Tue 02 September, 2014

03:28 Jon Stewart's Daily Show Represents The Best in Jewish American Thought And True Support for Israel» Politics - The Huffington Post

As an American author and writer who happens to be Jewish and who once had his Bar-Mitzvah in Jerusalem, my views pertaining to Israel are always tied to love and special affection for the Jewish state. I've had the opportunity of being published in The Jerusalem Post regarding the Ground Zero mosque story several years back as well as a recent piece on the importance of American public opinion polls regarding Israel. I've also had the pleasure being published in The Times of Israel about certain flawed aspects of the Gaza war, as well as the fact that honest critique of Israel can't rationally be equated with being "anti-Israel." Sadly, I know very well how it feels to be chastised by my own community for having the audacity to question certain aspects of Israel's foreign or domestic policies, or having the audacity to try and see certain things from a Palestinian perspective. Almost always, the vapid accusations aimed at honest, genuine critique with the intent of focusing on long-term Israeli security is the reflexive claim of being "anti-Israel," or not "standing" with Israel, or not "supporting" Israel. In a world where euphemisms like "support" and "stand with" have also meant "accept everything without question" and "ignore relevant criticism," Jon Stewart and The Daily Show represent the best in American Jewish thought, as well as honest and genuine support for Israel. Mr. Stewart sheds light upon the insanity of war and politics through his talent and comedy, and the day Jewish comedians are too afraid of commenting on Israeli current affairs is also the day that Jewish people around the world lose a quintessential Jewish voice: thought provoking comedy.

Comedy is a natural antidote for euphemistic, political jargon aimed at stifling debate and far too many people in the Jewish community today confuse criticism with malicious intent. Stewart's recent Daily Show segment highlights the sad reality faced by many in the American Jewish community. From my own experience, one example of this mindset is the belief that if you question the number of civilians or children who die in Gaza, or explain why certain short term tactics don't correlate to long-term Israeli security, then you're inevitable met with accusations of being "anti-Israel." Of course, questioning the number of civilian deaths, especially the death of women and children, during the recent Gaza war isn't "anti-Israel" nor does it help Hamas in any manner and I've had my share of nonsensical comments aimed at me from articles I've written on these issues.

Also, it doesn't help the only democracy in the Middle East to silence any criticism, even from Jews. Such emotionally charged and childish attempts to "hush" any sane or rational dialogue is dangerous, and sometimes leads to hazardous attempts at correlating even the Holocaust to justification for any and all tactical endeavors. Yair Lapid's recent article is an example, and although I view him to be a brilliant man, his attempt at equating a war with Hamas to defeating Nazi evils borders on heresy in my mind. When the death of six million Jews and over one and half million Jewish children is used by certain Israel politicians to justify their politics (as well as the reality of children in Gaza dying from airstrikes), propaganda has entered into a dangerous realm where even the most hallowed pain is no longer off limits to semantic manipulation.

Luckily, Jews, African-Americans, and others have comedians to make painful subjects less painful and allow both a healing process and intellectual dialogue to flourish. Like Richard Pryor's commentary on the N-word, or Chris Rock's commentary on a number of issues affecting the black community, comedy is an amusing, but also an incredibly thought provoking way of tackling sensitive subjects. Similarly, there's a reason why when Sarah Silverman pokes fun at the stereotype of Jews being cheap, or Mel Brooks dresses up as Hitler, that Jews around the world laugh hysterically. Larry David's Palestinian chicken restaurant episode is a brilliant example of how Jews have historically turned turmoil into thought provoking laughter. Laughter and comedy unlock insecurities so that prejudices and hatreds are undressed; naked for all of humanity to see their irrational foundation. Also, when Jon Stewart explains what it's like to offer a differing viewpoint on Israel or its battle with an evil terrorist group in Hamas, he uses comedy to shed light upon a complex issue that needs genuine discussion, not mindless euphemistic banter.

For a nation of people who've suffered from centuries of deadly pogroms, false accusations, and even blamed for the death of God, it's ridiculous to scapegoat Jon Stewart for the intellectual and moral laziness of certain people who stand solely through euphemisms like "stand with" or "pro." Jon Stewart cares for Israel just like I do, and perhaps just like the person who isn't Jewish reading this article, and it makes no sense to marginalize anyone's affection for Israel by the tired rant of "anti-Israel." Furthermore, I liken the phrase "self-hating Jew" (although not in direct equivalency) to words like the N-word or "white trash" or "gook" or any other insidious attempt at demeaning another human being's humanity. Sadly, Mr. Stewart has been accused of that, and such accusations are not only baseless, but also a testament to the irrationality of those who'd make these remarks. Truly hating oneself means blindly following the herd, without voicing relevant concerns or genuine critique, for fear that emotionally challenged opponents of your viewpoint might disagree. When Jon Stewart pokes fun at Obama, or Bush, or Ted Cruz, or anyone in the public eye, he does so because politics is often times insanely irrational; hence the basis of most comedy.

The foundation of antisemitism lies in the ratings of right-wing radio host Mark Levin towards Jon Stewart:

Have you f'ing seen Israel, you little twerp?! Have you f'ing seen what surrounds Israel, you little twerp?! Is Hamas giving warnings to Jews in Israel, you little twerp?! What about the fallout shelters, you little twerp; have you looked at those and the gas masks and the sirens day-in and day-out, you little twerp?!
So, you get a good idea of what some Jews will do to other Jews when they hear something they feel is "anti-Israel."

To be fair, if you've ever heard Mark Levin's high pitched, squeaky voice on the radio equating Obama to Karl Marx and pontificating on how the Founders would hate Democrats, you'd truly understand the meaning of the word, "twerp." Also, Levin's nonsensical diatribes against Stewart highlight what many Jewish Americans have to endure when offering a sane and rational viewpoint in an insane and irrational world. Who needs Nazis when you have people like Mark Levin not necessarily burning Jewish books, but semantically burning any thoughtful critique of serious issues affecting Israel and the Jewish community? The Nazis, like the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide and every other genocide in the 20th Century, first killed and imprisoned intellectuals, orators, or writers who could offer any reasoned dissent to their madness. Like Levin, and several other right-wing pundits and ideologues, dissent and especially comedy, present a serious challenge to their reliance on ideology over civil discourse.

Haaretz recently ran an article explaining that "Israel's defense establishment will recommend to politicians that they show generosity in indirect negotiations with Hamas when discussing the conditions for a permanent cease-fire, in order to forestall renewed hostilities at the end of September." I guess Israel's defense establishment is filled with "self-hating Jews" who love Hamas according to the mindset of people like Mark Levin. Furthermore, issues of morality and the death of Palestinian children must never be silenced by hardliners or people who'd claim they are "pro-Israel," because moral consideration and debate are foundations of Jewish thought; to stifle such discussion is the opposite of being Jewish and hurts Israel's democracy.

I urge Jon Stewart to always voice his mind, always use his comedic talent to provide relevant commentary about Israel, and always ignore childish criticism from angry and indignant people. The majority of younger Jews in the world side more with Jon Stewart than irate or indignant conservative ideologues. Highlighting the insanity of perpetual war among two peoples who will always live alongside one another isn't "anti-Israel" and advocating perpetual war against "terror" without any hope of peace isn't "pro-Israel." If people like Mark Levin and others are ever heard louder than the Jon Stewarts of the world, then the Jewish people, and Israel, will have lost what they've fought centuries to attain: the ability to speak and think without intimidation.
03:00 Cantor joins Wall Street bank» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He is signing on with the firm Moelis & Co., as a vice chairman and managing director.
02:13 Halfway House: GOP falling short in midterms» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Strategists from both parties agree that Republicans are on track to gain only five or six seats.
02:05 What is Jay Nixon thinking?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Far from preoccupied with 2016, he is now working overtime to rescue his state and administration.

Mon 01 September, 2014

23:32 Controlling Language Controls the Euthanasia Debate» Politics - The Huffington Post
What happens when conservatives discover "political correctness?"

Recently the Discovery Institute, a front for creationist conservatives, posted a column complaining about the phrase "vegetable" being used to describe those who lost cognitive functions.

They are using it in terms of Joan Rivers and what doctors may discover when they bring her out of the induced coma she has been in after suffering cardiac arrest. Discovery Institute even goes as far as calling it "the v word." I presume they think people in vegetative states find the term offensive. Discovery Institute may not realize "persistent vegetative state" and "permanent vegetative state" are terms used by physicians, not insults thrown around carelessly.

Discovery's Wesley J. Smith complains, "We need to stop using the v-word to describe our brothers and sisters with profound cognitive disabilities. That word is just as bigoted as the n-word for people of sub-Saharan African descent, the k-word for Jews, etc."

This is quite amazing. These people also claim "scientists" are "raving bigots" because they dismiss the theological view of creationism as unscientific. Discovery perpetuates the fraud that "creationism" is some sort of science and that this is merely a debate between two groups of scientists. Of course, the "creationists" just happen to all be religionists who base "science" on their faith.

Smith complains, "that so many have no compunction whatsoever using the hurtful and inaccurate v-word as an epithet to characterize the most defenseless among us.... Yet, it is just as demeaning to the intrinsic human dignity as racial and sexist slurs. We need some serious consciousness raising."

They falsely label a vegetative state as one of "profound cognitive disabilities." If by disability you mean all cognitive function is gone, it is one hell of a disability. It is on par with calling the dead "life impaired."

What's with this sudden concern for political correctness? They don't carry it through in other others areas. For instance, Jay Richards of Discovery has argued that the "institution of marriage" has individual rights itself - and has to be protected from nasty gays about to infringe on the rights of this institution. "...You need to believe that the government is also going to recognize the rights and realities of this institution."

The "institution of marriage" has individual rights, but gay people don't.

What is really going on with this kerfuffle over "the v-word" is a campaign by the Religious Right to change the meaning of words, so as to smuggle into them their own agenda.

Jay Richards claimed he is defending "individual rights," while actually fighting them. Conservatives all across the fringes of the Far Right call themselves "libertarians," using libertarian-sounding terms to justify an anti-libertarian agenda.

The term "vegetative state" has to go, because the Religious Right fears it will cause people to consider whether people in that condition, who have lost cognitive abilites, are still human in any meaningful sense of the word. They have functioning bodies, but a body does not a human make. At the core of being human is the ability to choose, and the primary choice is to think or evade thinking. People in vegetative states can do neither.

This campaign for political correctness is not because they care about Joan Rivers, or anyone else in her situation--the concern is about the state of her life AFTER her coma. Her family already said she doesn't want to be in a wheelchair or a bed, unable to live, except in the most limited of senses.

That has Discovery worried. They don't think any of us should have the right to end our life, or have it ended for us, when we reach the stage where meaningful life is impossible. They fail to distinguish between conditions. Plants are alive; people live! The former is a state of being, the latter purposeful action.

I have no idea about Ms. Rivers' condition. But, I can assure you the family is not anxious to pull the plug! These are very, very terribly difficult decisions. They are personal and private.

The family doesn't need religious groups inserting themselves into the discussion with a phony concern about politically correct terms. Discovery is NOT concerned about the feelings of people in various minority groups. They aren't concerned about "the v-word;" they are trying to control the debate by controlling language.

By equating someone in a vegetative state to one who is mentally disabled they wish to make discussion of euthanasia impossible. No one is suggesting that euthanasia be used willy-nilly, and perhaps guidelines are necessary. But Discovery doesn't want the topic discussed, they just want it illegal in all cases, no matter the circumstances.

I'm all for people controlling words they use to describe others--especially when meant as insulting. I don't think "faggot" or "nigger" appropriate, because those words have meanings and, more importantly, are backed by an intent to offend. They are MEANT as hate terms. "Vegetative state" is NOT meant as a hate term, even if Discovery thinks it an epithet. It is a descriptive term, not a judgmental one; it questions whether the person still exists.

Discovery Institute opposes choice when it comes to death, yet another disguised religious position. That's called "deception," not "concern."
23:30 Man Having Heart Attack on Plane Saved by Passengers» LiveScience.com
A man who suffered a heart attack on an airplane was saved by a three passengers — a doctor, a policeman and a pharmacist — with the aid of resuscitation equipment and drugs.
22:14 Eric Cantor To Join Investment Bank Moelis & Co. As Vice Chairman And Managing Director» Politics - The Huffington Post

Sept 2 (Reuters) - Former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will join investment bank Moelis & Co as vice chairman and managing director, the company said, adding that Cantor will also be elected to its board.

Cantor, who was defeated in June by a Tea Party challenger in a Republican primary election, will provide strategic counsel to the company's corporate and institutional clients on key issues, Moelis said.

"Eric has proven himself to be a pro-business advocate and one who will enhance our boardroom discussions with CEOs and senior management as we help them navigate their most important strategic decisions," Moelis CEO Ken Moelis said in a statement.

Cantor, the No.2 Republican in the House of Representatives, was beaten by college economics professor David Brat, who accused Cantor of betraying conservative principles on spending, debt and immigration.

Cantor stepped down from his leadership position in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives last month and resigned from his Virginia seat. (Reporting by Arnab Sen in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)
22:08 Wealthy Political Donors Seize On New Latitude To Give To Unlimited Candidates» Politics - The Huffington Post
More than 300 donors have seized the opportunity, writing checks at such a furious pace that they have exceeded the old limit of $123,200 for this election cycle, according to campaign finance data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization.
21:01 School Absence Can Set Students Back Between 1 And 2 Years: Report» Politics - The Huffington Post
As the debate rages about the best way to fix America's public schools -- from heated rhetoric on the role of standardized testing to wonkier discussions about the intricacies of curricula -- a new report is arguing that reformers have overlooked a game-changing solution: addressing absenteeism.

While it may seem obvious that students who miss more school would not perform as well as other students, a new report released Tuesday shows just how much of a difference attendance can make. According to the report, written by nonprofit advocacy group Attendance Works, about 1 in 5 American students -- between 5 million and 7.5 million of them -- misses a month of school per year. The report suggests that missing three or more days of school per month can set a student back from one to two full years of learning behind his or her peers.

"All our investment in instruction and Common Core and curriculum development will be lost unless kids are in school to benefit from it," said Hedy Chang, the group's director and co-author of the report.

And for the many American students who have disabilities, the stakes are higher. In fourth-grade reading, the scores of students with disabilities showed more sensitivity than those of students without disabilities who had an equivalent number of absences, according to data the group analyzed exclusively for The Huffington Post. That population also registers more absences than their peers overall, despite needing more attention.

"Nobody likes to publicize this stuff unless they're doing well," said lead author Alan Ginsburg, a former director of Policy and Program Studies with the U.S. Education Department, "but these are big differences, and it should be on the front burner."

The new study used survey data from the 2013 National Assessment for Education Progress, a standardized test administered by the federal government, to compare students' absence rates with their performance. Students who took NAEP were asked whether they missed no days, one to two, three to four, five to 10, or more than 10 days of school over the last month.

Predictably, the students who missed the most school -- particularly those absent for three or more days in the last month, the report's definition of poor attendance -- had the lowest test scores. "This is true at every age, in every subject, in every racial and ethnic group and in every state and city examined," according to the report. "While students from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent, the ill effects of missing too much school hold true for all socio-economic groups."

The report also examined absenteeism at the state level, finding that in the two states with the highest rate of absenteeism, Montana and New Mexico, a quarter of fourth-grade public school students reported missing three or more days in the previous month. Among large urban school districts, rates of absenteeism were highest in Detroit, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C.

In fourth-grade reading, students who missed three or more days per month scored an average of 12 points lower on the NAEP than their peers with perfect attendance, a number that Ginsburg calculates represents more than a full year of schooling. Eighth-graders who reported missing three or more days of school scored, on average, a full 18 points lower on the test than their peers, which represents almost two full years of learning, according to the report.

In fourth grade, students with disabilities and high absenteeism saw an even steeper decline in scores: Those absent for three or more days scored 16 points lower than those with perfect attendance. In fourth-grade reading, the difference was 36 points between students with disabilities who had perfect attendance and those who missed 10 or more days in a school year. According to the report, that difference represents three and a half years of learning lost. (The difference in reading scores among similar cohorts of students without disabilities was 24 points.)

Students with disabilities also posted more absences then other students. A national average of 26 percent of fourth-graders with disabilities reported missing three or more days of school in the previous month, as compared to 19 percent of fourth-grade students without. "If you're going to narrow the performance gap, what you'd like to do is offer [students with disabilities] extra assistance," said Ginsburg. "You might expect these kids to get more time, and if you measure time in terms of number of days in school, they're not getting it -- they're getting the reverse."

While school absenteeism can often be a symptom of underlying issues such as poverty or a disruptive family life, Chang said that some students who increasingly miss school do so because absenteeism can be self-reinforcing. After missing several classes, Chang said, and as students learn less and their performance suffers, they can become discouraged and miss more days through causes such as truancy. Catching these students early and engaging them, she said, can help address the problem.

Rebecca Lecrec saw this firsthand after working with a fifth-grader named Joseph at Trotter Innovation School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, through City Year, a nonprofit that partners adults with struggling students in high-needs schools across the country. At the beginning of the year, Joseph was missing two days a week of school and averaging 140 minutes late per week. When Lecrec caught on, she started calling his home, but more often than not, no one picked up.

"I realized he didn't have that many friends in school, and he didn't have any motivation to get up in the morning, get dressed and get out the door," she said. So she started checking in with Joseph in person on a regular basis, setting small attendance goals -- like to be in school three days a week -- with the ultimate goal of full-time attendance by year's end.

Lecrec recently learned that despite his rocky start, Joseph scored proficient on all of his state tests and moved up a reading group. "He was less of a jokester, being more real with his peers," she said. "He grew hugely."
20:34 Cops Rough Up Citizen Journalist For Videotaping Republicans Being Nasty» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Cops Rough Up Citizen Journalist For Videotaping Republicans Being Nasty

One look at Nydia Tisdale should tell anyone with half a brain that she's hardly a physical threat to a couple of police officers with a gun. But that didn't stop them from forcibly ejecting her when Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens cracked a good ole boy joke about Michelle Nunn and noticed that he was caught on tape.

The force with which the police ejected her was so over the top that even the lady Republicans were appalled. And rightly so. TPM:

About 10 minutes later in the video, a hand aggressively blocked Tisdale's camera. The footage showed her being pushed out of the building and into an adjacent one. It was unclear who pushed her, but at some point a Dawson County sheriff's official appeared in the video.

Tisdale asked the official if she could get her purse to give him her identification.

"Nope, you're going to jail," the officer said in the video.

"I've been real nice, now you're going to jail for resisting arrest if you do not stop," the official said. By then, the sheriff's official had Tisdale with her hands behind her back pressed against a desk. He never identified himself in the video. Another man could be heard saying, "Will you please stop ma'am? We've asked you multiple times."

Dawson County Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Clary Umberger followed the official and Tisdale. In the video she was heard saying to Tisdale: "I am sorry that people are treating you this way. This is wrong."

read more

20:30 Open Thread - Back To School With Ronan Farrow!» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Open Thread - Back To School With Ronan Farrow!

Or from another perspective:

For the love of all that is holy! Ronan Farrow lost the entire continent of Europe! Angela Merkel and everything!

h/t Politicalprof. Open thread below...

20:00 Open thread for night owls: Global warming and loss of labor productivity» Daily Kos
Joe Romm at Climate Progress writes Labor Day 2050: Global Warming And The Coming Collapse Of Labor Productivity:

Global warming is projected to have a serious negative impact on labor productivity this century. Here is a look at what we know.

In 2013, a NOAA study projected that “heat-stress related labor capacity losses will double globally by 2050 with a warming climate.” If we stay near our current greenhouse gas emissions pathway, then we face a potential 50 percent drop in labor capacity in peak months by century’s end.

Many recent studies project a collapse in labor productivity from business-as-usual carbon emissions and warming, with a cost to society that may well exceed that of all other costs of climate change combined. And, as one expert reviewing recent studies put it, “national output in several [non-agricultural] industries seemed to decline with temperature in a nonlinear way, declining more rapidly at very high daily temperatures.” […]

If carbon pollution remains unrestricted, we are risking catastrophic drops in labor productivity.

Andrew Gelman, director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, summed up the research this way in a 2012 post: “2% per degree Celsius … the magic number for how worker productivity responds to warm/hot temperatures.” The negative impact appears to start at about 26°C (79°F).

This loss of productivity is by no means the most life-threatening of climate impacts when compared to, say, Dust-Bowlification and its impact on food security. But it is one of the most important unmodeled climate impacts that makes the likely cost of climate change far higher than standard economic models suggest.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2008The Police State in Minneapolis:

McCain's bizarre Palin pick did more than just turn the national media feeding frenzy away from Obama's remarkable and strong speech, and the great feeling of and commitment to unity the Democrats left Denver with, but also knocked out of the national media--if ever it would reach there, anyway--the excessive actions the Minneapolis police--along with and perhaps at the direction of the federal government--are taking to prevent protests at the RNC.

Glenn Greenwald, I-Witness Video, Feministing, and FireDogLake  have been reporting from Minneapolis about the excessive and unprovoked actions of the FBI and the Minneapolis police. Here's Glenn, today:

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue -- see this video of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice [see update below], seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of the highway -- it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday that "the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff's office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
Today's Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically "aided by informants planted in protest groups."

Tweet of the Day
Would the libertarian movement disband completely if the NSA devoted itself to releasing nude celebrity pics?

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, it's the 9/3/13 episode. Greg Dworkin rounded up local news Newtown, national news from Congress (h/t to Doctor Who), and international news on Syria. Richard Cohen has somehow become the Twitter talk of the morning, for... well, it was too annoying to really talk about. Facepalm-worthy GunFAIL from Lodi, CA. Armando joined in for the Syria discussion. NYC City Council candidate and longtime netroots friend Debra Cooper, updated us on the state of the race, with some surprising background on another Dem candidate's previous support for Rudy Giuliani—in his brief bid for the Senate against Hillary Clinton, no less!

The Week's High Impact Posts. Top Comments
20:00 C&L's Late Nite Music Club With 65daysofstatic» Latest from Crooks and Liars

My favorite thing about this song has to be the beat; it's such an unusual pattern to use in triple meter. Compound their sense of rhythm with their talent for creating varied, yet beautifully complimentary layered arrangements and you've got yourself a recipe for some awesome music. Their progressive sound has not only distinguished them as a music act alone, but it has even allowed them to contribute music to an upcoming (and equally progressive) video game, No Man's Sky. The thought of navigating an enormous, procedurally-generated universe with this as your soundtrack could very well result in a sensational overload.

Got any favorite instrumental rock songs?

19:51 The Other Marriage Discrimination» Politics - The Huffington Post
Same-sex couples who wish to marry are on a winning streak in the courts, and public polling reveals that marriage equality enjoys a higher level of support than at any time in the past. This increasing openness to different kinds of relationships and families provides an opportunity to think more broadly about how we can dignify the relationship decisions of all people -- not only those who wish to marry, but those who don't.

Singleness is on the rise in the United States. According to the 2010 census, nearly 100 million Americans eighteen and over (43.6 percent) are unmarried, and of these, 61 percent have never been married. While of course not all unmarried or never married people are single by choice, many of them are. For example, a 2006 Pew survey found that 55 percent of single people are uninterested in finding a partner.

Many people cannot imagine life without marriage, and the dedication with which same-sex couples and their allies have fought for the right to marry demonstrates how important marriage is to many people. Yet others feel just as strongly about remaining single. Many single people see significant advantages to their status, arguing that the fixation on coupledom leads to neglect other important relationships such as those among friends and other family members and stifles other important social and community values. Singleness, many argue, is not only tolerable, but desirable.

In at least some ways, researchers agree. For example, sociologists Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel argue that married people have become increasingly isolated during the past generation because they focus on their marriages to the exclusion of both other relationships and investment in the broader community. As they put it, "greedy" marriages have resulted in a "short-circuiting of community ties." Contrary to the popular social view of marriage as the pillar of the community, marriage in fact crowds out community involvement. Gerstel and Sarkisian have found that never-married and unmarried people are more politically active, more engaged with their neighbors, and have stronger networks of family and friends.

Despite these positive consequences of singleness, research also reveals many negative attitudes directed at single people. A study by social psychologists Bella de Paulo and Wendy Morris revealed that single people were viewed more negatively across a wide spectrum of personality traits. For example, married people were more likely than singles to be described as mature, stable, honest, happy, kind, and loving; singles were more likely to be called immature, insecure, self-centered, unhappy, lonely, and ugly. A different study by Morris found that married people were described as caring, kind, and giving by almost 50 percent of respondents, while only 2% percentsaid the same of single people.

Research also suggests that bias against single people affects actions, not only beliefs. For example, a series of studies of housing rentals found that when presented with a choice between married and unmarried renters who had the same occupation, hobbies, and other characteristics, 80 percent of people chose to rent to a married couple, 12 percent to a cohabiting couple, and 8 percent to a pair of friends. Likewise, a study found that participants rated a male job applicant as more "suitable" if he was married and rated a male employee as more dedicated if he was married. (The opposite was true for women, which suggests that in some instances, perhaps due to stereotypes about gender and childrearing, women suffer a marriage penalty. This is also an important issue that I don't wish to undermine, although it's not my focus in this column.)

Perhaps most notably, people were quite open about their bias against single people. When asked why they preferred to rent to married people, for example, a majority of participants in the rental study stated simply: "because they're married." It is very difficult to imagine that such a large number would have proclaimed that they preferred not to rent to black people "because they're black," or to Jewish people "because they're Jewish."

Moreover, single people are often treated worse than married people in ways so deeply entrenched that we don't think about them. Legal scholar Lily Kahng has shown that single people pay more taxes than married people on the same amount of income. Married couples often receive better rates on everything from car insurance to employee benefits to cell phone service. And "couple discounts" are everywhere. For example, some gyms offer memberships at one rate for a single person, and at substantially less than twice that rate for a couple.

Yet it's unclear why these financial benefits should attach to marriage. A single gym member who pays a higher per-person rate is subsidizing the couple discount for me and my husband. The same could be said for all of the financial benefits I've mentioned. Of course this benefits me, financially, as an individual, and me and my husband as a couple. But that's no reason to pretend it's not fundamentally unfair to expect someone to subsidize me simply because I'm married and they aren't, or at least aren't right now.

What might we do about discrimination against single people? Currently single people are under-protected under federal law, which prohibits neither employment discrimination nor housing discrimination on the basis of marital status. Legal scholar Nicole Porter, among others, has argued that the federal prohibition on employment discrimination should extend to discrimination on the basis of marital status. Such a proposal has little downside: it would protect single people from worse treatment in the workplace, and, moreover, would also ensure equal treatment of couples in situations where they are disadvantaged.

Single people fare somewhat better under state law. My own research shows that 22 states and the District of Columbia currently protect against marital status discrimination in employment, and 24 states prohibit marital status discrimination in housing. While these laws are a step in the right direction, many of them are limited to specific types of employers or landlords. And, of course, more than half of states have no such laws at all.

