Just when you think perhaps George W. Bush has absolutely scraped bottom, he gets his dredge out and digs down another hundred feet, as he did in Jerusalem a couple of days ago. This is getting completely embarrassing. And scary as hell.
I was thinking recently about the late great Molly Ivins and her book about Bush, Shrub, which I read in 1999 or so where she concluded, somewhat surprisingly but hopefully, that we would find W "sort of adequate" if he were elected President. Writing as she was before the 2000 election and basing her opinion on Bush's largely ceremonial job as Governor of Texas (the chief executive operations are mostly left to the Lt. Gov in the Lone Star State), Molly extrapolated into a forecast of benign mediocrity for the Midland Miscreant. What I wonder now is how someone of Molly's brilliance and penetrating insight could be so far off.
I would surmise that what she probably left out of account was the effect the job of President would have on Bush. Since he had never previously had access to the kind of power which would be his as President, there was no reliable means of foreseeing that the office itself would serve as a toxic environment or incubator for his strange and grandiose ideas about himself. As time has gone on, as we saw at the Knesset, Bush has gotten progressively crazier and more removed from reality. This mental state, combined with such meager intellectual resources, is a truly frightening combination to contemplate, because in the event of a real national emergency, this would be the guy in charge. We saw what happened on 9/11 and in the aftermath of Katrina. Once a real problem confronted Bush and his overblown image of himself, Bush folded like a lawn chair. What if there were a nuclear attack? Oy vey iz mir.
Bush likes to think of himself as Winston Churchill. This is how far out of hand his schizo-paranoid break from reality has progressed. Comparing Bush to Churchill is like comparing Sergeant Bilko to General Omar Bradley. Apparently there's a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office, and if so, Winston must have developed an expression of nauseous despair by now. Elaborating his delusion, Bush likens the proposal of talking to the Iranians as analogous to Neville Chamberlain's "appeasement" of Hitler in Munich in 1938. In the first place, I can't think of anything more calculated to give offense to a room full of people who probably to a person number a close relative among those murdered in the Holocaust. You don't throw around analogies to "Hitler" when you're referring to a country which presently lacks any means of projecting decisive military power against either Israel or the United States. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, the National Intelligence Estimate at the end of 2007 stated they are not currently trying to develop them, and an even more recent intelligence report concluded that the Iranian "interference" in Iraq has been greatly overstated.
But in the second place, Chamberlain's "appeasement" had nothing to do with talking to the the Nazis. The Conservative Government in 1938 encouraged the effort. What tarnishes Chamberlain's memory is his conclusion of a non-aggression agreement (the Munich Agreement) with Hitler which acquiesced in Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. At that point, Hitler's military parity with France and Great Britain was obvious and giving him the signal that his ambitions to the East would go unopposed set the stage for the later invasion of Poland. That's appeasement. That's whistling past the graveyard.
On the other hand, engaging in negotiations or talks with a Middle Eastern country that does not yet possess a nuclear weapon in an effort to avoid its development is not appeasement, it's smart. I don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon; I don't want any other countries to develop nuclear weapons. I like what South Africa and Libya did, and what some of the former Soviet Socialist States did -- get rid of the things. Each time another country develops nuclear weapons, the danger is not enhanced by simply the percentage increase over the countries which previously were in the "nuclear club." You have also complicated the confrontational permutations among them to a much greater degree than the addition of one country. And when nuclear winter and ozone destruction in the mid-latitudes (as detailed in a recent Univ. of Colorado study) are now imminent dangers from even a small-scale nuclear exchange (50 Hiroshima-sized bombs, prox. 500-750 kilotons, according to that study), we have to pull back from the brink. Everything possible must be done to avoid a nuclear war. If, as Hillary Clinton recently suggested, we "obliterate Iran," it is likely (if we use surface blasts against urban areas) we will obliterate somewhere between 25 and 40% of the ozone in the mid-latitudes worldwide in the Northern Hemisphere for a period of at least five years. In other words, we may obliterate ourselves in the process.
If we don't talk to Iran, Russia and China will. We will simply lose control of the situation and what will happen, will happen. The mindless, adolescent idiocy of Bush in congratulating himself on giving Iran the Silent Treatment, and inflating it into national policy, can't end a minute too soon. We have to endure another 247 days or so of this guy. Keep your fingers crossed.
May 17, 2008
Just when you think perhaps George W. Bush has absolutely scraped bottom, he gets his dredge out and digs down another hundred feet, as he did in Jerusalem a couple of days ago. This is getting completely embarrassing. And scary as hell.
