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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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In The News 2/29/08

Hillary Clinton’s campaign suddenly doesn’t like how the Texas Democratic Party conducts their caucus-primary. Funny that they had no arguments when polls showed them likely to win. I’ll say again she’s doing nothing to endear herself to me. With regard to November: if she continues on this path of scorched-earth policy, I will not vote for her. I levied complaints against how Bush got into office. It would be disingenuous of me to forgive Hillary for doing similar things.

Turkey continues military operations in northern Iraq, with the U.S. providing intelligence and tactical support. This is a clear indication of destabilization of the region. Some irony: “U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who arrived in Ankara, the Turkish capital, Wednesday night, told reporters he intended to advise Turkish leaders that their incursion into northern Iraq must last no more than a few weeks. He also planned to tell them that the military operation should be complemented by political efforts to resolve the grievances of the Kurdish minority in eastern Turkey. But Turkey ruled out specifying a timetable for an end to the offensive.”

It’s interesting that the U.S. is demanding an arbitrary timetable for Turkish operations, something they refuse to consider for their own. “Do as I say, not as I do” is typical from a strict-father world-view.

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Update

I totally forgot to include this juicy piece: $4 gasoline is news to Bush.  Color me surprised that Mr. 29% has no idea what most Americans are facing.  His solution?  Make his tax cuts permanent.  It’s got to be hard to ignore reality to this degree.


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Economists Totally Blow Predictions

How well is Bush’s economy doing? It couldn’t be better! As long as you’re incredibly wealthy. For the rest of us, things aren’t going so well. A large dose of bad economic news came out within the past day. Oh, and surprise, surprise: economists’ predictions were way off once again.

From the AP: “Consumer confidence plunged, the wholesale inflation rate soared, the number of homes being foreclosed jumped, home prices fell sharply and a report predicts big increases in health care costs.”

The details on each:

The Consumer Confidence Index plunged in February to 75.0 from a revised 87.3 in January. Economists were predicting a decrease to 83.0 . Oops.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that wholesale prices rose 1 percent last month, more than double the 0.4 percent increase that economists had been expecting. Oops. Imagine if your local weatherman missed the forecasted precipitation by half. Your neighbors would be calling for their head on a platter. Not so with economists.

What did that increase in monthly wholesale prices do to inflation? “The January surge left wholesale prices rising by 7.5 percent over the past 12 months, the fastest pace in more than 26 years, since prices had risen at a 7.5 percent pace in the 12 months ending in October 1981.”  That’s 7.5% inflation. Did your salary increase by 7.5% last year? Mine sure didn’t.

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Race to the Moon

Google and X Prize announced this weekend that nine new privately funded teams will compete for $30 million in prize money in the Google Lunar X Prize.  The requirements:

90% of a winning team’s funding has to come from the private sector

The first team to land their robot on the moon and complete a set of tasks* with said robot by December 31, 2012 will win a $20 million grand prize.  If the above takes place in 2013 or 2014, the prize drops to $15 million.  No prize money will be awarded after December 31, 2014.  That leaves teams 4 to 6 years to complete the feat.

If a second team achieves all the tasks by 2014, they will win $5 million.  That’s not bad for a 2nd place finish.  An additional $5 million is available for completing difficult bonus objectives.  These include moving the robot an additional 500 meters (1,600ft), photographing man-made objects on the moon and surviving two weeks on the Moon’s surface.

Oh, the mean daytime surface temperature is 107C and the mean night-time surface temperature is -153C.  In addition to just getting to the Moon’s surface, that’s some serious engineering requirements.

*Tasks to complete: travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth.

The teams that have announced so far can be found here.

This contest will spur technological developments that will influence space travel and commerce for the rest of this century.  It’s the perfect task for private industry at this stage of our societal development.  NASA needs to concentrate on monitoring the Earth system and exploring deeper space.


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Quick Links & Quick Hits

Non-GM hybrid car sales were up 27% in January. The Toyota Prius accounted for 1/2 of all hybrid sales in the U.S. last year.

And when was the last time you saw a Prius TV commercial?

