Studies show dramatic decrease in plankton as planet warms

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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New studies show that as much as 40 percent of the ocean’s critical phytoplankton have disappeared. Who wants to guess why that might be?

But in the long-term, nothing predicted the numbers of phytoplankton better than the surface temperature of the seas. Phytoplankton need sunlight to grow, so they’re constrained to the upper layers of the ocean and depends on nutrients welling up from below. But warmer waters are less likely to mix in this way, which starves the phytoplankton and limits their growth.

No doubt our crack media will either not report theses alarming trends. Or they’ll resort to industry shills like Junkman Steve Milloy, one of many energy funded rentboys who regularly carpet bombs newspaper editorial pages with climate change disinformation, to present a ‘balanced’ approach. Speaking of skeptics and assorted ignoramuses, whatever became of all those clowns yelling about global cooling last winter? Oh, yeah:

An in-depth analysis of ten climate indicators all point to a marked warming over the past three decades, with the most recent decade being the hottest on record, according to the latest of the U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s annual “State of the Climate” reports.

If the first studies are borne out, put them together with the latter and do the arithmetic. Hint: Soylent Green is people.


Judge in health care law suit has financial ties to Virginia AG bring the case

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Sam Stein reports that the federal judge assigned to the first of the cases against the Affordable Care Act  “has financial ties to both the attorney general who is challenging the law and to a powerhouse conservative law firm whose clients include prominent Republican officials and critics of reform.”

The judge, District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson, could issue a procedural verdict on Virginia AG Ken Cucinelli’s law suit, which seeks to deem the ACA unconstitutional, next week.

[A]s judgment day approaches, a Democratic source sends over judicial disclosure forms Hudson filed that could raise questions about his impartiality. From 2003 through 2008, Hudson has been receiving “dividends” from Campaign Solutions Inc., among other investments. In 2008, he reported income of between ,000 and ,000 from the firm. (Data from 2009 was not available at the Judicial Watch database.)

A powerhouse Republican online communications firm, Campaign Solutions, has done work for a host of prominent Republican clients and health care reform critics, including the RNC and NRCC (both of which have called, to varying degrees, for health care reform’s repeal). The president of the firm, Becki Donatelli, is the wife of longtime GOP hand Frank Donatelli, and is an adviser toformer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, among others.

Another firm client is Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia and the man who is bringing the lawsuit in front of Hudson’s court. In 2010, records show, Cuccinelli spent nearly ,000 for Campaign Solutions services.

How convenient for the Republicans.


Fasten your seatbelts

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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In a reality-based nation in a reality-based world, scientific reality would be deemed important. This kind of scientific reality:

The report emphasizes that human society has developed for thousands of years under one climatic state, and now a new set of climatic conditions are taking shape. These conditions are consistently warmer, and some areas are likely to see more extreme events like severe drought, torrential rain and violent storms.

“Despite the variability caused by short-term changes, the analysis conducted for this report illustrates why we are so confident the world is warming,” said Peter Stott, Ph.D., contributor to the report and head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution of the United Kingdom Met Office Hadley Centre. “When we look at air temperature and other indicators of climate, we see highs and lows in the data from year to year because of natural variability. Understanding climate change requires looking at the longer-term record. When we follow decade-to-decade trends using multiple data sets and independent analyses from around the world, we see clear and unmistakable signs of a warming world.”

While year-to-year changes in temperature often reflect natural climatic variations such as El Niño/La Niña events, changes in average temperature from decade-to-decade reveal long-term trends such as global warming. Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.

This kind of scientific reality:

Global temperatures in the first half of the year were the hottest since records began more than a century ago, according to two of the world’s leading climate research centres.

Scientists have also released what they described as the “best evidence yet” of rising long-term temperatures. The report is the first to collate 11 different indicators – from air and sea temperatures to melting ice – each one based on between three and seven data sets, dating back to between 1850 and the 1970s.

This kind of scientific reality:

Scientists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies reported recently that the average global temperature was higher over the past 12 months than during any other 12-month period in history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released corroborating data, adding that the past four months, including June, have each individually been the hottest on record as well.

