Later On

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

Archive for April 25th, 2021

The Secret to Staying Mentally Sharp, According to a Psychiatrist and a Neurologist

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Emily Laurence writes in Well + Good:

It was once long believed—by the average person and by brain health experts—that each person had a finite number of brain cells, which decreased over time. Lose enough and it can lead to neurological damage or diseases, including dementia. It’s a school of thought that could cause someone to obsess over every soccer ball they’d ever head-butted or night they had one too many alcoholic drinks.

But this line of thinking isn’t exactly true based on what researchers have learned about brain health over the past decade. A wealth of scientific studies are connecting certain food and lifestyle habits with neurogenesis, the process by which new neurons grow in the brain. It’s a topic psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD talks about in his new book, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety ($22) and means that we can actively protect ourselves from cognitive decline—at least in part. Encouraging, right? The key, of course, is knowing how to do it.

How are brain cells destroyed?

Before we get into brain cell growth, it’s helpful to know what exactly kills them off in the first place. Dr. Ramsey says this comes down to high levels of chronic inflammation. While small doses of short-term inflammation can actually be beneficial, experiencing high-levels of inflammation for extended periods of time can be damaging to the brain (and the body as a whole, TBH).

“Scientific research has been very clear that excess inflammation affects the circuits in the brain,” Dr. Ramsey says. Inflammation not only disrupts brain circuity, it actively kills brain cells, too. He explains that an inflamed brain leads to brain fog, anxiety, depression, low energy, and (over a long period of time) cognitive decline and disease. What causes long-term inflammation? Chronic stress, eating a lot of processed sugar, processed meat, and refined carbs, and not getting enough sleep are some of the major causes.

Something else chronic inflammation does is prohibit neurogenesis, the key process for producing new brain cells, says neurologist Faye Begeti, MD, PhD. “The brain is shielded by a blood-brain barrier. This barrier can become leaky, but this would only happen in prolonged, systemic inflammatory states rather than a simple cough or cold,” she says.

How new brain cells are grown

Okay, so we can blame excess inflammation for killing brain cells. How do we get them back? Actively working to fight off inflammation. This not only prevents neurons from dying, it actively leads to brain cell growth, as well, according to Dr. Ramsey.

When it comes to brain cell growth, though, it’s important to understand the connection between neurogenesis and neuroplasticity—two words that sound similar, but mean different things—says Dr. Begeti. While neurogenesis refers to new brain cell growth, she explains that neuroplasticity is where existing neurons grow and form different connections with each other. “Kind of like interweaving branches from nearby trees,” she says. “Neuroplasticity is vital for shaping our brain into who we are, learning, and recovering from diseases, like a stroke.” Neuroplasticity is how existing and new brain cells are all communicating with each other; that’s why both are important, Dr. Begeti adds. (But because most of the scientific studies on neuroplasticity have been done in mice—very few have been done in humans—knowledge around the process of rewiring one’s brain is still limited, she says.)

From what doctors can tell, it seems that neurogenesis only happens in two parts of the brain, the hippocampus being one of them. (The other is the olfactory bulb, linked to smell.) Dr. Ramsey explains that the hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for emotional health as well as memory function, remembering old memories as well as creating new ones. Because of this, neurogenesis is key for staying mentally sharp and emotionally balanced. And that’s where what you eat and your daily habits can come in.

Food and lifestyle habits that promote neurogenesis

A healthy diet, consistent good sleep, and regular workouts are all beneficial for the hippocampus, studies have shown. “Exercise, socialization, and environmental enrichment—which means having plenty of stimulating activities—increases neurogenesis but these studies have only been done in mice, as it is difficult to study [brain cell growth] in humans,” Dr. Begeti says. This means that while there likely is a strong connection, more human studies need to be done to confirm it.

Though, some nutrients have been linked to benefitting the brain through neurogenesis in humans, according to Dr. Ramsey:

Continue reading.

