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.

Highest minimum wage, lowest unemployment rate

Click to enlargeChris Tarnawski

❝ In 2014, Seattle passed an ordinance to eventually raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour, giving the Pacific Northwest city the highest pay floor in the U.S.

❝ The ink wasn’t even dry on the wage legislation when the dire warnings of economic collapse began. Unemployment would skyrocket, economic growth in the state would be hurt, restaurants and small businesses would close en masse. The deserved punishment would be swift and harsh.

But a funny thing happened on Seattle’s way to economic collapse: the city thrived. Restaurants didn’t close — they actually prospered — and new restaurant openings rose. Unemployment fell, most recently to less than 4 percent, more than a full percentage point lower than the national rate. By all accounts the city on the Puget Sound is booming.

❝ How did the doomsayers get it so wrong? As in so many other cases of politically motivated economic analysis, this was what the opponents hoped would happen because it fit with way they think world should work. But given what we know about Seattle…higher minimum wages can improve workers‘ living standards and stimulate the local economy.

Blame a fundamental misunderstanding of minimum-wage economics and, of course, good old-fashioned political bias. There have been repeated attempts to misread the data and conclude it has hurt employment, but so far none of this research has withstood scrutiny.

Trump doesn’t own the Big Lie. Republicans – whose party loyalty supersedes economic reality – cling to the tactic as tightly as, say, any scholarly limpet who still prattles about trickle-down benefits to the working class.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

The West Is burning — How much blame goes to climate change?

Click to enlargeJohn McColgan, USDA

❝ So far this year, wildfires have scorched nearly 5 million acres in the U.S. That sounds like a lot, but compared to 2015, the season has been downright tame. Last year at this time, more than 9 million acres had already burned, and by the end of the year, that number would rise to more than 10 million — the most on record. In 2015, the Okanogan grew into the largest fire Washington had ever seen, breaking a record set just the year before. California recorded some of its most damaging fires, including the Valley Fire, which torched around 1,300 homes. More than 5 million acres burned in Alaska alone. But that’s not to say that this year has been without drama. For instance, California’s Soberanes Fire, which was sparked by an illegal campfire in July, is still smoldering. The effort it took to contain that blaze is believed to be one of the most expensive — if not the most expensive — wildfire-fighting operations ever.

❝ With wildfire, such superlatives have, paradoxically, become normal. Records are routinely smashed — for acreage burned, homes destroyed, firefighter lives lost and money spent fighting back flames. A study published earlier this year found that, between 2003 and 2012, the average area burned each year in Western national forests was 1,271 percent greater than it was in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Like the extreme hurricanes, heat waves and floods that have whipped, baked and soaked our landscape in recent years, such trends raise the question: Is this what climate change looks like?

❝ John Abatzoglou and his co-author, Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, estimate that human-caused climate change was responsible for nearly doubling the area burned in the West between 1984 and 2015. If the last few decades had been simply dry, instead of some of the hottest and driest on record, perhaps 10.4 million fewer acres would have burned, they say.

❝ Wildfire is particularly responsive to temperature increases because heat dries things out. It sucks moisture from twigs and needles in the forest the same way it does from clothes in a dryer, turning this vegetation into the kindling, or “fine fuel,” that gets wildfires going…

To shore up confidence in their estimates, they repeated the analyses in their study using eight different fuel-aridity metrics and then averaged the results. “One thing that gives me confidence is that all eight of these essentially lead to the same conclusion,” Williams said. “All eight have been increasing. All correlate well with fire.”

❝ In the end, they found that more than half of the observed increase in the dryness of fuels could be attributed to climate change. Fuel aridity, in turn, correlated very closely with fire activity for the time period they looked at — it explained about 75 percent of the variability in acreage burned from year to year. “That means that it is a top dog,” Williams said. “Correlation is not causation, but the correlation is so strong that it’s very hard to get a relationship like this if it’s not real.”

Williams added that as aridity increased, wildfire activity increased exponentially. “This isn’t a gradual process. Every few years we’re kind of entering a new epoch, where the potential for new fires is quite a bit bigger than it was a few years back.”

RTFA for more detail. Once again, science and maths point the finger at responsibility. Not only for cause; but, for the refusal to offer any constructive solutions. Congressional conservatives are so set in their commitment to stopping any change brought by our nation’s first Black president they’re willing to burn in a hell of their own creation.

Yes, of course, they won’t. Neither will the contributors to their demented campaign. The voters who keep them in office? That may be a different story.

Scientists turn CO2 Into ethanol easier than they ever thought

❝ Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles…

“By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want,” said Adam Rondinone.

This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.

Perhaps most importantly, it works at room temperature, which means that it can be started and stopped easily and with little energy cost. This means that this conversion process could be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation, smoothing out fluctuations in a renewable energy grid.

“A process like this would allow you to consume extra electricity when it’s available to make and store as ethanol,” said Rondinone. “This could help to balance a grid supplied by intermittent renewable sources.”

More thought and considerations are at offer in a follow-up interview PM did with the lead scientist, Adam Rondinone. He’s a research scientist on the public payroll at the National Lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. You know – doing the kind of scientific work today’s conservatives from penny-ante Republicans to Tea Party know-nothings really want to halt.

Who is poor in the United States — An update

Recently, the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty. The report showed that the official rate of poverty in 2015 was 13.5%, down 1.2 percentage points from 2014. Using the Current Population Survey March Supplement, the data used for the Census poverty report, we update our recent analysis to describe the characteristics of the poor in 2015 and changes in these characteristics over the last year.

The characteristics of individuals living in poverty did not change substantially from 2014 to 2015. Children still comprise more than a third of those living below poverty and students an additional 7 percent. A quarter of those living below the poverty threshold are in the labor force, either working or searching for work. Senior citizens, early retirees, the disabled, and caregivers constitute the remaining thirty percent of those living in poverty. Only 3 percent of those living in poverty fall outside of the groups just mentioned…

In order to address poverty, we must know who is poor and how the composition of who is poor is changing. This analysis describes who was living in poverty in 2015 and how that changed from the prior year. As with our analysis of poverty in 2014, this update suggests that when poor working-age adults are not employed full-time, they are often disabled, receiving education, or engaged in caregiving.

It takes a well-funded think tank like Brookings to roll out a PR piece like this without noting even though the United States is the wealthiest nation on the planet this is the best we come up with. Not a surprise for a nation which considers healthcare a privilege – instead of a right. But, then, that matches the opinion of many “important” opinion-makers predominant in our press.

Here’s a link to the Census Bureau report.

Borrowed Time by Pixar

❝ Pixar Animation Studios is known for making surprisingly dark, bold storytelling choices in its movies. For movies that are meant to be accessible to children, they can be sharply daring in the directions they take…

❝ The piece certainly is more adult, but it still has the familiar Pixar look, with marvelously expressive characters and a tremendous attention to environment and modeling…And like so many Pixar features, Borrowed Time is expressly about family bonds, and how they heighten emotions — in this case, guilt and disappointment. This is a short vignette, but it’s effective and powerful.

❝ Granted, an actual Pixar film would certainly make a point of relieving the tension and sorrow this short sets up, and would use it to some spectacular end…Hamou-Lhadj…and Coats…have set up what feels like the beginning to a terrific story. Here’s hoping they keep it going, past this tragic moment and on to the rest of the story of this man’s life.

I’ll second that emotion.