Saturday, November 03, 2012

Sea Change: the Climate Crisis Comes Home

In Forty Days of Rain (2004), the first volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in Washington trilogy, the event that finally triggers acceptance of the climate crisis, and official action to confront it, was the flooding of Washington, D.C. as the result of--and I am not kidding--Tropical Storm Sandy meeting up with another northern weather system. 

But in 2012, Hurricane Sandy pretty much bypassed Washington to hit hard in New York City and New Jersey.  Storm surge caused massive flooding and sucked away parts of the coastline.  Of the Jersey shore, NBC anchor Brian Williams (who talked about summering there since his childhood) noted that "it's never going to be normal again."

It's still an open question whether the climate crisis awareness is going to recede with this storm's flood waters, but so far it has been more than the usual half dozen stories about whether or not this particular storm can be attributed to climate change. 

This time some official voices had something to say.  Governor Cuomo of New York didn't want to get into the climate crisis debate--he just said that it's time to recognize that we're in a period of "extreme weather events."   Of, as he put it, a storm of the century every two years. 

Mayor Bloomberg of New York was more explicit.  He titled his oped endorsing President Obama "A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change."  He began it: "The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast -- in lost lives, lost homes and lost business -- brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief."

It makes sense that these state and city leaders would be the first to make these explicit statement about the future, rather than those in Washington.  It is the states and municipalities--particularly on the coasts-- that have already been trying to deal with how they will protect their citizens against the effects of the climate crisis.

Here in Arcata several weeks ago, another official step was taken towards developing plans to deal with the expected rise of the oceans and therefore Humboldt Bay.  The other local governments and their agencies, as well as appropriate state agencies, are all involved.  That's been going on in various states and municipalities for years.

It's also logical that the Bloomberg and Cuomo statements emboldened a certain kind of conservative to add their voices on behalf of climate crisis realism: business people, particularly in insurance industries but also in others that have to deal with these realities in their business plans.  So it shouldn't be too shocking that the headline It's Global Warming, Stupid appears not in Mother Jones but in Business Week.

Particularly Governor Cuomo's statements have followed the pattern I've been predicting for years.  The first calls for action would be about the effects.  Cuomo was explicit in this language--he talked about dealing with effects while we debate the causes.  This makes sense, especially on state and local levels.  But it does suggest the danger of ignoring the causes--which will continue to cause worse and worse effects.

Up until the last year or so, I tried to make the point that in a way the climate crisis was an evolutionary test for humanity: with its genesis in what humans did without understanding its future effects, it tested whether we were now ready to take the next step as an intelligent species by acting to forestall a crisis that we could anticipate and predict but that had not yet happened. We would address this crisis before it could harm and weaken us, and in ways that would strengthen us. This success could take us into a new era, in which many more things might become possible for humanity. To wait would be to risk ultimate failure, and at the least an expenditure of much more in resources, societal strain and especially suffering.

But a year or two ago, I had to concede that humanity was not going to pass that test this time either, as it had failed to do so in the decades before the widely foreseen world wars. The climate crisis effects had already begun and so much more was already in the pipeline for decades to come--it was too late to avoid dire effects (as a brace of books--like McKibben's Eaarth--confirmed.)  The next test then will be confronting both parts of this crisis at the same time: the cause and the effects.  The temptation will be to ignore dealing with the causes--and possibly even making them worse.

We may just be approaching the starting line on admitting the effects.  The other reason that a real sea change in confronting the climate crisis may develop, is another outcome of this storm hitting New York rather than Washington. While New York is not the political capital of the U.S., it is the media capital of at least the U.S.  Moreover, as a telethon on Friday that brought out media and entertainment stars showed, the impact of this storm is perhaps more profound because these media figures not only work in New York, they live in New York and in the region.  Many of them grew up in New York state or New Jersey.  The impact on generations of family, on the geography of their childhoods and their current lives, brings home the climate crisis in ways that it perhaps would not for the politicians of Washington, with their multiple homes and scattered ambitions.     

Friday, November 02, 2012

Into the Weekend Election Overview

As the weekend begins, the polls are close enough--and the circumstances uncertain enough--that the outcome of the presidential election next week cannot be confidently predicted (though I confess I feel pretty confident about it.)  The latest numbers however are good for President Obama, and some are very good.  Of the swing state polls released Friday he is behind in none and leading in almost all.  Particularly interesting are the states where he is at 50% or above, including the NBC poll in Ohio which shows him at 51% (to Romney's 45%.) 

