Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jim DeMint, Senate Demagogue

US Person used to think that Ben Nelson (?-NE) was the worst senator in Congress. You may recall that Nelson earned our disgust by voting consistently with Repugnants during the Charlatan's regime despite running as a Democrat, and acting as an insurance industry hack in the excruciating healthcare reform debate {"Ben Nelson"}. Nelson is now poised as a member of the Senate Rules Committee to obstruct attempts at filibuster rule reform when the new Congress convenes in January. But sadly there is another senator even more worthy of our scorn, and that is Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

DeMint is on a one man campaign to "purify" the Republican Party by eliminating any remaining moderates who might be inclined to vote with Democrats on pending bills. Besides giving financial support to Tea Party extremists, he has chosen to block any progressive legislation from passing through the upper chamber. DeMint told his colleagues on Monday that he would place a hold on all legislation not cleared in advance by his office before Tuesday. The fact that a single senator could threaten to unilaterally bring the Senate's business to a halt demonstrates how broken the institution is.{"filibuster"} Even his very conservative colleagues are not amused by the self appointed prophet from South Carolina. DeMint has had a standing hold on any legislation since Obama took office. The Senate has been unable to act on more than 300 bill that have passed the House, and 23 judicial nominees have yet to be approved by the Senate despite 16 of them having received unanimous support in the Judiciary Committee. Attorney General Holder wrote that at this rate, "fully half the federal judiciary will be vacant by 2020."

DeMint's grandstand tactics do not spare foreign policy.  He has repeatedly voiced opposition to the START II treaty in the name of missile defense, a shibboleth he knows causes Vladimir Vladimirovitch to run to the toilet. Not satisfied with the compromise language inserted by Chairman John Kerry into the ratification resolution passed by the Foreign Policy Committee {17.9.10} DeMint offered an amendment to the the defense authorization bill that would require the US to deploy a missile shield "as rapidly as technology permits" against "all ballistic missile attacks." Current missile defense plans are aimed specifically at "rogue states" that may in the future be capable of launching a very limited number of missiles against the US or its allies. Never mind that such a strategic defensive system does not exist or even could exist given the capabilities of modern missle systems used in sufficient numbers by a strategic power like Russia or China. Rationality can be easily discarded in the feverish causes of a demagogue like DeMint. DeMint's amendment is in essence a rehash of the rejected Star Wars fantasy of Ronald Reagan. Even other Repugnants like Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Jon Kyl, and Bob Corker know that such an impossible dream is wildly expensive and dangerously destabilizing. Most frightening of all, it would give the United States a false sense of invulnerability.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rare California Fox Found

US Forest Service
A native red fox living in the high Sierras has been spotted by researchers after a ten year absence from wildlife records. Biologists assumed the fox (Vulpes vulpes)was extinct since it was never very numerous and suffered from competition by introduced foxes. A photograph of the rare Sierra red fox was identified in August.  The Forest Service had been conducting a survey with remote cameras for the elusive fisher and marten. The last known sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox in the Sonora Pass area was sometime in the 1920s. DNA testing by UC Davis geneticists of fur samples taken from the tree supporting the camera confirmed that the fox was indeed the Sierra Nevada red fox.

Credit Unions Seized, Bailout Asked

More evidence that we are not out of the woods of financial crisis yet, despite the federal government spending trillions to rescue the financial sector. On Friday three large wholesale credit unions which lost billions in the real estate bubble collapse were seized by federal authorities. The credit unions involved were holding toxic mortgage backed "assets" on their books.  Federal authorities at the National Credit Union Administration closed down the institutions located in Connecticut, Texas and Illinois. Forty-four is asking Congress for a bailout program for the 27 credit union wholesalers nationwide, ranging in size from $10 to $50 billion. Five wholesalers have been shut by regulators over the last 18 months. Gold also hit a new high on Friday (>$1300) as frightened investors scrambled for a safe haven in the face of news that the Fed will continue "quantitative easing" causing the dollar to devalue further. Unfortunately, every other major country in the world is following the same Pied Piper of cheap money into an economic policy cul de sac.

[chart: Martin Weiss @]

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Toontime: A Matter of Perception

Wackydoodle sez:  'Jist a burden on our society!

