November 29, 2010

Motor Trend Lays the Smackdown on Rush Limbaugh

So Motor Trend Magazine voted the 2011 Chevy Volt as car of the year. That’s not a huge surprise, considering the innovative technology that’s gone into the vehicle and has helped bring it to fruition over it’s long long development cycle. The car is, in many ways, another hybrid on the market, which Chevy won’t shy away from, but the fact of the matter is that this hybrid is electric first and gas second; charges really quickly for an electric vehicle, and lays the groundwork for more and better hybrid technologies in the coming years. All that and it gets amazing mileage, doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases as long as you’re driving all-electric, is low-emissions when you use gas, and it great for the environment.

Who wouldn’t like that?

Oh wait, Republicans and conservatives. If it doesn’t destroy the planet, dirty our air and water, and leave behind a barren wasteland for our children to deal with while they line their pockets with our money, they’re not interested.

And who speaks for them? Of course – Rush Limbaugh – regardless of whether conservatives like to think he speaks for them, he does, and he called out the Chevy Volt with a shotgun barrage of half-truths and outright falsehoods that to any half-trained or skeptical ear would prove that he’s never even SEEN the vehicle, much less driven one or bothered to educate himself on its operation, design, and build process. But hey – the far right has never let a little thing like education get in the way of their pontificating.

So what does Motor Trend do? Respond in glorious fashion, making sure that Rush knows exactly where he stands, and that the public knows what the truth about the Volt really is. They pick Limbaugh apart piece by piece in a glorious open letter to him that includes this gem:

Just remember: driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.

I really hope they don’t make him apologize for that – that’s absolutely brilliant.

Here’s some of the meat of the article’s opener, for good measure:

You said, “Folks, of all the cars, no offense, General Motors, please, but of all the cars in the world, the Chevrolet Volt is the Car of the Year? Motor Trend magazine, that’s the end of them. How in the world do they have any credibility? Not one has been sold. The Volt is the Car of the Year.”

So, Mr. Limbaugh; you didn’t enjoy your drive of our 2011 Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Volt? Assuming you’ve been anywhere near the biggest automotive technological breakthrough since … I don’t know, maybe the self-starter, could you even find your way to the front seat? Or are you happy attacking a car that you’ve never even seen in person?

Last time you ranted about the Volt, you got confused about the “range,” and said on the air that the car could be driven no more than 40 miles at a time, period. At least you stayed away from that issue this time, but you continue to attack it as the car only a tree hugging, Obama-supporting Government Motors customer would want. As radio loudmouths like you would note, none of those potential customers were to be found after November 2.

Back to us for a moment, our credibility, Mr. Limbaugh, comes from actually driving and testing the car, and understanding its advanced technology. It comes from driving and testing virtually every new car sold, and from doing this once a year with all the all-new or significantly improved models all at the same time. We test, make judgments and write about things we understand.

Absolutely glorious.

[ Rush to Judgement ]
Source: Motor Week Blog

September 20, 2010

The Obama Achievements Center

I know I ranted about this at length in my post, That “Change” is Working Out Great for Me, Thanks for Asking! but I wanted to drive it home a little more because memories fade so quickly and people forget exactly how far America has come in the few short months since Obama took office, and how quickly this American ship has managed to right itself and set a course for prosperity. Are we there yet? No. Is Obama perfect? Not at all – but has he accomplished a lot? Is he trying? Is he a hell of a lot better than who we had before – both in the White House and his cronies in Congress? Absolutely on all counts.

That’s why I’m really thrilled to point out the existence of the Obama Achievements Center, a great resource for people who want quick ammo to rebut the claims of history-rewriting conservatives who think that Obama hasn’t done anything, or at least hasn’t done anything good, and are basking in this kind of false reality where America has become a worse place since he took office. Quite the contrary, to fact. Here’s what the site’s builders have to say:

This site is the preview version of our new Obama Achievements Center. It’s a work in progress and a labor of love — for our country.
We’re building a crowd-sourced compilation of the achievements of the Obama administration, with documentation for each achievement linked to it. It
In today’s frenzied media zones, far too much time has been spent putting the spotlight on complaints while significant achievements are either ignored, not reported, or minimized.

The Achievements

Determined to change the media narrative to finally include the good works of this administration, a group of Twitter users got together under Shoq’s leadership and compiled a list of the achievements and promises of the Obama administration, with documented links to every item. It will be updated on an ongoing basis, as this President accumulates more successes and lasting reforms.
Defining what an achievement is in any administration, is itself an interesting issue. We decided that we would define it broadly to include executive orders,important legislation, and significant initiatives or outcomes of any kind, both foreign and domestic. We worked hard to screen out minor or subjective items whenever we had agreement on them. As anyone can see from this very impressive list, they weren’t needed.

