Friday, May 4, 2012


By measuring changes in salinity on the ocean’s surface, the researchers inferred that the water cycle had accelerated by about 4 percent over the last half century. That does not sound particularly large, but it is twice the figure generated from computerized analyses of the climate.

If the estimate holds up, it implies that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods.

“This provides another piece of independent evidence that we need to start taking the problem of global warming seriously,” said Paul J. Durack, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the lead author of a paper being published Friday in the journal Science.

The researchers’ analysis found that over the half century that began in 1950, salty areas of the ocean became saltier, while fresh areas became fresher. That change was attributed to stronger patterns of evaporation and precipitation over the ocean.

The new paper is not the first to find an intensification of the water cycle, nor even the first to calculate that it might be fairly large. But the paper appears to marshal more scientific evidence than any paper to date in support of a high estimate.

“I am excited about this paper,” said Raymond W. Schmitt, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who offered a critique of the work before publication but was otherwise not involved. “The amplification pattern that he sees is really quite dramatic.”

The paper is the latest installment in a long-running effort by scientists to solve one of the most vexing puzzles about global warming.


Assuming that the paper withstands scrutiny, it suggests that a global warming of about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past half century has been enough to intensify the water cycle by about 4 percent. That led Dr. Durack to project a possible intensification of about 20 percent as the planet warms by several degrees in the coming century.

That would be approximately twice the amplification shown by the computer programs used to project the climate, according to Dr. Durack’s calculations. Those programs are often criticized by climate-change skeptics who contend that they overestimate future changes, but Dr. Durack’s paper is the latest of several indications that the estimates may actually be conservative.

The new paper confirms a long-expected pattern for the ocean that also seems to apply over land: areas with a lot of rainfall in today’s climate are expected to become wetter, whereas dry areas are expected to become drier.

In the climate of the future, scientists fear, a large acceleration of the water cycle could feed greater weather extremes. Perhaps the greatest risk from global warming, they say, is that important agricultural areas could dry out, hurting the food supply, as other regions get more torrential rains and floods.
Some additional good coverage from SciAm, Nature, and Reuters.

Conventional farming typically provides greater yields than organic methods, but sustainability reminds us that it is about more than increasing yields:
In a bid to bring clarity to what has too often been an emotional debate, environmental scientists at McGill University in Montreal and the University of Minnesota performed an analysis of 66 studies comparing conventional and organic methods across 34 different crop species. "We found that, overall, organic yields are considerably lower than conventional yields," explains McGill's Verena Seufert, lead author of the study to be published in Nature on April 26. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) "But, this yield difference varies across different conditions. When farmers apply best management practices, organic systems, for example, perform relatively better."

In particular, organic agriculture delivers just 5 percent less yield in rain-watered legume crops, such as alfalfa or beans, and in perennial crops, such as fruit trees. But when it comes to major cereal crops, such as corn or wheat, and vegetables, such as broccoli, conventional methods delivered more than 25 percent more yield.

The key limit to further yield increases via organic methods appears to be nitrogen—large doses of synthetic fertilizer can keep up with high demand from crops during the growing season better than the slow release from compost, manure or nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Of course, the cost of using 171 million metric tons of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is paid in dead zones at the mouths of many of the world's rivers. These anoxic zones result from nitrogen-rich runoff promoting algal blooms that then die and, in decomposing, suck all the oxygen out of surrounding waters. "To address the problem of [nitrogen] limitation and to produce high yields, organic farmers should use best management practices, supply more organic fertilizers or grow legumes or perennial crops," Seufert says.

In fact, more knowledge would be key to any effort to boost organic farming or its yields. Conventional farming requires knowledge of how to manage what farmers know as inputs—synthetic fertilizer, chemical pesticides and the like—as well as fields laid out precisely via global-positioning systems. Organic farmers, on the other hand, must learn to manage an entire ecosystem geared to producing food—controlling pests through biological means, using the waste from animals to fertilize fields and even growing one crop amidst another. "Organic farming is a very knowledge-intensive farming system," Seufert notes. An organic farmer "needs to create a fertile soil that provides sufficient nutrients at the right time when the crops need them. The same is true for pest management."


