Environment & Global Warming & Energy

The Trump Administration Guts Clean Air

On Monday, as had been expected, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said at an event in Kentucky that he would formally move to repeal what the E.P.A.’s Web site referred to as “the so-called ‘Clean Power Plan.’ ” That plan had been central to the United States’ commitment, under Paris, to reduce power-plant emissions by an estimated thirty per cent in coming years. Without it, there is no hope of meeting those goals even outside the framework of the accord; the decision will have a negative effect on the world’s chances of keeping the increase in global temperature below certain calamitous thresholds, on America’s influence in the world, and, as other countries move ahead on more sustainable technologies, on the competitiveness of the nation’s industries. Pruitt put aside estimates that the cleaner air resulting from the implementation of the plan would have prevented tens of thousands of deaths from respiratory diseases. The E.P.A. press release also celebrated the grand isolationism of the move, saying that the agency, in calculating the costs of the rules, would no longer account for certain “supposed global benefits.”

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said in Kentucky, where he was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Clean Power Plan, as he saw it, had really just been “about picking winners and losers”—as if the whole climate-change thing had been concocted as the result of a grudge against fossil fuels (Pruitt’s past skepticism about climate science suggests that he might believe this) or to help China triumph (as his boss has implied). Pruitt complained that rules led to things like lawsuits, which slowed down the economy. (The implementation of the Clean Power Plan had already been delayed, as it happens, by a lawsuit that Pruitt had helped bring as the attorney general of Oklahoma.) Pruitt, one of several members of the Administration whose use of private planes has come under scrutiny, further praised the move against the Clean Power Plan in a broad paean to small government. “Let me tell you something, the E.P.A.—and no federal agency—should ever use its authority to say to you we’re going to declare war on any sector of our economy. That’s wrong.”

As Pruitt spoke about winners and losers, wildfires were consuming thousands of homes in Northern California, killing at least fifteen people and scorching more than a hundred thousand acres. Puerto Ricans, meanwhile, were still struggling to get clean water. Three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, the electric grid on the island is still largely down; most of those who have power are getting it from diesel-burning backup generators. As Jon Lee Anderson writes in a report from Puerto Rico, Trump’s visit there last week did little to counter the residents’ sense of abandonment. It may be hard to isolate the cause of a single storm or fire, but the science makes it clear that climate change increases the intensity and the frequency of both. If, as expected, Tropical Storm Ophelia reaches hurricane strength later this week, it will be the tenth consecutive such storm to become a hurricane—the highest number in more than a century. (There have been five major hurricanes this year, and three that hit land as Category 4 hurricanes—another record.) The Miami Herald pointed to a different measure: the current accumulated cyclone energy, which, it noted, is “254 percent higher than average with seven weeks left in the season.”

Following Pruitt’s statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman vowed to sue the administration. “By seeking to repeal the Clean Power Plan — especially without any credible plan to replacing it — the Trump administration’s campaign of climate change denial continues, once again putting industry special interests ahead of New Yorkers’ and all Americans’ safety, health, and the environment,” he said in a statement. Environmental groups were already threatening legal action and protests prior to Pruitt’s comments on Monday. “Trump can’t reverse our clean energy and climate progress with the stroke of a pen, and we’ll fight him and Scott Pruitt in the courts, in the streets, and at the state and local level across America to protect the health of every community,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement on Friday.

Trump To Drop US From Paris Accords

It looked for a moment like he was reconsidering this campaign promise to leave the Paris Accord on climate change, but no.  In a few minutes, Trump will announce from the Rose Garden that the US is out.

Nero, fiddle, Rome burning, yada yada yada

It will be interesting to hear HOW the accord is “bad”.  Is it bad for polluting businesses?  Yyyyyyyeah.  That’s kind of the point.

Here’s the split in the White House about whether to stay or go.  Looks like Bannon won the day:

I don’t think Trump is aware of how popular this is on the left AND even the right.

Here are talking points given to Congress.  They make no sense.  The deal won’t help the climate but also it does too much but also we’re already doing that stuff

Yes it is.


The good news? Paris Accord entered into force on 11/4/16. So the earliest that Trump can complete exit from Paris Accord is 11/4/2020, i.e., the day after the 2020 election. Paris will be a campaign issue.

UPDATE:

And Then The Laughter Stopped

Yeah, we all had fun last night….

But then came the sobering news this morning….

President Trump will pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, according to several reports Wednesday.

Axios first reported that Trump is working with a group led by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on the exact mechanism of pulling out before announcing his final decision. CBS News also reported that Trump is telling allies about his decision.

The move marks a dramatic departure from the Obama administration, which was instrumental in crafting the deal. It also makes the U.S. an outlier among the world’s nations, nearly all of whom support the climate change accord.

Outlier indeed.  We now join Nicaragua and Syria (and Nicaragua rejected it because it didn’t go far enough!)

The pact was reached by nearly 200 countries in 2015, the first global climate accord to include that many nations. Each country made its own non-binding pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Obama administration, which helped negotiate the pact, had promised a 26 to 28 percent cut in the country’s emissions, a pledge that Republicans had slammed as necessitating expensive, job-killing regulations.

The good news is that technically, the U.S. cannot withdraw from the Paris Agreement for four years.  And it is unclear whether or not the US is withdrawing from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which has been around since 1992.  If so, the US can withdraw in a year.

Either way, there are implications.  China will likely take over global leadership on the issue of climate change. This would mean, in part, that China’s faulty and unreliable energy statistics would define whether it was complying with the agreement. The American strategy (up until now) has been to seek outside validation for other countries’ climate goals.

This could prove supremely unpopular: An overwhelming majority of Americans, more than 80 percent, favor expanding wind and solar energy. And it would cut into American competitiveness at a vital time for the industry.  Even Exxon Mobile supports the Paris Accords.

China is investing $360 billion in renewable energy over the next few years, which will create 13 million new jobs. Other countries may decide to penalize the U.S. if it fails on the Paris agreement. “They could do that by lowering tariffs, for example, from other countries that would be trying to sell clean energy technologies,” says Andrew Light, a distinguished senior fellow in the climate program at the World Resources Institute, who was also part of the climate team in the State Department leading up to the agreement.

Beyond the Paris agreement, the government also plays a big role in helping the renewable energy sector succeed in selling to the rest of the world and creating more U.S. jobs, though instruments like the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Without that investment, “we’re effectively taking ourselves out of the clean energy economy,” Light says.

Before the inauguration, 530 companies and 100 investors wrote an open letter to the new administration asking for support of low-carbon policies, investment in the low-carbon economy, and continued participation in the Paris agreement.

“Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” they wrote. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

Withdrawing from the Paris agreement also affects the U.S. relationship with other countries. “To create the first climate agreement we were really pushing lots of leaders to really get on board and get this thing done,” says Light. “I think if the U.S. completely pulls away from this, we’re going to see a diplomatic blowback. It’s going to be significant, and it will impact a lot of areas that this administration will care about a lot more than climate change, especially on trade and national security issues.”

In the longer term, failing to reduce emissions now will lead to spending trillions of dollars dealing with the damage caused by climate change. It will also lead to greater security threats as climate impacts create new political instability.

This is a willing abdication of US world leadership.  Not to mention an embarrassment that we have a president who doesn’t believe in science. This is Bannon’s doing, as he is the main one who has been pushing for us to leave. (Ivanka supports the Paris Accords, but clearly has no moderating sway on Trump anymore, if she ever had it at all.)

All hope is not lost: Even if the federal government rejects the Paris agreement, cities, states, and businesses can potentially make enough progress to come close to the Paris target of 26% to 28% reductions. By 2050, the longer-term goal of the U.S. was to reduce emissions 80%, in line with some recommendations to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Expect a lot of blowback from the left and right.

UPDATE: With Elon Musk and others giving pretty strong feedback, it looks like the White House might be giving itself an out.

Two Bills Signed Into Law By Trump So Far

(1) Repeal of the “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers” Rule.

The rule was that oil, gas and mineral companies had to disclose (to the Securities and Exchange Commission) any payments (taxes, royalties, fees, bonuses, etc) given to foreign governments relating to commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals. Designed to prevent companies from engaging in corruption with foreign governments, it has only been a rule since last September. It is gone now.

