187. Climate-Change: Worthy Research Projects for Support

13 Sep

Our US government is ignoring Climate-Change dangers. I am hoping that wealthy people and corporations will make up for this by supporting research in this area (and in other ways). Below, I have listed some worthy projects.  

Briefly, global warming is dangerous and can result in fires, floods, and starvation. It is caused by increased amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse-gases (mostly carbon dioxide and methane) in the atmosphere. Almost all solutions are directed to reducing these gases, which occur naturally, but are increased by human burning of fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, etc.) in power plants, cars, planes, and by other human activities.

Seehttps://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/

Here is a summary of basic solutions:  

1. Reduce the flow of greenhouse gases into the air, where they trap heat and cause global warming. Limit burning fossil fuels, like coal and gasoline, for power. It is vital to stop these gases from increasing. Small increases in average global temperature have a profound effect — just a two or three degree increase can cause colossal effects.

2. Enhance the absorption of greenhouse gases by oceans, forests, and soil so that they are removed from the atmosphere.

3. Remove the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by the development of industrial processes.

4. Work on the efficiency and cost of alternate energy, such as wind and solar, so that fossil fuels are not needed.

Some specific solutions:

Improved batteries will enhance the use of wind and solar methods for production of electricity. If wind speeds drop and the sun isn’t shining then batteries can be used to store power for use under negative conditions. Good batteries will also promote the use of electric cars. There is considerable research in this area and much is supported by auto industries.

Planting trees and preserving forests are very helpful for absorbing carbon dioxide in the air, but other methods are still required.

Black carbon (soot) results from incomplete burning of fuels or wood. There is research that suggests it makes global warming worse, and solutions are being studied. Also studied are the effects of ozone in the air. Reseachers believe that reducing soot and ozone could be very effective in conjunction with other methods.

There is research on reflecting light from the sun to reduce heat, by pumping aerosols  into the stratosphere. Similarly, reflections of sunlight could be accomplished by making  the earth more reflective. Vegetation (trees, plants, etc) could be altered to make them  reflect more light. There are various other similar solutions that are being considered.

A University of California biogeochemist, Asmeret A. Berhe, has suggested that
alterations of soil could affect its carbon-trapping power. Many human activities have led to the degradation of soil so that its ability to help with climate change is affected. The solution would be to vary farming and forestry practices.
See: https://www.ucmerced.edu/content/asmeret-asefaw-berhe

It is argued by researchers that using “restorative ocean farming” could help with climate change and also provide safer and better seafood. Most current seafood farming methods are generally harmful to the oceans. Avoiding sea “pens” for fish, and using more natural ocean enhancement could be good for health and climate-change.
See TED, June 2019: Ayana Johnson and Megan Davis: “Could underwater farms help fight climate change?”

Joanne Chory (https://www.salk.edu/scientist/joanne-chory/) has been researching how improved plants could be helpful. Adaptable “supercharged plants” could be developed that absorb more carbon, deeper underground, and for many more years. The program is the Salk Institute’s “Harnessing Plants Initiative.”

It has been proposed, that climate-change could be attacked with a method that creates useful energy. Natural gas could be used to generate electricity in a way that takes carbon dioxide out of the air. (See TED April 2017, Tim Kruger)

“Chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox previews some amazing technology to scrub carbon from the air, using chemical reactions that capture and reuse CO2 in much the same way trees do.” This TED talk (April 2018) provides an excellent summary of many efforts to develop massive reduction in atmospheric CO2. It should be noted that researchers generally consider that any one method dealing with climate-change will not be enough, and that a combination of several of the best methods is required.

Ted Halstead (TED talk April 2017) describes a plan that would break through various  barriers to climate-change solutions, and would appeal to businesses and Republicans. The “carbon dividends” plan involves a gradually rising carbon tax, and dividends given to the public. This plan was presented to Pres. Trump two weeks after his  inauguration. It was widely endorsed at that time, but apparently, after two years, it was not implemented.

