Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pale Blue Dot, video edition

Please take 3:26 to (re-)watch and share:

Here; text:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. 

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Not Unprecedented: Uncle Carl ....

One of the saddest lessons of history is this:

If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.

Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

–Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

If you know anyone who gives even the tiniest shit about the environment

Every complaint we make / like / retweet brings this closer to reality:

What Trump promised oil CEOs as he asked them to steer $1 billion to his campaign

Donald Trump has pledged to scrap President Biden’s policies on electric vehicles and wind energy, as well as other initiatives opposed by the fossil fuel industry.

Trump sat with some of the country’s top oil executives at his Mar-a-Lago Club last month, one executive complained about how they continued to face burdensome environmental regulations despite spending $400 million to lobby the Biden administration in the last year.

Trump’s response stunned several of the executives in the room overlooking the ocean: You all are wealthy enough, he said, that you should raise $1 billion to return me to the White House. At the dinner, he vowed to immediately reverse dozens of President Biden’s environmental rules and policies and stop new ones from being enacted, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation.

Giving $1 billion would be a “deal,” Trump said, because of the taxation and regulation they would avoid thanks to him, according to the people.

Trump’s remarkably blunt and transactional pitch reveals how the former president is targeting the oil industry to finance his reelection bid. At the same time, he has turned to the industry to help shape his environmental agenda for a second term, including rollbacks of some of Biden’s signature achievements on clean energy and electric vehicles.

The contrast between the two candidates on climate policy could not be more stark. Biden has called global warming an “existential threat,” and over the last three years, his administration has finalized more than 100 new environmental regulations aimed at cutting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, restricting toxic chemicals, and conserving public lands and waters. In comparison, Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” and his administration weakened or wiped out more than 125 environmental rules and policies over four years.

In recent months, the Biden administration has raced to overturn Trump’s environmental actions and issue new ones before the November election. So far, Biden officials have overturned 27 Trump actions affecting the fossil fuel industry and completed at least 24 new actions affecting the sector, according to a Washington Post analysis. The Interior Department, for instance, recently blocked future oil drilling across 13 million acres of the Alaskan Arctic.

Despite the oil industry’s complaints about Biden’s policies, the United States is now producing more oil than any country ever has, pumping nearly 13 million barrels per day on average last year. ExxonMobil and Chevron, the largest U.S. energy companies, reported their biggest annual profits in a decade last year.

Yet oil giants will see an even greater windfall — helped by new offshore drilling, speedier permits and other relaxed regulations — in a second Trump administration, the former president told the executives over the dinner of chopped steak at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump vowed at the dinner to immediately end the Biden administration’s freeze on permits for new liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports — a top priority for the executives, according to three people present. “You’ll get it on the first day,” Trump said, according to the recollection of an attendee.

The roughly two dozen executives invited included Mike Sabel, the CEO and founder of Venture Global, and Jack Fusco, the CEO of Cheniere Energy, whose proposed projects would directly benefit from lifting the pause on new LNG exports. Other attendees came from companies including Chevron, Continental Resources, Exxon and Occidental Petroleum, according to an attendance list obtained by The Post.

Trump told the executives that he would start auctioning off more leases for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a priority that several of the executives raised. He railed against wind power, as The Post previously reported. And he said he would reverse the restrictions on drilling in the Alaskan Arctic.

“You’ve been waiting on a permit for five years; you’ll get it on Day 1,” Trump told the executives, according to the recollection of the attendee.

At the dinner, Trump also promised that he would scrap Biden’s “mandate” on electric vehicles — mischaracterizing ambitious rules that the Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized, according to people who attended. The rules require automakers to reduce emissions from car tailpipes, but they don’t mandate a particular technology such as EVs. Trump called the rules “ridiculous” in the meeting with donors.

The fossil fuel industry has aggressively lobbied against the EPA’s tailpipe rules, which could eat into demand for its petroleum products. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, an industry trade group, has launched a seven-figure campaign against what it calls a de facto “gas car ban.” The campaign includes ads in battleground states warning that the rule will restrict consumer choice.


“Clearly, if you are producing gasoline and diesel, you want to make sure that there’s enough market there,” said Stephen Brown, an energy consultant and a former lobbyist for Tesoro, an oil refining company. “I don’t know that the oil industry would walk in united with a set of asks for the Trump administration, but I think it’s important for this issue to get raised.”

Although the repeal of the EPA rule would benefit the fossil fuel industry, it would probably anger the auto industry, which has invested billions of dollars in the transition away from gasoline-powered cars. Many automakers are under increasing pressure to sell more EVs in Europe, which has tightened its own tailpipe emissions rules, and they are eager to avoid a patchwork of regulations around the globe.

“Automakers need some degree of regulatory certainty from government,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, Toyota and other car companies.

“What has emerged instead is a wholesale repeal … and then reinstatement … and then repeal again of regulations every four or eight years,” Bozzella said in an email.

