Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Dances with Kids


President Obama, who might now get the Indian name of Dances With Kids, in Dillingham, Alaska, watching, dancing and talking to Native children during his visit.  Video is about 4 and a half minutes, and priceless.

Here's a preview of announcements President Obama plans to make on his last day in Alaska to address climate crisis issues in that region, including a Denali Commission and federal coordinator to help deal with current and future effects of climate crisis--or "adaptation" and "resilience" in the common jargon.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Climbing the Mountain

Mount Denali

President Obama's remarks at the GLACIER conference in Anchorage on Monday probably preview the tenor of what he will be saying from now until the Paris climate summit in December.  His words are very, very direct--no leader has spoken more clearly on the climate crisis.

Climbing the mountain to an international treaty will take such boldness and directness, as well as persistence, endurance and spirit.  This is an impressive start.

Two notable examples:

 "...any so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke -- is not fit to lead."

"On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us."

The full speech text is here, the YouTube is here though the President's speech doesn't start till about halfway through. [Update: Here's a better link to just Obama's speech.] Here are some direct excerpts:

...the point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety -- now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends -- economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.

Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.


And the fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We’re not acting fast enough.

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means -- the scientific imagination and technological innovation -- to avoid irreparable harm.

We know this because last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.

So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.

Even America and China together cannot do this alone. Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone. We have to do it together.

This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

So let me sum up. We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow.

But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.

That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.

And we’re starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will -- finally -- to get moving.


So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island. (Applause.)

And let’s remember, even beyond the climate benefits of pursuing cleaner energy sources and more resilient, energy-efficient ways of living, the byproduct of it is, is that we also make our air cleaner and safer for our children to breathe. We’re also making our economies more resilient to energy shocks on global markets. We’re also making our countries less reliant on unstable parts of the world. We are gradually powering a planet on its way to 9 billion humans in a more sustainable way.

These are good things. This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized. But we have to keep going. We’re making a difference, but we have to keep going. We are not moving fast enough.

If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.


That’s not a future of strong economic growth. That is not a future where freedom and human rights are on the move. Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that -- any so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke -- is not fit to lead.

On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people -- tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer. I am not trying to suggest that there are not going to be difficult transitions that we all have to make. But if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem."

Your presence here today indicates your recognition of that. But it’s not enough just to have conferences. It’s not enough just to talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together."

Update: speech embedded below


Salmon is Everyone

President Obama's first stop on his Alaska trip was to a roundtable with Alaska Native leaders.  Don't think Native leaders everywhere didn't notice.  Among other things, it is of enormous significance to them and usefulness to the rest of us that President Obama is actively listening to and enlisting Native peoples in efforts to address the causes and effects of the climate crisis.  The President said:

Since I took office, I’ve been committed to sustaining a government-to-government relationship between the United States and our tribal nations. We host tribal leaders in Washington every year. I’ve visited Indian Country at the Standing Rock Reservation and the Choctaw Nation. This week, we're going to be visiting two more tribal communities here in Alaska -- in Dillingham and Kotzebue.

And in fact, by the end of my time in office, I’ll have visited more communities -- more tribal communities than any previous sitting President, which I feel pretty good about -- in case anybody is keeping track.

Returning Denali 's indigenous name, the mountain known officially as Mount McKinley until yesterday, was a symbolic act of great significance, first to the Native communities, but also to Alaska.  Denali is derived from the Native Koyukon language, and means the Tall One or the Great One.  It is the mountain's traditional name, and has been for 10 to 20 thousand years.

Our non-Native culture may not be able to remember anything from a decade or two ago, but Native cultures, through stories, ceremonies and traditions, continues ties to all of its past.  President Obama noted this as a contribution to the discussion.  (Richard Nelson's books, particularly Make Prayer to the Raven and The Island Within, make specifically Koyukon wisdom accessible and relevant to the modern non-Native world, in this global crisis.)

The discussions in Alaska dealt with the problems of rural Native communities dealing with high energy costs and the clear and present dangers brought by climate change.  These impacts are felt in Alaska as nowhere else (yet) in the US.  Alaska and the Arctic are experiencing global heating at twice the rate as the global average.  Alaska may well be the future for the lower 48.

 The roundtable also touched on other important (and related) issues, such as:

"My administration also is taking new action to make sure that Alaska Natives have direct input into the management of Chinook salmon stocks, something that has been of great concern here."

Down here on the North Coast of California, a victory was achieved as the last legal challenges to the federally mandated increases in water flow from the cold Trinity River were turned back, and millions of salmon may be saved.  The efforts to have the flow increased were led by tribes, such as the Yurok (the largest indigenous tribe in California) and Hupa.  They have joined their traditional knowledge with expertise in the relevant sciences, and they had quantitative evidence in the language of science that could not be ignored, except by politics.  In this instance, they prevailed.

This past Sunday the reading of much of Salmon is Everything was held in HSU's largest theatre, and it was full--very unusual for a Sunday afternoon, and nothing more elaborate than a reading and talk.   Following the salmon die-off in 2002 on the lower Klamath, the play was created over two years was a collaboration between HSU theatre professors, Native professors and administrators, but largely by Native students (who got stories from their families) and non-Native students and community members.  Its first production was in 2006.

From the discussion Sunday it was clear that with the perspective of time, this process was enormously important within Native communities.  One person in the audience said that without the efforts that started with this play, the focus that resulted in this year's victory would not have been achieved.

For the audience of Natives and non-Natives, this reading was another step in a positive ongoing relationship. For the audience of students--particularly first years in the STEM program--the reading and discussion afterwards could be an inspiration that can guide their academic lives and perhaps stay with them for the rest of their lives.

This reading followed an appearance by Anna Deavere Smith in Klamath, on the Yurok reservation last Monday.  Though her emphasis was on education, she performed one character directly pertinent to these issues--a fisherman who talked about the meaning of the salmon and the river to the Yurok culture.  For a little more about both events, go here.