 

 

186. Origin of Trump Traits

3 Sep

There have been many analyses of Donald Trump’s character. Most extensive is a book by Bandy LeeThe Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, 2017, which includes essays by 27 psychiatrists. All contributors give him a psychiatric diagnosis, for example, narcissistic, which means, briefly, excessively self-admiring. Almost every day, a commentator on a news program tries to explain some of his behaviors. Many have no good answer.

I am a psychologist and my orientation is towards behavioral science (and also neurophysiology). Such scientists use terminology based on observable actions and tend to reject words that are more indefinite. Behaviors (anything we say or do) are based on our original structures (DNA, etc.) and even more upon all aspects of our environment, including parenting, formal learning, social interactions, observations, etc. Everything we experience can lead to behavioral patterns.

In my essay below, I list certain apparent traits. Each trait represents a set of observable Trump behaviors that are well established.

Intelligence:  I have given many IQ tests and would estimate his current IQ at around 119, which is somewhat above average, but, for example, well below what is necessary for a Ph.D. (IQ of 130). It is a typical IQ for a college student and his mistakes in judgment reflect this. Here are the considerations: he has failed at most businesses, he rarely studies anything written, his actions are simplistic and the full implications of an issue are ignored. When criticized, he rarely presents arguments, but just makes personal attacks. He almost never lays out complex plans or goals. He has guarded his college grades with the threats of lawsuits. When asked a more complicated question, he usually diverts to something else.

Values Money and Power. I am sure he learned this from his parents and his wealthy friends. Also learned in this way is his self-centered orientation. 

Revenge. No matter what the criticism, he usually responds by calling the critic a name or by insulting in some other way. It is pretty certain that this was learned through experience. When he did not respond, there was more criticism from more people. His counterattacks were mostly rewarded. Early on, when he presented counter arguments, he found these to be ineffective. 

Extreme Confidence. This is clear: he ran for President, he is a confident speaker, he has made huge investments, etc. The origin of this confidence is his birth into a very rich family and the financial backup of his father, when alive. Because he was effective in creating an image of great wealth, the confident actions always worked out.

Lies and Mistakes. Literally thousands of lies (some are just mistakes) have been documented. Some are accounted for by memory problems (see below), some are based on limited intelligence,  and the rest are just plain lies to achieve an image or agenda. Intelligent people write down facts and keep this info handy for speeches. This behavior is reinforced by his supporters and is rarely effectively challenged.  

Memory Loss. This is likely the result of mild (but increasing) Alzheimer’s and is typical in older persons. At one time he asserted that he needed little sleep, and it is lack of good sleep that promotes Alzheimer’s. Many of his mistakes appear to be due to memory problems, but that is not definite.

Torture and Cruelty. Many of his actions could be considered cruel. His treatment of Puerto Rican citizens, and his treatment of southern border asylum seekers, are examples. Trump was raised in a rich family and his friends were mostly very rich. He never was exposed to the real hardships faced by many Americans. His focus is on winning, elections, voters, and financial supporters, and little else.

Racism. I have discussed this in previous blogs. What appear to be racist traits may just be actions to keep the votes of his racist people. He definitely supports racist people, but may not be personally a racist.

To summarize, Trump started out his adulthood with a large fortune provided by his father. This made him overconfident and separated (aloof) from ordinary working people. As a general rule, various antisocial behaviors like lying and cruelty are usually followed by some type of punishment But in Trump’s world, these are ignored and sometimes even reinforced. Currently, Trump is severely threatened by investigations, substantial criticism, and failing policies. So unfortunately, we can expect even more erratic behaviors.

 

185. Current Issues, Briefly #6

31 Aug

This is the 6th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets, unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are worth repeating and emphasizing.