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Gov. Ritter’s Energy Office announced 18 Insulate Colorado Partners. (Click on 2nd link.) The 18 partners received grants. The funds will be distributed as financial incentives directly to homeowners for the proper installation of either attic or exterior wall insulation. Significant heating/cooling and energy costs can be realized by making homes more insulated.

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Lt. Gov. O’Brien will kick off the 2008 Space Exploration Conference (3rd annual) in Denver tomorrow. She will deliver the welcome address, which will include challenging industry leaders to invest in early childhood education. An educated society is an innovative society.

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Another item: After a 2nd day of debate, a bill curbing predatory payday lending passed the CO House by a 33-30 vote. I’m all for this bill, which caps annual interest rates at 45% and allows lenders to charge no more than $60 per 12 months on all payday loans. However, and this is something I should be doing more of, I question the naming of the bill. Currently, it’s the Colorado Payday Lending Reform Act or CPLRA. What?! While the title is in no way Orwellian (Clear Skies/Healthy Forests anyone?), certainly something a little catchier would help boost the bill’s visibility. And now an admission: I’m not very good at coming up with catchy names or acronyms. But how about the Colorado Fair Lending Act? Or the Stop Preying on Workers Income Act? After all, I thought the basis of Republican tax policy was to make sure people keep what they earn.

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Cry me a river.  It’s everybody else’s fault but the Clinton’s that Obama is leading in popular votes, number of wins and delegates at this stage of the nomination process.  Funny how the Clinton campaign says it wants to talk about issues, yet constantly attacks entity after entity.  BTW, when the Clintons swear off of Fox, I’ll pay attention to their complaints about media coverage.


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Global Warming Links and Stories

The link first: ClimateLurker pulls information together and presents it in tabular form.  If nothing else, check out the temperature table.

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The first story comes from yesterday’s Denver Post entitled “With friends like this, the West doesn’t need enemies”.  The meat?  Brace yourselves: “Bush’s budget calls for cuts to the Forest Service that would further endanger areas prone to catastrophic forest fires.”  I’ve written about part of the problem before.  I’ve also written about some potential solutions to the problems the region is facing, proposed by Gov. Bill Ritter.  The skinny: 1.5 million acres of lodgepole pine have been turned into matchsticks.  That’s a huge potential issue given some bad conditions, which we saw in the beginning of this decade.

Now onto the newest part of the story: Bush’s budget would cut funding by 11.2% for CO, WY, SD, NE and KS.  The hazardous fuels reduction program funding would decrease by 4% and the state fire assistance program would be cut by 23%.  Imagine if somebody proposed cutting any portion of the defense budget by 23%.  The horror!  Let me state right now that I think more folks in this regions are concerned by the potential of a catastrophic conflagration in an upcoming summer than an attack by a terrorist (Confined only to brown and/or Muslim people, btw.  Crazy white people shooting up schools and churches seem to be okay).

Sen. Salazar told USDA Undersecretary Mark Rey and Forest Service chief Gail Kimbell he thought the budget priorities were sending the “wrong message.”  The Op-Ed ends with the following: “These are troubled times for the forests of our region.  They need additional care, not a steward who ignores its problems.”  Which is interesting when you consider they endorsed Bush for President in 2004.  You see, when Republican policies fail, they fail spectacularly.

I certainly hope this problems gets more attention.  It’s not going away, in fact it’s getting worse.  Bush won’t do anything but cut public services in support of privatizing everything.  What will Sen. Salazar do?  Stern messages in an oversight hearing are nice.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t solve the problem.

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I’ll share a second global-warming related story a little later today.


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Socialism and Wealth

A caller to a radio program this morning complained that Clinton’s and Obama’s plan for changing our broken health care system, calling them extreme leftists.  Then, he called them socialists and brought up their desire for redistribution of wealth.  Redistribution of wealth to the middle and lower classes is a bad thing, apparently.

But let’s look at what’s gone on under Republican economic policies since the 1980s.  Have the lower and middle classes increased their percentage of national wealth?  No, but the top 1% and 10% certainly have.  The difference between top holders of wealth and bottom holders of wealth has never been greater than it is today.

