The eminent meteorologist staying with us this past weekend notes that average Moscow mid-summer highs are 73 degrees and that prior to this summer Moscow’s highest recorded temperature ever (one freakish day in 1920) was 98.2 degrees. Yet lately, it’s been routinely over 95 degrees and several days over 100 degrees – which would be like New York City (average mid-summer highs 84) having weeks of heat above 106, occasionally spiking to 113 or Phoenix (average mid-summer highs 101) having weeks of 123-degree heat occasionally spiking to 130.
A good chunk of Russia is burning and the smoke – which my meteorologist says they are wrongly calling “smog” – is choking folks in Red Square (photos here). Muscovites are advised to stay indoors, shower more often, and – rueful smile – “refrain from smoking.”
My meteorologist has been reading James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.
(“Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, lays all the cards on the table in this thorough, detailed analysis . . . a Silent Spring-style warning cry that predicts ‘a rough ride’ for our grandchildren.” – Publishers Weekly.)
My meteorologist’s own view is that it’s probably too late to reverse/prevent the climate change to come. We’ve already thrown the system out of whack, and a “positive feedback loop” that could cause (among much else) the western ice shelf of Antarctica to break off and melt sometime in this century – once things get moving, it could happen relatively fast – and raise sea level three to six feet. (Bye-bye, Florida and population centers around the world; hello, famine, drought, pestilence, mass migration, and war.) Did you notice that a chunk of ice four times the size of Manhattan broke off from Greenland Thursday?
None of this is certain of course, and many – largely scoffed at by Republicans who blocked the latest energy bill – still believe we can act to prevent or mitigate the damage.
(One small, imperfect, but specific and practical thing you can do? Vote Democrat.)
Which leads me directly – this notion of “cut taxes, let our children pay; mock Al Gore, let our children pay” – to Matt Miller’s Great Idea:
LOWER THE VOTING AGE TO 10 . . .
. . . Says Matt Miller, here – brilliantly – in the Washington Post:
What this country needs is a movement to lower the voting age to 10. Hear me out.
Wherever you look, from debt to schools to climate to pensions, the distinctive feature of American public life today is a shocking disregard for the future. Yes, politicians blather on about “our children and grandchildren” all the time — but when it comes to what they actually do, the future doesn’t have a vote. If you want to change people’s behavior, you need to change their incentives. It’s time to give politicians a reason not simply to praise children, but also to pander to them.
About 125 million Americans voted in the 2008 presidential election. There are about 35 million Americans ages 10 to 17. Giving them the vote would transform our political conversation. It would introduce the voice we’re sorely missing — a call to stewardship, of governing for the long run, via the kind of simple, “childlike” questions that never get asked today.
Imagine a phalanx of fresh-faced yet fierce 13-year-olds (like those on my daughter’s middle school debate team) shaming the adults with the following, for starters:
— Is it really a national priority to borrow billions more from us to keep taxes for the best-off 2 percent of Americans lower than they were during the Clinton boom, when we’re in the midst of two wars and already piling up trillions in fresh debt?
— Why are you handing off to us a system of decaying bridges, roads, sewers and airports? Doesn’t it embarrass you that you’ve decided you prefer to devote the resources for such investments to your own current consumption?
— Even if you’re not sure whether global warming is man-made or potentially fatal, wouldn’t it be prudent to put a high price on carbon to force us toward a green energy economy, just in case the worst turns out to be true? What will you tell us if you leave behind a scorched planet? “Sorry, kids, you had to be there — the interest-group politics were really tough”?
— Why are we the only advanced nation that requires kids to go deep into debt to get a college degree?
— How can you keep assigning the least qualified teachers in the country to the millions of poor children who need great teachers the most?
— Is the quarterly earnings craze in a stock market that operates like a casino really the way to fund and build enterprises that will be globally competitive when we grow up?
— Why do you say Social Security can’t be touched, even though you’re planning real benefit increases for future retirees now in their 40s despite trillions in existing unfunded promises? Why rule out questioning these built-in increases when there’s no similar “trust fund” for great teachers or for universal pre-school?
— Are you really going to keep letting senators who represent less than 15 percent of the population stop any legislation they want? What about majority rule?
Isn’t a children’s movement that sounds like this overdue? Still, I know what you’re thinking. This is a joke, right? Miller can’t seriously be proposing we give fifth-graders an equal say with mature, responsible adults.
Let that objection linger in view of the questions above and decide for yourself if the grown-ups really occupy the high ground here. We’re in a topsy-turvy world best captured by my favorite political cartoon from the debt-soaked 1980s:
“Your generation will just have to spend a third of your income to support my generation when you grow up,” says a stern father.
“Why us?” his scared daughter asks.
“Because of your failure as children to teach your parents to be responsible.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy!”
“So am I.”
The fascinating thing would be to get a movement going in six or seven states to enact this lower voting age. The crusade would provide the news hook the media needs to focus on long-term challenges that are routinely ignored amid the breathless daily panting over trivia.
I’m not saying “10” is the only answer. I want creative litigation brought on behalf of minor future taxpayers, suing states and public-sector unions that have recklessly saddled kids with zillions in unfunded pensions. Or anti-debt street protests by 10th-graders eager to redefine community service for their college résumés.
It would be nice if the kids didn’t have to take up this burden, but we are where we are. To those who say this is all unseemly if not insane, I have four words: Got a better idea?
NBIX / DEPO
So maybe we’re now, above $6, out of half the NBIX we bought at $2.60. (Upon further reflection, birds feeling good in hands, I sold some more from my tax-deferred account Friday.) So from now on we’re playing with house money.* But guru suggests we not sell DEPO, which jumped nicely to $3.75, whether we bought it originally at $4.50, and/or more recently at $2.36. He sees it going to $6 in the year ahead.
Tomorrow, or soon: marriage, Rangel, and more
Quote of the Day
It was only 80 years from the time Darwin published ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES until we detonated the first nuclear bomb. In the lifetime of one person, we went from figuring out where we came from to figuring out how to get rid of ourselves.~Paleontologist Jack Horner
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