Smart people saying smart things

Bill McKibben: “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly — losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious — our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless — position with three simple numbers.

Amy Sullivan: “What Obama Needs to Know Before Meeting Rick Warren Again

Obama should consider that Warren either lied about his plans for the 2008 forum or bowed to pressure from other conservatives regarding the topics up for discussion. In the week before the earlier event, Warren told Time’s David van Biema that his questions would center on four areas: poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change, and human rights. “There is no Christian religious test,” said Warren.

The night of forum, however, Warren stuck to a more conservative script, quizzing the candidates about gay marriage, judges, and abortion — and only briefly touching on poverty and climate change.

Dave Lartigue: “The Dark Knight Buyses

It’s been said that Green Lantern is the most powerful character in the DC Comics universe because he is limited only by his will. … Batman, as we’ve seen, has no such limitations. His wealth enables him to defeat Superman through synthesizing Kryptonite. I don’t know if he’s fought Green Lantern, but in the most recent incarnation of the Justice League comic he’s removed the ring from Hal Jordan’s finger without him noticing. Batman needs no magic ring to manifest his will, he just buys stuff. Does he need to fly? He buys a jet. Does he need to bend metal? Wayne Industries has an experimental construction power suit that does just that. Does he need a giant supercomputer installed in an underground cavern? Money gets the job done. Batman buys his way to success, and since the wealth is unlimited, so is the success.

… His only restrictions are ones he places on himself. Super-wealth gives him the option to choose what he will and won’t do. In a similar, yet smaller-scale manner, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I could, there’s one nearby, but I choose not to, because I don’t like the company or its practices. However, I know that I can only make this choice because I’m in a comfortable financial position; most poorer people simply can’t afford not to shop there. Batman plays by rules and follows them religiously, but they are rules of his own making. This is another advantage of the super-wealthy.

… [Lex] Luthor is evil Batman. He’s got the same resources and the same abilities, but unlike Batman, he has not chosen to play by the rules. In the comic book world, this means Luthor doesn’t win, which is why the comic book world is described as “escapism.” In the world as it is, there are far more Luthors than Batmen, and they win far more often.

"The Godfather of Soul gets it."

Some notes and rules for a ..."
"Night time Slacktivites Winter Holidays Charity Drive, still at $360 and still very grateful. Thank ..."

Some notes and rules for a ..."
"Hey, I got bonus cuteness out of being wrong. :D"

As American as apple pie: ‘The ..."
"Still my favorite..."

Some notes and rules for a ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • LoneWolf343

    Well, Batman did punch out Guy Gartner once, so yes, he fought a Green Lantern.

  • Anon Collie

     Yeah, but Hal Jordan knocked Batman out later on without using his ring, to Guy’s delight, so all things considered, Bats isn’t invincible.

    And as a result of Bats punching out Guy the one time, Guy’s taking to mocking Bats where ever he can. Including mooning him. Through the Watchtower’s windows. From space.

    I think we’ve covered the fact that there are more Luthors than Waynes out there, when Fred discussed a few years ago that there are more Mr. Potters versus George Baileys.

  • LunaticFringe

    It bothers me that Batman has gone from a smart, strong guy with lots of neat technology to invincible guy who can beat anybody. I blame Frank Miller. 

    Yes, this is the sort of thing that bothers me. 

  • fraser

    I’m with Lunatic Fringe. It’s really startling reading 1940s stories in the Batman Chronicles and seeing that even though Bats is very, very, very good at what he does, two guys can take him from behind. When I was in my teens in the 1970s, the fact Batman could go toe-to-toe with someone theoretically more powerful was a mark of how impressive he was; now that it’s taken for granted, he’s less impressive (and less interesting).
    I don’t know that it’s Miller’s fault–I think Batman suffers from the same kind of power growth that makes Superman capable of continuously more spectacular feats over time. Then again, an acquaintance of mine argued Batman didn’t really hit the invincible level until the late eighties, at earliest, so that would fit timewise.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The 1960s Bruce Wayne in the TV shows  said things which would make him look like a positive pinko today. As one example, he admonishes Dick Grayson to study foreign languages because improving human understanding of each other may help promote world peace.

    Given the caterwauling some people today in the USA are making over having to OMGpressabutton to get English or Spanish – well, safe to say times have changed.

  • Diez

    Global warming scares the absolute shit out of me, because it really does seem hopeless at this point.  Everyone in control of everything that matters is a horrible person who doesn’t really care if the world burns because they won’t be around to see it.  These enormous fossil-fuel machines have too much momentum behind them– if they stop, it will take them years to do so.  And we already know that most regular people will not support change on a personal or institutional level unless they literally have no choice.

