Lazy Saturday Reads: Primary Voting Moves West

Arizona Landscape, Jose Aceves

Arizona Landscape, Jose Aceves

Good Afternoon!!

On Tuesday, Democratic voters in the West will be voting in the Arizona primary and the Idaho and Utah caucuses. In each of these states, only registered Democrats can vote. The biggest delegate prize is in Arizona, where 85 delegates will be up for grabs. Republicans will also vote in the Arizona and Utah caucuses. For Republicans, Arizona is winner take all and Utah is proportional. All Democratic primaries are proportional.

I was hoping we were finally done with TV debates and town halls, but CNN has announced it will hold a town hall on Monday night that includes the five remaining candidate from both parties. CNN press release:

CNN announced today that Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer will host a three-hour primetime event with both Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls on Monday March 21 from 8 to 11 pmET. The event will take place just before the ‘Western Tuesday’ primary contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho (D). 

Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will each be individually interviewed in the CNN Election Center in Washington, D.C. while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will be interviewed from the campaign trail.

The event will air from 8-11 pm ET on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Espanol, and will be live-streamed online and across mobile devices via CNNgo

Scattered Rain, Grand Canyon, Ed Mell

Scattered Rain, Grand Canyon, Ed Mell

The Sanders campaign believes that Western states will provide good opportunities for him to pick up delegates, but there won’t be masses of Independents voting for him this time. He’ll have to appeal to Democrats. As of today, FiveThirtyEight estimates that Clinton has a 51.1 percent chance of winning Arizona and Sanders has a 22.7 percent chance. RealClearPolitics has Clinton leading 48.5 to 21.5. There hasn’t been much polling of the state though. Donald Trump is strongly favored on the GOP side.

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Sanders campaign is still claiming the Hillary can only win in red states in the Deep South. Never mind that she won Iowa, Nevada, Massachusetts, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Ohio. He is also still peddling the fantasy that he is the candidate who is better equipped to defeat Trump in the general election, even though he has so far won far fewer popular votes than either Clinton or Trump. He bases this claim on his big rallies, his supposed ability (not demonstrated so far) to increase voter turnout and the media-generated meme of an “enthusiasm gap.”

Grand Canyon, Maxfield Parrish

Grand Canyon, Maxfield Parrish

At FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten explains why primary results can’t be used to project general election turnout: Primary Turnout Means Nothing For The General Election.

Republican turnout is up and Democratic turnout is down in the 2016 primary contests so far. That has some Republicans giddy for the fall…And some commentators are saying that Democrats should be nervous.

But Democrats shouldn’t worry. Republicans shouldn’t celebrate….voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.

Indeed, history suggests that there is no relationship between primary turnout and the general election outcome. You can see this on the most basic level by looking at raw turnout in years in which both parties had competitive primaries. There have been six of those years in the modern era: 1976, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008.

Check out Enten’s charts and detailed analysis of the question at the link.

Moon Rising, Barbara Gurwitz

Moon Rising, Barbara Gurwitz

This one is for Dakinikat. Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana.

In 2010, the tea-party wave put Sam Brownback into the Sunflower State’s governor’s mansion and Republican majorities in both houses of its legislature. Together, they implemented the conservative movement’s blueprint for Utopia: They passed massive tax breaks for the wealthy and repealed all income taxes on more than 100,000 businesses. They tightened welfare requirements, privatized the delivery of Medicaid, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies and 2,000 government employees. In 2012, Brownback helped replace the few remaining moderate Republicans in the legislature with conservative true believers. The following January, after signing the largest tax cut in Kansas history, Brownback told the Wall Street Journal, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’ ”

[…]

Louisiana has replicated these results. When Bobby Jindal moved into the governor’s mansion in 2008, he inherited a $1 billion surplus. When he moved out last year, Louisiana faced a $1.6 billion projected deficit. Part of that budgetary collapse can be put on the past year’s plummeting oil prices. The rest should be placed on Jindal passing the largest tax cut in the state’s history and then refusing to reverse course when the state’s biggest industry started tanking. Jindal’s giveaway to the wealthiest citizens in the country’s second-poorest state cost Louisiana roughly $800 million every year. To make up that gap, Jindal slashed social services, raided the state’s rainy-day funds, and papered over the rest with reckless borrowing. Today, the state is scrambling to resolve a $940 million budget gap for this fiscal year, with a $2 billion shortfall projected for 2017. Like Bizarro Vermont, Louisiana can no longer afford to provide public defenders for all its criminal defendants. Its Department of Children and Family Services may soon be unable to investigate every reported instance of child abuse. Education funding is down 44 percent since Jindal took office. The state’s hospitals are likely to see at least $64 million in funding cuts this year.

Superstition Mountains, Carol Sabo

Superstition Mountains, Carol Sabo

As we all know, Brownback’s and Jindal’s policies brought both states to their knees economically. For more detailed analysis, go to the link and read the entire piece. So why haven’t Republican presidential candidates been asked to explain why they are pushing the same tired policies that destroyed two states?

What has happened to these states should be a national story; because we are one election away from it being our national story. Ted Cruz claims his tax plan will cost less than $1 trillion in lost revenue over the next ten years. Leaving aside the low bar the Texas senator sets for himself — my giveaway to the one percent will cost a bit less than the Iraq War! — Cruz only stays beneath $1 trillion when you employ the kind of “dynamic scoring” that has consistently underestimated the costs of tax cuts in Kansas. Under a conventional analysis, the bill runs well over $3 trillion, with 44 percent of that lost money accruing to the one percent. John Kasich’s tax plan includes cutting the top marginal rate by more than ten percent along with a similar cut to the rates on capital gains and business taxes. Even considering Kasich’s appetite for Social Security cuts, his plan must rely on the same supply-side voodoo that Kansas has so thoroughly discredited. As for the most likely GOP nominee, even with dynamic scoring, his tax cuts would cost $10 trillion over the next ten years, with 40 percent of that gargantuan sum filling the pockets of Trump’s economic peers.

If any of these men are [sic] elected president, they will almost certainly take office with a House and Senate eager to scale up the “red-state model.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said of Brownback’s Kansas, This is exactly the sort of thing we (Republicans) want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s celebrated budgets all depend on the same magical growth that has somehow escaped the Sunflower State.

Maxfield Parish Cowboys' Hot Springs AZ

Maxfield Parish, Cowboys’ Hot Springs AZ

In an important op-ed at The Washington Post, Mark Barden and Jackie Barden respond to comments Bernie Sanders made during the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan. The Bardens’ son Daniel was murdered in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School  in Newtown, Connecticut.

Sanders is wrong about the lawsuit we filed after our son’s murder in Newtown.

Our son, our sweet little Daniel, was just 7 when he was murdered in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. We are among the 10 families suing the manufacturer, distributor and retail seller of the assault rifle that took 26 lives in less than five minutes on that terrible day.

We write in response to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s comments about our lawsuit at the recent Democratic presidential debate in Michigan. Sanders suggested that the “point” of our case is to hold Remington Arms Co. liable simply because one of its guns was used to commit mass murder. With all due respect, this is simplistic and wrong.

This case is about a particular weapon, Remington’s Bushmaster AR-15, and its sale to a particular market: civilians. It is not about handguns or hunting rifles, and the success of our lawsuit would not mean the end of firearm manufacturing in this country, as Sanders warned. This case is about the AR-15 because the AR-15 is not an ordinary weapon; it was designed and manufactured for the military to increase casualties in combat. The AR-15 is to guns what a tank is to cars: uniquely deadly and suitable for specialized use only.

We have never suggested that Remington should be held liable simply for manufacturing the AR-15. In fact, we believe that Remington and other manufacturers’ production of the AR-15 is essential for our armed forces and law enforcement. But Remington is responsible for its calculated choice to sell that same weapon to the public, and for emphasizing the military and assaultive capacities of the weapon in its marketing to civilians.

Indeed, Remington promotes the AR-15’s capacity to inflict mass casualities. It markets its AR-15s with images of soldiers and SWAT teams; it dubs various models the “patrolman” and the “adaptive combat rifle” and declares that they are “as mission-adaptable as you are”; it encourages the notion that the AR-15 is a weapon that bestows power and glory upon those who wield it. Advertising copy for Remington’s AR-15s has included the following: “Consider your man card reissued,” and “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”

Please go read the rest at the WaPo. I really hope Bernie Sanders reads it carefully.

Arizona, Jose Aceves

Arizona, Jose Aceves

Finally, here’s just one reason I believe Hillary Clinton will crush Donald Trump or any other GOP candidate in November.

CNN: Obama plans to campaign hard, with legacy on his mind.

Expect to see a whole lot of President Barack Obama this campaign season as he works to spell out what he sees as the stakes in the 2016 election and tries to defend his legacy.

As he approaches the end of his term in the midst of an election year that has been defined by heated, often controversial rhetoric coming from the leading Republican candidates, like GOP front-runner Donald Trump, the President is vowing to do all he can to make sure a Democrat replaces him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He also wants to retake the Senate and win more seats in the House of Representatives.

So far, he has headlined 35 fundraisers since the 2014 midterm elections and he has already endorsed 10 candidates at the state level, according to the Democratic National Committee.

“The President has been clear that as we get closer to the general election, it will become even more important that the American people understand what is at stake,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman. “Do we continue to build on the policies that reward hard-working American families, advance our economic and national security, and address challenges for future generations, or do we stop in our tracks, reverse our progress and move in the wrong direction? This is a choice that the President does not take lightly, and is something he will lay out for the American people with increased frequency in the weeks and months ahead.”

Obama has implicitly endorsed Hillary four times now, and he has said he would not campaign for any candidate who doesn’t support “commonsense gun laws.” If she is the nominee, there will be an awesome team behind her–President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, as well as other prominent Democrats. Can you just imagine what a team Barack and Hillary will make on the campaign trail? I can’t wait.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend!


