Friday, December 28, 2012

Via God Bless the President of the United States / FB:

Here's the BAD news....

OK, strap your seat belts on, this is what "OVER THE CLIFF" really means. Thanks GOP:

Here are 10 ways your money could be affected if there is no deal reached by the end of the year:

Your Income Tax Rates Will Go Up The expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on December 31st means nearly every American taxpayer will see their rates go up when the rates go back to their 2001 levels. President Obama’s plan to avert the cliff includes keeping the current rates for middle- and low-income earners, while allowing the rates to increase for the highest income levels from 35 to 39.6 percent. Republicans have pushed to keep the tax cuts for everyone.

Your 2012 Tax Bill Will Be Huge As many as 28 million Americans are about to be slammed with the alternative minimum tax because a "patch" to adjust the AMT for inflation will not go into effect unless Congress acts. For middle-class households with kids and earning around $75,000, the AMT will add $3,700 on average to the tax bill for 2012 alone.

Your Paycheck Will Be Smaller The first paycheck of the year is going to be smaller for up to 125 million Americans after the Social Security payroll tax holiday expires on December 31st, raising the rate from 4.2 to 6.2 percent.

Your Tax Refund Will Be Delayed The Internal Revenue Service has said that without a deal by December 31st, tax refunds could be delayed for as many as 100 million taxpayers as the government agency scrambles to revise tax forms to reflect the changes post-cliff.

Your Kids Will Cost You More Money Among the tax credits that expire on December 31st are several that help lower- and middle-income families with kids, including the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, and the American Opportunity Credit. All four revert to lower levels on January 1, which could cost families hundreds to thousands of dollars in lost tax credits.

You Cannot Collect Extended Unemployment As many 2 million unemployed Americans won't be able to collect extended benefits after January 1, when the federal government’s unemployment extension ends as part of automatic spending cuts.

Your Stocks Could Wobble The stock market tumbled on Thursday after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it looked like the country was going to go over the fiscal cliff. Uncertainty over taxes could create more market volatility, experts say, but there is a silver lining: The Fed has promised to keep interest rates low for the next year, and that could help stabilize the economy overall.

If You Use Medicare, It Will Be Harder To Find A Doctor One of the spending cuts that will be enacted on January 1st a 30 percent reduction in the rates Medicare pays doctors. According to physicians' groups, the pending change has already sent doctors fleeing some health care plans.

Finding A New Job Will Be More Difficult Mandatory spending cuts slated to start on January 1 will cut into government jobs and jobs dependent on federal contracts. One report from George Mason University estimated that the cuts could cost 2.14 million jobs, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

High Earners Will Pay New Taxes For Obamacare. High-earning taxpayers will pay a new 3.8 percent tax hike on net investment income, including income from interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income. Much of that same income group is also subject to a new .9 percent increase in Medicare taxes. These tax hikes are part of the Affordable Care Act and go into effect on January 1.

Hands off Social Security!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Via My Comic Page 12/23/2012:

Via Real Truth Now's / FB:

More proof that the gun lobby has too many politicians in their back pocket.  - Jeff
More proof that the gun lobby has too many politicians in their back pocket. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Confucius, Keynes And Christ: The Role And Opportunity For Ethics As A Driver For Climate-Friendly Behavior

Posted: 22 Dec 2012 09:11 AM PST

Max Wei, via Climate Access

It is often argued that we have an ethical obligation to combat climate change for two related reasons: (1) we must not cause serious harm to future generations, and (2) we have an ethical duty to preserve the natural environment based on notions of stewardship or to preserve and respect animal life.

While these appeals are based on rational arguments and make sense to many people, they are problematic on several levels. First, the appeals are extrinsic or external to our individual selves; second, they refer to people and places distant in time and space, and thirdly, they lack any direct causality. Not to mention that they are tied to global warming and climate change, which some continue to persistently deny.

The problem is that it simply is not in our DNA to act based on the concerns of future generations.
Moreover, the impacts of whatever we do to change our actions in terms of greenhouse gas emissions will be virtually invisible within our own lifetimes, given the global nature of the atmospheric commons and the time-delayed impact of carbon emissions.

In contrast, appeals to traditional ethical systems offer an intrinsic appeal with more immediacy, and can be invoked independently of climate change and global warming arguments.

How might appeal to “virtue-based” ethics spur people to action to reduce their carbon footprint?   To attempt an answer this, let’s step back for a moment.  When we make appeals to people to change their behavior or lifestyle to forestall global warming, we usually ask two things:  change our buying or investment patterns and/or change our daily actions.  For example, do we buy a 48” plasma television, or perhaps a more energy efficient option; do we invest in energy efficiency upgrades for our home or live with higher heating bills; do we take public transit to work or drive?

To expand upon this, one can argue that a small set of key individual decisions make a disproportionate impact on one’s cumulative carbon emissions:  where we live, what type of housing we choose, how many kids we have, even our choice of profession. For example, the size of one’s lifelong carbon “shadow” in transportation may largely be determined by where one decides to live.