How do we level the playing field between single and married people? A good place to begin is to expand federal employment and housing discrimination law to cover single people, and to promote the same treatment at the state level. Likewise, the United States is one of only a few developed countries to retain the joint tax return, and we should think seriously about reconsidering whether it's actually justified. And private businesses should rethink the discounts they offer to married couples simply for being married.

The move toward equality for everyone who wishes to marry is cause for celebration. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on marital status more generally, and to look for ways to equalize those who wish to marry and those who don't.
19:00 U.S. targets extremists in Somalia» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The moves comes after Somalia's government regained control of a prison seized by militants.
17:45 2014 Midterm Elections» Politics - The Huffington Post
With less than 10 weeks to go before the midterm Congressional elections Americans in general are frustrated with Washington. National polls show that about three-quarters of all Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job. By comparison, about half of those Americans polled disapprove of President Barack Obama's handling of his job.

Sunday's New York Post reported that 163 laws have been passed and signed by the president since this two-year term of Congress began in January 2013. That is far lower than the 284 laws that were passed by the 2011-2013 session, which is an all time record for fewest bills passed. Congress passed 386 laws during the 2009-2011 session. Former Representative Lee Hamilton (R-IN) told the Post, "I've never seen it any worse in terms of public esteem for the Congress. I can't find anybody who says a good word about it."

Despite Congress's lack of productivity, and as outrageous as it may seem, it appears that most incumbents will be reelected in November. Conventional wisdom is that while most Americans want to get rid of Congress, they nonetheless support their own representative. This is especially true during midterm elections because voter turnout is often very low, which gives incumbents an advantage. But both parties are leaving nothing to chance, as a record amount of campaign dollars will be poured into this election, surpassing the $3.6 billion spent in 2010.

Republicans currently hold a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives, 233-199; there are three vacant seats. The GOP expects to expand its majority in the House. Meanwhile, Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate. But of the 36 Senate seats in play, 21 of them held by Democrats, while 15 are held by Republicans. If the GOP picks up six Senate seats this midterm they will be in the majority in both houses of Congress. Most experts, including Nate Silver, of the election site FiveThirtyEight, give Republicans a slight edge to take those seats and become the majority party in the Senate.

The Republicans are targeting the seven Democratic seats that are up in states where Mitt Romney beat President Obama in the 2012 presidential election. They are also going after four additional Democratic seats in states where the president remains unpopular. Republicans will do all they can to make this election about President Obama's unpopularity.

Domestically the president has been attacked for executive actions he has taken to bypass the blockade that Congress has become. For example, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who himself has presidential aspirations, has regularly attacked the president, telling Fox News "He believes somehow that he's become a monarch or an emperor that can basically ignore the law and do whatever he wants." On the other hand, Republicans have attacked President Obama for being disengaged and "leading from behind" on foreign policy. The president's recent comment the he does not have a strategy on dealing with ISIS in Syria was seized upon by Republicans. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), said on CBS Sunday, "What I want to hear from the president is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off, to defeat ISIS."

Congressional and Senate Democratic candidates have tried to localize their elections, but Republicans are focusing on President Obama in an effort to energize their base. So Democrats are trying to mobilize minority voters, especially African-Americans, who generally don't vote in midterms. Party activists are using the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and conservative calls to impeach the president, to mobilize Blacks. An increase in the number of Southern Blacks helped Democrats during the 1998 midterm election, when President Bill Clinton was under heavy fire from the right.

Ironically, the one Republican Senator who is in the toughest fight to be reelected is the man who has the most to gain if Republicans win majority control. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), the Senate minority leader, has done all he can to obstruct and block the agenda of President Obama since the day he was sworn in to office in 2009. McConnell is facing a vigorous challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell is not popular in Kentucky, but a recent state poll shows he has the edge. Lundergan Grimes is making McConnell's failings in Congress the issue. But McConnell is tying his opponent to President Obama.

Should Republicans take control of both houses the legislative process will grind to a halt. Anything the Republicans pass, like efforts to defund Obamacare, will be vetoed by the president. Meanwhile, Congressional investigations into the so-called scandals surrounding the IRS and Benghazi will intensify. The partisan divide will widen as Republicans try to score points before the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Because so much is at stake, this coming election day is not a time for eligible voters to stay home.
17:14 Instead of Bombing Syria to Fight the Islamic State, Let Syria and Others Battle Islamic Radicals» Politics - The Huffington Post
Until now, President Barack Obama's foreign policy appeared to be based more on reason than emotion. In contrast to the easily excitable and often angry Sen. John McCain, for instance, the president did not suggest war was the answer to every international problem.

However, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant may have cost President Obama his equanimity. Administration officials are proclaiming this isolated experiment in 7th Century Islam to pose a dire threat to America. After promising to strictly limit the mission in Iraq, Washington is preparing to expand the war to Syria, where the administration has spent years working to overthrow the Assad government -- the most formidable force blocking Islamic control over the entire country. Instead, the administration should push other nations into the lead.

Iraq is a catastrophic failure. America's last four presidents share the blame. Most at fault is George W. Bush, whose ill-considered decision to attack Iraq blew up the nation and ignited sectarian war. Now many of his backers are campaigning for another invasion of sorts, with U.S. ground forces taking on everyone, from ISIL to Iran to Iraq's Shia-dominated national government. Naturally, these exponents of error neither acknowledge the disastrous consequences of their past policies nor offer evidence that their new proposals would yield better results.

Yet the Obama administration risks falling into war again. The president originally undertook what he said would be a limited bombing campaign to save stranded refugees and protect U.S. personnel. Since then the campaign has been broadened to general support for forces opposing ISIL, though still justified as a "security" measure for Americans. (The president explained to Congress that if ISIL forces held the Mosul Dam, it could fail, threatening the lives of the U.S. staff in Baghdad. Such "reasoning" sets no limits on American involvement in Iraq's conflict.)

Now officials want to go further. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that the Islamic State must be "addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border" between Iraq and Syria. Operating within Syria would pose a much greater challenge than launching strikes in Iraq, however. Washington's intelligence capabilities remain limited over the "nonexistent" border. More important, the Obama administration has spent three years attempting to overthrow Syria's Assad regime, which possesses an air defense system capable of downing American aircraft and drones.

Before putting U.S. personnel and materiel at risk, the administration should reconsider its policy in Syria. The administration appears to have decided that its number one Middle East priority is confronting ISIL. Gen. Dempsey called the Islamic State "an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated." Secretary of State John Kerry said simply the group "must be destroyed."

However, the Syrian government is even more committed than Washington to eliminating ISIL as a geopolitical force. The group controls perhaps a third of Syria and recently captured Tabqa airfield, giving the Islamic State full possession of Raqqa province.

Allied support for the radicals obviously has weakened the Assad government's ability to fight ISIL. Washington's preference for less radical groups also has discouraged Damascus from targeting the Islamic State, whose existence inhibits U.S. involvement. In contrast, defeating more moderate forces tends to diminish Western interest and intervention in the conflict.

Reaching a modus vivendi with Damascus would change its calculus. End efforts to oust Assad and he would focus on his most competent and dangerous enemy, ISIL. A U.S. policy encouraging the Syrian government to defeat the group in Syria, including breaking the Islamic State's hold over both the city and province of Raqqa, would undermine the organization's capabilities in Iraq, making it more vulnerable to concerted action by both the Baghdad government and Kurdish authorities.

Of course, Assad is no friend of liberty. But Washington must set priorities. ISIL is far more dangerous, an evil organization motivated by an extremist theology and committed to upending the entire region. After U.S. airstrikes the group gained an incentive to launch terrorist strikes on America. The administration's policy of first supporting and then opposing Assad has been half-hearted and inept, helping to spawn the Islamic State. Washington should reverse course and stop undermining the only military force capable of defeating ISIL in Syria.

Washington also should emphasize the responsibility of surrounding states to combat the group. The Islamic State's priority remains creating a "caliphate" stretching across several nations, including Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey. These three governments should do the heavy lifting in defeating the Islamic State.

The greatest responsibility for the ongoing debacle in Iraq, other than the Bush administration, lies with leading Shia politicians in Baghdad. After years of Sunni domination the newly empowered Shiites, led by Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, pursued their own narrow sectarian course, crippling politics and the military.

Replacing Maliki is a good first step, but not nearly enough. Baghdad must reach a broader understanding with Sunnis and Kurds to strengthen internal forces against ISIL. Indeed, Sunnis need a positive reason to oppose the Islamic State given their unresolved grievances with Baghdad. Otherwise the Shia majority faces an extended civil war in which even victory would be very costly. The administration correctly insists on no U.S. rescue of a narrowly sectarian regime in Iraq.

Ankara, which claims a position of regional leadership, has much at stake as well. The group considers Turkish lands to be part of the "caliphate." ISIL's attacks on Kurdistan could spur a rush of Kurdish refugees into Turkey, unsettling politics involving Turkey's Kurds. Turkey is not at risk of disintegration, but problems created by a growing ISIL would not long remain outside Turkey's borders.

Jordan is far more vulnerable: a monarchy of dubious legitimacy rules over a population containing many Palestinians and a society overwhelmed by foreign refugees. If the Islamic State becomes a de facto government Amman faces an increased threat of subversion. The Gulf States are more distant, but if Sunni radicals gain more influence the latter are unlikely to leave the corrupt and licentious Sunni royals in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in peace.

While the Gulf States and Turkey may not be willing to abandon their campaign to oust Assad, they could better target their efforts to support groups not dedicated to destabilizing the entire region. Washington should insist that the Syrian civil war is no excuse for measures which strengthen the Islamic State. Today the administration is considering bombing ISIL weapons paid for by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, and ISIL personnel allowed to transit by Turkey. There should be no such weapons and personnel to bomb in the future.

Equally important, Jordan and Turkey, both on the Islamic State's hit list, should deploy their air forces against ISIL fighters. Joint military efforts would offer Ankara an opportunity to strengthen its ties to Kurdistan, which have improved in recent years. Indeed, the Erdogan government could use the opportunity to increase its leverage over an entity which once caused concerns because of the long-running, violent Kurdish separatist campaign within Turkey. Kurdish forces have been pushing back against the Islamic State, but still need better and more weapons, which Turkey could provide. And if ground forces become necessary to combat ISIL, Jordan and Turkey also should step up. As a quasi-government the Islamic State likely would devote more effort to undermining its neighbors than attacking Americans.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have a different role to play. While military forces would be useful, as Sunni states they might more usefully combat ISIL's horrendous theology and delegitimize its claim of a new "caliphate." Saudi Arabia, in particular, has sown the wind by underwriting fundamentalist if not necessarily violent Islamic theologies. This gives Riyadh a special responsibility to confront ISIL's religious claims.

Even Iran can assist, though that might discomfit Washington. U.S. officials must get over their illusion that they are masters of the universe capable of reordering human affairs to create some Platonic ideal concocted within the Beltway. The Islamic State has explicitly denounced Iran's leaders as enemies. Tehran will support Baghdad's Shia government irrespective of America's preferences, but could best aid anti-ISIL efforts by backing Shia-Sunni reconciliation. While reaching a nuclear deal remains Washington's highest priority involving Iraq, informal discussions on confronting the Islamic State would be useful.

Finally, European states, most notably France, Britain, and Italy, long have been interested in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington should engage its Western allies about priorities in Syria, and how best to stem the Islamic State's rise. The Europeans also could help provide weapons and training to the Kurds and others.

The Islamic State is evil. But its capabilities remain limited. Its members are capable of slitting throats of Americans unfortunately captured nearby, but the group does not pose an existential threat to the U.S. Moreover, so far the Islamic has demonstrated only limited terrorist capabilities, especially against the American homeland.

Rather than turn ISIL into a military priority and take the U.S. into war against the group, Washington should use its unique position -- allied with many nations in the region and talking with the rest -- to organize an Islamic coalition against the Islamic State. Even Gen. Dempsey called for a regional effort to "squeeze ISIS from multiple directions," but that actually requires Washington to do less militarily. Iraq and its neighbors have the greatest interest in suppressing ISIL. They have the means to do so. They also have the most credibility in doing so. Washington must create greater incentive for them to do so, by no longer making it hard for Syria to act and unnecessary for the others to do so.

Not everything in the world need be about America. President Obama told the American people that he would "not allow the United States to be dragged in fighting another war in Iraq." He later emphasized that "there's no American military solution to the larger crisis." Unfortunately, his actions suggest that he believes otherwise.

Yet ISIL's rise has set in motion the very forces necessary for its defeat. The group has far more enemies than friends, and as recognition of the seriousness of the threat grows, so will the determination of those opposing the Islamic State. Rather than hinder creation of such a coalition by taking charge militarily, Washington should encourage it by stepping back. Washington already has gone to war twice in Iraq. There's no reason to believe that the third time will be the charm.

This post originally appeared on Forbes online.
17:10 Faux War» Politics - The Huffington Post
War, children, is just a shot away, it's just a shot away.
Paul Simon,
Gimme Shelter (1969)

Wars can, of course, be started quite by accident. They can be started because the warriors on one side or the other are overly enthusiastic about what they are doing and their enthusiasm leads them to do things that may have unintended consequences. They can also be started because one side or the other lacks a sense of direction and accidentally invades another country. Or they can be started because scenes from video games appear on the Internet and give the impression that aggressive acts are taking place that are in fact not taking place except in the mind of the creator of the games but the other side is unaware that what appears to be an invasion is in fact merely an illusion. All those things have been happening in the Ukraine but as Vladimir Putin would be the first to explain, there has been no invasion of that country by Russian forces.

The first thing one must keep in mind is that there are really no Russian soldiers involved in that conflict. Some of the Russians who are there are soldiers, but they are not acting in their capacity as soldiers -- except insofar as fighting as a soldier is considered being a soldier. Explaining when a soldier is not a soldier, Alexander Zakharchenko, the East Ukrainian pro-Russian separatist leader explained it this way: "Among us are fighting serving soldiers, who would rather take their vacation not on a beach but with us, among brothers, who are fighting for their freedom... There have been around 3,000 to 4,000 of them in our ranks." He refers to them as soldiers but since they are in fact on leave they are not acting in their capacity as soldiers but as citizen volunteers. The fact that some of them were seen driving Russian issued armored vehicles is no surprise because it is not unlikely that in Russia a soldier on leave is required to take his or her armored vehicle with him or her to the beach or wherever the soldier is planning to go on vacation, in order to keep it in good running shape.

It is not only the vacationing soldier who can create the impression of an invasion. The same thing can happen when a soldier with a bad sense of direction and no GPS wanders into what would be considered enemy territory if the territory into which he or she wandered was at war with the country on the other side of the border. That happened to at least 10 Russian paratroopers in late August.

There was no suggestion at the time of their capture inside Ukraine that they were folks who had foregone a beach vacation in order to enjoy some rest and recreation time in Ukraine and, accordingly no one suggested that they were not in fact acting as soldiers. They were apparently real paratroopers doing real paratrooper kind of work and they simply got confused as to where the border between Russia and the Ukraine was. Since they mostly enter countries from the air and the pilot of the airplane tells them where they should land, it's easy to see how that mistake could happen. A Russian defense ministry spokesman said the paratroopers who had probably come in from the air, were "patrolling the Russian-Ukrainian border, [and] crossed it by accident on an unmarked section." He went on to point out that they offered no resistance when they were captured thus conclusively demonstrating that they were not engaged in hostile activity but were simply lost.

Another thing that can cause a war to start by accident is if one side, in order to demonstrate the bad acts of the other side, broadcasts to the world images of a purported aggressor sending self-propelled armored vehicles into another country if those images are in fact simply images taken from a video game. That happened on August 26 when NATO showed pictures of a convoy of self-propelled armored vehicles that appeared to be driving into the Ukraine. The images were, of course, not real. Russia's Foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov explained that NATO was using "images from computer games" to prove that there were Russian troops in the Ukraine. He said, referring to these images, that "hiding the evidence is an outstanding characteristic of the U.S. and many EU countries" when it comes to the Ukraine. (It is not clear why showing a video from a computer game would be considered "hiding the evidence" and no one asked Mr. Lavrov to explain.) Of course if those pictures were not from a video game Mr. Lavrov would have had a tough time explaining why their entering Ukraine was not part of an invasion.

If it were not for the helpful explanations by Mr. Putin's assorted spokesmen we might be concerned about how events in Ukraine will ultimately play out. For good reason.


Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com
17:03 Back to College -- The Only Gateway to the Middle Class» Politics - The Huffington Post
This week, millions of young people head to college and universities, aiming for a four-year liberal arts degree. They assume that degree is the only gateway to the American middle class.

It shouldn't be.

For one thing, a four-year liberal arts degree is hugely expensive. Too many young people graduate laden with debts that take years if not decades to pay off.

And too many of them can't find good jobs when they graduate, in any event. So they have to settle for jobs that don't require four years of college. They end up overqualified for the work they do, and underwhelmed by it.

Others drop out of college because they're either unprepared or unsuited for a four-year liberal arts curriculum. When they leave, they feel like failures.

We need to open other gateways to the middle class.

Consider, for example, technician jobs. They don't require a four-year degree. But they do require mastery over a domain of technical knowledge, which can usually be obtained in two years.

Technician jobs are growing in importance. As digital equipment replaces the jobs of routine workers and lower-level professionals, technicians are needed to install, monitor, repair, test, and upgrade all the equipment.

Hospital technicians are needed to monitor ever more complex equipment that now fills medical centers; office technicians, to fix the hardware and software responsible for much of the work that used to be done by secretaries and clerks.

Automobile technicians are in demand to repair the software that now powers our cars; manufacturing technicians, to upgrade the numerically controlled machines and 3-D printers that have replaced assembly lines; laboratory technicians, to install and test complex equipment for measuring results; telecommunications technicians, to install, upgrade and repair the digital systems linking us to one another.

Technology is changing so fast that knowledge about specifics can quickly become obsolete. That's why so much of what technicians learn is on the job.

But to be an effective on-the-job learner, technicians need basic knowledge of software and engineering, along the domain where the technology is applied - hospitals, offices, automobiles, manufacturing, laboratories, telecommunications, and so forth.

Yet America isn't educating the technicians we need. As our aspirations increasingly focus on four-year college degrees, we've allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated.

Still, we have a foundation to build on. Community colleges offering two-year degree programs today enroll more than half of all college and university undergraduates. Many students are in full-time jobs, taking courses at night and on weekends. Many are adults.

Community colleges are great bargains. They avoid the fancy amenities four-year liberal arts colleges need in order to lure the children of the middle class.

Even so, community colleges are being systematically starved of funds. On a per-student basis, state legislatures direct most higher-education funding to four-year colleges and universities because that's what their middle-class constituents want for their kids.

American businesses, for their part, aren't sufficiently involved in designing community college curricula and hiring their graduates, because their executives are usually the products of four-year liberal arts institutions and don't know the value of community colleges.

By contrast, Germany provides its students the alternative of a world-class technical education that's kept the German economy at the forefront of precision manufacturing and applied technology.

The skills taught are based on industry standards, and courses are designed by businesses that need the graduates. So when young Germans get their degrees, jobs are waiting for them.

We shouldn't replicate the German system in full. It usually requires students and their families to choose a technical track by age 14. "Late bloomers" can't get back on an academic track.

But we can do far better than we're doing now. One option: Combine the last year of high school with the first year of community college into a curriculum to train technicians for the new economy.

Affected industries would help design the courses and promise jobs to students who finish successfully. Late bloomers can go on to get their associate degrees and even transfer to four-year liberal arts universities.

This way we'd provide many young people who cannot or don't want to pursue a four-year degree with the fundamentals they need to succeed, creating another gateway to the middle class.

Too often in modern America, we equate "equal opportunity" with an opportunity to get a four-year liberal arts degree. It should mean an opportunity to learn what's necessary to get a good job.


ROBERT B. REICH's film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:
16:49 First Neanderthal Rock Art Revealed | Video» LiveScience.com
Archaeologists excavating a cave in Gibraltar discovered rock engravings that may have been created by Neanderthals more than 30,000 years ago.
16:38 Vladimir Putin, BRICS Bank and Eclipse of South American Idealism» Politics - The Huffington Post
If recent developments are any indication, South American political elites seem to have jettisoned much of the high minded left idealism of past years in favor of crass economic interests. In a somewhat outlandish turn of events, Brazil has embraced Vladimir Putin, a figure who has desperately sought to end his country's political and diplomatic isolation. Since Russia came to the aid of Ukraine's rebels, the west has imposed stiff sanctions on the Kremlin, and Putin seems keen on consolidating the inchoate BRICS group (which counts Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as members) as a means of counteracting such pressure.

Far from protesting Russian aggrandizement, Brazil has warmed to Putin and there are even plans afoot to found a so-called BRICS development bank no less. Brazil's courting of Russia is a bad political sign for the future. To be sure, Latin America has its own reasons to oppose U.S.-influenced financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Indeed, loan recipients have long resented the lecturing IMF, which imposes tough reforms in lieu of financial assistance. In light of the region's unfortunate historic experience with such entities, it's politically understandable that many countries would seek to build up their own rival institutions.

Nevertheless, the idea of countering western financial muscle through an alliance with Russia is dubious at best. What is more, there are serious questions about the viability of the new BRICS bank, as well as its commitment to sustainable development. Moreover, by calling for the creation of a BRICS bank, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and others seem to be turning their backs on previous and more innovative efforts in Latin America to counteract western-style capitalism.

Bank of the South Imbroglio

Though certainly disappointing, Rousseff's embrace of the BRICS bank and Putin should not come as a great surprise. Though Brazil forms part of the original "Pink Tide" of leftist regimes taking power in the hemisphere, the country has always been most cautious when it came to promoting a truly progressive agenda, and in some cases the South American giant has even watered down such impulses. Take, for example, Brazil's posture towards Venezuelan-inspired Bank of the South, an initiative launched by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez in 2007 to counteract the IMF while fostering regional integration, poverty alleviation and investment.

Publicly, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva of the Workers' Party embraced Venezuela and Bank of the South, but according to confidential U.S. diplomatic cables published by whistle-blowing outfit WikiLeaks, Brazil was skittish about Chávez's rising profile and provocative moves to counter U.S.-influenced institutions. Indeed, according to WikiLeaks cables both Lula and Argentine President-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner were circumspect and "Argentine and Brazilian officials are working behind the scenes to moderate Venezuela's influence in the organization of the bank in order to avoid the overt politicization of the Bank's lending policies." Meanwhile, Lula sent diplomats to neighboring Peru in an effort to torpedo Bank of the South and line up regional allies around more conservative lending institutions.

Brazil's Poor Track Record

Why should Brazil support upstart Venezuela, Lula may have reasoned, when the South American juggernaut already has its own development bank, BNDES? Hardly a progressive-leaning institution, BNDES has sought to encourage the growth of strong Brazilian multinationals via below-market loans. The bank has provided support to companies like oil giant Petrobras, iron flagship Vale, and steel maker Gerdau, all of which have been conducting a big push into neighboring countries. The Brazilian wave however has been met with wariness and resistance from Paraguay to Guyana to Peru to Ecuador, where local residents have protested boondoggle projects. Moreover, when BNDES announced it would support road construction through remote indigenous territory in Bolivia, the effort sparked protest from local Indians who accused President Evo Morales of being a foreign lackey.

Lula and Rousseff's historic support for BNDES provides a strong contrast to the likes of Venezuela, which seemed poised to spearhead more progressive-leaning financial reform during the early Chávez years. In addition to Bank of the South, Chávez also appointed Nora Castañeda to head up the innovative Women's Bank in Caracas [for more on Castañeda and the bank, see my second book]. Chávez backed other innovative measures too such as the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (or ALBA) a trade bloc designed to promote complementarity and reciprocity outside of the usual corporate structures, and the Venezuelan leader even created a new common currency called the Sucre. Needless to say, Brazil failed to provide necessary support for such efforts which might have challenged the "Washington Consensus" and the hegemony of the U.S. dollar.

Fiery Rhetoric

What will it take for South America to overhaul its politics and adopt more radical economic policies? During a recent South American confab, BRICS nations employed fiery rhetoric against western lending institutions, and member nations wasted no time in criticizing the World Bank and IMF. "It is the common intention," Putin stated, "to reform the international monetary and financial system. In the present form it is unjust to the BRICS countries and to new economies in general."

Putin is an awful messenger when it comes to social and economic justice, yet it's also true that BRICS nations have historic grievances. According to a recent article in the Guardian, BRICS possess just 11 percent of the votes at the IMF, even though member countries account for a substantial 20 percent of world economic activity. Furthermore, the American congress has refused to ratify a recent agreement which would rectify this unequal situation. In addition, writes the Guardian, the U.S. has "displayed no willingness to renounce its anachronistic privilege of nominating the World Bank's president."

In a column, Gabriel Elizondo of Al-Jazeera remarks that by creating a new development bank, BRICS nations "dropped a sledge hammer to the so-called Washington Consensus." Elizondo writes that "it was clear leaving Fortaleza [the Brazilian city where BRICS nations signed the agreement to create a new bank], there was a consensus, but it wasn't coming from Washington. The pressure is not on Shanghai. It's now on the U.S. capital. Competition is not a word that's part of the regular World Bank and IMF vocabulary. It is now."

Contradictions at New BRICS Bank

Despite such claims, there are real questions about the economic effectiveness of the new BRICS bank. To be sure, member nations have committed $50 billion in initial capital, but BNDES already doles out close to $100 billion a year anyway. What is more, it's unclear whether the BRICS bank can make a real financial difference, given that developing countries have huge infrastructure needs in the neighborhood of $600 to $700 billion. It's unclear when the new bank will actually start lending money, though perhaps somewhat optimistically within less than two years.

It's also similarly unclear whether the BRICS bank really represents such an ideological challenge to western financial institutions. To be sure, the new entity has pledged not to impose budgetary conditions on loan recipients like the IMF. Moreover, BRICS countries have promised to mobilize resources "for sustainable development projects." However, Inter Press Service reports that the new BRICS bank's articles of agreement don't contain any references to social and environmental safeguards. Speaking with reporter Elizondo of Al-Jazeera, BNDES President Luciano Coutinho "downplayed" the notion that the new BRICS bank was opposed to the World Bank or I.M.F. Moreover, despite BRICS claims that the new bank will be transparent, grassroots groups charge that BRICS governments often fail to represent the needs and aspirations of their peoples.

Perverse Relationship

Though the economic future of the BRICS bank remains uncertain, it seems possible that the new entity could help to solidify political ties between member nations. That, at least, is the hope of Vladimir Putin who is eager to obtain new allies who won't challenge the Kremlin's dubious foreign adventures. In Brazil, Putin remarked that the new bank could help to prevent the "harassment" of countries whose foreign policy is at odds with Washington's. Specifically, Putin wants BRICS nations to work against unilateral sanctions. "Recently Russia has been exposed to a sanction attack from the United States and its allies," the Russian President remarked. "We are grateful to our BRICS partners who have criticized such practices in different forms," he added.

