Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Burn More Coal, NOW!

The United States has the biggest reserves of coal in the world. We have so much coal we can ship it off to other countries. That's right. We are a net exporter of the dirty rock. And here we are wringing our hands over our dependence on foreign oil, peak oil, and high gas prices (okay, not half as high as Europe, but higher than Americans want to pay). Why don't we convert our vehicles to run on coal?

Okay, I'll grant you that according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, burning coal is a leading cause of smog, acid rain, global warming, and our toxic air. In an average year, a typical coal plant generates:
    • 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming--as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
    • 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs.
    • 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.
    • 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
    • 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease.
    • 220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.
    • 170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.
    • 225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.
    • 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.
Peace negotiations with a coal seam
I say “so what!” Who listens to scientists, anyway (certainly not Republicans). Our energetic Republican Congressmen hurriedly passed a "Stop the War on Coal" bill (H.R. 3904) just before adjourning so that America can continue to enjoy the benefits of coal without all those burdensome EPA regulations (you know, the ones that protect air and water quality). Of course, the Senate won't pass the bill, and President Obama has promised to veto it in any case, so the House bill is for naught. But it's the thought that counts, right? [So what the fuck are they thinking?]

Our Republican congressional representatives, who some people have the temerity to accuse of being obstructionist, have voted an astonishing 302 times this year to hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency, weaken clean water and air rules, undermine protections for public lands  and coastal areas, and block action to address global warming – all while seeking to make the regulatory climate as favorable as possible for the oil, gas and coal industries. And why not? It’s these folks who are paying "their" congressmen to watch out for their interests.

Robert Semple reports in the September 20th edition of the Washington Post that Russell Train, a lifelong Republican and one of the country’s foremost conservationists of the last half-century, died this week at the age of 92. He served Richard Nixon as the first chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and later as administrator of the fledgling Environmental Protection Agency – helping shape landmark statutes like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. His death serves as a reminder of the G.O.P.’s historic tradition of environmental stewardship, a tradition stretching as far back as Teddy Roosevelt, which the party has now repudiated.

Indeed, it's hard to associate today's Republican Party with anything remotely responsible in so far as the environment is concerned. These Republican heroes are all about job creation and job creators (those are the people who buy their votes). If those "purple mountains" have to have their tops removed to get at coal, so be it. If coal ash removal is a problem, don't remove the shit, just store it behind dirt damns and pray for the best. If acid rain is turning forests brown, it's time to clear cut. And please don't even mention global warming; what a hoax!
Coal ash sludge flood at Kingston plant in TN
Unfortunately the Republicans war on the environment (can I use that term?) makes some people mad, like Philip Bump, who wrote that, "The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives could not care less about the legacy it is leaving for its party, its districts, or the United States. They can’t draw a straight fucking line between the worst drought in decades and the coal plants that, day in and day out, belch out pollution." Now, now, Philip. Try to look at it from the other side of the aisle. If the fossil industry was paying your salary, wouldn't you say and do whatever they told you to? Damn right! Well, unless you had integrity, that is. No worries. We're talking about Republicans.
Purple Mountains Majesty
Mountain top removal coal mining -- there ain't any majesty to it

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Is Climate Change Hell Now Inevitable?

Is Climate Change Hell Now Inevitable? | Common Dreams
We know from the geologic record that runaway methane releases have occurred several times in the past.  Some 55 million years ago, during what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, temperatures soared, as clathrates (or as they are sometimes known, hydrates) released massive amounts of carbon, mostly in the form of methane.  Many scientists believe this was triggered by volcanic releases of carbon.  Other factors may have been at play, but the key takeaway is that methane releases caused runaway warming that lasted for more than 150,000 years, and that today, humans are releasing carbon at ten times the rate that is thought to have triggered the releases.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


As Mother Jones reported recently, the CIA's Center on Climate Change and National Security has been keeping a low profile, probably because Republican members of Congress have been trying to ax the program. But apparently the CIA is going so far as to keep all information about the program highly classified. But leave it to the Obama Administration to leak classified documents to further its nefarious political aims. Here's the latest.

For additional details, please refer to the extended report.
Although the "leaked" document is fake, the threat of abrupt climate destabilization isn't.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Angry White Guys

A sea of white faces at the 2012 Republican National Convention
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." (Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC).

Why Did Mitt Romney Say This?

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it...These are people who pay no income tax, 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. So he'll (President Obama) be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

This is an excerpt from remarks made by Mitt Romney to attendees of a $50,000-a-plate dinner at the home of private equity manager Marc Leder, in Boca Raton, Florida, May 17, 2012. The whole thing was surreptitiously videotaped and passed on to Mother Jones Magazine, which published portions of the video, and then published the whole thing, with transcripts. It's worth reading the transcripts, as well as watching the video (only Part 1 of the video is included here).

