[E]veryone I?ve read seems to miss the bit about Bernanke playing politics ? implying that anything he does would be in the interests of helping Obama get reelected.Krugman reminds us that "as early as 1993, Republican Senators would joke about what might happen to Bill Clinton if he visited their states, and the Broders of the world pretended not to notice".
That?s a hell of an accusation to make ? especially when you bear in mind that Bernanke was a Bush appointee. But this is apparently how people like Perry think.
After this, I suspect that Perry is a shoo-in for the nomination.
[Karl Rove] said, I saw him walking up, and he was wearing boots and blue jeans, and a brown leather bomber jacket, and he had these steely blue eyes, and he was smacking gum. He had this thick curly hair, and you could see the tobacco circle pouch in his back pocket. And Rove said, I thought he was just the coolest guy in the world. I wanted to be like him.That's Rove on Bush. Later, Rove picked Perry to run against Hightower. The man definitely has an eye for talent.
The driest 10-month period on record for Texas has devastated the state and its crops. The National Weather Service warned Monday:
THERE IS LITTLE TO SUGGEST ANY END TO THE DROUGHT
Every state — along with much of Asia — has been hit by record temperatures this summer. And thanks in large part to extreme weather around the globe, food prices are stuck at record levels, causing hardship for tens of millions:
Dr. Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, emailed TP Green, that while Gov. Perry may deny climate science:
There are dozens of credible atmospheric scientists in Texas at institutions like Rice, UT, and Texas A&M, and I can confidently say that none agree with Gov. Perry?s views on the science of climate change. This is a particularly unfortunate situation given the hellish drought that Texas is now experiencing, and which climate change is almost certainly making worse.
Global warming is certainly making the drought hotter, which creates a vicious cycle, since the higher temps dry out the earth, but the drier it gets, the hotter its gets, as the NWS explains below.
Yet, the dots aren’t being connected for the public by and large. ?In Coverage of Extreme Weather, Media Downplay Climate Change? as a Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting analysis recently concluded.
Indeed, I just saw NBC Evening News tonight, which explained that we are seeing record food prices and that extreme weather is a major contributor, but had no mention whatsoever of climate change.
The dividing line between good climate reporting and bad climate reporting is almost always whether the reporter talked to real climate scientists. Typically, the more a reporter talks to, the better the story.
That’s a key reason why ABC News has been one of the few major media outlets to explain the connection between extreme weather and global warming (see links below). And they did so last night. Indeed, they went beyond the connection between global warming and extreme weather to the key climate impact on crops and food prices:
Governor Rick Perry, who failed to stop the drought with his prayer proclamation, yesterday dismissed any worries about the impact of the drought on Texas, saying “we?ll be fine. As my dad says, it?ll rain. It always does.“ He is not only unaware of the recent climate studies warning of permanent drought in the region (see literature here), but also the stunning warning from National Weather Service that there is no end in sight to the drought:
OCTOBER 2010 TO JULY 2011 WAS THE DRIEST OF ANY 10-MONTH PERIOD ON
RECORD FOR TEXAS. (THE PREVIOUS RECORD WAS JUNE 1917 TO MARCH 1918.)
THE STATEWIDE EXTENT OF EXTREME (D3) AND EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT (D4) IS
CURRENTLY AT ALL-TIME RECORD LEVELS…THE STATEWIDE PRECIPITATION
TOTALS THIS GROWING SEASON ARE LESS THAN ANY DURING THE MULTI-YEAR
DROUGHT OF THE 1950S.
THE PARCHED EARTH HAS ALLOWED TEMPERATURES TO SOAR…RESULTING IN
ONE OF THE HOTTEST SUMMERS ON RECORD. JUNE AND JULY WERE BOTH THE
WARMEST ON RECORD FOR THE STATE. WACO RECORDED ITS LONGEST EVER
STREAK OF CONSECUTIVE TRIPLE-DIGIT HIGHS…AND DALLAS/FORT WORTH IS
ON PACE TO ECLIPSE THE HOTTEST SUMMER ON RECORD…1980.
ALL OF NORTH TEXAS IS NOW IN AT LEAST SEVERE DROUGHT (D2)…WITH THE
VAST MAJORITY OF THE REGION IN EXTREME OR EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT. WATER
RESOURCES HAVE DECREASED DRAMATICALLY THIS SUMMER…AND CROP LOSSES
WILL LIKELY SET RECORD DOLLAR AMOUNTS.
