Choose to be united and protest without having to be divided and self–righteous

lovecompassion_dalailamaobamahug


The other day a Seattle resident struck up a conversation with me at the lounge of our building. She was knitting by the sofa near the T.V. and had switched the channel to Fox News. Then she started talking about giving President-elect “a chance”, and wondered why “liberals” were being uncooperative and mean to him. Instinctively, I judged her political views and tried to avoid discussing the upcoming demonstrations in Seattle. I felt like leaving without being rude. Instead I whispered to myself “Don’t judge”, and told her there is blame to be shared on both sides. Though I tend to be politically progressive, I do not have much respect for Democrats, as a whole, and what they have done to the party. Frankly, both parties suck. It’s just that one party sucks more than the other.

We discussed how politically correct many people are around here, and we talked about the “Seattle Freeze”—it really does exist! We lamented how much easier it was to strike up a conversation in the neighborhoods where we grew up. Our conversation moved to where we are from (most Seattleites are transplants from another state). She is from the Southeast; I am from the Northeast. She lost her life-long partner to Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her husband had a heart condition so he could not receive the full blast of chemotherapy and radiation. Eventually, he achieved remission and improved his health, only to suffer the unforgiving cruelty of relapse (the cancer came back with a vengeance). I moved to the Pacific Northwest and started anew after battling concurrent types of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was deemed “cancer free” four years ago having endured 10 rounds of what my body and brain could handle from an intense and full complement of I.V. chemo and intrathecal injections (chemo administered into the Central Nervous System).

It was a candid and thoughtful conversation. At some point I discussed the situation with my parents: neither of them has it made in the shade. My mom is a three-time cancer survivor with multiple health issues, and she is working full-time. My dad has advanced Alzheimer’s disease and signs of Parkinson’s disease: he can barely utter words (let alone sentences); he cannot walk or hold things, and he needs to be spoon-fed puréed food. He is also incontinent. At some point I mentioned that I would rather go through the hellish regimen of high-dose chemo again than to see my father suffer such a precipitous decline. Suddenly, the weight of emotions got to me. I stood there speechless with my head tilted downward–my heart was overwhelmed with compassion for my parents. She came over and gave me the sweetest, caring hug.

There will be protests, revolts and boycotts. People will express utter disapproval of the President-elect, his Cabinet nominees; and voice disappointment in our city and state representatives: both Democrats and Republicans. And there are valid reasons to do so! It is important to acknowledge how strong we are as individuals and as a movement. But don’t forget the underlying fragility that makes us so vulnerable and lovable, no matter what our ego attempts to project. Every person has suffered some form of loss in their lives. We can choose to be united and protest without having to be divided and self–righteous. If we are open-minded and compassionate, we can find something in common with one another.

Justin Trudeau: The good, the Bad and the Ugly

justin-trudeau-vs-rona-ambrose_05-03-16

Screenshot of PM Justin Trudeau confidently seated upon responding to Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose’s accusation on Liberal’s “reckless spending” during Parliamentary debate on May 3, 2016.


Liberalism in Canadian politics is not the same as liberalism in U.S. politics.  The Liberal Party in Canada, founded in 1867, has historically taken a more centrist approach to governing. The New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1961, represents a more left-wing ideology similar to liberal-minded American politicians. The Right-wing of Canadian politics is represented by the Conservative Party (a.k.a. Tories), which has taken various names with common agendas since 1942.

At the conclusion of the federal elections last October, Canadian Conservative leader, Stephen Harper (who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2015) conceded to the victorious Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau. As a result the slightly left of center Liberal Party earned more seats in Parliament. Immediately following the election, U.S. media began a budding love affair with Trudeau as the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada.

Based on the outcome of the 2015 elections, the Liberal Party currently holds a majority of parliamentary seats in the House of Commons (182 out of 338). Liberals secured 21 out of 105 seats in the upper house of Canada’s parliamentary Senate. The Conservative Party now holds 97 seats in the House of Commons, and 41 Senate seats. The New Democratic Party has just 44 seats in the House of Commons and no seats in the Senate. This gives you an idea of where Canada, as a whole, stands in terms of political views and policies: while the centrist Liberals gain more footing in Parliament, the true left of center NDP appears to be losing the fervor and influence of its constituency.

