10 Reasons for Some Optimism on Climate Change

The Guaradian has published a helpful article providing 10 reasons we should perhaps be a bit more hopeful than we might otherwise seem advised to be about climate change. The 10 reasons cited in the article are:

  1. Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues.
  2. China has ordered coal power plants to close.
  3. The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds.
  4. People are taking their money out of fossil fuels.
  5. Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians.
  6. Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power.
  7. European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000.
  8. Cutting emissions has become a business imperative.
  9. Oil is becoming much more expensive to find.
  10. Electric car sales are doubling each year.

Of these, the ones that I find most promising and hopeful are items 3, 4, 5 and 8.

Chart showing decline in price of solar panels from 1977 to 2013 from $75 to 74 centsWith the cost of solar falling rapidly, the potential for widespread adoption of this best-of-breed technology grows greater and greater. Sun power is clearly and unequivocally the best renewable energy source by any measure. Are there problems to be resolved? Sure. But they can’t be resolved from a position of stasis. In building out the solutions and encountering the problems and dealing with them in place, we will overcome them or find ways around them.

The rapidly growing divestment movement is most promising. As universities, retirement funds and other large institutional investors begin to show the way toward carbon-free portfolios, it will become increasingly difficult for the world’s richest companies to continue to convince a dwindling shareholder base of the economic soundness of their underlying strategy. (About which, see items 8 and 9.)

As the world’s poorest workers are being retrained to install solar power, two related things are happening. First, they and their culture are being made acutely aware of the impact of the climate on their lives. Second, the cost of solar continues to decline (see item 3, above). This puts upward pressure on the economy in some powerful and as-yet-little-understood ways.

As for item 8, when it becomes economically advantageous to reduce carbon emissions and to rely less and less on more and more expensive and socially sanctioned sources of energy, businesses are being forced to realize that it is good business and politics to reduce their carbon footprint.

The combined effect of all of this won’t mean a lot without a great deal of public policy shift, but taken together these indicators are indeed reasons for increased optimism.


Christian Church Leaders Backing Obama on Climate Change Policy

Contrary to popular belief, it appears that not all conservative Christians are also conservative on all public policy. That observation demonstrates the primary reason that attempting to lump everyone in a given category together for unrelated purposes is seldom good, critical thinking.

The latest example: a group of conservative religious leaders are poised to testify before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in favor of some tough new regulations proposed by the Obama Administration aimed at putting a small dent in the global climate change crisis.

evangelical_environmentalistsMany progressive Christians tend to see conservative Christians as being essentially the base of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And while this notion is not entirely false, it is also not entirely true. For example, the Evangelical Environmental Network is a growing organization of conservative Christians concerned about the environment and global climate change issues in the context of their perceived duty as Christians to protect the planet and honor all forms of life. (To be sure, not all conservative Christians agree with that movement.)

According to New York Times reporter Theodore Schleifer, “This week’s hearings on the new E.P.A. rule gives them [evangelical church leaders] an opportunity to make their argument that climate change hurts the world’s poor through natural disasters, droughts and rising sea levels, and that it is part of their faith to protect the planet.” The UN says global warming will impact more women than men because they make up the majority of the world’s poor and the poor will be disproportionately affected by global climate change because they lack the resources to stave off its most severe impacts.



Why Would Hamas Reject Extension of Cease-Fire?

To the extent that the Middle Eastern conflict is about gaining international sympathy and support for an ancient cause, Hamas appears not to understand the strategies very well at all.

By rejecting a four-hour extension of the recent 12-hour cease-fire offered by Israel, Hamas shifted world frustration and anger from Israel to itself. I can’t figure out what would motivate them to do that. It seems to me the world at large tends to look askance at Israel in the current situation, whether this is a result of good PR on the part of Hamas in painting the picture of the conflict with a certain tint or of actual over-reaction and aggression on Israel’s part. Most of the opinion pieces I’ve read from the political center have tended to scold Israel for overreacting, not just in this current situation but in general.

But when Israel agrees to a humanitarian cease-fire and then offers to extend it and Hamas says no and immediately launches some missiles, it makes other nations consider Hamas “the bad guy.”

I’m not intending here to minimize war. It’s not entirely about image. But it is about image, standing and support by the international community. It is about death and destruction but in the longer term it is also about geopolitical outcomes.

Maybe I’m missing something here?

Divi, My New Best Friend from Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes has emerged as my favorite WordPress theming site and their brilliant Divi theme has become my go-to theme in the past few weeks.

elegant_themesDivi is a  drag-and-drop page-building theme that features support for an impressive array of designs and features. For more than 75% of the WordPress site work I engage, it is a perfect and perfectly adequate tool for the job. Among the primary features that I personally find useful in it are the following:

  • columnar layouts per section with unlimited sections
  • sliders, both full-width and columnar
  • sidebars
  • accordions
  • maps
  • toggles
  • full-blown newsletter subscription
  • portfolios
  • audios

It also includes post format support for video, audio, links and quotes as well as mega-menus. I’ve found it particularly adept at handling one-page sites and its one-click support for parallax content-over-image sections is easy to implement and nicely done. It is easy to have content on revealed sections ease gently into space from any direction, which adds a touch of graphics class to a site that some clients find elegant.