The Ohio polls are pretty consistent.  Florida polls much less so.  Some new ones show Obama with a narrow lead, others favor Romney by more.  By poll average, Colorado is very close, but some information coming out of the state suggests that it isn't really that close--Obama is well ahead.  The numbers people do agree that Obama is the favorite at the moment, though narrowly. (Nate Silver has his chances back up above 80%.)  And that whatever tiny momentum that has shown up in the polls favors him.

But whatever the numbers say or whatever they actually are at this point, it is pretty clear that in the past week, Mitt Romney's rationales for his candidacy have collapsed.

Romney's emphasis on jobs and the economy was coming up against all new economic indicators suggesting consumer confidence is up and the economy is growing.  Then on Friday the jobs report showed a greater than expected number of jobs added, boosting the average job gain to above 150,000, one of Nate Silver's thresholds for reelection.  If the issue is to continue on the path to recovery, then the advantage is to President Obama.

In Romney's most recent Etch-a-Sketch, he's been portraying himself as bipartisan, while President Obama is incapable of bipartisan cooperation, of working with the other side.  Then came hurricane Sandy, and President Obama working closely with GOPer Gov Chris Christie.  This imagery melds with another difference in this campaign: President Obama's insistence that government, and the federal government, can help ordinary people.  His leadership in the storm recovery says it in reality.  And it all is perfect illustration with the central phrase in his campaign from the beginning: We're all in this together.

So the President was seen being nonpartisan and effective, while the supposedly nonpart Romey was engaged in political sniping, and dodging reporters' questions about FEMA.

 Part of Romney's case on effectiveness is that President Obama is too ideological and far left.  The Colin Powell endorsement had already severely weakened that impression, and then came the endorsement of Independent NY Mayor Bloomberg.  (This by the way may have an influence I hadn't thought of, mentioned by a political pundit on msnbc: there are a lot of New Yorkers now living in Florida, and many are independents.  Bloomberg--and what Obama's FEMA is doing to help New York--can make a difference with them.)

This image is also belied by the rationally conservative Brit magazine The Economist, which endorsed President Obama (however grudgingly).  Though this is unlikely to influence a lot of American voters, it does point up a big problem for Romney, even if he were to win.  A lot of the people he would have to work with don't like him, and a lot of those whose opinions matter simply disdain him and the intense dishonesty of his campaign.

The latest evidence of this was Friday Washington Post editorial which began:"Through all the flip-flops, there has been one consistency in the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney: a contempt for the electorate."  The rest of this long editorial details his record of expressing this contempt throughout this campaign.

So what does Romney have left?  A core of Rabid Rightists frothing at the mouth with barely repressed racism and aggressively delusional zealotry, along with the strict ideological voter.  Augmented by corporate and financial interests and those controlled by them.  The low-information, low ability to reason voter.  Apart from those who will vote against Obama (and only tangentially or accidentally, for Romney) are those who will simply not vote, or will vote for a candidate who is neither Romney nor Obama.  

Plus the further uncertainties of the vote itself: the effects of the storm suddenly added to the effects of voter suppression and intimidation.  Voter suppression is visibly underway in Florida early voting, where 3 to 5 hour lines in Democratic areas are reported. 

So in many respects, the election is already in the hands of voters--especially the determined ones.  But there's the possibility to watch for this weekend: does the Romney rationale visibly wilt, does it become increasingly obvious that America understands it needs to save itself from him? 

There's also President Obama in recent speeches, turning on the rhetorical skills that he had suppressed and that some suggested were gone.  For example, he brought together his themes of fairness and opportunity, of we're all in this together, with his signature theme of hope, partly by quoting FDR: “'In the strength of great hope we must shoulder our common load.' That’s the strength we need today. That’s the hope I’m asking you to share.” Will he make even more Americans comfortable this weekend with returning him for a well-deserved second term?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Our Saving Grace

Fresh from leading the federal disaster response to the approval of 78% of Americans, and with the endorsement of the Independent Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, President Obama talks about who needs a champion in Washington, and who is our saving grace.

Values for the Future

From New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's oped endorsing President Obama for re-election this year:

The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast -- in lost lives, lost homes and lost business -- brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.

One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.

One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.

One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress -- and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him.

(Michael R. Bloomberg is mayor of New York and founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mr. Slick Pretends to Be Mother Theresa

I just refilled my two hummingbird feeders, and there's a hummingbird at each one as I write this.  My day is made.  We usually have a pair that hangs out here, no more, no less.  Glad to see them both back today.