Much has been made of Romney's remarks almost all of it focusing on his perceived disdain for the working class, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. Paul Krugman, for example, says that Mr. Romney's comments really reflect his and his party's values and beliefs, "What people are now calling the Boca Moment wasn’t some trivial gaffe. It was a window into the true attitudes of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect."

But on a Washington Post blog, Campaign 2012, Karen Tumulty may have hit the nail on the head when it comes to Romney's motive for saying what he said, "[His line] most likely played well with the audience to which Romney delivered it." In other words, he was pandering to rich donors. He was saying what he thought they wanted to hear, because he wanted their money.

Reliably conservative columnist David Brooks writes of Romney’s comments, “As a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other.” As for Romney himself, Brooks writes, “I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.”

Mr. Romney's tailoring of his comments to his wealthy audience would certainly be consistent with the way Mr. Romney has comported himself throughout his numerous campaigns. Depending on his calculation of the audience, Mr. Romney produces positions and counter positions to his positions with a bland innocence that has caused a number of interviewers to fall silent in awe.
  • He was pro-choice in 1994 when a candidate for the Senate and again in 2002 when he was running for governor. Now he is “firmly pro-life.”
  • He favored allowing gays to serve “openly and honestly” in the military in his run for the Senate in 1994. But in a 2007 GOP debate he  opposed repeal of the military's “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
  • He was a strong supporter of “tough gun laws” while running for and as governor of Massachusetts stating that, "Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts." By 2008 he was saying, "I don’t support any gun control legislation, the effort for a new assault weapons ban, with a ban on semi-automatic weapons, is something I would oppose."
  • In the summer of 2011, Mr. Romney was a true believer in anthropogenic global warming, but by October he'd changed his mind saying,"My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."
Whether Mr. Romney is truly dismissive of almost half of all Americans, or simply an unprincipled opportunist may be moot. In either case, he most certainly lacks the character to be president of the entirety of the United States of America.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The American Taliban Courtesy of "The Newsroom"

The Newsroom, a new TV show written by the inimitable Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing), took on the Tea Party last Sunday and gave them a good going over. Here's the clip.
What do you think, did Sorkin get it right?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

In the Name of God

US Ambassador Christopher Stevens
How often have we seen people murdered "in the name of God." The good people pictured here were killed by what we term "extremists," but were the killers extreme, or are they simply your average terrorist wearing the cloak of religion, a الكفار, to hide the fact that they are murderous bastards?
Killed by Fanatics, Islamic Extremists, or Crass Opportunists

2016: Obama's America

The premise of the film as I understand it from a number of reviews (I have not seen it) is that President Obama's underlying motive in serving as president is to weaken America. This motive is attributed to an anti-colonial, Marxist ideology Barack Obama somehow absorbed from his absent Harvard-educated Kenyan father.

As it happens, the senior Obama spent a part of one month with his son, Barack, when the boy was 10. Barack never saw or heard from his father again. There is no objective evidence to support the film's premise and in fact, it is patently absurd, especially considering Obama's actions over his first term, which in large part carried on where George W. Bush left off.

It is interesting to consider that the term anti-colonial is used pejoratively, since had it not been for anti-colonialism, the United States of America would not exist.

Those who come away from the film worrying that an Obama second term will weaken America are a dozen years too late in their hand wringing. They should have worried more when they voted for George W. Bush.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson | The New York Review of Books

We may be the richest nation in the world, but poverty is higher and social mobility between generations lower than in other rich nations. In other respects, our model is bloated: we release far more carbon dioxide and use far more water on a per capita basis; and we spend far more on health care, while leaving tens of millions uninsured and achieving health outcomes that are mediocre at best.

The spectacular profits of the energy industry, for example, rely heavily on the failure of regulation to incorporate fully the social and economic costs associated with environmental degradation, including climate change. Similarly, the increasingly aggressive activities of Wall Street—whether in the marketing of unsound mortgages, the use of excessive leverage, or the irresponsible use of derivatives—create huge risks for the economy as a whole. Yet these risks are largely not taken into account in the prices paid in financial markets. Without effective regulation, the costs are borne by all of us—most acutely by the struggling millions who have been pushed out of jobs.

The economics is really easy. If we were to spend more money at the government level and ... rehire the schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers who have been laid off in the last several years because of cutbacks at the state and local level, we would be a long way back towards full employment. ... Right now, there just is not enough spending, and we need the government, which can do it, to step in and provide the demand we need. ... We’ve had austerity in the face of a recession, in a way that we have never had before since the 1930s. ... And the results are clear: it’s disastrous. 

