obama. All I can give you now is a Pence.

Voter: Isn’t that the one who thinks gay people can be cured and agrees with Trump that global warming is a hoax?

Returns: Yes, that’s the one. Do you want the Pence?

Voter: Is that all? Isn’t there another candidate I can have?

Returns: Well, if you really don’t want the Trump or the Pence, we might be able to get you a Paul Ryan. We would have to remove him from the speakership first. That’s the best we can do right now under the Constitution.

Voter: Paul Ryan wants to repeal Obamacare and Medicare and wants to privatize Social Security. No, I don’t want the Ryan either.

Returns: So what do you want?

Voter: I guess I’ll just keep the Trump.

Returns: But you said the Trump is crazy and would ruin the environment and the economy.

Voter: Yes, but at least he’s entertaining.

Have an entertaining new year, voters, a lots of luck.

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December 28, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

If Trump Wins-one last post on this election

This will be my last blog entry before the election. I have been stating my reasons why Donald Trump should not be President. While Trump has shown himself to be uniquely unfit for that office, Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be quite fit and prepared to take on the job of President.

I know a lot of people intensely hate both candidates. 60 Minutes just did a piece on how no one is voting for their candidate, but against the opposing candidate. Their report featured Republican pollster Frank Luntz who believes this is a new phenomenon, going back to the Gore/Bush race in 2000. I’m afraid it goes back much longer than that. It started when political consultants like Luntz discovered that mudslinging works and you can manipulate people with language that invokes fear and anger. If you reinforce a negative image of a candidate, you can discourage potential supporters from coming out and voting for the candidate. So as more cash flows into negative ads, voting turnout keeps going down. Now, Citizens United has unleashed even more money into the campaigns, generating more negative ads. Don’t like the crop of candidates we have in these elections? It is amazing how many good people subject themselves to the humiliating process of running for public office. Hillary Clinton has received two decades of such vilification. Clinton continues to stand up to such vile attacks, giving me more reason to support her.

I understand that all the work I have done can result in failure. Trump can win this election. He can do that because, not only does the right wing hate Clinton more than they hate Trump, they see how important the Supreme Court is in this election. We have one vacancy already and will probably have one or more in the next four years.

No matter who wins, two things will be certain for me. One is that I will wake up on Wednesday morning knowing I did all I could in this election. I spent more hours working on this presidential campaign than any other in my life. I knew that if I did not, I would regret it. On this last day of one more shift of contacting voters in battleground states, I have no regrets with that work.

The second thing I will be certain is that my work will not be over. A Trump win would make that work much more difficult, but I will still not be discouraged and give up, especially on the issue of climate change. Having two climate deniers in the White House will be a be setback in our attempts to put a price on carbon.

If Clinton wins, that work will still be difficult, especially if the Republicans still control the Senate and the House. That makes my work with Citizens Climate Lobby even more important. The only way to get a price on carbon is with a bill that has the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

If Clinton wins, the sad truth is that over 40% of the voters will wake up believing the election was stolen and the system is rigged against them The work to heal this nation will probably be the most difficult of all. For the sake of our democracy, we have no other choice than to try.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If you think there is no difference between the two candidates, I ask you consider this.

What’s the difference?

In my last post, I expressed my own dissatisfaction with the current two-party system. At the same time, I have a problem with the concept of “voting for the lesser of two evils.” For one thing, I do not believe that people are inherently evil. Candidates can be flawed, inexperienced, or unfit for office. Evil, no.

I don’t believe Donald Trump is evil. My arguments against Trump are that his personality is deeply flawed, he lacks the needed experience, and he has shown himself to be unfit to hold public office. All candidates have flaws and come to the job with various levels of skills and experience. It is impossible to find a candidate without flaws. Candidates, like all humans are imperfect. No matter whom we vote for, in one way or another, we will be disappointed.

That is why, when I go to the polls, I choose candidates I believe would be the least disappointing. If I find that the major candidates running for a particular office to be completely unacceptable, I have no problem registering a protest vote, such as a write-in candidate or another listed candidate who has no chance of getting elected. That is not the case in this election. I have no problem casting my vote for Hillary Clinton.