Clearly, there is a complex set of factors that determine the outcomes of key life decisions but surely among them are social norms and values, which may be informed by religious or philosophical-ethical beliefs.

The key point here is that traditional systems of virtue ethics are either very much in keeping with low-carbon or lower carbon living and at the least, instill values that do not place materialism or material riches at the front and center of what we value and hold dear.  Put another way, rediscovering teachings from the past can appeal to us as individuals as they can offer prospects to make us better, happier, more fulfilled individuals.  They are not extrinsic appeals to act or to change on behalf of people we’ll never know in a world that we’ll never live in.

One can hardly hope to do justice to great spiritual traditions here but only trace the faintest outlines.  Let us now make a few remarks on the teachings and writings of the three individuals in this blog posting’s title, focused on the following questions:  (1) what has primacy; (2) what is the desired end state for individuals or society; and (3) what is the path to that end state?  But first a question: what has primacy in society today?

Society’s Figure of Merit

A key problem for the climate today is that society’s figure of merit and key metric is output and consumption, and much output is carbon intensive.  As Joseph Stiglitz says, “Metrics matter… if we have the wrong metrics we will strive for the wrong things.”

Problems with the GDP metric (Gross Domestic Product) are numerous and well documented:  no accounting for environmental externalities, carbon impacts, and ecological damages; GDP credits inefficiency and waste (think U.S. health care); no consideration of “natural capital,” etc.

Since society’s indicator of success is GDP and income, deciding to sharply reduce one’s personal consumption is very much swimming upstream. Moreover, the U.S. is highly responsive to this metric and outstanding as measured by it: #1 by a large margin in household consumption, orders of magnitude higher than hundreds of millions of people in the developing world.

Surely the gospel of growth and primacy of profit has been a wonderful thing and has enabled much higher living standards over the past decades.  And surely it or very similar frameworks are the paths forward for the developing world.  Yet the U.S. also leads the developed world by a large margin in income inequality and also in health and social problems including physical and mental health problems, divorce rates, out of wedlock children, drug use, obesity, incarceration rate, etc.   The U.S. has also led the way in perhaps the greatest market failure of all time, global warming and with it, the prospect for catastrophic climate change.


Let us start by addressing why Keynes is included here.  Certainly Keynes is not on par with Christ and Confucius in historical impact.   But in many ways, economics is our new religion – pretty much unquestioned and unchallenged until just a few years ago.  Many would place Keynes with Adam Smith as perhaps the greatest exemplars of economic thought.

J.M. Keynes was a free ranging thinker.  Among his more expansive works is a short essay penned in 1931, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes predicted that by 2030, much higher productivity would enable us to work far less.  There would be plenty instead of scarcity and more leisure instead of more work in a post-profit world.  Capitalism was seen as a necessary evil to a greater end.

As it turns out, Keynes was more or less correct in terms of productivity gains.  For vast numbers of people in the developed world, especially America, the problem is indeed managing plenty instead of managing scarcity — too much stuff, too many calories, too much traffic, and far too many cable TV stations.  But of course working hours have not decreased.   Keynes missed the insatiability aspects of greater wealth and consumption.  Since wealth is the societal marker for success, there is ongoing and ceaseless striving, much like an elevator where everyone is moving upward but no one is gaining on anyone else.


Clearly God has primacy for Christianity as in the other Abrahamic religions, and the desired end state is a place in heaven.  Of course it’s hazardous to selectively quote from the Bible, but the Biblical Jesus was pretty unequivocal about the pathway for his followers.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:23-24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

My vision of Jesus and the life he would lead today is quite the opposite of today’s masters of the universe. In fact, Jesus would probably champion low carbon living. Clearly this is not the focus of fundamental Christians today perhaps because it would require such an inconvenient lifestyle.  Today’s fundamentalist Christians seem more focused on belief and faith rather than acting to follow in Christ’s footsteps.


Confucius lived about six centuries before Christ in post-Zhou Dynasty China, a time of great chaos and “moral degradation.”   In this environment, Confucius was most interested in how to reclaim a lost Golden Age in attaining a harmonious society with wise, benevolent rulers.  He held that perfection of man is the ultimate goal in life: to be a “sage” (or essentially a secular saint). Humanity (or Ren) is the key – what is it that makes us human? To this end, reciprocity, kindness, and sincerity are emphasized as well as an early statement of the Golden Rule:  “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”  Self-regulation of the individual is at the root of a harmonious society and education is of paramount importance.

On the negative side, Confucianism carries with it the artifacts of its time and emphasizes a strict social hierarchy.  But there is still much to be praised or taken from its teachings. (The same could be said of Aristotle).  These issues have huge modern relevance as China’s current leadership grapples with what philosophy or set of teachings to pursue with Mao’s teachings relegated to the scrap heap just as the ancient sage’s teachings were jettisoned a half-century ago by Mao.

