Not by fire, nor by ice, nor by zombies

Walking Dead image source: AMC

I've been indulging my late-night craving for schlock by watching the entire series of "Walking Dead" episodes that aired over the last two years.

It's fairly highbrow stuff for a soap opera about survivors of a zombie apocalypse, which means that it's the perfect lens for looking at the state of American culture.

We have just emerged from a vitriolic fiscal cliff debate and are about to descend into a debt ceiling debate.

On the one hand, we have activists declaring the end times because of climate change and the mass extinction of wildlife species.

On the other hand, we have zealots preoccupied by the notion that Iran or North Korea could threaten world peace, or the notion that creeping socialism and national debt could trigger a massive societal meltdown.

Whether you listen to "Democracy Now" or read "Atlas Shrugged" or subscribe to the latest interpretation of the Mayan calendar, it's hard to avoid the idea that we're living in the end times.

And yes, being Americans, a lot of us are cashing in.

Gun manufacturers are getting filthy stinking rich by selling sleek assault rifles to suburbanites, worried that Barack Obama may just be a tyrant-in-waiting, or the Anti-Christ.

And Hollywood is getting filthy stinking rich by pumping out a constant stream of doom-fare.  The last couple of years, there have even been a spate of end-of-world comedies.

Mass human extinction.  What a chuckle.

This is the culture that politicians in Washington are pandering to — particularly, politicians on the right, who have boxed themselves into corner after corner by pretending that this vote, this decision, this stand will make or break America.

Tune in to conservative talk radio and you'll find the Glenn Becks of the world selling survival kits, gold, and fear.  (Did I mention gold?  Lots and lots of gold.)

Lurking just behind the alarmist headlines and loudspeaker klaxons are some home truths that are often lost because they are, well, sort of boring.

The truth is that we live in the most peaceful, safe, fair, prosperous, and upward trending world ever witnessed in the long, sordid history of Mankind.  Our golden age makes the Pax Romana look trivial by contrast.

And just at present, there is no evidence that any of the problems we face are large or thorny enough that we can't sort through them.

The national debt?  I'll take that over Nazis or Spanish flu pandemics or the imminent threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union any day.

Climate change?  Dangerous and real, but also incremental and hardly likely to be civilization busting.

North Korea?  Please.

Set against these very real challenges are the many, many points of astonishing progress.  Humans are living far longer, with far more quality of life.  War has faded sharply, and beautifully, as a significant force in our lives.

Democracies are spreading with remarkable speed throughout the world and many of them are proving to be highly nimble, tough and enduring.

Yes, much of the Islamic world is still trapped in something of an ugly feedback loop.  But the remarkable thing isn't that those countries are still backward in their political and social structures.

No, the remarkable thing is that so many countries have moved forward so rapidly, leaving nations like Saudi Arabia and Syria behind.  From South America to eastern Europe to Asia, a vast human renaissance is underway.

So why do we do it?  Why do we inflate a picayune political dispute in Washington DC — or the 2012 elections, for that matter — to the level of DefCon 3?

And why do we look for our entertainment to programs like the "Walking Dead" or Glenn Beck's histrionics?

It's not very original, but I suspect it has something to do with how we're wired.  Humans evolved as a species that lived right on the border between predator and prey.

We feel good — or at least, we think we'll feel good — when problems are immediate, simple and subject to "fight or flight" solutions.  We also enjoy narratives where more traditional roles and social structures are re-enforced.

In times of conflict, the complex choices, freedoms and uncertainties of modern life are replaced by a narrowing band of rules and options.  For many people, that's comforting.  That feels "normal."

The worry, of course, is that this kind of yearning for cataclysm can be self-fulfilling.

In the years before World War I, a largely peaceful and stable European civilization scrambled eagerly toward devastating conflict with a kind of suicidal zeal, which in hindsight smacks of sheer boredom and ennui.

The intellectuals of the day were intrigued by the idea that their "soft" and "effeminate" culture would be tested by fire and iron.

