Monday, June 29, 2009

Isaac Asimov's Warning - Part II

Isaac Asimov as part of his lecture in Barbados, noted the dire consequences of overpopulation. These were dealt with especially in Part I, in terms of dwindling resources for each person. But even before those effects arrive, there will be a diluting effect on democracy and freedoms.

Asimov referenced the U.S. Constitution and Article I which stipulates that "the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand" This was based on the 1790 census and a then population for the U.S. of 3.93 million.

However, that ratio had grown to 693,000 constituents per rep by 2007, given 435 representatives. Thus, by this measure, U.S. democracy has been diluted by a factor of:

693,000/ 30,000 = 23.1

What makes the difference and why important? Obviously, the more constituents per representative the more difficult for contact to made, in terms of informing about problems, difficulties, efects of legislation etc. Even now, it is nearly impossble to contact a rep directly, and one is left to either email (which are usually ignored) or leave a phone message. The odds of any response are slim to none, and if one does arrive it is usually as a form letter, which the representative may or may not actually sign.

This means that complaints of constituents, unless they are very rich - and contribute to the congressman's campaign purse, are unlikely to be heard. Democracy is thereby undermined.

Asimov actually came up with a postulate that reflects loss of democracy:

"If the size of population grows while the size of the representative body stays constant, the annual rate of the decline of democracy is at least equal to the annual rate of the growth of the population"

Thus, if the U.S. population has grown by 1% since 2007, the democracy in place has declined by 1%. If the U.S. population has grown by 50% since 1951, then democracy has diminished by 50% in the same period.

At first this appears like nonsense, but think about it as Asimov did.

In the 1950s, unemployment rates seldom hit 2% if that. A person could find work, good work, if he or she simply looked hard enough. In addition, bank savings account rates approached 5-6% so people could safely stash money away without putting it at risk, such as in the stock market.

Now, move 50-odd years into the future. The working population has more than doubled, but the rate of new job growth has remained at roughly half that. Even worse, because many of the better jobs are now shipped overseas to India, where workers can be paid at half the rate and there are no benefits.

So, effectively, the number of willing workers outnumbers available jobs by nearly 2 to 1.

With millions of a working surplus population generated, wages (and benefits) can be held to rock bottom levels (vs. 1950 levels, and corrected for inflation) since there will be such a huge backlog of ready and willing workers that virtually 'anything goes'. Guy doesn't want to work overtime for half or no pay? Fine, fire him because there's 200 waiting in line - all with families to feed.

Worse, savings rates have plummeted since bank saving interest has nosedived to not even 0.5%. WHY? Because the growth of population made it too expensive for banks to continue to deliver so much in interest. So they did two things: 1) securitized risks- such as mortgages, by enabling them to be bundled (by the millions) and sold as debt ("collateralized mortgage obligations") on the bond markets, and 2) lowered interest rates to coerce savers to "investing" in the stock market instead.

Governments from the Reagan era played into this using expedient tax cuts, which were "meant to encourage you to invest more in stocks" ('The Demise of the Ownership Society' in MONEY magazine, p. 58, July, 2009)

Adding insult to injury, what had been defined benefit (PENSION) plans, were converted into "401ks" - in which the employee was responsible for his own retirement savings. What happened? Simply put, too many people-workers which made real pensions too expensive for companies to honor over time. This is also why the cost of health care is exploding. Too many people, too much demand for procedures, therapies, operations, etc. - limited supply (of quality) so much higher cost.

In effect, a surplus population acts as a brake on wages and benefits, as well as keeping the hoi polloi in place. (Since there will always be more people than jobs). It also causes limits to be imposed, generaly via external costs, to thereby render quality of life less. Look no further than at the deterioration of our national parks from overuse....or at our healthcare system....which is 37th in the world in terms of quality delivered per dollar paid.

Community costs also increase as the population rises, although the community's income level is hard to sustain.

Costs arrive in the form of: greater traffic volume (requiring more roads, more expense to build them), more schools (requiring higher property taxes to sustain), more hospitals, and more crime. The latter will increase more in locales in which resources are more diluted or diminished, because there will be fewer available as the number grow. In general, one can expect a 1% increase in property crime and burglary for every 10% increase in the population.

In all these cases, personal freedoms and choices are diminished. For example, much higher traffic flows - say taking two hours to traverse a suburb to downtown- will mean more citizens will simply avoid going downtown. The downtown will then "rot" from disuse, or fall into the hands of the wrong element. In all cases then, population increase byond a certain threshold limits personal choice.

As civic problems muiltiply, but tax revenues do not keep pace, cities and counties are forced to cut services. This is currently happening across the nation, and particularly in California. Police and other services are cut, parks closed up, playgrounds shuttered, and civic life is diluted.

Thus, destabilizing pressures inevitably caused by a too large excess population leads to diminished quality of life, which in turn will lead to more crime, more cutbacks in services, and so on.

Not mentioned yet, is the more pernicious form loss of democracy assumes when too many constitutents exist per representative. What happens then, is that the representatives will seek out the opinions, and follow the will of the LEAST number of MAJOR or super-citizens.

In the U.S. right now, these "super" citizens are none other than giant corporations, which are regarded as "persons" under an 1886 Supreme Court ruling (Santa Clara Decision) which extrapolated the 14th amendment to that case. Unlike the normal person-citizen, these are able to potentially live forever, or as close to that sublime state as de-regulating laws allowed. They can live in multiple places at once (branch offices), and even transmogrify themselves via mergers, etc. or 'amputate' themselves into smaller companies bearing the same overall identity, and run by a single interlocking directorate.

These 'corporate persons' were (over time) also able to access a host of special rights and privileges - not afforded ordinary flesh and blood citizens. These included: special tax-write offs, government and state subsidies, as well as deductions.(Like 'tax deferred benefits' packages for CEOs). And, in the late 20th century, a generous form of government subsidy known as 'corporate welfare' .

Since there are far fewer corporate-persons than flesh and blood persons, then our congress critters now acknowledge the priority of their will and rights over those of the (excessive, surplus) flesh and blood citizens. It is easier, after all, to deal with 3,000 neat, organized corporate persons, than 300 million real, scruffy, flesh and blood persons! In effect, the stage has been set for endemic and anomalous political and economic imbalance that has been built into the very legal system, and manner of governance.

This is why, though Asimov didn't use the word, the U.S. is no longer any facsimile of a "democracy" but rather a corporatocracy. This is a system in which elite or corporate interests exert the power of their wealth and influence to control a nation's political and economic destiny. By simple extrapolation, it follows that as the national and global population increase toward 9 billion, we will likely reach a tipping point where all average citizens of the world become corporate vassals, in a giant global slave state.

That, essentially, was Asimov's warning regarding the dimunition of democracy. Not only in the U.S., but globally. Since we are all interconnected now, the loss of democracy in one place easily transfers into its loss in another.

My conviction is that we won't have to worry about a corporate global vassal state, because most of humanity will be gone in the great die off, by the time peak Oil is underway. An end not dissimilar to what the Easter Islanders experienced (Part I) when they consumed more of their resource-energy base than they could replenish.

For more on the basis of the die-off, go to:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Isaac Asimov's Warning - Part I

Isaac Asimov makes a crucial point at his Queen's Park Lecture in Barbados, on Feb. 6, 1976. This photo was part of a write-up in The Barbados Advocate newspaper.

