Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Health Care Opponents Spend Millions To Get Republican Teabaggers In Office

Wow, President Obama’s strategy to pre-negotiate terms of the health care insurance reform giveaway sure seems like a good idea today, doesn’t it?

Opponents of the legislation, including independent groups, have spent $108 million since March to advertise against it.

Many of those ads are based on lies and nonsense, but there’s no law against that, is there?  What’s so important about March?  That’s when the bill was finally signed into law.  That advertising is helping lead the Republican Teabagger wave this election cycle.  So I have a question for the President and his pro-incrementalist allies: if these Republican Teabaggers control the House and shut down business in the Senate in 2011-2012, will you still argue that secret pre-negotiations and public giveaways to health care reform opponents were a good idea?


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Another Possible Reason For Enthusiasm Gap?

A lot has been made of the “enthusiasm gap” that might or might not exist between Republican Teabaggers eager to take our country back to the 1750’s and the Democrats who would prefer to keep moving forward into the 2000’s.  To some extent, I think the enthusiasm gap does exist.  I have provided brief examples in the past few weeks that could help in deciding whether the gap exists and whether it should exist.

Here is the latest:

Mortgage companies enrolled in the Obama administration’s signature foreclosure-prevention initiative may be receiving taxpayer funds despite not having a legal right to the home or to the mortgage, a top Treasury Department official revealed Wednesday.

But despite faulty or missing paperwork, the Obama administration allows mortgage companies to boot homeowners from the program, sticking the borrowers with massive bills that often leave them worse off.

Call me a wild-eyed liberal, but when a Democratic President who campaigned on fixing the economic disaster we were hurtling towards does more to help out those who set us on the course for disaster instead of the rest of us who, for the most part, were simply trying to lead our lives, well, I think you might be able to guess what the result is.  How enthusiastic should those homeowners be toward the President or his administration?  Obama has been riding the campaign trail for fellow Democrats pretty hard since Labor Day, telling crowds that his administration stopped the U.S. from going into another Great Depression; telling crowds that his administration fights for the little person; telling crowds that the bankers should be held accountable for their actions.

Stump speeches are all well and good, President Obama.  But when the banks who first offered loans to people who they didn’t check to ensure could afford them then bundled them up (without the requisite paperwork) and sold them to make a profit, then bought insurance policies on the loans, bundled those up and sold them to make more of a profit, then bet short on the packages because they knew they were worthless to make even more of a profit, then got taxpayer money to bail them out from the mess they created now get more taxpayer money to illegally kick people out of their homes, how much support can you really expect from those homeowners and taxpayers?

Especially when your administration hasn’t forced the banks to actually unravel those packages and see how worthless they really are?  Those bad mortgage default swaps should be fully accounted for on the banks’ ledgers.  Yet your administration has allowed the banks to play accounting games so the losses don’t show up.  Are we really to believe that the only entities who didn’t suffer as a result of the mortgage crisis were the banks?  They didn’t turn unprofitable in the past 3 years; they’ve continued to set record profits.  How glad are American voters supposed to be about that?  By the way, those bad packages will have to come due sometime.  And if your administration continues to kick that can down the road, like you have to so many other cans in the past two years, the result when they do come due will be many times more painful and devastating to the American economy than if they had been handled in the past 2 years.

But by all means, keep campaigning and telling Americans that everything will be alright with you and your buddies in charge.  You didn’t create this mess, but by not taking responsibility for it during your term (much like Afghanistan), the mess will become defined as yours in the annals of history.  Perhaps taking care of the multiple crises you face can take a higher priority in the next two years than you chasing down non-existent Republican Teabaggers who will compromise with you.  They’ve told you there will be absolutely no compromise.  Believe them at their word and start moving this country forward again, Mr. President.


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News Items That Have Caught My Eye

Companies are sitting on $1 Trillion in cash.  The economy could be doing quite a bit better; millions of Americans could be employed, all if companies would spend the cash they already have.  They don’t need more tax breaks or incentives.  They don’t need to keep outsourcing American jobs to overseas workers.  They need to participate in good faith.

The Western U.S. will go up in flames if global warming deniers keep having their way.  The median annual area burned by wildfires is projected to jump 300% to 600% over much of Colorado by mid-century.  Oh, and Aspen could feel like Amarillo does today in the same time period.  By all means, keep denying though!

Green buildings, on average, only cost 1-2% more than non-green buildings.  Most of the public believes the number is closer to 17%.

Oldie but important: from a New York Times editorial this summer -

Last summer, pilots working with the United States Forest Service and the Natural Resources Defense Council made low-level flights over 25 million acres of forest, trying to gauge how much damage has been done. The results, released this month, are devastating. Just over half the white bark pine forests are dead; one-fourth have medium to high mortality; few forests have escaped some damage.

Forests continue to die in the face of global warming.  The effects on ecosystems haven’t been devastating yet, but it’s only a matter of time.  Time is non-renewable resource those forest ecosystems don’t have.

