Poster of the day


Click to enlarge

Is there truly a new normal? Not just the one that Mohammed El-Erian writes about. A slower economy – even in the largest of those beasts roaming the world?

I’m almost as bored hearing the word “millenial” as an excuse on Bloomberg News as I am hearing about liquidiity. Though that last characteristic is measurable. Millenials – supposedly – have learned the foolishness of big cars, big houses, maybe even big jobs.

Have they learned enough about our crap politics to jump into grassroots participation to rid our nation of Citizens United SCOTUS decisions, an electoral college system designed to keep gentlemen farmers [slave owners] safe and happy, finish the job started after WW2 and remove religion not only from interference with democracy but require “sacred” trusts to pay their fair share of taxes, and thoroughly reform and simplify our tax code to require sacred cows to pay their fair share of taxes.

Lots more out there. Like protecting this small ball of mud we live upon and guaranteeing a healthy planet for future generations. No shortage of tasks demanding only grassroots participation. That’s above and beyond whining on social media BTW.

And speaking of that war and its aftermath, the countries that suffered most through that war went on to make many of the changes I find myself still suggesting 70 years later. Oh, they were under consideration here in the United States; but, I guess not having had to fight an occupying army in Los Angeles or Boston was sufficient to have our focus turned by an agglomeration of sleazy politicians into “defending” our two-party system from dangerous radicalism, the thoughts of new ways of ordering our politics.

Scumbags won that ideological war and the victories since then have been in spite of our political superstructure – not because of our Constitution.

Thanks, SmartAlix

At least federal judges are willing to serve the public good in Kentucky

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April Miller and Karen Roberts

A county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds was held in contempt of court by a U.S. federal judge on Thursday and sent to jail.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was led away by U.S. marshals who confirmed she was under arrest.

“The court doesn’t do this lightly,” District Court Judge David Bunning said in ordering that she be taken into custody.

Bunning also said his earlier injunction ordering Davis to issue marriage licenses applied to everyone and not just the four couples whose suit in July had accused Davis of not doing her job.

Davis has refused to issue licenses to any couples, gay or straight, since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution, citing her Christian beliefs.

Before and during the hearing, about 200 demonstrators on both sides of the issue gathered outside the courthouse, some chanting slogans and many holding signs. As word of the ruling emerged, supporters of same-sex marriage erupted in cheers.

Davis’ seven deputies still face their own reckoning as Bunning assigned each of them attorneys and said their fate would be determined at a 1:45 pm EDT hearing, warning them they could face fines or jail…

The hearing in Ashland, Kentucky, lasted just over two hours. Crying at times, Davis maintained that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman and she was unable to recognize same-sex marriages…

Also testifying was April Miller, who along with her partner Karen Jacobs had three times tried to get a marriage license from Davis’ office. They were one of four couples who sued Davis in July.

Throw away the key!

I have no sympathy for someone who runs for elective office and then refuses to obey the law of the land.

This is an individual who individually and as a member of her religion claims that violating the civil rights of other Americans is somehow godly. Just plain old-fashioned crap. The same lies used to hinder normal lives for people of color, of minority religions, of nationalities somehow unacceptable to this year’s favorite flavor of bigot.

She gets no sympathy from this jailbird who willingly entered cells in a half-dozen states because local law decided whether or not someone could go to school or sit down and have a crappy soft drink – based on the color of their skin.

I never expected to see anyone like Ms. Davis sitting-in alongside me. And never did. That’s not condemnation of all religious folk. You should know that, by now. Second-best time I ever had in a jail cell was discussing religious history with a Catholic priest busted in the same demonstration in Chicago.

She adds to the number of people who reject her kind of religious beliefs out-of-hand because of her denial of civil rights, civil liberties, for all Americans.

