Thursday, July 19, 2012

Last Call

Over at Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben's piece on global climate change is a must-read...and it will scare the hell out of you.  The bottom line is there is no real effort to stop climate change on a global scale, we had decades to act and we as a globe did nothing.

Now we're paying the price.  Welcome to the new normal.

Some context: So far, we've raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. "Any number much above one degree involves a gamble," writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, "and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up." Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank's chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: "If we're seeing what we're seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much." NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet's most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: "The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster." At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: "Some countries will flat-out disappear." When delegates from developing nations were warned that two degrees would represent a "suicide pact" for drought-stricken Africa, many of them started chanting, "One degree, one Africa."

Now keep in mind we're heading for six degrees.  Celsius.  Long after you and I are dead, our grandchildren will be cursing us as Luddites and fools.  And we are:  we live in a country where any given month it's a tossup as to if there's a majority of people who believe in evolution, let alone global climate change.  Billions have been spent to make us stupid and ignorant, and it's worked.  And with energy giants making tens of billions yearly to feed the world oil, it will never, ever stop.

Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That's the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We'd have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

We're pretty much done, folks.  For Generations X and Y, we'll be spending the rest of our lifetimes trying to clean up the damage caused in the first decade of this millennium.  It's all but over now except for just how bad the butcher's bill will be.

Our kids and grandkids will never forgive us.  And we have no right to ask for their forgiveness.

Enough Is Enough Is Enough

And we've had enough of Ann Romney.

“You know, you should really look at where Mitt has led his life, and where he’s been financially,” the potential first lady said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “He’s a very generous person. We give 10 percent of our income to our church every year. Do you think that is the kind of person who is trying to hide things, or do things? No. He is so good about it. Then, when he was governor of Massachusetts, didn’t take a salary for four years.”

We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life,” she added later.

You people.  Yeah, there's a great phrase out of the mouth of a Republican.  You people don't know your place.  You people shouldn't ask us questions.  You people should shut up and let us run the country.  You people should be grateful for what we allow you to have.  You people are beneath us.

You people should vote for my husband though, she says.  He's better than "that one" as John McCain so famously let slip.

That's how they think of us.  As "you people".

So what are "you people" going to do in November?

Bulgaria Bombing's Gitmo Connections

The Times of Israel is reporting that the suicide bomber that attacked and killed five Israelis on a bus in Bulgaria was a former Gitmo detainee.  If this is true, the odds of Congress ever closing Gitmo went from "small" to "none ever."

Bulgarian media on Thursday named the suicide bomber who blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists, killing five Israelis and a local bus driver, in the Black Sea resort of Burgas on Wednesday as Mehdi Ghezali.

There was no independent confirmation of the veracity of the information. The reports surfaced soon after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly accused Hezbollah, directed by Iran, of responsibility for the bombing. The Prime Minister’s Office made no comment on the reports.

The Bulgarian reports, rapidly picked up by Hebrew media, posited various versions of how the bomber had detonated the bomb, including the suggestion that the bomber had not intended to die in the blast, but may have wanted to place the bomb on the bus and flee.

Ghezali was reportedly a Swedish citizen, with Algerian and Finnish origins. He had been held at the US’s Guantanamo Bay detainment camp on Cuba from 2002 to 2004, having previously studied at a Muslim religious school and mosque in Britain, and traveled to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He was released to Swedish custody in 2004, and the Swedish government did not press charges. He was also reportedly among 12 foreigners captured trying to cross into Afghanistan in 2009.

OK.  I trust the Israeli media about as far as I can throw the Wailing Wall, but it's pretty easy to check if this is the guy.  If it's true, there is now zero chance Gitmo will ever close in our lifetimes.  Period.  Members of Congress will immediately be accused of Israel-hating anti-Semitism for even suggesting Gitmo should be closed, and all debate in the US will end on this for good.  Even discussing this will be a grave insult to the memory of the victims of the blast.

We'll see where this goes, but my guess is we'll have another situation where Obama will be blamed by all sides for something that happened in Bush's first term.

How Hot Is It?

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Farmers throughout Missouri affected by the heat and drought that has gripped the state will now have access to low-interest loans and other assistance from the federal government. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack declared all 114 counties as primary natural disaster areas, following a request by the governor.
USDA on Tuesday announced the designation of 97 additional counties, in addition to the 17 counties previously announced.  Because it is contiguous toSt. LouisCounty, the City of St. Louis also is included in the designation.
“This designation can help livestock and crop farmers across the state who are suffering great losses because of the heat and lack of rain,” said Gov. Jay Nixon, who is surveying damage at farms in Lewis, Atchison and Polk counties on Tuesday.

It's getting dire in many places, but I can speak firsthand for this pocket of Missouri.  Crops are browning or dying, and no relief in sight.  Several days of hard rain would be great, but still not enough to replenish the water levels.  Livestock will be feeling this for a long time to come, even if the rain came now.

The rivers and lakes are low enough that entire stretches are dried up.  The Sac (pronounced "Sock" for you non-locals) is dusty and stops completely for as far as one can see in places.  I've only seen it this bad once before, and it took years to recover.