    I never feel more powerless than I do when I look at Global Warming statistics.  I can see why everyone in these comments would much rather discuss Batman.  This shit is scary.  It is the ultimate unknown– an impending horror that is deeper and more profound than we can possibly imagine.  And at this point, it really does seem like we are powerless to stop it.

  • Caravelle

     That the climate is changing and will change more in the future is indeed inevitable. But what does “hopeless” mean ? For one thing, the fact of global warming itself is becoming increasingly accepted (the fact that it’s started to visibly affect the world might have something to do with it), and with that an understanding that it needs to be mitigated. The political and social consensus on climate change and mitigation strategies is moving in the right direction – too slowly, but still moving.

    That means the question isn’t “will we be able to avert global warming ?” (that ship sailed decades ago), but “how much global warming will there be, what will the consequences be, and what can we do about them ?”. And that question will never stop being something we can do about.

    So yeah, there are specific questions on which we can be hopeless – will the Earth warm, will sea level rise, will the Kiribati islands subsist, will tons of species go extinct… But the general question of “how screwed are we ?” isn’t hopeless at all. For example, global warming will cause droughts and wars in poor regions of the globe ? Poor regions of the globe are already suffering famine and war and we already need to be fighting against that. Global warming will make that fight harder, but it won’t make it anymore hopeless than it already is.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that global warming isn’t the literal end of the world, and where there’s life there’s hope. I’ll grant that we need to revise our hopes massively downwards though, and that is a problem for the people who will be (and already are) the worst affected.

  • Matt McIrvin

    One problem is that, several years ago, the IPCC and various scientists came up with a rough number for how much warming the Earth could take without major global adverse consequences, and they got 2 degrees C.  That was helpful as a policy target; you have this number you can work backward from, and ask what you need to do to hit that number.

    The political problem arises when it becomes clear we’re *not* going to make that number.  It sometimes gets used as a “tipping point” and global warming becomes a rhetorical binary.  Below 2C warming, we’re A-OK; above it, it’s the end of the world.  But neither is true; there are tipping points for various effects, but 2C is not actually a binary threshold.  (In particular, it’s not a threshold for Venus-style runaway greenhouse, an impression some seem to have gotten.)  Carbon emissions reduction is equally important whether we’re below 2C or above it.

    For any kind of activism, you’re always walking a tightrope between complacency and fatalism.  Bill McKibben sees himself as a fighter of complacency, and as a result he’s going to be the voice of hair-on-fire alarm.  And that’s an important role; somebody has to do it.  But I do worry that some people hear this and fall into the opposite extreme of total despair.

  • Caravelle

    That’s actually exactly the kind of thing a project I’m working with is looking at. Specifically, comparing the outcomes of models of different systems (ecosystems, water, agriculture, malaria) under different climate scenarios. The aim being specifically to know the difference between a 2 degree-warming world and a 3 degree-warming world, and what that implies for mitigation.
    But yeah, 2 degrees probably isn’t going to happen. (and no, I don’t have results yet. Stupid model with its stupid negative runoff).

  • ako

     Bill McKibben sees himself as a fighter of complacency, and as a result
    he’s going to be the voice of hair-on-fire alarm.  And that’s an
    important role; somebody has to do it.  But I do worry that some people
    hear this and fall into the opposite extreme of total despair.

    I think it’s tricky when trying to argue in the mass media, because when you do an alarm-raising, “We’re not doing enough!” article/tv special/etc., at least some of the people in the audience are going to already be doing everything they can think of, and be left going “Well, it’s all hopeless”, feel really crappy about themselves and their future, and be more prone to giving up completely.  Conversely, a “We can do it!  Be optimistic!   We can all pull together and switch out light bulbs and everything will be fine!” message will leave at least some already-complacent people feeling more confirmed in their complacency.

    This is further complicated by confirmation bias, where someone who’s already settled into a position of “It’s all hopeless and disastrous” is going to be more likely to believe the most negative aspects of alarm-raising message and doubt the positive encouragement, and someone who’s already comfortable believing “I have my reusable bag, so I’ve done my part and it’ll all work out” is more likely to take reassuring messages as confirmation of their own belief and be doubtful of alarm-raising ones.

    TL;DR: Convincing people to do stuff is hard.

  • Liralen

    Yep.  The article also didn’t mention that the price of natural gas has been killing coal and that natural gas has considerably less CO2 per unit of energy than coal.