Monday Reads: Ch-ch-ch-changes

3040870-poster-p-2-the-faces-of-bowieGood Afternoon!

The year is young but I’ve already had more lessons in impermanence than normal.  Late last night, I got the news that David Bowie–icon of my youth and as I’m learning the icon of nearly everyone around my age and younger–died after 18 months of living with cancer.   I’ve been listening to Bowie’s new album with its haunting images and melodies.  The accompanying videos aren’t easy to process.  Blackstar felt like it was bringing many things full circle to me. Now I realize that’s what Bowie was about especially after reading a press release from his producer.  I woke this morning to find that Bowie’s final body of work was labelled a “gift to fans”.  Bowie was the consummate artist and public intellectual.  I feel blessed to live in a time when I could see him unfold and that he could provide nuance, context, and soundtracks to my life and loves.

David Bowie’s last release, Lazarus, was ‘parting gift’ for fans in carefully planned finale

The producer of Blackstar confirms David Bowie had planned his poignant final message, and videos and lyrics show how he approached his death.

Like most kids my age, I heard Bowie’s Space Oddity from a small am radio and found it odd but compelling. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college I found myself in love with some one quite obsessed with the newly released Diamond Dogs and the older Ziggy Stardust music.   I loved the Movie “Man who Fell to Earth”.  I saw it several times because it was so fascinating. My favorite album will always be Changes.  So, early Bowie will always be my Bowie. To my daughters, Bowie is the Goblin King.

Bowie threaded together lots of interests of mine.  He had an amazing sense of fashion and the theatric along with with his gift for composing and arranging music.  He didn’t have a great voice but it was 12440557_965940580158088_6917408587215100945_oexpressive and worked well with what he tackled. He also managed to lace things with social commentary and a vision for a freer society as well as a love of science fiction.  Every project of Bowie’s was intelligent and visually arresting. He kept my attention with each one over my entire romance with his body of work of over 40 years.

The singer-songwriter and producer excelled at glam rock, art rock, soul, hard rock, dance pop, punk and electronica during an eclectic 40-plus-year career.

David Bowie died Sunday after a battle with cancer, his rep confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 69.

“David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief,” read a statement posted on the artist’s official social media accounts.

The influential singer-songwriter and producer excelled at glam rock, art rock, soul, hard rock, dance pop, punk and electronica during his eclectic 40-plus-year career. He just released his 25th album, Blackstar, Jan. 8, which was his birthday.

Bowie’s artistic breakthrough came with 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, an album that fostered the notion of rock star as space alien. Fusing British mod with Japanese kabuki styles and rock with theater, Bowie created the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

download (1)
The BBC has a great tab full of all things Bowie including interviews.  You can find many things because Bowie was and did many things. Will Gompertz, BBC Arts editor had this to say about the artist.  (I have to let you know that Merce Cunningham–one of his influences–was my brother-in-law’s Uncle.)  Bowie did continue the avant-garde tradition of the early 20th century and carried it into a future yet to be realized.

David Bowie was the Picasso of pop. He was an innovative, visionary, restless artist: the ultimate ever-changing postmodernist.

Along with the Beatles, Stones and Elvis Presley, Bowie defined what pop music could and should be. He brought art to the pop party, infusing his music and performances with the avant-garde ideas of Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Andy Warhol.

He turned pop in a new direction in 1972 with the introduction of his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Glam rock was the starting point, but Ziggy was much more than an eyeliner-wearing maverick: he was a truly theatrical character that at once harked backed to pre-War European theatre while anticipating 1980s androgyny and today’s discussions around a transgender spectrum.

He was a great singer, songwriter, performer, actor, producer and collaborator. But beyond all that, at the very heart of the matter, David Bowie was quite simply – quite extraordinarily – cool.

I still like to think of him as more than an artist because of his sense of social justice.  He was an important figure in bringing GLBT culture into the mainstream as well as bringing the sexual revolution into every images (3)one’s face.  He also had a political side.  Bowie was all about freedom of expression in all forms.

In June 1987, David Bowie returned to the divided city of Berlin for a concert that some Germans, rightly or wrongly, still view as having helped change history.

Bowie knew West Berlin well. He’d lived there for three years in the late 1970s, sharing an apartment in the Schöneberg neighborhood with Iggy Pop, escaping from the drugs and over-the-top glam of his early career into the city’s expressionism and art pop. It was there that Bowie recorded three of the albums for which, upon his death today from cancer at the age of 69, he is still remembered and cherished.

In 1977, the year Bowie recorded Heroes, the second of his three Berlin albums, East German border guards shot and killed 18-year-old Dietmar Schwietzer as he tried to flee west across the wall; a few months later, 22-year-old Henri Weise drowned trying to cross the Spree River. Heroes was haunted by the Cold War themes of fear and isolation that hung over the city. Its still-famous title track tells a story of two lovers who meet at the wall and try, hopelessly, to find a way to be together.A decade later, when, in 1987, Bowie returned for the Concert for Berlin, a three-day open-air show in front of the Reichstag, he chose “Heroes” for his performance. By then the city’s Soviet-dominated East had become safer, but it had not become more free. Rock music was treated as a destabilizing threat.

But the wall couldn’t keep out radio waves; the West German–operated, US-run radio station Radio in the American Sector was popular in the East, and had secured rare permission from the performing acts to broadcast the show in its entirety. (Record labels typically opposed this in the 1980s, knowing listeners would record the broadcasts, undercutting album sales.) The concert was held near enough to the border that many East Berliners crowded along the wall to listen to the forbidden American and British music wafting across the city, allowing these two halves of the city to hear the same show, divided but together.

I love this tribute to him. It’s a thanks from all the “weird kids” who can count me in their number.  I spent my youth feeling totally out of place and time.  Bowie made being out of images (4)place and time feel special and easier to bear.

I do not believe it is a wild exaggeration to say that there are on this earth today many people who would not be here without David Bowie — either because their parents procreated to his music or because (and this is I believe the more important group) he gave them a reason to stay alive when perhaps they did not want to. He was the patron saint of all my favorite fellow travelers: the freaks, the fags, the dykes, the queers, the weirdos of all stripes, and that most dangerous creature of all: the artist. He was the crown prince(ss) of the unusual. He was so marvelously, spectacularly weird, and he gave so many oddballs, including this one, hope.

So, 2016 is resplendent in lessons for me on surfing Samasara as I’ve mentioned before. While the world processes the news over David Bowie with awe and grief, Louisiana celebrates being a rid of “Governor” Bobby Jindal.  We are officially out of his clutches but not out of the huge mess the man leaves all around us.  Our new Governor was sworn in today and has promised to at least stabilize the budget.

Saying he won’t be a “business-as-usual” leader, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards took his oath of office Monday, promising to stabilize the budget and end cycles of financial crises that threaten public health services and colleges.

As he placed his hand on the family Bible for the swearing-in ceremony, Edwards became the only Democratic governor in the Deep South after an improbable victory.

He follows term-limited Republican Bobby Jindal, inheriting a budget mess that will require him to work with a majority GOP Legislature. Edwards pledged bipartisanship in his approach, which he said needed to end Louisiana’s use of stopgap, short-term financial maneuvers that create new budget troubles annually.

“We can no longer afford to lurch from year to year, cobbling together temporary fixes and expecting to realize permanent sustainability. If we don’t fix the structural budget deficit, we can’t fix any of our other problems,” the new governor said at the inaugural ceremony held on the steps of the Louisiana Capitol.

The Edwards administration estimates Louisiana faces a shortfall of up to $750 million in the state’s $25 billion budget for the remaining six months of the current fiscal year and a gap more than twice that amount for next year.

While he talked of working across party lines, however, Edwards also outlined a decidedly Democratic agenda.

He said he will ask lawmakers to increase the minimum wage, pass a new equal pay law and work to make college more affordable, to combat poverty in Louisiana. And he said he’ll start the process for expanding Medicaid on Tuesday, as allowed under the federal health care law.

“Your tax dollars should not be going to one of the 30 other states that have expanded Medicaid when we are one of the states that expansion will help the most,” he said.

But the governor called addressing the financial mess his top priority, saying he’ll seek to make budget cuts and “rework the failed system of tax incentives, credits and rebates, which bleed the state’s revenue and too often leave little to show for the spending.”

images (5)I’m not sure all our idiot Republicans are going to go along with this but hopefully, enough will that we can start digging out.

So, I’m really late today and I’m anxiously awaiting how you’re processing the world without David Bowie.  

I’m releasing it all to the Greater Ethos for the moment.

Be well and love yourself and others.  We really don’t have as much time as we think.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

I thought I’d provide some links and information on the climate change negotiations in Paris. This was something I planned to blog on earlier but so much crazy is going on that it’s distracted me.  Rather than open up with the details, I’m starting with a New Yorker article about how predictable the flooding has gotten in Miami and how an elderly Florida professor believes the surrounding area has less than 50 years to go before its completely submerged.  That’s a pretty astounding hypothesis and I speak as  New Orleanian on one of the few strips of land that sits comfortably above current sea level knowing we’re not that far behind.  New York City should be concerned too.  But, for right now, back to becoming a disaster tourist where it’s actually possible to schedule your viewing of Miami floods.  They are now that predictable.

The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation. Knowing the tides would be high around the time of the “super blood moon,” in late September, I arranged to meet up with Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami’s geological-sciences department. Wanless, who is seventy-three, has spent nearly half a century studying how South Florida came into being. From this, he’s concluded that much of the region may have less than half a century more to go.