I have been following the career of Elizabeth Warren for many years and have always felt she would make a great President. Now she is rising rapidly as a candidate, and may well succeed. Biden is a nice guy, and would make a good president, but not great. Warren could successfully debate Trump!
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Great news! Fox Broadcasting is even more serious now in its independence from Trump in factual reporting. And his association with John Bolton seems to be eroding. An increasing number of Democrats is favoring impeachment. A few weeks ago I was feeling the stress of his administration, now I feel much more positive.
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It is great to see more Republicans becoming presidential candidates. These provide more voices that are critical of Trump’s attitudes and actions; and will help the Democrats. It shows that it isn’t only Democrats that think he is unpresidential,  untruthful, and dangerous.
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The following is a summary of one of my recent TED comments:
Brief answers to serious global problems: World-wide food supply can be increased thru scientific methods. Shortages of land space can be solved with vertical farms in city buildings and by improved crops.  Sun, wind, and similar can supply all the needed energy for the entire world. These methods are constantly improving. More difficult is this: well-educated voters can elect excellent leaders, but education tends to be controversial.  Here is a sardonic thought: Presidential candidates must be examined and pass IQ, science, and history tests before being able to run.
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Trump “loves” the  North Korean leader, Kim. But all his “negotiations” have not stopped their nuclear development. Now it appears that they are developing a submarine that can launch missiles, a great danger to the USA. Kim’s many short-range missile tests are a danger for Japan and South Korea, but ruthless Trump has ignored these. Obama warned Trump about N. Korea. Meanwhile, Trump plays with foolish tariffs.
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According to a variety of sources (e.g. University World News) American Science is in decline, while in China it is rising. Trump has been diminishing and interfering with science throughout his presidency. It appears that he has no interest in long term benefits for our country. He is only concerned with his personal needs and in supporting rich donors. He is also responsible for a general decline in USA world leadership.
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It would take only a very small percentage of our national budget to stop the torture of immigrants. Confining large numbers of persons in a small area for long periods of time is a major torture. Often basic needs for food and sanitary items are not met.  It does NOT matter what political goals are applicable, the USA doesn’t use torture for ANY reason. President Reagan (a Republican hero) believed this and he ratified the 1984 United-Nations Convention on Torture. How can Trump’s supporters not see his cruelty (or do they have the same flaw).
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A Febuary 2016 TED Talk by Ken Lacovara is brilliant and so applicable today. In his talk, he argues that a few chance events in evolution, like dinosaur extinction, led to brain development and eventually to our human species. Dinosaurs could not stop their extinction, but the destruction of our planet and human populations can be corrected by responsible citizens and leaders with integrity.
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Trump lives in a dream world. His trade policy is tit-for-tat. I raise your tariff, then you raise my tariff. Many farmers and manufacturers are negatively affected. He acts like an impulsive child, refusing to listen to experts and alienating our allies. Trade and other agreements must be a group effort! His Iran “deal” and his negotiations with N. Korea have failed. Ignoring climate-change will have catastrophic consequences for his children and all others throughout the world.
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Trump lied about and failed to produce any new wall on our southern border, and of course, Mexico refused to pay for it. His current efforts to get something done likely involve crimes and violations of law. The wall is so important to him, that at one time, he shut down the US government for weeks to force its support.
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On a happier note: “flash Mob” movie clips illustrate how universal the joys of life are. World-wide, you can see the music, dancing, and acrobatics of flash-mobs in, for example: US, Brazil, Russia, UK, Hungary, Azerbaijan. We have so much in common with people in other countries. Sad that the greed and ruthless ambition of national leaders screw things up.
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Jay Inslee (Washington State Governor) has ended his candidacy for President. This man would have made a fantastic president. His ideas, his record as governor, speaking ability, and his promotions regarding climate-change are exemplary. He simply was not well known, but I admired him for several years. Maybe next election will be his time; or maybe he can be part of the next Democrat administration.