Native cultures here realize in a specific, particular way that to save the salmon is to save themselves.  In different ways, in the context of the climate crisis and the ecological crisis of global dimensions, it is true of all of us.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Roosevelt & Hopkins: FDR's Last Words and Postscript

This is the last of a series on Roosevelt & Hopkins, a book by playwright and presidential aide Robert Sherwood about President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his close aide Harry Hopkins during World War II, published in 1948. 


This month marks the 70th anniversary of the first and so far only times that atomic bombs were used on human populations, in August 1945, when American planes bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  FDR died in office several months earlier (April 12,1945) but he had approved the Manhattan Project and knew that scientists at Los Alamos were close to constructing an atomic bomb. (The first test bomb was successfully exploded on July 16, 1945.)  The Project was highly secret, and Robert Sherwood, among others who worked in the White House, did not know about it.

Robert Sherwood was among other things a speechwriter for FDR, although Roosevelt did the final drafts.  The last speech Sherwood worked on was the last speech FDR wrote, for Jefferson Day (April 13.)  He would not live to deliver his prepared remarks.

Sherwood writes (pp. 879-80):

“For the Jefferson Day speech, he asked me to look up some Jefferson quotations on the subject of science. He said, ‘There aren’t many people who realize it, but Jefferson was a scientist as well as a democrat and there were some things he said that need to be repeated now, because science is going to be more important than ever in the working out of the future world.’

The Jefferson quotation that I found, and that Roosevelt used in his undelivered speech, referred to ‘the brotherly spirit of science, which unites into one family all it votaries of whatever grade, and however widely dispersed throughout the different quarters of the globe.’

I did not know it at the time but I realized later that when Roosevelt spoke of the importance of science in the future he was undoubtedly thinking of the imminence of the atomic age.  He said in his last speech, “Today we are faced with the pre-eminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.”

The immense responsibilities of World War II and a 13 year presidency during the Depression and the war very likely shortened FDR's life.  Harry Hopkins life was almost over even before the war began.  He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1939 and given weeks to live.  FDR got the best medical experts available and transfusions with blood plasma were credited with halting Hopkins deterioration.

Then the war came and Hopkins' life was dedicated to winning it.  He made numerous trips aboard and was FDR's most trusted diplomat with allies.  Both Churchill and Stalin thought highly and even affectionately of Hopkins, and his diplomacy and counsel were instrumental in the successful management of this immense undertaking.  The world had never seen anything like it before, or since.

After FDR's death, Hopkins tried to retire but the new President Truman needed him to continue diplomacy particularly with the Soviets until the end of the war.  He died about five months after the war officially ended, on January 29, 1946.  He was 55.

FDR's political enemies could be verbally vicious as well as obstructive (some Republicans were still talking that way ten or fifteen years after his death, when I was a child.)  But FDR's popularity, and his position as the leader of the free world in wartime, muted much of that expression.

Instead, Republicans (and their newspaper loyalists) turned their hatred on Hopkins, FDR's closest aide who for most of the war actually lived in the White House.  What they didn't dare say about Roosevelt, they said about Hopkins, with impunity.  Hopkins had three sons serving in the armed forces.  One of them was killed in combat in 1943, and combined with Hopkins periodic illness from overwork, caused Harry to be hospitalized.  Sherwood writes (p. 807):

“When Hopkins moved early in May [1943] from Rochester, Minnesota to the Army’s Ashford General Hospital in White Sulphur Springs, there were the usual protests from some of the press. ‘Who entitles this representative of Rooseveltian squandermania to treatment and nursing in an Army hospital?’ was one of the questions. The War Department issued a statement that Hopkins was entitled to this hospitalization as Chairman of the Munitions Assignment Board and that the Secretary of War had authorized his admission.”



In 1948, Sherwood concluded this long book with passages (on p. 932) that ought to be pretty sobering right now in 2015:

“The remarkable luck that we have had in meeting major emergencies in the past should not prevent us now from giving most serious consideration to the question: where is the guarantee that this luck will hold? 

 Presumably it lies in the genius of the American people, but one does not need to have access to any secret documents to know how difficult it is for this genius to express itself or even to realize itself. In the fateful years of 1933 and 1940 the people needed and demanded leadership which could be given to them only by the President, the one officer of government who is elected by all the people and whose duty is to represent the interests of the nation as a whole rather than the purely local or special interests which are too often the predominant concerns of the Congress.

 There is no factor in our national life more dangerous than the people’s lack of confidence in the Congress to rise above the level of picayune parochialism; the threats of Communism or Fascism are trivial as compared with this.”

Referring to the new Atomic Age, Sherwood concludes (p.933): “Our need for great men in the Presidency will continue, and our need for great men in the Congress will increase.”  Today he would add "and women" in both cases, but the point remains the same.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Whose Party Now? And Obama Recharged

I know, I swore to ignore the 2016 presidential race.  Because basically it's a waste of energy and attention.  Jonathan Chiat states my analysis and I don't see it changing: assuming she is nominated, Hillary will win because she's not crazy, and all the Republicans are.

But I can't help but notice how Donald Trump is driving the Republicans crazier.  I saw the headline on my news feed today that Scott Walker proposes a border wall---with Canada.  I had to click on it to make sure it wasn't Borowitz or the Onion.  It isn't.

Trump is as close to crazy as an apparently functional human can be, and not even in a complicated way.  He only knows two judgments: fabulous or terrible, and all he does is state this without much more than a shred of factual evidence, if that.  Trump is bullshit and he's always been bullshit.  When I was editor of Washington Newsworks in 1976 he was a young developer who came to town with a proposal for a convention center.  Our reporter on this story (who later went on to report and edit for the New York Times) thought he was bullshit then.  So that's 40 years of bullshit.  Good way to become a billionaire (if he actually is.)  That may make it smell sweeter for some.  But it doesn't alter what it is.

