Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why Do Republicans Hate Americans?

There is a reason that healthcare reform in America is stalled, and it's spelled GOP. The Republicans are killing Americans because they don't want healthcare reform. And the Democrats are letting it happen.

Kent Conrad (D-NJ) even went on ABC's This Week to say that, despite having a 60-vote majority, Democrats couldn't pass this bill alone; he didn't explain how he came to this stunningly ridiculous conclusion.

But that only shows the blindness of some Democrats. Because the Republicans have already admitted that they want to defeat healthcare, not because they think it would be bad for the country, but because they want to defeat Obama. They openly do not care about the welfare of the American people; the GOP feels that they need to defeat a popular president because they disagree with his ideology.

That is the definition of a partisan hack.

And the Republican efforts are the reason that the current healthcare bill is going to fail. In an effort to be "bipartisan," and to make compromises to ensure that doctors wouldn't face a "pay cut," the House bill includes essentially a $245 billion chunk of payola to the healthcare industry. Well, guess what? If one of the reasons that we need to revamp the healthcare is because medical costs are out of control, then we have to cut medical costs.

Sorry, doc.

While we're at it, why is anybody worried about the insurance companies in all this? As a former executive in CIGNA testified before Congress last week, they've been defrauding us all along.
At a committee hearing yesterday, three health-care specialists testified that insurers go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for sick people, use deliberately incomprehensible documents to mislead consumers about their benefits, and sell "junk" policies that do not cover needed care. Rockefeller said he was exploring "why consumers get such a raw deal from their insurance companies."

The star witness at the hearing was a former public relations executive for major health insurers whose testimony boiled down to this: Don't trust the insurers.

"The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent and accountable -- publicly accountable -- health-care option," said Wendell Potter, who until early last year was vice president for corporate communications at the big insurer Cigna.

Potter said he worries "that the industry's charm offensive, which is the most visible part of duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbying campaigns, may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street far more than average Americans."

Insurers make paperwork confusing because "they realize that people will just simply give up and not pursue it" if they think they have been shortchanged, Potter said.
In other words, the insurance companies use tactics that are illegal in any other industry: they bait-and-switch, they lie, they steal. And they're struggling with every ounce of energy they have to ensure that they can keep right on doing it.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) likes to say (and a lot of brainless idiots like to repeat) that Americans don't want their healthcare "denied, delayed or rationed." But under the current system, it already is.

The latest Gallup poll shows that 16% of Americans have no health insurance at all (that's up from 14.8% only 18 months ago). With a current population estimate of 307,212,123, that's 49 million people uninsured. Now, you can add to that the underinsured. As of 2007 (and you can do the math yourself to figure out how much these numbers have increased since then), there were 25 million underinsured adults in the United States.
Much of this growth comes from the ranks of the middle class. While low-income people remain vulnerable, middle-income families have been hit hardest. For adults with incomes above 200 percent of the federal poverty level (about $40,000 per year for a family), the underinsured rates nearly tripled since 2003...

Respondents were identified as underinsured if they spent 10 percent of more of their income (or 5 percent if they were low-income) on out-of-pocket medical expenses, or if they had deductibles that equaled 5 percent or more of their income. An estimated 14 percent of all nonelderly adults were underinsured in 2007, and more than one of four were uninsured for all or part of the year. Adding these two groups together, 75 million adults—42 percent of the under-65 population—had either no insurance or inadequate insurance in 2007, up from 35 percent in 2003.

Lack of adequate insurance coverage, the study finds, is not a problem limited to low-income people. Adults with incomes below the poverty level were at the highest risk of being uninsured or underinsured, but "insurance erosion has spread up the income distribution well in to the middle-income range," the authors say. For those with annual incomes of $40,000 to $59,000, the underinsured percentage rate reached double digits in 2007. Barely half of those with incomes of 200 percent to 299 percent of the poverty level were insured all year with adequate coverage.
Sorry, Mitch, but that means that we have at least 74 million Americans whose healthcare is denied, delayed and rationed.

1 in 5 Americans have delayed or postponed medical care, usually because they couldn't afford it. And 60% of US bankruptcies are due to medical bills which have spiraled out of control.
More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts...