Biden’s EV policies have also sparked opposition in Republican-led rural states such as North Dakota, where there are far more oil pump jacks than charging stations. A key figure leading the Trump campaign’s development of its energy policy is North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), who has been talking extensively to oil donors and CEOs.

At a fundraiser on Saturday in Palm Beach, Fla., Burgum told donors that Trump would halt Biden’s “attack” on fossil fuels, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by The Post.

“What would be the No. 1 thing that President Trump could do on Day 1? It’s stop the hostile attack against all American energy, and I mean all,” Burgum said. “Whether it’s baseload electricity, whether it’s oil, whether it’s gas, whether it’s ethanol, there is an attack on liquid fuels.”

Burgum also criticized the Biden administration’s policies on gas stoves and vehicles with internal combustion engines, claiming that they would prevent consumers from buying both technologies. While the Energy Department recently set new efficiency standards for gas stoves, they would not affect the stoves in people’s kitchens or those currently on the market.

“They’ve got some liberal idea about what products we need,” Burgum said. “You all need EV cars. You don’t need internal combustion. We’ll decide what kind of car you’re going to drive, and we’re going to regulate the other ones out of business. I mean, it’s just in every industry, not just in cars, not just in energy. They’re telling people what stoves you can buy. This is not America.”

The Biden campaign initially declined to comment for this article. After it was published, however, Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement that “Donald Trump is selling out working families to Big Oil for campaign checks. It’s that simple.”

“It doesn’t matter to Trump that oil and gas companies charge working families and middle-class Americans whatever they want while raking in record profits — if Donald can cash a check, he’ll do what they say,” Moussa added.

Burgum — a possible contender to lead the Energy Department in a second Trump term — has pushed harder to address climate change than many other Republicans. He set a goal in 2021 for North Dakota — the third-largest oil-producing state — to become carbon-neutral by 2030. He has stressed, however, that the goal won’t be achieved via government mandates or the elimination of fossil fuels, and he has cultivated deep support among oil donors.

Despite Trump’s huge fundraising ask, oil donors and their allies have yet to donate hundreds of millions to his campaign. They have contributed more than $6.4 million to Trump’s joint fundraising committee in the first three months of this year, according to an analysis by the advocacy group Climate Power. Oil billionaire Harold Hamm and others are scheduling a fundraiser for Trump later this year, advisers said, where they expect large checks to flow to his bid to return to office.

One person involved in the industry said many oil executives wanted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or another Republican to challenge Biden. But now that Trump is the nominee, this person said, they are going to embrace his policies and give.

Dan Eberhart, chief executive of the oil-field services company Canary and a Trump donor, said the Republican onslaught of donations was not surprising.

“Biden constantly throws a wet blanket to the oil and gas industry,” Eberhart said. “Trump’s ‘drill, baby, drill’ philosophy aligns much better with the oil patch than Biden’s green-energy approach. It’s a no-brainer.”

Alex Witt, a senior adviser for oil and gas with Climate Power, said Trump’s promise is he will do whatever the oil industry wants if they support him. With Trump, Witt said, “everything has a price.”

“They got a great return on their investment during Trump’s first term, and Trump is making it crystal clear that they’re in for an even bigger payout if he’s reelected,” she said. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

Cold is not your friend

Not Eden


Comment on this Hannah Ritchie post on disasters:

Most global studies estimate that ~9 times more people die from extreme cold than extreme heat. It follows that warming will reduce deaths from extreme temperatures.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(23)00023-2/fulltext

Indeed this has been reported for the UK for the period 2001-2021, during which 500,000 lives were saved by warming.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/climaterelatedmortalityandhospitaladmissionsenglandandwales/1988to2022

There was a furious reaction to the initial report and the ONS were forced to revise it to disguise this inconvenient fact. It can be seen if you look at the data but was erased from the summary section.

What these data show is that we should focus more on preventing deaths from extreme cold as well as extreme heat. This involves better housing and accessible and affordable energy, especially electricity.

Any measures that decrease economic growth and/or decrease the affordability/ availability/ reliability of electricity will increase deaths from extreme temperatures.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A LOT of people owe Michael Lewis an apology

Nothing to do with the post
 

If this is correct and everyone with a claim against FTX will get at least 100 cents on the dollar, then everyone who slagged on Michael Lewis as "naive" and "credulous" owe him a huge apology. 

And every EA who went from licking SBF's boots to throwing him under the bus: I hope you feel ashamed. 

And everyone who was quick to condemn all effective altruism and/or utilitarianism based on the rush to judgment on SBF - I hope you, too, feel ashamed.

As you know from reading Losing, I'm not an EA or a utilitarian. Going forward, maybe we should react with some empathy and compassion

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Humanity in two sentences

Almost always, the going-in assumption is that we are special. After the premise is closely examined, though, it turns out—in dishearteningly many cases—that we are not.

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Too Stupid to Live. Literally.

Not putting words in his mouth. This is what he said, verbatim.  

We also aren't making up his fascism.

If you don't vote for the sane option...

PS: Handmaid's Tale:



Sunday, May 5, 2024

Song for Pneumothorax The First (and comic)

On the anniversary of my first collapsed lung, Green Day "Still Breathing," from the underrated Revolution Radio.