Obituary Confession: Doing It Right

Val Patterson, a scientist from Salt Lake City, Utah, also confessed to a theft in the obit that he wrote himself.
"I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June 1971," he wrote.
He also told Disneyland and San Diego's SeaWorld they could throw away his "banned for life" file from their records.
Patterson said he lived by the philosophy of "anything for a laugh" and tried to have the last one with his obit which he wrote himself before he died July 10 from throat cancer. He was 59.
High on his list of things he confessed to -- or bragged he got away with -- was his educational resume.
He admitted he hadn't earned his Ph.D. and said it was mailed to him by the University of Utah in error. Patterson said that he hadn't even earned enough credits to graduate from the state university, and "never did even learn what the letters 'PhD' even stood for."
"For all the electronic engineers I have worked with, I'm sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well, and were well engineered, and I always made you laugh at work," he wrote.

He does give his wife kudos for loving him through his illness, and expresses regret that he caused her so much pain, watching him die.   He cleared the air, for sure.  I'm not sure how successful his "anything for a laugh" truly was... how does one get banned for life from SeaWorld?  Whether he was funny or not, this guy was a character.  A talented liar who was able to live up to the expectations he created.  He picked a hell of a career to fudge on his education.  His stories would have been interesting, even if they were a tad bit scary.

I was just talking to my husband about this over the weekend, while I worked out a fictional character.  I decided I would leave a letter to be opened if I had murdered someone or stolen a fortune.  I'd clear those left behind, and set any records straight.  What about you guys?  Would you keep quiet or come clean?

New Mexico, Old Issues

Tom Jensen and the folks at Public Policy polling have surveyed the state of New Mexico and have noted that as expected the race between Romney and Obama is tightening up a bit in the Land of Enchantment.

PPP's newest New Mexico poll finds the race for President there getting a lot more competitive. Barack Obama continues to lead but his advantage is down to 5 points at 49-44, a far cry from the leads of 14 and 15 points he had on our previous two polls of the state.

The big difference between now and April comes with Democrats. Previously Obama was winning them 85-12 but now that lead is down to 73-21. New Mexico is a state, like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where any chance at victory for Romney is going to require winning over a significant number of conservative Democrats. Right now he's doing a pretty decent job of that.

New Mexico still looks like a lean Obama state, but a surprise choice by Mitt Romney of Susana Martinez as his running mate could make the state a toss up. With her on the ticket Obama's lead drops all the way down to 48-47. That's a testament to Martinez's appeal with Democrats. She would reduce Obama's lead with them even further to 70-25. There aren't a lot of potential VP choices who would make a big difference in their home states, but there also aren't a lot with a 56/34 approval spread.

Gary Johnson's potential impact on the race in New Mexico just keeps on declining. In December he was polling at 23%. By April that was down to 15% and now we find him at only 13%. Interestingly he hurts Obama a little bit more than Romney, pulling the President's lead down to 42-38. He gets 24% of the independent vote, and a lot of his support is coming from more Democratic leaning independents. Voters in the state are closely divided on Johnson with 39% rating him favorably and 40% unfavorably.

I don't see any way Susana Martinez makes Romney's ticket.  He'd have a clean shot in New Mexico, but it would hurt him in a number of other states, probably losing as many xenophobic and misogynist while male voters as Latino and women voters gained.  Romney's going to need more than a wash to beat Obama at this point.  It's very telling that I can't think of a single VP that can help the guy, either.

Poor dude.

Not A Student Of Presidential Political History, Our Mitt

A bit of a breathless story from HuffPo about Mitt Romney's tax returns this morning on the mindset of the Romney camp intimates that Romney simply thought that the recent rules of releasing them simply didn't apply to him in the first place.

Mitt Romney has been determined to resist releasing his tax returns at least since his bid for Massachusetts governor in 2002 and has been confident that he will never be forced to do so, several current and former Bain executives tell The Huffington Post. Had he thought otherwise, say the sources based on their longtime understanding of Romney, he never would have gone forward with his run for president.

Bain executives say they've been instructed to keep company and Romney-specific information completely confidential, tightening the lockdown on an already closed company. 

That's something of a sensationalist lede that raises the question of "what's in those returns anyway?"  It's a valid question however, considering his 2010 released return is missing all the offshore funds information.

Mitt Romney has not released his full tax records from 2010, including key documentation connected to his Swiss bank account.

Although President Barack Obama and an increasing number of Republican politicians have called on Romney to release tax returns from years prior to 2010, the public criticism has so far failed to note that Romney has not disclosed all of his tax documents for 2010 itself -- the only year for which the GOP presidential nominee has presented any final tax forms.

Romney released his 2010 tax return in January of this year, a document that first informed voters about the existence of his Swiss bank account and financial activities in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. But people who own foreign bank accounts are required to file a separate document with the IRS that provides additional details on such overseas bank holdings, and Romney has not released that form to the public.

Whatever he's hiding, HuffPo is building the narrative that it's so awful that the Romney camp believes it would cost Mitt the race, and that he never would have gotten into the race otherwise. I'm not sure if any of this is true, but the one thing that would put this to rest is Romney releasing his returns, and he continues to insist that will not happen.

This has gone from something mildly embarrassing to something potentially much worse for Romney, and the Obama team knows it.  They're standing on Mitt's neck, and they're not budging either.


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