"Using a conservative definition, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92 percent of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10 percent of pretax family income," the researchers wrote. "Most medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations."
And rising healthcare costs are also costing us jobs. A study by the nonprofit Rand Corporation gave us the bad news there:
Economy-wide, a 10% increase in excess health care costs growth would result in about 120,800 fewer jobs, $28 billion in lost revenues, and $14 billion in lost GDP value.
Our Republican friends like to claim that all Americans already have access to health care: "After all, you just go to an emergency room." (GW Bush, 2007)

But that argument is a non-starter, too.
In every minute of every day, on average, an ambulance carrying a patient is turned away from a hospital because its emergency room is too full to take more patients...

Many emergency rooms barely can handle their daily patient loads, children don't always get good care and the quality of rescue services is erratic, the report says. Long waits for treatment are widespread, with ambulances sometimes waiting for hours to unload patients. Once in the emergency room, patients sometimes wait for up to two days before being admitted to a hospital bed....

The study cited three contributing problems to the rise in emergency room visits: the aging of the baby boomers, the growing number of uninsured and underinsured patients, and the lack of access to primary care physicians.

The report found that 114 million people, including 30 million children, visited emergency rooms in 2003, compared with 90 million visits a decade ago. In that same period, the number of U.S. hospitals decreased by 703, the number of emergency rooms decreased by 425, and the total number of hospital beds dropped by 198,000, mainly because of the trend toward cheaper outpatient care, according to the report.
So, ignoring all of the hot air being blown around by partisan hacks who get most of their campaign money from the healthcare industry, America can't afford not to have healthcare reform.

The good news is, another partisan hack (Governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry of the "great" state of Texas) recently said that he'd turn down universal healthcare for his state. And that, by itself, may just allow the program to work. Texas has the highest number of uninsured citizens, and ties with Iowa for having the eleventh fattest state (which might just explain why it ranks 16th for the most deaths caused by stroke). If we can get Texas out of the equation, healthcare may just pay for itself.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

John Adams Is An Idiot

En route to a hard look at the healthcare issue, let's take a side trip to Crazytown, which is apparently a small whistlestop in Ohio.

It seems that an inappropriately-named state legislator from Ohio, John Adams (R-Imagine That) has reintroduced legislation (which was originally shot down in 2007), requiring a woman to get the permission of the biological father before she could get an abortion.

(After all, them wimminfolk can't make decisions like this on their own, can they? They need to get permission from their man, the way God intended!)

Wow, coming from the party that claims to want smaller government, what kind of nonsense is this? This is practically unenforceable, unless you hire on a whole new branch of law enforcement. Who's going to be paying for the DNA tests to prove that the woman isn't "providing a false biological father"? (That's the first offense - a misdemeanor.) Are we allowed to take her at her word? "Innocent until proven guilty" and all that?

(This whole argument does lead to the fascinating mental image of some kind of Uterine Police bursting into the room with guns at the ready - "Halt! Put down that speculum!" But that's a ridiculous side issue, and I shouldn't even have brought it up.)

We already have states with "deadbeat dad" laws, who are supposed to track down fathers behind on their child support. And these states can't keep up with the dads, because they aren't funded to do so. Again, how are these new laws supposed to be enforced?

Supporters of this bill like to claim that it won't cost the state any money - this provides guidelines that the clinic has to follow. Which is a ridiculous and unfounded claim. At the very least, you can't have a law passed in the first place without it costing time and money on the legislative side (plus the cost of judicial review). You can't enforce a law without it draining money from the police and the courts. And when this law is inevitably struck down, all of that money is wasted.

And if the woman goes to the next state over and gets an abortion there, what crime has she committed? Will Mr Adams be coming up with something fascinating for that, as well? Will he be tagging pregnant women with GPS monitors next?

Let's look at the words of Mr Adams, the bill's sponsor.
"...this is also an attempt and a hope to keep the two people who have created that child together, and I suppose if you just go back to the simple beginning, there is merit to chastity, and to young men and women waiting until marriage."
Which is, of course, complete nonsense. In the end, the bill has nothing to do with "permission," or "father's rights," or even changing the morality of a society (which isn't something you can legislate anyway). This is all about restricting the access to abortion. Period.

I notice there's no requirement for the father to stick around, pay child support, or to do anything other than give his permission.

