Thursday, April 23, 2015

What about Alien Life?

== Other types of life? ==

A theorized cell membrane, composed of smaller organic nitrogen compounds and capable of functioning in liquid methane temperatures of 292 degrees beneath zero, might be the basis for “living” cells on Titan. The analogue to Earthly, water based liposomes (the basis of our own cells), published in Science Advances, shows the exact same stability and flexibility that Earth's analogous liposome does.  One component - Acrylonitrile -- a colorless, poisonous, liquid organic compound utilized in the manufacture of acrylic fibers, resins and thermoplastics -- is present in Titan's atmosphere.

Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, has an underground ocean that contains more water than Earth's. As of now, scientists estimate the ocean is 10 times deeper than Earth's oceans and is buried under a 95-mile (150-kilometer) crust made up of mostly ice. Researchers found that Jupiter's own magnetic field interacts with Ganymede's, causing a rocking motion in the aurorae. This motion is reduced by magnetic friction applied by the presence of Ganymede's underground ocean.

Shelley Wright, an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego who led the development of the new IR SETI detector instrument used at Lick  - NIROSETI (near-infrared optical SETI), will also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed to for potential signs of other civilizations.  Because near-infrared light penetrates farther through gas and dust than visible light, this new search will extend to stars thousands rather than merely hundreds of light years away. “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said SETI scientist and optical SETI pioneer Dan Werthimer of UC Berkeley.

Lee Billings — now astro-editor at Scientific American — explores the implications of a recent search for Kardashev level-3 civilizations: Alien Super-civilizations absent from 100,000 Nearby Galaxies searched with the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). An important part of possibility space! (So to speak.) Here's the original paper. 

A review article: The Search for Signs of Life on Exoplanets at the Interface of Chemistry and Planetary Science, by Sara Seager and William Bains.

 == Three Principles of Alien Life ==

It has been asserted that we should ponder our relationships with aliens based on Three Principles of Life that we have actually observed in nature.

1- Reproductive (Darwinian) self-interest. This principle is inherently competitive and often a zero-sum game… though cooperation is an emergent property. And indeed, the healthy ecosystem that emerges from species competing for survival can take on many traits of positive sum. (The “Circle of Life.”) Such layerings are important to consider! 

Still, this “life principle” is rough-edged. It drove past First Contacts between human civilizations and teaches a caution in dealing with aliens.

2 - Kinship based altruism. Reproductive self-interest leads directly to care for our mates and young, a trait that can sometimes spread outward a bit. Or even a lot. In the most “intelligent” Earth species – e.g. humans and dolphins – we see many cases where altruism becomes a propelling force in its own right.  

In our society, where millions of young people have had their lower Maslovian needs satiated from birth, curiosity and diversity and expanding the circle of inclusion have become quasi-religious imperatives.  So much so that it is assumed that all advanced life forms will eventually do the same thing. Indeed, super-aliens are deemed likely to have transcended all of the bad old reflexes, into states of true beneficence.  

Well... perhaps... if they have the underlying satiability-empathy traits of humans and dolphins.

3 - Quid pro quo. While altruism may seem “higher,” it is actually rooted in deeply self-interested reflexes – the caring for our young. Hence, indeed, it is the concept of fairness in exchange of favors that is truly the third trait. Even animals grasp this basic concept.

"I'll do something for you, if you do something for me."

There are complex dynamics among these three basic principles, bringing one... then the other to the fore.

The problem is that so many of our thinkers emphasize one, to the exclusion of others.  Liberal-progressive thought emphasizes the outward expansion of empathy and inclusion, in #2... which is laudable and admirable, but also conditional upon the present advanced and successful society in which satiability and satiation encourage the inclusion process. Which is also highly dependent upon the underlying response patterns of gregarious apes, for whom satiation DOES (sometimes) encourage horizon expansion... something that would not happen with, say, bears.

There is no guarantee that these conditions will last forever, or apply in many other places across the cosmos.

Similar myopia is seen in many (not all) libertarian circles, wherein trade and reciprocal benefit of markets  -- quid pro quo -- are seen as natural or fundamental laws of nature, when, in fact, markets were crushed and destroyed in most fearful human cultures, across 6000 years, in which tough cabals of strong men operated under principle #1 to repress competition from below.  Principle #3 only comes to the fore -- offering innumerable positive sum (win-win) benefits when #1 is quelled enough to see the self-interest that comes from trustworthy and reliable market rules.