When famed science and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov arrived in Barbados in February, 1976, the entire island was in an uproar. Astronomy had taken off, with the courses being offered by members of the Barbados Astronomical Society, as well as visiting lecturers from the preceding year - starting with Prof. Kenneth Franklin of the New York Hayden Planetarium.

At the time of Asimov's arrival (on the QE II, since he never flew) we in the BAS were in the midst of another of our popular 'Basic Astronomy Courses'. However, for one evening the course lecture was called off so as many as possible could attend Asimov's. They were not disappointed.

Asimov's general theme was 'The Moon and What It means To Us' but - as usual- his lecture did veer off into other important areas, especially the increase in human population, and its dire effects on the welfare of everyone.

A metaphor that Asimov used to make his point then has since become known as "the bathroom metaphor" and it works to get people to understand the debilitating, disastrous effects of too many people. As Asimov noted, if two people live in an apartment, and it comes with two bathrooms, they have a comfortable life. Either one can use the bathroom anytime he or she wants, and can remain in there as long as they desire, even reading while doing business.

One can say, that for the purpose of "Bathroom freedom" - 2 is the carrying capacity for a two -person apartment. Now, let there be twenty people occupying the same apartment, and what happens? Bathroom freedom evaporates. Visits now must be regulated by the clock, and no one may stay in for too long. Indeed, a timetable likely has to be set up for each person's bathroom use. (Don't laugh too hard at the improbability of this example, since we now know of numerous cases where immigrants have been found crammed into such conditions - but usually in a house)

The point is, that the liberating use of the bathroom which applied for two persons, no longer applies with twenty, and probably evaporated by the time there were five or six occupants of the apartment. (And we won't even go into where each - unrelated- person sleeps, if there are only two bedrooms).

Such is the way overpopulation degrades the quality of living, and cheapens it for all, making it more discomfiting. "More" is definitely not merrier!

Is Asimov's example a tad too extreme or is there a real world, historical example to support it? In fact, there is, and it can be traced to Easter Island. The Easter Islanders went from a maximum 20,000-odd population ca. 1600 AD to barely 1,000 when the first Europeans landed in 1720. (Massive civil war broke out ~ 1680) The newcomers had found that the natives had descended into war and cannibalism. In the case of the E. Islanders, they expended all their wood, forest stores – and were reduced to living in caves by the time the Europeans arrived.

What happened? The Islanders grew too comfortable with their resources, and began to consume them at a rate beyond their replacement. This had a critical impact because of the fact: a) Easter Island was so remote - closest other island is Pitcairn, 1240 miles west, and b) the trees that formed the base of the resource supply were limited in extent.

Because of the trees, the Islanders could build adequate shelters, plus construct boats able to navigate many miles offshore to catch large dolphin (fish, not mammals) and eat heartily. But they became too sated too soon. Their ability to provide a bounty of food early drove their birth numbers higher. From a base population of ~ 3500, they grew to 5500, then 7800, then 10,000, then 15,000.

As their numbers increased on the tiny island, the demand for lumber did as well. Massive deforestation was now the rule, as they cut down trees to try to keep pace with the exploding population. Before long, new seedlings planted could not reach the maturity needed to build the sturdy fishing boats to go miles offshore and catch dolphin. The populace was now reduced to scavenge for small mollusks near the tidal basin, and to hunt whatever birds there were (the birds were hunted to extinction).

As people, then animals, soon descended to eating the seeds of the trees, collapse set in. By the time the Europeans arrived there were no more wood shelters, and the people had retreated into caves and had been eating each other for decades.

The above is not a pretty picture, but it IS what happens when ANY closed population exceeds its carrying capacity and begins to overwhelm its support system. It doesn't matter if it's an isolated island, or an isolated planet in space Earth. (recall the earlier image I posted of the Earth in space)

Asimov, as part of his lecture, warned that humans had two choices: decrease their population to the carrying capacity limit to live in an equilibrium with the Earth and its resources, or let nature “increase the human death rate” (e.g. by starvation, pestilence, wars over resources etc.)

He also remarked:

"It is now the willingly childless woman who is the heroine of our planet. She is the one who now deserves all the kudos and praise, for helping to do what is necessary to spare humanity from the ravages of over-population"

In the case of 6.9 billion on a limited orb called “Earth” the situation is very analogous-especially in terms of critical life-support resources such as water. In the ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), it is noted that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025. As observed therein (p. 47):

“When a country’s renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita (what some analysts call the water stress level) it becomes difficult for the country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population.”

Market “solutions” are absurd on their face since water is an absolute life necessity – not a commercial commodity, or one that a vast population can simply "move to" , to access!

The same State of the World’ report notes at present rates of decline and even without factoring in the worst global warming influences – the number of people living in water-stressed countries will rise from 470 million to 3 billion by 2025. More than a sixfold increase. Add in projected new climate change data and likely effects (see. eg. recent issues of Eos) and the stressed populations increase nine or tenfold.

The other point brought out by Asimov is the dangerous argument that "if we increase oil production, or coal production now we can provide for.....x number of people"

It is dangerous and irrelevant because it is always based upon increasing supplies for the existing (assumed fixed) population. Not reckoning in the growth in demand per year(now 2-3%) which will then outpace the supplies, if they can only increase at 1-2% a year!

To fix ideas: Albert Bartlett - in an article in Physics Today (November, 2004, p. 18), noted that in the 1970s there was about 2.2 liters per person per day of oil. Of this, nearly 1.3 liters went to food production, processing, preparation or distribution. And that was in a world with nearly 2.7 billion FEWER people!

Today, we are down to a production level of barely 1.6 liters per person per day while the consumption level approaches 4 liters per person per day. After Peak Oil, the latter will continue to increase, while the former will diminish by about 2-3% per year.

It doesn’t take a math genius to work out that this is a recipe for catastrophic crash – of the human population! Indeed, one can break it down to a basic differential equation embodying a related rate- in this case the rate of decrease of available cheap energy needed as the population continually increases.

According to current stats (Physics Today, Weisz, p. 47, July 2004), the global oil demand is expected to grow 2-3% per year, and the population by 1.5% per year. In this case:

-dQ/ dt ~ {rate of demand on Q per year + rate of population growth translated into a yearly demand on Q)

where the LHS represents the depletion rate of available oil resources, and the RHS gives the “sinks” that deplete them. Note the 1st term assumes only the pure economic, e.g. GDP-“growth” demands for increase, not population)

In concrete terms, if 500 billion barrels (dQ) of relatively cheap oil remain after next year, and (as of 2003), 28 billion barrels of year are consumed per year, and the combined term on the RHS increases this by 4.5% per year – what do you get?

Here is where it sits in most basic terms, in terms of the clear analogy of oil now with the trees of the Easter Islanders: The planet was endowed with ~ 3,000 billion barrels of oil – of which we’ve consumed 1,000 billion barrels. 500 billion barrels of relatively cheap oil remains, after which 1000 billion barrels of “break-even” oil remains (costs as much to access as it delivers), after which 500 billion barrels of very expensive oil remains (costs much more to reach it than it deliver in energy).

At the heart of these considerations is the net energy eqn. (cf. Physics Today, Weisz, July 2004, p. 51)

Q (net) = Q (PR) – [Q (op) + E/T]

In effect, for break-even oil one would find Q(net) = 0

Thus, there is no net gain in energy given the quantity that must be used to obtain it.For the last 700 billion barrels, Q(net) = negative quantity = -Q

since the rate of energy production (Q (PR) must be debited by the energy consumed for its operation Q(op), and the energy E invested during its “lifetime” Thus its Q(PR) will be small in relation to the bracketed quantity.Thus, the problem in a nutshell is not “running out of oil’ but running out of CHEAP oil. Bottom line, we need not run out of the stuff before the world economy runs into problems of untold, unspeakable proportions!