If the diplomatic advantages for Putin are somewhat obvious and straightforward, the political calculus for South America is a little less clear. Brazilian President Rousseff is facing a challenging re-election campaign and may surmise that courting the anti-U.S. left within the ranks of her own Workers' Party will reap political dividends, though such a constituency is rather small and unlikely to make much of a real difference. Like Rousseff, other Latin American leaders are rushing to embrace the Putin bandwagon. Take, for example, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who seeks Russian financial assistance and diplomatic support for Argentina's disputed claims over the Falkland Islands or Malvinas. In return, Kirchner would like Putin to back the notion of Argentine membership within BRICS.

So much for Brazil and Argentina, but what about Venezuela, a country which has at times sought to challenge U.S. financial hegemony? Like Kirchner, who has stated that Russian-Argentine "multi-polarity" will do away with "double standards" on the world stage and encourage greater adherence to international law, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has done much to rehabilitate Vladimir Putin. In recent years, Venezuelan trade with the BRICS bloc has skyrocketed, increasing by 72% from 2006 to 2013. Hoping to solidify ties yet further, Venezuela participated in a recent BRICS summit in Brazil. Somewhat perversely, Maduro has proposed a joint financial strategy with Bank of the South collaborating with the new BRICS bank. Echoing Kirchner, Maduro said that closer relations between BRICS and Latin America represented a "win win alliance" and "the birth of the multi-polar world."

Buffering Financial Shock

Perhaps, such geopolitical maneuverings make sense in a Machiavellian sense, but they make a mockery of the South American left's pretensions to put forward a more idealistic brand of politics. Furthermore, questions linger over another BRICS initiative, the so-called Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). Concerned about ongoing economic turbulence, BRICS nations set up the scheme earlier in July. The initiative is designed to provide a buffer in light of capital volatility, overcome lack of short-term liquidity and offset fiscal deficits brought on by financial dislocation.

The CRA emergency pool will total $100 billion, and Putin plans to contribute $30 billion to the fund. The scheme aims to lessen BRICS dependence on the U.S. Federal Reserve and the dollar, and member nations will earmark money from their foreign exchange reserves for swap lines which could in turn be called upon in times of distress. The international monetary system depends a lot on the U.S. dollar, Putin has remarked, and BRICS countries are determined to change this.

Faux anti-Capitalism

Sounds like a provocative idea, but will it work? Barry Eichengreen, a professor of economics and political science at University of California, Berkeley believes the CRA amounts to mere "empty symbolism," and "that is how it will be remembered." Writing in the Guardian, Eichengreen remarks that in the event of a financial crisis the CRA probably won't work, since "the interests of prospective borrowers and lenders are not obviously compatible. The next BRICS country experiencing a crisis will want to draw on the CRA. But the other members will hesitate to lend more than token amounts, especially if there are repayment doubts."

The only way to get around this bottleneck, Eichengreen reasons, is to allow lenders to impose policy conditions on borrowers. But such logic would fly in the face of anti-I.M.F. rhetoric emanating from BRICS. Meanwhile, Eichengreen adds, "imposing conditionality on sovereign states is a delicate matter - especially when the countries involved are as large, proud, and diverse as the BRICS." "It is difficult," Eichengreen muses, "to imagine Brazil, for example, accepting policy conditions laid down by China."

Not only may the CRA be unworkable, but the scheme won't provide a systemic challenge to capitalism, either. It's a little odd that the Latin Americans, having already advanced a number of innovative and experimental measures dating from the Chávez administration in Venezuela, are now ignoring such efforts whilst engaging in a geopolitical game to the bottom. Enthralled with the notion of challenging Washington in its own "back yard," South American nations are turning their backs on their earlier idealistic past so as to play in the big leagues, even if that means rehabilitating a pariah figure such as Vladimir Putin.


Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left. Follow him on Twitter here.
16:19 Jennifer Lawrence requests nude pics investigation» Salon.com
The Oscar winner has contacted authorities to investigate who stole and posted nude images of her online

16:04 My sex supplement problem» Salon.com
It started with Viagra in my 20s, but sex became a performance. Could I ever find intimacy without a pharmacy?

16:04 Mike Mills: “I discovered Big Star the same way I discovered much of the music I love ­— by listening to Peter Buck’s record collection”» Salon.com
As "Radio City" and "#1 Record" get stellar reissues on Tuesday, R.E.M.'s Mills reflects on their lasting genius

16:04 Forget about rainbow parties, sex bracelets and sexting: Today’s kids have not gone wild» Salon.com
Salon speaks to the authors of a new book about what your teens are really doing behind closed doors

16:04 Dispatch From Liberia: An Epidemic of Fear» Politics - The Huffington Post

Scrubs: check. Gum boots: check. Gloves: check. Tychem suit: check. Mask: check. Hood: check. Apron: check. Goggles: check. Gloves again: check. "Ready?" I ask the Liberian nurse assisting me. She shakes her head and grabs a small strip of duct tape, covering the space between my hood and goggles where a thin slice of skin was showing. "Now ready," she replies.

The temperature in Monrovia is just over 80, the humidity even higher. I feel the sweat collecting between my skin and suit, pooling in my boots and along the bottom of my goggles as I slowly follow the physician training me into the high-risk zone of the world's largest Ebola treatment center. It feels far more like scuba diving through a hot spring than beginning morning rounds in a hospital, but that is exactly what we are doing.

A few moments later, I meet my very first patient with Ebola, a young man who had wandered away from his bed during the night and is now lying on the ground near the edge of the high-risk zone. He is tired and confused. He doesn't know where he is, or why there are two men in space suits towering over him. The physician with me calmly reassures him, and together we help lift him to his feet and guide him back to his thin mattress in one of the large white tents serving as an Ebola ward. He is profoundly weak, and as we walk, I notice that his pants are soaked through with diarrhea, a hallmark of the disease. We lay him down and urge him to drink some water mixed with oral rehydration salts. Then we move on to the next patient. We have 60 more to see on rounds this morning, and already I feel exhausted from the heat.

* * *

For decades now, Ebola has been the Hollywood star of diseases, capturing the public's imagination with its exotic name, high fatality, and the added fear factor that it can cause people to bleed from odd places. Until recently, though, if you had asked any global health expert about the scary diseases that keep them up at night, Ebola would not have made their list. Just this past May, at a humanitarian conference I attended in London, one speaker presented some early data collected from Gueckedou, Guinea, where the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa began. After the presentation, one man in the packed audience raised his hand to ask: "Why are we even talking about this disease? After all, it only kills maybe a hundred people every couple years."

As of this week, Ebola is killing a hundred people every couple days in West Africa, and there will never be another conference where someone raises their hand to ask that question. But the true impact of the crisis in West Africa should not be measured in the numbers dying of Ebola itself, but rather in the wider impact the disease has wrought. Every day here in Liberia I hear horror stories of people dying of perfectly treatable diseases as hospitals and clinics have shut their doors: a woman in labor who bled to death, baby half delivered, for lack of a midwife willing to manage her delivery; the driver who crashed his truck and was left to die without a functioning trauma center; the young child seizing from malaria, whose mother visited multiple hospitals and clinics but couldn't find one open to treat him. It is not Ebola alone causing the catastrophe in West Africa today -- it is an epidemic of fear.

What makes Ebola different from so many other public health threats is the effect it has on healthcare workers, and as a result, on the entire healthcare system. To put it bluntly, Ebola kills nurses and doctors, almost preferentially. This should not be surprising, given that the disease is spread by contact with the body fluids of symptomatic patients, and nobody has more contact with the body fluids of sick people than nurses and doctors. But the toll that Ebola has taken on clinicians and public health professionals alike means that the very people who calmed our fears in the past, who talked us through other epidemics and assured us that everything was going to be okay if we only kept calm and did A, B, and C, are now running scared themselves. And that is frightening indeed.

Ebola, though, is not actually a Hollywood disease. It is not a vampire, zombie or ghost. It cannot walk through walls, or even gloves and gowns. It can be destroyed by weapons as simple as chlorine, alcohol, soap, detergent and even sunshine (sort of like a vampire, I suppose). With the right precautions in place, including protective equipment and triage protocols to identify those most likely to have the disease, health care workers can safely treat patients of all types without the fear of dying themselves. And when people see health care workers saving lives, they are willing to bring themselves and their loved ones to the hospital early, before the disease has a chance to spread, reducing transmission. And when transmission stops, the epidemic stops, and life in West Africa can return to normal.

Up until now, it has been local nurses and doctors who have borne the brunt of this epidemic, working long hours to care for desperate patients without the proper protection as their colleagues fell ill around them. Yet even now, the vast majority of them are more than willing to come back to work once their safety is ensured by the introduction of protective equipment and protocols. The necessary protective equipment isn't cheap though, and the impoverished countries of West Africa will never be able to afford it on their own. And as brave and heroic as they are, there simply aren't enough trained doctors and nurses here to stem the tide of this epidemic on their own.

There is a dire need for the international community to stop treating this crisis like a horror movie, closing its eyes tightly until the scary part is over, and start treating it like a real humanitarian disaster that requires an adequate input of monetary, logistical, and yes, human resources. It is true that most humanitarian emergencies cannot actually be solved by humanitarians alone, but this crisis is an exception to the rule. A sufficient supply of experienced international aid workers, including nurses, doctors, epidemiologists, sanitation engineers, lab technicians and logisticians, provided with the proper protection and resources, could bring this particular crisis to a halt in a matter of months.

* * *

As we finish our morning rounds, tending to both the living and the dead crammed together in the long white tents of the treatment center, I see something quite unexpected. A large group of patients are dancing and singing in the grassy area between the wards, with a handful of nurses and doctors in their full protective equipment trying to bounce a bit with them, despite the heat. The patients are joyous because they have recovered from Ebola, and will soon be discharged home. I can feel the strip of duct tape tug against the skin of my face as I begin to smile.

If the international community is willing to invest the necessary resources now, within a year or so we could all be dancing together as a planet, celebrating the full recovery of the Ebola-stricken nations of West Africa. If we fail to act soon, however, we are going to need some very large, nation-sized body bags.


Adam Levine is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of the Global Emergency Medicine Fellowship at Brown University. He currently serves as the Clinical Advisor for Emergency and Trauma Care for Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima and as a member of the Emergency Response Team for International Medical Corps. His research focuses on improving the delivery of acute care in low-income countries and during humanitarian emergencies. The views expressed in this blog are his alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any of the organizations mentioned above.
16:00 Things you can learn from Mom and Dad» Daily Kos
young black man asking  white doc to remove embedded target
Dave Margulies via politicalcartoons.com (with permission)
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” - Mark Twain
On this Labor Day, 2014, I thought I'd give a hat tip to some parental advice (direct and indirect) that would be worth keeping in mind.

Lessons from Dad

Ron Fournier has a thought-provoking column about rushing to judgment that I've been mulling over for several days, based on his father's experience being a Detriot riot cop back in the '60s.

Follow me below the fold for more.

15:56 House Republicans Don't Expect a Shutdown» Politics - The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON—Almost a year since the last partial government shutdown began, many House Republicans say they have little desire to start another.
15:55 FBI Addressing Leak Of Nude Celebrity Photos» Politics - The Huffington Post
ANTHONY McCARTNEY, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The FBI said Monday it was addressing allegations that online accounts of several celebrities, including Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, had been hacked, leading to the posting of their nude photographs online.

The agency did not say what actions it was taking to investigate who was responsible for posting naked photos of Lawrence and other stars. Apple said Monday it was looking into whether its online photo-sharing service had been hacked to obtain the intimate images.

Lawrence, a three-time Oscar nominee who won for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook," contacted authorities after the images began appearing Sunday.

Naked images purporting to be of other female stars were also posted, although the authenticity of many couldn't be confirmed. The source of the leak was unclear.

"This is a flagrant violation of privacy," Lawrence's publicist Liz Mahoney wrote in a statement. "The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence."

The FBI said it was "aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter."

"Any further comment would be inappropriate at this time," spokeswoman Laura Eimiller wrote in a statement.

Apple Inc. spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said the company was investigating whether any iCloud accounts had been tampered with, but she did not give any further details.

"We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report," she said.

Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead also confirmed that nude photos of her were posted online.

"To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves," Winstead posted on Twitter. Winstead, who starred in "Final Destination 3" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," wrote that she thought the images had been destroyed.

"Knowing those photos were deleted long ago, I can only imagine the creepy effort that went into this," Winstead wrote.

The FBI has investigated previous leaks of nude celebrity images, including leaks involving Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and footage of television sports reporter Erin Andrews in a Tennessee hotel room. Those cases resulted in convictions.

How widespread the hacking of celebrities photos was is not immediately clear. Some of the images were quickly denounced as fakes.

Some cybersecurity experts speculated that hackers may have obtained a cache of private celebrity images by exploiting weaknesses in an online image-storing platform.

"It is important for celebrities and the general public to remember that images and data no longer just reside on the device that captured it," security researcher Ken Westin wrote in a blog post Monday. "Once images and other data are uploaded to the cloud, it becomes much more difficult to control who has access to it, even if we think it is private."

Private information and images of celebrities are frequent targets for hackers. Last year, a site posted credit reports, Social Security numbers and other financial info on celebrities, including Jay Z and his wife Beyonce, Mel Gibson, Ashton Kutcher and many others.

Johansson, Kunis and Aguilera were hacked by a Florida man, Christopher Chaney, who used publicly available information to hack into the email accounts of more than 50 people in the entertainment industry.

"I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed," Johansson said in a tearful videotaped statement played in court at Chaney's sentencing in December 2012.

"That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy," Aguilera wrote in a statement before Chaney's sentencing.


Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London and Mae Anderson in New York contributed to this report.
15:45 Election Diary Rescue: Week 34» Daily Kos
DKos Miner 14
The following diaries are examples of this week's Election Diary Rescue. This post features a collection of 50 diaries.

(KY-Sen) What you need to know about Mitch McConnell and Jesse Benton by zenofmconnell - Mitch McConnel (R) is in the fight of his life against Alison Lundergan Grimes (D). A look at who Jesse Benton is, and how his indictment in a notorious bribery case may impact the race.

(AZ-03) Grijalva's Opponent Demands Excommunication by Hi Jolly - Republican candidate Gabriela Sucedo Mercer has earned some fame for outrageous statements on Facebook. She's keeping it up this time too, now demanding that the Catholic church excommunicate Grijalva because he supports women's right to choose.

(NY-StSen43) NY-SD-43 - St. Senator Marchione's Largest Donor Arrested & Indicted as FBI Investigation Continues by Upstate Blue - A Saratoga County developer was arrested last week by the FBI in a probe of Republican elected officials in the town of Halfmoon, including incumbent State Senator Kathy Marchione. The developer, it turns out, is the largest individual contributor to her campaign. Popcorn required for this one...

New Election Rule: Virginia Requires Photo ID at Polls by louisev. This voting restriction did not come from the legislature - it originated with the Virginia Board of Elections.

This is the 34th weekly edition of Election Diary Rescue. It covers rescued down-ticket election diaries published from Sunday, August 24 through Saturday, August 30. We hope you enjoy the following gems dug up by our dedicated team of miners.

VOLUNTEER ALERT! As the election approaches we will be switching back to our traditional daily schedule for producing this blog. We will need a few good Kossacks to join the team.

Please e-mail us if you would like the opportunity to contribute to this legacy project. DKosEDR@gmail.com.

Diaries: (50)
Senate: (12) posts, (9) states
House: (6) posts, (4) states, (6) districts
State and more: (26)
General: (6)

15:30 Fox Pundits Have The Gall To Complain About The Media's Loss Of Credibility» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Fox Pundits Have The Gall To Complain About The Media's Loss Of Credibility

Howard Kurtz and his guests on this Sunday's Media Buzz took a walk down bizarro-lane and made believe they themselves and the network they work for are not exactly what's wrong with our corporate media these days.

Driftglass already did a very fine job going after Kurtz for this debacle, which I'll share a portion of here:

"What Is Dead May Never Die" Edition.

For sheer yardage gained in the direction opposite of reality on a single play, I've got to give it to Howard Kurtz of Fox News this week.

As you may know, Mistah Kurtz's career as a third rate purveyor of media insider gossip was in ashes, until Roger Ailes came to his rescue and added Kiurtz to his vast stable of street-corner dung-hustlers.

Usually Mistah Kurtz's soap whittlings are too trivial to mention, but this Sunday he really elevated the ambient level of completely fucking surreal at Fox by conducting a puppet show with a couple of other Fox News nobodies about what a God Damn Crying Shame it was that "the media" had lost so much credibility with Real Murricans since the Age of Cronkite.

According to Mr. Ailes' script as it was recited by these persons, the main reasons Real Murricans don't trust the media are, in no particular order...

Chelsea Clinton!

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15:24 Fleeing Quarakosh: The Last Christians in Iraq» Politics - The Huffington Post

(Photo credits: Flo Smith/Material Evidence).

Khalid Zaki is an acting coach. A few months ago the 35-year-old Arabian Christian stage managed Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice at a local theater in Qarakosh. Today, he is one of approximately 100,000 Christians who sought refuge from the wrath of the Islamic State in and around Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

"We came here in the morning of August 7, most of us with nothing but our clothes on," Khalid recounts. The Christian exodus was total. More than 40,000 Christian refugees fled Quarakosh -- until then the largest Christian town in Iraq. According to refugees interviewed, there are but 120 Christians left in Qarakosh, who are employed by the Islamic State as auxiliaries to prevent looting in the abandoned Christian homes.

In Erbil, Nazar Hana, a manager at the Nisthiman Mall in the city center, opened up the whole sixth floor of the building to around 1,100 Christian refugees. Due to construction delays, funding problems, and local opposition by shopkeepers, the Nishtiman Mall was never completed and is now in a derelict state, with only a few shops open on the first and second floors, as well as a thriving black-market in the basement of the building.

The 1,100 refugees at Nishtiman Mall have benefitted from media attention to the plight of Iraq's minorities fleeing ISIS. Christian NGOs, UNHCR, as well as the International Red Cross are delivering food and medical supplies. Some of their living space is even air-conditioned which with outside temperatures of over 100 degrees is a vital necessity and in stark contrast to their lives two weeks ago.

And while there are only enough matresses for the women and children to lie down on (the men sleep on the marble floor), the mall refugees are better off than most of the other Christians, spread out in approximately 23 camps in the city and its vicinity, and who often have to make do with mere tents or canvases shielding them from the elements.

This, however, is little comfort for the displaced people of Qarakosh who see the most recent attacks as perhaps the final act in their expulsion from Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have left the country in the last two decades. Estimates of the remaining total number of Iraqi Christians are as low as 200,000.

Leaving Qarakosh

While sipping a cup of chai, Khalid Zaki recounts the last 24 hours in the city: "On the morning of August 6, the Pesh Merga promised to defend us to the death and we believed them once the
shooting started."

IS fighters began shelling the city with both artillery rounds as wellas missiles. Soon the first casualties appeared.

With tears in his eyes, Kaleed Kackwani, a 27-year-old construction worker, tells the story of his neighbor's children who were killed while playing in the street. A shell exploded in their
midst, killing two boys, aged 12 and five, as well as a 10-year-old girl: "One of the boys was torn apart by the shell and all that was left of him was one arm and one leg. His family collected his remains in a nylon bag. People were panicking."

"Around 5 p.m. we gathered for the funeral of the children," continues Khalid, who lives in the same neighborhood as Kaleed. "Then the congregation held a service at the Church of Saint Mary. After the service I went home." On August 7, at 3 a.m. Khalid received the news that the Pesh Merga had started withdrawing from their defensive positions. He and his family lost no time. They got into their car and started heading towards Erbil. On the road they were held up at Pesh Merga checkpoints. "It took us five hours to pass one single checkpoint," tells Khalid.

Khaleed Kackwani explains that Ram, the brother of his wife, was hit in the head by a bullet while caught in the crossfire of IS fighters and retreating Pesh Merga forces at one of the three checkpoints that Kurdish forces had set up between Qarakosh and Erbil. "There was nothing we could do for him. We had to leave him behind. It took us 15 hours to cover the 80km from Quaraqosh to Erbil. The road was filled with cars and refugees. We were only allowed to pass the checkpoint one by one."

The same night ISIS suicide bombers tried to break through a Pesh Merga checkpoint with a stolen ambulance but were spotted and killed before detonating the charge.

In the room next to Khaleed's, Bydaa Bhnam Khtya, mother of three, also recounts the long wait in front of the checkpoints leading to Erbil. She and her husband owned a gas station and a chicken farm in Qarakosh. Dressed in pajamas, a baby girl on her lap, she emphatically states that she will not return to Qarakosh: " I do not trust the Pesh Merga anymore. They left us undefended. I do not trust anyone anymore connected to the Iraqi government."

Majeed Iyu Gorgies and his four sons fled on August 6. He sits on his bed in a small room on the 6th floor in the Nishtiman Mall resting his left leg on a worn out matrass. He lost his right leg in March 2003 during an American aerial bombardment at the beginning of the Iraq
War. He was sitting in a café in Mosul when the bombs were dropped: "It was March 31, 2003 at exactly 6 p.m. when three bombers dropped half a dozen bombs on our neighborhood. Nine people were killed and 45 wounded -- I was one of them." Numbers are still hugely important for the 55-year-old former teacher of mathematics.

Majeed Iyu Gorgies story is typical of the lives of many Christians in Iraq in the last few decades.

Majeed wanted to become a teacher. He studied natural science and mathematics at Mosul University. Yet, two months after my graduation the war with Iran started. "I had to serve for five years in an anti-tank unit and fight on the frontlines. Only then was I allowed to begin teaching. After another five years the next war came and the school officials laid me off because I was not a member of the Baath party, and in addition, as a Christian, I was considered anti-patriotic." Until 2003 he had to work on various construction sites as a floor tiler, and, although the American invasion cost him a leg, he was immediately singled out as a traitor by Sunni extremists once the insurgency intensified in Mosul. In 2007, he had to flee his beloved hometown: "The extremists called us and told us that they would come over in 10 minutes and kill me and my family unless I left the town immediately." The family moved to Qaraqosh. Now in August 2014 they had to flee again.

According to some sources, Iraqi and Kurdish forces are planning the recapture of Mosul as well as Qarakosh. Yet only a few Christians are thinking of returning to the city once it is liberated. They are scared. According to Khalid many Muslims welcomed the IS fighters to Qarakosh. In disbelief he relates the story that former Muslim students of his tried to convince him on the phone that it was safe to return to the city.

"We will only return under the protection of an international intervention force," Rabee Yussef Sorani emphatically states, the unofficial spokesperson of the refugees at the mall. Majeed has resigned himself to indefinite exile, but like so many he does not know where to go: "Mosul, Qarakosh, and now Erbil! How far do I need to run to escape the war? Where do we go from here?"
15:02 Pop culture’s newest apocalypse: Visions of a smartphone dystopia» Salon.com
Two acclaimed new books show how our smartphone addiction is changing the way we think about the end of the world

14:34 FBI addressing nude celebrity photos» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Nude photos of several female celebrities have been stolen and posted online.
14:01 Black America’s tragic challenge: How do you explain racism to your son?» Salon.com
The deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown force black parents to teach their children simply how to stay alive

14:00 Unequal pay starts early» Daily Kos
Women make less than men in almost every field 4 years after graduation.
Women face lower pay right out of the starting gate, and through their working lives.

Union membership reduces the pay gap, by the way.

14:00 A child accidentally shoots a man dead & the NRA wants to remind us how kids can have fun with guns» Daily Kos
Screen grab of tweet from NRA Women:
Not that it's a surprise, but the NRA once again proves the obvious. It's a wretched organization led by wretched people:
On Monday, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor with a submachine gun called an Uzi. The girl accidentally pointed the weapon up towards her instructor when the enormous weapon’s recoil was too powerful for her to control.

A horrible tragedy, right? Not only is a man needlessly dead, but a little girl is permanently scarred. The lesson to be learned is clearly not to give automatic weapons to children. But did we even need to learn that in the first place?

Apparently, yes. The National Rifle Association responded to the event just two days later by tweeting a list of ways that children can “have fun at the shooting range.” The Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie caught it first, and managed to capture a screenshot of the tweet before it was deleted an hour later.

Because to the NRA, the only proper response to the horrors of gun violence is to tout the joy and wonder of guns. Humanity does not matter. The NRA is a humanity-free zone. As Wilkie explains:
The Arizona shooting has prompted a heated national debate over what guns are safe for use by minors, even under supervision. Experts agree that an Uzi was the wrong choice for a 9-year-old girl.

The timing of the NRA's tweet appears to be linked to this debate. Anstine's column about children's shooting targets was posted on August 20, almost a week before the Arizona shooting. Why the NRA would decide to push out this column to the more than 7,000 followers of its "NRA Women" account is unclear. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Because guns are so fun, and yet another accidental shooting death by yet another child should not dissuade parents from putting more guns in the hands of more children. To the vultures in the gun industry, anyway.
13:45 The crisis of “bad feminism” is worse than you think» Salon.com
Enough with the dangerous think pieces about whether we can like catcalls or heels or botox and still be feminists

13:17 Americans Are Eating Healthier, Study Finds» LiveScience.com
People in the U.S. are eating healthier now than a decade ago, a new study finds.
13:14 How this politician could help save the planet» Salon.com
Marina Silva could become the first environmentalist to lead a major world economy. But what would it look like?

13:07 Obama: GOP 'says no to everything'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The president uses his Labor Day speech to slam Republicans on minimum wage and more.
13:00 Year of Woman Governors hits snag» POLITICO - TOP Stories
2014 was to be the year women would break down statehouse doors, but that outlook has dampened.
13:00 Man Of God Huckabee Hates Regulations On Fronts For Money Laundering » Latest from Crooks and Liars
Man Of God Huckabee Hates Regulations On Fronts For Money Laundering

Operation Choke Point was designed to scrutinize businesses that make it easy to launder money and helps to keep a closer eye on the financing of dangerous terrorist activities. In other words, President Obama is trying to keep us safer by following a trail of cash that could be used to fund acts of terror. This is, according to the Right, another power grab by the Black Socialist in Chief. If only President Obama was a Republican White Male, he would be lauded for his plan to keep tabs on businesses that are often fronts for real shady activities. Reverend and former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee (R) is utterly outraged the government has the audacity to prevent fraud, cut down on crime and stop the flow of cash from money laundering operations. .

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12:59 Why 2014 is not 2010, in one very clear chart» Daily Kos

At the beginning of the year, we heard a lot of talk about how 2014 was going to be another Republican wave year, like 2010, or bigger. Now, however, it's clear that 2014 has not followed the same trajectory as 2010.

By this time in 2010, Democratic fortunes were sliding downhill fast, according to generic congressional ballot polling questions. This year—not so much. Take a look at the trends (Loess curves):

The generic ballot has been stable all year for 2014, and with a small Democratic advantage (although not nearly enough to take back the House). Things can always change—but as of now, there's no evidence of a developing Republican wave.