The Challenge for Today

Of course, other great spiritual traditions have much to offer – the mindfulness and meditation of Buddhism, the spiritual maturation process of Hinduism, the teachings of Daoism and others.  Throughout history – and perhaps only up until recently, traditional ethical systems have been an important guide and contributor to behavior and decision-making, for better or worse.

So how might we tap into and/or synthesize the “better” part of these traditions as we take on the immense challenges of climate change? Are there policies that might be pursued that are in harmony with these traditions?  For example, should we consider higher consumption and luxury taxes? Advertising limits for children as in some Scandinavian nations?  Greater emphasis in K-12 education or college-level curriculum on traditional ethical systems?

Themes contained within major philosophical and religious traditions are quite consistent with “low carbon living” and material restraint.  And as we argue here, it’s important to inspire and appeal to people’s intrinsic values rather than make them feel guilty, fearful, or to ask them to be unnaturally altruistic. At the very least, there should be more debate and discussion on these topics, as we face not a Sputnik moment but potentially a civilizational one.

Max Wei is a program manager in the Sustainable Energy Systems Group in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This piece was originally published at Climate Access and was reprinted with permission.

2012: What Brought Us Together

Via My Humorous Agenda / FB:

Via JMG: Google's Holiday Special For Teachers

Google has a special holiday offer for America's teachers. Via Engadget:
Teachers will be able to purchase the already-cheap Samsung Series 5 Chromebook for $99 this holiday season, Google just announced on its blog. Mountain View will offer the Chromebook for that discounted price thanks to a partnership with the online charity and that $99 covers management and support in addition to the hardware. Public-school teachers who qualify will need to head to the Donors Choose website and to put in a request for up to 30 units. Everyone else can simply admire that act of benevolence -- or head to the aforementioned URL to make a donation of their own.
I considered getting a Chromebook, but they were always sold out when I looked.

Labels: , ,

reposted from Joe

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Via JMG: TIME's Person Of The Year: Barack Obama

President Obama has been named TIME Magazine's Person Of 2012.
The selection was announced Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show. The short list for the honor included Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head for advocating for girls' education. It also included Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Obama also received the honor in 2008, when he was President-elect. Last year, "The Protester" got the honor. Time's "Person of the Year" is the person or thing that has most influenced the culture and the news during the past year for good or for ill. In 2010, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg received the honor. Other previous winners have included Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Bono and President George W. Bush.
The wingnut wailing will be delicious.

Reposted from Joe

Monday, December 17, 2012

Via Eden Movement / FB:

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.


Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field.  I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.


Via The Mayan Space Travelers / FB:

Two from FB:

President Obama reassures Newtown you are not alone at vigil for victims of Connecticut sc

Via JMG: $989.99 + Free Shipping

The rifle used to kill all those kids can easily be purchased online. And shipping is free.

Reposted from Joe

Via God Bless the President of the United States / FB:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Via Climate Progress: Obama To Name Climate Hawk John Kerry Secretary Of State


In the first serious indication Obama will focus on climate change in his second term, media outlets report the President will nominate Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to be Secretary of State.

Kerry is one of the Senate’s leading climate hawks who has said he believes that climate change is the “biggest long term threat” to national security.

Of course, team Obama is known for effectively muzzling the most ardent of climate hawks. Back in February 2009, for instance Energy Secretary and Nobelist Steven Chu said “Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.” But one hardly hears such language from him these days. Same goes for science advisor and one-time climate hawk John Holdren.

Kerry, however, seems far less likely to be muzzled. Indeed, in a speech this summer on the Senate floor, he slammed the U.S. political discussion as a “conspiracy of silence … a story of disgraceful denial, back-pedaling, and delay that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe.” He called it:

… a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue….
Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility….
I hope and pray colleagues commit to transformative change in our politics. I hope we confront the conspiracy of silence head-on and allow complacence to yield to common sense, and narrow interests to bend to the common good. Future generations are counting on us.

One would certainly expect Kerry to not merely use his position to speak out on the issue but also to push both domestic and international action. He was after all coauthor, with Senators  Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of broad climate legislation in 2009 and 2010.
National Journal reports:

“No senator since Al Gore knows as much about the science and diplomacy of climate change as Kerry,” said David Goldwyn, an international energy consultant who served as Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “He would not only put climate change in the top five issues he raises with every country, but he would probably rethink our entire diplomatic approach to the issue.”

Climate hawks should be enthusiastic supporters of this nomination, which is expected to sail through the U.S. Senate (in part because Republicans want Scott Brown to have another shot at a Massachusetts Senate seat).

I’m not sure Kerry could become Secretary of State fast enough to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision, but it is hard to believe he would not have raised this issue with the President, as a go-ahead decision would immediately undercut the Administration’s credibility on the climate issue both at home and abroad.

Via GoComics: Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Via Real Truth Now / FB:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Via R.I.P Victoria Soto / FB:

Via Mad as HELL Liberals! / FB:

Via The Pragmatic Progressive / FB:

This is my son Daniel. He is 9.

