- Naomi Klein on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:
The prize for shameless disaster capitalism, however, surely goes to rightwing economist Russell S Sobel, writing in a New York Times online forum. Sobel suggested that, in hard-hit areas, Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) should create "free-trade zones – in which all normal regulations, licensing and taxes [are] suspended". This corporate free-for-all would, apparently, "better provide the goods and services victims need".Read her whole article.
Yes, that's right: this catastrophe, very likely created by climate change – a crisis born of the colossal regulatory failure to prevent corporations from treating the atmosphere as their open sewer – is just one more opportunity for further deregulation. And the fact that this storm has demonstrated that poor and working-class people are far more vulnerable to the climate crisis shows that this is clearly the right moment to strip those people of what few labour protections they have left, as well as to privatise the meagre public services available to them. Most of all, when faced with an extraordinarily costly crisis born of corporate greed, hand out tax holidays to corporations.
The flurry of attempts to use Sandy's destructive power as a cash grab is just the latest chapter in the very long story I have called the The Shock Doctrine. And it is but the tiniest glimpse into the ways large corporations are seeking to reap enormous profits from climate chaos.
- The Tucson gunman who murdered Christina-Taylor Green, Gabe Zimmerman, Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Dorwan Stoddard, and Phyllis Schneck, and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords grievously wounded, was sentenced to life in prison, this past week. Giffords' husband, the former astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke at the hearing:
We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence, not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora, we have done nothing.
- Deborah Pearlstein offers a thoughtful consideration of the possible meanings of President Obama's election night declaration that a decade of war is coming to an end:
Whatever the answers to the longstanding questions about the scope of these and other war-triggered authorities, about whether and for how long they should continue to exist, it should be possible to agree on at least one thing as the conversation at war’s end begins: it would be better to make decisions about which of these laws are needed after we have a developed a game plan for U.S. counterterrorism strategy for the long-term. A strategy not driven by the demands of crisis-driven fear, as it was in the months after September 11, or by ex-post mistake mitigation, the task that confronted the President in his first term, and in important ways burdens him still.
- The most celebrated living American writer who has yet to win a Nobel Prize, Philip Roth, is calling it a career.
- Given the extremism of the conservative majority on the Roberts Court, this is not surprising:
The Supreme Court said Friday that it would consider a challenge from several Southern states to the Voting Rights Act, setting up another landmark clash over federal power and the legacy of discrimination.
- Due to their vacuum of genuine leadership, David Corn doesn't expect a quick rebound by the Republicans.
- Colorado was first, but Oregon is keeping up:
The impending shift in power in Salem has set up a potentially historic change in legislative leadership here in Oregon.
Democrats are poised to hold a 34-26 majority in Oregon’s House of Representatives, breaking the previous 30-30 tie, thanks to four victories by Democratic candidates in the Portland suburbs over Republican incumbents.
House Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan’s (D-Coos Bay) successful pursuit of a State Senate seat has left House Democratic Leader Tina Kotek in position to become Oregon’s first openly-gay House speaker.
- On election night, Fox "News" faced a crisis. For once, it couldn't just invent its own alternate reality and expect its duped viewers to believe it. Its guy had lost. Despite all the effort Fox had made to convince its duped viewers that he was a sure winner, Fox's guy had, incontrovertibly, lost. He would not become president. Fox couldn't afford to construct an alternate inauguration and an alternate White House, and pretend that it had an alternate president, so what to do? Embarrass itself was a given, but so too was to yet again reveal its utter lack of dignity and class:
This time, it was the network divided against itself, and Fox News' top producers held a meeting to adjudicate. The decision desk stood their ground. They knew how momentous the call was. Earlier in the night, according to a source, before making the call, Arnon Mishkin, who heads the decision desk, told Fox brass, “let’s remember this is Fox News calling Ohio. This will say something beyond Ohio going for Obama.” Fox brass told Mishkin to get the numbers right and ignore the politics: "If we think Ohio has gone Obama, we call Ohio," said a Fox News executive.
With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox's digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. “This is Fox News,” an insider said, “so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.” The decision desk were given a three-minute warning that Kelly would be showing up.
- In case you missed this, it deserves more notice:
The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording.Once again, when Republican dogma is proved flat wrong, Republicans react not with self-reflection and reconsideration, rather they try to suppress the proof that their dogma has been proved flat wrong. Because if they're going to be flat wrong, they might as well be dishonest about it, too.
The decision, made in late September against the advice of the agency’s economic team leadership, drew almost no notice at the time. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, cited the study a week and a half after it was withdrawn in a speech on tax policy at the National Press Club.
But it could actually draw new attention to the report, which questions the premise that lowering the top marginal tax rate stimulates economic growth and job creation.
- Brian Angliss:
Industrial climate disruption increases the amount of heat stored in the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. When the oceans heat up, they expand, raising sea level. When a warmer ocean and atmosphere melts ice caps (as is happening in Antarctica and Greenland), sea level rises even more. And when sea levels rise, the storm surge that accompanies large storms like Sandy (and Hurricane Katrina) is that much higher than it would have been without a storm surge.
But there is another effect of industrial climate disruption that doped sea level rise specifically in the region hardest hit by Sandy. The region of the east cost between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts appears to be a “hot spot” for local sea level rise that is driven in part by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC), of which the Gulf Stream is part. When the AMOC speeds up, local sea level drops, and vice-versa. Recently, industrial climate disruption has warmed the air over Greenland enough to significantly increase the amount of freshwater entering the North Atlantic. More fresh water makes the North Atlantic less salty, and thus less dense. Since the AMOC is driven in large part by the warm, salty Gulf Stream cooling and sinking in the North Atlantic, adding lots of fresh water to the Gulf Stream will make it sink slower, and thus slow down the AMOC, leading to sea level rise in the region hit by Sandy that was, according to the paper linked above, 3-4x larger than the global average sea level rise.
There’s a third way that industrial climate disruption enhanced Sandy’s performance, and this is related directly to the warmer oceans. Hurricanes derive their energy from the ocean, and the warmer the ocean is under the storm, the more powerful the hurricane can become. Not all hurricanes become powerful storms over hot water because other factors matter too, but no hurricane can get large and/or powerful without ocean heat. The Atlantic Ocean has become, on average, between 0.9 and 3.6 °F (0.5 to 2 °C) warmer in the area traversed by Sandy over the period from the early 1900′s to the last decade during the months of November and December. This extra ocean heat boosted Sandy’s performance dramatically.
- An anchor at the Cincinnati Fox affiliate was caught expressing openly homophobic bigotry on her Facebook page. She's very sorry. Really.
- Fordham University's college Republicans uninvited Ann Coulter from making an appearance after the school's President, Father Joseph McShane, unleashed on her:
Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.
To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative — more heat than light — and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.
As members of a Jesuit institution, we are called upon to deal with one another with civility and compassion, not to sling mud and impugn the motives of those with whom we disagree or to engage in racial or social stereotyping.
- From the National Center for Atmospheric Research:
Climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature are likely to prove more accurate than those showing a lesser rise, according to a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The findings, published in this week’s issue of Science, could provide a breakthrough in the longstanding quest to narrow the range of global warming expected in coming decades and beyond.The abstract and the firewalled full text can be found here.
NCAR scientists John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth, who co-authored the study, reached their conclusions by analyzing how well sophisticated climate models reproduce observed relative humidity in the tropics and subtropics.
The climate models that most accurately captured these complex moisture processes and associated clouds, which have a major influence on global climate, were also the ones that showed the greatest amounts of warming as society emits more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
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