Isn’t it beautiful? This is worth a bookmark, people, and includes everything I mentioned in my last post and then some. Best of all, it’s organized by topic and category, so if you have a favorite cause of topic, you can zoom right to it.

[ The Obama Achievements Center ]

August 9, 2010

That “Change” is Working Out Great for Me, Thanks for Asking!

I’ve never been a fan of bumper sticker politics: I find it overall relatively crude and demeaning not only to everyone involved (both the person idiotic enough to put something like “Miss Him Yet?” on their car and the person who has to see it while they’re headed to work or home from it) but there’s been one little trend of short-memory and revisionist history among conservatives and Republicans that I feel compelled to note.

Admittedly, the Right’s attention span has always been short, and their capacity to revise history to make themselves look glowing (see Ronald Reagan) has always been remarkable, but President Obama has been in office for 18 months and not only are conservatives trying to pretend that he’s not still busy cleaning up the messes of the past 8 years (“hurr when will you stop blaming the last guy for what’s happening now, hrurr”) but also conveniently shaping today’s issues in short-term language (instead of properly pointing at the near 30-year history of American conservatism as responsible for the deregulation of our financial industries, energy industries, and transportation industries to the point where they’re only accountable to their shareholders and the desires of their executives to line their pockets – at the expense of the American people.)

Bumper stickers like “How’s that change working out for you” and “Miss him yet?” have been appearing on the cars of the angry, who want you and I to believe that the world may as well have ended 18 months ago and now we’re all picking through the smoldering ashes of our civilization. To those questions, I have two very simple answers:

* That change is working out great for me, thanks for asking!
* No, I don’t miss him at all – in fact, I’m happily on my way to forgetting he ever existed.

Starting at the very bottom, I’m particularly glad that I have a President who, while he isn’t perfect, is leaps and bounds more perfect than the last guy, and a President who I don’t have to worry will lock me up and waterboard me if I disagree with him and don’t march in lock step behind. Now I have a President who, as a matter of policy, doesn’t strip American citizens of their rights and due process just so they can be thrown in a dark cell until the powers that be can think of what do to with them. Again – our current Administration isn’t perfect on this point, but at least they’re willing to listen to suggestions and open to changing course – the last Administration would have simply called you “un-American,” “un-patriotic,” and thrown you in a cell just for speaking your mind.

The last Administration listened in on the phone calls of American citizens without a warrant, and the last Administration locked up American citizens for no reason. The last Administration was responsible for the Patriot Act, which while it hasn’t been repealed, has been used with significantly more caution and judgment than it had been in the past. The last Administration was obsessed with the State Secrets Act and shutting down human rights lawsuits just by invoking it.

So no, I don’t “miss him yet” at all, and that “change” has been a huge breath of fresh air.

Let’s move on to some more tangible examples though:

Would Mad King George have appointed two women to the Supreme Court? Likely not.

Would McCain have signed the Lucy Ledbetter Act, mandating equal pay for equal work? Never.

Would Bush Jr. have committed to drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, even if those plans are slow to take shape? Never – they would have said even talking about leaving would have emboldened our “enemy.”

Would the Little Bush or McCain ever strive to provide health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, pass a Patient’s Bill of Rights, put Medicare on sound financial footing, and cut near a trillion dollars from the budget defecit over the next 10 years by reforming the way Americans get and spend on health care? It would have been a laughable proposition.

Would McCain or Palin have signed an executive order mandating that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be repealed? Wouldn’t have even crossed their minds.

Would Bush Jr. ever thought to close Guantanamo, much less actually try? Never.

Would a Republican president ever have sought to re-vitalize the Civil Rights wing of the Department of Justice, ousting political appointments that sought only to minimize the amount of work the agency did by throwing out legitimate cases and complaints and marginalizing career lawyers who have fought for equal rights their entire lives? Nope.

Would McCain or Palin have fought to restore science and scientific analysis to its rightful place in American discourse, especially on such important topics as climate change, space science, and medicine? Never.

Would McCain or Bush Jr. be on nearly as solid terms with our allies as Obama is, and managed to completely turn around our antagonistic relationship with Russia the way he has? Never – we would have seen more bluster and saber rattling, and likely be in the middle of another war with another faceless enemy designed to make us afraid by now had we voted differently.

Would McCain ever have gleefully signed ethics reform into law that would ensure there were strong rules to make sure the the field day that Republicans had during their majority time in office prior to 2008 (remember the cascade of ethics and sex scandals coming out of Congress back then? Oh how soon the right wing forgets…) never happen again? Not a chance.