In past years, massive waves have been quite obvious by now. Here's the data going back to 2002:

It's only six elections worth of data, so it's difficult to draw conclusions or attempt predictions, but it's pretty clear the mood of the electorate this year is different from 2010 or 2006.

Data from HuffPost/Pollster and Real Clear Politics. Polls of Registered or Likely Voters only for 2012 and 2014.

12:30 Rising income inequality costs middle-class families $18,000 a year» Daily Kos
Household income of the middle class, actual and projected assuming it grew at the overall average rate, 1979-2010.
You can thank rising inequality for your stagnant income. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, "if inequality had not risen between 1979 and 2007, middle-class incomes would have been nearly $18,000 higher in 2007." That's because the very top earners sucked up way more than their share of the income growth that happened in those years.

Average household incomes grew by 53.4 percent from 1979 to 2007. But that didn't break down equally:

  • The bottom fifth of households saw their income go up by 29.2 percent, well below the 53.4 percent average.
  • Income for the middle fifth of households grew by a measly 19.7 percent.
  • But how did people a little higher up, but not at the very top, do? A little better, but still below average: households between the 81st and 90th percentiles—so in the bottom half of the top fifth of the income ladder—had just 39.1 percent income growth. Again, well below that average of 53.4.
  • So how far up do you have to go before you hit the average? The 91st to the 95th percentile almost got there, with 53 percent average growth. But they fell just short. Households between the 96th and 99th percentile seriously exceeded 53.4 percent, though. They had average income growth of 78.1 percent.
  • That's nothing compared to the top 1 percent, though: Their income grew by 244.7 percent, close to five times the average.

For the vast majority of Americans, income growth hasn't kept up with the average. It hasn't kept up with productivity. Instead, we get the insane wealth that now exists at the top, then a chasm, with what used to be America's middle class clinging to its walls by their fingernails. It didn't happen by accident, and it's not going to change because we ask politely.

12:12 The right’s food stamp embarrassment: A history lesson for the haters» Salon.com
While conservatives love to beat up on the SNAP program, there's an awkward little fact that might horrify them

12:00 Ferguson and the Department of Justice» Daily Kos
United States Attorney General Eric Holder.
[T]he federal civil rights investigation into the shooting incident itself continues, in parallel with the local investigation into state law violations. Our investigators from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. attorney’s office in Missouri have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses on the scene at the time of the shooting incident on Saturday. Our review will take time to conduct, but it will be thorough and fair.”—Attorney General Eric Holder

What can the Department of Justice do about the issues in Ferguson? Not just the killing of Michael Brown but the conduct of Ferguson, St. Louis County and Missouri law enforcement as well? A Reuters piece considers the options:

After Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to the St. Louis suburb on Wednesday, he vowed that the Justice Department would stay involved to help heal the relationship between the police department and the public.  [...] So what more can Holder and the Justice Department do?  Fortunately, whatever the outcome of the criminal process, they still have important tools at their disposal.

One crucial order of business will be to identify any credible allegations that the Ferguson Police Department used excessive force or other unconstitutional practices in responding to the demonstrations. [...]  The attorney general has authority to investigate and file suit against a police department that has engaged in a pattern of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal laws. The investigation leading to such a suit can include an in-depth examination of the Ferguson Police Department’s use of force, its conduct in searches, surveillance and making arrests (including allegations of racial profiling and other bias) and its procedures for training, supervising and disciplining officers. In Ferguson, the investigation will have to include the police department’s interference with the First Amendment rights of the press.

I'll discuss Justice's mandate and procedure on these issues on the other side.
11:56 Lena Dunham: Hacker Responsible For Stealing Naked Celebrity Photos Is A ‘Sex Offender’» ThinkProgress

But the law is struggling to keep up with technological advances that pose new kinds of problems.

The post Lena Dunham: Hacker Responsible For Stealing Naked Celebrity Photos Is A ‘Sex Offender’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:10 The truth about shaving: Debunking the biggest myth ever about body hair» Salon.com
What we think we know about hair on our faces and legs is actually just a big ol' urban legend

11:00 National Review lists the 20 movies that 'effectively destroyed art'» Daily Kos
You monsters.
Conservative film criticism is wonderful stuff that we all should be reading, and I'm not even being facetious on that one. It's glorious. The very premise puts conservative above film criticism, asserting that the only true way to review a film is to ascertain whether its perceived message is a conservative one, and to then declare the film Good or Bad based on that. Acting? Set decor? Foley work? Bah—all can be overlooked, cough Atlas Shrugged cough, because if the film of the week has a conservative message it is a Good film, and if it has a Hollywood elite liberal socialist Democrat stupid damn love and tolerance message it is a Bad one, and all the rest is padding.

So when the conservative segregationist rag National Review has one of its authors—an African American author—set out to make a list of recent films that have "effectively destroyed art" through their naughtiness, you know it's going to be good. And it is.

Since 2004, the year that film culture split along moral and artistic lines, political and class biases have been exhibited in films that became more and more partisan. This rift was furthered by a compromised media, where critics praised movies that exhibited cynicism along with political bias.
What happened in 2004 that broke this man's spirit? Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ did not get good reviews, and it made our film critic very sad. I'm not even kidding. That's what the link says. And for some reason the early 2000's saw rise of a cultural "cynicism" expressed through the measurement of the popularity of various movies, and that's Bad because America shouldn't be cynical just because everything was terrible and would continue to be terrible for the indefinite future. I blame the films.
Not just entertainment, the 20 films listed here effectively destroyed art, social unity, and spiritual confidence. They constitute a corrupt, carelessly politicized canon.
This. Is. Brilliant. It takes a lot to destroy art, social unity and spiritual confidence, but to do it in a mere 20 modern movies is a genuine miracle. I would not reckon even an Adam Sandler film had the capacity to destroy art, although several of them did make me question the existence of a compassionate God.

Shall we look? Shall we? Of course we will, below the fold:

11:00 Bayonets, boycotts, and burgers: American labor history in pictures» Daily Kos
This 1877 cover of Harper's Weekly shows the blockade of engines at Martinsburg, West Virginia, in the Great Railroad Strike.
Workers have been fighting for better pay, workplace safety, schedules they could live with, and more power on the job throughout American history—since before there was a United States of America. From the Polish craftsmen who went on strike for the right to vote in Jamestown in 1619 to the many campaigns going on today, labor struggle is an American tradition, and one that has shaped the world we live and work in. This Labor Day weekend, we're looking at some of that history, in pictures, from the Great Railroad Strike of 1877—in which tens of thousands took to the streets and governors and ultimately the president sent troops against them—to the fast food and Walmart workers striking and fighting against unbelievable odds today.
McDonald's worker Keyana McDowell, 20, (L) strikes outside McDonald's in Los Angeles, California, December 5, 2013. Organizers say fast food workers will strike in 100 U.S. cities, and there will be protests in 100 more, to fight for $15 an hour wages and
Los Angeles McDonald's workers strike in 2013.
There's a bumper sticker that reminds us about "the labor movement: the folks who brought you the weekend." And it did. But today, many workers' schedules continue to be at the mercy of their bosses, who require them to be available at any time on short notice for what might turn out to be only a few hours of work. The minimum wage is a poverty wage and the proportion of workers eligible for overtime has been chipped away, but many workers still don't get the wages they earn and are legally owed. Thousands of workers are still killed on the job every year. And inequality is sky high, and not going down unless and until workers build the power to fight it.

So come below the fold for more images of where we've been, where we are, and how workers have fought and continue to fight.

11:00 Read The Real, Bloody And Amazing Story Of Labor Day» Latest from Crooks and Liars

11:00 Midday Open Thread: Look For The Union Label» Latest from Crooks and Liars

Remember when everyone knew this song? What happened? Sure, we all know how the politicians turned against working people. But why did unions give up on getting their message out and building public support?

How did they lose it?

How do you think they can get it back?

10:39 The right’s jobs debacle: Here’s how to bring unemployment down to zero» Salon.com
Forget Paul Ryan's delinquent fathers theory. Want to crush poverty? Here's how the government can end joblessness

10:10 Obama tells Congress of airstrikes» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He sends official notification for last week's Iraq airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops.
10:09 The government’s giant marijuana deception» Salon.com
America’s marijuana policies continue to be hopelessly divorced from science rather than driven by it

09:08 Nader: Dems need 'urgency' vs. GOP» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Democrats need to make raising the minimum wage the top campaign issue, he says.
09:07 Uncommon Apples» Salon.com

09:07 Spitting on the working poor: Living wage surcharges and the nickel-and-diming of America» Salon.com
Minimum wage hikes are a great idea. But here's how corporations and the right hope to make America hate them

09:07 Not all twerks are equal: Teaching my kids how to appreciate pop culture» Salon.com
My daughters love Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj, but how much should I educate them about the politics of pop?

09:07 12 absolutely delicious apples you’ve probably never tasted» Salon.com
We're living in an apple renaissance, author Rowan Jacobsen tells Salon

09:05 Too Little Too Late: Ferguson Police Now Wearing Body Cameras» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Too Little Too Late: Ferguson Police Now Wearing Body Cameras

09:00 Assault rifle sales sluggish because cruel dictator Obama still hasn't banned them» Daily Kos
Protester Scott Drexler carries a rifle on a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management's base camp where seized cattle, that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy, are being held at near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Sure you don't want to buy a few more?
Sometimes all you need is the headline:
Assault Rifles Pile Up as Gun-Law Gridlock Crimps Makers
The problem, you see, is that a whole lot of very stupid people went out and bought assault rifles because the NRA and other conspiracy groups were very, very sure that Barack Obama was going to ban them when he took office, or after he took office, or during any particular season, or when he re-took office, and so on. And more very stupid people went out and bought them after the brutal shootings of elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut, because they too thought there was some slim chance that America would pull its head out of its ass and finally do something to maybe stop very stupid and/or crazy people from purchasing assault rifles in order to "protect themselves" from elementary school children, people who walk on the neighbor's property without permission, or car crash victims who knock on their doors seeking help.

Joke's on them, though, because America never did, and now the gun manufacturers and dealers are very sad because stupid and/or crazy people already have bought all the assault rifles they need, and the market is, at least until such a time as yet another person executes school children with one of the aforementioned assault rifles, collapsing:

Plummeting sales of assault-style weapons, also known as modern sporting rifles or “black rifles,” has led to an oversupply of unsold guns and is hitting the bottom lines of the big arms producers. Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC) shares yesterday fell the most in more than two years after the Springfield, Massachusetts-based gunmaker slashed its full-year sales and profit forecasts. [...]

“Everybody wanted to buy one before Congress passed legislation that might take away the right to have one. Of course, Congress never passed that legislation,” said Andrea James, a Minneapolis-based analyst for Dougherty & Co., who lowered her rating on Smith & Wesson yesterday to neutral. “The best thing for firearms demand is to have the constant threat of legislation without ever actually having the legislation.”

Of course it is. And the second best thing for firearms demand is to see people getting murdered with firearms, because that invariably leads to a spike in other people buying the same weapons.

All is not lost, however. Crazy people will always need more guns, and I'm sure another mass shooting will be happening in short order anyway. The country will remain positively awash in guns for a good long time.

“Gun ownership has become normalized among a greater demographic,” said James, adding that the long-term trend is still favorable for gun makers. “Are people buying as many guns this year as they were last year? No. Are people buying more guns than they were three years ago? Yes. The industry is pretty healthy.”
That's the spirit. Keep your chin up, gun makers. You're like the tobacco industry; sure, your customers may die off at an elevated rate, but so long as you can appeal to the kids these days you'll be fine.
09:00 Israel Swipes Huge Chunk Of Palestinian Land, Just Because» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Israel Swipes Huge Chunk Of Palestinian Land, Just Because

Imagine if you were sitting in your home right now when you suddenly heard on the radio that the house you were sitting in had been "appropriated" by someone else. Just like that, a knock on the door and an order to get the hell out, because your property now belonged to someone else who wanted to live there. If you actually had some possessions, you might not get to take those because it was "appropriated."

That's how I see this:

Israel appropriated a swath of 990 acres in the West Bank on Sunday and declared the Palestinian area south of Bethlehem to be Israeli "state lands," local media reported.

According to the veteran anti-settlement group Peace Now, the declaration is the largest of its kind since the 1980s and stands to change the area dramatically.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a special cabinet meeting at the Ashkelon Shore regional council in Bat-Hadar, Israel, on Sunday. (Amir Cohen / AP)
The group said the Bethlehem area lands are earmarked for a massive expansion of the small settlement of Gevaot, which could grow into a town connected to the so-called Green Line that marks the border that stood prior to the 1967 war.

The announcement of the appropriation was made by COGAT, the military unit implementing the policies of Israel’s government in the Palestinian territories it controls.

read more

09:00 Boy Sent Home From School Because His Hair Was 'Too Long'» Latest from Crooks and Liars
Boy Sent Home From School Because His Hair Was 'Too Long'

Wow, what a way to screw up a kid's first day of kindergarten. My heart breaks for this little boy. I remember how eager my kids were for that big milestone and what a happy day it was.

This child had a different experience.

When all other Seminole, Texas students were headed to their first day of school on Monday, one little boy was sent home because his hair was too long. The five-year-old boy, Malachi Wilson, is a part of the Navajo Nation, and according to his parents, it’s against their religion to cut his hair. CBS 7's Lauren Lanmon reports.

The district says they were only following procedure and after proper documentation was shown that he was truly Native American, he was allowed to register. But his mother says even though he is in school now, they’ll never get back their first day of Kindergarten.

“Malachi was excited to start school all summer long. After we had enrolled him he was excited, everyday it was the question, ‘mom, are we going to school?’” said Malachi’s mother, April Wilson.

Excited about his first day of school, Malachi walked into the doors of F.J. Young Elementary only to be told he couldn’t attend because his hair was too long.

“Our hair is sacred to us, it makes us part of who we are,” said April.

“I trim it, it grows back,” said Malachi.

Malachi was eventually allowed in after his parents presented proof he was a "real Navajo."

read more

08:13 Conservatives Protest Labor Day By Staging A Work-In» ThinkProgress

"I can't think of a problem in society that can't be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, and it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf."

The post Conservatives Protest Labor Day By Staging A Work-In appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:06 Muir resurrects 'World News Tonight'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The network will restore the broadcast's Peter-Jennings-era title, "World News Tonight."
08:05 5 reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed» Salon.com
A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity

07:42 Rep. Larson: 'We're AWOL'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"Congress as been off for more than six weeks," Larson says on MSNBC.
07:03 The Magical President doesn’t exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts» Salon.com
The myth of a president who can solve our problems alone is inane. The big task right now? Rescue these midterms

07:03 From “Bent” to “Fancy”: What the past 10 songs of the summer say about us» Salon.com
If aliens came to Earth and used these song lyrics to understand how we experience summer, here's what they'd learn

07:02 Perez: Obama 'fighting' for wage hike» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"The economy is clearly moving in the right direction," he says.
06:53 Labor Day 2050: Global Warming And The Coming Collapse Of Labor Productivity» ThinkProgress

Global warming is projected to have a serious negative impact on labor productivity this century. Here is a look at what we know.

The post Labor Day 2050: Global Warming And The Coming Collapse Of Labor Productivity appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:50 Cartoon: Reality collapse» Daily Kos

Support the only cartoon standing between you and the collapse of reality itself! Join Sparky's List—and be sure to visit TT's Emporium of Shopping Fun!

06:29 Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The states (Labor Day edition)» Daily Kos
Democratic candidate for IA-04, Jim Mowrer
Jim Mowrer (D) takes on GOP Rep. Steve King. One of many reasons to watch Iowa in November.

Hopefully, everyone in the Daily Kos/DK Elections community is in the midst of a restful and festive Labor Day holiday. Just as Labor Day marks a symbolic close to the summer months, it has also historically marked a symbolic opening to the "real" meat of the election cycle. If politics has been on the back burner for most folks since the polls closed in 2012 (or 2013 for a handful of states), that is bound to end in the coming weeks.

If the final weeks of an election cycle are a sprint to the finish, Labor Day acts as the starting gun for that sprint.

Thus, this was as good a time as any to introduce the Power Rankings for the states, which of all of the DKE Power Rankings offerings, is arguably the most comprehensive and the most oriented towards the election date in November. Because we have actually moved into the month of September, this edition of the Power Rankings actually incorporates information from both July and August (since we did not have a state set of Power Rankings for last month).

Head past the fold to see which states appear to becoming increasingly important as we head into November.

06:20 The True Story Of How One Man Shut Down American Commerce To Avoid Paying His Workers A Fair Wage» ThinkProgress

America's railroads -- and with them, its economy -- nearly ground to a halt in 1894 because one of the wealthiest men in American history decided to grow his own fortune on the backs of hungry workers.

The post The True Story Of How One Man Shut Down American Commerce To Avoid Paying His Workers A Fair Wage appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:00 This Labor Day, a reminder of what unions really do» Daily Kos

This Labor Day, remember: It's not just that workers do better in unions than not, though they do:

Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers, union vs. non-union.
It's that when union membership declines, the entire middle class does worse:
Chart showing that union density and middle class share of the national income have declined along similar lines.
See below the fold for some bonus charts.
05:31 Face of the right’s Obamacare hypocrisy: Why is Indiana’s GOP governor getting a pass?» Salon.com
Americans for Prosperity went to war to block expansion of Medicaid -- so why are they going easy on Mike Pence?

05:31 Why America’s “war on terror” failed» Salon.com
Washington blames the rise of ISIS on the Iraqi government. But it has created a situation where ISIS can flourish

05:30 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: War and peace on Labor Day» Daily Kos

EJ Dionne:

Who knew that one of the best made-for-Labor-Day speeches in U.S. history would be delivered by a chief executive? And who could have guessed that the summer’s major labor story would not be about a CEO saving the jobs of his workers but about the workers saving the job of their CEO?
Charles Blow:
Part of the reasoning is alarm at the speed and efficiency with which ISIS — a militant group President Obama described as “barbaric” — has made gains in northern Iraq and has been able to wash back and forth across the Syrian border. Part is because of the group’s ghastly beheading of the American journalist James Foley — which Michael Morell, a former deputy director of the C.I.A., called “ISIS’s first terrorist attack against the United States” — and threats to behead another.

But another part of the equation is the tremendous political pressure coming from the screeching of war hawks and an anxious and frightened public, weighted most heavily among Republicans and exacerbated by the right-wing media machine.

In fact, when the president tried to tamp down some of the momentum around more swift and expansive military action by indicating that he had not decided how best to move forward militarily in Syria, if at all, what Politico called an “inartful phrase” caught fire in conservative circles. When responding to questions, the president said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

His aide insisted that the phrase was only about how to move forward in Syria, not against ISIS as a whole, but the latter was exactly the impression conservatives moved quickly to portray.

It was a way of continuing to yoke Obama with the ill effects of a war started by his predecessor and the chaos it created in that region of the world.

In fact, if you listen to Fox News you might even believe that Obama is responsible for the creation of ISIS.

ISIS happened because Bush invaded Iraq. If that's not part of your thinking, don't bother to make suggestions.

It's not just Fox News. There is a solid contingent in DC (journalists and politicians)  that repeats this "I don't know what to do, just do something", despite being bereft of actual ideas. It should be required to add a tag line as to where you stood on Iraq before commenting now. We need to know their track record before we take the commenter seriously.

Still, Obama's as likely as not to piss off everyone by ignoring them. In this case, good for him.

More politics and policy below the fold.

05:25 Perry deletes 'drunk' DA tweet» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The tweet that characterized a District Attorney as the "most drunk Democrat in Texas."
04:45 Why white men hate unions: The South, the new workforce and the GOP war on your self-interest» Salon.com
Labor & white men once stood united. Now they're across a political divide thanks to decades-long war of confusion

04:45 How to argue with right-wing relatives: Labor Day BBQ edition!» Salon.com
No one enjoys a political debate while eating hot dogs. But here's how to prep for your Tea Party uncle's madness

04:45 GOP’s Labor Day scorecard: Here’s how they’re flunking and hurting us all» Salon.com
Take a moment from eating hot dogs with your extended family to consider the status of the American worker!

04:40 U.S. men held in N. Korea ask for help» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The tourists call for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom.
03:27 Hating on Harry Reid» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Kochs and their allies aren't simply content to hold their fire against Reid until 2016.
03:24 Rating teachers not as easy as 1, 2, 3» POLITICO - TOP Stories
States are scaling back and, in some cases, putting off decisions until Obama is out of office.

Sun 31 August, 2014

20:00 Open thread for night owls: Procrastination—Is delaying hard work all about our moods?» Daily Kos
Night Owl
Derek Thompson at The Atlantic writes The Procrastination Doom Loop—Delaying hard work is all about your mood. An excerpt:

When I woke up this morning, I had one goal: Finish this article by 11 a.m.

So, predictably, by the time it was 10 a.m., I had made and consumed two cups of coffee, taken out the trash, cleaned my room while taking a deliberately slow approach to folding my shirts, gone on a walk outside to clear my head, had a thing of yogurt and fruit to reward the physical exertion, sent an email to my aunt and sister, read about 100 Tweets (favorited three; written and deleted one), despaired at my lack of progress, comforted myself by eating a second breakfast, opened several tabs from ESPN.com on my browser ... and written absolutely nothing.

What's the matter with me?* Nothing, according to research that conveniently justifies this sort of behavior to my editors. Or, at least, nothing out of the ordinary for writers, as Megan McArdle has explained on this site. I'm just a terrible procrastinator.

Productive people sometimes confuse the difference between reasonable delay and true procrastination. The former can be useful ("I’ll respond to this email when I have more time to write it"). The latter is, by definition, self-defeating (“I should respond to this email right now, and I have time, and my fingers are on the keys, and the Internet connection is perfectly strong, and nobody is asking me to do anything else, but I just … don’t … feel like it.”).

When scientists have studied procrastination, they've typically focused on how people are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time. For example, everybody recognizes, in the abstract, that it's important to go to the dentist every few months.

The pain is upfront and obvious—dental work is torture—and the rewards of cleaner teeth are often remote, so we allow the appointment to slip through our minds and off our calendars. Across several categories including dieting, saving money, and sending important emails, we constantly choose short and small rewards (whose benefits are dubious, but immediate) over longer and larger payouts (whose benefits are obvious, but distant).

In the last few years, however, scientists have begun to think that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion. Procrastination "really has nothing to do with time-management,” Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.” [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush:

According to Fox News, the thing that made Ted Kennedy special was that he was always willing to make deals with Republicans, and that he'd sell those deals to his fellow progressives.

Kennedy, they say, was always in pursuit of a half-a-loaf. And the best example? His support for President Bush's medicare prescription drug benefit.
But there's a problem with Fox's claim: it's not true. Although Kennedy did reach a deal with Bush on prescription drugs, Bush screwed Kennedy and reneged on the deal at the last second, leaving Kennedy fuming.

Far from supporting Bush's Medicare prescription drug plan, Kennedy was one of its most outspoken critics. And it's all on video tape.

In mid-2003, before the Bush Administration stabbed him in the back, Kennedy did support reaching a deal on prescription drug coverage, making the case for compromise by hearkening back to an opportunity to achieve universal health care coverage during Nixon's presidency.

Tweet of the Day
Really, @GovernorPerry if you can't guard your official private twitter account, how can we trust you to guard the border?

Every Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio."

Top Comments
18:40 Can Octopuses be Cultivated for Food?» LiveScience.com
As the world’s supply of fish diminishes while the number of humans keeps increasing, it seems these creatures would make an ideal mass-produced food for our hungry mouths.
18:20 Google Must Make Android Safer (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
Over the past few months, the Android platform developed by Google and based on the Linux operating system has been having a difficult time.
18:15 President Bush declared Iraq a 'catastrophic success' ten years ago» Daily Kos
The disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq wasn't just an American war of choice. As much as anything else, it was a war of talking points. Designed, as President Bush once explained, to "catapult the propaganda," the tried and untrue sound bites about "the smoking gun that could come in the form of mushroom cloud," about Saddam seeking uranium in Africa, about being "greeted as liberators," about an insurgency in its "last throes" in 2005, about the "ties going on between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime" and so much more converted the Bush administration into a weapon of mass deception.

But it was ten years ago this weekend that George W. Bush vomited forth one of the more reprehensible defenses of his debacle in Iraq. Nineteen months after launching the invasion, 17 months after announcing "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" and 14 after declaring "bring 'em on" to the growing ranks of insurgents, President Bush offered this lone lament in an August 29, 2004 interview with Time magazine:

"Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success - being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."
Fight another day, indeed. Eleven years after George W. Bush opened the Pandora's Box of sectarian conflict in Iraq and 10 after he proclaimed it a "catastrophic success," the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) has emerged with a vengeance. And ISIS owes its stunning battlefield victories to a deadly alliance of Al Qaeda fighters Bush admitted he attracted to Iraq, Sunni tribesmen alienated by his man in Baghdad Nouri al-Maliki and, it turns out, some of Saddam's former officers who "should have surrendered or been done in."

Continue reading about President Bush's "catastrophic success" in Iraq below.

18:04 No, Your IQ is Not Fixed for Life (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
We’re getting more stupid.
17:50 Gaming as Spectator Sport» LiveScience.com
17:36 Rapid Response Teams Halve Hospital Heart Attack Deaths» LiveScience.com
Detecting and treating patients before they have a cardiac arrest isn’t rocket science, but it’s a life saver.
17:26 Al Qaeda's new front: Jihadi rap» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The suspected James Foley killer represents a new, dangerous merger of hip-hop and Islamism.
17:26 The GOP's woman problem» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Opinion: The problem is, and has always been, Republican policies.
17:10 I wish I’d loved my dog more: Teenage nostalgia, first loves, and pining for the wrong past» Salon.com
I often want to relive the past, knowing what I do now. But the person who should live smarter is me right now

16:30 To fight ISIS the West must do more to integrate potentially alienated Muslims» Daily Kos
People who feel a part of the national community do not join ISIS.
It is disturbing, to say the least, to hear that an American was killed fighting for ISIS, and that, depending on which estimate one reads, anywhere from a few dozen to three hundred Americans may have likewise joined up. Even more disturbing is that there are "twice as many" British Muslims serving in combat with ISIS than there are serving in that country's military, according to Khalid Mahmood, a member of the British Parliament. Think about that.

Let me now make clear what this article is and is not about. It is not an endorsement of any specific level of U.S. military action in Iraq or Syria, or military action by other Western countries. It is also not an argument about the level of military threat posed by ISIS—irrespective of the horrific, evil nature of their acts—to the United States. One astute writer warned against overestimating that threat. Nor am I accusing Muslim communities in the West of failing to condemn the brutal violence committed by ISIS. In fact, I wrote just the opposite a little over a week ago.

What I am writing about is this: people leaving Western countries to join ISIS means that there is something wrong in those societies—both in the mainstream and the Muslim communities—something that is emblematic of a larger problem. Namely, Western democracies overall are failing to successfully integrate newcomers into the society and the national community. The problem appears to be even worse in Europe—in particular among Muslim immigrants in Europe—than in the U.S., despite the heinous 2009 murder of thirteen American military personnel by a Muslim American, Nidal Malik Hasan.

