As noted earlier, Rep. Brandon Jones (D-Pascagoula), has received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association in his bid for reelection. This is no doubt cause for concern amongst Republicans as their candidate, Charles Busby, is in need of some way to gain traction in this race. Click here to read the endorsement letter in its entirety.
In the last two weeks, Rep. Jones has now received endorsements from two staunchly conservative organizations, the Mississippi Association of Realtors (the state's largest business lobby) and the National Rifle Association.
From a reader:
So my wife just got laid off and I discover that our health care ends at the end of the month. We can buy continuing coverage but its not cheap (at $15K/year) and it is only for a limited length of time.
At the moment I am working half time on a start up of my own and the rest of the time part time for another company. So unless I can persuade my half time employer to give me benefits, I will probably have to go back to working full time just to get healthcare.
Wouldn't it be better for the economy if I could work on my startup without having to worry about healthcare? The last startup I worked on grew to employ over 3,500 people over time, three quarters of whom were in the US.
The crazy US healthcare system is not just bad for people, it is terrible for businesses. The biggest element in the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler was the cost of the retirees health care plans. If I take on employees in my business I am going to have to be thinking about health plans.
Ohioans are stepping up to take on their Tea Party Governor, John Kasich.
The effort to get a referendum on Ohio's SB 5 needed 231,149 valid signatures from 44 counties. Today, pro-repeal groups marched in Columbus to deliver 1,298,301 petition signatures to the secretary of state.
Two weeks ago, when the repeal campaign announced that more than 700,000 signatures had been collected, Chris Bowers provided an overview:
The only public polls released on SB 5 have shown wide majorities of Ohio voter in favor of repeal. A Quinnipiac poll from mid-May showed repeal ahead 54%-36%, while a PPP poll from later in May showed repeal winning 55%-35%.
This signature gathering campaign does not just force a November referendum on the bill. It actually prevents the bill from going into law until the results of the referendum are certified. As such, if the repeal wins in November, which seems likely, then SB 5 will never become law. This is shaping up to become a total defeat for Ohio Governor John Kasich and his union-busting allies.
That defeat won't come without a lot more hard work, but today the campaign to get enough signatures to force a referendum ends, and the campaign to win the referendum begins.
NY Times has more:
An effort in Ohio to repeal a law reducing the power of public workers to bargain collectively moved forward this week, with the group leading the effort saying it had enough signatures to put it on the ballot and could deliver them to the state on Wednesday.
Volunteers from We Are Ohio, a coalition of public and private sector workers, collected 714,137 signatures over about two months, said Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for the group. Some will probably be declared invalid by county officials, but the number is still far more than the approximately 230,000 required to get the measure on the ballot in November, she said.
The law, Senate Bill 5, was introduced this spring by a Republican member of Ohio?s Senate. Similar to legislation in Wisconsin, it sought to limit the bargaining power of public workers in order to give local governments more control over their costs. Its passage struck a nerve, and Democrats promised to put it on the ballot this fall, arguing that it dealt a blow to an already weakened middle class.
The bill would reverse decades of practice in labor disputes, by making it illegal to strike, and allowing public employees to bargain only if their employer chose to do so. Unlike Wisconsin?s law, Ohio?s also applied to the police and firefighters.
A new poll from Drake University shows that 61.3 percent of Iowans support same-sex marriage and 62.5 percent oppose a constitutional amendment banning it. In addition, a plurality believe that marriage equality has been good for the people of Iowa (48.5 percent) and has improved how favorably Iowa is viewed from a national perspective (46.6 percent). There were, however, sharp divides on the issue along party lines. Iowa has had marriage equality since the unanimous 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling in Varnum v. Brien.
Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin ordered state budget officials to continue funding for “critical core functions” if Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and the Republican legislature fail to reach a budget agreement by July 1. The Minnesota government has been at a standstill ever since Dayton vetoed the Republicans’ budget proposal refusing any tax increases for the wealthiest Minnesotans. Experts estimate that the shutdown could cost the deficit-ridden state millions of dollars in lost productivity, delays and financial penalties.
