Artic Ice Thinning; Reindeer Seeking Shelter

“One of Norway’s hottest summers on record has caused overheated reindeer to take refuge in a highway tunnel located in the far north of the country.” from Earthweek

“…measurements show the snowpack has thinned from 14 inches to 9 inches in the western Arctic and from 13 inches to 6 inches in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, north and west of Alaska.”  from Earthweek


Arming The Rebels? Laughable Nonsense

Give Tom Friedman his due.  His response to the recent Hillary Clinton slam on President Obama’s decisions years ago to not arm Syrian rebels against Dictator Assad, not only has a great soundbite, it has 6 questions to be understood:

“The notion that the only reason that the Islamist militias emerged in Syria is because we created a vacuum by not adequately arming the secular rebels is laughable nonsense.”

and the questions, here.

Those hoping for an HRC presidency had better get her thinking about the real world and less about the campaign trail.


Participatory Surveillance

One of George Orwell’s great insights and fears was not, as in 1984, a draconian dictatorship imposed on the populace but of a participatory one. For the proper benefits (even if only perceived) men will join most anything.  We can see this in many ways in the modern world, accelerating with social media of all kinds.  Well here comes another chance:

Surveil Me!  Surveil Me!

An increasing number of the nation’s auto insurance companies have a new proposition: Let them track every second of your driving in exchange for an annual discount that can reach into the hundreds of dollars if you behave yourself on the road.

In theory, everyone wins here. Progressive, Allstate and State Farm — among the most aggressive of the larger companies that are pursuing this strategy — attract better drivers who crash less often. Customers who sign up for the optional programs can pay premiums based more on how they drive and less on their age, gender or credit history.

At the moment, State Farm and Progressive are not raising rates on people who sign up for monitoring and prove to be terrible drivers. Participation is voluntary, and Progressive, the early adopter in usage-based insurance, says that close to 15 percent of its customers are already enrolled.

Still, as more people sign up, the standard rate will start to feel like a penalty for those who decline to participate…

NYTimes Lieber

Of course somewhere in the big data every purchase I make is being tracked, my preferences, locations, size of purchase…  But we all better start wondering where the line is to be drawn


Algae to Diesel: The Next Big Thing?

I’ve posted about Algae Systems before and am glad to see the New York Times picking up on what is going on in Mobile Bay.  Besides having an interest in another tool to slow the saturation of the atmosphere with CO2 I have a personal interest: my brother is part of the development team. [The big floating greenhouses are his design and implementation.]

Climate Algae Systems

…a Nevada company, Algae Systems, has a pilot plant in Alabama that, it says, can turn a profit making diesel fuel from algae by simultaneously performing three other tasks: making clean water from municipal sewage (which it uses to fertilize the algae), using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and generating valuable credits for advanced biofuels.

If it works, the company says, the process will remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is added when the fuel is burned.

NY Times:Matthew Wald

Hope this proves out… the preliminary, 1/2 scale model seems to be working. Now, on to a full-scale beta, perhaps on a Pacific island which needs an energy source and can provide warm water, human waste and not too many hurricanes!


Libertarian Flim Flam

Paul Krugman is on to the “Libertarian Moment” being proclaimed in some quarters.

Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

The answer is no. And the reason can be summed up in one word: phosphorus.

As you’ve probably heard, the City of Toledo recently warned its residents not to drink the water. Why? Contamination from toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, largely caused by the runoff of phosphorus from farms.

When I read about that, it rang a bell. Last week many Republican heavy hitters spoke at a conference sponsored by the blog Red State — and I remembered an antigovernment rant a few years back from Erick Erickson, the blog’s founder. Mr. Erickson suggested that oppressive government regulation had reached the point where citizens might want to “march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp.” And the source of his rage? A ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergent. After all, why would government officials want to do such a thing?

And in his on-line blog he reminds us of the cloth from which Paul Ryan is cut:

Brad DeLong reminds us of the original Ryan budget plan — or actually “plan”, as I’ll explain — and emphasizes its dire warnings about a looming debt crisis that wasn’t. But pointing out that the debt panic was unjustified only gets at part of what was wrong with that Ryan budget (and all his subsequent proposals). For the fact is that it wasn’t a proposal made in good faith.

Ω

And, as to the idea that there is a libertarian tide rising, floating the boat of one Rand Paul, Ed Kilgore offers a corrective over at Talking Points Memo.

…to the extent there is something that can be called a “libertarian moment” in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, it owes less to the work of the Cato Institute than to a force genuine libertarians clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged are typically horrified by: the Christian Right. In the emerging ideological enterprise of “constitutional conservatism,” theocrats are the senior partners, just as they have largely been in the Tea Party Movement, even though libertarians often get more attention.

And here, Kilgore offers a short summary of the above.


