Saturday, July 9, 2011

Via P B:

10:21pm Jul 9
White supremacy/white nationalism has played a key role in American conservatism and the GOP for decades, even though most folks are uncomfortable talking about it. With the emergence of the Tea Party and other far right forces in the aftermath of Obama's electoral victory, WS is on the rise again. People of good will, from the left and the right, need to expose it and politically destroy this cancer in our society.
Can white supremacists stage a comeback in the GOP?
OPINION - David Duke's presidential hopes can serve as a warning sign

Via ClimateChange:

Posted: 08 Jul 2011 10:41 AM PDT

by Stewart Boss

As the combined threat of climate change and energy dependence continues to drive the urgent need to shift away from risky fossil fuels, few entities are leading the charge quite like the U.S. military. In a June memo, General David Petraeus wrote that “ ‘operational energy’ is the lifeblood of our warfighting capabilities.” The military’s ambitious goals for investing in renewables, efficiency and alternative fuels are unparalleled in the U.S. today.
A panel briefing on Thursday hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted the extraordinary energy innovations that the Department of Defense as well as the Army, Navy and Air Force are working on collectively under DOD to minimize the risks posed by high fuel use. There is plenty of work to do. According to Petraeus, fuel is responsible for nearly 80 percent of ground supply movement, and the DOD spends $20 billion on 135 million barrels of fuel and 30 million megawatt-hours of electricity every year.
The event, “Leading by Example: How Energy Innovation is Strengthening America’s Military,” brought together three department assistant secretaries who currently serve as the highest-ranking officials directly overseeing energy-related issues in the military. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, these officials – Katherine Hammack (Army), Jackalyne Pfanneenstiel (Navy) and Terry Yonkers (Air Force) – were all recruited from the private sector. Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, reiterated the importance of private-sector innovation and capital to enable the military’s transition to cleaner energy sources.
Despite strong DOD support for leaving the law intact, the House voted yesterday to approve a GOP amendment to the defense spending bill that blocks funding for Section 526, which bans the federal procurement of alternative fuels with higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fossil fuels as part of extensive and bipartisan energy legislation that passed in 2007. This comes despite vocal opposition from DOD, clearly expressed in a July 5 memo:
This exemption could further increase America’s reliance on non-renewable fuels. Our dependence on those types of fuels degrades our national security, negatively impacts our economy, and harms our planet. This exemption would also send a negative signal to America’s advanced biofuel industry and could result in adverse impacts to U.S. job creation, rural development efforts, and the export of world leading technology….  The Department urges exclusion of the House provision. The existing law has not, in any way, prevented the Department from meeting its current mission needs.
Pfannenstiel outlined Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ aggressive Five Energy Goals and affirmed that these are not just lofty goals, but rather part of a 5-year, $4 billion plan to save lives, save money and enhance national energy security:

  1. Changing the way the Navy and Marine Corps award contracts during the acquisition process to consider the lifetime energy cost of the system
  2. By 2012, creating a “Great Green Fleet” composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuels and deploying that fleet by 2016
  3. By 2015, reducing petroleum use in its 50,000 commercial vehicle fleet by 50 percent by phasing in hybrid fuel and electric vehicles
  4. Producing at least half the shore-based energy requirements from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and ocean generated by the base
  5. By 2020, ensuring at least 40 percent of the Navy’s total energy consumption comes from alternative sources.
These are serious and profound initiatives that are going to transform and strengthen the Navy over the next decade while curbing climate pollution and cutting costs. As Yonkers highlighted, “Every dollar saved by managing our energy resources is a dollar that we can invest in the fight, or other high Air Force priorities.”
Pfannenstiel explained the intended impact of the Navy’s vast array of energy initiatives:
We’re spending our $4 billion wisely, on programs that are going to institutionalize the energy practices we support. Those of us who have been around the energy field for a long time – forever – recognize that this nation’s energy focus has been fickle. Oil prices go up, there’s a rash of technologies that look interesting, oil prices go down, we move on to other things. So the Department of the Navy is going to demonstrate that our military mission can be accomplished based on a fundamentally different paradigm for energy.
NPR’s Diane Rehm had an excellent piece this week on “The Military and Alternative Energy” with an in-depth discussion of the economic and security risks of the military’s current fossil fuel dependence. You can listen here.
Despite the U.S. military’s lengthy and continued engagement in two wars in the Middle East, not to mention an absurdly high $20.2 billion annual price tag for A/C in Iraq and Afghanistan, NYT columnist Tom Friedman pointed out a potential bright spot last year in his column “The U.S.S. Prius.”
Unlike the Congress, which can be bought off by Big Oil and Big Coal, it is not so easy to tell the Marines that they can’t buy the solar power that could save lives. I don’t know what the final outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan will be, but if we come out of these two wars with a Pentagon-led green revolution, I know they won’t be a total loss. Wars that were driven partly by our oil addiction end up forcing us to break our oil addiction? Wouldn’t that be interesting?
As former Senator John Warner (R-VA), who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee and now advises Pew’s Project on National Security, Energy and Climate, also noted, the military isn’t just deploying clean energy technologies – it’s also developing respected American leaders that recognize the importance of clean energy innovation.
You’ve got another asset that you’re developing, and that is these young men and women when they finish their military service … there is nobody in America today with a greater degree of credibility and admiration than those who wear the uniform. And as they leave the service and go home, isn’t there a way we can incentivize them more to step out and tell their local townships and tell their cities and tell their universities and tell others about how we in the service personally experienced the essential need to have that energy and to use it efficiently, and we are doing it, so why can’t we do it back here at home?
The U.S. military is addressing these energy issues as a “critical vulnerability” in their operations and developing a model for how the rest of the country can make the transition to a new energy paradigm. At home and abroad, climate inaction and fossil fuel addiction don’t just ignore the science – they perpetuate a dangerous strategic vulnerability that is at the foundation of our energy economy.
— Stewart Boss, Energy Intern at the Center for American Progress

Via ClimateChange:

Posted: 09 Jul 2011 06:43 AM PDT
—Dominique Browning

We have entered another period of vocal warming. The political rhetoric in the “debate” over the EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Regulation is falling into a terrible and familiar pattern. Supporters of the Clean Air Act would be well advised to take note. Pro-polluters are beginning to sound like climate deniers.

We shouldn’t dismiss them as hot-headed extremists–that didn’t work too well last time around. Remember when it looked like cap-and-trade was a done deal, and climate deniers had lost momentum? A few loud-mouths have a way of turning many heads.

Just look at the arc this issue is taking. In March, the EPA announced new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards; they have been in the works for 21 years. As we were reminded during testimony in recent Senate subcommittee hearings, it was Administrator Leavitt, in 2004, who told utilities where his (Republican) administration stood on new anti-pollution regulations: “It’s time to start cleaning up.” Time to invest “now” in reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. Power plant clean up has been a continuous policy under two Democratic and two Republican presidents.

When the EPA announced its new standards last winter, the response was reasoned. Indeed, a letter, published in the Wall Street Journal, signed by CEOs of major utilities supported the regulations as good for the economy.
That was in December.

By June, we were in the midst of such anti-EPA sentiment that a Presidential candidate, Michele Bachman, was emboldened to call for the Mother of All Repeals, the repeal of the Clean Air Act. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R KY) then picked up the repeal rhetoric.

Suddenly, we’re spinning backwards, to pre-1970 days. Repeal the Clean Air Act? How is such talk even possible–and can it stick?

What’s happening? There’s one very good reason to take vocal warming very seriously: Pro-Polluters are using the same tactics that were used so successfully during the last round of the climate change battle.

From the Pro-Polluter Playbook:

1. Keep repeating falsehoods. Make that: LIES

Coal doesn’t hurt anyone. Mercury is harmless.

Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) during a hearing: there is no “medical negative” to pollution.

Utility industry lobbyists state that there are “no incremental health benefits associated with” the new standards.

They deny that reducing toxics “actually does anything to protect the public health.”

One of those lobbyists, Jeff Holmstead, who now works for Rudy Giuliani’s firm, used to head Bush’s EPA air program (2001-2005). His biography states that he was involved in the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. As Jeff Walke at NRDC points out, in 2002, Holmstead testified to Congress that “mercury is a potent toxin that causes permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, particularly in developing fetuses.” In 2005, he testified that reducing pollution from power plants would result in “14,100 fewer premature deaths” and other “significant health benefits.”

In 2011, representing the electric industry, Holmstead said: “It is pretty hard to say that [mercury from coal-fired power plants] is a significant public health issue.”

Truth is beside the point.

