Blue Water Rising: It Could be Worse

Scientists are increasing their projections of how high sea level is going to rise, and how fast. (Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Scientists are increasing their projections of how high sea level is going to rise, and how fast. (Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

The good news is that the mainstream media are beginning to report the bad news about climate change and rising sea levels. Witness these headlines from just the past few days:

  • Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change” — The Miami Herald
  • U.S. Flood Risk Could Be Worse Than We Thought” — Time
  • Climate Change Will Cause Increased Flooding In Coastal Cities” — Forbes
  • The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future” — The Washington Post

The bad news is that even now, the pundits cannot stop using the weasel words, false equivalencies and unsourced generalizations that give the politicians and other willfully ignorant people enough room to act as if nothing important is happening. Continue reading

American Exceptionalism: Not the Rule Any More

America-Firsters hated it when Will McAvoy deflated the country’s standing in the world on HBO’s The Newsroom. They hate it even more when academic studies show everything he said was true. (HBO Photo)

America-Firsters hated it when Will McAvoy deflated the country’s standing in the world on HBO’s The Newsroom. They hate it even more when academic studies show everything he said was true. (HBO Photo)

In the first episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, anchorman Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) delivers a rant that begins: “There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.  We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, No. 4 in labor force and No. 4 in exports.” Writer Aaron Sorkin was accused of everything but jihad for having his character express such negative thoughts about America, and the program was heartily loathed during its run by real Americans. Now, three years later, a new academic study confirms what Will had to say. And more. Continue reading

The Fires This Time

The Rim Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada burned over a quarter million acres in 2013. Seemed amazing then, now it’s just another day in the woods (and on the tundra). (US Forest Service photo)

The Rim Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada burned over a quarter million acres in 2013. Seemed amazing then, now it’s just another day in the woods (and on the tundra). (US Forest Service photo)

An appalling amount of the Northern Hemisphere is on fire. At the beginning of this month, 314 wildfires were raging in Alaska alone. They have seared 5 million acres so far this year and have torched up to half a million acres in a single day. Meanwhile, to the east in Canada’s Northwest Territory, hundreds of fires were raging in the permafrost zone, having covered over two million acres by the end of June. The forested northern provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan were similarly afflicted — 522 fires in northern Saskatchewan alone by June 30, nearly four times as many as last year in the same period. Continue reading

Shortest Book Ever: Oil Company Ethics

An exposition of the ethical principles that guide the oil industry. The catalog of their offenses comes via 18-wheeler. (Photo by Colin Dunn/Flickr)

An exposition of the ethical principles that guide the oil industry. The catalog of their offenses comes via 18-wheeler. (Photo by Colin Dunn/Flickr)

Stress reveals character among humans, and the ongoing, slow-motion implosion of the great American shale oil revolution is throwing stark light on the nature of the humans involved in the oil industry. (I refuse, contrary to the shorthand title of this piece, to attribute human characteristics to corporations. They have none. The people who run them sometimes do.) One should not expect much of people who take as their life’s work the wresting of the planet’s last morsels of carbon from the earth so that we can burn it and destroy the ecosystem that nourishes us, but still: they live among us, they raise children, they pretend to share with us at least some fundamental values. Continue reading

The Crash of 2015: Vancouver! Is This It?

mt st helens usgs

Mount St. Helens, giving a preview of events to come. When, exactly, would the main event occur? Therein lies the lesson. (USGS Photo)

On the last day of his life, May 18, 1980, David Johnston was probably tired of waiting for Mount St. Helens to erupt, much as some of us are sick of waiting for the global bubble economy to blow up. And he was no doubt tired, as are we, of warning people that it was going to blow. Back in March, swarms of earthquakes rising from deep in the earth indicated magma rising and caused volcanologists such as Johnston to proclaim, “It’s going to blow!” It didn’t. Then the mountain burped a 7,000-foot-high plume of ash. “It’s going to blow,” they said. It didn’t. By mid-April the mountain was burping ash and steam a hundred times a day, and bulging massively toward the north. Still it didn’t blow. In fact, in early May, it quieted down. It had become a tourist Mecca.

Then, on May 18, it blew. Not straight up but laterally, to the north, where Johnston was watching from the ridge of a different mountain six miles away. He had time only to grab his radio and shout to his headquarters (in Vancouver, Washington), “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!.” Then, in less than a minute, the first pyroclastic flow — hot gases and rock, over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, moving at 700 miles per hour — hit him, and he was gone. Continue reading

Warnings Confirmed: Terror Attacks Plague US on July 4

Fireworks_Detroit

Using high explosives as a distraction, extremists launched attacks in almost all major American cities on July 4, as predicted.

Grave and repeated warnings from top US security officials about the danger of terror attacks on the July 4 weekend were confirmed by what appears to this writer to be a coordinated series of attacks in virtually all major US cities. Many of the attacks used explosives as a distraction, and one of them was a suicide attack.

