“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."

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Don’t believe your Lying Eyes - Listen to The GOP Likuds Force


Scientists fear toxic algae bloom spreading on Pacific coast

Rick Santorum calls climate change “a beautifully concocted scheme.” Senator Ted Cruz contends that no climate change has been recorded in the last 15 years, bluntly declaring, “It hasn’t happened.”

Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon, has said, “We may be warming. We may be cooling.” Former Florida governor Jeb Bush grants that climate change is real, but he is unwilling to say it is caused by humans.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, sees a conspiracy: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive.”

Most of the 17 Republicans running for president are skeptical about climate change caused by humans, a stance that appears to line up with conservative voters who hold sway in the GOP primary contest.

Stretching from southern California to Alaska, this year’s blooms thought to be the largest ever recorded

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The toxic algae blooms in the Pacific Ocean stretching from southern California to Alaska — already the largest ever recorded — appear to have reached as far as the Aleutian Islands, scientists say.
“The anecdotal evidence suggests we’re having a major event,” said Bruce Wright, a scientist with the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association, the federally recognized tribal organization of Alaska’s native Aleuts. “All the populations [of marine mammals] are way down in the Aleutians.”
While algal blooms are not uncommon in the Pacific, 2015’s blooms appear to be the largest on record, scientists say. Stretching from Southern California to Alaska, the blooms are responsible for unprecedented closures of fisheries and unusual deaths of marine life up and down the Pacific coast.
Pseudo-nitzchia is one species of algae that produces domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can be lethal to humans and wildlife. The toxin is ingested by shellfish and krill that, when consumed, pass the toxin onto the predator — in some cases, people.
Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said climate change may be a factor enabling the blooms to thrive. “I think, personally, it’s quite possible that these warm conditions just set up the ideal incubator conditions for this organism. It’s doing really well and lasting a lot longer than usual.”
In California, researchers in Monterey Bay observed some of the highest levels of the toxin ever seen. Oregon’s Department of Agriculture has shut down recreational harvest of razor clams along much of its coast. In Washington, authorities instituted an unprecedented closure of the state’s lucrative Dungeness crab fisheriesA fishery near Vancouver was closed in June over concerns of the algae’s toxin, which can cause seizures and death if consumed by humans.
“In Monterey, things have kind of calmed down a bit,” said Kudela. “We have been monitoring several times a week now. We still see toxin, so it hasn’t gone away.”
He added that the bloom may have moved further offshore and deeper in the ocean.
The algae were detected in southeastern Alaska in June. The discovery of nearly a dozen dead whales in the Gulf of Alaska near Kodiak also raised suspicion.
A dead sea lion that washed up near Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands is what prompted the most recent round of testing, Unalaska’s community broadcast network KUCB reported. Other die-offs of species have been reported along the Aleutian chain, stretching nearly 1,500 miles across the north Pacific, 2,000 miles north of Seattle.
“The best thing to keep an eye on is if they keeping seeing it in Alaska,” Kudela said. “And that would be a pretty clear indication of if the bloom has extended.”
“There’s just not a lot of resources going into understanding these big algal blooms,” Wright said. “The government doesn’t spend a lot of money on it, and I think that’s a big mistake. And in the future I think that’s going to be a big mistake as waters continue to warm in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea.”
Wright added: “[Algal blooms] have the potential of taking out fisheries.”
Late last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave the state of Washington nearly $100,000 to continue to monitor the bloom.
Vera Trainer, a University of Washington researcher and manager of NOAA’s Harmful Algal Blooms Program, said expeditions are underway to try to map the bloom. What remains to be seen is whether or not there is one contiguous bloom, or several large ones.
“It does appear to be rather contiguous,” Trainer said. “What we’ve seen in past years is that we’ll have a bloom in California, and a little bit later in the year we’ll have a bloom in Washington. This one seemed to happen all at the same time.”
Kudela said researchers have found the toxin in anchovies and other fish. “We know that can happen, but generally the blooms don’t last long enough to see that transfer occur.” Trainer said that sea lions had never before been seen having seizures off the coast of Washington, a symptom of poisoning from the algae.
Research expeditions are underway along the Pacific coast and into the Gulf of Alaska to try to map the bloom. The last ship is due back in September, and Trainer expects a clearer picture of what exactly is happening by the end of the year.
Kudela said whether or not this year’s bloom is the “new normal” is “the million dollar question,” said.
“We could go into three years in a row of having really toxic algae out there and it getting into the food web,” he said.
Shellfish and other seafood are a staple in the diet of coastal communities up and down the Pacific coast, including many Native communities.
Wright, who has been studying toxic algal blooms since the 1970s, said many elders in Alaska Native communities have been alarmed by the increasing frequency of the toxic algae blooms, which threaten their traditional way of life. 
“But those are the kinds of changes we’re going to see with climate change,” Wright said. “We’re going to have to change and adapt and we’re going to have to lose some of our traditions, and that’s just the way it is.”


