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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Where Is The Leadership?

Do we have a President?  Or do we have someone who is drawing a paycheck but isn’t running the country?  The latter seems to be the more accurate assesment.  What leadership has George Bush personally shown to the American people?  None.  He and his cronies knew the financial market freeze up was coming and they decided to do nothing about it.  At a minimum, they allowed banks to fail.  More accurately, they encouraged their failures through destructive policies.  But ever since the Bush Bailout was presented to America (months after they had written it), where is the resolute leadership that pundits were crowing about the past 8 years?  The answer is there wasn’t any leadership to begin with.  Bush can’t demonstrate that which he doesn’t have.

The House of Representatives rightfully rejected the amended Bush Bailout Plan.  Legislators can talk all they want to about how much they negotiated about the bill.  The difference between the original and modified Bush Bailout Plans?  About 100 pages of fluff.  Nothing real was added to or taken away from the bill.  Treasury Secretary Paulson was still going to be left with too much unchecked power.  Homeowners were still going to lose their homes.  Executives were still going to walk away from their experiments which ended in disaster with millions of dollars.  The credit markets were still going to remain stuck in neutral.  And since then?  Bush has exhibited no attribute that is so sorely needed at this time by the middle class.  That’s not by accident – current events are a direct result of planned CONservative economic policies.  Enrich the rich further.  Destroy the middle class and make America look more like a feudal state than a democracy.

Readers of this blog know I have no love for CONservative policies.  They’re too top-down, hypocritical and destructive of democratic principles.  Careful readers of this blog know I don’t pull any punches when it comes time to disagree with Democrats.  This is one of those times.  None of the Congressional leadership, Democratic or Republican, has displayed any kind of useful leadership either.  Many of them are just as guilty in creating this morass as Bush’s cronies are.  Their palms have been greased with too much corporate money during their careers.  During that same time, Democrats lost more races than they won.  Their habits are ingrained in an environment where Republicans could get away with relentlessly attacking them, no matter if those attacks resembled reality or not.  Despite stunning victories in the past 2-4 years, many older Democratic officials still don’t understand that the political landscape has shifted underneath them.  They need not fear absurd Republican attacks like they used to.  But they remain cowed and thus unable to lead at one of the most critical moments in our history.

Democrats should come up with their own legislative bill to address the financial mess.  I know they wanted to go home at the end of last week and campaign, but reality has a rude habit of interrupting plans.  Democrats haven’t reached out to economic experts to work on developing their own policy proposals.  Similar financial situations have cropped up before, both in the U.S. and abroad.  Solutions were identified and implemented before.  Simply looking at those solutions and slightly adjusting them to our current situation would seem prudent.  This particular economic problem cannot be characterized by anything more esoteric than has been witnessed before.  It is an insult to Americans that Democrats, historically so good at dealing with the economy, are offering no plans of their own.  I expected Republicans to drop the ball – and they have.  All they’re proposing is further tax cuts for the rich.  That won’t solve anything for the rest of the 99% of us.

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Science News 9/30/08

NASA’s Phoenix lander detected snow falling from clouds 2 miles high.  While none reached the ground, it confirms water still precipitates from the sky in at least one form.

Folks continue to modify their Toyota Priuses to get even more performance from battery technologies.  At $7500 a pop, it’s not for everyone, but the engineering hurdles to make a car run exclusively off electricity if the driver wants has been jumped over time and time again.  My next car will be a hybrid at a minimum.  If I can convert it to be a plug-in, all the better.

A critical component of the Hubble has failed.  The Control Unit/Science Data Formatter is no longer working, meaning data can’t be sent to the ground.  A backup version is on-board, but scientists need to see if it can be brought online.  Another backup is located at the Hubble operations center.  Engineers will see if it can be made flight ready and if the system can be replaced in-flight.  Astronauts scheduled for the original Hubble repair mission will likely have to do some additional training also.  All this means the Hubble repair mission is likely to be delayed until January or February of next year.  The next International Space Station construction mission would then be moved up to mid-November.