I just sat down with him and listened to him describe the lockdown procedures at his school.

He told me how he hides in his cubby, and locks it.
He told me that he has practiced this many times.

My nine year old practices gun control for us by trying to control his ability to not get shot.

Instead of making reasonable gun safety laws that hold adult gun owners responsible for themselves, their guns and their bullets, we hold my son responsible for his safety at school.


The adults run around with guns and bullets and kevlar while the children hide in cubbies.

I am sorry. But your right to carry a weapon ends at my son's right to live his life in freedom, with liberty, and in pursuit of happiness. These are inalienable rights granted by his creator.

My son belongs at the head of his class, reading, writing and practicing arithmetic, not crouching in a cubby waiting for some person to use their second amendment. ~ Sarah
This is my son Daniel. He is 9.

I just sat down with him and listened to him describe the lockdown procedures at his school.

He told me how he hides in his cubby, and locks it.
He told me that he has practiced this many times.

My nine year old practices gun control for us by trying to control his ability to not get shot.

Instead of making reasonable gun safety laws that hold adult gun owners responsible for themselves, their guns and their bullets, we hold my son responsible for his safety at school.


The adults run around with guns and bullets and kevlar while the children hide in cubbies.

I am sorry.  But your right to carry a weapon ends at my son's right to live his life in freedom, with liberty, and in pursuit of happiness.  These are inalienable rights granted by his creator.

My son belongs at the head of his class, reading, writing and practicing arithmetic, not crouching in a cubby waiting for some person to use their second amendment. ~ Sarah

Via JMG: Take The Blue Pill, Neo

Some physicists are trying to determine if we are actually living in the Matrix.
In 2003, University of Oxford philosophy professor Nick Bostrom published a paper, "The Simulation Argument," which argued that, "we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation." Now, a team at Cornell University says it has come up with a viable method for testing whether we're all just a series of numbers in some ancient civilization's computer game. Researchers at the University of Washington agree with the testing method, saying it can be done. A similar proposal was put forth by German physicists in November. 
So how, precisely, can we test whether we exist? Put simply, researchers are building their own simulated models, using a technique called lattice quantum chromodynamics. And while those models are currently able to produce models only slightly larger than the nucleus of an atom, University of Washington physics professor Martin Savage says the same principles used in creating those simulations can be applied on a larger scale. "This is the first testable signature of such an idea," Savage said. "If you make the simulations big enough, something like our universe should emerge."

Reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Petition Of The Day

The text reads:
The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths. Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve. The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.
Sign the petition.

Reposted from Joe

Friday, December 14, 2012

JMG Quote Of The Day - Ezra Klein

"If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

"Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that’s unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t 'too soon.' It’s much too late." - Ezra Klein, writing for the Washington Post.

Reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Obituary Of The Day


Reposted from Joe

Via FB:

Via jMG: Google's Most-Searched Of 2012

Google's top ten most-searched items for 2012.

1. Whitney Houston
2. Gangnam Style
3. Hurricane Sandy
4. iPad 3
5. Diablo 3
6. Kate Middleton
7. Olympics 2012
8. Amanda Todd
9. Michael Clarke Duncan
10. BBB12

The last one is Big Brother Brazil.

Reposted from Joe

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Via JMG: Today Is World Human Rights Day

The White House press office sends us this statement from United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice:
Today, we pledge to live up to Eleanor Roosevelt’s inspirational example, for in far too many places human freedoms are still denied. As long as a family anywhere is tormented by a state-sanctioned killer; a peaceful agitator is hounded by a violent brigade; an artist is locked away for expressing what she thinks; an LGBT individual is harassed because of whom he or she loves; a community is beleaguered because of how it worships; a person with a disability is marginalized by those who ignore plain injustice; or a girl is threatened for having the audacity to pick up a book; all of our rights have been violated.
The United States is relentless in pursuit of a world that protects these rights. We fight for them at the United Nations, where we have made important strides, because we know that American leadership in the world can bring action against oppressors and hope to the oppressed. Our job is not done and the path ahead is fraught. But may we work together every day for the cause of human rights, so that our efforts can forge a world that respects our differences, protects our dignity, gives our children opportunities to pursue their dreams, and ensures that freedoms we have pledged to protect are universally enjoyed.
Bolding is mine.

Reposted from Joe


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Via Go Left / FB:

Chips Tips

Via Climate Progress: How To Have The Language Intelligence Of Abraham Lincoln: ‘The Greatest Thing By far Is To Be A Master Of Metaphor’

How Lincoln framed his picture-perfect Gettysburg Address Using An Extended metaphor:

The terrific Spielburg movie on our 16th President provides a stunning contrast to the failure of Obama to be a rhetorically inspiring leader on climate. In my first post, I looked at how Lincoln had mastered the figures of speech, especially irony, with the help of the works of Shakespeare. This post looks at his mastery of metaphor and extended metaphor — two crucial inspirational figures that Obama virtually never uses.