Anyway.  I woke up with (in addition to other less political stuff) the sense that today somebody was going to find out that the Romney campaign had itself bought some of the canned food and "donations" it awkwardly paraded at its rally in Ohio with Romney yesterday.  And sure enough:

"...campaign aides reportedly spent $5,000 at a local Wal-Mart on supplies that could be put on display. When supporters arrived at the rally-turned-relief event, they were treated to the 10-minute video about Romney’s life, which was first unveiled at the RNC. The event ended with supporters lined up to hand over supplies and meet Romney. But according to BuzzFeed, this donation process was also staged:

Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking, “What if we dropped off our donations up front?” The volunteer gestured toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate. “Just grab something,” he said.  Two teenage boys retrieved a jar of peanut butter each, and got in line. When it was their turn, they handed their “donations” to Romney. He took them, smiled, and offered an earnest “Thank you.”

The Red Cross, meanwhile, said they were grateful for the supplies but encouraged people to donate money or blood as a more efficient way to help the relief effort."

This is the Romney campaign in a nutshell: flackery, fakery, dishonesty--and the wrong solution.  Mr. Slick.

Today President Obama visited hard-hit areas in New Jersey with his new BF, Gov. Chris Christie.  Swing state polls today were quite good for the President, with two showing him holding a five point lead in Ohio.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


As the huge effects of Sandy are assessed, damages repaired and the long work of recovery begins (even as some places--like Chicago-- are still feeling direct effects of the storm), Jonathan Chiat has a devastating piece at New York called Why Democrats Are Right to Politicize Sandy:

"What you are going to see over the next week is an overt effort by Democrats to politicize the issue of disaster response. They’re right to do it. Conservatives are already complaining about this, but the attempt to wall disaster response off from politics in the aftermath of a disaster is an attempt to insulate Republicans from the consequences of their policies.

The Republican proposal to eviscerate this wide array of public functions is one of the underdiscussed questions of the election. Republicans have defended it using a very clever trick. They don’t explain how they would allocate the massive cuts to all these programs. When President Obama explains what would happen if those cuts were allocated in an across-the-board fashion, Republicans scream bloody murder. And when any single one of those programs enters the political debate, they can deny plans to make any specific cuts..."

He cites Romney stating during the primaries that FEMA should be abolished.  The federal budget Romneyryan propose has no room even for NOAA weather forecasting.  No wonder that in today's campaign event masquerading as a food collection for flood relief, Romney could say nothing even intelligible about how government should respond to the effects of this storm.  Chiat concludes:

"The GOP is the party arguing for splurging on a long vacation at the beach rather than repairing the roof. Naturally, they want to have this argument only when it’s sunny and never when it’s raining. There’s no reason to accommodate them."

Meanwhile President Obama is on the job coordinating the federal response, which the states sorely need, earning the praise of NJ Governor and Romney surrogate Chris Christie.  For Independents looking for a bipartisan President, they should look to the President's trip to New Jersey tomorrow.

President Obama also visited Red Cross headquarters today, and is fully supporting this non-government agency as the lead agency in disaster relief.  The Red Cross in turn is asking for financial contributions, and counseling against ad hoc food collections and distributions--precisely of the kind that Romney is lamely organizing in Ohio.

Lies and Defiance

It was bad enough when Mitt Romney lied in his stump speech, saying he'd read somewhere that Jeep was thinking about sending all its American jobs to China.  Jeep--through its owner, Chrysler, denied it immediately.  The facts were even opposite: Jeep is increasing its American production jobs--by over 1100, just in Ohio.

But this is a man who wants to be President in the worst way.  The worst way includes lying over and over, no matter what the facts are, no matter who corrects him.  Now he's repeating this same lie in a TV ad in Ohio.  The Obama campaign quickly issued the above corrective ad.

This level of lying, while hardly out of character for Romney and his campaign, pretty much signals that he knows he's in trouble in Ohio.  Partly because early voting there is going gangbusters, and it's going against him. A Time Magazine poll suggests it may be a 60-30 split.  If that holds, and early voting reaches the expected 45% of total votes, Romney would have to wrack up 60% on election day.

The evidence is clearer in Iowa and Nevada, where President Obama is building a big early voting lead, and Colorado, where it is smaller but still an advantage.  And reports coming out of the first few days of early voting in Florida are very encouraging.  By Saturday, the Obama early vote had almost erased the GOPer advantage in their traditional absentee votes.  And then came Sunday, with an enormous outpouring from black communities.  Black churches, with only one Sunday of early voting allowed, organized buses and car pools.  Lines began to form at 7 a.m. Some slept in tents outside polling places the night before.

