Sunset races in Marina del Rey. credit: Kris Dahlin

Kittens and climate change

For nearly 70 years I’ve been interested in kitten behavior and for 60 years I’ve been interested in earth sciences. “What do these two interests have to do with each other?” you might ask.

One game that kittens like to play is jumping onto tables and pushing little stuff around. The easier the table top play object moves, the more interesting is the game to the playful kitten. The climax of the game comes as the object nears the table’s edge and successive little nudges eventually push the object over. The kitten discovers the tipping point.

Earth science and human behavior are similar in that they involve pushing stuff around without initial regard for the consequences. Things get more interesting as stuff approaches the edge, and you have to have noticed that there is an edge to climate change — one that we are approaching all too quickly.

Kittens don’t predict where the tipping point is until their play object tumbles over the edge. People have no such excuse. We have ample clues about how close we are to our tipping point with climate change, if we bother to notice them. And we must bother to notice those clues now — not waiting until our stuff falls over the edge.

Tipping points are much more obvious in the rear mirror than in our windshield as we look ahead. But when we practice safe driving, we are always on alert to the conditions as they approach, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the signals and potential hazard ahead. My point is that we should cultivate and maintain a similar alertness in our forward progress and our current behavior to locate the climate tipping points before we tumble over.
Tim Tunks
Santa Monica

Solutions for drug addiction

This lengthy missive was recently written by my brother, Dr. Patrick O’Heffernan, who has an MIT doctorate in public policy and has spent  much of his life following social policy. It can be considered an authoritative response to the question re: our homeless crisis, “What the hell happened?  How did we get here?” It is long, but it is detailed and, I believe, accurate.

“In 1967, Gov. Reagan cut budgets and staff at the state’s mental hospitals, forcing them to prematurely discharge many patients, and saying that they would be taken care of in their ‘communities.’

At the same time, the Legislature passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (named for the sponsors, two Democrats and one Republican) in response to pressure from mental health professionals, lawyers, patient’s rights advocates, and the ACLU. When fully implemented in 1972, LPS effectively ended involuntary civil confinement of mental patients in California.  But the legislature failed to appropriate money for any community mental health care programs.

In 1980, President Carter signed the Mental Health Act, which did fund community and state mental health care programs.  But in 1981, newly elected President Reagan and a GOP Congress repealed it and eliminated funding for any community mental health care.

Medicare and Medicaid provide mental health care, but at a compensation rate so low most psychiatrists can’t afford to accept it.  And conservative states refuse to expand Medicaid, so poor people in those states can’t get mental health care anyway.

Many poor people with mental health issues then migrate to states with expanded Medicaid and good weather, for example, California.
Plus, decades of underfunding and mismanagement of the Veterans Administration under the GOP and Democrats alike resulted in thousands of veterans in the streets with no care and often no homes or jobs.

Compounding all this has been 40 years of GOP legislation undercutting unions, stacking courts and the Congress and the National Labor Relations Board , and – again under  both parties, but mostly the GOP – allowing corporations to bust unions, hire “contractors” and gig workers and underpay them, hold down minimum wages, import thousands of immigrants who are paid less then legal residents earn, automate people out of work, export jobs not requiring higher education, steal wages, and otherwise hollow out the blue-collar middle class, creating an expanded poverty class.
Add to all this: astronomical rents brought on by lenient eviction laws, courts and agencies that look the other way when landlords illegally evict or harass tenants, and foreign investors parking money in big city housing.

And then there are the decades of ignoring the national proliferation of addictive drugs (like Oxycontin, so the manufacturer could make more billions), the uncontrolled gentrification that makes a few people wealthy and evicts thousands of working people, a tax system that taxes wages but not wealth (e.g., capital gains) – taking money from working people and giving it to billionaires –  and the result is thousands of people living on the streets because they can’t afford rent even if they are working, or because they are mentally or physically ill but can’t get treatment, or because they are veterans with PTSD or other injuries and have bailed out of a dysfunctional system.

Bottom line, in an economic and legal system that puts property over people and wealth over everything else, and impoverishes working people and rewards greedy landlords, you are going to have thousands of homeless.  I see no solution without a completely revolutionizing the nation’s economic and legal systems.

But, hey, there is a bright side: a few people… foreign investors, real estate developers, and CEOs primarily… are now billionaires.”
We the people have long been asleep at the switch.”
Mike Heffernan