The phony Arizona border war continues apace.  The latest development is an Arizona deputy who claims he was shot by violent marijuana smugglers on the border in April.  The deputy was duly honored with a Purple Heart by none other than Senator John McCain (R-AZ).  His boss the sheriff is making the round of talk shows, and becoming a darling of the Tea Party reaction.  Or not?  Several medical experts say the flesh wound suffered by the deputy appears in forensic photographs to be a close contact wound inflicted from a distance of several inches rather than from a single shot fired 25 yards away as he claimed.  Meanwhile, border crossing deaths among immigrants have reached the second highest annual number, 236.

Friday, September 24, 2010

'Toontime: A Plague on Their House!

[credit:Cameron Cardow, Ottawa Citizen]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Federal Employees File Suit to Release Flow Rate Documents

credit: Washington Post
The flow rate from BP's blowout on Mississippi Canyon Block 252 is critical to determining the amount of damages BP could be forced to pay under the Clean Water Act.  A federal employee watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), filed a Freedom of Information Act suit on September 16th to release hundreds of documents and e-mails in the possession of Obama & Folks, Inc. that are behind the government estimations of the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Currently, the consensus figure is around 4.4 million barrels, making it the largest accidental spill in history or 17 times the size of the Exxon-Valdez disaster.* Estimates rose five times as officials worked to minimized the size of the spill.  The government panel established to estimate the size as part of its spill response command,  the Flow Rate Technical Group, was chaired by USGS director Dr. Marcia McNutt.  PEER claims in its suit that McNutt mislead the public by releasing only the minimum estimates of the panel while deleting any information or wording indicating the existence of much higher estimates.  PEER also claims that the documents behind the various estimates are being withheld by the government in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.  McNutt issued an order directing group members from releasing any information related to the work of the technical group.  Despite formal requests for the group's papers only 26 documents have been released.  The director of PEER accused Obama & Folks, Inc. of taking steps to falsely minimize the impact of the spill, and manipulating the science used to arrive at the low estimates as well as the government claim that 75% of the oil dissipated or was removed.  University of Georgia scientists say 70 to 79% of the spilled oil has not been recovered.

*only the deliberate release of oil during the Persian Gulf War is larger at 8.8 million barrels.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Year of the Tiger: Russia and China Create Cross Border Sanctuary

A positive development for the Amur subspecies of Panthera tigris in this Year of the Tiger is the agreement between Russia and China to create the world's first cross border sanctuary for the feline. The agreement was signed at the end of August during the Amur Tiger festival in the city of Hunchun, China. There are only 18-22 Amur tigers surviving in China, but the world's largest living cat has made a modest comeback in Russia where there are an estimated 331 to 393 tigers, up from a population that fell to 20 to 30 in the 1930s. Habitat fragmentation, decline in prey species, and poaching--especially in China were there is a huge demand for tiger body parts used in folk remedies--has pushed the Amur or Siberian tiger to edge of extirpation. Jilln province in China and Primorsky province in Russia will work together to protect the tiger as well as species living in the same habitat. A great deal of implementation work needs to be done including finding sufficient government funding. But officials have agreed to share information, conduct joint ecological studies, and plan an anti-poaching patrol along the border. The World Wildlife Fund facilitated negotiations ending in the agreement. WWF declared their goal to double wild tiger populations by the next tiger year according to the Chinese calendar in 2022. Russia will host an international conservation summit before this year ends where it is hoped a tiger recovery program will be put into place amongst the 13 nations where this amazing animal still lives.

[image credit:]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chart of the Week: Where the Money Is

Paul Krugman, economist and columnist for the New York Times wrote recently that the lack of consumer demand is a one reason the US faces a protracted recovery. This chart shows where consumer money is going: paying off accumulated debt racked up in 2004-08. Total household borrowing (blue) has gone negative in the last seven quarters. But less consumer borrowing only tells part of the story. The fundamental change in consumer spending that drives a large part of our economy is middle class wealth contraction. Consumer debt has been used to make up for a severe contraction in middle class wealth. The massive shift of national wealth to the rich, not experienced since the 1920s, began under the Reagan administration, but a Democratic president, Bill Clinton presided over the most dramatic transfer. In 1980 the top 1% of Americans received 10% of the national income; by 2007 the richest Americans (above $398,900 per year) increased their share to 23.5% Between 1973 and 2006, the bottom 99%--the trickle ons--received an increase in real income of just 8.5%, while the rich--the tricklers--lavished in a 190% rise in real income. So if some politician tells you that a tax increase just for the rich is unfair, ask him or her to buy you a chateau on the Côte d'Azur and a Ferrari Superamerica III (sunflower yellow, of course) to park in the driveway.

