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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
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Reading one of those mind-brain articles by John Horgan yesterday, I ran into this text— And even if we don’t [manage to] explain consciousness, our investigations will surely yield lots of practical applications, such as neural prosthetics and bionic upgrades. Say what? WTF? But that raises another question. What if science boosts our minds’ power without giving us greater self-understanding? Shouldn’t that be cause for concern? LOL! Yeah, John, that should definitely be cause for concern Following that link, I found Why You Should Care about Pentagon Funding of Obama's BRAIN Initiative. [The Brain Initiative's] biggest funder is the Pentagon,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Decline of the Empire
Reader Mike Roberts pointed us to a slew of articles on the so-called "mind-body" problem in a comment yesterday. So I started reading them. These posts were written by John Horgan for Scientific American. Horgan is a reasonable guy. Those working on the mind-body problem seek the origins of consciousness in the physical brain. Horgan goes through the current theories, noting that this scientific endeavor is regressing. Many researchers have simply thrown up their hands, saying that the problem is unsolvable. And to my mind, the current theories, for lack of a better word, are ridiculous. So I won't comment... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Decline of the Empire
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Open thread. As Hillary hobnobs with the rich and famous in California and on Martha's Vineyard, she assures us that she will visit rain-ravaged Louisiana when her regal presence will not disrupt relief efforts there. Hillary, don't forget the hot sauce when you go! Juicy Marie Antoinette "let them eat cake" details under the fold. All of which reminded me of this. Reprinted from the American Conservative (first link above). Here’s why Hillary Clinton cannot be bothered to come to Louisiana: she’s got a slew of fundraising events set up with coastal elites. From CNN: What do Cher, Leonardo DiCaprio,... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Decline of the Empire
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Clive Hamilton is put out about what we might call the trivializing of the anthropocene. His recent Nature commentary Define the Anthropocene in terms of the whole Earth argues that "researchers must consider human impacts on entire Earth systems and not get trapped in discipline-specific definitions." To understand what Hamilton means by "Earth-system science," watch the video below. The Anthropocene was conceived by Earth-system scientists to capture the very recent rupture in Earth’s history arising from the impact of human activity on the Earth system as a whole. Read that again. Take special note of the phrases ‘very recent rupture’... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Decline of the Empire
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From today's Diane Rehm Show weekly domestic roundup. It's a call-in show. The context required to understand this dialogue is easy to state— National mainstream journalists have talked endlessly about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (and others) for many months now. Mostly they've rehashed every fucking thing Trump says in order to demonstrate his unfitness for office. This is the hottest year on record in the United States (and the globe). That has led to many devastating extreme weather events, a good number of which are >500-year events. Transcript starts at the 43:56 mark. Gina in Fort Lee Virginia —... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Naturally I was thrilled to learn that Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Is Arriving In Pittsburgh This Month (story in Bloomberg, August 18, 2016). I live in Pittsburgh. Near the end of 2014, Uber co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick flew to Pittsburgh on a mission: to hire dozens of the world’s experts in autonomous vehicles. The city is home to Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department, which has produced many of the biggest names in the newly hot field... “Travis had an idea that he wanted to do self-driving,” says John Bares, who had run CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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This year humans got an up-close and personal view of a 1.5-degree world (C) and it hasn't been pretty. For example, Louisiana is experiencing a 500-year deluge right now. There have been literally hundreds extreme weather events all around the world this year. Speaking personally, the limits of my own endurance are being tested by tropical dew points which haven't subsided in the last six weeks. With that much moisture in the air, I sweat even when I'm sitting still. Consequently, the climate story changed abruptly this year — we've run out of time. According to a five-year prediction from... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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We've know for some time now that America's mainstream media types are merely hucksters for elite interests. It took the existential threat to those interests called Donald Trump to make that view official. That's what Matt Taibbi is getting at in The Summer of the Shill. ... We now have one set of news outlets that gives us the bad news about Democrats, and another set of news outlets bravely dedicated to reporting the whole truth about Republicans. Like the old adage about quarterbacks – if you think you have two good ones, you probably have none – this basically... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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From Productivity Crisis? — U.S. Workers Are Pulling Their Weight by Noah Smith. Over the long term, fluctuations in demand should roughly cancel out, so [total factor productivity] and labor productivity should generally move in the same direction. But even over decades, it’s questionable whether labor productivity really drives changes in the standard of living for most Americans. Median hourly compensation has gone up much more slowly than labor productivity for the last few decades — most of the gains from a more productive workforce have gone to higher-income workers [see the graph below]. So while faster productivity growth over... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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This is embarrassing, because the only websites which have reported what I'm about to say are zerohedge, Breitbart and The Hill (a conservative blogger there). The problem is that the latest BLS labor productivity report also includes revisions to real hourly compensation data (inflation-adjusted wages). Nonfarm business sector productivity decreased 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2016--the same as the preliminary estimate--as a small downward revision to output was offset by a small downward revision to hours. Due to a 4.7-percentage point downward revision to first-quarter hourly compensation, unit labor costs decreased 0.2 percent in the first quarter of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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There's a new Nature study about threats to species. It's covered in The New Yorker. Over four months this spring, James Watson and Sean Maxwell, a doctoral student at the University of Queensland, used [some] new data to identify and rank the existential threats to nearly nine thousand species, ranging from otters to lilies. In a commentary published today in the journal Nature, they report that almost three-quarters of the species they studied are threatened by over-exploitation—human activities such as logging, fishing, and hunting. More than sixty per cent are threatened by the conversion of habitat to farmland and timber... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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The "hot" topic on NPR this morning is whether Hillary wants to abolish the 2nd Amendment, as Donald claims. The "hot" topic in the Middle East is whether people can live in fire. There's this— Stepping outside is like “walking into a fire,” said Zainab Guman, a 26-year-old university student who lives in Basra. “It’s like everything on your body — your skin, your eyes, your nose — starts to burn,” she said. Guman has rarely left home during daylight hours since June, when temperatures started rising above 120 degrees and metal objects outside turned into searing-hot hazards. And this—... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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I noticed something interesting when I looked at the latest Earth Overshoot Day calculation. We’ve failed again. It’s less than eight months into 2016 and the ominous day is already nearly upon us: Earth Overshoot Day, previously known as Ecological Debt Day, is a reminder of the enormous toll we take on the Earth. The day marks the juncture when humanity’s demand for ecological resources exceeds what the planet can replenish annually. In 2016, it falls on Monday, which means people have already consumed an entire year’s worth of the world’s resources ― and we still have four months to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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If you're awake, you're aware that climate change has increased the number of extreme weather events. Among the most dramatic of those are catastrophic flash floods where an area gets far more rain than it can handle in a very short period of time. That happened in Ellicott City, Maryland about a week ago. This suggests a new drinking game for the 21st century. It's easy to play, but you're going to need a strong constitution and a lot of booze. Every time a human says "Oh My God!" in a flash flood video, drink a shot. The video below... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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The title line occurs in George's wonderful video, one of the greatest of all time. Watch that first. I was reminded of George when I saw some Vox propaganda called How political idealism leads us astray. This "motivated reasoning" (bullshit) comes from Will Wilkinson, who has been on the planet since 1973. Looks like Will's never going to get it! Throw another one in the hopeless bin! Anyway, Will's bullshit should have been called Be Happy With What You've Got. Do you want to stop Donald Trump from rounding up Mexicans into camps? Try this: Encourage your idealistic, third-party-voting progressive... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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In 1988, Kurt Vonnegut wrote a letter to people living a century later in 2088. Ecowatch's Kick Kennedy recently put this letter on-line, calling it "more relevant today than ever before." Here I'll re-print the final part of the letter where Kurt gives some advice to those living in 1988. The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms: 1. Reduce and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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I give up. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Do you really care about alarming temperature anomaly data? Astonishing heatwaves, forest fires and accelerating ice melt? Or "zombie" deforestation emissions and the accompanying extinctions? Failing orangutan conservation? No way! Nobody cares anymore, if they ever did. Not even me! The human triumph is complete. Mindless foolishness rules everywhere you look. Flatland über alles! I can't swim upstream against that all-powerful current. I know a trend I can't buck when I see one So let's talk about Hillary, who is fast becoming one of my favorite subjects. The thing is,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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OK, let's sum up. The political and economic elites who run this country are terrified. Donald Trump poses an existential threat to the political legitimacy of the neoliberals (in both parties) who have ruled the United States since Ronald Reagan. They are not filtering this threat because Trump is right there out in the open putting them at risk everyday. Those elites or those carrying water for them want us to be terrified too (we are the little people who might vote). They want us to vote for Hillary, who has already moved to the right after being challenged by... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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A few links, one graph and some music. What Would Hunter Thompson Do? (not the actual title, Counterpunch, hilarious, must read). A trucker explains why we Americans are totally fucked (Vox interviewer doesn't get it) NPR celebrates the DNC (Hillary hagiography, fawning, suck up, brown-nose, ass-kissing, have a bucket handy) The DNC was one big corporate bribe (The Intercept, lots of disgusting details, bucket again) Our Next Secretary of the Treasury? (The Intercept again, "shadow banking" is such an ugly term) Meanwhile, our phony economy is limping right along, but Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are the only thing the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
The Huffington Post tells the story Democrats want us to internalize. Their front page title for that story is The Audacity of Hope. Optimism versus pessimism. Hope versus despair. Light versus dark John Cassidy at The New Yorker quotes Obama to the same effect. What came out of Cleveland “wasn’t particularly Republican—and it sure wasn’t conservative,” Obama continued. Rather, it was “a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world. There were no serious solutions to pressing problems—just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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This week we've got the DNC. The big news (today) is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been forced to resign her position as party chair because a Wikileaks e-mail release shows that the party apparatus supported Hillary and opposed Bernie all the way. And since that Wikileaks break-in was apparently carried out by officially encouraged (if not sanctioned) Russian hackers, the even bigger news is that Vladimir Putin is attempting to influence the American election by sabotaging the Democrats. If Putin wants to hack hypocritical Democrats, more power to him. The problem I have with this recent coverage is the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Elizabeth Warren campaigned to be Hillary's VEEP pick in the last few months, which I thought was sad and pathetic. And had she been plucked from the Senate, where she's actually done some good, that would have been sadder still. But there was no need to worry about the defanging of Warren. Hillary picked Virginia senator Tim Kaine, who was waging his own more effective campaign for the office. Tim certainly knows how to get on Hillary's good side. On Monday, Kaine signed onto two letters, one to federal banking regulators and the other to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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The usual disclaimer — we don't make this stuff up. Weekend open thread. These are headlines which are often different from the underlying URL. That means somebody in charge stepped in and changed them. Donald Trump and the Dark Soul of the GOP (Mother Jones) His Tone Dark, Donald Trump Takes G.O.P. Mantle (New York Times) Donald Trump's Dark Vision (Bloomberg) Donald Trump Takes America on a Journey to the Dark Side (NBC) Donald Trump's Dark Dark Convention Speech (New Yorker) It’s Donald Trump’s Party Now (Huffington Post, quote below) Clinton’s campaign and supportive super PACs, meanwhile, sent out dozens... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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This is a brief follow-up to Bad Climate News Keeps Pouring In (April 8, 2016). That one was about observed negative effects of cloud feedbacks on climate sensitivity. Now, a new study released last week in the journal Nature yields more bad news about the role of clouds in global warming. This is not unexpected. I'll quote the end of the Slate story about the finding. Taken in context with other recent studies, the new results show the net effect of climate change on clouds could in fact be to encourage warming, in contrast to the consensus from just a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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Commenting on second marriages, Samuel Johnson, who is quoted by his biographer James Boswell in 1791, called them the "triumph of hope over experience." It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone since that this wonderful phrase expresses a fundamental insight into the human condition. A recent article by James Lind reminds us of why this is true. It's called Our Greatest Enemy: Optimism — why optimistic groupthink is a threat to humanity. I couldn't agree more. In his first inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared, “So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
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