Saturday, June 15, 2024

Weekend Useful Reading + Funny

How Not to Be Fooled by Viral Charts: Part 1  |  Part 2

(Sadly, I've been taken in by some of these.)

Colbert funnies: Part 1  |  Part 2

Second one starts in the middle of a monologue 

Town in Italy named after my dad.
(Corniglia. JK re: it being named after Cornelius - the town is older!   ;-)

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Best Movie in Years

What What I Made For

Barbie is the best movie since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. 100% not joking. I watched it after Oppenheimer and before Napoleon

I'm sure Bryan Caplan & The Incels loved it.</snark>

The A350 on which we watched many movies.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

News You Can Use, Search Edition

From Kevin Drum

Do you hate all the cruft in Google searches? That is, the sponsored posts, the Twitter aggregation, the AI summaries, the sidebar definitions, and so forth? If so, you can get rid of them thanks to a new feature rolled out a couple of weeks ago. After you do a search, just click on More and then click Web. You'll get a plain, old-school list of links and nothing more.

If you keep the Google tab open, it will continue to provide Web versions of your searches.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

More Uncle Carl, from Pale Blue Dot

Photo by Kevin Drum

Ann Druyan suggests an experiment: Look back again at the pale blue dot of the preceding chapter. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn’t strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?


after the Earth dies, some 5 billion years from now, after it is burned to a crisp or even swallowed by the Sun, there will be other worlds and stars and galaxies coming into being—and they will know nothing of a place once called Earth.


Uncommon strength of character is needed to resist the blandishments of those who assure us that we have an obvious, even God-given, superiority over our fellows. The more precarious our self-esteem, the greater our vulnerability to such appeals.


As for humans, we’re latecomers. We appear in the last instant of cosmic time. The history of the Universe till now was 99.998 percent over before our species arrived on the scene. In that vast sweep of aeons, we could not have assumed any special responsibilities for our planet, or life, or anything else. We were not here.


We can recognize here a shortcoming—in some circumstances serious—in our ability to understand the world. Characteristically, willy-nilly, we seem compelled to project our own nature onto Nature.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Uncle Carl's Grandfather

For all the doomers who think life is so very intolerable today (song version by The Decemberists):

LATE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, Leib Gruber was growing up in Central Europe, in an obscure town in the immense, polyglot, ancient Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father sold fish when he could. But times were often hard. As a young man, the only honest employment Leib could find was carrying people across the nearby river Bug. The customer, male or female, would mount Leib’s back; in his prized boots, the tools of his trade, he would wade out in a shallow stretch of the river and deliver his passenger to the opposite bank. Sometimes the water reached his waist. There were no bridges here, no ferryboats. Horses might have served the purpose, but they had other uses. 

That left Leib, and a few other young men like him. They had no other uses. No other work was available. They would lounge about the riverbank, calling out their prices, boasting to potential customers about the superiority of their drayage. They hired themselves out like four-footed animals. My grandfather was a beast of burden. I don’t think that in all his young manhood Leib had ventured more than a hundred kilometers from his little hometown of Sassow. 

But then, in 1904, he suddenly ran away to the New World—to avoid a murder rap, according to one family legend. He left his young wife behind. How different from his tiny backwater hamlet the great German port cities must have seemed, how vast the ocean, how strange the lofty skyscrapers and endless hubbub of his new land. We know nothing of his crossing, but have found the ship’s manifest for the journey undertaken later by his wife, Chaiya—joining Leib after he had saved enough to bring her over. She traveled in the cheapest class on the Batavia, a vessel of Hamburg registry. 

There’s something heartbreakingly terse about the document: Can she read or write? No. Can she speak English? No. How much money does she have? I can imagine her vulnerability and her shame as she replies, “One dollar.” She disembarked in New York, was reunited with Leib, lived just long enough to give birth to my mother and her sister, and then died from “complications” of childbirth. In those few years in America, her name had sometimes been anglicized to Clara. 

A quarter century later, my mother named her own firstborn, a son, after the mother she never knew. 

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (published in 1994)

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.

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

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.


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