Malaki Steps Down

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A step back from the edge but the cliff is still crumbling and the wind blowing hard.  What next?

Nouri al-Maliki has stepped down as Iraq’s prime minister and given his backing to Haider al-Abadi as his successor, Iraqi state TV reported.  Al Jazeera


Enter Depression, Exit…

Count me as one of those who has to turn off the radio or television when news and commentary and sorrow about Robin Williams’ suicide begins.  Way too close an encounter for me, like the shadow of a shark to a snorkling diver.  I use the time to review the rules: don’t swim in certain waters, only go in with friends, and only when I’m rested, feeling buoyant.  When a shadow appears, talk to myself: talk to others.  Swim away as away from a rip-tide, across the current not straight back in. Panic doesn’t help; irony sometimes does — there you are again, swimming from shadows! Solid land is back there somewhere; I know, I’m mostly on it.  There are more.  Here’s a good article in the Guardian’s Science section.

Depression, the clinical condition, could really use a different name. At present, the word “depressed” can be applied to both people who are a bit miserable and those with a genuine debilitating mood disorder. Ergo, it seems people are often very quick to dismiss depression as a minor, trivial concern. After all, everyone gets depressed now and again, don’t they? Don’t know why these people are complaining so much.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; dismissing the concerns of a genuine depression sufferer on the grounds that you’ve been miserable and got over it is like dismissing the issues faced by someone who’s had to have their arm amputated because you once had a paper cut and it didn’t bother you. Depression is a genuine debilitating condition, and being in “a bit of a funk” isn’t. The fact that mental illness doesn’t receive the same sympathy/acknowledgement as physical illness is often referenced, and it’s a valid point. If you haven’t had it, you don’t have the right to dismiss those who have/do. You may disagree, and that’s your prerogative, but there are decades’ worth of evidence saying you’re wrong.

Guardian: Burnett


From Iraq: Backing Away from A Civil War Within A Civil War

Iran endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate on Tuesday, dealing a devastating blow to Nouri al-Maliki as even the incumbent’s most loyal militia turned its back on him.

After eight years in office, Maliki has refused to step aside as Iraq’s prime minister, vowing to fight the nomination Monday of Haider al-Abadi to form a new government. But he was left with nowhere to turn for support Tuesday as he lost the backing of Tehran, which wields significant influence over Iraqi politics. Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militia that has supported Maliki in the past, also said it supported the decision of Iraq’s Shiite politicians to nominate Abadi.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, congratulated Abadi, Iraq’s religious leaders and political parties on the appointment, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

 

WaPo


Fire Season In Full Flame

The Year to date fire statistics for 2014 are gaining fast on those of previous years though it looks like 2011 with over 6 million acres and 2006 with over 74 thousand separate fires will continue to hold the leads in those unhappy categories.

Climate Fires Statistics

 

The Lodge Fire in Mendocino County, a couple of hours north of San Francisco, has bitten 8 firefighters and is still burning — over 8,500 acres as of Sunday morning.

Further north in Siskiyou county two fires are burning, and it’s not rain but wind coming in to make things more difficult.

In Washington State, 12 fires are burning and in Oregon there are 9 with the biggest, the South Fork complex has roasted 63,500 acres.

Rowena Fire, August 2014, Moving towards the Dalles, Oregon

Rowena Fire, August 2014, Moving towards the Dalles, Oregon

I know, I know, some fire is good some of the time, and many homes should not be built in fire-prone areas, but I’d like to see the stats for rise in local temperature against rise in local fires. With every tenth of a degree rise in average daily temperature, the evaporation rate from leaves has got to increase, leaving the trees drier and closer to kindling…


Fools at the Fire

Timothy Egan has a trenchant piece in the NY Times on Thursday, Aug 7: Fools at the Fire

…it seems as if half of Washington State is on fire. Smoke, devastation, ashen orchards of charred fruit, standing dead pines. More than 250,000 acres have burned in the largest fire in the state’s history, the Carlton Complex. About 300 homes have been destroyed. A small army of firefighters, at a cost of $50 million so far, is trying to hold the beast in the perimeter, between days when the mercury tops 100 degrees.

Climate Change Fire Washington

Smart foresters had been warning for years that climate change, drought and stress would lead to bigger, longer, hotter wildfires. They offered remedies, some costly, some symbolic. We did nothing. We chose to wait until the fires were burning down our homes, and then demanded instant relief.

and, a great irony: People who hate government most are the loudest voices demanding government action to save their homes.

We all share some of the blame [for doing nothing]; procrastination is part of our character of the moment. Still, if want to put a face on this inaction, you can look no further than the member of Congress whose district in Washington State is now choked by smoke and harassed by flames — Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

She is part of the leadership of a Republican majority that is hostile to the point of negligence on the basic science of climate change.

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