May 16, 2008
In a silly interview with Mike Allen of Politico, President Bush explained, apparently for the first time, why he had not played golf since August, 2003. He can remember the precise day, in fact, because his decision was prompted by news that U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello had been killed by a truck bomb in Baghdad. This induced a spasm of introspection in our beloved leader:
"I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf," he said. "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
The usual fly-speckers in the blogosphere and cynical press pointed out some discrepancies in this heart-warming story. First, Bush did not give up playing golf on August 19, 2003. He played on October 13, 2003, again sending the wrong signal to grieving American moms and calling into question the depth of his commitment to solidarity. Between these two events (Bush's epiphany about inappropriate frivolity and his round of golf in October), in September, 2003, Bush announced that he had a torn meniscus in his knee, which the buzzkill press is now suggesting might have been the more proximate and efficient cause of Bush's retirement from the golf course.
It's almost like the sucker lied to us. He didn't give up golf because of America's grieving moms; he gave it up because his knee ached. That's disappointing. I thought it was a pretty good story.
The mainstream media are usually all over this kind of trivia, but I haven't seen anything specifically addressing an important historical sidebar: how have other Presidents handled the problem of playing golf during war time? The Korean War, for example, lasted until the ceasefire agreement of July, 1953, which means for about six months Ike, an enthusiastic golfer, was President. I don't know if Truman played golf and I'm too lazy to look it up. Nixon played golf, sort of, although he looked very klutzy (he also looked very klutzy walking, talking or sitting still). Since the Vietnam War was in progress, at varying levels of intensity during the entire Nixon presidency, he must have played golf concurrently. Why didn't Nixon care about showing solidarity with America's grieving moms? Ike gets a pass because he was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II, which means his solidarity was a given.
Clinton was a golfer, but I don't care about him because he was faking the whole Commander-in-Chief thing from the get-go. No one took him seriously as a war president, and he wasn't too involved in war anyway, except for occasional Monica-timed bombing runs over Iraq, blowing up pharmaceutical factories in the Sudan, and Kosovo, and no one could ever figure out Kosovo because Americans weren't dying, only people whom Bush would describe, speaking English "as best as he could," as Kosovasarians.
Anyway, I think Bush, in his usual modest way, is encouraging us to think of him in Christ-like terms. He's taking it all upon himself. While the war drags on and Americans and Iraqis keep dying, and moms here at home and over there keep grieving, we can all shop with our stimulus checks and let him pay the price for us. That he so loved the grieving moms of America that he gave up his misbegotten game of golf so that they might know they weren't alone.
May 15, 2008
I remember the time well because I watched Bush's speech on television in the breakfast room of a hotel in Lyon, France. So Bush was talking in September, 2006. He was agitated and forceful, hitting the podium with the flat of his hand as he often does when his innate paranoia is in overdrive. Congress, you see, was running out of time to pass the Military Commissions Act; "high value prisoners" were on their way to Guantanamo from CIA dungeons in (probably) Eastern Europe, and it was essential to have procedures in place which would allow trials to proceed immediately. And incidentally, included in that statute was another blanket pardon for anybody roughing up Arabs in the mistaken belief it was okay to work them over because they were, after all, Arabs, and not some higher form of combatant entitled to the full panoply of protections under the Geneva Conventions like, for example, members of Hitler's SS.
Bush went on to explain how valuable all the "tough procedures" had been in interrupting myriad evil designs against America, and how absolutely wrong it would be to prosecute a dedicated U.S. employee (like the President of the United States, as one example) for doing something in good faith which the Supreme Court sort of implied in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld he couldn't do without...well, committing a war crime under international law and the United States Code Annotated. Time was of the essence, and certainly Bush might face the argument by cynics that what made time so essential was that the Democrats were coming, the Democrats were coming, all as a result of the colossal mind-fuck to which L'il George himself had subjected the country during the previous six years or so. No problem; George can handle that kind of static. He can handle anything as long as his retirement plans don't get messed up.
So George got his pardon and America got its Military Tribunals in Guantanamo, and the years passed and we never actually tried anyone. The high value detainees settled in there at the far eastern end of Cuba, still valuable as propaganda trophies from the Great War on Terror, if nothing else. But eventually, after building a new court house and employing all that staff and making all that political noise, and with even people like Robert Gates and Condi Rice saying we ought to close the frigging place, you have to do something. So they put on trial one of the many Arabs who have been called the "20th hijacker." And here's what happened:
"The US has dropped charges against one of the six al-Qaida suspects charged with the 9/11 attacks, bolstering critics of the controversial military tribunal system set up to try the detainees.
