Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston

Thursday, December 31, 2009

DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, ANSWERS FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, BIG DICK CHENEY

 Dick Cheney is a liar and a disgrace.  He hates Mr. Obama more than he loves his country, for who else but an embittered old man, whose approval ratings as vice president were lower than cholera, would publicly state untruths that can so easily be refuted and shown to be the demented political posturings of a man who was second in command as the debacle of Iraq and the infiltration of al Qaeda in that country took place, and as al Qaeda's presence grew in Afghanistan while valuable military resources were redirected to a country that did not attack us on 9/11.

Cheney needs to remember which president and vice president's neglect seeded the quagmire that is now Afghanistan and the reemergence of the menace that is al Qaeda.  He also needs to take his Metamucil more often.


Update:   Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) blasted Cheney today, saying "that the apparent leaders of the al Qaeda cell in Yemen were 2 terrorists who were released by Vice President Cheney in secret." "I think there's a level of accountability that has to be levied personally on the vice president," said Massa.


The Same Old Washington Blame Game


There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day.  I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.

First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years.  It was President Obama who finally implemented a strategy of winding down the war in Iraq, and actually focusing our resources on the war against al Qaeda – more than doubling our troops in Afghanistan, and building partnerships to target al Qaeda’s safe-havens in Yemen and Somalia.  And in less than one year, we have already seen many al Qaeda leaders taken out, our alliances strengthened, and the pressure on al Qaeda increased worldwide.

To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.

Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A VERY SPECIAL SISTER





Today is my big sister's birthday, and it falls on a blue moon!  She's very special and it is only fitting that her very special birthday is the same day as a blue moon.

Love you, sis!  Happy, happy birthday!



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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

THE UNDERPANTS BOMBER, THE GOP, HYPOCRISY, AND MORE HYPOCRISY

 


UPDATE BELOW:


OH THE HUMANITY!


 By the way, Rep. Peter King, MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan and other conservatives had no problems with Richard Reid, the terrorist shoe bomber, being tried in federal court, but are having political pandering hissy fits over the underpants bomber being tried in federal court.


My friends, this is all about POLITICS and making POLITICAL POINTS.  The conservatives are monumental hypocrites, squawking and bellowing about trying the underpants bomber in federal court when they REMAINED SILENT OR ACCEPTED THE EXACT SAME POLICY for the shoe bomber, who is now in a maximum security federal prison in Colorado.


The Right is crazy.  That is the only explanation for their complete and hypocritical reversal on this issue from when they accepted it when Mr. Bush tried the shoe bomber in federal court.  They. Are. Crazy.


 And to all the Spittle Fleckers who came to my blog criticizing Mr. Obama for waiting a few days before discussing the incident, may I remind them all--hypocrites all--that not a partisan peep was heard from any of them when Bush waited SIX days to say ANYTHING about Richard Reid.


Bush Waited Six Days To Discuss Shoe Bomber With No GOP Complaints

The bellowing by Republicans over the Obama administration's supposedly lackadaisical response to the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit seems as much about political posturing as legitimate national security concerns.

How else to explain the GOP's relatively quiet reaction eight years ago to President George W. Bush's detached response after a similarly-botched terrorist attack?

On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid -- known more infamously as the shoe bomber -- failed in his attempt to blow up a Miami-bound jet using explosives hidden in his shoe. Coming less than four months after September 11, there already were deep concerns about a potential attack during the upcoming holiday break. Nevertheless, President Bush did not directly address the foiled plot for six days, according to an extensive review of newspaper records from that time period. And when he did, it was only in passing.

The day of the attempted attack, for example, the Associated Press reported that "White House officials" were monitoring the situation throughout the afternoon and that "President Bush received two briefings" on the matter while at Camp David for the holidays. Spokesman Scott McClellan, meanwhile, told reporters that administration officials were consulting with acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift -- the plane Reid boarded made an emergency landing at Boston's Logan International Airport.

"The White House has been monitoring the situation since early on today," McClellan said, according to a Washington Post article published on December 23. The lead statement came from Swift, who lauded the "heroic acts" of "the flight attendants and passengers who helped subdue the suspect."

h/t Democratic Underground

UPDATE ON MORE GOP HYPOCRISY:

Some of the same Republican lawmakers currently criticizing the President for softness on terrorism voted back in July 2007 against legislation that, among other reforms, provided $250 million for airport screening and explosive detection equipment.

