Tuesday Reads: Climate Change Action and Impeachment Inquiry News

Good Morning!!

Action on Climate Change

Before I get started on the latest news, I want to share some information about a climate action that is taking place today in several U.S. cities, including Boston. My sister-in-law is a leader in her local chapter of Mothers Out Front, an organization that fights climate change. The group has been working to call attention to Blackrock, a huge asset management corporation whose CEO Larry Fink has tried to position himself as pro-environment, while leading the company that contributes more than any other to the problem of global warming.

My brother made this video to publicize today’s actions.

Some background:

The Guardian, May 21, 2019: World’s biggest investor accused of dragging feet on climate crisis.

[Blackrock CEO Larry] Fink, who was paid $24m (£18.8m) in 2018, began BlackRock as part of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity group, and spun it out in 1995. Since then, New York-based BlackRock has risen to become an investing behemoth, controlling $6.5tn in assets – a value more than twice the annual output of the UK economy.

That staggering size has placed BlackRock at the heart of the global fossil fuel industry: it is the largest investor in coal worldwide, according to InfluenceMap, an environmental campaign group, and has by far the highest density of coal holdings of the world’s 10 largest investors. BlackRock effectively owns 2.1bn tonnes of thermal coal reserves, based on the size of its stakes in major miners.

In August, two of the country’s fastest growing grassroots groups – Extinction Rebellion and Mothers Out Front – sent a bold message to BlackRock staff at their Boston office.

BlackRock is counted among the top three shareholders in every oil “supermajor” bar France’s Total, and is among the top 10 shareholders in seven of the 10 biggest coal producers, according to Guardian analysis of data from financial information firm S&P.

Yet Fink, 66, who moves in US Democrat political circles, argues it is not his company’s duty to fight the climate emergency. In the real version of his annual letter to shareholders, published in January, Fink said that his overriding duty is to make customers money.

“Our firm is built to protect and grow the value of our clients’ assets,” Fink wrote. “We often get approached by special interest groups who advocate for BlackRock to vote with them on a cause. In many cases, I or other senior managers might agree with that same cause – or we might strongly disagree – but our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter here. Our decisions are driven solely by our fiduciary duty to our clients.”

Also from The Guardian, September 17, 2019: Wall Street investment giants voting against key climate resolutions.

Some of Wall Street’s largest asset management companies are failing to live up to commitments to use their voting power to fight the climate crisis, according to a new report.

The report, published on Tuesday by the Washington DC-based Majority Action and the Climate Majority Project, claims that BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager with more than $6tn under management, and Vanguard, with assets of $5.2tn, have voted overwhelmingly against the key climate resolutions at energy companies, including a resolution at ExxonMobil’s annual shareholder meeting, and at Duke Energy.

Had BlackRock and Vanguard not torpedoed these investor efforts, at least 16 climate-critical shareholder resolutions at S&P 500 companies would have received majority support in 2019, representing a significant corporate shift on climate, the report claims….

“The climate crisis is well upon us, and leading investors are stepping up to press fossil-fuel-dependent companies to align their strategies to the goals of the Paris agreement but some of the largest US investment companies are severely lagging,” said Majority Action’s Eli Kasargod-Staub.

“Blackrock and Vanguard have been using their shareholder voting power to undermine, rather than support, investor action on climate, including opposing every one of the resolutions proposed by the $34tn Climate Action 100+ coalition, calling for significant board room reform in response to its failure to act on climate change,” Kasargod-Staub added.

Unfortunately, it’s raining in Boston today. I expect the mothers will still show up for the demonstration though. I’ll report back if I hear anything about how it went.

UPDATES from the Boston BlackRock protest

Impeachment Inquiry News

Today a White House insider who heard Trump’s call to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky will testify in the impeachment inquiry.

The New York Times: Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns.

A White House national security official who is a decorated Iraq war veteran plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he heard President Trump appeal to Ukraine’s president to investigate one of his leading political rivals, a request the aide considered so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, arriving Tuesday on Capitol Hill.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, twice registered internal objections about how Mr. Trump and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, out of what he called a “sense of duty,” he plans to tell the inquiry, according to a draft of his opening statement obtained by The New York Times.

He will be the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”


Lazy Caturday Reads: Heat Wave

Good Afternoon!!

Here in Boston, today could be the hottest day of the year so far and tomorrow will likely be about the same. We may hit 100 degrees and it will feel even hotter. The Boston Globe published some “heat hacks” to help people cool down. Here are a couple of examples:

If you’re tossing and turning in bed and having trouble falling asleep in the blistering heat,Consumer Reports offers this interesting trick: Put your sheets and pillowcases in a sealable plastic bag and stash them in the freezer so they’ll be nice and cold when you hit the hay….