Via Julian Pecquet at The Hill, Howard Dean spoke out in favor of moving away from employer-sponsored coverage during a debate with Karl Rove and others today: “The biggest thing we can do for small businesses is get them out of the healthcare business,” Dean said. “If this bill does that, and all these small businesses dump their people into the exchanges, we will finally have broken the link between the employer and health insurance in this country … That’s going to help our business community more than anything else we’ve done in the past 25 years.”
This is “the worst Texas drought since record-keeping began 116 years ago.” Drought and wildfires have led the US Department of Agriculture “to declare the entire state of Texas a natural disaster.” Over 70% of the state was in “exceptional” drought last week, with another 20% in “extreme” drought, and “213 counties in Texas have lost at least 30 percent of their crops or pasture.”
You know a drought is devastating when people are so desperate for relief they start rooting for a catastrophic deluge. But that’s what NPR reported today:
The word drought doesn’t really capture what’s happening in Texas. The last nine months have been the driest in state history. Instead of rain, spring brought nearly half a million acres of wildfires. And in central Texas, around Austin one of the area’s largest lakes is drying up.
That’s why I prefer Dust-Bowlification. And if drought doesn’t capture what’s happening now, it certainly won’t capture what we face if we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions sharply (see U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought this century). Back to NPR:
Haskell Simon has been farming rice in Matagorda county near the Gulf of Mexico since the 1940s. He says that over the last 15 years the rice planting season has been getting earlier and earlier, because the South Texas climate is getting hotter and hotter….
In Austin, they’re praying for a hurricane, a nice slow moving category one or two, or a tropical storm, that makes its way up to Austin and then stalls out over the Texas hill country.
And the Southwest isn’t the only part of the country that is facing the alternating twin threats of Dust Bowl and deluge, Hell and High Water. (see “Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse“)
NPR quotes farmer Simon about the change, “Typically LCRA [Lower Colorado River Authority] would turn on the irrigation water pumps by April 15th. And now the pumps can be started as early as March the 1st. So something is happening, obviously, there.”
Something is happening. Obviously. Too bad NPR — the supposedly liberal (aka science-based) media — can’t be bothered to stick in even one sentence explaining exactly why the South Texas climate is getting hotter and hotter. Or how we can be quite certain it’s going to get much, much worse.
What’s surprising about that crucial omission is NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center just released its final State of the Climate in 2010 report and their climate experts were pretty blunt. As AFP in its piece, “Experts warn epic weather ravaging US could worsen“:
Epic floods, massive wildfires, drought and the deadliest tornado season in 60 years are ravaging the United States, with scientists warning that climate change will bring even more extreme weather.The human and economic toll over just the past few months has been staggering: hundreds of people have died, and thousands of homes and millions of acres have been lost at a cost estimated at more than $20 billion.
The piece quoted, Deke Arndt, NOAA’s chief of climate monitoring:
Arndt said this spring’s extreme weather is in line with what is forecast for the future.”In general, but not everywhere, it is expected that the wetter places will get wetter and the drier places will tend to see more prolonged dry periods,” he told AFP.
“We are seeing an increase in the amount (of rain and snow) that comes at once, and the ramifications are that it’s a lot more water to deal with at a time, so you see things like flooding.”
More than 6.8 million acres in the central United States have been swamped after record spring rainfall overwhelmed rivers already swollen from the melting of a heavy winter snow pack….
Meanwhile, the southern United States is dealing with one of the most extreme droughts since the dust bowl of the 1930s, and the dry conditions have led to massive and uncontrollable wildfires.
More than 4.7 million acres have been burned in some 32,000 separate fires so far this year, which is more than twice the annual average over the past decade, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Other climate experts have been equally blunt about what is to co
… the intensity of future droughts, heat waves, storms and floods is expected to rise drastically if greenhouse gas emissions don’t stabilize soon, said Michael Mann, a scientist at Penn State University.
Note: AFP means “if greenhouse gas concentrations don’t stabilize soon.” Stabilizing emissions wouldn’t stop weather from getting more and more extreme route the century
“Even a couple degree warming can make a 100-year event a three-year event,” Mann, the head of the university’s earth systems science center, told AFP.
“It has to do with the tail of the bell curve. When you move the bell curve, that area changes dramatically.”
For more on that, see “NOAA: Monster crop-destroying Russian heat wave to be once-in-a-decade event by 2060s (or sooner).”