I know there are many on the left who dislike and mistrust Clinton. They supported Bernie Sanders and are angry with a primary process and Democratic Party establishment that clearly favored Clinton. The Wikileaks email dumps have been designed to further feed the anger of Sanders supporters. Even before Sanders jumped into the race, Democrats on the left were showing their dissatisfaction with Clinton. Groups such as Move On and Democracy for America were actively campaigning to draft Elizabeth Warren. I am actually thankful to Sanders for taking that heat off of Warren, who clearly wants to stay in the Senate and continues to be effective there. Sanders also made Clinton a better candidate in the general elections, as Clinton did for Obama in 2008.

I find it incredible for liberals to hold the belief that there is little or no difference between the two major presidential candidates. Did we not learn from the 2000 election? Does anyone still believe there was little or no difference between Gore and Bush?

Think of the Supreme Court. I keep wondering why liberals seem so unconcerned about the selection of future Supreme Court justices. Conservatives are certainly concerned. That is why many of them are falling in line to vote for Trump. They are willing to look beyond his flaws because he has promised them justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The court majority that ruled in favor of Citizens United included Scalia, Thomas, and the appointments of George W. Bush. And one more question: do you think that if Mitt Romney had been elected president in 2012 we would only have 8 judges on the court today?

When I think of anyone considering Trump, I imagine a scene from one of the old Warner Brothers cartoons where a man lost in the desert comes upon a pond of water. Next to it is a crudely painted sign with a skull and crossbones and the word DANGER.. The dried skull of a Texas Longhorn rests disembodied by the bank. As the man goes to drink the water, the skull open its jaws and moans out, “You’ll be sorry.”

Given the increasing impact of climate change and the window for corrective action steadily closing, the election of two science deniers, Trump and Pence, will be more than a disappointment. They will take this country on a dangerous course that will be very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

November 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rejecting Trump is the best way to save the Republican Party

I have been blogging whenever I can on the reasons why I believe Donald Trump is completely unfit to be president and why he should be rejected by the voters on November 8. I suggested there may be 50 reasons, probably more. I doubt I will come even close to listing 50 before election day. I think I can do a few more. Today, I want to explain why I believe rejecting Trump is the best way to save the Republican Party.

In my last post, I shared my response to a fundraising letter from the Trump campaign that included a postage paid envelope. (BTW I received a second letter and envelope several weeks after the first. I’m still thinking about what to send back.) In that response I wrote, “I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me.” 

It is true that I have previously voted for Republicans. I voted for John McCain in the 2000 primary and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his re-election as California governor . Being a Republican on the right side of the climate issue was a major factor in my selections. I want to support Republicans who share my concerns on issues that are important to me.

My Irish Catholic parents were lifelong Democrats. Growing up in the depression, they idolized FDR. Electing an Irish Catholic president in 1960 was a dream come true for them. While I maintained my liberal bent in adulthood, I drifted away from the Democratic Party and viewed myself more as an independent. I came to reject the two-party system that has defined American politics since the early nineteenth century. There has to be a better way to select candidates. My late housemate Bob Berry also believed in a multi party system. His efforts to revive the Whig Party was mostly a joke that reflected his own frustration with the system that has come to be known as choosing between the lesser of two evils. For a number of years I was registered as a Whig.

When I have changed my registration to Democratic or Republican, it has been to be eligible to vote in that party’s presidential primary. in 2012, I registered Republican to vote for Jon Huntsman, another Republican who understands climate change. Obama was running unopposed as a Democrat, so no contest there. Unfortunately, Huntsman dropped out before the California primary. I ended up voting for Fred Karger, the first openly gay presidential candidate for either party. Since then, I have been on a number of Republican email lists. The emails keep coming, even though I have not given a penny.

This year, there was no question which party I would be selecting for the primary election. I could not find a single Republican that I could vote for in good conscience. I found several good candidates running as Democrats and finally selected Clinton as the best fit for that office with the best chance to win.

Then Trump became the Republican nominee. That is when they lost me. I can no longer go back to the Republican Party in its present form. Thanks to Donald Trump, I am for now a committed Democrat.