Compared to Europe, the U.S. has had much more experience and success integrating immigrants. This includes Muslims, who show a "negligible" level of support for jihadi extremism according to extensive surveys done by Pew in 2007 and 2011. Furthermore, from the 2007 report:

"Although many Muslims are relative newcomers to the U.S., they are highly assimilated into American society. On balance, they believe that Muslims coming to the U.S. should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society."

Nevertheless, we, along with our fellow Western democracies, need to do more to help immigrants integrate, and certainly not only because of ISIS.

Please follow me beyond the fold for more.

15:11 Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week » LiveScience.com
An ancient greek tomb, manipulating memories and a volcanic eruption are just the tip of the Science iceberg.
14:45 Can you still doubt plight of black men with police irrespective of socio-economic circumstances?» Daily Kos

I am a father, a son, a husband, a brother, an engineer, a software developer, a host of several radio shows, an author, a blogger, a vlogger, a political activist, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a musician, and a black man. That last adjective to a large percentage of the police makes me a suspect. Sadly, I am a member of the #FitTheDescription hashtag/meme. I understand and feel Charles Belk’s pain. I expressed some of it in my piece “I was Trayvon Martin the day I came to America.”

But I digress. A copy of Charles Belk’s story is at the end of this post. In short, Charles Belk is a graduate of Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina, who completed his BS degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California and received an MBA from Indiana University and a Executive Management Certificate from Harvard University School of Business.

On his way to put money in his parking meter he was arrested by several police officers. He was handcuffed tightly. He spent north of 6 hours in the Beverly Hills jail. Why? Because he fit the description of a tall, bald black male who was possibly involved in a bank robbery.

He was not told why he was arrested. He was treated with disrespect as his pleas went ignored and unanswered. You see, to the cops, he was not a person. He was a black man.

Think about it. Would cops arrest the first blue-eyed blond white man that fit a description and was not acting suspiciously? Even if they did, would they be more careful and listen to his pleas to be sure they had the right person? How many stories have been heard of white criminals released just because the cops were not sure? The Beverly Hills cops did not even have the decency to validate his picture with available videos in the six hours he was held.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

13:00 Quick question for white conservatives: Is it ever NOT okay to shoot dead an unarmed black man?» Daily Kos
A makeshift memorial is pictured near where black teenager Michael Brown was shot to death by police over the weekend in Ferguson, Missouri August 12, 2014. Police said Brown, 18, was shot in a struggle with a gun in a police car but have not said why Bro
Among the many profoundly disturbing aspects of the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson has been the reflexive reaction of white conservatives in the media. Whether it was the quickly debunked lie that Brown had damaged Wilson's eye socket or the utterly irrelevant question of Brown's use (like millions of other American teens) of marijuana, the talking points have been rolled out, rolled around, and quickly rolled away to make room for the next talking points. What must not escape notice about the talking points is the apparently desperate need of white conservatives to find such talking points. The real problem isn't the false content of those talking points, it's that desperate need to search for them in the first place.

A young man was shot dead. An unarmed young man was shot dead. An unarmed young man who had no criminal record was shot dead. What sort of vacuum of the soul causes a person reflexively to need to rationalize and excuse something so horribly sad? An unarmed young man who had no criminal record was shot dead. And the bottom line, among white conservatives in the media, seems to be that the shot dead unarmed young man who had no criminal record was black, and his shooter white. That white conservatives in the media reflexively demonize the black victim and defend the white shooter is not a unique event. It is part of a pattern, and in that pattern the pathology is revealed.

The talking points blur. The voices drone into a monotonous buzz. Bobble-heads babble, and very earnest acting alleged experts are plopped in front of cameras no matter how many times they have proved incompetent or dishonest. Yet another unarmed young black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man, and the act must be made to be seen as okay. Those who are upset that yet another unarmed young black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man must be proven wrong. Those who are upset that yet another young unarmed black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man must be shown that this is simply how things work. Those who are upset that yet another young unarmed black man who had no criminal record was shot dead by a white man must come to accept that this is simply how things work so that the next time it happens, as it inevitably will happen, the peace and quiet of white conservative righteous privilege will not be disturbed. This is what must be stopped. The violence is not the white men shooting dead unarmed young black men who had no criminal records, it is the reactions of those who think something about it is wrong.

The question in the title of this essay is quite simple. It is an attempt to clarify the conservative mindset. Are there any conditions under which it is acceptable for people to be upset that a white man shot dead an unarmed young black man who had no criminal record? Are there any conditions under which a white man shooting dead an unarmed young black man who had no criminal record is itself not okay?

12:40 Abandoned U.S. embassy 'secured'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The breach of a deserted post likely will reinvigorate debate over the U.S. role in Libya.
11:14 Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Back to School Edition)» Daily Kos
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at a meeting of the Latin Builders Association in Miami, Florida January 27, 2012.    REUTERS/Joe Skipper   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
For the fourth month in a row, Florida's Rick Scott sees his re-election near the top of the Power Rankings.

If we wanted to give an alternate title to the Power Rankings this month ("back to school", from a calendar perspective, made the most sense), we could have selected from two worthy options.

This could have been:

Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Revenge of the Primary Effect)
Or, perhaps it could have been:
Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Everyone in the Pool!)
That's because, unlike the Senate Power Rankings, the late-developing primaries did play a small amount of Hell with the gubernatorial list this month, including launching a new #1 race that, one has to believe, won't be in the top spot come November.

Also, for the first time in the history of the Power Rankings, every single race on the gubernatorial roster scored at least single points, meaning they were either polled (which is precisely what happened) or merited a mention in our DKE daily digests.

So, with the primaries garnering attention, and everyone getting on the board, how did the monthly top ten shake out? Head past the jump to find out.

09:30 'Stuck in the past' on women? Play offense, say GOP strategists» Daily Kos
Women make less than men in almost every field 4 years after graduation.
GOP solution? ignore this and blame the poor.
"We have to quit sitting back and taking it on the chin. I think we have to play offense on this.”
--Katie Packer Gage, Republican strategist
Two conservative groups did a study about the attitudes of women voters toward the Republican Party. As reported to Politico, the results were thoroughly unsurprising: the study, which combined both focus groups and quantitative surveys, found that in general, women felt that the Republican Party lacked compassion and was "stuck in the past." The same study showed that among women, Democrats have massive advantages in perceptions of who cares about making health care more affordable, who cares about women's interests, and who tolerates the lifestyles of others.

It's not a pretty picture for the Republican Party: while they may skate by in 2014 on the basis of it being a lower-turnout and more Republican-friendly midterm election, they will undoubtedly face significant trouble in 2016, especially with the possibility looming of facing off against a very popular figure in Hillary Clinton who will motivate women to vote—and not just because of her gender, but because of her actual stance on issues important to women. So while it's conceivable that Republicans could make gains this year despite the gender gap, they will almost certainly lose the White House for a third straight time absent some sort of significant change.

And what sort of change do they think they need? According to some Republican strategists, it's to "go on offense" on women's issues. More below the fold.

08:54 Why We Care So Much If Hello Kitty Is Or Is Not A Cat» ThinkProgress

Scott McCloud, author of "Understanding Comics," on why readers are so connected to characters like Hello Kitty.

The post Why We Care So Much If Hello Kitty Is Or Is Not A Cat appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:51 Iceland Volcano Blasts Back to Life» LiveScience.com
A new volcanic eruption in southeast Iceland is fountaining lava nearly 200 feet (60 meters) into the air.
08:32 Mayor Forces Man To Leave Public Meeting Because He Won’t Stand During Prayer» ThinkProgress

Winter Garden Mayor John Rees was caught on video demanding that an audience member stand for a prayer and the pledge -- or be escorted out by police.

The post Mayor Forces Man To Leave Public Meeting Because He Won’t Stand During Prayer appeared first on ThinkProgress.

08:26 McFaul: Easy solution in Ukraine» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A former ambassador to Russia says Ukraine is ready to negotiate, but Vladimir Putin isn't.
08:25 Lawmakers urge Ukraine help» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Top congressional leaders in both parties urge the administration to step up support for Ukraine.
08:09 King, Smith spar over ISIL response» POLITICO - TOP Stories
King warns that the group represents a direct threat to the United States.
08:07 We Are On The Verge Of An Electric Car Battery Breakthrough» ThinkProgress

Investment pundits think that Tesla Motors is on the verge of achieving something big: A battery cheap enough to make electric vehicles cost-competitive with conventional cars.

The post We Are On The Verge Of An Electric Car Battery Breakthrough appeared first on ThinkProgress.

07:55 Feinstein: Obama 'very cautious'» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Senate Intelligence chairwoman says the United States needs to confront ISIL right away.
07:52 McCain calls for more U.S. troops» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says that after aiding in the fight against ISIL, those troops should remain only in a support role.
07:44 The best and worst campaign ads of 2014 (so far)» Daily Kos

The 2014 campaign is well under way, and the ads have been flying. Most spots are unmemorable, but there are a few that stick out. Some of them offer a compelling and memorable case to voters, either in a primary or general election. Others ... don't.

What follows is a look at 10 spots from up to this point in the 2014 cycle. Five of them are good, and five of them have a serious flaw. There are plenty of great and terrible ads that didn't get included. These 10 spots were chosen because each offers a lesson in political messaging, and they are worth learning from.

Let's start with the above commercial, a spot that is almost universally mocked.

MI-Sen: Terri Lynn Land (R): This may go down as the most memorable ad of the cycle, and not in a good way. Republican Terri Lynn Land decided to counter Democratic attacks that she favors policies that hurt women by ... drinking coffee. Seriously. Land concludes the ad by declaring that as a woman, she may know a little more about women than her Democratic opponent Gary Peters.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz memorably called it "the worst ad of the political process," and it's not hard to see why. The spot is trying to use humor to point out what it thinks is an absurd idea, that a woman could be part of a war on women. Only it's not at all absurd: Peters and his allies have attacked Land for opposing policies like equal pay for women and abortion rights. By saying nothing to counter the attacks in her spot, Land is actually giving them more credibility.

What we can learn: Don't just assume that voters will immediately take your side when you're being attacked, even if you think the attacks are ridiculous. Also, don't spend two-thirds of an ad doing nothing.

Head below the fold for more.

07:26 Rogers: Too many ISIL connections» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says the U.S. has good legal tools to hinder citizens who are known associates of ISIL.
06:55 Perry or Cruz? DeLay won't say» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He declined to say which potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate he'd support.
06:45 Menendez: Act against Russia» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The Senate Foreign Relations chair says the West should provide Ukraine with "defensive weapons."
06:20 Ruppersberger: No 'imminent' threat» POLITICO - TOP Stories
His comments come after Britain raised its terror threat level last week from "substantial" to "severe."
06:09 Why Taxpayers Will Get Stuck With The Bill For The Ferguson Lawsuit» ThinkProgress

Police officers who are sued for misconduct almost never pay damages.

The post Why Taxpayers Will Get Stuck With The Bill For The Ferguson Lawsuit appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:00 White man jaywalks with gun...guess what happens?» Daily Kos

When I saw this video posted here recently, I had to go back and look at it again.

I saw a white man with a gun.

I heard a policeman saying, "Place the weapon down on the ground, please. ... are crossing the street illegally ... I need you to put the gun down before I talk to you. ... You have committed a crime ... you are jaywalking. ... I don't want to shoot you, I'm not here to do that. ... Why are you so angry. ... Why are you cursing at me?"

Watching the whole incident all I could think of were those dead (unarmed) black men and boys who never had the opportunity to be "talked down," called "sir," and were murdered by police.  

Or they were leaning on a toy gun in Walmart. Like John Crawford III.

a photo of John Crawford III gunned down in Walmart
John Crawford lll, gunned down by Beavercreek, Ohio police in Walmart, August 5, 2014.
I wanted to find out what happened to this white man who defied police, made obscene gestures at them and who cursed them out.

The man, Joseph Houseman, is a gun rights advocate. He got his 15 minutes (more like 40 or 50) of fame and walked.  

In the Department of Public Safety's decision not to pursue charges, Webster said later that even though Houseman did not have the rifle in a sling and was  "fidgeting" with it, it was not evident that he was "brandishing" it.
This news got covered as a "gun rights" story.

From my perspective it's a "white rights" story.  

Does anyone honestly believe a black man, or teen, or boy would have walked away from this alive?

Follow me below the fold for more.

05:02 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up» Daily Kos
I try to stick one story at the start of these things, but sometimes you have to acknowledge two.

Michael Wines looks at police, race and the lack of actual data.

If anything good has come out of this month’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., it is that the death of the black teenager shined a spotlight on the plague of shootings of black men by white police officers. And maybe now, the nation will begin to address the racism behind it. ... few doubt that blacks are more likely than whites to die in police shootings; in most cities, the percentage almost certainly exceeds the African-American share of the population.

Such arguments suggest that the use of deadly force by police officers unfairly targets blacks. All that is needed are the numbers to prove it. ...

Researchers have sought reliable data on shootings by police officers for years, and Congress even ordered the Justice Department to provide it, albeit somewhat vaguely, in 1994. But two decades later, there remains no comprehensive survey of police homicides. The even greater number of police shootings that do not kill, but leave suspects injured, sometimes gravely, is another statistical mystery.

The government's inaction in collecting data on police activity, is exactly equivalent to the NRA's action in blocking the collection of information about gun violence. Both are very uncomfortable about what the numbers would say.

Leonard Pitts on true American exceptionalism

Sometimes you read a sentence and you think to yourself: only here, only us. Here’s one such sentence.

“A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her.”

That’s from a New York Times account of the death of 39-year-old Charles Vacca, who worked for the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. He died Monday when his preteen student lost control of the Uzi. Apparently, the gun was in “repeat fire” mode, the recoil lifted the muzzle, the little girl couldn’t master it and Vacca was struck in the head. ...

What kind of shooting range allows a prepubescent girl to fire an Uzi? What kind of instructor does not guard against recoil when a child is handling such a powerful weapon? What kind of parents think it’s a good idea to put a submachine gun in their 9-year-old’s hands? And what kind of idiot country does not prohibit such things by law?

It is the last question that should most concern us. There’s not much you can do about individual lack of judgment. Some people will always be idiots. Some companies will always be idiots. But a country and its laws should be an expression of a people’s collective wisdom. So for a country to be idiotic says something sweeping about national character.

Ummm... Amen?

Come in, let's see what else is up...

04:10 Why Ferguson might prompt change» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Lawmakers and advocates hope public outcry spawns reforms to prevent similar tragedies.
04:09 2016 prospects hone Koch pitch» POLITICO - TOP Stories
The would-be candidates tout their small-government bona fides and hammer prospective Democratic candidate Clinton.

Sat 30 August, 2014

21:00 Sunday Talk: If you build it (all by yourself), he will come» Daily Kos
It's been nearly two years since America's sweetheart, Mitt Romney, got sk[r]ewed out of the presidency (#ThanksOsama), and Republicans are still working through the stages of grief.

First came the denial, which quickly—too quickly for some—gave way to anger; oh, teh butthurt!

Many now insist that time has proven Romney right, about everything—but you just can't bargain with those people.

I mean, not even Romney himself believes that bullshit.

In fact, just last week he acknowledged that President Obama is much worse than he had expected.

So, you see, Mitt Romney isn't perfect, like a robot.

He's a human being, just like you and me—but with a car elevator.

The sooner Republicans stop acting all depressed (about their 2016 field) and accept this (have a "Come to Jesus Joseph Smith" moment, if you will), the better their chances of preventing Obama's third term, and ensuring the survival of white privilege, will be.

16:04 Cruz tamps shutdown chatter» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He says only the White House is driving talk about another government shutdown.
15:00 Open thread: Jaywalking, catastrophe and playing offense» Daily Kos

What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...

  • White man jaywalks with gun ... guess what happens, by Denise Oliver Velez
  • President Bush declared Iraq a "catastrophic success" 10 years ago, by Jon Perr
  • "Stuck in the past" on women? Play offense, say GOP strategists, by Dante Atkins
  • Quick question for white conservatives: Is it ever NOT okay to shoot dead an unarmed black man, by Laurence Lewis
  • The best and worst campaign ads of 2014 (so far), by Jeff Singer
  • Daily Kos Elections Power Rankings: The Governors (Back to School Edition), by Steve Singiser
  • To fight ISIS the West must do more to integrate potentially alienated Muslims, by Ian Reifowitz
  • Can you still doubt plight of black men with police irrespective of socio-economic circumstances? by Egberto Willies

13:20 Why The Rams Cut Michael Sam, And Why His Future Still Looks Bright» ThinkProgress

The Rams cut Sam on Saturday, but that doesn't mean his dream of making the NFL -- and becoming its first openly gay player -- are over.

The post Why The Rams Cut Michael Sam, And Why His Future Still Looks Bright appeared first on ThinkProgress.

13:00 Spotlight on green news & views: Solar project in WV, high dam removed in WA, offshore fracking» Daily Kos
Mary Anne Hitt helping with the solar-panel
ribbon-cutting at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church in West Virginia.
Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Wednesday Spotlight can be seen here. So far, more than 19,140 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
Labor of Love: How My Small WV Town Launched a Game-Changing New Model to Go Solar—by Mary Anne Hitt: "This week, my small town in West Virginia cut the ribbon on a solar project that isn't just the largest crowd-funded solar project in the state, but also launches a new model making it possible for any WV community organization to go solar. On a perfect sunny day, 100 elementary school students and dozens of community members joined my husband, Than Hitt, and my daughter Hazel, who cut the ribbon for a 60-panel solar system at the historic Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. It was an unforgettable day that crystalized all our hopes for the future of West Virginia, and exemplified the power of regular people to change the world. The genius of this project was that the church went solar for just $1, thanks to over 100 community members who contributed - but they donated their water heaters, not their dollars. Maryland-based Mosaic Power pays homeowners $100 per year to have smart meters installed on their home water heaters that save energy and, in the aggregate, operate as a safe, efficient mini-power plant. These community members are each donating their $100 per year to the church solar project, collectively raising enough money to pay for the solar system. The financing model was developed by our brilliant friend Dan Conant and his company Solar Holler, and now that we have proof of concept in Shepherdstown, he's taking it statewide. The church is going to generate nearly half of its electricity from the sun, reducing pollution, saving money, and living out the congregation's commitment to caring for the Earth."
green dots
Huge Dam Removed, Fish and Critters Happy, Union Jobs Saved—by 6412093: "They're done demolishing the 108-feet-tall Elwah Dam in northwest Washington State. It's the largest dam ever removed. The formerly huge runs of huge salmon are beginning to recover. The fish are reaching some river areas from the first time in over 100 years. The restored river is creating restored habitat for many critters besides the fish. The River's new estuary will allow crabs and other shoreline sea critters to get established there. Birds of every size and shape will feed on the restored aquatic life. Land mammals will nibble on the revegetated  former reservoir areas. Another thing I like about this dam removal project was the preservation of an endangered species, the Pacific Northwest Unionized Paperworker."
green dots
Solar voltaic energy production nearly doubles in U.S. in 2014—by HoundDog: "Here's some good news that may brighten up your day: US electrical generation from renewables hits 14.3%. Dennis Schroeder of NREL reports that U.S. solar power generation more than doubled in the first half of 2014 according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Data from the EIA’s latest Electric Power Monthly report indicates non-hydro renewables, including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, made up a 7.3% share of electrical generation, while conventional hydropower accounted for 7%. ... Solar-generated electricity more than doubled, growing by 115.7%, while wind power increased by 9% compared to last year, accounting for 5% of the nation's electrical generation during the first six months of the year. Biomass also grew by 4%. Geothermal power, however, dipped by 1.5% and conventional hydropower declined by 4.2%. ... 'Not long ago, EIA was forecasting that renewables would not reach 14% of U.S. electrical generation until the year 2040,' noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the Sun Day Campaign. 'And even the current 14.3% figure undoubtedly understates the real contribution from renewables inasmuch as EIA's data does not fully reflect distributed and off-grid generation.'"
green dots
Why We March... Against Extinction—by JrCrone: "We March for Elephants. We March for Rhinos. We March for Lions. People have asked us—“Why do you march? What good is marching? You should be making direct contact with people in power, with people who can ‘make a difference.’ Every day 96 elephants are killed. That’s one every 15 minutes. A march does not stop this. You need to raise money and lobby politicians. And you should be writing: writing legislation.' Other people have told us, 'Why do you march? What good is marching? You can do nothing. Those with the power to make a difference, in China, overseeing the 37 ivory carving factories and 145 licensed shops, will do nothing because you march. Elephants will continue to die. No elephant will be saved because of the protest actions in the United States.' Regarding rhino horn, they say 'you cannot lessen its fashion or influence those in Vietnam who consume it.' The people who question us say that marches seem “nice” and make those who march 'feel good,' but are ultimately useless—a futile gesture good for nothing other than the egos of those who take part, far away from the halls of power, far away from the carving factories, far away from the scenes of injustice, death, and wholesale destruction of the elephant, rhinoceros, and lion populations that have been under relentless attack by poaching, wildlife trade, corruption, and consumption. They say we are too far away and our activities are merely a waste of time and resources. They are wrong to say this."

You can find more rescued green diaries below the sustainable squiggle.

12:46 Wow! The Most Amazing Images in Science This Week » LiveScience.com
Methane plumes erupting, a walking fish and endangered coral species — just a few of the amazing photos this week in Science.
12:22 Can a Severed Snake Head Still Kill? It's Possible» LiveScience.com
Think a dead snake never hurt anybody? Think again.
10:55 This week in the war on workers: FedEx drivers win in court, can move forward with wage theft suit» Daily Kos
FedEx truck
FedEx's practice of insisting its drivers are not actually its employees took a blow this week, when an appeals court panel said that groups of former drivers involved in a class action suit had been employees and can proceed with a wage-theft lawsuit against the company. Classifying drivers as independent contractors means FedEx isn't responsible for contributing to Social Security or Medicare and doesn't have to pay them overtime, among other things. So FedEx has worked hard to keep this scam going, insisting in its contracts that drivers, not the company, decide how and when to get their jobs done. The court disagreed:
"The drivers must wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx-approved vehicles, and groom themselves according to FedEx's appearance standards," Judge William Fletcher said in the 3-0 ruling. "FedEx tells its drivers what packages to deliver, on what days, and at what times."

Although the company does not dictate working hours, Fletcher said, it arranges workloads to make sure they work between 9 1/2 and 11 hours a day. He also noted that FedEx requires drivers to provide their own vans and specifies their dimensions, shelving and paint color.

The decision is a win for these drivers, but FedEx is appealing. What's more, even if the drivers win that appeal and ultimately win their wage-theft suit, FedEx is determined to keep finding ways to exploit its drivers going forward:
FedEx Ground, in its prepared statement, said the particular contracting arrangement for these drivers “is no longer in use. Since 2011, FedEx Ground has only contracted with incorporated businesses, which treat their drivers as their employees.” In other words, the company has shifted from an independent contractor model to a subcontractor model.

“This is FedEx’s m.o.,” said Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel of the National Employment Law Project. Whenever a given arrangement with drivers comes under legal attack, Ruckelshaus explained, FedEx “makes minor adjustments … and says, ‘We’re fine now.’” Drivers must then decide whether to re-litigate the matter.

Forcing companies to take responsibility for the people who work for them is one of the key legal battles for workplace rights, as large companies routinely pass the buck for their terrible wages and working conditions (and labor law violations) to franchisees, contractors, and through bogus independent contractor arrangements. Workers have gotten some wins lately, with the National Labor Relations Board saying that McDonald's is a joint employer with its franchisees and is therefore responsible for working conditions in its restaurants. A California judge also ruled recently that Walmart would have to stand trial along with a contractor for wage theft in Walmart warehouses operated by the contractor; that case ended up being settled out of court for $21 million. But these arrangements are still common and, of course, we can't exactly trust this Supreme Court to crack down on them, however abusive they are.
10:27 Drought-Stricken California Makes Historic Move To Regulate Underground Water For The First Time» ThinkProgress

Most other states -- including Kansas and Texas -- do not allow unlimited pumping from groundwater aquifers. But in California, it's still "pump as you please." That is about to change.

The post Drought-Stricken California Makes Historic Move To Regulate Underground Water For The First Time appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:10 W.H. strife stalls immigration plans» POLITICO - TOP Stories
White House officials are debating whether Obama should announce a plan to defer deportations.
10:00 Saturday nutpick-a-palooza: Michael Brown's racist funeral» Daily Kos

This week's source material:

The White House has also sent three aides to the funeral: Broderick Johnson of My Brother’s Keeper Task Force; Marlon Marshall, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; and Heather Foster, adviser for the Office of Public Engagement.

Which begs the question: why would the Obama administration send not one but three attendees to the funeral of a strong-arm robbery suspect who allegedly punched a police officer in the face – but ignore the funerals of other, more worthy characters?

If you are dying to know who the six are, they are Margaret Thatcher, Chris Kyle, Nicholas Oresko, Lech Kaczinski, Aunt Zeituni and James Foley, whose funeral, by the way, isn't until October 18.

In case you are wondering, Kyle was a SEAL sniper who made unsubstantiated claims about being the best sniper ever, ironically murdered by a friend he had taken to a shooting range. Fucking Biden should've been at that one. Oresko was WWII Medal of Honor winner. There have been over a thousand Medal of Honor recipients since WWII, so the White House better be at all of their funerals. Kaczynski was the Polish president. He was slated to attend but a major Icelandic volcanic eruption grounded all air traffic in Europe. Obama clearly caused the eruption. DAMN YOU BARRY SOTERO! Aunt Zeituni was the sister of Obama's father, and they had no relationship. But hey, Breitbart is now apparently a champion of the Obama clan. And it's really screwed up that no one from the White House has attended Foley's funeral that isn't happening for another six weeks!

So with that bit of source craziness out of the way, let's look at their community's craziness, all below the fold.

09:43 Federal Government Sues Minnesota City For Rejecting A Proposed Islamic Center» ThinkProgress

The Minneapolis suburb is represented by the first Muslim American ever elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison.

The post Federal Government Sues Minnesota City For Rejecting A Proposed Islamic Center appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:38 A Centenary for the Last Passenger Pigeon (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
On the one-hundredth anniversary of the last passenger pigeon's death, reflections on the loss of darkened skies.
09:08 Three Things Conservatives Wrote This Week That Everyone Should Read» ThinkProgress

Helping liberals understand where their ideological foes are coming from.