    Furthermore, EPA has promulgated two regulations which will further reduce the use of coal.  One is a regulation governing toxic emissions from electric generating units that is almost impossible for older plants to comply without state of the art control devices.  It’s not likely that a utility would spend the money to upgrade old units, but would elect to build new units instead.

    The second regulation requires that new units essentially meet a greenhouse gas emission standard based upon what a natural gas unit would emit.  A coal unit cannot meet this standard without carbon sequestration, which would add to the cost of a coal unit, which can barely hold its own with respect to natural gas as it is.

    Of course, the Republicans are trying to scuttle both regulations.  However, both regulations are the result of court decisions overturning attempts by the previous administration to avoid complying with the Clean Air Act.

  • Liralen

    Forgot to include the link to the greenhouse gas rule, which has not been finalized yet, but should be soon.

  • Joshua

    Global warming will make that fight harder, but it won’t make it anymore hopeless than it already is. 

    It’s good to look at the bright side once in a while.

  • mistformsquirrel

     That’s precisely how I feel – hopeless and powerless.  I feel that way about a lot of things, but nothing more so than climate change.

    Frankly* I’m at the point where I’ve already decided against ever having kids.  Not because I don’t want them, but because what’s going to be left for them?  I’m young enough that by the time I die, it’s probable the planet will be going with me.  I don’t like that – but I can’t in good conscience ask someone else to continue on in what’s likely to be an at-best difficult transitional phase, and at worst quite literally the end of the world.

    In perhaps a rather ironic sense, we may very well see the four horsemen in our time, just like all those PMD types say we will; not as agents of some supernatural power, but simply due to our own collective idiocy.  I admit, I’m not sure I want to be around when that happens.

    *I’m in a pretty bleak mood at the moment, this post will probably reflect that.

  • Chris Algoo

    So,  we’re screwed unless oil companies and governments can put the long-term health of the planet over short-term oil profits. 

    We’re screwed.

  • Matt McIrvin

    A more hopeful article in the NYT:

    I am not personally convinced that more substantial progress in eliminating carbon emissions can be made without some kind of pricing scheme (carbon tax or cap-and-trade), which is in turn going to take major-league political change.  And switching to natural gas only goes so far; it’s a fossil fuel that is a carbon source, just not as bad of one as coal.

    But it’s interesting to note that the US actually has been cutting carbon emissions per capita since the mid-1990s.  Part of that is from anemic economic growth, and part is from outsourcing manufacturing pollution to China, but not all of it.  We actually seem to have passed peak gasoline demand, for instance; development is moving back into city centers instead of sprawling far suburbs.

  • BringTheNoise

    OT: Marriage equality is moving ahead here in Scotland –

    The Catholic Church is against it, with an original (if bizarre) argument:

    “We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships.”

    While the (established) Church of Scotland issued a rather odd statement:

    “The Rev Alan Hamilton, convener of the Church of Scotland legal questions committee, said: “We are acutely aware that opinions differ among our own members and that many people are anxious and hurt in the current situation.
    “We believe homophobia to be sinful and we reaffirm our strong pastoral commitment to all people in Scotland, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs.”
    He added: “We are concerned the government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages.””

    So they’re anti-homphobia, but they’re concerned about homophobe’s rights to be homophobic, even though the bill is specifically including an opt-out for religious ceremonies. Riiiight. Might need to send that dude a letter, let him know how this member feels on the issue.

  • Dave


    “We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships.”

    Wow. That is… revealing.
    I think.

    I mean, the only way that claim makes any sense to me is if I assume “profound friendships” refers to profound friendships between same-sex friends.

    In that case, I can understand this to be an extension of the “When Harry Met Sally” philosophy that men and women can’t really be friends, because the potential for sex interferes with friendship. I guess if I believed that, it would follow that if the potential for sex exists between two people of the same sex as well, then no two people can really be friends.

    Of course, that presumes a couple of big things.

    The first being that the potential for sex interferes with friendship, rather than potentially being part of it or (God forbid) adding to it.

    The second being that the existence (or, perhaps, the social acceptability?) of same-sex sexual relationships means that this inhibiting potential for sex exists betweenany two people… even heterosexuals, even people not sexually attracted to one another, etc.

    That is, the idea is that if straight people acknowledge my husband and me as human beings, then suddenly the possibility of sex with any of their friends exists for them, when it didn’t before… and that’s bad.

    That… huh.

    What that is, I think, is unutterably sad.

  • Jamoche

    The first being that the potential for sex interferes with friendship, rather than potentially being part of it or (God forbid) adding to it.

    I have an ex-friend who believes that friendship between men and women inevitably leads to sex, even if one or the other are married to other people. Therefore I couldn’t possibly be merely friends with her husband, he had to be cheating on her. There’s more of a hint of projection here; she started saying this after she started cheating on him.