Amid all the bad economic indicators Forty-four & Folks say the recession officially ended in June, 2009. Back to reality, people--the chart below is sadly self-explanatory.

Friday, September 17, 2010

START II Encounters the Nabobs of Negativism Again

More: The START II treaty made it out of committee on a vote of 14-4 Thursday, but it is unlikely that the resolution will reach the floor before the Senate adjourns because Democrats still lack 67 votes for ratification. An example of extremism that Democratic sponsors confront is that of ultra-conservative Jim DeMint who insisted on an amendment to commit the United States to build a missile shield that would protect the United States or its troops anywhere in the world. The amendment was reduced to a "declaration", thus making it non-binding, and included at the last minute by unanimous consent because at least one conservative Democratic senator was willing to support DeMint. Senator Kerry had to acquiesce in language stating that MAD (mutually assured destruction) on which the strategic balance is now based "can be contrary to the safety and security of both countries." The language seems to be a fairly obvious conclusion. There were also renewed allegations of Russian "cheating" on arms control treaties. Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo) of the Senate Intelligence Committee raised the specter of secret documentation allegedly showing more evidence of non-compliance. And so it goes in Washington where even our nation's existence is a subject for political gamesmanship.

Update: {16.09.10}Senator Lugar (R-IN) seems to have won the battle of draft resolutions to ratify the START II treaty. Repugnants simply did not want to sign on to a resolution suggested by Committee Chair, John Kerry (D-MA). Lugar's draft is supposed to garner some support from the opposition by including more language protecting the nuclear weapon modernization program. Bob Corker (R-TN) said he will co-sponsor the Lugar resolution in the Committee. Perhaps the outcome of this intramural scuffle presages the results of the November election? In any event, the problem is getting the treaty on the Senate voting agenda before the November mid-term elections. No politician is fond of voting on such a high profile issue before facing voters, and Democrats are particularly wary since the punditry is expecting big losses for the party in ostensible control of Congress. Senator Kerry is willing to sign on to the Lugar resolution if "it meets our needs as well". Kerry wants to vote on the treaty during the lame duck session after the November elections, "to do [the vote] without any politics, without any election atmospherics". He reminded colleagues that President Medvedev told him personally that the Duma, which includes Prime Minister Putin, is waiting to see what conditions the Senate attempts to impose on ratification before it decides how to act.

{9.09.10}The START II nuclear weapons reduction treaty negotiated earlier this year {START II} is encountering the opposition expected from conservative defense hawks on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Senator Kerry is attempting to gain some Repugnant support besides that of ranking minority member, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN). Kerry is circulating a proposed resolution for ratifying the treaty, but opposition aides have already indicated the language contained in the draft is not sufficient to allay their concerns about their golden calf, missile defense. The draft resolution contains a declaration that it is the policy of the United States to "deploy as soon as possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack." Nevertheless, opponents of the treaty like James Inhofe (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) consider the negotiated treaty a threat to the future of the missile defense industry. Russia has responded to the warmongers by threatening to withdraw from the treaty if the United States' development efforts upset the strategic balance between the two countries.

'Toontime: Turn to the Right, Turn to the Right, Turn the Right...

[credit: Steve Carlson]
Apologies to the movie, "Raising Arizona".  The nativist fringe seems to have derailed the GOPs plan to give Forty-four a harder time by capturing control of Congress.  But flag this train: only the Democrats could mistake the lemming instinct of the extreme right-wing for popular support of their expediency-as-policy system of governance.  Last stop, Kookytown!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Macondo Relief Well in Final Stage

AP: Deepwater Horizon BOP
Update: The federal government spill response spokesman announced the Macondo well will be permanently sealed within 96 hours reports the BBC. Previous government predictions of imminent closure have been inaccurate. The US said on Wednesday that it will require oil firms to plug 3,500 non-producing wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil companies will also be required to dismantle hundreds of unused platforms scattered about the Gulf to prevent future leaks. The installations have gone uninspected for decades. These overdue changes in regulatory enforcement once again show the federal government is slow to act against corporate profit interests in the absence of a disaster and ensuing public outrage.