THE HEAT IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THE REMAINDER OF THE SUMMER…WITH
THE DROUGHT CONTINUING UNABATED WELL INTO THE UPCOMING AUTUMN. WITH
THE POTENTIAL FOR ANOTHER DRY LA NINA WINTER…THERE IS LITTLE TO
SUGGEST ANY END TO THE DROUGHT.
The NWS spells out the grim impacts on agriculture:
PASTURE AND RANGELAND CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE ACROSS THE
STATE… WITH 94 PERCENT NOW RATED AS POOR OR VERY POOR. HAY
SUPPLEMENTATION IS WIDESPREAD… WITH NEARLY ALL HAY IMPORTED FROM
OTHER STATES. IN ADDITION TO ADEQUATE FORAGE… CATTLE REQUIRE
SEVERAL GALLONS OF DRINKING WATER A DAY. NOT SURPRISINGLY…HERDS
CONTINUE TO BE CULLED…WITH SOME RANCHERS REPORTING COMPLETE
LIQUIDATION. SOME CATTLE HAVE BEEN RELOCATED TO GREENER PASTURES AS
FAR AWAY AS WYOMING.
WARM SEASON CROPS CONTINUE TO SUFFER. STATEWIDE…ONLY 8 PERCENT OF
CORN IS IN GOOD CONDITION. IN THE IMPORTANT CORN-GROWING REGION OF
CENTRAL TEXAS…MOST CORN HAS FAILED. IN ADDITION…MOST OF THE
COTTON PLANTED IN TEXAS THIS YEAR HAS BEEN ABANDONED…AN ESTIMATED
LOSS IN EXCESS OF 2 BILLION DOLLARS. DROUGHT-TOLERANT SORGHUM WAS
MOSTLY IN FAIR CONDITION OR BETTER. FARMERS CONTINUE TO REPORT CROP
DAMAGE FROM FERAL HOGS AND OTHER ANIMALS. IN SEARCH OF WATER…
ANIMALS AND INSECTS ARE INCREASINGLY ENCROACHING ON URBAN AREAS AND
IRRIGATED LAND. STATEWIDE AGRICULTURAL LOSSES THIS YEAR MAY BE
DOUBLE THE PREVIOUS RECORD OF 4.1 BILLION DOLLARS IN 2006.
The NWS isn’t in the business of making the connection to global warming, but it noted that the devastating heat dome that often afflicts Texas, “TYPICALLY TAKES UP RESIDENCE ABOVE THE LONE STAR STATE AROUND THE SUMMER SOLSTICE…BUT THIS SUMMER…IT ARRIVED A FEW WEEKS EARLIER THAN NORMAL.”
Get used to that, Texas. After reading my post, “U.S. Sees Most Extreme July Climate, Oklahoma Sees Hottest Average Temperature of Any State on Record,” Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Texas Tech University Climate Science Center, emailed me :
In reference to your post on the hottest July — this summer is very similar to what is projected under a +2°C global mean temperature increase. We typically average 9 days per year > 100°F in Lubbock; this year we are at 43 and counting. My map of days > 100°F for +2°C GMT is attached.
Days above 100°F for warming of +2°C, which half the projected warming this century on our current emissions path.
In short, they ain’t seen nothing yet.
?Scientists: Climate Change No Longer a Theory, It?s Happening?
The pictures today from around the world of dramatic rooftop rescues from raging waters, makes it seem as though natural disasters are becoming an everyday occurrence. But they?re not all that natural; climate scientists say man-made global warming is the sudden force behind the forces of nature.
ABC news contacted 10 climate scientists to ask their take, if the extreme winter like the one we?re having is the way of the future. The consensus: global warming is playing a role by shifting weather patterns in unpredictable ways. Many say the forecast for the future calls for record-breaking precipitation and extreme temperatures year-round.
A few months ago, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that virulenty anti-government spending Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was receiving income from a farm that collected federal subsidies. Bachmann responded by claiming, “the farm is my father-in-law?s farm, it?s not my husband and my farm. My husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm.” However, Bachmann claimed income from the farm on her 2009 financial disclosure form.