Steve Milloy tells the Fox News audience that US power plants aren’t a major source of mercury emissions. The EPA states that coal-fired power plants are the largest source– 50%– of manmade mercury emissions. Bush’s EPA made the same statements.

While you’re at it, confuse people about what, exactly, is a fact.

2. Ignore the science.

Lobbyists for the utilities, pro-pollution utility CEOs, and pro-pollution politicians choose to ignore reams of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the health hazards of particulate matter, air toxics and mercury from power plants.

Ignoring the science is one way of silencing scientists’ voices.

3. Denigrate scientists and medical professionals. Undercut their authority.

That’s what was behind Joe Barton’s cheap, folksy shot: “I’m not a doctor…but my hypothesis is” that no one is going to be hurt by mercury. His opinion is as good as any scientist’s, just because he calls it a hypothesis.

When major health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, and the American Public Health Association, wrote to express their “shock” at these unscientific assertions, Barton ignored them.

4. Scare people about jobs and the economy–even if you have to lie about it. 

Because of the new EPA standards, say the pro-polluters, plants will have to be shut down. People will lose their jobs–and no new jobs will be created. The American economy will suffer further. So will consumers. Regulating pollution is an unaffordable luxury.

Never mind what a few industry experts have to say–publicly, in the Wall Street Journal: Peter Darbee, chairman,president and CEO,PG&E Corp.; Jack Fusco, president and CEO, Calpine Corp.; Lewis Hay, chairman and CEO, NextEra Energy, Inc.; Ralph Izzo, chairman, president and CEO, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.; Thomas King, president, National Grid USA,; John Rowe, chairman and CEO, Exelon Corp.; Mayo Shattuck, chairman, president and CEO, Constellation Energy Group; Larry Weis, general manager, Austin Energy

“To suggest that plants are retiring because of the EPA’s regulations fails to recognize that lower power prices and depressed demand are the primary retirement drivers. The units retiring are generally small, old and inefficient. These retirements are long overdue.

Contrary to the claims that the EPA’s agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies’ experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability.”

5.  Sow confusion. And reap “undecided”.

Deniers know they don’t need to convince people that coal emissions are poisonous. They only have to confuse them. When people are confused (on any issue), they naturally move to the “undecided” camp. “Undecided” is paralyzing; and gives people an excuse not to act. “Undecided” keeps people quiet.

If you keep repeating the lies, and keep ignoring the science, enough people will become “undecided” about the connection between coal pollution and neurotoxicants. They’ll become “undecided” about the connection between asthma and particulate pollution from coal–no matter what the scientists and doctors say.

6.  Go for Cheap Laughs.

If you make fun of your opponent, you undercut their argument. People get distracted by the joke, and forget the substance.

At Fox News, it isn’t enough to lie. You have to go for cheap laughs, a Fox News specialty. Everything’s a joke. Steve Milloy: if mercury is toxic, then “water should be classified as a neurotoxin.”

Or Dr. Ablow, a psychiatrist, also on Fox News: there is “no evidence” linking particulate pollution from coal-fired plants to asthma.
“It could be the lizard causing asthma just as well.”
7. Count on the anti-confrontational nature of the opposition

Somehow, we are reluctant to put a face on the polluting enemy. And the enemy knows it.

Lisa Jackson did not mention that coal-fired plants are the single biggest source of mercury, during her high-visibility interview with a sympathetic Jon Stewart at The Daily Show. She came across as a solid, responsible, trustworthy citizen–and she hit the dangers of mercury. But why on earth wouldn’t she call out the largest polluters, the dirty coal-fired utilities?

We have yet to vilify the pro-polluting coal plant CEOs, who by now ought to be embarrassed to show up at the golf club. In fact, their more responsible colleagues should be vocally furious that they’re giving the entire industry a black eye.

Any reluctance to play hardball emboldens the politicians who are willing to lie, distort, fabricate, and confuse the public.

So far the public supports a strong EPA and supports the Clean Air Act.

The American Lung Association published results of a recent poll showing that three out of four voters support tougher Mercury and Air Toxics standards.

Coincidentally, Congressman Ed Whitfield’s own website displayed the rather astonishing results of an April poll of visitors to his site: Do you support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act? 164 people voted “yes”, 45 voted “No” and 3 were unsure.

This is the sort of small irony that gives one hope. (It could also mean that his site was visited by environmentalists wondering why the heck this guy doesn’t think coal affects children’s health?)