New York State Office for the Aging suggests…“Fill three plastic soda bottles full of water, freeze them but in a manner to not damage them (liquid expands on freezing), then place them in a large bowl,” the agency’s website states. “Position a fan to blow on them.. … The water in the bottles can be refrozen and used repeatedly.” [….]

Seattle City Light suggests putting lotion and moisturizers in your fridge to cool down your skin.

I might try that last one. This reminds me of the scene in The Seven-Year Itch when Marilyn Monroe explains how she keeps her panties and potato chips in the fridge next to the champagne.

USA Today: Searing heat across nation, reaching 100 degrees in some spots, takes its toll on events and roads.

A relentless heat wave gripped the country from the central states to the East Coast Saturday, prompting cancellation of the New York City Triathlon and producing cracked and buckled roads in some Plains states. Some East Coast cities braced for temperatures in the triple digits.

As the stifling heat — expected to affect 200 million people — settled in for at least a fifth day, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisory from parts of the Texas Panhandle to the Ohio Valley, around the Great Lakes, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and in the Northeast.

An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater.

Daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 90s or higher plus high humidity will result in heat indices as high as 115 for some, forecasters said.

Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston were bracing for weekend temperatures in the triple digits. New York City and Baltimore were under a Code Red Extreme Heat Alert that is expected to continue through Sunday.

“It’s been since July of 2012 that Chicago and Philadelphia both hit 100 degrees, and Washington, D.C., hasn’t hit 100 since August of 2016,” says AccuWeather Meteorologist Danielle Knittle.

In addition, forecasters warned that overnight temperatures were not likely to fall far enough to bring relief, pariticularly in larger cities, like Chicago, St. Louis and New York City.

CBS News is posting live updates: Massive heat wave blamed for at least 6 deaths.

Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, the district’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said officials will be monitoring the dangerous temperatures from an operations center.

“This is going to be one of the most severe heat events that we’ve had in the last several years,” Rodriguez said.

While midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Chicago will be affected, the East Coast is expected to take the brunt of it. Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 90’s to the triple digits, with the heat index making it feel as hot as 100 to 115 degrees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned the heat can be a silent killer. Doctors are warning to watch out for signs of heat illness. Symptoms can include headache, muscle cramps, nausea. another sign is a lack of sweating.

Vox: The worst part of a heat wave is when it doesn’t cool off at night.

Extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the world. There are direct health effects like heat stroke, which occurs when body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to organ failure, and heat exhaustion.

But high temperatures can also worsen conditions like high blood pressure and can limit the effectiveness of certain medications. Heat can also exacerbate air pollution, which in turn can send people to the emergency room due to breathing problems….

While it may cool off after the sun sets during a heat wave, it may not cool off enough for people who have been exposed to high temperatures all day. That leads to a higher cumulative exposure to heat.

One study examining the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed upward of 70,000 people found that nighttime temperatures were a key indicator of the health risk from high temperatures. There’s also research that shows high nighttime temperatures disrupt sleep. Without relief from the heat, the stresses on the body mount.

Over the weekend, forecasters expect evening temperatures will stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat index remaining above 90 degrees, in some areas along the East Coast. That will make it hard for some to cool off. Health officials advise staying hydrated, wearing light clothing, and avoiding the outdoors.

It’s worse if you live in a city.

Part of the reason temperatures stay high after sunset in many parts of the country is because of the urban heat island effect. Dense cities with their concrete, steel, glass, and asphalt soak up more heat than their rural surroundings, causing temperatures to rise further than they would have otherwise during the day. In the evening, those artificial surfaces continue to dissipate their accumulated heat, keeping denizens from keeping cool.

Our efforts to keep cool can also paradoxically make cities heat up. Air conditioners venting hot air outside can contribute to urban warming, and if the electricity that powers them comes from fossil fuels, they can increase the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that “July 2019 is likely to be the hottest month ever measured.”

For the next several days, a vast blanket of oppressive heat will smother the eastern two-thirds of the United States, subjecting tens of millions of people to searingly hot days and forbidding, unrelenting nights. From the southern Plains to New England, inescapable humidity will meet broiling air to produce heat indexes in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

We are not simply talking about a series of sweltering afternoons. Even hours after the sun sets, air temperatures could hang well above 90, dipping below the 80-degree mark only in the moments before dawn. The heat index in some big cities—including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—may sit above the mid-80s for 72 hours straight.

“July is shaping up to be the warmest July on record—and probably the warmest month ever measured, since July is the hottest month of the year,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, told me. “Obviously, we still have half the month to go. But so far, it’s on track.” (Since most of the planet’s land surface is north of the equator, and since land heats up faster than the ocean, the Northern Hemisphere’s summers are the hottest months of the year for the whole planet.)