    Now imagine this combination of jealous and un-self-aware having to deal with the possibility that all of her husband’s friends were potential sex-partners.

  • Dave


    Now imagine this combination of jealous and un-self-aware having to deal with the possibility that all of her husband’s friends were potential sex-partners.

    Honestly, what my imagination reports here is that it makes no difference at all… the world where all male friends are threats to my marriage is, from where I stand, not noticeably better than the world where all friends of any gender are threats to my marriage.

    That said, I recognize that this is probably a failure of my imagination. Were I actually in the world where all male friends are threats to my marriage, I most likely would consider that vastly preferable to the world where everyone is.

    (sigh) As I said initially: sad.

  • Tonio

    I get the impression that in many societies in the past, men and women were expected to have minimal social interaction outside of sex, or at least outside of marriage and courting. If this is true, some of Left Behind’s descriptions of dating (or whatever it is Buck and Chloe do before marriage) seem rooted in that concept. Was this social code rooted in a belief that a man and a woman couldn’t interact socially without lusting for each other? I suspect instead that it was about treating women as property, with the rationalization that women in those interactions would be preyed upon by men other than their husbands. 

  • Tricksterson

    It’s the old “If gays are allowed to marry then priests/ministers will be forced to marry them!  At gunpoint!  By jackbooted thugs!” argument. 

  • BringTheNoise

     It’s just rather odd to hear from the head of a denomination with an openly gay minister and who pushed FOR gay adoption rights, even before the government moved forward with them.

  • Lliira

    Wait… so same-sex friendships will suffer because they’ll be having sex all the time instead of doing other friend stuff?

    But I don’t want to have sex with my female friends. Not even the bisexual and lesbian ones. And my best friend is the guy I do have sex with. So, um.

    Did the guy who made that statement just confess that he wants to boink all his male friends?

  • BringTheNoise

    Did the guy who made that statement just confess that he wants to boink all his male friends?

    It certainly seems that way. Oddly though, I’ve never heard the Catholic Church come out against opposite-sex friendship, even among straight people.

  • Wingedwyrm

    “Did the guy who made that statement just confess that he wants to boink all his male friends?”

    No, I believe the lack-of-thought process goes like this.  “This is the only thing that differentiates homosexual individuals from the rest of us.  Therefore, it must be the only thing about homosexual individuals.”

    Now, the thought process then goes on to say “since gay men must be having sex with other men all the time, they must not be able to have genuine friendships with other men.  Therefore, they must stop being gay… because that’s totally a thing that can happen.”

  • Dave

    Wait… so same-sex friendships will suffer because they’ll be having sex all the time instead of doing other friend stuff?

    I think the idea is that the friendships will suffer because the possibility of sex will always be present. And that’s bad, because, um, morals and stuff. You know, kind of like how real friendships aren’t possible between any two people, because of the ever-present possibility that one of them might kill the other. Except worse, because it’s sex rather than mere death.

    To be fair, I do know a fair number of people who experience something similar to this in certain contexts, which I would prefer not to spell out here, and for whom I do have a great deal of sympathy.

    So, I dunno.

  • Charity Brighton

     And if same-sex marriage, adoption, etc. were illegal, then these temptations would no longer exist… interesting…

    Even if the snark stuff were 100% true for everyone, all the time, that would be an argument to ban two people of the same sex from hanging out together at all.

  • Dave


    Though, IIRC, the original quote was talking about the effects of same-sex sexual relationships existing. So that’s at least consistent.

    This of course leaves unspecified (chillingly so) what one is supposed to do about it. But, presumably, people who believe this sort of thing would be thrilled to discover a painless, reliable intervention that makes everybody 100% heterosexual that they could just dose the water supply with, like fluoride.

  • Vermic

    I too am depressed beyond words by the Bill McKibben article.  At this point, I think my efforts to go greener will be motivated less by a wish to save the environment, and more by the presumption that my future will be hotter and energy far more expensive, and I might as well start adapting now.  Those lifestyle changes will also help the environment today, in some marginal way, but that’s no longer my main motivation for making them.

    Real change is going to have to happen at the political level.  As an American, I can’t really control what China does, but at least I can be on the right side of things in America.  It still matters.  Who knows, maybe our opportunity to choose a good future over a bad future has passed, and our choices are now between a bad future and a terrible one.  That’s still a choice that matters. It’s still one worth making.

