Daily Archive: 01/09/2013

Jan 09 2013

Hot, Hot, Hot

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record since it started keeping records in 1895, eclipsing 1998 by 1ºF.

The 1°F difference from 1998 is an unusually large margin, considering that annual temperature records are typically broken by just tenths of a degree Fahrenheit. In fact, the entire range between the coldest year on record, which occurred in 1917, and the previous record warm year of 1998 was just 4.2°F.

The year consisted of the fourth-warmest winter, the warmest spring, second-warmest summer, and a warmer-than-average fall. With an average temperature that was 3.6°F above average, July became the hottest month ever recorded in the contiguous U.S. The average springtime temperature in the lower 48 was so far above the 1901-2000 average – 5.2°F, to be exact – that the country set a record for the largest temperature departure for any season on record. [..]

With 34,008 daily high temperature records set or tied the year compared to just 6,664 daily record lows – a ratio of about five high temperature records for every one low temperature record – 2012 was no ordinary weather year in the U.S. It wasn’t just the high temperatures that set records, though. Overnight low temperatures were also extremely warm, and in a few cases the overnight low was so warm that it set a high temperature record, a rare feat. [..]

Not alarmed yet? Australia is not only experiencing its hottest Summer but its also on fire.

Australia Climate Change? New Colors Added To Forecast Maps To Track Potential Record Heat

Austrlia Temperature Map

Click on image to enlarge

Right now, things are pretty hot in Australia. So hot, in fact, that meteorologists Down Under have added new, never-before-used colors to temperature maps in anticipation of record-breaking heat.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology amended its interactive weather chart Tuesday, adding the colors deep purple and pink to indicate a temperature range of up to 54 degrees Celsius, or 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous range had capped at 50 Celsius, or 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

The change was based on one weather prediction model that forecasts temperatures to climb above 50 Celsius early next week.

The all-time hottest temperature recorded in Australia was 50.7 Celsius on Jan. 2, 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

According to the current model, the forecast for next Monday will bring a “Tasmania-sized” area of heat in excess of 50 degrees to South Australia.

50ºC is 122ºF. That’s hot. Too hot.

Australian heatwave puts south-east on alert as wildfires burn out of control

by Alison Rourke, The Gusardian

Fire service issues ‘catastrophic’ warnings in New South Wales with temperatures expected to breach 45C in coming days

A record-breaking heatwave and high winds across south-eastern Australia have produced some of the worst fire conditions seen in the country, with blazes destroying thousands of hectares of land (video) and threatening properties, but – so far – sparing lives.

Emergency teams fought more than 130 fires across New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, on Tuesday, with at least 40 burning out of control. Fires also continued to burn in Tasmania, after blazes at the weekend destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of land and dozens of properties. [..]

The NSW rural fire service issued “catastrophic” fire warnings for four areas in the state – the most severe fire warning level.

“The word catastrophic is being used for good reason,” the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, said on morning television. “So it is very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings. This is a very dangerous day.”

Alarmed after the NOAA report, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a new climate bill.

Sanders announced the bill a day after federal officials reported that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the lower 48 states, smashing the record set in 1998 by a full degree Fahrenheit.

The bill from Sanders would create a “transparent fee on greenhouse gas emissions from the biggest polluters,” his office said in a brief summary.

“After the hottest year on record and extreme weather disturbances such as Hurricane Sandy, we must take strong action to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and move toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” said Sanders, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I intend to introduce legislation in the Senate to do just that.” [..]

Environmentalists are pressing President Obama to take tougher steps using his administrative powers, including establishment of first-time carbon emissions standards for existing power plants.

Sanders’ plan also aims to boost green energy development and nix tax incentives for oil companies.

Not just the US but countries around the world need to take action to curb carbon emissions. The Unites States should be taking the lead and setting the example.

Jan 09 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Avoiding a climate-change apocalypse

As you may have noticed, the end of the year was all about the end of the world. Mayan doomsday prophesies. Rogue planets on a collision course with Earth. Fear-mongering about an artificial “fiscal cliff.” House Republicans doing, well, what they usually do.

