Saturday, June 26, 2010

The wildlife news remains not good--there's been some more environmentalist action accusing BP of burning very endangered sea turtles along with oil. (Here's a way to register your protest.) But there is this good news for a rare animal in captivity: this is a photo of the first Red Panda to be born in 15 years at the National Zoo in DC, and its mother, holding it in her mouth. Also called the firefox, this animal is actually more closely related to raccoons than panda bears. They are native to the Himalayas, and there are fewer than 2500 left alive. Now there's one more, even if in a zoo. Hooray.

Storm Clouds

Update late Saturday from Houston Chronicle: "Tropical Storm Alex strengthened Saturday as it careened toward the Gulf of Mexico with 65-mph winds approaching hurricane status. Officials are keeping a close eye on the first named storm of the season, which looks likely to avoid Houston and to remain at least 400 miles from cleanup efforts of the largest oil spill in U.S. history. A change, however, could force BP to temporarily abandon cleanup efforts in the Gulf, where oil has been gushing since an offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.

Most computer models predict that Alex will head over the Yucatan Peninsula by this morning and weaken as it reaches into Mexico later in the week. A tropical storm warning was issued for Belize's coast and the Yucatan Peninsula's east coast, where rainfall could reach 15 inches.

The storm's presence — and the new hurricane season - is forcing the team overseeing the spill site to make contingency plans. Any system with winds over 46 mph could stop work, and a full evacuation could delay cleanup for two weeks, officials said, adding that it could take about five days to get workers and equipment out of harm's way if the storm threatens. "

Jeff Masters figures the chances of Alex heading for the oil gusher at 10%.

[Early Saturday]
As of now the tropical depression near Honduras has become Tropical Storm Alex, ( as weather guru Jeff Masters predicted.) He cited an historical analysis of 19 similar storms shows that 5 of them hit the Gulf of Mexico.

But warmer waters etc. are making rather than following history. The Houston Chronicle reports: "The probable formation of Tropical Storm Alex in the western Caribbean Sea from such a wave has some meteorologists concerned because it's early for African waves to become so well organized."

The latest storm track doesn't have it heading for the Gulf, nor becoming very intense, though both could change. The HC article notes: "About 60 percent of the named storms during a given year form from African waves. But about 85 percent of the category 3 and stronger hurricanes, the most intense and damaging ones, originate from African waves." And if it tracks to the Gulf, it could arrive there as soon as Sunday.

Strong storms used to appear not much earlier than August, but all bets are off this year--as we hope the federal government realizes. On prepardedness, Gulf oil gusher point man Admiral Thad Allen gave some mixed messages Friday, settling on "We have a very robust hurricane contingency plan." But it would take several days to shut things down and move people away--which in itself would increase the amount of oil gushing. A storm would also threaten the relief wells, and at best would slow down their completion.

A storm would probably also further scatter the oil. Nobody really knows--or could know--whether it would dissipate it or make it a great deal worse. But if such a storm threatens, this would be a good time to make the effort bigger and more visible--with Navy ships and skimmers offered from foreign countries.

While contrary to some interpretations, the oil gusher does not seem to be adversely affecting President Obama's standing, a storm in the Gulf is a necessary opportunity for bold leadership, for fast and appropriately scaled response.

As for ongoing efforts to deal with the continuing and accumulating damage,Climate Progress has published a detailed and reasoned case for why the berms won't work--the solution that Louisiana Governor Jindal has been touting, and that CNN has been covering like not building them is irresponsible and tragic. This case should have been made by the Obama administration weeks ago. Maybe it was, and wasn't reported, but let's face it--they have to find a way to communicate effectively. But there have also been reports that there aren't enough oil skimming ships out there, and that other countries have offered some. I'd like to see some answers on that.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Pass (Finally): House and Senate lawmakers reached agreement early Friday on the most far-reaching rewrite of financial rules since the Great Depression.

The final details, including creation of an agency to protect consumers in the financial marketplace and new regulations to reduce risk-taking by large banks and limit their trading of complex derivatives, were hashed out in a marathon 20-hour session that began Thursday morning."

(Think Progress has a handy chart on the details, and TPM provides more analysis. )

But the Fail is a big one--and in the short run, bigger: the Jobs bill which includes unemployment benefits extensions was stopped by GOPer fillibuster, with immediate and devastating effects for millions of people, affecting thousands of state jobs, and threatening any economic recovery.

This happened yesterday. Amazingly, there is almost nothing on the Internet news and blog sites today. (Except for something at Kos and this couple of cogent graphs at Time.) Another Fail.

Updates: So the new financial regulations will "bring new authority over Wall Street" and they won't change Wall Street much. And it's a game-changer. Uh huh.

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"The human mind is always wiser than its most atrocious deeds, since it can give them a name."

Alberto Manguel

photo: The aurora australis — the southern lights, as seen from the International Space Station.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The American People

A number of public opinion polls are touting themselves and their results this week, including one from Pew Research. One of their findings--extracted from a long survey about Americans' attitudes about the future and presented on the CNN crawl--should put many other opinions in perspective:

41% of American surveyed expect the Second Coming of Jesus Christ within the next forty years.

This is actually down slightly from 1999, when 44% expected it.


I admit to being (pleasantly) surprised that the media played the Rolling Stone revelations primarily as the failures of General McBeermouth rather than embarrassing comments about the Obama administration. But while President Obama's strong action and the strong statement that accompanied it have ended a crisis and boosted his image as a leader, those comments are eventually going to provide new fodder for the Rabid Right and their insurrectionist hysteria. Until now their insanity was focused on domestic delusions (and climate, or as they would put it, weather.) Those comments provide opportunity to revive the Dem image of being incompetent on military matters. For them it will be another reason this guy should be overthrown.

This business also focused attention on the Afghanistan war. I don't support it, but I support President Obama's plan to bring it to a conclusion by 2011. He didn't start it, but he has to end it. The immense amount of money it costs as well as the attention that should be placed on more important matters, not to mention the morality of it all, means to me that it must be ended on schedule, if not sooner.

Only the Rabid Right would now think that's a radical position. But then they can't be too happy either about the most effective TV ads now running that promote clean energy--a brilliant series sponsored by

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oil Apocalypse

The tragedy in the Gulf is an apocalypse for its non-human life. One response is simply to make sure it is seared into the hearts and minds of responsible humans, to increase the possibility that it not be repeated. So if we can find the news, we must attend. An AP story says that dolphins, sharks and other sea creatures are showing up closer to shore, apparently fleeing oiled waters farther out, like animals fleeing a forest fire. If these shallow waters become too crowded, fish could die from lack of oxygen.

The number of animals known dead--including more than 40 dolphins and other mammals--are likely a small fraction of the actual casualties. But the prospects of entire species are crossing from speculative fears to deep concern. Among them are the Gulf's sperm whales. Several species of sea turtles are vulnerable, and there is this as yet unconfirmed report based on an NPR interview that BP crews are refusing to remove sea turtles from oiled waters before the oil is burned. The most vulnerable turtle species is disproportionately showing up among dead turtles. (This report is also diaried at Daily Kos.) If this report is true, the response may include charges of violations of the Endangered Species Act. These are ancient species of turtles that in their native habitat live long lives.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Sobering Father's Day Quote

“We have no idea what sort of world our children will inherit, but we can no longer delude ourselves into supposing that it must resemble our own in reassuring ways.”

Tony Judt