Why isn't there some penalty for the father? Why is this punishing only the mother? Dad, following the rules of this legislation, can just walk away. What if the bio-dad fights with the mom and leaves? Mom thought they were getting married. She's now forced to have the baby as a single mom, and become one of Reagan's "welfare queens"? If Dad just refuses to sign a "permission slip" for whatever reason, why is he not then legally required to provide financial support for his incipient offspring?

This doesn't "promote" any kind of behavior in the father, just penalizes the woman. It's ignorant legislation, not well thought out, and would be struck down the first time it was challenged. Meaning it's just money down the drain, in the middle of a recession.

And why, you may ask, will this law be "inevitably" struck down? I mean, I've said that twice; what do I base that on?

It's very simple. Lincoln first signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 (there was a second one in 1863, but hardly worth arguing about). And within a year of his death in 1865, we had the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.

When you try to claim that one person has any control over the body, life and health of another person, that is slavery, regardless of whether the first person is married to the second. And slavery is, as I just pointed out, unconstitutional. (I'm sorry, but marriage doesn't give him any claim on her internal organs.)

It's a cute idea, and a nice try in getting around abortion rights, but it doesn't hold up to any reasonable standard of judicial logic.

In the end, why should the father have rights? At what point is he going to go through 9 months of pain and discomfort, permanently change his body, and run the risk of dying or ending up with permanent health issues in the process?

(I'll assume that that most people are aware that the US has the worst rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world, right? And the second highest newborn death rate. Of course, all those other countries have the advantage of universal healthcare. But very few of those people in favor of this bill would support that idea, either...)

(Of course, if you think about it, how can you denounce health care reform by claiming that government shouldn't come between people and their doctors, but have no problem placing government between women and their bodies? Do you see the dichotomy there?)

Mr Adams is concerned with legislating his brand of morality - sticking his nose (and the nose of the government) into other people's private lives. He wants to get the government involved in the sex lives of the American people. Am I the only one who’s reminded of Gladys Kravitz here? John Adams is worrying entirely too much about other people's behavior.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quick Rerun

Update: I forgot that blogspot prints posts in the order that they were started to be written. So the "new post" I mention below can be seen immediately following this one.
This post originally ran July 14, 2007. I thought I'd throw it back out there, as a humanitarian effort. I'll cough up a new post tomorrow - it's already in the works. (Technically, I just needed the recipe, but since I looked it up, enjoy.)
Health Food For Everyone

I'm going to see if I can't make the world a better place in one simple blog post. Since it's July, this is a particularly far-reaching and important piece of news, and will increase happiness in much of this hemisphere.

First, let me point out that a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture tells us that researchers in Thailand and America discovered that the antioxidant properties of strawberries are increased by the application of a little alcohol. (This is true of blackberries and other colored fruit, if you're curious.)

Now, some naysayers would like to point out that too much alcohol damages the liver. Screw them. They always want to rain on our parade. So we'll ignore them, in that responsible manner of the Bush administration, which bravely ignores any scientific evidence it doesn't agree with.

Straight strawberries have other beneficial effects - vitamins, minerals, fiber. You know, stuff that nobody wants to know about, but, like traffic laws, we need to have to stay happy and out of trouble.

Then we have the benefits of honey. It's good stuff. Plus, if you get honey harvested locally, it can have beneficial effects on your allergies, as well.

So, here's how I'm going to improve your life.
Strawberry Daiquiri Smoothie

1 pint (16 oz) frozen strawberries
1/4 cup local honey
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon (around 1/4 cup)
¾ cup rum (spiced is good, by the way)

Put sugar in blender first, to grind for a second or two. Pour in water rum, and lemon juice. Blend until to mixed (a few seconds). Start adding frozen strawberries, a few at a time. At the end, you'll probably need to stop the blender and stir with a spoon, pushing down any floaters. Serve.

Makes 2 good-sized daiquiris (3 if you skimp a little).
If you want don't really care about the health bonus from honey, you can go ahead and use 1/4 cup of "superfine sugar." Just put regular sugar in a dry blender first, and run it for a few seconds. If you actually pay extra money for "superfine" sugar, I'll have to come to your house and break your kneecaps. I'm sorry, but that's just the way life is.

