Axelrod: No big changes to tax deal

December 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama’s senior adviser ruled out any major changes to the tax package negotiated with Republicans, saying Sunday that it is time to move forward on a compromise that includes elements distasteful to each side.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” David Axelrod said the focus must be on what is best for the country right now, rather than scoring political points or settling political scores.

CNN Political Ticker

Obama: Tax bill will pass with changes

December 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

President Obama seems undeterred by the revolt by Democratic lawmakers in the House, telling NPR that while he expects some changes to be made in the agreement he reached with Republicans to extend both the Bush tax cuts for the rich and federal unemployment benefits he also thinks the bill will pass.

AP reports:

President Barack Obama said he expects disgruntled Democrats to make changes to the sweeping tax-cut deal he cut with Republican leaders, a pact he predicted will win congressional approval…

Asked about those objections, Obama said there will be talks between House and Senate leaders about the package’s final details.

“Keep in mind, we didn’t actually write a bill,” he said of his agreement with GOP leaders. “We put forward a framework. I’m confident that the framework is going to look like the one that we put forward.”

In an interview with NPR released Friday, Obama said that despite a rebellion by many Democrats against his tax deal, it will pass because “nobody - Democrat or Republican - wants to see people’s paychecks smaller on Jan. 1 because Congress didn’t act.”

If the House Democrats remain resolute, however, satisfying their demands may well scuttle Republican approval because the two sides are demanding opposite things.

Michigan Messenger

Breaking: House Democrats vote to table Obama’s tax cuts bill; Update: Pelosi’s office demands changes

December 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 


Biden told them last night in a meeting that no changes would be made, so they could either take it or leave it. Verdict: Leave it. Defying President Obama, House Democrats voted Thursday not to bring up the tax package that he negotiated with Republicans in its current form. “This message today is very simple: [...]

Read this post »

Hot Air » Top Picks

Helen Thomas gets memo, changes “Jew” to “Zionist”

December 3, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off 

Helen Thomas, speaking in front of a group in Dearborn, kept up and expanded her anti-semitic diatribes - but this time she was careful to substitute the keyword “Zionist” to shield herself from truthful accusations that she is anti-semitic.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Striking a defiant tone, journalist Helen Thomas, 90, said today she absolutely stands by her controversial comments about Israel made earlier this year that led to her resignation. But she stoked additional controversy with new remarks, claiming that “Zionists” control U.S. foreign policy and other American institutions. The local Jewish community strongly condemned her remarks.

Thomas, who grew up in Detroit the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, was in Dearborn today for an Arab Detroit workshop on anti-Arab bias. The Free Press asked her about her comments, which critics have said were anti-Israel.

“I paid the price for that,” said Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent. “But it was worth it, to speak the truth.”

“The Zionists have to understand that’s their country, too. Palestinians were there long before any European Zionists.”

Thomas claimed that “You can not say anything (critical) about Israel in this country.”
In a speech that drew a standing ovation, Thomas talked about “the whole question of money involved in politics.”

“We are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where there mouth is…We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.”

Asked by the Free Press how she would respond to those who say she’s anti-Semitic, Thomas said:
I’d say I’m a Semite, What are you talking about? Who are you?

Ah, the last refuge for Jew-haters - false semantics.

(h/t Yid With Lid)

Elder of Ziyon

President Obama Changes Oil Drilling Position, Ticks Off Senator-Elect Rubio

December 2, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

by Javier Manjarres

Wednesday’s decision by President Obama to drop the initiative he put forth last April that supposedly would have expanded oil exploration and drilling off our coasts should not be surprising to anyone.  Obama’s latest example of duplicity takes his opportunistic and deceptive brand of politics to another level.  He has now reneged on perhaps the only bone that he has thrown at conservatives during his Presidency, but in all likelihood, the President never intended to follow through on this promise in a concrete manner.  Obama’s much publicized initiative was simply yet another rhetorical head fake from the beginning, the kind of which has become his administration’s trademark.