Would Bush Jr. ever have given woefully needed money to the American auto industry – even if it was unpopular – and then been able to stand behind them as, as happened last week, they all post revenue gains and profits as opposed to the record losses and debts they had over a year ago?

The economic downturn was in full swing when President Obama was elected, as were both wars and all of their issues – so blaming President Obama is only ad accurate as you can blame someone for not cleaning up someone else’s mess fast enough. Someone recently pointed to a story about the vast majority (something like 96%) of money slated for reconstruction in Iraq being unaccounted for, and snarkily commented about whether or not this was something that people would just blame President Bush for – to which I responded that yes, it is – it’s only the right that seeks to unload accountability for their own actions and leadership decisions onto the people that follow them. President Obama has accountability to cleaning up that mess, but he has no accountability for having made the mess in the first place.

To that end though, would Bush Jr. or McCain ever have pushed through legislation designed to stimulate the economy, fund thousands of new infrastructure projects, put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work, and, with time, eventually turn the job decline into a slow but steady job incline? Not at all – there would have been some tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans (like the Bush tax cuts being debated now in Congress – you remember, the ones that did nothing to stimulate the economy or create new jobs?) and the Republicans would have resorted to their old stand-by, that people who are unemployed somehow “want to be jobless” or “deserve it.”

Would Bush ever have had the gravitas or political will to push through a massive financial system reform bill into law that not only forces more accountability in the financial sector but also establishes a new government agency that the public can turn to for their own protection against those massive Wall Street entities? Never. Would McCain? Hardly – he may have handed over some more money to them, but never have fought on our behalf.

So when you ask me if that “change” is working out for me, I’m more than happy to say yes.

When you ask me if I “miss him yet,” I can answer with a smile and say “miss who?”

Because overall, there’s plenty of work left to be done, and we’re not out of the woods, and everything isn’t perfect, but I’m more hopeful now than I ever have been, and I’m confident that America is moving in the right direction under a leader who at least considers the best interests of the people and the nation over their own personal whim or delusional personal “calling.”

Yup, that change is working out for me just fine, thanks. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

June 7, 2010

Virginia AG and Tea Party Favorite Sues Scientist for Studying Climate Change

Ever the strident right-wing apologist and bootlicker of corporate and energy interests, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli hauled off and sued a scientist for doing his job – just because he doesn’t like what his job is. Lacking evidence of any kind, Ciccinelli is ready to bring a nearly entirely fabricated story to trial in order to squash real scientific debate and study into global climate change as a knee-jerk reaction to some perceived fraud on his part, in the most flimsy, clearly “I’m doing this to quiet you” kind of way. Here’s the full scoop:

Virginia’s recently elected attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, has his hand in just about every divisive issue of the day. He is leading his own charge against the constitutionality of the health care bill, he is suing the Environmental Protection Agency to block it from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and he is tussling with state universities over whether they can bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the local fight with potentially the broadest reach is the one Cuccinelli has picked against a single scholar — Penn State climatologist Michael Mann.

Mann is the author of what’s known in climate research circles as the “hockey stick graph” that charted rapidly rising temperatures in the 20th century. He came to wider attention last November as one of the researchers at the heart of the “climategate” e-mail controversy.

Critics accused Mann and other scientists of manipulating data to portray a climate threat that doesn’t really exist. Their research, though, has since been cleared by Penn State, as well as the University of East Anglia, from which the disputed e-mails were originally stolen.

Cuccinelli, still a skeptic, is now investigating Mann’s 1999-2005 stint at the University of Virginia using an unlikely tool — the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. He wants to know if Mann defrauded taxpayers in search of grant money for his research, and last month he served the university with an extensive “Civil Investigative Demand” for documents.

That’s about right. And it doesn’t take too much effort to dig into Cuccinelli’s own background – and that of his boss, newly elected Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell – and find that they’re some of the farthest right of the right-wingers in office these days, so much so that McDonnell had to cover up his past as a far far right conservative, complete with outlandishly racist and sexist views, just to get elected, and Cuccinelli essentially ran unopposed so no one asked what his beliefs were until it was far too late. Both of these men were fully supportive of the whole “Confederate History Month” idea, just to give you an idea where they’re coming from.

So what does this most frivolous of frivolous suits (the kind that doesn’t just suck up taxpayer money in the defending of the frivolous case but also in the pursuit of it, since it’s the government of Virginia that’s taking up this flag) wind up doing? Nothing, in the best case, but even in the slightly worst it’s a chilling effect on other scientists who are working with their data and want to make their findings public.

