Friday, March 27, 2015

Republican War with Science. What killed the dinosaurs?

What is it with Republicans and Climate Change? According to every Republican talking head, global warming and its associated climate change are a huge hoax perpetrated by a conspiracy of Democratic Party talking heads and the worldwide community of climate scientists who are making false claims and alleging a false consensus because they are getting paid to do so. In support of these startling claims, they cherry pick data so as to create the appearance of doubt and confusion where none really exists. This tactic has been used successfully for years by the tobacco industry to undermine the credibility of the science relating addiction and cancer to cigarette smoking. For decades people died, confident that the link to cancer had not yet been “proven.” Finally, the evidence became so overwhelming that the deniers could no longer convince enough people that doubt was the wisest conclusion regarding whether smoking was safe or not.
      The same strategy of spreading doubt and confusion where the science is clear is now currently being waged by the Republican party. The hope is that doubt will be maintained as the wisest conclusion regarding the burning of fossil fuels. Just as with cigarette smoking, confusion and doubt are the friends of the moneyed interests. Even among the Republican deniers there is confusion as to what to confuse. 
Republican talking heads at all levels confuse two issues: 1. Is the average temperature of Earth rising? The evidence for this is overwhelming and not an item of belief but of fact. Some of the currently observable indicators of global warming, trends that take decades to establish, are
·      disrupted weather patterns and severity of storms
·      changed migratory patterns
·      rising tree lines to higher elevations
·      diminished glacial melt due to diminished glaciers
·      rising sea level due to thermal expansion
·      net loss of polar ice
·      diminished thickness of arctic ocean ice
·      accelerating melting of the Greenland ice pack
The consequences in coastal real estate lost and the increasing height of tidal surges during hurricanes as the ocean rises have been widely discussed. However, more serious than real estate investments is life itself.
About 30% of the world's population depends on glacial melt to supply its drinking water. With glaciers disappearing at an alarming rate, available drinking water is endangered as well. Think about where loyalties should lie: with the moneyed interests who own coalfields or with humanity. That's a pretty stark choice, but not a scientifically implausible one. And it is beginning to happen before our eyes in Asia. Global warming threatens drinking water security.
      All these indicators are equivalent to looking out the window to see if it is raining. Republican talking heads will point to some measurement or other that by itself would seem to suggest no global warming. That’s like pointing to some model that says the chance of rain today is 60% while the head out the window sees the rain. That’s what is meant by cherry picking the data. The science is settled. The warming of Earth is readily visible by the effects of climate change and disrupted weather patterns as well as by independent measurements from monitoring stations worldwide as well as from satellite data.
       The other issue for Republican attack by sewing doubt and confusion  with confidence is whether human activity (burning fossil fuels) is driving global warming. Republicans conflate the certainty in the case of global warming and the high probability for the case that human activity is a major driver for global warming to diminish the credibility of the climate change argument. Their claim is that where doubt exists, the science is not settled. In other words, the case for human influence is not proven. This is a bogus argument because very rarely does empirical science deal with proving anything. Its business is to establish a high probability that its conclusions are correct. That is exactly the case with the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Experimental scientists leave “proofs” to the mathematicians.
      However, let’s take a closer look at human influence on climate. It is well known that carbon dioxide, CO2, is a significant greenhouse gas. Indeed, so is water. The major products of combustion of fossil fuels, besides ash, are CO2 and water. Let’s look at the human contribution to putting theses gases into the atmosphere.
      There are about 23,000 coal-fired power stations in the world. An average 500-megawatt station takes about 14,300 train cars a year just to supply just one of these power stations with coal. That's 329 million train cars of coal in one year worldwide. Just one power station produces on average 6 billion pounds of CO2 per year. For all the power stations worldwide, that's 138 trillion pounds of CO2 per year going into the atmosphere. Every year! Think about how much gas it takes to make one pound of gas. Take a container and keep pumping gas into it until its weight has increased by one point. Gases are almost weightless, right? So it takes a lot of gas to make a pound. We are talking about putting more than a hundred trillion of pounds of gas into the atmosphere every year. How can Republicans claim with such certainty that the influence of such massive human activity is negligible? Even if the science seems sketchy to them, how can they be so certain there is no human influence? Could it be all about money?
      The numbers above regarding the burning of coal (just one of the fossil fuels) show there are very large dollar amounts at stake here. There are about 100 tons of coal in an average coal train car. At about $50 per ton of coal that’s about $5000 dollars per car load. At about 14,300 car loads per year at one station, that’s about $70,000,000 per year for the cost of coal for one station. There are about 600 coal fired power stations in the United Sates alone. That amounts to a minimum of about $40,000,000,000 per year just in the US, every year. People have been killed for a lot less than that, much less lied to. This amount of money can turn otherwise reasonably intelligent people into dangerous advocates of something really bad. And has.

