Climate Change and Political Will

Posted March 14, 2012 by BK
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The following post was printed (in nearly the same form as below) as a Letter to Editor in The Daily Gazette on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

The members of Schenectady Torch Club got a sober reminder last Thursday night (March 8, 2012) about the precarious nature of the earth’s climate from Dr. Ryan Torn of the University at Albany, SUNY.  Dr. Torn, an atmospheric scientist, carefully explained the various forces that determine the earth’s climate.  He clarified the causes of dominant air and ocean currents, their variability from season to season and around the globe, and the fact that small changes in these forces can make a large difference in weather patterns.  Dr. Torn emphasized the science of what we know about these forces and how they affect the overall budget of energy the earth receives from the sun.

It became clear that the greenhouse gases (such as CO2 and hydrocarbons such as methane) being released into the atmosphere starting with the industrial age are helping trap some of the heat that would have escaped to space.  However, the increase in the earth’s average surface temperature accounts only for a fraction of this heat.  The rest of the heat is being trapped in the oceans and are released only very slowly.  Thus, if human beings stopped today to release any more greenhouse gases, the earth’s average surface temperature would continue to increase for many more years.

Despite these established facts which are accepted by over 95% of scientists, forces in our culture keep us from making any reasonable progress to address this challenge.  For one of the most advanced countries in the world that has benefited so much from science and technology, and has led so much of the technological progress, the lack of national will to address global climate change is beyond my comprehension.


Predictions for 2012 (January 1, 2012)

Posted January 1, 2012 by BK
Categories: Energy and Environment, New York State

Happy New Year!

2012 will be a historic year.  Here are my predictions under different categories.

1.  The World

The United Nation will begin a process of transformation.  More advanced nations will realize that it is in their own long term interests to share decision making with other countries.  New ideas will be set forth to reduce despotic injustice and violence.  The process of moving toward a more effective UN will begin to take shape.

2.  The United States

The battle lines between unbridled capitalism and progressive liberalism will become more focussed in the 2012 elections.  The impact of Occupy Wall Street will be felt strongly.  The Democratic Party will gain strength while the Republican Party will struggle to redefine itself as the party of the middle class.

3.  Europe

The Euro will lose its value by at least 20% while the Eurozone struggles to keep it alive.  A smaller Eurozone will begin the process of greater political unity to achieve economic power and stability.  Some of the existing Eurozone nations will revert to their own currencies.

4.  New York State

Governor Cuomo will prevail in the redistricting battle through a non-partisan commission.  The Democrats will gain control of the State Senate. The Assembly leadership will change.

5.  The Environment

Severe weather-relate disasters will continue into 2012.  This will focus the world’s attention on climate change and claims of human-induced global warming.  The United States, India, China and most of Europe will agree to work together on tis front.

6.  Science

An alternative theory will be advanced to replace the current dark energy and dark matter conjectures.  The theory will be based on the existence of multiple dimensions beyond what is perceptible by human senses or devices invented by humans.

What Are The Occupiers Demanding? October 12, 2011

Posted October 12, 2011 by BK
Categories: Campaign Finance

Tags: , , , , , ,

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is being criticized by the establishment for not having any specific demands.  For this reason and others, the occupiers have been labeled as anarchist.  The media and the existing power structure want to hear exactly what these protesters want, rather than hearing about all the inequities and complaints.  Most Americans take these inequities for granted – they are the elephant in the room.

I maintain that it is best for the protesters not to make specific demands.  Any specific demand will be attacked and shot down by “the other 1%.”  If our system worked as it is supposed to, our political leaders, Members of Congress and Senators, would be the ones to propose specific measures to address the very clear grievances that are now being heard across the country.  Unfortunately, many legislators have gotten used to having legislation drafted by paid lobbyists who also contributed to their campaigns.  They may not even consider developing solutions to these grievances their problem – it’s just not what they do.  Fundamentally, this is what is wrong and what is at the root of many of the occupiers’ protests, perhaps not directly, but definitely a root cause.

As an engineer, I know that you have to dig deeper and deeper to find the root cause of the problem before you start fixing it, or you may be fixing the wrong problem.  You don’t fix a sticking door that has a sagging frame by filing the part that sticks.  The frame will continue to sag and the sticking will come back.  The relevance to the Occupiers’ demand problem is that the sagging frame here is the abdication of our legislative process to monied interests.  This is the root cause problem to be fixed.  Just think about it!

But our bought legislature (and other politicians) is not the only problem.  We have allowed the problem to fester for so long that it has infected our Supreme Court.  The equivalence purported by this august group between corporations and individuals has given corporations power over people by virtue of their wealth.  I have no creative solutions to this problem except to talk about it as much as I can and to let everyone know how silly it is.

So what I like to see is a group of legislators who will coalesce around the concept of full public funding of elections.  I don’t expect this to occur just yet.  Legislators and other politicians will need to feel much more threatened than they are today to go this way.  One possible route is that the wealthy themselves will see that their existence is threatened if power is not shared, and they will demand this exact reform from the legislators who are in their pockets.

