Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last Call

Sorry, residents of Joplin, Missouri.  If you were expecting federal disaster aid to your tornado-stricken city, House GOP majority leader Eric Cantor just took you hostage.

The No. 2 House Republican said that if Congress doles out additional money to assist in the aftermath of natural disasters across the country, the spending may need to be offset.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”

You would think Cantor would at least wait until search teams had stopped finding bodies from the storm 48 hours ago to play the "spending cuts or else" game.  And Joplin is in Roy Blount's old district, now represented by Republican freshman Billy Long.  Yeah, that's right, Cantor's telling other Republicans to go to hell, and that spending cuts will have to be found to pay for helping Joplin.  Republicans really care, don't they?  I wonder what Rep. Long has to say about that?

Damage totals from the Joplin tornado could top $3 billion dollars.  And that's just the insured buildings.  The uninsured?  The price tag on that and the damaged infrastructure in town could be billions more.  Republicans were ready to shut down the government over that much money just a few short months ago.  And now Cantor is warning that cuts will have to be made before Joplin gets any help.

Oh, and just today, more tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma southwest of Oklahoma City, where Republican Tom Cole is the representative in OK-4.  I wonder how he feels about telling the people who live in Chickasha, Oklahoma that his party won't authorize a dime to help them unless Republicans cut that money from some other part of the budget?

Wait, I know, it's the fault of people living in the Midwest in tornado country for living there, isn't it?  Why should people in the other 433 congressional House districts in America pay to help them, right?  It's not like the general welfare clause means anything to the GOP anyway...

Right?  Would Cantor be saying the same thing if a tornado or massive storm swept through VA-7 and the suburbs north of Richmond, causing billions of dollars of damage?  Which would be a worse answer, that he wouldn't expect spending cuts before helping his own district out...or that he would insist upon them?

Somebody should ask him that.  Meanwhile, the Right Wing Noise Machine is already springing into action, with Glenn Beck telling his audience today that he would like to see a tornado-stricken town tell FEMA to turn around and leave rather than accept any federal help, scolding the people of Joplin for not being "prepared enough".

Indeed, how long is it going to take before the 2012 GOP Clown Car kids start attacking the people of Joplin for wanting government handouts and being nothing more than lazy welfare cases who should pay for the clean-up themselves because they live there?

That's the vision of disaster relief Republicans have for America right now.  I wonder how that will play in blood-red Tornado Alley.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 31

Some two and a half months after the earthquake and tsunami ravaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, TEPCO officials are only now admitting that all three reactors are in various phases of partial nuclear meltdown, not just reactor #1.

The operator of Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant on Tuesday said it believed fuel had partially melted inside three reactors, as long suspected by experts.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said new readings on water gauges indicated that the fuel had dropped to the bottom of the containment vessels of units two and three, matching its earlier assessment of unit one.

In all three reactors, relatively low temperatures indicated that the fuel was now mostly covered by water that has been pumped into the vessels, meaning there was no immediate threat of an uncontrolled full meltdown.

"It is highly possible that (partial) meltdowns have occurred at reactors two and three," a TEPCO spokesman said as the firm released its latest analysis of data from the plant after the March 11 quake and tsunami.

"Most of the fuel is believed to have fallen to the bottom (of pressure vessels that contain fuel rods) as has happened in reactor one," he said. "They are now being cooled and are in stable conditions."

Of course if there are any containment vessel leaks like in reactor #1, clean upbecomes all that more difficult without risking additional lives.  But if it's taken nearly 75 days to get the basic truth from TEPCO officials, how long will it take to deal with the much more complicated reality of nuclear radiation having rendered parts of northern Japan dangerous for decades, and that the fact that radiation is still leaking into the environment?

Extreme Chaos: Twisted Sister City

Over at Balloon Juice, ABL has posted comments on climate change and outlier events that explain the real problem with climate change as a chaotic system:

Chaos works like this: if you have very little energy, things are stable. As the energy in the system increases, the range of possible states expands. At some points, the system can fall into predictable chaotic patterns: in weather, this would be knowing the general force of storms and cyclones, having a basic idea of how big these things are.