"The Pentagon official in charge of military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay dropped the death penalty case against Mohammed al-Qahtani without explanation. Lawyers for al-Qahtani attributed the move to clear evidence that the detainee was tortured while in US custody.
"Mr al-Qahtani never made a single statement that was not extracted through torture or the threat of torture," the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represented al-Qahtani, said."
Thus reported the Guardian (UK) on May 14, 2008. Naturally, you're as confused as I am, because if there is one thing Mr. Bush has been clear about it's that "the United States does not torcher." If he's said it once (and he has), he's said it a hundred times (and he has).
Now I understand that terrorist suspects are not going to get the red carpet treatment we associate in our minds with an American citizen (other than Jose Padilla) who is accorded the whole drill of Miranda rights, the access to counsel, the advice that he does not need to make any statement at all, and the rest of that Warren Court coddling we've all seen a million times, from Joe Friday to CSI: Miami. But here's what I'm also thinking: this whole procedure is happening down in Cuba, a place chosen for its difficulty of access, a place where the prying eyes of the media never intrude, where the lawyers for the detainees (I was about to say "accused," but that doesn't apply to the vast majority) routinely report, in torrents of affidavits and blogging, that the prisoners are subjected to absolutely horrendous denials of due process; where there are insane rules which prohibit an accused from describing torture to his own lawyer because it's a "state secret;" where a lot of the evidence is anonymous hearsay which the lawyer cannot challenge because the attorney doesn't know who said it and under what circumstances (like torture) the statement was made. And that's if the lawyer and accused are even allowed to know about the evidence.
So if that's the context (and it is, in the main), what kind of brutality must have gone on with al-Qahtani to cause an American military commission to throw out a case against a "9/11 co-conspirator"? To conclude that the whole case was so tainted with coercion and violations of fair judicial process that they couldn't try an Arab in Cuba in front of the military brass? Despite Mr. Bush's assurances, is it just barely possible that the United States does, in fact, commit torcher?
May 14, 2008
"Now, you’ve heard the nonsense which is out there which suggests that Israel or the Jewish community or the Israel lobby pushed this war on the administration. And I can tell you it is nonsense, because there was not one Israeli official and not one Israeli academic who suggested that this war was going to end well. They all warned against exactly the problems we have experienced since this war started…" Dan Kurtzer, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, commenting on Bush's "reengagement" with the Mideast peace process.
Suppose our bold, let-History-be-my-judge President bought a building site adjacent to a steep upslope, a mountain really, and was advised that he ought to do something about the drainage problem he'll encounter when the rainy season comes. One simple idea is to build a culvert which will catch the runoff and divert it to a downslope canal. Bush considers the problem, listens to the solutions proposed by his father, who once dealt with a similar issue, then rejects all such ideas in favor of his own master stroke. Working with a construction outfit called the Neocontractors, who believe in taking preemptive action against a drainage problem which lurks, Bush decides he will simply level the entire mountain. While it's true that neither solution was going to be cheap, the culvert would have cost about $1 billion while the mountain-removal solution will eventually cost $3 trillion, plus thousands of lives lost in the dangerous operation.
In essence this is what our visionary President has done in the Middle East. Try to recall, in the dim recesses of the past, the Road Map. This was something begun so long ago that Secretary of State Colin Powell, he of the phantom poison gas double-wides, worked on it. Waaaaaaaay back. Everyone from Osama bin Laden to William Kristol thinks that peace between Israel and Palestine is the key, the linchpin, to stability in the region. It was so obvious that even Bush saw it. For a little while. Then, like a cat diverted by another shiny, swinging object, Bush decided to invade Iraq instead.
Counseled by a group of complete fools like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby, within the Administration, and urged on by a coterie of journalist-cheerleaders like Judith Miller, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol and Tom Friedman, Bush decided to level the mountain. Using the U.S. military as his backhoe, Bush would invade every single Middle Eastern trouble-making country and force them to become pro-U.S., pro-Israel democracies. Bush was appalled that the rest of us could not see the simple beauty of his plan.
