31 July 2012

30 July 2012

29 July 2012

Faux News Math

28 July 2012

Mark T

27 July 2012

26 July 2012

Science Wins

25 July 2012

I Love Bill

24 July 2012

No Comment

23 July 2012

No Comment

22 July 2012

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

By Bill McKibben

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend. It was "a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago," the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls "once thronged by multitudes." Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.

When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn't yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.

To read the rest click here.

20 July 2012

Why to Vote T Bag

19 July 2012

18 July 2012

O to M

17 July 2012

No Comment

16 July 2012

14 July 2012

Just Sayin'

13 July 2012


12 July 2012

This summer is 'what global warming looks like'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Is it just freakish weather or something more? Climate scientists suggest that if you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.

Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.

These are the kinds of extremes experts have predicted will come with climate change, although it's far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June.

Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated mathematics, computer models and lots of time. Sometimes it isn't caused by global warming. Weather is always variable; freak things happen.

And this weather has been local. Europe, Asia and Africa aren't having similar disasters now, although they've had their own extreme events in recent years.

But since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would bring, in general, increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes are happening here and now.

So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida.

"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level," said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. "The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about."

Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in fire-charred Colorado, said these are the very record-breaking conditions he has said would happen, but many people wouldn't listen. So it's I told-you-so time, he said.

As recently as March, a special report an extreme events and disasters by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of "unprecedented extreme weather and climate events." Its lead author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University, said Monday, "It's really dramatic how many of the patterns that we've talked about as the expression of the extremes are hitting the U.S. right now."

"What we're seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like," said Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer. "It looks like heat. It looks like fires. It looks like this kind of environmental disasters."

Oppenheimer said that on Thursday. That was before the East Coast was hit with triple-digit temperatures and before a derecho - a large, powerful and long-lasting straight-line wind storm - blew from Chicago to Washington. The storm and its aftermath killed more than 20 people and left millions without electricity. Experts say it had energy readings five times that of normal thunderstorms.

Fueled by the record high heat, this was among the strongest of this type of storm in the region in recent history, said research meteorologist Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storm Laboratory in Norman, Okla. Scientists expect "non-tornadic wind events" like this one and other thunderstorms to increase with climate change because of the heat and instability, he said.

Such patterns haven't happened only in the past week or two. The spring and winter in the U.S. were the warmest on record and among the least snowy, setting the stage for the weather extremes to come, scientists say.

Since Jan. 1, the United States has set more than 40,000 hot temperature records, but fewer than 6,000 cold temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through most of last century, the U.S. used to set cold and hot records evenly, but in the first decade of this century America set two hot records for every cold one, said Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This year the ratio is about 7 hot to 1 cold. Some computer models say that ratio will hit 20-to-1 by midcentury, Meehl said.

"In the future you would expect larger, longer more intense heat waves and we've seen that in the last few summers," NOAA Climate Monitoring chief Derek Arndt said.

The 100-degree heat, drought, early snowpack melt and beetles waking from hibernation early to strip trees all combined to set the stage for the current unusual spread of wildfires in the West, said University of Montana ecosystems professor Steven Running, an expert on wildfires.

While at least 15 climate scientists told The Associated Press that this long hot U.S. summer is consistent with what is to be expected in global warming, history is full of such extremes, said John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He's a global warming skeptic who says, "The guilty party in my view is Mother Nature."

But the vast majority of mainstream climate scientists, such as Meehl, disagree: "This is what global warming is like, and we'll see more of this as we go into the future."

11 July 2012

Why Should Nuke Guarantees Cost Less Than Home Or Student Loans?

Reposted from Planet Thoughts

The Department of Energy wants to give the Southern Company a nuclear power loan guarantee at better interest rates than you can get on a student loan. And unlike a home mortgage, there may be no down payment.


The terms DOE is offering the builders of the Vogtle atomic reactors have only become partially public through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

We still may not know all the details.

SACE has challenged the $8.33 billion loan guarantee package announced by President Obama in 2010.

The documents show the DOE has intended to charge the Southern a credit subsidy fee of one to 1.5%, far below the rates you would be required to pay for buying a house or financing an education.

