Category Archives: Venta

Donald Trump Is the World’s Biggest Asshole

Mother Jones

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in London, our president decided the best thing to do was revive his personal feud with the mayor of London:

Here’s what Sadiq Khan actually said:

Khan was obviously telling Londoners not to be alarmed about the increased police presence they would see today. Fox News carried it, so I’m sure Trump heard the whole statement.

Five years ago Dick Cheney set a new world record for being an asshole. Donald Trump now holds that record.

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Donald Trump Is the World’s Biggest Asshole

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Quietly, Surely, We’re Losing a Whole Pine Species En Masse and Nobody Gives a Damn

Mother Jones

This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Bob Keane has studied whitebark pine, a coniferous tree of the high country, for more than thirty years. Still, when asked to describe a whitebark to someone who’s never seen one, he takes a breath and pauses for a moment. “Gosh,” he says.

The shape of the tree is very distinctive, Keane says. Instead of growing cone-shaped like other conifers, whitebarks branch like hardwoods. “A lot of the undergrowth is very small, so you see these open park-like stands of beautiful spreading trees,” he says. This shape is an adaptation that shows Clark’s nutcrackers flying past that a tree below has many nutritious cones and might be worth a travel stop.

Clark’s nutcrackers cache thousands of whitebark seeds, dispersing the pine across the high country, where the tree is a keystone species. Whitebark pine is one of the first trees to break ground after a fire, thanks to those nutcrackers, and it stabilizes soil and snowpacks at timberline. Living a millennium or more, whitebarks shape the West’s high mountain ecology in countless ways.

But the whitebark is going extinct and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the agency) hasn’t given the species federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In April 2017, two conservation organizations from Montana lost a lawsuit against the agency for its failure to list the pine. No one—not the plaintiffs, defendants, or panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals—questioned the precariousness of the tree’s fate. At question was how the agency prioritized which species it protects. Species, the court ruled, could be passed over because the agency didn’t have the necessary funds. As the story of whitebarks demonstrates, extinction has as much to do with politics as it does with biology.

The whitebark pine is an iconic tree of the West’s high mountains, ranging from Wyoming’s southern Wind Rivers to northern Alberta and British Columbia. In the fall, in a whitebark pine forest, “there are tons of cones and it is alive with animals, just alive,” Keane says. “You don’t see that with subalpine firs.” Researchers have found that whitebark cones feed more than 100 animal species and, in Glacier National Park, 40 percent of the understory plants in whitebark pine communities grow only there. The tree’s fatty, protein-rich seeds are an important food for Greater Yellowstone grizzlies; when the seeds run short, the bears eat more meat.

The whitebark pine faces intertwined threats that have killed the trees across much of their historic range. In 1910, Gifford Pinchot imported white pine blister rust, a fast-moving European fungal disease that kills whitebarks, to the West in a tree shipment.

And a century of fire suppression has imperiled whitebarks, too. The shade-intolerant trees rely on fire to open areas; without fires, trees such as subalpine firs shade out whitebarks. Often, Keane says, permanently stunted pines linger in the shadows of those new neighbors. “You’ll see an overstory of subalpine fir, but an understory of tiny whitebark pine saplings that are probably older than the canopy,” he says.

Meanwhile, native mountain pine beetles have taken out swaths of whitebark pines weakened by overcrowding and drought; a 2009 beetle outbreak killed whitebarks across more than 3,000 square miles. Exacerbating blister rust’s spread, wildfire suppression, and pine beetle outbreaks is an ever more pervasive threat: “The fourth big one is climate change and how climate change is interacting with all of these things, ” says Amy Nicholas, endangered species listing coordinator for the agency’s Wyoming field office.

Conservationists have requested federal protection for whitebark pines under the ESA for more than 25 years, beginning in 1991. In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service found that the pine was likely to go extinct across much of its U.S. range in as little as 100 years, or less than two generations. Yet instead of listing whitebark pine as endangered, the agency listed the tree as a “candidate” species, essentially waitlisting the species for help.

The reason came down to a funding shortage: listing whitebark pine as endangered would have required the agency to devote resources to saving it. Without enough money to care for all disappearing species, the agency focuses on listing species that are part of legal settlements, for example.