The post Three Things Conservatives Wrote This Week That Everyone Should Read appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:00 This week in the war on voting: Christie hates same-day registration, UN weighs in on U.S. voting» Daily Kos
Rose Sanderson, on trumpet cornet, demonstrates with other suffragists in February 1913.
The triangular pennants read "Votes for Women."
This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades

Chris Christie blasts same-day registration and voting in Illinois: The New Jersey governor, who is chairman of Republican Governors Association chairman, visited the campaign headquarters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and critiqued Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

“He will try every trick in the book,” Christie said of Quinn. “I see the stuff that’s going on. Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking,” he added sarcastically. “I’m sure it was all based upon public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”
Houstonians without voter ID are mostly black and poor:
Texas' Voter ID law -- which requires that voters show election officials an approved and up-to-date photo ID in order to cast a ballot -- has long been a point of contention. Since the Lege passed a voter ID requirement in 2011, many of its opponents have questioned whether the law unfairly singles out minorities. [...]

[Geography professor Gerald Webster has produced some maps to see if this is true.] The maps that Dr. Webster compiled are broken down by demographics in Houston (and in every other Texas metro area), from minority neighborhoods to areas with little access to transportation. If you compare those maps to the one showing where residents are less likely to have photo ID, the pattern is pretty astounding. [...]

More on the war on voting below the orange gerrymander.
08:59 Federal judge blocks Texas abortion clinic law» Daily Kos
Protesters rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol as the state Senate meets to consider legislation restricting abortion rights in Austin, Texas July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone
Women's healthcare providers in Texas have at least a temporary reprieve from the worst provision of HB 2, the law intended to shutter most of the abortion clinics in Texas. The law that launched Wendy Davis's bid for governor. A federal judge in Austin has struck down the provision of the law that requires that every abortion clinic meet the state's standards for the building, equipment and staffing for hospital-style surgery centers.
The rule "is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion," he wrote. […]

Over all, he concluded, with the new closings that would have been forced by the surgery-center rule, many more women would be hours from a clinic. "Even if the remaining clinics could meet the demand," he wrote, the impact, between long travel times and other practical impediments many women face, would be as drastic as "a complete ban on abortion."

Judge Yeakel wrote, "The great weight of the evidence demonstrates that, before the act's passage, abortion in Texas was extremely safe, with particularly low rates of serious complications and virtually no deaths."

In his ruling, Yeakel also reinstated a block on another provision of the law that requires providers have admitting privileges in a hospital no more than 30 miles from the facility for two clinics, in El Paso and McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley. Yeakel wrote that "Even if the remaining clinics could meet the demand," the burden of travel time to those clinics as well as the practical difficulties having to travel for healthcare amounted to the equivalent of an unconstitutional "complete ban on abortion."

Davis's opponent, attorney general Greg Abbott, will appeal the decision at the first opportunity with the Fifth Circuit, the court that has reversed previous decisions overturning the Texas law. All of the clinics that were slated to close as of Monday won't have to, so far. Yeakel's ruling could be stayed by the Fifth Circuit, pending a hearing.

Please help the women of Texas by helping Wendy Davis take the governor's seat.

08:28 Cartoon: Animal Nuz #214 - Nuz Dump Edition» Daily Kos


08:00 This week at progressive state blogs: drip of WI corruption, tea party cheering by Beauprez in CO» Daily Kos
Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view, inside information and often an edgy voice that we just don't get from the traditional media. This week in progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.

At Blue Virginia, lowkell writes—Video -- Barbara Comstock: The Newest Voice in The War on Women:

Blue Virginia
By the way, on a related note, since the Barbara Comstock folks have been trying to stir up controversy, let's just be clear that Barbara Comstock has held numerous "real jobs" in her life. And yes, that includes being a mother - a tough job, and certainly a real one - and a job that John Foust would never denigrate in any way (yes, Comstock and her supporters are making s*** up again, psychologically projecting, cynically  working to gin up "outrage" to fire up their supporters, etc.). The problem is, other than being a mother, she's overwhelmingly had jobs that while "real," were nothing to be proud of. For instance, how about:

• Lobbyist for the Koch Brothers on "crime and environmental issues" (one can just imagine)
• Political attack dog against the Clintons.
• House Gov. Reform Committee - Investigated the Clintons, played key role in heavily editing Webb Hubbell prison tapes
• Political attack dog against Al Gore.
• Political attack dog defending the Bush administration profiling Muslims and detaining US citizens.
• Lobbied for private prison builder Geo Group and the Entertainment Software Association, which opposes regulation of violent video games.
• Represented Chiquita Brands on asbestos liability and later voted to limit asbestos company liability.
• Political attack dog defending Tom Delay.
• Political attack dog defending pathological liar Willard "Mitt" Romney.
• Lobbyist for Blackwater.
• Scooter Libby defender
• Bush Administration DOJ—ran an "intensely political operation" under John Ashcroft
• Workforce Fairness Institute—employed Swift Boat consultants, refused to disclose companies they worked for, gave $150k to Newt Gingrich's PAC
• Susan B. Anthony List—Comstock helped raise money for this extreme anti-women's-choice group
• Virginia Delegate; voted for trans-vaginal ultrasounds and many other bad things (e.g., to cut $1.5 million from early childhood foundation funding, against the 2013 transportation compromise that's so important to the 10th CD, to allow guns in bars...).

Is this the type of person 10th CD voters want representing them in Congress, especially when she's all but promised to continue doing what she's done for decades now? We can only hope not.

At Uppity Wisconsin, Man MKE writes—WISCONSIN WATER TORTURE: The drip-drip-drip of Walker corruption hurts him, but could turn off voting:
Uppity Wisconsin state blog
Another day, another round of political water torture for Scott Walker and his questionable campaign activities.

Over the weekend it was the Wisconsin State Journal reporting on how Walker's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) held essentially secret talks to provide $6 million in tax credits to Ashley Furniture, a large Wisconsin-based company that, in return, promised not to cut about half its state work force. Such a deal.
Today it was the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that in a newly released court filing, prosecutors allege Walker's campaign "crossed a bright legal line" when it coordinated with a pair of independent conservative groups, both of which advertised in support of specific candidates in the gubernatorial and state Senate recall elections of 2011 and 2012.

Drip, drip, drip. It's no wonder Team Walker has sent in its political plumbers to stem the leak of embarrassing information, or at least try to muddy up the tainted political waters with murky rhetoric.

More excerpts from progressive state blogs are below the orange gerrymander.
07:00 Obama returns to minimum wage focus for Labor Day weekend address» Daily Kos

To build a stronger middle class in today’s changing economy, we’ve got to keep fighting. We’ve got to fight for the right to affordable health insurance for everybody. The right to fair pay, family leave, and workplace flexibility. The right to a fair living wage.
Leading up to Labor Day, President Obama once again used his weekly address to focus on the minimum wage—specifically, the need for a raise, which congressional Republicans are blocking. Not all workers need to wait for Congress, though:
Thirteen states and D.C. have done their part by raising their minimum wages. Four more states have minimum wage initiatives on the ballot this November. And the states where the minimum wage has gone up this year have experienced higher job growth than the states that haven’t.

Business leaders at companies like The Gap are doing their part. They’re raising base wages for tens of thousands of workers because they know it’s good for business.

Mayors across the country are doing their part. Mayor Emanuel in Chicago and Mayor Garcetti in L.A. are working to lift their cities’ wages over time to at least thirteen dollars an hour.

Barely mentioned in this Labor Day-focused address? Unions. Business rates five mentions, unions only one.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

07:00 Doing some last-minute Labor Day cookout shopping? Here's your union-made shopping list» Daily Kos
List of union-made things appropriate for a Labor Day picnic/barbecue: Hot Dogs, Sausages, Other Grill Meats  Ball Park Boar’s Head Calumet Dearborn Sausage Co. Fischer Meats Hebrew National Hofmann Johnsonville Oscar Mayer Condiments  French’s Mustard Gulden's Mustard Heinz Ketchup Hidden Valley Ranch Lucky Whip Vlasic Buns and Bread  Ottenberg's Sara Lee Vie de France Bakery Bottled Water  American Springs Pocono Springs Poland Spring Beer  Budweiser Bud Light Leinenkugel's Mad River Michelob Miller Rolling Rock See more from Union Plus.  Ice Cream and Frozen Treats   • Del Monte Fruit Chillers • Breyers • Carvel • Good Humor • Hiland Dairy • Labelle Ice Cream • Laura Secord • MacArthur • Orchard Harvest • Prairie Farms • President’s Choice  Snacks   Flips Pretzels Frito-Lay Chips Oreos Triscuits Wheat Thins
06:29 California Becomes The Second State Ever To Guarantee That Sick Workers Can Take A Paid Day Off» ThinkProgress

California is about to join Connecticut in being the only states to guarantee paid sick days.

The post California Becomes The Second State Ever To Guarantee That Sick Workers Can Take A Paid Day Off appeared first on ThinkProgress.

06:00 This week in science: of mites and men» Daily Kos
A mysterious sailing stone in Death Valley. How these boulders weighing up almost a thousand pounds move across the valley floor has confounded scientists and skeptics for decades.
People have wondered about this odd mystery for years. Thanks to some patient scientists, it is finally documented and solved:
Sailing stones in Death Valley are seen showing signs of traveling along the ground. Tracks in the dirt clearly show the rocks made a journey across the surface, but no one knew how this could happen, until now.

The Death Valley stones, made from black dolomite, have never been seen moving. Long trails have been seen for a century, however, causing geologists and armchair scientists to ask how the rocks could move along the flat Racetrack Playa.

  • Don't look creationists: That's a walking fish!
  • You'd think Hawaii would weather climate change reasonably well. But goodbye Waikiki.
  • You might not want to read this if you're a little squeamish:
     Thanks to science (no, really, thanks), we now know that we all probably have tiny mites living on our faces. ... Co-author of the report Megan Thoemmes told NPR: ‘They’re actually pretty cute ...
    No, they're not cute.
  • The Ice Bucket challenge has turned into one of the most successful viral fundraising stories of the millennium. This week a new article appeared, widely shared on social media, alleging contributions are wasted on high exec salaries instead of treatment or scientific research. However, SNOPES has weighed in, stating this ugly allegation is flatly untrue:
    The claim made in the email above, that 73 percent of donations fund executive salaries and overhead, is demonstrably false. In their 2014 disclosures, The ALS Association reports a breakdown of their expenditures — only seven percent of their total fund intake goes to administration and salaries.
04:25 Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Is Obama a hawk or a dove?» Daily Kos

NY Times:

But it is unlikely that a merciless drubbing from the news media and other critics is going to sway Mr. Obama. His decision to seek the approval of Congress for a strike on Syria, after saying that it had crossed his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, also drew withering criticism — setting in place a narrative of feckless leadership that has dogged him for the last year.

Less noticed is that this decision led to one of his few foreign policy successes: Mr. Assad’s voluntary surrender of his chemical weapons stockpile — the result of a diplomatic proposal from Russia that Mr. Obama grabbed as an alternative to firing Tomahawk missiles when it became clear that Congress would never give its blessing for strikes.

Although Mr. Obama has gotten virtually no credit for that achievement, the lesson of the episode is hardly lost on him.

But it's completely lost on the media, who take Republican talking points as gospel.


The U.S. decided weeks ago to use air strikes to fight ISIS in Iraq. When the president said there's no strategy yet to do the same in Syria, he was acknowledging that the political circumstances in Syria are very different.

"I think he was just using shorthand to basically say it's a little more complicated in Syria if we want to do it smartly and within the bounds of a legal framework," Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress told CBS News. "It's spot on to say we're going to look before we leap, and that is in and of itself a strategy -- as opposed to the 'shock and awe' in Iraq."

As he articulated in a speech at West Point earlier this year, Mr. Obama's counter-terrorism strategy focuses on building more effective partnerships with countries where terrorist networks want to seek a foothold.

"If we rely only on America's military might, there's no question... they could have a substantial impact on the battlefield," Earnest said Friday. "But if we want to make sure [ISIS] doesn't come back, we need to make sure we have effective partners."

Peter Beinart:
When it comes to the Middle East, in other words, Obama is neither a dove nor a hawk. He’s a fierce minimalist. George W. Bush defined the War on Terror so broadly that in anti-terrorism’s name he spent vast quantities of blood and treasure fighting people who had no capacity or desire to attack the United States. Hillary Clinton and John McCain may not use the “War on Terror” framework anymore, but they’re still more willing to sell arms, dispatch troops, and drop bombs to achieve goals that aren’t directly connected to preventing another 9/11. By contrast, Obama’s strategy—whether you like it or not—is more clearly defined. Hundreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.

Understanding Obama’s fierce minimalism helps explain the evolution of his policy toward Syria and Iraq. For years, hawks pushed him to bomb Assad and arm Syria’s rebels. They also urged him to keep more U.S. troops in Iraq to stabilize the country and maintain American leverage there. Obama refused because these efforts—which would have cost money and incurred risks—weren’t directly aimed at fighting terrorism. But now that ISIS has developed a safe haven in Iraq and Syria, amassed lots of weapons and money, killed an American journalist, recruited Westerners, and threatened terrorism against the United States, Obama’s gone from dove to hawk.

More politics and policy below the fold.
04:10 Tech looks abroad on drones» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Strict FAA regulations create numerous U.S. hurdles for the industry in the burgeoning market.
04:08 Koch oil leftovers fire Mich. race» POLITICO - TOP Stories
Piles of an oil refinery's leftovers blighted a Detroit neighborhood, thanks to the Koch brothers.
04:07 No escaping Clinton, Obama in Ark.» POLITICO - TOP Stories
"The political climate is in our favor this year," Arkansas' GOP gubernatorial candidate says.
04:01 Feds hunt fraud at the golf course» POLITICO - TOP Stories
When you dish out illegal stock tips at the golf course, there are no mulligans.
03:50 Has Science Fully Explained Sunshine?» LiveScience.com
What makes our sun shine has been a mystery for most of human history.

Fri 29 August, 2014

20:00 Open thread for night owls: America's workers need faster wage growth» Daily Kos
Elise Gould at the Economic Policy Institute writes Why America’s Workers Need Faster Wage Growth:

The last year has been a poor one for American workers’ wages. Comparing the first half of 2014 with the first half of 2013, real (inflation-adjusted) hourly wages fell for workers in nearly every decile—even for those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

Of course, this is not a new story. Comparing the first half of 2014 with the first half of 2007 (the last period of reasonable labor market health before the Great Recession), hourly wages for the vast majority of American workers have been flat or falling. And even since 1979, the vast majority of American workers have seen their hourly wages stagnate or decline—even though decades of consistent gains in economy-wide productivity have provided ample room for wage growth.

The poor performance of American workers’ wages in recent decades—particularly their failure to grow at anywhere near the pace of overall productivity—is the country’s central economic challenge. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a more important economic development in recent decades. It is at the root of the large rise in overall income inequality that has attracted so much attention in recent years. A range of other economic challenges—reducing poverty, increasing mobility, and spurring a more complete recovery from the Great Recession—also rely largely on boosting hourly wage growth for the vast majority. […]

The vast majority of Americans have experienced disappointing living standards growth in the last generation—largely due to rising inequality.

• Between 1979 and 2007, more than 90 percent of American households saw their incomes grow more slowly than average income growth (which was pulled up by extraordinarily fast growth at the top).

• By 2007, the growing wedge between economy-wide average income growth and income growth of the broad middle class (households between the 20th and 80th percentiles) reduced middle-class incomes by nearly $18,000 annually. In other words, if inequality had not risen between 1979 and 2007, middle-class incomes would have been nearly $18,000 higher in 2007. […]

The large increase in income inequality that has blocked living standards growth for the vast majority has been driven by the failure of hourly wages for the vast majority to rise in line with overall productivity after 1979.

• Between 1979 and 2013, productivity grew 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation of production and nonsupervisory workers, who comprise over 80 percent of the private-sector workforce, grew just 8.0 percent. Productivity thus grew eight times faster than typical worker compensation.

• Between 1979 and 2013, median real hourly wages rose just 6.1 percent (or 0.2 percent annually), compared with a decline of 5.3 percent (or -0.2 percent annually) for the 10th percentile worker (i.e., the worker who earns more than only 10 percent of workers). Over the same period, the 95th percentile worker saw growth of 40.6 percent, for an annual gain of 1.0 percent. The tight labor market of the late 1990s was the only period when hourly wages increased across the wage distribution, with the strongest growth occurring at the bottom.

• From the first half of 2013 to the first half of 2014, real hourly wages fell for all deciles, except for a miniscule two-cent increase at the 10th percentile. Underlying this exception to the general trend at the 10th percentile is a set of state-level minimum-wage increases in the first half of 2014 in states where 40 percent of U.S. workers reside. […]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010Terminators:

In the first months of 1811, a secret army drilled on the chilly moors outside Nottingham, England. Under the shadow of darkness, these men gathered to learn guerrilla tactics —how to move as a team, how to avoid detection, how to break through locks and barriers, and how to escape when their task was complete. Only this army was not made up of soldiers.  They were stocking makers.

By the spring of the next year, nearly 200 of the mechanical "stocking frames" at local factories had been destroyed. In this following months, the destruction would spread to cloth works in Yorkshire and Leicestershire, to Lancashire cotton mills, and eventually into the factories of London. By then the army was not so secret. Handbills had arrived for months warning factory owners of their fate. Many of these were signed by the supposed leader of this rebellion—General Ned Ludd. It from from this name that the movement gained it's popular moniker: the Luddites.

The Luddite movement would fade only after rising to widespread violence that took the lives of workers, hired guards, and a few mill owners. This was followed by a swift reaction from government to imprison or hang many of those suspected of being Luddites. The breaking of machinery was itself made a capital crime, and by 1812 several men had been executed for the offense of damaging automatic looms. 

When we hear the term "Luddite" today, our reaction is to think of a brutish lout frightened by any sign of progress. A Luddite is someone who can't understand their computer, hates the Internet, and thinks that there hasn't been a worthwhile invention since the well-chipped stone. But that doesn't really describe the men (and women) who were involved in that original movement. They were not anti-technology. They were reacting to a change that was seeing many of them either lose jobs or face a sharp decrease in pay.

Tweet of the Day
Wait: People risked jail to set up bribes for Ron Paul presidential caucus votes? WHY? Not exactly talking "The Italian Job" there

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, we check in with the end of the Market Basket management dispute. Or was it a labor dispute? Or both? Louisiana's libertarian water, now with brain-eating amoeba! Gideon opens the door to an inquiry into the many & varied issues surrounding police militarization.
HuffPo reports that video gaming collectives are SWAT-ing their rivals' offices! Also: what's a gaming collective and why do they have offices? Courts make it increasingly difficult to hold cops accountable. Another video surfaces, this time of cops arresting an unarmed black man who answers demands for ID in exactly the same way open carry protesters do.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments
18:55 Sugar Sweetens Battery Performance » LiveScience.com
Batteries will soon get the energy boost from sugar that we do.
17:39 Race is a Social Concept, Not a Scientific One (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
There is no science in race.
16:47 A Federal Judge Just Called Out The Big Lie Behind Texas’s Latest Abortion Restriction» ThinkProgress

Judge Yeakel produced a penetrating opinion that tears away the justification abortion opponents have offered to justify laws that exist for one and only one purpose -- to take away women's ability to choose to have an abortion.

The post A Federal Judge Just Called Out The Big Lie Behind Texas’s Latest Abortion Restriction appeared first on ThinkProgress.

16:25 5 Ways Gut Bacteria Are Good for More Than Just Your Gut» LiveScience.com
In your body, the bacteria cells outnumber the human cells, and in recent years, researchers have begun to pay more attention to these microbes and their impact on our health.
15:53 McConnell campaign manager quits» POLITICO - TOP Stories
He cites potential distractions over renewed attention to a controversy from the Iowa 2012 caucuses.
13:53 10 Ways Research Chimps Embrace Retirement» LiveScience.com
Swinging on fire hoses. Basking in the sun. See the many ways these chimpanzees are enjoying retirement at Chimp Haven after years in a laboratory.
13:42 Daily Kos Elections ad roundup: Democrats decide enough is enough, and target Joni Ernst on Medicare» Daily Kos

Leading Off:

IA-Sen: Democrats have largely been ignoring some of Republican Joni Ernst's more extreme or utterly insane ideas, or have just danced around them a bit. But this is a very good spot from the DSCC that goes after Ernst on one of her biggest potential vulnerabilities: Medicare.

The spot stars an Iowa senior accusing Ernst of wanting to cut Medicare and ending its guarantee. Ernst recently ran a spot where she promised to protect Social Security and Medicare for seniors, so she evidently saw this coming. We'll find out soon enough if Democrats are willing to keep zeroing in on her long list of insane ideas.

13:32 Is Coconut Oil Good For You?» LiveScience.com
Here's some advice from doctor about consuming coconut oil.
13:05 Gallery: Beautiful Images of Bardarbunga's Volcanic Eruption» LiveScience.com
Images of the volcanic eruption in the Holuhraun lava field north of Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland.
12:28 McDaniel challenge tossed in Miss.» POLITICO - TOP Stories
McDaniel's camp says it is considering whether to file a further appeal.
12:19 Obama's campaign no-fly zone» POLITICO - TOP Stories
In the red states that will determine control of the Senate, Obama will remain scarce.
12:14 Ebola Outbreak: Do Hazmat Suits Protect Workers, or Just Scare Everyone?» LiveScience.com
Wearing full-body hazardous material suits around patients with the Ebola virus may be counterproductive to treating the disease, some researchers say. But other health experts, wary of wearing less protective gear, disagree.
12:03 5 Members Of Congress Who Oppose National Monuments But Love To Pose For Photos In Them» ThinkProgress

If it’s August, there’s a good chance you’ll spot Members of Congress outside, even those politicians who fervently oppose protecting America’s iconic landscapes.

The post 5 Members Of Congress Who Oppose National Monuments But Love To Pose For Photos In Them appeared first on ThinkProgress.

11:03 'Human Safaris' May Be Exploiting Isolated Tribes, Advocates Warn» LiveScience.com
Unscrupulous tour operators in the Amazon basin might be leading travelers alarmingly close the territory of 'uncontacted' people, according to tribal rights groups.
10:58 Muslim Basketball Player Speaks Out Against International Federation’s Ban On Religious Headwear» ThinkProgress

Indira Kaljo, a Muslim-American basketball player who has sought the right to wear a hijab during European professional games, says a ban on religious wear is forcing players like her to choose between basketball and their faith.

The post Muslim Basketball Player Speaks Out Against International Federation’s Ban On Religious Headwear appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:58 Police Tase Black Man Who Was Sitting On A Chair While Waiting To Pick Up His Kids» ThinkProgress

"Put your hands behind your back, or things are going to get ugly," the officer says on the video.

The post Police Tase Black Man Who Was Sitting On A Chair While Waiting To Pick Up His Kids appeared first on ThinkProgress.

10:57 Next red state up for Medicaid expansion: Tennessee» Daily Kos
Tennessee Governor and Committee Vice Chair Governor Bill Haslam, during the National Governors Association Education, Early Childhood and Workforce Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, February 26, 2012. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Neighboring the nation's two biggest Obamacare success stories has apparently made Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in Tennessee reconsider his refusal of Medicaid expansion under the law. Arkansas and Kentucky lead the nation in reducing the number of uninsured people in their states, largely because they accepted the expansion. Haslam appears to want in on the action now.
This would be the first time for the governor to actually submit a plan. If approved by federal officials and the state legislature, the plan would help Tennesseans caught in the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act, which has left 162,000 Tennesseans without health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In March 2013, Haslam ruled out expansion of a traditional Medicaid model and said he favored a plan to leverage federal funds to, instead, help the poor buy private health insurance. Haslam said then that a "Tennessee Plan" should require copayments, which traditional Medicaid does not, so people would have "some skin in the game."

Now he's saying that the state could submit an application for a waiver in the program in the fall. It would follow the Arkansas model for expansion, using the public funds to subsidize purchase of private plans for the new enrollees.

Haslam is going to have to convince his Republican legislature to go along with the plan, and that could lead him to craft a program that the federal government would reject. A very recent example is Pennsylvania, which just announced a deal with the federal government to expand the program. There's only so far the administration will go to work with a Republican governor on Medicaid. In Gov. Tom Corbett's case, the administration refused to tie Medicaid enrollment to employment, restricting the program to people who have jobs or are actively looking for one. Haslam's idea to force copays from the newly eligible Medicaid recipients could be rejected, too. Iowa tried to impose premiums on people who earned more than 50 percent of the federal poverty line, and that was denied. The White House isn't going to be willing to create an unreasonable financial burden on low-income people.

Haslam is in the place a growing number of Republican governors—recognizing that Obamacare is increasingly less toxic, and that rejecting the money that is helping a lot of people and providing an economic boon to states is pretty politically damaging.

10:40 Ebola Drug 'ZMapp' Saves Infected Monkeys, Study Shows» LiveScience.com
A cocktail of three antibodies against the Ebola virus has successfully treated 18 infected monkeys, researchers reported today. The new results raise hope for the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
10:06 'Project Wing': Google Unveils New Drone-Delivery System» LiveScience.com
Move aside, Amazon: Google has revealed its top-secret drone-delivery project, and the first thing they used it for was delivering dog treats.
10:02 What The FAA Thinks Of Google’s Drone Delivery Plan» ThinkProgress

Google has been quietly building an army of drones, but the FAA might stand in the company's way.

The post What The FAA Thinks Of Google’s Drone Delivery Plan appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:56 In Memoriam: The Abercrombie & Fitch Logo, 1992 – 2014» ThinkProgress

In a last-ditch effort to stay cool, A&F ditches its signature logo. A look back on the logo's reign. What a time.

The post In Memoriam: The Abercrombie & Fitch Logo, 1992 – 2014 appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:51 544 Young Women Want To Tell The UN About The Urgency Of Climate Change» ThinkProgress

The young woman selected by the UN will address more than 100 international leaders during the UN's Climate Summit in September.

The post 544 Young Women Want To Tell The UN About The Urgency Of Climate Change appeared first on ThinkProgress.

09:23 The case for net neutrality reclassification gets stronger» Daily Kos
Senate panel with Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin and John McCain
Another voice for net neutrality.
The drumbeat for the Federal Communications Commission to solve the threat to net neutrality by reclassifying broadband as a public utility has been gaining steam. That now includes a letter from Sen. Carl Levin saying that it is the "best and clearest way to ensure an open and free Internet." Levin joins more than a dozen other Democratic senators pushing for the reclassification.

There's another strong argument coming, surprisingly, from Comcast. It's not an explicit call for reclassification, but it shows that Comcast is being heavily pressured by public opinion. The company has released a statement boasting that "we are the only Internet Service Provider to agree to be legally bound by full Net Neutrality rules." Of course, as the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik points out in this story, Comcast doesn't mention the fact that they were forced to agree to be bound to the rules as a condition of its buyout of NBCUniversal in 2011. Nor does Comcast mention the fact that they're only bound by the rule until January 2018.

But this gives the FCC even more leeway on reclassification. Right now, Comcast is doing everything in its power to appear consumer friendly to try to diffuse opposition from consumer advocates on its potential deal to merge with Time Warner Cable. It has to position itself as a friend of net neutrality, despite its history.

In 2007, for example, Comcast was caught deliberately interfering with its customers' legal traffic on peer-to-peer services such as BitTorrent.