We had breakfast at a greasy spoon not far from Wanless’s office, then set off across the MacArthur Causeway. (Out-of-towners often assume that Miami Beach is part of Miami, but it’s situated on a separate island, a few miles off the coast.) It was a hot, breathless day, with a brilliant blue sky. Wanless turned onto a side street, and soon we were confronting a pond-sized puddle. Water gushed down the road and into an underground garage. We stopped in front of a four-story apartment building, which was surrounded by a groomed lawn. Water seemed to be bubbling out of the turf. Wanless took off his shoes and socks and pulled on a pair of polypropylene booties. As he stepped out of the car, a woman rushed over. She asked if he worked for the city. He said he did not, an answer that seemed to disappoint but not deter her. She gestured at a palm tree that was sticking out of the drowned grass.
“Look at our yard, at the landscaping,” she said. “That palm tree was super-expensive.” She went on, “It’s crazy—this is saltwater.”

“Welcome to rising sea levels,” Wanless told her.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. According to Wanless, all these projections are probably low. In his office, Wanless keeps a jar of meltwater he collected from the Greenland ice sheet. He likes to point out that there is plenty more where that came from.

“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.

We got back into the car. Driving with one hand, Wanless shot pictures out the window with the other. “Look at that,” he said. “Oh, my gosh!” We’d come to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes where the water was creeping under the security gates and up the driveways. Porsches and Mercedeses sat flooded up to their chassis.

“This is today, you know,” Wanless said. “This isn’t with two feet of sea-level rise.” He wanted to get better photos, and pulled over onto another side street. He handed me the camera so that I could take a picture of him standing in the middle of the submerged road. Wanless stretched out his arms, like a magician who’d just conjured a rabbit.

In the Miami area, the daily high-water mark has been rising almost an inch a year. 

CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY JACOB ESCOBED

1-BDjVlXgYzkDmQRNoKiCm0w@2xI guess the bottom line is to go short on real estate in Southern Florida and don’t expect your private supplemental flood insurance to come cheap.

Louisiana has already lost its boot. There is significant land loss here and the National Climate Change report has put Louisiana and New Orleans as one of the country’s most vulnerable locations behind Southern Florida.

Louisiana will see billions of dollars in increased disaster costs as early as 2030 resulting from the combined effects of global warming and natural processes, according to a new National Climate Assessment report released by the White House on Tuesday (May 6).

The report also warns that sea level rise – combined with naturally-occurring subsidence – continues to threaten wetlandsand land bordering the state’s most populated areas, increasing their risk from storm surges; and that sea level rise driven by human-induced global warming also threatens interstate highways, railroads, ports, airports, oil and gas facilities and water supplies.

“The southeastern region is exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events and decreased water availability,” said Kirsten Dow, a geography professor at the University of South Carolina and one of the authors of chapters in the report, during a telephonic news conference on the report.

The state’s agriculture also is threatened by sea level rise that could contaminate shallow groundwater tables, the report said.

Louisiana’s residents also will see a significant increase in the number of days when the temperature reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and a significant reduction in the days when temperatures drop below 32 degrees, according to the report. The temperature changes are likely to pose a threat to the health of at-risk populations, including those who are chronically ill or elderly.

We’re also getting an unseasonably warm December.  I’m trying to be sympathetic with my NYC friends who are complaining about needing AC and shorts. This weather might be taken as an outlier if the averagesoutbeachfloods temperatures over an extended period of time haven’t trended upward by such a statistically significant amount.

It’s beginning to look a lot like — September? While retailers may be hitting their full holiday shopping season stride, Mother Nature is not doing her part to put people in the Christmas spirit.

Unseasonably mild temperatures are spreading over the eastern half of the country and about 75% of the U.S. population will see the temperature climb over 60°F by the end of the weekend, hardly a winter wonderland. Don’t be surprised to find holiday shoppers wearing shorts while strolling along Michigan Avenue in Chicago this weekend, as temperatures in the low 60s will make it feel more like late September or early October.

Many folks are asking if the relatively successful Paris agreements on Climate Change are our last best hope for the planet?  Rebecca Leber–writing for The New Republic—suggests they may help prevent doom.

These negotiations essentially determined the future course of the world. For a long time we’ve needed an agreement that covers the vast majority of carbon emissions and lays out in no uncertain terms that they are on a long-term downward trajectory. But to get there, 195 countries had a decision to make: Would they allow individual disagreements to lock the planet into a future of unrestrained warming, or would they make the hard choices necessary to chart a safer path?

While the Paris agreement is far from perfect, the text as a whole makes a convincing case for hope. The world is a little less doomed now.

Based on the domestic pledges made by 187 countries, covering some 95 percent of global emissions, the Earth’s average temperature could now rise by somewhere between 2.7 to 3.5 degrees Celsius over the course of the century. That’s still far too high, and shows how much work remains, but it is an improvement over the path of unrestrained pollution we were on before Paris.

A woman wearing a mask walk through a street covered by dense smog in Harbin, northern China, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in one northern Chinese city as the region entered its high-smog season. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

A woman wearing a mask walk through a street covered by dense smog in Harbin, northern China, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in one northern Chinese city as the region entered its high-smog season. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Beijing and Delhi are two of the worst polluted cities in the world.  How the two of them deal with that pollution is important to the success of any strategy dealing with carbon emissions hoping to stem climate change. Beijng has smog emergency days frequently. I remember these from L.A. in the late 1960s when I visited my grandparents who retired there.  An rusty colored cloud hung over that city and was the first thing I remember seeing when we would drive over the mountains and get a glimpse.  Things have changed since Nixon’s EPA-related laws, but not enough.  However, even the worst smog days in old L.A. have nothing on New Delhi and Beijing. These cities are also the ones begging for mercy on an pollution control mandates coming from the Paris negotiations.

When Beijing’s air was forecast to reach hazardous levels for three straight days earlier in December, the government issued a smog red alert. The result: Half the city’s cars were off the roads within hours, schools were closed and construction sites shut down. Less than three days later, pollution levels had dropped by 30 per cent.When New Delhi’s winter air grew so bad that High Court warned that “it seems like we are living in a gas chamber,” the city’s top official declared that cars would be restricted starting January 1, with odd and even license plates taking turns on the roads. But police officials quickly announced they hadn’t been consulted, and said they’d have trouble enforcing the rule. Plus, no one could fully explain how the already overstretched public transit system could absorb millions of additional commuters overnight.So, well, maybe the whole plan will be scrapped.”If there are too many problems, it will be stopped,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a speech a couple days after his announcement. “We will not do anything which will cause inconvenience to the public.”Long famous for its toxic air, Beijing is struggling to lose that reputation, bowing to pressure from a growing middle class to keep pollution under control. Traffic is regularly restricted in the city, factories have been moved and the Central Government is anxious to ratchet down the country’s use of coal-burning power plants.And New Delhi, which by many measures now has far more polluted air than Beijing? So far, the green panel has ordered that no diesel cars be registered in the city for the next few weeks, and has discouraged the government from buying diesels for government fleets. Officials, meanwhile, have suggested everything from car-free days to planting more trees to dedicated bus lanes.

Here is a short outline on the key points of the accords and the impact on India.  Developing nations were given a lot of leeway.  Getting this kind of agreement was difficult given the many agendas of the various countries.

The Paris accord builds upon the bottom up approach of voluntary commitments or Intended Nationally Determined Commitments(INDCs) from both developed and developing countries. The accord urges parties to enhance their pre-2020 emission cuts and acknowledges the significant gap between current pledges and what is needed to be consistent with holding temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Countries are expected to submit revised INDCs by 2020, and every five years thereafter. Modi in his opening speech at the negotiations highlighted the need to operationalise the principle of equity and fair distribution of the remaining carbon space (i.e. the amount of carbon we can further emit before breaching average temperature threshold).

Modi in his opening speech at the negotiations highlighted the need to operationalise the principle of equity and fair distribution of the remaining carbon space (i.e. the amount of carbon we can further emit before breaching average temperature threshold).

But by deferring ambitious carbon reductions from the developed countries post 2020, which will still remain voluntary, India has effectively accepted a scenario where a fair carbon budgeting is a distant dream. India, it appears, will instead push hard for greater financing and capacity building for a renewable energy transition.

 The one thing the December 12th agreement has is a commitment to phase out the use of fossil fuels.  This is something the EU has been working on aggressively.paris_climate_afp

The agreement commits its signatories to a wonky goal: A “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” before the end of the century. In practice, that means an economy with net zero emissions as soon as possible, paving the way for a massive uptake in renewable energy and the careful preservation of the world’s forests. It also includes a global temperature target of “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and instructs them to “pursue efforts” to keep the increase to just 1.5 degrees, amajor victory for the small island countries that formed the moral heart of the negotiations.

Negotiators worked throughout the two weeks—plus an extra day—on delivering a bold compromise, arriving with legally binding language on financial and technical support to developing countries and a novel “ratchet” mechanism that commits all nations to return to the negotiating table and increase their ambition every five years.

Shipping and air travel, which account for about 8 percent of global emissions, were excluded from the agreement due to the quirk of their international nature, though even those sources are scheduled to be part of separate agreements next year.

It’s by no means a perfect deal, but the final wording of the agreement reflects major achievements in science and diplomacy that have been in the works for decades. Small island countries, in particular, played a critical role at bridging differencesbetween the major developed countries, like the U.S. and Europe, and major developing countries, like India and China. This is an agreement that’s designed to last a century, and will shape the trajectory of both threatened ecosystems and the global economy for the foreseeable future.

As you read links, you will see that this is a very slow and incremental process.  It is probably too slow to save both the Louisiana Coast and Southern Florida. Here’s the most comprehensive information on the negotiations and accords.

Here are key resources on the Paris Agreement and events leading up to it.

Summary of the Paris Agreement

Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a landmark agreement on December 12 in Paris, charting a fundamentally new course in the two-decade-old global climate effort.