I have a theory about the Neocon journalist-cheerleaders like Kristol and Friedman, and it runs this way. It's a form of survivor guilt. It seems so much more sensible to embroil the Middle East in a war, or a bunch of wars, to ensure Israel's safety if you are promoting those wars from the safety of your Manhattan East Side brownstone, or your Maryland mansion, than it does if you are living in Tel Aviv. They're "concerned" about Israel but they sure as hell don't want to live there. They've got it made here. If you live in Israel, then you must contemplate another effect of an unprovoked invasion, as Ambassador Kurtzer, and many other Israeli commentators (such as Gershom Gorenberg & Haim Watzman in their valuable "South Jerusalem" blog) have pointed out. Neighboring Jordan, once relatively stable, is now overflowing with Iraqi refugees from Bush's stupid war. In effect Bush has created another Gaza Strip, this time to the east, and it was Bush's gross incompetence which led to the installation of Hamas as the Gaza leadership. Lebanon has descended once again into a hell of ethnic and religious factionalism, and Iran, which everyone considers Israel's ultimate arch-nemesis, now exercises hegemonic influence over the entire region, including the "democratically elected" government in Iraq. When Bush screws up, man - the guy simply has no peer.
For all these reasons and others, Kurtzer has become a supporter and adviser to Barack Obama, the one candidate who stops with the war shtick already and proposes that diplomacy become the dominant approach to the region. Let Gorenberg and Watzman take it on out:
"The one candidate who speaks in clear terms of taking a new approach to the Mideast is Obama. This is what scares the small coterie of American Jewish rightists who would eagerly fight to the last Israeli. If you care about Israel, you should hit 'delete' when you get their emails.
"Obama is the one candidate who had the sense to oppose the war in Iraq. He’s the one candidate whose statement on Israel expresses support for a two-state solution, which is the country’s path to peaceful future and is today the consensus position in Israel. He’s the one proposing a clear break from the disastrous Bush policies, and a turn to trying diplomacy."
May 13, 2008
Today I would imagine we will be witness to the demoralizing spectacle of a racist uprising in West Virginia orchestrated by the former First Lady and wife of America's "first black president." So be it. If for no other reason (and I have other good reasons), I favor the nomination of Barack Obama because it will hold a mirror up to American society and force it to confront the issue of racism in an inescapable way. Win or lose, the analysis of his run for the Presidency will tell us a lot about who we are, how far we have actually come from the era of slavery, how much we really believe in this concept of equal protection under the law. If Americans are voting against Barack Obama because and only because his father was African-American, then let's get that out in the open so it will be visible from orbiting satellites. Let's just frigging face it. No more crap about Reverend Wright and other irrelevancies, this idea of "guilt by association" which has been applied in a systematic way for the first and and only time in American electoral history. It is racist McCarthyism and we know it.
Apologists for a racist vote will talk about Barack's "inexperience," which is a neat and ironic dodge under the circumstances. Everyone seems to recognize that the longer a politician spends in Washington, the more corrupt and compromised, the more estranged from the concerns of ordinary Americans, that politician becomes. John McCain and Hillary Clinton are two absolutely prime examples of this degenerative process. They have been so pretzeled by their years in D.C. that they can't tell if they really believe in anything at all anymore, so that, for example, they can simultaneously bemoan the lack of responsiveness of the federal government to global warming and yet propose a gas tax holiday to promote greater CO2 emissions.
"Saturday Night Live" did a completely hilarious send-up of Hillary Clinton's campaign a few nights ago. Amy Poehler's impersonation hit every essential point: her base is racist and she appeals directly to the racism of "white working class voters" (formerly known as the Nixon Southern Strategy); she'll do and say anything; and she has no ethical standards.
When the Clintons left the White House, they took a lot of property with them which had been donated to the National Park Service as part of its refurbishing of the White House in 1993. Eventually, they reimbursed the government about $86,000 (the Georgetown- and Yale-educated lawyers mistakenly thought all this stuff represented "personal gifts" and not donations to the national treasury) and returned the government's furnishings -- lamps, sofas, area rugs, chairs, dining table, all of which had been shipped to their new home in New York, where Hillary was setting up camp in order to become an authentic New Yorker. In a sense, they were lucky it was handled this way -- as a civil matter, I mean. Since we all own the White House, another way of looking at the situation would be to say that tenants to whom we leased the place took all our stuff when they left. You know, -- burglary. This is an insight into the essential venality of these two. It didn't surprise me at all that Bill Clinton made as much money as he did in those years after the White House, nor that he was always strangely accommodating of George W. Bush's systematic destruction of the U.S. Constitution. When did you ever hear Bill go into one of his red-faced tirades about any of that? Quite the contrary, he became George Sr. and Jr.'s new best friend, because that's where the power was, and whither the power goeth, the money followeth.