SpaceX has successfully become the first private entity to put a liquid-fueled booster in Earth orbit.  It took four tries, but Falcon1 achieved the mark Sunday.  More Falcon1 launches are scheduled, with one next year to launch a Malaysian satellite.  SpaceX is also planning a mid-2009 launch of Falcon9, which could help deliver supplies to the International Space Station while NASA is without a vehicle between shuttle retirement and Orion coming online.

Has the next solar cycle begun?  After a brief time of no sunspots, one has developed on the sun’s surface.  If more sunspots develop in the relative near future, Solar Cycle 24 will have begun.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 9/30/08

Checking in on Tropical Storm Laura:

Center located at 41.2N, 48.8W; maximum sustained winds of 60mph; moving N @ 13mph.

Laura is located between Canada and the Azores Islands, though she’s closer to Canada.  Her path will take her to the east of Canada and remain well south of Greenland as she gets caught up in the westerlies.  Within the next 24 hours, Laura should lose her tropical characteristics and become more like the mid-latitude storms most of us are used to seeing with fronts extending from the low.  3 days from now, she should be near 55N, 35W.  5 days from now, she is forecasted to move across northern Great Britain.

[Image of 3-day forecast, and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

Elsewhere, a disturbance moved east across the Yucatan peninsula a day or two ago and is now broadly located in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico with Cuba to its southeast and Florida to its northeast.  This disturbance isn’t very organized right now and isn’t expected to become so in the next 12-24 hours.  Another tropical wave is making its way across the middle Atlantic.  This wave is very disorganized right now.  So additional tropical depression formation isn’t expected in the next couple of days.


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First Bailout Bill Fails in House and the Fallout

Last week, the Bush administration wrote up a 3-page Bailout they wanted Congress to rubber-stamp.  Were they forgetting that they lost control of Congress in 2006?  Were they betting that the pro-corporate Democrat-led Congress would roll over for them the same way the pro-corporate Republican-led Congress rolled over for them for six solid years?  Either way, populist elements of both parties raised their voices all last week following Bush’s Bailout bill, demanding substantial changes to the bill or rejection of it.  The House worked on their own Bailout bill all week and nearly had something Thursday before John McCain wrecked things.  So the House was left to renegotiate things over the weekend and finished up yesterday.  The House “debated” the bill this morning and voted it down this afternoon.

The stock markets all tanked today, the dollar rose, oil prices fell and the bond markets received a lot of the money people are pulling out of the stock markets.  There wasn’t enough change between Bush’s Bailout and Congress’ Bailout.  Taxpayers were still overexposed, oversight wasn’t enhanced enough, and executive compensation wasn’t reined in.  Most importantly however is the root causes of the financial industry’s problems weren’t meaningfully addressed.  Housing prices were allowed to balloon for too long.  Those prices have to come down to more realistic levels, which will take more time.  Banks are maintaining a lock on their cash, stopping the flow of credit both here in the U.S. and is now starting to lock things up globally.  Credit extended to borrowers will be reined in for a while and that’s a good thing.  Too much of our recent economic expansion was based on too much credit being made available to unworthy borrowers.  The Republican-build economic house of cards has to fall.  Giving away $700 billion to Bush’s cronies isn’t going to fix our problems.

Americans are likely to want a quick fix to our economic morass and a quick fix isn’t what it needs.  The U.S. economy needs a thorough cleaning-up.  Everybody can’t get rich quickly all at the same time, and that certainly can’t happen if the richest are trying to do it by gambling with Americans’ mortgages.  A number of viable solutions have been proposed by folks across the country in the past week.  It is now time for Congress to open their eyes, ears and minds to those solutions.  Those solutions address the actual causes of the economic mess, not its symptoms.