If the Republicans lose control of the Senate, they can blame Trump for their loss. In all of those fundraising emails I receive from Republican candidates, Trump’s name has not appeared even once. Democratic emails proudly align themselves with their presidential ticket.

In addition, to being unfit for the office of president, Trump has shown himself to be an incompetent campaigner. The California primary is a good example. We now have two Democrats running to replace Barbara Boxer, who is retiring from the Senate. That is because Harris and Sanchez received more votes than any of their Republican challengers. In California, the top two vote getters move onto the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. Meanwhile, Trump had sewn up the nomination before the primary. He came to the state and campaigned anyway, for himself. A seasoned candidate in Trump’s position would have looked at the field of Republican candidates and selected one that would have the best chance of coming in second and going to the general. Then campaigning across the state with that Senate candidate would have made sense. Even if the Democrat has the overwhelming advantage, the Democratic Party would still need to divert resources to prevent an upset. Guaranteed that the next senator will be a Democrat, the party is free to spend more in battleground states. Then again, the Republican candidates may have found Trump so toxic that none of them wanted his support. Trump ended up with less primary votes than Bernie Sanders, anyway. His time in California was a complete waste.

I feel for the conservatives’ dilemma. For them, Clinton is too liberal and Trump is completely unfit. I once suggested that they vote for Gary Johnson. He did, at one time, have the opportunity to gain the 15% of the polling numbers he needed to get into the debates. Since then, he has been fading with a series of “Aleppo moments.” Even before that, conservatives where jumping ship to the Clinton camp, including newspapers that have never endorsed a Democrat in their entire publishing histories. They know that a vote for a third party candidate only improves the chances of a Trump win. For them, that is reason enough to support Clinton.

As a Californian, I know I could easily vote for a third party candidate without fear of losing the state to Trump. I would certainly do that if I felt the Democratic candidate was as equally unfit for office. On the contrary, Clinton has shown herself to be quite fit and worthy of my vote. More importantly, I want to make sure that Trump is soundly defeated by double percentage digits. Then Trump would have less of an argument that the election was rigged against him, though I am sure he will argue that anyway. More importantly, I want the Republican Party to reassess its direction and return to the mainstream with candidates who could earn my vote.

I am still dissatisfied by our current to two-party system. A one-party system would be even worse. If Trump succeeds at destroying the Republican Party, we will need to create a better party or parties to take its place.

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Donation to Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, I received a fundraising letter from Donald Trump. I decided to send him a donation in the postage paid envelope that came with the letter.

trump-contribution-envelope

trump-contribution-front

trump-contribution-back

My message on the back of the letter:

I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me. 

khizr-kahn-with-constitution

Khizr Kahn lends his pocket constitution.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z7lN7nQjG0

October 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump on Climate and Science

I have been listing as many reasons as I can why we cannot permit Donald Trump to be President of the United States. I would like to focus on the issue on climate change, which has been one of my biggest concerns as a voter. We do not have much time left to get this right, and, unfortunately, too little attention has been paid to it. When it comes to selecting our next president, the choice is clear, even if you are choosing between four candidates.

One way the issue has figuratively come home to me was just before the California primary. I came home to turn on the local TV news and found that Bernie Sanders was on my street! OK, so he was two miles away, but he was still on my street. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was hosting him at the Center for Labor Research and Education. Afterward, Sanders came out to speak to the press. He told them of how he has observed climate change in his state of Vermont and how Lake Champlain no longer freezes over every winter. When I heard that, I was shocked. It was Christmas of 1989 that I saw the lake frozen solid. I was visiting my adoptive mother Alice Wiser in Burlington. That following summer, I stayed again at the house, where BTW Bernie Sanders had previously celebrated his 40th birthday (Alice, was not at the party which was hosted by her housemates. She was off on one of her travels around the world.) It was weird to swim in such a big body of water that did not taste of salt. In the winter, I saw the ice fishers. They drove their SUVs on the solid ice, set up their tents, built their camp fires, and drilled holes in order to drop their lines. Now Bernie was telling me that, in recent winters, the lake has not been freezing over.