The FCC also found in 2012 that Comcast hadn't fully lived up to all the commitments it made to secure approval of the NBCUniversal deal.

First, Comcast can't be trusted to continue to abide by net neutrality rules after 2018, unless the FCC has the strongest possible authority to enforce them. Second, Comcast can't publicly fight a reclassification by the FCC. They can quietly lobby against it, and probably are, but it will damage them significantly politically and with the public right now to fight it hard.

President Obama is a key ally in this fight. Sign and send the petition to the White House thanking him for his support of net neutrality and encouraging him to support a plan that would restore the FCC’s authority to regulate the internet as an essential public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

08:12 News Outlet: Karl Rove Twisted Our Reporting For His Anti-Dem Attack Ad» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The Colorado Independent criticized Fox News contributor Karl Rove and his political group for twisting its reporting into a misleading attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

Rove is the co-founder of Crossroads GPS, an IRS 501(c)(4) group that funds attacks against Democratic candidates across the country. The Associated Press reported on August 19 that GPS plans to spend more than $6 million on television ads in Colorado.

The group's latest Colorado ad attacks incumbent Sen. Udall for supporting health care reform, with a narrator claiming that "on the Eastern Plains, patients now outnumber doctors 5,000 to one." The group cites the Independent for the statistic.

But the news outlet responded that GPS is misrepresenting its work. Reporter Tessa Cheek, whose reporting was quoted by GPS, wrote that the commercial added the word "now" to deceptively suggest the patient-to-doctor ratio is a result of the ACA when in fact it "has nothing to do with the new law":

07:56 Laura Ingraham Tells Radio Listeners That Obama Considers Them, Not Islamic State, The "True Enemy"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
07:19 Fox's Geraldo: Obama Should Encourage American Muslims "To Be Americans First"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the August 29 edition of Fox News Fox & Friends:

GERALDO RIVERA: I would like the President of the United States to say to Muslim Americans, you are our fellow citizens, we adore you. You are part of the American mosaic. We incorporate you. We extol the virtue of your wonderful religion. But I ask -- me speaking again as the president -- you Imams in the various mosques around the country, to begin preaching American patriotism. Begin spotting these troubled youngsters, disabusing them of the notion that their first loyalty is to jihad or  extreme Islam. I think that we now have to recognize that this is an urgent situation. Not merely the military situation in Iraq and Syria, as critical as that is. But right here at home and in Great Britain and in other countries where there has been a tremendous diaspora of the Muslim population, they are everywhere. We love them. They are business leaders, they are drivers, they are teachers, they are scholars. But there must be now a commitment by American Muslims, as encouraged by the President of the United States, to be American  first, and to let the kids know that to be a jihadist is a dead end street.

BRIAN KILMEADE: I hate to tell you, don't hold your breath, because we've been trying to do that, and this president has been a very good friend to the Muslims. He actually just celebrated Ramadan again. So if they're not getting the message yet, I think we've had it.


How Fox News Has A Conversation About Islam

Fox Falls For Fake Story About Obama Personally Funding Muslim Museum During Shutdown

Fox's Bolling Advances Obama-Muslim Myth

Fox's Erick Erickson Understands Why "So Many" Believe Obama "Is A Closet Muslim Jihadist Sympathizer"

07:06 The Scientific Secret to Strong Relationships» LiveScience.com
Many people report having happy and healthy lives when they are involved in meaningful relationships. In a new review, two researchers examined how relationships can encourage — or thwart — personal thriving.
06:43 The Daily Show: Indict Cowboy» Daily Kos
Jon Stewart and Rick Perry
Yeeehaw! Jon Stewart goes all in on Rick Perry's rebranding efforts ahead of a probable 2016 run. Including his recent indictment by a Texas grand jury.

Scroll below to see The Daily Show's take on the "Indict Cowboy."

05:20 How bad was Michael Brown's school?» Daily Kos
Entrance to Normandy High School where Michael Brown attended school.
A new study out this week shows that the Normandy school district, the district where Michael Brown graduated only days before his death, is the lowest-rated school district in the state. The district's rating declined 40 percent in a single year while under control of the Republican-led state board of education.
If districts are thought of as students, most in the class are doing well, competing with each other for the top spot and gold stars. A smaller portion of the class is struggling, but making some improvement.

And just one is on the extreme end of failure. ...

Normandy’s standing slipped even lower on this year’s state review. Student test scores dropped further, and so did attendance. The district received just 7 percent of possible points, down from 11 percent in 2013....

The 3,000 students in Normandy schools last year faced a number of stresses, such as the midyear closure of an elementary school, teacher layoffs, dwindling finances and media coverage of the transfer situation.

Wealthy districts in the St. Louis area scored between 95 and 99 on the same scale that awarded Michael Brown's school a 7.

The rest is below the fold.

05:13 Economics Daily Digest: A rising minimum wage lifts all boats» Daily Kos
Economics Daily Digest by the Roosevelt Institute banner

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

There will not be a new Daily Digest on Monday, September 1, in observance of Labor Day. The Daily Digest will return on Tuesday, September 2.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Who Stands to Benefit from San Diego’s Minimum Wage Hike (Voice of San Diego)

Lisa Halverstadt speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt about her research team's estimate that 172,000 workers could get a raise from San Diego's minimum wage hike.

The Biggest Tax Scam Ever (Rolling Stone)

Tim Dickinson looks at the range of multinational tax avoidance strategies in use today, from inversions to offshoring. It's all legal, he says, but the law itself is broken.

De Blasio Zeroes in on Expanding Living Wage (Capital New York)

New York City's mayor looks to require more businesses, including retail tenants of subsidized developments, to pay a living wage, report Dana Rubinstein and Sally Goldenberg.

Market Basket's Popular CEO Arthur T Goes Rogue and Wins – Now What? (The Guardian)

After months of employee protests on his behalf, Market Basket's former CEO has bought out his cousins to regain control. Jana Kasperkevic says he'll face new challenges from shareholders.

AFL-CIO’s Trumka: Democrats Need New Economic Team in 2016 (WSJ)

The labor union president wants 2016 candidates to avoid economics advisors who have participated in the revolving door of government and Wall Street, reports Eric Morath.

Americans Foresee Unending Economic Doom (Vox)

Danielle Kurtzleben looks at a new study from Rutgers which shows that a growing number of Americans believe the last recession permanently scarred the economy and that government can't help.

Pregnant Women Just Earned More Workplace Rights in Illinois (The Nation)

The new law establishes civil rights protections for pregnant workers, which will help them to stay in the workplace if they want to, writes Michelle Chen.

00:32 The Foreign Leaders Conservative Media Wish Were In Charge Here» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

International incidents are a prime opportunity to daydream about foreign leaders who'd make better presidents than Barack Obama, at least inside the conservative media bubble. David Cameron has now joined Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu on the right's list of foreigners they'd rather have in the Oval Office than the man the nation elected.

On August 28, President Obama delivered remarks on the U.S. military's approach to the rising terror threat from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and recent developments in Ukraine. Right-wing media figures responded with disdain, accusing the president of failing to view the Islamic State as a threat and even suggesting it's understandable to think Obama sympathizes with terrorists. Yet when Cameron delivered similar remarks on the Islamic State's threat to the United Kingdom the next day, the right's response was much different -- Fox News contributor Erick Erickson tweeted:

Cameron joins a select group of foreign leaders whom the right-wing media have determined to be better suited for the U.S. presidency than the man chosen by American voters.

Thu 28 August, 2014

23:29 Suicide is Not 'Unavoidable' (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
Despite persistent cultural misconceptions, nearly half of U.S. adults suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime.
23:15 3 Things You Didn’t Know About the Arachnids That Live on Your Face» LiveScience.com
Demodex mites are microscopic arachnids (relatives of spiders and ticks) that live in and on the skin of mammals – including humans.
22:57 Tree Infesting Insects Love the City Heat (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
We can start watching urban ecosystems for problem insects and using that information to stand forewarned about future ecological changes in natural areas.
21:07 What Is Civil Engineering?» LiveScience.com
Civil engineering is the design and construction of public works, such as dams, bridges and other large infrastructure projects.
21:04 Lava Erupts at Iceland's Bardarbunga Volcano» LiveScience.com
An eruption started around midnight local time (8 p.m. ET) north of Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano.
16:39 Wind Power Has Soared, But is It About to Crash? (Op-Ed)» LiveScience.com
The U.S. wind power industry is booming, but a new report suggests it could be about to collapse.
16:22 1 in 10 Packaged Foods Has Trans Fat » LiveScience.com
People may be consuming higher amounts of potentially harmful trans fat than they think, as a result of misleading food labels, according to a new study.
14:53 Tourists Visiting Hospital In Florida For Medical Treatment | Video» LiveScience.com
UF Health Cancer Center's treatment for lymphedema has been described as "life-changing". Patients are flying down to the Orlando Hospital from all over the country for the procedure.
14:11 20 Corals Added to Endangered Species List» LiveScience.com
A tenfold increase in protected coral species was announced Wednesday, with 20 new corals added to the threatened species list.
13:44 Health insurers can still game the system, keep the sick out of their plans» Daily Kos
President Barack Obama smiling and holding
Excellent start, but it's not done yet.
Has Obamacare put health insurance in reach of millions of more Americans? No doubt. Has it made life that much easier for those millions? No question. But is healthcare reform finished in this country? Not by a long shot.
Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn that companies are still using wiggle room to discourage the sickest—and costliest—patients from enrolling.

Some insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from the list of providers they cover under a plan; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; or delaying participation in public insurance exchanges created by the overhaul.

Advocates and industry insiders say these practices may dissuade the neediest from signing up and make it likelier that the customers these insurers do serve will be healthier—and less expensive.

The insurers counter that what they are doing is "prudent business practices, not discrimination against the sick." It's just pure coincidence that their profits continue to hurt sick people. There are some things in the law intended to discourage insurers from these practices, including preventing them from creating or marketing plans specifically for healthy people, and requires insurers to chip in to the "risk corridor," the pool of funds that compensates companies who end up taking on more of the expensive, sick customers. The existence of that risk fund creates less incentive for them to avoid taking on the sick.

But some insurers are still working to keep their networks so narrow as to discourage sick people from buying in. "For instance, MD Anderson Cancer Center said it is included in the networks of less than half of the plans sold on the Houston area’s public insurance exchange." Additionally, there are plans that require patients getting HIV or multiple sclerosis drugs, for example, pay as much as 30 percent in copay for them with the initial prescription. While out-of-pocket costs are limited over the year, that really high initial payment could discourage patients who require expensive medications from signing up. Finally, plenty of large insurers are just staying out of the Obamacare marketplaces, where the people who were previously uninsured for pre-existing conditions are getting their insurance.

The track record and the ability for insurance companies to figure out how to game the system has always been the primary argument for single-payer advocates, and for all the activists who called for a public option—that would have forced competition on private insurers and discouraged these kinds of tactics—to be included in this overhaul. Insurance companies are going to continue to push every boundary and exploit every loophole possible. It's going to take stringent oversight and the threat of real healthcare reform to keep them even reasonably in line.

12:30 Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone Began at a Funeral» LiveScience.com
An extensive look at the genome of the Ebola virus reveals its behavior, when it arrived in West Africa and how it spread in the region to cause the largest-ever recorded Ebola outbreak.
11:46 No Descendants Are Left from the First Eskimos» LiveScience.com
A new study of human DNA -- and the largest genetics study yet of ancient peoples -- reveals that the Paleo-Eskimos are genetically distinct from both the Neo-Eskimos and modern Native Americans.
11:45 In Photos: Life in the Arctic region of the Americas » LiveScience.com
Life the frigid Arctic is challenging, but humans have populated the region for thousands of years. Now, a new study suggests the first groups of people to live in the Arctic region of the Americas do not have any descendents living today.
11:15 No Picnic Safe: Smart Bears Use Tools» LiveScience.com
A new study may upend some assumptions about bear smarts.
10:09 Calling All Nerds! New Sci-Fi Museum Wants Your Designs» LiveScience.com
If you've ever wanted to travel to the planet Arrakis, or you've made it a point to become fluent in Klingon, this may be a job for you.
09:20 Corporate interests put full-court press on Michigan teacher union-busting effort» Daily Kos
Teacher oversees students taking a test.
Across America, it is back-to-school time for students ... and teachers.

Within the next week or so, virtually all of the elementary and secondary schools on traditional schedules will be back into the classroom, and summer vacation gives way to a new school year for students and teachers around the nation.

In Michigan, teacher unions are confronting a perilous new reality, as a recently passed "right to work" law now gives individual teachers the ability to opt out of their unions. Predictably, a coalition of right-wing ideological and business groups have put maximum effort into their drive to crush the teachers unions:

With the teachers given a 31-day window in August to decide, representatives for the state's largest public-sector union are imploring them to stay or risk losing their clout in how schools are operated.

"If I don't stand up and stay in my union, then we don't have a voice," said Chandra Madafferi, a high school health teacher and president of a 400-member local in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Meanwhile, conservative groups are running ads and publicizing the chance for teachers to "grow your paycheck and workplace freedom."

Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing front group bankrolled by the Koch brothers, are among the most active architects in driving the opt-out effort. They paid for a full page ad in the Detroit Free Press with a preprinted form for opting out of their local union. Other groups are running ads trying to goad teachers into leaving their unions.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

09:02 Chris Wallace Says Fox News Colleague Ben Carson Doesn't Have A "Serious Chance To Be President"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the August 28 edition of KFTK's Allman in the Morning:


Inevitable: Fox News Hires Dr. Ben Carson

The Fox News Candidate With Nowhere To Run

08:06 Daily Caller Column Blames Gay Service Members For Rise In Military Rape» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

An opinion column for The Daily Caller blamed gay and bisexual men for much of the military's sexual assault problem, arguing that the 2010 repeal of the armed forces' Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy had worsened the problem of rape in the military.

In an August 27 column, writer Dave Benkof asserted that the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members was responsible for an "uptick in same-sex rape." According to Benkof, "[o]nly a fierce ideologue" would deny that allowing LGBT soldiers to serve openly would lead to an increase in sexual assault:

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is on the rise for both men and women, according to a Pentagon report earlier this year that was widely covered in news outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Reuters, and CNN.

But virtually none of that coverage addressed an obvious aspect of the problem: the 2011 introduction of open service by gays and bisexuals undoubtedly has increased the incidence of sexual assault against men in uniform. Despite repeated LGBT assurances that integrating gays into the military would not affect morale, an uptick in same-sex rape - especially involving straight victims - most assuredly affects morale. In fact, just the fear of increased sexual violence could affect morale.

Only a fierce ideologue would suggest that introducing many thousands of same-sex-attracted men into a mostly male service would decrease or maintain the previous extent of male-male MST. 


The LGBT community, which regarding marriage has shown a willingness to use deception to achieve its policy goals, must be held to a high standard of proof. Media, legislators, and voters should do their own research before trusting gay community slogans that often turn out to be misleading, incomplete, or downright false, including:

"Studies prove that gay parenting is as good as straight parenting";

"Gays are born that way";

"Gay marriage won't harm anyone"; and

"Gay marriage is inevitable."

The next time gay activists assure you their agenda has no downside, don't trust them. Investigate it for yourself. [emphasis added]

Benkof's claim that DADT repeal is responsible for a rise in military rapes is patently false. A study by Palm Center, a research institute focused on sexuality and the military, has found no evidence that open service has led to increased sexual assault. Nor, the center reported, did repeal lead to a decline in military cohesion or morale, as Benkof asserts.

08:03 AAJA And MPAC Demand Action After Fox Host Advocated For Violence Against Muslims» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) are demanding action from Fox News after a host linked all Muslims to terrorists and advocated for violence against practitioners of the faith. 

In an August 27 statement, the Asian American Journalist Association condemned Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros for making blanket statements conflating all Muslims to the Islamic State and advocating for violence against them. AAJA called on the network to apologize:

AAJA calls for Tantaros and Fox News to apologize for the irresponsible, inflammatory statements. We also call on Fox News to discourage its journalists from making blanket comments that serve to perpetuate hate and Islamophobia.

Muslims and Islam are not interchangeable terms with terrorists or ISIS. We in the media know better and must be vigilant in our choice of words.

The AAJA joined the Muslim Public Affairs Council in their outrage over the offensive Fox segment. MPAC previously called for the network to fire Tantaros following her inflammatory statements.

The growing call for action from Fox News comes after an August 20 segment of Outnumbered featured co-host Andrea Tantaros discussing the death of journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State. Suggesting that the history of Islam set a precedent for the murder, Tantaros declared that "this isn't a surprise," and that the only way to solve the situation was "with a bullet to the head. It's the only thing these people understand":

07:37 Photos of 'Yeti Footprints' Hit the Auction Block» LiveScience.com
Ardent believers in the existence of a mythical creature known as the Yeti may be excited to learn that rare photographic "evidence" of this mysterious beast is now up for auction.
07:23 Image Gallery: 'Yeti Footprint' Photos Up for Auction» LiveScience.com
Don't believe in the Abominable Snowman? These photos might make you change your mind.
07:16 Fox Host Wonders Whether An Executive Order On Immigration Is "Shutdown Bait"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News host Bret Baier raised the notion that a possible forthcoming executive order on immigration from President Obama may be government "shutdown bait."

In June, President Obama announced he was considering issuing an executive order that could allow millions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants to stay temporarily in the United States. While the specifics of the possible order are still unknown, the Washington Post reported this "could include temporary relief for law-abiding undocumented immigrants who are closely related to U.S. citizens or those who have lived in the country a certain number of years." 

On the August 28 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier speculated on whether President Obama's forthcoming order was "shutdown bait," designed to encourage the Republicans into shutting down the government in retaliation: 

In fact, GOP lawmakers have been floating the idea of using a budget showdown in response to an executive order on immigration. In recent days, Republican lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) and Rep. Steve King (IA) have talked to reporters about using the budget and government funding mechanisms to address any action Obama takes on immigration. In a statement released by The Des Moines Register, King said that an executive order on immigration "changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution":  

"If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear ...," King said. "I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that."King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, "becomes a requirement" for a continuing resolution.

Baier's question also came a day after The Week's Marc Ambinder noted that Rubio had "hinted that this might happen," and advised Democrats to "[g]o big on immigration. Wait for the GOP counter-reaction. Quietly pray for the government to get shut down. Use it like a cattle prod to wake voters up just before the midterms."

06:21 Is the Universe a 2D Hologram? Experiment Aims to Find Out» LiveScience.com
The Holometer project, which is based at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois, is now operating at full power, probing the very nature of space-time itself.
04:43 Fox Revives Right-Wing Myth That Government Assistance Pays "Better Than Working"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items
04:27 Fox's Erick Erickson Understands Why "So Many" Believe Obama "Is A Closet Muslim Jihadist Sympathizer"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson responded to President Obama's press conference addressing the Islamic State by asserting that he understands why "so many" believe Obama "is a closet Muslim jihadist sympathizer."

On August 28, Obama held a press conference to deliver remarks on the Islamic State and recent developments in Ukraine. During his statement, Obama explained that U.S. airstrikes have allowed Kurdish forces to push back the extremists, but added that more needed to be done with allies to root out the "cancer" that is the Islamic State:

As I've said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I'm confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I've directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I'll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I've been consulting with members of Congress, and I'll continue to do so in the days ahead.

Despite Obama's strong condemnation of the Islamic State, Erickson said on his radio show that "I don't believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim jihadi sympathizer. But I now - today, after this press conference -- totally understand why so many of you think he is." Erickson repeated the incendiary comment on Twitter: 

Erickson's inflammatory remark is the latest in a long line of extreme rhetoric from the Fox contributor. In 2012, Erickson called Obama a "composite Kenyan" on his blog RedState. He also has a history of sexist and homophobic comments: Erickson labeled Texas state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis "Abortion Barbie" and claimed that gay people need to "overcome" the "struggle" of homosexuality.

02:43 Conservative Media's "Off-The-Rails" Claim About A Climate Deal And The Constitution» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Conservative media are suggesting that the Obama administration is "working with foreigners to subvert the Constitution" by seeking a climate agreement with other nations without Senate approval, but legal experts agree that because it is not expected to be legally binding, the accord does not require Senate ratification.

Fox News Climate

Obama Administration Announces It Is Seeking A Non-Legally Binding Climate Accord

NY Times: Obama Is Seeking "Politically Binding" Rather Than Legally Binding International Climate Agreement. The New York Times reported that the Obama administration is seeking a "politically binding" rather than legally binding agreement that would "name and shame" nations that don't comply at the upcoming United Nations summit meeting in 2015:

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world's largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama's climate negotiators are devising what they call a "politically binding" deal that would "name and shame" countries into cutting their emissions. 


Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming. [The New York Times, 8/27/14]

Experts Agree This Is Clearly Constitutional And With Precedent

Climate Law Expert: A Non-Binding Agreement Would Be Constitutional And Have Precedent. In an interview with Media Matters, Columbia University Law Professor Michael B. Gerrard, who is the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, stated that "from the press reports and from everything else I've heard, it would be a non-legally binding agreement of the sort that should not require Senate ratification." He added that "there are numerous international agreements that the U.S. enters into without -- without Senate ratification. The most prominent of them is in 1945, FDR negotiated the Yalta agreement with Churchill and Stalin -- an enormously consequential agreement -- but never obtained Senate ratification. So the President has considerable, you know, foreign affairs powers."

When asked if he saw merit in the complaints that the potential accord is somehow unconstitutional or fits in with a pattern of President Obama overstepping his power, Gerrard laughed, saying "the short answer is no," before expanding that this is connected to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under existing statutes and that the "Supreme Court has three times affirmed that the existing Clean Air Act authorizes EPA to regulate greenhouse gases without further Congressional action." [Phone Interview with Media Matters, 8/28/14]

UN Expert: It's "Not Unconstitutional... Presidents Have Done It Countless Times In The Past." John H. Knox, a UN independent expert on human rights and the environment and professor of international law at Wake Forest University School of Law, said in an email to Media Matters that "[I]t isn't unconstitutional for the president to negotiate political commitments such as the climate accord," adding that  "presidents have done it countless times in the past":

No, it isn't unconstitutional for the president to negotiate political commitments - presidents have done it countless times in the past.  Famous examples include the 1941 Atlantic Charter on cooperation among the Allies in World War II, the 1975 Helsinki Accords on East-West relations, and the 1992 Rio Declaration on environmental protection, among many, many others.

These political accords aren't legally binding.  As a result, there's no requirement - under the Constitution or otherwise - for the President to seek Congressional authorization or approval, either through the two-thirds majority of the Senate required for "treaties" or for the majority of both houses required for certain other types of international agreements.  [Email to Media Matters, 8/28/14]

American University Law Fellow: Proposal Has "Vast Precedent." William Snape, an environmental fellow and practitioner-in-residence at American University stated in an email to Media Matters that the proposal for a climate accord "is constitutional (and otherwise legal) and has vast precedent with regard to US trade agreements." [Email to Media Matters, 8/28/14]

Earthjustice Attorney: Claim Of Unconstitutionality Is "Off The Rails." In an interview with Media Matters, attorney Erika Rosenthal, who specializes in climate policy and international negotiations at Earthjustice, called the allegations of a climate accord being unconstitutional "off the rails" and "completely without merit":

This seems to be the go-to response when Fox News can't figure out anything else to say.


The charge that the President of the United States is trying to make progress on a critical issue for all Americans in the face of a do-nothing Congress is unconstitutional? It's off the rails. It's completely without merit. What the Obama Administration is doing is faithfully executing the law of the United States.


The Obama Administration is not making up a new category of international agreement. It is not trying to pull the wool over the American people; it is not trying to pull the wool over Congress. What he's doing and saying is he's working within the political realities of a broken Congress. [Phone Interview with Media Matters, 8/28/14]

NY Mag's Chait: "This Is Not A Case Of Executive Overreach." In an article for New York magazine, Jonathan Chait cited experts explaining why "this is not a case of executive overreach":

[U]nlike Obama's reported plans to enact sweeping immigration reform without Congress -- this is not a case of executive overreach.


You don't need a formal treaty to coordinate international action. Here we get into the core of the question. Exactly what level of commitment requires a formal treaty turns out to be a huge gray area. Daniel Bodansky, a law professor and former State Department climate negotiator, has a paper going through the ins, outs, and what-have-yous. The short answer is that political commitments that lack legal force can work as well, or possibly even better, than binding treaties. ("Agreed outcomes that are not adopted as treaties can have political force. Violations of such political agreements may have significant reputational costs, but they do not have any international legal consequences.")

Center for American Progress fellow Peter Ogden, the former White House National Security staff director for climate change and environmental policy, points out in Foreign Affairs that the Copenhagen summit, which failed to produce a binding treaty, "was actually a turning point in international climate talks," and has produced significant carbon reductions.

The danger in this approach is that a future administration could renege. But that possibility depends, in turn, on how well the regulations actually work. The Obama administration's climate regulations are modest, but they are also projected to impose low costs on consumers and business. If the regulations actually deliver, encouraging the market to find inexpensive ways to switch to cleaner fuels, and to save money through conservation, then the incentive to revert back to unregulated carbon emissions will be small. Doing so might even impose new costs on businesses that had adjusted to Obama's regulations. [New York, 8/27/14]

Yet Conservative Media Claim Move Is Unconstitutional

National Review Online Suggests Obama Is "Working With Foreigners To Subvert The U.S. Constitution." National Review Online's Jim Geraghty suggested the administration "confirm[ed]" on the "front page of the New York Times" that the president is "working with foreigners to subvert the U.S. Constitution":

If you cannot get the Senate to ratify a treaty (technically, passing a resolution of ratification), then the United States is not a party to that treaty. Period. Full stop. The Constitution is not iffy on this. This part is not a suggestion. There is no wiggle room.

There are a lot of nonsensical or highly exaggerated chain e-mails accusing the president of working with foreigners to subvert the U.S. Constitution. But this time you've got the foreigners and administration officials themselves confirming it on the front page of the New York Times! [National Review Online, 8/27/14

Fox News' Stephen Hayes Suggests Potential Agreement Is "Constitutionally Indecent." Weekly Standard columnist and Fox News contributor Stephen F. Hayes said that this is "the kind of scheme" someone would expect to get from "your crazy uncle who's worried about a world government taking over" and is "more constitutionally indecent than potential strikes on ISIS." From the August 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

STEPHEN F. HAYES: This is the kind of scheme that I would've expected to get or somebody would expect to get from, you know, your crazy uncle who's worried about a world government taking over and Obama working with world government. This is -- you can't imagine that this is a real policy. And it turns out that people who were paranoid about it were actually right that the Administration would do this, and the most striking thing about this, in reading The New York Times story, which broke the story today, front page of The New York Times story, I think in paragraph three of four, you have Obama Administration officials in effect talking aloud about how they're going to work around the Constitution. You know there's this pesky little thing, this ratification thing that we need to work around and here's how we're going to work around it. It's unbelievable that they would actually talk about it in this open a fashion. And Josh Ernest, you know from the podium at the White House saying, well you know this is really how we have to get around Congressional dysfunction. That's total nonsense. 