  1. Paradise Burning
    Why We All Need to Learn the Word “Anthropogenic”
    By Subhankar Banerjee

    The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden. In this season of drought across the West, there have been far bigger blazes but none quite so symbolic or offering quite such grim news. It isn’t the size of the fire (though it is the largest in the park’s history), nor its intensity. It’s something else entirely -- the fact that it shouldn’t have been burning at all. When fire can eat a rainforest in a relatively cool climate, you know the Earth is beginning to burn.

    And here’s the thing: the Olympic Peninsula is my home. Its destruction is my personal nightmare and I couldn’t stay away.

  2. Smoke Gets in My Eyes

    “What a bummer! Can’t even see Mount Olympus,” a disappointed tourist exclaimed from the Hurricane Ridge visitor center. Still pointing his camera at the hazy mountain-scape, he added that “on a sunny day like this” he would ordinarily have gotten a “clear shot of the range.” Indeed, on a good day, that vantage point guarantees you a postcard-perfect view of the Olympic Mountains and their glaciers, making Hurricane Ridge the most visited location in the park, with the Hoh rainforest coming in a close second. And a lot of people have taken photos there. With its more than three million annual visitors, the park barely trails its two more famous western cousins, Yosemite and Yellowstone, on the tourist circuit.

    Days of rain had come the weekend before, soaking the rainforest without staunching the Paradise Fire. The wetness did, however, help create those massive clouds of smoke that wrecked the view miles away on that blazing hot Sunday, July 19th. Though no fire was visible from the visitor center -- it was the old-growth rainforest of the Queets River Valley on the other side of Mount Olympus that was burning -- massive plumes of smoke were rising from the Elwha River and Long Creek valleys.

  3. By then, I felt as if smoke had become my companion. I had first encountered it on another hot, sunny Sunday two weeks earlier.

    On July 5th, I had gone to Hurricane Ridge with Finis Dunaway, historian of environmental visual culture and author of Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images. As this countryside is second nature to me, I felt the shock and sadness the moment we piled out of the car. In a season when the meadows and hills should have been lush green and carpeted by wildflowers, they were rusty brown and bone-dry.

    Normally, even when such meadows are still covered in snow, glacier lilies still poke through. Avalanche lilies burst into riotous bloom as soon as the snow melts, followed by lupines, paintbrushes, tiger lilies, and the Sitka columbines, just to begin a list. Those meadows with their chorus of colors are a wonder to photograph, but the flowers also provide much needed nutrition to birds and animals, including the endemic Olympic marmots that prefer, as the National Park Service puts it, “fresh, tender, flowering plants such as lupine and glacier lilies.”

    Snow normally lingers on these subalpine meadows until the end of June or early July, but last winter and spring were “anything but typical,” as the summer issue of the park’s quarterly newspaper, the Bugler, pointed out. January and February temperatures at the Hurricane Ridge station were “over six degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average.”

  4. By late February, “less than three percent of normal” snowpack remained on the Olympic Mountains and the meadows, normally still covered by more than six feet of snow, “were bare.” As the Bugler also noted, recent data and scientific projections suggest that “this warming trend with less snowpack is something the Pacific Northwest should get used to... What does this mean for summer wildflowers, cold-water loving salmon, and myriad animals that depend on a flush of summer vegetation watered by melting snow?” The answer, unfortunately, isn’t complicated: it spells disaster for the ecology of the park.

    Move on to the rainforest and the news is no less grim. This January, it got 14.07 inches of precipitation, which is 26% less than normal; February was 17% less; March was almost normal; and April was off by 23%. Worse yet, what precipitation there was generally fell as rain, not snow, and the culprit was those way-higher-than-average winter temperatures. Then the drought that already had much of the West Coast in its grip arrived in the rainforest. In May, precipitation fell to 75% less than normal and in June it was a staggering 96% less than normal, historic lows for those months. The forest floor dried up, as did the moss and lichens that hang in profusion from the trees, creating kindling galore and priming the forest for potential ignition by lightning.