The poll results mean this battle is ours to lose. But we’ve many miles to go. The recent Senate vote on EPA’s CO2 authority felt too close for comfort to me.  Look for vocal warming to go up quite a few more notches when Washington convenes after summer vacation–and campaigning begins in earnest.

Support measured in polls is not the same as support measured in activism. Citizens have to re-engage, loudly, with their representatives, telling them via mail, email, tweets and marches, that touching the Clean Air Act is like touching the third rail of the subway. Don’t do it!

We’re trying to get moms activated to protect their children’s health. But we share the air. Everyone needs to join in. If we don’t stop the building momentum of the anti-Clean Air rhetoric, we may get hit with a case of déjà vu all over again.

—Dominique Browning is lead blogger at Moms Clean Air Force.  She writes regularly for the New York Times Book Review, and contributes to W, Wired, Whole Living, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. She has spent most of her journalistic career in the magazine world, as an editor at Esquire, Texas Monthly, Newsweek, and House & Garden. She is the author of several books; the most recent is “SLOW LOVE: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, & Found Happiness.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Via JMG: GOP 2012 Polling Update

Romney rises, Palin plummets. Embiggen for details or go here.

reposted from Joe

ViaJMG: INDIANA: No More Cursive

Indiana has joined the list of states where cursive handwriting will no longer be taught. (Although schools can decide for themselves if they want to continue.)
Who still writes in cursive? That age-old writing method you might never have used since fourth grade will no longer be taught in Indiana schools come fall, thanks to a memo from school officials. Instead, students will be expected to become proficient in keyboard use. Seems like a smart move as being able to type efficiently is a vital skill in today's world, as opposed to knowing how to write cursive, which — like being able to churn butter and knowing how to hitch a horse to a wagon — is no longer needed.
Personally, I can barely sign my own name to a check these days. My ability to write by hand is almost completely atrophied.

reposted from Joe

Via Jerry Becker: What follows are two opinion pieces - David Brooks and a response by Diane Ravitch. Both appeared recently in the New York Times.


From The New York Times, Thursday, June 30, 2011. See

Smells Like School Spirit

By David Brooks

Aspen, Colo.
Diane Ravitch is the nation's most vocal educational historian. She once was one of the leading intellects behind the education reform movement - emphasizing charter schools, testing and accountability. Over the past few years, she has become that movement's most vehement critic.

She pours out books, op-ed essays and speeches, including two this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival. She is very forceful, but there are parts of her new message that are hard to take. She is quick to accuse people who disagree with her of being frauds and greed-heads. She picks and chooses what studies to cite, even beyond the normal standards of people who are trying to make a point.

She has come to adopt the party-line view of the most change-averse elements of the teachers' unions: There is no education crisis. Poverty is the real issue, not bad schools. We don't need fundamental reform; we mainly need to give teachers more money and job security.

Nonetheless, Ravitch makes some serious points.

Most important, she is right that teaching is a humane art built upon loving relationships between teachers and students. If you orient the system exclusively around a series of multiple choice accountability assessments, you distort it.

If you make tests all-important, you give schools an incentive to drop the subjects that don't show up on the exams but that help students become fully rounded individuals - like history, poetry, art and sports. You may end up with schools that emphasize test-taking, not genuine learning. You may create incentives for schools to game the system by easing out kids who might bring the average scores down, for example.

In sum, Ravitch highlights a core tension. Teaching is humane. Testing is mechanistic.

This is true, but look at which schools are most distorted by testing. As the education blogger Whitney Tilson has pointed out, the schools that best represent the reform movement, like the KIPP academies or the Harlem Success schools, put tremendous emphasis on testing. But these schools are also the places where students are most likely to participate in chess and dance. They are the places where they are most likely to read Shakespeare and argue about philosophy and physics.

In these places, tests are not the end. They are a lever to begin the process of change. They are one way of measuring change. But they are only one piece of the larger mission. The mission may involve E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curricula, or character education, or performance arts specialties. But the mission transcends the test. These schools know what kind of graduate they want to produce. The schools that are most accountability-centric are also the most alive.

Contrary to Ravitch's assertions, these places are not just skimming the best students. At the Urban Prep Academy of Chicago, which Ravitch holds up as an example of a bogus success story, over 15 percent of the students are special ed. Ninety-six percent of the school's first incoming class were reading below grade level.