(2) Repeal of the “Stream Protection” Rule:

The rule, which has only been around since December, was a comprehensive regulatory environmental protection plan which governed the conditions in which a coal mining company can and cannot dump mining waste into streams and waterways. They would have had to monitor affected streams during mining, and the company had to develop a plan for restoring damaged waterways to something close to their natural state after mining is done. Except, no more. That rule is repealed under the reason that compliance would result in the loss of coal mining jobs. (In truth, the rule would only have taken about 120 jobs in the next 20 years, while the coal mining industry as a whole has lost 25,000 jobs since 2012, much of that due to continue automation and lower demand.)

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Climate Change Scientist?

Now we’re into the naming names phase.  The Washington Post reports:

Global warming — “it’s a hoax.” Donald Trump has said that more than once. So it’s understandable that the request by the president-elect’s transition team for the names of individual Energy Department employees and contractors who worked on the issue makes them worry that the trick could be on them.

“There is major concern amongst my members,” said Jeff Eagan, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) chapter at the department’s headquarters building in Washington. He’s also a 17-year Energy employee, but was speaking in his union capacity. “I have received lots of calls, emails, messages expressing shock and dismay.”

The scientists and their colleagues at Energy know global warming is real. What they don’t know is what Trump might do to those whose work has been in line with the science and the Obama administration, which has spoken about “the urgent imperatives of climate change.”

Perhaps Trump’s crew will do nothing. Trump more recently has said he has an open mind about global warming, so maybe he’s discarding his flat-earth approach to the subject. Nonetheless, the transition team’s request to “provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended” certain climate change meetings casts a shroud of apprehension over the workforce. The transition team ignored a request for comment.

Yeah, I would be nervous too.

Meanwhile, scientists race to copy climate data onto non-government servers out of fear it could disappear under Trump.

Trump’s EPA Pick Is A “Fuck You” To Environmentalists (And The Planet)

Today Trump announced his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Would it surprise you to learn that he’s a far right climate change denier in the pocket of the fossil fuel industries?

Scott Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”

Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, a 2014 investigation by The New York Times revealed.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Pruitt as head of the EPA represents an existential threat to the future of planet Earth. This is so bad.

A Win Against The Pipeline

In a rare win for progressives, the Secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reportedly told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Archambault that the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline will be denied.

According to MSNBC, the Corps of Engineers will conduct an environmental study to see how the pipeline can be rerouted to lessen any potential environmental impact. However, the pipeline will not cross the Missouri River under Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Reservation.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement Sunday afternoon in support of the decision.

“The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts, as envisioned by NEPA,” Jewell said in the statement.

“The Army’s announcement underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

The protesters had been facing a Monday deadline to vacate their encampment near Cannon Ball, ND.

“We will not fight tonight, we will dance!” Rami Bald Eagle, Cheyenne River Lakota Tribal Leader shared the great news, with much celebration breaking out among the people.

Thousands of U.S. Veterans have boots on the ground at the Standing Rock Protest, many more than expected. Tim King, former editor of Salem-News.com, is there and heard the announcement.

U.S. military Veterans have been standing “out front” for a couple of days with more of their brothers and sisters-in-arms arriving daily. No, they do not have weapons.

The bitter cold has not chilled the passion behind stopping the pipeline. The many members of “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” brought supplies such as gas masks, earplugs and body armor, to stand firm as a unit to protect protesters from the police and their rubber bullets.

But instead, tonight they dance. It looks like the Americans have won, after all.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II reacted to the announcement, calling it a sign that President Barack Obama “is listening.”

“We are encouraged and know that the peaceful prayer and demonstration at Standing Rock have powerfully brought to light the unjust narrative suffered by tribal nations and Native Americans across the country,” Archambault said. “We call on all water protectors, as we have from the beginning, to join our voices in prayer and to share our opposition to this pipeline peacefully. The whole world is watching and where they see prayerful, peaceful resistance, they join us.”

Water protectors have been camped out near the construction site of the pipeline since April and have dogged the pipeline work at every step. More than 400 people have been arrested as they stood their ground against pepper spray, mace, rubber bullets and sound cannons, among other violent methods.

Activist Supreme Court Rules On Climate Change

Crazy:

In a major setback for President Obama’s climate change agenda, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The brief order was not the last word on the case, which is most likely to return to the Supreme Court after an appeals court considers an expedited challenge from 29 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

But the Supreme Court’s willingness to issue a stay while the case proceeds was an early hint that the program could face a skeptical reception from the justices.

The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review

“It’s a stunning development,” Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration, said in an email. She added that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court,” and that the ruling would raise serious questions from nations that signed on to the landmark Paris climate change pact in December.

When the court does something unprecedented procedurally, that usually means they are doing something political (e.g., Bush v. Gore).  No doubt the five conservatives on the court were motivated by Obama’s use of executive orders.

How Flint Happened

It’s long and wonky, but Nate Silver’s 538 site looks at the Flint lead problem from a statistical standpoint.  Good stuff.  Some snippets:

Officials at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the agency in charge of making sure water is safe in the state, made a series of decisions that had disastrous consequences:

  • Against federal guidelines, they chose not to require the Flint water plant to use optimized corrosion control, despite telling the Environmental Protection Agency they were doing so in an email on Feb. 27, 2015.
  • They took few samples and took them from the wrong places, using a protocol known to miss important sources of lead, which some say didn’t comply with a 25-year-old law meant to prevent lead exposure in residential water.
  • They threw out two samples whose inclusion would have put more than 10 percent of the tests above what’s known as the “actionable level” of lead, 15 parts per billion. Had the DEQ not done so, the city would have been required to warn residents that there was a problem with lead in the water back in the summer of 2015, or possibly earlier.

The second bullet point caught my interest, and 538 expands on it.  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality did water study samples, but too few.  When citizens conducted their own study, spreading out to a number of places and getting more samples, the results were very different:

ambj-flint-lead-chart-2-fix

That is simply amazing.  Bad science practice.

Flint Water – What’s Up With That?

The Flint water story has been around for a few weeks, but it really hit national attention (finally) when Hillary Clinton raised in the Democratic debate last weekend.

Here’s a backgrounder.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Flint, Michigan is no longer the thriving city it once was.  As Michael Moore documented in “Roger and Me”, Flint once had almost 200,000 citizens, and about 80,000 of them worked for General Motors.  But GM closed its plants and moved them out of the country, and now Flint has about 100,000 (roughly 8,000 still working for GM). In 2013, Forbes voted it the 2nd worst city in the U.S., in part because of the 48 murders, 145 rapes, 447 robberies, and 1,267 assaults — a total of 1,907 violent crimes (that’s a violent crime rate of 1,876.1 crimes per 100K people).

But the crime was simplya by-product of the financial crisis spawned by a city with high unemployment, white flight, disinvestment, etc. and therefore no tax basis.  In some ways, it was worse than Detroit in that the size of Flint was much larger.

So Rick Snyder, Republican governor of the state of Michigan, comes along and enacts legislation — an “Emergency Financial Manager” law that allowed him to dismiss the democratically elected municipal government of any local government unit when “probable financial stress” was found and appoint an Emergency Manager. This law was fully and completely rejected by a referendum of the voters in Michigan. Subsequently the bill was re-introduced and passed in a form that was not subject to voter referendum. In practice what this has been is a usurpation of local control, and a disaster for local residents.

Detroit was having a water crisis of its own, and the Emergency Manager there decided that the way to raise revenues would be to privatize the water utility.  But how can you sell an asset that had 175 million dollars of uncollected and frankly uncollectable bills?  Well, the EM started off by shutting off the water to residents who were broke and raising its prices. Flint was getting its water from Detroit and was being choked financially by the prices, so the Flint City Council voted 7-1 to build a new water pipeline to Lake Huron, freeing us from exorbitant rates from Detroit. Emergency manager Ed Kurtz went along, happily claiming a mandate for a policy he supported. But until the pipeline was complete, the city of Flint had the option to pay more for water from Detroit, or use the water from the Flint River.  The same Flint River that was too corrosive for GM to use for washing auto parts:

The Flint River — that’s what the Emergency Manager of the city of Flint and Governor Rick Snyder thought was a better choice, and in April 2014, Flint was drawing water from Flint River Anyway, in December 2014, Flint sent out EPA-mandated notices because the city had violated the Safe Drinking Water Act due to high levels of total trihalomethanes, a suspected carcinogen. A few months later when rumors started to circulate about a new contaminant: lead.

But… Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality repeatedly said that the water was safe, and they had the test numbers to back it up. (Later investigation would suggest that some of those numbers had been doctored to maintain federal compliance.)

As late as July 2015 — 16 months after the switch had occurred — officials said that residents could “relax” about reports of lead in the water. Plus, the Department of Environmental Quality was monitored by the EPA, and they had made no official complaint. (Later investigation found that the EPA, too, knew of the presence of lead by mid-2015.)

But there clearly was something wrong. For many, the water just looked gross.  Others reported rashes, fatigue, and nausea. A person showering at the YMCA, started to bleed from her ear due to the abrasiveness of the water. Another man passed out in the showers there.  And so on.

In October 2015, the state finally confirmed the worst fears: There was lead in the water after all. The city switched back to Detroit water, but the damage had already been done.  But the people of Flint — and children — has already been poisoned. Alas for Flint (which is 57 percent African American), lead is measured in parts per billion, and it only takes a few of those for a child to suffer permanent neurological and sometimes physical damage. Points of IQ lost. Behavioral problems and learning disabilities.  Developmental delay. Damage to the nervous system. The discolored water is gross and sickening, and it makes for dramatic pictures, but much of the coloration actually comes from iron flaked off pipes and water mains.

WHO IS TO BLAME?

Well, one the one hand, slow agencies like the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  They didn’t do their job.

But the real culprit was Governor Snyder, who took control of the cities away from the people and put it in the hands of Emergency Managers with unchallenged authority.  An EM named Darnell Earley is getting the brunt of the blame, since he was in charge when the decision was made to get water from the Flint River.  But the decision to do that was actually made by his predecessor EM, the aforementioned Ed Kurtz, along with the city council and Mayor.

So… lots of blame everywhere.

 

But But But It’s 20 Degrees And Snow Is In The Forecast So How…

Welp, last year was the hottest year on record since they started keeping records:

Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history by far, breaking a record set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.

In the continental United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floodscoursing down the Mississippi River watershed.

Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is dumping an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The whole system is warming up, relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

It will take a few more years to know for certain, but the back-to-back records of 2014 and 2015 may have put the world back onto a trajectory of rapid global warming, after period of relatively slow warming dating to the last powerful El Niño, in 1998.

Politicians attempting to claim that greenhouse gases are not a problem seized on that slow period to argue that “global warming stopped in 1998” and similar statements, with these claims reappearing recently on the Republican presidential campaign trail.

Statistical analysis suggested all along that the claims were false, and the slowdown was, at most, a minor blip in an inexorable trend, perhaps caused by a temporary increase in the absorption of heat by the Pacific Ocean.

hottest-year-2015-720

The astronomical and weather organizations of Britain and Japan are expected to release similar findings.

Can we stop debating whether climate change is real now?

Dumbest Man Ever Still Leading The GOP Polls

Holy Mary Mother Of God, the man doesn’t know how seasons work!  Chris Mooney tackled this subject last year in a blog post aptly titled “Dear Donald Trump: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming”:

1. Statements about climate trends must be based on, er, trends. Not individual events or occurrences. Weather is not climate, and anecdotes are not statistics.

2. Global warming is actually expected to increase “heavy precipitation in winter storms,” and for the northern hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense, according to the draft US National Climate Assessment.

[…]

When it’s winter on Earth, it’s also summer on Earth…somewhere else.

Also….

B2-47d6IMAAXnmo

Lion Poaching Epidemic

The madness continues:

Cecil the lion’s brother Jericho has been shot dead by poachers in Zimbabwe, park officials have claimed.

The beloved animal was protecting Cecil’s lion cubs after he was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer earlier this month, sparking outrage around the world.

Where is that dentist guy?

UPDATE:

Conflicting information is emerging regarding the reported death of Jericho, the brother of Cecil the lion. Wildlife conservation organization Bhejane Trust, citing Hwange lion researcher Brent Staplekamp, called the report false and says Jericho was “alive and well” as of 8:30 p.m. local time, moving around with a female. The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force had previously confirmed that Jericho had been shot and killed this afternoon.

Confusing, indeed.

SCOTUS Round-up: Three More Five-To-Four Decisions Today

Today is the last day of the SCOTUS term, and so they issued the last of their opinions.  The two biggest cases — on Obamacare and sames-sex marriage — came out at the end of last week, so a lot fewer people were paying attention this morning.  Here’s what happened:

(1)  DEATH PENALTY – The 5-4 decision in Glossip v. Gross was a win for conservatives who support the death penalty and viewed the case’s technical dispute over one state’s lethal injection methods.  The Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s “drug cocktail” is not cruel and unusual punishment, despite the fact that it has resulted in some botched execution.  Scalia was especially snarky in his concurrence, starting with “Welcome to Groundhog Day” as he noted repeated attempts to abolish the death penalty for good.  He also said that those who seek abolition of the death penalty “reject the Enlightenment”.  (Odd!)

(2)  ENVIRONMENT – The Supreme Court in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency ruled 5-4 against EPA regulations to limit mercury emissions and other pollutants at power plants.  Substituting its judgment for the EPA’s the Supreme Court said the EPA’s decision to impose the regulations was not reasonable or necessary since it did not take into account the costs to utilities to make these changes.  Happy breathing, everybody!

CIrTeTxWEAEYP2U(3)  GERRYMANDERING – In a win for liberals (Kennedy siding with the liberal four), The Supreme Court in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission upheld Arizona congressional districts drawn by an independent commission and rejected a constitutional challenge from Republican lawmakers. The outcome preserves efforts in 13 states to limit partisan influence in redistricting. Most notably, California uses an independent commission to draw electoral boundaries for its largest-in-the-nation congressional delegation.

The Arizona case stemmed from voter approval of an independent commission in 2000. The legislature’s Republican leaders filed their lawsuit after the commission’s U.S. House map in 2012 produced four safe districts for Republicans, two for Democrats and made the other three seats competitive. Democrats won them all in 2012, but the Republicans recaptured one last year.

CIrN-hRWcAE46YlJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court that there is “no constitutional barrier to a state’s empowerment of its people by embracing that form of lawmaking.” In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts accused the majority of approving a “deliberate constitutional evasion.”  The justices have been unwilling to limit excessive partisanship in redistricting, known as gerrymandering. A gerrymander is a district that is intentionally drawn, and sometimes oddly shaped, to favor one political party.

Republicans employed an enormously successful strategy to take advantage of the 2010 census, first by winning state legislatures and then using that control to draw House districts to maximize their power. One measure of their success: In 2012, Republicans achieved a 33-seat majority in the House, even though GOP candidates as a group got 1.4 million fewer votes than their Democratic opponents.

Chief Justice got a little snippy by inserting “what chumps” into the opinion (see right).

UPDATE – LATE IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates:

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas.

Four of the court’s conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented.

A state law passed in 2013 required clinics providing abortion services to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and it required doctors providing the services to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Women’s groups asked the Supreme Court to put an emergency hold on the effect of the law while they prepare an appeal to challenge its constitutionality. They say the law, which takes effect Wednesday, would force all but nine abortion clinics in the state to close.

“Overall, there would be a net reduction in abortion facilities of more than 75% in a two-year period,” they argue in their court filings. And the clinics that remain open would find it hard to expand their services.

So for now, enforcement of the Texas law is on hold and will remain so until the court decides whether to hear the full appeal.

UPDATE – EVEN LATER IN THE DAY 5-4 RULING is good for pro-choice advocates in North Carolina:

RALEIGH — A federal appeals court must reconsider whether North Carolina can issue “Choose Life” license plates.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling last year that the state could not issue a license plate with an anti-abortion slogan unless it also issued a plate with the opposite point of view.

The order to rehear the case came after the justices ruled 5-4 last week that Texas could refuse to issue Confederate battle flag plates. In that ruling, the Supreme Court said plates are government property and don’t have to offer both sides of the debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued when lawmakers voted to offer the “Choose Life” plates in 2011. The appeals court said governments must offer both sides of the debate.

The ACLU said it was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling and again asked the North Carolina General Assembly to offer a plate with a message supporting abortion rights.

“This case has always been about more than specialty license plates; it asks whether the government should be allowed to provide a platform to one side of a controversial issue while silencing the other,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in a statement.

The Pope Goes Severe Against Climate Deniers

Pope Francis this week is going to come out for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, He will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us.”