The Improving America's Security Act of 2007 was a relatively non-controversial measure that effectively implemented several un-acted-upon recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Eighty-five Senators voted in favor of the bill's passage. Seven missed the vote (several of whom were on the campaign trail, including Barack Obama, John McCain and Chris Dodd).

Eight Republican Senators, however, voted against passage, including Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okl.) Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okl.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ari.).

More here at this link.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

FactCheck.org Names Palin's "Death Panels" Lie Among Top Ten Whoppers of the Year





The Alaskan governor who quit her job has the distinct honor of having her "Death Panels" lie named as one of FactCheck.org's  top ten whoppers of 2009.  Palin's lie has already received the top prize for biggest lie of the year from PolitiFact, and now she is being recognized as a very good liar by the people at FactCheck.org for her gross falsehood on "Death Panels."

Congratulations, again, to Sarah Palin.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE GOVERNOR WHO QUIT, SARAH PALIN

for winning the prize for the biggest, baddest lie of 2009!  The award was given to her by the Pulitzer Prize winning blog, Politifact, after 5,000 people weighed in on the contest.  She won overwhelmingly for her pants on fire lie about "death panels" in the health care reform bill.  In a year where she assiduously helped John McCain lose a presidential election and then quit her job as governor only half-way through her term to spend more time with her money, it's good to see her come up a winner in something!

Good on you, Sarah!  I give her props for coming up with a really, really blockbuster of a lie.  She's good.  She's really, really good!





"Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

"Death panels."

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, 

"Death panels? Really?"

The editors of PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural "Lie of the Year."

PolitiFact readers overwhelmingly supported the decision. Nearly 5,000 voted in a national poll to name the biggest lie, and 61 percent chose "death panels" from a field of eight finalists." (See the complete results.)

DOES JAMES CARROLL OF THE BOSTON GLOBE READ PROGRESSIVE ERUPTIONS??





TODAY’S DARKNESS is tomorrow’s light. Contemplations of the winter solstice once opened into religion, which is why the cultic festivals of light define the secular space this week. “Here comes the sun,’’ as the Beatles told us, and they could have been singing of Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god whose celebration was preempted by Christmas, songs of a different Son. Sure enough, the days will get longer now. Does it matter that the sun, actually, is not “coming,’’ but that the earth, in its elliptical revolution, only adjusts the tilt in its rotation? Contemplations of the solstice opened equally into what we call science.

[snip]

In the beginning, though, the winter cults by which the gods were worshipped were part of a generalized marking of the calendar that served the immediate purpose of survival. When humans had replaced opportunistic scavenging (“hunters and gatherers’’) with agriculture (planting and herding), close attention to the sun and other heavenly bodies became a necessity, since livestock take mating cues from the quality of light, and cycles of the harvest equally depend on celestial predictability. Knowing how the moon wanes and waxes, and where the sun is in relation to the horizon had become ways to fend off starvation. The creatures who honored the gods with light in winter were honoring their own ability to think.

Art, engineering, astronomy, physical exertion, social organization, and mysticism - such categories are rigidly distinct in our time, each a separate university “discipline,’’ different buildings, if not quads. Yet imagine how those skills came together, say, in the construction of New Grange, the man-made hill in Ireland that was assembled out of huge stones some 5,000 years ago. Defining a mound that probably served as a tomb, the small inner chamber has a narrow opening to the sky that was calibrated so precisely as to admit a needle of sunlight only at dawn on the winter solstice. The light, lasting minutes, illuminates delicately carved triple spirals that would, over millennia, be seen as triune symbols of male, female, child; birth, love, death; eventually of the Trinity, foreshadowing the Irish shamrock.

[snip]

But the festivals this week, sparked by this morning’s dawn, call to mind the age-old spaciousness of informed imagination. Happily, it remains so. Knowledge is holy. Season’s greetings.

James Carroll is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe.