And contrary to Ravitch's assertions, these schools, hundreds of them, have taken their students and put them on trajectories much different than the ones you would predict just by looking at the socio-demographic backgrounds. Caroline Hoxby has rigorously shown good charter results in New York and Chicago. New Orleans is dominated by charters and choice. Since 2007, the New Orleans schools have doubled the percentage of students scoring at basic competence levels or above. Schools in New Orleans are improving faster than schools in any other district in the state.

The places where the corrosive testing incentives have had their worst effect are not in the schools associated with the reformers. They are in the schools the reformers haven't touched. These are the mediocre schools without strong leaders and without vibrant missions. In those places, of course, the teaching-to-the-test ethos prevails. There is no other.

The reform movement is most famous for tests and assessments. But the untrumpeted and undeveloped secret of the reform movement is the content - the willingness to develop character curriculum or Core Knowledge curriculum, the willingness to infuse the school with spiritual fervor.

Ravitch thinks the solution is to get rid of the tests. But that way just leads to lethargy and perpetual mediocrity. The real answer is to keep the tests and the accountability but make sure every school has a clear sense of mission, an outstanding principal and an invigorating moral culture that hits you when you walk in the door.

Ravitch's narrative is that America has humane local schools that are being threatened by testing wonks. The fact is that many schools have become spiritually enervated and even great teachers struggle in an inert culture. It's the reformers who often bring the passion, using tests as a lever.

If your school teaches to the test, it's not the test's fault. It's the leaders of your school.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: July 1, 2011  --  In an earlier version of this column, Caroline Hoxby's first name was misspelled.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 1, 2011, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Smells Like School Spirit.


From the New York Times, Tuesday, July 5, 2011. See
Invitation to a Dialogue: Fixing the Schools

To the Editor:

Re "Smells Like School Spirit," by David Brooks (column, July 1):

Mr. Brooks has misrepresented my views. While I have criticized charter schools, I am always careful to point out that they vary widely. The overwhelming majority of high-quality research studies on charters shows that some are excellent, some are abysmal and most are no better than regular public schools.

Some charters succeed because they have additional resources, supplied by their philanthropic sponsors; some get better results by adding extra instructional time. We can learn from these lessons to help regular public schools.

Others succeed by limiting the admission of students with disabilities and those who can't read English, or by removing those with learning problems. These students are then overrepresented in regular public schools, making comparisons between the two sectors unfair.

I don't want to get rid of testing. But tests should be used for information and diagnostics to improve teaching and learning, not to hand out bonuses, fire teachers and close schools.

When high stakes are attached to tests, people often act in ways that compromise educational values. High-stakes testing incentivizes narrowing of the curriculum, gaming the system, teaching to bad tests and cheating.

Poverty has a strong influence on academic achievement, and our society must both improve schools and reduce poverty.

Top-performing nations like Finland and Japan have taken the time to build a strong public school system, one with a rich curriculum and well-educated, respected teachers. Our desire for fast solutions gets in the way of the long-term thinking and the carefully designed changes that are needed to truly transform our schools.

Brooklyn, July 1, 2011

The writer is the education historian.

Playing for Change: Episode 49: Satchita

Satchita | Playing For Change from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

Via AMERICAblog: Boehner just again said the stimulus didn’t create jobs - which is a lie - where is the administration response?

HuffPost Hill reports that the Republicans, with John Boehner taking the lead, tried to spam the President's Twitter Townhall held today:

Republicans tried to swamp the #AskObama hashtag with politically embarrassing questions. "With 9.1% unemployment & 'shovel ready' jobs a bust, will you admit the 'stimulus' was a mistake? #askobama," Boehner tweeted. "We're excited the President is taking questions on jobs and the economy," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck told Jen Bendery. "He's got a lot of questions to answer -- starting with, 'Where are the jobs?'"
Where are the jobs? They're in Olympia Snowe's purse. You might recall she demanded that $100 billion be cut from the stimulus. That was a good chunk of jobs gone thanks to Senator Snowe. As for the rest of the jobs, they disappeared in the form of GOP tax cuts that the President included in the stimulus, to the tune of 35% of the plan, to woo GOP votes. Had we not given away 35% of the stimulus to near-worthless GOP tax cuts, perhaps we'd have stimulated a few more jobs.

We know for a fact that the stimulus created millions of jobs and significantly improved GDP. That's a fact. Did the stimulus create ENOUGH jobs, no. Partly because the GOP was against any stimulus at all, so it wasn't big enough, and partly because the President didn't ask for a bigger one (God knows why).