The National Institutes of Health said it will launch a multi-year study of the public health effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill this fall. The latest federal figures show 2,130 people suffered injuries or sickness related to the oil spill. The study will focus on worker exposure to crude oil and chemical dispersant. It will include study of the neurobehvioral symptoms related to exposure. BP is expected to contribute $10 million to the effort.

The toll on wildlife is still being assessed by US Fish & Wildlife. However, an initial report by the agency shows that 3,634 dead birds have been collected as of September 14th. Most of these are laughing gulls, followed by brown pelicans and northern gannets.  1,042 live birds have been found in areas affected by the spill. Dead birds are catalogued and kept in freezers as evidence. Live birds are taken to one of four rehabilitation centers where they are assessed, stabilized, and cleaned if it is determined they can withstand the stress. About 1.5% of the dead birds total represent live birds that subsequently died in captivity. For a list of the 38 federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act that could be impacted by the oil spill go to this link. The translocation of sea turtle eggs to Kennedy Space Center for protection from the oil spill is deemed a success.  About 15,000 hatchlings have been released to the sea from the more than 28,000 eggs that were transported by  FedEx trucks to Kennedy. FedEx donated its services.   A total of 278 nests were translocated which is less than the 700 planned. Shipments stopped when the Gulf waters were declared safe enough for sea turtle hatchlings to survive without assistance. The translocation success rate so far is slightly better than normal conditions where predators take a large portion of each hatching.

{9.14.10}Reports are that the Macondo relief well is within about 50 vertical feet of intercepting the capped blowout. Drilling the well resumed yesterday. Drilling the final feet of the relief well has been fitful since the Macondo well was capped on July 15th. Some industry experts questioned the necessity of a bottom kill operation. The government official overseeing the spill response said last month that the final bottom kill would take seven days. There have been numerous holds on drilling for weather and pressure testing as well technical evaluations of the effect of interception on the damaged well bore and associated equipment. The failed blowout preventer was successfully removed and replaced on September 4th. The US Justice Department is treating the recovered BOP as evidence and restricting access to it aboard the Helix Q4000 drilling ship. Moving the heavy piece of equipment to shore has also been delayed. The federal government is insisting BP follow plug and abandon procedures which will add extra steps to the process and push back the final well sealing until the end of September, five months since the Deepwater Horizon platform was destroyed.

Theories of how the gas from the reservoir escaped up the well to the drilling platform follow two possible scenarios: through an annulus or small space between well casing and surrounding rock strata, or a failed cement plug that allowed the gas to escape up the well bore itself. BP prefers that latter scenario since it may allow shifting more blame to Halliburton, its cementing contractor, in on-going litigation. Some experts have questioned the safety of the well casing design used by BP. It its report on the accident released last Wednesday, the oil giant blamed the wind, sand, and stars for possible causes of the disastrous accident that killed 11 people and permanently damaged a vast marine ecosystem.  British Petroleum is the Mississippi Block 252 federal lessee and therefore has the primary legal responsibility for public safety and regulatory compliance.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chart of the Week: More Analysts Using "D" Word

Need to see more charts to convince you that America is in dire straits not navigated since 1930?  Check it:
You are in the red zone.  And just so you do not cling to the theory that the Wall Street bailout will help avert the hard times, look at this:
If ever a bar graph showed a low correlation between the stock market performance and the nation's economic health, this one does.  Of particular interest is the performance of both since the 1970's.  There is a steady decline in annual change in GDP while the stock market boomed for twenty years.  This is the financial bubble created by tech mania and super low interest rates on government money which the 'buckaneers' borrowed to turn into huge profits by manipulating the markets.  Sure the Ponzi-like scheme panicked a few times (Mexico, LTCM, 2007) but each time co-dependent Uncle Sugar was their with more juice.  Another sign of the times is the record number of bank failures:
Finally, here are thirteen more reasons to use the "D" word.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Climate Change Deniers in Chief: Koch Bros.