"I think the going sentiment was that Obama wouldn’t get the same rally cry this year as last time," said Rev. Eugene W. Diamond of the Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, "but Florida woke up a sleeping giant that’s showing its defiance. I hate to say it, but Republicans probably would have done better if they had not tampered with early voting."

But African Americans may not be the only group disrespected by the GOP to be defiantly awakened.  In what may be the best news yet for the Obama campaign, a new poll shows Latinos are fired up and ready to vote at a high percentage (87%), and they favor President Obama by a 73-21 margin.

Monday, October 29, 2012


At the moment we share darkness with the East Coast.  It will be hours yet before the full impact of the storm on the New York area is known, if then.  But it looks like there's enough infrastructure damage to have serious lingering effects.  The Jersey coast was hit hard, and power outages are widespread at least into central Pennsylvania.  Yet to come is the impact on New England and the Great Lakes area, where there may be significant flooding.

By morning light, even as violent weather continues, the recovery efforts in many places will begin.  And the election campaign talk will resume.  As to where that stands, here's an observation about the storm coverage that may say something.  On the lamentable cable system we have here, the cable "news" stations are grouped thusly:  MSNBC (politics), CNBC (Wall Street), FOX (politics), CNN ("news"/politics), HLN (gossip, sensationalism.)  Of those five channels, four had almost continuous coverage of the storm on Monday. (Though CNBC paused once for what the reporter said was today's "real story," the departure of two top execs from Apple.)  The one exception was FOX, which hammered at the scandal that only that channel believes is real, accusing the Obama administration of a range of misdeeds concerning the violence in Benghazi.  

photo: flood water pours into a PATH train station in Hoboken, New Jersey, which as night fell was completely cut off and largely flooded.


As I write this, an intensified hurricane Sandy is about to make landfall in New Jersey, and the effects are just beginning.  Nothing so far indicates that predictions about the breadth and power of this storm were exaggerated.  There already has been several feet of snow and blizzard conditions in West Virginia and parts of Virginia, and waves along the ocean along the New York coast are dauntingly high already, when the storm surge has yet to begin.

So my thoughts are with my friends in central Pennsylvania that looks still to be on the storm's direct path, and family and friends in western Pennsylvania at the predicted edge of the storm but well within its effects of rain and wind.  I kept thinking of one of my sisters and her house at the bottom of a hill, close to a little creek.  And Margaret's son and granddaughter, and one of my nieces in Pittsburgh. 

But the most vulnerable are those with the least resources, who live closest to the edge in normal times.  We're fortunate to have President Obama, closely monitoring the storm and the needs in the affected areas from the Situation Room in the White House.  I just received an email, usually a campaign donation solicitation, but this time it's for the Red Cross.

We're fortunate as well to have Craig Fugate, who President Obama appointed to head FEMA.  He's a very impressive man.  He has returned FEMA to a truly professional and adept emergency management agency. 

Stay safe.

Getting Ready for Frankenstorm

Even now, some 24 hours or more before its expected peak, the numbers for the East Coast Frankenstorm are mind-numbing.  A half million people evacuated.  Some 60 million people potentially affected directly.Two of the world's major cities-- Washington and New York--virtually shut down.  Long Island suburbanities sandbagging.  Portable generators being shipped to the coast from inland stores.  Winds whipping the coast and down the streets of New York more than a day before its arrival.

Visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington on Sunday, President Obama vowed the federal government would "respond big and respond fast" after Sandy had passed. Mitt Romney famously suggested that FEMA be abolished.

President Obama has already declared that an emergency exists in Washington D.C., the states of New York and Maryland, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which triggers federal aid.

Indications now are Hurricane Sandy will make landfall in the Atlantic City area.  The Frankenstorm that is resulting from the clash of the hurricane with a winter storm system and other factors (including high tides and a full moon) is the second largest in area ever recorded.

President Obama added: "one of the things that Americans do is we pull together and we help out one another. And so, there may be elderly populations in your area. Check on your neighbor, check on your friend. Make sure that they are prepared. If we do, then we’re going to get through this storm just fine. But we’re going to have to make sure that we are vigilant, and vigilant for a couple of days. Don’t anticipate that just because the immediate storm has passed that we’re not going to have some potential problems in a lot of these communities going forward through the week."

At this point we can only hope that the most vulnerable are protected, and that this potentially huge and long-lasting storm, with its many different threats spares the many lives in its path.

