Friday, 6 May 2016

Hitting the Links, 6 May 2016

Hitting the Links

Friday, 6 May 2016


As a way of adding routine content to the blog, I'd like to start a weekly feature, called Hitting the Links.

Not being a golfer, it's not actually related to golf. Rather, and those of you who dislike puns won't appreciate this, it's going to be a feature where I share a handful of links to interesting, thought-provoking, humorous, or otherwise notable online articles, events, or other goings-on. In some cases, the links might constitute follow-ups to other posts I've put up during the week, if I don't feel they're important or relevant enough to merit going back and editing those posts.

So let's have a look.

[jump break]

Politics


The rise of the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue, and his recent primary victory, are, it seems, bringing out the worst of Americans.

Most obviously - and odiously - there is the support he's received from white supremacists. As blogger Ed Brayton reports:

After Ted Cruz pulled out of the Republican presidential race, making Donald Trump the presumptive nominee, the racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist part of the right wing went into full on celebration mode.

Brayton follows with some specific details. In essence, the white supremacists are overjoyed that Trump makes it possible (if not acceptable, per se) to be openly racist in the American political discourse. It's not terribly different from the coded racism we're used to hearing, particularly from Republican politicians, but even so, there's something ugly about seeing it all hang out, as it were.

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The Religious Right in the US has long tried to maintain that businesses have the right to refuse service on grounds of religious beliefs, usually in defence of discrmination against gender minorities. Now, apparently, we're going to see the same excuse used to refuse service on grounds of political affiliation. A tow truck driver refused service to a disabled woman on account of her being a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Now, the driver gave an ostensible "business" decision (he "says he's had problems with two customers over the last six months who supported Bernie Sanders. He said they caused him problems over paying their bills.") in the article. In the video, however, he gives a partially religious justification, saying "Something came over me, I think the Lord came to me, and He just said get in the truck and leave."

I'm not sure what level of data and statistics gathering Shupee Max Towing does, but I'd wager that if they did, they'd find that Sanders supporters were no more likely to end up being bad business (in terms of payment disputes, defaulting on payments, and the like) than any other group of people based on political affiliation. In other words, Shupe's justification strikes me as more a means of rationalising a spur-of-the-moment decision than data-driven business decision.

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Politics is a business that is hard on family life. You have to be hustling out to public appearances, doing your bit in the legislature or city council, making yourself available to constituents, and the like. It often means your family life gets neglected.

With so much time spent away from families, politicians and their staffs often end up in affairs. Even if they don't, it's a huge stress on relationships: many marriages don't outlast political careers.

So it was for media mogul turned leader of the PQ, Pierre Karl PĂ©ladeau, who quite recently stepped down from his political office citing family concerns. It's possible that between still being a major shareholder of Quebecor and being leader of the PQ, he found his family life was increasingly sacrificed for his other commitments. His very recent marriage (August of last year) made it five months (he and his then-wife announced their separation in January). With all that, and with the PQ languishing despite the Liberal government's corruption troubles, it's no wonder that, if something had to give, it would be the PQ.


Global Warming


Global warming continues apace, and 2016 has been a banner year for why action is needed, not just urgently, but at a breakneck pace. (By action, I mostly mean decarbonisation; carbon sequestration and geo-engineering must also be implemented as fast as feasible, if they are feasible at all, but they require rapid decarbonisation to have any lasting positive effect.)

One thing I think people don't really quite comprehend is that global warming doesn't necessarily cause natural disasters such as droughts, storms, and the like. (That would require a severe weather event's precursors being impossible but for warming.) However, because global warming is a modification of the Earth's entire climate - everywhere, all the time - then every single severe weather event is somehow modified, usually exaggerating or exacerbating the negative effects.

This is increasingly clear with events such as the spring wildfires in Alberta this past week, which forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray. In my post yesterday on the topic, I concluded with remarks hinting at the link between the fires and global warming.

This article at The Washington Post makes the link more explicit. Contributing to the disaster are the following warming-influenced trends: reduced winter snowpack, meaning the snow melts earlier and can leave conditions dryer for longer; warmer temperatures, which evaporate water more easily during dry conditions; and an atmospheric blocking pattern which has become more frequently encountered in recent years as the Arctic jet stream's behaviour has become aberrant, the result of warmer temperatures and reduced sea ice cover there. (The blocking pattern is not unlike that seen over Greenland which caused tropical storm Sandy to veer into the northeastern United States instead of heading out to sea as might normally have been expected.)

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Other obvious concerns are the way projections by the IPCC (a scientific body which aggregates and summarizes the state of research) and other scientific organisations end up being left in the dust. For example, the IPCC's last two Assessment reports have generally projected about 1 metre of sea level rise by the end of this century. But it appears that these projections are altogether too conservative as our understanding of ice melt processes - particularly in West Antarctica - improve. Make no mistake: multimetre sea level rise by the end of this century means large swathes of what is now heavily-inhabited coastline will be lost to the ocean, most of it in poor, tropical-belt countries that can least afford such a disaster.

In the same vein, Arctic sea ice is falling off the proverbial cliff this year. It's not yet a sure thing that we will see an ice-free summer this year, but even if we don't, it won't be far off.


Culture and Society


Blogger Libby Anne of Love Joy Feminism has recently expounded on "corporal punishment" - that is, hitting children (euphemised as "spanking") with disciplinary or punitive intent.

In her post, she refers to some of the research on the topic, and brings up a Maclean's article which brings up more research as well. One bottom line from the research coming out is that the lines "I was spanked as a child and I turned out fine" or "I spanked my children and they turned out fine" are execrable defences of hitting children as a social practice. After all, who's to say that people who did make it to adulthood without noticeable psychological damage from spanking wouldn't have done even better? With individual families that have never spanked in Canada, or entire societies where it has been outlawed (such as Sweden, which banned spanking in 1979), we have seen by now that people turn out just fine without being subjected, as vulnerable children, to what would be categorised as criminal assault when done to an adult.

Not to say you need to start hating your parents if you were occasionally spanked as a child and are no longer concerned. Just like we now have radically changed how we seat small children in automobiles over the last few decades, without condemning parents in decades past for their laxer standards, so can we change how we treat hitting children now without condemning people who genuinely believed otherwise in the past.

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Finally, maybe it's too soon and a bit of a cheap shot, but the brewing company Labatt has been shipping specially-packaged cans of drinking water to help evacuees and fire fighters in Alberta, which deserves an honourable mention with respect to yesterday's post, which discussed the myriad ways Canadians have stepped up to the plate to pitch in and help out. I'm wondering, however, whether they just re-labelled Blue Light.

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