 But right now he's being taken seriously in a political sense, and Chiat's latest column on this is interesting in that he feels sure Trump is going to wind up running as an independent or third party candidate.   And as Chiat wrote in a previous column, he's going to lose because he is crazy. (While as Rolling Stone says, he may no longer be funny, he's crazy like a dictator.) An independent candidacy will also doom the Republican candidate.  The problems he is causing other Republican candidates are analysed here. 

While we're hanging out at the New York Magazine site, the top rated post for about a week now is an interview with film director Quentin Tarantino.  It's wide-ranging and culturally interesting, and contains a political note about President Obama.  You supported Obama.  How do you think he's done? the interviewer asks.  The fashionable thing is to express disappointment if not disillusionment. But that's not what Tarantino does:

"I think he’s fantastic. He’s my favorite president, hands down, of my lifetime. He’s been awesome this past year. Especially the rapid, one-after-another-after-another-after-another aspect of it. It’s almost like take no prisoners. His he-doesn’t-give-a-shit attitude has just been so cool. Everyone always talks about these lame-duck presidents. I’ve never seen anybody end with this kind of ending. All the people who supported him along the way that questioned this or that and the other? All of their questions are being answered now."

The Washington Post has a nice summary of the President's just concluded vacation, from which he's returned (he says) recharged and feisty.  Tomorrow it's Alaska and ramping up the visibility of the climate crisis. 100 days to save the world.

Monday, August 24, 2015

100 Days to Save the World


Imagination is not a talent of some men but is the health of every man.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's a hard time to be hopeful.  ISIS wantonly destroys the sacred elegances of the past, while beheading and raping innocents of the present.  Terrorists and psychotics use easily obtained and operated lethal firearms to massacre innocents in any ordinary place, while political cynics make sure they remain well-armed. Fearful fanatics seem to dominate all politics; racism and other reactionary passions are seemingly ascendant, making trump cards out of what would ordinarily be jokers.  There are alarming examples of destructive fanaticism on what our impoverished dialogue insistently calls the Left as well as the Right. There is a smell of chaos, caught and eagerly exploited by proudly evil and cowardly trolls in cyberspace and beyond.  It seems that where evil, insanity and cynical greed do not reign, debilitating distraction does.

In short, civilization seems to be falling apart at the moment when it is most needed, when it is most urgent to face up to crisis conditions in the larger contexts of all life on Earth.

But there are contending forces also rising to confront these challenges, to try to save the world and its civilizations, although in better form.  There are visions, organizations, heroic individuals, movements, projects; there are designs in the practical, physical world that offer the hope of new energy systems, new economics and so on.   Many of the books I've mentioned here and elsewhere before (like Down to the Wire, Eaarth, The Great Disruption, America The Possible, and a later entry I haven't mentioned, Klein's This Changes Everything)  that delineate near and far future challenges of the climate crisis, also suggest that meeting these challenges could make the world a better place in other ways--healthier, more just and sustainable, in which humanity flourishes in a world made safe for life.

All of that remains the work of generations.  For this moment, the upcoming and urgent task is to get some international agreement that gives the planet a chance by limiting and phasing out greenhouse gases, in the quantities and in in the timeframe that today's best science suggests will give us a fighting chance to save the future.

An excellent article by John Sutter at CNN entitled "100 Days to Save the World" outlines the reasons, the tasks and especially the reasons to hope that this time when nations meet in Paris in November and December, they will meet this challenge.

Much is moving towards this moment.  The encyclical by Pope Francis, endorsed by leaders of other Christian sects,  preceded the recent Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change   which asserts that for Muslims, addressing the climate crisis is a religious duty.  It calls for a future of 100% renewable energy, and specifically for a climate treaty this year.

“To chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable," the declaration said.

To underline the factual claim behind this moral imperative, also last week:

We’re not even nine months into 2015, but by Wednesday humans had consumed an entire year’s worth of natural resources since Jan. 1, according to the Global Footprint Network.

Global Overshoot Day is perhaps a too-cute marketing moniker for what is the most ominous fact of all, for this is the kind of deficit spending that really can't go on.  It is of course not the first such day--though it comes almost a week earlier this year than last.  According to GFN: "Earth Overshoot Day is meant as an approximation rather than an exact date. Still, the data shows that humanity’s demand on nature is at an unsustainable level — one year is no longer enough to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on the planet.”

Not only are humans living beyond the means of the planet to sustain that kind of life, even more evidence arrived last week that humanity has become the most destructive predator on the planet, wiping out predator animals also at an unsustainable rate, with consequences all along the food chain--up as well as down.

The climate crisis makes all of this worse, and even in the near term (another study finds) will likely lead to the most political volatile condition: "food shocks," meaning food shortages and price spikes.

So there is plenty of motivation available for leaders from all nations to meaningfully address the climate crisis, which is the bare minimum but could be the change that opens opportunities for much more, as other factors (especially the advancing technologies and falling costs of renewable energy) move in a positive direction.

Within the US, where support for addressing the climate crisis is substantial but below many other rich nations, there are fascinating findings outlined in an earlier CNN post by John D. Sutter.   In the form of a quiz, he reviews these findings: though 97% of the world's working climate scientists affirm the reality of the climate crisis and its greenhouse gases emissions cause,  only 10% of the American public knows that they do, the fact of this stunning unanimity.  Yet 70% say that they trust climate scientists above all to give them the correct information.

The US doesn't score high on the percentage of people that "believe in" the climate crisis, but on the other hand, only 9% are "sure" it doesn't exist.  And 70% support strict emissions regs on power plants.