Science is an ever-evolving and growing practice, changing as new data is made available. If scientists have to fear political persecution if their data changes in the future, they’ll never release studies or speak to the public again – which keeps them quiet and the public controllable by corporate interests like the ones that back men like Cuccinnelli – which is why he wants them quiet.

Frankly, I would think that he people of Virginia would – in their centrist way that’s seen fit to elect Democrats and Republicans to state offices – stand against an Attorney General that’s wasting their tax dollars to fight personal political battles that stand only to earn him favor with his preferred special interests, in spite of the good of the people of the Commonwealth. But that’s just one progressive’s opinion.

[ Virginia AG and Tea Party Favorite Sues Scientist for Studying Climate Change ]
Source: AlterNet

April 26, 2010

Confessions of a Former Oil Industry Consultant

This is one of those articles that makes me really appreciate when some of these consultants grow consciences and tell the rest of the world that everything you’ve been afraid of that these companies do is everyday business for them. Usually the company interests and lobbying groups try to write it off as a disgruntled employee or someone on the periphery of how a company worked, but in reality these people usually wind up being the folks in the trenches with insight into how the company really worked underneath the glossy and friendly images their marketing departments make sure are on the evening news and the commercials during prime time.

In this case, Jeremy Leggett not only grew a conscience, he was so revolted by what he had been doing he decided to take his fight back against the people who used to sign his checks by pioneering solar energy and working as a consultant for Greenpeace. And he has a few choice words about the industry that used to be his employer.

First, about Jeremy, so you understand exactly how much weight his word carries:

Jeremy Leggett has undergone quite a few large career changes, from oil industry consultant to Greenpeace scientist to solar power entrepreneur. A geologist by training, he worked with the oil industry until his studies brought him face-to-face with the growing evidence of climate change. In an industry refusing to change, Leggett went to work for Greenpeace and was part of the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) talks up to the non-binding, international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. Seeing the strong resistance to renewable energy, Leggett decided to move in that direction himself, setting up SolarCentury, the UK’s largest solar energy company, which helps support the sustainable development organization, SolarAid.

Now, some highlights from the interview I thought were very interesting:

Christine Shearer: You began your career as an oil industry consultant and professor at the Royal School of Mines, helping train petroleum engineers and geologists. Could you say a bit what that was like and why you left?

Jeremy Leggett: Well, it was a lot of fun. I was really into it. I loved geology, I loved the process of studying history, I loved the research part. I researched the history of the oceans, so I came at the climate system through the research on oceans, the bottom up, as it were. My consulting, a lot of it was with the oil industry; I worked with the oil industry in Japan, in Pakistan, in other places, with BP and Shell, so I was very much, y’know, a part of the machinery and if anyone had ever said to me I’d be doing what I’m doing today I would really have doubted that. And the reason I ultimately grew disenchanted was the emergence of the worrying climate science in the mid-1980’s coming from the atmospheric guys studying the climate from the top down. When I put those two things together, what they were saying about the heat-trapping ability of the atmosphere with what I knew about the behavior of the oceans, that’s when I got really worried about global warming and of course still am.

Shearer: As you became alarmed about global warming, did you talk to your colleagues in the petroleum industry about it and, if so, how did they react?

Leggett: Sure. All of the time. And in the mid-1980’s there was growing concern. I thought it would all switch sooner than it did. As you probably know, it took BP and Shell until 1997 to actually admit there was a problem as organizations and then of course they started doing good stuff. But that’s ten lost years in which they were battling very hard to hold everything back. Even though there were very senior people in those companies saying to me, “This doesn’t look good, does it, we should be doing something about it.”

Shearer: But as a corporation they just couldn’t?

Leggett: Well, of course, Exxon is beyond the pale, still is beyond the pale as an organization with a terrible culture and a terrible attitude to the future and the mortgaging of the future.

Well, we didn’t really need more proof about Exxon, but at least now we have the statement of someone on the inside corroborating what we know about the oil giant – they may know how to make truckloads of money, but they have no qualms about being unethical and likely immoral in the process.

At the same time, it’s clear there is at least some debate going on within these companies about how badly they need to change their ways and how they’re literally leveraging the futures of generations yet unborn to fill their coffers now. The phrase “you can’t take it with you,” comes to mind.

But what can we do about it?

Shearer: What do you think could really help the use of renewables grow?

Leggett: I think it would help a lot if the vested interests and the cultures that have been created started listening to rational argument and didn’t go into default mode of defending their environmentally ruinous status quo. That’s a constant theme. In all the years I’ve been at this business, what’s struck me is we create cultures that are really resistant to change and whether they’re just naked defense of vested interest or lack of imagination or a combination of the two, to believe or see that things can be done differently, they’re cultural problems more than technology problems.