Those rules can include mutual deterrence or other natural synergies... as we see when animals trade favors.  Or else carefully tuned market rules and regulations, without which cheaters and cartels swiftly ruin markets.

These three principal drivers can take innumerable forms.  But they have to be dealt with and the tradeoffs taken into account.  Preaching at them will not change them.  But we can mix and match and be better than we were.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Everybody Hide!

We all remember playground bullies. How did you deal with yours? Natural human instinct makes the weaker party tend to cower, to slink and avoid contact with local thugs, hoping they won't notice you. Indeed, that's the reaction bullying is intended to bring about, for nothing terrifies an abuser more than the notion his victims might cease being scared! 

Stoking fear is the bully's relentless aim. George Orwell portrayed this logic taken to its farthest extreme -- of both rationalization and ruthlessness -- in Nineteen Eighty Four. 

At a very young age, I learned methods of tactical-confrontation that generally worked, taking me right off the target list. Sometimes - not often enough - I dared to intervene on behalf of other victims. And when I had sons*, I thought I'd have to teach them my methods. I felt nervous about it, as there are always hazards in standing up to power. Only then I noticed something that struck me as strange...

... my sons reported almost no bullying! Not personally... nor witnessing anything flagrant or violent, or even repeated verbal hatefulness being done to classmates. 

Okay, maybe it was partly socioeconomic. Sure, I grew up a few rungs lower -- and we must continue to address those disparities, vigorously! (Please re-read that as many times as it takes, to stave off outraged emails. That aspect, while important, simply is not today's topic.)

Still, taking very real social differences into account, violence and abuse are declining nationwide, and elsewhere, too. Moreover, it has not happened because kids are getting better at cowering.  

If the playground is (gradually but measurably) getting safer and nicer, it is because kids have been taught to be less tolerant of bullying, as have teachers, parents, etc. It's called accountability.  As imperfect and uneven as this process has been, it is moving in the right direction. 

So why is the lesson so hard for leaders, pundits and Big Thinkers to grasp, when it comes to protecting freedom and safety, at-large? That this is how to deal with bullies on our streets, in our institutions and economy?  Why are we constantly told to hide?

== Applying accountability to grownup bullies ==

The transparent society that was forecast by my eponymous book keeps rushing toward us. Are you planning to stand athwart history, screaming for the flood of ever-smaller cameras to "stop"? Or will you join us, learning to surf the tsunami of change? Two news items provoke this latest attempt to get you to see the difference. Perhaps even persuading you to join us atop the wave.

1) The recent killing of an unarmed fellow by a North Charleston S.C. police officer might have led to a murder charge in any event, since the shooting -- five times in the back at medium range -- was forensically blatant homicide. But we'll never know, since video footage left even Charleston-area prosecutors with zero options. Open-and-shut does not begin to cover this. And so much for you cynics who claim that 'video won't make a difference.' It was already having a huge effect and those changes will accelerate, not only as cop-cams proliferate and passersby get into the habit of recording anything suspicious... but especially when, as depicted in EARTH (1989) and in The Transparent Society (1997), ghetto youths get out of their cars during a pull-over... with their own shoulder cams blinking away, sending live feeds into the cloud.

Indeed, new cell phone aps let you press one button to both start your video recording and simultaneously upload the footage to YouTube.  Notice how all of this uses assertive accountability to apply citizen supervision over our civil servants. 

That is a very different approach than the one offered in our next news item.

2) According to recent rulings, if the government puts a GPS tracker on you, your car, or any of your personal effects, it counts as a search—and is therefore proscribed by the Fourth Amendment.  

Oh… what a stunning – 

-- yawn. The very notion that smart lawyers and judges would consider any of this truly important is simple astonishing to me. Because in the very near future, the ability to track human movements will be so pervasive, using everything from face-recog to pheromones to the unique oto-acoustic emissions from your left and right ear, that we’ll all realize how futile it ever was, to follow today’s fashionable advice and hide.

Note this!  If you cannot tell the fundamental way in which these two news items (both of them apparent "victories") are diametric opposites, then you are swallowing the koolaid and have not begun to think like a citizen. You have the reflex of a bully's-victim, not habits that can end bullying forever.