Dr. Michael Greger discusses the effects of diet (including study findings on specific foods) in How Not to Die and in his more recent How Not to Diet.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 1:52 pm

Two guides to a good start for the day

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One guide — quite well done by Frank Oppedjik — appears on Reddit: “5 simple steps to wake up early and energized without fail.” Here’s the first step:

I wished for many years to wake up early and be a morning ninja, but every time I tried, I just felt like a zombie. In this post I’d like to share the 5 steps that actually solved the problem for me.

The key takeaway is that waking up early is all about properly and efficiently energizing yourself, not about sleep deprivation. Research shows that sleep is for high performers, enabling the highest levels of mental, emotional, and physical contribution. So simply giving yourself less sleep is actually a self-defeating strategy.

The key question here that needs to be answered is: How you can energize yourself more efficiently, so you can both save time, as well as boost your energy level and gain momentum for the whole day?

Here are my 5 very simple steps to answer the question and solve the problem:

Step 1. Define your bedtime.

o What time do you have to get up in the morning, looking at the things you want to and have to do?o How many hours of sleep do you need to feel optimally rested (anywhere between 7-9)?

Bedtime formula = Ideal wakeup time MINUS hours of sleep needed.

Step 2. . .

There’s more, and it’s worth reading.

And see also Catherine Pearson’s suggestions at HuffPost. They begin:

Mornings can be rough for many people who tend to feel sleepy pretty regularly, which in turn makes them report feeling irritable a lot of the time. And yes, it’s hard to feel cheery when you’re overtired and stressed — much of which, alas, is outside of people’s control.

But happiness experts say there are simple habits people can practice in the morning that will that have a profound influence on how they feel throughout the day. They’re easy tweaks that can help improve overall mental well-being.

Ready to take stock of your general day-to-day happiness and incorporate some new practices that can improve your mood all day long? Here are five strategies to consider:

1. Pick a wellness habit, then link it to an a.m. ritual you already have.

This first tip is pretty broad, and that’s on purpose. Because the truth is there are many evidence-backed strategies people can use to try to boost happiness

So you might take some time to cultivate awareness through meditation. (One simple strategy: Close your eyes and focus on the act of taking 10 breaths.) Or you might be intrigued by the research that shows incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help boost happiness. Maybe you’d like to spend a few seconds every morning simply focusing on whatever nature you see outside your window, whether it’s the grass in your yard or the sky over the city.

There really are so many different wellness habits that can help you, according to psychiatrist Murray Zucker, chief medical officer of the health care platform Happify. The key is simply to start with one — whatever it is— then attach it to a routine that you already have. You’re linking habit to ritual, he explained.

So maybe every morning you get up, go to the bathroom, then make your bed. Link a moment in that routine (say, the bed making) to the habit you want to cultivate (maybe it’s reading 10 pages in a book). By tacking it on to something you already do, you’re much more likely to actually stick with it. And consistency really is the key to boosting happiness over time, Zucker said.

“Start slow and build gradually,” he added. He encourages people to really just start with one new habit you want to link to your existing routine, then go from there.

2. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Daily life

‘Insanely cheap energy’: how solar power continues to shock the world

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Royce Kurmelovs reports in the Guardian:

In the year 2000, the International Energy Agency (IEA) made a prediction that would come back to haunt it: by 2020, the world would have installed a grand total of 18 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar capacity. Seven years later, the forecast would be proven spectacularly wrong when roughly 18 gigawatts of solar capacity were installed in a single year alone.

Ever since the agency was founded in 1974 to measure the world’s energy systems and anticipate changes, the yearly World Energy Outlook has been a must-read document for policymakers the world over.

Over the last two decades, however, the IEA has consistently failed to see the massive growth in renewable energy coming. Not only has the organisation underestimated the take-up of solar and wind, but it has massively overstated the demand for coal and oil.

Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF, says that, in fairness to the IEA, it wasn’t alone.

“When I got this job in 2005, I thought maybe one day solar will supply 1% of the world’s electricity. Now it’s 3%. Our official forecast is that it will be 23% by 2050, but that’s completely underestimated,” Chase says.