"Since the world already produces more than enough food to feed everyone well, there are other important considerations" besides yield, argues ecologist Catherine Badgley of the University of Michigan, who also compared yields from organic and conventional methods in a 2006 study (pdf) that found similar results. Those range from environmental impacts of various practices to the number of people employed in farming. As it stands, conventional agriculture relies on cheap energy, cheap labor and other unsustainable practices. "Anyone who thinks we will be using Roundup [a herbicide] in eight [thousand] to 10,000 years is foolish," argued organic evangelist Jeff Moyer, farm director the Rodale Institute, at the New America Foundation event.

But there is unlikely to be a simple solution. Instead the best farming practices will vary from crop to crop and place to place. Building healthier soils, however, will be key everywhere. "Current conventional agriculture is one of the major threats to the environment and degrades the very natural resources it depends on. We thus need to change the way we produce our food," Seufert argues. "Given the current precarious situation of agriculture, we should assess many alternative management systems, including conventional, organic, other agro-ecological and possibly hybrid systems to identify the best options to improve the way we produce our food."

Co-author Jon Foley notes that a systematic approach to analyzing our food system considering a multitude of environmental and social considerations of different agricultural approaches is needed:
We really need new “hybrid” approaches, taking the best of the conventional and organic paradigms, and deploying them when and where they make the most sense.

In this study we found that organic systems can compete very well with conventional farms when it comes to fruits and many kinds of vegetables. And they do very well (understandably) with legumes. That’s the good news for organic farming.

Where organic has a lot of ground to make up is in the major grains, especially staples like wheat and rice. There we found that organic farms have significantly lower yields than their conventional counterparts.. And since most of the world’s bulk calories come from these cereals, this is a really big deal. Organic practices, as we know them today, just cannot produce the same volume of grain calories that conventional farms do on the same land base. That assumes, of course, that our goal is to grow calories — which is only one measure of food production and only one aspect of food security.

The bottom line? Today’s organic farming practices are probably best deployed in fruit and vegetable farms, where growing nutrition (not just bulk calories) is the primary goal. But for delivering sheer calories, especially in our staple crops of wheat, rice, maize, soybeans and so on, conventional farms have the advantage right now.

Looking forward, I think we will need to deploy different kinds of practices (especially new, mixed approaches that take the best of organic and conventional farming systems) where they are best suited — geographically, economically, socially, etc.

Wendell Berry on community and redefining economics for a more sustainable future:
"That we live now in an economy that is not sustainable is not the fault only of a few mongers of power and heavy equipment. We all are implicated," Mr. Berry said. Our relationship to the land and to community is increasingly abstract and distanced.

"By economic proxies thoughtlessly given, by thoughtless consumption of goods ignorantly purchased, now we all are boomers," he said. "We have progressed to the belief that humans are intelligent enough, or soon will be, to transcend all limits. ... Upon this belief rests the further belief that we can have 'economic growth' without limits."

The antidote, Mr. Berry said, is affection, connection, and a broader definition of education—to study and appreciate practical skills like the arts of "land use, life support, healing, housekeeping, homemaking." Mr. Berry said that we should appreciate the word "economy" for its original meaning of "household management."

"So I am nominating economy for an equal standing among the arts and humanities," Mr. Berry said. "I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth: the arts of adapting kindly the many human households to the earth's many ecosystems and human neighborhoods. This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us."
 Some more from Berry in a chat with Mark Bittman here.

Hoping to maintain the status quo, the climate deniers turn to contrarian meteorologist Richard Lindzen to distort and dissemble on the role of clouds with respect to climate change:
Among the many climate skeptics who plaster the Internet with their writings, hardly any have serious credentials in the physics of the atmosphere. But a handful of contrarian scientists do. The most influential is Dr. Lindzen.

Dr. Lindzen accepts the elementary tenets of climate science. He agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, calling people who dispute that point “nutty.” He agrees that the level of it is rising because of human activity and that this should warm the climate.