If that mark is realized, then two months in a row will be the hottest of their type ever measured, since last month was the hottest June ever recorded. And the odds are good that 2019 will be the second-warmest year on record, Hausfather told me. Either way, it’s a near-certainty that the past six years, including this one, will be the hottest six years ever measured.

And yet the Republican Party refuses to acknowledge the causes and effects of climate change.

Today might be a good time to refer back to David Wallace Wells’ 2017 article at New York Magazine. The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built….

But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

Wells has expanded this article into a book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. You might also want to check out his article archive at New York Magazine.

So I wrote a whole post without talking about the monster in the White House. If you really want to read some politics stories, check these out:

Alex Shepard at The New Republic: It’s Not Strategy, It’s Racism.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The Joy of Hatred. Trump and “his people” reach deep into the violent history of public spectacle in America.

CNN: Judge halts Democrats’ subpoenas of Trump Org docs in emoluments case.

The New York Times: Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats.

NBC News: Mueller hearings to highlight ‘shocking evidence of criminal misconduct’ by Trump, Democrats say.

NBC News: U.S. spy chief creates a new head of election security for intelligence agencies.

HuffPost: Trump Puts More GOP Money In His Own Pocket During Another Million-Dollar Golf Trip.

The Washington Post: Trump tells aides to look for big spending cuts in second term, sowing confusion about budget priorities.

The Washington Post: Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz; denies Trump’s claim that drone was brought down.

The New York Times: U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker.

What stories are you following today?


Flooded Friday Reads

The Baton Rouge Police Department shared photos Thursday, May 30, 2019, taken during levee patrols as the swollen Mississippi River continues to rise. (Courtesy of BPRD, Facebook)

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The historical floods of 1927 were so awesomely deadly and damaging that the Federal Government decided to try to tame the mighty Mississippi and all the tributaries that empty into the great river.  It’s still called the “Great Flood” but this year might be the year it goes to second place.  As is the case with most disasters, it struck the poorest and most disenfranchised the worst.  I’m seeing that we shall continue taking it out on the poorest of us as is our National Heritage since three Republicans refuse to release Disaster Aid.

Mississippi River flood of 1927, also called Great Flood of 1927flooding of the lower Mississippi River valley in April 1927, one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States. More than 23,000 square miles (60,000 square km) of land was submerged, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, and around 250 people died.

After several months of heavy rain caused the Mississippi River to swell to unprecedented levels, the first levee broke on April 16, along the Illinois shore. Then, on April 21, the levee at Mounds Landing in Mississippi gave way. Over the next few weeks essentially the entire levee system along the river collapsed. In some places, residential areas were submerged in 30 feet (9 metres) of water. At least two months passed before the floodwater completely subsided.

In the aftermath, authorities were severely criticized for favouring the white population during rescue and relief operations. Thousands of plantation workers, most of them African Americans, had been forced to work, in deplorable conditions, shoring up the levees near Greenville, Miss. Then, as the waters rose, they were left stranded for days without food or drinking water, while white women and children were hauled to safety. African Americans gathered in relief camps also were forced to participate in relief efforts, while receiving inferior provisions for themselves, and to clean up flooded areas. At least one black man was shot, reportedly for refusing to work.

The flood brought about long-term social and political changes in the country. Over time, African Americans largely switched their loyalty from the historically antislavery Republican Party (the party of Pres. Calvin Coolidge, in office during the disaster) to the Democratic Party. In addition, the disaster contributed to the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to cities in the North. The flood also found its place in folklore, music, literature, and films. Popular songs about the event include Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks” (1929), reworked in 1971 by the English rock group Led Zeppelin, and Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” (1974).

None of this is usual.  This is the third time in history the Morganza spillway will be opened but the second time this decade. At this writing, it will be opened on June 6th.  It will join the second in one year historical opening of the Bonnet Carre spilway.  Both of these are designed to take the pressure off of the levees up and down the Missippi but are quite damaging in their own way.

The Corps plans to open the Morganza Spillway, located west of Baton Rouge in Point Coupee Parish, on June 6, the agency said Thursday (May 30). It would be only the third time the structure west of Baton Rouge has ever been opened. The opening had been planned for Sunday, but was postponed because the river is rising more slowly than expected.

The delay will avoid putting additional water into the Atchafalaya Basin. In a May 27 statement, the Corps’ New Orleans District Commander Michael Clancy said opening the spillway would prevent the structure from overtopping and minimize stress on levees.

The White House on Thursday announced assistance will be available to those impacted in the following parishes: Assumption, Catahoula, Concordia, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Landry, St. Martin, Terrebonne and West Feliciana.