So here's the deal. Sec. 441, subsection (j) of the Federal Election Laws, as amended in 2002. "Limitation on Repayment of Personal Loans. Any candidate who incurs personal loans after the effective date of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 in connection with the candidate's campaign for election shall not repay (directly or indirectly), to the extent such loans exceed $250,000, such loans from any contributions made to such candidate or any authorized committee of such candidate after the date of such election."
You can see Hillary's delicate dance here. She's got $11 million in the pot. If she folds her hand now, that's it. Her campaign is already $20 million down; I don't know exactly what the rules are on preferential payments to Hillary versus vendor/creditors (if she can pay herself first, she will, of course), but this is a very dicey situation. She's unlikely to get any of that $11 mil back. However, if she gives the appearance of campaigning all the way to the convention (the "election," in the above subsection), she might be able to raise more than she spends. She could buy some token ads, cut her staff to the bone, stay at the Holiday Inn instead of the Four Seasons, and build a surplus she can use to repay herself from the campaign. I think she counted on a big win in Indiana and maybe a surprise in North Carolina to resuscitate her run, but that didn't happen and she doubled down on an already bad bet.
Ah, if only those goodhearted Appalachian folks in West Virginia could surprise us today. Confound the prognosticators. Drive a stake through this invidious Clinton campaign. It would be, I don't know -- Almost Heaven.
May 12, 2008
It's interesting to see that Paul Krugman, ace economist of the New York Times opinion pages, has lent his stately name to the Peak Oil Theorists. For those not already intimately familiar with this concept, "peak oil" (or Peak Oil) is that theory that holds that a moment comes when the practically accessible supply of crude oil is 50% depleted. It can happen in a country, as it did in the United States in about 1971. Or-- and here's the Big Oily Enchilada --it can happen in the world. After peak, the world's supply becomes progressively more difficult to recover. Maybe it happened in 2006; maybe this year; maybe 2011, but soon, and for the rest of your life. Peak Oil guys should be forgiven their current delirium at their new-found credibility; after all, they have often been treated with the same disdain as those claiming to have been proctologically examined in an alien saucer.
No, with oil currently cresting at $125/barrel, up from $20/barrel only seven years ago (coinciding with the start of the Bush years), their heyday has arrived. They even have a society for true believers, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO - although I think they should take two letters for Association (As) and add "Theory" to the acronym, so you get ASSPOT - more colorful). ASPO meets on a regular basis and wallows joyfully in the bad news - we're running out of oil! Their arch-nemeses are the Cornucopian nut jobs, like the late Julian Simon, who advance such ideas as the "creamy nougat" center of the Earth, that we sit atop a vast ocean of oil just beneath - well, way beneath - the surface. If I remember my geometry right, Earth ought to have a diameter of about 8,000 miles, so if we can learn to drill down on a radius of 4,000 miles we can reach any interior point beneath the surface. I've never quite understood how Cornucopians could logically posit the infinite supply of anything on what is, after all, a finite planet. It seems to violate one of those Basic Laws. The Basic Law of Reason, perhaps.
I don't have any geological reports lying about my house, so I lack an independent basis for judging. Peak Oil Theorists (POT Smokers?) and conservatives, as Krugman points out, are at loggerheads over the issue. Conservatives want to argue that their beloved free market system is being gamed by speculators, who ordinarily would be among their Robber Baron heroes. The whole idea of being a modern Conservative is that you get to cheat while receiving the adulation of a meretricious society. As long as you wear a flag lapel pin, as I've said before, you can bet against the dollar, hope homeowners are thrown out on the street so your short-play on the subprime market works, and still be considered more patriotic than a guy like Barack Obama, who, after all, is named Barack Obama. That's because this country is really, really stupid and superficial.
I think I'm digressing. So the conservatives want, nay need, to believe there's plenty of oil and it's just those guys with the goatees and head scarves who are incomprehensibly refusing to pump it out of their "elephant" fields (another swell ASPO term), along with the aforementioned greed-heads who are buying commodities futures on NYMEX. The ingratitude! We sold the Arabs fancy radar planes, we let them buy our banks -- where's the frigging oil, Abdullah? But is the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia still an elephant? Is it more rhino size now? ASSPOTS have wet dreams in which they see the Ghawar sputtering, crashing (their preferred term), as the Saudis furiously (and clandestinely) pump vast amounts of seawater into the wells to force the remaining dregs out. Bush, siding of course with the Conservatives, as always, as he is congenitally programmed, does what he can to importune the Saudis to pump more oil - hugging them, kissing them, holding hands with eighty year old men wearing bath robes -- begging them. Still, they won't pump more.