For what it’s worth, Obama issued an Executive Order that allowed for the limited expansion of offshore drilling back in April, but the BP oil disaster gave Obama the opportunity to “never let a crisis go to waste” and completely renege on this initiative.  Obama’s completely arbitrary call for a seven year moratorium means that oild drilling and exploration activities will be strictly limited as long as he is President.

At the time of the spill, now Senator-Elect Marco Rubio was quick to acknowledge the gravity of the spill.  Rubio has always been a proponent of energy independence and maintained his position that oil drilling is, and will continue to be vital to the country’s overall energy strategy.

Senator-elect Rubio issued this response in the wake of  President Obama’s flip-flop:

“I do not support the administration’s decision. I believe offshore oil exploration should continue to be part of America’s energy mix, so long as it can be done safely. I believe the administration’s new policy is an obstacle to job creation and imperils our national security by making us more dependent on foreign oil from hostile regimes. On this issue, the White House should have left politics out of the equation and based its decision on sound energy policy that advances our economic development and national security goals.”-Senator-Elect Marco Rubio

Rubio is one of many elected officials that have been critical of President Obama’s off-and-on again oil drilling positions. Earlier this year, Former Governor of Alaska and potential Presidential candidate Sarah Palin ripped into President Obama by insinuating that his sudden pro-drilling position was a sham, and she rightfully warned people to be distrustful of his actions-

“I’ve got to call it like I see it,” she wrote. “The administration’s sudden interest in offshore drilling is little more than political posturing designed to gain support for job-killing energy legislation soon to come down the pike. I’m confident that GOP senators will not take the bait.”- Sarah Palin

President Obama is not nor does he care to be an honest broker in his dealings with his political opposition, and his lofty public statements as they pertain to policy matters are completely detached from the hard consequences that result from the pursuit of his misguided ideology.   The President does not engage the principled objections to policy positions because to countenance them would be to give them exposure and credibility.

This may not be newsworthy to those of us who understand who Barack Obama is, but do enough elected Republicans realize yet that Obama will not be channeling his inner Clinton to either triangulate or offer much hyped “Third Way” policies?  We are dealing with a whole different type of political animal, and Republican politicos who do not understand this yet had better get the message fast and strategize accordingly.

As much as Obama wants to inaugurate the “post-carbon” era, none of us alive will ever see it, so ample supply of oil, gas, and coal will be essential to our future prosperity.  It should be commonsensical that we need to control our own destiny as it pertains to energy exploration and production.  The President is willfully blind to our country’s energy needs as well as our aspirations for prosperity.  We shall see soon enough just how much Americans are willing to pay at the pump before the outrage about our inaction on oil exploration and drilling reaches a critical mass.

The Shark Tank

Farmer in the Times: “Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life.” - “The country must get serious about climate-change legislation and making real changes in our daily lives to reduce carbon emissions. The future of our nation’s food supply hangs in the balance. “

November 28, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

THE news from this Midwestern farm is not good. The past four years of heavy rains and flash flooding here in southern Minnesota have left me worried about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. For some time computer models of climate change have been predicting just these kinds of weather patterns, but seeing them unfold on our farm has been harrowing nonetheless.

So begins a poignant, must-read NY Times op-ed, “An Almanac of Extreme Weather,” by Jack Hedin a Minnesota farmer.  The NYT actually has three op-eds to usher in international climate talks in Cancún, which start Monday.

ClimateProgress will cover Cancún over the next two weeks, including onsite blogging in the final week from CAP attendees, even though little actual climate progress is expected.

One of the NYT op-eds is so misleading I’ll have to set the record straight later, but for now let me excerpt the Hedin piece, in which a farmer out-reports most of the U.S. media, with a seldom-told story that will ultimately be the much-retold story of the century, but needs to be heard now while there is still time to act:

My family and I produce vegetables, hay and grain on 250 acres in one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. While our farm is not large by modern standards, its roots are deep in this region; my great-grandfather homesteaded about 80 miles from here in the late 1800s.