In this Friday, May 3, 2019, aerial file photo, flood waters from the Mississippi River surround Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa. Officials in Davenport say the city’s public works department has spent over $1 million on flood-fighting efforts and that figure will surely rise as more costs are added in preparation for the potential of future flooding. (Photo: Kevin E. Schmidt, AP)

Again, the Mississippi River Flooding is the  “longest-lasting in over 90 years, since ‘Great Flood’ of 1927.”  I never enjoy being at the center of this kind of record breaking or history making event.

Flooding in at least 8 states along portions of the Mississippi River – due to relentless, record-breaking spring rainfall – is the longest-lasting since the “Great Flood” of 1927, the National Weather Service said.

The 1927 flood, which Weatherwise magazine called “perhaps the most underrated weather disaster of the century,” remains the benchmark flood event for the nation’s biggest river.

Anytime a modern flood can be mentioned in the same breath as the Great Flood is newsworthy: During that historic flood, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes as millions of acres of land and towns went underwater.

At one point in 1927, along the Tennessee border, the Mississippi rose an astonishing 56.5 feet above flood stage, and in Arkansas, the river ballooned to 80 miles wide, according to the book Extreme Weather by Christopher Burt.

Hundreds of people died in the flooding.

That flood “was the seminal event that led to the federal flood-control program and gave the Army Corps of Engineers the job of controlling the nation’s rivers via the erection of dams, dikes and other measures of flood abatement,” Burt wrote.

At the height of the disaster, some 750,000 refugees were under the care of the Red Cross.

While the scale of this year’s flood may not match the 1927 catastrophe, in terms of longevity, this year’s flood rivals that one: For example, In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the river went above flood stage on Feb. 17, and has remained in flood ever since. The weather service said this is the longest continuous stretch above flood stage since 1927.

This event, however, is not the only unusual set of Weather Events impacting our country.  Vox explores this record breaker  in “More than 200 tornadoes devastated the Midwest over 13 days. Why?’

Tornadoes have been tearing up huge swaths of the United States this week, leaving death and devastation in their wake. On Monday alone, about 55 tornadoes touched down, and at least 27 tornadoes were reported Tuesday. That made Tuesday the 12th consecutive day with at least eight reported tornadoes, beating the record set in 1980. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that 225 tornadoes have been confirmed since May 17.

IdahoColorado, Texas, OklahomaKansasMissouriOhio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and other states all saw massive twisters touch down over the past several days. Several people were killed, dozens injured, and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Walls of some buildings were ripped off, making them look like dollhouses.

Some of the most severe damage was reported near Dayton, Ohio on Monday, where repair crews had to use snowplows to clear debris. Tuesday evening, a mile-wide tornado landed near Lawrence, Kansas, about 40 miles west of Kansas City. It injured at least 12 people and damaged around 30 houses. In Kentucky, one person was killed Wednesday after a roof blew off.

While it’s not unusual to have tornadoes several days in a row during tornado season in late spring and early summer, the sheer number this spring stands out.

“We haven’t seen a pattern this productive and that remained so productive for many, many years,” said Anton Seimon, a research assistant professor at Appalachian State University who studies thunderstorms and tornadoes.

comparison-alaska-warming-1200x675

In March 2019, the Bering Sea had much less ice than usual. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Today, I read this in the Smithsonian Magazine: Record-Breaking Heat in Alaska Wreaks Havoc on Communities and Ecosystems. Abnormally high temperatures have led to unsafe travel conditions, uncertain ecological futures and even multiple deaths.” 

I know that not every one finds weather to be as exciting as me.  Shortly after I was born in a Tornado Alley Town in Oklahoma my family was hiding out in a shelter from a big one.  I’ve been in a lot of big ones and they’re hair-raising and destructive.  I’ve had friends homes flooded out and blown to pieces by acts of nature.  I’ve seen garage doors fly over my house from the safety of a basement. I saw the feeder bands of Hurricane Katrina take aim at my city and home. This frequency, however, is astounding and it makes me seriously wonder why some people can’t see all this as an incredibly menacing pattern that says things are changing rapidly.  It appears to be in my DNA as the progeny of Kansas and Oklahoma farmers.

Alaska in March is supposed to be cold. Along the north and west coasts, the ocean should be frozen farther than the eye can see. In the state’s interior, rivers should be locked in ice so thick that they double as roads for snowmobiles and trucks. And where I live, near Anchorage in south-central Alaska, the snowpack should be deep enough to support skiing for weeks to come. But this year, a record-breaking heatwave upended norms and had us basking in comfortable—but often unsettling—warmth.

Across Alaska, March temperatures averaged 11 degrees Celsius above normal. The deviation was most extreme in the Arctic where, on March 30, thermometers rose almost 22 degrees Celsius above normal—to 3 degrees. That still sounds cold, but it was comparatively hot.

