“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

As The Whirled Turns

While Drudge splashes the news that 90% of the US is under a freeze warning tonight, the new US Energy Secretary issues a diametrically opposed warning.

California farms, vineyards in peril from warming, U.S. energy secretary warns.

'We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California,' Steven Chu says. He sees education as a means to combat threat.
By Jim Tankersley, Los Angeles Times

February 4, 2009

Reporting from Washington — California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Tuesday.

In his first interview since taking office last month, the Nobel-prize-winning physicist offered some of the starkest comments yet on how seriously President Obama's cabinet views the threat of climate change, along with a detailed assessment of the administration's plans to combat it.

Chu warned of water shortages plaguing the West and Upper Midwest and particularly dire consequences for California, his home state, the nation's leading agricultural producer.

In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture.

"I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," he said. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California." And, he added, "I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going" either.

A pair of recent studies raise similar warnings. One, published in January in the journal Science, raised the specter of worldwide crop shortages as temperatures rise. Another, penned by UC Berkeley researchers last year, estimated California has about $2.5 trillion in real estate assets -- including agriculture -- endangered by warming.

Chu is not a climate scientist. He won his Nobel for work trapping atoms with laser light. He taught at Stanford University and directed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he reoriented researchers to pursue "clean energy" technologies to help reduce the use of greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels in the U.S., before Obama tapped him to head the Energy Department.

He stressed the threat of climate change in his Senate confirmation hearings and in a video clip posted on Obama's transition website, but not as bluntly, nor in as dire terms, as he did Tuesday.

In the course of a half-hour interview, Chu made clear that he sees public education as a key part of the administration's strategy to fight global warming -- along with billions of dollars for alternative energy research and infrastructure, a national standard for electricity from renewable sources and cap-and-trade legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

He said the threat of warming is keeping policymakers focused on alternatives to fossil fuel, even though gasoline prices have fallen over the last six months from historic highs. But he said public awareness needs to catch up. He compared the situation to a family buying an old house and being told by an inspector that it must pay a hefty sum to rewire it or risk an electrical fire that could burn everything down.

"I'm hoping that the American people will wake up," Chu said, and pay the cost of rewiring.

Environmentalists welcomed the comments as a sharp break from the Bush administration, which often minimized research about global warming.

"To say the least, it's a breath of fresh air," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, who directs the clean air and global warming program for Environment California. "We've been worried about the impacts of global warming for years, even decades. He's absolutely right -- California stands to lose so much in our way of life."

Global warming skeptics were not swayed. "I am hopeful Secretary Chu will take note of the real-world data, new studies and the growing chorus of international scientists that question his climate claims," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. "Computer model predictions of the year 2100 are simply not evidence of a looming climate catastrophe."


  1. Not sure about California vineyards but McLaren Vale wine region which is about a 1/2 hour drive from me is hurting pretty bad.

    We've been a heatwave 9 days running now. 91' today.

    Growers Crushed

  2. Obama's Energy Sec. issues dire climate prediction

    Cheney warns of new attacks

    Obama: Catastrophe coming if Congress doesn't act

    Fear as a motivating factor

  3. U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order Feb. 1 approving the continued use of renditions by the CIA. The order seems to go against Obama’s campaign promises to improve the image of the United States abroad, as renditions under the Bush administration had drawn criticism worldwide, especially from members of the European Union.


    Renditions are a powerful tool for counterterrorism operations. They involve agents moving into a foreign country to execute a warrant.


    Apprehending suspects in foreign countries does not always involve controversial tactics. U.S. counterterrorism officials also use tactics abroad that are not forbidden under U.S. law, though they might be illegal if used within the United States (and could well be illegal in the country where U.S. agents employ them).

    Terrorist Suspects

  4. I ain't afeared. I hope it warms up. Then I'll be able to plant grapes at the farm, and get drunk when I'm older.

  5. For those of you feeling the protectionist urge this might give pause:


    Vehicle sales in China surpassed those in the United States last month for the first time ever, underscoring the depth of the automotive slump in North America.

    U.S. sales plunged to about 9.5 million on an annualized basis, with the Detroit Three leading the drop in that market. In Canada, deliveries crashed 25 per cent, with Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. outperforming its rivals.

    "We're in the mouth of this monster and we have a lot of work to do," said Steven Landry, vice-president of sales and marketing for Chrysler LLC.

    The January sales figure for the U.S. is the lowest for that month since 1963 and was surpassed by China's seasonally adjusted annual sales of 10.7 million.

    Although the once-feverish Chinese market has cooled, sales there are still growing and its leap ahead of the United States is just another symbol of the deterioration the Detroit Three face in their home market as they struggle to adjust to years of market share losses. "

  6. The region's carmakers led a rally across equity markets as figures showed they outsold their American rivals to account for just under half of sales in January in the US, the world's biggest vehicle market.


    Hyundai's affiliate, Kia Motors

    , rose 11.7 per cent to Won8,950, although its sales only grew by 3.5 per cent.


    Samsung Electronics

    , the world's biggest memory chip-maker, gained 5.7 per cent to Won518,000 as semiconductor prices rose.


    In Japan, Toyota Motor

    , the world's most valuable carmaker in stock market terms, gained 4.5 per cent to Y3,010. Toyota's US sales were down by nearly a third but its competitor, General Motors, dropped by a half and Ford's sales were 40 per cent lower.

    Sales Landmark

    Asian stimulus working?

  7. Gordon Brown is being questioned because he let slip that "we're in the midst of a depression." Later he said that he meant to say "recession."

  8. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has come out against pork.

    Kennedy "stumbled" into the environmental movement as a result of a 1984 criminal conviction for heroin possession in Rapid City, S.D.

    "Nothin' sadder than an uptown junkie."