According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, article on Constantine the Great:
"Besides, the Sol Invictus had been adopted by the Christians in a Christian sense, as demonstrated in the Christ as Apollo-Helios in a mausoleum (c. 250) discovered beneath St. Peter's in the Vatican."
Indeed "...from the beginning of the 3rd century "Sun of Justice" appears as a title of Christ"[40]. Some consider this to be in opposition to Sol Invictus[citation needed]. Some see an allusion to Malachi 4:2.
The date for Christmas may also bear a relation to the sun worship. According to the scholiast on the Syriac bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi, writing in the twelfth century:
"It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day." [41] However, this statement directly conflicts with what we know of the early Christians, namely, that they were ridiculed, tortured, and cast apart from operative society precisely because they would not participate in the pagan feasts and celebrations. The early Christians set themselves directly in opposition to the paganism which ruled the day. "Since Christians worshipped an invisible God, pagans often declared them to be atheists."


Monday, December 21, 2009

Here Comes The Sun King

Welcome back to the Sun King!  The days will become longer, minute by slow, slow minute.  Evoe!






TO JUAN AT THE WINTER SOLSTICE by Robert Graves




To Juan at the Winter Solstice* by Robert Graves
There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison to all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow if falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses:
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

*This poem was written for Robert Graves' son, Juan, who was born on the winter solstice, and is about The White Goddess, which subject Graves wrote about extensively in his book of the same title.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE WINTER SOLSTICE IS ALMOST HERE





Thank you to (O)CT(O)PUS and the community over at The Swash Zone for all your support and good wishes while I was away.  I'm feeling better every day, and the excellent news from my docs is that I am 100% A-OK.
 
I'm back to blogging; but because of the hectic week ahead, will be posting about light, seasonal subjects. ( I do want to say that I think we DO have a health care bill that will pass.  Let's see how that plays out.)

Meanwhile enjoy your families and friends and their good cheer and company during this holiday season.  And thank you all for your friendship and caring.

Friday, December 18, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT

(O)CT(O)PUS will be away for the rest of the month … visiting my cephalopod brood and celebrating Fishmas.

Bloggingdino gave me permission to open my presents early, and this is what I got. It means I will be able to keep in touch while away, although posting and comments will be light.

Since I am pressed for time (packing the OctoMobile and getting ready to leave), here is a brief message from MoveOn.Org:



Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

(O)CT(O)PUS IN THE NEWS

This video of an octopus commandeering a coconut appeared tonight on all major news networks, including ABC, BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and WTFNN. What's the big deal? Shall I consider this an affront? An insult to my intelligence? Have you never seen an octopus commandeer a coconut before?



How ridiculous! But not as ridiculous as this:



Q: Why did the octopus cross the road?
A: To enslave humanity and save it from itself!

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

GOOD NEWS!

Just hours ago, I received email from Shaw who reports good news. Her surgery went well … perfectly in fact … and there is every reason to expect a successful outcome. According to Shaw, she is feeling stronger every day and has started taking walks in the neighborhood. She may even drop by and check on us, she says.

Shaw expresses her thanks to everyone for their participation and support. The special magic of this place is missing when the Lady of the Manor is away, and strange creatures from the deep are a poor substitute. Without doubt, I look forward to Shaw’s triumphal return.

Let me thank Pamela, Rockync, Infidel753, and Matt Osborne for lending a helping hand with their contributions.

In addition, my thanks go to Shaw’s loyal readers and followers who include: Arthurstone, Dave, Dmarks, James’ Muse, Jim, Libhom, Patrick, Puddy, Ruth, Susannah, TAO, Tom, Truth101, W-Dervish. If I omitted anyone in oversight, please accept my apologies.

One more request before (O)CT(O)PUS returns to the sea. If Shaw does make an appearance, please go easy on her. She still suffers from fatigue, she says. And please leave greeting for Shaw in the comment thread below.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Domino Effect of our Banking System


As we know our Financial System took a major hit last year. Let’s take a little look see at how this played out, shall we…

The Community Reinvestment Act is a federal law that was passed in 1977 to “encourage” banks and savings associations to meet the needs of borrowers in ALL segments of their communities, which included low and moderate-income neighborhoods. Congress “felt” this law needed to be passed in order to prevent discrimination against low-income and minority borrowers.

