Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!

The unfolding drama of the flooding of Houston and surrounding areas takes me back 12 years ago to Katrina when my community was surrounded by a similar hell realm full of water, the stench of death, and mass destruction.  Right now, Houston is relying on skilled first responders, its local government, and neighbors. Soon, it will be a test of our country’s ability to help our own as well as the test of the charity of nations around the world.

What is it going to take for Republican decision makers to understand that some things are too big and too important to be left to the for-profit-motivated private sector of carpet baggers?  When will they realize their constant denial of science and sycophantic support of the fossil fuel industry is driving us to epic catastrophe? 

Twelve years ago I was hunkered down on a pink futon with my two yellow labs–Karma and Honey–and Miles in between the beds of a grad student from Macau and one from Japan. My cell phone could receive but not make calls.  We were watching TV with the families of two other grad students that I had earlier told to get the hell out of dodge while they could still get a hotel room.  One family from Turkey.  The other from Jordan. I know what it’s like to be homeless, scared, broke,  and confused.  A day later, I discovered I had to go some place and that my university had failed to pay me.  I was totally reliant on the goodness of others and much of that goodness came from the people of Texas and Nebraska and the American Tax Payer. There were a few local businesses that helped but the majority of help came from people and the Federal Government.

This is the kind of event that tests our character as a country and we have a soulless narcissist at its helm.  I laugh at the ChristoFascist preachers who blame liberal political views for Gawd’s wrath as seen in these natural disasters.  It seems more likely that their Gawd keeps testing Republican Presidents and finds their governing ways come short of dealing with hell and high water.  The Republican Bushs and now a Trump have faced historic hurricanes. While the Clinton and Obama administrations have tried to rebuild our ability to respond through FEMA and other agencies, it took no time for this latest Republican disaster to seek to gut our ability to help our neighbors in need. It always amazes me that tax cuts for the wealthy come before helping our neighbors in harm’s way.

This destruction is a window into the future of climate change. This is what happens when humanity fails to either meaningfully restrict greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the damage that is certainly coming.

Now, before the inevitable pedant brigade pounces in, that doesn’t mean Harvey was definitely caused by climate change. Global temperatures have only markedly increased for a few decades, and extreme weather events are rare and random by definition. It will take many more years for enough data to be collected to be able to establish causality.

But what we can say is that climate science predicts with high confidence that increased temperatures will increase the likelihood of extreme weather.

It will make hurricanes that do form stronger. It may also increase the number of hurricanes, though that’s harder to predict with certainty. It’s also besides the point. A storm doesn’t need to qualify as a hurricane to pose many of the same dangers. Simple big storms can still have high winds, tornadoes, and especially flooding, which is the major danger along the Gulf Coast.

I’m calling real estate agents and getting out of here.  I am too old to exist in red state beholden to oil and gas industries where people refuse to see that science is right.   I’m too tired to live in areas where suburban sprawl and concrete provides run off for massive rain creating risks that all too often fall on the heads and homes of people like me. Climate change is likely responsible for the kinds of stalled, training storms like Harvey.  Human destruction of nature’s ways of dealing with water exacerbates it.

Persistent episodes of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere summer have been shown to be associated with the presence of high-amplitude quasi-stationary atmospheric Rossby waves within a particular wavelength range (zonal wavenumber 6–8). The underlying mechanistic relationship involves the phenomenon of quasi-resonant amplification (QRA) of synoptic-scale waves with that wavenumber range becoming trapped within an effective mid-latitude atmospheric waveguide. Recent work suggests an increase in recent decades in the occurrence of QRA-favorable conditions and associated extreme weather, possibly linked to amplified Arctic warming and thus a climate change influence. Here, we isolate a specific fingerprint in the zonal mean surface temperature profile that is associated with QRA-favorable conditions. State-of-the-art (“CMIP5”) historical climate model simulations subject to anthropogenic forcing display an increase in the projection of this fingerprint that is mirrored in multiple observational surface temperature datasets. Both the models and observations suggest this signal has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability.

The increase in the occurrences of 100, 300 and 500 year events in my backyard is statistically significant.  It also is positively correlated to Climate Change. That’s the science.  Sea level rises have a lot to do with the destruction of the natural barriers to storm surge that are particularly a side product of things that the oil and gas industry do. This is the risk of that business forced onto humanity, nature, and the tax payer.

But Ojeda is watching the Atlantic hurricane season that begins on June 1 with more concern than usual. The retired Coast Guard employee worries that rising sea levels could make the next hurricane more destructive than those he’s lived through.

“That’s really scary to me,” the 70-year-old said.

A study released in May shows that rising sea levels threaten to make storm surges more dangerous, seemingly reinforcing Texas officials’ push for federal funding for a storm-surge barrier, or Ike Dike, to protect Galveston.

“Every storm surge today reaches higher because it starts from a higher level, because sea level is higher,” said study co-author Ben Strauss, a scientist who is vice president for sea level and climate impacts for Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists dedicated to climate change awareness. “A small amount of sea-level rise can lead to an unexpectedly large increase in damages to most kinds of structures.”

Brian Streck, 62, a retired Galveston firefighter, has watched high tides creep into the streets around the house at the edge of West Galveston Bay, where he has lived for 37 years.

He has no patience for climate-change deniers who doubt seas are rising.

“I’ve witnessed it,” Streck said.

High tides once flooded the streets around his home about twice a year; the flooding in the last decade has increased to a dozen times a year.

“I’ve considered selling this place because eventually I’m going to have a lake house,” he said.