Charles(L), David(R)
Discussed on this blog previously was information from Greenpeace about the role of the David H. Koch and his brother, Charles, in funding the political opposition to climate legislation {The Dirty Koch Empire, 1.4.10}. The role the billionaire Koch Bros. have played in bottling up climate legislation in the gridlocked Senate cannot be overstated. The founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan watchdog group in Washington, DC, said, "The Kochs are on a whole different level. There's no else who has spend this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart...They are the Standard Oil of our times." Since 1999 the fossil fuel industries and electrical utilities (powered primarily by coal) have spent over $2 billion lobbying Congress, twenty times more than the clean energy industry has spent.  Denying climate change is viewed as a vote getter in the upcoming mid-term election

The Koch brothers are also backing California state proposition 23 with a $1,000,000 donation to undo Assembly Bill 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act) passed in 2006 to establish state limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The bill is a model for bi-partisan effort to reduced carbon emissions and was supported by a broad array of business, labor and environmental interests. The law has already resulted in the creation of green jobs, prompting 100 economists to sign a letter opposing any changes to AB 32.  But according to the hard-line libertarian Kochs[1], the bill is 'bad for business'.  Prop 23 seeks to suspend California's global warming law until the state unemployment rate falls below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters, a condition that has only occurred three times since 1976.

The Kochs, through privately owned Koch Industries[2] and numerous non-profit organizations[3] such as Americans for Prosperity Foundation, are the largest funders of climate change denial worldwide. The Prosperity Foundation created by David Koch has connections to the Tea Party movement according to Jane Mayer writing in The New Yorker magazine. Through the Tea Parties the Kochs have morphed their ultra-right private agenda into what the COM portrays to be a popular mass movement. David ran for Vice President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980 to the right of Ronald Reagan, a move that allowed him to spend more than $2 million of his own money espousing a radical anti-government agenda, but the Libertarians received only 1% of the vote.

Tea partier labels Obama
The disabused Kochs thereafter decided to influence opinion makers, not voters. They set up the libertarian Cato Institute think-tank and funded it with $11 million between 1986 and 1993. Now an established part of the Washington policy infrastructure, its laissez-faire positions are widely respected by the COM. More recently, the brothers' efforts to create respected laissez-faire opinion have focused on George Mason University's Mercatus Center which promotes itself as "the world's premier university source for market oriented ideas". Public records show more than $30 million has been donated by the Kochs to George Mason University, a Virginia tax-funded institution. Of twenty-three regulations the Charlatan proposed to eliminate in his term of office, Mercatus associates first proposed 14 of them. To create the 'vertical integration' corporate heads are so fond of, the Koch Bros. political juggernaut has now taken its radical ideas to the street with the Tea Parties. Their message seems to be resonating with the beleaguered underclass: according to a recent poll, 55% of Americans think Obama is a socialist!

1. Fred Koch, father of David and Charles helped to found the ultra right-wing John Birch Society in the 1950s. Family history says Fred Koch was blacklisted by the US oil industry for having found a more efficient process to produce gasoline from oil. Fred Koch went to the Soviet Union to work where he helped set up Stalin's oil refineries. He was apparently radicalized by his experience during which several Soviet colleagues were purged. Charles is the recognized head of Koch Industries after an unfriendly struggle to control their father's company in which he and David bought out two other brothers for nearly a billion dollars. David is a prominent New York philanthropist whilst Charles leads a more private life at company headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. Both assimilated their father's ingrained distrust of governments. 
2. Koch Industries is rated the 10th worst air polluter in the United States by U Mass. Most of the donated money to oppose AB32 has come from the oil industry. Two Texas companies, Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp. along with Koch Industries have contributed more than $6.5 million of the total $8 million
3. From 1998 until 2008 tax records show the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation spent $48 million on political activity. The Claude R. Lamb Charitable Foundation controlled by Charles and his wife spent $28 million. The David H. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than $120 million. David also contributes to PBS.

Friday, September 10, 2010

'Toontime: The Chickens' Revenge

[credit: Kevin Siers,  Charlotte Observer]
Buy cage free, eat safely.  And at the same time do something for the helpless animals suffering in inhumane conditions who provide you the food.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Big Woods in California

In the Mists
US Person was away from his desk looking at some big woods in northern California over the (no)Labor Day weekend. No, he is not talking about golf or an adulterous pro, either.  The big wood is Sequoia sempervirens, the coast redwood tree. He hiked through the BLM's Headwaters Forest Reserve near Fortuna, CA to the see the stupefying forest giants up close. He was not disappointed. Julie, the BLM ranger who escorted him along a 3 mile loop trail was good company as well an informed interpreter of the last contiguous parcel of ancient trees in the US. The oldest surviving redwoods are estimated to be 2,000 years old. The 7,472 acre preserve, surrounded by second growth private timberland, was acquired by the government in 1999 after the state and federal governments paid $380,000,000 for the stand of timber. US Person noted that the largest trees he saw are still marked for destruction with a blue slash. Many environmentalists participated in the sometimes violent efforts to save these trees from the sawmill. A women activist who chained herself to the local sheriff's office was viciously rewarded with pepper spray into her eyes. Another heroine lived in an ancient redwood for two years to stop the cutting. People who respect nature and love the Earth owe these brave citizens a debt of gratitude. To see the unbroken carpet of magnificent redwoods from the ridge over Salmon Creek  truly instills hope for a healthier planet. The redwoods that still stand today are the last tiny remnant of a hemisphere spanning mega forest.

