Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 6th, 2014

Interesting adaptation: Taking Oil Industry Cue, Environmentalists Drew Emissions Blueprint

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Coral Davenport has a very interesting article in the NY Times:

In November 2010, three combatants gathered in a sleek office here to build a carbon emissions policy that they hoped to sell to the Obama administration.

One was a lawyer who had been wielding the Clean Air Act since his days at the University of California, Berkeley. Another had turned to practicing environmental law and writing federal regulations to curb pollution after spending a summer on a pristine island off Nova Scotia. The third, a climate scientist who is a fixture on Capitol Hill, became an environmentalist because of postcollege backpacking trips in the Rockies.

The three were as seasoned and well connected as Washington’s best-paid lobbyists because of their decades of experience and the relationships they formed in the capital.

Over the next two years the lawyers, David Doniger and David Hawkins, and the scientist, Daniel Lashof, worked with a team of experts to write a 110-page proposal, widely viewed as innovative and audacious, that was aimed at slashing planet-warming carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. On June 2, President Obama proposed a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to curb power plant emissions that used as its blueprint the work of the three men and their team.

It was a remarkable victory for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the longtime home of Mr. Doniger and Mr. Hawkins and, until recently, of Mr. Lashof. The organization has a reach that extends from the big donors of Wall Street to the elite of Hollywood (Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford are on its board) to the far corners of the Environmental Protection Agency, where Mr. Doniger and Mr. Hawkins once worked.

The group’s leaders understand the art of influence: In successfully drafting a climate plan that heavily influenced the president’s proposal, the organization followed the strategy used by the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm of the oil industry, to write an energy policy for Vice President Dick Cheney during the Bush administration.

“The N.R.D.C. proposal has its fingerprints throughout this, for sure,” said Dallas Burtraw, an energy policy expert at Resources for the Future, a Washington nonprofit, describing how the council’s work influenced the proposed 650-page environmental regulation.

Representatives of the coal industry agreed. “N.R.D.C. is crafting regulatory policy for the E.P.A. that is designed to advance their agenda at the cost of American businesses and people who will pay the price through much higher electricity rates,” wrote Laura Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a lobbying group. Scott Segal, who lobbies for the coal industry with the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, said in an email that the council’s experts “have unprecedented access to this E.P.A. and are able to project influence down to the details of regulatory proposals and creative legal theories.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was so certain of the council’s sway that it used the group’s proposal as the basis for its economic analysis of what it expected in the E.P.A. rule, before the rule’s actual release. “It is no surprise that N.R.D.C. has a great deal of influence on E.P.A. and the White House,” Matthew LeTourneau, a chamber spokesman, wrote in an email.

Continue reading. Also note the comments and links to related coverage.

One important point inexplicably omitted from the story is the result of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis. Here’s Krugman’s comment on their analysis—and it found that the cost of combatting climate change is remarkably low.

See also this column.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 8:04 pm

Stating simple common sense about the effects of US drone warfare

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The editors of the NY Times have it right:

For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.

“The United States should not conduct a long-term killing program based on secret rationales,” the panel cautioned in a 77-page analysis released by the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan Washington think tank specializing in international peace and security.

Targeted killings by drones may be justified at times against terrorist threats to the United States, but the “blow back” from unintended civilian killings in places like Pakistan and Yemen is becoming “a potent recruiting tool for terrorist organizations,” the report noted. The panel, which had experienced specialists from the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, concluded that there was no indication that drone attacks on suspected terrorists had advanced “long-term U.S. security interests.”

The Obama administration should be addressing these issues with regular reports to the public about the rationale for the use of drones and the numbers of militants and civilians killed. Instead, excessive secrecy shrouds these operations. While the report points out that there may be fewer civilian casualties in a drone strike than in a conventional bombing, drone operations need to be subject to credible oversight.

The report sensibly proposes that . . .

Continue reading.

Congress and the Obama Administration should seriously consider the proposition that there may be problems that cannot be solved by killing people, and that perhaps our drone warfare is trying to solve one of those problems, which would help explain why the problem simply keeps getting worse.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 7:18 pm

US seems to think that it has no need of friends

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Check out this story about the German response to US spying.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 3:21 pm

Strength of the cultural bond

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I’m watching The Company Men—just started it—and was talking to The Wife on the phone. I told her the movie looked good so far, with an excellent cast, and it was a “got-fired-in-modern-corporate-America” movie. She laughed at the description, but in fact it seemed as though it were going to be an ensemble movie version of that extremely popular novel of some years back about a guy who loses his job and then does not find another job for a year: the things that happen daily, the changes he had to make, how his family and friends were affected, and the differences it made in his social standing and role. “And,” The Wife reminded me, “recall the stories about a guy who loses his job and tells no one.”