Shearer: Yes, what do you say to people who say renewables are great but not technologically or economically feasible?

Leggett: I say talk to the people in Silicon Valley. See where they’re going with their feet and their wallets. This is what excites them. Young professionals are moving out of the digital revolution into the solar and clean technology revolution generally for their vocation. So what do they know that officials in the White House or here in England or the old fogies in the oil industry don’t know? They have a different view of the world, the Silicon Valley folks, and they have the right one and the dinosaurs have got the wrong one.

I like his ideas – and I like his optimism that if we could create an entire culture of people willing to and actively doing the right thing, we may be able to change the course of our planet for the better.

[ Confessions of a Former Oil Industry Consultant ]
Source: TruthOut

April 19, 2010

Obama’s Nuclear Summit: Invisible for Conservatives?

True to nature, whenever there’s good news to be had or real leadership shown by the Obama Administration, the conservative reaction is to say nothing if at all possible, especially when they know that being negative will just further marginalize them from the rest of American society.

For example, when the President and the Secretary of State both collectively stand behind podiums in front of world leaders and explain that the threat of a Cold War-style annihilation is lower than it’s ever been but the threat of a rogue nuclear attack by a terrorist or non-state organization is higher than ever, conservatives can’t dispute that because to do so would make them look not only crazy, but contradictory to their own policies less than 2 years ago. (Not that they’re any stranger to self-contradiction – these are the same people who yelled down progressives for “not respecting the office of the President even if you don’t respect the person in it” and less than 2 years later are summarily publishing racist cartoons and training for the woods for the “next Civil War.”) At the same time, only the fringiest of fringe conservatives (and they’ve definitely stood up) can bash the President’s vision of a world where the threat of nuclear weapons doesn’t loom large over the populous of every nation around the globe.

So what do the conservatives do when they can’t acknowledge something good is happening? They just ignore it, of course:

On Monday and Tuesday, President Obama convened a historic gathering in Washington to deal with the most urgent threat facing the globe: nuclear terrorism. Never before have so many world leaders gathered to discuss together how to thwart one of the greatest nightmares imaginable; 47 nations were represented. Though no sweeping treaties or agreements were reached, Obama did succeed on two important fronts. He placed the issue of controlling and securing nuclear material that could be used by terrorists (including al-Qaeda and its allies) at the top of the global to-do list. And he encouraged nations to take their own individual steps. Chile gave up its entire stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the material that terrorists need to produce a weapon. Ukraine said it would eliminate its HEU stockpile, as did Mexico. Canada agreed to do the same with much of its HEU. (Reducing and controlling HEU stockpiles is the key to preventing nuclear terrorism.) China, Japan, India, Argentina, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Italy each announced nuclear security initiatives.

There’s still much that the nations of the world, including the United States, must do to prevent HEU from slipping into the hands of terrorists. (It only takes a lump the size of a grapefruit to make a bomb, and the bomb-building part isn’t so tough. What’s hard is getting the HEU.) But with this summit, Obama did move the world in a safer direction. He nudged it toward policies that could lessen the odds that one or more of our cities are incinerated by a nuclear weapon cobbled together by a band of evildoers. Everyone — even people who believe Obama is a Kenyan-born secret Muslim with a covert plan for imposing socialism on the United States — should be grateful for that, right?

Maybe not. After Obama’s summit was done, I went looking to see how prominent conservatives and Republicans were reacting to it on the Twittersphere. I found a lot of silence. Newt Gingrich tweeted on Tuesday about a meeting where he would “outline 2010 and 2012 big choice themes 2+2 equals 4 is key concept.” (Don’t ask me what that means.) But not a peep about the summit. Sarah Palin, ditto. Same for Karl Rove. These folks are all active Twitterers, ever ready to share their opinions and thoughts in 140 characters or less. But none saw fit to do so regarding the nuclear security summit.

To that list, you can add other conservative tweeters: John McCain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and John Boehner.

You bet that if this had happened under the Bush Administration (not that Mad King George would ever have been able to comprehend the issue of nuclear weapons, much less have the will to bring so many world leaders together to discuss it, much less be respected enough by any of those leaders for them to actually attend) they’d be shouting from the rooftops about how important and historic the moment was and how it was a turning point in world history – and, if it had happened under their watch, they’d all be right.