Paris Agreement Statement

The agreement reached in Paris at the conclusion of COP 21 seeks to address rising emissions and climate imapcts with tools to hold countries accountable and build ambition over time.

Essential Elements of a Paris Climate Agreement

A concise, comprehensive guide to what Paris needs to deliver: a legal agreement that ensures strong accountability and spurs rising ambition. Issues include long-term direction, mitigation, adaptation, finance, transparency and updating of national contributions.

A Primer on the Paris Climate Talks

Questions and answers on the history of the U.N. climate talks, key issues under negotiation, the legal nature of the agreement, implications for U.S. acceptance, and what happens after Paris.

Business Support for the Paris Agreement

Fourteen major companies joined a statement organized by C2ES calling for an agreement that provides clearer long-term direction, strengthens transparency, promotes greater comparability of effort, and facilitates the global carbon market.

Toward 2015 Dialogue

Read a seminal report from the co-chairs of C2ES’s Toward 2015 dialogue, which brought together top negotiators from two dozen countries for a series of candid, in-depth discussions that forged common ground on key issues for Paris.

Legal Options for U.S. Acceptance

This C2ES legal analysis examines whether the Paris climate agreement can be accepted by the president under executive authority or must be approved by Congress.

So, this is a bonus, creepy crime-ridden tale of swampy Louisiana and it involves one of my favorite topics.  There’s an abandoned pet cemetery with a complex and dark history that was featured by a photographer10883872-large shooting during the Katrina 10 year anniversary.  It’s actually got violent history back to about 1854 when it was still part of a vast plantation and hosted a duel.    It seems an odd way to end a climate change post but just think how creepy it’s going to be when a whole lot of today’s real estate is an abandoned, swampy ghost town.  That’s where we’re headed.

 The duel may have marked the first of many bloodspills involving the Toca pet cemetery property’s once and future owners, as well as those intangibly associated with what is now an overgrown, bayou-side graveyard and the axis of a recently exhumed 27-year-old murder investigation. The probe has opened a crack in an ageless odyssey of killings, betrayal, buried treasure and intrigue, all tied to a 14-acre tract in tiny Toca, Louisiana.

Today, the property consists of a derelict but once classic Edwardian manor encircled by overgrown animal tombstones on the right bank of Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs, just below Poydras in rural St. Bernard Parish, about four miles from the Mississippi River.

Last month, authorities claimed to have solved the most recent crime on this killing field of south Louisiana when the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office booked Brandon Nodier, a former groundskeeper at the cemetery, with the 1985 murder of Dorothy Thompson, an heiress whose own legacy is splattered with bloodshed. But many intrigues, such as the whereabouts of a missing half million dollar fortune, perhaps will linger forever, lost with those now dead and gone.

Historic court records, police reports, newspaper clippings, biographies, interviews, marriage, divorce and death records reveal a bizarre history of the pet cemetery that for three decades attracted animal lovers from throughout the South.

So, that’s it from me on a gloomy New Orleans Monday.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

165623_600Hello Monday and Sky Dancers!!!

I’m beginning to think we should offer free psychotropics and mental health screenings for folks voting Republican these days. You might consider putting a candy bowl of them out for your crazy uncle and cousins still voting Republican as a holiday treat.  Tolerance and displays of so much delusion should definitely be on the radars of what’s left of our mental health systems.  It’s hard to know where to start but the fact that Donald Trump is the leading presidential candidate and basically doing it by taking pages and policies out of Hitler’s playbook is one example worthy of discussion.

However, let me start locally with Slum Dog Governor Piyush Jindal who has decided he needs to take a “victory lap” around the state before he fades into oblivion.  You might think I’m kidding on this so I’m going to include some quotes from the state’s major newspaper for good measure because  I am not kidding.  He’s finally retreated  from the cornfields of Iowa. We’re expecting a huge budget deficit mid term thanks to his stupid accounting tricks and tax giveaways.  A Blue Dog Democrat–John Bel Edwards–supported by many Republicans is set to follow him into the statehouse.

Jindal wants to travel the state for some local accolades.  Good luck with that Governor!  All but about 20% of us can’t stand the sight or sound of you.

With only weeks remaining in office, Gov. Bobby Jindal has returned home to try to shore up his Louisiana legacy after his presidential campaign ended unsurprisingly with him headed to a new home in Baton Rouge, rather than the White House.

A statewide tour and press releases touting his accomplishments might be too little too late to win kind thoughts from the folks in Louisiana, where his approval ratings have dropped to record lows.

The term-limited Republican is seeking to exit the governor’s mansion in January with Louisiana residents remembering his economic development wins and education overhaul, rather than prevailing criticisms that he put his national ambitions over the state’s needs.

Jindal dismissed such criticisms in the press conference he held in Baton Rouge, a post mortem of sorts, after scrapping his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

“We’ve continued to work every single day that I’ve been governor to work hard to move our state forward. I’m proud of the result,” he said. He added: “I think that I will be leaving our state better off than we were eight years ago.”

Yes indeed!  Well, about that leaving the state better that it was eight years ago part …

Now that his campaign is officially dead, however, it’s worth highlighting Jindal’s record as governor of Louisiana. This is what the man did. This is what he accomplished. This is what he leaves behind. And this what he should be remembered for.

  1. He entered office with an $865 million surplus and he will exit with a $1.6 billion deficit.
  2. Funding for higher education has been cut by more than 80 percent, and the entire system is experiencing a fiscal crisis.
  3. Funding for youth services has been cut by 40 percent.
  4. Funding for Veterans Affairs programs has been cut by 69 percent.
  5. The Department of Environmental Quality has been cut by 96 percent (in a state with a rapidly eroding coastline).
  6. He rejected a Medicaid expansion in order to protest Obamacare, and thousands of low-income Louisianans remain without health care as a result.
  7. Louisiana has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation; the highest diabetes-related death rate; the highest rate of death from breast cancer; the third highest rate of cancers deaths overall; and the eighth highest rate of teenage pregnancy.
  8. He rejected $300 million of federal stimulus money (one his favorite talking points at the time), despite Louisiana’s underfunded and crumbling infrastructure.
  9. He issued a symbolic executive order that defended discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.”
  10. He sold out his state to protect BP against legitimate lawsuits. (Side note: Jindal’s brother is a lawyer for the firm representing BP).
  11. He held a massive “prayer rally” on the state’s flagship campus, a rally that promoted his presidential campaign and distributed materials blaming gay people for hurricanes and natural disasters.
  12. He signed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allowed creationism to be taught in science courses at public schools.

There are countless other examples of Jindal’s failures, but this list is fairly illustrative of his career as Governor of Louisiana. This is what he did in order to pitch himself as a fiscally responsible, small government conservative in GOP primary states. It explains why 70 percent of Louisianans now disapprove of the job he has done. And it explains why he won’t be missed and why the Republican gubernatorial candidate following him, David Vitter, has tried unsuccessfully to run away from Jindal’s record.

The stench of Jindal’s administration will linger for years in Louisiana, and everyone here knows it. His presidential campaign was and is a punchline, but his governorship was a moral and political failure, and a tragedy for thousands of Louisianans. If he’s ever elected again for public office, I can assure you it won’t be as a Louisianan.

I’d say Sean Illing’s list is a pretty decent capsule of the wreckage.  I’d have to add that you can put many a sad face on how bad life has gotten with Jindal administration including mine.bobby_Jindal_No_Go_Zone_ColorWEB

We have a kinda sorta Democrat now whose first act was to appoint the former Republican State Senator responsible for the Creationism in public schools disguised as science to be his chief of staff.  His transition team is remarkably full of Republicans.  However, he still says that the Medicaid expansion is priority one and it could be one of the reasons why Nevers got the job.   I’m trying to be optimistic here.  You can hold my hand if you want to help.

“The expansion of health care coverage for working families is among the highest priorities. It’s something I’ve been working on for three years, and I never once during this campaign shied away from that particular issue,” Edwards said during a news conference with reporters in New Orleans. “So we are going to expand the Medicaid program in Louisiana. We’re going to do it as soon as we possibly can and as responsibly as we possibly can.”

The strongest signal yet of Edwards’ commitment to Medicaid expansion is his appointment of state Sen. Ben Nevers to be his chief of staff. Nevers has been one of the foremost advocates of Medicaid expansion in the Legislature, at times offering tearful testimony as he pleaded with colleagues to expand the federal program to cover people who aren’t paid enough to purchase their own insurance.

Asked about the significance of Medicaid expansion to the working poor, Nevers said, “it means life or death to many people across this state.”

“There are over 242,000 people without medical insurance in this state who go to work everyday; who have been dependable employees,” Nevers said. “It would mean the opportunity for them to have insurance for them and their families. I can tell you that there’s many people across this state who’ve suffered tremendously because we’ve refused to expand Medicaid.”

When asked what it means to him personally, Nevers said, “It means a tremendous amount to me.

“As you know, I filed bills the last three years to expand Medicaid and could not get them out of the Senate or the House,” Nevers said. “It’s been a very frustrating experience because I know we’re sending dollars to Washington D.C. that we refuse to take back in our own state. Now that’s just ludicrous.”

This state is among the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick.  Things certainly could not get much worse.

People here and all around the country certainly do not trust their governments.  Is this the real legacy of Reagan’s dementia and eagerness to poor shame?  cjones11072015

A year ahead of the presidential election, the American public is deeply cynical about government, politics and the nation’s elected leaders in a way that has become quite familiar.

Currently, just 19% say they can trust the government always or most of the time,among the lowest levels in the past half-century. Only 20% would describe government programs as being well-run. And elected officials are held in such low regard that 55% of the public says “ordinary Americans” would do a better job of solving national problems.

Yet at the same time, most Americans have a lengthy to-do list for this object of their frustration: Majorities want the federal government to have a major role in addressing issues ranging from terrorism and disaster response to education and the environment.