He passed on a keen sensitivity to climate. His memoirs, self-published in the wake of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, describe tornadoes, droughts and other extreme weather. But even he would be surprised by the erratic weather we have experienced in the last decade.

In August 2007, a series of storms produced a breathtaking 23 inches of rain in 36 hours. The flooding that followed essentially erased our farm from the map. Fields were swamped under churning waters, which in places left a foot or more of debris and silt in their wake. Cornstalks were wrapped around bridge railings 10 feet above normal stream levels. We found butternut squashes from our farm two miles downstream, stranded in sapling branches five feet above the ground. A hillside of mature trees collapsed and slid hundreds of feet into a field below.

The machine shop on our farm was inundated with two feet of filthy runoff. When the water was finally gone, every tool, machine and surface was bathed in a toxic mix of used motor oil and rancid mud.

Our farm was able to stay in business only after receiving grants and low-interest private and government loans. Having experienced lesser floods in 2004 and 2005, my family and I decided the only prudent action would be to use the money to move over the winter to better, drier ground eight miles away.

This move proved prescient: in June 2008 torrential rains and flash flooding returned. The federal government declared the second natural disaster in less than a year for the region. Hundreds of acres of our neighbors’ cornfields were again underwater and had to be replanted. Earthmovers spent days regrading a 280-acre field just across the road from our new home. Had we remained at the old place, we would have lost a season’s worth of crops before they were a quarter grown.

The 2010 growing season has again been extraordinarily wet. The more than 20 inches of rain that I measured in my rain gauge in June and July disrupted nearly every operation on our farm. We managed to do a bare minimum of field preparation, planting and cultivating through midsummer, thanks only to the well-drained soils beneath our new home.

But in two weeks in July, moisture-fueled disease swept through a three-acre onion field, reducing tens of thousands of pounds of healthy onions to mush. With rain falling several times a week and our tractors sitting idle, weeds took over a seven-acre field of carrots, requiring many times the normal amount of hand labor to control. Crop losses topped $ 100,000 by mid-August.

The most recent onslaught was a pair of heavy storms in late September that dropped 8.2 inches of rain. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency again toured the area, and another federal disaster declaration was narrowly averted. But evidence of the loss was everywhere: debris piled up in unharvested cornfields, large washouts in fields recently stripped of pumpkins or soybeans, harvesting equipment again sitting idle.

My great-grandfather recognized that weather is never perfect for agriculture for an entire season; a full chapter of his memoir is dedicated to this observation. In his 60 years of farming he wrote that only one season, his final crop of 1937, had close to ideal weather. Like all other farmers of his time and ours, he learned to cope with significant, ill-timed fluctuations in temperature and precipitation.

But at least here in the Midwest, weather fluctuations have been more significant during my time than in his, the Dust Bowl notwithstanding. The weather in our area has become demonstrably more hostile to agriculture, and all signs are that this trend will continue. Minnesota’s state climatologist, Jim Zandlo, has concluded that no fewer than three “thousand-year rains” have occurred in the past seven years in our part of the state. And a University of Minnesota meteorologist, Mark Seeley, has found that summer storms in the region over the past two decades have been more intense and more geographically focused than at any time on record.

I can’t find the Zandlo or Seeley statements online, so if anyone can direct me to them, please post links in the comments.

No two farms have the same experience with the weather, and some people will contend that ours is an anomaly, that many corn and bean farms in our area have done well over the same period. But heavy summer weather causes harm to farm fields that is not easily seen or quantified, like nutrient leaching, organic-matter depletion and erosion. As climate change accelerates these trends, losses will likely mount proportionately, and across the board. How long can we continue to borrow from the “topsoil bank,” as torrential rains force us to make ever more frequent “withdrawals”?