As the energy increases, the range of possible states continues to expand, and what you used to know about ‘how big tornadoes are’ stops being useful.

I’ll repeat that: as the energy increases (as the climate imperceptibly creeps upward in temperature), you stop being able to predict how big things like storms and cyclones will be.

If the CLIMATE stopped heating, and cooled off, the WEATHER would return to the tornado sizes people are used to.

It’s not going to do that.

As the CLIMATE continues to heat, by seemingly meaningless numbers (what’s a degree or two? right?), the WEATHER can and will start throwing up outlier events, storms and tornadoes that are unprecedented in size and destructiveness.

The more chaos in the system, the more often you get these outlier events, and the more extreme these outlier events become.  Even worse, the outlier events become the new boundaries of normal.  Which means the outlier events that are based on the new normal are far more destructive when they do eventually happen.

Look at the tornado seasons here in the Midwest and South over the last five years.  Greensburg, Kansas was literally wiped off the map by an EF5 scale tornado in 2007  Parkersburg, Iowa was crushed by an EF5 storm in 2008.  Mufreesboro, Tennessee suffered an EF4 storm on Good Friday in 2009.  Yazoo City, Mississippi was flattened last year by a massive tornado.  Tuscaloosa, Alabama suffered mass casualties because of a system of three massive EF5 tornadoes earlier this year.  Joplin, Missouri got shredded by a storm the width of ten football fields on Sunday...and it was only an EF4.

EF5 storms are minimum 200 MPH.  They are events that are supposed to come along once a generation, like the Super Outbreak of 1974 through Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.  We've seen five in the last five years.  We've seen three just this year.

When we see 100-year tornadoes coming along every five years, when we see 100-year floods coming along every ten years, when we see 100-year wildfires come along every couple of years, when we see 100-year blizzards come along in months like April and May, there's a problem.  There's too much energy in the system.  It's like driving on a wobbly tire faster and faster.  The more energy you put into spinning it, the more energy you add to the system, the more pronounced and extreme the wobbling gets, until the wheel or the axle are damaged and/or break completely.

That's what's happening with out weather patterns now.  What would have been outliers 50 years ago are commonplace events now.  It's the new outliers that the system heralds that we have to look out for.  If EF5 tornadoes become a yearly event in America, will we need an EF6 or EF7 category to measure storms of 250 or 300 MPH, the really unprecedented ones that are the new outliers, our new "once in a generation" storms?

This is the real issue.  And until one of these massive superstorms hits and flattens an entire county of major American metropolitan area, with casualties in the thousands, we won't pay attention.  And by then it will be far too late.

This Week's WTH - Really, Sony?

Click here to read the full article.

The official website for Sony BMG Greece was hacked and its databases — which include some user data — were dumped onto the Internet.
Sophos reports that this latest Sony security incident put the usernames, real names, and email addresses of users registered on SonyMusic.gr at risk. The details of the hack were revealed when the individuals behind it contacted Hacker News with the extracted database.
An automated SQL injection tool appears to have been used for the attack, which is "not something that requires a particularly skillful attacker, but simply the diligence to comb through Sony website after website until a security flaw is found."

A phishing site was found on the Sony server, they are still not fully operational, and now this.  This has truly crossed the line into the land of inexcusable failure.  Sony may not ever fully recover from this.  At this point, I'm not sure I want them to.  They are surely under a microscope now, but their security is looking like a total loss.