There is an opportunity for everyone in these stats, Sutter points out: 67% of Americans surveyed say they strongly or somewhat trust family and friends on this issue.  Currently, 74% say they rarely or never talk about climate change.  This is the denialists' second greatest victory (after buying the Republican party and its obstructionists), for clearly people aren't anxious to get into what they fear will be violent arguments.  In 2008 that number was lower, at 60%.

What will reverse that? President Obama will do his part, as Pope Francis and the UN Secretary General visit in September, and the climate crisis is sure to be talked about.

But it will likely take friends and family as well, although it might start with more controversy than calm. Nobody wanted to talk about the Vietnam war or the draft in the 1960s, until their children demanded it by making a lot of noise.  Climate organizations are making their demonstration plans, so there will more noise made in this next 100 days.  To save the world.

Friday, August 21, 2015

El Nino v. The Blob: The Latest

In this year's most important grudge match, El Nino v. the Blob, oddsmakers are swinging behind the big hot baby boy of the Pacific, big time.

The latest NOAA outlook forecasts the biggest El Nino since the first weigh-in way back when.  And for this neck of the woods, they say it means the Blob will fall, and we'll get that rain.  So will the high Sierras:

The northern reaches of bone-dry California will get some drought relief this winter, federal climate experts predicted Thursday — the first time forecasters have suggested that the much-hyped El Niño could send storms to the part of the state where they’re needed most.

Optimism for a drought-dampening winter have grown along with measurements of the strength of El Niño. Although there are no guarantees, in general, moderate El Niños boost the chances of wet winters in Southern California while more robust El Niños improve the odds of soaking storms in the north — where mountain runoff supplies the majority of California’s water supply.

 The Blob is already down, though not yet for the count:

The good news is that the weather conditions in the western Pacific tropics that are thought to have created the menacing mass of high pressure have already changed, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, to reporters last week. Halpert says he expects El Niño to assert itself, and the ridge of high pressure to fade away.

The eastern US can expect a milder and wetter winter, which might mean some big snows as well as ice-storms, sleet and rain.

But it's still August, and the fires are still burning, and Humboldt County has declared a health emergency because of the smoke.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Salmon and Trees: Drought Beyond the Cities

Another aspect of the California drought that is getting particular attention on the North Coast as well as further up the Northwest is the effect on salmon.  Combined with other factors, the low flow in rivers and the hot ocean near shore are endangering salmon runs.  Die-offs in Washington state have already happened, and a repeat of the massive die-off in the lower Klamath in 2002 is feared here.

Local tribes are agitating for the release of more water to cool down the rivers and streams where the salmon are now going to spawn.  Humboldt member of Congress Jared Huffman wrote to the Dept. of Interior urging such releases.

Coincidentally, on August 30 HSU is hosting a staged reading of a 2006 play created here that concerns the effects of that 2002 salmon die-off.  Salmon Is Everything is also the title of a book that includes the play's text and essays about the issues and the process of creating the play, particularly the relationship with tribal communities.   It will be the 2015-16 HSU Book of the Year. The play places particular emphasis on the cultural impact of salmon, a connection maintained by indigenous communities for thousands of years.

More broadly, the drought is creating crisis conditions for wildlife throughout California, and if the drought continues a new study warns that things could get really bad:

A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California non-profit think-tank paints that distressing picture of California for the next two years if the state’s driest four years on record stretches further into the future.

Written by water and watershed experts working at the policy center, at the University of California, Davis, and elsewhere, the report urges California to do more now to deal with what researchers project to be the biggest drought crises of 2016 and 2017 — crashing wildlife populations, raging wildfires and more and more poor rural communities running out of water entirely.

So far the emphasis has been on big cities and big agriculture, the report says.  But beyond these obvious economic and population centers, the drought threatens the basic ecological infrastructure, as well as people who live in small places within or closer to our forests and rivers.  And ocean, but that's another (sore) subject.

Forest fires continue, and another 3 firefighters lost their lives in Washington.  A National Geographic article describes how they are changing western forests. Another study finds our northern forests are particularly threatened by the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, the speculation over the super-El Nino continues, but nobody believes that even if it brings substantial rain to the state, that this will compensate for the drought, or even break its back.  Even as El Nino builds in strength, the countervailing "Blob" of warm coastal waters remains, and could offset greatly the expectation of even normal rains up here on the North Coast (and the Northwest generally.)  This could also mean the snows will not return to the high Sierras in sufficient quantity to add significantly to the urban water supplies south.

Quantifying the Obvious

July was the hottest month ever recorded worldwide, and 2015 is extremely likely to be the hottest year.  At least until next year.

A longitudinal study confirms that climate change is making the California drought worse.  Based on historical records, 8% to 27% worse, according to Reuters. The NY Times says 15%-20%.  Whatever.  Worse.  And the next one will be worse still.  And not necessarily because of less rainfall, but faster evaporation from higher temps.  What role if any that climate crisis plays in this period of less rain is apparently still a matter of conjecture.

The study itself gets good reviews, according to the Times:

The paper on the California drought echoes a growing body of research that has cited the effects of human emissions, but scientists not involved in the work described it as more thorough than any previous effort because it analyzed nearly every possible combination of data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and other factors that could be influencing the severity of the drought. The research, said David B. Lobell, a Stanford University climate scientist, is “probably the best I’ve seen on this question.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

West in Fire (Updated)

Late Monday night, under a thin haze that permitted a few stars to be visible, the smell of burning wood was so pronounced that I took a walk in the silent neighborhood to make sure nothing very near was burning.

Tuesday, which was uniformly an eerie yellow-gray overcast, ash fragments had reappeared on cars in the street.  There was a small local fire, weeds and grasses in the Manilla dunes, but the smoke in our air more likely is from the forest fires to our northeast and south.  Another 1200 acres burned last night in the Mad River Complex of fires, and 900 more acres burned in the Gasquet Complex of fires, among the fires to the northeast.  About 5000 acres were involved in 7 fires in southern Humboldt that are now pretty much contained.