    Anyway: Batman!  I don’t know if I’d blame The Dark Knight Returns for the powering-up of the Caped Crusader; or at any rate it’s not so much Frank Miller’s fault as it is those who looked at TDKR and came away with no other impression than “Batman beating up Superman is awesome”.  It is awesome, but Bruce’s beatdown of Clark in that story is well-earned — Miller doesn’t make it easy.  (SPOILERS) First, Superman is pre-weakened after eating a nuclear blast.  Then Bruce is required to pull out every possible trick to buff himself and hamper Clark; he still gets badly injured; and none of this is to actually injure Clark, it’s all to bring him to a point where he can be distracted for a split-second so that another superhero can sneak in with the kryptonite.  There’s also Robin in a tank.  So Bats doesn’t really even do it himself.  Whatever can be said about Frank Miller’s other work, at least TDKR gives proper credit to Supes and makes the showdown between man and god as weighty as such a match deserves. 

  • ako

    I like the Batman versus Lex Luthor comparison, because I keep running into the misconception that “privilege” means “bad or unworthy”, and that example nicely illustrates how that isn’t so.  The privilege of being extremely wealthy gives both of those characters an enormous amount of power, and what they chose to do with their privilege is the difference between a superhero and a supervillain. 

  • Azraelmacool

    Another good Batman-fighting-a-superior-opponent story, in JLA The Lightning Saga, he fights a member of the Legion of Super Heroes from the 31st century, Karate Kid, who’s listed in the files as a 10th level martial artist; Batman is a level 8. After a badass but mostly off-panel brawl, he tricks Karate Kid into thinking he dislocated his leg or something, and it turns out it was basically all a ploy to let Black Lightning sneak up and electrocute Karate Kid. The thing I liked about that was that it showed that what he used to defeat more powerful opponents than him was an understanding of his environment, his team mates, his opponents, etc. Plus I thought it was a trope by now that Batman always loses the first fight against a more powerful opponent, but then uses what he learned from that experience to win the next time around.

  • Jessica_R

    I really like the great line I read somewhere that “Mitt Romney is what happens when Batman’s parents don’t get killed in Crime Alley.”

  • Wingedwyrm

    Based on the behavior of the elder Waynes in Batman Begins, it seems that they are a family well aware of their debt to the society that supports their wealth, acting with a desire to better all of society at their own cost.  I doubt Wayne minus Batman would be Mitt Romney.

  • Tricksterson

    I think it’s indicative of the senior Waynes that even though they could easily have afforded their own private movie theater, or bought out the theater for a private viewing, they went to it like a normal, middle class family.

  • Patrick McGraw


    I really like the great line I read somewhere that “Mitt Romney is what
    happens when Batman’s parents don’t get killed in Crime Alley.”

    ::looks at Thomas and Martha Wayne::
    ::looks at Mitt Romney’s father (I don’t know anything about his mother)::

    I can see where that’s coming from. Sometimes the apple falls pretty far from the tree.

  • Tonio

     Jeph Loeb sorta kinda addressed that scenario in Absolute Power. In an alternate reality (how else?), Bruce actually is the billionaire playboy instead of using that as a pretense like in the older comics.

    And the Batman Begins background is reminiscent of another alternate reality story, J.M. DeMatteis’ Speeding Bullets, where Kal-El is raised by the Waynes. This version of Bruce buys the Gotham Gazette to serve as a journalistic force for good. I imagine that if Clark Luthor from Smallville had a redemption story arc, he could follow a similar pattern of philanthropist by day and shadowy hero by night.

  • fraser

     There’s a story in Detective 500 where Batman travels to a parallel world and prevents their version of the Waynes from getting killed. That Bruce does grow up into (it’s implied) Batman, inspired by seeing his parents saved and without the burden of “our” Bruce’s trauma. It’s remarkably moving.

  • Tonio

    I liked that story as well. It would have been interesting to see what type of hero Bruce would have become in that other universe. Maybe a non-superpowered version of Smallville’s Blur, someone who works in the shadows to inspire rather than terrify.

  • Tonio

    I admit to being scared shitless by climate change as well. In our house we emphasize the theme “What kind of world do you want to leave for your grandchildren?” In recycling and conserving water and electricity, I find that thinking this way is a great encouragement.

  • mud man

    We voted in Barak Obama and look what happened? So much for the political process. We can’t legalize MJ, we can’t get guarantees for decent wages or universal health care, we’re going to get the Biggies to give up Twenty Billion Dollars?? … Oh, excuse me, Twenty *Trillion*.

    What will stop carbon emissions will be food riots. There will be a spike while the cities burn, but after that the recovery process can get started. See’ya there?