As if this problem were bad, another superimposed one is by way of ethanol. To produce ethanol takes about 0.1 gal more of oil than the quantity of ethanol produced (1.0 gal.) Thus, ethanol is already an energy SINK.

Now add to this that: a) ethanol is less efficient than oil, and b) consumes a food base to manufacture it (corn), and you have a recipe for massive disaster. Even worse, it is federally subsidized at ~ .51 a gallon, and worse yet, the new cap and trade bill has a provision in it to exclude ethanol from all greenhouse warming consideration!

It is as if the Easter Islanders, in addition to consuming all their wood resource base for shelter, boat construction, decided to eat up the tree seedlings at the same time.

Of course, this would have accelerated their total collapse by about 150 years.

Next: Part II Can collapse of democracy ensue with overpopulation?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Those crazy, revolutionary, upstart....ATHEISTS!

We will take a break now from solar physics, and go back to controversies of areligious philosophy, namely dealing with a certain meme that's been floating around the past few years: that atheism is some new, "rambunctious" form of rebellion, devised just to have a riff on organized religion (which long predated it).

Atheists then are relative newbies who just came on the scene and whose sole purpose is to make sport of religions, god beliefs, and other sanctimonious nonsense - such as heaven-hell and "sin". In this regard, atheists have been compared to wild teenagers feeling their oats, trying to make themselves out to be independent before they are ready.

All their arguments, comments and critiques of religion and religious thought amount to simple bravado, the type seen and heard when a teen gets his first car.

Of course, this is all totally wrong. Atheists and Atheism have actually been in existence for thousands of years before Christianity. Thus, the truth is that Atheism represents the "parental" wiser- and judicious philosophy, while religion represents the brash infant. Not the other way around! But whacked out religious zealots have tried to paint Atheism as exactly the opposite: some newfangled form of irreverent revolution just thought up to give the religious grief.

For fixing ideas here, it helps to look at some of the quotes of the ancients. These may be the best evidence of how Atheism dates into antiquity and atheists sentiments were expressed by naturalist thinkers long before Christ walked on Earth (assuming he really did!)

Let us then look at some of these quotes:

Heraclitus (535- 475 BCE):

"Religion is a disease"

Aristophanes (448 - 380 BCE):

"Surely you don't believe in the gods! What's your argument? Where's your prooof?"

Petronius Arbiter (27 - 66 CE):

"It was fear that first brought gods into the world"

Seneca (4 BCE - 65 CE):

"Religion is regarded as the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful"

Abu Al-Ahmad (973- 1057 CE):

"The world holds two classes of men: intelligent men without religion and religious men without intelligence"

Cicero (106- 43 CE):

"What old woman is so stupid now as to tremble at those tales of hell that were once so firmly believed in?"

Epicurus: (341 - 270 BCE):

"Faith is the credulous belief in the reality of phantoms"

Confucius (551 - 479 BCE):

"Why talk of spirits when you do not understand men?"

Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 CE):

"It is ridiculous to suppose that the great head of things, whatever it may be, pays any regard to human affairs".

Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE):

"Men create gods in their own image"

What we discern from the above, is that neither Richard Dawkins nor Sam Harris nor any other modern Atheists have anything on any of these ancients. We also see that compelling and cogent expressions of rejection of religion, faith and deities held firm in ancient minds (at least the most disciplined, and discriminating, intelligent) long before Christianity appeared.

Clearly, it is effrontery of the most onerous kind to therefore have Christians high on themselves ranting against Atheists for being "upstarts"! We are nothing of the kind, and our type was here long before the Christers first pounded a bible.

Of course, none of this will stop them from turning the facts on their heads and trying to create the impression that we atheists are the nouveaux revolutionaries attempting to overthrow established beliefs that were here long before we were.

As opposed to the Atheist being wise and prescient enough to spot bunkum ages before it became organized into formal codswallop. Such as expressed and embodied into fictional works like the King James Book of Fairy Tales. A book that actually needs to have multiple warnings (for mental health of adults) appended to its covers.

Yes, I have a KJV too. I even read it sometimes. To always remind myself of how primitive the mentality of humans used to be, before the dawn of Science and the Enlightenment, and the use of reason. I also use it to remind myself that nowhere in the book was any actual "God" being discussed or referenced, but rather an artifact window dressed as a god-concept.

And we know all of those are relative. Which the ancients like Aristophanes also know - which is why they didn't take them seriously!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Solar Irradiance Issue

Related to the assorted phenomena pertaining to solar cycles, including spot frequency, spotless days, solar wind intensity etc., is the solar irradiance. This is just the solar radiance - in watts per square meter per steradian - integrated over the full solar disk.

"Steradian" denotes a solid angle measure. See, e.g. the definitional details (with diagrams) here:

Needless to say, irradiance has a direct bearing on the issue of climate change and to what degree the Sun is responsible, and especially whether (quantitatively) its irradiance over any one solar cycle or period therein overrides the human-incepted, CO2 -driven, greenhouse effect.

In his lecture at the 40th Meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society ('Solar Irradiance: Recent Results and Future Research Plans') Thomas N. Woods of the University of Colorado dealt with the matter as it pertains to the current cycle, and in particular some recent measurements.

Woods began by noting the assorted recent periods wherein irradiance measurably varied, including: the Medieval maximum, the Sporer minimum (1400s), the Maunder minimum (1600s), the Dalton minimum (1800s). He noted with emphasis that there is no single uniform value to characterize a time interval or period, since the radiance itself can vary hugely on small or local scales. For example, solar flares can propel radiance increases 50 times over normal and thereby affect the irradiance.

On average though, with such violent inputs smoothed out, the Earth's temperature changes by about 0.07 K (kelvin) over a solar cycle. Compare this to the 0.6 K change (increase) in global temperatures over the past 100 years arising from human-caused greenhouse effect. Thus, the human component is over 8.5 times greater.

Even if the solar forcing on climate is enhanced by positive feedbacks the amplification is usually no more than a factor 2. So that 0.07 K increases become 0.14 K increases. The human component is still more important by a factor 4.2, a point made by Woods when he emphasized that the recent results support the hypothesis that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are the primary contributor. This despite all the politicos, think tanks and yahoos who keep blabbering that climate change arises from "natural cycles" - meaning the Sun is responsible.

The results, numbers simply don't support that and one hopes (eventually) my fellow Mensans and Ilians will finally get that into their libertarian -compromised noggins. (See my earlier blog entry about the effects of agnotology- and the deliberate sowing of doubt by powerful interests, usually economic or political.)

In his envisaging of future results, research, Prof. Woods echoed a plaintive cry I've often made: that for really solid and unimpeachable irradiance quantification we need to be able to detect and record the real total luminosity change from minimum to minimum. Again, one sees money as a core issue and one hopes Obama will make it available soon for more solar work, observation. Especially for cycle 24.

Other questions we need to have addressed to sleep better at night include: 1) How exactly are changes in the solar magnetic field related to irradiance, 2) What specific end-to -end calibrations are needed to obtain the total solar irradiance per cycle?, 3) How can we account for a nearly 8% difference in irradiance as compared to measurements made in the near infrared?