So what can happen moving forward?  The Senate is going to take up their version of the Bailout Wednesday.  I’m unsure how much the Senate and House versions differ.  If the Senate version is passed, the House could, but doesn’t have to look at the bill.  If the Senate version is not passed, nothing really changes.  House Democrats want either a revote or a new bill to consider.  House Republicans have said forget it and have threatened to go home for the year.  Lots of politics are flying around the issue.  At a minimum, the House leadership now has the time to look for additional/different solutions and work on something new.

A bill doesn’t have to be approved this year.  It could wait until a new President and a new Congress go to work early next year.  Taking into account the backers of the Bailout are the same people that helped create the conditions for the economic mess, waiting until next year might be a good idea.  I personally have no confidence that Bush’s cronies or allies (Republican or Democratic) can come up with an honest attempt at correcting things.  I’d like for candidates running for office this year offer their thoughts on solutions and let the people decide who they want to fix things.

***

[Update]:  Read the following:

“The stock market was definitely taken by surprise,” said Drew Kanaly, chairman and CEO of Kanaly Trust Company, referring to the House vote. “If you watched the news stream over the weekend, it seemed like it was a done deal. But the money is being held hostage to the political process.”

Does anyone else find it interesting that an executive has clearly equated that a Constitutionally-defined process is the same thing as criminals taking hostages?  How many millions of dollars is Drew in line to get when he leaves Kanaly?  That’s the taxpayers’ money Drew is talking about, not his.  If he and his chums hadn’t gambled Americans’ mortgages away, they wouldn’t be begging to be bailed out.  This quote is proof that the “crisis” is phony.  Drew, Bush and their allies are trying to pull a fast one on us. (h/t OpenLeft)

***

Where are all the headlines jabbing at the divided Republican Party?  Republicans split their votes for and against the Bailout.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce threatened retaliation against those who voted against the Bailout while the right-wing extremist group Club for Growth threatened retaliation against those who voted for the Bailout.  The Chamber’s threat sounds a lot like Drew’s (above).  The fattest cats are likening people who didn’t like this Bailout (a majority of Americans) to criminals and threatening to destroy them politically.  Of course, there’s no stern message from John McCain or John Boehner to the Chamber or the Club to keep politics out of a crisis.  They’re too busy pointing fingers at Democrats.  What leadership!

***

A real solution (courtesy of TrueMajority.org):

  • Putting real regulations back on runaway financial corporations, and taking an ownership stake in exchange for any taxpayer support
  • Providing mortgage relief so ordinary Americans stop losing their homes
  • Putting millions to work by investing in new green jobs and infrastructure
  • Investing in a health care plan to cover everyone

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    Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 9/29/08

    Hurricane Kyle made landfall yesterday on Nova Scotia’s southwestern coast before crossing the bay between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, making a second landfall near Saint John as a Tropical Storm.  A large storm surge, 4-6″ of rain and strong winds were felt across southeastern Canada and Maine.  Kyle has quickly fizzled out and will be caught up in a westerly moving trough in the next day or so.

    Incredibly, another storm formed overnight in the northern Atlantic.  Meet Subtropical Storm Laura:

    Center located at 37.4N, 47.8W; maximum sustained winds of 60mph; moving WNW @ 8mph.

    Laura should remain well out to sea – she isn’t forecasted to impact any landmass until being absorbed by the same trough that is set to pick up Kyle’s remnants.  Laura is the 12th named storm of the season and we have about one more month left in the official 2008 Atlantic season.


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    Atlantic Tropical Weather Update 9/27/08

    The Atlantic has now generated six hurricanes this year, with Hurricane Kyle joining Bertha, Dolly, Gustav, Hanna and Ike on this year’s list.  An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter examined Kyle earlier this afternoon and found hurricane force winds extending far enough from the center to justify the upgrade.  Here are Kyle’s most recent vitals:

    Center located at 34.3N, 69.7W; maximum sustained winds of 75mph, moving N @ 23mph; minimum pressure of 995mb.