But for more than a decade, Dr. Lindzen has said that when surface temperature increases, the columns of moist air rising in the tropics will rain out more of their moisture, leaving less available to be thrown off as ice, which forms the thin, high clouds known as cirrus. Just like greenhouse gases, these cirrus clouds act to reduce the cooling of the earth, and a decrease of them would counteract the increase of greenhouse gases.

Dr. Lindzen calls his mechanism the iris effect, after the iris of the eye, which opens at night to let in more light. In this case, the earth’s “iris” of high clouds would be opening to let more heat escape.

When Dr. Lindzen first published this theory, in 2001, he said it was supported by satellite records over the Pacific Ocean. But other researchers quickly published work saying that the methods he had used to analyze the data were flawed and that his theory made assumptions that were inconsistent with known facts. Using what they considered more realistic assumptions, they said they could not verify his claims.

Today, most mainstream researchers consider Dr. Lindzen’s theory discredited. He does not agree, but he has had difficulty establishing his case in the scientific literature. Dr. Lindzen published a paper in 2009 offering more support for his case that the earth’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is low, but once again scientists identified errors, including a failure to account for known inaccuracies in satellite measurements.

Dr. Lindzen acknowledged that the 2009 paper contained “some stupid mistakes” in his handling of the satellite data. “It was just embarrassing,” he said in an interview. “The technical details of satellite measurements are really sort of grotesque.”

Last year, he tried offering more evidence for his case, but after reviewers for a prestigious American journal criticized the paper, Dr. Lindzen published it in a little-known Korean journal.

Dr. Lindzen blames groupthink among climate scientists for his publication difficulties, saying the majority is determined to suppress any dissenting views. They, in turn, contend that he routinely misrepresents the work of other researchers.

“If I’m right, we’ll have saved money” by avoiding measures to limit emissions, Dr. Lindzen said in the interview. “If I’m wrong, we’ll know it in 50 years and can do something.”

But mainstream scientists counter that society’s impulse to wait only heightens the risks.

Ultimately, as the climate continues warming and more data accumulate, it will become obvious how clouds are reacting. But that could take decades, scientists say, and if the answer turns out to be that catastrophe looms, it would most likely be too late. By then, they say, the atmosphere would contain so much carbon dioxide as to make a substantial warming inevitable, and the gas would not return to a normal level for thousands of years.


In his Congressional appearances, speeches and popular writings, Dr. Lindzen offers little hint of how thin the published science supporting his position is. Instead, starting from his disputed iris mechanism, he makes what many of his colleagues see as an unwarranted leap of logic, professing near-certainty that climate change is not a problem society needs to worry about.

“You have politicians who are being told if they question this, they are anti-science,” Dr. Lindzen said. “We are trying to tell them, no, questioning is never anti-science.”

Among the experts most offended by Dr. Lindzen’s stance are many of his colleagues in the M.I.T. atmospheric sciences department, some of whom were once as skeptical as he about climate change.

“Even if there were no political implications, it just seems deeply unprofessional and irresponsible to look at this and say, ‘We’re sure it’s not a problem,’ ” said Kerry A. Emanuel, another M.I.T. scientist. “It’s a special kind of risk, because it’s a risk to the collective civilization.”

Big Food is winning. And that means obesity is winning, too:
After aggressive lobbying, Congress declared pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of the school lunch program this year. The White House kept silent last year as Congress killed a plan by four federal agencies to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children.

And during the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered "soda taxes" to discourage consumption of sugary drinks has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.

At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children's marketing in obesity.

Lobbying records analyzed by Reuters reveal that the industries more than doubled their spending in Washington during the past three years. In the process, they largely dominated policymaking -- pledging voluntary action while defeating government proposals aimed at changing the nation's diet, dozens of interviews show.

In contrast, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, widely regarded as the lead lobbying force for healthier food, spent about $70,000 lobbying last year -- roughly what those opposing the stricter guidelines spent every 13 hours, the Reuters analysis showed.

Down with final exams!:
If there is one student attitude that most all faculty bemoan, it is instrumentalism. This is the view that you go to college to get a degree to get a job to make money to be happy. Similarly, you take this course to meet this requirement, and you do coursework and read the material to pass the course to graduate to get the degree. Everything is a means to an end. Nothing is an end in itself. There is no higher purpose.

