Ultimate Republican solution to bad economic news — Don’t report it!

Doonesbury by GB Trudeau

❝ “What’s measured, improves.”

So said management legend and author Peter F. Drucker about the value of using metrics to define specific objectives within an organization.

Drucker is no longer with us; if he were, he might want to have a few words with Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback, despite promising to measure the results of a “real life experiment” in cutting taxes, has decided to cancel a quarterly report on the status of the state’s economy.

❝ Although Brownback’s spokeswoman said “a lot of people were confused by the report,” no one has been fooled. The problem was that the reports didn’t match the governor’s predictions for the state’s soon-to-be-booming economy. Local news media, including the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Kansas City Star, flagged the abandonment of the reports as evidence not only of policy failure, but as an attempt to hide that fact from the public…

❝ Since the Brownback tax cuts were passed, almost nothing has gone as promised in Kansas. Revenue plunged and the state resorted to pulling money out of its rainy-day fund to plug the holes. A number of critical services, including for road maintenance and schools, were cut. The business climate has been poor, and the economy has lagged behind neighboring states as well as the rest of the country.

Why hasn’t this worked out? As we have discussed before, the failure of the Kansas tax cuts to do what was promised is a simple combination of state budget math and human psychology.

❝ The math is simple: Tax cuts tend to reduce revenue, in Kansas’ case much more than expected. To change people’s behavior requires more substantial incentives than changing things by a few percentage points. The reduced revenue led to spending cuts that lowered quality of life. In response, rising numbers of people and companies have left the state…

❝ Kansas’ gross state product fell behind the six-state region and the nation for the third straight year…

Private industry wages in Kansas grew at a slower pace last year than they did in the region and the U.S. — as they did during the past five years…

By just about every measure, Kansas’ tax experiment has failed to meet the promised performance objectives. Killing the quarterly report won’t change this…

❝ Brownback is now said to be considering tax hikes. He has paid the deserved price for his errors, with a 26 percent approval rating, the lowest of any governor in the U.S. The people of Kansas have paid a bigger price.

Dribble-down economics fail for the umpteenth time in a Century. No, that won’t stop Republicans from advocacy. They have nothing else to offer. Modern economic analysis, 21st Century solutions for leftover Republican economic disasters are still a work in progress. The kinds of jobs that give us something that looks like full employment prove that.

And we still have a gerrymandered Congress that keeps useless turd-brain roadblocks in office for at least another 4-6 years. So, don’t get too cheerful, yet, over the possibility of ordinary American voters reforming the system. After all, ignorant Kansas voters elected and re-elected Brownback.

Air Force ignored memos about rising seas – including those from island where they’re building

Click to enlargeRob Griffith/AP

❝ The U.S. Air Force is spending nearly $1 billion to build a radar installation that will help keep astronauts and satellites safe by tracking pieces of space junk as small as a baseball. That is, if global warming doesn’t get in the way.

❝ The Space Fence is being constructed on a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands that scientists say could be regularly swamped by rising seas within a couple of decades as a result of climate change. The salt water could play havoc with the equipment…

The Associated Press found that neither the military nor its contractor, Lockheed Martin, gave serious consideration to that threat when designing the installation and choosing a site, despite warnings from the island nation’s environmental agency.

“The future “does not look good for a lot of these islands,” said Curt Storlazzi, an oceanographer with the U.S. Geological Survey who is leading a study at Kwajalein Atoll, where the Space Fence complex is being built.

Dana Whalley, a civilian who is managing the Space Fence program, said that the radar installation has a projected lifespan of 25 years and that he doesn’t expect sea levels to rise enough over that period to cause a problem. But if necessary, he said, the base could take steps to improve its seawalls.

Still, because of budget pressures, military equipment is often used well beyond its projected lifespan. In fact, a key part of the radar tracking system that the Space Fence replaces was built during the dawn of the space age and was badly outdated by the time it was shut down 50 years later in 2013…

❝ The military chose the Marshall Islands because the Space Fence works best near the equator. But it means the installation is being built just 10 feet above sea level…

RTFA for details and some truly disingenuous excuses from assorted bureaucrats.

The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

Flight delayed, plane replaced, because a couple took their seats too soon!

Authorities say a flight from Philadelphia to Boston was delayed and ultimately a different aircraft was used after a couple gained unauthorized access to the plane.

Officials said American Airlines Flight 1655 was slated to depart 8 a.m. Sunday, but two hours earlier, a man and woman walked on board through the doorway to the jet bridge and took their seats. The door should have been locked prior to the formal boarding process.

American Airlines officials said the couple was discovered during boarding. They determined the pair was on the correct flight, but the plane was de-boarded, searched and another aircraft was used “out of caution.”

WCVB-TV reports the couple didn’t speak English.

Well, there you go. Can’t be too careful about furriners, eh?

Pic of the day

Click to enlargeBrett Gundlock/Boreal Collective

Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City lately have found themselves being buzzed by a fleet of sign-toting drones. “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes” — a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks.