“I see it as the limits of modelling. Most energy system models are, or were, set up to model minor changes to an energy system that is run on fossil fuel or nuclear. Every time you double producing capacity, you reduce the cost of PV solar by 28%.

“We’ve got to the point where solar is the cheapest source of energy in the world in most places. This means we’ve been trying to model a situation where the grid looks totally different today.”

This rapid radical reduction in the price of PV solar is a story about Chinese industrial might backed by American capital, fanned by European political sensibilities and made possible largely thanks to the pioneering work of an Australian research team.

The deep history begins with a succession of US presidents and the quest for energy independence. First was Richard Nixon, who in November 1973 announced Project Independence to wean the US off Middle Eastern oil. Then came Jimmy Carter, who declared the energy transition the “moral equivalent of war” in April 1977 and pumped billions of dollars into renewable energy research, which came to a screeching halt when Ronald Reagan came to power.

But by then, interest had been piqued in Australia.

The father of PV solar

The solar cell was invented when Russell Shoemaker Ohl, a researcher in Bell Labs, noticed in 1940 that a cracked silicon sample produced a current when exposed to light. However, little improvement had been made until the contribution of Martin Green, a young engineering professor working out of the University of New South Wales.

Born in Brisbane, Green had spent some time in Canada as a researcher before circling back home in 1974. A year later he had started a PV solar research group working out of a small university laboratory built with unwanted equipment scrounged from big American engineering firms.

His first experiments, alongside a single PhD student, involved looking for ways to increase the voltage on early solar cells.

“Pretty soon, we started beating all these groups in the US in terms of the voltage we could get,” Green says. “Nasa had a project that had six contractors working on it. We beat them all.”

Not long after, Green and his team began to raise their ambitions. Having boosted the voltage, the next step was building better quality cells. Their early efforts broke the world efficiency record in 1983 – a habit the team would continue for 30 of the next 38 years.

In the very early years of the industry, the received wisdom had been that a 20% conversion rate marked the hard limit of what was possible from PV solar cells. Green, however, disagreed in a paper published in 1984.A year later, his team built the first cell that pushed past that limit, and in 1989 built the first full solar panel capable of . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 1:11 pm

The Secret Life of Components: A YouTube series

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I stumbled across one of videos in the Components series (it was Springs) and found it informative and pleasant to watch. Lots of knowledge and experience conveyed. Go to Tim Hunkin’s page for links and an explanation.

This is one not to miss if you possibly can.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 12:58 pm

This book looks at ancient Rome in a new light

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I am indebted to The Younger Daughter in two ways regarding the audiobook The Fate of Rome.

  1. She recommended the book in the first place, and it’s fascinating; and
  2. She told me how I can listen to it free through getting it as audiobook with 1 of the 2 free credits I would get for signing up with Audible.com.

So I signed up, and the 2 credits were clearly displayed. I searched for the book title, purchased the audiobook for 1 credit, and I’ve been listening to it. It’s amazing how the change in perspective adds to one’s understanding. One example: while the Romans were building all those excellent roads that lead to Rome, they also were in effect constructing efficient transportation channels that would allow infectious diseases to spread swiftly and widely.

So go ahead and sign up — even if you don’t get any other books, this one is definitely worth the (free) sign-up.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 12:18 pm

The Ivy League vs Democracy

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

Today I’m pleased to welcome a guest writer, Sam Haselby (@samhaselby), who thinks deeply about the history of the Ivy League, its role today, and its religious roots as a set of institutions designed around exclusion. [Haselby writes as follows. – LG]

The Ivy League vs Democracy

One of the great puzzles of American society is the position of the Ivy Leagues. They are a bastion of privilege and power, and yet the campuses are rife with left-leaning professors who one might imagine seek to redistribute wealth. According to the Harvard Crimson, 77.6% of Harvard professors define themselves as left-leaning, and just 2.9% as conservative. What explains this dynamic? Former Harvard College Dean Harry Lewis said that it gets to the basic point of the school, which is to advance radical ideas. “It’s almost by definition anti-preservationist because we place such a high value on the creation of new knowledge,” he said.

