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Friday, June 26, 2015

Article Review: Suter, K.: “Arctic Politics Are Getting Warmer”, Contemporary Review; Page 179 Meltzer, J., Sierra, K.: “Trade and Climate Change”, Harvard International Review; Page 198 From Hastedt, Glenn. “American Foreign Policy”. James Madison University.

What United Nations Association President and World Federation of UN Associations Executive Committee Member Keith Suter states about climate change in his June 22, 2010 article for “The Contemporary Review”: “Arctic Politics Are Getting Warmer: A New Scramble For Territory?” [17; Hastedt pg. 179] Is true:
There is no doubt about the change…There seems little doubt that a major change in weather patterns is underway.” [Hastedt, Page 180]
It is difficult to discern the intended implication behind his next few words:
There is continuing debate over who is responsible and what is to be done about it (if anything)…There is little agreement on the extent to which (if any) human industrialization may be responsible.” [Hastedt, Page 180]
If Suter is intending to imply by this that there exists “little agreement” within the scientific community on whether or not human activities contribute to climate change, this would at best deal potentially irreparable damage against his credibility on the subject, and may very well even disqualify him as being an authority altogether.  Quite literally nothing could possibly be any further from being true.
The United States Departments of Commerce [5], Energy [3] [4] [6] [7], Health and Human Services, Interior and State [11] [14] all agree on the subject of climate change. “The science is clear, and the threat is real.” Wrote Harvard University John Kennedy School of Government’s Todd Stern for the Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs on March 29, 2009. “The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenarios.”
However, giving Suter the benefit of the doubt means presuming that he was referring to the debunked [13] disagreements” that pseudoscientists, such as evangelical Intelligent Design creationist Roy Spencer of the Exxon-Mobile-funded [16] Heartland Institute, have with atmospheric and climate science.
In spite of being a Visiting Lecturer at the Macquarie University Department of Politics and Boston University, Suter himself is not an academic, a scholar, nor a scientist. Therefore it is understandable how, as a layperson, he might reasonably assume that Spencer, of the University of Alabama—Huntsville and who has a Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, should by all rights be a credible resource on the subject of climate science. 
Unfortunately, ignorance of the science of climate is by no means limited to non-academics such as Suter. This is illustrated by Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies Adjunct Professor Joshua Meltzer and Brookings Institution senior fellow in Global Economy and Development Katherine Sierra in their article for the September 22, 2011 Volume 33 Issue 3 of the Harvard International Relations Council’s “Harvard International Review”: “Trade And Climate Change: A Mutually Supportive Policy[10; Hastedt pg. 198]. In their article, Meltzer and Sierra write that:
At the UN climate change conference in Cancun in December 2020, participating countries agreed that by 2050 global average temperature increases should be kept less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels [Hastedt, Page 198]…Indeed, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the climate change targets and actions that countries have listed so far in the Copenhagen Accord would still leave the world 60 percent above the level required to keep global temperatures at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. [Hastedt, Page 199]
In referencing the “levels required” to keep temperatures at “less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels”, Meltzer and Sierra’s article either neglects to point out or else omits the fact that the “level” referred to is one that is, in fact, less than zero.
In the January 16, 2011 Volume 38 Issue 1 of the American Geophysical Union’s “Geophysical Research Letters”, University of Washington College of the Environment Department of Earth and Space Sciences Professor Gerard Roe and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences James S. McDonnell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow Kyle Armour find [1] that there is “a possibility temperatures would rise to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than before the Industrial Revolution”. The catch? Armour and Roe’s scenario presupposes that “all cars, heating and cooling systems and other sources of greenhouse gases were suddenly eliminated[15].
A report entitled “Continued Global Warming after CO2 Emissions Stoppage” was published in the journal “Nature Climate Change” on November 24, 2013 [8]. The authors of the report were Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Department of Environmental Systems Sciences Swiss National Science Foundation Fellow Thomas Froelicher, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Oceanographer Michael Winton and Princeton University Department of Geosciences George J. Magee Professor of Geosciences and Geological Engineering Jorge Sarmiento. The authors found that, while “because of emissions that have occurred up to now” the Earth has warmed by .85 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and could warm by as much as 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century with “continued, unabated burning of fossil fuels”, a sudden shutoff of carbon emissions “has us stabilizing around three degrees C above pre-industrial levels” by 2200 [9].