But it was all of those things – it was historic, it was turning point, and it was the first time a lot of those leaders had convened in the same place to discuss the same issues and all agree that it was important. And the simple fact that everyone – including the mainstream media that these conservative wingnuts love to hate so much – covered it, does more to destroy their credibility in some ways than anything they possibly could say about any other issue. Sorry guys, you don’t get to pick and choose the news, and you don’t get to pick and choose what’s important and what’s historic.

[ Obama’s Nuclear Summit: Invisible for Conservatives? ]
Source: Politics Daily

April 5, 2010

Climate Change Is a Scientific Reality, Not a Political Debate

An open letter from Frances Beinecke, of, calls out the people who are out rallying against clean and sustainable energy because they somehow think that clean air and water is somehow a political debate and not a scientific one (or really, a matter of basic human rights). Quite honestly, the fact of the matter is that the mountain of evidence for climate change – and the fact that the so-called “climategate” scientists have all been absolved of their so-called doubt (proving the controversy was more political than scientific anyway) – has been largely ignored by the people who would rather stick their heads in the sand and ignore the real changes in the world around us is getting to the point where their ignorance is starting to threaten all of us.

Even otherwise progressive groups like minority groups in Washington are taking aim at clean energy and climate legislation because they fear for the economic impact on their communities. To aside to this for a moment, I completely understand and empathize with the black community and the latino community; anything that will put a strain on the economy will hit minorities disproportionally, but this kind of short-sightedness is what’s caused progressive movements for racial equality and opportunity to stall in the past. Unfortunately it’s the old guard of civil rights leaders who are more interested in their personal position than the best interests of the community that resist these kinds of efforts and then whip up their followers into a frenzy with fears of massive job losses and economic tragedy – rather than embrace the promise of the future, educate our children in new technologies and industries, send them off to be engineers and scientists instead of businessmen and women, in order to be ready for a changing world – we’re stuck clinging to the past, and to old ideas.

What was true in the black community then is true in the latino community now – as much as our respective minority communities rail against progress in America, we thus seal the coffins of our own social placement. When the rest of the world leaves us behind and the privileged minority in America is the only group with the wealth to keep up with it, we’ll still be left behind because we insisted on not adapting as opposed to staying ahead of the curve, where we really ought to aim.

And to people who seem to think this is a political debate, where opinion can be flung about as fact? Beinecke has a message for them:

Saying the Earth is flat doesn’t make it so. Nor does ignoring climate change make it go away. Still, we haven’t heard the last of the deniers. Now that clean energy and climate legislation is moving through the Senate and has the backing of the White House, we will likely hear more talk of “hoaxes” and “cons.” The fossil fuel industry, which has the most to gain by delaying climate action, is eager to amplify these false claims.

But next time you hear them, email, call, or write to the journalist or politician and demand to know where they get their facts from. If their standards are higher than the IPCC’s then they should be happy to share their evidence.

And when you want to get the truth behind the counterfeit theories, visit this great Union of Concerned Scientists’ Fact Checker site, where real climate scientists assess questions through the lens of science not politics.

But back to point; energy and climate are scientific realities that we need to acknowledge. Instead of clinging to an antiquated way of life, we need to collectively acknowledge that our current fuel sources and energy sources are unsustainable and work to forge new industrial paths that will help us live in tune with the world around us instead of in contrast with it. I, like a number of people who are both minorities and scientists as well as pundits, believe this is not only possible, but necessary for our collective survival.

[ Climate Change Is a Scientific Reality, Not a Political Debate ]

January 11, 2010

15 Most Heinous Climate Villains

Writing for the Buffalo Beast, Michael Roddy and Ian Murphy have an excellent rundown on some of the planet’s worst enemies right now – people who would make excellent villains in an episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers – and while I’m being a little sarcastic, these are folks who not only put their own heads in the sand to the damage they, their businesses, and their interests do to the environment and the health of the planet, they also spend tons of money to make sure that you put your head in the sand and keep it there.

What makes the story even better is that The Beast comes up with some scenarios that would be poetic justice for these folks as well. Here are a few of my favorites:

George Will, Columnist

Misdeeds: The errors Will has committed to print over the years are both more numerous and irresponsible than his bow tie collection, for which he also feels no remorse. He claimed in a February 2009 Washington Post column that “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.” The Center responded: “We do not know where George Will is getting his information… global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979.”

Corporate teats: The Republican Party, a catchall for corporate polluters, his wife, rapacious swine in general, and anyone who cites Ronald Reagan to justify his massive carbon footprint.

Most egregious lie: “So the column accurately reported what the Center had reported.” Incredibly, the Post backed him up.