“It’s hard to characterize that anomaly, it’s just pretty darn remarkable for that part of the world,” says Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy in Fairbanks. The state’s wave of warmth was part of a weeks-long weather pattern that shattered temperature records across our immense state, contributing to losses of both property and life. “When you have a slow grind of warming like that, lasting weeks or months, it affects people’s lives,” Thoman says.

On April 15, three people, including an 11-year-old girl, died after their snowmobiles plunged through thin ice on the Noatak River in far northwestern Alaska. Earlier in the winter, 700 kilometers south, on the lower Kuskokwim River, at least five people perished in separate incidents when their snowmobiles or four-wheelers broke through thin ice. There were close calls too, including the rescue of three miners who spent hours hopping between disintegrating ice floes in the Bering Sea near Nome. Farther south, people skating on the popular Portage Lake near Anchorage also fell through thin ice. Varying factors contributed to these and other mishaps, but abnormally thin ice was a common denominator

Delores Griffin fishes in a flooded Ohio River at Fort Defiance State Park in Cairo earlier this month.

On May 13, Bill Nye the Science Guy gave a speech on HBO’s Last Week with John Oliver.  “‘You idiots’: Bill Nye’s fiery message to leaders stalling on climate change (via WAPO).

Bill Nye frolicked in a ball pit to explain how the planet’s populations compete for resources. He took a chain saw to a loaf of bread, comparing it to Earth’s crust, and he was nearly blown away in a wind tunnel while shouting “science!”

But he’s talking about global warming now — and he’s in no mood to mess around.

“By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees,” Nye said, appearing on a segment of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Sunday.

The famously zany scientist and host of the PBS series “Bill Nye the Science Guy” then aimed a blowtorch at a globe to illustrate his argument: “What I’m saying is: The planet’s on fire,” Nye said, punctuating his point with some R-rated profanity.

As I look down the streets to huge gigantic Oil Tankers moving down the river way above the roof of my home I’d like to add that it’s also flooding.  It’s a story of Fire and Water.

And this is the leadership show by Russian Potted Plant occupying the White House (via Wired).  “TRUMP’S LATEST ATTACK ON FEDERAL CLIMATE SCIENCE MAY BACKFIRE.”  May I suggest we cannot wait for this.

It’s “particularly ironic” that the Trump administration suggests that “worst-case scenario” forecasts, in which emissions continue increasing relatively unabated, are unrealistic, said Susan Joy Hassol, the former senior science writer on the National Climate Assessments that came out in 2000, 2009 and 2014.

“The people doing everything they can to keep us in a high-emissions scenario don’t want us to analyze the ramifications of being in a high-emissions scenario,” said Hassol, now the director of the North Carolina-based nonprofit Climate Communication.

Politicizing the report isn’t a new tactic. In 2000, the incoming George W. Bush administration tried to bury the first National Climate Assessment after scientists had already completed the report. The administration then delayed the second National Climate Assessment and tried to censor entire sections. The ensuing legal battle ended up delaying the release of the report until 2009.

“There was interference, but nobody ever said, ‘You can’t use a high-emissions scenario,’ ‘You can’t use a business-as-usual scenario’ or ‘You can’t look out a century,’” she said. “That’s just not the way science is done. It’s crazy.”

Climate policy was an abstract concept largely limited to the federal sphere 15 years ago, but today, state and local officials are scrambling to enact regulations and laws to adapt to a hotter world and reduce emissions. If the National Climate Assessment, which includes detailed regional projections, becomes less credible, that would be a loss for those policymakers, said Bob Kopp, a climate scientist and policy scholar at Rutgers University.

“It’s valuable at a state and local level, areas that don’t have the resources to do that sort of work on their own,” Kopp said. “California has a pretty intensive climate assessment, but not every state does.”

So, my hair is pretty much on fire about this and a lot of things these days.  We have attacks on voter rights, women’s rights, the rights of the GBLT community, the rights of asylum seekers, and all kinds of things.  My idiot Governor just signed on to one of those heart beat laws which again, denies science.  Six week old fetuses do not have hearts per se so they cannot have heart beats, but hell, if it serves the White Nationalist Christianist Agenda and their funders by all means, kills us all.

Right now, I’m hoping that the wildlife can get out of the way of the opening of the Morganza and that we can minimize the damage it will cause.  We joke that Trump creates infrastructure week on a regular basis and then toddles off for some other spotlight but the entire situation along the Mississipi and its tributaries shows us the eminent danger in letting our infrastructure fail. 

This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty-five years, done what many thought impossible—impose man’s will on the Mississippi River. Mark Twain, who captained a Mississippi river boat for many years, wrote in his book Life on the Mississippi, “ten thousand river commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or define it, cannot say to it ‘Go here,’ or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.” The great river wants to carve a new path to the Gulf of Mexico; only the Old River Control Structure keeps it at bay.