UPDATE: 5 of 6 deputy clerks say they will start issuing kicenses tomorrow. Davis wants to be released, then – but, the judge rightfully doesn’t trust her to keep from interfering. Not so incidentally, the one deputy who wouldn’t obey the law is her son. Not enough she’s paid $80K/year – she puts her kin on the payroll, too.

Nuclear cleanup project is a world-class failure

The largest and most costly U.S. environmental cleanup project has been dogged for years by worries about an accidental nuclear reaction or a spill of toxic materials that could endanger residents nearby, as well as a history of contractor retaliation against workers who voice worries about persistent safety risks.

But it hasn’t fully turned the corner yet, according to recent comments by the federal officials now overseeing its operation.

“Changing the culture takes time,” said Mark Whitney, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for environmental management, at a special hearing last week before members of an independent federal watchdog group that monitors safety problems at federal nuclear facilities. “I’m not going to sit here today and tell you we have everything solved.”

Whitney spoke inside a ballroom at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Washington, 17 miles from the Hanford Site where generators churned out plutonium, the lifeblood of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, for a half-century during the Cold War. More than 55 million gallons of pasty waste now lie in decomposing barrels beneath the ground at Hanford, posing a potential safety hazard to thousands of people who rely on the nearby Columbia River for drinking water.

The Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant project there, known as WTP, is meant to exhume the waste, freeze it in glass, and give it a proper burial. But it’s been plagued by delays. It was expected to cost $4.3 billion and be built by 2011. Instead, the cost has swelled past $12 billion to date, with an estimated $7 billion in work left to be done. So far, not a drop of waste has been processed.

Read on. The worst-case result seems to be the easiest for any of these clowns to achieve.

Meanwhile —


Measuring radioactive tumbleweed

Um, which photo did I send in with my job application?


NTRD – but, you get the idea

An Illinois job applicant texted his way out of an offered position when he accidentally sent the human resources manager a nude selfie, police said.

Elmhurst police said the human resources manager at a St. Charles company contacted authorities Aug. 14 to report receiving two nude pictures via text message Aug. 11 and 13 from a man who had been offered a position with the company.

“There was a conditional offer of employment made to this particular applicant,” Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth told the Chicago Tribune. “He texted the HR director and sent a nude photo of himself.”

Police said the man who sent the pictures told investigators the nude selfies were sent accidentally.

I hope it was a mistake. Otherwise, the dude is truly demented.

“[Police] contacted the offender who admitted to sending the photographs, explaining they were actually meant for another individual and were sent to the victim in error,” the police report of the incident states. “[Police] advised the offender to cease any contact with the victim.”

The victim decided not to press charges, but police said the man’s actions were not free from consequences.

“My understanding is they’ve rescinded the offer of employment,” Ruth said.

Har. I must admit I’ve done things just as dumb in the world of job-hunting. No, I won’t give you an example. :)

Will monster wildfire seasons become the new normal?


Harley looks just like our Sheila

In the end, Ira and Carolyn Hodge drove out with some photos, their clothes, their horse and their dog, Harley.

Their home took seven years for them to build and contained everything they owned – vehicles, mementos from their parents, memories. All of it was reduced to fine ash when the fire swept down the high sides of the densely forested gorge that bottoms out at Canyon Creek in Grant County, Oregon, six hours’ drive east of Portland.

“It was a monster,” Ira says. “A beast.”

He and Carolyn were helping a neighbour hose down their house when it became clear the fire was moving with astonishing speed towards them. “We had five minutes to get out,” Ira recalls. They tossed the few things they had gathered in their car, rounded up their frightened horse and fled over a wooden bridge that burned behind them.

Ira has since talked to experts who came up to survey the damage. They said that the flames may have reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt copper and aluminium. They sifted through the rubble and there was almost nothing left.

Harley recovered just one possession: a charred bone he had buried somewhere in the yard.

When you drive south out of John Day, up into the canyon towards the Malheur national forest, the flattened homes and the blackened Douglas firs and ponderosas tell this summer’s story.