Fortunately, for now, life as we know it continues. And scary as all of this sounds, the real horror show, the true existential threat, is yet another crisis of our own making: the catastrophic effects of climate change. [..]

2012 was the hottest year on record. Arctic sea ice is melting. Sea levels are rising faster than projected. And extreme weather events – droughts, storms, heat waves – are increasing in number and intensity, disproportionately harming the world’s most vulnerable populations.

But forget trying to pass climate-change legislation before the next storm. Republicans in Congress can barely bring themselves to help out the victims of the last storm.

Phyllis Bennis: Will Chuck Hagel’s Appointment Actually Help the Anti-War Left?

Neocon anger at Chuck Hagel isn’t new. Some of it parallels the frustration of the Israel lobbies- Hagel’s refusal to tow the AIPAC line, particularly refusing to call for war with Iran. He warned that “military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities would signal a severe diplomatic failure and would have their own serious negative consequences for the United States and for our allies.” Hagel has instead called for direct, bilateral negotiations with Iran, and in 2010 he warned of the consequences of attacking Iran, saying “Once you start you’d better be prepared to find 100,000 troops because it may take that.” Notorious Israel occupation-backer and Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz announced he would testify against Hagel on Iran, calling his nomination “a bad choice for the country.”[..]

Whatever else he is, Chuck Hagel is no leftist. Standing to the left of President Obama’s center-right military policy is not a very high bar. But again-standing up to AIPAC, the defense industry (and members of Congress accountable to them) and the still-powerful neocons makes the Hagel appointment a good move for Obama. And it gives the rest of us a basis to push much farther to end the wars, to close the bases, to cut the Pentagon funding, to tax the military profiteers.

Jessica Valenti: America’s Rape Problem: We Refuse to Admit That There Is One

The same week that a leaked video out of Steubenville, Ohio showed high school boys joking and laughing about an unconscious teenager in the next room who had just been raped – “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!” – House Republicans let the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expire. They opposed an expanded version of the legislation that had increased protections for the LGBT community, immigrants and Native American women.

This week we’ve also seen mass protests in India after a woman was brutally gang raped and died from her injuries. American media covering the Indian protests have repeatedly referenced the sexist culture, reporting how misogyny runs rampant in India. The majority of mainstream coverage of what happened in Steubenville (click here for a primer), however, has made no such connection. In fact, the frequent refrain in discussions of Steubenville in comment threads is that these boys are “sociopaths,” shameful anomalies. We’d rather think of them as monsters than hold ourselves accountable as a nation and tell the truth – these rapists are our sons.

Bryce covert: Social Issues Are Economic Issues, Exhibit 1,463: Michigan’s Dual Agenda Slams Low-Income Women

We’re barely more than a week into 2013, but Michigan has been very busy lately. As a pre-holiday gift to workers, Governor Rick Snyder signed a “right-to-work” bill into law after the Republican-controlled state house passed it 58-51, making the payment of union dues voluntary for most unions and thus severely weakening their power. Just over two weeks later, Snyder signed another bill into law restricting abortion access for the state’s women. The bill prohibits telemedicine prescriptions for medical abortion, hampers clinics with new costly and challenging requirements and places new barriers between women and the procedure they seek through “coercion screenings.”

Two extreme measures, but ones that aren’t directly related, right? One is clearly about “economic issues,” the other about “social issues.” Yet those who are hurt by both are, as is so often the case, low-income women. Michigan has shone a spotlight on the inextricable link between economic and social issues when it comes to the right-wing agenda. And we can only expect more of this news from statehouses as the year progresses.

Maureen Dowd: He Who Knew Not

Everyone told me not to fall in love so quickly, that I’d get my heart broken.

But I couldn’t help it. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the stellar Redskins rookies, were such appealing palliatives to our ugly, nihilistic politics and our cascade of lurid sports scandals.  [..]

But then, on Sunday, the spell snapped when the knee snapped. Coach Mike Shanahan committed malpractice, letting a hobbled young quarterback lurch around “like a pirate with a peg leg,” as The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins wrote. The autocratic, crusty 60-year-old, who makes $7 million a year, risked the kid’s career and the team’s future trying to win a wild-card playoff game – the opposite of what the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg.