Scientific studies have established an acceleration in sea-level rise because of a warming atmosphere. Coal and oil burning and the destruction of tropical forests have increased heat-trapping gases that have warmed the planet by 1.8 degrees since 1880. Earth has been losing 13,500 square miles of ice annually since 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sea levels are generally rising faster along the Texas Gulf Coast and the western Gulf than the average globally, according to a January study by NOAA.

“The western Gulf is experiencing some of the highest rates of relative levels of sea-level rise in the country,” said NOAA oceanographer William Sweet, lead author of the study. “The ocean is not rising like water would in a bathtub.”

Sea-level rise is making storm surges larger, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist at Texas A&M University in College Station.

“Compared to a storm that would have hit, say, 30 years ago, the additional storm surge we are talking about is on the order of … about 7 inches,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

The NOAA study found sea levels rising at more than double the rate estimated during the 20th century, increasing to more than 0.13 inch annually. NOAA made six projections of sea-level rise, from low to extreme, and found the global mean level under the lowest projection could rise 2.3 inches by 2020 and 3.5 inches by 2030. The extreme projection shows a 4.3-inch rise by 2020 and a 9.4-inch rise by 2030.

The rate of sea-level rise even under the lowest projection would increase the chances of severe flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast from storm surges or other causes from once every five years to once every two years by 2030 under the extreme projection, and 2060 under the low prediction.

“We’re not talking much longer than a mortgage cycle,” Sweet said. “I just bought a house, I’ve got a 30-year note. That’s 2047.”

By 2100, sea level is expected to rise between 1.3 feet and 31 feet, the NOAA study predicts; Galveston Island and most of the Texas coast would be swallowed up under the latter scenario.

Scientist Michael Mann keeps doing compelling science and making cogent arguments that are being ignored by policy makers.  He’s the scientist behind the research on the “rain bombs”.  That’s a term with a lot of click bait appeal.  But, how do you get anyone to listen when you discuss things like this?  What happens when a hurricane parks itself over you home or an intense thunderstorm sits over you city and just does nothing but dump rain for days on end in biblical amounts?

So Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human- caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage, and a larger storm surge (as an example of how this works, we have shown that climate change has led to a dramatic increase in storm surge risk in New York City, making devastating events like Superstorm #Sandy more likely (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/41/12610.full).

Finally, the more tenuous but potentially relevant climate factors: part of what has made Harvey such a devastating storm is the way it has stalled right near the coast, continuing to pummel Houston and surrounding regions with a seemingly endless deluge which will likely top out at nearly 4 feet of rainfall over a several days-long period before it is done.

The stalling is due to very weak prevailing winds which are failing to steer the storm off to sea, allowing it to spin around and wobble back and forth like a top with no direction. This pattern, in turn, is associated with a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the U.S. right now, with the jet stream pushed well to the north. This pattern of subtropical expansion is predicted in model simulations of human-caused climate change.

More tenuous, but possibly relevant still, is the fact that very persistent, nearly ‘stationary’ summer weather patterns of this sort, where weather anomalies (both high pressure dry hot regions and low-pressure stormy/rainy regions) stay locked in place for many days at a time, appears to be favored by human-caused climate change.

How will the Texas Representatives and Senators respond to the disaster in their own back yards?  Will they fight funding they way they fought it for those impacted by Super Storm Sandy?  Will Kremlin Caligula with his 2 second attention span be able to rise to the occasion of saving lives and help people rebuild and heal? What about threats to shut down the Federal Government over funds for the Wall?

The catastrophic floods brought by Hurricane Harvey to southeastern Texas will pose an immediate test for the White House and Congress, pressing policymakers to approve billions of dollars in recovery funds even though they haven’t agreed on much else this year.

White House officials and GOP leaders were already taking stock of the challenge on Sunday, even as the floodwaters in Texas — and the eventual cost of recovery — were still rising. One senior White House official and GOP aides on Capitol Hill said late Sunday they expected to begin discussing an “emergency” package of funding soon to help with relief and rebuilding efforts, even if agreement as to the size of such a package remained premature.

Harvey’s devastation poses President Trump’s first test in emergency assistance, potentially revealing whether he can overcome Congress’s deep divisions over spending and the budget to prioritize aid. It will also test whether Trump can suspend his adversarial governing style and even postpone his own agenda, notably an overhaul of the tax code, to assemble a major — and costly — package that could be directed to law enforcement, emergency relief, schools, infrastructure, hospitals, food banks and several other entities.

The storm comes as Washington was gripped with a budget battle and little time to resolve differences. Many government operations are funded through only the end of September, and Trump has threatened to partially shut down the government if lawmakers don’t approve $1.6 billion in funding to construct parts of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Harvey could upend that budget fight, pressuring politicians to reach a quick resolution. That is because a government shutdown could sideline agencies involved in a rescue and relief effort that officials are predicting will last years.

This battle starts after the battle first responders and volunteers are making to save lives ends.  This is still an ongoing disaster.  There is still very much potential, additional for flooding the next few days. It is still happening now.  Two Reservoirs are being opened that will contribute to flooding.  Resources will undoutedly be running short as well be tempers.

In Houston, reservoirs swollen by rain from Hurricane Harvey were opened early Monday, a move that was expected to flood more homes — but one that the Army Corps of Engineers says is needed to limit the scope of the disaster that’s threatening lives and property in Texas.

“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District. He warned residents to stay vigilant as water levels rise.

Around midday Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard to support communities cope with the flooding. Thousands of guard members were already deployed in the effort; the number now stands at roughly 12,000.

Gates to Houston’s reservoirs were opened as emergency crews and residents scramble to deal with the intense rains brought by Harvey, which became a tropical storm after making landfall as a Category 4 storm late Friday.