As a candidate species, whitebark pine got a listing priority number, based on how likely it is to go extinct. In 2011, whitebark pine received one of the highest priority rankings, yet other species were being federally protected and whitebark pine was not.

Two Montana-based conservation organizations—WildWest Institute and Alliance for the Wild Rockies—sued the agency, arguing that by prioritizing candidate species ranked lower than whitebark pine, the Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t following its own guidelines for deciding which species to protect. The conservation groups felt species should be given help in order of biological need.

The court ruled in favor of the agency. While pointing out that current policies on listing seemed inadequate when “dealing with the potential life or death of an entire species,” the court concluded that the agency was not required to make decisions based on its candidate species ranking system. “Scarce funds and limited staff resources may prevent FWS from taking immediate final action to list or delist a species,” the presiding judge wrote.

According to Patrick Parenteau, a Vermont Law School professor, the agency often makes listing decisions based on finances. “This is a systematic problem that the Fish and Wildlife Service has had for decades,” Parenteau says. He points to persistent resistance from Congress and some Republican administrations to fully fund the service’s endangered species listing program.

Financial considerations do not factor into whether a species gets listed, but rather in what order and when, agency biologist Craig Hansen says. “The listing budget is given to us by Congress and has an annual cap,” Hansen says. “We can’t pull funds from other programs to list.” The service’s funding woes have led to a backlog of organisms waiting to be listed, such as northern California’s Sierra Nevada red fox, which in 2016 included just 29 remaining adults.

These rust-resistant baby whitebarks are part of the U.S. Forest Service’s collaboration with NGOs trying to save the species. Bob Keane

In 2016, to stop the constant backlog of candidate species waiting to be listed as threatened or endangered, the Obama administration drafted a streamlined process that prioritized the most imperiled species backed by the best available science. It wasn’t adopted by the Trump administration.

Matthew Koehler, executive director of plaintiff WildWest Institute, grows frustrated talking about the whitebark case. Koehler believes the funding shortage that stalled the whitebark’s listing is part of a strategy by Congressional members in both parties to tie the service’s hands. “Then, the same members of Congress complain that the ESA doesn’t work or that it moves too slow,” he says.

Indeed, this past February, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., led a Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act,” arguing in a statement that the ESA has not been successful enough and causes economic harm.

Funding is only one of the ESA’s difficulties, though. Court battles also stymie species’ recoveries. For each species, a listing decision takes years, followed by litigation from whoever opposes the outcome. “It isn’t just a bunch of scientists sitting around a table saying ‘let’s list this species,” says Parenteau. And still, species such as the whitebark disappear.

And then there’s climate change. Congress wrote the ESA in the 1970s, long before scientists understood the profound ways in which greenhouse gases affect species and their homes. The ESA is designed to address discrete problems: overgrazing, point-source pollution, exurban development. In its revision of ESA listing guidelines, the Obama administration acknowledged as much: the agency could have put off working on species endangered by climate change, including whitebark pine, since it has less power to help them.

With our existing environmental laws, whitebarks may yet survive in the northernmost parts of their range in Canada, Parenteau says. “But in the southern part of its range, unless we get serious about climate mitigation, it’s probably doomed anyway,” he says.

In any case, listing isn’t necessary for the feds to take action: Almost all whitebarks occur on federal public land, where the government can take steps to protect the species without listing, Parenteau says.

Indeed, having given up on the ESA for now, the WildWest Institute is seeking other pathways to whitebark protection. The organization is supporting a bill introduced to Congress to designate public lands in the northern Rockies where whitebarks live as wilderness. “We see wilderness designation as a way to protect that entire ecosystem,” Koehler says.

When pressed to make predictions for the longterm, Keane says areas where whitebarks used to flourish will probably eventually burn. By then, though, there will be no source trees left for birds to find seeds to spread to freshly burned areas. Instead, he imagines, shrub herblands will grow.

Still, unlike Parenteau, Keane is optimistic about the climate extremes that whitebarks can survive, if the trees get help. He’s part of a new collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and two NGOs – American Forests and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation—that’s working to restore whitebarks in the West. The group’s even developing rust-resistant seedlings. “Whitebark pine doesn’t even start optimum cone production until it’s 200 years old,” he says. “What we want to make sure is what we’re doing now, 100 years from now we will see the fruits of our labors.”