What they got, of course, was mud and death and disease.  It wasn't romantic or heroic at all.

The point, really, is that the morning after the fiscal cliff deal — or after the late-night zombie-pocalypse marathon — we all have to brush ourselves off and get back to the mundane work of making things a little bitter day by day.

Most of us will contribute in small, incremental ways to the remarkable progress that Mankind is making.  The chances are very strong that none of us will ever get to be the heroes in a last stand against anything.  (Sorry, Glenn Beck.)

The good news is that there's also very little chance that any of us will be turned into zombies.

132 Responses to “Not by fire, nor by ice, nor by zombies”

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  1. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Yup, everything's coming up roses, don't worry, be happy, there's a silver lining in every cloud and the glass is more than half full. Thanks for telling us what we should think. Pity we're all so stupid.

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  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    klaxons! Hmmm where is my dictionary?

    We didn't even get into a discussion and already with the Nazis. A new record!

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  3. There's a reason that many religions encourage meditation and advise avoiding "worldly" pastimes. It calms your nerves. :-) A good walk int the woods (ski or snowshoe at this time of year) can have the similar effect. I recommend it.

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  4. Peter Hahn says:

    Its good to put things in perspective occasionally. Of the things you mentioned above, climate change is the only one that has the potential for "end of days" effects, and the end, if it comes, wont be for a long time.

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  5. Kathy says:

    I am an optimist but also a realist. My optimism is based on hope – not denial. The powers that be are handling the present state of our country like treating a gunshot wound with a band-aid.

    There is a frightening optimism I'm hearing these days that is a lie: "it's all good". And that is based on what?

    Any family or business which overspends, defaults on financial responsibilities and continues business as usual as if nothing is wrong is deceived – and will eventually have to face the music. But the federal government can keep going and we're all supposed to be optimistic?
    This country is borrowing $50,000 a minute and cannot pay it back. If the Glenn Becks are extreme in preparation the other extreme is denial.

    Optimism isn't a principle. We can put a label on anything and call it good but be one breath away from crash and burn. I prefer to live by principle.

    I might add that anyone who believes in a Godless existence will find it easier to live in denial. Their assurance comes from the evolution of man's intelligence instead of God's wisdom. Liberals/secular progressives are so good at pointing out the finite earth but cannot acknowledge finite man.

    While you go back to sleep there will be others standing watch.

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  6. Peter Hahn says:

    We Americans, along with the Canadians and Western European countries and Japan live in a truly golden age for our species. Never in the history of mankind have people had it so good – even remotely close. Arguably the poorest among us live better than the nobility of only a few hundred years ago. (Thats not to say the poor are or should be happy about being poor).

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  7. Pete Klein says:

    Shakespeare would agree, Brian. Much ado about nothing.
    And as NPR often says, "All things considered," things aren't as bad as some seem to wish they were.
    Yesterday, I had a dose of reality by having a tooth pulled. Other than the discomfort, the day because of the tooth being removed resulted in a needed break from the news and the internet. Boy, did I ever delete an awful lot of email without bothering to read most of it this morning.
    Forgive me for using another trite phrase but after all is said and done, the only really important things in life are the interactions that take place daily between the self, family and a few close friends. All else is mostly background noise that contributes little to nothing in living your life.
    Warren Buffet has faith in the future of the good, old USA and so do I. It remains as it has always been with two steps forward and one step backward.
    As Alfred E. Newman says, "What? Me worry?"

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  8. Mervel says:

    I think that Brian makes some good points, I don't worry about someone invading the US nor do I worry about nuclear bombs raining down on my family, both real possibilities in the past 100 years.

    I would disagree on some things, largely cultural and social, where I think we have gone backwards.

    But we do need to remember that the 20th century saw two world wars, the second ending with weapons being used that have the power to destroy all of humankind. No one in 1900 would have predicted that much world wide bloodshed in the 20th century. I guess I would disagree with both narratives; one that says we are all on the brink of the end and everything is literally going to hell and the other that says mankind is on some sort of march over time that is always better and improved.

