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Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
I've been doing some thinking over the last few weeks, and I've decided a few things—I am exercising whatever free will have First, I am no longer interested in describing this predictable human atrocity or that one. I have done that lately out of feelings of overwhelming disgust, a typical human emotion. Political corruption? Destruction of the biosphere? Grotesque income and wealth inequality everywhere? Grinding, hopeless poverty in the "wealthy nations" (United States and Europe)? Partying Davos elites planning our future? We all know about these ongoing human-caused catastrophes, and, predictably, they are all getting worse in what is now... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Decline of the Empire
The Southern Education Foundation just released a report finding that 51% of American school children live in "low income" homes. Here's the WaPo version of the story (January 16, 2015). For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation. The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
Read this New York Times article and then review Adventures In Flatland — Part II. Also review my oceans posts covering this topic. — Dave Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says By Carl Zimmer A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
We live in complicated times, but I have a simple story to tell. The phony housing boom in the U.S. went bust in 2008, two years after house prices peaked nationally. The global economy went into severe recession because the global financial system is highly integrated, so massive bank fraud and bad debt rippled across the world's economies, crippling them in the process. Central banks all over the world stepped in to re-inflate the global economy. The "stimulus" applied was massive and sustained. Stimulus seemed to work for a while, especially in so-called "emerging" markets (China, India, Brazil, Russia, others).... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I call your attention to the Bloomberg editorial America's Going To Lose The Oil Price War (January 12, 2015). There's a lot of blah, blah blah about when (not if) the American shale oil boom is going to go belly-up. At $40/barrel? That doesn't mean that once Brent hits $40 — and that is the level Goldman Sachs now expects, after giving up on its forecast that OPEC would blink — shale production will automatically drop by 1.5 million barrels per day. Many U.S. frackers will keep pumping at a loss because they have debts to service: about $200 billion... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
Forgettaboutit... By 2035, almost everybody is dead ... and it looks like the die-off starts just about now. But there's Good News — AGW won't be a problem and neither will the Sixth Extinction Well, I told you 2015 would be another Big Year in Flatland, and here's more proof of that. Flatland Chart of the Day Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I haven't mentioned the collapsing oil price on DOTE, mainly because I don't know exactly why it's collapsing—the global crude oil demand data I want to see isn't there to be seen. And since I've said in the past that oil would never be cheap again, and at current prices, crude oil is indeed cheap, I must do some penance. Mea culpa. Hence this post. Also, I seem to be in a posting mood. I've been looking for clues about oil prices. Here's one, from Platts. Asia's top 4 oil users record slowest demand growth in 6 years Singapore (Platts)--11Dec2014/221... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I am still working in a desultory way on Adventures In Flatland — Part IV, but it's not nearly publishable yet. I'll finish it eventually, but I don't know when. Still, some of the stuff I discuss in that forthcoming essay is worth looking at on its own. Today I will discuss an excellent article by Lawrence Mitchell called The wealthy suffer from an ‘empathy gap’ with the poor that is feeding a rise in inequality (The Conversation, December 8, 2014). Some of this text is from my forthcoming essay. I am not concerned with the "empathy gap" itself in... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
I see that human nature did not change when the clock struck midnight on December 31st Of the near infinity of examples I could cite to back up that statement, I will choose one. It's called The End of Endless Growth: Part 1 (Vice, January 1, 2015). The article, which is by Nafeez Ahmed, serves up some pretty standard doomer stuff, the main source of which is— The Great Transition by Mauro Bonaiuti, an economist at the University of Turin in Italy. Bonaiuti’s book applies the tools of complexity science to diagnose the real dynamic and implications of the global... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2015 at Decline of the Empire
What I would say is that things could get much worse if we don’t do something. — Joe Stiglitz It's time to polish off 2014. If the year ended today, it couldn't get worse, right? I was reminded of this while reading Fed Grants Volcker Reprieve in Banks' Second Big Win This Month (Business Week, December 22, 2014). Banks added to their wins in Washington this month by getting a reprieve from the Volcker Rule that will let them hold onto billions of dollars in private-equity and hedge-fund investments for at least two more years. The Federal Reserve granted the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
The Lima climate talks ended last weekend. Those talks were meant to set the stage for the Big Event, which will be held in Paris next year. Predictably, the Lima Call For Action is just what is says—a call for action. A call for action is not action. A call for action is more abject failure in what has now become a long tradition of failure. We are told that there was progress of sorts. Let's look at that. By establishing a new structure in which all countries will state (over the next six months) their contributions to emissions mitigation,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
We're deep into the Holiday Season now, and Congress made sure they did their bit. The bill which funds the government for another year will be the "gift that keeps on giving" for big donors to political parties and the Big Banks for many years to come. Fighter jets the Pentagon didn't ask for will be funded, and "food insecure" infants and children will be further challenged. Ho! Ho! Ho! Rectal rehydration of the American people took various forms. Josh Silver of wrote up a nice summary at The Huffington Post. Here's 5 of the most awful [provisions attached... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
This morning the Senate torture report was all over the news. The Huffington Post had an article on Jon Stewart's take on the report. There's the torture, which we all knew was happening, and then there's Stewart making a living reacting to the torture on the Comedy Channel. And there's all those people laughing about his reaction to the torture. HA-HA-HA-HA-HA... You see, I'm so far gone with respect to this Human Condition shit that my reaction to the torture and my reaction to a stooge like Stewart is pretty much the same: is there some other planet where I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Do you wanna change the world? Naomi Klein does. Elizabeth Kolbert is becoming more and more convinced that it can't be done. I'll have more on that below. If you wanna change the world, the first step is remarkably but deceptively easy. Just ask yourself this question: Do we humans have the capacity to address our big self-created problems? * * the climate, the oceans, extinctions, disappearing top soil, melting ice sheets, etc. When you ask yourself this question, and take the question seriously, really ponder it, you may not change the world, but you will certainly change yourself. I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