A wildly different explanation is apparent from watching Netflix’s Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, the highly publicized fiasco in which wealthy parents used bribery to get their kids into top colleges. What I found most interesting about this episode wasn’t the actual corruption, but a different and more poignant feature of American meritocracy. Even in the midst of acts of bribery, many of the parents were beset with fear that their children might find out about the crooked machinations to win their admission to elite schools. They took desperate steps to shield the kids from facing real questions of “merit” or deservedness. And in fact, while most involved in meritocracy don’t use bribery, a tremendous amount of energy now goes into preserving similar basic fictions about the nature of elite private education and its role in the United States.

We most often hear about inequality in terms of super-rich corporations and individuals or families. But it is important that the same gulf, separating haves and have nots, has opened between U.S. colleges and universities. Since the pandemic began, 650,000 jobs have disappeared in American academic institutions. More than 75% of college faculty in the U.S. are contingent workers or non tenure-track. Meanwhile, as of 2020, the aggregate value of the endowments of the richest 20 U.S. schools rose to over $311 billion, all of which are subsidized by taxpayers through the tax-free treatment we offer nonprofit educational institutions. The common joke, that Harvard is a hedge fund with an educational arm, is not so far off.

According to the IMF, the value of these endowment funds is greater than the GDP of New Zealand, Finland, or Chile. In the last 5 years the U.S. has fallen in the UN’s Human Development Index, but its elite universities have risen in the world rankings and gotten richer. America’s richest colleges and universities, in effect, exist in a country of their own (though paid for in part with the public’s money).

This inequity reflects a restructuring of political power, towards an aristocracy. In historical perspective, we are seeing the collapse of the great post World War II democratization of post-secondary arts and sciences education alongside the appearance of a meritocracy alienated from the public and at odds with democracy. If anyone points out the role of elite education in the reproduction of inequality today, Americans tend to see it as flawed or compromised meritocracy rather than “true” meritocracy. But such responses are signs of a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. The “merit” of meritocracy has little to nothing to do with the abilities, or worth, or value of people as human beings and citizens.

Meritocracy and democracy are not the same thing. The goal of meritocracy is to produce, or reproduce, an elite. There is nothing necessarily democratic about that. The Puritans who founded the Ivy league schools were very good at building stable and exclusive institutions, for many reasons, including that the elite, for them, was the elect: those specially chosen to receive God’s grace, to be one of the sanctified and saved few among the masses of the damned. In the early United States, however, New Englanders quickly discovered, to their dismay, that being the elect did not mean much to many Americans and they would be hard pressed to win national elections. The Puritan schools are designed to serve the elect, not for democratic education.  Thomas Jefferson feared and reviled the Puritan schools, and founded the University of Virginia to counter what he saw as their anti-democratic influence.

The Civil War and Reconstruction, first, and the Civil Rights Movement, second constitute the greatest achievements in modern American democracy. Both also were high marks of public education. In the former, radical Republicans who had seized control of the government created America’s great land grant universities, while the Civil Rights Movement unfolded after a generation of Cold War investment in high quality public university education. The United States has spent a generation moving away from this kind of democratic education toward a gilded meritocracy. America’s elite private schools are now one of the last strongholds of the drunken post-Cold War triumphalism that hoarded wealth and privilege to private institutions at the expense of public and democratic ones.

There is no way that I know of to have truly democratic elections without . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 11:35 am

Republicans Target Voter Access in Texas Cities, but Not Rural Areas

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Republicans in general oppose voting and work continually to make it more difficult for people to vote. In Texas, that work is concentrated on cities, as reported in the NY Times by Nick Corasaniti. His report begins:

Voting in the 2020 election presented Zoe Douglas with a difficult choice: As a therapist meeting with patients over Zoom late into the evening, she just wasn’t able to wrap up before polls closed during early voting.