  • JonathanPelikan

    One election in which the guy has been a turrible centrist disappointment on many/most issues definitely proves that our political process is completely unsalvageable.

    Tell you what. Are you willing to see you, and your family, particularly any parents or children you have, as the first casualties of the revolution and the riots and the uprising? If not then you have a moral duty to make things work without burning down the cities and to refuse to give in to despair.

  • mud man

    Did you read that Bill McKibben piece? It isn’t the election that proved the bankruptcy, it’s the process by which the election was corrupted. Here, read  this.

    Did you read my post yesterday telling everybody to write their Congressperson about the CFPB, and did you do it? I’m not setting fires in cities. I’m out in the country growing vegetables and teaching the kids in Sunday school. What are you doing? Still planning your 401K and voting the straight Democratic ticket?

  • BringTheNoise

    I’m not setting fires in cities

    Just implying that it’s a necessary step to improve things. Not a huge step up in my book.

  • Paul Durant

    Comparing Mitt Romney to Lex Luthor? Seriously? Is that really how far we’ve fallen?
    Lex Luthor is a way better person, not to mention a more complex character, than Mitt Romney. Lex Luthor STANDS for something, and does so PASSIONATELY. He believes in humanity, in human achievement, and for this reason he loathes Superman and every single thing Superman represents. “The alien” didn’t earn any of his amazing abilities, and he presumes to stand watch over us, like we’re his children, like he knows what’s best for us? Luthor commits evil because he’s driven to the point of obsession and will let nothing hold him back. And he earned every red cent of his obscene wealth because he’s just that brilliant and just that driven, building a trillion-dollar multinational from the ground up with his brilliant inventions.

    Mitt Romney doesn’t stand for anything, much less with passion. He barely stands for “Mitt Romney”. He’s an empty cipher who commits evil because it’s easy. He wants others to do his work for him. He made his fortune by inheriting it and by playing with financial voodoo that helped nobody; he wants more and more wealth just to have it. Romney doesn’t even loathe Obama, he lies about Obama because it’s something that can ornery up the voters who aren’t excited about Romney himself. Could you imagine Mitt Romney taking over a struggling nation and revitalizing it into a Utopia _just to prove Barack Obama’s ideology wrong_? Can you imagine Mitt Romney building a suit of power armor to prove that nothing Barack Obama has by birthright could be better than what he earned?

    Can you imagine Mitt Romney building ANYTHING?

  • Kiba

    Can you imagine Mitt Romney building ANYTHING?

    Uhmm, does increasing the already vast income disparity, unemployed, uninsured, etc., count? ‘Cause if not then I got nuthin’.

  • Tonio

    Excellent points. Comparing Romney to Luthor is superficial at best, suggesting a familiarity only with the description of the character and not with the actual stories. Hard to see Romney acting like a calculating user of people as in “Metropolis 900 mi.”

  • ReverendRef

    Um . . . please forgive the denseness on my part . . . but as someone who never really got into comics and only has a cursory knowledge of that genre (think campy 1960’s Batman TV and Saturday morning cartoon Justice League stuff), would anyone care to explain to me exactly WHY Batman is fighting Superman and/or other super heroes?  Isn’t that a bit like Peyton Manning fighting Reggie Wayne, or Joe Montana fighting Jerry Rice, or Tom Brady fighting Wes Welker?

    I thought they were supposed to be on the same side here?

    And, yes, I really do want an answer because I really don’t want to talk about global warming.

  • Dave

    The short version is, there were a number of popular comic-book stories (most relevantly Frank Miller’s Dark Knight version of Batman in the 80s) that tried to deconstruct the Saturday-morning-cartoon image of superheroes, and introduce more “mature” political and psychological themes into their storylines, in pursuit of greater dramatic impact.

    Dark Knight, in particular, tells the story of an elderly Bruce Wayne, who is by then an outlaw wanted by the police, coming out of retirement. He is hunted by, among other things, other superheroes (e.g. Superman).

  • Matri

    Like the Xavier Protocols, Batman has files on every single superhero he’s ever encountered. Each file details exact steps to completely neutralize the super.

    Plus, there have been several episodes where Supes managed to get himself mind-controlled. Guess who’s the only one with even a whisper of a chance at taking him down?

  • Patrick McGraw


    Plus, there have been several episodes where Supes managed to get
    himself mind-controlled. Guess who’s the only one with even a whisper of
    a chance at taking him down?

    Wonder Woman. Greg Rucka’s Sacrifice story arc is my personal favorite take on this question, because Diana showing up is the reason mind-controlled Superman did not kill Batman.

  • fraser

     And Green Lantern can make kryptonite. And Zatanna, Phantom Stranger or any other magic practitioner can fry his butt. 