This is material that comes from my recent book on rhetoric and politics — “Language Intelligence: Lessons On Persuasion From Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, And Lady Gaga,” which is available at [Kindle is here].

Metaphors are the Rolls Royce of figures. Or, to put it more aptly, metaphors are the Toyota Prius of figures because a metaphor is a hybrid, connecting two dissimilar things to achieve a unique turn of phrase.

Metaphor, like verbal irony discussed in the first post, is a trope, because it alters or enhances a word’s literal meaning. The headline quote is from Aristotle, who writes in Poetics, “To be a master of metaphor is a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.”

A 2005 study on “Presidential Leadership and Charisma: The Effects of Metaphor” examined the use of metaphors in the first-term inaugural addresses of three dozen presidents who had been independently rated for charisma. The remarkable conclusion:

Charismatic presidents used nearly twice as many metaphors (adjusted for speech length) than non-charismatic presidents.

Additionally, when students were asked to read a random group of inaugural addresses and highlight the passages they viewed as most inspiring, “even those presidents who did not appear to be charismatic were still perceived to be more inspiring when they used metaphors.”

Given their power, metaphors have naturally become a weapon wielded by all great political speechmakers. Lincoln, a devout student of the two great rhetoric texts, the Bible and Shakespeare, understood that power more than any other president.

In 1848, when he was a Whig in Congress, he responded to the claim that his party had “taken shelter under General Taylor’s military coat-tail,” referring to Zachary Taylor, the Whig Party Presidential nominee. He turned the metaphor against his opponents, saying they themselves had run under the coat-tail of General Jackson for five elections. Then, instructing them in rhetoric, Lincoln added “military coat-tails, or tails of any sort, are not figures of speech such as I would be the first to introduce into discussions here.”

Lincoln launched a metaphor of his own, wishing the “gentlemen on the other side to understand that the use of degrading figures is a game at which they may not find themselves able to take all the winnings.” At this point, some in the opposition cried, “We give it up!” But Lincoln was just warming up. His reply was a rhetorical cruise missile:

Aye, you give it up, and well you may; but for a very different reason from that which you would have us understand. The point–the power to hurt–of all figures consists in the truthfulness of their application; and, understanding this, you may well give it up. They are weapons which hit you, but miss us.
The opposition was hoist with their own metaphorical petard.

Lincoln offered his most poignant metaphor in a June 1858 speech to the Illinois Republican state convention after they had chosen him as their candidate to run against Democrat Stephen Douglas in the U.S. senate race: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He then amplified the metaphor by listing divisions, one after the another:

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

We learn from Lincoln’s partner in law, William Herndon, that Lincoln wanted to use “some universally known figure [of speech] expressed in simple language … that may strike home to the minds of men in order to raise them up to the peril of the times.”

The power of the metaphor of the Union as a house is not merely its visual simplicity, but in the link to the gospels. Lincoln is quoting Jesus, implying that God is on the side of those who think like he does, that slavery must die and soon. Lincoln lost the Senate race, and some thought that he had lost because of this speech, because his message was too strong. But if the metaphor cost him the Senate, Lincoln’s brilliant extension of the metaphor in the speech would cost Douglas the presidency….

Extended metaphor is, for me, the most important rhetorical device. This figure is at the heart of some of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Persistent metaphors pump life blood into the Bible, into Jesus’ parables and Psalms, such as the Twenty-third, with its famous extended shepherd metaphor:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Politicians who understand extended metaphors have a long political life; those who do not, don’t have much of a pulse.

The Elizabethan era book The Garden of Eloquence by Henry Peacham explains the potency of this figure: It “serves most aptly to ingrain the lively images of things, and to present them under deep shadows to the contemplation of the mind, wherein wit and judgement take pleasure, and the remembrance receives a longer lasting impression.”

Using an extended metaphor himself, Peacham explains that while a simple metaphor “may be compared to a star in respect of beauty, brightness and direction,” an extended metaphor may be “fully likened to a figure compounded of many stars … which we may call a constellation.” No wonder this figure is so widely used. Who wouldn’t want to have their words achieve the impact and longevity of heavenly images like the Big Dipper or Orion?

In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln gives us a subtle but powerful example. The speech is only 270 words long–almost precisely the same length as the “To be or not to be speech.” Lincoln makes it unforgettable using an extended metaphor of birth, death, and resurrection to increase the coherence and impact of his brief remarks.

Lincoln delivers a variety of references to birth from the very beginning, “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He says the civil war is testing whether “any nation so conceived … can long endure.” Lincoln then moves on to images and words of death, as befits the horrific battlefield in front of him, with phrases such as “a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives” and “the brave men, living and dead” and “these honored dead” and “these dead.” He finally returns to the original metaphor of birth, but with a twist: We must resolve that “this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Birth, death, rebirth and immortality (“shall not perish”)–in a place that we will make sacred (“hallow” and “consecrate” and the key repeated word, “dedicate”)–is a stunning extended metaphor that turns into an biblical allusion of hope for transcendence even during the worst suffering, with the Battle of Gettysburg becoming a symbolic national crucifixion. No wonder Winston Churchill termed Lincoln’s speech, “the ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.”