What Killed the Dinosaurs?
   by David H Spielberg
What killed the dinosaurs? Really?
Was it climate change?

A virus?
A meteor?
Or was it simply
that they'd held the stage too long

had lost their edge

and that their time was up?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The End of National Allegiances

On Deception Watch describes the convergence of global issues that necessitates the creation of a new world governing paradigm. The current model, active since the dawn of recorded history, territorial, patriarchal, and tribal, is no longer up to the task of fulfilling the social contract whereby the people governed acquiesce to be governed in return for protection from alien intrusion, unlawful or anarchistic threats to local and personal security, and a modicum of assurance to at least marginal food and shelter. That contract, in the age of global communication, immediate access to almost the entire fund of human knowledge, and the rapid globalization of what once were merely local crises and opportunities, is proving less and less relevant. Loyalties are becoming less and less directed to traditional political symbols and institutions. Allegiances and self-interest are moving rapidly towards economic power centers and away from political power centers.

Accountability in this age of the global super corporation has become more and more invisible, more and more opaque. Power is no longer derived from the people, willingly or unwillingly. Power is more and more becoming centered around economic algorithms and those who manage the application of those algorithms. Markets are global. The algorithms are global and national governments are becoming simply one of the many variables to be manipulated, measured, and rewarded or punished.

It is the new world of the illusion of government while the real power works behind the scenes rewarding with the opiate of the means to political power or punishing with the withdrawal of those means, closely followed by a swift spiral into public oblivion.

Nothing is as it seems, which has always been true. News media are businesses and businesses have an agenda that supports that business and so the news supports the agenda that supports the business. Government purveyors of information are part of a business, the business of preserving access to the prerogatives of government. They have an agenda to support the government that provides the prerogatives. And all sources of information and opinion have one thing in common: the will to deceive. The world is complicated and the lure of deception is partly traditional (how do you tell if a politician is lying...?) and partly the result of the need to deceive because the truth is too complicated.

This and the near future (thirty to fifty years) is an age of transition. The tangling alliances of global economics have only two paths to take. The alliances evolve into a world governed by protocols that manage self-interest by nourishing a unique global unity, a world of "all us and no them", a world of coerced inclusion or they evolve into uncontrolled chaos. So the only sustainable path (not to mention the only profitable path) for the alliances is to accept the new allegiance to a global economic structure, its governing algorithms, its economically incentivized system of rewards and punishments, and constitutions (real and alleged) replaced by a mission statement and a business plan.

On Deception Watch proposes how this new world order comes to be. The sequel, a work currently in progress, will bring the reader to a closer examination of this transition stage, the beginning of which we see all around us, from The People's Republic of China being the creditor of last resort to the melting of the Arctic Ocean in the summer. The global imperative is all around us and is the focus of the second in the series of World Federation novels.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What happened to KMS Fusion and why? How the story begins...

On Deception Watch


     This is a work of fiction. The science described here is accurate and either already demonstrated or is considered by experts to be plausible. The characters are mostly fictional. However, the character, Arthur J. Cranshaw, is modeled after the late Keeve M. ("Kip") Siegel, a professor of Physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and successful entrepreneur. He was the founder of KMS Fusion, the first and only private sector company to achieve controlled thermonuclear fusion using laser implosion technology. In 1974, to the embarrassment of federal government laboratories, on May 1, May 3, and again on May 9, KMS Fusion achieved the world’s only successful laser-induced nuclear fusion ignition. The fictitious company, AJC Fusion, is modeled after KMS Fusion.
     Professor Siegel died on March 14, 1975 under mysterious circumstances while testifying before the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy. He was testifying about government obstruction of his company’s (successful) research efforts. With his death the property rights of KMS Fusion were essentially looted by the federal government and its race to achieving controlled nuclear fusion was fatally crippled. No laboratory has yet achieved what KMS Fusion achieved in 1974.
    The rest of the story is the plausible prediction of how The World Federation might come to be.                    

Friday, December 24, 2010

Laser-fusion energy, justice, and a plausible new governing paradigm for a New World Order

Do the ends justify the means? It is a disturbing question that challenges our collective ethic and understanding of right and wrong. That my story, On Deception Watch, seems to answer this question in the affirmative disturbs many readers. Conditioned and formulaic story lines lead readers to anticipate an ending where everyone "gets what they deserve." I knew On Deception Watch, because of its break with the traditional formula, would rattle many readers’ sense of justice. Be clear. The book presents not a preferred scenario, but rather a plausible scenario.