All of these answers are those which inquiring minds want to know. Hopefully before the next solar cycle (25) commences!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Solar Cycle 24: Clearing the Air

LARGE SPOT GROUP photographed on Nov. 4, 1980 at the start of Cycle 21. Will the current cycle witness any similar large spots?

There has been so much babble written concerning solar cycle 24 (the alleged "missing cycle") that itemizing it all would take the better part of a day. Suffice it to say that being able to attend the 40th meeting of the Solar Physics Division definitely helped in clarifying the issues, especially in terms of holding back the sea of codswallop that has been churned out recently by global warming deniers.

Most of these have latched on to solar cycle 24 as an escape hatch, reasoning that because the Maunder Minimum was effectively a missing cycle (few or no spots) and ushered in a brutally much colder span of ~ 70 years, than the same may be true now. And then, because of this assumed new "minimum" we shall not have to fret over carbon-based human engendered warming!

Not so fast!

The papers that were delivered more than showed this viewpoint to be baseless. Also, the extrapolations to a "new Maunder minimum" (or any significant minimum) premature and unjustified.

First, look at comparative spotless days. As noted by Prof. Frank Hill in his Tuesday morning lecture 'A Helioseismic Comparison of the Solar Minima Preceding Cycles 23 and 24', the current cycle is not yet exceptional - certainly in terms of spotless days aggregated.

While 286 total spotless days have been accumulated in 2008, and 128 so far this year, there have been other years with more, including: 311 spotless says in 1913, and 287 spotless days for 1901.

At the same time, it is also true that we currently have the lowest solar wind pressure since cycle 15, as well as the lowest irradiance in the modern (space observation) era. However, this is not as low as that recorded for cycles 13-14.

As for climate issues, what about the assumption that few or no spots for cycle 24 mean it will be overall weaker than cycle 23, and hence portend colder temperatures?

This case also can't be made, since we have the example of a very weak cycle (16) which led to a much more energetic and active one (cycle 17). Thus, cycle 24 could actually turn out to be very active cycle with higher solar irradiance that actually reinforces man-made global warming as opposed to cancelling it.

What we do know is that the behavior of cycle 24 appears to pose more serious questions for solar dynamo theory. This is the theory that every 11 years or so, magnetic fields on the Sun attain a high torsional component which causes them to "twist" up and also move from more northerly to more southerly solar latitudes where most active regions (ARs) form. Typically, this is around 22-23 heliographic degrees.

So far, the torsional oscillation flow for the current cycle is hovering near helio latitude 33 degrees, nearly 10 degrees off. Even moving at about 7 Mm (mega-meters or 10^6 meters) a year southward, this will take over 2 years to reach a latitude of 23 degrees, where large active regions (and spots!) ought to form.

Clearly, the solar dynamo needs refining, and certainly basic concepts such as the emergence of tachoclines, and the meriodonal flows inside the Sun.

To show how amiss we are, one paper presented displayed beautiful, multi-layered cross sectional views of the meriodonal flows in full color. But when the presenter was asked to show the actual observational data that supported it, nearly ninety-five percent of the colored lines and contours vanished! Clearly, there's a lot of unwarranted extrapolation.

For their part, the torsional oscillations tend to occur about 1000 kilometers below the Sun's surface (photosphere) but we have few instruments that can actually probe that deeply. One refrain one heard over and over in terms of supporting dynamo theory was: 'We need more money!'

If nothing else, and I propose extreme caution here- superior instruments (say designed for solar "sounding") might help to discriminate between the classical (e.g. Babcock-Leighton) dynamo theory and new ones involving "shallow" dynamos. In the latter case, ephemeral photospheric regions (EPRs) might be the first phenomena to be accounted for much in advance of actual sunspots seen as "inverse ion hurricanes". (EPRs, as the name implies, are not very stable or long lasting, usually appearing as small pores, then vanishing in 1-2 days)

In order to work then, a proper shallow dynamo theory needs to present sufficient observations to back up the supposition that a super-adiabatic temperature gradient is largest near the surface and its associated latent energy supports the reaction:

H + (energy) -> H+ + e(-) [ionization of hydrogen]

As is known from the standard (sunspot) theory of Parker, the "inverse ion hurricane" represented by a large sunspot enables the basis for the latent energy to translate into a convective collapse process so the luminosity can flow out and around the periphery of spots. The larger the spot (such as the one shown in the image, which I photographed in McMath region 17244 on Nov. 4, 1980) the greater the luminosity and heat discharged.

This is why the more spots there are in a cycle, the higher the solar irradiance, and the higher the mean global temperature of Earth. (One can get variations up to 0.21 K or more). This is often counter intuitive, since spots are actually cooler regions in relation to the Sun's surrounding photosphere, which is roughly 1500 K hotter.

The bottom line is there is much more to learn, and we need more money ....yes, but this must go to better actual instruments to plumb the solar depths...not merely for more sophisticated computers to do more numerical simulations!

In the meantime, we shall keep a close and wary eye on cycle 24 (which is actually interphased with the remnants or last gasps of cycle 23- so the current minimum is technically the "minimum of cycle 23 and 24") to see whether it portends a prolonged era of few or no spots (and hence lower solar irradiance) or much higher spot activity. In which case we had better start from now to induce massive changes in human behavior to lower carbon dioxide emissions!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Things You Don't Do at a Scientific Conference

Poster Paper Presented at the SPD Conference

Having just returned from the 40th Meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society (where I also presented a poster paper), there are a number of observations I'd like to make - in terms of what I absolutely do NOT wish to bear witness to at any future meetings. These are not in any particular order of import, only perhaps the order in which they come to mind, hence registered an impression.

The object is not to pillory so much as to make future meetings more meaningful, more productive and beneficial for all participants.

1. Do not put 200+ poster papers in one tent, while allotting about 60-odd square feet per six papers (and six presenters).

What happened is that there was a last minute flood of papers (natch, because every manjack wanted to be seen or recorded in the annals of the 40th anniversay meeting!) so the posters that were to be inside (in the Century Room of the Millennium Harvest Hotel in Boulder) were than ALL moved into a tent with all the other outliers, surplus papers.

The tent was god-awful. Two unappealing aspects were: the lighting (next to nil after 5.00 p.m.), and an accompanying stench of fertilizer that got worse as the afternoon wore on. But the worst aspect was the limited space, as I noted, about sixty four square feet for presentation space.

The general configuration for a given cluster of six posters was like this:


Two posters were placed on side A of a removal wall, two on side B and two on side C. Each poster was about 4' wide and 4' high'. Presenters were supposed to stand beside their posters and then answer any questions put forth by curious onlookers. (Of course, most onlookers didn't venture into the tent display but stayed in the Millennium Room where the posters numbered up to about 19.01 were accommodated.

Given each human poster-presenter occupied about six square feet - allowing for presenting + personal space (no one wanted to be arms akimbo or cheek by jowl to any questioners!) there remained only about twenty four square feet for any passersby, viewers. When these latter did arrive, they could not see the posters clearly so each presenter had to do an endless 'shuffle' to allow seeing. Even standing at the edge of a poster obscured a critical aspect, or equation or image.

This is simply not good enough! There should not have been two very unequal venues, and the tent - the way it was set up - should not even have been considered. It was disrespectful to all those who had to endure it. (Especially when it rained!).

The organizers ought to have anticipated a large, last minute flood of papers, and tried to establish an appropriate venue of equal quality for ALL posters, not just those whose solar topics fortuitously happened to fall in the range of topics up to around 19.01!