Then Harris County introduced 24-hour voting for a single day. At 11 p.m. on the Thursday before the election, Ms. Douglas joined fast-food workers, nurses, construction workers, night owls and other late-shift workers at NRG Arena, one of eight 24-hour voting sites in the county, where more than 10,000 people cast their ballots in a single night.

“I can distinctly remember people still in their uniforms — you could tell they just got off of work, or maybe they’re going to work; a very diverse mix,” said Ms. Douglas, 27, a Houston native.

Twenty-four-hour voting was one of a host of options Harris County introduced to help residents cast ballots, along with drive-through voting and proactively mailing out ballot applications. The new alternatives, tailored to a diverse work force struggling amid a pandemic in Texas’ largest county, helped increase turnout by nearly 10 percent compared with 2016; nearly 70 percent of registered voters cast ballots, and a task force found that there was no evidence of any fraud.

Yet Republicans are pushing measures through the State Legislature that would take aim at the very process that produced such a large turnout. Two omnibus bills, including one that the House is likely to take up in the coming week, are seeking to roll back virtually every expansion the county put in place for 2020.

The bills would make Texas one of the hardest states in the country to cast a ballot in. And they are a prime example of a Republican-led effort to roll back voting access in Democrat-rich cities and populous regions like Atlanta and Arizona’s Maricopa County, while having far less of an impact on voting in rural areas that tend to lean Republican.

Bills in several states are, in effect, creating a two-pronged approach to urban and rural areas that raises questions about the disparate treatment of cities and the large number of voters of color who live in them. That divide is helping to fuel opposition from corporations that are based in or have work forces in those places.

In Texas, Republicans have taken the rare tack of outlining restrictions that would apply only to counties with population of more than one million, targeting the booming and increasingly diverse metropolitan areas of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

The Republican focus on diverse urban areas, voting activists say, evokes the state’s history of racially discriminatory voting laws — including poll taxes and “white primary” laws during the Jim Crow era — that essentially excluded Black voters from the electoral process.

Most of Harris County’s early voters were white, according to a study by the Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit group. But the majority of those who used drive-through or 24-hour voting — the early voting methods the Republican bills would prohibit — were people of color, the group found.

“It’s clear they are trying to make it harder for people to vote who face everyday circumstances, especially things like poverty and other situations,” said Chris Hollins, a Democrat and the former interim clerk of Harris County, who oversaw and implemented many of the policies during the November election. “With 24-hour voting, there wasn’t even claims or a legal challenge during the election.”

The effort to further restrict voting in Texas is taking place against the backdrop of an increasingly tense showdown between legislators and Texas-based corporations, with Republicans in the House proposing financial retribution for companies that have spoken out.

American Airlines and Dell Technologies both voiced strong opposition to the bill, and AT&T issued a statement supporting “voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote,” though it did not specifically mention Texas.

American Airlines also dispatched Jack McCain, the son of former Senator John McCain, to lobby Republicans in Austin to roll back some of the more stringent restrictions.

Republicans in the State Legislature appear unbowed. In amendments filed to the state budget this week, House Republicans proposed that “an entity that publicly threatened any adverse reaction” related to “election integrity” would not be eligible for some state funds. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 11:31 am

The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof

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In the NY Times a journalist with a Ph.D. in geology whose research involved studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica to understand past climate changes, has an excellent summary of how we know climate change is happening and is caused by human burning of fossil fuels. The (lengthy) summary begins:

The science of climate change is more solid and widely agreed upon than you might think. But the scope of the topic, as well as rampant disinformation, can make it hard to separate fact from fiction. Here, we’ve done our best to present you with not only the most accurate scientific information, but also an explanation of how we know it.

Take a look at Section 1:

Climate change is often cast as a prediction made by complicated computer models. But the scientific basis for climate change is much broader, and models are actually only one part of it (and, for what it’s worth, they’re surprisingly accurate).

For more than a century, scientists have understood the basic physics behind why greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cause warming. These gases make up just a small fraction of the atmosphere but exert outsized control on Earth’s climate by trapping some of the planet’s heat before it escapes into space. This greenhouse effect is important: It’s why a planet so far from the sun has liquid water and life!