When we tell students to study for the exam or, more to the point, to study so that they can do well on the exam, we powerfully reinforce that way of thinking. While faculty consistently complain about instrumentalism, our behavior and the entire system encourages and facilitates it.

On the one hand, we tell students to value learning for learning's sake; on the other, we tell students they'd better know this or that, or they'd better take notes, or they'd better read the book, because it will be on the next exam; if they don't do these things, they will pay a price in academic failure. This communicates to students that the process of intellectual inquiry, academic exploration, and acquiring knowledge is a purely instrumental activity—designed to ensure success on the next assessment.

Given all this, it is hardly surprising that students constantly ask us if this or that will be on the exam, or whether they really need to know this reading for the next test, or—the single most pressing question at every first class meeting of the term—"is the final cumulative"?

This dysfunctional system reaches its zenith with the cumulative "final" exam. We even go so far as to commemorate this sacred academic ritual by setting aside a specially designated "exam week" at the end of each term. This collective exercise in sadism encourages students to cram everything that they think they need to "know" (temporarily for the exam) into their brains, deprive themselves of sleep and leisure activities, complete (or more likely finally start) term papers, and memorize mounds of information. While this traditional exercise might prepare students for the inevitable bouts of unpleasantness they will face as working adults, its value as a learning process is dubious.

Paul Ryan is a fraud, in three parts:
The basic elements of Ryan’s plan are this: The tax code would be collapsed into two rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent, but eliminating unspecified tax deductions would keep tax revenues at the current level, as set by the Bush tax cuts. Medicare would remain untouched for those 55 years old and older, but those under would be given vouchers at a capped rate. Given that the Medicare savings would not begin to take effect for more than a decade, that taxes would stay level (at best), and that military spending would increase, Ryan would achieve his short-term deficit reduction by focusing overwhelmingly on programs targeted to the poor (which account for about a fifth of the federal budget, but absorb 62 percent of Ryan’s cuts over the next decade). The budget repeals Obamacare, thereby uninsuring some 30 million Americans about to become insured. It would then take insurance away from another 14 to 27 million people, by cutting Medicaid and children’s health-insurance funding.

This is not a moderate plan. As Robert Greenstein, a liberal budget analyst, summed up the proposal, “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history.” And yet, Ryan has managed to sell it as something admirable, and something else entirely: a deficit-reduction plan. This is very clever. The centrist political Establishment, heavily represented among business leaders and the political media, considers it almost self-evident that the budget deficit (and not, say, mass unemployment or climate change) represents the singular policy threat of our time, and that bipartisan cooperation offers the sole avenue to address it. By casting his program as a solution to the debt crisis, by frequently conceding that Republicans as well as Democrats had failed in the past, and by inveighing against “demagoguery,” Ryan has presented himself as the acceptable Republican suitor the moderates had been longing for.

Whether Ryan’s plan even is a “deficit-reduction plan” is highly debatable. Ryan promises to eliminate trillions of dollars’ worth of tax deductions, but won’t identify which ones. He proposes to sharply reduce government spending that isn’t defense, Medicare (for the next decade, anyway), or Social Security, but much of that reduction is unspecified, and when Obama named some possible casualties, Ryan complained that those hypotheticals weren’t necessarily in his plan. Ryan is specific about two policies: massive cuts to income-tax rates, and very large cuts to government programs that aid the poor and medically vulnerable. You could call all this a “deficit-reduction plan,” but it would be more accurate to call it “a plan to cut tax rates and spending on the poor and sick.” Aside from a handful of exasperated commentators, like Paul Krugman, nobody does.

The persistent belief in the existence of an authentic, deficit hawk Ryan not only sweeps aside the ugly particulars of his agenda, it also ignores, well, pretty much everything he has done in his entire career, and pretty much everything he has said until about two years ago.