2. Numerical Simulations are not science.

It seems obvious, but you wouldn't have known to have beheld a lot of the oral papers. But the sober fact is that, given the right computer, software and algorithms, anyone can cook up beautiful images of the meriodonal flows in the Sun, or a model coronal hole ....or a CME! (Coronal mass ejection). This isn't necessarily science, because if actual observations aren't supported then it is more in the realm of speculation.

More on this in further blog entries about the meeting.

3. Don't barge in with a last minute paper.

The quality can be perceived from a mile away, it's what we call the 'reek' factor. Fortunately, there were only 1-2 such papers.

4. If you charge $50 EACH for a banquet, make sure the food served is real BANQUET food, not ordinary barbecue fare!

I mean, at $50 a pop one expects a tad more than baked beans, grilled chicken breast, some pulled pork, buns, potato salad and a weasly slice of blueberry pie. By comparison, last year's Division of Dynamical Astronomy meeting banquet spared no expense. The wine kept flowing, it didn't suddenly cease when a bottle ran dry. And the food choices ran to baked ham, roast beef and filet mignon, with matching desserts (e.g. hot fudge sundaes), veggies (sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes + homemade gravy, Caesar salad).

If on the other hand you are going to do barbecue, fine. Charge barbecue "banquet" prices, like $20 each. Not $50 each!

5. Thou Shalt NOT use another presenter's preprint paper as your personal notepad!

This again, ought to be obvious, but evidently not. At the last poster session for the 21.04- 21.09 (solar flare models) papers on Thursday evening, I stared with mouth agape as one of the poster presenters (a Chinese postdoc from New Jersey Tech Inst.) just snatched one of the preprint papers displayed in a manila folder for an adjacent poster. As she was babbling away to a questioner, she turned the paper over - which must have run 20 pages or more- and used the last blank page to write her email address for the curious person. She didn't even have the brains or sense to at least tear the last page off- to hand to the person- and return the bulk of the paper to its rightful place. Nope, she gave him the WHOLE paper for the sake of her measly little email info!

I had to first wonder if this lady was mad, or perhaps, overburdened with the demands of the conference. But in future, "Madame Chang" or whoever she was, could do well to keep handy a small, cheap notepad, then - when she needs to - she can tear off as many sheets as she needs to provide her email or other contact address. But on no account take another presenter's whole paper, which he or she worked countless hours on, to simply give away as a medium for your pathetic personal info.

6. Keep the romancing out of an oral paper presentation venue.

Open public romancing or catching touchy-feelies or casual gropes always looks kind of tawdry, but especially so in a scientific venue. In future, I do hope Mr. Hot shot Casanova grad student (from the last session on CMEs) will restrain himself when his fellow grad student blonde hottie is in the room. Doing a neck petting, and determined hair stroking just before a main paper oral presentation, and in front of an auditorium full of scientists, doesn't cut it. Listening there, Don Juan?

Next year's conference meet of the SPD I understand will be in Miami. I plan to pass on it, until perhaps the section can get itself sorted out - and especially in terms of bringing more substantive papers, works to bear. On that note, Carolus J. Schrijver's talk was perhaps the best. He set the firm tone for realism and objectivity in all solar work, and much less fantasy and hyper-imaginary ideations (and simulations)!

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Can So Many Smart People Be so DUMB?

How can so many smart people be so dumb?

Three months after The Mensa Bulletin published a letter of mine reinforcing the prevalent scientific view of global warming – that it was anthropogenic and continually exacerbated by increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a whole swatch of attack letters were published in the recent (June) issue. Not one supported me, and this from a society that claims it represents the top 2% of IQs (e.g. > 130 on Stanford-Binet). One person even affirmed that my letter showed Mensa to be just a “propaganda front” for global warming purveyors and so he was quitting! Now, how smart is that.

The others went off on multiple tangents, though there were at least two letters that were somewhat sensible and made cogent points, though many of these points had so many holes it was like trying to parse a message on Swiss cheese

Example 1 (with my replies):

This was to Mark Steven Altman who attempted to pooh-pooh warming based on what he claimed was the inverse “scare” in the 1970s, concerning global cooling and a new Ice Age.

As I informed him by email:

First, the “cooling” mania in the 70s you referenced was never accepted as a permanent feature by the bona fide climate science community and the talk of a new “Ice Age” was mainly fueled by media morons who didn't understand the subtler points.

Namely that pollutants spewed at the time were concealing much of the warming and spawning a residual cooling effect. (Don't forget the Clean Air Act wasn't enacted until around 1972). So the effects of pollutant mitigation wouldn't be seen for years-decades after that. The phenomenon of “global dimming” (then unknown) is now known to MASK most of global warming via aerosols and pollutants.

Do you want superior information? No BS, and NO “politics”? Then try to access the document ‘Impact of a Warming Arctic’, the 140-page synthesis of the Arctic Climate Assessment Impact document. You can find the link for download here:

Pay particular attention to Chapter I (p. 22) : Arctic Climate Change, and Chapter II (p. 34): Global Implications.

This document is written by serious researchers, based at a sub-Arctic university research center, not hacks and flakes such as Pico has dredged up (such as “Lord Monckton”)

As this excerpt notes from the Executive summary (page 8):

“These climate changes are being experienced particularly intensely in the Arctic. Arctic average temperatures have risen almost the twice the rate of the rest of the world in the past few decades. WIDESPREAD MELTING OF GLACIERS AND SEA ICE (my emphasis) and RISING PERMAFROST temperatures present additional evidence of strong Arctic warming. These changes in the Arctic provide an early indication of the societal and environmental significance of GLOBAL WARMING.

An acceleration of these climatic trends is projected to occur this century, due to ONGOING INCREASES of GREENHOUSE GASES in the EARTH’S ATMOSPHERE. While greenhouse gas emissions do not primarily originate in the Arctic, they are projected to bring wide-ranging changes and impacts to the Arctic. Thee arctic changes will, in turn, IMPACT the PLANET AS A WHOLE.”
I trust that if you do enough research that the points I made about the evidence being “incontrovertible” are spot –on. If you have any questions, I will be glad to assist.

The last segment was especially important as it gave him a serious source to go to in which to learn the real story of global warming as articulated by real climate scientists, not wonks in a political think tank (like Heritage Foundation, or Hudson Institute, or American Enterprise Institute) with en economic axe to grind and a capitalist agenda that they insist trumps the hard science.

The only other relatively intelligent and reasonable reply came from a Dr. Joyce McDowell (no idea if the "Dr." means physician or an academic doctor). Again, she recycled the usual "hitches" one sees from those who have not researched the issue very thoroughly, including the canard about the "31,000" signatures from other scientists circulating.

Anyway, my response to her is as follows:

Thanks for your interesting letter, which was about the only one in the recent set (published in the Bulletin) that came over in a fully sober and rational way.

What I'd like to do here is address some of your points.

Re: the "31,000" signatories for the document you cite (circulated by the Oregon Institute of Sciences and Medicine) it is interesting that not even 1% of them are published climate science specialists, in peer-reviewed climate journals.

Hence, they would not likely be au fait with the position statement already issued by the largest organization of climate scientists in the world, the American Geophysical Union (of which I am a member, as well as belonging to the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. I stopped using these qualifications, since I noted the Bulletin never published my letters when I did. Wonder why!)