On a package 15 times bigger than what the federal government gave the failed solar company Solyndra, Southern would be required to pay somewhere between $17 million and $52 million. Advocates argue the fee is so low that it fails to adequately take into account the financial risks of the project. Numerous financial experts have estimated the likely fail rate for new nuclear construction to be at 50% or greater.

Furthermore, since a primary lender would be the Federal Financing Bank, the taxpayer is directly on the hook. Guaranteed borrowings are not supposed to exceed 70% of the project's projected costs, but it's unclear what those costs will actually turn out to be, as the public has been given no firm price tag on the project.

There is apparently no cash down payment being required of Southern as it seems the loan is designed to be secured with the value of the reactors themselves, whatever that turns out to be. In the unlikely event they are finished, liability from any catastrophe will revert to the public once a small private fund is exhausted.

Southern wanted the terms of the DOE offer kept secret, and we still don't know everything about it. But in March, a federal circuit court judge ordered that the public had a right to know at least some of the details.

Apparently no final documents have actually been signed between Southern and the DOE. The Office of Management & Budget has reportedly balked at offering the nuke builder such generous terms. Southern has reportedly balked at paying even a tiny credit fee.

Construction at the Vogtle site has already brought on delays focussed on the use of sub-standard concrete and rebar steel. The projected price tag---whatever it may be---has risen as much as $900 million in less than a year.

Southern and its Vogtle partners are in dispute with Westinghouse and the Shaw Company, two of the reactors' primary contractors. Georgia ratepayers have already been stuck with $1.4 billion in advance payments being charged to their electric bills. Far more overruns are on their way.

The Vogtle project is running somewhat parallel with two reactors being built at V.C. Summer in South Carolina, where $1.4 billion was already spent by the end of 2011. Delays are mounting and cost overruns are also apparently in the hundreds of millions.

Southern and Summer's builders both claim they can finance these projects without federal guarantees. But exactly how they would do that remains unclear.

Two older reactors now licensed at the Vogtle site were originally promised to cost $150 million each, but came in at $8.9 billion for the pair. The project's environmental permits are being challenged in court over claims the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to account for safety lessons from the Fukushima disaster.

The terms of the guarantees are now apparently being scrutinized by the Office of Management & Budget, which reports to a White House that may be gun-shy over new construction guarantees due to bad publicity from the Solyndra fiasco.

Numerous petitions are circulating in opposition to this package.

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service has already facilitated more than 10,500 e-mails sent directly to DOE Secretary Chu.

You might ask: why should the builders of nuclear power reactors get better terms than students struggling to pay for college or working families trying to buy a home?

At least the home buyers can get private liability insurance, which the nuke builders can't.

If mounting grassroots opposition can stop this package, it's possible no new reactors will ever be built in the US.

So send the OMB and DOE a copy of your mortgage or student loan statement.

Demand that before they finance any more nukes, they drop your own payment to 1%, just like they're offering the reactor pushers. Also demand the right to buy a home without a down payment.

See how far you get, and then make sure Vogtle goes no farther.

10 July 2012

Single Payer Works!

If You Oppose Single Payer Insurance, Take Your Parents Off Medicare and Pay for Their Medical Bills Yourself

The hysterics coming from some conservative blogs do nothing to help us understand that yes, in some cases, the government actually can be beneficial. Health care cost containment is among those areas where government does better than the private sector.

09 July 2012

No Comment

08 July 2012

We’ve Killed the Exceptionalism That Laid Exceptional Eggs

Excellant Post From Omnipotent Poobah

Politicians traditionally like to talk about American Exceptionalism … a lot. Why Mittens has chosen not to, especially on this auspicious day, is a mystery. The argument is a common cudgel when candidates would rather not talk about something and this election is full of things not to talk about.

What many of them don’t know is Joseph Stalin coined the phrase, though not as a compliment. That’s right, George the Lesser, Newt Gingrich, St. Ronnie of Reagan, and dozens more used the term to convince Americans they were special. And they have the audacity to call Obama a commie.