As I’ve stated in many of this year’s State of the Poles posts, the Arctic has likely entered a new climatological regime.  Saying it ain’t so with religious zeal isn’t changing things.

“New calculations show that the amount of melting inland ice in Greenland is 25-50% higher in 2010 than normally, reports professional journal Ingeniøren (The Engineer).”

The denialists had great fun pointing out what they said were ethical shortcomings of scientists last year after one of them illegally hacked government email servers.  Isn’t it interesting that not a peep has been issues this year as a prominent global warming critic is being investigated for plagiarism and outright fabrication of data in his now infamous Wegman Report.  Honestly, this is pretty unsurprising.  People who spend most of their time criticizing others for various “shortcomings” quite often are shown to engage in the exact behavior they accuse others of.  Deniers don’t have science backing them up and we’re sure to find that few of them have ethics backing them up either.  Silence from the denialists on this serious breach of conduct is deafening.


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Space-Related News: Bigelow Aerospace & One-Way Mars Missions?

Six new countries have signed memoranda of understanding with Bigelow Aerospace.  Bigelow is one of the leading private contenders to get private space modules launched and used by humans.  They already have two test modules in Earth orbit and are working on a bigger version to be launched in the next couple of years.  NASA has a role in space, I think, but so do private entities.

Could plans for one-way Mars trips be the thing that finally spurs us to being human exploration and colonization of the planet?  That’s what Earth scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch and physicist Paul Davies argue in a new article in the Journal of Cosmology.  I think our species needs to colonize other bodies if we are to survive on galactic time-scales.  I’m unsure whether one-way trips are the way to kick that process off, but am open to the idea.


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Atlantic Tropical Weather 2010: 17th Storm Forms In Caribbean

Tropical Storm Richard has formed in the western Caribbean, between Honduras and Jamaica.  T.S. Richard is the 17th named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season.

Tropical Storm Richard is projected to strengthen to hurricane strength within the next 2 days.  As this happens, he is expected to move toward the west.  After Saturday, then-Hurricane Richard should curve toward the northwest.  He could possibly make landfall along the Yucatan Peninsula Sunday or Monday.  Three model solutions have this track.  Alternatively, he could make a turn more toward due north and pass between the Yucatan and Cuba on his way into the Gulf of Mexico.  Two other models have this solution.  As local ridges and troughs move and pass by, Richard could make his way across the entire Gulf of Mexico.  The potential for a U.S. mainland landfall sometime next week cannot at this time be ruled out.

As usual, intensity and track forecasts out past 3 days are notoriously error-prone.  A lot of things can happen in that time frame.  The best thing to do is be aware this storm has formed and keep an eye on his progress over the next handful of days.


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Health Insurance & Wall St Firms Part Of Koch-Sponsored June Get Together

That little get together was limited to 210 people.  The purpose was to plot how to put the White House back under their control after the 2012 election.

To all the folks who tried desperately to assure us that incrementalism would work the best for health insurance and Wall St legislation; that since they ran ads supporting tiny pieces of legislation, President Obama won a great battle, what do you have to say about this?  The folks invited from those industries weren’t there advocating for average Americans’ well being.  They weren’t trying to figure out how to deliver better health care to more people.  They weren’t trying to figure out how to limit the kinds of financial instruments they could package, sell, then bet short on.  They were there trying to figure out how to make more and more and more profit – enriching themselves and to hell with the rest of us.

Firms who want to limit “climate change alarmism” were also there.  Would the incrementalists like to refresh our memories regarding how well their grand strategy worked with respect to a climate and energy bill?  Oh yes, I forgot, we don’t even have one of those, and we’re not going to get one any year soon.  In the meantime, the Earth continues to warm, corals continue to be bleached, extreme weather events get more common.  Our species existence will be on the line within a matter of decades.  It won’t matter then what kind of health insurance plan people can buy or what the financial giants can and can’t do.

The other side is playing for keeps.  The sooner rank-and-file Democrats figure that out, the sooner we’ll see the action we so desperately need from them.


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State of the Poles – 10/4/10

The state of global polar sea ice at the beginning of October 2010 was once again very poor compared to climatological conditions (1979-2008). The Arctic ice extent was far, far below average for this time of year.  The Antarctic sea ice extent wass above average, but not nearly so much as was the case in the Arctic.  Unfortunately, global sea ice extent fell to ~17.5 million sq. km., something that has happened in only 2 previous Septembers: in 2007 and 2008.  The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are largely free of ice, allowing the Arctic Ocean to potentially be circumnavigated.

This post will mostly concentrate on the extremely poor conditions found in the Arctic this fall.  Antarctic conditions are not as extreme, largely and ironically thanks to the ozone hole over the continent which has kept stratospheric temperatures much cooler than they otherwise would be.  Eventually, our forcing leading to global warming will overwhelm the ozone hole cooling effect (and the ozone hole will gradually be “healed” anyway), which will cause long-term changes to Antarctica just like the Arctic.

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