Houston set a new daily rainfall record Sunday, with 16.07 inches reported at the city’s international airport, the National Weather Service says. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 2 feet of rain (24.44 inches) fell.

Here’s how to help those dealing with Harvey. I can tell you that the American Red Cross did a lot for me after Hurricane Katrina.

Scientific American reminds us that Harvey had some disturbing features that has caused it to be so destructive. Is this our future?  If so, will our policy makers rise to the challenge of disrupting our contribution to climate change and providing adequate federal funding and systems to support our neighbors in need because they failed to act when they could?

I have to admit that my Katrina PTSD is full force between the images on my TV,  its 12th anniversary, and the knowledge that Harvey could still do irrational things like move back in to the Gulf to strengthen.  It’s path and timing is still so uncertain.   Now is the time we need heroes and leadership.  The heroes are on the ground.  We have to wait and see when it comes to the leadership.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Also, please Texas Sky Dancers!  Let us know if we can help!!!  Let us know if you’re okay!! We’re here for you!!!

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Friday Reads: Living in the Moment

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The one useful thing that having 4th stage inoperable cancer and a 5 month old taught me was to live in the moment.  It’s taken Kremlin Caligula’s  rule of chaos to bring me back to that point again.  Well, that and the constant stress from the weather becoming increasingly volatile here and the increasing vulnerability of the land around me and the roof that’s mostly over my head.

I hold each of my friends and family as comfy pillows in my big ol’ blanket fort of calm.  I stay focused on what I can do right now to feel better.  Some times that’s wine and raspberry cheesecake gelato. Mostly, it’s focusing on all of the great people in my life and the fact there’s no wolf at my door right now.  Plus, I spend a lot of time combing through cabins with views of water and mountains and trying to figure if this is the path I can follow to Blue State Sanity.  We still have each other Sky Dancers and we’ve been through a lot!!!

It’s easy to focus on how miserable you feel when insanity is screaming at you with a contorted, bloated orange face surrounded by zombies in Phoenix, Arizona.  But, the insanity is also in the policy details that sneak out in fine print.  Remember, there are a lot of crazy people that pass as sane removing our neighbor’s ability to live in a civilized society in the beltway and in Red State America.

I’ve got some examples today from the usual Red State Governors and sneaky Republican appointees who hand over vital services and public assets to their patrons then brag about efficiency while people lose everything including their lives.  This cautionary tale comes via The Des Moines Register where dead Iowans can be pinned onto the collars of  two Republican Governors who handed the state’s Medicaid Plan over to profit-seeking death panels.  I borrow this term from the Republicans who think that it’s the government that institutes death panels but in fact, it’s handing key services to for-profit entities that do it.  You can’t turn a profit if you don’t cut things and in most cases, it is essential services and the people who provide them in for-profit land.

After handing over management of the $4 billion Medicaid program to three for-profit companies last year, Iowans have filed hundreds of complaints, including many about losing access to care. Health providers have closed their doors. Iowans with disabilities have filed a federal lawsuit against Reynolds, accusing the state of depriving thousands the right to live safely outside institutions.

Yet the new governor continues to insist privatization is a great thing..

 hopSeveral months ago she was quoted in a news release as saying Iowans with “high risk behavioral health conditions” were faring better under privatized Medicaid.

 Soon after, the Register editorial board reported the private insurers owed Southwest Iowa Mental Health System about $300,000 for services provided. We recently reported on a private insurer refusing to cover care for a mentally ill teen. This week Des Moines psychiatrist Jim Gallagher told an editorial writer that the private insurers were reducing payments to workers who supervise individuals in group homes, including a man with a history of pedophilia.

Yet Reynolds does not acknowledge such problems. Worse, she pretends there are none. An August 3 press release from her office referenced a questionable survey indicating Iowa patients’ satisfaction was among the highest in the nation.

 “Medicaid modernization improves access, gives patients more choices and brings accountability to the program,” Reynolds said in her statement.

There is zero accountability for state officials and insurers holding secret meetings about how much more public money to give the companies. And Tom Mouw, who died 27 days before the press release was issued, did not have more access to care or any choices. He had one option: moving from his home to an institution in another state.

After a vehicle accident left him a quadriplegic more than three decades ago, Mouw was unable to feed himself and needed a ventilator to breathe. State-managed Medicaid paid caregivers to provide daily assistance, which allowed the man to remain in his home all these years.

Then private insurers took over Medicaid. Amerigroup deemed Mouw’s longtime caregivers not qualified and refused to pay them. Eventually the inability to find in-home care forced him into a facility in South Dakota. He died six weeks later.

Cyndi Mouw blames her husband’s death on Iowa’s decision to privatize Medicaid. Though she has not reviewed all the medical bills, she is sure her husband’s care was far cheaper at home than in the facility where he spent his final weeks.

Now that he has died, he will not cost Amerigroup anything. And the insurer answers to no one about its actions.

The private companies have repeatedly refused to answer questions about Iowans’ horror stories. Though Cyndi Mouw signed waiver forms allowing Amerigroup to speak with a reporter about her husband’s care, the insurer did not.

Instead, the company’s spokesperson said there are “a lot of people” willing to share positive privatization stories — but then did not produce a single name. This spin tactic was also employed by the Branstad administration, which touted “success stories” without identifying the supposedly happy Iowans.

The Register frequently hears from Iowans who have lost health care, closed medical services businesses or are owed money by the insurers. And now we have heard from the widow of a man who died after the insurer refused to pay his caregivers.