Prior to Trudeau’s win, The Canadian Progressive had warned of his character and moral shortcomings. Trudeau’s truancy with respect to voting and his lack of support on progressive issues were outlined in this article. On the day of the inauguration, Trudeau introduced his Cabinet consisting of 15 men and 15 women–the first gender equal team appointed by a prime minister: “Because it’s 2015.” However, during the summer Olympics he referred to the Canadian women athletes enthusiastically as “girls“. It was not meant to belittle the female Olympians, but it was still a subtle perpetuation of sexism. His seemingly patronizing ‘get to know me’ fundraiser in 2013, intended for women to get to know the Liberty Party leader at “Justin Unplugged” for $250 per person. Many Tories and NDP members criticized the venue as a sexist ploy. Liberals who backed the event claimed it was a unique way of reaching out to female voters; something their opponent’s leaders could not or would not do… and they were probably right. In May, his careless elbow to the chest of Parliament member, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, during a heated exchange in the House of Commons, coupled with ‘ladies night’ invitation in 2013 did not help his image as a self-proclaimed “feminist“. Notwithstanding Trudeau’s gender-even Cabinet, other arguments have been made regarding his perception as a feminist versus what his broader recorder shows in this article.

Justin Trudeau has been outspoken about zero tolerance for violence against women. While the Liberal leader has spoken strongly about guarding women from abuse, he has subtly correlated domestic violence with racism. A month before Trudeau was elected, he made racist inferences in an interview on Up For Debate linking the ills of misogyny, pornography and the lack of father figures to “certain types of music” which Desmond Cole, Toronto journalist, questioned as “a very careless nod to anti-black stereotypes.” Canada, like the United States, is not immune to the discriminatory plagues of white male privilege, sexism and racism.

One can argue the ailments of the aforementioned elitism and prejudices are not as prevalent in Canada as they are in the United States. For example, with regards to gender equality: prior to the U.S. elections in November, there were 20 women serving in the U.S. Senate: out of 100, or 20.0%. And there were 84 female members in the House of Representatives: out of 435, or 19.3%. In comparison, there are 43 women serving in Canada’s Senate: out of 102, or 42.2% (minus three vacancies).  And there are 88 female members in the House of Commons: out of 335, or 26.3% (minus three vacancies). On the other hand, Canada is ranked 30th in the world based on the gender gap report in 2015 issued by the World Economic Forum. United States did not score much better, finishing 28th. Canada still has much fewer women than men represented in Parliamentary standing committees. It is also worth noting, during the 2015 elections, NDP had the highest percentage of women running in their party (43%). Liberals had fewer than one in three women (31%), and the Conservatives had less than one of five (19%). Bottom line: neither the U.S. or Canada are close to achieving gender equality.

Actions speak louder than words… On the concerns regarding land and water conservation, Trudeau had vowed to “protect the environment”. Yet his apparent assurance to environmentalists and Canadian’s First Nations people gave way to a steadfast determination to dig up Alberta tar sands and support major pipeline projects, which will further undermine Canada’s fragile ecosystem. And it validates the concerns raised by The Canadian Progressive in October 2015. Precious Canadian wildlife is in peril, and it is dwindling, in large part, due to a proportionally greater impact from climate change north of the Arctic Circle (66.5°N to 90.0°N). Canada’s previous Prime Ministers and Parliament have done their part in contributing to the acceleration of climate change. After one year in office, Trudeau has shown to be no different in neglecting the environment he had promised to preserve.


References

https://thinkprogress.org/canadas-climate-commitments-in-jeopardy-as-trudeau-approves-two-major-pipeline-projects-4000459ddd2f#.9zb6rugws (November 28, 2016)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/04/canada_s_justin_trudeau_s_gender_equal_cabinet_because_it_s_2015.html (November 5, 2016)

http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/is-justin-trudeau-a-fake-feminist/ (September 8, 2016)

http://www.ctvnews.ca/sports/trudeau-calling-female-olympians-girls-highlights-broader-problem-in-sports-1.3032880 (August 17, 2016)