Failure of the Old River Control Structure and the resulting jump of the Mississippi to a new path to the Gulf would be a severe blow to America’s economy, robbing New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the critical industrial corridor between them of the fresh water needed to live and do business. Since a huge portion of our imports and exports ship along the Mississippi River, a closure would cost $295 million per day, said Gary LaGrange, executive director of the Port of New Orleans, during the great flood of 2011. An extended closure of the Lower Mississippi to shipping might cost tens of billions. Since barges on the Mississippi carry 60% of U.S. grain to market, a long closure of the river to barge traffic could cause a significant spike in global food prices, potentially resulting in political upheaval like the “Arab Spring” unrest in 2011, and the specter of famine in vulnerable food-insecure nations of the Third World.

The rising Mississippi River has prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt replacement of a 500-foot-long flood wall at the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Meanwhile, three Republicans do not want to come to the aid of fellow Americans in the path of destruction.

Another House Republican on Tuesday thwarted attempts to pass a bipartisan disaster aid package, further delaying $19 billion in emergency relief and frustrating lawmakers whose states were hit by devastating hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who objected to the bill’s passage during a voice vote, demanded that the vote be held after the House returns from recess next week — making it all but impossible that President Donald Trump can sign the package before early June

Another House Republican on Tuesday thwarted attempts to pass a bipartisan disaster aid package, further delaying $19 billion in emergency relief and frustrating lawmakers whose states were hit by devastating hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who objected to the bill’s passage during a voice vote, demanded that the vote be held after the House returns from recess next week — making it all but impossible that President Donald Trump can sign the package before early June

I guess the lives of protohumans are still more important than living, breathing human beings in the eyes of these monsters.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Losing Ground but Finding Strength

Coyote Buttes South. Photo: John Fowler

I keep fighting back the urge to sing “It’s the end of the world as we know it” even though it seems like that way on so many fronts. The most dreadful of all gaslighting tricks fills the airwaves.  Brett Kavanaugh and his republican enablers are pretending that they are the victims of women’s hysteria while Dr. Ford can’t return to her home because of actual threats. Then, there are the rest of us. The people that aren’t white males or white male enablers.  How many more rights can they strip?

We’re looking to a future of having our voting rights stripped, our right to self determine our access to health care removed, and the enabling of police to shoot unarmed black men while white men complain they can’t watch their football without seeing folks bending a knee to remind them of the injustice. We’re looking to a future of likely seeing a President put above the law even though his obstruction of justice, theft of public property, and cooperation with Russian agents is there for nearly all to see. We’re going to continue to watch children and babies thrown into tents in the middle of deserts and jail cells after being ripped away from their parents.  We’re going to see the folks that need protection from our bad foreign policy flee to our borders only to be incarcerated for asking for refuge. We’re looking to losing spouses, jobs, and rights because of who we love and wish to marry.  In each of us, there is all of us.

We have to take one of the Houses of Congress away from the Republicans to turn this around.

There are other things we have to turn around too and I fully admit that I’ve thrown myself at the wall a few too many times to rise again. And yet, like every one else, I must.  We must.

Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

From WAPO: The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say. “There is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the body found.”

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.

With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.

Gros Morne National Park

NYT: Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040″

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.

The new report, however, shows that many of those effects will come much sooner, at the 2.7-degree mark.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

The Guardian: “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN”

At 2C extremely hot days, such as those experienced in the northern hemisphere this summer, would become more severe and common, increasing heat-related deaths and causing more forest fires.

But the greatest difference would be to nature. Insects, which are vital for pollination of crops, and plants are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitat at 2C compared with 1.5C. Corals would be 99% lost at the higher of the two temperatures, but more than 10% have a chance of surviving if the lower target is reached.

Sea-level rise would affect 10 million more people by 2100 if the half-degree extra warming brought a forecast 10cm additional pressure on coastlines. The number affected would increase substantially in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt.

Oceans are already suffering from elevated acidity and lower levels of oxygen as a result of climate change. One model shows marine fisheries would lose 3m tonnes at 2C, twice the decline at 1.5C.

Sea ice-free summers in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times fast than the world average, would come once every 100 years at 1.5C, but every 10 years with half a degree more of global warming.

l Capitan looms over the Merced River in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Back to Judge Bad News and Worse Temperament … Sarah Kendzior writes this for Canada’s Globe and Mail: “Kavanaugh’s appointment isn’t a step backward. It’s a head-first plunge into an ugly past”.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh was, at heart, a referendum on the integrity of U.S. institutions and of the impunity of elites – and the U.S. failed. Senators who purport to believe in rule of law vouched for a judge who sees himself as above it. Senators who purport to believe in democracy honoured a man who degrades it, and did so in deference to a man seemingly attempting to destroy it – President Trump.