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  9. Peter Hahn says:

    Kathy – We have problems, but when in the last century, when was it better? The golden 50's? The soviets had the bomb and we had to practice hiding under our desks and not looking up. The communist ideology was making serious inroads through out the world, including Europe. Jim Crow laws were still in full effect. McCarthyism was in full bloom, for the early 50s. There were only 3 TV channels.

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  10. Walker says:

    "Climate change? Dangerous and real, but also incremental and hardly likely to be civilization busting."

    The civilization busting potential of climate change may be temporally remote, but if I had kids, I would be taking those dangers very seriously indeed.

    And as a bookend to Rancid, Kathy and Larry's belief that Obama is about to institute a communist dictatorship, I wouldn't minimize the fact that some forces on the right are capable of contemplating an overthrow of what they see as an illegitimate government. I can't understand why such extreme views of what is unmistakably a center-right government are being promulgated, unless its to justify extreme actions.

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  11. Paul says:

    "making things a little bitter day by day"

    Brian, I will see what I can do but I tend to be an optimist.

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  12. Newt says:

    I am not so optimistic.

    If you look at the curve of damage done by severe weather over the past years, it seems to be steadily rising. Where will we be in 10 or 20 years at that rate? In most of the CO2 released has yet to make an impact.

    Look at what is happening to virtually all wild areas, and the species that inhabit them. How many elephants are being slaughtered each month for their ivory, or rhinos, so that bourgeois Chinese can obtain elixirs from their horns?

    Meanwhile, we are still running out of natural resources. Fracking may have bough us some time, at likely a terrible cost, but world petroleum supplies are still supposed to be exhausted in the next 50 years or so.

    Worst of all, we seem to be incapable of cooperating on a national and world basis to tackle these, and other problems. That is because we are in the end up against something much stronger and more fundamental that chimeras like communism…..human greed, and our inability to see beyond the next quarterly earnings report.

    A while back I read a column by Charles Krauthammer, a guy whose opinions I generally despise. He pointed out that no attempts to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe have yet been successful. He suspects that in each case that a world has developed intelligent life forms, that species has gone on to use it's intelligence to so thoroughly plunder the planet, and/or destroy it through war, that intelligent life, or at least civilization, becomes untenable. A few might individuals still be scrabbling around in the ruins, but beyond that forget it. And we are on the same path .
    I am afraid Krauthammer is more correct than not.

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  13. The Original Larry says:

    Just for the record, which doesn't matter much as long as we have Walker to tell us what we said and what we think, I said nothing about Obama being a communist. I did call him a nascent dictator but you're going to have to look up nascent yourselves to find out what I meant. As for the "forces on the right are capable of contemplating an overthrow of what they see as an illegitimate government", aside from the isolated lunatics who are always out there (on both sides) this doesn't represent mainstream conservative thinking. OK, Walker? Go ahead and tell everyone what I really meant.

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  14. Paul says:

    "I am afraid Krauthammer is more correct than not."

    He usually is. Why the fear?

    "world petroleum supplies are still supposed to be exhausted in the next 50 years or so."

    Newt this should solve most of the other problems.

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  15. dave says:

    "I am an optimist . . . The powers that be are handling the present state of our country like treating a gunshot wound with a band-aid."

    Doom and gloom!

    I'm not sure an optimist would call a flesh wound a gunshot wound.

    If you have bought into the notion that our country is somehow in free fall, heading for collapse, civil war, or on the verge of being overthrown by a mythical dictator… then, I am sorry to break the news, but you are likely a pessimist. And one not very grounded in reality, at that.

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  16. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Whoa! Who said Obama is about to institute a communist dictatorship? I'll take the heat for what I write, but I don't recall saying that.