Wildfires are capricious, and some houses are untouched. But those that the fire found were razed, and the forest it burned will take decades to recover.

Thirty-six homes were destroyed in Grant County on 14 August. That night, the Canyon Creek Complex fire became the most destructive in Oregon for 80 years. The national media glanced and moved on, but the fire is still burning on just over 105,000 acres. That’s about 10 times the size of Manhattan.

In Oregon as a whole, there are 11 large fires burning on 435,799 acres. In Washington there are 14 burning on 900,000 acres. This season – which is still in full swing – has seen 1,422,880 acres burned in the two states, or 2,223 square miles, an area just a little smaller than the state of Delaware.

More than 11,000 firefighters are still in the field. Firefighting resources in the American west are completely committed, and both states have called out their national guardsmen to help contain the blazes. Firefighters have come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to pitch in, and three firefighters died while in duty.

RTFA. These fires have become an annual national emergency. People are to blame, habits and carelessness are to blame, short-term weather is often to blame and, yes, climate change plays a significant role.

That may be hard to understand for someone who has never had their home or community threatened by a wildfire; but, it is true.

I do not count climate change deniers as relevant. It’s hard to count them as useful citizens of Earth.

Whale whisperers


Click to enlargeAnuar Patjane

Diving with a humpback whale and her newborn calf while they cruise around Roca Partida … in the Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico. This is an outstanding and unique place full of pelagic life, so we need to accelerate the incorporation of the islands into UNESCO as a natural heritage site in order to increase the protection of the islands against the prevailing illegal fishing corporations and big-game fishing.

Amazing photos – at the gallery containing this, the 1st Place winner in NatGeo’s Traveler Competition. And also click on the link just under the photo above to go to Anuar Patjane’s photos.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Icelanders have a bigger heart than their government anticipated


A double rainbow at Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

Thousands of Icelanders have called on their government to take in more Syrian refugees – with many offering to accomodate them in their own homes and give them language lessons.

Iceland, which has a population of just over 300,000, has currently capped the number of refugees it accepts at 50.

Author and professor Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir put out a call on Facebook on Sunday asking for Icelanders to speak out if they wanted the government to do more to help those fleeing Syria. More than 12,000 people have responded to her Facebook group “Syria is calling” to sign an open letter to their welfare minister, Eygló Harðar.

Speaking on Iceland’s RÚV television, Bjorgvinsdottir said her country’s attitude was being changed by the tragic news reports. “I think people have had enough of seeing news stories from the Mediterranean and refugee camps of dying people and they want something done now,” she said…

Many of those posting on the group have said they would offer up their homes and skills to help refugees integrate. “I have clothing, kitchenware, bed and a room in Hvanneyri [western Iceland], which I am happy to share with Syrians,” one wrote. “I would like to work as a volunteer to help welcome people and assist them with adapting to Icelandic society.”

“I want to help one displaced family have the chance to live the carefree life that I do,” another wrote. “We as a family are willing to provide the refugees with temporary housing near Egilsstaðir [eastern Iceland], clothing and other assistance. I am a teacher and I can help children with their learning.”…

The Facebook Syrian letter says it best: “Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, or soulmates, the drummer for the band of our children, our next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finished the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, the fireman, the computer genius, or the television host.”

Would your city, your state, your nation do the same? Ot would it build a wall?

Canadians can’t stop laughing over Scott Walker’s border wall proposal

PeaceGarden
Click to enlargeObviously, we need a wall here…

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford says Canada has no plans to invade the United States – and that Americans can rest assured the threat from the north is receding.

There is no need, the ailing mayor and most cackling Canadians seem to agree, for the 5,000-mile wall along the Canadian border that presidential candidate Scott Walker suggested this week is “a legitimate issue” on the campaign trail to the White House…

“I don’t have a problem with the States,” the outspoken former mayor declared in a brief interview with the Guardian on Monday evening, as he limped toward Toronto’s Rogers Centre to watch the city’s surging Blue Jays baseball team play the Cleveland Indians, a rival visiting from the far side of unfortified Lake Erie.