In 2005, Ryan spoke at a gathering of Ayn Rand enthusiasts, where he declared, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” Ryan has listed Rand’s manifesto, Atlas Shrugged, as one of his three most often reread books, and in 2003, he told The Weekly Standard he tries to make his interns read it. Rand is a useful touchstone to understand Ryan’s public philosophy. She centered libertarian philosophy around a defense of capitalism in general and, in particular, a conception of politics as a class war pitting virtuous producers against parasites who illegitimately use the power of the state to seize their wealth. Ludwig von Mises, whom Ryan has also cited as an influence, once summed up Rand’s philosophy in a letter to her: “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: You are inferior and all the improvements in your condition which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”
Really, don't take him seriously:
[T]he simple truth is that his plan is not an evenhanded attempt to solve America’s long-term budget problems. It’s a profoundly radical document, its proposals skewed by ideological biases. Raising taxes, of course, is out of bounds. The same goes for using federal power to hold down Medicare costs, which will be the key driver of future budget deficits. Instead, House Republicans would cut spending on almost everything else the government does. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan plan would, by 2050, reduce federal spending to its lowest point, as a percentage of G.D.P., since 1951. And since an aging population, with rising health-care costs, means that a hefty chunk of government spending will be going to retirement and health-care benefits, hitting Ryan’s target would require drastically shrinking everything else.

Ryan doesn’t exactly hide his hostility to government, but he’s adept at downplaying the impact that his proposed cuts would have on people’s lives. Thus the part of the plan titled “Repairing the Social Safety Net” in fact calls for huge cuts in spending on Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, and so on—all of which will unquestionably damage the social safety net and make life harder for millions of Americans. This is about as disingenuous as calling a company’s downsizing initiative “Boosting Our Labor Force.” Reforming the welfare state is a reasonable goal. But when Ryan explains that he’s doing things like cutting Medicaid in order to help “the less fortunate get back on their feet” one hears echoes of Judge Smails, in “Caddyshack,” explaining that he sentenced young criminals to death because “I felt I owed it to them.”

Any doubt that Ryan’s choices are dictated by ideology rather than economics vanish when you look at one area of spending that he wants to increase: the defense budget. If you’re genuinely interested in fiscal responsibility, this is an untenable position. Annual defense spending has risen more than a hundred per cent since 2001, and it already constitutes more than half of all discretionary government spending. Countless analysts—including members of the military—have shown ways that the defense budget could be substantially cut without endangering national security. And the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provides a good opportunity to do so: after the Korean War, President Eisenhower cut defense spending by twenty-seven per cent; after Vietnam, Nixon cut it by twenty-nine per cent; and, after the end of the Cold War, the defense budget was cut by twenty per cent.

But Ryan will have none of this. And, despite his rhetorical obsession with “efficiency” elsewhere, he doesn’t even offer a substantive justification for why defense should get a free pass, or why national security requires us to spend four hundred billion dollars more each year than we did a decade ago. Instead, he relies on overblown rhetoric—cuts would “devastate” the military—and bad historical analogies. He argues that defense spending is smaller—as a percentage of G.D.P., and as a percentage of federal spending—than its Cold War average. That comparison makes no sense: we are no longer facing the might of the Soviet Union, and the major threats of today are not ones that new aircraft carriers and joint strike fighters are designed to combat.

Ryan’s uncharacteristic munificence toward defense requires his cuts elsewhere to be even more draconian, effectively starving most of the rest of the government to death. The C.B.O. analysis of Ryan’s plan, for instance, finds that, by 2050, all the government’s discretionary spending, including defense, would represent just 3.75 per cent of G.D.P. Given that defense spending in the postwar era has never been less than three per cent of G.D.P., and that Republicans won’t consider cutting it, the rest of the government’s discretionary spending would have to be squeezed out of that remaining 0.75 per cent. This is a derisory number—in the entire postwar era, it has never been less than eight per cent. In practical terms it would make most of what the federal government does—from maintaining infrastructure to air-traffic control, environmental regulation, and crime fighting—unaffordable. Ryan’s path to prosperity, in other words, is a path that ends with the federal government spending its money on health care, Social Security, and the military, and little else.
It's all about protecting the plutocrats and eviscerating the last vestiges of our social safety net:
Over the next ten years, Ryan’s tax plan would cost the federal government $4.6 trillion in revenue on top of the $5 trillion it costs to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts. Ryan, in other words, would engineer an unprecedented financial windfall for the wealthiest Americans. Everyone else would have to pay for it.