(Some people would tell you to increase the sugar by 1/4 when substituting for honey. Well, to tell the truth, that kind of measurement is too much for me. I'm lazy. And I recommend that you avoid trying that much math when you're cooking, too. Or drinking. Same problem. It'll cause brain rot.)

Now, I'm willing to go for something that'll make your life easier and cheaper almost every time. But I'm not willing to substitute the "juice of one lemon" part for an equal amount of any brand of "reconstituted lemon juice." Because if you look on the label, every one of them that I've found uses either potassium benzoate or sodium benzoate to preserve the stuff. So avoid it.

There. See? One simple blog post, and you're healthier, more regular, and more relaxed. So what could be better than that, right?

Communication Update

So, let's check in and see how things are running in my little corner of the universe at the moment.

First of all, the boys over at Kook's Manifesto won't be publishing my infinitely reasonable climate change discussion, because Andrew33's tender, sensitive feelings are hurt. Or something like that.

See, I ended up on their blog, mostly because I was invited here. So I did. We chatted - it was friendly and congenial, but we didn't talk about global warming, which is what got us talking in the first place.

So two weeks ago, I coughed up a post to sum up our previous talk on the subject. Which was apparently where things started to go wrong.

Andrew33 wandered into the room and said:
I have an offer for you. To be fair, you come up with a concise pro global warming post and I will post it on our blog. I am a believer in giving both sides of the story... You have debated us well and not resorted to name calling and insults so hopefully this shows that we are fair and treat everybody decently as long as they act like adults
Of course, then you scroll down six responses and you find him saying to Diogenes:
I could call you a typical liberal who thinks fancy language makes you look smart... Difference between you and NC is I respect NC... why are you doing the talking? I will no longer acknowledge your existence as between your ears lies a supermassive black hole... You however are not welcome on our blog since you obviously only think with the part of your body glued to the chair.
And then his pal KOOK chimed in with
I find it interesting that Diogenes Syndrome is a disease related to being slovenly...its symptoms include body odor and other signs of severe hygienic neglect ( a decent description of a liberal hippy type) Frontal Lobe impairment may also play a part in causation.

Diogenes is also the name, I believe, of the evil brother in the Pendergast novels, and a villain in Sherlock holmes.

Good name choice
And it got worse. They decided that either Diogenes and I were the same person, or were gay lovers; Andy took his own posts, insults and all, and posted them on his blog; and things just went generally downhill.

Interesting that KOOK didn't bother pointing out that the most famous Diogenes ("Diogenes the Cynic") was legendarily looking for an honest man. Didn't seem to find one here.

So I came back for the first time in three days, and find this nonsense going on. I got a little cranky, yelled at the children here and on their end, went about my business.

Now, Andy admittedly made something resembling an effort: he deleted all the posts on his end, and said that if certain "corrections" were made, we'd still be debating.

That's the difference between Andy and me. I support free speech, and believe everybody's views should stand on their own merit. And unlike Dick Cheney, I believe that the "public record" should stay out there in the public. I think I've stated this often enough: I stand behind everything I say. I'll admit if I get something wrong, but you get to see the discussion, warts and all.

So I didn't make any "corrections." I put together a second global warming post meeting his specifications, and I stood back to see what would happen.

Which would be "squat."

(This even confused some of his readers.)

So, I've moved on. I had some time in the evenings this week, and I've been picking on "birthers" (the people who are still up in arms that Obama's birth certificate is faked, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Admittedly, this is low-hanging fruit: while poking birthers with a stick is easy, it's ultimately unsatisfying. But, hey, it's been a long month.)

See, what happened was this:
Taitz asked the court to consider granting her client’s request based on (Maj Stefan) Cook’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Cook further states he "would be acting in violation of international law by engaging in military actions outside the United States under this President’s command. ... simultaneously subjecting himself to possible prosecution as a war criminal by the faithful execution of these duties."
Now, his orders were, in fact, revoked, but it had nothing to do with the lawsuit. But that didn't stop the birthers from shouting gleefully "See? Even the Army knows Obama isn't a real US citizen!"

Cook, it turns out, was a Freeper and a conspiracy theorist who just might have cooked this scheme up with Taitz months ago.

(If nothing else, consider that Cook applied for orders to Afghanistan back in May. Obama was already in office. The "facts" hadn't changed in the intervening period; why is Cook trying to claim this abrupt "crisis of conscience" now? If he was truly worried that Obama's citizenship was such a terrible threat to the safety of soldiers everywhere, Cook shouldn't have volunteered in the first place.)