Climate change, I believe, may eventually pose an existential threat to my way of life. A family farm like ours may simply not be able to adjust quickly enough to such unendingly volatile weather. We can’t charge enough for our crops in good years to cover losses in the ever-more-frequent bad ones. We can’t continue to move to better, drier ground. No new field drainage scheme will help us as atmospheric carbon concentrations edge up to 400 parts per million; hardware and technology alone can’t solve problems of this magnitude.

To make things worse, I see fewer acres in our area now planted with erosion-preventing techniques, like perennial contour strips, than there were a decade ago. I believe that federal agriculture policy is largely responsible, because it rewards the quantity of acres planted rather than the quality of practices employed.

But blaming the government isn’t sufficient. All farmers have an interest in adopting better farming techniques. I believe that we also have an obligation to do so, for the sake of future generations. If global climate change is a product of human use of fossil fuels — and I believe it is — then our farm is a big part of the problem. We burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel a year in our 10 tractors, undermining the very foundation of our subsistence every time we cultivate a field or put up a bale of hay.

I accept responsibility for my complicity in this, but I also stand ready to accept the challenge of the future, to make serious changes in how I conduct business to produce less carbon. I don’t see that I have a choice, if I am to hope that the farm will be around for my own great-grandchildren.

But my farm, and my neighbors’ farms, can contribute only so much. Americans need to see our experience as a call for national action. The country must get serious about climate-change legislation and making real changes in our daily lives to reduce carbon emissions. The future of our nation’s food supply hangs in the balance.

Hear!  Hear!

Here are two posts on the connection between human-caused global warming and superstorms that have been devastating the nation and the world during what is likely to be the hottest year on record:

“Given the association of extreme weather and climate events with rising global temperature, the expectation of new record high temperatures in 2012 also suggests that the frequency and magnitude of extreme events could reach a high level in 2012. Extreme events include not only high temperatures, but also indirect effects of a warming atmosphere including the impact of higher temperature on extreme rainfall and droughts. The greater water vapor content of a warmer atmosphere allows larger rainfall anomalies and provides the fuel for stronger storms driven by latent heat.”

“I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”

The past 12 months have been the hottest on record, according to NASA.  So perhaps it isn’t completely surprising that we are seeing these record-smashing deluges.  But the number of these beyond-extreme events just in the United States alone ought to make people take notice:

And, of course, another part of the world has been even more devastated by deluges and flooding, albeit while receiving only moderate attention in this country (see Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America).

And then there was the devastation to Russia, a country that always thought it was going to benefit from climate change:

This is all one big coincidence for the anti-science disinformers.  But for the rest of us, the really scary part is that we’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in the past half-century.  We are on track to warm nearly 10 times that this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F ).

In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet!

Related Post:

Climate Progress

Comment system changes afoot

November 26, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

I just found out that the Echo comment system, which I have never been keen on, has raised their annual fees by a factor of ten - from $ 12 a year to $ 120.

Sorry, but I will not be keeping Echo comments. They never did a good job on the conversion from the previous free system; the sidebar widget is not very good, and poor Ruthie is adding the titles of posts to every thread because there is no way to tell otherwise who is commenting on which post.

My Echo subscription expires towards the end of December so I will be looking at changing comment systems to another, or maybe just going back to the default Blogger system. Right now the two that people like the best are Intense Debate and Disqus. I don’t know if I can run two comment systems at the same time so comments may be disrupted at times over the next few weeks.

I can save existing comments to an XML format but,to be honest, I do not see any easy way to move the old comments into any new system. Which really sucks. 66 megabytes of comments will probably be history.

I am not happy having to spend time on this.

Elder of Ziyon

Ted Koppel on Changes in the TV News Business

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(Orin Kerr)

Read it here. A depressing account, especially as it suggests that the Golden Age — Golden at its best, at least — was inevitably just a temporary window.