However, during the Industrial Revolution, people started burning coal and other fossil fuels to power factories, smelters and steam engines, which added more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Ever since, human activities have been heating the planet.

We know this is true thanks to an overwhelming body of evidence that begins with temperature measurements taken at weather stations and on ships starting in the mid-1800s. Later, scientists began tracking surface temperatures with satellites and looking for clues about climate change in geologic records. Together, these data all tell the same story: Earth is getting hotter.

Average global temperatures have increased by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.2 degrees Celsius, since 1880, with the greatest changes happening in the late 20th century. Land areas have warmed more than the sea surface and the Arctic has warmed the most — by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit just since the 1960s. Temperature extremes have also shifted. In the United States, daily record highs now outnumber record lows two-to-one.

This warming is unprecedented in recent geologic history. A famous illustration, first published in 1998 and often called the hockey-stick graph, shows how temperatures remained fairly flat for centuries (the shaft of the stick) before turning sharply upward (the blade). It’s based on data from tree rings, ice cores and other natural indicators. And the basic picture, which has withstood decades of scrutiny from climate scientists and contrarians alike, shows that Earth is hotter today than it’s been in at least 1,000 years, and probably much longer.

In fact, surface temperatures actually mask the true scale of climate change, because the ocean has absorbed 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases. Measurements collected over the last six decades by oceanographic expeditions and networks of floating instruments show that every layer of the ocean is warming up. According to one study, the ocean has absorbed as much heat between 1997 and 2015 as it did in the previous 130 years.

We also know that climate change is happening because we see the effects everywhere. Ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking while sea levels are rising. Arctic sea ice is disappearing. In the spring, snow melts sooner and plants flower earlier. Animals are moving to higher elevations and latitudes to find cooler conditions. And droughts, floods and wildfires have all gotten more extreme. Models predicted many of these changes, but observations show they are now coming to pass.

And here is section 4:

Scientists have studied past climate changes to understand the factors that can cause the planet to warm or cool. The big ones are changes in solar energy, ocean circulation, volcanic activity and the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And they have each played a role at times.

For example, 300 years ago, a combination of reduced solar output and increased volcanic activity cooled parts of the planet enough that Londoners regularly ice skated on the Thames. About 12,000 years ago, major changes in Atlantic circulation plunged the Northern Hemisphere into a frigid state. And 56 million years ago, a giant burst of greenhouse gases, from volcanic activity or vast deposits of methane (or both), abruptly warmed the planet by at least 9 degrees Fahrenheit, scrambling the climate, choking the oceans and triggering mass extinctions.

In trying to determine the cause of current climate changes, scientists have looked at all of these factors. The first three have varied a bit over the last few centuries and they have quite likely had modest effects on climate, particularly before 1950. But they cannot account for the planet’s rapidly rising temperature, especially in the second half of the 20th century, when solar output actually declined and volcanic eruptions exerted a cooling effect.

That warming is best explained by rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Greenhouse gases have a powerful effect on climate (see the next question for why). And since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been adding more of them to the atmosphere, primarily by extracting and burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, which releases carbon dioxide.

Bubbles of ancient air trapped in ice show that, before about 1750, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was roughly 280 parts per million. It began to rise slowly and crossed the 300 p.p.m. threshold around 1900. CO2 levels then accelerated as cars and electricity became big parts of modern life, recently topping 420 p.p.m. The concentration of methane, the second most important greenhouse gas, has more than doubled. We’re now emitting carbon much faster than it was released 56 million years ago.

These rapid increases in greenhouse gases have caused the climate to warm abruptly. In fact, climate models suggest that greenhouse warming can explain virtually all of the temperature change since 1950. According to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assesses published scientific literature, natural drivers and internal climate variability can only explain a small fraction of late-20th century warming.

Another study put it this way: The odds of current warming occurring without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are less than 1 in 100,000.

But greenhouse gases aren’t the only climate-altering compounds people put into the air. Burning fossil fuels also produces particulate pollution that reflects sunlight and cools the planet. Scientists estimate that this pollution has masked up to half of the greenhouse warming we would have otherwise experienced.