Ground zero for the carnage was Chicago, where nine people were shot and killed, and 46 wounded, some of them while watching explosive “fireworks” displays. A source close to the investigation (who does not want to be identified because of an aversion to ridicule) says the attackers appear to be affiliated with a group known as Illinois Students Independence Society, a shadowy organization that controls its militants with the Internet. Continue reading

Guns Don’t Kill People: Confederate Flags Kill People

When this battle flag of the 11th Mississippi Infantry was carried up Cemetery Ridge in Pickett's Charge, it must have felt about as friendless as the "Confederate flag" feels today. BTW, what everybody is arguing about today is not the flag of the Confederacy, but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

When this battle flag of the 11th Mississippi Infantry was carried up Cemetery Ridge in Pickett’s Charge, it must have felt about as friendless as the “Confederate flag” feels today. BTW, what everybody is arguing about today is not the flag of the Confederacy, but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

We have just seen another massive, and masterly, prestidigitation by the people who love guns and dislike poor people, and who understand that large majorities of Americans dislike gun violence and are poor. The continued existence of free and open elections in this country — albeit less free and less open every year — constrain these people from talking too openly about their vision for America, i.e. one nation, under God, armed to the teeth with people dying in the streets. So they obfuscate, and misdirect, and bloviate and lay down smoke.

And when confronted with a truly obscene massacre of innocent black people by a white  whack job with a racist manifesto and a gun, right wingnuts have to work overtime to come up with a diversion to keep the chattering class from talking about their manifesto. This time, after nine people at prayer were gunned down in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, they knew they were going to have to be really good to get this off TV and out of the minds of Americans before any damage was done to their Second Amendment Rights. Continue reading

The Crash of 2015: On Track, Behind Schedule

As demonstrated in Paris in 1895, what matters is not whether the train wreck was on time. What matters is that it’s a wreck. (Wikipedia Photo)

As demonstrated in Paris in 1895, what matters is not whether the train wreck was on time. What matters is that it’s a wreck. (Wikipedia Photo)

The dominoes are toppling, just as we have been expecting for nearly a year now, but slower than we thought. The fact-resistant strain of humans (Thank you, Borowitz Report) now in charge of the world are trying to use vast amounts of money to counteract gravity, and, counterintuitively, succeeded in slowing the dominoes’ fall. But not for long.

To review our expectations of last summer: the hideous decline rate of fracking wells (of up to 90% in three years) was forcing frackers to borrow huge amounts of money to put up large numbers of new wells at a breakneck pace in order to preserve the illusion (it was always an illusion) of a revolution in American oil leading to prosperity and “energy independence.” On average, it cost the frackers over $4 to get $1 of revenue in the door during the first quarter of this year. A year ago, with oil commanding $100 a barrel, they were still spending $2. As the old joke goes, the only way to make any money when you’re losing on every transaction is to make up for it with volume. But since most of the money spent was capital expenditure — i.e. new wells — their operating statements showed profits and nobody looked at the balance sheets. Continue reading

Pacific Apocalypse: The Great Dying Continues

A passel of starving sea lions, rescued from the beach by volunteers, in a California rehab center. They get a lot of attention because they’re cute. But crabs, oysters and anchovies are dying just as fast.

A passel of starving sea lion pups, rescued from the beach by volunteers, in a California rehab center. They get a lot of attention because they’re cute. But crabs, oysters and anchovies are dying just as fast.

The Pacific Ocean appears to be turning toxic to all life, a prospect with unimaginably dire consequences for humanity. News stories about it are fragmented, and slotted into the “Environment” category, and thus easily ignored by the rich and famous and their news channels. (Breaking News: Donald Trump Running Mate May be Caitlyn Jenner!) In just the latest manifestation of this calamity, what may be the largest bloom of toxic algae ever detected is poisoning sea life from California to British Columbia — with toxin from it detected not far off Alaska. Crab and clam fisheries have been shut down in two states so far, and the so-called red tide is still growing. In Monterey Bay, California, the concentration of domoic acid secreted by the algae is the highest ever recorded. Continue reading

There is No Such Thing as a Civil War

War used to be up close and personal. Then, with artillery, we achieved enough detachment that people started to like it. (Photo by walterpro/Flickr)

War used to be up close and personal. Then, with artillery, we achieved enough detachment that people started to like it. (Photo by walterpro/Flickr)

Neocons and candidates for president and others trying to establish their patriotic bona fides bray for war — with ISIS, or Iran, or China or Russia, virtually anyone will do. When those of us who have either experienced war, or read a book about it, object that to choose war is lunacy, they condescend to reassure us. It will be a surgical strike, they say; or we will just train and advise a surrogate country, and it will do the messy part; we’ll use air power, so neither you nor any of your children (Wait, none of them is a pilot, right? Good.) need worry about it. Continue reading