But as they warped Ol’ Joe’s words to their own purposes, America was becoming less special by the year, often at the hands of those who believed American-style anything would spread like wildfire and make the world – and not just America – Reagan’s shining city upon a hill. And it did after a fashion, providing you define exceptionalism as putting a Big Mac in every nation’s pot and reruns of B.J. and the Bear on every wide-screen TV.

Of course we continue to be special in many ways. We believe science is just a nusance standing in the way of the Bible. We believe education is better left to illiterate chucklheads who don’t want their kids “indoctrinated”. We hold the odd theory that the best way to spread democracy, love, and peace is to bomb the hell out of someplace most Americans couldn’t find on a map (likely because they were home-schooled). Where the rest of the world used to ask America for help with everything, today they look at us as giant, ignorant pains in the ass.

What’s Exceptional for America is Exceptional for the World!
Conservatives think brooking the idea that America just like everyone else is heresy. But these neo-ignorati forget the history of “exceptional” countries in the past. France, Spain, Germany, and Britain all vied for the title of World Superpower and for a while each was. But in the end all those “(Fill in the Country) Decades” leveled the playing field of exceptionalism. All of the also rans and some of the winners were left with piles of rubble, failed economies (some of which never fully recovered), and beholden to other nations – like America – to pick up the slack until they got their act together. They’re still working on that part and our ability to pick up the slack is ruined.

Despite these lessons, America believed our own PR a little too much. We thought we could be everything to everybody – a nation of endless plenty and courageous people willing to sacrifice when no one else would. We fancied ourselves the only nation on Earth able to bring peace and prosperity to places that have never had peace or prosperity. We did too much too soon and frittered away the very things that made us exceptional. We forgot this whole exceptional thing took a lot of treasure and time and ability to decide wisely which was the side of right.

Now we’re a nation of sniveling asshats who fear our own shadows and don’t understand the word “United” in the name of our country. We’ve sold our national soul to bidders, and not necessarily the highest ones. We’ve outsourced and (in deference to Mitt’s campaign spokesguy) offshored exactly those things most American – the things that really were exceptional. We’ve become a nation of selfish bastards who aren’t willing to help our own citizens much less those in other countries. We’ve become fat and willfully stupid and crowed about how exceptional we are while doing it. We can’t even understand the rest of the world sees us as a menace and we arrogantly say what they think doesn’t matter. We’re the World’s Largest Hubris Power.

True, there was an American Century where we represented exceptionalism. But, a century is a lot shorter lived than how long Britannia ruled the waves or the French kicked Euroass. One hundred years is hardly a blip.

Now, it’s no longer our century or our world or even our country. There is nothing exceptional about us other than our utter unexceptionalism.

07 July 2012

Paul Ryan: As God is My Witness, God Gave Us Our Rights

Reposted from Omnipotent Poobah

Hebrew National Hot Dogs likes to advertise they “answer to a higher power“. Even though the slogan isn’t exactly non-controversial – some orthodox Jews claim they aren’t Glatt Kosher – they are, after all, in the business of making sausages.

But Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WhatthehelliswrongwithWI) thinks all Americans should answer to a higher power too – God – presumably the Christian one. That makes this one of those cases when you shouldn’t watch the sausage being made.

The Devil Made Him Do It
Ryan – already in dutch with the Nuns on the Buses – gave a peculiar answer to a quote by Vicki Kennedy, Ted’s widow, about Obamacare.

“This health care reform was the cause of my husband’s life,” Vicki said. “He believed that it was a moral issue, that it defined the character of who we were as a society, who we were as a country, and that decent quality, affordable health care should be fundamental right and not a privilege.”

Ryan offered a bit of a Talibanish response though, “What Ms. Kennedy and others were saying is that this is a new government-granted right. We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours, they come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence — a huge difference in philosophy.”

As a U.S. Congressman I’d guess Ryan is about as ignorant as any Congressman about how our government works. After all, they prove that everyday. But Paul, buddy, the Declaration doesn’t govern who gives rights to anyone. While it’s a mighty fine piece of rabble-rousing, the Constitution is the foundation of our laws. And, the Constitution only mentions God once – in the signing date, “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.”