Checks and balances are nearly gone. The executive branch was long ago corrupted; the independent legislature neutered by a GOP majority nakedly seeking one-party rule. Until now, the judiciary had been the strongest bulwark against autocracy, having struck down many of Mr. Trump’s unconstitutional executive orders during his first year. The Trump administration responded by packing the courts, appointing right-wing judgesto lifetime appointments and purging attorneys they view as opponents. Justice Kavanaugh is the final nail in that coffin.

This is now Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court of the United States, run on white male entitlement and alternative facts. Justice Kavanaugh is expected to act as Mr. Trump’s legal lackey, exonerating him regardless of the charge or the evidence. His appointment may not only end the efficacy of the Robert Mueller probe, but curtail other attempts to prosecute Mr. Trump or his aides on state charges, due to a case, Gamble v. The United States, that the Supreme Court is set to hear this term.

Autocrats rewrite the law so they are no longer breaking it, and they hire and fire accordingly. This is why I have been warning for years that Donald Trump, whose seemingly autocratic consolidation grows stronger every day, was akin to a criminal able to someday select his own judge or delay his own trial – and now he has. This is why a purge of the FBI was followed by a sham FBI investigation into Justice Kavanaugh, reminiscent of those of authoritarian states, with key witnesses and evidence ignored.

For the President, the confirmation of this judge is a hand-picked gift, but for ordinary Americans, he marks the end of truths we deemed self-evident. Justice Kavanaugh marks the imposition of a corrosive new reality. The Supreme Court is likely to roll back decades of hard-earned rights, particularly voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights.

Also, a lot of Trump’s thug buddies in thuggish countries are disappearing journalists and others.

 

 

 

The silence is showing exactly what kind of country we’ve become.  We’re just another one of those ugly countries where the ruling class can’t possibly be bothered with human rights and hates the idea of a free press.

That’s all I can stomach today.

I’m trying to stay focused on the city around me because it’s kinda where I am right now and it appears the housing market has shifted against me in the last six months.  It’s one of those signs that tells me that the economy is likely to get pretty ugly pretty fast.   So, hug the ones around you, be thankful for what you have, and drag at least 10 people with you to the voting both in November.

It’s a matter of life and death for all of us.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads

Great white shark swims beneath paddleboarding man on Cape Cod last week.

Good Morning!!

We’re having an incredible heat wave in Boston, and I know we’re not alone. It’s hot just about everywhere. Today it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees here. Anyone who believes the climate isn’t changing is delusional.

Maybe the sharks are affected too, because we’ve had some Great White close encounters here in Massachusetts lately. The Boston Globe: Shark sightings force swimmers out of the water in Plymouth, Cape Cod.

Swimmers at Plymouth and Wellfleet beaches looking to catch a break from the oppressive heat were forced out of the water Monday afternoon after sharks were spotted lurking nearby.

Plymouth beaches were closed after a great white shark was seen off Manomet Point. Red flags were flying at the beaches as crews investigated, the Plymouth harbormaster tweeted shortly after 2:30 p.m.

Researchers with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy were about a quarter-mile from Marconi Beach in Wellfleet when they saw a great white shark at around 1:45 p.m. They reported it to beach officials, and lifeguards promptly pulled everyone out of the water, Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore, said. The beach was closed for an hour as a standard precautionary measure.

Also from the Globe: ‘It came right up, and opened its mouth’: Great white shark breaches water below boat.

State biologist Greg Skomal got an up-close look at a great white shark during a recent excursion off Cape Cod when one of the apex predators that researchers had been observing breached the water right beneath him, exposing its large teeth.

“Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” Skomal can be heard saying in a video posted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Monday morning. “It came right up, and opened its mouth right at my feet!”

In the video, Skomal can be seen standing on the research boat’s pulpit, as the captain closes in on a shark. Skomal was using a long pole with a GoPro camera attached at the end so he could dip it into the water and capture footage of the shark. That’s when it suddenly breached the ocean’s surface.

“Oh!,” the boat’s captain, John J. King II, can be heard saying. “Holy crap! It dove right out of the water.”

Here’s the video. Be sure to put it on full screen and wait for the close-up.

Holy crap!

Seriously though, have we already lost the fight to reverse climate change? That’s the argument put forth by Nathaniel Rich in last week’s New York Times Magazine: Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.

The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?

Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.

Check out the full story at the NYT.

Today there are some interesting primary elections and one special election to watch. Will we see portents of a blue wave in November?

Vox: Every August 7 primary election you should know about, briefly explained.

Voters head to the polls in five states Tuesday to test whether Democrats will get their “blue wave” on Election Day this fall.