Extended metaphors are often far more overt, as in Lincoln’s “house divided” speech at the start of his Illinois Senate race against Stephen Douglas. Lincoln describes how the combined effect of Supreme Court decisions and policies by Douglas and others was to extend slavery into new territories in spite of local opposition. Lincoln said “we can not absolutely know” that Douglas and the others were working together to achieve this effect, “But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places, and by different workmen … and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly matte the frame of a house” then it is “impossible not to believe” that everyone “worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.”

Stephen Douglas resented Lincoln’s implication in the “House Divided” speech that he was part of a conspiracy to extend slavery, a charge and a metaphor Lincoln never tired of repeating everywhere. In his famous debates with Lincoln, Douglas responded with a harsh figure of his own–sarcasm:
He [Lincoln] studied that out-prepared that one sentence with the greatest care, committed it to memory, and put it in his first Springfield speech, and now he carries that speech around and reads that sentence to show how pretty it is. His vanity is wounded because I will not go into that beautiful figure of his about the building of a house. All I have to say is, that I am not green enough to let him make a charge which he acknowledges he does not know to be true, and then take up my time in answering it, when I know it to be false and nobody else knows it to be true.
But Lincoln had thought through the implications of his figure of speech. He would not give it up, as Lincoln scholar Roy Basler has explained: “Under the implications of Lincoln’s figure, constantly pressed, Douglas was constrained to make a statement of opinion that, although it immediately clear his way in the senatorial contest, eventually cost him the presidency.”
I suspect that the reason he liked the figure is the same reason that many modern candidates do: It is a masterful means of framing a political debate, exactly as he crafted the framed-timbers-of-the-house extended metaphor to frame Douglas for the crime of extending slavery. Politicians with language intelligence, like Lincoln, repeat and extend their metaphors.

Via Climate Progress: 150,000 Years Of Sea Level History Suggests High Rates Of Future Sea Level Rise


by Rob Painting, via Skeptical Science

The last few million years of Earth’s climate has been dominated by the ice age cycles. These consisted of long cool periods (glacials) where giant icesheets have grown on the continental land masses at, and near, the poles. With the water evaporated off the oceans being locked up as ice on land, this ice sheet build-up substantially lowered global sea level. During the shorter, warmer, intervals (interglacials) the ice sheets have disintegrated, and with their glacial meltwater draining back into the oceans, sea level has risen. From the coldest part of the last ice age (roughly 20,000 years ago) to present, global sea level has risen an astounding 120 metres.

Although all the details are not well understood, the driving force behind these glacial/interglacial cycles are slow variations in Earth’s orbit as it circles the sun, which slightly decreased/increased the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface. For the current interglacial, the orbitally-driven warming eventually came to an end after the Holocene Climatic Optimum (HCO), and by 4-5000 years ago all the vulnerable land-based ice had disappeared. The volume of the global ocean was static until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, and by the 19th Century global sea level had begun to rise again. Despite undergoing short-term accelerations, and decelerations, globally-averaged sea level has undergone long-term acceleration up to the present day (Church & White [2006]Merrifield [2009]).

Figure 2 – Global mean sea level from 1870 to 2006 with one standard deviation error estimates (Church 2008).

With some 60-70 metres worth of global sea level equivalent locked up in the vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, and with global warming well underway, it raises the question of how much sea level rise we are likely to see this century (and beyond), and just how fast this might happen. Because the dynamics of ice sheet disintegration are only very crudely known, and ice sheet modelling is in its infancy, there is a large range of estimates of future sea level rise. Many now seem to converge on 1-2 metres of sea level rise by 2100 – much higher than current rates. But is this realistic? A recent paper, examining past ice sheet disintegrations, lends credence to these estimates.

Rapid Coupling Between Ice Volume and Polar Temperature

A peer-reviewed paper, Grant (2012), outlines how the authors created a well-dated, and near-continuous, record of sea level over the last 150,000 years, a period which spans the last interglacial (the Eemian), and the last glacial maximum. Of particular interest is the finding that, during all periods of major global ice volume loss, rates of sea level rise reached at least 1.2 metres per century. An arguably more important finding that the more finely resolved dating uncovered, was that major ice sheet reductions (as implied by sea level rise) followed polar warming much quicker than had previously been suspected.

The backbone of the sea level reconstruction are Foraminifera (forams), tiny shelled marine creatures which float in the water column (planktic), or live on the seafloor (benthic). Because they utilize minerals dissolved in the surrounding seawater to build their shells, forams incorporate elements into their shells which can provide information about the climate at the time in which they lived.

Examination of oxygen-18 isotope ratios in the shells of forams, retrieved from Red Sea sediment cores, has revealed that they serve as a useful proxy for relative (i.e local) sea level in the Red Sea (see Siddall [2003]Siddall [2004]). Although a near-continuous record of relative sea level for the Red Sea has been constructed (Rohling [2009]), accurate, and independent, dating for comparison with ice-core data has proven problematic. Grant (2012), however, came up with a clever way around this roadblock.