Does it bother me that government agencies and corporations and criminals and other elites can look at me? Sure, when it's asymmetric. And sure, it always will be. But I also know what has worked, across 6000 years of mostly-awful human history.  Trying to blind elites is a sucker's game. They will see no matter how much you yammer about it! Hiding will not work, never has. Even once, ever. 

That does not make me complacent or passive about the dangers of a looming Big Brother. I am as intensely militant in opposing that outcome as anyone! Probably much, much, much more so.

Oh, the privacy pundits and mavens are right to holler about that potential danger. 

They are wrong to say that salvation will come by trying (with utter futility) to blind elites... instead of using the method that has already worked for us. 

Stripping elites. Making them visible and accountable. Nothing could be plainer. Yet still, the distinction is escaping most of you.

With a sigh, let's try to work this out, one more time.

== Oh no! They see us! ==

Zoom into an intelligent but myopic riff, taken from Robert Scheer’s They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy, published in 2015:

"In a burst of public honesty, Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen wrote in April 2013: 'Despite the expense, everything a regime would need to build an incredibly intimidating digital police state—including software that facilitates data mining and real-time monitoring of citizens—is commercially available right now. . . . It’s the digital analog to arms sales.'”

Again and again, "alphas" remain consistent in their obduracy and hammer-bagged tunnel vision. Whenever faced with an info-age conundrum, they always go to stage one -- "The elites are getting to see better than we can and this could lead to Big Brother!"

Yes, that is true, obvious, blatant... and how many times will you run about, waving your arms or wringing your hands about this -- without ever, even once, offering any further insights that might lead to a solution?

Amend that. Some of these fellows do offer a proposed solution. Like this one routinely pushed by internet "security expert" Bruce Schneier. And yes, I am sarcastically but accurately paraphrasing:

 "Everybody hide! Encrypt everything! (Even though one elite or another likely has a back door, or could fly a gnat cam to watch your keyboard, or clamp a key logger anywhere along your wires, or key-log using EM from your monitor or screen.) Yesss, that's the ticket. Act meek and innocuous. Don't say anything that might draw attention. Hide!”  

As if computers owned by the NSA, or gangs, or foreign intelligence agencies, or corporations, or cyber-hackers, or the idle rich won't - five years from now - be able to parse every sigh or harmless emoticon or sarcastic shrug you make today, or unravel today's ciphers with ease.

Ah, but believe it or not, Bruce Schneier is above average!  Most of our brightest pundits, like Mr. Robert Scheer, can only pile up well-written sentences and worry-fraught examples of elite surveilling vision, into a mountain of despair. Another example? A couple of weeks ago, at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder CO, I listened to former CIA officer Valerie (Plame) Wilson bemoan the same plaint, declaring that we must find a "middle ground" in the tradeoff between freedom and security.  The kind of zero-sum thinking that will ultimately doom both freedom and safety.

Emotionally, they may feel they are pounding out a call to arms! But if you sift for practical suggestions — things that a citizen might actually do about all this — the lesson is pretty basic -- despair

The fraction of our well-meaning pundits who see even a glimmer of the truth is appalling.

That light does not have to be our enemy! That we got our liberty -- the very freedom that fellows like Scheer (rightfully!) and Wilson and Schneier fear losing — not by cowering in shadows but by aggressively, militantly and eagerly expanding a citizen's right to see. To look-back at power.

Take this telling extract from the Scheer piece

“The most sacred tenet of American individualism, the right to be left alone, had been squandered, almost without notice.”

Despite Scheer's Lost-in-Space level of arm-waving drama, there's a very serious point here.  And a conflation of staggering proportions.

Yes, citizens need and deserve and must demand the right to be left alone! To be unbothered by elites of government, wealth, criminality etc, and especially by the millions of "little brother" neighbor-gossips who might gang up on us for our eccentricities, our non-conformist idiosyncrasies, our unconventional habits or opinions that do not blatantly harm others. 

I share with Scheer and Schneier and Wilson this basic dread.  Remember, we are arguing not over the danger, but over proposed solutions, here. Of which, alas, they offer none.

Only, consider: the right to be left alone is vastly more about the physical than the digital world!  This should be - but isn't - stunningly obvious. What elites can DO to us is vastly more important than what they KNOW about us. So let's start there.  What does it take to stop others from doing us physical harm?