I now regret writing those posts on The Newsroom clip, as I regret all my interactions with the Flatland public. But rather than take those posts down, I will simply finish the job. The word in the title refers to the scientific finding back in May that the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) appears to be inevitable and irreversible. The EPA guy in Sorkin's TV show cited sea level rise as the reason he had lost hope, so it will be of some interest that loss of the WAIS will add 4 meters (about 13 feet) to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
In the five days after I posted "The Newsroom" Tackles Climate Change, that post came up first if you ran the Google query the newsroom + climate (with private results "off"). I ran that query again tonight to see who else is writing on the same subject. Imagine my surprise when I saw a Grist post by Dave Roberts called Aaron Sorkin tackles climate change on “The Newsroom” and … oy (published today). Roberts' title sure does look a lot like the title I used five days ago. What a coincidence! And maybe it is a coincidence, although it would... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
When I first saw "The Newsroom" clip, after I stopped laughing, I thought I would dust off my science chops to get to the bottom of that sea level question. It wasn't too hard—it took about an hour and a half to get confident about the current state of the science, which is based on paleoclimate proxy data. Years ago, when I still thought there was a point to things, I used to read paleoclimate stuff all the time. I see that Aaron Sorkin's "end of the world" video (the one I linked to) has gotten up to 6,963 views,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Unfortunately, I can not embed The Newsroom video in which Aaron Sorkin tackles climate change (episode 3, season 3). I suggest you watch it and then return here for the analysis. Here's the relevant part of the transcript. McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is the anchor of the fictional news network. Westbrook (Paul Lieberstein) is the climate expert being interviewed (emphasis added). McAVOY: Okay. Tell us about the findings in the report that was just released. WESTBROOK: The latest measurements taken at Mauna Loa in Hawaii indicate a CO2 level of 400 parts per million. McAVOY: Just so we know what we're... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Having finished Part III, and as I contemplate Part IV, which will be short, I ran across another instructive example of what Flatland is all about. I am referring to yet another book about the human prospect called Adventures in the Anthropocence by science journalist Gaia Vince. I will quote from the Salon interview. Here is Lindsay Abrams' introduction to that give & take. The Anthropocene: Don’t worry about trying to pronounce it. Don’t even worry about whether or not geologists decide we've officially entered it. This is the Age of Man: the epoch of mass extinction, of rapidly acidifying... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
This is the third of four essays summarizng my work on DOTE. The last part will be short, covering one more topic (social stratification) I didn't get to here. Comments are open but moderated. Here are links to Part I and Part II — Dave This third chapter of Adventures In Flatland deals with human sociality. The most striking characteristic of Homo sapiens is our sociality. Social relationships pervade every aspect of human life and these relationships are far more extensive, complex, and diverse (within and across societies) than those of any other species. And for survival and reproduction we... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
I'm in a posting mood. This mood won't last, so I'm striking while the iron is hot. Anyway, as I was looking around the intertubes this morning, I ran across this item at Zerohedge, which is not a favorite website of mine because the anonymous posters over there are doomer attention whores who rarely document their stories. Zerohedge is the Huffington Post for pessimists. But this article made some good points and had a few working links to outside sources. Mostly the article had internal links to other Zerohedge crap, like this broken one to the WSJ "source" of the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Let's finish off this brutal week on an entertaining note, shall we? I will quote from a recent interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, whose book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History came out earlier this year. I love this shit. Q: Is there any chance that evolution will save the day? That the world will adapt and adjust to us? A: I think there are two time frames in which to answer that. The first is, if you have very elevated extinction rates, evolution is just not fast enough. You would not assume that because things are dying out faster than... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
There is no education in the second kick of a mule — attributed to Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn When it was clear that the Republicans had taken the Senate, and upped their majority in the House, the stock market celebrated like there's no tomorrow. As soon as the market opened Wednesday morning, the Dow leaped to a new all-time high. The indexed finished the day up 101 points to close at 17,484.52. Not to be outdone, the S&P 500 also set a new record close of 2,023.56. A few days before Election Day, CNN anticipated the party to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
Another meaningless election was held yesterday. Well, OK, it was meaningless for regular folks. As Andy Borowitz reminds us, it wasn't meaningless for those hoping to prosper from the result. WASHINGTON —Congressional seats are on pace to fetch a whopping four billion dollars on Tuesday night, a record-smashing sales figure that has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic insiders. The seats, which include four hundred and thirty-five in the House of Representatives and thirty-six in the Senate, have attracted buyers from a broad spectrum of industries, including investment banking, energy, pharmaceutical, and gun. “With all of the uncertainty... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2014 at Decline of the Empire
As I mentioned, I've been taking my time with Part III of Adventures In Flatland. But I have completed the first section of that essay. It wasn't easy to write because of the subject matter. I was trying to explain the Flatland perspective on bullshit. How do we define bullshit? What motivates it? And so on. Anyway, that was the easy part. The hard part was taking humans seriously. Consider Paul Krugman's recent Rolling Stone article In Defense of Obama. By the way, Krugman does not appear in Part III. I said to myself, "Why are you writing this? Virtually... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2014 at Decline of the Empire