But to suggest that the stimulus was a bust is an outright lie. It's a lie that's caught hold in much of the country - hell, it caught hold a long time ago, what with only 6% of the American people I believe thinking the stimulus created any jobs, in one poll from a year or so ago. And guess why the public is so hell bent on deficit reduction right about now?  Probably because they think we "wasted" a trillion dollars in a stimulus that "was a bust."  It's all tied together.

The White House needs to hit back hard when the GOP Speaker of the House outright lies about one of the most important initiatives of Obama first term.  So where is the push back?  And I mean REAL push back.  The kind that tells you "don't ever try this again."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Via Utne: The Humanity of Ghost Towns

A blog looks at abandoned places and the reasons they became ghost towns.


Via AMERICAblog: Frank Rich: Obama’s failure to take on Wall Street may cost him re-election

From Frank Rich writing in NY Magazine.

As good times roar back for corporate America, it’s bad enough that CEOs are collectively sitting on some $1.9 trillion in cash.... But what’s most galling is how many of these executives are sore winners, crying all the way to Palm Beach while raking in record profits and paying some of the lowest tax rates over the past 50 years.

The fallout has left Obama in the worst imaginable political bind. No good deed he’s done for Wall Street has gone unpunished. He is vilified as an anti-capitalist zealot not just by Republican foes but even by some former backers. What has he done to deserve it? All anyone can point to is his December 2009 60 Minutes swipe at “fat-cat bankers on Wall Street”—an inept and anomalous Ed Schultz seizure that he retracted just weeks later by praising Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein as “very savvy businessmen.”

Obama can win reelection without carrying 10021 or Greenwich in any case. The bigger political problem is that a far larger share of the American electorate views him as a tool of the very fat-cat elite that despises him. Given Obama’s humble background, his history as a mostly liberal Democrat, and his famous résumé as a community organizer, this would also seem a reach. But the president has no one to blame but himself for the caricature. While he has never lusted after money—he’d rather get his hands on the latest novel by Morrison or Franzen—he is an elitist of a certain sort. For all the lurid fantasies of the birthers, the dirty secret of Obama’s background is that the values of Harvard, not of Kenya or Indonesia or Bill Ayers, have most colored his governing style. He falls hard for the best and the brightest white guys.

He stocked his administration with brilliant personnel linked to the bubble: liberals, and especially Ivy League liberals. Nearly three years on, they have taken a toll both on the White House’s image and its policies. Obama arrives at his reelection campaign not merely with a weak performance on Wall Street crime enforcement and reform but also with a scattershot record (at best) of focusing on the main concern of Main Street: joblessness. One is a consequence of the other. His failure to push back against the financial sector, sparing it any responsibility for the economy it tanked, empowered it to roll over his agenda with its own. He has come across as favoring the financial elite over the stranded middle class even if, in his heart of hearts, he does not.
The ultimate indignity, though, was a Washington Post / ABC News poll showing Obama in a dead heat with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney! If any belief unites our polarized nation, it’s the conviction that Romney is the most transparent phony in either party, no matter how much he’s now deaccessioning hair products. It’s also been a Beltway truism that a Mormon can’t win the Republican nomination, let alone a Massachusetts governor who devised the prototype for “ObamaCare.” But that political calculus changed overnight. That this poseur could so quickly gain traction, even if evanescently, should alarm Obama.
“A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous,” Obama declared at his inauguration. What he said on that bright January morning is no less true or stirring now. For all his failings since, he is the only one who can make this case. There’s nothing but his own passivity to stop him from doing so—and from shaking up the administration team that, well beyond the halfway-out-the-door Geithner and his Treasury Department, has showered too many favors on the prosperous. This will mean turning on his own cadre of the liberal elite. But it’s essential if he is to call the bluff of a fake man-of-the-people like Romney. To differentiate himself from the discredited Establishment, he will have to mount the fight he has ducked for the past three years.

The alternative is a failure of historic proportions. Those who gamed the economy to near devastation—so much so that the nation turned to an untried young leader in desperation and in hope—would once again inherit the Earth. Unless and until there’s a purging of the crimes that brought our president to his unlikely Inauguration Day, much more in America than the second term of his administration will be at stake.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Facebook post of the day:

The problem is not Social Security and Medicare. If you want to talk about people putting their heads in the sand, let's talk about people who want to keep the Bush Tax Cuts while we keep spending $725 billion a year on the Dept. of Defense, $55 billion/year for the Dept. of Homeland Security, untold billions every year for the CIA, as well as huge subsidies to Big Oil, "too-big-to-fail" banks, and factory farms.