            If it were just Suter, or even Meltzer and Sierra getting such a fundamental principle of atmospheric thermodynamics so wrong, the problem may even be manageable. However, the fact that, as Meltzer and Sierra state in their Brookings Institution article for the Harvard International Review, it was no less than the United Nations and International Energy Agency not understanding the logistics of the Greenhouse Effect runs the risk of making realists even more discouraged with the practical plausibility of a solution to the problem than the existence of frauds and charlatans such as Spencer already does in and of itself.
            The refrain of the fallacy that what was needed was for humans to “reverse” the effects of climate change became a wearied canard, and its apparent passing away may not make any hearts heavy. However, the equally positive-emotion-inducing, but nevertheless equally fallacious, platitude of stopping or ending climate change seems unfortunately to have survived.
            So long as such scientifically-unfounded platitudes are retained in the collective consciousness, the straw man debunking of such will forever remain fodder for the pseudoscientific and even anti-scientific fraudsters and snake oil salesmen that make their prosperity via the “gaps” in human scientific understanding. Opposing such fraudulence takes the time, energies and resources of real, credible scientific minds away from what will be the greatest challenge against future generations as an affect from climate change: Adaptation.
            The question of the age is not whether human civilization is “causing” or “contributing to” climate change, but whether it will survive it. The quest therefore should not be to use what science has given mankind to put an end to climate change, but not permitting climate change to destroy all that humanity has built.
            As the late Carl Sagan once wrote in “The Pale Blue Dot”:
There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. There is nowhere else to which our species could migrate. Like it or not, the Earth is where we make our stand...It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known.”
Cited Works Reference Bibliography:
1.     Armour, Kyle and Roe, Gerard. “Climate Commitment in an Uncertain World”. Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 38, Issue 1. January 16, 2011.
2.     Asrar, Ghassem; et. Al. “Joint Global Change Institute.” University of Maryland Division of Research.
3.     Battelle Memorial Institute. “Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change”. United States Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. July 2014.
4.     Collins, William. “Climate Sciences Division”. United States Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Earth Sciences Division.
5.     Easterling, David and Karl, Tom. “Global Warming”. National Climatic Data Center. Tuesday August 12, 2014.
6.     Energy Information Administration. “Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change and Energy”. United States Department of Energy National Energy Information Center. July 23, 2010.
7.     Fellows, J., Preston, B., Sanseverino, J. “Climate Change Science Institute”. United states Department of Energy Office of Science Oak Ridge National Laboratory.   
8.     Frolicher, T.; et. Al. “Continued Global Warming After CO2 Emissions Stoppage”. Nature Climate Change. November 24, 2013.
9.     Kelly, Morgan. “Even If Emissions Stop, Carbon Dioxide Could warm Earth for Centuries”. Princeton University. November 24, 2013. 
10.  Meltzer, Joshua and Sierra, Katherine. “The Brookings Institution Presents…Trade and Climate Change: A Mutually Supportive Policy.” Harvard International Review, Volume 33, Issue 3. September 22, 2011.
11.  Novelli, Catherine. “Global Climate Change”. United States Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
12.  Power, Samantha. “Climate Change”. United States Mission to the United Nations.
13.  Romm, Joe. “Climate Scientists Debunk Latest Bunk By Denier Roy Spencer”. Center for American Progress. July 29, 2011. 
14.  Stengel, Richard. “Welcome To the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change”. United States Department of State Bureau of Public Affairs. March 29, 2009.
15.  Stricherz, Vince.  If Greenhouse Gas Emissions Stopped Now, Earth Would Still Likely Get Warmer, New Research Shows”. University of Washington. February 16, 2011.
16.  Sturgis, Sue. “Climate Science Contrarian Roy Spencer’s Oil Industry Ties”. Institute for Southern Studies. Wednesday September 7, 2011.

17.  Suter, Keith. “Arctic Politics Are Getting Warmer: A New Scramble for Territory?” Contemporary Review. June 22, 2010.

People and Events, Real and Fictional, that Inspired Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001)

The history of the works of literature from which screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen drew in writing the screenplay for their December 22, 2000 adventure comedy Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Begins with the oldest known work of literature in the recorded history of Western civilization, The Odyssey by the 8th Century BCE Ancient Greek poet Homer.