    Hog Farmers Greater Threat To America Than Osama

    Most of the Kennedys are a bunch of white trash.

  9. Mat, what do you think of This Idea?

    I think in urban areas priority should be given to the pedestrian.

    I think cities should be completely car free. I'd like to see cities be at their maximum size that of the Manhattan island. Transport in the city should be limited to walking or taking a quick bike trip thru sheltered pathways and express tram/light rail services bisecting the city. No buses! Industrial parks should be kept away from the city and serviced by high speed rail.

  10. That sounds like no city for old men
    Who can't walk, neither can they bike
    But the young, in one another's arms
    Of whatever sex
    Will commend all summer long
    Whatever is begotten, born and dies
    And stroll the malls and attend
    And cafes,
    Drink wine
    And lattes,
    Smoke dope,
    Vote hope,
    And shop till they drop.

    :) really really bad take off on Yeats

  11. If some Bob is so old
    he can't walk,
    provided a wheelchair shall he
    and a sexed trophy of Yeats


    Jane Fonda: New Play, New Blog, Same Attitude Towards The Troops

    …to her embracing her inner “Hanoi Jane” by blogging about the current anti-Iraq war movement:

    Joining us was Marlisa Grogan, Captain in the US Marine Corp (29 UES).

    I had never met her before and was very impressed. She has such a deep understanding of why it is important for us to support active duty members of the military who are anti war or, at least, anti a war they feel is wrong and ill-conceived.

    She herself has been involved in an anti war show that has performed for active duty personnel.

    …to creepy, Shirley MacLaine style, new age clap trap

    Eve also brought me a gift—it is a rock from the Moroccan desert that has been split open and when you look inside the two halves, you see a glistening, shimmering miracle of crystal and mica. “This is how we are when we are broken open,” she said. ‘We’ means we women, artists, warriors. It the perfect Eve gift—I will keep it on my dressing table. A constant reminder to allow myself to be broken open.
    - Type On, Golden Blogger: Reading Jane Fonda’s Web Journal -
    [...] so glad I didn’t chicken out and not agree to do this out of fear—after 45 years,” Ms. Fonda writes in a Feb. 2 posting. “I could say it’s like sex and riding a bike—it comes right back… but not really. Mostly [...]

  13. Grapes as sposed to get crushed, Sam, Eggs must be broken for AlGore to save the Planet.

  14. Ash,
    You left out that that Chi-Com number includes everthing except planes and trains.
    ...actual car sales about half that, as I recall.

  15. That's just it. No grapes to crush. They're fried.

  16. Just in--rickshaw sales in China plummet, as car sales soar.

    Russia and Iran Cozy Up

    Damn the Russians and damn Putin. I think Putin is a most short sighted guy.

    They leave me 'scratching my head', like they are a riddle inside a question mark or something.

  17. Good year for raisin' raisins papa always used to say, Sam.

  18. Sorry, Doug. I think I mis-read you. You're saying crushed as in must suffer. I'm with you now.

    'Tis raisin season!

  19. Read a little bit of that, Bob.

    Rivals. Why does it always have to be rivals? How about partners?

  20. I thot I was just saving that last Egyptian hottie.

  21. Sarah Palin can see Russia from her living room, but Putin can't seem to see China from Vladivostok.
    Putin knows he's got nothing to fear from the West. And much to gain too. I'm with you, doesn't always have to be rivals. Could be like Canada and the US.

    I don't get it.

  22. Each one of those girls is 50kg, Doug.

    50 kg = 110 lbs

    Just what the old sacks of wheat used to weigh, when men were men, and horses pulled the plow, and wishing could still lead to something.

  23. As the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) continues to turn negative California's climate will become more Desertified ala 1945 to 1975.

    The reasonable response would be to work on water "recycling," and Desalination.

    This AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) nonsense will be the end of us all.

  24. John Lott (More Guns, Less Crime) is on C2C tonight--

    First Hour: Research scholar John R. Lott talks about gun use.

    Coast To Coast

    And the way to desalinate is to build nuclear power plants.

    Nite again.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Well done, good and faithful servant:
    UNC academic propagandist receives award from Iran's Thug-In-Chief

    UNC academic propagandist receives award from Iran's Thug-In-Chief
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Carl Ernst flew to Tehran on Tuesday night to accept an award from Iranian Thug-In-Chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even though Ernst reportedly "cringes" at some of Ahmadinejad's "policies," UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp decided that this was an "academic honor," not a political one, and so had no objection to Ernst's trip. Ernst himself explained, " would have looked strange if I declined an academic award."

    Thorp and Ernst seem anxious to stress that this is an academic, non-political award -- as if Tehran these days were crawling with disinterested academics who are in no way co-opted by the regime.

  27. Scandal and Double Standard

    A flurry of recent scandals grabbed headlines across the country and highlighted an obvious double standard from the press. The newly-elected Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, admitted that he'd lied for years about a homosexual affair with a teenaged boy while the Mayor of Hartford, Eddie Perez, was indicted on bribery charges. The former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, was released from three months in jail for perjury and obstruction. The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and removed from office for trying to sell a US Senate seat to the highest bidder. The Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, had to withdraw as Commerce Secretary because of a corruption investigation, while former Senate Leader Tom Daschle withdrew from his cabinet appointment because he underpaid taxes to the tune of $140,000. The missing element in all coverage of these scandals was identification of each of the wrongdoers as a Democrat. When Republicans get into trouble the media make a big point of their party affiliation -- as in the cases of Mark Foley, Ted Stevens, Larry Craig and more. We heard all about a "Republican culture of corruption" and it became a major campaign issue.

    But with a flurry of jaw-dropping scandals involving Democrats, their party identification becomes suddenly irrelevant.