Light. We are seeing this all over the country, as constabularies are being forced to adapt to an era of camera-equipped and empowered citizens. All over the world, people are bringing recorders into meetings with corrupt officials and turning the tables, getting the bureaucrats' bribe-demands on chip and then demanding payoffs from the officials, lest the recording go public. Is the NSA listening to me right now? Maybe. (And how will I ever know, for sure?) But my top priority goes to making sure they can never come to arrest or harm me without it going public in a way that would cause them a world of hurt. That is a higher priority.

My neighbors? Those potential "little brothers?"  They are already mostly deterred from harming me and mine.  First, because they share a rising value system of "leave each other alone for non-hurtful differences."  But mostly because... well... I can't explain lateral deterrence better than Jeannie C. Riley did in "Harper Valley PTA." Moreover, if you do not know the song, and its message, then you deserve no part in this discussion. The lyrics make this point better than I ever could.

Do I dislike the fact that the NSA and Google and Anthem know vastly more about me than I do about them? Sure! That anisotropy comes next, on our list of priorities. We need to make it a matter of extreme militancy, as I portrayed in both my novel EARTH and in the nonfiction book: The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

But it starts with the right to be left alone. And recognizing a simple truth of nature and logic. 

You can never verify that someone else does not know something!  

But you can often verify that they are not doing something.

Hence, no matter how many laws you pass, forbidding elites from looking, all you will accomplish is to whack-a-mole their eavesdropping to go someplace else, perhaps more secret/sinister and harder to supervise. Passing laws against elites looking at us is a sucker's game. And I have long defied anyone to name one example, across 6000 years, of it ever working.

Moreover, the only way you can possibly enforce such laws is if you already have my method in place -- vigorous, citizen-centered sousveillance. The kind of accountability that has reduced bullying in our schools and playgrounds.

Again and again, I'll repeat it till someone out there can paraphrase it back. You cannot police what others know. But you can hold accountable what they do. And to accomplish that we do not need less light.

We need lots, lots more.

* Our daughter, a second degree black belt, kept an eye on her own peer group... which also seemed nicer than my generation.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Germ-Line (inheritable) human “improvement” via genetic engineering? The "Heinlein Solution?"

This fascinating (if long) essay - Engineering the Perfect Baby (from Technology Review) - explores the scientific and moral ramifications of “germ cell genetic engineering” or the changing of genomes in ways that can be inherited and passed-down, parent to naturally conceived child. 

And while we may shrug or even cheer, if we see a mother elephant give birth to a fertile woolly mammoth, some time in the next 20 years, it is both enticing and worrisome to imagine we might rush into “designing” or pre-modifying human babies -- selecting desirable traits and eliminating genes that cause inherited diseases.

Worrisome… but also inevitable.  As with most new era quandaries, the real question is .... “How do you plan to stop it?”  

"Any scientist with molecular biology skills and knowledge of how to work with embryos is going to be able to do this," according to Jennifer Doudna, a biological researcher at UC Berkeley.

== Should We Regulate? ==

The reflex to pass laws and ban something seems nearly universal… and nearly always turns out wrong, since all you’ll do is drive the endeavor underground, into secret dabbling by the uber-castes — the perfect formula for uncriticized plans to go awry and give us Hollywood-Crichtonian dire scenarios. 

Much better is the true science fiction film GATTACA, which portrays a society genuinely concerned over the injustices and grappling with how to solve the problems.

In this case, the dullard tendencies of the punditry-class are especially evident.  It never seems to occur to even smart science reporters - let along dogmatists of right and left - to use a finger and trace the trend lines... realizing that what's impossible today will likely be expensive in ten years… and cheap as dirt a decade after that.

Many countries ban or regulate germ-line engineering, and leading scientists have recently called for a summit to discuss these issues, saying that researchers should accept a self-imposed moratorium on techniques that could lead to genetically altered children.

I do not oppose all such pre-discussions or moratoria!  Indeed, I want one on METI or “Messaging to ET” until we have a chance to talk it over. (See a more extensive writeup here.)  But notice that yet again, my theme is opening up a field to the widest argument and range of ideas.

Bans and prudish renunciation will not solve the problem of human germ cell engineering. 

Nor will the simplistic assumption that all choices have to be black and white, zero sum, either-or.

== A potential positive-sum? ==

Are there conceivable win-win scenarios, in which we might get many of the benefits, while minimizing most downsides? That very question is offensive to the dogmatic purist.  But it is how we got all known benefits of the modern world. Moreover, that fact seems worth raising, from time to time, as simplistic reflexes dominate most of our indignation-soaked politics.