This kind of scientific reality:

Marine phytoplankton have a crucial role in Earth’s biogeochemical cycles, and form the basis of marine ecosystems. Data from satellite remote sensing — available since 1979 — have provided evidence that phytoplankton biomass has fluctuated on the decadal scale, linked to climate forcing, but a few decades of data are insufficient to indicate long-term trends. Daniel Boyce and colleagues now put these results in a long-term context by estimating local, regional and global trends in phytoplankton biomass since 1899, based on a range of sources including measurements of ocean transparency with a device known as a Secchi disk, and shipboard analyses of various types. What emerges from the records is a century of decline of global phytoplankton biomass. The authors estimate that the decline of phytoplankton standing stock has been greatest at high latitudes, in equatorial regions, in oceanic areas and in more recent years. Trends in most areas are correlated significantly to increasing ocean warming, and leading climate indices.

But this was last week’s political reality:

Conceding that they can’t find enough votes for the legislation, Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned efforts to put together a comprehensive energy bill that would seek to curb greenhouse gas emissions, delivering a potentially fatal blow to a proposal the party has long touted and President Obama campaigned on.

Instead, Democrats will push for a more limited measure that would seek to increase liability costs that oil companies would pay following spills such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico. It also would create additional incentives for the development of natural gas vehicles and would provide rebates for products that reduce home energy use. Senate Democrats said they expected to find GOP support for the bill and pass it in the next two weeks.

Which led to this week’s political reality:

Senate Democrats and Republicans appear on a collision course that would sink chances of passing oil-spill and energy legislation amid disagreements over both substance and process.  

Democratic leaders Wednesday foretold the likely failure of the package and blamed Republicans for obstructing it and other legislation.

But when political realities fail to meet the demands of such scientific realities the blame must be shared by all. Just as the scientific realities that will result from the failures of the political realities will be shared by all.

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy future.


Obama demands up-or-down vote on small business aid bill

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Of course, if some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all.  This plant might not exist.  There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure.  One called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.”  They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go. 
 
Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong.  Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest period of job growth in more than ten years.  For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit.  Sales have begun to rebound.  And plants like this that wouldn’t have existed if all of us didn’t act are now operating maximum capacity.

Following up on yesterday’s visit to Detroit in which he touted the overlooked success of the auto industry bailout, President Obama in this morning’s weekly address again discussed the program’s effectiveness–before he took an opportunity to blast Senate Republicans for failing to help small business this week by blocking legislation. He called on the GOP obstructionists “to stop holding America’s small businesses hostage.”

As we work to rebuild our economy, I can’t imagine anything more common-sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly-needed lending assistance to America’s small business owners so they can grow and hire.  That’s what we’re trying to do with the Small Business Jobs Act – a bill that has been praised as being good for small businesses by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.  It’s a bill that includes provision after provision authored by both Democrats and Republicans.  But yesterday, the Republican leaders in the Senate once again used parliamentary procedures to block it. Understand, a majority of Senators support the plan. It’s just that the Republican leaders in the Senate won’t even allow it to come up for a vote.
 
That isn’t right. And I’m calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics, and allow an up-or-down vote on this small business jobs bill.

What does the president want?

An up-or-down vote.

When does he want it?

Now.

Thankfully, his solid political instincts guided him well as he closed with a righteous framing: Sure, times are tough. But not only are the Republicans obstructing any relief or progress, they don’t believe in the American people!

At a time when America is just starting to move forward again, we can’t afford the do-nothing policies and partisan maneuvering that will only take us backward.  I won’t stand here and pretend everything’s wonderful.  I know that times are tough.  But what I also know is that we’ve made it through tough times before.  And we’ll make it through again.  The men and women hard at work in this plant make me absolutely confident of that. 
 
So to all the naysayers out there, I say this:  Don’t ever bet against the American people.  Because we don’t take the easy way out.  That’s not how we deal with challenge.  That’s not how we build this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known.  We did it by summoning the courage to persevere, and adapt, and push this country forward, inch by inch.  That’s the spirit I see in this plant today, and as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I will keep fighting alongside you until we reach a better day. 

Good stuff. Let’s bring that small business relief bill back to the floor and let the Republicans stake their electoral chances on blocking it.

The full transcript can be found at the White House website and beneath the fold.