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  17. Walker says:

    Sorry, Larry, Rancid and probably Kathy too– a bit of hyperbole, at least as far as you guys go. But I've seen similar stuff on "conservative" sites pretty regularly.

    And off hand, I can't see that I've seen a lot of equivalent stuff from the left, but I guess it's bound to be there if you go looking for it. [Oh, and sorry JDM and others, didn't mean to leave anyone out!]

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  18. Walker says:

    "Newt this [world petroleum supplies being exhausted in the next 50 years] should solve most of the other problems."

    Joke, yes? 'Cause that's likely to be way too late.

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  19. Paul says:

    There may be a point where too much information is a bad thing. I'm going skiing.

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  20. Paul says:

    "Cause that's likely to be way too late."

    Starting to sound a little like Glen Beck.

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  21. Rancid Crabtree says:

    I don't believe those thinking that things are rosy are any too grounded in reality either Dave. We have very, very real problems and responses to them that involve throwing ever more money into the abyss aren't solving them. Others have mentioned our energy issues. The gov't has poured billions into green energy with the backing of most on the left. What has been the result? This-

    The complete list of faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies:

    Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*
    SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
    Solyndra ($535 million)*
    Beacon Power ($43 million)*
    Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
    SunPower ($1.2 billion)
    First Solar ($1.46 billion)
    Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
    EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
    Amonix ($5.9 million)
    Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
    Abound Solar ($400 million)*
    A123 Systems ($279 million)*
    Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*
    Johnson Controls ($299 million)
    Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
    ECOtality ($126.2 million)
    Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
    Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
    Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
    Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
    Range Fuels ($80 million)*
    Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*
    Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
    Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*
    GreenVolts ($500,000)
    Vestas ($50 million)
    LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)
    Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
    Navistar ($39 million)
    Satcon ($3 million)*
    Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*
    Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)

    *Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

    What is the answer given to the problem? We need to pour more tax payer money into green energy. Doesn't anyone have a problem with continual failure? In rough terms thats more than 50% of the companies receiving Federal dollars. And I'm sure most of us have heard that some of them basically stole the money and had nothing to show for it. I won't go into the funding/political donation part. So beyond that, is it crazy to expect some responsibility to be shown by those holding the purse strings? I'm not the only person in the US who gets really bothered at the thought of leaving my kids a $16 trillion dollar bill. I really can't believe anyone honestly thinks that "the debt will take care of itself".

    Some one said something about the people in the 40's and 50's getting through the WW2 debt. There's a large difference between then, when we had a growing economy and now when the economic future isn't real bright. We are no longer the front runners and we can't keep spending like we did back in the day. If someone sees something on the horizon that gives them real hope of us being able to grow at a reasonable rate again, I'm listening.

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  22. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Walker, you won't hear much of anything anti-Obama from the left, but look at what is said about anyone from Romney to Bush to the Koch boys to Grover Norquist and it's a mirror image or worse. I mean, really, "golf" is a racist word according to Chris Mathews along with "apartment" and "ape". Whats nuttier, that or people putting food and money by for hard times?

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  23. Kathy says:

    If you have bought into the notion that our country is somehow in free fall, heading for collapse, civil war, or on the verge of being overthrown by a mythical dictator… then, I am sorry to break the news, but you are likely a pessimist. And one not very grounded in reality, at that.

    Nope, Dave. Not thinking like that at all.

    It's just that if I don't pay my bills I don't get to keep spending or borrowing money.

    That is reality.

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  24. Peter Hahn says:

    Rancid – The internet world a few years ago suffered a massive die-off of many of the pioneering companies. That did (does) not mean that the government investment in the internet was a failure. In the case of "green energy" the troubles of todays companies is partially due to the fact that the Chinese are pouring more money in than we are.

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  25. The Original Larry says:

    That's a classic, Peter Hahn, even for you! So, we should throw more money down the rabbit hole? That might work out better in China because there you get a bullet in the head for stealing from the government, not more money.