Pretty severe verbiage.  It all comes from a draft document leaked to the Italian press and published today.  The pontiff will make his environmental encyclical on Thursday, directing it to “every person who inhabits this planet”. (This is a big deal; the encyclical is one of the most formal statements the pope can make about Catholic doctrine, and it’s the first of his papacy.)

Among other things he says in the draft:

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it.”

and

“Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases…given off above all because of human activity.”

The pope will also single out those obstructing solutions. In an apparent reference to climate-change deniers:

“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”

 

Bin Laden’s Bookshelf

Some interesting… well, not interesting interesting, but interesting…. materials were released by the Director of National Intelligence this morning.  It is all accessible on the interwebs, on a government site: Bin Laden’s Bookshelves.

I suspect he didn’t read a lot of the English language books, like the Adobe manual.  Here’s something recently declassified and translated into English — bin Laden’s concerns about climate change:

Response To Amtrak Train Crash: Let’s Gut Amtrak

TrainCrash-816x511On Tuesday, an Amtrak train — the Northeast Regional train, No. 188 — was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed around 9:30 p.m., just outside Philly. The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that the train was traveling at more than 100 miles an hour or twice the speed limit in that part of the corridor.  More than 200 people, including eight now in critical condition, were taken to hospitals, officials said.  Seven are dead, including a college dean at Medgar Evers College, and officials have not accounted for everyone on board.

Naturally, early focus is on the 32 year old engineer, who was slightly injured and has not spoken to the NTSB yet.  According to the engineer’s attorney (yes, he’s lawyered up), his client has no recollection of the accident.

But let’s move off the engineer and note that technology that could have remotely slowed the train, which the president of Amtrak has called “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” has been installed on much of the Northeast Corridor, but not the section where the train derailed — and if some in the Senate have their way, it may not be in place for another five years.

For decades, the National Transportation Safety Board has urged the the nation’s railroads to implement a technology called positive train control systems (PTC). This technology would allow railroads to use GPS to stop or slow trains in cases of driver emergencies, switches left in the wrong position, hijacking, natural disasters, or other human error. In 2008, Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the nation’s busiest railroad operators to have these technologies fully in place by December 2015.

Knowing all that, the House decided it was a good time to… wait for it…. cut our infrastructure spending:

A House panel approved a measure Wednesday that cuts funding for Amtrak, less than a day after a train derailment left at least seven people dead and many more injured.

The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 to reduce grants to Amtrak by $252 million — a drop of about 15% from last year’s level. The cut would apply only to Amtrak’s capital spending and wouldn’t touch funding levels for safety and operations. The measure still needs to clear the full House and Senate before it would go into effect in October.

Democrats on the panel fought unsuccessfully to boost Amtrak funding by $1 billion, to $2.4 billion. But Republicans argued that such a spending increase would need to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, and they admonished Democrats for pointing to the derailment in an effort to increase funding for the passenger rail service.

“Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said to Democrats.

 

Obama Administration Approves Arctic Drilling

The Obama Administration has now approved drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The concession was given to Royal Dutch Shell and the approval came from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) with a five page stipulation regarding protecting wildlife, the ocean, and human inhabitants of the area.

You may want to think, “well, okay — at least they are protecting the wildlife up there.  As an environmentalist, I’m okay now.”

Sure, but…. but no:

Green groups have been working on various fronts to block Shell’s drilling plan, saying the unique, treacherous conditions of the Arctic make drilling too risky. They also argue that Shell has a poor track record in the area.

“Once again, our government has rushed to approve risky and ill-conceived exploration in one of the most remote and important places on Earth,” Susan Murray, deputy vice president for the Pacific at the group Oceana, said in a statement.

“Shell has not shown that it is prepared to operate responsibly in the Arctic Ocean, and neither the company nor our government has been willing to fully and fairly evaluate the risks of Shell’s proposal,” she added.

“We can’t trust Shell with America’s Arctic,” added Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

“As we all remember, Shell’s mishaps in 2012 culminated with its drilling rig running aground near Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. Events such as these demonstrated to the nation that drilling in the Arctic is reckless and irresponsible and that no oil company should develop there,” she said.

The remoteness of the location also means if Shell runs into any problems – say an oil spill or emergency malfunction – it will take considerable time for adequate resources to arrive in the area. It is not an accident that it has taken this long to open up drilling in the Arctic, the terrain is exceedingly difficult and hard to navigate.

Oil drilling in risky areas where access to oil leaks is difficult.  What could go wrong, right?  Besides, when they say nothing can go wrong in Alaska when it comes to oil, they know what they’re talking about.

It’s The Frack Part II

To add to what I wrote a couple of days ago, we get some more confirmation about the link between human drilling activity and earthquakes:

The United States Geological Survey on Thursday released its first comprehensive assessment of the link between thousands of earthquakes and oil and gas operations, identifying and mapping 17 regions where quakes have occurred.

The report was the agency’s broadest statement yet on a danger that has grown along with the nation’s energy production.

By far the hardest-hit state, the report said, is Oklahoma, where earthquakes are hundreds of times more common than they were until a few years ago because of the disposal of wastewater left over from extracting fuels and from drilling wells by injecting water into the earth. But the report also mapped parts of eight other states, from Lake Erie to the Rocky Mountains, where that practice has caused quakes, and said most of them were at risk for more significant shaking in the future.

“Oklahoma used to experience one or two earthquakes per year of magnitude 3 or greater, and now they’re experiencing one or two a day,” Mark Petersen, the chief author of the report, said. “Oklahoma now has more earthquakes of that magnitude than California.”

The report came two days after Oklahoma’s state government acknowledged for the first time the scientific consensus that wastewater disposal linked to oil and gas drilling was to blame for the huge surge in earthquakes there. The state introduced an interactive map showing quake locations and places where wastewater is injected into the ground, and the state-run Oklahoma Geological Survey said it “considers it very likely” that the practice is causing most of the shaking.

frackingstatews

Earthquakes Caused by Human Activity The maps above show where there has been seismic activity, caused mostly by oil and gas operations. Northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas have been especially hard hit, with an exponential growth in the number of human-caused earthquakes.

Hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique that injects a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into the ground to break rock formations and release gas, has drawn widespread attention. But injecting water to dispose of waste from drilling or production is a far greater contributor to earthquakes. The federal report excluded human activity, like mining, that can cause quakes but does not involve large-scale fluid injection.

The USGS isn’t any slouch when it comes to earthquakes.  It is only a matter of time before there is a large deadly earthquake.

 

It’s The Frack

What accounts for this?

Dramatic

Duh.

On Tuesday, scientists from Southern Methodist University added to the growing body of research linking small earthquakes to oil and gas wastewater disposal. That body of research is particularly important to the popular but controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which produces significantly more wastewater than conventional drilling.

The research published by SMU scientists links a series of small earthquakes in Azle, Texas to oil and gas activity — specifically, the process of injecting drilling wastewater underground. According to the research, the faults that shifted below Dallas-Fort Worth “have not budged in hundreds of millions of years.”

Like other research, the SMU study doesn’t definitively say that wastewater injections caused the quakes. It just says that they’re the most likely explanation.

What makes the Texas study a bit different than other research linking human activity to seismic events is that it suspects wastewater injection alone is not causing the quakes. Instead, it asserts that there’s a specific thing workers do when extracting fuel and performing wastewater injection that may be triggering them.

According to the research, quakes may be made more likely when workers extract gas and groundwater from one side of a fault line, then inject water back into the ground on the other side of the fault. That is slightly different than what other research has suggested — that wastewater injected anywhere near fault lines can change the stress of those faults to the point of failure, causing earthquakes.

Still, the basic idea is the same: human activity, via oil and gas watewater injection, is the most likely explanation for these unusual strings of earthquakes happening across the country.

“It’s what we figured all along, it’s not really new news to us,” said Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett, according to NBC’s Dallas affiliate. “It’s just confirming our suspicious that we’ve had.”

The fact that scientists haven’t been able to make definitive statements about oil and gas activity’s connection to earthquakes has been the main argument of industry supporters when these issues arise in states, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas activity, has been resistant to concerns that fracking activity may be causing quakes in the state. In response to Tuesday’s study, the agency’s staff seismologist Craig Pearson said it “raises many questions with regard to its methodology,” but declined to say exactly what those questions were before meeting with the researchers.