 

184. USA Leadership: The Cast of Characters (Revised)

20 Aug

Our country and our individual lives depend on our elected leadership. These leaders make life-and-death decisions that affect all of us. Citizens that are in the US military are directly affected by presidential and other decisions. They can die in battles. Our leaders can have a profound effect on our health care, financial, and educational success. In a decade or two, many, worldwide will die or lose all, due to global-warming decisions. Also, current leadership can profoundly affect our status as a nation devoted to democracy and ethics.

In this blog, I am expressing my opinions on key leaders, that affect us all (world-wide).

Donald Trump, Current President, Aspiring Dictator.   Please see my previous blogs on Trump failures, and of course, there are many books filled with descriptions of his nature and vile deeds. For me, two things are most important: his path towards autocracy, and his failure to work on climate change. Both have very serious long-term effects. He has friendly relationships with foreign tyrants and often insults our traditional allies. He trusts these tyrants more than our dedicated intelligence agencies. Today, 8-22-2019, he seems to be worsening, and his speech was very unpresidential and disorganized. Today he said “I am the chosen one.”

Trump family, Ivanka, Jared Kushner, Sons. Except for Ivanka, all are inane yes-men. I think Ivanka could well be a decent person if not controlled by her father.

Mitch McConnell (Moscow Mitch) Senate Majority Leader. MM is equal to Trump in vile leadership. He controls all of the bills that the US Senate considers. He even stops bills that have great popular support. Like Trump, his lack of integrity and patriotism approaches treason.

Stephen Miller, Advisor to Trump. This person could be the devil in disguise. He is the ultimate Trump sycophant and has really nasty ideas. Many of Trump’s worst ideas come from him.

Bill Barr, US Attorney General. Another horrible Trump sycophant. He lies and undermines the integrity of the Dept. of Justice that he administrates. Traditionally, the A.G. and DOJ have been indepedent and not under direct presidential control.

Koch Brothers, Owners of huge businesses, Major Repub contributors. Many of their businesses involve the burning of fossil fuels; so they oppose climate-change actions. The Kochs will bear much responsibility for global-warming caused fires, floods, starvation and terrible mass migrations. Their children may well suffer from their negligence. The pair are incredibly rich and could now devote part of their extreme wealth to saving the planet.

The Republican Party. This was once a party with some dignity and integrity. Now, after the better members have gradually left, it is composed of Trump robots. It is now Trump’s party.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of House. Speaker Pelosi has a very tough job. She definitely is a good person, but her caution on impeachment is questionable.

Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader. Schumer is an effective Democrat leader. I could also mention Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler as great leaders.

Joe Biden: Former Veep, currently polling Top candidate for President. Joe Biden is a good and decent person, who would make a good president. However, a few of the other candidates are younger, stronger, and might do a better job. As polls indicate, he might well do best in beating Trump.

Elizabeth Warren, Senator, Rising candidate for President.   Warren may gradually pass Biden in popular support. I think she would make a great president and right now is probably my first choice. She is very well organized and effective. Warren has supported the ordinary US citizens for many years. As I write this, I am listening to her speak. She is very effective!

Other Democrat Pres. Candidates. Please see my past blogs for more info. Any of the candidates would be a thousand times better than Trump. I am going to include a few remarks. Pete Buttigieg may be the most intelligent and logical of the candidate group, but some voters will reject him for petty reasons. I liked Kamala Harris before she attacked Biden in a debate. The best Democrat strategy is the avoidance of such attacks; better to emphasize their own positive traits and experience. Perhaps Kamala just needs more experience.  Bernie Sanders is a great defender of middle-class values, and I applaud his efforts. But he is getting too old, and made the mistake of identifying himself as a “socialist.” I have to add a mention of Jay Inslee, who is dedicated to climate-change solutions, and has other outstanding qualifications. Update: Inslee just dropped out. I also want to mention Amy Klobuchar as outstanding.

Robert Mueller, Special Counsel.  Author of his famous Report. He is an outstanding leader and citizen with a long history of government service. His report is very comprehensive and provides definite information for impeachment. He is growing older and appears a little weak in public appearances. Many think he could have provided more definite conclusions in his report. His dedication to following certain “rules” may have somewhat limited his report.