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  26. Walker says:

    "…look at what is said about anyone from Romney to Bush to the Koch boys to Grover Norquist and it's a mirror image or worse."

    The equivalent of Obama is an illegitimate president and a Muslim communist dictator and that justifies hoarding guns to carry out secession? If there's a left wing equivalent of that, I haven't seen it.

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  27. Walker says:

    "It's just that if I don't pay my bills I don't get to keep spending or borrowing money."

    Right, Kathy. That's why the Republicans creation of the debt ceiling crisis is ridiculous.

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  28. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – The Chinese have a huge huge corruption problem that we dont have (fortunately for us).

    There are lots of things we pour money into. We have had a "War on Cancer" for 40 years and spent billions (and continue to do so). Military technology research and development has received probably trillions. The question is whether future energy sources (post fossil fuels) should get our money. We have spent lots on nuclear energy, with some success, but obvious problems. We have spent billions on nuclear fusion, but havent gotten anywhere yet. Developing solar and wind energy seem to be in that same vein and rational expenditures of our R&D money. We have subsidized many of our energy companies, including oil and gas and nuclear.

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  29. Mervel says:

    I think from an energy perspective we are fine. One thing we understand when it comes to technology is that it is largely unpredictable. Thus to say we will be out of oil in 50 years does not take into account the massive changes that are happening now and will happen in the future. Ten years ago the US was predicted to be soon out of domestic oil, our production was flat and there seemed no hope in the industry, today we are in the midst of an oil boom largely due to change in the technology of drilling.

    Even if we do use all of our oil up; we still have natural gas and coal. Natural gas can do pretty much everything that oil can and it is cleaner than oil. Coal is cheap and dirty, but we don't know what sort of technological breakthroughs might really make coal use clean (not the fake clean coal stuff we hear now), but really make it clean.

    As carbon based fuels become more scarce they will become more expensive, as they become more expensive we will use less and other energy will become more economical, its not a bad thing and it won't happen all at once. We won't say woops out of oil! We will see prices slowly rise we will see renewable energy increase in production.

    The two zombie worries I would have is world wide pandemics and still nuclear war. We have not been investing in basic research in anti-biotics.

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  30. Walker says:

    "We won't say woops [we're] out of oil!"

    No, but we might run out of food and potable water due to weather conditions and fracking residue.

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  31. tootightmike says:

    Rancid, your life is sure to be a misery…It's the way you want it apparently…..don't drag everyone down with you.

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  32. The Original Larry says:

    Peter Hahn,
    Did you read Rancid's list of green energy companies and the money that's been poured into them?
    I don't know if it's accurate or not, but either way, it's corruption or gross stupidity that we can't afford.

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  33. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – how much was poured into nuclear energy or hydroelectric? Or pets.com? (via the internet)

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  34. Peter Hahn says:

    The question you should address is whether or not solar and wind energy should be part of the future mix, and if so, how do we get them there.

    We gave the railroads the right of way and land on either side because we wanted to support private investment in transcontinental transportation. Many railroads later went bankrupt. It wasnt stupid or corrupt (maybe a little corrupt).

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  35. Mervel says:

    We know how to get them there, $10.00 per gallon gas. Once oil, gas and coal become more expensive OR wind-solar and nuclear become much cheaper we will use them and we won't need government subsidies. As long as carbon based fuels are so cheap there is no reason to change.

    I think food availability might be a bigger deal than energy, more than we realize. Climate change could very well cause more drought, it could also increase food production in some zones as temps increase, but who knows? It will also increase pests and parasites. You may get into a really bad cycle of increased energy costs at the same time of severe drought, both of those things would cause food prices to skyrocket. We could probably handle that here, but in other countries it would be a disaster.

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  36. Peter Hahn says:

    Back to the theme of the blog post – our wonderful life requires a lot of energy to make the cheap and plentiful food available. If we built the cost of pollution cleanup into the cost of the energy, we might get $10/gallon gasoline. Thats not even talking about the carbon dioxide as pollution.