https://www.lakechamplaincommittee.org/lcc-at-work/global-warming-lake-champlain/

As evidence builds that humans are warming the planet and time runs out to do something about it, both Trump and his running mate Mike Pence deny that global warming is even happening. Trump has promised to pull our country out of the COP21 agreement on climate made in Paris last year. Now, 375 scientists have signed a letter opposed to a Trump presidency.

http://mashable.com/2016/09/20/scientists-letter-against-trump-climate-plan/#xEMvDTf.ePqf

Last May, Trump gave his formal policy address on energy to a petroleum conference in North Dakota. As I listened I was amazed at how little he was saying made sense. Now I know very little about energy, but it was clear to me that I knew more than Donald Trump, who boasted how we would save the fossil fuel industry with more mining and drilling. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry is suffering from over supply. Drilling more will only lead to lower prices and fewer jobs for oil, gas, and coal workers. In fact, coal companies are going bankrupt as fracking makes cleaner natural gas cheaper and more preferable. There were a couple of points where Trump was somewhat correct. Yes, solar and wind have environmental impacts, too, and we need to reduce bird deaths from wind generators. Trump also supports nuclear, though it would still have to compete with the cheaper fossil fuels that Trump would make even cheaper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqRkv9VTaMQ

Hillary Clinton wants to continue the progress on climate and build on the work of President Obama. She has chosen a running mate, Tim Kaine, who shares her commitment to climate action. The Democratic Party platform advocates a price on carbon emissions. The Republican platform flatly rejects a carbon tax. For a short time, Gary Johnson suggested he would support a revenue neutral carbon tax, something I support as a member Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Unfortunately, Johnson backed down when his supporters accused him of being a liberal sellout.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/gary-johnson-climate-change

http://citizensclimatelobby.org/

I am pleased to read that Clinton has joined Obama in support of nuclear power. In 2008, she said during a debate that she was neutral (“agnostic”) about nuclear, while Obama gave his support and John Edwards said he was opposed. Bernie Sanders had campaigned on shutting down nuclear plants. Green Party candidate Jill Stein is also opposed to nuclear. Most scientists agree that we need to include nuclear in our energy mix to seriously reduce our carbon emissions.

If you want to see how the candidates stand on climate, energy, and other science issues, you can read their responses to questions posed by Scientific American. Of the four candidates, only Gary Johnson had not responded by press time. Notice how, detailed and thoughtful Clinton’s responses are. Contrast that with Trump’s short and shallow answers. Trump’s answers look like they were written in the back of the limousine, along with that clean bill of health letter from Trump’s doctor.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-do-the-presidential-candidates-know-about-science/#

And if 375 scientists won’t convince you that we can’t afford a Trump presidency, maybe 150 technology executives will.

https://shift.newco.co/an-open-letter-from-technology-sector-leaders-on-donald-trumps-candidacy-for-president-5bf734c159e4#.ha1ohlvxr

Of course, whoever is president, we won’t get any progress on climate without Congress. The chances of flipping both the House and Senate from Republican to Democrat change with each poll that is released. A Clinton White House may have the same success with a Republican Congress as Obama has had. Then again, Clinton may have better success working with Republicans, given the respect she earned from them when she was in the Senate. Even with a Democratic Congress, It won’t happen without a broad based grassroots movement on climate action. Compare that to the prospects of a Trump/Pence White House and Republican Congress. Trump is wrong on climate, and we need to keep him out of the White House.

September 26, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Nothing Donald

Like many people early in the election season, I underestimated the support for Donald Trump’s presidential bid. Then Trump began to rack up delegates and force more mainstream candidates out of the race. I realized his isolationist, anti-immigrant message was striking a chord with many more people that I had been willing to accept.

Trump’s campaign has been compared to the rise of fascism in Europe before World War II, bolstered by Trump’s retweets of Neo-Nazis and Benito Mussolini himself. Much of Trump’s onstage demeanor is comparable to Mussolini. The crowds at his rallies chant “Trump! Trump! Trump!” in unison, evoking the atmosphere of a Hitler rally.