There have been several actual cases of men who have lost their job but continue their daily routine unchanged: get dressed, leave the house, stay away all day, come home in the evening as usual, and so on. It’s not sustainable and fails in various disastrous ways, but it does happen. I was thinking about that—about how a man can become so identified with a particular cultural role that he quite literally cannot leave the role. He is completely “stuck” in his cultural niche and cannot alter it. I increasingly think “who we are” consists of memes—that is, we each are meme collections variously organized and associated, and for these people who lost their jobs yet continue to simulate being employed—men, overwhlemingly—that particular social meme is so vital to who they are that they cannot leave it. It’s the meme “employed breadwinner,” more or less—but that’s just a label for something rather complex: the meme includes the “role,” and that involves actions, routines, habits, behavior. The meme consists doing all which that particular role entails in our society, society being our overall cultural construct and, as a cultural construct, is made entirely of memes, the units of culture. Each of the submemes that make up the overall meme were learned (a defining characteristic of a meme), and then assembled into the overall meme, and that is one of the “who we are” memes.

So what we see in those who have lost their jobs after long employment is having to change their set of memes—i.e., culture shock. They must adapt to an entirely new cultural role, and that is composed of different memes, which must be learned. So the transition is marked by all the problems inherent in learning anything new: those feelings of awkwardness, cluelessness, mistake-magnification, and so on: those are the normal feelings that beginners have. The only thing, it’s hard to look at progress in learning the new cultural role as a positive step, since the goal is to return to the previous role of employed breadwinner.

For me, looking at the transition as having to adapt to a new culture, which what is the effect of taking on a new cultural role. We recognize it pretty well that a cabbie who becomes a full-time actor now has a different cultural role and lives in a different subculture: different people, activities, clothing, work hours, expectations, pay rates and pay structures, and other such cultural constructs (i.e., memes). Even the person in the transition expects it to be a cultural change, and we commonly talk about “reinventing” ourselves by bringing new memes into our sense of identity (which is built from memes).

I think the long-term employed who abruptly lose their job are not expecting a cultural transition. I think that at least for some, they had fully believed consciously, and to at least some degree unconsciously as well, that they would not lose their job. (Of course, enough were thinking about it at some level to make the novel mentioned above a very popular novel.)

I’ve had a share of job losses, and on thinking back I can really see what I was going through as cultural change that required learning new responses and behaviors.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Daily life

Major New Study Finds Kids Raised By Same-Sex Couples Are ‘Healthier And Happier’

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Interesting finding, reported at ThinkProgress by Judd Legum:

It’s the rallying cry for opponents of same-sex marriage: “Every child deserves a mom or a dad.” But a major new study finds that kids raised by same-sex couples actually do a bit better “than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.”

The study, conducted in Australia by University of Melbourne researchers “surveyed 315 same-sex parents and 500 children.” The children in the study scored about six percent higher than Australian kids in the general population. The advantages held up “when controlling for a number sociodemographic factors such as parent education and household income.” The study was the largest of its kind in the world.

The lead researcher, Dr. Simon Crouch, noted that in same-sex couples parents have to “take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes.” According to Crouch, this leads to a “more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well being.”

The findings were in line with “existing international research undertaken with smaller sample sizes.”

Family Voice Australia, a group that opposes same-sex marriage, said the study should be discounted because it does not consider “what happens when the child reaches adulthood.”

In the United States, opponents of same-sex marriage routinely claim that children raised by same-sex couple fare worse. The most commonly cited study, conducted by sociologist Mark Regnerus, did not actually study children raised by same-sex couples. Indeed, “most of the subjects in the study grew up in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, long before marriage equality was available or adoption rights were codified in many states”. Instead, Regnerus studied children raised in “failed heterosexual unions” where one parent had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex.” It has been condemned by the American Sociological Association. Other frequently cited studies have similar methodological problems.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 8:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Children at Gunplay

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A good editorial in the NY Times:

An estimated one-third of American children live in homes with firearms, according to public health research, and 43 percent of these homes have at least one unlocked firearm lying about as an invitation to accidental mayhem.

The inevitable results are appalling. Federal data says that between 2007 and 2011 a yearly average of 62 children, age 14 and under, were killed every year while playing with a family gun left loaded and unsecured, and 660 were injured badly enough to require hospitalization.

But the actual toll could be even greater — with 100 youngsters or more shot to death each year in grossly careless family settings — according to a detailed new study of child deaths by firearm conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun research and lobbying organization.

The report tracked fatalities in 35 states since the shooting massacre in 2012 when 20 children were massacred at school in Newtown, Conn. Individual shooting deaths have gone far less noticed, for all the public concern for children and guns that was prompted by Newtown.

The lethal — yet still politically accepted — reality remains that a child is 16 times more likely to die by accidental shooting in this country than in other high-income nations, the study found. Toddlers were more likely to shoot themselves, while older children were more likely to be shot by someone else. Most of the shootings — 84 percent — occurred at home or in the family car.

The group concluded that the death of children by gunfire is being significantly undercounted because of misreporting in official records. “Each is a tragedy,” the study notes, “Together, they are an epidemic.”

The potential for more carnage is stark: 1.7 million American children live in homes where guns are left unsecured and loaded. And an estimated 70 percent of children under age 10 know where parents think they’ve safely hidden guns, and they can find ammunition nearby, too, according to a Harvard survey. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 6:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns

Bears, on break

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Bears on break at Burns Lake

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2014 at 6:29 am

Posted in Daily life

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