“If we do nothing,” Keane says, “we are making sure that it will be so low on the landscape, we will probably name the ones we see, there will be so few of them.”

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Quietly, Surely, We’re Losing a Whole Pine Species En Masse and Nobody Gives a Damn

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The Truth About Meal-Kit Freezer Packs

Mother Jones

People love to complain about the wastefulness of meal-kit delivery companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. The baggies that hold a single scallion! The thousands of miles of shipping! The endless cardboard boxes! Those problems are annoying, but ultimately they’re not environmental catastrophes: The baggies don’t take up all that much landfill space, the cardboard boxes are recyclable, and it’s not clear whether shipping meal kits is less efficient than transporting food to grocery stores and then to homes.

But there is a much better reason to criticize meal-kit companies—and as far as I can tell, few people are talking much about it. That’s surprising, because it’s actually the biggest (or heaviest, at least) thing in every meal-kit box: the freezer packs that keep the perishables fresh while they’re being shipped. Blue Apron now sends out 8 million meals a month. If you figure that each box contains about three meals and two six-pound ice packs, that’s a staggering 192,000 tons of freezer-pack waste every year from Blue Apron alone. To put that in perspective, that’s the weight of nearly 100,000 cars or 2 million adult men. When I shared those numbers with Jack Macy, a senior coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s Commercial Zero Waste program, he could scarcely believe it. “That is an incredible waste,” he said. The only reason he suspects he hasn’t heard about it yet from the city’s trash haulers is that the freezer packs end up hidden in garbage bags.

Given that many meal-kit companies claim to want to help the planet (by helping customers reduce food waste and buying products from environmentally responsible suppliers, for example), you’d think they would have come up with a plan for getting rid of this ever-growing glacier of freezer packs. Au contraire. Many blithely suggest that customers store old gel packs in their freezers for future use. Unless you happen to have your own meat locker, that’s wildly impractical. I tried it, and in less than a month the packs—which are roughly the size of a photo album—had crowded practically everything else out of my freezer. Two personal organizers that I talked to reported that several clients had asked for a consult on what to do with all their accumulated freezer packs.

As Nathanael Johnson at Grist points out, Blue Apron has also suggested that customers donate used freezer packs to the Boy Scouts or other organizations. I asked my local Boy Scouts council whether they wanted my old meal-kit freezer packs. “What would we do with all those ice packs?” wondered the puzzled council executive. (Which is saying a lot for an organization whose motto is “be prepared.”)

The meal-kit companies’ online guides to recycling packaging are not especially helpful. (Blue Apron’s is visible only to its customers.) Most of them instruct customers to thaw the freezer packs, cut open the plastic exterior, which is recyclable in some places, and then dump the thawed goo into the garbage. (Hello Fresh suggests flushing the goo down the toilet, which, experts told me, is a terrible idea because it can cause major clogs in your plumbing.) The problem with this advice is that it does not belong in a recycling guide—throwing 12 pounds of mystery goo into the garbage or toilet is not recycling.

To its credit, Blue Apron is the only major meal-kit service to offer a take-back program: Enterprising customers can mail freezer packs back to the company free of charge. But Blue Apron spokeswoman Allie Evarts refused to tell me how many of its customers actually do this. When I asked what the company does with all those used freezer packs, Evarts only told me, “We retain them for future use.” So does that mean Blue Apron is actually reusing the packs in its meal kits, or is there an ever-growing mountain of them languishing in a big warehouse somewhere? Evarts wouldn’t say.

Now back to that mystery goo, which, in case you’re curious, is whitish clear, with the consistency of applesauce. Its active ingredient is a substance called sodium polyacrylate, a powder that can absorb 300 times its weight in water. It’s used in all kinds of products, from detergent to fertilizer to surgical sponges. One of its most common uses is in disposable diapers—it’s what soaks up the pee and keeps babies’ butts dry. When saturated with water and frozen, sodium polyacrylate thaws much more slowly than water—meaning it can stay cold for days at a time.