The first parallel between Homer’s Odyssey and the Coen Brothers’ O Brother is, of course, the most obvious. The primary protagonist of Oh Brother is Ulysses Everett McGill, played by actor George Clooney. “Ulysses” is the Latin form of the name Homer gives to the protagonist of his Odyssey: “Odysseus”, king of the Ionian Island of Ithaca. The character of the governor of Mississippi, played by the late actor Charles Durning, is named Menelaus O’Daniel. Menelaus was a king of the Greek city-state of Sparta, who features prominently in the works of Homer. The wife of Clooney’s protagonist, played by actress Holly Hunter, is named Penny. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’s wife, the Queen of Ithaca, is named Penelope. 
The second parallel between Homer’s poem and the Coen brothers’ film comes before the first line of dialogue is spoken. While the scene is still black, words appear onscreen:
O Muse! Sing in me, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all the ways of contending. A wanderer, harried for years on end.”
In his 2007 article Homer in Tishomingo, Doctor John Cant of the University of Essex Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies notes [Cant 70] how closely this follows the first lines of Book I of Homer’s Odyssey:
Tell me, O muse, of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy. Many were the men whose cities he saw, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; and many were the woes he suffered in his heart upon the sea while seeking to win his own life and to achieve the safe homecoming of his comrades. Yet even so he saved not his comrades, though he desired it sore.” [Homer, Murray 1.1]
Oglethorpe University Professor of English Douglas McFarland supports this view in Marymount Manhattan College Associate Professor of Philosophy Mark Conard’s book The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers. [McFarland 50]
Another parallel comes in the form of the blind seer, played by actor Lee Weaver, as is noted by University of Utah Department of Languages and Literature Associate Professor of Classics and Contemporary Literary and Cultural Studies Margaret Toscano in her 2009 article Homer Meets the Coen Brothers. In one of the opening scenes of the movie, the character of Delmar O’Donnell, played by actor Tim Nelson, asks the blind man if he works for the railroad, to which the blind man replies: “I work for no man”. Toscano writes that this is a reference to Book IX of Homer’s Odyssey, wherein the hero Odysseus introduces himself to the Cyclops Polyphemus with the pseudonym “Outis”, which in Greek translates as “Noman”. The character of Pete Hogwallop, played by actor John Turturro, then asks the blind man if he has a name, to which the blind man replies: “I have no name.” Toscano writes that this is an allusion to Book X of Homer’s Odyssey, in which Odysseus refuses to give his name to the enchantress and sorceress Circe, the Ancient Greek goddess of magic. [Toscano 49]
In his 2003 article History, Race and Myth in O Brother Where Art Thou? University of Georgia Department of Comparative Literature Professor of English Hugh Ruppersburg writes that Weaver’s blind seer is an avatar of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Apollo, Greek god of knowledge, music oracles, poetry, and prophecy, in that he gives the film’s protagonists a prophecy that Ruppersburg likens to those of Pythia, the Oracle of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi:
You seek a great fortune, you three who are now in chains. And you will find a fortune—though it will not be the fortune you seek. But first you must travel a long and difficult road—a road fraught with peril and pregnant with adventure. You shall see things wonderful to tell…and oh, so many Startlements. I cannot say how long this road shall be. But fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. And though the road may wind and your hearts grow weary, still shall you follow the way, even unto your salvation.” [Ruppersburg 10]
This view is supported by University of Copenhagen associate professor Doctor Pernille Flensted-Jensen in her article The Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou? In the Danish Journal of Philology and History. [Flensted-Jensen 18] Tiresias appears to the hero Odysseus in Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, as is noted by Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor Susan Kerns in her article O Homer, Where Art Thou?
            Flensted-Jensen and Toscano note a parallel between the character of Sheriff Cooley, played by actor Daniel Von Bargen, and the ancient Greek sea god Poseidon. In Book XIII of Homer’s Odyssey, in his unrelenting lust for revenge against Odysseus, Poseidon ignores the decree by his older brother Zeus, Ancient Greek god of justice, law and order and the king of the Ancient Greek Pantheon of gods and goddesses, that Odysseus will reach his home kingdom of Ithaca. In one of the last scenes in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Sherriff Cooley likewise ignores the fact that Governor O’Daniel has officially pardoned the film’s three protagonists with the words: “The law. Well the law is a human institution.” [Flensted-Jensen 22][Toscano 50] Though in the Sherriff’s case his obstinacy is motivated not by any personal grudge against any of the heroes, like Poseidon’s against Odysseus, but by an unflinching and dogmatic sense of justice for their crimes.