I’m particularly interested in this today as a person that has been in more than her share of weather disasters lately.  My private insurer for my home has been a constant source of underfunding, dodging coverage, and increasing deductibles and costs.  Government Grants, the Red Cross and FEMA helped me more than any touchy feely money grabbing corporation after Katrina.  Harvey is headed to Texas and since it’s your basic zombie storm, it’s likely to reform and bother a lot more places.  Louisiana is under a state of emergency.  Dubya screwed up our Katrina response big time. I can’t even imagine what my friends and neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast will face under The Orange Terror and his FEMA Director.

Brock Long knew it was just a matter of time.

“We’ve gone 11 years without a major hurricane land-falling in the U.S.—that’s a one-in-2,000 chance,” said Long, President Donald Trump’s administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in an interview at his office on Monday. “We’re gonna get hit by a major hurricane. I worry that a lot of people have forgotten what that’s like.”

The country is about to be reminded. As of Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Harvey was expected to hit the Texas coast as a Category 3 storm, with top wind speeds of 85 miles an hour and flooding as high as seven feet. The storm will be Long’s first challenge as FEMA director. He was sworn in just two months ago.

Long’s appointment was welcomed by experts on extreme weather, who praised him as neither overtly ideological nor hostile to the mission of the agency he was chosen to lead. Before being appointed to the top job, he was director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011, as well as a regional hurricane program manager for FEMA.

“He is a rare Trump appointee who is a well-known professional in the field in which he was appointed,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a Washington research group that promotes market-based solutions to climate change. “Every part of his reputation suggests he’ll take a careful, deliberate, technocratic approach to the job.”

If Hurricane Harvey is as severe as predicted, the toll will certainly test Long and his agency. It could even pose a political risk to the Trump administration, whose first budget proposal sought to cut FEMA’s funding by 11 percent.

There’s more to the devastation of public trust and resources happening.  Let me highlight a few. 

Republicans continue to the party of Religious Extremism. Women die because of this.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued an abrupt executive order Friday cutting off all public funding from abortion clinics in South Carolina.

He also directed the South Carolina Medicaid agency to seek permission from the federal government to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid provider network.

“There are a variety of agencies, clinics, and medical entities in South Carolina that receive taxpayer funding to offer important women’s health and family planning services without performing abortions,” McMaster said in a press release about the executive order. “Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”

Only three clinics offer elective abortions in South Carolina, including one Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.

The exact language of the new order bans government money from “any physician or professional medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic and operating concurrently with and in the same physical, geographic location or footprint as an abortion clinic.”

Vicky Ringer, the South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, issued a statement on Friday calling McMaster’s order “a political stunt.”

“While he spends taxpayers’ time and money on scoring political points,” Ringer said, “Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on.”

Fed Chair Jane Yellen has issued dire warnings about letting loose the Wall Street Dogs again. People driven by profits only do not make ethical choices.  That is something we very much know as economists.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday expressed openness to easing some financial rules imposed on banks after the 2008 credit crisis, but offered a stern warning to fellow policymakers: Don’t forget what got us here.

“The events of the crisis demanded action, needed reforms were implemented, and these reforms have made the system safer,” said Yellen in a speech at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest and preserve the increase in resilience at large dealers and banks associated with the reforms put in place in recent years,” she said.

The Fed chief’s remarks are implicitly a pitch of how she would lead the central bank if President Donald Trump chose to keep her at the helm of the Fed; the 71-year-old economist’s term as chair ends at the beginning of February.

The likely Trump appointment to replace Yellen is said to have drafted a resignation based on Trump’s remarks over Charlottesville.  Gary Cohn is Jewish.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, has given an interview to the Financial Timesin which he in no uncertain terms criticizes the Trump administration’s response to the violence in Charlottesville at a white nationalist rally, which led to the death of a counterprotester and 19 injuries, after a car crashed into crowds. Trump has drawn criticism — including privately from his own aides — for insufficiently denouncing the white supremacists who organized the rally and suggesting they shared blame with others.

Cohn, who is Jewish, doesn’t call out Trump by name, but it’s crystal-clear what he is saying. A sampling:

  • “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”
  • “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. … As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post … because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”
  • “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”

While Cohn never says, “The president got it wrong and needs to do better,” he might as well have. Nobody else in the Trump administration offered comments suggesting any kind of equivalence in blame between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters. It was Trump who referred to there being blame “on many sides” and then days later “on both sides.” Other members of the administration tried to argue that Trump had offered a more forceful denunciation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis when he had, in fact, not. (He would later do so, only to revert a day later to his former “many sides/both sides” comments.)

When Cohn says, “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” he is clearly talking about Trump’s “many sides/both sides” comments. There is no one else it could be about.

At least three national monuments are one the Endangered List.  Only the mega rich get nice things.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three national monuments established by his immediate predecessors, including two in Utah, a move expected to reshape federal land and water protections and certain to trigger major legal fights.

In a report Zinke submitted to the White House, the secretary recommended reducing the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision.

President Bill Clinton declared the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, while President Barack Obama designated the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears last year. Cascade-Siskiyou, which now encompasses more than 113,000 acres, was established by Clinton shortly before leaving office and expanded by Obama in January.

The Mega Rich get nice things especially when they’re appointments of Trump and shameless about purloining. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin viewed eclipse from lawn of Fort Knox.  This is the man whose wife has a handbag that could be traded for a new car and calls a Portland Mother “adorably out of touch”.   I used to work for the New Orleans Fed.  We had a system wide rule about trying to hold meetings during the Mardi Gras season.  That’s strictly forbidden.

But a watchdog group and a lawmaker seized on a different issue: Did the millionaire couple fly to Louisville on Monday, on a taxpayer-funded plane, just to see the solar eclipse? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) suggested as much in seeking records of the trip, saying it “seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse.”