It wasn’t exactly a plea for environmentalism, though — it was an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber’s big push into markets across Latin America. As Bloomberg points out, Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets…And that, apparently, involves accosting drivers in gridlock with a swarm of drones.

In the US, someone would already have been busted for shooting at the critters.

Feral cats deployed in war on rats

Click to enlargeRuth Fremson/NY Times

❝ Multitudes of feral cats roam New York City’s concrete jungle, and some now have a practical purpose: They’re helping curb the city’s rat population.

❝ A group of volunteers trained by the NYC Feral Cat Initiative traps wild cat colonies that have become a nuisance or been threatened by construction, then spays or neuters and vaccinates them. The goal is to return them to their home territory, but some end up in areas rife with rats.

Feline rat patrols keep watch over city delis and bodegas, car dealerships and the grounds of a Greenwich Village church. Four cats roam the loading dock at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where food deliveries and garbage have drawn rodents for years…

❝ About 6,000 volunteers have completed workshops where they’ve learned proper ways to trap cats.

The program is run through the privately funded Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a coalition of more than 150 animal rescue groups and shelters. It estimates as many as half a million feral and stray cats roam New York’s five boroughs…

❝ The cat population is controlled through spaying and neutering, provided free of charge by the Humane Society of New York and the ASPCA. In most cases, adoption is out of the question for feral cats because they are just too wild to be domesticated.

Thanks to the volunteers, says Marshall, “we’re protecting wildlife in the city, and the cats get a second chance at life.”

Interesting anecdotes in the article – and a common sense approach to feral urban animals. Spayed, neutered, and most important, vaccinated, they stand a chance for a complete lifespan.

Keep moving, Bozo: clowns are banned in this Mississippi county

A Mississippi county has had enough of the creepy clown craze, at least until after Halloween.

Kemper County supervisors this week banned people from wearing any clown costume, mask or makeup in public. The local law carries a $150 penalty, and it will be lifted Nov. 1.

The Kemper County Messenger reports…that supervisors President Johnny Whitsett says it’s a matter of public safety because people could react badly if they get scared by a clown in their yard.

You know – the same reaction they get if they see 4 or 5 Black folks voting.

Lee Rowland, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney in New York, says the First Amendment protects most clothing choices. She also says it’s “a ridiculous use of government authority …. to dictate which Halloween costumes people can wear.

No surprise. The culture inbred in a great many conservatives simply feels that if something offends you personally, make it illegal. That often includes the whole range of civil rights, civil liberties in the state of mind called Mississippi.

Scientists work from above to learn how Greenland is melting from below

Click to enlargeNASA

❝ If the climate keeps warming the way it has, Greenland may finally live up to its name…The island’s glacier-crusted surface is melting, and a lot of this is from balmier atmospheric temperatures. But as the saying goes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The oceans are becoming more tepid as well, and that warmer water is causing the glaciers to thaw from below.

❝ Scientists have good measurements of how much ice melts due to warmer air. And now, thanks in part to torpedo-like probes, they are getting better data on the ice being lapped away by sea water. Those submarines are part of NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland campaign — OMG, for short. And that’s a fairly accurate acronym, because…those glaciers are melting fast…

❝ Greenland’s glacier-gouged coastline provides the deep, warm water a path to the inland ice. Ancient ice sheets carved subsurface fjords and canyons, many of which reach down to the same level as the Atlantic-Arctic currents at the continental shelf. Problem is, “the seafloor around Greenland’s coast isn’t very well known,” says Josh Willis, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the project lead for OMG. “The location and depths of these underwater fjords and canyons have just been poorly mapped out…”

Willis and his crew have spent the past five weeks flying over Greenland’s coastline, dropping torpedo-shaped probes into the underwater fjords. These units are called…AXCTDS, or Airborne Expendable Conductivity, Temperature and Depth Sensors…

❝ Mission OMG…spans five years and will look for ocean-caused changes to Greenland’s ice sheet. This spring, the team measured glacier height with aircraft radar, comparing past and future data to ascertain which glaciers are vanishing the fastest. The subsurface torpedo work took place this fall, when Arctic sea ice was at its minimum. It was the first time underwater probes had collected data on Greenland’s continental shelf depth, salinity and temperature.

Ultimately, the group wants to know how much of Greenland’s melting is because of air temperature, and how much is caused by water. Koppes, who has worked with the OMG team, believes air temperature and ocean water will play a 50/50 role in glacial melting.

❝ OMG will need time to analyze the data and confirm, but so far they’ve encountered some surprises. “The amount of warm water was bigger than expected, and we saw it in more places than expected,” continues Willis. “Almost everywhere along the shelf where the water was deep enough, we found Atlantic water interacting with the glaciers.”…

And the stakes are high. The deep current warming turns Greenland’s 27,000 miles of coastline — a distance greater than the Earth’s circumference at the equator — into a melt factory. The island’s interior is three times the size of Texas, and holds enough frozen water to raise global sea levels by 20 feet. More than enough to drown the Maldives, Venice, and New Orleans.

RTFA for detail about how research is proceeding, understanding all the processes contributing to the increased melt.