It’s worthwhile to read the whole thing, and then ponder the level of relevant expertise possessed by those who deny climate change.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 9:49 am

“Why I support reparations — and all conservatives should”

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Fred Hiatt, publisher of the Washington Post, made this comment in a newsletter:

When Donald Trump emerged on the political scene in 2015, The Post featured what I thought were (and still are) the best conservative columnists in the country.

None of them, however, supported Trump. We realized that, if we were to be true to our commitment to offer a full range of political views, we would have to add a new kind of conservative voice.

We were fortunate to find Gary Abernathy, who at the time was editing one of the few newspapers that endorsed Trump for president, the (Hillsboro, Ohio) Times-Gazette. 

Ever since, he has written a column that I usually disagree with — and almost always learn from. He has helped our readers understand the perspective of voters in southwestern Ohio. He offers a model of civil, good-natured debate, and he is rarely predictable. His column last week on why he supports reparations — and why he thinks all conservatives should — may give you a sense of what I mean.

So here is what a Trump conservative has to say about reparations. Gary Abernathy writes:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is among the progressive lawmakers whose blunt, liberal outspokenness regularly annoys me. Recently, she particularly upset me while discussing the latest congressional study of reparations for descendants of enslaved people, when she said, “If you through your history benefited from that wrong that was done, then you must be willing to commit yourself to righting that wrong.”

Only this time I was bothered because her comments hit home.

Like most conservatives, I’ve scoffed at the idea of reparations or a formal apology for slavery. I did not own slaves, so why would I support my government using my tax dollars for reparations or issuing an apology? Further, no one in the United States has been legally enslaved since 1865, so why are Black people today owed anything more than the same freedoms and opportunities that I enjoy?

I remain unconvinced that an apology would have much real value, but the more substantive notion of reparations is worth discussing. In fact, it could be argued that the idea fits within the conservative philosophy. We’ll come back to that. But it is undeniable that White people have disproportionately benefitted from both the labor and the legacy of slavery, and — crucially — will continue to do so for generations to come.

When slavery was abolished after a bloody civil war, African Americans were dispersed into a world that was overtly hostile to them. Reconstruction efforts were bitterly resisted by most Southern Whites, and attempts to educate and employ former slaves happened only in fits and starts. The government even reneged on its “40 acres and a mule” pledge. After slavery, prejudice and indifference continued to fuel social and economic disparity.

The result is unsurprising. As noted by scholars A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr., co-authors of “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” data from the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances showed that median Black household net worth averaged $17,600 — a little more than one-tenth of median White net worth. As Mullen and Darity write, “white parents, on average, can provide their children with wealth-related intergenerational advantages to a far greater degree than black parents. When parents offer gifts to help children buy a home, avoid student debt, or start a business, those children are more able to retain and build on their wealth over their own lifetimes.”

Black author and activist Randall Robinson has argued that even laws such as those on affirmative action “will never close the economic gap. This gap is structural. … blacks, even middle-class blacks, have no paper assets to speak of. They may be salaried, but they’re only a few months away from poverty if they should lose those jobs, because … they’ve had nothing to hand down from generation to generation because of the ravages of discrimination and segregation, which were based in law until recently.”

In addition to the discrepancy in inherited wealth, even conservatives should be able to acknowledge that Whites enjoy generational associations in the business world, where who you know often counts more than what you know — a reality based not so much on overt racism as on employment and promotion patterns within old-school networks that Blacks lack the traditional contacts to consistently intersect. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

The column concludes:

. . . It is a tenet of conservatism that a level playing field is all we should guarantee. But that’s meaningless if one team starts with an insurmountable lead before play even begins.

It’s not necessary to experience “White guilt” or buy into the notion of “White privilege,” a pejorative that to me suggests Whites possess something they should lose, when in fact such benefits should extend to all. Supporting reparations simply requires a universal agreement to work toward, as Jayapal said, “righting that wrong.”