    But $10 a gallon of gasoline would also cause a major disruption for many people and throw a monkey wrench into the economy. Its probably better to use various forms of subsidies, including subsidies for pollution cleanup.

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  37. The Original Larry says:

    This is getting out of control. How is Pets.com relevant?

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  38. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Newt, Krauthammer is an idiot. Sure he's really smart, but he's an idiot. Intelligent life jumps on my bed every morning. Intelligent life shows up at my bird feeder. We aren't smart enough to recognize intelligent life in our own house, how does anyone expect that we are going to find intelligent life several light years away?

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  39. Walker says:

    "How is Pets.com relevant?"

    Businesses fail. Period. With or without public investment. In any and all fields.

    Look at it this way– if the government had kept any of Rancid's list of failed green energy businesses afloat with fresh infusions of cast, you guys would be screaming about that. And if the government had poured money into it's own research on green energy programs, you wouldn't like that either. So basically, to make you folks happy, the government can do nothing to encourage a business sector that we badly need and that private enterprise on its own is not developing.

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  40. Walker says:

    "…how does anyone expect that we are going to find intelligent life several light years away?"

    Easy– look for unnatural electromagnetic radiation. We've been sending out an easily recognized bubble of the stuff since the fifties. Carl Sagan was writing about this way back in the early 60s– Intelligent Life in the Universe. Good book.

    Who says we're not smart enough to recognize intelligent life in our own house?

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  41. Walker says:

    "But $10 a gallon of gasoline would also cause a major disruption for many people and throw a monkey wrench into the economy. Its probably better to use various forms of subsidies, including subsidies for pollution cleanup."

    There's no way to get where we need to get to vis-a-vis climate change without disrupting the economy (which may well be why we'll never get there).

    Our economy is based upon endless growth. On a finite planet, endless growth is impossible, and we're starting to creep up on the point where it breaks down. It won't happen any time soon, but eventually, we're going to have to figure out how to thrive without growth.

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  42. Walker says:

    Think where we'd be today if the government had not decided to invest in railroads back in the 1800s.

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  43. Rancid Crabtree says:

    "The equivalent of Obama is an illegitimate president and a Muslim communist dictator and that justifies hoarding guns to carry out secession? If there's a left wing equivalent of that, I haven't seen it."

    GW Bush was "illegitimate" throughout both terms according to the left, numerous people said they'd leave the country if he were elected and elected again (think Alec Baldwin). He and the Skull and Bones Society and various other groups from the Rothschilds to Big Oil to the Saudi Royal Family were all supposed to be plotting for a world take over and Bush was supposed to change the Constitution so he could get a 3rd and 4th term. This was justification for a lot of things supposedly. I'm not aware of anyone hoarding guns to carry out a secession then or now. I have to assume that's hyperbole as no one I've heard of is seriously talking secession by arms. There were quite a lot of people talking about revolution and destroying property, raping people, things like that a couple years back, but the OWS crowd got little bad press over their "revolution".

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  44. Rancid Crabtree says:

    The difference between the gov't investing in railroads in the 1800's and now is that gov't out their money into researched and proven companies. And don't forget much of the railroads were privately funded. Also don't forget it was JP Morgan who bailed the US gov't out- twice! when they were near default. Was there corruption? Certainly. Was it right? No. The point is that we still have corruption and problems and we don't have vast, untapped resources to look forward to for new lands and wealth to pay our debts. Times have changed. I'm all for alternative energy, but lets put some research into where we put public dollars instead of putting money into whomever provides the most campaign funding!

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  45. tootightmike says:

    The point that's missed here is that our government funds and subsidizes all sorts of things already. Why should oil and gas development get more attention than wind and solar? Why should interstate highway development get more funding than Amtrack? For matter, why should Blackwater get more free cash that our public schools?
    The folks with money have this entire government by the short-hairs. It's an exclusive club that's bent on getting smaller and richer. When they become rich enough, they won't care at all how the rest of us get around, educate our kids, or feed ourselves.