The Volokh Conspiracy

Public School Changes Stance, Allows 13-Year-Old to Display American Flag on His Bicycle

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(Eugene Volokh)

I blogged about the incident last week, when the school ordered the boy to remove the flag. Here’s the latest, from a letter posted on the Denair Unified School District site:

As most of you are aware, we’ve had a school issue that has risen to the level of national news coverage. This incident occurred on Monday, November 8th when a campus supervisor asked one of our middle school students to remove an American flag from his bicycle while he was on school grounds. This request was based on concerns for the student’s immediate safety, and to give school staff time to investigate a potentially dangerous situation, involving threats to this student.

While it is our responsibility to ensure that all students are safe at school, we also support every students’ First Amendment rights. We are dealing with the students who threatened to disrupt the school environment. And, the student involved in this incident is now again proudly displaying his flag.

We recognize that we live in the greatest country in the world and that we should all be proud to display the American flag. It’s unfortunate that the entire story of this issue has not been fully portrayed in the media. Denair is a wonderful community, filled with hard working committed citizens who support our schools and our democracy. I’m proud to lead the schools in this community and sincerely hope we can return the focus to our children and their education. We will be addressing the issue with our Board at our regular meeting Thursday, November 18 in the District Leadership room located at 3460 Lester Road, Denair.

Sincere Regards,

Ed Parraz

The superindent has also apologized for the incident.

The Volokh Conspiracy

Poll: No major changes in image of parties

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) - A new poll suggests that the results of the midterm elections did not alter Americans’ views of the two political parties.

A Gallup survey released Monday morning indicates that 43 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Democratic party following the elections, down just one point from the 44 percent who said they had a favorable view of the party prior to the midterms.

According to the poll, 45 percent now have a favorable view of the Republican party, up one point from before the elections.

The GOP stormed back and won control of the House of Representatives, thanks to a net gain of at least 60 seats in the midterms. The Republicans also narrowed the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, thanks to a net gain of six seats in the chamber.

The survey indicates that 52 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Democrats and 50 percent hold a negative view of the GOP.

The lack of movement in the party favorable ratings contrasts with 2006, when the Democrats’ favorable rating jumped five points following those midterm elections, in which the Democrats won back control of both the House and the Senate.

The new numbers augment the argument by many political analysts and pundits that the Republican’s victory in the midterm was more of a rejection of the Democrats’ policies than an approval of the GOP.

The Gallup poll was conducted November 4-7 with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

CNN Political Ticker

Legislature changes Sunday liquor sales bill

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

After already passing a bill to allow liquor sales on Sundays beginning at 7 am rather than noon and having it vetoed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan legislature passed a compromise bill to fix the things she didn’t like about it and sent it back to the governor’s desk for her signature. Granholm’s spokesperson said she will likely sign the new bill, which will raise additional revenue for the state.

Michigan Messenger

Breaking: Far-Right Opposes START – A Fact That Changes Nothing

November 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The predictable pessimism over New START is growing. The far right is stirring, leading to dour predictions from some in the mainstream media and some progressives. And now today we have the breaking news that the New York Times op-ed page gave black-helicopter seeing John Bolton and torture-enabler John Yoo space to stun absolutely no one with a drab and redundant op-ed opposing the START treaty. Oh no, this changes everything! Except it doesn’t.

While the New York Times oped page may have thought it interesting to confirm that the far right opposes the START treaty, no one else should. Instead of following the Bolton-Heritage crowd noise, reporters and START followers should pay attention to three things when looking at the prospects for START.

First, the New START vote ultimately will not be determined just by Republicans. It will also be determined by Harry Reid’s willingness to push for a floor vote.

To win the vote, Reid and the White House have to be willing to lose the vote. The danger now is that all the hemming and hawing from the far-right makes Reid and the White House lose their nerve.