In Oklahoma, which is now seeing anywhere from two to 20 small earthquakes every day, state officials have been extremely reluctant to say drilling is the cause. That is, until Tuesday.

How Much Fossil Fuel Has Costa Rica Burned So Far This Year?

Answer:  Zero

Yes, you read that right:

For the last 82 days, Costa Rica has powered itself using only renewable energy sources.

That means the Latin American country hasn’t had to use fossil fuels at all so far in 2015.

Last week, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that 100 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewables for the first 75 days of the year, as heavy rains boosted the country’s hydroelectric power plants.

Wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy have also helped power the country.

Granted, Costa Rica has an abundance of rivers, waterfalls, wind, and geothermal… uh… volcanoes — all of which can serve as clean energy.

But it certainly is possible.  (In the United States, about 67% of the electricity generated is from fossil fuel [coal, natural gas, and petroleum])

Finally! The Climate Change Problem Is Solved!

How do we get rid of “climate change”?  Don’t talk about it!

Florida scientist told to remove words ‘climate change’ from study on climate change

By late January of this year, Elizabeth Radke figured she was pretty much done with Florida. She had already graduated from the University of Florida, where she had gotten her PhD in epidemiology. She had moved from the Sunshine State to the Washington area, where she took a job at Arlington County’s public health department. And her dissertation, which looked at how climate change in Florida had affected ciguatera — a commonly reported marine food-borne illness — was getting closer to publication.

But then, on Jan. 27, a message popped into her inbox. Subject: “Paper Review.” And Radke realized she wasn’t through with Florida yet. In fact, she was about to get dragged into what has now become a national scandal over an alleged “unwritten policy” among some Florida state environmental offices that forbids the use of terms such as “climate change” and “global warming” in official correspondence.

On Sunday, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which broke the news in a story that quickly ricocheted across the nation, connected the protocol directly to the office of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who has long voiced suspicion of man-made climate change despite overwhelming scientific consensus it exists — not to mention indications of rising sea levels in southeastern Florida. “I’m not a scientist” has been Scott’s standard response.

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ or ‘sustainability,’” Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from 2008 until 2013, told the investigative outfit. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

The (Republican) governor of Florida is denying that he sought to purge the phrase “climate change” and other similar phrases.

Michelle Celebrates Gasoline Under $2 Which She Promised

Michele Bachmann Gave You Your  2 Gas

Retiring Congressdipshit Michele Bachmann has been doing a peculiar version of the Minnesota Long Goodbye, except instead of the usual arrangement, where a host follows a departing guest out to the car asking if they’re really sure they don’t want to take a little hot dish home with them, Ms. Bachmann has it a little backwards.

Having given a farewell speech and received a loving farewell tongue-bath from WND, and packed up the U-Haul with all her Furry paraphernalia, she now keeps coming back from her idling getaway car to knock on the door and ask us if maybe we’d like to make her another pot of coffee and look at slides from her trip to Bemidji all night.

Like this twitter picture.  Yup. Gas prices are below $2, just like she promised in August 2011 when she was running for President:

“The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look at what it is today,” she said at an event in Greenville, South Carolina. “Under President Bachmann, you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen.”

I’m not sure if this tweet means she’s taking a victory lap or not.  If so, it’s pretty hard to see how anything she did contributed to low gas prices.  I guess she was reminded of that fact when her picture was retweeted hundreds of times with the hashtag #thanksObama.

How Much Is The NC State Legislature In The Pocket Of Big Business?

This much:

North Carolina GOP Pushes Unprecedented Bill to Jail Anyone Who Discloses Fracking Chemicals

As hydraulic fracturing ramps up around the country, so do concerns about its health impacts. These concerns have led 20 states to require the disclosure of industrial chemicals used in the fracking process.

North Carolina isn’t on that list of states yet — and it may be hurtling in the opposite direction.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators introduced a bill that would slap a felony charge on individuals who disclosed confidential information about fracking chemicals. The bill, whose sponsors include a member of Republican party leadership, establishes procedures for fire chiefs and health care providers to obtain chemical information during emergencies. But as the trade publication Energywire noted Friday, individuals who leak information outside of emergency settings could be penalized with fines and several months in prison.

“The felony provision is far stricter than most states’ provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets,” says Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations.

The bill also allows companies that own the chemical information to require emergency responders to sign a confidentiality agreement. And it’s not clear what the penalty would be for a health care worker or fire chief who spoke about their experiences with chemical accidents to colleagues.

“I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement,” says Wiseman. “But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony.” In some sections, she says, “That appears to be the case.”

The disclosure of the chemicals used to break up shale formations and release natural gas is one of the most heated issues surrounding fracking. Many energy companies argue that the information should be proprietary, while public health advocates counter that they can’t monitor for environmental and health impacts without it. Under public pressure, a few companies have begun to report chemicals voluntarily.

North Carolina has banned fracking until the state can approve regulations. The bill introduced Thursday, titled the Energy Modernization Act, is meant to complement the rules currently being written by the North Carolina Mining & Energy Commission.

Wiseman adds that, other than the felony provision, the bill proposes disclosure laws similar to those in many other states: “It allows for trade secrets to remain trade secrets, it provides only limited exceptions for reasons of emergency and health problems, and provides penalties for failure to honor the trade secret.”

Draft regulations from the North Carolina commission have been praised as some of the strongest fracking rules in the country. But observers already worry that the final regulations will be significantly weaker. In early May, the commission put off approving a near-final chemical disclosure rule because Haliburton, which has huge stakes in the fracking industry, complained the proposal was too strict, the News & Observer reported.

For portions of the Republican-controlled North Carolina government to kowtow to the energy industry is not surprising. In February, the Associated Press reported that under Republican Governor Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s top environmental regulators previously thwarted three separate Clean Water Act lawsuits aimed at forcing Duke Energy, the largest electricity utility in the country, to clean up its toxic coal ash pits in the state. Had those lawsuits been allowed to progress, they may have prevented the February rupture of a coal ash storage pond, which poured some 80,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

“Environmental groups say they favor some of the provisions [in the Energy Modernization Act],” Energywire reported Friday. “It would put the state geologist in charge of maintaining the chemical information and would allow the state’s emergency management office to use it for planning. It also would allow the state to turn over the information immediately to medical providers and fire chiefs.”

However, environmentalists point out that the bill would also prevent local governments from passing any rules on fracking and limit water testing that precedes a new drilling operation.

Pat Sajak Is Kind Of A Dick

That was Pat, probably after a couple of drinks.

It's kind of hard to understand how Pat links those who acknowledge climate change as fact to racism, and nowhere has Pat managed to make that link.  I guess he's trying to ruffle feathers like a 16-year-old Internet troll.

But Pat's notion that climate scientists are using global warming alarmism as a means to feather their own nests is common among climate change denialists.

This view seems to be based on the idea that there is an immense amount of grant money available to scientists who perpetuate the "hoax," that this grant money makes these scientists rich, and that this incredibly corrupt and dishonest group of people has decided that this is a more lucrative path than, say, convincing the billionaire Koch brothers, who have spent a lot of money supporting climate change denialism, to put them on their payroll to take the opposite position.

This is an unlikely scenario. It isn't clear just what the financial interest would be in supporting this supposed hoax science. Perhaps Big Solar is behind it all, but it strains credulity to imagine that Big Solar has more sway — and more financial resources — than Big Oil in this policy debate. As author Scott Westerfeld quipped, "Plot idea: 97% of the world's scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies." I suppose it could be true.

That the scientists are likely honest and as correct as they can be about the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its likely impact on global temperatures admittedly does not lead automatically to specific policy conclusions. Perhaps any realistic policies to reverse the warming trend, especially absent global coordination, will be too costly with little chance of success. Maybe it's just too late.

But either way, Pat Sajak is kind of a dick.

ExxonMobile Can No Longer Deny It

Yes, human civilization is facing one of the greatest threats it has ever faced and no, we aren’t going to do anything about it. Or so says ExxonMobil in their latest report issued coincidentally on the same day as the latest IPCC report on the dangers of climate change. The report marks a rhetorical turning point of sorts where the fossil fuel industry accepts that climate change does pose significant risks.

Apparently ExxonMobil did not get the memo that climate change is a hoax as the world’s largest energy corporation acknowledged that the carbon being pumped into the atmosphere posed serious risks.