No matter what, the protesters are right to openly advertise their issue.  Our legislators are the ones who need to propose specific solutions.  This is their real job.

Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party (October 10, 2011)

Posted October 10, 2011 by BK
Categories: Uncategorized

Much has been written about similarities between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party.  Some have suggested that the occupiers are the left’s answer to Tea Partiers.  I see thing differently.

Tea Party dogma holds that government has gotten out of hand.  It has become too big and too intrusive.  They want to make government small, and they want to be able to conduct their lives without a government that tells them what they can and what they cannot do.  They just don’t want government.

Occupy Wall Street objects to who controls our government, and how the power of money is used to make the government work pretty well for the richest among us.  They want to return control of the government to “the other 99%,” meaning most of us.

One more thing… it is clear that the Tea Partiers have had a lot of funding from the Koch Brothers.  In fact, without such funding, they could not have possibly been able to get as far as they did in terms of organizing to the point of bringing our government to a virtual deadlock.  There is no such source of funding (that I know of) associated with the Occupy movement.

Creditworthiness of the United States

Posted August 7, 2011 by BK
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

The debt of the United States has now been downgraded by a major credit rating agency.  Here are my thoughts about why this happened.

To my knowledge, for the first time in the history of the United States, extending the debt limit of our country has been made conditional to reaching some kind of political agreement.  The republicans insisted on this, mostly due to pressure brought upon them by the Tea Party.  They seem to think that honoring our debt obligations should be contingent on our partisan political behavior.  The thinking of S&P seems to be that since US’s creditworthiness is now tied to achieving specific kinds of political agreements, the risks of default are clearly greater.  I cannot fault S&P for this analysis.

I can, however, find fault with the republicans who chose to politicize US’s debt limit.  After all, the debt limit is a consequence of past political agreements in the form of bills.  Think of going to wars without funding them, and worse, reducing revenue by collecting less taxes at the same time.

I can also find fault with President Obama for going along with the republican game.  I wish he would have said, even once that “The United States will always meet its debt obligations despite these political charades.  I will not support any side deals in order to raise the debt limit.”  He should have let the republicans take the entire blame for creating a totally unnecessary crisis.  The consequences of a government shut-down would have been grim but the country would have come out of it stronger.

Addendun – August 8, 2011

Insightful comments by Paul Krugman come to the same conclusions as above, although he does not directly criticize President Obama.

More on how to create jobs

Posted July 23, 2011 by BK
Categories: Uncategorized

Here is a paragraph from an AP story, dated yesterday:

– Companies remain reluctant to spend the $1.9 trillion in cash they’ve accumulated, especially in the United States, which would create jobs. They’re unconvinced that consumers are ready to spend again with the vigor they showed before the recession, and they are worried about uncertainty in U.S. government policies.

Click here for the full article.  This provides more evidence supporting my last post that what drives job creation is NOT business success or company performance or profits.  It is demand for products.  To increase demand, we need to put more money in the pocket of middle-income and lower-income families, as these are the folks who will spend it, creating demand.

Bottom line is that cutting taxes for businesses is NOT what creates jobs.  Fixing the worsening rich – poor income gap is.

Here’s a myth… tax cuts create jobs; July 16, 2011

Posted July 16, 2011 by BK
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OK, I can’t stay out of the national debt and deficit discussion any longer.  What is most exasperating in this process is the Republican claim that tax cuts create jobs.  At best this is just a theory.  More realistically, it is a theory that has been proven wrong, or definitely not proven at all.  The only part of it that might ring true is that international companies have an incentive to amass their incomes and profits in countries that penalizes them the least.  It is also a theory that supports a libertarian streak of having government take less of our money.

The truth of the matter is that companies do not hire when their taxes are reduced.  Companies hire when demand for their products and services grow, requiring a larger work force to meet this demand.  The irony here is that reducing taxes on the very rich contributes to the growing income disparity.  The reduction of number of people in the middle-income brackets directly affects demand for products and services companies produce.  So, keep this up and less and less demand in products and services leads to fewer jobs.  Why is this so hard to understand?

It is disappointing and disheartening to see the Democratic Party and President Obama so utterly unable to counter Republican false claims.  The mantra “tax cuts create jobs” has become part of the language that is not even questioned. Democrats and liberals have been totally unable to create a vocabulary to claim a truth that is theirs.  I am not smart enough to understand why this is so, but I do recognize that liberals have failed to even make the argument.  And where is President Obama in all of this?  Is there anything he really believes in to be true and worth fighting for, or is it all solving problems the two sides can agree on?

As usual, I have more questions than answers.  But one answer that I do have is this:  our biggest economic problem is the growing disparity of incomes, leading to reduced demand for product and services the “masses” used to be able to afford and want.  It is very bad for the rich to grow this disparity even further.  A tax increase for those whose taxable income (not gross income) is over $250,000 is a small payment to assure that they can keep their wealth.  Otherwise, what their entrepreneurial companies make will not have a market.