Sure, by needing 67 votes, Republicans will ultimately decide if the treaty gets ratified. And assuming Reid were to get New START to a floor vote Republicans may stand unified in opposition based of some procedural mumbo jumbo. This is a very real possibility – see Don’t Ask Don’t Tell where pro-repeal Senators stood unified in opposition because of some asinine procedural justification. But while the Republicans can certainly use any procedural complaint to justify a no-vote, this will always be the case.

What should light a fire under Reid is that the chances of the START treaty getting ratified in the new congress are very very slim. In essence, it’s now or never. So no matter what the far-right fringe says over the next six weeks, it is still worth it for Democrats to force a vote. The worst thing would be to allow Republicans to kill this treaty quietly next year by just ignoring it. If they are going to kill it, make the GOP do it publicly.

Second, the Republican leadership has never said they oppose the treaty.

Despite ample evidence of the craziness of the current Republican party, there is some reason to believe that they really don’t want to be the ones to kill a treaty that will endanger the nuclear security of the United States. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), seen as the most influential player on this issue, has in the past warned of the dangers of not having a monitoring or inspections regime of Russia’s nuclear weapons.

Importantly, the Republican leadership has also never taken a position against the treaty. The Republican Policy Committee did send out a mealy mouth letter this week telling its senators that while everything the Administration says about START may actually be true, they should still call for a delay in the treaty vote anyway. But calling for a delay is not the same thing as saying no. If Republicans really wanted to vote no, they would simply say they are voting no — especially now at the height of their political bravado. Instead, the Senate Republican leadership has actually said that they hope they can pass the START treaty, but will do so only if more money is provided for nuclear weapons modernization.

Third, Kyl doesn’t have all the leverage, because if the treaty is killed, Kyl’s nuclear pork is likely dead as well.

Kyl has been publicly silent for months, as he is engaged in some back room negotiations with the Administration. Kyl is essentially holding the treaty hostage in an effort to get a massive amount pork for the nuclear weapons complex. While Kyl has leverage because he is holding a gun to START’s head, ultimately the Administration and Senate Democrats have leverage too since they can hold a gun to the nuclear pork Kyl so desperately craves.

Kyl should know that if START is killed the bipartisan consensus that has emerged on nuclear funding will also be destroyed. While the Administration and the Democratic congress have already funded massive increases in the nuclear complex for next year, they haven’t funded anything for the out-years. This means that the Democratic Senate could easily kill any additional funding for the nuclear pork that Republicans like Kyl are so fervently pursuing. As Stephen Young points out, by appointing an independent review panel to assess two nuclear facilities, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu maybe laying the groundwork for their cancellation should New START fail. In other words, Kyl may lose his precious pork if he kills the treaty.

Wonk Room

Royal Society: “There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record.” - “Never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet.”

November 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Science) — “Biological diversity in a changing world” — paints a bleak picture of what Homo ’sapiens’ sapiens is doing to the other species on the planet.

Prior to this year, I wrote about extinction only occasionally — since the direct impact of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions on humanity seemed to me more than reason enough to act.  But the mass extinctions we are causing will directly harm our children and grandchildren as much as sea level rise.  In particular, I believe scientists have not been talking enough about the devastation we are causing to marine life (see “Geological Society: Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown “by end of century”).

In 2007, the IPCC warned that “as global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5°C [relative to 1980 to 1999], model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe.”  That is a temperature rise over pre-industrial levels of a bit more than 4.0°C.  So the 5°C rise we are facing on our current emissions path would likely put extinctions beyond the high end of that range.

Given the irreversibility of mass extinction, and the multiple unintended consequences it engenders, it must be considered one of the most serious of the many catastrophic impacts we face if we don’t act soon.

The special issue contains 16 articles by leading scientists.  The abstracts are all online as is the lead piece, also titled, “Biological diversity in a changing world,” by the two biologists who organized the Royal Society’s scientific “Discussion Meeting” and edited the issue.

The authors, Magurran and Dornelas, note that “there are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record,” and conclude that while extinctions are inevitable:

It is the mass extinction currently underway, caused by overexploitation of natural resources, that needs to worry us. Similarly, environmental change has always been prevalent, and has helped shape biodiversity patterns of today. In contrast, never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet….

As for the oceans, famed oceanographer and ecologist Jeremy Jackson, concludes in his article, “The future of the oceans past“:

Major macroevolutionary events in the history of t he oceans are linked to changes in oceanographic conditions and environments on regional to global scales.  Even small changes in climate and productivity, such as those that occurred after the rise of the Isthmus of Panama, caused major changes in Caribbean coastal ecosystems and mass extinctions of major taxa. In contrast, massive influxes of carbon at the end of the Palaeocene caused intense global warming, ocean acidification, mass extinction throughout the deep sea and the worldwide disappearance of coral reefs. Today, overfishing, pollution and increases in greenhouse gases are causing comparably great changes to ocean environments and ecosystems. Some of these changes are potentially reversible on very short time scales, but warming and ocean acidification will intensify before they decline even with immediate reduction in emissions. There is an urgent need for immediate and decisive conservation action. Otherwise, another great mass extinctio1n affecting all ocean ecosystems and comparable to the upheavals of the geological past appears inevitable.

Jackson is the director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Our ongoing efforts to wipe out sea life may lack the media-grabbing pizzazz of a Titanic oil spill, but it does not lack the punch (see Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).

As Jackson explains in his 18-minute TED talk,”How we wrecked the ocean”:

If you have the stomach for it, the hour long version is here (but the slides are blurred).

The recent scientific literature on what we’ve done and are poised to do to the oceans is beyond staggering:

On that last study, Seth Borenstein of the AP explains, “plant plankton found in the world’s oceans  are crucial to much of life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.”

Business as usual — staying on our current emissions path — makes multiple catastrophes likely.  The plausible worst-case scenario is beyond imagining.

The Magurran and Dornelas piece ends with this radical conservative quote by Tomasi di Lampedusa from his novel Il Gattopardo:

Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi!

If we want things to stay as they are, everything must change!

Climate Progress

8 Senate Seat Changes, All Democrat to Republican

October 31, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Nate Silver has produced “The Ultimate Hour-by-Hour, District-by-District Election Guide.”

Here are his current toplines:

No great surprises.   What really caught my eye, though, was this Senate chart:

Even in an ultra-competitive election, a whopping 8 of 37 Senate contests are remotely likely to chance party hands.  And this is the body that doesn’t have gerrymandering and safe seats!

Silver gives a 100% chance of the Republicans taking over in North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indian and a near certainly of them taking over in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada.  And a very strong chance in Illinois and Colorado.   That’s all 8 takeover possibilities; there’s not a single Republican held seats where the Democrats have even a remote shot at takeover.  The closest they come is an 8% chance in Alaska and 7% in Florida!

Outside the Beltway

Houston Chronicle Editor Jeff Cohen, Best Friends With Bill White, Changes Reporter’s Article To Make White Look Good

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Houston Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen is buddies with ex-Houston Mayor Bill White. How close is the relationship? Close enough for Cohen to re-write reporter Bradley Olson’s article to make White look good.

I’m not going to steal the thunder of Unca Darrell by spilling all the beans, but you MUST go read his post. Here’s his conclusion:

The Olson rewrite will go down in Chronicle lore. The mask of honest news and analysis came off. Underneath was naked political bias and a contempt for both the standards of journalism and the people of Houston.

Yes, it’s that obvious and that awful.

The Houston Chronicle is not alone in its shameless bias and outright promotion of one candidate over another. This is happening all around the country. Conservative-libertarian political candidates have received atrocious treatment. Here’s just one more example.

Imagine the margin of victory Governor Perry would have Tuesday if the press weren’t propping up Bill White. No wonder Cohen is helping his buddy Bill so much.

Liberty Pundits Blog

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