“We know enough based on the research and science that the risk (of climate change) is real and appropriate steps should be taken to address that risk,” Ken Cohen, Exxon’s government affairs chief, said in an interview. “But given the essential role that energy plays in everyone’s lives, those steps need to be taken in context with other realities we face, including lifting much of the world’s population out of poverty.”

97% of scientists might have a point. 

But before anyone starts celebrating a new enlightened fossil fuel industry, recognize this public acknowledgement of the danger does not translate into a commitment to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, ExxonMobil sees the climate change issue as part of a larger calculus that still favors their current business model. One that reasonable governments will be “highly unlikely” to mess with.

Exxon says that renewable energy sources are not now cheap enough nor technologically advanced enough to meet growing demand for energy, let alone also replace oil and gas. Governments therefore face a choice between restricting access to energy or raising the cost of energy significantly. In Exxon’s view, governments will chose to raise the cost of fossil fuels to encourage alternatives somewhat, but stop well short of enacting policies that will sharply curtail consumption, especially in developing countries, because populations would resist and social upheaval would result.

Now that is some impressive rhetorical jujitsu. Unlike Koch Industries which just lobs crazy people at Congress, ExxonMobil takes the warnings that climate change will cause social unrest and political instability and turns them on their head. Regulating carbon consumption, not climate change, becomes the real threat to social stability.  GO figure.

Is Climate Change Real

Somebody went back and looked at all the articles about climate change in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

10,853 articles accepted that climate change is real and humans are the cause of it.

2 did not.

Graphically, that looks like this:

Can we stop the “debate” now?

It Took A Spill, But NC Voters Finally Came Around

Good news:

The Sierra Club on Tuesday released the results of a poll it commissioned from Hart Research Associates that shows broad bipartisan support for regulation of coal ash among voters in North Carolina.

Hart polled 600 North Carolina voters earlier this month, and found that 83 percent of respondents want coal ash regulated as a hazardous substance and 90 percent think that Duke should clean up all coal ash sites in the state. Seventy percent of those polled thought Duke Energy was at least mostly at fault for the Dan River spill and 57 percent think that stronger regulations could have prevented the spill.

Voters also indicated that they were prepared to let politicians know where they stand on this issue at the ballot box with 70 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to support a candidate who “favors strong regulations and enforcement…to prevent future spills.” Just 17 percent of voters would be more likely to support a candidate who says that having more regulations and enforcement will hurt jobs and the state’s economy.

“You can throw the coal industry’s conventional wisdom out the window,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, in a release. “As we saw in West Virginia, this North Carolina coal spill has been a wake up call for voters about the need to protect our water from toxic coal pollution. This poll is yet another indication that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in coal states want leaders who will stand up to big coal companies and enact common-sense initiatives to protect our air, our water, and our families from toxic coal ash and pollution.”

Didn’t See This Coming?

West Virginia'ss image as caring more about corporations than people is really being bolstered this week.

West Virginia emergency planners never put together any strategy for dealing with spills of a toxic chemical from the Freedom Industries’ tank farm, despite the facility’s location just 1.5 miles upstream from a drinking water intake serving 300,000 people, officials acknowledged this morning.

Local emergency official likewise didn’t act to prepare for such an incident, even though they had been warned for years about storage of toxic chemicals so close to the West Virginia American Water plant serving the Kanawha Valley and surrounding region.

“That’s just something that’s kind of fallen by the wayside,” said Larry Zuspan, administrator of the Kanawha-Putnam Emergency Planning Committee.

They had other priorities than health and safety I guess.

Freedom Industries’ tanks don’t fall under an inspection program, and the chemicals stored at the facility weren’t considered hazardous enough to require environmental permitting.

Ugh.

1060

Bad Day For West Virginians

Although… the West Virginian who I'm thinking of is named Pat McGeehan.  Pat McGeehan is a 34 year old "constitutional conservative" running for U.S. Senate in 2014.  From his campaign website:

Pat McGeehan is a strong proponent for constitutional government. Since returning to West Virginia from active duty military service, he has traveled across the state in order to spread the message of America’s Founding Fathers. Pat demonstrated his principles after being elected in 2008 to represent the heavily Democratic House District 1, as a constitutional conservative Republican. During his time in the House of Delegates, Pat introduced legislation to reduce government such as the Firearms Freedom Act, the Repeal of the Food Tax, the Repeal of the Personal Income Tax, as well as his efforts to urge West Virginia government to reassert state rights as defined in the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.

Yup, he's one of those.

And what is one of the main planks of McGeehan's run for office?

As your US Senator, I will continue to oppose any anti-coal legislation, and fight to eliminate the EPA. Not only is this the real solution to defending ourselves against this horrendous war on our coal industry, it is the right thing to do. Under the Constitution, the federal government is not granted these powers to begin with. Returning environmental regulatory powers back to the States is mandated by the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights. We know what is best for us in West Virginia, not bureaucrats in Washington D.C.

Sure.  Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.  After all,what do they do but protect the environment?

So poor Pat woke up to this news:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Schools and restaurants closed, grocery stores sold out of bottled water, and state legislators who had just started their session canceled the day's business after a chemical spill in the Elk River in Charleston shut down much of the city and surrounding counties even as the extent of the danger remained unclear.

The federal government joined the state early Friday in declaring a disaster, and the West Virginia National Guard planned to distribute bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the nine affected counties. In requesting the federal declaration, which makes federal resources available to the state, state officials said about 300,000 people were affected.

Federal authorities are also launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the spill and what caused it, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a news release Friday.

Shortly after the Thursday spill from Freedom Industries hit the river and a nearby treatment plant, a licorice-like smell enveloped parts of the city, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued an order to customers of West Virginia American Water: Do not drink, bathe, cook or wash clothes with tap water.

The chemical, a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, leaked from a tank at Freedom Industries and overran a containment area. Freedom, a manufacturer of chemicals for the mining, steel, and cement industries, said in a news release Friday that the company is working to contain the leak to prevent further contamination. President Gary Southern also said the company still does not know how much of the chemical spilled from its operation into the river.

Well done, coal industry.  Now think for a moment if Pat McGreehan had been elected and got his wish of no EPA, no enviormental regulations.  Not only would this thing happen a lot more, but even as it happens, nothing can be done about it.

As for the culprit, Freedom Industries — well, you can tell what they're about, too.  Their website is all American flags and bald eagles.  Here's their statement, within the past hour:

“Since the discovery of the leak, safety for residents in Kanawha and surrounding counties has been Freedom Industries’ first priority. We have been working with local and federal regulatory, safety and environmental entities, including the DEP, Coast Guard, Army Corp of Engineers and Homeland Security, and are following all necessary steps to fix the issue.  Our team has been working around the clock since the discovery to contain the leak to prevent further contamination.  At this point, Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released, as the first priority was safety, containment and cleanup. 

Freedom Industries is in the process of setting up an Incident Command Center on site. As more factual information is made available, we will keep you updated.”

Emphasis mine.  In other words, they don't know yet how badly they fucked up nine counties in West Virginia.

What do you think now, Mr. McGeehan and like-minded West Virginians?  Environmental protections — good or bad?

If There’s Global Warming, Then Why Is It So Cold?

Forecasts in the midwest call for temperatures to drop to 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D.; minus 21 in Madison, Wis.; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills have been predicted to fall to negative 60 degrees — a dangerous cold that could break decades-old records.

All of which begs the question — if climate change is real, then how did it get so cold?

The question is based on common misconceptions of how cold weather moves across the planet, said Greg Laden, a bioanthroplogist who writes for National Geographic’s Scienceblog. According to Laden, the recent record-cold temperatures indicate to many that the Arctic’s cold air is expanding, engulfing other countries. If true, this would be a perfect argument for a “global cooling” theory. The Arctic’s coldness is growing. Laden asks, “How can such a thing happen with global warming?”

The answer, he writes, is that the Arctic air that usually sits on top of our planet is “taking an excursion” south for a couple of days, leaving the North Pole “relatively warm” and our temperate region not-so-temperate. “Go Home Arctic, You’re Drunk,” he titled the explanation.

“The Polar Vortex, a huge system of moving swirling air that normally contains the polar cold air, has shifted so it is not sitting right on the pole as it usually does,” Laden writes. “We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion. So, this cold weather we are having does not disprove global warming.”

In fact, some scientists have theorized that the influx of extreme cold is actually fueled by effects of climate change. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, told ClimateProgress on Monday that it’s not the Arctic who is drunk. It’s the jet stream.