As McClatchy noted today, Bachmann — all her protests aside — claimed income from the farm again in 2010, which were filed last week:
Despite repeatedly asserting that she has never received income from a family farm that has drawn federal subsidies in the past, Rep. Michele Bachmann again listed the farm as a source of income when she filed her 2010 personal financial disclosures late last week. Bachmann, R-Minn., also reported that the farm had more than doubled in value since 2009. [...]
Bachmann’s financial disclosures paint a different picture. Since 2006, she has reported receiving between $37,504 and $120,000 in income from the farm, including between $5,001 and $15,000 that she disclosed for the 2010 calendar year.
Bachmann also reported that her farm doubled in value over the past year: “In 2009, Bachmann listed the farm as an asset worth between $100,001 and $250,000. In her 2010 forms, Bachmann valued the farm between $500,001 and $1 million.” The counseling clinic that Bachmann runs with her husband has also received federal funding.
A UK parliamentary committee, the Culture, Sports & Media Committee (CSMC), which has been investigating the News of the World phone hacking scandal for the past months, released letters from various individuals involved in the scandal. The contents[...]
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NALC President Fredric Rolando testifies before Congress (beginning at minute 40).
Recently, a number of proposals have been floated about cutting back on the offerings of the United States Postal Service. Among the suggestions are eliminating Saturday service and closing numerous post offices across the country. These ideas are said to be necessary, according to Postal Service officials, because the Service is losing large sums of money in delivering the mail.
Current proposals include eliminating 220,000 postal jobs through cuts and attrition by 2015. This is in a climate where the USPS has already eliminated 212,000 jobs in the last ten years. Also proposed is a plan to withdraw postal employees and retirees from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and the creation of a new program that would almost certainly have weaker benefits.
United States Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is on record as also proposing cuts to postal employees' health and pension benefits. National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando sees clear signs that Donahoe is intent on attacking the collective bargaining rights of postal workers and that he wants to "override lay-off protection provisions in the postal unions? contracts." In a recent white paper titled "Workforce Optimization," the Postal Service directly asked Congress to void lay-off protection provisions. The USPS developed its proposals without any input from NALC or any other unions.
Rolando lays out the real root of the problem: "The problem lies elsewhere: the 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade, an obligation no other public agency or private firm faces. The roughly $5.5 billion annual payments since 2007 ? $21 billion total ? are the difference between a positive and negative ledger."
Postal Service management recently claimed: ?If we were a private company, we would have already filed for bankruptcy and gone through restructuring?much like major automakers did two years ago.? NALC responded by calling this claim the "Big Lie." If the USPS were a private company, NALC argued, it wouldn't have been subjected to the pre-funding requirement and it would've been profitable, since the pre-funding requirement is responsible for 100 percent of the Service's losses in recent years.
NALC suggests that the problem has an easy fix. Instead of eliminating the requirement for pre-funding future benefits, Rolando says that the Postal Service should be allowed to transfer funds from pension surpluses instead of operating funds. That would continue to fund both pensions and retiree health benefits funded well into the future while putting the operations budget back into a surplus without cutting back on services or laying off workers.
Ending Saturday service would create more problems that it would solve. More than 80,000 jobs would be lost and millions of Americans would face disruptions to their business and personal lives, as financial transactions are delayed, prescription drugs don't get to patients as quick as they otherwise would and other disruptions are created. The Postal Regulatory Commission found that ending Saturday service would disproportionately hurt elderly and rural Americans. The Commission also determined that as much as 25 percent of First Class and Priority mail could be delayed two days or more.
The Commission found that going to five-day service would not save as much money as Postal Service leaders project. Saturday delivery, which amounts to only two percent of postal costs, accounts for 17 percent of service.
The suggestion that the Postal Service faces a major crisis -- similar to attacks across the country that have preceeded assaults on other unions -- is an overstatement, of course. The Postal Service hasn't used any taxpayer funding for more than twenty-five years. It pays for it's operations through the sale of it's services and products. In the past four years, operational revenues at the USPS have exceeded costs by $611 million. Customer satisfaction and delivery of the mail on time are at record highs.
According to Rolando, fixing the real problem -- the pre-funding of future benefits at such an exaggerated standard -- isn't even on the table. Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dennis Ross (R-FL) introduced a bill the reform the postal service, but it doesn't actually address the primary problem the USPS faces. It would allow for some of the more extreme proposals to be implemented, including the elimination of Saturday service and the nullification of collective bargaining agreements already in existence.