What Krugman & Stiglitz Can Tell Us by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson | The New York Review of Books

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mitt Romney Unbundled

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Miraculous Signs and Wonders

U.S. President George W. Bush, 2001 - 2009
Why, after the CBO predicted in the 1990s that the US would experience $6 trillion in surpluses over the Third Millennium (2000s), did we end up in the hole today? Well, it's not that complicated.

First, the economy did a lot worse than anybody expected during George W. Bush’s presidency and the Republican “trickle-down” economic policy; the housing bubble burst in that same period due to unmitigated greed and fraud; we had the financial crisis caused by under-regulated financial institutions; and then the big recession hit in 2008. That cut income to the government and made us spend more on various benefits that kick in as a safety net, like unemployment, welfare, and food stamps. The perfect storm. But that wasn’t all.

Second, Congress cut taxes repeatedly, starting with Bush's tax cut primarily benefiting the wealthy, and so there was less revenue than we had anticipated.

Third, the government spent more—a lot more. A couple of wars, "off the books," expansion of Medicare (Bush's unfunded drug plan), and the bank bailouts ($700+ billion under Bush with no strings attached). Believe it or not, Bush and his anti-government Republicans increased government spending more than any of the six U.S. presidents preceding him, including LBJ, of Great Society fame.

Now, when you cut taxes, have less revenue coming in, and you spend more than what you budgeted -- Hello! You end up with a deficit. Any surprise there? Of course not.

And if you have a deficit, you have to pay more interest, so that brings us to four -- higher interest payments.
The economic downturn was precipitated by a Republican president, with the unbounded cooperation of a Republican House and Senate in his first term. You can go back to the 1990s and blame Bill Clinton for signing a Republican-initiated bill throwing out the Glass-Steagal Act, but if Bush and his Republican stalwarts wanted to control Goldman Sachs and their ilk, couldn’t they have re-instituted Glass-Steagal. You bet they could. Did they want to? Hell no! And they don’t want to now.

Wasn't all this a Republican nightmare perpetrated on a basically ignorant American public, 46% of whom don't believe in evolution and think Glass-Steagal is a form of art glass?

For Republicans, all this proves one thing; Obama is a communist. No, I’m not kidding. Listen to your Republican friends crow about the American Communist Party having endorsed Barack Obama. This is like believing that because the CEO of Chick-fil-A endorses Mitt Romney it makes Romney a chicken.

For Republicans, because recovery from the consequences of their disastrous time in office is slow, it follows that we must bring back a Republican-led government that will lead us out of recession with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders.” Verily. But without a plan, or not one they are willing to share.

We can, however, surmise what a Republican government will do. It will voucherize Medicare, and privatize Social Security, so that Wall Street can take care of your healthcare future, and BTW, repeal Dodd-Frank so that they can do it to you better.

Republicans will cut Medicaid, repeal the Affordable Care Act and let the uninsured die (listen for the cheer in the background), cut Planned Parenthood, NPR, the National Endowment for the Arts, Head Start, and Early Childhood Education.

They will do away with Affirmative Action, eliminate the Department of Education, cut the Department of Energy funding for clean up of the mess we made during the Manhattan Project, cut back EPA and OSHA and limit their ability to enforce clean air, clean water, and safety standards. How can we know this? By reading the GOP Platform. It’s poorly written and full of contradictions, but it will tell you all you need to know about who today’s Republican Party is. And it ain’t your grandaddy’s Republican Party.

"No peril justifies the regulatory impact of Obamacare on the practice of medicine, the Dodd-Frank Act on financial services, or the EPA’s and OSHA’s overreaching regulation agenda. A Republican Congress and President will repeal the first and second, and rein in the third." (The 2012 GOP Platform)

The other great financial calamity that befell the United States, the "Great Depression," lasted a decade -- ten years for my math challenged Republican friends. It took massive deficit spending to recover. After obstructing every effort that President Obama made in good faith to put us on the road to economic recovery, Republicans are now asking that we put them back in charge of the government -- a government they disdain, e.g., "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is our problem." Remember Ronald Reagan saying this in 1981? I remember, because it was the year I retired from the US Air Force. But Reagan also said this at that time, "The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no group singled out to pay a higher price."

But today's Republican Party is not the party of Reagan. Reagan was too moderate. It's the party of Bachmann, Santorum, Huckabee, Palin, Perry, Arpaio, and Limbaugh. It's an anti-science party, an anti-democracy party, an anti-everything but big business party.

The Republican Party is a party with the arrogance to believe that enough of the American people either have short memories, or are just stupid enough to ignore their record, their obstructionism, and their failed policies, and put them back in charge.

I hope to God they’re wrong!