Follow Up: Twisted Sister City

The body count is rising, and the football field at Missouri Southern State University was used for a temporary morgue. At least 116 people died in the tornado, which was ranked an F-4 the last time I heard.  Joplin has made national news, and depending on who you listen to this was in the top ten worst tornadoes in recorded history.  The numbers are constantly changing but at least a thousand are injured.  Donations are pouring in from all around the country, and just about every business in Springfield has made some contribution to help with getting people stable and laying plans to rebuild.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Matt Yglesias on America's Israel policy:

So in sum what we saw this week is that the President of the United States made it clear that he disagrees with the regional policy of the Israeli government, but despite that disagreement intends to keep Israel as the number one recipient of US foreign aid and that he also intends to put America’s diplomatic clout at Israel’s disposal in the coming controversy over a Palestinian declaration of statehood. Meanwhile, despite Obama’s lack of desire to shift US policy, he’s subject to opportunistic political attacks from members of the opposition party, attacks which are echoed rather than rebutted by members of his own political coalition.

I can't find one single member of Congress or either party who is backing Obama on actually following through on Israel policy American presidents have been talking about for decades.  Not one.

The upshot is that with a series of bold strokes following Barack Obama’s inauguration, Netanyahu has debunked the Barak/Sharon/Olmert/Livni centrist conventional wisdom that has previously dominated Israeli politics. It turns out that it’s not true that Israel needs to be willing to make tactical concessions to the Palestinians or even be polite to the White House in order to retain American support. Israel has a basically free hand to behave as it wishes, taking the pieces of the West Bank it wants.

And it will basically always be able to do so.  To even suggest otherwise is the greatest mortal sin in Washington politics, even worse than trillion dollar bank bailouts, even worse than the national debt, even worse than wanting to destroy the New Deal for millions of Americans. 

Tell me the most powerful man in international politics right now in 2011 isn't Benjamin Netanyahu.  And he's well aware of it.  If he said tomorrow that Israel would like to see a change in US leadership, tell me how Barack Obama would get re-elected.

Return Of The Hoffman Effect

Nate Silver has a preview of today's special election in NY-26 to replace disgraced Republican Chris "Craigslist" Lee, where the GOP and Tea Party candidates are splitting the vote enough to give Democrat Kathy Hochul a shot at winning one of the reddest districts in upstate New York.

If I were asked to set odds on the race, I would probably make Ms. Hochul something like a 2-to-1 or perhaps 5-to-2 favorite. A relatively wide range of outcomes are possible, from a double-digit win for Ms. Hochul to a win for Ms. Corwin by several points.

As to the interpretation of the results, one thing I’d remind the readers of is that the margins matter as much as the victor: if Ms. Hochul wins by a single vote, that tells us almost exactly the same thing as if she loses by a single vote. Also, Ms. Hochul’s share of the vote matters: the lower Mr. Davis’s vote goes, the more we can read into the results. As I noted two weeks ago, if Ms. Hochul finishes with a vote share in the mid-to-high 40s, that would be consistent with how Democrats performed in the district in the strong Democratic years of 2006 and 2008 and is a result that Democrats could be pleased with.

There is also some evidence that Republican plans to significantly alter Medicare, which has been the focal point of Ms. Hochul’s campaign, may indeed have made some difference in the race. In the Siena poll, voters were asked to identify their most important issue. Of the 21 percent who picked Medicare, some 80 percent said they planned to vote for Ms. Hochul (excluding undecided voters).

What’s tricky about this is that it isn’t straightforward to determine whether voters are prepared to vote for Ms. Hochul because of the Medicare issue — or rather, whether they were going to vote for her for some other reason, but emphasize Medicare to pollsters because she has also. Correlation may not equal causation.

Nevertheless, of those voters who identified Medicare as their top issue, just 50 percent are Democrats, and an additional 24 percent are independents. Since Ms. Hochul is winning 80 percent of those votes instead, that implies that she is in fact picking up some support from independents and moderate Republicans (of which there are many in this district) on the issue

And in a blood-red rural district like this, that's nothing short of amazing.  Combined, the Republican and Tea Party candidate still would win.  But split like this, Kathy Hochul has a real chance to win.  Even worse for Republicans, it puts the GOP plan to kill Medicare right back in the spotlight as the reason why Hochul has been gaining support here.

If Hochul is the victor here, House Republican support for the plan will evaporate and the Dems have a clear road map to victories all across the country next year.


Related Posts with Thumbnails