Thursday, September 14, 2017


This is the New Yorker's new cover, which it originally was going to use to mark the election of Hillary Clinton as the first woman to become U.S. President.

Now Hillary is on tour with her new book about the campaign, and interviews are appearing (including with the New Yorker.)  Again she is the center of controversies.  Everyone has an opinion on why she lost, most of them, in my view, being predictable ex post facto nonsense, each feeding on the other with false premises and lazy conclusions.

 A combination of coincidences and a nefarious plot by a foreign enemy state with the knowledge and collusion of the other candidate, fed currents deep in this country's collective unconscious, and too many American responded by doing something it takes very little intelligence to know was stupid to the point of crazy.

She was not the greatest candidate running the best campaign.  But that is essentially meaningless.  Everybody gets one vote, and they're supposed to figure it out.  My view today is the same that it was on election night: this is on you, America.  You broke it.  Now you're paying for it.  Along with the rest of the world and the future.

The same media system, the same culture that wants to apportion blame, deserves their own seldom acknowledged piece of it.  Did anybody learn anything?

Meanwhile, this country without question would be better off right now if she had won.  And so we can for a moment imagine what it would have meant to the present and the future if in 2016 America could have had the moment imagined in this cover.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Climate Change?

As Hurricane Irma spun through the sea towards Florida, writers Dexter Filkin (for the New Yorker) and Michael Grunwald (for Politico) wrote about the dangers that the state had created for itself.  The strikingly similar titles to these pieces (Elegy for the Sunshine State, A Requiem for Florida) suggested that Irma was going to be a turning point.  But neither offered evidence of that.

Nor did a New York Times piece by Ashley Dawson that concluded: "One way or another, Florida is due for a reckoning. We can only hope that it will not be too grievous, and that whatever happens it will help transform the political culture of a state whose governor is a climate-change denier despite Florida’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters, a place where solar power is essentially banned despite its fame as the Sunshine State."

Benjamin Wallace-Wells, author of the climate crisis piece that broke readership records at New York Magazine, now apparently writing for the New Yorker, has an article called The Change Hurricane Irma Brings. "Across Florida this week, the stress of an approaching hurricane has been accompanied by a feeling that things will not simply reset afterward, that the storm is not a one-off," he asserts.

But he then quotes the Mayor of Miami saying, "This is a lesson that we need protection from nature....”  The author notes that nature may also need protection from Floridians, which is the major conclusion of the three pieces previously noted: the people of Florida (and Texas) have created more and longer-lasting dangers by destroying, subverting and ignoring "nature."  Including of course ignoring and denying the climate crisis.

Ignoring and denying the climate crisis is the state government of Florida's official stance, led by its governor Rick Scott, who famously said that Irma could "catastrophically devastate" Florida, along with the English language.

Will Florida and Texas change?  Will they stop overbuilding and building on flood plains, destroying protective marshland, and so on?  Will Florida embrace solar power instead of vulnerable nuclear power plants, or Texas regulate chemical plants for safety let alone pollution?  Will they take measures to protect themselves against the effects of the climate crisis, and join the planet in addressing the causes?

History says they won't.  Too much money yet to be made by people who've made enough money to buy politicians and government.  But maybe they will, to some degree.  Maybe the experiences of these storms will change people.  But not necessarily in the ways you think: by providing the horrific reality, and scaring them straight.

Here's one of the great failures of the climate crisis debate that has contributed to our current conflicts and confusion: we have not admitted and freely discussed that climate crisis deniers and climate crisis accepters have one important thing in common.  The climate crisis scares us all to death.

The two opposite reactions to fear are, at their extremes, panic and complete denial.  Yet people on both sides of the question experience fear for the future that can edge into at least momentary panic.  And while one side lives within a nervous and defensive culture of denial, the other lives in emotional denial most of the time to stay sane.

My thesis is controversial, for the deniers will forcefully deny that they are afraid, because there's nothing to be afraid of.  But those who have studied nuclear fear in the Cold War decades can see the signs.  Nobody denied the existence of atomic bombs, but plenty denied they were all that bad.

Strong denial in the face of so much evidence of all kinds is pretty clearly a product of strong fear.  Apocalyptic fears are everywhere, expressed in many forms of popular culture as well as religious beliefs.  Seeing the power of hurricanes and storm surges can open some eyes to the climate crisis as an apocalyptic source.  But like the reaction to the thermonuclear arms race, it induces a sense of helplessness.

But experience with these storms also shows that all life does not immediately end.  The storm results in a series of problems to be solved, from preparations to rescues to recovery.  The storm changes life dramatically.  Its effects become a way of life, at least for awhile.

That's what the climate crisis future will be like.  It will become a different way of life.  If that way of life includes addressing the causes of even worse climate change in the farther future, humanity may yet live through it.

We must govern our fear, not be governed by it.  What can we do? always has an answer.