Guess how that’s happened.  The rich have had their taxes reduced year after year.  The non-rich haven’t seen their taxes reduced by a similar rate.  So most of us have continued to pay taxes and the rich have increased their wealth.  Hmmm.  Seems like redistribution of wealth has been occurring, except it’s from the bottom up.

The thing is, Republicans need boogeymen.  Whether its socialists or terrorists or abortionists, some group of people have to be vilified to help Republicans feel good.  They need an ‘other’ to point blame at for things they don’t like.  Republicans developed language in the past 30 years to convince voters that the rich shouldn’t have to pay their fair share of maintaining our country’s infrastructure.  They couched such language in threatening terms of the creeping effects of evil socialism.

No such thing has happened, of course.  But now millions of people are convinced that the rich pay too much and insurance companies denying medical care is a good thing.  The election this November should come down to a candidate representing change and hope and a candidate representing a continuation of 20th century fear-mongering politics.


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Random Stories 2/24/08

First of all, I went to a friends’ wedding last night. It was a nice, classy affair. A good idea that needs a little improvement: guests walked by a small appetizer bar on the way to the reception area. It had crackers and cheese and fruits. The only thing it lacked? Two lines. One could either wait in line for a half-an-hour or walk back from the reception room and find things already well picked over. The dinner (roast beef & salmon) was extremely well done, however!

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Clinton is mad that Obama is using her NAFTA stances in his mailings. After telling the nation how proud she was running against him, she brought out an interesting charge: “enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove‘s playbook.”

Obama’s response: “You can’t be for something and take credit for an administration … and then when you run for president say that you didn’t really mean what you said way back then. It doesn’t work like that,” he said to cheers at a rally in Akron.”

I think the record speaks for itself here: Hillary was a big supporter of NAFTA in public while her husband was President. The result of this lopsided trade agreement has helped greed-driven corporations to close factories and depress state economies here in the U.S. Now, Hillary wants a time-out with some trade agreements. Riiight. Up until she’s the President and initiates more of them. This is a clear area where we need better Democrats in addition to more Democrats. Elect fair-trade Democrats to Congress and things like NAFTA and CAFTA could be amended to push for labor and environmental concerns.

Oh, Clinton said something else interesting: She said by his actions, Obama was giving “aid and comfort to the very special interests and their allies in the Republican Party who are against doing what we want to do for America.” Wow. Good thing she accused Obama of being Rovian, or else one might think this attack accomplished the very same thing. Which of course is Rovian: hit your opponent where they’re strongest and you’re weakest. Jesse asked the other day what kind of change Obama represents. This is another area, or perhaps an offshoot of the example I gave: less corporate lobbyist influence on policy, including trade agreements.

More stories below.

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1,000,000 for Obama? (Updated 2/25 & 2/26)

I’ve been slammin’ busy at work the past couple days, hence my lack of posts. However, I did get this in an email yesterday and wanted to quickly share it:

“News broke yesterday that a few wealthy Clinton supporters are gearing up for a massive spending campaign to boost her chances in the big upcoming contests in Texas and Ohio on March 4th.

The so-called “American Leadership Project” will take unlimited contributions from individuals and is organized the same way as the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

ABC News reports that this group is seeking 100 Clinton supporters to each give $100,000 to fund its $10 million effort to promote Senator Clinton and “contrast” her positions with Barack Obama’s.

That’s the opposite of how politics should work, and the opposite of how Barack Obama has run this campaign.

The same day this group’s activity was revealed, we announced that nearly 1 million individual people have donated to this campaign.

Stand up against politics-as-usual. Be one of the million supporters who are calling out for change.

If you give as part of our matching program, your gift will be doubled by a previous donor. You can even choose to exchange a note with them about why you are part of this movement.”

His campaign, as of yesterday’s email, had 961,227 people who donated. That is freaking incredible.

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Update 2/25/08

The number of unique contributors is up to 980,611 as of 2P. His campaign will easily surpass 1,000,000 by the end of the month.

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Update 2/26/08

Yup – Obama is going to easily hit 1,000,000 donors this month.  He’s at 990,688 as of three hours ago (~2P MST).  That likely means he’s already hit the 1,000,000 mark.  Unbelievable.

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