In fact, these issues were explored far earlier than most pundits realize. Aldous Huxley, when writing Brave New World, discussed germ cell engineering with scores of that era’s finest minds, as did science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, when he wrote his classic novel Beyond This Horizon.

(As I say elsewhere, it is the second half of this novel that is “classic” and thought provoking.  The first half is to be endured or skimmed, on your way to the fascinating parts. Not the usual Heinlein pattern, which is more generally the reverse.)

Those discussing germ-line engineering would be startled by Heinlein’s startlingly simple suggestion for how to deal with the moral quandaries of genetic engineering — what’s now called the “Heinlein Solution” — allowing couples to select which naturally produced sperm and ova they want to combine into a child, but forbidding them to actually alter the natural human genome.

Consider the elegance of this proposed compromise. Thus, the resulting child, while “best” in many ways (free of any disease genes, etc), will still be one that the couple might have had naturally. 

Gradual human improvement, without any of the outrageously hubristic meddling that wise people rightfully fear. (No fashionable feathers or lizard tails, just kids who are the healthiest and smartest and strongest that the parents might have had, anyway.) 

It is a notion so insightful that biologists 40 years later have only recently started to discuss what may turn out to be Heinlein’s principal source of fame, centuries from now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moving the Goalposts: Part II

Last time, I laid down seven fundamental points that you folks should arm yourselves with, and then sally forth to help save your planet. Rhetorical weapons that are far more confrontational and in-yer-face than the denialist cult is used to hearing from us science-loving egghead types.

And that's fine.  They are waging war against not only science, but our children's future. They think enlightenment types are wimps, with our "facts" and our "evidence" and "reason."

It's time, indeed, to prove that we aren't wimps, but just slow to anger. As our side has been slow to anger in every other phase of the American Civil War.  Slow, but ponderously determined, once roused.

And now... let's reiterate and expand upon the biggest and most important of the seven points. The paramount proof of insanity. Get up to them, nose-to-nose, and ask:


To you and your fellow denialist cultists, it is all-or-nothing!  Either you bravely hold the line and allow zero measures, even teensy ones, to increase energy efficiency… or else those dang smartypants libruls and sciencey types will shut down every power plant and deliberately ruin the economy, forcing us all to shiver in the dark and starve!   

Um.  Find me the librul or scientist who wants any of that? One. Just one. Even one? If you have spouted that poison, could you at least cite a single actual example?

Okay. I admit. There are a few crazy lefties who might push for more puritan measures than the average citizen or scientist would accept. But who is crazier? Them? Or guys like you who are comfy portraying all blue types and scientists as raving PETA-Greepeace-starve-in-darkness-EarthFirsters?

== TWODA ==

I’ve long spoken of Things We Ought to be Doing Anyway — measures that we could be negotiating, that will do us all good, even if 99% of scientists prove to be wrong and cretins like James Imhof prove to be right. 

Win-win investments in energy efficiency would save consumers billions, even if climate change is a ruse!  Measures that would also help a lot, if it isn’t.  

One example?  The new CAFE auto mileage standards that a briefly-democratic Congress passed in 2009, after 26 years of GOP delays, has resulted in far better cars, many billions more in consumers’ pockets, and healthy auto companies. Oh, and countless fewer barrels of oil sent up as smoke.

But you won’t think about TWODA.  You refuse to sit down and negotiate, because negotiation itself is declared to be a vile sin, by your cult. (I do not exaggerate: look up Tom DeLay and his GOP-must-never-negotiate rule. Newt Gingrich saw his political career destroyed because he dared to negotiate with Bill Clinton, in the miracle year, 1995.)

Let me make that point double-underlined for emphasis. You… and I mean you members of the denialist-ailesheimers cult… refuse to put anything on the table, not even capitalist-friendly measures that would promote energy efficiency and lower emissions through market forces, in ways that do no harm to the economy and that would be win-wins for all…

… well, they would be win-wins for all except just one group of folks. 
    Your masters. The coal barons and petro-sheiks who do not want efficiency or lower-emission energy -- for obvious reasons.  They are the only folks who would not benefit from such a win-win… and they just happen to co-own the very same “think tanks” and advertising agencies and cable propaganda outfits that furnish your daily fix of science-hating outrage.