Comeuppance: Locked in a large freezer, strapped to a chair directly under a ten-foot icicle and made to write a column. The room’s climate is controlled by a computer program, which checks his column for scientific veracity. The temperature goes down when Will’s right and up when he’s wrong. He either freezes to death or the icicle falls and splits his head open. It’s up to him.

James Inhofe, Senator from Oklahoma

Misdeeds: Inhofe thinks that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind,” yet somehow served as the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee from ‘03 to ‘07. Once called Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton to testify as a key witness. Believes that “scientific consensus” on climate change is a conspiracy perpetrated by greedy scientists to score grant money. Went to Copenhagen as the leader of the Climate Truth Squad, earning big laughs from overseas reporters. Lifetime recipient of Twelve Dumbest Members of Congress award.

Corporate teats: Seven figures from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and anyone willing to pay for his “campaign expenses.”

Most egregious lie: “You know, God’s still up there. We’re now going through a cooling spell.”

Comeuppance: Locked in an outhouse and set on fire.

Fred Singer, University of Virginia

Misdeeds: For the last 60 years, Singer’s pimped his PhD credentials to any and every industry in need of phony science. He’s slithered seamlessly from denying that smoking causes cancer to saying that DDT is harmless to “raising questions about and undercutting the ‘prevailing scientific wisdom’” of climate change. Glacier data he later attributed to his wife was denounced as “complete bullshit” by the Glacier Monitoring Service.

Corporate teats: Exxon Mobil, Shell, Sun Oil, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute and the Heartland Institute.

Most egregious lie: “55% of glaciers have gained mass in the last 30 years.”

Comeuppance: While addressing yet another denier conference in 2012, the pressure created by an undetected tumor in Singer’s brain triggers an anomalous episode of schizophasia, causing his entire speech to spew forth as an incoherent word salad. Instead of the audience stopping Singer and urging him to seek the immediate medical attention he so obviously needs, they offer him a thunderous standing ovation and an invitation to speak again next year.

There’s so much more hilarity where that came from, too.

[ THE BEAST 15 Most Heinous Climate Villains ]
Source: The Buffalo Beast

December 15, 2009

Ideology is Holding America Back from a Green Revolution

Oh, I have to let this article speak for itself. The title is strong on its own, but it’s true – it is ideology that’s holding back a green revolution in this country – there are more technologies and cottage industries and new products and businesses to count, but something is holding them back – something is keeping this entire market from breaking the surface. Let’s take a look at what it is:

American competitiveness is severely hobbled by our “free market” and anti-government attitudes. One way our competitors hold us back is by encouraging this outdated ideology. Result: other countries have national economic/industrial strategies and we don’t. So we lose.

Remember how “chips” was a major driver of the economy in the 80s and 90s? Then the Internet drove the economy late 90’s and early 2000s? The world understands that “green energy” is the next big industry that will drive the world economy. Actually, the rest of the world has understood this for some time and has been investing and inventing and innovating and building. Meanwhile over here America’s big oil and coal companies bought themselves a Presidency and an anti-government ideology and a climate-change-denial industry that has cost us 8 years and counting.

Now we’re playing catch-up, and the rest of the world is determined to keep us from taking the lead.

It’s true. I heard the CEO of a coal company in West Virginia in an interview with NPR say, when asked if climate change was real, outright say it’s fake – claiming that it, just like other so-called “scares” in the past, passed over and nothing was made of them (of course, the ones he chose are actually real – like the hole in the ozone layer, which is very much real even today, but the multinational push to stop using CFCs and other ozone depleting chemicals managed to keep it from spreading to the point where it’s a serious problem – but even so, remember that your grandparents could go out without sunscreen in the summer. We can’t.) and that if government did manage to pass climate regulations, that we all may as well “teach our children to speak Chinese.”

That’s infuriating, especially since it’s the actions of people like him that may force us to do that anyway, if you think that’s such a horrible thing (personally I think American children could do with a little multi-lingual teaching, but that’s just me – only Americans are truly monolingual.) – the Chinese, the Germans, the Japanese, and just about every other industrialized nation in the world is making a push towards clean energy and green technologies, and while they’re in no horrific hurry to turn off their carbon producing industries (although some of them are farther on the forefront than we are) they’re still developing and rolling out technologies and large-scale tests while we at home are still debating the evidence in front of us as if adding up all of the coins in the piggy bank a different way will lead to a different result.

Dave Johnson, writing for the Campaign for America’s Future, specifically points at the great lengths that the Chinese are going to in order to power and employ their massive lower and burgeoning middle classes with renewable energy, and while it’s not slowing their emissions rate, it could very easily begin to do so quickly, or wind up powering more people at an America-style rate while using a fraction of the fossil fuels we do.