Final thought.  Our country is at a crossroads. Every year we continue with Trump and the Republican party in power, we further erode out traditional values of integrity, democracy, and high ethics. Our citizens must choose whether to continue this or to vote in leaders with real integrity and competence.

 

 

 

183. The “Trump Experiment” Failed

9 Aug

After about 930 days in office, it is now more than obvious that the “Trump Experiment” has failed and we must do everything possible to protect our nation. There are three actions, with which to move forward: (1) Impeach, (2) Nullify, (3) Wait for the 2020 election. I believe that we should do everything possible in all three areas: full speed ahead on impeachment, nullify him in every way possible, and develop the best strategies for the election. Nullification includes various methods of preventing dangerous acts, such as California car milage regulations that override Trump’s rule.

I believe that our citizens need brief, clear statements of Trump’s failures so that they can effectively more forward.  Before continuing, I will acknowledge that a small number of Trump’s actions were beneficial, but usually were not significant. Here is my list (also see my previous blogs).

Failure to acknowledge global warming and to provide badly needed leadership in this area. There was a failure to provide international encouragement, relevant research funds, and to support exemplary efforts in industrial actions. The internet is full of info regarding this subject. This is a very serious problem and is recognized by the vast majority of nations

Failure to govern with dignity, morality, and reliability. Trump withdrew from several existing treaties and international agreements. He has failed to provide the promised improvements. Other nations now hesitate to form agreements with us because of his history of breaking agreements.

Trump often (thousands of times) lies, makes mistakes, and re-writes history according to his own agendas.

Trump has undermined our policing and intelligence agencies so that they can be influenced by his policies and agendas (see previous blog, 182). This is a clear and serious action, which is on the path to tyranny. The US Attorney General Barr is not independent and acts as a yes-man.

Trump has lied about his international tariffs: he says that the foreign countries pay for the tariffs, when it is the US importers that pay and pass on losses to our consumers. His trade policies overall have not been effective and other countries have countered our tariffs with their own. Resulting trade problems have seriously affected our farmers and manufacturers. Trump has not considered all of the possible negative effects of his policies. An important point is that he has tried to work alone, ignoring allies. For example, a group of nations would have been much more effective in dealing with China abuses.

The Trump administration is poorly coordinated and engages in petty quarrels. Calling other US leaders childish names does not engender respect. He is often at odds with his cabinet members and other staff.

Trump has admitted to favoring torture, and his policies regarding our Southern border illustrate his cruelty. He clearly supports racism and promotes hatred.

Trump did not “drain the swamp,” but swam in it. His staff includes wealthy Wall Street icons. His cabinet members were chosen from those opposing the goals of their agencies. He has encouraged the removal of regulations that protect us from pollution and toxins. A shocking number of his staff have been indicted for criminal actions. He has secret meetings with US adversaries, such as the Russian Putin. He has attacked our allies and NATO.

 

 

 

 

 

182. The Erosion of Policing and Intelligence under Trump

29 Jul

Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence,  may soon resign. Coats has a key role in coordinating all of our intelligence agencies. He is highly respected by all and his replacement by Trump could dangerously politicize these agencies, which have already been weakened.

This event calls into question the efficacy of our national policing and intelligence agencies. Weakening and controlling such agencies is a key step towards autocracy. Here are some of the considerations.

In at least one case, Trump revealed agency secrets to Russian officials, causing the distrust of our agencies by similar agencies of our foreign allies. Trump has generally ignored our agencies and instead supported foreign leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia. He valued Putin over our agencies.

The office of Attorney General was filled by a Trump sycophant William Barr. Barr has supported Trump’s policies and interests and has disregarded the truth. Mueller has challenged him regarding his false characterizations of his report. The whole Department of Justice has been tainted by Barr.

The FBI has been attacked many times by Trump and his staff. The FBI, of course, plays a vital role in protecting all of us. Many have lost confidence in the FBI due to these attacks on specific agents and agency policies.

