Sunday, December 18, 2016

We're all in the same boat
Ready to float off the edge of the world.
The flat old world.

I chose a line from The Band's song Life is a Carnival as the title of this week's political post, though I might have also chosen the title of The Fortunes' biggest hit, You've Got Your Troubles (I've Got Mine).

Shorter version of this post for the tl:dr set. Plenty of elected governments have their people in "we're so screwed" mode.

For those who want to stick around, I promise a lot of swearing and pessimism, two great tastes that go great together.

Let's start with Rodrigo Duterte, the elected president of the Philippines. He got elected on the platform of killing drug dealers and drug addicts and he is keeping that campaign promise. He now admits that when he was a police chief, he killed a few of these miscreants himself, proving he walks the walk.

People love a strong leader, right?

Would it surprise you that admits to taking a very strong painkiller known to be addictive?

Please tell me your answer is "No, it wouldn't surprise me." Any other answer would disappoint me, and I've always thought so highly of you.

Let's move from there to Poland, where the parliament is making wholesale changes in the law to limit representative government. The proposed changes are so clearly against the will of the people that they kicked journalists out of the legislative chambers.

What kind of vicious, backward government do such a thing? Well, for a second example, we have North Carolina.

I will give this to Trump, and I really don't want to give that dullard crook jack shit. He knows the kind of entertainment the news media wants, especially cable news. The current plan of the rich is to steal everything that isn't screwed down and undo any screws that are in place. But is that what the press is interested in?

Fuck no.

Ooh, Trump met with Kayne! He met with Leo! There's an auction to have coffee with Ivanka!

Seriously, we are entertaining ourselves to death.

We appear to be in the middle of a great mass extinction. The last one was sixty six million (66,000,000) years ago at the end of the age of the dinosaurs. Is the new mass extinction news? Fuck, no, it's too slow. We won't care until it's some big lovable creature like the polar bear or the African elephant gone or past the point of no return.

Earth surface land temperatures are heading upwards in a big damn hurry over the past few years and we are seeing the "lull" of the early part of the century can be adjusted if we take ocean temperatures into account. Is this news?

Again, fuck to the no, it's too slow and the polar vortex is making Canadian and North American winters crazy cold. Explain that, pointy headed scientists!

They can explain it, but the people asking the questions aren't actually interested in the answers.

Human population has gone completely nuts in the past two hundred years. Fifty years ago, the best guess was over-population would cause a famine big enough to make the growth rate negative, but that hasn't come to pass yet. We figured out ways to increase food supply and the rate of starvation has shrunk, even though the number of people in true food jeopardy worldwide is about the same as it was in the 1960s at about a billion. That used to be about a third of the world, nowadays it's closer to an eighth.

I like to end up on conclusions where I can point to the numbers. Even as a pure mathematician, I understand physics well enough to know that no natural thing can grow infinitely. Eventually, the temperature rise we now see will have to level off to a new stable point. The problem is, that stable point may not be conducive to some large proportion of creatures alive today. Natural selection, as always, will pick the new winners and losers.

I can't do the computations well enough to know on what side of the ledger humans will find themselves. If we are truly the cause of climate change, the only solution will be earth's climate changing so drastically that our numbers shrink to levels where we are no longer a major factor.

I'd like to be more optimistic.

I'd also like to be younger and skinnier.

Two out of three is the best I can hope for, and I don't like the odds of that happening.

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