Danny O’Connor

The most heated race to watch is a special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where a Democrat hasn’t won since the 1980s. Despite big spending by Republicans, a huge ground push, and even campaign appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, polls show the Democrat, Danny O’Connor, might actually beat Republican Troy Balderson.

Washington state’s top-two primary will be a similar test of how Democrats might perform in historically conservative districts.

In a governor’s race in Michigan and a House race in Kansas, meanwhile, Democrats will test whether the future of the party is rooted in its progressive wing.

To win back a House majority in November, Democrats will have to triumph in historically red districts, as they did in Pennsylvania earlier this year when Conor Lamb pulled off a surprise victory. Some big wins on Tuesday night could be another sign that a wave year is possible.

Read the details at Vox.

On Sunday, we watched Trump incriminate himself and throw his own son under the bus on Twitter. Will Don Jr. be indicted? Charles Savage at The New York Times: Donald Trump Jr.’s Potential Legal Troubles, Explained.

“I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did,” Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. But his participation in the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, as well as another meeting, has put that claim under scrutiny.

Ahead of the meeting with Russians, an intermediary promised Donald Trump Jr. that a “Russian government attorney” would provide “very high level” dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” He wrote back, “If it’s what you say I love it.”

In a meeting three months before the election, Donald Trump Jr. met with another small group offering to help his father win the election. It included an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes who run Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. The younger Mr. Trump responded approvingly, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The New York Times.

Of course we all know by now that “collusion” is just another word for “conspiracy,” which can be a crime.

….lawyers instead talk about conspiracy: an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime — whether or not they end up doing so. A powerful tool for prosecutors, conspiracy charges allow them to hold each conspirator responsible for illegal acts committed by others in the circle as part of the arrangement. To convict someone of such a conspiracy, prosecutors would need to obtain evidence of an agreement to commit a specific crime….

A provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act, Section 30121 of Title 52, broadly outlaws donations or other contributions of a “thing of value” by any foreigner in connection with an American election — or even an express or implied promise to take such action, directly or indirectly.

Depending on how a grand jury interprets the facts the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has gathered about the two Trump Tower meetings, it could find that the foreigners violated that law — and that Donald Trump Jr. conspired in that offense.

Another provision of the same statute makes it illegal for an American to solicit a foreigner for such illicit campaign help — again, even indirectly. If a grand jury were to interpret the evidence about Donald Trump Jr.’s words and actions as a solicitation, he could also be vulnerable to direct charges under that law, experts said.

Notably, the statute can be violated even if the promised or requested help is never provided.

Read the rest at the NYT.

At The Washington Post, William Ruckleshaus, who served as deputy attorney general under Nixon writes about Trump’s behavior: Only one other president has ever acted this desperate.

President Trump is acting with a desperation I’ve seen only once before in Washington: 45 years ago when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Nixon was fixated on ending the Watergate investigation, just as Trump wants to shut down the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

A lesson for the president from history: It turned out badly for Nixon. Not only could he not derail the investigation, but also, 10 months later, he was forced to resign the presidency.

In fact, in some ways, Trump is conducting himself more frantically than Nixon, all the while protesting his innocence. Nixon fought to the end because he knew that what was on the tape recordings that the prosecutor wanted would incriminate him. We don’t know what Trump is hiding, if anything. But if he is innocent of any wrongdoing, why not let Robert S. Mueller III do his job and prove it?

On the way Trump and his minions are attacking the investigation:

…the cynical conduct of this president, his lawyers and a handful of congressional Republicans is frightening to me and should be to every citizen of this country. We are not playing just another Washington political game; there is much more at stake.

The vehemence and irresponsibility of the rhetoric attacking the Mueller investigation tear at the very structure of our governance. Men who have sworn to use and protect our institutions of justice are steadily weakening them. Should the president finally decide to fire Mueller and put in place someone who will do his bidding, the country could be thrown into a political crisis that would scar our democracy and further erode the trust of our people in our governmental institutions.

We need leaders who tell the truth. This is not now happening. Mueller is living up to his superior reputation as a model public servant. His is a search for the truth; we should not complicate his job. Support him, and when he has finished his work, listen to what he has found.

Read the whole thing at the WaPo.

There are a lot more interesting reads out there today. Some to check out:

Forbes: New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting.

Rolling Stone: Rick Wilson: Trump’s Tweets May Actually Be His Undoing.

NBC News: Now the Trump administration wants to limit citizenship for legal immigrants.

Politico: Manafort prosecution’s frustration with judge leads to fiery clashes.

The Washington Post: Trump’s political base is weaker than it seems, our new study finds.

Think Progress: Here’s what a new trove of Russian Twitter accounts tell us about Moscow’s support for Jill Stein.

Buzzfeed News: Accused Russian Agent’s Journey To Washington Began In South Dakota.

Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: How Trump Radicalized ICE.

What stories are you following today?