  • Paul Durant

    Most of the time superheroes fight each other due to mind-control rays or misunderstandings or in non-canonical situations, because they are good guys but on the other hand their fans really, /really/ want to see them fight to see who would win. In The Dark Knight Returns, it was because it was a crazy Frank Miller post-apocalypse where society had broken down and Superman trying to drop Batman on behalf of the US government made sense at the time. 

    However, when he punched out the Green Lantern Guy Gardner, it was just because Guy has a very punchable face.

  • Matri

    However, when he punched out the Green Lantern Guy Gardner, it was just because Guy has a very punchable face.

    Plus, Guy is kind of a jerk.

  • Tonio

    on the other hand their fans really, /really/ want to see them fight to see who would win

    I was in the minority. In a way, that seemed like just the flip side of the phony camaraderie in the older JLA books. Len Wein was the first writer I remember who made the characters a bit more human (a term I use with hesitation because the group included a Kryptonian and a Martian) where they bicker sometimes.

  • fraser

     The thing that drives me nuts when I glance at the latest JLA reboot is that after five years working together, they act like they barely trust each other. It’s cheap characterization–JLA Year One did a much better job showing the challenges of meshing the team.

  • Patrick McGraw

     One of the minor things that bugs me about the “New 52” is that most of the costume redesigns seem to just involve putting lines all over the costumes.

  • Caravelle

    Okay, I’ve actually been reading that global warming article and I have to admit I might have been optimistic in my comment. I’d forgotten about how things had gone at Copenhagen and I didn’t even know about the Rio conference, which if anything proves the author’s point.

    On the other hand I think I was completely wrong about the 2 degrees warming scenario; I was confusing with with the lowest IPCC scenario, the RCP2.6, where 2.6 refers to radiative forcing not temperature. So 2 degrees warming or lower isn’t off the table. Sorry about that mistake.

  • Becka Sutton

    The only thing we – as individuals – can do about Climate Change is act as if we can make a difference. Because if everyone sits still because one person can’t do anything nothing will get done.

    We should lobby the politicians as if they’ll listen. If enough people yell they will.

    We should amend our own lifestyles because while we can’t control what other people do we can control what we do and we should do what everyone should be doing because then at least we know we did what we could.

    I’ve just got an allotment ( for peeps who don’t know) and I intend to be as close to self-sufficient for fruit and veg as I can.

    I need to get better at recycling. I’m pretty terrible about just dumping everything in the bin.

    Once my debt is cleared next year I’m going to look into self-building a home like this (I currently rent which limits what I can do myself – though the housing association saw to insulation, double glazing and a new, efficient boiler) but I fear it may be beyond me because I don’t really want to go back into masses of debt and I can’t see a way to do it without a mortgage.

    What other stuff can we do personally that would make a big impact if everyone did it from the practical to the way out there?

  • AnonymousSam

    Heh, I remember an episode of Justice League where Lex Luthor invents the cure to cancer, then gives it to his researchers with the instructions to reverse-engineer it so it can be turned into less effective monthly treatments instead of an actual cure, since curing cancer isn’t profitable.

    Does that sound like Romney?

    Well, maybe if he had a medical degree.

  • Paul Durant

    Does that sound like Romney? No. As evil as “let’s water down this cancer cure to a long-term treatment” is, at least at the end of that there’s a new long-term cancer treatment that works.

    Romney wouldn’t water down something that could be a boon to mankind to make it more profitable because Romney isn’t involved with anything that could possibly be a boon to mankind. Romney takes other people’s money and uses it to buy other, different people’s money, shuffle it around, and keep some of it.

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s why I said “maybe with a medical degree.” Romney doesn’t have the skill or knowledge to create a means of exploitation other than riding off the existing models to which his father contributed. He’d be SOL if he had to build his own empire from the ground up. :p

  • ReverendRef

    To everyone who took time to answer my question about why the good guys battle each other:  Thanks, that helps remove some confusion there.

  • Isabel C.

    As usual when this comes up, I will note that my life would be a lot better, or at least a lot more full of sex, if I wanted to sleep with all my male friends. Or even all my single male friends. 

  • MaryKaye

    If homosexual attraction makes same-sex friendship impossible, it follows very clearly that bisexuals cannot have friends of any gender.  Something I think my friends would be surprised to hear.

    I *have* experienced the friendship-complicated-by-sexual-attraction thing a couple of times, but (a) not every time, and (b) it usually worked out okay, either as a friendship or, in one case, as a romance and marriage.  (21 years this November, so empirically speaking, a successful one.)