If the United States doesn’t take its rightful place back at the front of the pack in science and technology, especially in the area of energy, we’ll wind up behind the curve, and in another position where we’ll have to buy tech or energy from someone who knows how to do it better than we do, and I don’t think anyone really wants that, from a security or a self-determination perspective. Instead of writing massive checks to OPEC nations, we’ll wind up writing them to the Chinese and the Germans to buy their expertise and their energy technologies.

[ Green Revolution – Ideology Holding America Back ]
Source: The Campaign for America’s Future

Do Our Children Deserve to Live?

Let’s be clear from the outset: I believe the answer to that question is yes. Which is why I am a strong supporter of environmental justice, clean air and water laws and their enforcement, renewable and sustainable energy technologies, and climate protection overall.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m also a scientist – I also believe that unless we stop having so many children as a civilization, we’ll deplete our resources and use more energy than we can sustain; and I say that meaning as a human civilization, not just Americans. But that’s what Fred Branfman, writing for the Sacramento News and Review, is saying in his article “Do Our Children Deserve to Live?”

He proposes that a “human movement” will be required to avert the a global climate crisis, and that what’s going on in Copenhagen doesn’t give him much faith that movement is going to come, or that this meeting will be the turning point. I agree, but I also admit that getting buy-in from the nations of the world takes time- as you can see at home with our own gridlocked energy and climate policies and bils locked up in Congress now.

A strange cloud envelops human civilization as its leaders fail to take the measures to protect it that they themselves endorsed just five months ago. It is oddly fitting that the latest act in humanity’s climate-crisis drama will occur next week in the city where history’s most famous Dane, brooding in his fog-enshrouded castle, failed to act decisively upon the very question hanging over the upcoming conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It will not be on the agenda. But whether civilization is or is not to be will be the real question haunting the shadow play about to ensue at the United Nations-sponsored talks.

A child under 13 today can expect to live into the 2080s, by which time civilization as we know it will have disappeared if we continue to fail to reduce carbon emissions by 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050, according to our climate scientists. Although world leaders accept this recommendation, they are presently overseeing a steady increase projected to be more than double the maximum our climate scientists think safe.

The stark figures reveal just how much Copenhagen will fail our children, despite PR efforts to obscure them. The climate scientists’ minimal 25 percent cut would see the United States emitting 3.94 billion metric tons in 2020. President Barack Obama’s 2020 target is 4.99 bmt, only 5.5 percent lower than U.S. 1990 emissions of 5.26 bmt, or less than 1/4 of the minimum 25 percent cut urged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (The United States packages its nonreduction target as a 17 percent cut from the sky-high 2005 level of 5.99 bmt.) The Chinese, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi, will increase their CO2 emissions by 72 to 88 percent by 2020, i.e., from 6 bmt today to more than 10 bmt. (The Chinese package their increase by pledging a 45 to 50 percent reduction in “carbon intensity,” or carbon per unit of gross domestic product, even though averting disastrous climate change requires reducing CO2 emissions, not just intensity.)

What will occur in Copenhagen thus continues a pattern seen since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Scientists I spoke with there were anguished that the treaty only sought to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. None foresaw that the treaty would be ignored and that world emissions would be 40.8 percent higher (and U.S. emissions 19.8 percent higher) in 2007 than in 1990.

Copenhagen will fail because the great publics of the world have not been involved in the great human questions underlying the technical issues the scientists discuss. It is not only that the conference will fail to protect our young, but that the rest of us will barely notice.

Pretty depressing, eh? Branfman goes into a damning critique of our modern society, and how we’re dreaming and ignoring the entire problem, which I agree with to some extent but I’m not quite as scathing about I don’t think:

We live today as if in a trance, conducting business as usual in times so unusual that they pose an even greater threat than 20th-century wars that killed more than 100 million people. It seems incredible, for example, that nonscientists barely discuss how the human climate crisis undermines so many of their basic assumptions—in philosophy, law, psychology, sociology, economics, the arts and humanities, education and health—about human beings and their society.

If a new “human movement” working beside today’s environmentalists can help more people see that we are the first adults in history to pose the single greatest threat facing our children, however, there is much reason to believe that human civilization can still be saved.

Branfman definitely subscribes to some of the most worst-case climate scenarios, but it’s important to sit up and take note that what he’s describing very well may be our global future if something isn’t done. If everything goes on the way it does now, the best case is that he’s only partially right, and the worst case is that he’s completely and totally right.

[ Do Our Children Deserve to Live? – Copenhagen Won’t be Enough. Only a ‘Human Movement’ can Save Civilization from the Climate Crisis. ]
Source: The Sacramento News and Review