My understanding of history tells me that justice rarely plays out on the big stage of international interests as it more acceptably does on the smaller stage of local interests. What would be deemed criminal locally, on the grand scale is more often than not justified as necessary at best, expedient at worst.

Acts of brutality and degradation occur regularly (and often to no more apparent end than to terrify) but because they are state sponsored in one more or less contrived way or another few people, if any, are "brought to justice" as we commonly understand the meaning of the expression. To me it is fascinating how justice is finely tuned to scale. The Polish/American poet, Czeslaw Milosz, and the Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai,  both lived and wrote about the difference between a few and a million killed. They understood how the size of the number inversely affects our ability to engage emotionally with the act and even with our sense of justice..

For example, to the military mind a few thousand people (they need not even be soldiers but "collateral damage") killed in order to achieve an important objective may not be too high a price. The element of ethics rarely enters into military calculations other than what is required of them by the rules of war. However, in a serious matter, where the outcome is really, really important, the phrase "rules of war," as we have witnessed so many times, becomes an oxymoron.

In the twentieth century there were a hundred million war-related deaths. This is more, even as a percentage of the whole population of Earth, than at any other time in the history of humanity. Civilization slipped a gear on its quest for perfection.

The fact that in my novel, General Slaider succeeds, despite his methods, in his plan to leverage laser-fusion energy into a New World Order is just a fortune of war. However, his actions and the plan that he promotes to replace an ineffectual United Nations with a kind of super corporation, "The World Federation Holding Company," raise questions about what we mean by "the legitimate government" and what we mean by "good governance." International practice is to confer legitimacy on whomever picks up the phone when the UN calls. How they got to the phone and whom they killed to get there are more or less irrelevant by long tradition and continuing practice. Similarly, General Slaider and his followers enact on a large scale what we would find utterly criminal and intolerable on a local scale. 

On Deception Watch attempts to present a plausible new way of conferring legitimacy to those who govern by using economic grading algorithms instead of possession of the instruments of force and coercion. These algorithms can be designed to promote policies that protect economic stability and the attendant economic opportunities and to punish by a global and inescapable economic "shunning" including, most significantly, refusing a fusion energy franchise to the offending government.

Innumerable reports prepared by the UN invariably and primarily blame bad governance for the failure to move forward on almost every issue of significance to human well-being. The powerful, the corrupt, and the murderous loot the countries they control bringing economic ruin in their wake. Serious business interests are now largely global and highly interconnected. Global economic interests are so intertwined that current international political protocols are losing their ability to control events because of the blurring of the "boundaries of economic interests." Political boundaries are becoming less and less relevant in the global economy.

History teaches us that "doing the right thing by our people" is not a powerful motivator to change the ways of local tyrants like Robert Mugabe. Nor in The People's Republic of China has the similarly vague concept of the “mandate of heaven” proven itself an effective guide to legitimacy. Likewise, military occupation is demonstrably not a viable option for correcting the ways of tyrants because indefinite occupation challenges the local culture, arouses jingoistic nationalism, and where there is determined resistance, it is economically unsustainable.

Another pressure, a new power paradigm, is required to secure good governance. In my novel that method is denial of energy, which by about 25 years from now will become a credible threat as the reserves of fossil fuels quickly plunge down the production curve. In that period of accelerating energy depletion, within the lifetime of many of the readers of On Deception Watch, denial of fusion energy technology and related materials and the threat of subsequent economic collapse become the attention-getters that awaken self-interest in a way that warfare no longer can achieve. The demise of the Soviet Union almost overnight demonstrated the comprehensive national consequences of economic collapse in the most vivid terms imaginable in living memory.

So, On Deception Watch is complex and not meant to end with the cleaning up of the stage, the Shakespearean denouement. Parts are left undone; people get away with bad things; rules are broken because they can be by people with the power to do so; good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. In fact, the meaning of “good” and “bad” lose their objectivity and if we are lucky, when the dust settles, sometimes it all turns out for the better. And who better to take the risks of world stage confrontation than the commander of the most powerful military machine on Earth? And how closely General Morgan Slaider resembles George Washington, who rejected a crown when the job was done, having done what it took to do the job!

My novel, On Deception Watch, (the first in a series as I am now working on the first sequel) is about revolution, with its own set of rules, not evolution. The whole thing happens in little more than a year. The next stop is the moon, and ultimately Mars. But you'll have to read the continuing saga to find out about that.