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 7:36 am

“I’m a cop. The Chauvin verdict is a message for me, and for my colleagues.”

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Patrick Skinner, a police officer in Savannah, Ga, and a former CIA operations officer who also served in the United States Coast Guard and in the U.S. Capitol Police, has a good column in the Washington Post:

I was at work as a police officer when the judge announced the jurors’ verdict Tuesday in a Minneapolis courtroom. I am a violent-crimes detective in my hometown of Savannah, Ga., but like the rest of America, I was worried about the verdict. I was worried that once again, a jury would, despite clear video evidence of guilt, find that it was somehow reasonable for a minor criminal matter to end in the death of an unarmed suspect at the hands of a police officer.

But I was also worried that we would view the outcome as the conclusion of a trial and not the beginning of change. Because as powerful as the murder conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin is, what we do next — as a country in general and as police in particular — will go a long way in determining whether systemic positive police reform is possible. It is in this time immediately after the verdict that several things, which are entirely within my control as a police officer, have to happen.

The first thing is actually something that needs to not happen: Police must not be defensive. We must not circle the wagons. “Not all cops” is exactly the wrong reaction. Even though that is true — of course not all cops are bad — it is irrelevant. Systemic reform is inseparable from individual change. We need both, and they have to feed off each other. There will be a natural desire by police, myself included, to say that the system worked, that Chauvin was found guilty by a jury of his peers and that a bad apple was sent to jail, no longer around to rot the bunch. Again, this is true, but it is also irrelevant. A nation so tense about a single trial, so uncertain about what was going to happen, is a nation in desperate need of much more. And we all have to take a first step. For me, the first step is that I need to take this verdict personally if I am to change professionally: That means I need to empathize more with my neighbors, and if they’re outraged or sad or just weary from police interactions — theirs and others’ — I need to work from that space. It means these outrages aren’t just outrageous to my profession, they’re outrageous to me personally. It means to step out of comfortable anonymity and demand that we change it all.

Here’s the second thing that needs to happen: We police need to fight the destructive reaction we have resorted to before in places like New York, where members of the police union had an unofficial but announced slowdown in 2019 after the dismissal of an officer implicated in the killing of Eric Garner by police in 2014. We have to stop saying, in effect, that if we can’t do our job the way we have always done it, well then, we won’t do our job at all. We might still collect a paycheck, but we will stop a lot of work because of an exaggerated fear of running afoul of the “new rules.” Rules such as “Don’t treat your neighbors like robots of compliance,” “Don’t escalate trivial matters into life-or-death confrontations” and “Treat your neighbors as if they were your neighbors.” That anyone would consider these rules “new” is a problem in itself. Few police officers reading them aloud would take issue with such anodyne statements, but put accountability behind the statements and now they’re an attack, not just on all police but the very foundation of American policing. The truth is that we do not get to tell our neighbors — those whose communities we police — how we will do our job. They tell us.

Faced with criticism that perhaps police should not be turning a traffic stop over an unarmed person’s vehicle registration sticker into something to be resolved at gunpoint, some will say, “What are the police supposed to do, let all criminals just run away?” There is a lot wrong with that reaction. To begin with, let’s slow down on calling someone with registration issues a criminal. And then let’s slow down everything, because we police are rushing to make bad decisions when time is almost always our friend. Tamir Rice most likely would not have been killed for having a toy gun if the Cleveland police officers had not rushed right up to him and shot him. There was no violence going on; the 12-year-old was alone in the middle of a park. Slow down, I tell myself in almost every police encounter. The risk to my neighbors in my rushing to a final judgment in very uncertain and fluid situations far outweighs the risk to myself. I’m often wrong in the initial assessment of chaotic scenes, and so I try to be wrong silently, allowing my judgment to catch up to my reactions, to allow my perception to catch up with my vision. Slow down.

I don’t know the third thing that needs to happen to lay the foundation for sweeping positive change in American policing because I’m so focused on the first two. I’m worried. I’m even scared. Not of big changes but that they might not happen. There is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2021 at 7:23 am

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