Scientific American has a three part series on this subject which is worth reading. From Part 1, “Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is a Product of Climate Change“:
“Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change,” says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: “It’s as if the weather machine had changed up a gear.”
The second line of evidence comes from a nascent branch of science called climate attribution. The idea is to examine individual events like a detective investigating a crime, searching for telltale fingerprints of climate change. Those fingerprints are showing up?in the autumn floods of 2000 in England and Wales that were the worst on record, in the 2003 European heat wave that caused 14,000 deaths in France, in Hurricane Katrina?and, yes, probably even in Nashville. This doesn’t mean that the storms or hot spells wouldn’t have happened at all without climate change, but as scientists like Trenberth say, they wouldn’t have been as severe if humankind hadn’t already altered the planet’s climate.
From Part 2, “Global Warming and the Science of Extreme Weather: How rising temperatures change weather and produce fiercer, more frequent storms”:
Until recently scientists had only been able to say that more extreme weather is “consistent” with climate change caused by greenhouse gases that humans are emitting into the atmosphere. Now, however, they can begin to say that the odds of having extreme weather have increased because of human-caused atmospheric changes?and that many individual events would not have happened in the same way without global warming. The reason: The signal of climate change is finally emerging from the “noise”?the huge amount of natural variability in weather.
Scientists compare the normal variation in weather with rolls of the dice. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere loads the dice, increasing odds of such extreme weather events. It’s not just that the weather dice are altered, however. As Steve Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, puts it, “it is more like painting an extra spot on each face of one of the dice, so that it goes from 2 to 7 instead of 1 to 6. This increases the odds of rolling 11 or 12, but also makes it possible to roll 13.”
Why? Basic physics is at work: The planet has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, thanks to CO2and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. And for every 1-degree C (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperature, the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can contain rises by 7 percent, explains Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K. Met Office’s Hadley Center for Climate Change. “That’s quite dramatic,” he says. In some places, the increase has been much larger. Data gathered by Gene Takle, professor of meteorology at Iowa State University in Ames, show a 13 percent rise in summer moisture over the past 50 years in the state capital, Des Moines.
Droughts, too, will increase:
On a warmer planet, however, the dry air will travel farther north and south from the equator before it descends, climate models predict, making areas like the U.S. Southwest and the Mediterranean even drier. Such an expanded Hadley cell would also divert storms farther north. Are the models right? Richard Seager of Columbia University’s Lamont?Doherty Earth Observatory has been looking for a climate change?induced drying trend in the Southwest, “and there seems to be some tentative evidence that it is beginning to happen,” he says. “It gives us confidence in the models.” In fact, other studies show that the Hadley cells have not only expanded, they’ve expanded more than the models predicted.
Such a change in atmospheric circulation could explain both the current 11-year drought in the Southwest and Minnesota’s status as the number one U.S. state for tornadoes last year. On October 26, 2010, the Minneapolis area even experienced record low pressure in what Paul Douglas, founder and CEO of WeatherNation in Minnesota, dubbed a “landicane”?a hurricanelike storm that swept across the country. “I thought the windows of my home would blow in,” Douglas recalls. “I’ve chased tornados and flown into hurricanes but never experienced anything like this before.” Yet it makes sense in the context of climate change, he adds. “Every day, every week, another piece of the puzzle falls into place,” he says. “More extreme weather seems to have become the rule, not just in the U.S. but in Europe and Asia.”
Firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that threatens the nuclear-weapons facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in north-central New Mexico. “Both the town of Los Alamos, home to about 12,000 residents, and the laboratory, with a work force of about 12,000, were evacuated on Monday,” MSNBC reports. The uncontrolled Las Conchas Fire, now burning 70,000 acres, is part of a global-warming-fueled series of conflagrations throughout the Southwest. The record wildfire season is a product of the region’s record drought, in which precipitation is more than 75 percent below normal:
Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are aflame:
– The 538,000-acre Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, started May 29, now 70 percent contained.
– The 223,000-acre Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua mountains in southeastern Arizona, started May 8, now 100 percent contained.
– The 30,000-acre Monument Fire near Sierra Vista in southeastern Arizona, started June 12, now 64 percent contained.
– The 15,000-acre Donaldson Fire (named after Sam Donaldson’s ranch), in Alamo Canyon in New Mexico, started June 28.
