IBI Watch 7/1/12

1 07 2012

Ripple Effects  //

Beautiful Lake Superior, that deepest, coldest, clearest of the five Great Lakes, has changed in recent years.  Warmer winters, with less persistent ice cover, have heated surface waters, with long-term warming throughout the lake.  But that steady heating may well be nothing compared to the massive change injected into the lake by last week’s unprecedented Duluth flooding.  All the mud, silt, chemicals, sewage and God knows what else that streamed into the lake as water systems were overwhelmed by nearly a foot of rain are just the latest ripple in our uncontrolled scientific experiment.  Greenhouse gases lead to warming, leading to bigger storms (such as ‘hundred-year storms’ that occur every few years) which have flooding consequences.  Superior will always be deep; cold and clear, well, we have something to say about that, don’t we?  Read more about the Duluth event here and here.  The second link is Paul Douglas’s excellent weather blog, always a source of clear-thinking climate change truth.  You will have to scroll down to find commentary on the Lake Superior flooding, but it is always a good time to be aware of – guess what – a current heat wave here in the Twin Cities, and in the case of the Great Plains and on to the mid-Atlantic, a wave that has taken on historic proportions.

Saturday’s news brought accounts of deadly storms that raked the Middle Atlantic states, followed by stifling heat.  And then there is the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado.  This link includes impressive NASA maps of the heat gripping the country, plus an extensive slide show of the Colorado fire’s effects.  Don’t be fooled by current speculation that the fire – another ‘unprecedented’ event – might be the result of arson.  Sure, a careless fool or wacko may have struck the match, but the conditions fanning the flames into a rocketing inferno are arson of a different sort – the end game of us altering the climate with our greenhouse gases.

Those of us who have been watching manmade climate change with growing alarm for many years – in my case, over two decades – have been expecting what is going on right now.  Note – expecting, not looking forward to.  And now, even oil CEOs are acknowledging the massive changes.  Read this short piece covering comments by ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson.  I call his point of view “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  The gist of his remarks – climate chaos concern is overblown, and the earth will adapt.  Hah!  This oil baron is right, of course.  The earth is indeed ‘adapting’ to atmospheric CO2 approaching 400 parts per million.  You can bet Mr. Tillerson is adapting to all the heat by setting the air conditioning on ‘maximum cool.’  But you have to wonder how well the families of the dead in Colorado, plus the 32,000 forced to evacuate, plus the millions enduring rising heat and growing storms, are enjoying the ‘adaptations.

And it really did not have to be this way.  Scientists have known the consequences of continuous business-as-usual burning of fossil fuels for a very long time.  But policy has been stalled by the pignorant greed-driven titans like Exxon’s CEO (who control Congress), but even more so by pundits, none more piggishly pignorant than the Great Bloviator, Rush Limbaugh.  Here is my favorite book by that agent of hate and willful stupidity.  And yes, I have read the thing.  In response to its title, I ask, when do those of us in the know on our blind, hell-bent destruction of the climate get to say, “See, I told you so!”?

Now seems like a good time.

But being right is not important at all in the grand scheme of things What really matters is getting us onto a sustainable path, to head off further damage that will cascade if we foolishly stay on the current ‘business as usual’ trajectory.  Here are three great resources.  First, I recently read James Hansen’s latest book, Storms of My Grandchildren.  Hansen’s prescription – a tax on carbon (with the proceeds rewarding those who conserve?, a massive expansion of renewable energy, and investment in next-generation nuclear power (breeder reactors).  Second, Bill McKibben has worked tirelessly to wake people up via his 350.org site, from which he launches education efforts and high-profile protests.  Third, if you are on Facebook, you can keep up with climate chaos developments at Karyn Strickler’s Climate Challenge Media site.  Many experts and activists contribute to Strickler’s forum.


Plausible Deniability

This term has quite a pedigree.  I mistakenly thought it a Watergate coinage, but it actually dates back to the Kennedy administration.  It describes a tactic of deliberately withholding details of covert operations from senior officials, so that when the waste products hit the ventilator, they can ‘plausibly deny.’  I suggest it applies to superheated right-wing rhetoric as well.  Just read this article by Joshua Holland.  He characterizes it as hilarious over-reactions to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act.  He is right, but I find many of the comments disturbing rather than funny.  The veiled violence ( remember Michele Bachmann exhorting her Tea Party followers to be ‘armed and dangerous,’ and Sarah Palin using pistol targets to encourage opposition to Gabrielle Giffords?) When right-wing government officials and media pundits engage in violent talk – as some do in Holland’s menagerie – I maintain that they encourage psychopaths already near the edge to take action.  Then when one does crack – as the mass killer did in the Giffords tragedy – they can ‘truthfully’ say “I didn’t tell anyone to go and kill.” Yet another application of ‘plausible deniability.’


Not Scalia’s Court After All

Progressives are debating the long-term implications of Chief Justice John Roberts’ shocking departure from the lock-step conservative majority that has characterized the court since the appointment of the chief justice and Samuel Alito.  But for now, I think it is safe to say that another baby step in the direction of a sensible, just health care system has been achieved.  I say the chief justice deserves much credit for choosing common sense over ideology, and for once acting as he said he would in confirmation hearings – upholding precedent and respecting the other two branches of government.  Here are Paul Krugman’s comments on the benefits of the decision.  I also liked James Fallows’ comments on All Things Considered.

Besides praising Roberts’ respect and restraint, Krugman points out how the dissenting justices objected to the decision in extreme terms.  And is there anyone possibly more extreme than Antonin Scalia?  This is a justice who sets himself up as a mind reader across 220 years, who can glean the intent of the founders, and impose his ‘originalist’ view on the court and the nation, decades of precedent be damned.  He is acting more and more publicly partisan in recent years.  Isn’t it time for him to move onto something else?  How about a hyper-vitriolic, fuming long-term replacement for Andy Rooney?  Here are several views on the most right-leaning rightist judge of them all.







Shock: The Sequel

So many stories have a man-made climate chaos connection, and this one is no exception.  The privatizers are very active right now in South America, particularly Chile.  As we continue to heat the planet, mountain glaciers – source of the public’s drinking water – are melting.  The ‘solution’ – massive dams that are an ecological nightmare, and naturally a source of huge profits for a chosen few.  Watch the trailer for a documentary on the current controversy.  Patagonia Rising is now on my Netflix ‘save’ list.  Pinochet’s Chile was featured prominently in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.  One of the most important books in recent memory.


Romneycare Upheld

It’s surreal American politics at its finest.  A sitting president’s signature achievement is upheld in surprising fashion by the Supreme Court.  That signature achievement is based almost entirely on the same signature achievement by his opponent in a previous life.  But extremists who have taken over the opponent’s party ideologically revile anything that hints at effective government, so the opponent must disown his own signature achievement, so that he can promise to demolish the sitting president’s signature achievement as soon as the opponent replaces the sitting president.  Got that?  A perfect scenario for the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.



“Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,

For strip-mined mountain’s majesty above the asphalt plain.

America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,

And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.”

― George Carlin


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN


Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper




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