    That day, I was intent on showing Finis the spot along the Hurricane Hill trail where, in 1997, I had taken a picture of a black-tailed deer. That photo proved a turning point in my life, winning the Slide of the Year award from the Boeing photography club and leading me eventually to give up the security of a corporate career and start a conservation project in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    As it happened, it wouldn’t be a day for nostalgia or for seeing much of anything. On reaching Hurricane Hill, we found that the Olympic Mountains were obscured by smoke from the Paradise Fire. Meanwhile, looking north toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Salish Sea, all that we could see was an amber-lit deep haze. More smoke, in other words, coming from more than 70 wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada. As I write this, there are 14 active wildfires in Washington and five in Oregon, while British Columbia recently registered 185 of them.

    So if you happen to live in the drought-stricken Southwest and are dreaming of relocating to the cool, moist Pacific Northwest, think again. On the Olympic Peninsula, it’s haze to the horizon and the worst drought since 1895.


  6. Fuck The Likuds Force, so to speak:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Determined to secure support for the Iran nuclear deal, President Barack Obama is making inroads with a tough constituency — his fellow Democrats in Congress.

    A handful of key Democrats stepped forward to support the accord within hours of Obama's personal lobbying at the White House this past week, part of the administration's all-out campaign since the pact was announced July 14. Other Democrats have signaled they are leaning in favor and still others have remained undeclared, awaiting a vote in September.

    The deal, which curbs Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions smothering its economy, is not a traditional fight between the White House and Republicans, who control the House and Senate. This is about Obama, who has often been at odds with congressional Democrats, trying to cajole them just weeks after a divisive debate over trade.

    The president has talked to more than 80 lawmakers, either individually or in small groups, administration officials said. Obama, who delivers a speech on the deal on Wednesday at American University, also hosted a reception for about 100 House Democrats at the White House.

    Vice President Joe Biden has traveled to the Capitol and invited lawmakers for breakfast at the Naval Observatory. Cabinet and other administration officials have spoken with more than 175 lawmakers. A member of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to brief lawmakers next week.

    Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's recent exchange with Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 3 Democratic leader in the House, shows the extent of the administration's bend-over-backward persuasion campaign. "I'm briefing later," Moniz told Hoyer in a hallway. "Are you coming? And if there's anything you want to know more personally, give me a call. I can expand."

    Lawmakers can vote to approve, disapprove or take no action on the deal. Obama says he'll veto a congressional disapproval and would need 34 members of the Senate or 146 members of the House to stand with him so Congress can't override his veto.

    "In the real world, this is a deal that gets the job done," Obama said in a conference call with supporters.

    Several Democrats said Obama's detailed understanding of the accord won their respect.

  7. Not Fit to Lead

    The Iran hearings have shown how the Republican Party can no longer be trusted with the presidency.

    If Republicans win the White House next year, they’ll almost certainly control the entire federal government. Many of them, running for president or aspiring to leadership roles in Congress, are trying to block the nuclear deal with Iran. This would be a good time for these leaders to show that they’re ready for the responsibilities of national security and foreign policy. Instead, they’re showing the opposite. Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world.

    When the hearings began more than a week ago, I was planning to write about the testimony of Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. But the more I watched, the more I saw that the danger in the room wasn’t coming from the deal or its administration proponents. It was coming from the interrogators. In challenging Kerry and Moniz, Republican senators and representatives offered no serious alternative. They misrepresented testimony, dismissed contrary evidence, and substituted vitriol for analysis. They seemed baffled by the idea of having to work and negotiate with other countries. I came away from the hearings dismayed by what the GOP has become in the Obama era. It seems utterly unprepared to govern.


  8. {...}

    If you didn’t have time to watch the 11 hours of hearings conducted on July 23, July 28, and July 29, consider yourself lucky. Here are the lowlights of what you missed.

    1. North Korea. In all three hearings, Kerry explained how the inspection and verification measures in the Iran deal are designed to rectify flaws that led to the failure of the North Korean nuclear agreement. He spent much of his opening statement outlining these differences. This made no impression. When the Senate held its next hearing a week later, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presiding Republican, dismissed the Iran agreement with a quip: “How did that North Korean deal work out for you?”

    2. Israel. As evidence that the Iran deal is bad, Republicans point to criticism from Israel. But they seem more interested in the rhetoric of Israeli politicians than in the judgments of Israeli security experts. At the July 23 hearing, Kerry read from an article that quoted supportive statements about the deal from the former leaders of two Israeli intelligence agencies. Republicans batted the quotes away. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming scoffed, “That wasn’t even in the newspaper. That was a blog post.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina dismissed the statements as irrelevant because they didn’t come from elected officials. Why listen to experts when you can rely instead on quotes from politicians?