The wealthiest Americans were paying upwards of 90% in federal income tax under Pres. Eisenhower. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying under 37% in federal taxes. Eisenhower was no liberal.

That the right will give no ground on the issue of the Bush Tax Cuts reveals that they are not really conservatives. They are lobbyists who work on behalf of huge corporations and the wealthy elite.

China pays about $103 billion/year on its military, and they have a population nearly four times that of the U.S. The U.S. spends $725 billion a year on the Pentagon. If we want to talk about cutting spending, let's start right there.

Facebook post in reply to:
Op-Ed columnist David Brooks writes, "If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment."

Is the Republican Party so blinded by its tax-rate fixation that it misses the chance to exchange a few revenue increases for huge spending cuts?

Today in Creepy Parade Floats via JMG

How's that for a parade float? (Source)

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Frothy Mix Called Out On Jobs Statistics

"You can't go out on a national campaign with this kind of math, Senator!

reposted from Joe

Morning Walk 2 / Caminhada de hoje 2 - neblina / fog

Via Climate Change: Solar Can Be Baseload: Spanish CSP Plant with Storage Produces Electricity for 24 Hours Straight


While Americans celebrated U.S. history on the Fourth of July yesterday, a company in Spain celebrated an historic moment for the solar industry: Torresol’s 19.9 MW concentrating solar power plant became the first ever to generate uninterrupted electricity for 24 hours straight.

The plant uses a Power Tower design which features a field of 2,650 mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a boiler in a central receiver tower. The plant also utilizes molten salt as a heat-transfer fluid that allows the plant to generate electricity when there’s no sunlight. Recharge News reported on the milestone:
After commissioning in May, the plant was finally ready to operate at full-blast in late June and benefited from a particularly sunny stretch of weather, according to Diego Ramirez, director of production at Torresol.
“The high performance of the installations coincided with several days of excellent solar radiation, which made it possible for the hot-salt storage tank to reach full capacity,” Ramirez explains.
Torresol says that the plant will provide electricity for about 20 hours each day on average, with numerous days in the summer seeing 24-hours of supply. How does that compare with a similar-sized PV plant? The 21.2 MW Solarpark Calaveron in Spain generates about 40 GWh a year. This smaller 19.9 MW power tower plant will generate about 110 GWh per year.
Yesterday’s news is a big milestone for Power Tower technology, which is still a very nascent technology compared to the more-mature parabolic troughs. There are only a few operating commercial-scale plants around the world, and Torresol’s is the only one with molten salt storage.
Further Reading:

Via Climate Change: Study: Hottest Decade on Record Would Have Been Even Hotter But for Chinese Coal Plant Sulfur Pollution

Research reveals decade of global warming from China’s coal power stations has partly been offset by ‘cooling’ effect of sulphur pollution
That’s the UK Guardian headline for a half-clever new study, “Reconciling anthropogenic climate change with observed temperature 1998–2008.”
Last decade was easily the hottest on record, as were the 1990s and, before that, the 1980s — all part of a multi-decadal trend driven primarily by human-caused emissions.
We’ve known for a while that warming appeared to slow over a short, cherry-picked time frame of 1998 to 2008 because:
  1. The starting year (1998) was a very strong El Niño, which temporarily boosts global temps, and the ending point (2008) was a moderate La Niña, which lowers them.
  2. The end point was near the bottom of “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.”
  3. One key global temperature dataset, the Hadley/CRU one used by the UK’s Met Office, had numerous flaws that led to a slower warming trend than most of the others.
Even so, as we’ll see the land and the oceans just kept warming.  It is just hard to stop the radiative forcing of the CO2 humans have put in the air, which equals 1 million Hiroshima bombs a day.
What’s clever about the new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study is it demonstrates that sulfur pollution from China’s massive buildup of coal plants also helped slow the warming:

The finding that the recent hiatus in warming is driven largely by natural factors does not contradict the hypothesis: “most of the observed increase in global average temperature since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations (14).” As indicated in Fig. 1, anthropogenic activities that warm and cool the planet largely cancel after 1998, which allows natural variables to play a more significant role. The 1998-2008 hiatus is not the first period in the instrumental temperature record when the effects of anthropogenic changes in greenhouse gases and sulfur emissions on radiative forcing largely cancel. In-sample simulations indicate that temperature does not rise between the 1940’s and 1970’s because the cooling effects of sulfur emissions rise slightly faster than the warming effect of greenhouse gases. The post 1970 period of warming, which constitutes a significant portion of the increase in global surface temperature since the mid 20th century, is driven by efforts to reduce air pollution in general and acid deposition in particular, which cause sulfur emissions to decline while the concentration of greenhouse gases continues to rise.
The results of this analysis indicate that observed temperature after 1998 is consistent with the current understanding of the relationship among global surface temperature, internal variability, and radiative forcing, which includes anthropogenic factors that have well known warming and cooling effects.
What’s not clever about this study is that it repeats the myth that there was a ‘hiatus’ in the first place.  The top figure, from John Cook’s Skeptical Science website, makes that clear.
And that’s without even discussing the oceans, where climate science says the vast majority of the warming goes:

Time series of global mean heat storage (0-2000 m), measured in 108 Jm-2.
There has been no hiatus in global warming.

I have no clue why the PNAS authors use the favorite cherry-picked endpoints of the deniers, designed to minimize the actual trend.  Or why they seem unaware that in the NASA dataset 2005 was the warmest year on record — and that 2010 was tied for the warmest year, according to NASA, NOAA, and the World Meteorological Organization.
They seem unaware of the June 2010 analysis by NASA that found:
“We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade” and “there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s.”
The Met Office has been ignoring the warming in the places where it has been warming the most–especially the Arctic–which they themselves acknowledged in a 2009 analysis (see Finally, the truth about the Hadley/CRU data):
… in data-sparse regions such as Russia, Africa and Canada, warming over land is more extreme than in regions sampled by HadCRUT. If we take this into account, the last decade shows a global-mean trend of 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C per decade. We therefore infer with high confidence that the HadCRUT record is at the lower end of likely warming.
That was published 18 months before the PNAS paper!
Indeed, in November 2010, the Met Office Hadley Center admitted they had flawed data —that led them to underestimate the rate of recent global warming.  The Guardian itself reported at the time:

World is warming quicker than thought in past decade, says Met Office

… Including the new sea surface temperatures, which push up global temperatures by 0.03C, the warming rate for the past 10 years is estimated at 0.08-0.16C.
So it is odd that the Guardian gets this wrong now.
But the key point is that it now seems clear that when you accurately model all of the data and all of the forcings, the surface temperature data shows, as NASA said last year, “global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade” and “there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s.”
The know-nothing anti-science deniers are touting the not-clever part of the study to brag that a peer-reviewed paper vindicates their inane, cherry-picked talking point that ‘there wasn’t warming from 1998 to 2008.’  This is doubly bizarrely.
First, even this study makes clear that there was warming consistent with our current understanding of climate science and forcings — it was just masked:
Declining solar insolation as part of a normal eleven-year cycle, and a cyclical change from an El Nino to a La Nina dominate our measure of anthropogenic effects because rapid growth in short-lived sulfur emissions partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations. As such, we find that recent global temperature records are consistent with the existing understanding of the relationship among global surface temperature, internal variability, and radiative forcing, which includes anthropogenic factors with well known warming and cooling effects.
[Note to the authors, the last 11-year solar cycle was not "normal."]
Second, as the lead author explains:
But rather than suggesting that cutting carbon emissions is less urgent due to the masking effect of the sulphur, Prof Robert Kaufman, at Boston University and who led the study, said: “If anything the paper suggests that reductions in carbon emissions will be more important as China installs scrubbers [on its coal-fired power stations], which reduce sulphur emissions. This, and solar insolation increasing as part of the normal solar cycle, [will mean] temperature is likely to increase faster.”
The time to start ignoring the dangerous falsehoods of the climate science deniers was a long time ago, but now is better than later –  at least if we want a fighting chance to preserve the health and well-being of billions of people, including our own children and grandchildren.

Morning Walk / Caminhada de hoje - neblina / fog

Monday, July 4, 2011

In support of the Baha'i prisoners in Iran

پشتیبانی مردم برزیل از زندانیان بهایی 
Brazilian people in support of the Baha'i prisoners in Iran
O povo brasileiro em apoio aos prisioneiros Baha'i no Irã

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