    Kyle continues to race northward between the ridge to his east and the deep-layer trough to his west.  His anticipated path hasn’t changed much since yesterday, with a likely landfall in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia very early Monday morning.  He could still be a hurricane at that point, or could weaken slightly back to Tropical Storm strength.  At that point, his arbitrary classification won’t mean much.  He will be a tropical system making landfall over eastern Canada.  The center could still come ashore close to the border of Maine, so they’ll experience strong winds and a storm surge as well.

    [Update 11:00P MDT]: The latest intensity and track forecast from the NHC indicates that Kyle should weaken back to Tropical Storm strength tomorrow night, well in advance of making landfall.  A Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watch have been issued for Maine.

    [Image of 3-day forecast, and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]


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    News Pieces 9/27/08

    In a move toward improving the transparency of bills in Congress, PublicMarkup.org has put the original Bush Bailout plan and Senator Chris Dodd’s plan dealing with the same issue up for public view.  The public can also comment on the legislation.

    Oh, in case you’re wondering – despite having billions of dollars worth of bad assets and paying executives millions of dollars every year, the financial institutions looking for a $700 billion handout is still paying for lobbyists.  In the millions this year alone.  While families are losing their houses.  That’s immoral.

    The Republican County Clerk in El Paso is illegally trying to prevent students at Colorado College from voting this November.  Why would that be?  Could it be that young voters are breaking 65-32 for Obama over McCain?  Every vote Bob Balink prevents for Obama and other Democrats is one step closer toward his party’s success.  There are 10 days left to register to vote for this year’s election.  How many voters will be unable to vote because of this Republican’s immoral efforts?

    While the summer season has drawn to a close for the Arctic, thankfully ending the horrible rate of melt this year, the Antarctic’s winter is also ending.  This winter wasn’t as good to the sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere as last winter was.  The maximum extent was 15 million sq. km, over 1 million sq. km. less than the area last year.  It appears Aug. 2008 wasn’t a good year for ice worldwide as the Southern Hemisphere actually lost over 500,000 sq. km. of ice in a two-week time period.  August also saw the fastest rate of melt of ice in the Northern Hemisphere.  After attaining a +2 million sq. km. anomaly last year, the Southern Hemisphere is lucky to be right at the 1970-2000 mean, and appears to be heading negative as the melt accelerates.

    The shuttle mission to Hubble has been delayed by 4 days, from Oct. 10th to the 14th.  Most of the delay was caused by Hurricane Ike’s landfall and damage to the Houston, TX area.  Atlantis is scheduled to make the trip to Hubble.  Endeavour is waiting on a nearby launch pad in the event that Atlantis experiences damage significant enough to prevent a return to Earth.  Endeavour is scheduled to make another construction flight to the International Space Station later this year if the rescue mission is unneeded.

    A potential lunar colony site has been mapped in 3-D using camera data that wasn’t meant for 3-D.  I think Mars exploration and colonies should come first, but recognize the long-term importance of the Moon as well.

    Gas shortages are occurring across the southern U.S. A couple of factors are causing this situation.  Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut down drilling and refining infrastructure as well as power delivery systems across the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana and Texas.  More disturbing is the following:

    In its most recent Weekly Oil Data Review, Barclays Capital pointed out that the U.S. gasoline inventory has reached its lowest level since August 1967, when demand was a little more than half its current level of 9.3 million barrels a day. At 178.7 million barrels, inventories are 21.6 million barrels below their five-year average.

    Replacing those inventories isn’t easy either.  “Once the refineries get back up and running, they’ll drain the already low crude oil inventories.”  Not discussed in the article is the impact of fuel corporations sitting on millions of acres of leased land without drilling.  Not discussed in the article is the impact of not building additional refining capacity in the last 30 years, making the drilling issue completely irrelevant.  It’s that lack of refining capacity (which are only operating at 67% of capacity right now) that has put a large region of the country in danger of running out of gasoline.  If that situation gets worse, food won’t be able to be supplied.  Then the anger over Bush’s Wall St. Bailout will seem minor in comparison.

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