Comparing Trump to Hitler can be problematic. Trump has no plans for world domination and prefers economic isolationism. Nor would he get away with building concentration camps, even if he wanted to. He’d be too busy deporting immigrants and building a wall on the Mexican border. I doubt he will even be able to get those done.

It turns out, we don’t need to look to early Twentieth Century Europe to find a comparable time in history. We can find it here in the US in the decade before the civil war. I heard historian Kathleen Frydl explain it in a radio interview. She was talking about the the Know-Nothings. Officially, they were called the American Party that rose after the dissolution of the Whigs. Know-Nothings were notable for scapegoating immigrants, then mostly Irish and Catholic. Meanwhile, the country drifted to civil war, unable to resolve the issue of slavery.

I really enjoyed Frydl’s analysis and read her article in the Huffington Post. I was familiar with the Know-Nothings. My late housemate was a history buff who had a special interest in the Whigs. He joked that William Henry Harrison was our greatest president because, by dying of pneumonia one month into his term, he was not able to do anything terrible.

Not long after reading Frydl’s article, I read the news of Trump’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. He was being questioned about the endorsements he was getting from David Duke and white supremacists. Trump’s response was “I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.” I realized how correct Frydl turned out to be. Donald Trump is a Know-Nothing. I occasionally use the hashtag #KnowNothingDonald when I see more examples of Trump’s Know-Nothing-ism. Some examples:

Trump appeared to connect Ted Cruz’s father with Lee Harvey Oswald. When confronted, he again deflected by saying he didn’t know anything about Cruz’s father.

At a rally, he told the audience that they would not be able to do anything once President Hillary Clinton begins appointing justices. He adds that “second amendment people” might find a way to do something about it, quickly followed with “I don’t know.”

When Clinton came down with a case of pneumonia, which is a lot more curable now than in Harrison’s time, Trump responded on Fox News. ”I hope she gets well soon. I don’t know what’s going on,” Trump said. “The coughing fit was a week ago — I assume that was pneumonia also.”

Today, Trump bashes immigrants, especially Mexicans, and Muslims. Ask him about global warming, and he replies it is a hoax. Just as the Know-Nothings did in the Nineteenth Century, Trump bashes immigrants, while not dealing with the serious issues that we confront in the Twenty-first Century. Let’s hope the story doesn’t have the same tragic ending.

Know Nothing politicians won’t take responsibility for the actions of the people they provoke. That for me, is the most disturbing part. They send coded messages to their supporters, called the Dog Whistle. I will write more about that later. Before that, I would like to address Trump and civil rights. Stay tuned.

See Kathleen Frydl’s article in the Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-frydl/donald-trump-and-the-know_b_8314110.html

Also, 2016 Republicans: A “Know Nothing” party for the 21st Century by Mark DeLucia in Salon:

http://www.salon.com/2016/07/31/2016_republicans_a_know_nothing_party_for_the_21st_century/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

September 22, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, a book review

I just ran across a pro nuclear power book from the 1970s called The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. The title page of this old paperback displays the word Not in red so that we cannot possible mistake the title’s message and meaning. Originally, published in 1976, this updated edition is from 1979, so it includes the Three Mile Island accident. There is an introduction by Edward Teller.

Author Dr. Petr Beckmann, now deceased, really knew his stuff about the safety issues involving nuclear power. In addition to the book, he published a regular newsletter called Access to Energy. That newsletter continues decades after his death, http://www.accesstoenergy.com. The book addresses all the concerns raised by the antinuclear movement, including health risks from radiation exposure, waste storage, nuclear proliferation, and reactor accidents. It does this with well documented facts, geared to the average reader. You do not need a science degree to understand his arguments, even as he goes into some quite technical detail.

Beckmann is clear that he has no love for folks like Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, and David Brower, as he pulls apart their arguments and exposes their illogic. In his 1979 update, he poses to himself the question if Three Mile Island would change any part of his book. His response, “Not a word.”

In the three decades since Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Beckman’s book and pro nuclear arguments still stand. They have been restated in books by Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline) and Gwyneth Cravens (Power to Save the World). These environmentalists now realize that they were wrong about nuclear power and Beckmann was right. (See also the documentary Pandora’s Promise.)