And most Americans like the way the federal government handles many of these same issues, though they are broadly critical of its handling of others – especially poverty and immigration.

A new national survey by Pew Research Center, based on more than 6,000 interviews conducted between August 27 and October 4, 2015, finds that public attitudes about government and politics defy easy categorization. The study builds upon previous reports about the government’s role and performance in 2010 and 1998. This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the survey from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The partisan divide over the size and scope of government remains as wide as ever: Support for smaller government endures as a Republican touchstone. Fully 80% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they prefer a smaller government with fewer services, compared with just 31% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Yet both Republicans and Democrats favor significant government involvement on an array of specific issues. Among the public overall, majorities say the federal government should have a major role in dealing with 12 of 13 issues included in the survey, all except advancing space exploration.

There is bipartisan agreement that the federal government should play a major role in dealing with terrorism, natural disasters, food and medicine safety, and roads and infrastructure. And while the presidential campaign has exposed sharp partisan divisions over immigration policy, large majorities of both Republicans (85%) and Democrats (80%) say the government should have a major role in managing the immigration system.
But the partisan differences over government’s appropriate role are revealing – with the widest gaps on several issues relating to the social safety net.

165965_600 (1)That last bit certainly shows up in the Trumpettes and his followers who don’t appear to understand that offering up the same policies as Hitler isn’t a good thing.

Only about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners see a major role for the federal government in helping people get out of poverty (36%) and ensuring access to health care (34%), by far the lowest percentages for any of the 13 issues tested. Fully 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the government should have a major role in helping people out of poverty, and 83% say it should play a major role in ensuring access to health care.

Moreover, while majorities of Republicans favor a major government role in ensuring a basic income for people 65 and older (59%), protecting the environment (58%) and ensuring access to high-quality education (55%), much larger shares of Democrats – 80% or more in each case – favor a large government role.

So what explains the Republican base’s fascination with some one touring the country touting a book written on the Constitution that believes the Constitution was written by Thomas Jefferson? Is this the result of whackadoo Texans controlling the nation’s textbook content or deliberate, delusional ignorance?

It’s a common misconception that Thomas Jefferson participated in drafting the U.S. Constitution in 1787. But as Republican presidential candidate and retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson points out in his latest book, “A More Perfect Union,” Jefferson was “missing in action,” serving in Paris as minister to France.

That did not stop Carson from praising Jefferson in a C-Span interview Sunday as one of the most impressive of the Founding Fathers because he “tried to craft our Constitution in a way that it would control peoples’ natural tendencies and control the natural growth of the government.”

It’s not the first time Carson has abused Jefferson’s history. “Thomas Jefferson himself said, ‘Gun control works great for the people who are law-abiding citizens and it does nothing for the criminals, and all it does is put the people at risk,’ ” he told Fox’s Neil Cavuto after the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., in  early October. Jefferson never said that.

In his book, Carson repeated a version of the same statement, noting what he called “Thomas Jefferson’s warning: ‘Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. … Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather than encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

The supposed Jefferson comment on gun control is listed among many “spurious” quotations by the Monticello Web site. “This is not something Jefferson wrote,” say the researchers at Monticello, but rather comes from a passage he included in his “Legal Commonplace Book.” The passage, they note, was written by Cesare Beccaria in his “Essay on Crimes and Punishments” and was copied by Jefferson.

Oddly, Carson’s footnote to the quote duly notes that it comes from Beccaria and not Jefferson.

Republican obsession with all things not true but that play into their views of the world is on full display in the Trump poll numbers.  The more outrageously untrue and appalling things that spew out of Trump’s Cartoon_18.14mouth yields a bump up in the polls.  I mean, what kind’ve person could get a huge number of the Jewish population volunteering to register as Muslims just to express their outrage at the suggestion we start a database of the nation’s followers of Islam.  Trump’s latest outrages include the huge lie that thousands of Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks.    This earned him another Pinnochio from WAPO’s fact checkers and the NYC police.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You raised some eyebrows yesterday with comments you made at your latest rally. I want to show them, relating to 9/11.

VIDEO CLIP OF DONALD TRUMP, IN WHICH HE SAYS: “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “You know, the police say that didn’t happen and all those rumors have been on the Internet for some time. So did you misspeak yesterday?”

TRUMP: “It did happen. I saw it.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “You saw that…”

TRUMP: It was on television. I saw it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: “…with your own eyes?”

TRUMP: “George, it did happen.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Police say it didn’t happen.”

TRUMP: “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: “As I said, the police have said it didn’t happen.”

— Exchange on ABC’s “This Week,” Nov. 22, 2015

This exchange demonstrates the folly of trying to fact-check Donald Trump. Even when confronted with contrary information — “police say it didn’t happen” — he insists that with his own eyes he saw “thousands and thousands” of cheering Arabs in New Jersey celebrating as the World Trade Center collapsed during the Sept. 11 attacks.

Trump has already earned more Four-Pinocchio ratings than any other candidate this year. He is about to earn another one.

The Jersey City Mayor says the “account is absurd” too. 

He also is race baiting and just bragged about his audience beating up a Black Lives Matter protester.  He upped the ante by tweeting the right wing trope that blacks are murdering blacks with an appalling racist graphic attached.  He still has yet to suggest any thing policy related. He seems perfectly happy to just spew vitriol.  That is also what the base seems to love.  His tweet about black murder rates is definitely creating consternation from every one but the Republican base.

Donald Trump is taking heat on social media for a Sunday afternoon tweet of statistics purporting to show that the vast majority of murdered black people in the U.S. are killed by other black people.

The tweet was apparently Trump’s response to a Twitter thread about support from white supremacists for the GOP front-runner.

It also comes the day after a Black Lives Matter protester said he was physically and verbally assaulted at a Trump rally.

The image Trump posted includes a list of “USA Crime Statistics ~ 2015.” The two that are highlighted are “Blacks Killed by Police ~~ 1%” and “Blacks Killed by Blacks ~~ 97%.”

A drawing of a black man wielding a sideways pistol and wearing army pants, military boots and a bandana and mask accompanies the statistics, which are sourced to the “Crime Statistics Bureau” in San Francisco.

The message immediately took off on the social media platform, with thousands of people retweeting it and liking it within an hour. But many also lashed out angrily against the real estate mogul, calling Trump a racist and questioning the veracity of the stats.

Indeed, an initial search to confirm the numbers couldn’t turn up a “Crime Statistic Bureau” in San Francisco.

However, the percentages do, in some ways, align with Department of Justice (DOJ) findings from several years ago. A DOJ study released in 2011 reported that 93 percent of black homicides were committed by other blacks between 1980 and 2008.

In 2014, that figure was roughly 90 percent in 2014, according to the latest DOJ numbers.

The category tweeted out by Trump that doesn’t fit with DOJ statistics is “Whites Killed by Whites,” which Trump’s tweet indicated was 16 percent.

According to the department’s 2011 report, 84 percent of white homicides were committed by whites between 1980 and 2008. That number was 82 percent in 2014.

Trump has been roundly bashed during his presidential campaign for disparaging comments made about Mexican immigrants, Syrian refugees, Muslims and black people.

We’ve written a lot about the alternative reality were Republicans and their elected officials and candidates reside.  I’ve noticed the disconnect is getting worse on many levels.  But, again, look at Louisiana.  People down here got fed up with it.  Maybe the rest of the places that have Republican governors that are beyond delusional–Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan,Indiana etc.–will wake up to what’s actually going on.  But then again, take Kentucky.

Please.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

Good Morning!c4445a0c5f7915302406d57b35cbd6ac

I’m trying to get grades in so this will be super short.  One of the most worrying trends to me is the disinvestment in public education. An important study was released that shows that a college education must be funded primarily by students or their families.  I’ve believed for some time that getting rid of higher education was a goal of many conservative politicians because an educated person is a clear and present danger to despots.  First, I’d like to share the study and a few articles written about it.  Then, I’ll show you how that’s been brought to fruition here in Louisiana by Bobby Jindal and his slavish relationship to Grover Norquist whose goal in life is to shrink government so you can drown it in a bathtub.

I think this study and its findings are important because the incredible increase in standards of living that came about during the 1950s and 1960s was partially due to the GI Bill and the opportunity it provided to so many poor and working class men to attend college.  Education is a path to better jobs and to smarter voting electorate.  It’s necessary for a functioning democracy.

As a result of this sharp decrease in state funding, more than half of education and related expenses at public universities is now paid by students’ tuition.

“Public higher education in this country no longer exists,” said Hiltonsmith. “Because more than half of core educational expenses at ‘public’ 4-year universities are now funded through tuition, a private source of capital, they have effectively become subsidized private institutions. To eliminate the pile of debt that most students must now borrow just to finance their education, we need comprehensive policy reform that views higher education as a necessity.”
The study finds that decreases in state funding to their public universities represents the overwhelming reason why tuition is so high and why so many students have to take huge student loans to facilitate their education.

Commitment to public education has been an American social contract for quite some time. I can’t help but think that it’s actually part of a bigger plot to privatize as much as possible and to further close the path of upward mobility.

A new Demos report, Pulling Up the Higher Ed Ladder: Myth and Reality in the Crisis of College Affordability by Demos Senior Policy Analyst Robbie Hiltonsmith, finds that declining state support was responsible for nearly 80 percent of the rise in net tuition between 2001 and 2011. Examining public university revenue and spending data, he determines that rising costs for instruction and student services is responsible for much of the remainder, largely due to growing healthcare costs. Hiltonsmith also disproves the theory that colleges are spending beyond what is necessary to support their core academic functions, commonly known as administrative bloat. Increased spending on administration accounted for only six percent of tuition hikes.