The AGU site for their position statement:

Re: climate models being "notoriously complex" - yes, we do know that. However, a number of major gains have been made that radically enhance accuracy of said models. Two papers you may find of use to update your appreciation of climate models are from Eos Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, and should be available on their site (

1- 'Simple Versus Complex Climate Modelling' - Vo. 89, No. 52, 23 Dec. 2008

2- 'New Study for Climate Modelling: Analyses and Scenarios'- Vol. 90, No. 21, 26 May 2009

The article covers in commendable detail -at a reasonable level - what the European Commission is currently doing with their ENSEMBLES project which aims to provide policy makers with information from the latest climate modelling analyses.

ENSEMBLES, as the paper notes, is primarily concerned with quantifying the a (politically relevant) aggressive mitigation scenario. What happens by what time, if we cut CO2 emissions by so much?

Their working scenario thus far (given existing assumptions and variables) leads to a peak in the CO2 equivalent concentration in the atmosphere of nearly 535 parts per million in 2045, before eventually stabilizing at 450 ppm. Even so, the concentration peak is precariously close to what many (e.g. the late Carl Sagan) have claimed is at the cusp of the runaway greenhouse effect.

A warning given in the piece, and cautionary note for all over-simplistic takes, is that while simpler models often give useful results they almost uniformly show a modest warming only, of say 2C in the time period up to 2100. Once one factors in complexities, for example removing the current global dimming factor (which masks two thirds of the warming) things change and fast. You now see warming levels ramped up to the 5-6C range or again - close to what'd be expected in the runaway greenhouse scenario.

Another complexity input that is surely allowing us to inhabit a fool's paradise, is that related to cloud cover (which you also reference in your letter). In fact, though planetary albedo depends primarily on cloud cover it is the least well studied climatic parameter. Clouds are very poorly parameterized in climate models as a whole. This has led to an ongoing debate over the past five years of whether in fact the sign of albedo change is positive or negative. (See e.g. ‘Can Earth’s Albedo and Surface Temperature Increase Together’ in EOS, Vol. 87, No. 4, Jan. 24, 2006, p. 37)

As the authors note, though there is some evidence that Earth’s albedo has increased from 2000 to 2004 this has NOT led to a reversal in global warming. The authors cite the most up to date cloud data released in August, 2005 from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP). The data – from a range of meteorological satellites covering the entire Earth, discloses the most likely reason for the anomaly is primarily in the redistribution of the clouds.

Thus, as the authors point out (ibid.):

“whereas low clouds have decreased during the most recent years, high clouds have increased to a larger extent leading to both an increase in cloud amount AND an increased trapping of infrared radiation.”

Re: solar irradiance, the problems are not as intractable as you might think - provided one attends to the proper sources!

Perhaps the most definitive paper ever on the possible variations of the solar constant was: 'Solar constant - Constraints on possible variations derived from solar diameter measurements' Sofia, S.; Okeefe, J.; Lesh, J. R.; Endal, A. S. (Science vol. 204, June 22, 1979, p. 1306-1308.)

Their data, acquired for the interval between 1850 and 1937, set limits of variation on the solar radius to about 0.25 arc second. The Sun's actual aperture in seconds of arc is ~ 1920". So we are talking about 1.3 parts in ten thousand of change

Most recent space-based observations appear to show a variation in solar irradiance of at least 0.15% over the standard 11-year solar cycle. (E.g. Parker, E.N., Nature, Vol. 399, p. 416). However, even with this higher percentage ascribed to solar changes, the heating effect is nowhere near comparable to that induced from man-made global warming. (See, e.g. Martin I. Hoffert et al, in Nature, Vol. 401, p. 764).

As the authors in the latter study point out, the heating component arising from greenhouse gas emissions from 1861-1990 amounted to anywhere from 2.0 to 2.8 watts per square meter. The solar variability component detected over the same period amounted to 0.1 to 0.5 watts per square meter. Thus, even the MAXIMUM solar variability amounted to only a fraction (25%) of the MINIMUM power input from human-induced greenhouse warming!

By contrast, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (two darlings of the denier side), in a paper published four years ago, estimated a solar irradiance change of 0.4% which is hardly credible (to me) since no previous detailed research gets anywhere near that. (These two authors are global warming deniers, so it would fit that a higher solar irradiance is what would 'fit the bill' i.e. to blame warming miseries on ol' Sol)

My best instinct would be that Sofia et al's remain the best variance results.

John Eddy's radio-carbon data for the "little Ice Age" (cf. 'Historical and Arboreal Evidence for a Changing Sun' in The New Solar Physics, AAAS Selected Symposium, Westview Press, 1979, pp. 11-33) also falls well within the tolerance parameters and limits assigned by Sofia et al.

Moreover, their study has lots of heft because it is tied to actual physical *changes* in the Sun's diameter, as opposed to much more subjective (and questionable) methods.

Re: the "Copenhagen consensus" - it is organized by longtime skeptic Bjorn Lomberg, and composed entirely of **economists**- would naturally have rated global warming lowest in their priorities for challenges facing the world. They are not climate scientists, after all! They’ll be vastly more concerned with economic blowback!

Re: S. Fred Singer, I am familiar with a number of his papers published in Eos Transactions, but let us not fool ourselves that he speaks for the climate science community at large. He does not. He's an "outlier" scientists, like Richard Lindzen at MIT. Until they can produce published work that convincingly refutes the IPCC reports and data, as well as the constellation of papers produced before those reports were issued - all my points stand as noted in my letter.

Hopefully, this missive has served to enlighten.


Why exactly is it that so many in the High IQ societies share these characteristics of the less well informed? By that I mean they are not in the group of largely scientific minds who accept the theory.

Point of reference here: In their analysis of the extent of scientific consensus on global warming (Eos Transactions, Vol. 90, No. 3, p. 22) , P. T. Doran and M. Kendall-Zimmerman found that (p. 24)

“the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

In their analytic survey for which 3146 climate and Earth scientists responded, a full 96.2% of specialists concurred temperatures have steadily risen and there is no evidence for cooling. Meanwhile, 97.4% concur there is a definite role of humans in global climate change.

The authors conclude (p. 24) :

“The challenge appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact (non-existent debate among real climate specialists) to policy makers and a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate exists among scientists

My question is WHY do the most intelligent folks, from Mensa and also Intertel (as I have found in debates there too) continue to see "debates" where none exist? One would think the real intelligentsia would at least be able to separate themselves from the large segment of the public- mostly brainwashed by the FAUX News and right wing think tanks who continue to believe global warming is a hoax. Doesn't intelligence provide the basis to analyze anymore and arrive at symmetric conclusions to other intelligent beings-humans given the same data? Or, has the political and economic corruption of science come too far to make this possible?

A clue is afforded by Stanford historian of science Robert Proctor, who has referred to the trend of skeptic science sown for political or economic ends - e.g. in imparting ignorance and faux skepticism, agnotology. It is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made (and as we know NO scientific theory is free of these 100%, even such rich theories as quantum mechanics and special relativity). People then extrapolate from the minute doubt to cast a whole pall of rejection on the theory. If it has the slightest morsel of tiny uncertainty, it can't be true! Which is totally insane since no science would be done that way. Every nascent theory or hypothesis would be chucked when the first impasse or major error was uncovered!

Agnotology is derived from the Greek 'agnosis' and hence the study of culturally constructed ignorance'. Proctor notes that when a society doesn't know something it is often because special (often paid) interests have worked hard to sow immense confusion on the issue. People read 'A' then see 'B' ostensibly refuting it, and without a hard science background themselves (at least two years of university physics or chemistry plus calculus), are "lost at sea".

They are unable, lack the basic skills, to do their own research to a respctable standard using the tools scientists in the field possess. SO, they walk away, toss their hands in the air, and assert "Science says anything can be true!"