It turns out that Mnuchin did view the eclipse while he was in Kentucky: Just outside the path of totality, from the lawn of the nation’s fabled Fort Knox, home to nearly $200 billion in American gold, according to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

A post on McConnell’s official Facebook page, attributed to the senator, said Thursday that he and Mnuchin viewed the eclipse from the roof. “The U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and I in front of the main door to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox before we viewed the #solareclipse from the rooftop today,” said the posting, which featured an image of the two men, McConnell holding eclipse glasses.

After media reports about the Facebook post, including in this story, the Treasury Department said in a statement that the viewing was from the lawn.

“The Mint staff had originally suggested that the delegation watch the eclipse from the roof but the Secretary specifically canceled that part of the tour. They watched it briefly from outside before they entered (prior to the actual time of full eclipse),” the statement said.

McConnell’s office has revised its Facebook page to remove the reference to the rooftop and declined to say how the error was made.

Right.  And it looks like CROOKED and BIGOTED former sheriff Joe Arpaio will be pardoned. Has he no decency at all?

Arpaio was found guilty of some really disturbing illegal behavior. People that violate others’ civil rights should not hold positions in law enforcement.

He flouted the Constitution. He disobeyed court orders. And then he bragged about it.

To understand the building outrage, particularly among civil rights groups, over the possibility that President Donald Trump would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one need only return to the July criminal contempt decision against him.

It followed a decade-long case against the sheriff for racial-profiling practices in Arizona, during which Arpaio was ordered to stop targeting Latinos for traffic stops and detention.

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.

The 85-year-old sheriff who lost his run for a seventh term in 2016 is scheduled to be sentenced October 5. Trump has strongly suggested he would pardon Arpaio before then, and CNN has learned that the White House was preparing the necessary paperwork and talking points to distribute to allies.

My eyes will be on Harvey and the unnatural disaster that sits in the Oval Office today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Troll Beast From Nebraska? From everywhere! Open Thread

53a0ab9607a43fcfa4378b3fcef41ae6Good Evening

This will be a quick post, with a few observations…about a sick hateful portion of the human race that seems to really gain confidence from the veiled anonymous sense of security that comes from the comment sections and social media widgets/apps on the internet.

Last night, while watching the updates on the tragic tornado in Moore, OK on the local news station WFOR….they had a live updating social media chat box right next to the live TV feed. It was disgusting, and no matter how hard I tried to keep from looking over at that shit stream of trolling assholes saying the most horrible things…my eyes just kept drifting over and reading them.  It was fortunate that this morning, the network had the brilliant idea to shut the damn thing down. It still is down, which is good!

Live Streaming on KFOR.com | KFOR.com

These assholes were even making prank calls for help, or crying for assistance with finding family members…when they were actually full of shit. Some were saying they were first responders, and had info about various rescues…all false and misleading. It wad disgusting.

Case in point, look at the comments in this thread TV Reporter Breaks Down On-Air While Touring Oklahoma Tornado Aftermath | Mediaite

I know we have talked about the trolls before, but sometimes it amazes me just how far these assholes will take it.

Now for some links on the schools that took a direct hit yesterday in Moore,  OK.

First, have you seen this video? A mother finds her son after the tornado as he sits with his teacher, if you keep watching you will see some other video of the scene that is very upsetting…hearing screams and such, just fyi.

Tearful reunions at elementary school

Students emerge from Briarwood Elementary moments after a massive storm ripped through Moore, Oklahoma.

Look at those teachers, and what they did for their students…now read these next articles and keep those images in your mind.

Okla. teacher after tornado: ‘We love these kids like they’re our own’ – CNN.com

Heroes or just doing their jobs? Teachers save lives during Okla. tornado

Oklahoma Schools Lacked Consistent Tornado Shelter Rules

The two elementary schools leveled by the deadly tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City area Monday lacked designated safe rooms designed to protect children and teachers, despite state warnings that the absence of such facilities imperils lives.

At least two other schools in Moore — the epicenter of the disaster — did have safe rooms. So far no fatalities have been tied to those schools, whose buildings were fortified after a devastating twister hit the area in 1999.

These disparities in structural standards speak to the seeming randomness of who lived and who died in a natural disaster now blamed for taking the lives of at least 24 people, including nine children. Requirements for safe rooms in public schools vary from community to community across the swath of Midwestern and Southern states so accustomed to lethal twisters that it is known as Tornado Alley.

Nightly News: Red tape delayed safe rooms in Moore

The city of Moore applied for $2 million in federal aid to help build safe rooms in 800 homes, but the city complained the program was delayed because FEMA standards were a “constantly changing target.” NBC’s Tom Costello reports…

Transcript:

>>> welcome back. here in the state of oklahoma , the expression “this hard land” comes to mind, and it’s true in more ways than one. when you think about it, the national conference of tornado preparation is held in oklahoma city , and they do that every year for a reason. this weather is a surprise to no one, and for the most part they’re ready for it when it comes. but nationwide, especially people on both coasts are asking why aren’t there more shelters, cellars, basements? why aren’t there more safe houses within houses across this region given the weather here? our report on that tonight from nbc’s tom costello.

>> reporter: yet another devastating tornado, and so many people are asking why aren’t there more basements in the very place they need them most, tornado alley , and why aren’t there more tornado shelters ? many of those who managed to get underground survived.

>> it ripped open the door , and it just glass and debris started slamming on us. we thought we were dead, to be honest.

>> reporter: basements are not common in oklahoma because the soil, heavy with clay and water, makes anything underground prone to flooding and mold. so most homes are built on a concrete slab. and most homes can only withstand 90-mile-per-hour winds, not 200.