Giants WIN (Don't Clinch) World Series!

Sergio Romo, the pitcher who was asked to step in as the Giants' closer when their epic closer was lost for the season, struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th inning, with the Giants ahead 4-3.  They won the fourth game and the World Series.

Matt Cain pitched a solid 6 innings, and both Jeremy Affeldt (with 4 straight strikeouts in 8th and 9th) and Romo were brilliant in relief.  While he was a key factor in how the Giants pitched and fielded (pitch location and fielding position) Buster Posey hadn't been a hitting factor in the Series until his 2-run homer.

Then in the 10th, utility infielder Ryan Theriot--the unlikeliest designated hitter ever, doing it for the first time--had his first hit of the Series, a single.  Then the Giants did what they did to win in the postseason: they moved the runner to second on Brandon Crawford's sacrifice.  And it was Marco Scutaro who drove in the winning run with a single.  Scutaro--who at 35 had never been to the World Series--was credited for his clubhouse inspiration at the end of the season, helping to make this particular set of players a close-knit team.  Then he became a hitting machine in the postseason.  This was the biggest.

On paper, this may look like the Giants' 2010 win, but for me, this one was much more fun to watch.  It came down to a Series with great pitching, but it was the way the Giants played--the way they scored runs, the way they fielded--it was the kind of baseball that I remember that the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates played.

  Bruce Bochy made incredibly apt managerial moves.  Perhaps the greatest one was not to mess with the chemistry this team had to end the season.  Pablo Sandoval was MVP of the Series, with a record-tying number of total hits to go along with his three homers in the first game.  He talked later about the slow process of regaining strength after injuries during the season.  He'd played so poorly in 2010 that he wasn't used much in the postseason, and another hero of this year--Barry Zito--didn't pitch at all.  They persevered, as did players that had been traded around for years, found themselves here, and jelled as a team.

So for quite a few other reasons as well, this was a fun team to watch these last few months and particularly these past few weeks. 

BUT I can't let pass this bizarre misuse of language that has infected announcers and even ESPN, which is usually careful to be precise in its language.  Why do they persist in saying that the Giants "clinched" the World Series?  A team can clinch a pennant when they are ahead in the standings by 10 games and there are 9 left to go--or when no combination of their losses and other teams' wins can prevent them from winning at season's end.  A team can clinch a championship when no other team can mathematically win enough games to overtake their lead, but everybody still plays out the season.

But when you win 4 games of a 7 game series, and the series is therefore over: you have WON the World Series.  There's no clinching in the World Series.  This is baseball!

Below: fireworks in San Francisco because the Giants WON the World Series (SF Chronicle photo)

Final Arguments

Whether newspaper endorsements move voters, they do make arguments in support of their choice.  So for those who come to their opinions and make their choices at least partly on the basis of convincing arguments, here is a sample from major newspaper endorsements for the reelection of President Obama:

''Mr. Obama’s policies across the board — the environment, social policy, taxes and immigration — offer a more generous vision for America. The issues he has fought for, coupled with the lingering doubts about Mr. Romney’s persona and his true intentions, make this a clear choice."
Miami Herald

Mr. Obama is committed to the only approach that can succeed: a balance of entitlement reform and revenue increases. Mr. Romney, by contrast, has embraced his party’s reality-defying ideology that taxes can always go down but may never go up.’’
Washington Post

"Obama has worked to protect vulnerable Americans -- the uninsured, gays, the children of illegal immigrants. He's governed with a philosophy that all Americans deserve at least the opportunity for success, and he's advocated for tax reform and an educational infrastructure that would promote fairness."
Charlotte Observer

This is an election that begs the candidates to demonstrate what they plan to do moving forward. Neither has done enough to lead us to think voters on Nov. 6 aren't ... being asked to make a leap of faith. But Obama's record of accomplishment under trying circumstances and his blueprint for a second term make him the best pick.''
Denver Post

"We wish the economic recovery was more vigorous, and we would like the president to present a sharper vision for a second term. But Obama has capably steered the nation through an incredibly difficult period at home and abroad, often with little help from Congress. The next four years will not be easy ... but Obama has been tested by harsh circumstances."
Tampa Bay Times

Our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first."
Salt Lake Tribune

"It's irresponsible to seek a deep, permanent tax cut when the government is deeply in the red. And Romney would exacerbate the situation by spending extravagantly on defense even as the last of the Bush-era wars ends.''
Los Angeles Times

"President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.