There were Legislative changes made to the CRA over the years, but the most pertinent one, in my opinion, was the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992, which required Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to devote a percentage of their lending to support affordable housing. Basically this Act instructed Freddie and Fannie to divide its business into three categories: low and moderate-income, underserved, and special affordable. The goal was to increase home-ownership among minorities and the poor in rural and urban areas.


In November of 1999, a part of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was repealed with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1993 which permitted commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies to consolidate. While The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was a Republican backed bill, President Clinton said he would veto it unless it contained verbiage that would ensure banks wouldn’t cut back on mortgages to low income and minority borrowers.


Due to pressure from the Clinton Administration, in 1999 Fannie began issuing subprime loans, which increased the number of minority and low income home owners. The expansion of “easy credit” to home buyers with lesser ability to pay it back and then bundling them as securities made the CEO’s of Fannie and Freddie and many others on Wall Street a lot of money, but also made our market quite unstable.

In 2000 Fannie Mae launched the American Dream Commitment, a ten year pledge to provide $2 trillion dollars in low-income and minority home financing. By March 2003 Fannie and their lending partners had fulfilled over half of their goal. Other lending partners included: Bank of America; Bank One Corporation; Charter One Bank; Countrywide Financial Corporation; Doral Financial Corporation; First Horizon Home Loan Corporation; Fleet Boston Bank; Huntington Mortgage Company; Irwin Mortgage; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; and Standard Mortgage Corporation and they were “applauded” for surpassing the halfway mark so quickly. Together they led the market in narrowing the homeownership gaps, increasing the availability of affordable housing and serving Americans of color and low-income.

The 2000 plan included $420 billion to help minority home financing but in 2002 it was increased to $700 billion in an “effort” to help “advance” the Bush Administration’s minority homeownership proposals. Fannie also met or exceeded HUD’s affordable goals for 9 consecutive years which included 52% of their business derived from low-income families; 33% derived from underserved families; and over 21% derived from very low-income families.


Fannie and Freddie loaned at first because they were pressured from HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) who was under pressure from Congress. With repeal of part of the Glass-Steagall Act it gave financial institutions and insurance companies free reign without any over-sight to basically sell debt onto our market, and make large bonuses to boot, and now we Taxpayers are left holding the tab. In my opinion, the CRA and the Glass-Steagall Act were two big factors in the downfall of our financial system.


I am in NO way suggesting that any bank, investment company or insurance company discriminate due to skin color or ethnicity; however, I do NOT condone giving anyone a home loan, a credit card or a car loan if they are NOT able to pay it back. The desire to increase home ownership in low-income and minority neighborhoods is a noble cause, but it may not be a feasible one, considering the outcome of many of these “loans”. I believe everyone should have a place to live—a home; but I do NOT believe everyone is ENTITLED to OWN a house. The two are completely separate from one another.

I believe if Congress hadn’t pressured HUD and HUD hadn’t pressured the banking institutions and if the CRA wasn’t abused AND Glass-Steagall hadn’t repealed Gramm-Leach-Bliley we wouldn’t be sitting with this current banking mess. There is enough blame to go around, but I think it all began with Congress wanting to give something that wasn’t earned, i.e. the CRA.

A person must EARN a good credit score, regardless of skin color or ethnicity. Neither of which can be used against you on a credit application, by the way. HOWEVER your lack of a job; adequate funds; time with your employer; and past credit history MOST certainly do and those issues are NOT discriminatory. It’s time we stood on the facts and stopped being afraid of being called “prejudiced” when the FACTS prove otherwise; because as we can see, the results can be devastating.

I also don’t think that Government should be involved in every aspect of our lives, BUT over-sight IS important in certain areas, especially when large sums of money are involved. These Institutions, like AIG and JP Morgan should’ve had some kind of Clearing House. As it stands they did not and they got away with Billions.

And last, but certainly NOT least, when we Taxpayers bailed-out all these lame companies that placed us in this precarious situation there should’ve been stipulations on OUR money. It should NOT have been handed to them willy-nilly. As it stands we don’t know where it went and we don’t know why these banks aren’t lending. They SHOULD be lending and we should demand that they follow some rules. However, those decisions don’t seem to be up to us, although it’s our money.