His Medicaid plan would cut the program by $800 billion over the same period, and cause 14 million people (at least) to lose their health care coverage. His budget would cut food stamps by $133 billion over the next decade, and cut the Pell Grant program to nonexistence. Non-defense discretionary spending would all but vanish. Veterans’ health care, medical and scientific research, highways, education, national parks, food safety, clean air and clean water enforcement, and law enforcement would be on the chopping block, along with funds for low-income housing and other programs to assist the working poor.

This is neither compassionate nor an attempt at achieving “the ends of the welfare state through more private means and more efficient public means”—it’s a whole scale attack on the idea of social responsibility. Paul Ryan doesn’t call for new charity, and he doesn’t even attempt to provide incentives for these newly enriched rich people to give away their money. It’s simply Robin Hood in reverse; taking from everyone to give the most privileged. The methods might be new, but the idea—that the strongest, most powerful people deserve the spoils of civilization—is as old as human history. Paul Ryan is but one in a long line of people who have worked to enrich the wealthy at all costs.
It's the sort of right-wing lunacy that has become mainstream Republican dogma that has led Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, two mainstream, moderate political commentators, to recognize that the GOP is the problem (h/t Augustus):
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.

The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.

What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South. They included the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs. But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.
Krugman sees a connection to growing income inequality:
The Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have been making waves with a new book acknowledging a truth that, until now, was unmentionable in polite circles. They say our political dysfunction is largely because of the transformation of the Republican Party into an extremist force that is “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” You can’t get cooperation to serve the national interest when one side of the divide sees no distinction between the national interest and its own partisan triumph.

So how did that happen? For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there’s every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.

And the takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I’d argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should be doing impossible.


And why is the G.O.P. so devoted to these doctrines regardless of facts and evidence? It surely has a lot to do with the fact that billionaires have always loved the doctrines in question, which offer a rationale for policies that serve their interests. Indeed, support from billionaires has always been the main thing keeping those charlatans and cranks in business. And now the same people effectively own a whole political party.

Decreased snowpack in the southwest is no good.

The inevitable coming conflict between water and energy in China.

The ability of fracking to contaminate ground water supplies is even greater than previously assumed.

Fracking also causes methane leaks.

But ALEC and ExxonMobil are pushing to keep the public from knowing more about the impacts of fracking. Transparency is for suckers, I guess. Just trust the corporations.

How ALEC is working to destroy the environment.

Oil pipelines are inadequately regulated.

Reducing carbon emissions in US cities is going to be a challenge: “The grass-roots organic process alone is not going to cut it,” he said of emissions reductions.

Internationally, it doesn't appear that many countries are making progress on moving away from fossil fuels. Get ready for lots of climate change.

Indonesian oil palm plantations are on track to become one the largest sources of GHG emissions. And EPA doesn't necessarily rely on the most realistic models to measure those emissions.

Climate change adversely affects cereal crop yields.

The impact of climate change on phenology is greater than the models predict.

Thoreau's notebooks give us insights into the timing of spring blooms.

If we want to have sustainable metro regions, we need regional cooperation and planning. And some examples of how this can work.

Placemaking as the successor to smart growth.

What are the best American cities for public transportation?

Growing opposition to Dow's herbicide 2,4-D, a key ingredient of Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange.

Mountain pine beetles and climate change.

Prioritizing flagship species over ecosystems imperils effective conservation strategies.

Bison return to the Montana prairie.

Mimic leaves and get better solar panels.

What hotels are using the most energy and spewing the most carbon?

Models and simulations as a more nuanced way to learn from the past than crude, simplistic analogies based on historical case studies.

The ethics of eating meat.

The ethics of eating vegetables.

Changing zoning regulations in NYC to encourage greener actions.

Obama's OMB continues with its skepticism of regulation. Thanks, Cass!: “The economists at OIRA, who have their own ideas, may be objecting,” she said. “They are a breed unto themselves. They’re very hostile to the idea of regulation and they always have been, no matter which administration.”