“The drunk part is that the jet stream is in this wavy pattern, like a drunk walking along,” Francis, who primarily studies Arctic links to global weather patterns, said. “In other places, you could see the tropics are drunk.”

Arctic warming, she said, is causing less drastic changes in temperatures between northern and southern climates, leading to weakened west-to-east winds, and ultimately, a wavier jet stream. The stream’s recent “waviness” has been taking coldness down to the temperate United States and leaving Alaska and the Arctic relatively warm, Francis said. The same thing has been happening in other countries as well. Winter storms have been pounding the U.K., she noted, while Scandinavia is having a very warm winter.

“This kind of pattern is going to be more likely, and has been more likely,” she said. “Extremes on both ends are a symptom. Wild, unusual temperatures of both sides, both warmer and colder.

Where’s Cable News?

Today, Obama made a very major environmental speech.  Here are the bullet points:

Curbing carbon pollution

• Directs the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

• Promises $8 billion in loan guarantees for fossil fuel projects.

• Directs the Interior Department to permit 10 gigawatts of wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020.

• Expands the president’s Better Building Challenge, helping buildings cut waste to become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

• Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through efficiency standards set for appliances and federal buildings.

• Commits to developing fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

• Aims to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases.

• Directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy.

• Commits to forests and other landscape protection.

Preparing for climate change

• Directs agencies to support local investment to help vulnerable communities become more resilient to the effects of global warming.

• Establishment of flood-risk reduction standards in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region.

• Will work with the health-care industry to create sustainable, resilient hospitals.

• Distribution of science-based information for farmers, ranchers and landowners.

• Establishment of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to make rangelands less vulnerable to catastrophic fires.

• Climate Data Initiative will provide information for state, local and private-sector leaders.

Leading global efforts to address climate change

• Commits to expanding new and existing initiatives, including those with China, India and other major emitting countries.

• Calls for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas.*

• Expands government capacity for planning and response.

*Except for efficient coal plants in the poorest countries, or for plants using carbon capture.

All of the three major news networks spent mere minutes on the speech — which ran in total 49 minutes.

MSNBC: 41 seconds

FOX News: 4 minutes and 37 seconds

CNN: 8 minutes and 5 seconds

The Weather Channel: 49 minutes

While the lack of coverage is shocking enough, perhaps the most astounding media failure of the day was by FOX News, who broke from Obama’s climate speech to interview climate denier Chris Horner. Horner works for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, and is largely funded by the oil money, including the Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobil.

 

Global Temperatures Are The Highest In 4,000 Years

How long will the deniers keep denying?

Global temperatures are warmer than at any time in at least 4,000 years, scientists reported Thursday, and over the coming decades are likely to surpass levels not seen on the planet since before the last ice age.

Previous research had extended back roughly 1,500 years, and suggested that the rapid temperature spike of the past century, believed to be a consequence of human activity, exceeded any warming episode during those years. The new work confirms that result while suggesting the modern warming is unique over a longer period.

Even if the temperature increase from human activity that is projected for later this century comes out on the low end of estimates, scientists said, the planet will be at least as warm as it was during the warmest periods of the modern geological era, known as the Holocene, and probably warmer than that.

That epoch began about 12,000 years ago, after changes in incoming sunshine caused vast ice sheets to melt across the Northern Hemisphere. Scientists believe the moderate climate of the Holocene set the stage for the rise of human civilization roughly 8,000 years ago and continues to sustain it by, for example, permitting a high level of food production.

In the new research, scheduled for publication on Friday in the journal Science, Shaun Marcott, an earth scientist at Oregon State University, and his colleagues compiled the most meticulous reconstruction yet of global temperatures over the past 11,300 years, virtually the entire Holocene. They used indicators like the distribution of microscopic, temperature-sensitive ocean creatures to determine past climate.

 

Blame Pb

Violent crime has dropped significantly since the mid-90's.  In New York, it's down 75 percent. Dallas' has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.  Washington DC: 58 percent.

Why?

Conventional wisdom is that crime rates drop when the economy gets better.  Therefore, violent crime rates drop with the overall decrease in all crimes.

But that doesn't seem to explain this phenomenon.  Violent crime rates have continued to plunge in good economic times and in recessionary times.

Other theories?  Better policing tactics.  The transition in inner cities from heroin to crack to marijuana.  One theory suggests that Roe v Wade is a factor: less unwanted babies mean less maladjusted young men, and therefore less violent crime.

The problem is that with each theory, it is hard to tease out actual proof.

Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum puts forth a theory for which they is at least coincidental proof: Violent crimes have gone down because of Pb(CH2CH3)4.

Lead.

You should read the whole article, but the premise is this: as society has moved from leaded gasoline to unleaded gasoline, violent crime rates have gone down.

Coincidence?  Maybe.  But Drum discusses one researcher who discovered that:

this reduction wasn't uniform. In fact, use of leaded gasoline varied widely among states, and this gave Reyes the opening she needed. If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you'd expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that's exactly what she found.

Other countries, at different times, also transitioned from leaded gasoline to unleaded gasoline.

Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in severaldifferent countries?

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn't fit the theory. "No," he replied. "Not one."

Then there's this:

For example, murder rates have always been higher in big cities than in towns and small cities. We're so used to this that it seems unsurprising, but Nevin points out that it might actually have a surprising explanation—because big cities have lots of cars in a small area, they also had high densities of atmospheric lead during the postwar era. But as lead levels in gasoline decreased, the differences between big and small cities largely went away. And guess what? The difference in murder rates went away too. Today, homicide rates are similar in cities of all sizes. It may be that violent crime isn't an inevitable consequence of being a big city after all.

So decreases in atmospheric lead, from car exhaust etc., coincide with decreases in the violent crime rate.  

Lead_Crime_325
Is there any biology to explain the connection?

Why, yes.

Lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil's words, an "additional kick in the gut." And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

Other recent studies link even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD.

In other words, as Reyes summarized the evidence in her paper, even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ. And right there, you've practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.

There still is a huge lead problem in this country.  Yes, it has been banned in gas since 1996, but guess what:

As it turns out, tetraethyl lead is like a zombie that refuses to die. Our cars may be lead-free today, but they spent more than 50 years spewing lead from their tailpipes, and all that lead had to go somewhere. And it did: It settled permanently into the soil that we walk on, grow our food in, and let our kids play around…

Lead in soil doesn’t stay in the soil. Every summer, like clockwork, as the weather dries up, all that lead gets kicked back into the atmosphere in a process called resuspension. The zombie lead is back to haunt us.

This is a public health issue that money and elbow grease can fix.

And it more than pays for itself, in dollars and shattered lives.

Enjoy The Satellites While We Have Them

It's worth noting that those space images of Sandy that are not only cool but actually help scientists predicts its path and strength — well, they come from satellites which are nearing or past the end of their functional lives, and we have no replacement satellites scheduled to be launched for a few years.

And if Republicans have their way and follow the Paul Ryan budget, we may not have replacement satellites at all.

S_s30_54978495

 

 

But Climate Change Is A Hoax, Right?

Graph don't lie…

Screen-shot-2012-09-17-at-3.28.52-PM

The average global land surface temperature between June and August of 2012 was the warmest ever recorded,according to data from the National Climatic Data Center. The three month period saw an average land temperature that was 1.03°C (1.85°F) above the 20th century average.

This follows a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing that the period between January and August was the warmest on record for the lower 48 states and featured the most extreme weather ever recorded.

Greenland Suddenly Melting

Uh-oh:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists say there's been a freak event inGreenland this month: Nearly every part of the massive ice sheet that blankets the island suddenly started melting.

Even Greenland's coldest place showed melting. Records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years.

NASA says three satellites saw what it calls unprecedented melting over four days beginning July 8. Most of the thick ice remains. But what was unusual was that the melting occurred over a widespread area.

NASA says the melting area went from 40 percent of the ice sheetto 97 percent. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past 30 years was about 55 percent.

Scientists can't say yet if the melting is from global warming or natural.

It doesn't sound natural.

Hitting The Wrong Button: Fracking Is Now Legal In NC

First, a little background on "fracking".