It’s OK, though a bit short-sighted, if you don’t like the Affordable Care Act. It rubs ill against people being healthy and making sure those private-sector insurance death panelists dole out health care to the highest bidder. It also rubs against that whole, “promote the general welfare” clause in the Preamble. But I guess it doesn’t count because God didn’t pen the line. Although, I’m sure he would’ve liked it to, it’s pretty snappy, it would’ve made a dandy 11th Commandment.

But disliking legislation that chaps your ass and justifying it by saying, “God made me do it,” is exactly why many of us think, “the debil made YOU do it.” Much as you and your anti-Sharia, pro-Biblical ilk would like, the Constitution is an invention of us mere mortals, the ones who fight and die and protest to make sure zealots like you can spout theocracy to their cold hearts’ content.

One would think you’d be proud people do this. It allows you to practice your bread and butter obfuscating and pandering to our lowest common national denominators. It is one of our few remaining bright spots in an otherwise bleak American landscape. Even if you want to give God a co-creator credit, I’d think you would like it that God made us so damn smart. Why, it would almost be as though he had created us in his image.


God doesn’t grant government anything…yet. However government, duly adjudicated, HAS granted affordable health care to the American people. You and Mittens have pledged to bring it to its knees and gut it and I’m sure you will do some damage with the help of UnitedHealthcare and the Koch brothers. As of today, nobody knows if the Supremes’ decision was a victory or a defeat and for whom, but they – not your supreme being – are the supreme word on disputed government action. Hack away at one of the most moral actions the government has taken in decades. It is your right.

But God? Leave him out of it.

06 July 2012

God & Science

Reposted from Omnipotent Poobah

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland think they may have found the holy grail of science, the footprint of the Higgs boson or so-called “God Particle”. The particle is the theoretical model for what gives matter mass and, in turn, explains how the universe formed. It will be a world changing scientific discovery if the theory pans out. It will also stiffen the resistance of many Christians to the tenants of science.

The basic rub between modern science and creationist design believers is that modern science is simply wrong on many fronts. Scientific tools and conclusions, like carbon dating, are ignored because the Bible says otherwise. Biblical scientists criticize modern science as a bunch of unproved “theories”, a position that is a basic misunderstanding of how modern science works.

In modern science knowledge is theory repeatedly tested and reviewed before it is accepted as fact. Biblical science holds that the Bible is the font of all knowledge and must not be challenged, reviewed, or even questioned in any way. If something appears in the Bible, it is automatically correct – and they have their own “scientists” to testify to it.

But the Higgs boson discovery is one in which the two sides might not be so far apart. Many, probably most, modern American scientists are Christian and believe in the Bible and God. However, they can reconcile the apparent contradictions between the Bible and what modern science and experiments show by not taking either source as absolute. For them, there is room for interpretation and scientific ways to explain many of the “miracles” and other events in the Bible. In their minds, science and religion do not necessarily cancel each other, but compliment each other to form theories that, to them, make religion and science stronger.

The ultimate “proof” of God is to explain how He created the universe. Science and religion are both a little light in the proof department. Both suggest there was a time before, well, time and something happened. Science posits there was a Big Bang; Biblical scientists suggest God got things started.

But what if the God particle and God are actually the same? Or what if God used the particle as a tool to “create the heavens and Earth”? Is this truly anti-Biblical? And even if modern science finds the particle, the next logical question would be, “where did the particle come from” And neither source seems to suggest an answer to that. It is the classic chicken and egg question – a question that neither side can definitively prove because it is inherently unprovable. At the end of the day, you either try to prove the provable by constantly challenging accepted wisdom or accept there are some things for which there is no answer other than possibly God.

We’d all be better off trying a grand experiment, perhaps one with more impact on daily life than any other. How about we stop arguing? Let’s prove answerable theories and concepts through science and leave the answer to the ultimate unanswerable question a choice. Is there a God or simply the mother of all bangs?

The end result is surely the same.