Word comes today that the Pentagon is considering phasing out the military pension system and replacing it with a 401k style retirement plan. I find it sort of amazing that such a thing is even being considered and I really doubt such a thing will ever[...]
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Well, not exactly. But an S&P equity analyst is suggesting investors unload Google stock after its (proposed) purchase of Motorola's patent library. [...]
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Only by considering the fatality risk to all drivers in an accident can an analysis determine the overall impact on safety of efficiency standards, as this Lawrence Berkeley National Lab analysis showed.
If falsely labeling fuel standards as job killers doesn?t work, why not call them people killers? That?s exactly what opponents of new fuel-efficiency targets are doing. As we’ll see, the transportation community has moved beyond that tired myth with new analysis showing the overall benefit of well-designed standards to drivers, which in turn lead to well-designed cars.
On Fox Business last week, Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and show host John Stossel used outdated figures to claim new fuel standards will kill 2,000 people a year. Kazman ? whose organization has received considerable funding from oil companies over the years ? compared fuel efficiency targets to killing soldiers in war, saying that ?at least we admit we?re putting lives at risk? for access to oil in the Middle East.
These laws are pushed by the folks who always attack our military ventures in the Mid East as being “blood for oil” wars. We?re spilling the blood of American soldiers in order to preserve our access to foreign oil. But look, at least when we get into those military affairs, we admit we?re putting lives at risk. The folks who push the mile per gallon rule, what?s called the CAFE rule, I?ve never met a single one of them who?s admitted that?s putting civilian lives at risk.
Kazman’s claim has been repeated since the early nineties when the National Research Council reported that ?the reductions that have occurred in passenger-vehicle size from model year 1970 to 1982 are associated with approximately 2,000 additional occupant fatalities annually.?
Although nation-wide deaths from auto accidents have fallen dramatically since the 1950?s (and continue to decrease), NRC concluded that the drop might have been even greater had fuel efficiency standards not been put into place. Why? Auto manufacturers started producing smaller cars to meet fuel standards; and so, because smaller cars weigh less, they are more easily crushed by bigger cars. It should be noted that two members of the report panel dissented on this point.
Another study released by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2003 also found that the fatality rate in very small cars (about 2,100 pounds) was seven times higher than in large SUVs (about 5,100 pounds). However, that same study found that mid-sized SUVs had a 50% higher fatality rate than small SUVs, even though they were 500 pounds heavier. This was due in large part because of design, not weight: roll-over fatalities for smaller SUVs were 65% lower than for larger ones.
“The previous findings have always been very debatable,? explains Anup Bandivadekar of the International Council on Clean Transportation to Climate Progress. ?There has been a lot of work done showing that the previous analysis didn’t provide an accurate depiction of vehicle design changes. Design is really the most important aspect, not necessarily weight.”
In 2002, a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab analysis showed that smaller vehicles like the Accord and the Civic had some of the lowest fatality risk of any vehicles on the market — see Figure above. (And considering that large pick-up trucks and SUVs have the highest fatality risk to other drivers, one could also make the argument that big vehicles are the real threat, not small cars.)
Those earlier studies on traffic deaths have been disputed by numerous other analyses ? including in a recent rule issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the very agency that Kazman and Stossel quote to back up their claims about these standards killing people:
Based on the 2010 Kahane analysis that attempts to separate the effects of mass reductions and footprint reductions, and to account better for the possibility that mass reduction will be accomplished entirely through methods that preserves structural strength and vehicle safety, the agencies now believe that the likely deleterious safety effects of the MYs 2012-2016 standards may be much lower than originally estimated. They may be close to zero, or possibly beneficial if mass reduction is carefully undertaken in the future and if the mass reduction in the heavier LTVs is greater (in absolute terms) than in passenger cars.
NHTSA explained that if there are more changes to larger vehicles than smaller vehicles, the safety benefits would be positive. And that’s exactly what the most recent light-vehicle standards would do. By giving automakers fleet-wide flexibility to meet the standards, companies are more likely to make efficiency improvements in larger vehicles where they’re easiest.
“Under the new size-based standards, companies don’t have an incentive to just make smaller cars, they actually have an incentive to make them across the board. So for anyone to claim that these new size standards will just make cars less safe and force consumers into small vehicles is inaccurate,” explains ICCT’s Anup Bandivadekar.