Fracking is media term applied to a process known as Hydraulic Fracturing. It is a process that creates fractures in rocks to force natural gas, water, and oil reserves trapped 5,000 to 20,000 feet below the earth up to the surface. Hydraulic fractures may occur naturally, via volcanic dikes, sills, ice; or they can be man-made by injecting a proppant (like crains of sand, ceramic, or other particulates) or fracturing fluid, into a borehole deep underground in formation rock, to increase pressure enough to fracture the formation rock.

Fracking is a process used to harvest and extract water, natural gas, and oil reserves in targeted formations deep within the earth. The fracture is then “propped” by sand higher in permeability than the surrrounding rock, and formation fluids are then pumped to the surface. Fracking is also often used to dispose toxic waste into underground formations.

Fracking_explained

Fracking is highly controversial due to significant environmental, safety, and health risks. The biggest risks of fracking involve: the potential contamination of groundwater aquifers with fracturing chemicals or waste fluids and the migration of gasses and fracturing chemicals.  If these chemicals migrate to water supplies, it can contaminate huge populations, as well as farming areas, and nature.

So naturally, many people are against (except Republicans who deny there is any problem).

Here in North Carolina, a bill passed the legislature which permitted fracking.

Fortunately, the governor vetoed the bill.  It was therefore necessary, if the law was going to be valid, that the NC legislature override the veto by 2/3rds majority.

The vote to override the veto was last night, and it was close.

And then the unthinkable: Rep. Becky Carney, who opposes fracking, hit the wrong button when voting.  Instead of sustaining the governor's veto, she voted to overturn the governor's veto:

The vote was 72-47, exactly the number needed for an override. Without Carney's vote, the veto would have been sustained. 

Carney characterized her vote as "very accidental."

"It is late. Here we are rushing to make these kind of decisions this time of night," she said.

Carney pointed out that she has voted against fracking in the past, and said she spent the day lobbying other Democrats to uphold the veto of Senate Bill 820.

"And then I push the green button," she said.

Just after the vote, Carney's voice could be heard on her microphone, saying "Oh my gosh. I pushed green."

Carney said she turned her light on, but Speaker Thom Tillis would not recognize her, so she went to the front to speak to him.

"I made a mistake, and I tried to get recognized to change it, as people have been doing all night on other bills, and it was too late," Carney said. "Because it would have changed the outcome of the vote."

So fracking is now NC law.

Adventures in Bad Marketing Ideas

UPDATE: Grrrrrr….. it's a hoax!  But a good one!  Go play!

Some idiot at Shell Oil's ad agency is probably looking for a job right now.

The problem?  Shell Oil wants to open up the Artic and tap its untapped resources.  But how do we get the public behind that, in an environmentally-conscious world?

The bone-headed solution?  Crowd-source the marketing!  That's right.  Create a website where people can create their own Shell Oil public image ads.  Provide the pictures — all the people have to do is ad the slogan.  Slap on the catchphrase "Let's Go" and add the Shell logo.  Voila!  Then pick the best ad!  

It's so 2010's.  It's hip!  It's now!  It's all Internet-y and social-y stuff!  The kids'll love it!!

Let's see how it's going for Shell by looking at the some of the most popular ads people have come up with

'

and my favorite….

GOP Legislature in Virginia Mimics NC Legislature

Only a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the GOP-run North Carolina legislature dealt with the global warming problem by making it illegal to measure the rising sea levels on its coast.

And now, the state legislature of Virginia has hopped on the bandwagon: We're not supposed to say "sea level rise."

State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the "sea level rise" study in the General Assembly to one on "recurrent flooding," said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.

He said "sea level rise" is a "left-wing term" that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?

"What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door," Stolle said. "Let's focus on that. Let's study that. So that's what I wanted us to call it."

So, "sea level rise" — a very neutral  and accurate term to describe rises in sea level — sudden'y has become a phrase too inconvenient to those who deny climate change.

*Facepalm*

Republicans In NC Legislature Solve Global Warming Problem

North Carolina Republicans have come up with a novel strategy to combat a future threatened by a rise in sea levels, which scientists agree will continue to accelerate thanks to global warming: Pass a law pretending it won't happen:

The bill has not yet been introduced, but the language in the version being circulated would make the Division of Coastal Management the only state agency allowed to produce sea-level rise rates, and only at the request of the Coastal Resources Commission, and then only under the following conditions:

These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

In other words, instead of taking into account global warming to predict higher seas, as expected by most scientists, the bill would have the state rely only on the historical record.

Brilliant.

Thank You, BP

Remember that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  That was nasty, huh?  Good thing that's all over and done with.  Except not….

Dr. Jim Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography, spoke to Al Jazeera recently and described the regular complaints he gets from fishermen, who often warn of deformed sea life like eyeless shrimp, crabs without claws, fish whose hearts don’t fully form, and numerous creatures with unexplained lesions on them.

“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” he’s quoted as saying. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

 

Global Warming March

How hot was last month? It was so hot that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released some amazing charts and factoids, including:

  • Every state in the nation experienced at least one record warm daily temperature during March. According to preliminary datathere were 15,272 warm temperature records broken (7,755 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records). Hundreds of locations across the country broke their all-time March records. There were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date.
  • A persistent weather pattern led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. That same pattern brought cooler-than-average conditions to the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
  • NOAA’s U.S. Climate Extremes Index, an index that tracks the highest 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones, was 39 percent, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the January-March period [see figure]:

U.S. Climate Extremes Index was the highest on record so far in 2012.

It was so hot that “March heat records crushed cold records by over 35 to 1“ and top scientists and meteorologists said that global warming loaded the dice. If you prefer sports metaphors, like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace.

That's hot.

And yes, most meterologists say that global warming is a factor.

At The Pump

Can we get one thing straight?

The Republican candidates are hoping to make it Obama's fault that gas prices are on the rise.  It's ridiculous.  Gas prices are on the rise because of the unsettled Middle East.  And while Obama hasn't resolved the Middle East conflicts, nobody has in… well, centuries.

The other thing the GOp candidates say is that gas prices are high because Obama doesn't like to drill.

Nice argument, except for two things: (1)  there are more domestic oil rigs pumping oil now (under Obama) than at any time in previous American history and (2) the gas prices are going up nonetheless.

Here's the chart that tells it all:

Drilling_gas_prices_chart1

The Global Warming Hoax

In last night's debate, Santorum accused both Romney and Gingrich of buying into the "global warming hoax".  It's very disturbing that a presidential candidate still cannot buy into clear scientific data.  There is room for debate about the extent of global warming, and possibly even the root cause (although that latter point is almost universally closed as well).  But to say that it doesn't exist?  Crazy.

In 1880, when modern global temperature records began, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were at 285 parts per million. In 2011, they are were over 390 parts per million. We know this.  We can measure it.  It's not hard.  It's undeniable.

As we’ve spewed greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere at at a faster pace, global temperatures have accelerated upward, particularly since the 1970′s. To illustrate this rise, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released this fascinating video earlier this week, showing 131 years of temperature records edited into a 30-second video:

 

Now, to deny global warming, you would necessarily have to take the position that NASA is either (a) making the numbers up or (2) miscalculating the numbers.  That is, NASA is either evil or stupid.

Until global warming deniers are unequovically take one of those two positions, and prove it, they need to shut up so the grown-ups can think and discuss a policy to fix the problem.

Short Takes

*  Britney Spears – who used to be famous – is engaged.  Uh, to be married.  Uh, again.  She's 16 years old still.

* Naughty Republicans — the mayor of Grandaven, Mississippi for 14 years — a guy named Greg Davis — re-ran for mayor in 2008 on a family values platform.  You know where this is going, right?  He's in trouble now for using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on liquor, expensive dinners at a local restaurant, and a visit to an adult store catering to gay men.  The latter revelation forced him to admit that he is gay.

* Naughty Tebaggers – Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was taken into custody Thursday morning after he tried to check in for a Delta flight to Detroit with a locked gun box containing a Glock pistol and 19 cartridges of ammunition, Queens prosecutors said. [CBS News]

*  The Florida Family Association can suck it.  Seriously.  The new show on TLC, called American Muslim, portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  The Florida Family Association objects to the show… because it portrays Muslims in America as normal everyday Americans with normal everyday American problems.  Apparently, you can now protest stuff because it ain't bigotted enough for you.  Oh, and screw you Loew's.

*  Every once in a while, Congress will do something good — like ban traditional incandescent light bulbs (which are inefficient and hurt the environment).  Unfortunately, the good die young.