“While administrative bloat is a popular theory, the data shows otherwise,” said Hiltonsmith. “This myth is not only blatantly untrue, but takes attention away from the real problem: states aren’t investing in their students. Instead, they’re saddling them with crippling, life-long debt.”

Research institutions employ just seven more staff per thousand students than they did since 1991, and 17 fewer than in 2001. The relative number of full-time faculty has remained constant and the number of executives and administrators has decreased relative to the size of the student body. New technology needs explain much of the increase in professional staff. However, universities have also shifted to employing more adjunct professors as a cost-cutting measure, a problematic trend whose effects have been well-documented.

I put this study downthread in yesterday’s post.  NW Luna provided a link to the situation in Washington State–a liberal blue state–that has not bucked the trend.

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The cost of educating a student at the University of Washington is about $400 less today, in inflation adjusted dollars, than it was 20 years ago. As executives and directors of large business and philanthropic organizations in Washington state, our board members can attest that this could not have happened without a strong commitment to efficiency and cost control.

The next time anyone questions why public university tuition is rising faster than inflation, remember this: Twenty years ago, the state government paid 80 percent of the cost of a student’s education and a student paid 20 percent. Today, the state pays 30 percent of the cost, and the student pays 70 percent. The state has systematically disinvested in our children’s future, and we view this trend with disappointment and alarm.

We truly appreciate the hard work of the governor, the Legislature and many others who work in the business, civic and education communities who this year helped put a halt to further cuts in public higher education and gave us the tools and flexibility needed to help us manage through the current crisis. However, losing half of our state funding over just a few years has radically and unduly shifted the burden of financing the higher-education system to students, who are taking on more and more family and personal debt. This debt load restrains the ability of many Washingtonians to fully pursue life’s opportunities.

Public higher education is an essential ingredient of a functioning democracy and a healthy economy, but the current financial model for its funding is broken and not sustainable. If Washington is to maintain affordable access to quality higher education for its citizens, something has to change.

collectorvv1Louisiana is leading the pack in basically shutting down its universities.  Governor Bobby Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement of the state has left all of its institutions of higher education in desperate straights.  At this writing,  nearly every university in the state is on its way to financial exigency which is basically bankruptcy for a public entity.  Yet, this is a time when more educated workers are necessary.

F. King Alexander, the president of the Louisiana State University system, said Louisiana State (LSU) would consider declaring financial exigency—the equivalent of bankruptcy for academic institutions. And Alexander said as many as a dozen campuses throughout Louisiana could ultimately have to do the same.The cutbacks would mean an uncertain fate for all of the roughly three-dozen institutions within the state’s four university “systems,” including Louisiana state’s 10 campuses, the University of Louisiana’s nine, and 14 community and technical colleges. These institutions serve roughly 260,000 students total.

Declines in per-student legislative appropriations for public higher-ed institutions are almost ubiquitous across the U.S., a trend that traces back to the recession. Though levels have started to bounce back in recent years, the average state’s per-student allocation is still 23 percent less than it was before the economy took a hit. Generally, the federal government and taxpaying students end up shouldering that cost. Meanwhile, according to 2012 data, students are for the first time in years covering a larger chunk of their college tuition than their state governments are.

“States are getting out of the public higher-education business,” Alexander told me. Alexander, a vocal advocate for stronger state investment in higher ed, says he’s optimistic that the legislature will somehow cobble together a solution. (It has until June 11, when Louisiana’s legislative session ends.) But even if lawmakers pass measures that would offset most of the shortfall, including a number proposed by Jindal, state higher-ed funding would still be cut by 32 percent, Alexander said.

By 2025 six in 10 adults in the U.S., according to one report, will have to have a postsecondary credential if the country is to maintain its economic edge. But if current trends continue over the next few decades, most state university systems would soon lose all funding from their states. A new analysis by the Pell Institute predicts that, assuming trends persist, in 2025 Colorado would become the first state to allocate zero funding to higher ed; Iowa would follow in 2029, then Michigan (2030), then Arizona (2032). Louisiana (2027) would be No. 2 on the list—if the deficit is miraculously eliminated this year. Otherwise, according to King, even a 32 percent reduction would put Louisiana in front of Colorado. Most states wouldn’t appropriate any university funding by 2050.

Louisiana’s universities are the canaries in a bigger coal mine.  It should serve as a warning to any one who cares about access to higher education for all.

So, I’m going back to grading and I leave this as an open thread for you.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Monday Reads: We Do Not Welcome our Corporate Overlords

Beetlegeuse Chewbacchus 2015Good Morning!

The Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled through my neighborhood Saturday night.  I decided to post some of the photos I took of the participants to liven up the thread today.  The parade is a celebration of Fantasy and SF books, movies, games, and TV series.  More professional pictures can be found here. See if you can recognize them!  I only wish the celebration of fantasy was limited to movies and books.  Unfortunately, it isn’t and the Koch Brothers fantasy economics plans are ruining states around the country.

I keep having conversations with people who are either politically active or politically knowledgeable about finding a way out of our current mess.   There are several key problems that seem out of the hands of voters to solve. At least, those voters that actually vote.

Things have been on the down slope since the Reagan administration but have really picked up steam with the final fifth vote locked into the Supreme Court. The Citizen’s United Decision is throttling American Democracy which is why we really need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine among other things.  It seems odd that Brian Williams can be hounded out of journalism for one mistaken memory when at least 60%–if not more–of what Fox broadcasts daily is an out and out lie.  Is Facism on the rise in America and what can we do to stop it?

As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Well, it it may well on our doorstep.  And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power – specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.

Once the American corporate barons own the institutions that are meant to regulate them, it’s game-over for both rational capitalism (including competition) and for democracy.

Last week, at David and Charles Koch’s annual winter meeting near Palm Springs, California, it was announced that the Koch Brothers’ political organization would spend close to $900 million on the 2016 election.  If this goal is met, the group of corporate leaders will spend far more than the Republican Party and its congressional campaign committees spent, combined, in the 2012 campaign.

Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs to buy an election.  Of course, that time was before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five vote majority to totally re-write the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 era of the Robber Barons.

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”): “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

You can see the influence of the Koch Brothers money in the states that have Republican Governors.  It is pimp darth chewbacchus 2015especially true of those Republican Governors with presidential aspirations who want the promised $1 billion the Kochs have pledged for the next campaign cycle.  I want to cover Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, and the horrible budget problems that we have from Jindal’s campaign to please the Kochs.  But first, I’d like to tell you what Scott Walker is doing to one of the nation’s premier public universities.

One of the major things the Kochs hate is people that aren’t miseducated or trained to be working zombies.  This fits right in with their agenda.This is similar to what’s going on with the destruction of public education and universities in Louisiana and similar issues in Kansas, both of which have Koch sucking Governors.

More than 35,000 public employees would be removed from state government rolls if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal stays intact through the legislative process.

Walker’s 2015-17 budget proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, makes major changes to the operation of the state’s University of Wisconsin System. The second-term governor’s plan would split off the system into its own public entity.

By creating a separate authority for the University of Wisconsin System, it would no longer be under the direct management of the state.

According to Walker, University of Wisconsin System supporters have been asking for more autonomy for years, claiming it would help cut costs and better serve students. The Republican governor’s plan also includes a $150 million funding cut in each year of his biennial budget in exchange for the greater autonomy.

The annual reduction is equivalent to a 2.5 percent cut in total public funding. Opponents of Walker’s reform have claimed aid is being cut by 13 percent. That, however, only takes into consideration general fund spending from the state.

He also tried to actually change the mission of the University.

You might think that changing the mission of a flagship public university would be an issue put up for public discussion. Not in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code  — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker, in a budget speech given earlier this week, didn’t bother to mention the change, which is more than a simple issue of semantics. There is a national debate about what the role of colleges and universities should be. One group, including Walker, see higher education in big part as a training ground for workers in the American workplace; another sees college education as a way to broaden the minds of young people and teach them how to be active, productive citizens of the country.

brainsHe earlier tried to tell University faculty and staff that they needed to work harder and not include “service” in their list of duties.   This is all part of the privatization craze that attempts to put union workers and public servants into the parasite category.  However, when privatized, the same workers suddenly are doing something valuable with lower compensation so that management and stockholders can skim profits from the actual work being done.

Governor Scott Walker–whom Charlie Pierce refers to as “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”–plans to unveil a budget on Tuesday evening that will reportedly “slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s public universities over the next two years.” Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress said that students, professors and state lawmakers “are already blasting the plan — the deepest cut in state history…” They told ThinkProgress that they are “organizing to block its passage.”

Even a Gannet owned newspaper complained about the cuts and the entire attitude towards faculty and higher education in general.  Oh, and he’s calling for nearly $500 million tax dollars for a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board thinks that Walker’s proposed cuts to the university go too deep. With regard to economics, the board wrote “the more educated our workforce, the higher our state’s overall standard of living will be. And in all sorts of intangible ways the university system improves our quality of life — injecting culture into communities, offering broad-based liberal education, helping define our sense of Badger identity.” The board added that “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed Draconian cuts to the system will undermine those values and hobble future economic growth.”

Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board:

Walker compounded the sense that cuts are driven by political animus when, on Wednesday, he told a conservative radio host that faculty and staff should simply increase their workload to make up the difference. It was a condescending, somewhat nasty thing to say, and it was not based in fact. UW-Madison professors, a February study showed, work on average 63 hours a week; we see no reason to assume profs on stretched-thin regional campuses work less… 

Taking a chainsaw to the UW budget now is no way to make smart, lasting reforms. Insulting UW faculty is no way to demonstrate an interest in positive reform.

And $300 million in new cuts is too much to swallow.

In a commentary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Faculty Senate Executive Committee said that news reports had confirmed  that the “UW System campuses are slated to take a combined $150 million base budget cut (over two years, so $300 million total) in his upcoming 2015-’17 biennial budget proposal.” The Journal Sentinel claimed that the numbers were “staggering.” This will reportedly be “the largest cut in the 45-year history of the system.