Not quite.

As for the numerous Mensans and Ilians, maybe they aren't really so dumb after all (getting in on the basis of fouled up SATs, etc.) Mayhap it is the case their lack of (science) education rendered them too gullible and prone to ignorance.

After all, the history of humans clearly shows one can be very intelligent, but also mightily ignorant. Unfortunately, this gross ignorance among the smartest likely means it will be even more difficult to address the global warming problem expeditiously. More than likely, by the time we act now, it will be too late. And our only recourse will be to try to minimize the burn that is to come.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is Pastor Mike a Terrorist?

Well, since the terrorist act against Dr. George Tiller (by a scumball who deserves to rot in Gauntanamo and get water-boarded 8 times a day) it seems that the Christian terrorists are still coming out in droves. Oh, they're offering their formal little "Ain't it terrible", and "the poor poor doc" tripe, but little else. They use this mainly as a hypocritical cover.

An alert blog member recently notified me that some Christian Taliban -such as my Pastor brother, are now posting what they claim to be images of aborted fetuses. The reported images are evidently gruesome, but we have no basis to think they are real. For all we know, they may be frankensteined composites of ....whatever....crushed centipedes and frogs heads.

The question arises: Does the posting of such inflammatory imagery constitute terrorism? For the answer one can do no better than to consult the (2001) Patriot Act, and specifically its section 411.

Under subsection F, clause (iv) the definition of "terrorist activity" is rendered:

As used in this chapter, the term `engage in terrorist activity' means, in an individual capacity or as a member of an organization--

`(I) to commit or to incite to commit, under circumstances indicating an intention to cause death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity;

`(II) to prepare or plan a terrorist activity;

`(III) to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity

We do know that Scott Roeder, the terrorist apprehended by the Kansas authorities for Tiller's killing, is liable for indictment under (II) and (III). From 1996, he had planned or prepared his vicious actions, earlier in the form of an attempted bomb - but which the police stopped just in time. Alas, for Dr. Tiller, courts tossed out the case because the police were claimed to have gone beyond their purview in their search of Roeder's car. We also know he is liable under (III) since he had been tracking Tiller and posting information about him - thus making poor Dr. Tiller a potential target.

Looking at these, I doubt Pastor Mike qualifies as a "terrorist" under either. However, under (i) one must look further. Clearly, posting vile and outrageous images of supposed abortions has the potential to incite a weak mind to do bodily injury- say to the remaining late term abortion providers. We also have Pastor Mike's words from previous bloggings:

"to continue with Dr. Tiller , speaking ONLY for myself , I consider him to have been nothing more than "hired gun" , murdering God's children for a hefty $profit $ ! "

Of course, this is the most vile slander. Dr. Tiller received little or no profit, and his primary motivation was to spare consenting women extreme agony. Something that Christian terrorist like Mike would have little empathy for. But, one of the most agonizing cases Tiller dealt with was a woman who ALREADY had a deceased fetus, but whose own doctor would not abort it - telling her to carry it around at least an additional 12 days. Rather than adhere to that moron's advice, she sought out Dr. Tiller, who assisted her.

So much for Pastor Mike's "hired gun" theory! Second, Dr. Tiller never murdered any child! It is the pits of language desecration and violation - diversion, distraction that the Christianoids repeatedly refer to fetuses as "children" when they are nothing of the sort. If they were, any killing would have to be registered as a homicide - recognizing that a full citizen with rights had been eliminated. But such is not the case. The fetus has no rights, since it is no citizen, nor a person. It is an agglomeration of tissue.

The logical error committed by these people is always the same: the genetic fallacy.

As defined by Logician Antony Flew ('Thinking about Thinking'):

"This is committed by anyone who argues, as in the context of the abortion debate, that a fetus- even from the moment of its conception must be really, because it is going to become - a person"

The eact same, analogous mistake is made by people who pick an acorn off the ground and say: "Lookey here at this OAK TREE".

However, the acorn is NOT an oak tree. And no amount of language deformation can make it so.

I could more easily accept this type of sentiment as sincere, if I beheld the same conscientiousness and sensitivity in regard to the quality of the life of infants, children AFTER they’re born. It seems to me that most of the righteous Right and Christianoids like Mike are only committed until the birth – then they want their tax cuts, and less government - and devil take the hindmost in terms of child care, health insurance, proper nutrition and so on.

But, if one truly respects human worth one has to take civic, community ownership and responsibility for the child's welfare - after it is born. Via appropriate legislation, enabling it, not impeding it- there must be assurance that its parents are supported in meeting its needs fully, all the way through its dependent years. Having had prior excchanges on economics and Reaganomics with the good Pastor, I KNOW he doesn't support this. He believes in every manjack for himself. Hence, his mawkish whining over a dead fetus amounts to a sady and sorry joke.

The sorry fact here is that the Pastor would rather disappear or let aliens enslave him than ensure the proper nutrition of ALL children he insists be born, and further that each child benefit from FULL health coverage. To all such pleas, he'd only bawl "SOCIALISM!"

I know that for a fact.

In a societal "jungle" wherein the mother can count on little or nothing from government, including health care for her child - or child care when she has to work - why in the hell have the child in the first place? It's more grief, since ultimately a child ought to be a shared communal responsibility. At least a partial responsibility of government to see it is properly nourished, educated, and provided with health care - that doesn't bankrupt the mother or family!

The problem with the contemporary crop of "pro-lifers" is they're all morally nearsighted. They are simply about getting the birth accomplished and full stop. Nothing beyond that. Their "concern" doesn't stretch beyond to the life after birth.

Doesn't stretch to providing health insurance and proper nutrition benefits to the baby-child.

Doesn't stretch to providing state-run and paid for child care to a mom trying to get off welfare.

Doesn't stretch to medically covering Mom (and Dad) so that a medical catastrophe doesn't wipe them out financially and leave the kids in the lurch.

Doesn't stretch to providing free schooling, right through university, as Barbados and other progressive nations do.

I myself could vote for a pro-lifer IF pro-ife meant doing more than getting a baby born - and going up to and beyond what I listed above.

If you're only pro-life to birth, you're a hypocrite.

What I do not know (yet) is whether the Pastor is a full-fledged domestic terrorist. He seems to meet the key criterion (Section 411, Subsection F (iv) ) of the Patriot Act in terms of inciting the weak-minded with gory images of abortions....BUT he does have the chance to redeem himself.

That would be provided he removes every last such gory image, and further all the nasty references to Dr. Tiller, including those alleging his having "murdered children". Or being a "hired gun for profit".

If he does that, I am prepared to welcome my bro into the ranks of respected fellow citizens, rather than friends of Scott Roeder or Tim McVeigh!

I am NOT a consumer!

For a few months while the recession was in full swing, the ugly, debasing epithet "consumer" was not as prominent in the media....well at least not as prominent as it was several months before the stock market crash. Now, however, the word is coming back into the lexicon and used even in pieces that have nothing to do with consumption. You can almost see a 1:1 correlation as the DOW goes back up and that god-awful "consumer confidence index" edges higher, indicating more spending.

As an example, there is today's Wall Street Journal article "New Programs Put Crime stats on the Maps', (p. D1) which references web pages that track criminal activity in given cities by geographical location, zip code. Surely, this information constitutes what could be considered highly useful for responsible CITIZENS! You know, that archaic relic that dates from the era of Jefferson and Franklin and who made civic life and it quality his mission, as well as expanding his political acumen to effect change?