Headwaters Giant
The Reserve is an outstanding example of an ancient or old-growth forest--a complete, climax ecosystem--supporting innumerable other species and manufacturing oxygen while consuming carbon dioxide.  In an ancient forest there are trees of various ages and heights creating a layered canopy. There are large standing dead trees (snags) and downed trees that create habitat for invertebrates, birds and fish. A single fallen log could have 4000 species of plants and animals living in and around it.The endangered marble murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) nests in the trees of the Reserve. This small sea auk flies into the forest from the nearby Pacific Ocean to breed. It mates and lays an egg in the soft moss and lichens covering the upper branches of giant sequoias. If a human visitor is lucky beyond belief they might find an anchovy in the middle of the forest, evidence of a murrelet bringing food home to its chick. Rarely seen flying squirrels and northern spotted owls also inhabit the mist shrouded empire of the redwood. No digital animation or fevered director's imagination can replicate the experience of walking through a silent natural cathedral of timeless trees where sunlight filters through the mists more impressively than any stained glass window.

Rockefeller Forest
Sequoia sempervirens is a champion survivor.  Its bark is fire resistant, high tannin levels in its resin free wood make it insect resistant, and the tree has two ways of reproducing itself, seeds and burl sprouts. Sequoias have shallow root systems so high winds take their toll of weakened trees. The famous Dyerville Giant in the Founders Grove was at least 362 feet tall and 17 feet in diameter. The Founders Grove is named after the founders of the Save-the-Redwoods League who began buying groves of ancient redwoods in 1917. The largest tract is the 10,000 acre Roosevelt Forest that was purchased with the help of a $1million donation from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  This one forest contains 25% of all remaining old-growth redwoods.  The current record holder for the tallest tree is "Hyperion" which grows in Redwoods National Park at over 379 ft in height.
Bull elk stands his ground

Less strenuous than hiking 14 miles to remote groves is a tour ofthe redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods State Park along the "Avenue of the Giants", once the route of US 101.  Be sure and stop to watch the elk herd that lives near the highway through Redwoods National Park.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Toontime: America, the Incarcerated

[credit: Ted Rall]
This cartoon reminds us that America has the biggest prison population on the planet exceeding those of China and Russia, as well as making the frustratingly accurate observation that many American liberals are obsessed with process and appearance to the point of absurdity. In 2008 the United States held 23.4% of the world's prisoners according to a study done by King's College, London.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Extreme Weather Predicted

credit: Radio Free Europe
Scientists using advance computer modeling techniques predicted that one of the effects of global warming would be extreme and variable weather conditions. This summer has proved the predictions accurate. From peat bog fires outside Moscow, exhausted pro tennis players at the New York Open, to devastating floods in Pakistan that killed 1600 people this year has been one for the record books. A chunk of ice sheet about 97 square miles in size broke off the northwestern coast of Greenland last month adding to predicted expanding sea levels. The northeastern US set record highs for average temperatures from March through August while 17 other nations recorded all time high temperatures this year. In 2009 extreme rainfall in the Amazon basin caused the worst flood in a century in Brazil. Three intense heatwaves broke temperature records in Australia. One of the bushfires caused by the record heat killed 173 people. Every year of this decade has been warmer than the 1990's average according to NOAA. The agency says, "extreme weather events are unavoidable, but a warmer climate means that many of these events be more frequent and severe." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agrees, stating "the type, frequency and intensity of extreme events are expected to change [increase] as Earth's climate changes." Russia's recent extreme high temperatures resulting in the drying out of peat bogs and fires are unprecedented since the 10th and 11th centuries! On July 29th Moscow hit 39℃ equivalent to a sweltering hot Washington, DC summer day. 2010 is on track to be the warmest year the world has ever seen in 131 years.