Trump has attacked unfairly the Special Counsel numerous times. He does not mention that Special Counsel Mueller is, in fact, a Republican. Trump has no respect and makes personal attacks with little substance.

Committees of Congress responsible for oversight of government agencies have been attacked by Trump. In addition to personal attacks of committee chairman and members, he ignores all requests for documents and testimony. He lies about their findings. He is also ignoring subpoenas.

A related problem is the appointment of radically conservative federal judges. Law enforcement is limited and weakened by these appointments.

Policing of our southern border has been eroded by Trump demands for harsh treatment to discourage attempts for asylum. No matter how many immigrants are involved, there is no excuse for what amounts to their torture by extreme over-crowding and unsanitary conditions. A good illustration of serious incompetence is the wrongful incarceration for 23 days of a US born citizen carrying a birth-certificate and drivers license. He and many others have reported horrendous conditions.  

Trump has gradually undermined and taken over  policing and intelligence agencies. This is a major step towards tyranny. Please see my Blog 179 and others for a comprehensive list of all such steps. We are getting close to a point where Trump’s take-over (autocracy) will be almost impossible to reverse. Control of the FBI, for example, would allow Trump to fulfill his dream of arresting political opponents and  members of the press.

 

 

 

 

181. Mueller Testimony and Implications for Impeachment

25 Jul

Robert Mueller has just provided testimony (July 24, 2019) related to his Special Counsel Report, before two House committees. His performance has been described as weak and not inspirational. (Note that Mueller is a Republican.)

.       Mueller’s voice was weak, but what he stated was powerful.

Mueller is almost 75 years old. I am an older person so I have a personal understanding of the effects of aging, as well as considerable research. After age 70 or so, it is common to have a gradually progressive memory loss and other physical problems. A couple of years ago, when he started the investigation, Mueller was probably more competent. I am sure that at that time he was quite capable of hiring an excellent staff and providing good leadership and organizational procedures. His report was created by a group of about 17 experts in this area. I think the report is sound and although his current committee performance was not perfect, it was effective. If you look at what was actually said by him and questioners, you could feel very confident. The important features of the report were clearly defined, a list of impeachable actions was confirmed, and appropriate warnings about future election interference were provided. He emphasized that there were no exonerations, and that there were serious findings in the area of obstruction. Trump’s claims of no collusion and no obstruction were false.

It is now up to Democrat leaders to do what is right for the USA, and not focus on irrelevant imperfections. In this area, opinion polls are also irrelevant, and impeachment even without conviction, has the value of making a statement. Below, I have provided more detail on this point.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi  has taken the position that the House should not move forward on impeachment without major Congressional and public support. She is concerned that  Senate acquittal, which is likely,  would be seen as a win for Trump.

Here are possible fallacies of her argument. First, with or without a Senate conviction, Trump will always claim that he has won and is totally innocent. What Trump and Republicans claim cannot be controlled and should not be considered. Second, As actual articles of impeachment are developed, public and leadership support could substantially increase. Third, and most important, impeachment without conviction still makes a profound statement: that Donald Trump does not represent a majority of our people. It will help assure that foreign leaders and people will not view us as crude and erratic. For many years the USA has been a leader in advancing good government and ethics, and an impeachment will help to preserve this image. Impeachment will also serve to define and clarify the improper and criminal acts of his presidency.

One further point: impeachment must be for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” That requirement is satisfied by public reporting — even without testimony or the M. Report. But, I think Congress must also consider other acts of wrongdoing, which are not defined by criminal laws. I am not going to detail a large literature (including my own blogs) of such infractions, which include: failure to divest financial interests, numerous well-established lies, failure to produce income tax returns, prevention of testimony, chosing statements of Putin and others over our intelligence agencies, lack of traditional transparency, governing by tweet, secret meetings with foreign adversaries, major inconsistencies and reversals, and creating a staff with many criminals and unethical wealthy people.