Beckmann’s focus is on the health impacts of nuclear, in contrast to coal and other fossil fuels. The health impacts of radiation exposure are minuscule compared to those from air pollution created by burning fossil fuels. In addition, the dangers of coal mining far outweigh the risks of mining and refining uranium.

Being the late seventies when he wrote it, there is less than one page about carbon emissions and climate change. On page 175, Beckman refers to it as the “greenhouse theory.” He acknowledges that the theory may one day prove true and that some pronuclear advocates were advancing it in their arguments. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence at that time that Beckmann found convincing.

What struck me as I read through Beckmann’s criticism of antinuclear activists is the similarity with today’s climate change deniers. Beckmann was right, our arguments were based on emotion and not on science. We listened to what we wanted to hear and refused to accept any information that contradicted our preconceived world view. We were the climate deniers of the late twentieth century.

Unfortunately, Beckmann goes off the rails when he tries to explain the motivations of the antinuclear movement with the chapter titled Why. His libertarian politics actually start to show when he argues against Environmental Protection Agency regulations. In Why, he rants against activists with little or no data to back him up. He quotes conservative commentators like Irving Kristol. He even engages in red baiting, although backs away from actually calling antinuclear activists communists.

This is not to say that his comments are not entirely without validity. The fringe left of the antinuclear movement do have an anti capitalist and anti corporate agenda. They were a major force in the demonstrations inSeattle during the World Trade Organization meeting and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course, those political actions contained a wide spectrum of people, many of whom do not share that “Smash the State” agenda.

Maybe, there are other possible explanations for the rise of the antinuclear movement and why that movement may be currently on the decline.If there is any movement left, Fukushima is keeping it alive. Back in the late twentieth century there arose a backlash against science and technology. This is where we got the bumper sticker Question Authority. Vietnam and Watergate gave us good reason to distrust the authority of government. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which passed 50 years ago this month, was based on a sea battle that did not happen. A government had lied to get us into war. The space program was seen as an instrument of American military power, even though it was civilian based with completely peaceful objectives. The landing on the moon was viewed as another battle in the cold war. Our only objective was to beat the Soviet Union in getting there first. It didn’t help that tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States increased during the Reagan years, heightening the threat of nuclear war. The linking by activists of nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs further fueled the anti technology backlash.

Modern environmentalism rose as a backlash to the excesses of science and technology. There was spiritual aspect to the rise of this movement. The Hippies advocated going Back to the Land, seeking out a simpler life that reconnected to nature. That search for meaning in the context of nature began to resonate with the larger, twentieth century culture. More people returned to religion to find meaning for their lives after failing to find in it in the excesses of materialism and technology.

Then, there could be other explanations that have less to do with politics and more with biology. We humans are not always the rational and objective beings we believe we are. We use our brains to make sense of a complex world and try to do it with the simplest explanations we can find. To do this, we create world views to make sense of all the data that is reaching our brains, Many times, we filter out data that conflicts with that view. We tend to accept what we wish to be true and reject what doesn’t fit with our biases.

In addition, we are not very good at evaluating risk. Many times we act emotionally, especially when we are afraid. When our fight or flight instinct takes control of our brains, our logical reasoning process shuts down. Fear is a strong motivator, and we are strongly motivated by the fear of radiation, cancer, and the atomic bomb.

The good news is that millennials have not shared in much of the technophobia that guided baby boomers for the past few decades. Even many of us older folks have warmed up to technology with our acceptance of personal computers and the Internet. Yes, we are still a bit nervous about Big Brother and the loss of privacy, but that has not stopped us from sharing on Facebook or sending very non secure emails to each other. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates helped change our attitudes about science and technology by placing that technology in our hands. Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Star Trek, and the Big Bang Theory have helped to make science and scientists look cool. Instead of complaining about the cost of sending people to the moon, we mourn now that we left the moon and never returned. We cheer the rovers sending back photos of Mars.

Now it is the acceptance of science and technology that alerts us to the urgency of climate change, which brings us to the final irony of Beckmann’s legacy. The newsletter he originally published in Boulder, CO now originates from Cave Junction, OR. While Beckmann did not take a position on global warming, the new publisher Art Robinson has. He is in the denial camp. His website links to a petition to reject the Kyoto Protocol, stating, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The first signer shown on http://www.petitionproject.org is the late Edward Teller.