On Wednesday, NASA satellite imagery confirmed our smoky skies.  Other fires contributing are believed to be several complexes in Trinity National Forest and the Nickowitz Wildfire.

People are talking (or so I've heard) about the psychological effects of the fires even here, where the evidence is evident, but the actual fires are fairly far away. This is a place in love with trees, and put that together with the reminder of dangerous changes, there may very well be aimless anxiety, background depression, unspoken grief.

Western forests, as far north as Alaska, are burning this summer.  One in Idaho reveals something called a firenado. 

Enough of the forest gone and one of the pernicious feedback effects, one of the vicious cycles of the climate crisis engages.  Trees breathe and store carbon out of the pollution causing the greenhouse effect.  But the climate crisis that feeds on excessive carbon and promotes drought, makes the trees vulnerable to fire.  The fire destroys the trees, releasing carbon immediately, and their long-term absence means that less carbon is routinely taken out of the air, which means that more carbon stays in the atmosphere to intensify the climate crisis greenhouse effect. Which intensifies drought and lightning storms, which create more fires, which destroy more trees and releases and leaves more carbon. So when the smoke clears, the heat increases.  If the forests can't keep up, it keeps getting worse all by itself.

Other effects on forests of these megafires are described in a National Geographic article.

Even without fire, climate crisis-fueled drought is killing California forests, and even trees in settled areas, due to water restrictions.

It's not a lot of fun saying that out loud.  But silence feeds denial, and while some denial gets you through the day, it may not get you through the night.

...On the following night, Tuesday, the clouded sky glowed red.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Style Point

It's hardly the worst problem in America, but it's indicative: the generally dispiriting way people dress these days, with no sense of occasion or respect for anything (including themselves) and above all, no sense of style.

Well, a sense of style always was rare.  It's possible to have it, even now, and even in casual circumstances.  Our President sticks to the dark suit uniform in the White House, but he chooses--and wears-- his casual clothes with a spiriting sense of style, as now on his current Cape Cod vacation.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Coda to 70 Years: The Unacknowledged Monster

Much of my writing this summer was centered on the 70th anniversary of the first--and so far, the last-- atomic bombings of human beings.  In addition to the two essays posted here, I wrote a long piece about the first Godzilla movie and the most recent, which was released last year, on the 60th anniversary of the first.  I caught up to it on DVD in June.  The original Japanese movie was called Gojira, and has essentially never been seen in the US except on DVD, not released until 2004.  That 1954 movie was a direct response to the radiation poisoning of Japanese fishermen from a US hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific.  I wrote on Gojira itself several years ago, and on the two films this summer at Soul of Star Trek.

These were not the first times I'd written on atomic bomb history, or the larger question of bombing of cities.  Several of my previous pieces on these subjects were published in the San Francisco Chronicle, but there were no takers anywhere for the two pieces posted here last week.

By coincidence, I ran across A Zen Life, a video about D.T. Suzuki, renowned for introducing Zen to America and the West in general, beginning before the first World War, gaining traction in the 1950s with the Beat Generation and then in the 1960s. Towards the end of the video were images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with Suzuki's words about the apparent efforts of some humans to eradicate their species and much of life on earth--a theme of course that led both of my posts here, though they were written before I saw this video.

In printed material accompanying the video (borrowed from the library), Suzuki had more words to say about the morality of bombing in general.  Soldiers consent to their participation in violent battle, he said, and they accept that they might be killed.  But bombing of women and children in cities is a morally different act.

This extended my thinking again about the issues raised in these 70th anniversary pieces.  We are reluctant to face nuclear realities (or ecological threats), but it strikes me as remarkable that the morality of bombing is never an issue, never a question.

One of my Chronicle essays was prompted by the well publicized likelihood that the US was going to begin its invasion of Iraq with extensive bombing of Baghdad. My piece introduced the concept of Shock & Awe, which I picked out of a CBS News report.  This was happening as I was reading a new book called A History of Bombing.  It's a fascinating if overlooked book that raises such questions.

My piece went on to say:

There are various strategic arguments for bombing campaigns that dovetail with apparent moral concerns, usually involving shortening a war's duration or substituting for ground assaults, thus saving lives, especially the lives of the side doing the bombing.

When facing the possibility that this war would unleash chemical, biological or nuclear weapons that have been largely absent from warfare for decades due to international taboos of one kind or another, it may seem quixotic to argue that bombing of civilian populations should be regarded as an evil in itself, and beyond the pale for nations that desire any sort of international relations. But it seems morally obtuse that there is a stronger taboo against assassinating a declared enemy's head of a state than against slaughtering babies in their beds. Surely bombing should be a last resort, not the first.


All of this brought me back to Gojira.  When Americans took the monster footage, eliminated much of the Japanese story and especially most references to the Bomb and added Raymond Burr as the American star, the movie that resulted (called Godzilla: King of the Monsters) became a US and international sensation.  Toho, the studio that made Gojira, then made a series of Godzilla and other more or less science fiction movies for an international audience.  Susan Sontag wrote about them in her generative 1950s essay, "The Imagination of Disaster."  Many of these films involved wholesale destruction of a big city--New York, London or especially Tokyo.

Movies are about other movies, and a lot of other things, but Gojira was the most intensively about the Bomb.  Godzilla was a creature awakened and strengthened by Bomb testing in the Pacific, and he came ashore to stomp and destroy and eventually to breathe radioactive fire on Tokyo.  Godzilla was the Bomb, and the battle of conscience that a scientist had whether or not to use against him the immense destruction of a weapon he'd accidentally devised was the crisis of conscience that the atomic scientists should have had.  (Some did, but mostly after the fact.)