How do we feed a planet of 9 billion?

Bad news for earth system monitoring and remote sensing.

Visualizing energy use at a neighborhood scale.

The story behind USA Today's expose on “ghost factories.”

Asian tiger shrimp are invading the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.

Eat the invasives!

That sushi isn't what you think it is.

UHI appears to assist tree growth.

Biodiversity as a diver of ecosystem change.

Integrating local expert knowledge with more standard physical science approaches to better understand the limnology of Lake Como.

The FDA doesn't really monitor medical implants.

E.L Doctorow on America's long decent into unexceptionalism. (h/t Katelyn)

Glenn Greenwald runs down the continuing War On Civil Liberties in the year since bin Laden's execution.

Jose Rodriguez destroyed evidence of war crimes. Can we prosecute him, please?

Greenwald looks at the big picture around Rodriguez and what it tells us about executive power.

Additional must-reads on the sociopath Rodriguez from Charles Pierce and Amy Davidson.

Apparently executive branch officials can now manufacture a phony debate about any laws they want to break and that is enough to protect them from prosecution. The Ninth Circuit decides that there was uncertainty over torture and lets John Yoo walk away without facing trial or any accountability for being a war criminal. (“Although it has been clearly established for decades that torture of an American citizen violates the Constitution, and we assume without deciding that Padilla’s alleged treatment rose to the level of torture, that such treatment was torture was not clearly established in 2001-03.” Oh, really? Just because the masterminds of torture denied that torture was torture means the definition of torture, in both American and international law, was not clearly established? I call bullshit.)

The FBI hatches and terrorist plot and then foils it. Do you feel safer now?

No one should be surprised that human rights are ignored when prisons are run for profit.

And no one should be surprised that Wal-Mart was engaging in corrupt practices in Mexico.

On the bright side, the bribery scandal is having implications on Wal-Mart's expansion plans.

Why was the broccoli argument so rhetorically effective?

CISPA is still terrible.

No, Paul Ryan, the safety net is not a hammock.

Despite what the smug, condescending, misogynistic assholes waging the War On Women may claim, there is indeed a wage gap by gender.

[T]he Vatican says that nuns are too interested in “the social Gospel” (which is the Gospel), when they should be more interested in Gospel teachings about abortion and contraception (which do not exist).”

There is nothing oppressive about accurately describing the bigotry contained within the Bible. As Amanda Marcotte writes: “The American right is undertaking a huge project of trying to put right-wing politics beyond criticism by shouting "religious bigotry" any time someone gets in the way of their political agenda.”

Amanda Marcotte also tackles the subject of the g-spot and the cultural obsession around it.

I won't link to the hackish, trolling piece by Naomi Schaefer Riley dismissing the entire field of African-American studies based on the titles of some dissertations that she didn't like because they challenged her privileged position (best summed up as this: “What a collection of right-wing, know-nothing talking points about how the academy has gone to hell in a handbasket ever since master let the field Negroes into the big house.”), but I will share the grad student and faculty response.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there's “hipster racism.”

The War On Drugs: a truly shining success.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to push the criminalization of marijuana.

And in Springfield, Massachusetts, tactics from war zones are being imported to deal with drugs. No way this could possibly go wrong.

The grim reality of ovarian cancer.

The post-cash, post-credit card economy: where everything is tracked and you're always being targeted.

A system to track post-publication updates to research papers.

Oh no, not such filthy language! Don't say “fuck” at the New York Times.

The connection between Derrick Rose's ACL tear and the federal budget deficit.

An interview with the great Greil Marcus. (h/t Wifey)

Pretty pictures: historical NYC.

The world is in flux as humans modify the environment — and NASA's got the images to prove it. (h/t Parady The Elder)

The NYTimes interviews Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as the dictator of the Republic of Wadiya.

Amadou and Mariam go acoustic for NPR:

And lastly, to celebrate my six-week vacation from chemo (!!!), we're running a six-week sale in the Poop Strong webstore.

1 comment:

  1. see also this article on the etymology of hipster racism,