Hopefully our Representatives on The Hill have LEARNED something! And they will begin to institute some REAL change. Change that will stop the corruption, not just on Wall Street and in Banking and Insurance Institutions, but in Congress, as well.

CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS AND BOILED FROGS

Credit: AZRAINMAN

Whatever you call it, a silly anecdote or imperfect metaphor, the boiling frog story serves a useful purpose, and it goes like this. If you place a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out; but if you place the same frog in cold water that is heated slowly, it will not notice the gradual rise in temperature but will stay in the water until it boils to death. No frogs were harmed in the writing of this post, but the boiling frog story is a useful metaphor to describe how people refuse to recognize a threat that occurs gradually.

Climate change deniers are akin to slow boiling frogs. For most folks, the climate change crisis is vague and impalpable. You cannot see it, touch it, or watch it happen on cable news. It lacks the immediate drama of a hurricane or tsunami. Climate change may not be noticed for a decade or even within a lifetime. Yet, it exists today as a set of observations and data points that are too arcane and abstract for most people to grasp. But make no mistake: Global climate change is here … a dark cloud hanging over the lives of our grandchildren and future generations. Despite the preponderance of data, there are skeptics, doubters, and boiled frogs. A case in point (source):

Double click on image to enlarge.

When a climate scientist looks at the above graph, the most obvious feature is the red [my addition] trend line. The above graph plots rising temperatures from different data sources. The skeptical boiled frog might look at these data and say: “So what! It proves nothing.”

There are two statistical concepts to bear in mind. Some data points conform to a pattern while others seem randomly spread. When data points fall outside a trend line, we call these “outliers,” a fancy word for random distribution. The skeptical boiled frog focuses on the random jitters and ignores the trend line. “So what,” croaks the frog, “Mother Earth has mood swings.” My point: Statistical outliers turn boiled frogs into outrageous liars.

Still skeptical? Next slide (Fossil fuel combustion as a component of total greenhouse gas emissions):

Double click on image to enlarge.

What this graph shows are the various types of greenhouse emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons from various sources. Most importantly, the graph shows the source of each greenhouse gas: From forest fires, from natural decay, from agriculture, from waste, and from fossil fuel combustion. Notice the large red area dominating the bottom half of the graph. This represents carbon dioxide as a product of fossil fuel consumption. What does this mean?

It means climate change is a man-made phenomenon. People burn fossil fuels in their cars, homes, and factories. Skeptical boiled frogs have claimed that greenhouse gases come from natural sources ranging from forest fires to flatulence or from the rise and fall of some geologically unknown Dow Jones. These data tell a different story. It means that more than half of all greenhouse gases (56% of total emissions) have a human origin. Hence, the term “anthropogenic,” meaning “caused by human beings.”

One more slide for a skeptical boiled frog (Spatial distribution of greenhouse gas emissions):

Double click on image to enlarge.

This color-coded map shows the distribution of carbon dioxide around the world. Notice how concentrations of CO2 emissions correspond with areas of human population density and, most especially, with areas having the highest levels of industrial output. These data confirm the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and human activity.

Overall, the latest observations show that globally averaged levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs in 2008: Higher than those of pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 38%, 157% and 19%, respectively. Within the past 10 years alone, levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased 26.2%.

Admittedly, the boiling frog story employs a flawed metaphor. Experience has shown that most frogs are too restless to sit still long enough for any pot of water to reach the boiling point. However, the definitive experiment was performed in 1869 by the German physiologist, Friedrich Goltz, who was searching for the location of the soul and demonstrated a fundamental truth. Frogs that have had their brains removed will remain in slowly heated water; whereas frogs with intact brains will promptly escape. Thus, I end my post on an obvious note: Climate change deniers, unlike their intact amphibian counterparts, are both brainless and soulless.