For these and many other reasons, we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and express the hope that his victory will be accompanied by a new Congress willing to work for policies that Americans need."
New York Times

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frankenstorm Rising

The Frankenstorm as some are calling it, is poised to wreak havoc and create significant damage along the U.S. East Coast. 

The beginning of it is Hurricane Sandy, which has already killed nearly 50 people in the Caribbean.  It is huge and powerful. As it moves north and interacts with cold air, it will cease being an ordinary hurricane and grow larger: the Frankenstorm.

   Here are excerpts from Weather Underground  Dr. Jeff Master's blog post on this:

Sandy's diameter of tropical storm-force winds are predicted to expand from 660 miles to 760 miles by Sunday afternoon. This will increase the total amount of wind energy of the storm, keeping the storm surge threat very high. ..Sandy's large wind field will drive a damaging storm surge of 3 - 6 feet to the right of where the center makes landfall. These storm surge heights will be among the highest ever recorded along the affected coasts, and will have the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage. The latest set of 00Z (8 pm EDT) and 06Z (2 am EDT) computer model runs have come into better agreement on the timing and landfall location of Sandy. Our two top models, the ECMWF and GFS, both call for landfall between 10 pm Monday night and 4 am Tuesday morning, with the center coming ashore between Delaware and New York City.
The Washington DC area probably will receive strong winds lasting at least 12 hours, lots of rain and possible flooding.  Power outages are expected throughout the DC/Virginia/Maryland area.  At the moment some of the worst effects may be felt in New York City and Long Island.  In New York, there is potential for sea surge flooding that could reach into the subway system, and could damage the underground power grid that powers the city.

Newsday in Long Island says:The big difference here is we have a cold front to the west that's associated with a fairly strong jet stream in the upper atmosphere," Stark said."The trough with the jet stream is going to help pull Sandy up the coast and allow the two systems to interact. Rather than having Sandy go out over the ocean, it's going to help pull it back towards the coast, and then they will join when they get here and become one system."

By the time Sandy gets close to New York, most of its energy will be coming from the jet stream, not warm southern waters, Stark said."At this point it really doesn't matter" whether the eye of Sandy strikes Long Island "because the area of fairly intense winds is going to be over a 100- to 200-kilometer [60- to 120-mile] region," Colle said. And while the storm won't be a nor'easter, it will mimic the duration and wind direction of a nor'easter.

"A hurricane can be in and out in 12 hours," Colle said. "This one we're talking perhaps longer than 24 hours where we have potential for damaging winds."

 On its current track, the storm goes into New England.  Masters' expects the cost of damages to total several billions of dollars.

Effects of the storms could last weeks, and that could have completely unpredictable effects on the election.

Something that is predictable: Climate crisis realists will point to this as an example of the "storms on steroids" predicted by climate scientists.  And deniers will deny it.  And the media will take both equally seriously.

Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, there's been a large 7.7 earthquake in the Pacific off British Columbia with several significant aftershocks.  There are tsunami warnings and evacuations in Alaska and Hawaii, and a tsunami advisory here on the North Coast of California.

Race to the Bottom

"With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, "writes satirist Andy Borowitz, " there is a deep divide among Republican leaders over whether to emphasize misogyny or racism as the campaign’s closing theme."

That choice became easier on Saturday with the release of an AP poll which shows that racism specifically aimed at black people has increased in America since 2008, to now infect a majority of the population." In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell."
This includes nearly 80% of Republicans who expressed explicit racism.

So the best way to fire up the GOPer base is appeals to racism.  That way you get both genders.

But as Borowitz suggests, why not both?  "Hoping to heal a possible rift with so little time left until Election Day, the R.N.C. chairman Reince Priebus said today that there is room for both views in today’s Republican Party: “Our ‘big tent’ message to voters should be this: come for the misogyny, stay for the racism.”

Behind the joke is the depressing reality: the appeals to racism will continue and intensify in the usual race to the bottom as election day approaches.

Yet there are so many different currents going on.  Polls suggest that almost all the Dem Senate candidates are doing well, including (suddenly) Bob Kerrey in Nebraska, long considered out of it completely.  Nate Silver at the NY Times insists that Ohio polls show President Obama ahead by an average of 2.5 points. "There are no precedents in the database for a candidate losing with a two- or three-point lead in a state when the polling volume was that rich... It is misinformed to refer to Ohio as a toss-up. Mr. Obama is the favorite there, and because of Ohio's central position in the Electoral College, he is therefore the overall favorite in the election."