Constructing a Well-Resolved Chronological Record of Sea Level

Much like the Red Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea is a basin with only one narrow natural opening (The Strait of Gibraltar) which connects it to the rest of the oceans. This “basin effect” was exploited to build a sea level history in the Red Sea, because the extremely slow exchange of seawater within the basin means long local seawater residence times. The raising or lowering of sea level therefore acts to either shorten, or prolong the residence time of local seawater,  and also diminish or enhance the powerful rate of evaporation in the basin. In other words, changes in the oxygen-18 isotopes ratios, found in Red Sea foram fossils, are extremely sensitive to sea level variations. So the isotopes are, in effect, recorders of local sea level.

Grant (2012) likewise created a sea level history for the eastern Mediterranean Sea, with one distinct improvement; they were able to independently date the sea level variations by taking advantage of oxygen-18 isotopes stored in cave mineral deposits (speleothems) on land downwind of the eastern Mediterranean surface waters. With oxygen-18 isotopes in fossilized forams, and in the cave deposits (Soreq Cave), linked via the hydrological cycle, Uranium-Thorium dating of the cave deposits therefore gave an accurate date for both, and consequently the timing of sea level variations.

Because of the more complicated weather patterns in the Mediterranean however, the Mediterranean sea level history cannot be used to determine sea level variations with sufficient precision (Rohling 1999). To do that, the authors transferred their new Mediterranean chronology to the Red Sea sea level history.  The basin isolation effect of both sea level records, gave sufficient oxygen  isotope signal similarity for accurate transfer. The validity of this newly-dated sea level reconstruction was confirmed by comparison to other dated sea level benchmarks.

Figure 3a – Correlation of Soreq Cave (red line) and eastern Mediterranean (black line) oxygen-18 isotope signals. 3b – Eastern Mediterranean Sea oxygen-18 isotope record from another foram species (green line) and the highest probability sea level curve (blue line). The coloured dots and grey-shaded columns denote other paleodata used to validate and synchronize the reconstructions. From Grant (2012).

Sea Level Rise Closely Follows Polar Warming

With an accurately dated sea level reconstruction now available, the authors were able to compare these sea level variations in time with that of polar temperature, as ascertained by ice cores extracted from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Within the sea level reconstruction there are 6 periods where sea level rose rapidly, reaching rates of at least 1.2 metres per century – around 4 times the current rate of sea level rise (see Figure 1).

Considering that humans have been warming the climate for several centuries, a more significant finding was the short time lag between warming at the poles (as shown in the ice cores), and the response of sea level rise – which implies the disintegration of the ice sheets. In the case of Antarctica, large ice reductions occur within 400-700 years, and for Greenland, ice reductions occur very quickly – within 100 years.

Learning From (Sea Level) History

Despite glacial periods having much more vulnerable ice at lower elevation, and closer to the equator than interglacials, the orbitally-driven warming which eventually disintegrated the ice sheets was a leisurely affair. Ice sheet collapse came quickly due to the greater proportion of vulnerable ice. By comparison; today there is far less vulnerable ice, but the warming has been virtually instantaneous, in geological terms. In fact, in the last 300 million years, the Earth has not experienced (as far as we know) such a rapid rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (Hönisch [2012]).

The altered characteristics of the background climate state, from glacial to interglacial, makes a direct comparison for modern-day difficult. But current sea level rise estimates, and the rates of rise shown in the reconstruction, are in the same ballpark. With global warming having been underway for several centuries now, and with the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets undergoing accelerated ice mass loss due to polar warming, the past 150,000 years of sea level history suggests we should expect much higher rates of sea level rise in the future.

This piece was originally published at Skeptical Science and was reprinted with permission.

Via Being Liberal / FB:

Via The Platzner Post / FB:

Via Mad as HELL Liberals / FB:

Via Lester & Charlie: Heart and Troll!

This week, the world collectively skipped a beat over the news that George W. Bush’s former ventriloquist, Dick Cheney, will team up with his daughter and his cardiologist to throw a few words on a couple of pages, slap a cover on it and call it a best seller.

Yes, while some irrelevant politicians stay home and order from Boston Market, others take a page from the Six Million Dollar Man – they scientifically rebuild themselves and make themselves stronger than they were before. But instead of protecting America, Dick Cheney found a publisher.
In case you’re wondering, Cheney’s upcoming book is about his heart. Ironic, isn’t it? Just in time for Christmas, America’s homegrown Ebenezer Scrooge is going to start collecting and sharing his thoughts on the meaning of having a heart.

Cheney himself called this turn of events “nothing short of a miracle.” We thought he meant it’s a miracle that any publisher thinks anyone will pay money to read his tale, but further investigation revealed that it’s a miracle he’s alive after five heart attacks and a transplant. 