This week in science

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-07-2010-05-2008

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Genetically modified E. coli bacteria may eat and excrete their way to energy independence:

According to renewable energy company LS9,  a fuel a little like diesel can be generated by feeding glucose to genetically modified versions of the Escherichia coli bacteria. … By identifying the genes which are responsible for the creation of hydrocarbons, scientists can manipulate the bacteria to create a super-strain that could create fuel on an industrial level.

  • I just couldn’t resist playing with some freepers on climate change. Don’t worry, that link is safe.

  • Meanwhile, back in the real world, Jeff Masters notes that 2010 is well on its way to breaking more heat records globally than any other year; Moscow surpassed 100°F for the first time ever on Friday. If you think that’s hot, Qatar set a new record this month too: 122.7°F at Doha Airport. But Pakistan “wins,” clocking in at a blistering 128.3°F, the highest temperature ever recorded on the entire Asian continent.
  • Really good post on autoimmune disease: But You Don’t Look Sick.  
  • Speaking of autoimmune disease, a new class of potent painkillers made from snail spit may be as powerful as morphine without the risk of tolerance and other side effects.
  • FDA clears Geron for first human trial of embryonic stem cells:

    Pilot studies, or Phase I human clinical trials, are intended to judge the safety of new treatments, rather than their efficacy. A small number of patients with mid-back spinal injuries will receive the cells in the pilot study, 7 to 14 days after their injury.

    BTW folks an important heads up: the more regenerative medicine works, the more frauds and dangerous scams there are going to be taking advantage of hopeful people.


Blame for Senate inaction

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2010-05-2008

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Right now, Democrats can blame Republicans for Senate inaction:

filibuster

That’s some serious GOP obstructionism. Unprecedented.

Democrats can end that by eliminating the filibuster when the new organizing resolution is passed at the beginning of the next Senate. But apparently, too many Senate Democrats hate progress, and would rather have the filibuster as a handy excuse for inaction.

Five Senate Democrats have said they will not support a lowering of the 60-vote bar necessary to pass legislation. Another four lawmakers say they are wary about such a change and would be hesitant to support it. A 10th Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he would support changing the rule on filibusters of motions to begin debate on legislation, but not necessarily the 60-vote threshold needed to bring up a final vote on bills…

Senior Democrats say Reid will not have the votes to change the rule at the beginning of next year.

“It won’t happen,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who said she would “probably not” support an effort to lower the number of votes needed to cut off filibusters from 60 to 55 or lower.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) echoed Feinstein: “I think we should retain the same policies that we have instead of lowering it. “I think it has been working,” he said.

Ha ha ha ha! “It’s been working”. In what world? It’s a fantastic tool for Republican obstructionists, for corporatist Democrats, for attention whores like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman who get to wield veto power over chamber legislation, and for anyone in the chamber who doesn’t want clear accountability and democracy.

Fact is, Democrats have the tools to eliminate GOP obstructionism. If they don’t use them, then they won’t have anyone to blame but themselves for their chamber’s inability to do shit. And if you think 59 has been painful, just wait until we’re down to 54-56 seats (or worse). The Obama presidency will be effectively over, even if he sticks around until 2016.

(Via Digby.)


House investigators recommended Rangel reprimand (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2010-05-2008

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Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., speaks to the media as he enters his office after going for a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)AP – The panel that charged New York Democrat Charles Rangel with 13 counts of ethical misdeeds recommended he receive a relatively mild rebuke by the full House, one of the investigators said Friday.

How to surrender the moral highground in one easy step

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2010-05-2008

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So the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that has a long history of fighting discrimination and bigotry, has apparently gone bonkers: they have joined forces with fringe lunatics like Sarah Palin in opposition to the construction of an Islamic Center two blocks from the Ground Zero. Their rationale?

“We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.”

Adam Serwer responds:

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

I have learned the same lesson in my life, not just in Hebrew School, but also being the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. So too has J Street. Even if you have no intention of ever setting foot inside such a center, you should still stand up against the campaign of irrational fear-mongering being waged against the facility — especially if you are part of a group whose mission is to fight all forms of bigotry. Whether or not the proposed Islamic Center is politically popular is besides the point: the bottom-line is that you can’t put an asterisk next to tolerance.