Meal-kit companies assure their customers that the freezer-pack goo is nontoxic. That’s true. But while sodium polyacrylate poses little to no danger to meal-kit customers, it’s a different story for the people who manufacture the substance. (Meal-kit companies typically contract with freezer-pack manufacturers rather than making their own.) In its powdered state, it can get into workers’ lungs, where it can cause serious problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in 2011 that workers in a sodium polyacrylate plant in India developed severe lung disease after inhaling the powder. Animal studies have shown that exposure to high concentrations of sodium polyacrylate can harm the lungs. Because of these known risks, some European countries have set limits on workers’ exposure to sodium polyacrylate. Here in the United States, some industry groups and manufacturers recommend such limits as well as safety precautions for workers like ventilation, respirators, and thick gloves. But on the federal level, neither the Occupational Safety and Health Administration nor the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have any rules at all. (The companies that supply freezer packs to Blue Apron and Hello Fresh did not return repeated requests for information on their manufacturing processes.)

Beyond the factory, sodium polyacrylate can also do a number on the environment. In part, that’s because it’s made from the same stuff as fossil fuels—meaning that making it produces significant greenhouse gas emissions, a team of Swedish researchers found in 2015 (PDF). It also doesn’t biodegrade, so those mountains of freezer packs sitting in the garbage aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

So to review: Freezer packs create an epic mountain of garbage, and their goo is not as environmentally benign as meal-kit companies would have you believe. So what’s to be done? One place to start might be a greener freezer pack. That same team of Swedish researchers also developed a sodium polyacrylate alternative using biodegradable plant materials instead of fossil fuels. A simpler idea: Companies could operate like milkmen used to, dropping off the new stuff and picking up the old packaging—including freezer packs—for reuse in one fell swoop.

A little creative thinking might go a long way—yet none of the companies that I talked to said they had any specific plans to change the freezer-pack system (though Hello Fresh did say it planned to reduce its freezer pack size from six pounds to five pounds). And when you think about it, why should they fix the problem? Heidi Sanborn, head of the recycling advocacy group California Product Stewardship Council, points out that the current arrangement suits the meal-kit providers just fine. “It’s taxpayers that are paying for these old freezer packs to sit in the landfill forever,” she says. “Companies are getting a total freebie.”

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The Truth About Meal-Kit Freezer Packs

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A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants Is Ready to Rumble in Portland—and Beyond

Mother Jones

One week after two men were stabbed to death while defending two girls from a racist and Islamophobic diatribe on a commuter train, Portland, Oregon, is bracing for more violence. On Sunday, over the mayor’s objection, a right-wing group will hold a pro-Trump “free speech rally,” while anti-fascist activists are preparing to protest the gathering.

It’s a pattern that has played out across the country since the election: Pro-Trump events from Pikeville, Kentucky, to Berkeley, California, attract white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen along with other provocateurs from the so-called “alt-right.” And, predictably, “antifa” counterprotesters mask up to oppose them—often physically.

Yet joining up with the well-established networks of antifascists and anarchists is a new generation of militant organizers. In Portland, Rose City Antifa’s coalition at this weekend’s pro-Trump rally will include the local chapter of Redneck Revolt, a national network whose outreach has targeted right-wing militia members.

Redneck Revolt is just one among a handful of left-wing groups that have pledged to resist emboldened white supremacists and right-wing extremists through “direct action” that sometimes goes beyond nonviolent protest—including picking up arms. Some see themselves as the heirs of ’60s radicals like the Black Panthers, while others look to the antifa movement for inspiration. Here are a few:

Bastards Motorcycle Club: A couple of years ago, South Carolinians Steven “Chavez” Parker and Joseph Guinn organized an anti-racist, LGBT-friendly motorcycle gang. Traditional biker clubs, Parker thought, “were all going to think one thing: ‘What a bunch of bastards.'” Since then, the Bastards Motorcycle Club has rolled up to oppose racist events across the South, sometimes armed and ready to rumble. April 2016 they joined a small army of counterprotesters at a rally of white supremacists in Stone Mountain, Georgia, home of a rock carving honoring the Confederacy. They’re now looking to set up new chapters—women need not apply. That’s “not the way things work,” says the group’s president, who insists on being called by his biker name, Gigolo.

By Any Means Necessary: BAMN formed in 1995 to fight California’s rollback of affirmative action. The group, which is led by civil rights lawyer Shanta Driver, has organized anti-Trump rallies and high school walkouts. But it also supports more aggressive tactics. “When we say ‘by any means necessary,’ we mean everything from doing legal cases to organizing more militant actions,” Driver says. “We are not people who believe, in situations where we’re under attack, that we should turn the other cheek.” Last June, BAMN teamed up with antifas to confront a small group of white nationalists marching outside California’s Capitol building in Sacramento. Anti-racist protesters, many in black clothing and masks, pelted marchers with water bottles and hit them with wooden bats. Several people from both camps were beaten or stabbed. “They are organizing to attack and kill us, so we have a right to self-defense,” BAMN activist Yvette Felarca told a TV crew. “Anyone who’s thinking about joining them, don’t. Because it’s not going to be a good day for you.”

Redneck Revolt: This network, largely made up of anarchists and libertarians, is focused on anti-racist organizing among the white working class. Inspired by the Young Patriots—white Appalachian activists who allied with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s—the group now claims chapters in more than 30 regions. Redneck Revolt’s members can speak to their neighbors more easily than ivory-tower liberals, says Lucas Kelly, a member of the Phoenix chapter. “‘Privilege’ means one thing to them. It means a different thing to working-class folks who put in 60, 80 hours a week to support their family.” The group also runs firearms trainings. Last December, Kelly’s chapter sent members to a gun show, where they handed out posters tagged with the slogan “Fighting Nazis Is an American Tradition: Stop the Alt-Right.”

Huey P. Newton Gun Club: After a white Dallas police officer killed an unarmed black man in 2013, community organizers Yafeuh Balogun and Babu Omowale launched the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a coalition of black self-defense groups named after the co-founder of the Black Panthers. “We’re going to educate black, brown, and poor white people to arm up or at least get familiar with weapons,” Balogun says. “So if a situation does arise, if they feel threatened, at least they can defend themselves.” When an anti-Muslim group held an armed protest outside a Nation of Islam mosque in South Dallas in April 2016, armed Gun Club members showed up to counterprotest. Balogun says his group, which operates armed patrols in South Dallas, has drawn the attention of the FBI. But he also emphasizes that it’s not just about guns: “What we advise people is to not necessarily be so quick, so fast, to pick up arms.”

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A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants Is Ready to Rumble in Portland—and Beyond

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James Mattis Doesn’t Really Fit In With the Trump Administration

Mother Jones

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From our Secretary of Defense earlier this evening:

Oh snap. Do you have any more shade you’d like to throw at your boss?

He seems to have a firm grasp of who he works for, anyway.

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James Mattis Doesn’t Really Fit In With the Trump Administration

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Job Creation Has Been on a Downward Slide For More Than Two Years

Mother Jones

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For some reason I was prompted to create this chart yesterday:

There’s a ton of noise in this series, but nonetheless the fitted trendline is fairly clear. Net new job creation1 has been on a steady downward slide for more than two years, declining from an average of 140 in 2015 to 100 in 2016 to 70 so far this year. I don’t know how meaningful this is, but it doesn’t really seem like a good thing, does it?

1We need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth. Thus, net new job creation is the number of new jobs minus 90,000.

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Job Creation Has Been on a Downward Slide For More Than Two Years

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Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

Mother Jones

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Since leaving office, Barack Obama has made a few veiled criticisms of Donald Trump. Conservatives are pretty unhappy about this. It’s tradition for ex-presidents to maintain a dignified silence about their successors, after all.

This is mostly true, but when did it become a tradition? It certainly hasn’t been one forever. Herbert Hoover was a constant presence on the radio blasting FDR during the Depression, and Harry Truman remained a gadfly after he left office.

Eisenhower changed things up. After beating Hitler and serving two terms as president, he decided to adopt the elder statesman role. Then Kennedy died before leaving office, LBJ slunk back to Texas a broken man, and Nixon resigned in disgrace. By hook or by crook, the “tradition” of ex-presidential silence was two decades old by the time Reagan became president. It’s mostly held ever since.

Is there a good reason for this? The pretense seems kind of precious to me. Why treat sitting presidents like china dolls who can’t take some heat from their predecessors? Ex-presidents are among the greatest politicians alive, and usually the effective leaders of their party, at least for a while. They typically command a throng of admirers. The most natural thing in the world would be for them to maintain a robust political presence if they want to. Why shouldn’t they?

Ditto for losing presidential candidates. This is usually less of an issue, since most people don’t really want to listen to losers. But not always. Hillary Clinton should never run for office again—and she’s said she won’t—but why shouldn’t she stay loudly involved in politics if she can help lead the loyal opposition until Democrats coalesce around a new party leader?

Does anyone know the answer about this tradition? Is it really just an Eisenhower thing that somehow congealed into conventional wisdom? Do other countries have anything similar?

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Why Are Former Presidents Supposed to Shut Up About Their Successors?

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In Which I Waste a Lot of Time on Climate Change Yahooism

Mother Jones

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Boy did I waste some time yesterday. It started with this post from David French:

The Environmentalist Left Has to Grapple with Its Failed, Alarmist Predictions

I’m pasting below one of my favorite videos, from a Good Morning America report in 2008….Truly, it’s a stunning piece of work, depicting the deadly dystopia that awaited Americans in . . . 2015. Manhattan is disappearing under rising seas, milk is almost $13 per “carton,” and gas prices skyrocketed to more than $9 per gallon. But if you’re familiar at all with environmentalist predictions, there’s nothing all that unusual about the GMA’s report (except for its vivid visuals).

….As I wrote in early 2016 — after the world allegedly passed Al Gore’s “point of no return” — environmentalist predictions are a target-rich environment. There’s a veritable online cottage industry cataloguing hysterical, failed predictions of environmentalist catastrophe. Over at the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Perry keeps his list of “18 spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions” made around the original Earth Day in 1970. Robert Tracinski at The Federalist has a nice list of “Seven big failed environmentalist predictions.” The Daily Caller’s “25 years of predicting the global warming ‘tipping point’” makes for amusing reading, including one declaration that we had mere “hours to act” to “avert a slow-motion tsunami.”

….Is the environmental movement interested in explaining rather than hectoring? Then explain why you’ve been wrong before. Own your mistakes.

I would be a lot more impressed with complaints like this if conservatives had spent the past decade loudly insisting that although climate change was important and needed to be addressed, we shouldn’t panic over it. That would be defensible. Needless to say, that’s not what they’ve done. Instead, for purely partisan reasons, we’ve gone from lots of Republicans supporting cap-and-trade to a nearly unanimous rejection in 2010 of what they now fatuously call cap-and-tax, followed in 2016 by the election of a man who’s called climate change a hoax.

Still, alarmism from activists is nothing new, so I was ready to believe plenty of them had gone overboard. At the same time, I was suspicious because the GMA video was rather oddly cropped. It was a hyperactive promo for a forgettable ABC program called Earth 2100 that aired eight years ago, so I wasted some time watching it. Here it is, so you can watch it too if you want to make sure I describe it accurately:

The program is very clear at the beginning that it’s dramatizing a worst-case dystopia of climate change if we do nothing. That said, the show’s actual depiction of 2015 includes these vignettes: an oil shortage spikes gasoline prices to $5 per gallon; higher oil prices make suburbs less desirable places to live; eating meat uses a lot more oil than eating grain; Congress approves 40 new coal-fired power plants; a huge storm hits Miami; a huge cyclone hits Bangladesh; a drought in China causes wheat shortages; and world leaders fail to reach agreement on greenhouse gas reductions.

That’s…not at all what French describes. And it’s not especially alarmist, either. The big drought was (is) in South Sudan, not China, and the most intense cyclone ever was in the eastern Pacific, not Bangladesh or Miami. It was the Lima conference that produced no climate agreement (that would have to wait for Paris at the tail end of 2015), and for pretty much the reasons described in the program. Extreme weather events have increased and wildfire damage in the western US has intensified. But the show did get a couple of things wrong: there was no oil shortage and no new coal-fired plants.

After I finished my vintage TV watching, I trudged through each of French’s catalogs of ridiculous environmental predictions. First up was Mark Perry’s list of bad prediction from the first Earth Day. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about a random assortment of stuff from 50 years ago, but whatever. Perry has a list of 18 items, and of them, (a) six were from Paul Ehrlich, (b) two were vague warnings about humans destroying the planet, which we were certainly doing in 1970, and (c) four were dire predictions of things that might happen if we did nothing. But of course, we didn’t do nothing. That leaves six: two predictions of famine, two predictions of resource shortages, one prediction of mass extinction, and one prediction of an impending ice age. I can’t find any backup for the mass extinction thing, but the guy who allegedly predicted it got a Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan, so how bad could he be? Nor could I find any backup for the supposed prediction of a coming ice age, and the data it’s based on makes it seem unlikely.

So if we agree that Paul Ehrlich was just way off base, we’re left with four guys who got some stuff wrong. If this is the best we can find from the entire maelstrom of the environmental movement of 1970, it doesn’t sound like those guys did so badly after all.

Next up was the Federalist list, but it was pretty much the same stuff.

Finally there’s the Daily Caller’s list of bad predictions about a global “tipping point.” I had to trudge through each one and click through to see what it really said, and it turns out the first five cases were all routine statements about how much time we had left until the next climate conference, where we really had to get something done. The sixth was from Prince Charles, so who cares? The seventh was a claim that we needed to do something by 2012 in order to keep climate change from getting out of control. The eighth was a piece about the unsustainability of eating lots of meat. And the ninth was a 1989 prediction that we needed to get moving on climate change by 2000 to avoid catastrophe.

So we have a grand total of two people saying that we need to act fast or else it will be impossible to keep future climate change under 2°C. This is a pretty mainstream view since there’s a lot of inertia built into climate change, so I’m not sure why this list is supposed to be so scandalous in the first place. We do need to act quickly if we want global warming to peak at 2°C or less. What’s wrong with saying that at every opportunity?

When you get done with all this, there’s virtually nothing of substance left. Sure, some people got some stuff wrong. That’s always the case. The whole point of science is not to get everything right, but to have a mechanism for correcting its errors. And if you look at consensus views, instead of cherry picking individuals, I think environmental scientists have as good a track record as anyone. Aside from creating listicles that get passed around forever on the internet by ignorant yahoos, what’s the point of pretending that they’ve been epically wrong for decades and need to offer up abject apologies before we ever listen to them again?

There’s no need to answer that. I think we all know exactly what the point is.

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In Which I Waste a Lot of Time on Climate Change Yahooism

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Donald Trump’s Vision of Pittsburgh is Sooooooo 80s

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Donald Trump officially announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change on Thursday, framing the 2015 deal as a kind of global plot to sabotage America.

“The Paris Agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” Trump said. “They don’t put America first. I do, and I always will.”

And if Paris was the symbol of that ideology, the alternative, a nation of miners and pipelines, belching smoke like a charcoal grill, was represented by…Pittsburgh? “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said.

It was a bad comparison, since citizens of both Pittsburgh and Paris share an interest in averting a minimum projected sea level rise of 2.4 feet by 2100, in the scenario in which the climate accord’s goals aren’t met.

But it was an especially bad comparison because Pittsburgh isn’t the burned-out steel town Trump thinks it is. In fact, it’s a pretty good example of how a city can recover and adapt to changing economic circumstances. Pittsburgh’s doing OK.

Once again, Donald Trump has shown himself a man who has acquired little to no new knowledge since the 1980s. And during the 1980s, Pittsburgh was indeed having a very tough time. The city lost 30 percent of its population between 1970 and 1990; in 1983, unemployment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area hit 17 percent. Neighboring counties fared even worse. Deindustrialization and globalization slammed the Monongahela Valley. But that was 35 years ago.

Today, Pittsburgh’s biggest employer is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Its other university, Carnegie Mellon, is home to a world-renowned robotics laboratory. The Golden Triangle is a landmark of downtown renewal. And Homestead, site of the great American labor battle of the 19th century, is a mall.

Before Pittsburgh was the poster child for a midsized, postindustrial city, it was a symbol of the ills of pollution. The soot from the steel mills hung so thick in the air the streetlights had to be on during the day. In 1948, 25 miles south of the city, the town of Donora was enveloped in a thick yellow smog that killed 20 people and sickened half the town. It was the worst air pollution disaster in US history and led to the passage of the Clean Air Act.

There’s no city in America that stands to benefit from climate change, whose enormous costs are and will continue to be borne mostly by the federal government (and hence distributed among us). But as a symbol for withdrawal from a global climate treaty, Pittsburgh is an especially poor choice.

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Donald Trump’s Vision of Pittsburgh is Sooooooo 80s

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Democrats Are Setting Their Sights on "Putin’s Favorite Congressman"

Mother Jones

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) won his first election to the House of Representatives in 1988 with 64 percent of the vote. He’s been reelected 13 times since then. And even though he walloped his most recent challenger by nearly 17 percentage points, some Democrats now think that this could be the final term for the Southern California conservative Politico has dubbed “Putin’s favorite congressman.

Protesters, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, assemble outside Rohrabacher’s office every Tuesday at 1 p.m. “He has been our congressman for a long time,” laments Diana Carey, vice chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County. “But because the district was predominantly Republican, my view is he’s been on cruise control.” Thanks to changing demographics in Orange County and newly fired-up liberal voters, Carey doesn’t think Rohrabacher’s seat is safe anymore.

Recently, Rohrabacher has been swept up in the scandal over the possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Like Trump, Rohrabacher, who claims to once have lost a drunken arm-wrestling match with Vladimir Putin in the 1990s, believes the Russian government is being unfairly demonized. (During the 1980s, Rohrabacher was a staunch anti-communist who hung out with the anti-Soviet mujahedeen in Afghanistan.) He has shrugged off allegations of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election by pointing out that the United States is guilty of similar actions. In May, the New York Times reported that in 2012 the FBI warned Rohrabacher that Russian spies were trying to recruit him. Two days earlier, the Washington Post reported on a recording from June 2016 in which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” (McCarthy assured Rohrabacher the remarks were meant as a joke.)

In a 2016 conversation with Republican House members, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Washington Post

But of all the issues where Rohrabacher and Trump align, Russia may be the least pressing concern for the constituents who are rallying against him. So far, Rohrabacher has voted in line with Trump’s positions more than 93 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, including voting in favor of the GOP health care bill that would effectively end Obamacare. Rohrabacher pushed hard for the bill, warning his GOP colleagues that letting Trump’s first major legislative effort die would stunt the president’s momentum. “If this goes down,” he said in March, “we’re going to be neutering our President Trump. You don’t cut the balls off your bull and expect that’s he’s going to go out and get the job done.” Health care is a hot-button issue in the 48th District, Carey says. “I’ve had conversations with people who are absolutely beside themselves, scared that they’re going to lose coverage.”

While Rohrabacher won his last race in a near-landslide, his district went for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. She won by a slim margin, but it was enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to flag the district as a top target to flip in 2018. If the Democrats hope to best Rohrabacher in the midterms, they have a lot of work to do, says Justin Wallin, an Orange County-based pollster who runs an opinion research firm. “I don’t think Dana has carved out a position as a fire-breathing supporter for any political personality except for Ronald Reagan,” says Wallin, referring to Rohrabacher’s early days working in the Reagan White House. “He tends to align quite naturally with that district in his perspectives, his persona, and his political views. His district views him as being independent, and when Dana takes a position on something that seems to be outside the mainstream, that can actually buttress his favorable regard.”

Two Democrats have announced bids to run against Rohrabacher. One is first-time candidate Harley Rouda, a businessman and attorney who gave $9,200 to Republican congressional candidates and nothing to Democrats between 1993 and 2007. The other is Boyd Roberts, a Laguna Beach real estate broker who has vowed to work to impeach Trump and who finished last among five candidates running for a school board seat in Hemet, California, in 2012. Both are attacking Rohrabacher over his sympathetic stance toward Russia. “The district will vote Rohrabacher out because i think there is something with the Russia thing. I think I can raise money off it,” Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. In an online ad, Rouda calls Rohrabacher “one of the most entrenched members of Washington’s establishment” and vows to get “tough on Russia” if he is elected.

“They’re both kind of waving the flag of the Russia thing, and I just don’t think that’s gonna get them over the line,” says Wallin. Carey declined to comment on either candidate, though she says a third challenger will be announcing a bid this summer. Meanwhile, the DCCC hasn’t thrown its backing behind anyone yet. “Barring something dramatic happening, I’d say he is far more safe than a number of other districts in the area,” says Wallin.

Yet Carey thinks that so long as the Democrats continue organizing with the same intensity they’ve shown so far, they can turn the district blue. “We have a lot of folks who said they never paid attention before, a lot of no-party-preference people who are really concerned about democracy,” she says. When asked whether people in the district continue to be engaged, she responds, “So far I think the energy is staying. I tell people, ‘This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.’ But I think as long as Trump keeps tweeting, we’ll keep having interest!”

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Democrats Are Setting Their Sights on "Putin’s Favorite Congressman"

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