>> we just don’t design homes on the interior of this country to sustain winds the same way we do along the coast.

>> reporter: but building a safe room for a shelter is a different matter. a safe room can be installed in the ground or inside the home itself. a reinforced box almost like a bank vault but built to fema tornado standards, but they cost 8,000 to $10,000 each. oklahoma has a lottery to decide who gets state help to pay for them. last year 500 homeowners were chosen out of 16,000 applicants. separately, the city of moore was applying for $2 million in federal aid to help build safe rooms in 800 homes, but the city complained that the program was delayed because fema standards were, quote, a constantly changing target. fema says it’s looking into what caused the delay. so why weren’t schools better prepared.

>> certainly yesterday raised a lot of questions with people, why don’t schoolses have storm shelters?

>> reporter: today state officials said 100 schools do have same roofs but they’re expensive. fema estimate $1.4 million per school.

>> when you’re glued to a limited number of funds you set priorities on which schools do want to ask for. not a matter they would be left out for any reason. it was a matter they hadn’t been brought forward yet.

>> reporter: the town of moore had not built any community tornado shelt bears the town said it faced only a 1% to 2% chance of a tornado ever hitting on any spring day . tom costello, nbc news.

Some schools building tornado-proof safe rooms

Beside a temporary high school in Joplin, Mo., sits a field of concrete boxes with steel doors — bunkers trusted to guard students against 200-plus-mph winds like those that ripped their school apart two years ago Wednesday.

At the new Joplin High, a 16,000-square-foot music room will serve as a better version of the same thing. After tornadoes leveled the same school twice — the first time in 1971 — district leaders accelerated plans to include safe rooms in all new school construction, Superintendent C.J. Huff said.

Classes were out when the Sunday tornadoes decimated Joplin in 2011, but on Monday, the schools in Moore, Okla., were in. Seven children died at Plaza Towers Elementary School, some of them drowning after a pipe burst in the basement where they hid.

In both cases, the nation’s eyes turned to the schools, and their safety in the face of a tornado.

You can read the rest of those articles and think of this as an open thread…


Friday Late Nite Lite: Real late night…

Good Late Night!

I don’t know about y’all, but Wednesday just can’t come fast enough. I am so sick of this election and hope that once it is all over, I will never have to see Mitt’s face (and that smirk) ever again.

Anyway, its cartoon time!

Voter Fraud Squad – Political Cartoon by Monte Wolverton, Cagle Cartoons, Inc. – 10/29/2012

Cartoon by Monte Wolverton - Voter Fraud Squad

Many Republicans want to criminalize abortion even in cases of rape – Political Cartoon by Kate Palmer, @katespalmer – 10/29/2012

Cartoon by Kate Palmer - Many Republicans want to criminalize abortion even in cases of rape

Halloween Costume – Truthdig

Republican God – Truthdig

BBQ on Women – Truthdig

11/1 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Bucket list | Mike Luckovich

110112-toon-luckovich-ed

11/2 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Gov. Christie | Mike Luckovich

110212-toon-luckovich-ed

Bipartisanship – Political Cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News – 11/02/2012

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Bipartisanship

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle – 11/02/2012

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle – 11/01/2012

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 11/02/2012

Cartoon by David Horsey -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News – 11/02/2012

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Paul Fell, Artizans Syndicate – 11/02/2012

Cartoon by Paul Fell -

This is an open thread of course, what y’all doing tonight?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I have a potpourri of great reads for you this morning, so let’s get started.

First up, people in the states impacted by Hurricane Sandy have barely begun to recover. CBS News/AP report that: The scale of post-Sandy challenge in NY, NJ is unprecedented.

Two major airports reopened and the New York Stock Exchange got back to business Wednesday, while across the river in New Jersey, National Guardsmen rushed to feed and rescue flood victims two days aftersuperstorm Sandy struck.

For the first time since the storm slammed the Northeast, killing at least 63 people and inflicting billions of dollars in damage, brilliant sunshine washed over the nation’s largest city — a striking sight after days of gray skies, rain and wind. The light gave officials and residents a true glimpse of destruction on a scale that the region has never seen before.

At the stock exchange, running on generator power, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a thumbs-up and rang the opening bell to whoops from traders on the floor. Trading resumed after the first two-day weather shutdown since the Blizzard of 1888.

New York’s subway system was still down, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said parts of it will begin running again on Thursday. And he said some commuter rail service between the city and its suburbs would resume on Wednesday afternoon.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie and his new BFF Barack Obama toured the devastation. From The New York Times: An Unlikely Political Pair, United by a Disaster.

President Obama toured the storm-tossed boardwalks of New Jersey’s ravaged coastline on Wednesday, in a vivid display of big-government muscle and bipartisan harmony that confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge just as he returned to the campaign trail in Florida.

The scene of Mr. Obama greeting his onetime political antagonist Gov. Chris Christie in Atlantic City was a striking departure from what has become an increasingly bitter campaign, marked by sharp divisions between Mr. Romney’s more limited view of the federal role and Mr. Obama’s more expansive vision. The president placed a hand on Mr. Christie’s back and guided him to Marine One, where the two men shared a grim flight over shattered sea walls, burning houses and a submerged roller coaster.

Speaking to storm victims at a community center in the hard-hit town of Brigantine, Mr. Obama said, “We are going to be here for the long haul.” Mr. Christie thanked the president for his visit, saying, “It’s really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that’s going on here in New Jersey.”

The tableau of bipartisan cooperation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s highly visible role in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, has put Mr. Romney in an awkward position…

As for Mitt Romney, he was getting hammered by the media in Ohio for two ads in which he falsely implied that Chrysler and GM were planning to ship American jobs to China. It looks to me as if Romney has given up the ghost in Ohio, because he headed to Florida yesterday, where a new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading by one point.