I originally thought Divi would be the ideal prototyping tool, that I could use the page-builder to throw together a quick layout to show a client, and then go build the “real thing.” But increasingly I’m finding that Divi can handle most of what I need to have in the final version without needing to abandon the prototype.



Hysterical! Trying to Set a Password

This one came to me labeled “Senior Trying to Set a Password” but it would work for anyone. Read it and roar.

WINDOWS: Please enter your new password.

USER: cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters.

USER: boiled cabbage WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character.

USER: 1 boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.

USER: 50bloodyboiled cabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.

USER: 50BLOODYboiledcabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.

USER: 50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDon’tGiveMeAccessNow!

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.

USER: ReallyPissedOff50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDontGiveMeAccessNow

WINDOWS: Sorry, that password is already in use.

Bye Bye Dreamhost! 3333 Days and No Longer Counting

I discontinued my hosting account with Dreamhost today. As I was signing off, I was told I was slightly outside the 90day free cancellation period. I’d been a customer for 3,333 days. I joined them on June 6, 2005.

I wasn’t particularly unhappy with Dreamhost, though some recent performance turndowns have caused me to be a little less than satisfied. The real reason for the consolidation was that when I was doing Web work full time I didn’t want all my hosting eggs in one basket so I split customers between Dreamhost and Bluehost with an occasional foray into another service at a specific client request. Today, with my business just about retired and mostly hosting my own and family-owned sites, it made sense for me to consolidate in one place.

As I evaluated the two services over the past four weeks or so, I discovered that Bluehost was just a tiny bit better in almost every regard I was evaluating. That, combined with the fact that I had more of my sites at Bluehost now than I had at Dreamhost, mitigated in favor of the move toward Blue.

Dreamhost’s services are quite good. I particularly found their Dreampress service — with which I experimented the last couple of months on one of my WP sites — to be quite performant. If my WP business was continuing, I’d be tempted to move in the DH direction because of that service (though I haven’t yet checked to see if Bluehost has something similar).

So now everything’s on one service, which I’m sure will add at least a little efficiency.

SV Billionaire Shows Us Why Private Ownership of Land is the Next Big Controversy

Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billionaire VC, has been fighting for some time to avoid having the great unwashed traverse his beachfront property over a dirt road people in the area have used for decades to access Martin’s Beach. The case is in its final phase in a court in San Mateo County.

Protesters demand billionaire VC Khosla re-open public beach access

Protesters demand billionaire VC Khosla re-open public beach access

The legal issues in the case are a bit complex to try to explain here. They involve years of tradition, the California Coastal Commission and its right to control beach access, Mr. Khosla’s argument that requiring him to open the road would in effect require him to operate a business at a loss. But at its root, this is less a legal battle than it is a social conflict. Khosla will almost certainly win the war; he has enough money to keep appealing even if he loses and he seems tone-deaf enough to keep at it now even if a compromise could be struck. But in the long run, it may be a pyrrhic victory.

Excruciatingly wealthy people like Khosla, who made his money as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, may be perfectly within their rights to lord it over the little people. The question they will face — perhaps sooner than later — is whether they really ought to want to do so.

The abstract notion of income or wealth inequality in our nation — a terrible bane that holds the seeds for our society’s ultimate demise — is tough to get people excited about. As HBO’s John Oliver said on his show recently, the reason even “commoners” feel at least sort of OK about income inequality is because they’ve been sold an absolute bilge of a bill of goods that they, too, might be wealthy one day and then they wouldn’t want that Bad Old Government seizing all their hard-earned (NOT) gains, would they? But take away the peoples’ beaches? Their parklands? Their roads? Ah, then, my friend, you’ve got a war on your hands.

For many years, the people of the Half Moon Bay area have been able to travel from the nearby Highway 1 to Martin’s Beach over that dirt road, pay a small fee for parking, and enjoy what is seen by many as one of the finest beaches on the gorgeous Central Coast. The former owners were local heroes but they tired of trying to maintain the place as a sort of semi-public beach. Their solution was to sell it off.

The Coastal Commission says that in order for Khosla to qualify for some of the development permits he wants, he has to concede the public beach access. His attorneys have a spate of arguments in opposition and, as I say, they may ultimately prevail. But at what cost to Khosla and his family? And at what cost to other similarly situated billionaires around the nation who are flexing their green muscle in ways that just piss people off?

if Khosla were as smart as he is reputed to be, he’d be looking for a better solution than, “Screw ‘em. It’s my freaking beach.” But hue probably won’t. And when he finally prevails and the beach is closed to the public for good, that will sow yet another seed of the open rebellion that may be the only way for the Little People to begin taking back their country, one private beach at a time.


Hooray! Death Penalty in CA Takes First Step on Its Own Death Row!