The problem was, Cook is no ordinary Reservist: he's an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA). An IMA is not ordered to go anywhere. He volunteers to go, and is allowed to change his mind about going up until he gets on the plane.

As such, he registered this (somewhat ridiculous) complaint, and the Army rescinded his orders. That's how the system works.

Now, since he no longer has to go to Afghanistan, and his suit is based around the argument that he shouldn't go to Afghanistan... well, the point is moot. The courts don't keep arguing once the basic charges have been settled, one way or another.

And now he's facing a court martial - check out Articles 88 and 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (or UCMJ, to those of us who lived under it).
"Any person subject to this chapter who... with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with any other person, revolt, violence, or disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition..."
("revolt," incidentally, does not always involve rocks and pitchforks, and "disturbance" covers a lot of ground)

More importantly, though:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Thanks to Cook's IMA status, he's safe from some of the more esoteric charges such as Absent Without Leave (AWOL - Art 86) or Missing A Movement (Art 87). But he's still in for an interesting time.

(And by the way, here's how the Military Officer's Association sees it, if you're interested.)

I got the usual range of responses: some people wouldn't let it be heard (one guy even deleted it after initially posting it); a lot of people ignored me.

Two people let in the original comment, indulged in some character defamation, and then refused to print any follow-up comments. (I really love that last link - one of the first arguments of the unhinged right wing is to try and claim that I'm lying about 21 years of military service. It doesn't fit their limited world-view, and they refuse to accept it.)

There was one guy who generously allowed me to post, but said "This is the last unsigned response I will publish. I agree that everyone should be heard but, not if they remain annom." First of all, I have never been annom in my life and I am deeply offended that he would suggest such a thing. And secondly, a LiveJournal account? Really? That's so... 90's...

And two of them actually tried to debate the point. Not that it really got them anywhere.

But that's been my week. And now I have to spend the next week prepping for bringing our new electronic medical records on-line at the next facility. Yay.

(You really wouldn't think doctors would be Luddites, would you? And even the ones who can use a computer tend to fear change. It's sad.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Global Warming 101

I've been asked to provide a simple, easy-to-follow look at global warming. There's a lot of misunderstanding of the subject out there, so let's take a basic look at the Big Picture.

The concept of climate change was first developed in the early 1800s. The idea of greenhouse gases was developed in the 1800s, and the term was coined by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius, who figured out in the 1890's that the increasing amount of CO2 in the air would warm the environment (in fact, he thought it would prevent the next ice age).

The greenhouse effect, in nature, is actually a good thing: it's the main reason that the Earth is significantly warmer than the Moon's surface (which doesn't have an atmosphere). The way it works is simple: sunlight is absorbed by the Earth, and instead of simply reflecting back into space, it's trapped by gases in the atmosphere that act as insulation. These gases, both natural and manmade, absorb and reflect parts of the infrared radiation: water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and ozone are the primary greenhouse gases, along with entirely man-made gases such as hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.

Left to itself, Nature is a careful balancing act. Whether you feel that it was made that way by God, or whether you want to take a more scientific approach, that is an indisputable fact. The earth could not have lasted either the billions of years that the scientists tell us, or the 6,000 years that the creationists want to promote, if this engine was out of balance. Let's use the metaphor of two machines and carbon dioxide (and we'll call it CO2, if only because it saves me typing ten letters every time - yes, I'm that lazy).

One machine puts out CO2, the other (which we'll call the "scrubber") absorbs it and cleans it up. The CO2 scrubber can absorb gases at only a certain speed, and can be overwhelmed by the amount produced by the other machine (that's because, to drop the metaphor for a second, plants can absorb CO2, but only at a fairly specific rate).

The system is set up for the CO2 machine to produce its gasses at a certain rate, which the scrubber can handle. This leaves a "safe," trace amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and everybody's happy. But if the machine starts producing too much, you get a larger amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the insulating quality I described above starts to happen faster.