But in the article, referring to the crime tracking website, we see:

"While the web sites are free for consumers....."

WHAT do "consumers" have to do with tracking crime? Oh wait, I forgot, the WSJ weighs everything in terms of money, and hence the issue is that the websites that track crime are "free" and hence have zero consumption value.

But no one, least of all the author, seems to process the fact that by making the "consumer" more ubiquitous than the citizen, we are actually pandering to and reinforcing an already entrenched money culture. One wherein every single thing has to have some monetary value be "free" is to be worthless!

The rise of the "consumer" in preference to "citizen" probably was validated as a conscious media choice sometime in the late 1970s. This was sufficiently long after the hippies and flower power had attempted to eviscerate Madison Avenue's hold on people by mocking it and the whole commodity zeitgeist.

The choice was also partly political. So long as one could regard the populace (or most of it) as "consumers" one didn't have to fret over their gnarly counterparts, the citizens. You know, who made noise when it was needed, marched in protests, and generally held their elected officials' feet to the fire.

Later, in the early 80s, the jig was up and the subtext for "consumer" was roundly exposed by Erik Larson in hnis landmark book 'The Naked Consumer' (Henry Holt & Co., 1992). This book revealed how people who invested their lives in consumption -going to Malls and just buying- were treated and assessed like cattle.

Why is this? Erik Larson offers a reason (p. 167):

"It isn't enough for companies to know precisely what we buy, what we watch, and how many advertisements we encounter. They want to know how we consume. How do we comport ourselves in the aisles of our grocery stores?"

Larson himself also notes how consumer monitors in stores regularly referred to consumers as "grazing like cattle"(ibid.). A recent article about brand names in The Wall Street Journal casually described "branding" consumers from their earliest ages. That is, insinuating deep into their brains the distinction between various brand names and products. And it is a well -known fact that once one has children, one has inadvertently created consumption monsters.....that pester mommy and daddy incessantly to buy, buy and buy. Especially to go to the burger store for the latest new Terminator doll or whatever.

Want to save money and actually have enough to retire? Don't have kids!

Are most people aware they are being relentlessly tracked and studied like prey- or better- "grazing cattle"? Hardly. Should they be aware? Probably. Why? Because by having awareness - and displaying it - people become more than the passive, stupid 'consuming cattle' they want us to be. Don't think so? Then consider this remark made to author Larson, by one of these 'tracker handlers' (op. cit., p. 181):

'No one ever notices. Ever. Consumers shop like in a trancelike state like 'idly grazing animals"

Not surprisingly then, the actual use and application of "consumers" to citizens means an attempt is underway to reduce the population to cattle (or sheep). Cattle and sheep just blink while they're stuffed and fattened for the kill. They are too dumb to know otherwise, or what ultimate fate awaits them.

Thomas Jefferson once observed in his 'Notes on Virginia':

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. AND TO RENDER THEM SAFE, THEIR MINDS MUST BE IMPROVED"

This means converting people into CITIZENS. But the truth is that the powers-that-be are terrified of citizens, because they are not manipulable like consumers. The fact is that in the context of a market-driven (hell, market-worshipping) capitalist society, a citizen is something it cannot afford. Citzens, you see, contradict by definition the hegemony of the PR-spin axis and the market idiom. They perceive the interest of the commonweal over their own passing fancies, or hedonist pursuits. This necessarily will clash with market-capital values as well as the derivative political concepts that are sold as products to Americans- like the Iraq war was.

Thus, the citizen may see a clear need to reduce sprawl by imposing gasoline taxes - but the market will shudder. Or - to the same end - the citizen will seek to impose stringent zoning laws to inhibit development in his community, and again the market will quake.

The citizen will see a critical need for a national health service - given the millions that can't afford private insurance - and again the market will go ballistic. It wants profit, not the practice of genuine medicine.

The citizen will see the need for the prioritizing of public or civic space above encroaching commercial interests in many venues (most especially media - perhaps imposing a tax on E-M spectrum usage for the corporate megaliths)- for which capitalists and the markets will squeal like stuck pigs.

The citizen will also see the need for fairness in tax liability. So, he will pressure government to alter the existing tax burden - which is now 80% on wage earners as opposed to only twenty percent on corporations. To the same end, the citizen will pressure to abolish corporate tax havens - such as employed by Tyco Corp. in Bermuda. Merely hanging out a shingle to escape $400 million in tax liability, a scheme not available to the average Joe or Jane - who must also compensate for corporate tax escapes.

So, millions of citizens - all pursuing the common interest- is definitely something a capitalist society doesn't want, or need. Much better to satiate the people with umpteen distractions ("American Idol") and induce them to spend (using the psychological brainwashing state of the Gruen Transfer). Thereby, they'll gravitate forevermore toward rank consumption, while being forced to ply the work-spend treadmill. Ever increasing their work loads to pay down on the consumption debt accumulated. With no time to be aware of what's going on around them.

Apart from that, politicians prefer consumers to citizens - because the latter will tend to hold them to much to account. Reckoning in their actual performance, not merely their vacuous 4-yearly promises. Reckoning in their passing laws - purchased by corporate campaign money - over laws in the citizens' interest. The venal, exploitative, power-hungry politician, indeed, has reason to fear the citizen as opposed to his consumptive, brain-dead counterpart – the “consumer”. For the Real citizen is his worst nightmare come true. A thoroughly knowledgeable and critical individual who will not hesitate to cry 'foul', or use his or her First Amendment right to DISSENT – particularly when it isn’t welcomed or wanted by radical fascist ideologues.

In addition:1) The Real Citizen is prepared to question the decisions of his government- not give them a simple-minded, carte blanche rubber stamp because the government says so.

2)The Real Citizen holds his government to account – and is not prepared to passively and meekly overlook its less than savory deeds or policies. He too well recalls how the Nazi machine was enabled by too many passive sheep who did nothing to protest its advance

3) The Real Citizen doesn’t need a ‘pledge’ or song to remind him of his duties and obligations – he knows his Bill of Rights and more importantly exercises them. (Use them or lose them!)

4) The Real Citizen understands that the flag is the symbol for the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights – and to that extent cannot be placed above those principles. Hence, he requires no ‘flag desecration’ amendments to bolster his patriotism or make him feel better if someone else chooses to use the flag as the focal point of protest.

5) The Real Citizen - above all - doesn’t confuse the nation he loves with the corporatocratic, toxic SYSTEM which confers disproportionate power on corporations in relation to the PEOPLE. Only flesh and blood PEOPLE can have rights – not legal artifacts. And the government is supposed to be FOR and about real flesh and blood PEOPLE (also known as CITIZENS) - not granting corporations carte blanche to ravage the country at will. (As payback for campaign contributions and other largesse).

The citizen - by the above account- is absolutely essential to the exercise of a genuine democracy. For as Thomas Jefferson noted in his 'Notes on Virginia', to the extent the people's minds are improved they will hold check on the worst excesses of government. (Which, he added, will always tend toward tyranny otherwise). If the people's minds are degraded (as they are by market values and egotistical satiation of personal desires) they will become mere pawns or tools for a despotic government to wield any way it wants. In the end, democracy demands conscious and fully aware as well as savvy CITIZENS. Not sheeple consumers who think en masse and lack any critical thought capacity or minds of their own. And have to be tricked by advertising and marketing to cast the "right" vote.

So, don't even think of calling me a "consumer". I am and shall remain a CITIZEN of these United States, NOT a statistical artifact to help measure GDP.