Obama hails auto bailout as good news in Michigan (AP)

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2010-05-2008

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his visit to the Jefferson North Chrysler Plant in Detroit, Friday, July 30, 2010, where the Jeep Grand Cherokee is assembled. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)AP – A year after the government’s big auto-industry bailouts, President Barack Obama on Friday trumpeted increased car sales and progress on battery-powered vehicles as a beacon of success in his administration’s battle to revive a hurting U.S. economy. But his upbeat assessment can’t mask daunting challenges for U.S. automakers and painfully high unemployment.

President Obama: Aid to auto industry worked

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 30-07-2010-05-2008

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President Obama is in Motor City today to focus attention on what he feels is an untold success story: the improving fortunes of American automakers thanks to the administration’s decision to use TARP funds to bailout General Motors and Chrysler.

DETROIT — President Barack Obama is in the heart of the U.S. auto industry Friday pushing an important election-year claim: that his administration’s unpopular auto industry bailout has turned into an economic good-news story.

Speaking at a Chrysler plant in Detroit that recently hired more than 1,000 people, Obama said his administration’s bailout out of U.S. car companies saved more than 1 million jobs and kept communities that depend on the auto industry afloat.

Obama said progress in the auto industry is one of the bright spots in the nation’s economic recovery. He said that while the auto bailout may not have been popular, the recent growth of car companies is proving critics wrong.

Since the administration took action, the auto industry has added 55,000 jobs — the best growth since 1999 — and the administration says 1.1 million jobs have been saved in the economy at large. Unfortunately, the President’s visit to Detroit coincides with today’s less-than-stellar GDP report which showed continuing anemic growth in the economy.

Against the backdrop of the disappointing GDP report, it strikes me that one of the challenges the administration has in selling the good news out of Detroit is that it doesn’t seem to be embracing similar programs for other parts of the economy. Remember, the stimulus only funded about 0 billion in contracts, and that was spread out over three years and the entire economy. The auto bailout cost billion. That imbalance raises a question: if the intervention to help Detroit was successful, then why not do it on a broader scale?

Similarly, even though most economists agree that the spending portion of the stimulus provided a valuable boost to the economy, it’s reasonable to ask why there isn’t a push to spend more? In other words, given that we know the economy is still weak, if we believe that things like the auto bailout and the stimulus were effective — but not sufficient — then shouldn’t it stand to reason that we need more of the same?

Instead, we are hearing more from policymakers about reducing deficits and belt-tightening than we are about additional jobs programs. Even if the reason they aren’t talking about such programs is recognition that Republicans would block any new initiatives, it seems as if the failure to embrace more stimulus sends the signal that they actually don’t believe the original stimulus was effective in the first place, even though that obviously isn’t what they really believe.

I guess what I’m saying comes down to this: given that the administration (correctly) believes that the auto industry bailout and the stimulus programs helped the economy, and given that the economy is not yet fully recovered, wouldn’t the best way to demonstrate their belief in the value of stimulus be for them to propose more of it, perhaps in the form of a 0 billion per year plan to rebuild our energy transmission grid? And on the flip side, doesn’t backing off proposing additional stimulus effectively send a message that they don’t believe it works, even if the opposite is actually true?

Update: DarkSyde points to local reaction to President Obama’s visit:

Visiting Obama deserves credit for saving GM, Chrysler

President Barack Obama comes to Detroit today, looking for love in the factories of America’s hardest-hit big city.

Beset by a sputtering jobless economic recovery, Obama will tout the federal rescues of General Motors and Chrysler as bold moves that staved off another Great Depression and saved thousands of jobs.

While the revivals of GM and Chrysler are still works in progress, at least the automakers are still alive to launch the Chevrolet Volt and the new Jeep Grand Cherokee from the Detroit plants Obama will visit. And that’s about as big a triumph as the president can claim from his first 18 months on the job.

Yes, there are still partisan critics sniping about bailouts and “Government Motors.” But make no mistake about the Detroit rescue.

The fact that GM and Chrysler are not only alive but modestly profitable in a weak market, after years of losing billions of dollars when car and truck sales were 50% higher, looks like more than just a successful government intervention.

It looks like a flat-out miracle.

That’s excellent stuff. Now, let’s see more of it. Go national! 0 billion per year in clean energy investments — it will change America and change the world. And it will be a political success beyond belief.