And last night the NYT editorial board slammed Romney for “cross[ing] a red line.”

When General Motors tells a presidential campaign that it is engaging in “cynical campaign politics at its worst,” that’s a pretty good signal that the campaign has crossed a red line and ought to pull back. Not Mitt Romney’s campaign. Having broadcast an outrageously deceitful ad attacking the auto bailout, the campaign ignored the howls from carmakers and came back with more.

Mr. Romney apparently plans to end his race as he began it: playing lowest-common-denominator politics, saying anything necessary to achieve power and blithely deceiving voters desperate for clarity and truth.

I think Romney may have finally sunk his campaign with those lying ads about the auto bailout. I wonder if that has contributed to polls that show Obama widening his leads in Michigan and Wisconsin?

In the Nebraska Senate Race, Bob Kerrey has been moving up in the polls, and last night Omaha.com broke some exciting news that could put him over the top: Chuck Hagel to endorse Bob Kerrey.

A spokesman with Kerrey’s campaign says Hagel – a former Nebraska U.S. Senator and a Republican – will back Kerrey in his race against Republican Deb Fischer.

Hagel’s endorsement comes as polls have shown the race between Kerrey and Fischer tightening down the home stretch.

Hagel’s backing could go a long way with independents. And, it clearly underscores Kerrey’s contention that he is the person in the race who can win Republican and Democratic support.

If Kerry, Claire McCaskill, Tammy Baldwin, and Elizabeth Warren, and perhaps Joe Donnelly can win their races, the Democrats should at least hold their majority in the Senate.

In Massachusetts, Liz Warren began making her final arguments.

As both Massachusetts Senate candidates deliver their final messages to voters, Warren is drawing on one major advantage she has in the state: demographics. According to the Secretary of State, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Massachusetts by a more than a three to one margin. As the race remains close, Warren and her supporters are using a partisan argument to rally the Democratic base, and encourage activists to turn out the vote on Warren’s behalf. Elect Brown, Warren and her supporters argue, and Republicans will control the U.S. Senate.

Introducing Warren to a crowd of volunteers and activists at Warren’s Haverhill field office on Wednesday, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said he came from a Halloween party. “Everyone was dressed up in really scary costumes, so I was going to dress up as (Republican Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell,” he said, to laughter. “Because can you think of anything scarier than (Republican House Speaker) John Boehner in the House of Representatives or Mitch McConnell in the Senate?”

“There’s only one vote that counts and that’s the vote about which party is going to control the United States Senate,” Fiorentini continued. “We know which way Scott Brown is going to vote.”

Warren also released a great new ad that may serve as a closing argument: For All Our Families.

Right now in Indiana Joe Donnelly is leading Richard Mourdock by 7 percentage points.

I’ll end with a couple of powerful long reads.

From Truthout: What Does Romney’s Campaign of Lies Say About Our Country? Here’s the first paragraph:

Last week Mitt Romney delivered possibly the most dishonest presidential campaign speech in American history. It contains lie after lie, distortion after distortion, and trick after trick. The fact that a person capable of giving such a speech has reached this level suggests that it may be too late to salvage the country. Our institutions may be corrupted beyond repair.

Please check it out.

At Alternet, Matthew Fleisher writes: Why I Infiltrated One of the Most Secretive and Powerful Republican Organizations in the Country. This one is really long, but well worth reading. Here’s the teaser:

The Lincoln Club is the real deal. And if they have their way, Citizens United is just the beginning of their political ambitions for the country.

That’s it for me. I hope you found something to your liking. Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Romney Does Double Back Flip on FEMA

You had to know this was coming. Just yesterday, Mitt Romney repeatedly refused to answer reporters’ questions about his position on FEMA funding. During the Republican primaries, Romney argued that the Federal government should have no role in disaster response and that the functions of FEMA should be returned to individual states.

But today, Romney suddenly switched gears and became a fan of FEMA. The Boston Globe reports:

Mitt Romney on Wednesday stepped up his support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, further rebuffing accusations that he would end funding for disaster relief if elected president.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Romney’s comments last year during a GOP debate in New Hampshire were interpreted by some as a call to eliminate FEMA altogether.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” Romney said. “And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

Politico has more reporting on the sudden switch, directly from the campaign trail:

Mitt Romney’s campaign tried Wednesday to reassure voters that the GOP nominee believes the Federal Emergency Management Agency plays a “really important role.”

“Gov. Romney believes in a very efficient and effective disaster relief response, and he believes one of the ways to do that is put a premium on states and their efforts to respond to these disasters,” senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters on the flights from Tampa to Miami. “That’s why they call them first responders — they’re first to respond, the states. Traditionally, they’ve been best at responding to these disasters. But he does believe FEMA has a really important role there and that being a partner for these states is the best approach.”

So why couldn’t Romney just say this yesterday in response to the 14 separate questions he ignored in Kettering, Ohio? Did his campaign have to run a focus group overnight to determine his new policy?

Madden also dodged a question on whether Romney agrees with NJ Governor Chris Christie that President Obama has been doing an excellent job in responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

Asked if Romney agrees with Christie’s comment that Obama’s response to the natural disaster has been fantastic so far, Madden said: “I refer to Gov. Christie’s remarks. I believe the response is still going on so I’m not in a position to qualify the response by the federal government. I believe it’s still ongoing.”

Frankly, I can’t imagine Romney is going get away with this one, but if in the next couple of days he starts claiming that he always supported FEMA and that he did a great job responding to disasters as Governor of Massachusetts, we’ll know the focus group liked his latest backflip.