05 July 2012

Nissan wants Leaf to power your house

Everyone's looking for an edge in the electric vehicle wars, and Nissan might have one. It's working on a system that would allow Leaf owners to use the car to supply electricity to their houses during power outages.
Lots of people buy generators for that purpose, but Hideaki Watanabe, head of Nissan's Global Zero Emissions Business unit, says his EV could handle the job.
The Leaf's battery can store 24 kilowatt hours of electricity, equal to about a day's worth of energy use in a normal U.S. household.
"In case of blackouts we can utilize that," Watanabe said. "In Japan, some people say instead of installing a generator they'll just buy a Leaf. As of today we don't have a function to discharge, but we are looking into that."
Watanabe is pushing his engineers to look for ways to reverse the flow of energy.
"I want it ASAP--at least I would like to see some concrete proposal by the end of the year," he said. "I want a prototype."
Watanabe said Nissan could use the CHAdeMO DC fast-charging system backed by most Japan automakers because the technology can detect electricity leaks.
"It already has a very good safety device for when you discharge electricity from the car to the house," he said. "I'm not saying I'm going to use the CHAdeMO, but it has very high potential."

04 July 2012

Greatest Country - I think Not - Happy Friggin' Birthday

Reposted from jobsanger

Our congresspeople, especially Republicans and blue dogs, don't want to hear about this problem -- because their economic policy (drastically cutting all social programs) will only make the problem worse. The problem is the growing number of homeless children in the United States. It's a problem that must be addressed, since homelessness can easily cause physical, emotional, and psychological problems for those children. But it's a problem that can't be solved without spending some money -- money currently earmarked for tax cuts for the rich and more military spending.

The U.S. Department of Education released data this week that showed there are now over 1,000,000 homeless students in this country. That is the first time in the history of this nation that the number of homeless students has been that large. Since the 2009-2010 school year, at least 44 states have seen the number of homeless students grow -- and 15 of those states have seen the number grow by at least 20%. The states with the largest growth in the number of homeless students are Kentucky (up 47%), Utah (47%), Michigan (38%), West Virginia (38%), and Mississippi (35%).

Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, addressed the problem saying, "The severe lack of affordable housing for families has yet to be addressed, and over one million children are paying the price. Everyone has a right to safe, decent, affordable housing. And until we make that right a reality for all Americans, the number of homeless students will keep rising."

But that is only part of the problem of homeless children. That doesn't include infants, toddlers, pre-school age children not enrolled in a public program, or homeless children who are being home-schooled (and yes, there are some). As near as we can figure, there are at least another 600,000 children not counted in the Department of Education study -- bringing the number of homeless children in the United States to more than 1,600,000.

Frankly, it is shocking that the richest nation in the world could have that many homeless children -- and be taking no action to fix the problem. Slashing funding for social programs will only make this problem worse -- and giving bigger tax cuts to rich people, or spending more money on our military (when we already spend between 42% and 45% of the world's total military budget) will not help solve this problem. What has happened to our national conscience? Do we even have one any more?

03 July 2012

02 July 2012

No Comment

01 July 2012

Structures co-founder named Best Green Designer

Adam Cohen receives award for construction innovation
ROANOKE, Va. (June 28, 2012) – Adam Cohen, co-founder of Structures Design Build, today was named Best Green Designer by the Virginia Sustainable Building Network.
Cohen was honored at the 2012 Virginia Green Innovations Award ceremony showcasing the commonwealth’s best work in energy-efficient design and construction. Cohen was recognized for his design of the Center for Energy Efficient Design, the first Passivhaus public school built in America, constructed by Structures Design Build.
Cohen is a national and international leader in Passivhaus building technology. Passivhaus is the German term for construction that meets high standards in energy efficiency. Buildings with this technology are designed to use 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than conventional structures.
Cohen, vice chairman of the Technical Committee of Passive House Institute US, is one of only about 20 people globally certified in the technology in both Europe and North America. He speaks frequently about green building.
“It is gratifying to be recognized by a statewide organization for making advances in affordable energy-efficient building design here in our region and beyond,” Cohen said.
The Best Green Designer award was presented at the Virginia Sustainable Building Network’s 17th annual meeting held at the solar-power DuCard Vineyard in Madison County.