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

THE CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE ACCORDING TO KRUGMAN, HANSEN, AND PALIN


Credit: AZRAINMAN

Years ago, I served on the board of directors of a conservation group whose mission and purpose was to preserve an endangered species. We spent considerable time debating, discussing, and revising our bylaws and even more time reporting, debating, and balancing our balance sheets, plus the obligatory inventory of office supplies and cute plush toy souvenirs. “Merchandising with a message,” they called it. There were monthly board meetings and monthly membership meetings followed by refreshments, but how much time was actually spent preserving and protecting our charges? Ahem, not that much.

Years pass, and my transformation from human being to cephalopod is now complete. I no longer converse with human protectors but with the protected, and here is what the protected think of their benefactors: “We are doomed, DOOMED!” From the viewpoint of an endangered species, human beings are all talk and cute plush toys but no action. In the human Universe, the shortest distance between two points is through every conceivable viewpoint.

My experience in the endangered species preservation biz reminds me of the latest argument between economist Paul Krugman and climate change scientist James Hansen, who fired the first volley in this New York Times Op-Ed:
Because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate.

(…)

Coal emissions are still significant contributing factors in four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States — and mercury, arsenic and various coal pollutants also cause birth defects, asthma and other ailments.

(…)

The House and Senate energy bills would only assure continued coal use, making it implausible that carbon dioxide emissions would decline sharply.

(…)

If that isn’t bad enough, Wall Street is poised to make billions of dollars in the “trade” part of cap-and-trade.

Not to be outdone on matters of energy economics by a lowly climate change scientist, Paul Krugman, our infamous defender of faith and turf, returned fire with this:
Things like this often happen when economists deal with physical scientists; the hard-science guys tend to assume that we’re witch doctors with nothing to tell them, so they can’t be bothered to listen at all to what the economists have to say, and the result is that they end up reinventing old errors in the belief that they’re deep insights.

What a condescending and prickly reply, I thought. Clearly, Paul Krugman represents the Cute Plush Toy School of environmental protection that amuses protectors but accomplishes little on behalf of the protected. Worse still, here is what Krugman says of Hansen’s carbon tax proposal:
If you use a tax, you know what the price of emissions will be, but you don’t know the quantity of emissions; if you use a cap, you know the quantity but not the price. Yes, this means that if some people do more than expected to reduce emissions, they’ll just free up permits for others — which worries Hansen.

What worries Hansen should also worry us. A system of cap and trade will invite chicanery from players on both sides of the equation. Polluting industries will abuse the “cap” on emissions by continually lobbying Congress for exemptions, offsets, and opt-outs. Speculators will abuse the “trade” by gaming the system in much the same way Enron manipulated energy markets and defrauded consumers. Thus, cap and trade will become the ultimate plush toy for powerful interests but accomplish little or nothing in actual emissions reduction. Furthermore, Krugman ignores Hansen’s proposal of a fee-and-dividend system which clearly states:
The fee would be uniform, a certain number of dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel. The public would not directly pay any fee, but the price of goods would rise in proportion to how much carbon-emitting fuel is used in their production. All of the collected fees would then be distributed to the public. Prudent people would use their dividend wisely, adjusting their lifestyle, choice of vehicle and so on. Those who do better than average in choosing less-polluting goods would receive more in the dividend than they pay in added costs.

(…)

Given the amount of oil, gas and coal used in the United States in 2007, that carbon fee would yield about $600 billion per year. The resulting dividend for each adult American would be as much as $3,000 per year. As the fee rose, tipping points would be reached at which various carbon-free energies and carbon-saving technologies would become cheaper than fossil fuels plus their fees. As time goes on, fossil fuel use would collapse.

While I favor Hansen’s fee-and-dividend system, we should also consider a proposal put forth by arch-conservationist extraordinaire, Sarah Palin. In her recently released bestseller, the Sarahdon said: "If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?" We should take her at her word. If God made meat to be eaten, and if human beings are also made of meat, then it stands to reason that human beings should join her list of fair game. Her modest proposal would require only a slight modification of God’s Word. If you change “Love thy neighbor” to “Eat thy neighbor,” famine would disappear and all human impacts on the environment would diminish over time. As everyone knows, once you remove human impacts from the environment, Nature has an uncanny way of recovering and bouncing back ... quicker than a wink!

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

WHERE ARE THE JOBS?