Now, the first machine is made up of people and animals breathing, fires, all the natural processes that go into the production of CO2. Now, suddenly, we introduce a second CO2 machine into the equation, pumping out even more CO2 (we even have a make and model for this second machine - the Industrial Corporation's "Revolution"). The scrubber can't keep up, and you have more and more CO2 in the air.
On top of this, remember that the scrubber is made up of the combined actions of all the plants in the world. And then consider this thing we call "deforestation," where more and more of the world's trees are being destroyed without anything new being planted. That's like somebody walking into the room every so often and dialing the scrubber to a lower setting, without turning down either of our machines.

This is obviously a very simplistic metaphor, but it gives a very basic overview of why the natural system isn't working the way it should, and why the gradual increase in CO2 that's been noted should be a cause for alarm.

Unfortunately, while the industries who've tied themselves to fossil fuels have waged a campaign to spread lies about climate change and global warming, these same industries openly ignored their own scientists. Back in the early 90's, the Global Climate Coalition represented these industries.
“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.

The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others. In 1997, the year an international climate agreement that came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, its budget totaled $1.68 million, according to tax records obtained by environmental groups.
So we can ignore most of what the industries are telling us, since they're only worried about how much money they can make. (This is yet another reason why allowing the "Free Market" to operate unchecked may not be the best way to run a country, incidentally.) Meanwhile, in the real world, the news is only getting worse.
Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thick older ice shrinking by the equivalent of Alaska's land area, a study using data from a NASA satellite showed.

Using information from NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Satellite (ICESat), scientists from the US space agency and the University of Washington in Seattle estimated both the thickness and volume of the Arctic Ocean's ice cover.

ICESat allows scientists to measure changes in the thickness and volume of Arctic ice, whereas previously scientists relied only on measurements of area to determine how much of the Arctic Ocean is covered in ice.

Scientists found that Arctic sea ice thinned some seven inches (17.8 centimeters) a year, or 2.2 feet (67 centimeters) over four winters, according to the study by NASA and the University of Washington, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.
The big picture, by the way, is called "climate change" - the term "global warming" only refers to one specific aspect of climate change. An important, and even potentially disastrous aspect, but one that can still be corrected.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I don't care what you think about ice and snow on the roads, global warming is a bad thing

Today, let's talk about global warming. Also known as "global climate change."

See, on another blog out there, I said some mean things about Michele Bachmann, and somehow ended up in a debate about global warming. That's how things work on these here Intarnets - it's a series of tubes, and they don't always go where you expect.

(Now, part of the message of the post involved the Left Coast Rebel saying that liberals were close-minded and not willing to listen to other people's viewpoints. And ten minutes after I posted my viewpoint, that same rebel asked his readers if he should delete it. Ultimately, it stayed, but I like the inherent irony in him even asking the question.)

Now, much of that debate was reprinted here in three parts. And, since Andy has already posted replies to last week's rant, let's see if we can lure him here, since he seems to be particularly interested in climate change. (To level the playing field a little, I'll start here primarily with arguments he's already seen.)

Now, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a group put together back in 1988 by the UN to monitor studies about climate change and determine the facts of the matter. Despite White House opposition, the IPCC noted an increase of about a degree and a half in average surface temperature in the latter part of the 20th century. They determined that greenhouse gases and deforestation were the primary causes, and nature (solar variation and volcanoes) had produced most of the warming up through about 1950, but had actually cooled things somewhat since then.

The summary of that study is here, if you're curious. Most of the major scientific organizations internationally have endorsed that study, by the way, and the IPCC shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore on the subject.

You're heading out into Conspiracy Theory territory if you believe that a giant international cabal of scientists is counterfeiting their evidence for some nefarious purpose. Nor do I think that it's likely that all the governments in the world worked together to alter the findings of those same scientists, without any of those scientists saying anything. (On top of which, wouldn't the Bush White House have had some input in suppressing the results, if that was the case?)

(And, admittedly, there was one scientist who left the group, back in 2005, named Christopher Landsea. However, he was specifically miffed about another scientist saying that strong hurricane activity was due to global warming, when he had performed no studies in that area.)

There are several climate model projections in the IPCC report, which suggest that global surface temperatures will rise another 2 to 12 degrees F. up through 2100, depending on who you believe (and it will probably continue to rise beyond that, since the 75% of the earth covered in water is a great heatsink).

But even that 2 degrees will cause significant melting in the polar regions, and even a few inches of increase in the world's oceans will be a bad thing.