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  46. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    RC, I added up all your solar company investment numbers: a little shy of $7.4 billion. Not a lot of money in government terms but 7 billin here and 7billion there adds up.

    So what did we get for our money?
    "A new report on the state of the solar industry in America indicates that despite a global oversupply and a potential trade war with China, the U.S. solar industry had its second-best quarter ever in terms of installations, during the first quarter of 2012.

    The number of installations, 506 megawatts worth, enough to power just over 350,000 homes, was bested only by the fourth quarter of 2011, which saw a whopping 708 megawatts worth of solar installed…
    ..total U.S. installed solar power will increase 75 percent his year alone, with 3.3 gigawatts-worth of solar power installed, compared to the 4.4 gigawatts that are currently installed in the country and were added over years of development."
    http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/06/report-us-solar-power-shines-will-increase-75-percent-this-year.php

    There's lots more out there you can look up for yourself but it does seem like government investment has been a big driver in the expansion of solar technology and infrastructure.

    Let's make a comparison. 2 weeks of war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost about $7 billion.

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  47. Rancid Crabtree says:

    That's good Knuckle, glad to hear it. Now, when will the $7 billion be paid back with interest? When you use the phrase "gov't investment" it carries the implications, and rightly so, that the principle will be recovered along with a healthy profit. Someday down the line I hope that occurs. Right now, we need revenue to cover our debt. Our spending is extravagant considering our debt. As Mike correctly points out, subsidies of all types need to be cut significantly.

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  48. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The phrase "gov't investment" carries the implication that there will be a return on that investment or sometimes no return on that investment.

    In the private sector many investments fail. No return. In a government investment the return may come in many forms, increased jobs, research in sectors that may provide new technologies in the future, taxes paid on increased wages, sales of materials or value added products, diversification of a business sector.

    If any of those investments were loans they should be paid back or at the very least we should recover as much as possible through bankruptcy. But what about the ones that don't fail? And is all of the $7.4 billion investment at risk, or have we already gotten some of the return that was expected?

    Often gov't investment is used as a tool to project policy goals. One goal of the Obama Administration was to diversify our energy sector. Obama was elected and his use of funds for that objective was completely legitimate.

    let's look at France for a moment, since everyone likes to look at France.
    "French energy minister Eric Besson said the decision would create up to 10,000 new jobs and “position France among the leaders of the offshore industry,” when making the announcement that a consortium led by energy giant EDF and engineering firm Alstom had won a bid to build three wind farms off the coast of northern France. Spanish energy firm Iberdrola and French engineering giant Areva secured the rights to build a fourth farm, he said. The two consortia are expected to invest around €7 billion to install 2GW of offshore wind energy capacity, according to Besson."
    http://www.ewea.org/blog/2012/04/france-to-build-2-gw-of-offshore-wind-power-as-costs-of-nuclear-exposed/

    Makes Obama's investment look like a pretty good deal.

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  49. Peter Hahn says:

    Rancid – the "return" on government investment is in jobs and opportunities for the American people. It can also be in better health and safety for Americans. (to abbreviate Knuck's answer). Indirectly some of that money comes back as increased tax revenue with an expanding economy. Some of it is peace of mind and safety – as in our "investment" in our military infrastructure (and training those armed service personel). Our educated workforce requires "investment" and this benefits both the people who get the education and the employers who make use of their skills, which boosts the economy.

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  50. Peter Hahn says:

    It is certainly true that some of those subsidies stay too long, and others werent too smart to begin with. Many countries, including ours, subsidize agriculture as a "way of life". We subsidize milk because children need to drink it and their parents need to be able to afford it. Is that a good thing to do? Its arguable. We subsidize "the arts" (and the artists). Most countries do too (if they can afford it). but we are still the richest country in the world. To say we cant afford it is factually incorrect.

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