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/economy/how-the-trudeau-government-tore-up-the-rulebook-on-pipelines/ (July 21, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-tracker-water-protection-promises-1.3656960 (June 28, 2016)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/17/justin-trudeau-feminist-twitter-explodes (March 16, 2016)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-conservative-whip-1.3588407 (May 18, 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1A-XyHdRJ4 (May 7, 2016)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/04/canada_s_justin_trudeau_s_gender_equal_cabinet_because_it_s_2015.html (November 4, 2015)

http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/lists/PartyStandings.aspx?Menu=HOC-Representation&Section=03d93c58-f843-49b3-9653-84275c23f3fb (as of October 24, 2015)

https://newrepublic.com/article/123186/why-canadas-liberal-party-so-dominant (October 22, 2015)

http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2015/10/19/a-canadian-progressives-case-against-justin-trudeau-becoming-canadas-next-prime-minister/ (October 19, 2015)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-makes-careless-nod-to-anti-black-stereotypes-says-toronto-journalist-1.3238441 (September 22, 2015)

http://www.macleans.ca/authors/emma-teitel/the-problem-with-justin-trudeaus-ladies-night/ (November 8, 2013)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-s-ladies-night-denounced-by-tories-ndp-1.2418703 (November 7, 2013)

http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/rankings/

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/prime-minister/

http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2015

Size Matters: Electoral Votes vs. Population

2016-electoral-college-projections_cartogram

2016-presidential-election-projections_map

There has been no shortage of complaints and comparisons regarding the electoral college since the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Based on the tally of individual votes, Donald Trump took 30 states totaling 306 electoral votes–more than the 270 needed out of 538. Hillary Clinton won 20 states plus the District of Columbia earning 232 electoral votes. An argument for wanting to get rid of the electoral college is the disproportionate representation of electoral votes from larger states versus smaller states in relation to population. But how much of a difference is it when you look  at the U.S. map? Refer to the two maps below for a comparative illustration between population-sized states and electoral-sized states (states won by Trump are represented in red; states won by Clinton are represented in blue). Overall, there is not much difference.

2016-presidential-election-distorted-by-pop_map

2016-presidential-election-distorted-by-ev_map

Based on 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data, California is the most populated state with approximately 39.1 million people. Wyoming is the least populated state with an estimate of 586,000 people. Consequently, California has the most Congressional districts (U.S. Representatives) plus two U.S. Senators giving it 55 electoral votes. Wyoming has the minimum number of electoral votes with three: one U.S. Representative; two U.S. Senators. If the total of 538 electoral votes were adjusted to population per state, California would get 65.5 (10.5 more votes than represented in the electoral college); and Wyoming would get 1.0 (2.0 less votes than represented in the electoral college).

Montana has almost twice as many residents as Wyoming, yet it has the same minimum number of three electoral votes. Washington state has approximately 7.2 million people with 12 electoral votes. This means each electoral vote counts for 597,500 residents in the state. If the electoral votes in the ‘Evergreen State’ is adjusted to population, it would still calculate to 12.0 electoral votes. However, Wyoming gets over three times more weighting per electoral vote than Washington, because each vote from the ‘Cowboy State’ accounts for one in every 195,369 residents. The aforementioned figures are pulled from 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. The KUOW graphic below is based on 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data. It’s close enough to illustrate the point.

electoral-votes-to-pop_wa-vs-wy

Had this presidential race been decided by popular vote, Clinton would have won by a margin of at least 1.5%, having gained two million plus more votes (64.6 million) than Trump (62.4 million). If the race was to be determined by electoral votes proportional to population, Trump’s lead would not be much different at 303.6 to 234.4. Clinton would still need to win the closely contested swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which she narrowly lost. Hence, the slightly disproportionate electoral votes compared to population by state did not effect the outcome of the presidential race. This is not surprising given the similarities between the two maps shown above, distorting U.S. states by population and by electoral votes. The ultimate question for future presidential elections is whether we move to abolish the electoral college without doing away with Congressional districts. Congress should also do away with gerrymandering.

2016-presidential-election-results_11-25-16

 


References

http://www.businessinsider.com/2016-election-results-maps-population-adjusted-cartogram-2016-11 (November 16, 2016)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_(United_States)

Climate Change and Extreme Weather Go Together

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Screenshot: Weather Channel report on November 17, 2016 titled ‘Bizarre Temperatures: North Pole Rises Above Freezing While Parts of Russia Plunge Below -40 Degrees’. Information and arrows added in red for perspective on time and location.