Now, I understand that there are arguments against this concept. A number of scientists (mostly funded by Exxon-Mobil, oddly enough) have come out saying that this theory is implausible. Sadly, the logic holds up, and the facts remain facts.

(On the subject of Exxon-Mobil, they did manage to get one leading scientist ousted as chairman. Not that they were trying to alter the results of the report or anything...)

Over the last 150 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen from 280 to nearly 380 parts per million (ppm). You know, since the start of the industrial revolution. Why would that be?

And looking at that CO2, let's consider the nature of the chemical.

There are 3 major carbon isotopes, numbered 12 to 14. Carbon-12 is the most common, and carbon-14, the radioactive one, is the least common. They're usually spread pretty evenly, but, being radioactive, carbon-14 has a relatively short half-life, so that you can measure how old something is by how much of the trapped carbon in a specimen is carbon-14 - the less -14 there is, the older it is.

Here's the thing: since the various carbon isotopes are spread evenly through nature, you'd expect that they'd be spread evenly in the atmosphere. Now, since the carbon in the air shows a lot less carbon-14, doesn't that mean that most of it came from older sources? Like, for example, fossil fuels?

Incidentally, before anybody brings up "well, there are questions about the accuracy of carbon-14 dating! -- you know, I've tried to look into that, and the only place I've found those questions are in Christian (primarily creationist) websites. If you want to make that argument, you'll have to include a link to something from the scientific community, because it looks to me like they're pretty clear on the subject.

Our government seems to be concentrating on CO2 in their current legislation, as if that was the only culprit in air pollution. I mean, there are others: for example, ozone (O3), which is an unstable form of oxygen (O2) which happens to be poisonous (we need it in the upper atmosphere, but not where we're breathing, right?). Then there's the various sulphur compounds, many of which will kill you, and a bunch of various other compounds (mercury, weirdly enough, was taken off the charts by the Bush administration, despite the fact that it's been noted for the number of birth defects and other horrific problems it can cause).

You know, there's a term in the air pollution field: "particulate matter." It's that crap in the air that floats around for a while and then drops and clings to things. "Soot" is one type. (You know those Sherlock Holmes movies with the fog and stuff? I understand that the fog in those was actually smog from the factories, back in the 1800s/Industrial Revolution era, and it used to stain men's clothes to the point that paper collars and cuffs, that you could remove and throw away, were common.)

You know, when you think about it, soot should be heavier than air, right? I wonder how it gets up into the atmosphere? I mean, if your experiment with carbon dioxide proved that heavier gases will always drop, wouldn't a particulate drop even faster?

And where does acid rain come from, anyway? I mean, moisture in the air mixes with nitrogren oxide, sulphur dioxide or the like, and forms an acid that might travel for thousands of miles before it lands and screws stuff up around it.

Do you not believe that dumping millions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere might have an effect on things like the absorbtion of sunlight by plants? (And remember, it isn't just CO2 being put out by those smokestacks.)

And one of the favorite arguments of the anti-global-warming crowd lately has been this 2008 petition, where 32,000 scientists said that you can't prove global warming.

I've been wondering about those 32,000 scientists. I mean, when you look into it, you start to notice some discrepencies. Let's start with "scientist" as a definition. It means somebody with a degree and some science background, right? Are you required to be working in a scientific field? You've got 31,478 college graduates who signed this thing. But only 3,803 (by Ron Paul's count, at least) have "specific training in atmospheric, earth, and environmental sciences."

So, if we take their word for it about their training (and if they were going to fake this, they'd have a larger number, right?), that's about 12% who know enough about earth sciences to not be pulling information out of their posteriors. Did I do that math right?

You know, you've got to wonder about that other 88% of them. What did they study? There's got to be some math, some physics - that's a given, right? Of course, pretty much any degree has a certain number of prerequisites, including science, math and the like. But, really, a Doctor of Theology - well, by that definition, he's a scientist, right? I haven't seen a good accounting of what fields of study these degrees were in, so I can't talk with any certainty, but since they specified the numbers I used, I have to assume that there was a reason for it.

According to most studies, when you include the PhD's, there are 30,000 doctorates awarded each year. So based on that, they were only able to find 32,000 willing to sign on here? (OK, not even that many: only 31,478 - that doesn't seem like a lot.)