Anyone with two neurons left to use in independent thought would look at that fact and go “Huh! That IS rather suspicious! The only beneficiaries of Doing Nothing and Denialist Delay just happen to be the guys feeding me the propaganda I suckle every day.”

But you won’t do that. Nor even glancingly consider the thought that maybe… just maybe… you have been the one who’s led astray.

== A perfect example ==

Ah... Keystone XL.  The Great Cause of Today's Right!  The one and only positive and assertive item on the Republican agenda.  Let me reiterate, it is the only positive thing on the GOP wish list. (Infrastructure repair? Putting half a million US men and women to work fixing failing bridges that will have to be repaired anyway? Absolutely not! That would make the economy look good under a democrat!)

Ah, but what is the real motive for Keystone XL?  To feed more oil into a glutted US market? Nope. Now, pay close attention --

Canadian shale oil already has plenty of pipelines to US refineries. There are seven already.  Seven.

The sole purpose of Keystone XL is to take the very worst type of nasty shale sludge-oil right over our most precious aquifer, then bypass our refineries, taking the stuff to gulf ports so that Canadian petro moguls can sell it to China. We will get not one drop, not a cent, and very few jobs. So... um.... What possible incentive do we have to do this? That is, other than that those petro moguls own Congress?

It's like asking questions about "climate grants" or George Soros toppling foreign governments. (See part one.) The worst thing about Keystone XL is how incurious are the GOP ground troops, who will nod at any mantra spun out by the puppeteers. 

Hey, go ahead and be conservative!  We need conservatives!  But lobotomization? Why would you put up with what's been done to you?

== The Keystone Irony ==

The final thought about Keystone.  Congressional Dems have made it clear, repeatedly. Keystone is NOT on our top priority list." In other words... although we hate it and think it's stupid and corrupt and dangerous, there are some ways that we can nvision stepping aside and letting it happen. If good safeguards are in place. And, above all, if you offer something, in return.

Pause and consider how far politics have fallen, that even the possibility of getting this pipeline -- again, the only positive-assertive thing on the Republican agenda -- by negotiation, compromise and horsetrading, absolutely never occurs to them. They don't even bring it up. The thought is alien.

And that is why I say politics -- the art of negotiating our way into the future as adults -- is dead in the U.S., as it is always killed, during each phase of our civil war.  And it is the deliberate assassination of politics that is the true treason of the re-ignited Confederacy.  And the reason Goldwater and buckley are spinning in their graves.

== Assigning blame? ==

Why has so much money and clever-cynical manipulation kept denialism active?  Remember those "threatened assets" in coal and oil that the Bank of England report called doomed?

The Kochs and their royal petro-sheik partners have to play out the clock, in order to unload those assets favorably. You'll know when they have finally succeeded in finding Greater Fools to buy their mines and oil wells etc., when suddenly, Fox pundits proclaim: "who, me?  I never denied human caused climate change! I was only keeping them durn' scientists honest!"

You denialists? That's what you'll claim, too. Just as you now claim you always knew tobacco was bad! And you never supported the insane Drug War. Only, this time it won't work.  

We'll remember. Because the tort lawsuits for this one will make the Big Tobacco judgements look like nothing.  And half a billion refugees will take their lawsuits waaaaay down the blame ladder. Below Rupert Murdoch (who will wind up pumping gas at a Shell station) and below James Imhofe and below Sean Hannity...

...all the way to you. And when that day comes, don't look at us neighbors to stand by you. We who tried for decades to wake you up. Those climate refugees will get your house.  And rightfully so.

== And finally... when is religion relevant in politics? ==

... let's turn to the dominionists who make up a majority of the prospective Republican candidates for presidency, in 2016. (See their stances on climate change.)  May I offer a thought?

Now, normally, our value system proclaims that a person's private religious beliefs should not be politically pertinent.  But there comes a point when that reflex is absurd, even stupid. And this is one area where liberals are the ones who are dead-asleep. So let's make the wake-up call explicit.

Anyone who openly admits that they pray for the Book of Revelation scenario to come true soon, is explicitly stating they want 90% of Americans to die in horrid agony, then be consigned to perpetual damnation-torment...

...followed by the permanent end of all democracy and human ambition, and abolishment of the United States of America. 

Those things are utterly explicit consequences of the events that such people openly proclaim praying for, and no softening or denial is even remotely possible.

 At which point we have to admit that religious beliefs become relevant, especially when such a candidate is asking to be given a button for nuclear weapons.