  9. {...}

    3. The IAEA’s “secret deal.”

    Kerry and Moniz have repeatedly explained that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which enforces nuclear conduct agreements, publicly evaluates each country’s compliance but keeps some details about inspection logistics private. The IAEA briefs other governments about its procedures but doesn’t give them the logistical documents. Republicans, having shrugged at this policy for decades, are suddenly outraged. Many of them seem to think the Obama administration is colluding with Iran and the IAEA. They claim that Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, has seen the IAEA’s Iran documents but won’t show them to Congress. In the House hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Ted Poe of Texas asserted that Rice “said that she has seen this deal with the IAEA.” Kerry corrected him: “Susan Rice’s quote is, ‘We know their contents, and we’re satisfied with them. We will share the contents of those briefings in full and classified sessions with Congress.’ She has not seen them. She has been briefed on them.”

    Kerry’s clarification should have settled the matter. But it didn’t. The next day, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma grilled Kerry:

    Inhofe: Secretary Rice [sic] said she has seen the deal with the IAEA. … Did you see it at the same time, or prior to the time, that Secretary Rice saw it?

    Kerry: Senator, National Security Adviser Rice has not seen it.

    Inhofe: Well she said she did yesterday ...

    Kerry: No. She has been briefed on it. I had—I gave her exact quote to Congressman Poe. … She has been briefed on it but has not actually seen it.

    Inhofe: OK, I will give you her quote and make sure it is in the record here. … “She said six days ago she had seen it and reviewed it, and that Congress will get to see it in a classified session.”

    Kerry: Senator, you are quoting Congressman Poe, and—

    Inhofe: Who is quoting her. This is quotation marks.

    Republicans can be forgiven for misinterpreting Rice’s original statement. But why would they cling to that interpretation after being corrected? And why would they quote their own misinterpretations rather than what Rice said?


  10. {...}

    4. EMPs. In the July 23 Senate hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin asked Moniz about a 2008 commission report on EMPs, electromagnetic pulses, which could be triggered by nuclear detonations and could knock out the U.S. power grid. Moniz, the former chairman of MIT’s physics department, has spent his career working in nuclear science. He told Johnson that he was unfamiliar with the report but that “if you look at our Quadrennial Energy Review published in April, we do identify EMP as a risk to transformers, and we are beginning to try to work up a response to that.”

    In the hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas used this exchange to portray Moniz as an idiot:

    Cruz: You told the United States Senate you hadn’t read the congressionally mandated commission on EMPs and that you didn’t know what an EMP was.

    Moniz: That is incorrect. I said I did not know this 2008 report recommendations. I said I was quite familiar with the issue, and we all know about EMPs from airburst nuclear weapons.

    Cruz: Secretary, let me read the testimony verbatim so that I don’t mischaracterize you. … “Senator Johnson: ‘Are you familiar with the EMPs commission 2008 report?’ ‘No, I am not, sir.’ ‘You’re not? Do you know—do you know what an EMP is?’ ‘You’ll have to explain it to me, please.’ ” I find that stunning. …

    Moniz: That was about the report. If you read further in the testimony, you will see my explicit statement. Of course I know about the issue.

    Cruz: Do you agree that an EMP detonated by Iran in the atmosphere could kill tens of millions of Americans? …

    Moniz: It depends upon the specifics. These are highly variable—

    Cruz: Does that mean, yes, it could?

    Moniz: I said it is highly variable in its—

    Cruz: OK. You’re refusing to answer the question.

    The most disturbing thing about this exchange isn’t Cruz’s obnoxiousness. It’s his intellectual confidence in the face of his own ignorance. He doesn’t know the slightest fraction of what Moniz knows about EMPs. Either Cruz doesn’t understand this difference between himself and Moniz, or he doesn’t care. He hasn’t even taken the trouble to read the full transcript. And when he’s given a complex scientific answer to a simplistic, politically crafted question, he rejects it. Can any thinking person, after reading this exchange, feel comfortable with Cruz as president?

    1. There’s plenty more I could quote to you. But out of mercy, and in deference to the many dead and retired Republicans who took foreign policy seriously, I’ll stop. This used to be a party that saw America’s leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility. What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?

  11. Deuce ☂Sat Aug 01, 09:41:00 AM EDT
    Fuck The Likuds Force, so to speak:

    You have gone over the red line....

    Seek professional help.

  12. Love the "have you stopped beating your wife line"...

    " Can any thinking person "

  13. As a "race," humans are truly fucked up.

    Three months ago, a Seattle businessman had an epiphany. Dan Price was the CEO and co-owner of a Gravity Payments, and he concluded that everyone in the company — including him — would be happier if he took a big pay cut and used the money to give his lowest-paid employees big raises. So he instituted a new policy where within three years, every employee in the company would make at least $70,000 per year. For some employees, that meant tens of thousands of dollars in raises.