In recent weeks (months,eons) there has been a lot of criticism of the Obama administration on job creation and job retention. As usual, many Americans are so addicted to instant gratification that they are quick to find fault and point fingers.

But the AP just released an article citing some surprising trends. The complete article can be viewed HERE. And while it is true that we are a long way from economic recovery, this certainly is cause for renewed hope in future economic stability.

“As record numbers of orders flow through Legacy Furniture Group's manufacturing plant, workers toil between towers of piled foam and incomplete end tables precariously stacked five pieces high. With a 10 percent sales growth this year, Legacy has quickly forgotten the recession's low point in March, when weak order volumes forced the company to implement four-day work weeks.”

“Legacy's recent success highlights a trend: Counties with the heaviest reliance on manufacturing income are posting some of the biggest employment gains of the nation's early economic recovery. This is a big change from just half a year ago, when some economists worried that widespread layoffs by U.S. manufacturers might be part of an irreversible trend in that sector.”

“Elkhart County, Ind., meanwhile, saw such a startling surge in layoffs one year ago that President Barack Obama made a stop there in the opening weeks of his presidency. The unemployment rate there, driven by job cuts at RV manufacturers, spiked in March at 18.9 percent, but has fallen steadily ever since — to 15 percent in September.”

"Manufacturing jobs are here to stay, and they're coming back," said Derald Bontrager, president and chief operating officer of Middlebury, Ind.-based RV maker Jayco Inc., which recalled or hired 200 laid-off workers over the summer to help ramp up production after an unexpected sales boom overwhelmed all-time-low inventories and left the producer unable to meet demand. They're still trying to catch up.”

Even though there has been a steady exodus of jobs out of the country which predates the recent economic collapse by manufacturers looking for cheap labor and little oversight, there are new employers opening facilities and hiring workers.

While this will be unhappy news for the “I want Obama to fail” advocates, this will be a shining light at the end of a long tunnel for many beleaguered families out of work and in need of some good news.

(Cross posted from the Swash Zone)

Friday, December 4, 2009

CYBER-HACKERS AND THE CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE

From Gordon Crovitz of the Wall Street Journal:
For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws. Their behavior was brought to light when more than 1,000 emails, and some 3,500 additional files were published online, many of which boasted about how they suppressed hard questions about their data.

I have been writing about the impacts of energy on the economy, the environment, and public health since 1974. My career began as an educational and documentary filmmaker starting with this project: A Consumer Guide to the Energy Crisis (1974), a co-production of Prentice-Hall and the New York Daily News. Since the 1970s, I have written, directed, and produced numerous documentary films for Burns & Roe (engineers of utility-scale conventional and nuclear electric generating plants), the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Rural Electrification Administration (a division of the USDA). Although not an engineer or scientist by training, I am no stranger to the subject.

With respect to energy consumption and global climate change, it is hard to know where to begin. Shall we begin by talking about the hazards of coal starting with mining accidents … but by no means ending with slow agonizing deaths by black lung disease? Shall we talk about acid rain and the damage to North American forests, lakes, and streams? Or the Love Canal incident that drove hundreds of families from their homes after 21,000 tons of chemicals leached into their basements and groundwater? Or the oil slick that caused the Cuyahoga River to burst into flames? Or the incidence rate of cancer in the general population attributable to industrial pollutants? Or the 123 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf destroyed by Hurricane Katrina? Or the geopolitics of oil?

The history of corporate piggish and pigheadedness does not even begin to cover the global climate change debate.

I am tired … tired of corporate interests that put profits over public welfare, tired of privateers who pollute and pillage, and tired of climate change deniers and the want-it-now crowd lacking forethought as to the consequences of profligate consumption on future generations. I am tired of mendacities, false conspiracies, and every contrivance to confuse and confound the climate change debate.

These days, everyone is an expert with an opinion; but there is no prerequisite obligation to read a book or research a subject before blathering. Talk is cheap, and the Internet is cheapest where free confers a presumptive right to engage in free-for-alls. The Internet has not fulfilled its grand utopian vision as a repository of knowledge and scholarship; it has merely accelerated the spread of ignorance through viral messages and cyber-terrorism. If “the best lack all conviction” there will always be open-minded neophytes and dilatants willing to be suckered by swift boaters and hackers engaged in criminal acts parading as heroism. When cyber-crooks poke holes in the dike to trap fingers and hands, that is when they steal your wallet. Its called distraction, distraction, distraction.