Well, Wisconson, welcome to the world of Governors owned by the Koch Brothers.  Here’s our reality down here in Lousyana. We’re on our 8th of year the same kind of BS.  We’re sending tax dollars to Chinese falcor the luck dragon chewbacchus 2015corporations, Arkansas Corporations, and Hollywood, but taking money away from every school but the religious madrassas and for-profits preferred by Jindal and the Kochs.

Widespread layoffs, hundreds of classes eliminated, academic programs jettisoned and a flagship university that can’t compete with its peers around the nation — those are among the grim scenarios LSU leaders outlined in internal documents as the threat of budget cuts loom.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is considering deep budget slashing to higher education for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to help close a $1.6 billion shortfall.

LSU campuses from Shreveport to New Orleans were asked to explain how a reduction between 35 percent and 40 percent in state financing — about $141.5 million to the university system — would affect their operations. The documents, compiled for LSU System President F. King Alexander, were obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

The potential implications of such hefty cuts were summed up in stark terms: 1,433 faculty and staff jobs eliminated; 1,572 courses cut; 28 academic programs shut down across campuses; and 6 institutions declaring some form of financial emergency.

At the system’s flagship university in Baton Rouge, the documents say 27 percent of faculty positions would have to be cut, along with 1,400 classes, jeopardizing the accreditation of the engineering and business colleges. Some campus buildings would be closed.

“These severe cuts would change LSU’s mission as a public research and land-grant university. It will no longer be capable of competing with America’s significant public universities and will find itself dramatically behind the rest of the nation,” the documents say.

Leias chewbacchus 2015One of the first things these folks want to do is to dumb up the population and get rid of faculty and schools that won’t teach the crap they want to continue to force their economic fairy tale.  No amount of peer review is ever going to make the trickle down economics crap do anything but float in septic tanks.  But, they’re sure doing a great job of forcing it into things by owning politicians.  Both Kansas and Louisiana are in freaking budget nightmares.

The country is full of examples illustrating the failure of Republican economic policies. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Sam Brownback’s Kansas have become poster children for the job killing, budget busting, folly of pursuing supply side economics. Were it not for the damage that right-wing policies inflict upon working families, the Laffer curve would be simply laughable.

Yet, Grover Norquist’s army of tax-hating Governors continues to run roughshod over red state budgets promising a fiscal utopia. The fact that the utopia never materializes apparently doesn’t matter. Red state voters re-elect them anyway. The words “tax cut”, like an elixir, cures their fears, even if the people whose taxes are being cut are not the ordinary voters, but rather the ultra wealthy.

Joining Brownback and Walker on the list of Governor’s facing serious budget problems, is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Louisiana is anticipating a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall for next year, and that the deficit will remain in that range for years to come. When Jindal took office in 2008, the state had a 900 million dollar surplus, and the unemployment rate was just 3.8 percent. Now, in addition to having a gaping budget shortfall, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is at 6.7 percent, above the national average.Despite the state’s budget woes, Jindal has continued to resist any tax increases. He has depleted the state’s reserve funds to fill budget holes and is still coming up short on the needed revenue. Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and as a consequence, the state ranks near dead last in quality of education and health care. Nevertheless, the supply side dogmatism of Governor Jindal virtually guarantees that the state will continue on its current path to economic perdition.

Jindal is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for President. However, Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement has made him deeply unpopular even in his own state. A November 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that only a third of Louisiana voters approved of the Governor’s job performance while 56 percent disapproved. Supply side economics has been a nightmare to the residents of Louisiana.

Notice the similar policies?  Kill the Universities or warp them into places to train the zombie drone workers of the future?    Anyway, I really hope that the 2016 voters change some of this.  I can’t wait for Hillary to tackle the Republican that tries to mainstream this crap.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: History according to Lego and other things

5116b9018bff112970689c3d9157ac0b (1)Good Morning

If you want to kill some time today, check out these images of Lego greatness:

Over a thousand pictures here: Lego Art on Pinterest 

There is even a Klimt in this one:  Lego mania on Pinterest

e7a647c998afa3841b4466b2288f71a8And more artsy fartsy stuff here: Lego Creations on Pinterest

Why do I bring all this up? Because today’s post is going to center around popular culture and nothing represents that more than Legos…used as an artistic representation in historic museums.

As a history major, and a geeky one at that…you know being a wonky sort of history geek, specifically Medieval, I don’t know how to feel about this.

cf9c84490868a589aa2b87e5ad38672dI am so enthralled with these works of Lego art, the detail, the delight it brings…but there is also a part of me that thinks…Lego? Used in a legitimate archaeological/historical sense?  Then I slap myself and say, don’t be such a pompous ass JJ…get over your fucking self. These things are not your typical play toy Lego “houses” just look at the scale models the artist create.

The latest made its debut in Sydney this past month. LEGO Pompeii Excites New Audiences – Archaeology Magazine

 

Professional LEGO builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught has crafted a model of Pompeii at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum, according to The Conversation. The project, which took more than 500 hours to complete and used more than 190,000 blocks, is one of the largest LEGO historical models ever built. The display shows three phases of the ancient city: as it looked in A.D. 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted; as it appeared when it was rediscovered in the eighteenth century; and as the ruins stand today. Over the past two years, McNaught created a scale model of the Colosseum out of the colorful bricks, and the LEGO Acropolis, now on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

This thing is amazing!

From the link to the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum above: Lego Pompeii creates less pomp and more yay in the museum

Lego Pompeii was painstakingly recreated from more than 190,000 individual blocks across 470 hours for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum – it’s the largest model of the ancient city ever constructed out of Lego blocks. There is a mix of ancient and modern elements within the model’s narrative; displaying Pompeii as it was at the moment of destruction by the volcano Vesuvius in 79AD, as it was when rediscovered in the 1700s, and as it is today.c4583b144ba8bcad2c555720b7cfc100

The historical model is the exhibition centrepiece in an archaeological museum where, until recently, displays of Lego would have been unthinkable.

The Nicholson Museum, with collections of artefacts from the Mediterranean region, Egypt and the Middle East, is a place where visitors can expect to see Greek vases, Egyptian sculpture and ceramic sherds from Jericho.

Yet since 2012, the museum has commissioned professional Lego builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught to recreate three ancient sites made from Lego. Together these models represent an interesting experiment; attracting a new audience to the museum space and demonstrating the importance of fun in a museum context.

This is not the first rodeo for The Brickman…

The first Nicholson Lego scale model was a replica of the Colosseum in Rome.

The joy of the model was its ability to contrast the old with the new. Half the model featured the amphitheatre in antiquity; the other half featured the building in ruins with Lego modern tourists.

The model proved such a success it subsequently toured several regional NSW galleries and museums. It is currently displayed at the Albury Regional Art Gallery along with Roman artefacts from the Nicholson Museum’s collection.

The second model, opened in 2013, was the Lego Acropolis, which featured buildings of ancient Athens peopled with historical Greek figures. It is now displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Go to the Nicholson Museum link to read the rest of the story, and how The Brickman studied and designed his Lego city of Pompeii.

 

Brickman is one of Lego’s Certified Professionals, these people have amazing jobs…check out some of the artist work at that link. (Mini Bios at that link too.) It seems that most of these LCP’s are men…but I have not researched enough of the culture to be sure of this…that is just my observation as I look through the websites and images. And, the one woman that is a Certified Professional is associated with education, autism, special needs and using Lego as a teaching tool. But I will just say this is only my thoughts on the matter. Let’s just go on with the post.

b9cbb10ad2d15a817e44c0d13bac09d1Alright then, how about that Blizzard? Here’s some pictures for you:

16 Images to Illustrate the Blizzard of 2015 – Scientific American

City dwellers in New York hoping to wake up to mountains of snow will have to content themselves with trawling Instagram pictures from New England. The blizzard of 2015—or really the #blizzardof2015 if we’re doing this right—brought less snow than expected to New York Cityb1e0bc0dc37ce8abac82abbe0b4ab9d5 and a number of points south. But to the east on Long Island and north throughout New England, the storm has lived up to, and in some ways exceeded, expectations with heavy snow and coastal flooding.

Snow totals are still being updated but as of Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service weather spotter has reported the highest total from the storm so far, with 30 inches in Framingham, Mass. Other central Massachusetts and South Shore locations have also piled up more than 2 feet of snow.

The second-highest snow total comes 28.5 inches measured in Orient, N.Y., on the far eastern tip of Long Island. In both places, wind gusts are piling up drifts and sending snow cresting over the eaves of houses.

 

Holy shit! I hope Boston Boomer and Pat, along with X and the rest of our Sky Dancing New England regulars…Sophie and…oh…I know I am missing some others too, are all doing okay this morning!a61ff5a45e146bf46ac0a26874a97a67

But there has been some complaining. For a look at the technical side of forecast, Cliff Mass Weather Blog: Forecast Lessons from the Northeast Snowstorm

The complaints swelled quickly this morning, both in the social media and the press:

8f4ee0d3ea03c4dd2131112f6d965d17National Weather Service forecasters had predicted two to three feet over New York City and adjacent suburbs for Tuesday and only about 8-10 inches showed up.

The city had been shut down overnight–travel banned on major roadways, mass transportation systems (e.g., subways) closed, schools and businesses closed–and all for a minor snow event!  A few samples from the press illustrates some of the commentary:

 

And then a National Weather Service forecaster even apologized for a  “blown forecast”, something that doesn’t happen very often.

And you had to expect that some global warming critic would use the forecast troublex to cast doubt on global warming predictions.