At that moment, the Redskins became like the rest of Washington, and the rest of our self-centered, grasshopper attention-span culture – going for short-term gain and avoiding long-term pain.

Michelle Dean: Without Public Arts Funding, We Wouldn’t Have ‘Les Misérables’

Here is a thing it is difficult to remember in the midst of its box office tidal wave: Les Misérables owes its birth to a debate over public arts funding. We think of blockbusters as antithetical to the high arts that public funding might typically support, but in Les Mis‘s case, at least, the relationship was symbiotic. Some might say parasitic, of course, but the story reveals that we don’t quite know who was leeching off of who.

Les Misérables was originally staged in 1985 under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a large portion of whose budget was provided by the English Arts Council. It wasn’t the RSC’s idea to develop it, mind you. Cameron Mackintosh, a private producer coming off a wave of success with 1981’s Cats, had been looking to put on an English version of the musical, which was developed and staged in Paris in French. Mackintosh wanted a good director for it, and found himself knocking on the door of Trevor Nunn, then the RSC’s co-artistic director. Nunn and his co-director, John Caird (then an RSC associate director), substantially overhauled the plot and the script. They also gave the production what was, until the emaciated cheekbones of Anne Hathaway entered our collective consciousness, the musical’s signature image: the revolving stage. In other words, the look and content of the show were developed not just with public money, but by people who had made their careers in a publicly supported arts environment.

Jan 09 2013

Mr. President, Mint that Coin and Keep that Option. Don’t Sell Us Out

We know by now that fake tough talk from the President on letting the Bush tax cuts above those making $250,000 expire being an absolute was just that, fake. So there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Republicans do not have all the leverage in this upcoming debt ceiling fight coming up. They do.

US Double-Dip Death Watch Continues

Jay Carney’s press conference today leaves no doubt that the situation is substantially as I described it in my previous post.  The White House commitment not to negotiate on the debt ceiling is mainly fluff.  Their public position is that the Congress must lift the debt ceiling with a “clean” vote first, before a deal can be struck on the massive spending cuts that will take place automatically in March.  Carney implores listeners to believe that the debt ceiling and sequester are “separate” issues, and insists that “this not a negotiation the White House is going to have.” But of course the entire press conference is itself a public gambit in an ongoing negotiation that obviously includes back-channel talks.

There’s also no reason to believe the President won’t put up huge cuts to our safety net just to raise the debt ceiling thanks to what we know from the austerity memo from Jack Lew’s office when he was head of Obama’s OMB in 2011.

This was all thanks to the gross incompetence of not adding a raise in the debt ceiling in the original 2010 deal that extended the Bush tax cuts as I have repeatedly pointed out. However more than half of you already know this, so let’s get to the here and now; there are only two options.

There is the 14th amendment challenge to the SCOTUS option and there is the minting of a 1 trillion platinum coin to start off with. We know the 14th amendment challenge is the least likely scenario to be pursued now. So given the lack of appetite there, there is only one other option and the President better consider it because no one believes the fake posturing about a debt ceiling raise “not being for debate.” Too late. It is.

It didn’t have to be, but the President made it that way by trusting John Boehner with the full faith and credit of the US so now political default(the only way it could happen as a currency sovereign) is a possibility thanks to this mess. So a Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) is the first step and a small chance at redemption that suddenly is bigger than the blogger and the blogs talking about it thought it would be. It suddenly got real and thank goodness it did because we need to go further. To defeat austerity for the future we also should go from a Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) towards Platinum Coin Seigniorage(PCS) and think about minting coins of a higher value up to 60 trillion. Therefore, as a firts step, I urge all of you to instruct the President to…

Direct the United States Mint to make a single platinum trillion dollar coin!

Jan 09 2013

On This Day In History January 9

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 9 is the ninth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 356 days remaining until the end of the year (357 in leap years).

On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. Mermaids are closely linked to sirens, another folkloric figure, part-woman, part-bird, who live on islands and sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths.

West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout.

Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within the United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common. West Indian manatees can also be found in the coastal and inland waterways of Central America and along the northern coast of South America, although distribution in these areas may be discontinuous.

Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous.

West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. As with all wild animal populations, a certain percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes of death such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases. A high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. Most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft.

Jan 09 2013

The Hagel Haggle

Chuck HagelThe controversy over President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense are, as Republicans say, he is anti-military, anti-Israel and soft on Iran. The gay Log Cabin Republicans, and a few others from the left, object because of his stand against the 1998 appointment of James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, who is openly gay. The problem on the left is he’s another Republican. Most of these objections won’t prevent Sen. Hagel from being confirmed.

At The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald discusses the concerns of the GLBT community and the objections of the left in his article:

When it comes to LGBT equality, 1998 is a different universe. Virtually no prominent Democrats (let alone Republicans) supported marriage equality back then, or even equal rights for LGBT citizens. In fact, Hagel’s comment came only two years after the overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators voted in favor of the truly odious and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act – including Joe Biden, Patty Murray, Pat Leahy and Paul Wellstone – which was then signed into law by Bill Clinton. That law not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman, but barred the federal government from issuing any spousal benefits – immigration, tax, death benefits – to same-sex couples. If you’re going to judge politicians by how they felt about LGBT issues 15 years ago, be prepared to scorn almost every national Democratic Party hero you have as a bigot. [..]

So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties, Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But shouldn’t the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting: “I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too.” Moreover, Hagel last week also vowed that he is “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” [..]

Then there’s the issue of Hagel’s party affiliation. The perception that Republicans are more trustworthy than Democrats on military issues – and that Democratic presidents thus had to rely on Republicans to run the Pentagon – was indeed both pervasive and baseless. But that, too, has changed: the outgoing Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, is as loyal and partisan a Democrat as it gets, and nobody objected to his selection.

But much more importantly: when it comes to issues such as war, militarism, defense spending and Middle East policy, isn’t substance much more significant than whether someone has an “R” or “D” after their name? As Obama himself proves – and as Biden and Clinton before him proved – the fact that someone has a “D” after their name is hardly a guarantor that they will oppose policies of aggression and militarism. Indeed, as Clemons said Friday night on MSNBC, most Democrats in the Pentagon are so afraid of being cast as “soft on defense” that they hug policies of militarism far more eagerly and unquestioningly than Chuck Hagel ever would. Is partisan identity so all-consuming that it completely trumps substance, so that a hawkish Democrat is preferable to a war-skeptic Republican?

Just as a reminder, although Sen. Hagel objected to the authorization to invade Iraq in 2002, he still voted for it. So have the feral children of the right turned on him? It would seem that Sen. Hagel did the unthinkable, he told he truth about the real reason for the invasion, oil. He then committed a second “cardinal sin” when he voted for withdrawal.

Then according to the neocon’s he is soft on Iran and not sufficiently pro-Israel and has even been called antisemitic. Those objections are based on Sen. Hagel’s refusal to sign onto a number of AIPAC’s policy pronouncements and objections to military intervention with Iran over a non-existant nuclear weapons program.  Since most of those allegations are exaggerated or just false, the opposition is losing “steam” according to Josh Marshall at TPM:

Nominations lose steam or gain steam. Campaigns against nominations lose steam or gain steam. And at the moment, the campaign against Chuck Hagel’s nomination is losing steam. AIPAC and the ADL have both signaled they do not plan to make a fight of it. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister is giving Hagel the thumbs up. Now even the Washington Post editorial page has signaled it’s backing off its opposition.

As I noted on Sunday, the prospect of a five seat Democratic majority denying a reelected President the nomination of a former Senator who is blandly unobjectionable anywhere outside the hothouse of DC was always quite unlikely. And these tells are consequential precisely because they signal that the parties in question don’t think it’s a winnable fight.

This is all a tempest in a teapot and ridiculous on its face just as the complaints that Pres. Obama isn’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sen. Hagel is just another in a long succession of right of center nominees, appointments and hold overs from the Bush administration that have been part of Pres. Obama’s neoliberal agenda.