But it hit me more forcefully after reading that Suzuki comment that Godzilla's attack on Tokyo was a reenactment of the actual destruction of Tokyo by American bombs, none of them nuclear, but with sheer numbers and incendiary power.  It is visually inescapable, and there is a moment that the script hints at the equivalence--when a young mother huddles in a doorway with her arms around her small children as Godzilla rampages towards them, and she tells her children that they will soon be joining their father.  A lot of fathers were lost in the war.

from Gojira
Because the only word sufficient to characterize humans bombing each other on this scale is monstrous.  And so Godzilla is the monster of bombing.  The bombing of Tokyo and Dresden and of London, and later of Vietnam and Iraq, as well as of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Godzilla, like King Kong, also had the personality that made him lovable, and in later movies he became a kind of hero (as reflected in the otherwise despicable Godzilla of 2014.)  It has been argued that the Japanese moved quickly from mourning to a kind of repression and willed numbness, as reflected in the cuteifcation of their popular culture.  But in the Gojira moment, less than a decade after Hiroshima, the monstrousness of modern warfare was at least metaphorically expressed.

To further tie together the themes of this 70th anniversary, movies about monsters who are resurrected and augmented forces of nature are usually brought to life by some human act.  The Jurassic Park monsters are about scientists playing God with genes, for instance.  The theme of science creating monsters is as old as Dr. Frankenstein.  But these days such movies more clearly attempt to exorcise through entertainment the unacknowledged yet increasingly felt fact that the monsters turn out to be us.

How do we defeat this monster?  The movies tell us this as well: by recognizing the nature, power and effects of the monster.  Then applying courage and ingenuity to defend what the monster would destroy.  Even if we are the monster, we can also be the heroes.

 The monster is vanquished, at least for awhile--driven to the hidden depths.  The sequels suggest we don't learn much--the monster's return always surprises people, who often don't recognize it if it has changed at all.  So the tasks begin again.

People in these movies often deny the monster exists until it is almost too late.  But eventually they see the reality, and they depend on those who saw it earlier and are ready.  Some may panic, but heroes emerge, however humble many of them are.    

Sunday, August 09, 2015

70 Years After Nagasaki, A World of Falling Skies

August 6, 1945 was the most important date in “the history and prehistory of the human race,” wrote author Arthur Koestler, because with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, humanity for the first time faced the prospect of its own extinction.

The Bomb brought the concept of humanity causing its own extinction into consciousness. Among others, Norman Cousins wrote about it in the 40s, Susan Sontag in the 50s before Koestler emphasized its importance in the late 70s.  But it turns out that before Hiroshima, and before Nagasaki (with its 70th anniversary today) human civilization had been creating the conditions that might yet lead inexorably to its extinction, and has continued to do so, even as we are becoming conscious of it.

Though the nuclear threat is not entirely over, 70 years later there are warnings of extinction with a different cause: human impact on the biosphere. A study released this summer suggested that a cascading mass extinction driven by habitat loss, exploitation and climate change could begin threatening humanity in three generations. Co-author Geraldo Ceballos warned that “if it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

I was born during the first postwar atomic bomb tests in 1946. As have many others, I’ve lived with the specter of the Bomb all my life, amidst all the contradictory responses: alarm, denial, distracted indifference, inconsolable terror and even apocalyptic glee, and perhaps most of all, helpless numb despair. We see such responses to climate change today.

But there are differences. A nuclear exchange threatens an immediate catastrophic change, from normal life to instant annihilation. Environmentally-caused extinction would likely come at the end of a long process that’s already begun, with increasingly obvious consequences along the way.

Some changes are here and more are coming, because of what has already been set in motion. This presents new challenges, and like the advent of the Bomb, it requires new ways of thinking.

Among the places NPR commentator and author Craig Childs visited for his book Apocalyptic Planet was a research station in Greenland, where climate expert Koni Steffans would brief government officials and others seeking the latest information on global climate change. "What he tells people who visit is not that the sky is falling but that we live in a world of falling skies,” Childs writes, “and it is best not only to know your options but to make moves ensuring the worst does not happen."

In a world of falling skies, humanity will necessarily confront the effects of climate change (droughts, heat, droughts, storms, rising sea levels, food and water shortages, health problems etc.) that will continue for decades because of past actions.

Yet it will also be necessary to simultaneously and relentlessly attack the causes of climate change (principally greenhouse gas pollution) in every way possible to prevent the worst from happening in the far future. Keeping that cause and effect relationship in mind in a worsening time may be difficult but essential. It is the work of generations.

Living under the nuclear sword influenced how several generations viewed life in the present, as well as their attitudes about the future. At our best, we learned to identify and cherish the soul of this moment, while finding meaning in working for a better future.

“People have to have hope,” a conservationist told science writer Elizabeth Kolbert for her book, The Sixth Extinction. “It’s what keeps us going.” In the end, as the nuclear age may have taught us, hope is not just a feeling or attitude. It’s a commitment. It isn’t principally what you have. It’s what you do.

For even though we may have lucked and blundered our way through the nuclear threat so far, there were also 70 years of soul-searching and debate, research and imaginative inquiry, political and institutional action and change brought to bear in order to thwart the demise of the world. That counted for something.

There were people who confronted the world made by those days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki not simply out of fear but with a sense of responsibility. If we’re the species that realizes it may be causing extinction, we must be the species that does its best to prevent it.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

North Coast Week

Saturday was brilliantly clear with wisps of white clouds floating in a deep blue. Strong but warm winds were blowing in from the sea.  The ocean was dark at Little River State Beach.

But the days before were a different story.  On Wednesday I think it was, the setting sun was a suspended red ball with no radiance, and dim enough to look at directly.  That night in the wee hours, the quarter moon was orange.  Thursday was gray but at night the clouds had a light orange cast.  These were effects of the fires burning to our northeast.