A recent article from Washington Post focused on relatively “super-hot” temperatures near the North Pole. The title read like a hyperbolic announcement: “The North Pole is an insane 36 degrees [in Fahrenheit] warmer than normal as winter descends”. Why not add a couple of exclamation points to emphasize the insanity? Mother Jones also covered the topic in an abbreviated elevator speech version with an equally dire headline: “The North Pole Is Now in a Death Spiral”. LiveScience took a more humorous angle with their title “Santa’s Sweltering: North Pole Soars 36 Degrees Above Normal”. There were other posts covering the same anomaly in the North Pole. The temperature anomaly does not appear to be an exaggeration based on the data graphic WaPo and other sites used, courtesy of Climate Change Institute in partnership with the University of Maine. The global illustration of temperature deviation from normal, generated from Climate Reanalyzer, mainly covers the northern half of the Western Hemisphere. Below is the heat map showing the ‘Temperature Departure from Average on Thursday, November 17th’.

The WaPo article was posted on the same day the data was cited. It is fair to surmise the staff writers and researchers were monitoring the weather anomalies for a few days as they gathered information and resources before publishing the piece. Other sites took a similar approach, albeit less detailed.

tempdeparture_nhemisphere_11-17-16

Two days earlier on November 15th, Weather Channel meteorologist Ari Sarsalari reported a “crazy thing” going on: the North Pole was above freezing (33.1°F)! [One exclamation point was used to reflect the appropriate tone in Sarsalari’s voice.] The nearest weather station to the North Pole is in Köppen, Greenland. It is a tundra climate located a few degrees south of true north at 83.4°N. By mid-November, the sun does not make an appearance north of 72°N latitude. Even further north, past 80°N latitude, the diurnal temperature range (difference between the daily maximum and minimum temperature) does not deviate much year round, in part, because of minimal to no solar radiation (the faint midnight sun hovers near the horizon during summer months in the northern most region of the Arctic).

Measurements at Köppen only go back 11 years, which coincides with a period of the largest warming trend in the Arctic. The average temperatures would have likely been colder if a minimum 30 years of data was recorded at this station. That said the maximum temperature at Köppen in the past 11 years, from the month of October through April, has not exceeded 27°F. The highest temperature recorded in November, during this span, was 17°F. And the overall average temperature for the penultimate month of the year is -17°F. The Weather Channel report on Nov. 15th confirms the relatively warm and extreme temperature anomaly provided by  Climate Reanalyzer.

For the WaPo piece, Jennifer Francis, Rutgers University professor and Arctic researcher, was asked about the temperature aberration. Francis determined “It’s about 20°C [36 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia.” Sarsalari at the Weather Channel compared the much colder weather conditions in Tugoncani, Russia and in Zhaltyr, Kazakhstan to the relatively warmer area around the North Pole on the same day (Nov. 15th) and time (3PM GMT). The Siberian stations reported anomalously frigid temperatures. In Tugoncani (few degrees south of the Arctic circle, 64°N), it was -40.4°F, which is about 37°F below normal for November (-3°F). In Zhaltyr (upper mid latitudes, 54°N), it was -17.7°F, or approximately 27°F lower than average for the month (9°F).

Unfortunately, WaPo and many of the other sites missed on the opportunity to cover the broadening ramifications of climate change related to ‘weather extremes’; opting instead to cover the aspect of climate change associated with ‘global warming’.

There is no question, based on instrumentation and analysis, that the Earth has been warming at an unprecedented rate since 1980. It coincides with the trending decline in the seasonal expansion and contraction of the Arctic sea ice, as shown in the WaPo article. Francis, at Rutgers University, suggested “The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.”

arcticseaiceextent_comparisons_1981-2016jul-nov

The last part of her explanation is in regards to a more amplified, undulating jet stream (upper air currents near 18,000 ft. rippling in a latitudinal and longitudinal direction), as opposed to more zonal steering currents aloft (mostly flat or little wave action). The “wavy” action in the jet stream would explain the very cold temperatures in Siberia: the upper air roller coaster creates a ridge of unseasonably warm temperatures near Greenland, following a meridional flow that contributes to a polar vortex over North Asia.

nhemisphere_500mbsfc_nov14-1916

Weather data from Nov. 17 (6:00pm GMT): Left side [500mb heights: Higher isohypses (lines of equal height) in red, associated with ridges & warmer temps near surface. Isohypses in blue associated with troughs & colder temps near sfc.] | Right side [Sfc weather with isobars (lines of equal pressure). Close packing of isobars = tight pressure gradient = strong winds.]