  • SirThinkAlot

    Really Batman’s power isnt his wealth per se.   Its his sheer determination and single mindedness in stopping criminals.  Other heroes like Green Arrow(before the most recent reboot of DCs universe) or The Punisher lack any powers, including Batman’s resources, but do well as heroes because they are determined to fight.  

  • Vermic

    Really Batman’s power isnt his wealth per se.   Its his sheer determination and single mindedness in stopping criminals.

    This is a good point, and it’s one which the Christopher Nolan films tend to let pass.  I don’t know whether I’d exactly call it a “flaw” of the films, because maybe Nolan intended it, but it’s there anyway.  (No spoilers ahead, just general thoughts on the trilogy as a whole.)

    Batman in the comics is generally presented as the pinnacle of human capability, which entitles him to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with guys like Green Lantern and Superman.  Physically and mentally, he’s built himself to the limit of what ordinary humans can aspire to.  All his wonderful toys are useful tools, but not really central to the character.  Bruce Wayne in nothing but a pair of Bermuda shorts would still be a really formidable force, because he’s still the goddamn Batman.

    That’s de-emphasized in the Nolan films.  We’re shown a more mundane and (for what it’s worth) realistic Batman, one who relies a lot on his wealth and the skills and innovations of others, because in the real world someone trying to do what Bruce does would have to.  But the flip side is the impression it leaves that anyone could be Batman if you gave them a credit card and the keys to the Batcave, and do at least as well as Bruce Wayne, if not better.  Morgan Freeman would probably make a fine Caped Crusader if he felt like taking a break from the boardroom.  Christian Bale Batman isn’t the world’s greatest detective, and he isn’t much of a scientist particularly.  He’s a rich dude with some fighting skills who doesn’t mind getting beaten up.  You couldn’t really picture the Nolan Batman working alongside Superman, much less beating him to a pulp if matters came to that.

  • Dave

    You couldn’t really picture the Nolan Batman working alongside Superman, much less beating him to a pulp if matters came to that.

    True. Then again, the Nolan Batman doesn’t exist in a world with a Superman in it. The existence of Supermen tends to change how we think of mortal heroism.

  • Vermic

    Yeah, with the success of the Avengers I expect DC will soon start work on a Justice League project.  The next time big-screen Batman gets a reboot, it’ll probably be with future team-ups in mind, and that’ll mean a Batman more capable (both physically and emotionally) of working alongside folks like Superman and Wonder Woman.  If that means a Batman like the Animated Series incarnation, then I’m all for it!

  • Dave

    This sort of balancing act is very difficult to do well; one of the things that impressed me about the Avengers is that Whedon pulled it off reasonably smoothly. I really expected it to suck for that reason.

    IMO, the Justice League would be even harder to pull off. The Avengers are imbalanced, but they each have glaring flaws… the Hulk’s mindlessness, Thor’s cluelessness, Iron Man’s arrogance, Cap/Widow/Hawkeye’s mortality, etc… that they can mutually alleviate.

    In the JL, well, the character flaws are less blatant, at least.

    A World’s Finest style Superman/Batman teamup might work better than a Justice League, maybe? That has a classic brains/brawns thing going on, at least.

    Were I putting together a from-scratch Superman/Batman teamup,  I would have the throughline involve an increasingly frustrated Superman realizing that the human world is too complicated for him to use his power to eliminate suffering in, and edging closer and closer to deciding that therefore he will simplify the human world by brute force for its own good.  (Ominous background music.) And introduce  Batman as the wildcard who averts that.

    If I were feeling positive, I’d probably have Batman ultimately make Superman realize that it’s precisely the complexity of human nature that can ultimately give rise to forces even better than he is, and that eliminating that complexity merely to alleviate short-term suffering is a poor choice.

    If I were feeling evil, I’d have Batman suggest that though Superman isn’t clever enough to use his power effectively in a complex human world without blundering through it like a bull in a shopping mall, Batman is clever enough; with Superman’s power to draw on they could totally just run things from the shadows and make everybody’s life better without anybody having to know.

    Come to think of it, in the second case it’d just be easier to franchise the Authority to begin with.

  • fraser

     According to the news from Comic-Con, Marvel has a half-dozen super-hero movies in the works, Warner Brothers is vaguely talking about maybe possibly having a new one of some sort out by 2015. On the other hand, Batman in the various animated series (and film spinoffs) has proven very capable at playing in the big league.

  • fraser

     Also the mystique. One of the second-string villains of the sixties realized that anyone going up against Batman automatically has two strikes against him because at some level he can’t believe beating the Bat is possible.