            Flensted-Jensen and Toscano further draw a parallel between the character of Mister Lund, played by actor Stephen Root, and Homer himself, the author of The Odyssey. Root’s Lund is the owner of a radio station who offers to pay each the film’s protagonists ten dollars, the equivalent of more than a hundred and fifty dollars today, in return for recording them singing. Lund is a blind man, and Homer’s name in Ancient Greek, “Homerus”, translates as “blind”. [Flensted-Jensen 22] Toscano writes that the Coen brothers’ blind radio station owner is “a promoter of oral poetry, the kind of poetry that can be enjoyed be even the illiterate.” [Toscano 58] Half all of Homer’s writings are in the form of speeches and four centuries after Homer’s Odyssey, in Book X of his Socratic dialogue The Republic, the Classical Greek philosopher Plato described Homer himself as the “first teacher” of the tragedians.
In Homer in Tishomingo, Cant interprets the character of George Nelson, played by actor Michael Badalucco, as a stand-in for Homer’s mythical Greek hero Ajax the Great. In one scene in the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? Nelson opens fire from the window of a speeding car on a heard of cows, muttering to himself: “I hate cows worse than coppers.” [Cant 70] In the play Ajax by the Ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles, written nearly four hundred years after Homer, Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of war strategy, prevents Ajax from killing Spartan king Menelaus and his brother, Mycenaean king Agamemnon, by tricking him into believing that a herd of cattle are his enemies. Ajax slaughters some of the cattle, but takes a flock of sheep home to torture them, believing one of them, a ram, to be his rival Odysseus himself, of whom Ajax is jealous for winning the armor of the mythological Greek hero Achilles. This view is supported by Ruppersburg, who notes that the real-life George Nelson, whose real name was Lester Gillis, not only “never set foot in Mississippi”, but died three years before O Brother, Where Art Thou? Takes place, in a November 27, 1934 shootout with Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents Herman Hollis and Samuel Cowley in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois known as the “Battle of Barrington”. [Ruppersburg 13] Kerns notes the same.
            Cant [70], Flensted-Jensen [19], Kerns, Ruppersburg [10-11] and Toscano [2, 4] all take note of the fact that the three Sirens in the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? Played by American actresses Christy Taylor and Mia Tate and South African actress Musetta Vander, are avatars of the Sirens in Book XII of Homer’s Odyssey.
Flensted-Jensen, Kerns and Ruppersburg, however, deviate from the other two in further noting that the Siren scene in the Coens’ O Brother, wherein the film’s protagonists are led to believe that the Sirens have magically transformed one of their number into a toad, can also be interpreted as an allusion to Book X of The Odyssey, in which the sorceress and goddess of magic Circe likewise transforms all of Odysseus’s crew into pigs save for Odysseus himself and his second-in command Eurylochus. [Flensted-Jensen 19] [Ruppersburg 11]
Cant [70], Flensted-Jensen [20, 22], Kerns, McFarland [48], Ruppersburg [10-11], and Toscano [2-4] likewise write that the character of Daniel Teague, played by actor John Goodman, parallels the character of Polyphemus, king of the Cyclopses and son of the sea god Poseidon, in Book IX Homer’s Odyssey.  Like the Cyclops Polyphemus, Goodman’s character is a giant, known as “Big Dan” with one eye, the other covered with an eye patch. [Toscano 57] When Odysseus and his crew first observe Polyphemus, he is milking his sheep and goats, seeming harmless. [Flensted-Jensen 20]
Likewise, Ulysses McGill and his comrades first meet Daniel Teague as a Bible salesman. [Flensted-Jensen 20][Toscano 2-3]
When Goodman’s character is later revealed to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, as he escorts the character of Tommy Johnson, played actor Chris King, to be lynched, Tim Nelson’s Delmar throws the Confederate flag at Teague’s one good eye like a javelin, mirroring the way in which Odysseus and his crew blind the Cyclops Polyphemus with a wooden stake. Odysseus’s preparation of the staff of green olive wood, which Polyphemus had intended to use as a club, by ordering his crew to file it even is mirrored by Teague tearing a branch off a tree and stripping it of its branches in preparation to use it as a club with which he assaults Ulysses McGill and his comrades. [Flensted-Jensen 20][McFarland 48]][Ruppersburg 11][Toscano 56] Flensted-Jensen notes that the fact that Odysseus uses the Cyclops’s own fire to heat the staff until it is “glowing with heat” [Homer, Butler, IX] before driving it into Polyphemus’ eye is mirrored in the fact that Daniel Teague is ultimately killed by Ulysses McGill and his comrades dropping the burning cross from Teague’s own Klan rally on top of his head. [Flensted-Jensen 22]