Earlier in the week, cars were coated with ash from the sky.  Word went around that the ash contained fire-supressing chemicals and would damage the finish.  Car washes had customers lined up, with one place reporting several hundred cars in one day.

There are still many fires burning, with none even close to half contained.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

70 Years After Hiroshima: Nuclear Threat Is Not Over

“If I were asked to name the most important date in the history and prehistory of the human race,” wrote author Arthur Koestler in the 1978 prologue to his final book, Janus: A Summing Up, “I would answer without hesitation, 6 August 1945.”

Before then, each person lived with the prospect of individual death, he explained. But “since the day when the first atomic bomb outshone the sun over Hiroshima, mankind as a whole has had to live with the prospect of its extinction as a species.”

Seventy years later, the danger of instant eradication in a global nuclear war seems past, and we are becoming more conscious of ecological threats to long-term human survival. But the nuclear threat is not over, nor is it confined to the possibility of isolated terrorist attacks. The threat of human extinction that begins with a nuclear exchange may still exist.

Hiroshima
While most attention has focused on the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon in the near future, some 15,700 nuclear bombs are in the hands of 9 other countries right now, including some 5,000 weapons in active deployment.

All 9 countries with nuclear bombs are either expanding their arsenals, building new delivery systems or modernizing old weapons and systems.

Though the U.S. and Russia have reduced the number of weapons from Cold War levels, together they maintain about 1800 missiles carrying thermonuclear bombs on hair-trigger alert, ready to fire within minutes and therefore most susceptible to momentary miscalculation and accident.

Nagasaki
Those of us who lived through the Cold War could read and see films about how powerful each one of these bombs can be: vaporizing every living thing for miles, igniting firestorms and spreading radiation for hundreds of miles or more, killing and maiming for years, with documented cases of genetic deformities in the next generation.

These terminal dangers were embedded in popular culture for decades. But as memories of Hiroshima and the Cold War recede, so apparently does awareness of the nature and danger of nuclear weapons.

The US has ten times the number of nuclear weapons that US citizens believe there are, according to polls.  A survey of members of Congress revealed that almost none of them knew how many nuclear weapons are in the US arsenal.  But the US is not the exception--several studies show that knowledge about nuclear weapons today is low.

Hiroshima
In popular culture today, nuclear war has been reduced to the bright explosions and apocalyptic fantasies of video games, including the latest version of Fallout Shelter. “Simulate a beautiful nuclear war right in your browser,” says the headline of a recent Popular Mechanics post.

More worrisome are movies and TV dramas that treat nuclear bombs like conventional explosions, only a bit bigger and more colorful. For example, in the 2014 Hollywood remake of Godzilla, a nuclear bomb many times more powerful than the Hiroshima device was detonated on the water apparently within view of the San Francisco shoreline without damage to the city or its people. Not even a wave.

This is an irony worthy of Doctor Strangelove, since the original Japanese Godzilla movie was a response to the radiation dangers of hydrogen bomb tests in 1954, directed by a man who had seen Hiroshima shortly after its atomic destruction.

To misconstrue the true nature and difference of nuclear weapons could lead to horrific mistakes. The Physicians for Social Responsibility calculated that a relatively small nuclear “bunker buster” attack on Iran would result in 3 million deaths within 48 hours, and expose some 35 million to radiation. Radioactive fallout would reach into Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.  Radiation killed almost twice as many people in Hiroshima over the following five years than died on August 6, 1945.

Nagasaki
But even without radiation as a factor, research conducted a few years ago found that a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan (for instance) could lead to global famine within a few years, due to ozone layer damage caused by massive urban firestorms. If that study is correct, it’s another reason that a larger nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia could still lead to human extinction.

In particular, the danger of instant nuclear annihilation remains because of those missiles on hair-trigger alert, especially with tension between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine and other matters, and both sides talking about nuclear options.

George W. Bush and Barack Obama are among the many leaders who have advocated an end to hair-trigger status. President Obama has the authority to take at least the 450 land-based ICBMs off hair-trigger. If Russian President Putin is serious about recent conciliatory statements, he could match that action. The 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb would be a powerful moment to do so.

Also of interest: The Washington Post has an article about the effects of a Hiroshima-sized atomic bomb on American cities, including links to Internet sites that provide impact maps for other cities.  Also several other of my essays on the subject, including on the 60th and 65th anniversaries of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Also: This NY Times story on how a new generation is being enlisted in remembering the oral history of Hiroshima from the last survivors.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Nuclear Treaties

President Obama went to American University today to lay out the common sense case for the international treaty with Iran that prevents that country from developing a nuclear weapon. He rightly points out that the people who are reflexively opposing the treaty are basically the same people who promoted the catastrophic Iraq war, for the same bogus reasons. Here's the transcript.

He also invoked President Kennedy's historic address at this same university that proposed the nuclear test ban treaty.  In the heat of the Cold War, Kennedy broke through the hypnotic cliches of the time with the heretical view that the nuclear arms race was insane, and it should be slowed and stopped.  The limited test ban was negotiated and passed within months.  Here is my 2003 evocation of that speech, published in the San Francisco Chronicle on its unheralded 40th anniversary.  It was equally unheralded on its 50th, yet it is one of the most important speeches in the history of the world.

This week also marks the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb to be dropped on human beings, at Hiroshima.   Also over at Kowincidence, I've just posted a 2006 piece that appeared at Daily Kos and a number of community blogs at the time, about the slipping awareness of the nuclear realities.  This also involves Iran, because at the time the Bush administration was making noises about attacking suspected underground sites in Iran with nuclear "bunker-buster" bombs.

Later I'll be posting two new essays here marking the 70th anniversary.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Climate Now



Update: From the Guardian: "Hundreds of businesses including eBay, Nestle and General Mills have issued their support for Barack Obama’s clean power plan, billed as the strongest action ever on climate change by a US president."
The White House issued the President's official statement and a checklist of provisions.