    You might think this was a win-win situation for everyone. A bunch of employees got raises. Price thought he'd get more satisfaction from helping his employees than from making more money himself. No one else's salary went down.

    But as the New York Times reports, the plan made a lot of people upset. Most upset were employees who were already making salaries near the new $70,000 minimum. They felt that giving formerly much lower-paid employees the same salary as them deprived them of their status as highly-paid employees. Two employees even quit in protest after the raises were announced.

    Also upset were . . .


  14. New figures released by the UK Government show that electricity generated from renewable sources increased 21% in 2014, accounting for 19% of total UK electricity generation.

    RenewableUK, the country’s wind and marine energy trade association, applauded the work of the industry and encouraged the UK government to reconsider its decision to cut support for onshore wind — part of the renewable energy industry that is facing devastating subsidy cuts, but the technology that is doing the most in the country’s clean energy sector.

    The UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change released its annual Digest of UK Energy Statistics for 2014 (PDF), and described onshore wind as “the leading individual technology for the generation of electricity from renewable sources during 2014,” supplying 29% of the total, while offshore wind generated a further 21%, bringing the country’s total of renewable electricity supplied by wind up to a total of . . . .


  15. On Saturday, July 25, 2015, Germany got 78% of its electricity from renewables. That performance eclipsed the old record of 74% set in May 2014. How did the country do that?



  16. The United States and its allies launched 19 air strikes in Iraq and 11 in Syria on Friday in the coalition campaign against Islamic State militants, the U.S. military said on Saturday.

    The strikes in Iraq included six near Mosul, four near Ramadi and three near Sinjar, destroying staging areas, fighting positions, tactical units and other Islamic State targets, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.

    The strikes in Syria were concentrated in northern areas where Islamic State is fighting for a foothold, including near Hasaka, Aleppo, Kobani and Deir al-Zor, it said.

    Bombin' de bombers

    1. So America can fly thousands of miles from it's shores and bomb a people who pose no threat directly to the USA and you cheer.

      What has the Islamic State done to you?

      Iran has murdered (with Syria, Hezbollah and the Shiite Militias in Iraq over 850,000 innocents) and yet? You find no fault with them....

      Israel defends it's self against the Islamic Jihad, aka Hamas in Gaza? And you swear you'd be a member if you lived there...

      How many women and kids has the USA killed in Iraq and Syria? How many Kurds has Turkey butchered in it's war effort?

      DO you care?

  17. Derp — views that just keep being repeated in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence — has always been with us, but the derp quotient has really soared since the crisis of 2008, which made nonsense of doctrines too dearly held to be reconsidered. This is especially true of inflation derp: has any prominent figure who warned of runaway inflation from the Fed’s efforts admitted having learned anything from being wrong year after year?

    It seems increasingly clear to me that what we’re looking at here has nothing to do with intellectual discourse as we normally understand it. It is, instead, about tribal identities: there’s a certain kind of person who rails against policies that debase the dollar, and that kind of person admires others who do the same no matter how wrong their predictions and disastrous their financial advice. As I said in a brief note on Ron Paul, it’s a form of Madoff-style affinity fraud, even if the perpetrator of the scam believes his own derp.

    As you might guess, I’ve received some mail from Ron Paul admirers deeply angered by the suggestion that they are not engaged in deep intellectual argument. By and large the mail reads like this:

    Dear shmak, Paul Krugman!
    Stop insulting Ron Paul!
    You are low level Socialist/Liberal who should be jailed for Life
    your insulting writing style.
    Ron Paul is Real Man with Capital M
    and you are nobody!

    But the thing is, it’s not just the libertarians who do this sort of thing. Awesomely, Richard Fisher, now retiring as president of the Dallas Fed, is apparently regarded as an intellectual giant — he “rose to the status of being a deity in Texas” — despite a track record of being wrong again and again.

    A brief aside: the WSJ engages in a fairly common practice when describing inflationistas, namely that of whitewashing what they have actually spent year after year warning against. No, Fisher didn’t warn against “frothy financial markets”. He warned against inflation — inflation that kept not happening.

    Why all the respect for what would ordinarily be considered a record of repeated bad judgment coupled with a lamentable unwillingness to learn from experience? The answer, surely, is that within the conservative tribe issuing dire warnings against inflation is considered virtuous whether or not they are right; it’s a way of showing that you’re their kind of guy, that you belong to the tribe.

    Of course, saying things like that means that I should be jailed for life.