Just a few hours ago, a Federal Court judge in California ruled the state’s death penalty unconstitutional. The state will undoubtedly appeal but for now, at least, it is illegal for the state of California to kill someone in my name. I am delighted!

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed.

A moratorium on the death penalty has been in effect since 2006, but this new ruling raises the stakes a good bit and requires the state to overcome a finding that the very process creates a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Constitution.

Should Teachers Have the Right to Strike?

A good friend with whom I mostly agree politically sent me a note this morning about the new president of the LA teachers union in which he spoke strongly about the possibility of a teachers’ strike in the near future. In his note, my friend wrote, “Teachers should not be allowed to strike. First, because it deprives children of vital education time, and second, because it dramatically disrupts the lives/incomes of the parents.”

I’m a pro-labor progressive and I fundamentally believe in the right to organize and its necessary accompaniment, the right to strike. I don’t draw a line (as he does) at any public employee strikes; I think public employees, who have seen their promised pensions eaten by municipal management incompetence far too often in recent years, need the right to bargain collectively just as much as any private sector workers.

(Photo: hlntv.com)

(Photo: hlntv.com)

But when it comes to teachers, I admit to being a bit iffy in my support of a right to strike. My friend’s comments above provide two of the reasons for my hesitance. In addition, I’ve always been wary of organized unions for professionals whose individual skills and talents are (or should be) a major issue in salary negotiations. In other words, I’m not sure a teachers union isn’t a fundamentally bad idea for teachers. Workers who are not highly trained specialists and who are all doing the same job should in fairness be compensated identically. But in a profession like law or medicine or teaching where the training, competence, dedication, experience, passion and other intangible values play such a crucial role in how well a job is done ought, perhaps, not be engaged in collective bargaining. It can — and I think sometimes does — have the effect of reducing the compensation of superior performers in the interest of a level playing field.

I’m sure you have had many teachers in your life who were really excellent. You’ve almost certainly had others who were doing what was required, going along to get along, teaching without passion or  brilliance or insight. It did not seem to me at the time fair that my English teacher in high school — a woman with two Ph.D.’s who was a fiery and brilliant lecturer 100% engaged with her students — got paid the same as my French teacher who was a French-speaking native with very poor teaching skills.

Back in the days when I was a daily newsman, I chafed at the constraints imposed on me by my union and I felt not infrequently like the unionization of professional journalists was a fundamentally bad idea. I’m not so sure I’d take that same position today in a vastly changed labor market.

But to the extent that a job allows for and is enhanced by differing individual performance, perhaps collective bargaining is ultimately a bad idea whose time has come? It’s a difficult idea for me to swallow, even today as my progressivism becomes more entrenched in the face of conservative obstructionism and spite.

I will say this. I am firmly convinced that if a group of workers does have the recognized right to bargain collectively, then the right to strike is fundamental. Without it, the collective has no teeth and collective bargaining is a mirage. So as long as teachers have unions, their right to strike must be defended, regardless of the unintended consequences.

The Border Presents a Refugee Problem, Not an Immigration Issue

When millions of Arabs and Palestinians and other Middle Easterners flee civil war and guerrilla attacks across international borders, we treat them as refugees and expect their unsuspecting (and sometimes unwilling) host countries to do the humane thing. Through our own diplomacy and our contributions to the United Nations, we claim to be compassionate when it comes to the refugee crisis in the Mideast and in Africa in particular.

(Photo: NBCDFW.com)

(Photo: NBCDFW.com)

But when a few thousand children fleeing gang and criminal violence in their Central American homes seek entry into our United States, we call them “illegals” instead of “refugees” and we ship them back so fast it’s as if they had strings attached. As New York Times reporter Sonia Nazario reported Friday, “a vast majority of child migrants are fleeing not poverty, but violence. As a result, what the United States is seeing on its borders now is not an immigration crisis. It is a refugee crisis.”

How can we behave with such hypocrisy? How can we explain to a watching world our complete lack of compassion in dealing with children — children!!?? — who want nothing more than a chance to grow up in a society where their chance of surviving to the age of 13 are better than they are in their ravaged home countries? Particularly when, as is the case with Honduras, our senseless and dysfunctional foreign and drug policies are at least contributing causes to the unrest that leads to their lack of safety at home? Are we really so blind as to think that a poor six- or eight- or 11-year-old child wants to leave the only home they’ve ever known, their families and friends, for an unknown future across a thousand or more miles of dangerous territory just so they can cross an international border illegally?

Some days, I am ashamed to be an American.

Mr. President, where are you on this? Why do you continue to deport people at a faster rate than any of your predecessors? Where is your attitude of “Hope we can believe in” and “Yes we can” when it comes to compassionate treatment of our fellow human beings? Are you, in the final analysis, no more compassionate or hopeful than your much-despised predecessor? Is this the legacy you really want as our nation’s first President of color?

Please, please, please: someone in Washington wake up. Grow a heart. Exhibit compassion. Care for these children. It’s a simple matter of humanity!