Because they can't pump more? ASSPOTS, you see, have a vested interest in the total failure and breakdown of a car-glutted society, with its mindless salients of suburban cracker box houses, its mini-malls, its chain motels, its fast food joints. You know -- America. For the ASSPOTS, oil shortages represent the tool, the wedge with which they'll pry this mess apart. It is why an ASSPOT such as the Clusterfuck Man, Jim Kunstler, impatiently dismisses any talk of a substitute form of independent travel, such as an electric car, even though the Israelis are in the process of building an electric grid based on renewable energy to power just such a system. The whole thing needs to fall apart.
And for the Conservatives: the whole thing needs to hold together, because they are making so much money. The super wealthy financial manipulators want oil to be expensive, because it's another place to make money; but not so expensive that the system begins to break down. They can't believe that members of their own tribe would be so selfish as to subject ordinary Americans to an unsustainable burden, just to get rich faster. The Conservatives think just like the Saudis -- the American consumer needs to have the life squeezed out of him slowly, gradually, occasionally allowing him to breathe through a price reprieve. Sort of like a boa constrictor working on his evening's supper.
May 11, 2008
More good news from James Hansen, America's foremost climatologist:
"Our conclusion is that, if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, CO2 must be reduced from its present 385 ppm (parts per million) to, at most, 350 ppm. "
Thus, from an upcoming issue of Science magazine. I think Mr. Hansen, that valiant scientist who has managed to sound the alarm despite all the helpful editing from Bush Administration lawyers like Philip Cooney who, while lacking any scientific training, have learned enough from dealing in unrelated fields like securities law to blur the impact of any otherwise clear communication. We keep getting reminded that we've blown eight years, and in the years to come names like George W. Bush, Cooney and Senator James Inhofe, that Tulsa business school-educated climatologist, will live in infamy because of their obstruction.
But I believe James Hansen has found just the right formulation of the problem to reach all sectors of society with the essential issue we face. It's not really a matter of whether human beings, as a tribe or species, will survive at all if CO2 concentrations keep climbing beyond the present 385 ppm. The point is that civilization in its present configuration depends on a certain set of favorable conditions, including fairly predictable air temperatures, rainfall patterns, an ocean capable of absorbing excess CO2 (not acid saturated as it is now), a functional Gulf Stream and other features of the not-too-distant past. We're now moving past the various tipping points, such as Arctic melting which exposes dark seawater to solar radiation, massive marine die-off, the thawing of trapped methane in tundra areas, and other unhealthy trends. If we want to avoid the worst effects and restore a semblance of the previous favorable mise-en-scene (no accent grave available; je suis desole - no accent agout either; oops, no circumflex accent either; what's up with Microsoft Word, anyway?), we need to reverse the pattern of CO2 increase and move back down to 350 ppm. This level is already 70 ppm over pre-Industrial levels, but 'tis good enough, 'twill serve.
National Geographic has conducted a "Greendex" survey among industrialized countries to determine which of the peoples of the Earth practice the most eco-friendly behavior patterns and leave the smallest carbon footprint. You can take the test individually, too, at http://event.nationalgeographic.com/greendex/. America scored dead last among the 14 countries surveyed, with a score in the 44 range, versus countries like Brazil which are very environmentally conscious. Naturally, it's one of our psychological displacement strategies to go on and on about rain forests in Brazil and pride ourselves on not building an entire house out of Brazilian rosewood, for example, while ignoring simpler issues like not eating so damn much meat. Brazil scores upwards of 55 on the test, but we also lag behind China and India because of our wastrel ways. I scored 57 and I'm really doing a lot of things wrong. In general, all this country would need to do is to get serious about train transportation, place-specific photovoltaics, plug-in electric cars, the cessation of all discretionary airplane travel, and mass development of renewable energy (wind power and photovoltaic desert arrays) and we'd be the best in the world. I mean, that wasn't so hard, was it?
Meanwhile, I pass along the noble effort of Bill McKibben to raise public consciousness of James Hansen's warning with his 350.org.