            In Homer in Tishomingo, Cant writes that in Chapter XXIII of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’s wife “Penelope regards the return of her Ulysses as an unmitigated misfortune and accepts him back under strictly enforced conditions.” [Cant 70] In The Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Flensted-Jensen draws an inverse parallel between the scene in Book XII of Homer’s Odyssey in which Odysseus and his crew beat the suitors vying for Penelope’s hand in marriage to death and the scene in the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?  In which Penny’s suitor, Vernon Waldrip, played by actor Ray McKinnon, beats up Ulysses McGill. However, Flensted-Jensen also notes that the heroes’ wives recognition of them plays pivotal role in the resolution of both The Odyssey and the Coen brothers’ film. [[Flensted-Jensen 21] When Ulysses McGill first encounters his wife, Penny says: “He’s not my husband. Just a drifter, I guess. Just some no-account drifter.” Odysseus first interacts with his wife Penelope in Book XIX of Homer’s Odyssey disguised in the rags of a beggar. [Flensted-Jensen 22] In Homer’s Odyssey, Penelope recognizes her husband in Book XXIII by his knowledge of their bed, made from an olive tree still rooted to the ground. In the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? Ulysses McGill gains recognition from his wife Penny that he is not, as she earlier labeled him, “a drifter”, when he reveals himself to be a member of the popular “Soggy Bottom Boys”. [Flensted-Jensen 21]
Ruppersburg likens the scene in O Brother wherein Ulysses McGill and Nelson’s Delmar discover in a movie theatre that the Circe-like Sirens did not, as they believed, magically transform their comrade Hogwallop into a frog to Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey wherein Odysseus visits the underworld to converse with ghosts. Ruppersburg notes that the Coens’ script for O Brother describes Hogwallop’s appearance in the movie theater as “haunted” and the manner in which Ulysses McGill stares at him as being “as if at a ghost”. [Ruppersburg 8]
            Toscano, however, likens Odysseus’s journey into the underworld to Ulysses McGill’s visit to what she describes as a “fire and brimstone meeting” of the Ku Klux Klan. [Toscano 49] Flensted-Jensen also likens the visit to the Klan rally to Odysseus’s voyage to Hades. [Flensted-Jensen 22]
            That screenwriters Joel and Ethan based their Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? On Ancient Greek poet Homer’s The Odyssey is well established.

1.     Cant, John. “Homer in Tishomingo: Eclecticism and Cultural Transformation in the Cohen Brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou? Comparative American Studies. Volume 5, Issue 1. (March 2007): 63-79.
2.     Chadwell, Sean. “Inventing that “Old Timey” Style: Southern Authenticity in O Brother Where Art Thou?Journal of Popular Film and Television. Volume 32, Issue 1. (Spring 2004): 2-9.
3.     Flensted-Jensen, Pernille. “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed: The Odyssey and O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Danish Journal of Philology and History. Volume 53. (2002): 13-30. 
4.     Homer. “The Odyssey”. Trans. A.T. Murray. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1919.
5.     Homer. “The Odyssey”. Trans. Samuel Butler. Internet Classics Archive, 1994.
6.     Kerns, Susan. “O Homer, Where Art Thou? A Greek Classic Becomes An American Original”. Xchanges. Volume, Number 2. (March 2002):
7.     Macfarland, Douglas “Philosophies of Comedy in O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The Philosophy of the Coen Brothers.  Ed. Mark Conard. Lexington. University Press of Kentucky, 2009. 41-54.
8.     Ruppersburg, Hugh. “Oh So Many Startlements”: History, Race and Myth in O Brother Where Art Thou?Southern Cultures. Volume 9, Number 4. (Winter 2003): 5-26.

9.     Toscano, Margaret. “Homer Meets the Coen Brothers: Memory as Artistic Pastiche in O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Film and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies. Volume 39, Issue 2. (Fall 2009): 49-62.