Climate scientists and atmospheric researchers have been measuring and analyzing oceanic and weather data for several decades. With the aid of technology, computer models have even been able to calculate global land and water surface temperatures prior to the 18th century. That is significant when you consider the thermometer, instrument for measuring temperature, was invented in the early 1700’s. It was not until the 1820’s when temperature readings were covering at least 20% of the land mass in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures had not been officially recorded in the Southern Hemisphere until the early 1840’s in Australia and the late 1840’s in South America.

Simulations and estimates on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)–also known as ‘Greenhouse Gases’ or GHG–have shown a strong positive correlation corresponding to the trajectory and rise in temperatures. The advent of the Industrial Revolution, followed by an increase in fossil fuel mining, has significantly contributed to the elevated concentrations of GHG. Deforestation also contributes indirectly to an increase in CO2, as there are fewer trees to synthesize carbon dioxide and water vapor as a fuel source for their metabolism and growth.

temp_vs_humanfactors_1880-2005

temp_vs_naturalhumanfactors_1880-2005

Unusual and intense hurricane / nor’easter hybrids like “Superstorm” Sandy, the unrelenting drought in California and a flood of relatively biblical proportions in Atacama Desert, Chile (driest and highest plateau in the world) will not be so uncommon in the predictable and unpredictable world of climate change. For example, in the Ural region of Russia there was a trace to a modest accumulation of snow in July 2014 (mildest month of the year). According to the regional chief weather forecaster, you have to go back a century to the last time snow was observed in the middle of summer. In the same area of Siberian, folks had been sunbathing during unseasonably warm temperatures just days before snow fell at higher elevations. Record heat and dry weather in the eastern Urals led to increasing number of wildfires. Western parts of Siberia have been experiencing an uptick in strong summer cold fronts accompanied by large hailstones, flash-flooding, and followed by sharp temperature drops (all which were once considered very rare). Floods, droughts and other extreme weather events are developing / occurring more often and with greater persistence in just about every continent across the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere–it is trending on a global scale. The increase in the variability and magnitude of extreme weather is the greatest and most costly danger of climate change.


References

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-dead-trees-20161118-story.html (November 18, 2016)
http://www.livescience.com/56935-north-pole-heats-up-36-degrees.html (November 18, 2016)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/17/the-north-pole-is-an-insane-36-degrees-warmer-than-normal-as-winter-descends/ (November 17, 2016)
https://weather.com/news/climate/news/north-pole-above-freezing-siberia-cold-nov2016? (November 17, 2016)
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/north-pole-now-death-spiral (November 17, 2016)
http://mp1.met.psu.edu/~fxg1/HEMI500/5dayloop.html (500MB & Surface: Nov. 14 – 19, 2016)
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ (November 2, 2016)
http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/ (June 24, 2015)
https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/flooding-chile%E2%80%99s-atacama-desert-after-years%E2%80%99-worth-rain-one-day (April 16, 2015)
https://www.britannica.com/event/Industrial-Revolution (January 20, 2016)
http://siberiantimes.com/ecology/others/features/weather-goes-crazy-in-siberia-with-record-high-temperatures-then-july-snow/ (July 28, 2014)
https://watchers.news/2014/07/13/cold-front-brings-freak-weather-across-ural-and-eastern-siberia/ (July 13, 2014)
http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/stop-deforestation/deforestation-global-warming-carbon-emissions.html#.WDAy0fkrJPY (December 9, 2013)
https://thinkprogress.org/superstorm-sandys-link-to-climate-change-the-case-has-strengthened-says-researcher-f80927c1d033#.1rj9f9h90 (October 28, 2013)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHZzACcYJRo&feature=player_embedded (October 21, 2011)
https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/climatescience/greenhousegases/industrialrevolution.html
http://inventors.about.com/od/tstartinventions/a/History-Of-The-Thermometer.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberia
http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather-summary.php3?s=110340&cityname=Closest+Data+for+North+Pole+-+440+mi%2F709+km%2C+Greenland&units=
http://www.myweather2.com/City-Town/Russia/Tugoncani/climate-profile.aspx
http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/weather/maps/city?DD=01&MM=11&PERIOD=03&LANG=en&ART=tab&CONT=asie&LAND=RA®ION=0025&WMO=35173&PLZ=_____&ART=tab&PLZN=_____&NOREGION=1&R=0&LEVEL=161
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/