At the same time, the assumption that smaller vehicles will “kill people” completely ignores the myriad other design factors that play a role in fatalities: Today, companies are using high-strength materials and changing frame design to dramatically increase safety. Also, lighter vehicles can brake and handle better; smaller cars are more likely to avoid collisions; and taller vehicles are more likely to roll over ? all factors that contribute to accidents.
Indeed, we have come a long way.
David Liss, whose Benjamin Weaver novels are favorites of mine both as introductions to economics and stories about badass Jews in London, has a wonderful meditation up at io9 about how magic became elite and inaccessible, at least in fiction:
In the past, people generally believed they could acquire magic in two ways: through learning the craft, either from another practitioner or from books; or through obtaining magic from a powerful being-think Faust or the classic, demonized witch, both of whom get their mojo from Satan. Anyone could learn magic as long as he or she had access to the knowledge or could make a connection with the right supernatural entity. The important point is that in theory, the gates of magic were open to everyone, and what I find most interesting is how that has changed in popular culture. [...]
Magic has gone from being an open system to a closed one. Their massive popularity make the Harry Potter novels and films the most glaring example, but it’s everywhere, and has been for decades now: TV shows like Charmed and Wizards of Waverly Place, books like those of Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris. More often than not, magical practitioners are born, not made. Magic is an exclusive club. You can watch and be envious, but you can’t join.
I wonder if a sense of biological magic also correlates to a sense of unease about how much power we have to impact our lives and to change the world. Believing that you can put the evil eye on someone, or that you can summon the devil, means believing in your own capacity to learn, hold, and wield power. Biological conceptions of magic are a way of explaining your own powerlessness. We can’t change our lives ? but we’re also not responsible for changing the world ? because we’re not Harry Potter, or the Slayer, or the Halliwell sisters. And as entrancing as our magical worlds are, we also tend to put our magical elites through a lot: both Harry and Buffy die and are resurrected, lose parents, and have to give up their first loves in the name of perfecting the world. The Halliwells die, marry the Source of All Evil and become Queen of the Underworld, give birth to demon babies, and experience various other misfortunes. Better to be ordinary ? and safe. There’s something conservative in that acceptance of our own powerlessness, but I think it speaks to very real anxieties especially in an age defined by terrorism and recession.
Rocky Mountains (near Fairplay, CO)Over the last week or so, Public Policy Polling has released new surveys in three swing states Barack Obama won in 2008; the states differ a fair bit from one another, but the poll results are all rather similar. I've put together a chart of the results from all three, North Carolina (July trendlines in parens), Ohio (May), and Colorado (February):
North Carolina: 46-50 (45-51)
Ohio: 44-52 (46-49)
Colorado: 46-50 (51-45)
The president saw a slight uptick in North Carolina, but PPP polls there every month (it's their home state) so the trendlines are over a much shorter period of time. That's usually a good thing, but in this case, I'm more interested to note that despite the president's approval ratings eroding over time in Ohio and Colorado, his toplines against Republicans have remained steady. As Tom explains in his post on Ohio:
How can that be? Well Obama's pretty unpopular. But consider these favorability numbers for the Republican alternatives: Mitt Romney, 30% favorable/49% unfavorable, Rick Perry, 28% favorable/37% unfavorable, Michele Bachmann, 30% favorable/49% unfavorable, Sarah Palin, 34% favorable/59% unfavorable, and Herman Cain, 22% favorable/35% unfavorable.
And the same story in Colorado:
Voters may not like [Obama] but they like him a heck of a lot more than any of the Republican candidates. Cain's net favorability is -10 at 20/30, Perry's is -14 at 24/38, Romney's is -21 at 30/51, Bachmann's is -22 at 28/50, and Palin's is -27 at 33/60. Obama's definitely benefiting from a "lesser of two evils" mindset.
There's a caveat, though:
In all of these match ups there are a lot more undecided Republicans than Democrats so at least the Romney and Perry match ups with Obama are sheer toss ups. But it's still kind of amazing the President's holding up as well as he is with these approval numbers.
In other words, these leads (in spite of everything) might look pretty impressive now, but getting to 50 percent in each of these states is another thing entirely. And that's only if things don't get any worse than they already are for Obama?not something I'd want to bet on.