We always thought there’s a book to be written about Dick Cheney’s heart — or, more specifically, whether he has one. (Just look at how many literary masterpieces have been spawned by the myth of a Holy Grail.) But we hadn’t expected the book to come from Cheney himself, the guy who never apologized for shooting his hunting buddy in the face.

Which might explain why he’s writing it with his cardiologist and his daughter Liz, a lawyer, and not, say, his wife Lynne, the author of steamy lesbian erotica.

But of all the things about this story that caught our attention — like Cheney sharing a publisher with fellow horror writers like Stephen King — one thing really stood out: The book is currently untitled. 

Oh boy did that get our brains a-whirl. With so many good titles taken — “Heart of Darkness” for one — what will Dick, Liz and Dr. Pulse call their future bestseller? Let’s help them out! Tell us your ideas. How would YOU title Dick Cheney’s book about his heart?

Click to Enter the Poll!

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Via Pagan Liberal / FB

Pagan Liberal shared NBC News's photo.
2012 warmest year in US? Odds rise to 99.7 percent

A warm winter, a record warm spring, a record hot July and a warmer than average autumn combined to make it even more likely that 2012 will go down as the warmest year in the contiguous United States on record, the federal government reported Thursday. More:

2012 warmest year in US? Odds rise to 99.7 percent

A warm winter, a record warm spring, a record hot July and a warmer than average autumn combined to make it
even more likely that 2012 will go down as the warmest year in the contiguous United States on record, the federal government reported Thursday. More:

Via Climate Progress: NOAA

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 09:26 AM PST

Arctic sea ice is melting much, much faster than even the best climate models had projected. The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. Image via Arctic Sea Ice Blog.
“Scary New Report on Arctic Ice” is the Weather Channel’s headline for NOAA’s sobering 2012 Arctic Report Card.
Everyone should indeed be scared by what we are doing to the Arctic because it will accelerate global warming, speed up sea level rise, and make deadly superstorms like Sandy more frequent and more destructive (see “NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather“).
This is what’s new up north in 2012:
New records set for snow extent, sea ice extent and ice sheet surface melting, despite air temperatures — a key cause of melting — being unremarkable relative to the last decade.
Multiple observations provide strong evidence of widespread, sustained change driving Arctic environmental system into new state.
Here’s a video summary from NOAA:
Two of the most worrisome highlights are:
The record Greenland melt is scary because if the Greenland ice sheet disintegrates, sea levels would rise 20 feet — and the process appears to be accelerating to a critical “tipping point” (see also “Science Stunner: Greenland Ice Melt Up Nearly Five-Fold Since Mid-1990s”). Indeed, polar researcher Jason Box, lead author of the Greenland section of the report, told the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco:
“In 2012 Greenland crossed a threshold where for the first time we saw complete surface melting at the highest elevations in what we used to call the dry snow zone,” he told reporters at the AGU. “As Greenland crosses the threshold and starts really melting in the upper elevations it really won’t recover from that unless the climate cools significantly for an extended period of time which doesn’t seem very likely.”
The tundra warming is scary because it is a frozen locker of carbon whose defrosting will further accelerate warming (see “Carbon Feedback From Thawing Permafrost Will Likely Add 0.4°F – 1.5°F To Total Global Warming By 2100).”
Here is more detail on what’s happening in the tundra:

  • In 2012, new record high temperatures at 20 [meters, 65 feet] depth were measured at most permafrost observatories on the North Slope of Alaska and in the Brooks Range, where measurements began in the late 1970s. Only two coastal sites show exactly the same temperatures as in 2011.
  • A common feature at Alaskan, Canadian and Russian sites is greater warming in relatively cold permafrost than in warm permafrost in the same geographical area.
  • During the last fifteen years, active-layer thickness [ALT] has increased in the Russian European North, the region north of East Siberia, Chukotka, Svalbard and Greenland.
The “ALT is the top layer of soil and/or rock that thaws during the summer and freez[es] again during the fall, i.e., it is not permafrost.”
The report makes painfully clear why all of these Arctic trends are going to continue — global warming and amplifying feedbacks:
Large changes in multiple indicators are affecting climate and ecosystems, and, combined, these changes provide strong evidence of the momentum that has developed in the Arctic environmental system due to the impacts of a persistent warming trend that began over 30 years ago. A major source of this momentum is the fact that changes in the sea ice cover, snow cover, glaciers and Greenland ice sheet all conspire to reduce the overall surface reflectivity of the region in the summer, when the sun is ever-present. In other words, bright, white surfaces that reflect summer sunlight are being replaced by darker surfaces, e.g., ocean and land, which absorb sunlight. These conditions increase the capacity to store heat within the Arctic system, which enables more melting – a positive feedback. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that it is very likely that major changes will continue to occur in the Arctic in years to come, particularly in the face of projections that indicate continued global warming.
Anyone who thinks we can delay aggressive deployment of carbon-free technology simply has shut their eyes and ears to the growing scientific evidence.
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