Tuesday Reads: Mostly Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning!!

Superstorm indeed. I just saw on the weather channel that we’re having high wind warnings and may even get snow here in central Indiana today. Exhaustion finally set in for me last night from drive 1,000 miles, so I’m writing this at 5:30 AM.

I had MSNBC, CNN, and the weather channel on a few times during the night, but most of the news was still about New York City only. You’d think something would have happened in other parts of New York state that was worth covering. Of course I don’t want to minimize how bad things are in NYC, It’s just that with a storm so huge, you’d think there might be some TV coverage of other places.

This morning they were actually talking about the snowstorm in West Virginia a little bit, but I have no idea if the storm did anything in New England. So let’s see what’s happening out there–largely in link dump fashion.

MSNBC: Sandy slams Northeast: 7M without power, nuclear plant on alert, homes swept away

Superstorm Sandy hurled a wall of water of up to 13 feet high at the Northeast coast, sweeping houses out into the ocean, flooding subway tunnels in New York City and sparking an alert at a nuclear power station in New Jersey.

At least 10 people were killed, more than 7 million were without power as the historic storm pounded some 11 states and the District of Columbia. More than a million people across a dozen states had been ordered to evacuate.

Power outages are expected to be widespread and could last for days. NBC meteorologist Bill Karins warned to “expect the cleanup and power outage restoration to continue right up through Election Day.”

The New York Times has massive coverage and lots of photos: Storm Barrels Ashore, Leaving Path of Destruction

The mammoth and merciless storm made landfall near Atlantic City around 8 p.m., with maximum sustained winds of about 80 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. That was shortly after the center had reclassified the storm as a post-tropical cyclone, a scientific renaming that had no bearing on the powerful winds, driving rains and life-threatening storm surge expected to accompany its push onto land.

The storm had unexpectedly picked up speed as it roared over the Atlantic Ocean on a slate-gray day and went on to paralyze life for millions of people in more than a half-dozen states, with extensive evacuations that turned shorefront neighborhoods into ghost towns. Even the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty left to ride out the storm at his mother’s house in New Jersey; he said the statue itself was “high and dry,” but his house in the shadow of the torch was not.

The wind-driven rain lashed sea walls and protective barriers in places like Atlantic City, where the Boardwalk was damaged as water forced its way inland. Foam was spitting, and the sand gave in to the waves along the beach at Sandy Hook, N.J., at the entrance to New York Harbor. Water was thigh-high on the streets in Sea Bright, N.J., a three-mile sand-sliver of a town where the ocean joined the Shrewsbury River.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said David Arnold, watching the storm from his longtime home in Long Branch, N.J. “The ocean is in the road, there are trees down everywhere. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

But, you know, global climate change–that’s not happening. It must be gay marriage that’s causing this.

There was a huge explosion at a Con-Ed power plant in lower Manhattan during the night. Here’s the viral video.

50 homes destroyed as six-alarm blaze rips through Queens

I’m relieved to see that Sandy’s wrath wasn’t quite as bad in New England.

Boston escapes major damage from Sandy: Fierce winds knock down trees, rattle houses, and cut electricity to thousands.

Sandy wreaks havoc on Conn. shore towns; 2 dead

Superstorm Sandy lashes NH with strong winds, rain

Maine gets high winds, heavy rain from superstorm Sandy; tens of thousands in the dark

Sandy brought snow to West Virginia.

President Obama signs West Virginia Emergency Declaration

And in Virginia…

Superstorm Sandy to stick around Virginia 1 more day with rain, wind and snow

In other news…

Think Progress: PA radio station runs misleading voter ID ad

Everyone’s talking about how Mitt Romney recommended getting rid of FEMA and making state handle their own disaster responses, but of course now he’s flip flopped once again, according to Politico: Romney would give more power to states, would not abolish FEMA

Here’s something incredible from Bloomberg: Romney Avoids Taxes via Loophole Cutting Mormon Donations

In 1997, Congress cracked down on a popular tax shelter that allowed rich people to take advantage of the exempt status of charities without actually giving away much money.

Individuals who had already set up these vehicles were allowed to keep them. That included Mitt Romney, then the chief executive officer of Bain Capital, who had just established such an arrangement in June 1996.

The charitable remainder unitrust, as it is known, is one of several strategies Romney has adopted over his career to reduce his tax bill. While Romney’s tax avoidance is legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become an issue in the campaign. President Barack Obama attacked him in their second debate for paying “lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”

In this instance, Romney used the tax-exempt status of a charity — the Mormon Church, according to a 2007 filing — to defer taxes for more than 15 years. At the same time he is benefitting, the trust will probably leave the church with less than what current law requires, according to tax returns obtained by Bloomberg this month through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Wow! This guy is the champion of sleezeballs! Too bad no no one is paying attention now that Sandy has taken over the next few news cycles.

The Hill: Bill Clinton: Mitt Romney’s Jeep-to-China ad is ‘biggest load of bull in the world’

Former President Clinton and Vice President Biden blasted Republican nominee Mitt Romney over a campaign ad that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China because of President Obama’s policies.

The Hill kinda-sorta tries to make it sound like the ad is OK and the Obama campaign is just whining!

The Obama campaign has complained about the Romney campaign’s Jeep ad, which links the president to a report saying Chrysler plans to move its Jeep production from the U.S. to China.

Chrysler released a statement on Monday saying it had no plans to stop producing Jeeps in the U.S.

The statement said, “U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation.”

Yeah, because there’s two sides to every story even when one is a bald-faced, blatant, dirty lie.

Now it’s your turn. What’s going on where you are? I sure hope all you Sky Dancers are staying safe and warm.