Also:

This is not me. If you don't hear back from me, I didn't get your email.



Saturday, May 4, 2024

May 4 and ignoring the average young person


I know this is generally May the Fourth Be with You on the internet, but readers of Losing know that, for me, it is the anniversary of the slaughter at Kent State

Speaking of college unrest and "kids these days," I greatly fear that the Democratic activists are pushing for bad decisions based on loud but far fringe of opinions from young people. On average, young people really don't care all that much about climate change, Israel/Palestine, or student debt; they care more about immigration than all those things:

Click for larger.

More.

Friday, May 3, 2024

A Positive Double Standard (link re: improving and getting along better)

We can't help but feel as though we have free will. It is impossible to just sit and "see what happens" - our thoughts and urges continue regardless of our understanding of physics.

So while we individually go through life "making choices," we can be happier when we realize that no one around us has free will. And we can also forgive ourselves and learn better when the initial conditions of the universe conspired to have us make "mistakes."

James Brown has an interesting, thoughtful take on this from a "self-help" perspective: A Positive Double Standard.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Credit Cards and Cash (one link)

Nothing about sign-up bonuses, getting new cards every few months, transferring to airlines, etc. Just simple cash back and how it can stack up.


Unrelated - from a book I'm reading.


Monday, April 29, 2024

Fantastic Song (no exaggeration) and Worthwhile Article (and PS) (and cat picture)

The Decemberists - Make You Better (Live)
(Funny version w/ Nick Offerman; Lyrics)

Can't recommend it enough. Gives me shivers.


Also: 15 Terrible Tech Predictions

PS: "White supremacy movements have a hard time explaining why they are a movement of low-status losers" -Matthew Yglesias (great bit by MY about "young people." Worth a skim!)

PPS: Moved to the lowest, $35/month Comcast internet. What a deal - 10/10

PPPS: You can find a link out there to tell you anything you want.

PPPPS: AZ's Dem Attorney General won by fewer than 300 votes. 

Be kind to birds!

Friday, April 26, 2024

How to make life better

The easy way to go is to say, “It’s all gone to shit” When the great moral of the story is that It’s always been shit.

–Conan O’Brien, quoted in Nick Offerman’s Gumption 


Kevin Drum: Are Millennials really as well off as Baby Boomers? (Charts below and notes below that.) 

Also: How much is it worth to not grow up inhaling lead fumes and swallowing lead dust? Check this out: "Americans ... born in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s may have lost nearly six IQ points on average." 







Every old person is legally required to whine, "KIDS THESE DAYS." 

This is not to say everyone alive has it great and easy. BUT THIS WAS NEVER THE CASE.

What was it like to be gay in the 70s? Black in the 60s? Trans? Freethinker? 

One of Kevin Drum's commenters yelled that Kevin was wrong, because it isn't easy to have a "good job" in a desirable city. Oh yeah, and to own a pony. 

I had what a lot of Kids These Days would say is a life they could never have. But I grew up with two siblings in a 1 bathroom house without air conditioning. It has been redone and can be yours for $175k today, in 2024.

We moved to a nicer house when I was 11 in a shitty, redneck cow-forsaken cowtown where I had zero peers or opportunities (outside of basketball). 

A few years before the pandemic, my sister saw our paternal grandparents' house was for sale. For $24k - less than our Honda. 

Our absolutely idyllic (unless you have Seasonal Affective Disorder) Pittsburgh house has doubled in price since we sold it in 2007, and is still only $300k. On a large wooded lot, at the end of a dead-end street, in a great school district, in a blue city in a blue state. 

I am not saying this in a "Kids These Days need to stop whining!" But I do honestly believe that we are basically torturing each other with all this unfounded jealousy of others and relentless doomism. 

For the median American, life is better now

Life could be better. But we have to work to make that happen. Being honest is the first step. Voting is the next. Amplifying doom memes only helps Nazis.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

I am so stupid it burns



One thing Jesus [sic] got right was that we focus on the speck in the other's eye, rather than the plank in our own. Or: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

In this case, it is the continued hostile reaction to "The End of Veganism." 

Not from "Vegans" - of course, I expect that. 

Rather, it is from people who seem, at first glance, to be rational and thoughtful. But still, defending a word is more important than actually making a difference.

It still surprises me, and I still let [sic] it bother me (for a bit).


Last year, I came across someone who seemed to recognize the primacy of suffering. But on social media, they only post about how non-vegans are hypocritical and immoral. With a few "X major problem would be cured by veganism." 

Over and over and over, many times a day.

I've said this before, but I am 100% serious: if I made money on exploiting animals, the best thing I could do to protect my income would be to spend my spare time calling non-vegans cruel morons. 



The greatest impediment to the spread of veganism is vegans. 

I'm serious.

(Is it possible this post is a hoax? Yes. But we could never know. Like the MAGA-diots, you can't parody them. E.g., four years ago, TFG really did say we should inject ourselves with disinfectant.)