9a403543373ad0213d1e87763d4866e9So what is the truth about this forecast event?   As I will describe below, although the forecast “bust” was not as bad as it might appear, it did reveal some significant weaknesses in how my profession makes and communicates forecasts, weaknesses that National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini says he recognizes and will attempt to fix.

The general forecast situation was well understood and skillfully forecast starting on Saturday.   A low center (a midlatitude cyclone) would develop off the SE U.S. and then move northward up the East Coast–a storm commonly called a Nor’easter.  Here is a surface weather map at 4 AM PST this morning, when the storm was near its height.  e96907b49653ca28d24ede22ef46fb92In such a location, the storm can pull cold air off the continent while swirling in moisture from off the ocean.  The result is moderate to heavy snow to the west and north of the low center, as well as strong winds over the same areas.  Thirty years ago we could not forecast these storms with any skill. That has changed.

Go and read how it has changed at the link.

In other science-ish news, y’all know that big ass rock that flew by us Monday?

Best images! Asteroid 2004 BL86, as it swept near Earth | Today’s Image | EarthSky

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar.  The image is from last night (January 25).  Image via Slooh.com.

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar. Image via Slooh.com.

46a3a41c379e657d458b0dd6c3bcbbd1Well…turns out the thing has it’s own moon!

Check this shit out:

Asteroid that flew past Earth on Monday has a moon! | Science Wire | EarthSky

Radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 confirm the primary asteroid is 1,100 feet (325 meters) across with a small moon 230 feet (70 meters) across.

Wow! Scientists working with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86, which flew closer to Earth on Monday than any asteroid this large will again until the year 2027. Closest approach was 1619 UTC (11:19 a.m. EST) on January 26, 2015. Nearest distance was about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon). The radar images confirm what other astronomers first discovered this past weekend, that asteroid 2004 BL86 has its own small moon!

cde3bc59f08305a4960d464aff53632aVideo and more info at the links.

Let us move from science to environment, but still on a pop culture connection…cause what else would you expect from something like this? Chinese Methanol Plant in Louisiana ‘Cancer Alley’ | Al Jazeera America

Uh, okay… I will just give you a quick overview of the area and the situation. This plant is poisoning people. These people are poor. They are people of color. Nuff Said!

This article is the second installment of a three-part series on China’s role in redeveloping southern Louisiana called China’s Louisiana Purchase. The first part investigated links between Chinese government officials, Chinese gas giant Shandong Yuhuang and Gov. Bobby Jindal.

ada6a7b045883973320c2fabe045b969Chinese company behind methanol plant in mostly black Louisiana town has come under fire for shirking health laws

ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — No one asked Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose if he wanted a Chinese company with a controversial environmental record to build a methanol plant in his neighborhood. But if they had, the 74-year-old Vietnam War vet would have said no.

A town hall meeting about it in July at St. James High School, which is close to the site of the plant, in a sparsely populated area with mobile homes and a few farms, took place only after the St. James Parish Council approved the project.

“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Ambrose, a coordinator at St. James Catholic Church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”

The St. James Parish Council did not respond to interview requests at time of publication.

Edwin Octave, 92, who lives with his family in the area, agreed with Ambrose. “I don’t think the way they went about getting the plant was right. They bought the property before they tell people it’s going to happen.”

The area has gotten the nickname Cancer Alley. I don’t know the state of Louisiana is becoming more and more like the poster child for all that is bad and could be bad when fuckwads get elected and have shit everything up. “Literally.”

There is a term being used, it is called Environmental Racism.

‘Environmental racism’

St. James Parish gas station owner Kenny Winchester said he hopes U.S. environmental standards will be enough to prevent any abuses too detrimental to the health of his community. “There shouldn’t be a problem if they follow the rules,” he said. “If they take shortcuts, we’ll have a problem.”

But Malek-Wiley said that hope isn’t realistic. “It’s not feasible to just hope they will abide by regulations. Most of the industry environmental reporting requirements are done by companies without a secondary check with the Department of Environmental Quality or EPA,” he said. “In effect, if a company was doing wrong, it would have to write itself a ticket. I know every time I’m going down the interstate too fast and there’s no cop, I pull over and write myself a ticket … No, it doesn’t happen that way.”

297757e9be0827b6e7a5f1944c11c44eThe only way to tell if a company breaches regulations, he said, is “after the plant’s built, unfortunately.” An environmentalist nonprofit focused on opposing petrochemical pollution in the region, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, could “teach folks how to take air samples in their community,” he said, and that tactic has led to “a number of companies to be fined for air pollution, but that’s after the fact.”

After successfully organizing legal bids around black communities not consulted on energy projects, Malek-Wiley believes that “with St. James Parish, they could have brought up concerns about environmental racism.”

f23e3a57ddb5ed39a0039b5531581e92Take this from Charles Blow, it dealing with yet another polluted area of Louisiana, a Superfund site… Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant near where Blow’s relatives call home:

Inequality in the Air We Breathe? – NYTimes.com

How could this plant have been allowed to contaminate the groundwater for 40 years? How could the explosives have been left at the site in the first place? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be the money or the will to more safely remove them? Can we imagine anyone, with a straight face, proposing to openly burn millions of pounds of explosives near Manhattan or Seattle?

3885f12203ffd8ab775e508c93499c3bThis is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of “environmental racism,” in which disproportionately low-income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities.

There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity.

Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Bullard published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. In it, he pointed out that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s hazardous-waste landfill capacity was in “five Southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas),” and that “four landfills in minority ZIP codes areas represented 63 percent of the South’s total hazardous-waste capacity” although “blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South’s total population.”

More recently, in 2012, a study by researchers at Yale found that “The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.”

Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe.

I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount.

BTW, Bullard’s website with lots of links can be found here: Environmental Justice / Environmental Racism

I just get so damn sick about all this.

But if you want some more sick shit to read, the Koch Brothers.

Koch Bros To Spend Nearly A Billion Buying The 2016 Elections | Informed Comment

And again…going back to the pop culture of the day…that link will take you to an article and then a video with a discussion from Cenk Unger and Ben Mankiewicz .

In other news, something that is really becoming too frequent a headline. Yet another college athlete is accused of raping a woman…this time it is a swimmer. Fancy that? Former Stanford swimmer accused of raping unconscious woman on campus – LA Times

…former Stanford University swimmer will face several felony charges after prosecutors say he raped a  woman as she lay unconscious on campus grounds.

Brock Allen Turner, 19, is expected to be formally charged Wednesday with five felony counts, including rape of an unconscious woman, rape of an intoxicated woman and two counts of sexual assault with a foreign object, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office told The Times.

Early on the morning on Jan. 18, prosecutors say, two men riding bikes on campus spotted a man later identified as Turner on top of an unconscious woman. Turner ran away, but the pair tackled him. A third person called police.

Turner was arrested, booked into the Santa Clara County Jail and released after posting $150,000 bail, prosecutors said. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 2.

It is a good thing those two bike dudes went after the asshole.

Just a few more pops on the pop links: Gabrielle Union Says Smart Things About Ferguson, the NFL, Hollywood

On the events in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, Yahoo points out that she generally tries to stay positive in her public comments and Union acknowledges that she makes an effort to be responsible about what she says publicly:

There’s a bit of a gap between what I really want to say and what I know is responsible to say. The general lack of compassion for your fellow man is really frustrating. I think what the protesters are saying, or at least some of them, is it’s not just about police brutality. It’s about a widespread systematic crippling of some people in this country by birthright, and no one’s acknowledging it. There may be a power shakeup if you’re really going to do something about it. A lot of people aren’t interested in that. They say, “It’s not that bad. We have Barack Obama. We’re good.” Or, “You’re not getting lynched.” They’re not acknowledging the institutional racism that impacts daily lives.

You should read the other things Unions says, it is nice to see a smart woman being quoted…too bad it probably won’t get much attention outside of Yahoo Entertainment and Jezebel.

 

Also, in History News, Seventy Years After Auschwitz, One Survivor Has Her Revenge – Truthdig

Eva Slonim was a child when she was taken to Auschwitz, where she was tortured and experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.

The camps that made up the Auschwitz complex were liberated 70 years ago by Soviet troops. But not before the Nazis killed 1.1 million prisoners there.

Slonim was held with her twin sister in a special section of the camp, which had to do with Mengele’s fascination with twins.

She tells the Australian Broadcasting Corp. she is still haunted by the trauma: “I have this madness about locking the bedroom door every night, and I have a light under the door so I can see if there are any boots there.”

But, Eva Slonim says, she got her revenge in the end, by producing a large family to take the place of the one she lost. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has 27 grandchildren.

 

Have you seen this?

Domino’s Unleashes the Most Terrifying Print Ad in History

 

Domino's Unleashes the Most Terrifying Print Ad in History

 

WTF?

 

Finally, let’s get a little Medieval on ya: Erik Kwakkel • A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great…

 

A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great post.

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manuscriptbook:

Medieval Connections to ‘Classical Roots’

This manuscript (British Library, Royal MS 20 D I) of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (‘Ancient history up to Caesar’) is the earliest surviving manuscript of the second redaction of this work. This redaction, like this manuscript, was produced in Naples around 1330-1340. It focuses on the story of 904fe6f6198d33fe46a60189b543f8b4Troy, which is no longer taken from Dares, a supposed eyewitness of the fall of Troy, but from the prose version of Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Roman de Troie. As a result, it is much more extensive.

The goal of these types of histories was to join the classical past and the medieval present. The author, therefore, did not always keep historical accuracy in mind if it did not fit his purpose. This allowed nobles to bind themselves and their families to classical founders.

I love that the horse is supposed to represent the wooden horse, and the scribe/artist drew the thing with wood-like knots and tree rings as the pattern of the horse itself.

But I wonder if a large wooden badger would not have been more appropriate?

 

Have a wonderful day and for Gawds sake…watch out for the Knights who say Ni!

 

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