Most Canadians, the former magistrate known for smoking crack added, are similarly well-disposed toward their southern neighbours – and understand full well that such an endeavour would be nearly impossible anyway…

“It’s ludicrous and hilarious,” a Blue Jays fan named Neil from Toronto said of Walker’s fleeting flirtation with a norther border wall. “But that’s the Republicans.”

Bonnie, from nearby Milton, could not stop laughing at the mention of Walker’s name. “He’s a nutcase,” she exclaimed. “They can’t afford healthcare, but they can afford walls.”…

Defending the US-Canadian border would – hypothetically, of course – require a wall 8,891 kilometres long, with 2,475 kilometres devoted to protecting Alaskan wilderness and even more wall running down the middle of the Great Lakes.

Citing preliminary estimates made by the US Department of Homeland Security for the cost of a southern wall with Mexico, the Toronto Star estimated the cost of a Walker-style wall at “north of $18 billion (US)”…

Cheerfully channeling Sarah Palin, Mike Bradley boasted that he can see America from his window in the Canadian border town of Sarnia, where he is mayor. But to him and others who have watched the increasing militarisation of the formerly undefended border over the past decade, Walker’s comments were no joke.

“This is just ongoing,” Bradley said, citing examples of unexpected hostility on the northern border since 9/11 including plans to launch observation balloons, proposals to charge fees for crossing the border, and live-fire exercises by US coast guard patrol vessels armed with machine guns.

The difference between ignorant and stupid requires that “stupid” work at defending their beliefs. So, what Canadians call the world’s longest undefended border is just one more opportunity for nutball militarists to resolve a paranoid delusion with guns.

Vegetation is essential for limiting city warming effects

Cities are well known hot spots – literally. The urban heat island effect has long been observed to raise the temperature of big cities by 1 to 3°C, a rise that is due to the presence of asphalt, concrete, buildings, and other so-called impervious surfaces disrupting the natural cooling effect provided by vegetation. According to a new NASA study that makes the first assessment of urbanization impacts for the entire continental United States, the presence of vegetation is an essential factor in limiting urban heating.

Impervious surfaces’ biggest effect is causing a difference in surface temperature between an urban area and surrounding vegetation. The researchers, who used multiple satellites’ observations of urban areas and their surroundings combined into a model, found that averaged over the continental United States, areas covered in part by impervious surfaces, be they downtowns, suburbs, or interstate roads, had a summer temperature 1.9°C higher than surrounding rural areas. In winter, the temperature difference was 1.5 °C higher in urban areas…

The study, published this month in Environmental Research Letters, also quantifies how plants within existing urban areas, along roads, in parks and in wooded neighborhoods, for example, regulate the urban heat effect…

The northeast I-95 corridor, Baltimore-Washington, Atlanta and the I-85 corridor in the southeast, and the major cities and roads of the Midwest and West Coast show the highest urban temperatures relative to their surrounding rural areas. Smaller cities have less pronounced increases in temperature compared to the surrounding areas. In cities like Phoenix built in the desert, the urban area actually has a cooling effect because of irrigated lawns and trees that wouldn’t be there without the city…

At the human level, a rise of 1°C can raise energy demands for air conditioning in the summer from 5 to 20 percent in the United States, according the Environmental Protection Agency. So even though 0.3°C may seem like a small difference, it still may have impact on energy use, said Bounoua, especially when urban heat island effects are exacerbated by global temperature rises due to climate change.

I grew up in a southern New England factory town. What changed it from being as much of an environmental disaster as most – was the struggles for Keynesian solutions like the CCC during the Great Depression included the transformation of vacant brownscapes into parks. Sufficiently done that the city began calling itself a park city. Every neighborhood acquired a little more life, more human friendliness, with the addition of a greenscape of grass and trees.