Scientists are people and make mistakes like other people. They have biases and blind spots as other people do. That should not cause us to suspect the validity of science. Better than I can say it, I refer to Dr. Stuart Jordan, writing for the Skeptical Inquirer in 2007:

“Most people understand that science is a process for seeking the truth about how the natural order works. It is the process itself, not the results of applying it, that lies at the heart of science. Fewer people may realize that this process virtually guarantees the integrity of science in the long run even if individual scientists make mistakes, as all occasionally do, or if a (very) rare individual is actually dishonest and falsifies data. This guaranty results not from any intrinsic moral superiority of scientists themselves, but from the fact that research examined by scientific colleagues in the most prestigious medium, the refereed publications, is quickly subjected to ruthless examination for any errors. Those who detect an error often gain as much credit for their scrutiny as those whose work survives it. Scientists who deliberately avoid this scrutiny by publishing their work in less respected media are understandably and properly given less credence for their efforts.”

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/global_warming_debate_science_and_scientists_in_a_democracy/

A scientific debate should not be a political debate. Unfortunately, the debate on climate change has been caught in politics. Liberals accept that humans are the cause of global warming, while conservatives deny it. Liberals are correct to tell conservatives to listen to scientists on climate change. However, liberals need to listen to scientists, as well, about nuclear power.

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Bike Month

I’ve been a bicycle advocate for a long time now, even before I knew about global warming. I started during the first gas shortage in the early seventies. I bought a ten-speed bike and committed myself to finding a job that did not require me to drive to work. Learning how to ride again as an adult showed me how much out of shape I was. Fortunately, I was still young and, through persistence, was able to attain that goal. By the late seventies, I was riding almost 10 miles one way from my home in Ocean Beach in San Diego to my job in Kearny Mesa, much of it uphill. When I moved to the Bay Area, I was able to maintain that commitment to bicycle commuting, first from Berkeley to Point Richmond and later to jobs within Berkeley. I still ride to work today. In addition, I have made a new commitment to never own another car for the rest of my life. I sold my pickup truck a few years after moving to Berkeley. 

Today, if I need a car, I use City CarShare. Most of the time, I can get around on bike and public transit. I am much happier that way. I don’t envy those who are stuck in their cars on crowded freeways. People express fear for my safety on a bike, but I feel much safer than in a car. I have more visibility on a bike, especially when I’m riding in the rain. I usually ride on residential streets where there is less traffic. Yes, I’ve had a few accidents. Fortunately, the injuries have been minor. I know more people who have gotten more messed up in car accidents than by bikes. The exercise I get on a bike keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally. I call it bicycle therapy, and I am thankful to be able to do it every day.

Sitting in long gas lines during the first gas crisis got me realizing the damage that car culture was doing to the environment and society. Our dependence on cars had led to suburban sprawl. Those who could afford to own cars were able to move out of cities. Jobs followed with them. The poor left behind in the cities were stuck with underfunded public transit systems. Without cars, good jobs and housing were out of their reach. 

Today, we see a rebirth of our cities. Cars, freeways, and suburbs have lost their charm. I see more people getting on bikes and have more bike lanes to accommodate them. Public transit has improved as ridership has increased. The challenge now is allow more growth in cities without forcing poor people out through gentrification. 

Global warming continues to be a challenge, too. Bicycles alone won’t solve the problem, but bicycles can help a lot. A lot more people could ride that are not riding now. They would ride if they felt safe on the road with other traffic. They would ride if the places they want or need to go are close enough to get to by bike. And they would ride if they realized how fun it is, as well as being a lot cheaper for getting exercise than a yearly gym membership. I would still be a bike advocate, even if there was no global warming. Global warming adds another reason to the list. 

This Thursday will be the twentieth annual Bike to Work Day in the Bay Area. I will celebrate by volunteering at the North Berkeley BART station. Maybe, we’ll see you there, 7:00 am to 9:00 am. Have a happy Bike Month.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment