IBI Watch 7/22/12

22 07 2012

Crow . . . James Crow   //

The party of small government and minimal regulation has a plan.  Protect the integrity of the vote.  Stop voter fraud.  The plan is active here in Minnesota, in the form of a controversial constitutional amendment, the wording of which is being argued by our Republican-controlled legislature and our Democratic secretary of state.

And of course Minnesota is far from the only state embroiled in this manufactured struggle.  So – the party of small government and minimal regulation has a national plan to throw money at a problem that no one can prove exists to any great degree.

So what are they really up to?  I like Andrew Cohen’s take, from the March Atlantic.  I say – give the party of small government and minimal regulation their due.  They are smart enough to recognize that they need ‘special assistance’ to prevail in elections (thanks, poll taxes, er, uh, voter ID laws), such as making it tough for unsympathetic (minority, poor, elderly) voters to get to the polls, without running into nasty constitutional questions.  Bravo!

And of course, the new voter ID laws are only one part of a winning strategy.  Mark Crispin Miller wrote a terrific book on how the mission was accomplished in 2004.  As for 2012, no mystery here – just see how Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Mike Turzai describes the plan. Here is another look at the broader election system.  And isn’t the whole notion of voter fraud as decried by the right patently absurd?  Petty thugs and bad guys have more lucrative risks to take than hoping to influence an election.  But anyone who wants to study big-time vote fraudsters need look no further than the absolute master.

As for the Minnesota matter – remember that the party of misleadingly named constitutional amendments is also the party of the ‘death tax,’ ‘job creators,’ and ‘government takeover of health care.’ A certain book comes to mind.


Bachmann’s ‘Slut’ Moment?  

Sooner or later, loudmouth, truth-betraying bomb-throwers, be they politicians or pundits, push their hate speech an insult too far.  Such was the case with Rush Limbaugh a few months back – when he lost millions in advertising dollars in a blowback over his sexist slur.  Could it be dittos time for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann?  This member of the House Intelligence Committee (!) is plumbing new depths, channeling Joe McCarthy, as she hurls wild-eyed charges at an aide to Hillary Clinton, as well as Congressman Keith Ellison, the body’s first elected Muslim.  It is election season (for a change!), and it is easy to imagine xenophobic out-of-state campaign cash flying in when this stuff hits the media.  Still, you have to wonder if she hasn’t pushed her luck too far this time, with members of her own party challenging her assertions.


Limbaugh – Bane of the Airwaves

The latest rant from the big talker was too good to ignore.


Down to Three

Fossil fuel barons and their army of doubt manufacturers have a goal – paralyze policy decisions that would reduce their profits, i.e., reduced carbon-based fuel use and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions.  Many strategies serve the goal.  But one of my favorites is making the whole issue look too complicated to figure out.  Since it is so complicated, you just can’t believe those research-money-grubbing scientists and their alarmist predictions.  And the science certainly is complex in many ways – most notably teasing out a direct match between safe climate and the atmospheric carbon dioxide level.  But on another level, the science is not that complicated.  We burn fuel – lots of it – and the carbon has to go somewhere.  Longtime activist and author Bill McKibben has written a piece for Rolling Stone that breaks the science and the issue down to three numbers.  His article sums up the crisis and necessary decisions very well.  The First Number: 2° Celsius.  That has long been a temperature rise thought to be the upper limit before catastrophic climate change occurs.  Maybe, but there are two pieces of very bad news.  First – the observed rise today is 0.8° C., and climate chaos is ahead of scientists’ predictions.  Second bit of bad news – we have already loaded the atmosphere with about enough carbon to reach 1.5° C, even if we shut down every coal plant in the world in an hour.    The Second Number: 565 Gigatons – that is the estimated amount of carbon dioxide we can pump into the atmosphere ‘safely.’  The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons – is very scary.  Note that it is about five times the second number – it is the amount of carbon in proven fossil fuel reserves today.  So in other words, we leave most of it in the ground or pay a dear price.  Start calculating.  The McKibben article runs five pages, and is definitely worth your time.  Here is a summary.


Extreme Measures on Sea and Land

This week, news of another massive ice island breaking off Greenland’s Petermann Glacier.  NPR covered the event in some depth.  What’s new here?  Just how far north this melting is.  And here in the US, you are hearing that ‘new normal’ phrase again, this time in relation to drought in the Southwest.  This NPR story covers the connection between deepening drought and man-made climate change.  It is only five minutes, and packed full of connecting the dots.  And speaking of connecting the dots, you can’t count on all TV and newspaper meteorologists to connect their happy weather patter with climate reality, but a few do.  Check commentary from Omaha’s John Pollack, and, if you have the stomach, scroll down to see what the denialist trolls have to say about Mr. Pollack.  And I love it when experts – in this case meteorologist and valued truth-teller Paul Douglas – report on phenomena that this careful observer has noticed over recent years – more and more slow-moving and stalled fronts.  Here is a quote:

“The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the USA, and recent papers suggest this lop-sided warming is weakening jet stream winds, slowing weather systems over North America. Who cares? If this is a real trend storms and fronts may move slower, increasing the potential for flooding, while magnifying drought and heat.

Moisture has been baked out of the topsoil by 100-degree heat; there’s no fuel left to evaporate into late-day storms. A vicious cycle.” 

Here is Douglas’ excellent blog

And to bring this topic full circle, I found an excellent article that points up the connectedness of the entire climate/oceanic system.  In fact, it rightly points out the primacy of the ocean – which we ignore at our peril, even from thousands of miles away.


That’s Mister Billionaire to You People

This Paul Krugman commentary explains the deference expected by some of the wealthiest among us, including certain prominent politicians.  It brought to mind this book, which has a title well suited to our Gilded-Age-Retro times.


Plowing Bugs

Although we pretty much own the place, every so often, Mother Nature gives us notice that we inhabit her world.


“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
― Harlan Ellison



Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN



Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Mark Goldberg, Allyson Harper, Chuck Niska




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