– Texas firefighters are tackling five fires that have burned 32,981 acres. Since fire season started on Nov. 15, 2010, Texas Forest Service and area fire departments have responded to 12,985 fires that have burned 3,268,011 acres, a greater area than the state of Connecticut.
In Senate testimony, U.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell explained that scientists have found that climate change is making the region hotter and drier, leading to larger and more intense fires. This season of fire in the Southwest is one of the many terrible consequences of the billions of tons of greenhouse pollution industrial activity has added to the atmosphere. Only a full mobilization of our nation’s resources will give ourselves a chance to preserve the American dream in the coming years.
But my interest is nominally piqued by the rumor that Leonardo DiCaprio might be jumping into the Norman Maine role, as the older addicted actor who helps our starlet on her rise to glory, then kills himself to force her to go on with her career rather than spending all her time taking care of him. It might not come to pass. And I hesitate to declare that interracial relationships are inherently cinematically interesting. The goal, after all, is for there to be enough depictions of interracial couples ? and gay couples ? in popular culture that some stories can be about the specific issues those couples face, and some stories can be about the challenges of raising your adorable adopted daughter.
But the specific contours of this very old story do make me curious about what an interracial dynamic would lend to the central relationship, which already has a lot of interesting tensions around gender, ambition, and power. And it would be in keeping with Eastwood’s last decade or so of directorial work, much of which has focused on themes of racial reconciliation, whether it’s sport bringing together a war-torn country in Invictus, the relationship between a Korean War vet and his Hmong neighbors in Gran Torino, or the dual perspectives of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Shrinking that stage down to an intimate relationship would be a new way to get at that perspective. And frankly, the movie would be interestingly meta at this particular moment in the discussion about representation and popular culture. A movie that’s about the struggle to get a female actress to really hit the big time, much less what it’s like to have a black female actress take up an Angelina Jolie- or Hillary Swank-like role in the Hollywood of today (not to mention if the damn thing ends up being a period piece) would speak directly to tough, ongoing conversations about why movies and television underrepresent women and people of color.
During the speech, West turned to the issue of the Gaza flotilla that has been making headlines in recent weeks. A group of pro-Palestinian activists, led by several Turkish groups, have said they plan to sail to Gaza on a humanitarian mission to break the Israeli blockade. Last year, Israeli commandos killed a number of activists on a similar mission, including one American citizen.
But West seems to think that because Turks are involved in the flotilla, it’s actually the Turkish government that is leading the charge. Thus, West said to Gaffney’s group, because Turkey is a NATO ally, the United States would have to attack Israel if Israeli defense forces again storm the flotilla:
WEST: And be very nervous about one simple thing. I know that we were talking about this flotilla. If Turkey establishes a flotilla, and supports a flotilla going down, and all of the sudden Israel attacks this flotilla, Turkey is a member of the EU and also a member of the NATO, can wave and say, ?As a member of NATO, we have been attacked and therefore, part of the charter is all NATO countries must come to the aid of a NATO member that?s been attacked.?
And see, this is the kind of stuff that I sit down in my lonely little apartment in Washington, DC and I think about.
During the same speech, West also called Fatah, the political block ruling the Palestinian Authority, “a terrorist group,” adding that if the Palestinians go to the U.N. this summer to declare statehood, it will be “nothing more than a new terrorist state.” Watch it:
First, “Fatah is not currently regarded as a terrorist organization by any government.” But second, West’s understanding of NATO and the situation with the flotilla is way off. Turkish rights groups, not the Turkish government, are sponsoring the flotilla, thereby making NATO, and Article V of the Washington Treaty, completely irrelevant. Moreover, Haaretz reported this week that Turkish representation in the flotilla will be limited because the main flotilla sponsor, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, announced that it will not participate in the mission.
But also, even if West’s imaginary scenario had some sort of basis in reality, he’d know that the United States never attacked Israel last year when Israeli commandos raided the flotilla. In fact, the U.S. government barely said anything about the Israelis killing an American during the operation.
It’s sort of ironic then, that West said in the same speech that the GOP’s presidential candidates don’t know anything about national security. Yet, these are the issues that, according to West, he sits down in his lonely apartment in DC and thinks about.