My career rewarded me with a decent income, but there is no money, no glory, and all too often little sense of accomplishment in blogging. Why do we bother? Are we motivated by some overwhelming sense of mission and purpose? Or do we blog just to amuse and entertain ourselves? Why bother when you have to watch your back at every turn.

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MAKE THAT ONE DIP OR TWO?

No, I am not selling ice cream with sprinkles. The term, double dip, refers to a second recession that may collapse an already fragile economy and trigger the second Great Depression.

About two weeks ago, I discussed the possibility in this post, The Looming Unemployment Bomb. To recap some key points:

When you look at this multimedia visualization, you can see why joblessness represents an even bigger threat to economic recovery than the credit crisis that triggered this mess. Watch the black death of unemployment sweep over the country in 30 seconds or less. And notice the data feed: It does not even include the latest unemployment figures. The visualization gives you a snapshot through September 2009 when the unemployment rate reached 8.5 percent.

In fact, the current official unemployment has reached 10.2 percent and still rising. When you count real unemployment, the one that includes discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs and those marginally working part-time jobs, the true unemployment rate (also known as U-6 - Alternative measures of labor underutilization) is closer to 17.5 percent.

Paul Krugman has joined the ranks of pessimists with a Double Dip Warning:

I’d be more sanguine about all of this if there were any indications that private, final demand is taking off — consumers, business investment, whatever. But I haven’t seen anything suggesting that sort of thing (…) The chances of a relapse into recession seem to be rising.

The stimulus has run its course, and all leading indicators suggest a continuing downward trend. One problem is that the econometric forecasting methods used by Washington assumed an unemployment rate of 10.3% by the end of next year. In fact, we arrived at this level a year earlier, and the worse case turned out worse than expected and sooner than expected.

The problem with the stimulus may not be the stimulus, although Krugman advocated for more robust aid, but the TARP bill that was cobbled together in the closing months of the Bush administration. If you recall, then Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson sounded the alarm in the form of a one-page memo that would have given him unbridled power to distribute the almost $800 billion in TARP funds with no controls. The compromise bill rushed through Congress did not anticipate the chicanery that would render it ineffective. Here is what the TARP bill should have accomplished:

Rule #1. Never leave it up to banks to decide for themselves what to do with public funds. Tell them how and where the funds should be allocated. The purpose of the funds was to unlock frozen credit markets. Why this did not happen? The banks used the money to improve their balance sheets when they should have been making commercial loans.

Rule #2. When banks are bailed out with public funds, make sure banks get out of the lobbying business. How is the public interest served when public money is used to buy influence that may go against the public interest! Post-bailout lobbying smacks of double-dealing, self-dealing, and conflict of interest. That is why current reform efforts are stalled in Congress.

Rule #3. No bonuses or wage increases until all public money has been paid back. The hubris of Wall Street offends us and turns upside down our basic values: We should reward merit, not failure, nor entitlement.

Rule #4. Community banks play a larger role in distributing commercial loans to local businesses than big banks. Why were these NOT included under TARP?

On the subject of reform, I have two more pet peeves. First, there are other professions - doctors, lawyers, real estate brokers, and teachers - that undergo some form of accreditation or licensing. Why not those on Wall Street to whom we entrust our assets, our retirements, indeed our lives. The same fools who authored the credit default insurance swaps that brought down AIG are the SAME fools who authored the junk bond crisis 25 years ago. When you recycle fools back into the system, you perpetuate their culture.

Second, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. The regulatory system installed during the Great Depression and dismantled in 1999 must be restored and the Glass-Steagall Act reinstated. Regrettably, our diversified financial institutions are bigger, more arrogant, and more dangerous than before. To suggest that it is too unrealistic to put the genie back in the bottle is unacceptable.

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sarahpalooza!

(A note from Octopus: Our esteemed colleague, Matt Osborne, met the Sarahdon caravan and this is his report)

By Matt Osborne of Osborne Ink



Cross-posted from The Huffington Post and The Swash Zone.