With the updated and strengthened carbon pollution rules for power plants that are to be officially announced today, President Obama is reportedly beginning a series of events and actions focused on the climate crisis.  It won't be the first time he's done so, but this is likely to be part of a shared focus on the climate crisis that will build to December, when nations gather to work out a common response.

Messages of urgency and seriousness of the challenge have alreadt been coming more frequently over the past few months,  Pope Francis issued a papal encyclical that among other topics and recommendations, called for strong action to address the climate crisis, as a moral imperative.  Leaders of other denominations added their voices.  Regional leaders pressured climate negotiators to get something done.

Organizations big and small issued notably forthright statements based on studies.  The London School of Economics concluded that the benefits of addressing the climate crisis now far outweigh the costs. The EPA issued a report detailing how the climate crisis is the preeminent issue of our time.  A coalition of scientific groups in the UK called upon that government to act on the climate crisis as a priority. Yet another Pentagon report detailed security threats likely to ensue as the climate crisis continues. A UK report on security said that the climate crisis is as great a threat as nuclear war.

But perhaps the greatest change is that the climate crisis is emerging as a decisive political issue, and the denialists are increasingly on the wrong side of history as well as of science and morality.  In much of the world, a Pew poll found, the climate crisis is seen as the most important threat.  But it is in the United States where the issue is gaining political importance.

Right now, the Democratic party candidates for President are vying with one another to be the strongest on the climate crisis.  Hillary Clinton made a major speech with large-scale specific proposals.  Martin O'Malley has made the climate crisis one of his chief issues, and Senator Berne Sanders said that the climate crisis is the greatest threat facing Earth.

Their stance is supported by recent polls on topics of concern, including this one (cited in the Clinton story linked above):

A January poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future found that two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.

“This issue now polls better than any other issue for Democrats,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former top climate change official in the Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, Republicans running for their presidential nomination compete with each other to please their fossil fuel billionaire backers.  The most "progressive" of their candidates will say the climate crisis is exaggerated, while others call it a hoax, and Senator Tail Gunner Ted accuses the world's climate scientists of being liars.

The difference between the parties on the climate crisis is complete.  Afraid that reality will continue to intrude on their political money-maker of denial,
 Congressional Republicans cut funds for NASA research on the entire planet Earth.  This money funds weather forecasting, among other unneeded activities.
The bill may yet face a veto.

It is fruitless to despair that Republicans won't face the reality of the climate crisis.  As Kim Stanley Robinson says, in a democracy it isn't necessary to obtain consensus.  We need 51% of voters to elect a House Democratic majority and a 60 seat Senate majority along with a Democratic President.  It's not easy, but it's pretty simple.  Give the planet a chance.  Vote Democrat.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Roosevelt & Hopkins: An Artist of Government

This set of excerpts from Roosevelt & Hopkins is for Mike--happy birthday!

These excerpts bear upon questions of presidential leadership.  The creative aspect of FDR's presidency is emphasized.  Unlike the norm today, FDR actually thought up important policies, together with how to couch them to appeal to political allies while disarming opponents, and especially how and when to present them for public approval.

Sometimes they didn't work, like the so-called packing of the Supreme Court.  But sometimes they were acts of genius that did work, like Lend- Lease, that allowed the US to help the UK and other allies fight off Hitler, even before America entered the war.

Here's author Robert Sherwood in the early pages of Roosevelt & Hopkins (with different paragraph breaks):

While preparing this book I interviewed Harold Smith, who was Director of the Budget from 1939 to 1946. Smith was a modest, methodical, precise man, temperamentally far removed from Roosevelt and Hopkins. But I know of no one whose judgment and integrity and downright common sense the President trusted more completely. 


In the course of a long conversation, Smith said to me, ‘ A few months ago, on the first anniversary of Roosevelt’s death, a magazine asked me to write an article on Roosevelt as an administrator. I thought it over and decided I was not ready to make such an appraisal. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. 

 When I worked with Roosevelt—for six years—I thought as did many others that he was a very erratic administrator. But now, when I look back, I can really begin to see the size of his programs. They were by far the largest and most complex programs that any President ever put through. 

 People like me who had the responsibility of watching the pennies could only see the fix or six or seven per cent of the programs that went wrong, through inefficient organization or direction. But now I can see in perspective, the ninety-three or –four or –five per cent that went right—including the winning of the biggest war in history—because of unbelievably skillful organization and direction.

 And if I were to write that article now, I think I’d say that Roosevelt must have been on of the greatest geniuses as an administrator that ever lived. What we couldn’t appreciate at the time was the fact that he was a real artist in government.’

That word ‘artist’ was happily chosen, for it suggests the quality of Roosevelt’s extraordinary creative imagination. I think that he would have resented the application of the word as implying that he was an impractical dreamer; he loved to represent himself as a prestidigitator who could amaze and amuse the audience by ‘pulling another rabbit out of a hat.’ But he was an artist and no canvas was too big for him.


He was also, of course, a master politician, and most artists are certainly not that; but, by the same token, you rarely find a professional politician who would make the mistake of being caught in the act of creating an original idea. The combination of the two qualities in Roosevelt can be demonstrated by the fact that it required a soaring imaginator to conceive Lend Lease and it required the shrewdest kind of manipulation to get it passed by the Congress.


It was often said by businessmen during the Roosevelt Administration that “What we need in the White House is a good businessman.” But in the years of the Second World War there were a great many patriotic, public-spirited businessmen who went to Washington to render important service to their country and they learned that government is a weird world bearing little resemblance to anything they had previously known...

The more analytical of these businessmen came to the conclusion that it was no accident that not one of the great or even above-average Presidents in American history had been trained in business.”