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Would you say it's constitutionally indecent?
HAYES: I would say it's more constitutionally indecent than potential strikes on ISIS. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/27/14]

Tucker Carlson: There Is "No Legal Justification" For Climate Accord. Fox News' America's Newsroom played a clip of Sen. Rand Paul suggesting that the potential climate accord is an example of President Obama acting like a "king." Daily Caller editor and Fox News co-host Tucker Carlson then agreed, saying there is "no legal justification" for this as the "U.S. constitution makes clear":

TUCKER CARLSON: In the case of global warming, climate change, I mean, there is no legal justification for that. The U.S. Constitution is very clear, if you want to enter into a treaty with a foreign power you need the Senate to vote on it and to sign off on it, and that, of course, would never happen. So that's just completely over the top that they'd even talk about that. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 8/28/14]

FoxNews.com Suggests Obama May Be "Bypass[ing]" The Constitution. From the front page of FoxNews.com on August 27:

Fox News Climate

[Screengrab from FoxNews.com, accessed 8/27/14]

Wed 27 August, 2014

22:33 Scott Walker Calls On Republicans To Use Fox News To Get Their "Message Out"» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

From the August 28 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends:


Fox & Friends: Scott Walker's #1 Fan

Fox Does Damage Control For Scott Walker On Criminal Investigation

22:27 "Let Men Be Men": Fox News Hosts Defend Catcalling» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News hosts defended the practice of catcalling, insisting women should "let men be men" and downplaying the harmful impact widespread street harassment has on women.

On the August 28 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, hosts highlighted a New York Post opinion article that suggested women "deal with" "flattering" catcalls. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle defended street harassment saying, "let men be men," and, "look, men are going to be that way. What can you do?" Guest host and Fox contributor Arthur Aidala reenacted his personal signature "move" -- aiming a slow round of applause at women on the street, which one host said she'd find flattering:

08:11 Restaurant industry's low wages leave 40% of workers in near-poverty» Daily Kos
Demonstrators are pictured in front of Domino's Pizza during a strike aimed at the fast-food industry and the minimum wage in Seattle, Washington August 29, 2013. Fast-food workers went on strike and protested outside restaurants in 60 U.S. cities on Thur
The minimum wage for tipped workers hasn't gone up in more than 20 years, and a recent study reminds us of the human costs of that policy and of the restaurant industry's reliance on low-wage labor. Perhaps the most striking finding in the report by the Economic Policy Institute's Heidi Shierholz (now headed to the Department of Labor) is that "typical wage of $15.42 per hour" for restaurant managers "is still lower than the overall median wage outside the restaurant industry." So this is an industry where the managers earn less than the median for other industries. That's quite a commitment to low wages, with predictable results:
  • One in six restaurant workers, or 16.7 percent, live below the official poverty line. The poverty rate for workers outside the restaurant industry is more than 10 percentage points lower, at 6.3 percent.
  • Twice the official poverty threshold is commonly used by researchers as a measure of what it takes for a family to make ends meet. More than two in five restaurant workers, or 43.1 percent, live below twice the poverty line—more than twice the 19.9 percent share outside the restaurant industry.
Restaurants employ more than 10 million people, more than half of them women, with women earning less than men even within the same occupation (i.e. a woman makes less waiting on tables than does a man). There's also significant occupational clustering by race, with blacks disproportionately having the lowest-paying jobs such as cashiers/counter attendants and Latinos disproportionately likely to have low-paying jobs like dishwasher and dining room attendant.

This appalling situation, with so many workers in near-poverty, needs policy solutions. A tipped minimum wage higher than the current level of $2.13 an hour is the obvious first step, but Shierholz points to other policy changes that would improve the situation: extending overtime protections to cover more workers, comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, passing paid sick leave, cracking down on "just in time" scheduling, and cracking down on wage theft, among others. Policies, it almost goes without saying, that Republicans oppose and Democrats generally support.

06:45 IPCC attribution statements redux: A response to Judith Curry» RealClimate
I have written a number of times about the procedure used to attribute recent climate change (here in 2010, in 2012 (about the AR4 statement), and again in 2013 after AR5 was released). For people who want a summary of what the attribution problem is, how we think about the human contributions and why the […]
06:25 O'Reilly Didn't Want To Hear His Pro-Immigration Guests -- So He Cut Their Mics» Media Matters for America - Latest Items

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly cut the microphones of two pro-immigration guests because he disagreed with their proposed border enforcement solutions. 

On the August 27 edition of his show, O'Reilly invited immigration reform advocates Ben Johnson of the American Immigration Council and Enrique Morones, founder of Border Angels, to talk about solutions to undocumented immigration into the U.S. During the segment, O'Reilly asked both guests what they would do "to stop people from coming in here illegally," only to cut their microphones off when they tried to explain their solutions, which included improvements in border enforcement:

Later in the show, O'Reilly explained to Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham that he "cut them off" because they weren't answering his questions:

O'REILLY: I had to cut them off and be rude because they weren't answering the questions. It was obvious they weren't answering them and I can't waste the viewers' time.

O'Reilly's solutions for lessening immigration from Mexico have been criticized as "absurd" and "useless." Recently O'Reilly has advocated militarizing the southern border, flying surveillance flights in Mexican airspace "to pinpoint illegal immigration camps," and building a Berlin Wall-style border fence.

Tue 26 August, 2014

14:16 'Making a natural disaster into a man-made tragedy'» Daily Kos
ADBC (Agriculture Development Bank of China) branch in Bei Chuan after earthquake
Following Sunday night's 6.1 earthquake in Northern California, there have been widespread reports of damage, most notably in the wine region of Napa Valley:
No one was killed in the 6.0-magnitude earthquake that jostled residents awake early Sunday.

The Queen of the Valley Medical Center said it has treated "approximately 208" patients since the earthquake struck. Of those, 17 were admitted to the hospital, and one is still in critical condition.

The majority of patients sustained injuries that were not life-threatening.

Emphasis on the no one was killed part. In early August 2014, a 6.1 earthquake in Southwestern China killed nearly 600 and injured close to 2,500 more.

Why the difference? Government regulation and stricter building codes throughout the U.S., particularly in Northern California.

From the U.S. Geological Survey:

The majority of deaths and injuries from earthquakes are caused by the damage or collapse of buildings and other structures. These losses can be reduced through documenting and understanding how structures respond to earthquakes. Gaining such knowledge requires a long-term commitment because large devastating earthquakes occur at irregular and often long intervals. Recording instruments must be in place and waiting, ready to capture the response to the next temblor whenever it occurs. The new information acquired by these instruments can then be used to better design earthquake-resistant structures. In this way, earth scientists and engineers help reduce loss of life and property in future earthquakes.
For as much as Republicans clamor for fewer regulations and less government oversight, I think we can all agree this is one area where the government absolutely does it right.

Vox put together a fantastically informative video outlining just how different the regulations affect the outcome of a major earthquake. Jump below the fold to see the video.

Mon 25 August, 2014

08:05 'An Islamic caliphate armed with US weapons'» Daily Kos
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjarl west of Mosul, take refuge at Dohuk province, August 7, 2014. Islamic State militants extended their gains in northern Iraq on Thursday, seizing more towns a
More arms means more war and more refugees
So much of what is wrong with U.S. foreign policy is summarized in one seeming aside in this McClatchy article about the latest horror perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS):
Islamic extremists captured a major government military airport in Raqqa, eastern Syria, on Sunday, completing their takeover of the entire province and dealing a humiliating blow to President Bashar Assad.

The victory is further evidence that the Islamic State is determined to widen its grip on the region. Since it launched its brutal assaults in June, the Islamic State has captured half of Iraq and one third of Syria and operates an Islamic caliphate armed with US weapons and financed by booty seized during its lightning raids.

For more than a decade now, the United States has been pouring weaponry into the region. Who could have imagined that some of it would end up in the hands of the bad guys? Who could have imagined that so much of it would end up in the hands of the bad guys? Well, besides anyone who remembers how well arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan worked out, anyway...

More over the fold.

Wed 13 August, 2014

17:03 How much methane came out of that hole in Siberia?» RealClimate
Siberia has explosion holes in it that smell like methane, and there are newly found bubbles of methane in the Arctic Ocean. As a result, journalists are contacting me assuming that the Arctic Methane Apocalypse has begun. However, as a climate scientist I remain much more concerned about the fossil fuel industry than I am […]

Tue 12 August, 2014

18:17 Can this disputed plan end poverty?» POLITICO - TOP Stories
A cash rewards program in Memphis is trying to find out.

Tue 05 August, 2014

06:58 Unforced variations: Aug 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. Keeping track of the Arctic sea ice minimum is interesting but there should be plenty of other climate science topics to discuss (if people can get past the hype about the Ebola outbreak or imaginary claims about anomalous thrusting). As with last month, pleas no discussion of mitigation strategies – it […]

Thu 10 July, 2014

01:49 Rossby waves and surface weather extremes» RealClimate
A new study by Screen and Simmonds demonstrates the statistical connection between high-amplitude planetary waves in the atmosphere and extreme weather events on the ground. Guest post by Dim Coumou There has been an ongoing debate, both in and outside the scientific community, whether rapid climate change in the Arctic might affect circulation patterns in […]

Sun 06 July, 2014

07:05 Release of the International Surface Temperature Initiative’s (ISTI’s) Global Land Surface Databank, an expanded set of fundamental surface temperature records» RealClimate
Guest post by Jared Rennie, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina on behalf of the databank working group of the International Surface Temperature Initiative In the 21st Century, when multi-billion dollar decisions are being made to mitigate and adapt to climate change, society rightly expects openness and transparency in climate science to enable […]

Wed 02 July, 2014

06:55 Unforced variations: July 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. Topics of potential interest: The successful OCO-2 launch, continuing likelihood of an El Niño event this fall, predictions of the September Arctic sea ice minimum, Antarctic sea ice excursions, stochastic elements in climate models etc. Just for a change, no discussion of mitigation efforts please!

Sun 01 June, 2014

16:35 Unforced variations: June 2014» RealClimate
June is the month when the Arctic Sea Ice outlook gets going, when the EPA releases its rules on power plant CO2 emissions, and when, hopefully, commenters can get back to actually having constructive and respectful conversations about climate science (and not nuclear energy, impending apocalypsi (pl) or how terrible everyone else is). Thanks.

Thu 08 May, 2014

06:39 El Niño or Bust» RealClimate
Guest commentary from Michelle L’Heureux, NOAA Climate Prediction Center Much media attention has been directed at the possibility of an El Niño brewing this year. Many outlets have drawn comparison with the 1997-98 super El Niño. So, what are the odds that El Niño will occur? And if it does, how strong will it be? […]

Fri 02 May, 2014

06:35 Unforced variations: May 2014» RealClimate
This month’s open thread. In order to give everyone a break, no discussion of mitigation options this month – that has been done to death in previous threads. Anything related to climate science is totally fine: Carbon dioxide levels maybe, or TED talks perhaps…

Wed 30 April, 2014

22:16 Social Anxiety Disorder: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment» LiveScience.com
People who experience social anxiety disorder are highly apprehensive in social settings, more so than the occasional case of nerves some may experience in everyday encounters.
04:36 Faking it» RealClimate
Every so often contrarians post old newspaper quotes with the implication that nothing being talked about now is unprecedented or even unusual. And frankly, there are lots of old articles that get things wrong, are sensationalist or made predictions without a solid basis. And those are just the articles about the economy. However, there are […]

Fri 21 March, 2014

20:19 Dental Health & Kids: A Guide for Every Age» LiveScience.com
Learn about keeping your kids’ teeth healthy and strong from infancy on and setting them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and good dental hygiene practices.

Mon 17 March, 2014

21:33 Gingivitis & Periodontitis: Symptoms & Treatment of Gum Disease» LiveScience.com
Gingivitis and periodontitis, two types of gum disease, are fairly common, but can be stopped or their symptoms lessened with effective care.

Mon 23 December, 2013

22:35 Lobotomy: Definition, Procedure & History » LiveScience.com
Lobotomy is a neurosurgical operation that involves severing connections in the brain's prefrontal lobe.

Tue 15 October, 2013

Sun 22 September, 2013

06:34 The Last Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The Oil Drum (TOD) was an internet energy phenomenon that ran for over eight years from April 2005 to September 2013. The site was founded by Prof. Goose (also known as Professor Kyle Saunders of Colorado State University) and Heading Out (also known as Professor Dave Summers formerly of the Missouri University of Science and Technology).

The site took off with the advent of Hurricane Rita in September 2005 and resulted in the first 200+ comment event, indicating that there was demand for a site where concerned citizens could gather round a camp fire to discuss events impacting their energy supplies and ultimately, their well being. In eight years, >960,000 comments have been posted. Two other energy linked disasters, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and the Fukushima Daiichi reactor melt downs would see readership soar to >75,000 unique visits per day.

These pages have hosted over 7,500 articles covering every aspect of the global energy system. It was not unusual for a post to attract over 600 comments, many of which were well informed and contained charts and links to other internet sources. The site would become known for a uniquely high level of discourse where armchair analysts of all stripes added their knowledge to threads in a courteous, and ultimately pro-social way that energy experts at hedge funds, corporations or universities might not have the freedom to do. It is this emergent property of smart people sharing knowledge on a critical topic to humanity's future that will be missed.

The site was built on twin backbones that would often pull the readership in opposite directions. Drumbeats, edited by Leanan (who remains anonymous to this day) provided daily energy news digest and a forum for debate. And articles, written by a legion of volunteer writers, that strove to provide a more quantitative analysis of global energy supplies and the political, social and economic events that lay behind them. All the content would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Super G, our site engineer, who maintained and updated software and hardware as the site grew and evolved for over eight years on a voluntary basis.

In the course of 2013, a decision was made to archive The Oil Drum and the main purpose of this Last Post is to provide some direction to new and future readers of the vast content it contains. The main contributors are listed below along with links to where their writings can be now be found. If you are looking for content there are two main options. The first is to look for author specific content where clicking on the live hyper linked name of the contributor will take you to a page giving access to all the content produced by that author. The second option is to use the Advanced Search facility at the top left of this page. Simply enter a few key words and this will return a page of the most relevant articles.

Editorial board

Arthur Berman (aeberman) Arthur E. Berman is a petroleum geologist with 35 years of oil and gas industry experience. He worked 20 years for Amoco (now BP) and 15 years as consulting geologist. He gives keynote addresses for energy conferences, boards of directors and professional societies. He has been interviewed about oil and gas topics on CBS, CNBC, CNN, Platt’s Energy Week, BNN, Bloomberg, Platt’s, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

He was a managing editor and frequent contributor of theoildrum.com, and an associate editor of the AAPG Bulletin. He is a Director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, and has served on the boards of directors of The Houston Geological Society and The Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. He has published more than 100 articles on petroleum geology. He has done expert witness and research work on several oil and gas trial and utility commission hearings.

He has an M.S. (Geology) from the Colorado School of Mines and a B.A. (History) from Amherst College.

Nate Hagens is a well-known speaker on the big picture related to the global macroeconomy. Nate's presentations address opportunities and constraints we face in the transition away from growth based economies as fossil fuels become more costly. On the supply side, Nate focuses on biophysical economics (net energy) and the interrelationship between money and natural resources. On the demand side, Nate addresses the behavioral underpinnings to conspicuous consumption and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the end of growth. He will be writing at themonkeytrap.us.

Nate has appeared on PBS, BBC, ABC, NPR, and has lectured around the world. He holds a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. Previously Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Nate is the former President of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future (non-profit publisher of The Oil Drum), is current US Director of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research, and serves on the Board of the Post Carbon Institute. Nate also served as the lead editor of the Oil Drum for several years.

Rembrandt Koppelaar has since 2010 been a Research Associate at the Swiss Institute for Integrated Economic Research (IIER), where he works on modelling of costs of resource and energy flows. Since June 2012 he combines this with a PhD research position at Imperial College London, to contribute to a spatial simulation of the resource flows of an economy at a micro-level using agent-based approaches. He joined the Oil Drum in 2006 first as a contributor and later as an editor, triggering by his concern in oil depletion. An interest that also led him to establish and become President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas Netherlands from 2006 to 2010. He is author of the book “De Permanente Oliecrisis” discussing the end of cheap oil and its consequences (Dutch language, Nieuw Amsterdam publishers, 2008). Rembrandt holds a BSc and MSc in economics from Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Brian Maschhoff (JoulesBurn) earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico and a Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Arizona. He has worked at several academic institutions and government laboratories, and currently engages in a wide variety of scientific and technical pursuits including web-based education, data visualization, and research on salmon recovery. His research on the oil fields of Saudi Arabia is also posted at Satellite o'er the Desert. He also blogs at Picojoule, and he might eventually be found @joulesburn on Twitter.

Euan Mearns has B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from The University of Aberdeen. Following an academic career in Norway and a business career in Scotland I took time off work in 2005 to help care for two sons and two dogs and to allow my wife's career to blossom. In 2006, wondering why the oil price and the value of my oil stocks kept going up I stumbled upon the The Oil Drum that provided unique insight, at that time, into The Earth energy system. Feeling the need to put something back I submitted a couple of articles and have since written roughly 100 posts and hosted many guest posts from worthy authors.

In 2009 I was appointed as Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Aberdeen and teach occasional courses there. For the last 7 years, writing and editing articles for The Oil Drum has consumed a fair portion of my time, but I have in return learned a huge amount. I also continue to work as a consultant for the oil industry. The focus of my interest is the importance of energy to society, society's response to the infrastructure and secondary impacts of energy provision and the political response. I plan to continue writing about Energy, Environment and Policy at Energy Matters.

New post, 8th October: UK North Sea Oil Production Decline
New post 18th November: Marcellus shale gas Bradford Co Pennsylvania: production history and declines
New post, 28th November: What is the real cost of shale gas?
New post, 9th December: OPEC oil production update July 2013
New post, 18th December: OECD oil production update July 2013
New post, 3rd January: Global Oil Supply Update July 2013
New post, 6th January: The Primary Energy Tale of Two Continents

Paul Sears was born in the UK, and did a Ph.D. in chemistry at Cambridge. Since first coming to Canada on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in 1973, he has worked at the University of Toronto and in the Canadian Federal Government in Ottawa. Most of his work since the mid 1970s has been on the supply and use of energy in one form or another. His interest in the limitations to oil supply dates back to about 1962, when he was at school watching a promotional film from an oil company. The subject of the film was oil exploration, and this caused him to wonder about the dependence of our society on oil and the limits to supply. Other interests are canoeing, kayaking, skiing, hiking, camping, keeping planted aquaria and learning Mandarin Chinese. Sadly, Paul Sears passed away on September 13, 2012. You can read an obituary here.

Dave Summers who writes under the pen name, "Heading Out", comes from a family that for at least nine generations has been coal miners, and he started his working life, as an Indentured Apprentice, in 1961 shoveling coal on one of the last hand-won coal faces in the UK at Seghill, after a few weeks supplying that face with the help of a pit pony. With bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Leeds University in the UK he moved to Rolla, Missouri and Missouri University of Science and Technology (then UMR) in 1968. He was named Curators’ Professor of Mining Engineering in 1980 and for many years directed the Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center at MS&T. His main work has been in the developing use of high-pressure water for cutting, cleaning and demilitarization. As one of the quiet revolutions that has crept into industry during his career, his research group worked in nuclear cleanup, rocket motors, and surgical applications as well as developing tools to cut, drill and mine more mundane rock, coal and metals. The team carved the half-scale Stonehenge out of Georgia granite, using only water, and later cut Edwina Sandy’s Millennium Arch from Missouri granite, both of which are on the MS&T campus. They also used the technique in a demonstration excavation that resulted in creating the OmniMax theater under the Gateway Arch in St Louis.

He retired from the University, and was named Emeritus in 2010, and lives quietly with his wife Barbara, with occasional commutes to visit their children, located on the two coasts very far from rural America.

In 2004 he began to write a blog, and in 2005 teamed with Kyle Saunders to jointly found The Oil Drum, a site for “discussions on energy and our future.” He now writes on energy, the applications of waterjets, a little on the use of the 3D modeling program Poser, and occasionally on climate matters. His blog, where the Tech Talks continue, can be found at Bit Tooth Energy. He again thanks all those who have contributed to The Oil Drum over the years and wishes them joy and prosperity in their futures!

Dr. David Archibold Summers has written numerous articles, a textbook, Waterjetting Technology, and jointly holds several patents, the last two of which have been licensed and deal a) with the use of waterjets to remove skin cancer and b) for high speed drilling of small holes through the earth.

Gail Tverberg (Gail the Actuary) became interested in resource limits and how these affect insurance companies and the economy more generally in 2005. She began writing about this issue while working as a property-casualty actuarial consultant at Towers Watson. In 2007, she took early retirement to work specifically on the issue of oil limits.

Between 2007 and its suspension in 2013, Gail worked as a contributor and editor at TheOilDrum.com. She also started her own blog, OurFiniteWorld.com, where she continues to write on a regular basis. Her writings include Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis, published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy in January 2012. She has spoken at at many conferences on subjects related to oil limits, including both academic and actuarial conferences. She now plans to write a book, tentatively called "Discontinuity Ahead: How Oil Limits Affect the Economy."

Gail worked for CNA Insurance prior to joining Tillinghast (which eventually became part of Towers Watson) in 1981. She has a BA in Mathematics from St. Olaf College and an MS in Mathematics from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

Her Twitter feed is @gailtheactuary.

Chris Vernon originally graduated with a masters degree in computational physics before working for ten years in the field of mobile telecoms specialising in radio network architecture and off-grid power systems in emerging markets. He subsequently returned to university to take an MSc in Earth system science and a PhD in glaciology focusing on the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. Chris is a trustee at the Centre for Sustainable Energy, works for the UK Met Office and maintains a personal web page.

Selected contributors

Big Gav studied Engineering at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Since then he has travelled widely and worked in the oil and gas, power generation, defence, technology and banking industries. He has been blogging about peak oil for almost 3 years at Peak Energy (Australia) and is probably the most prolific example of a techno-optimist in the peak oil world. He may be alone in thinking that peak oil represents a great opportunity to switch to a clean energy based world economy, rather than the trigger for the end of industrial civilisation.

Jason Bradford is currently a Farm Manager in Corvallis, OR and a Managing Partner for a sustainable farmland fund, Farmland LP. Most of his writing for The Oil Drum occurred while he lived in Willits, CA, where he was instrumental in the founding of Willits Economic Localization, hosted a radio program called "The Reality Report," and was a board member of the local Renewable Energy Development Institute. He also founded and ran a small farm at a local elementary school with a lot of community support and the backing of The Post Carbon Institute, where he is currently a board member. His brief but enjoyable academic career began at Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), where he taught courses in Ecology and from which he received a doctorate in Evolution and Population Biology in 2000. After graduation he was hired by the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at MBG, and between 2001 and 2004 secured grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society for multi-disciplinary research on issues related to species extinction and ecosystem function. His "aha moment" came during this research period where the connections between environmental decline, resource consumption, economic growth, belief systems and institutional inertia led to a dramatic change in the course of his life's work.

He continues to blog at Farmland LP.

David Murphy is an Assistant Professor in the Geography Department and an Associate of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, both at Northern Illinois University. He serves also as an Environmental Policy Analyst for the Environmental Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Murphy’s research focuses on the intersection of energy, economics, and the environment. Recently, his work has focused on estimating how the extraction of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has impacted the provision of ecosystem services from the local environment. In addition, he researches how the energy return on investment from oil is related to oil price and economic growth. Dr. Murphy's work for Argonne National Laboratory addresses the environmental impacts associated with energy development.

He tweets: @djmurphy04

Robert Rapier works in the energy industry and writes and speaks about issues involving energy and the environment. He is Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at Merica International, a forestry and renewable energy company involved in a variety of projects around the world. Robert has 20 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable energy industries, and holds several patents related to his work. He has worked in the areas of oil refining, natural gas production, synthetic fuels, ethanol production, butanol production, and various biomass to energy projects. Robert is the author of Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil. He is also the author of the R-Squared Energy Column at Energy Trends Insider. His articles on energy and sustainability have appeared in numerous media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, and Forbes.

Jeff Vail (jeffvail) is an energy intelligence analyst and former US Air Force intelligence officer. He has a B.S. in engineering and history from the US Air Force Academy and a Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His interests are in global energy geopolitics and the the "rhizome" theory of social and economic organization. He is the author of the political anthropology book A Theory of Power and maintains a blog at http://www.jeffvail.net.

Jérôme à Paris is an investment banker in Paris, specialised in structured finance for energy projects, in particular in the wind power sector. After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, he wrote his Ph.D. in economics in 1995 on the independence of Ukraine, with a strong focus on the gas relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and he worked on financings for the Russian oil & gas industry for several years after that. He is the editor of the European Tribune, a community website on European politics and energy issues. He has written extensively about energy issues, usually from an economic or geopolitical angle for the European Tribune and for DailyKos where he led a collective effort to draft an energy policy for the USA, Energize America.

Rune Likvern After Rune's first time seeing The Oil Drum (TOD and Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future; ISEOF), in 2005 he created an account as nrgyman2000 and later got an invitation to become part of the staff of volunteer writers at what was then TOD Europe. In 2008 he started to post under his real name.

He is a Norwegian presently living in Norway and holding a masters degree from what is now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. For more than two decades he was employed in various positions by major international oil companies, primarily Statoil, working with operations, field/area developments (in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea) and implementation (primarily logistics) of Troll Gas Sales Agreement (TGSA) which is about natural gas deliveries to European customers. This was followed by a period as an independent energy (oil/gas fields assessments, cash flow analysis, portfolio analysis etc.) consultant and as VP for an energy hedge fund in New York. In recent years he had a sabbatical to do more in depth research, reading and participating in discussions about energy, biology (what makes human {brains} what they are and why), and not least financial and economic subjects in several global forums as well as some advisory work.

Presently he is looking for gainful employment/engagements.

He also posts on his blog Fractional Flow
(primarily in Norwegian, but some future posts are planned for in English).

Phil Hart studied Materials Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne before spending five years with Shell UK Exploration and Production, based in Aberdeen, Scotland. He worked on two new North Sea oil and gas field development projects followed by a stint with the Brent field maintenance team as a corrosion engineer. In late 2006, Phil returned to Melbourne and was for a while an active member of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He provided many briefings to government, business and community audiences and is still available for presentations around Melbourne and Victoria. Phil now works primarily in the water industry but consults as required for The Institute for Sensible Transport as well. He is also a keen astronomer and night sky photographer: www.philhart.com.

Luís Alexandre Duque Moreira de Sousa (Luís de Sousa) is a researcher at the Public Research Institute Henri Tudor in Luxembourg and a Ph.D. student in Informatics Engineering at the Technical University of Lisbon. Luís created the first Portuguese language website dedicated to Peak Oil in 2005 (PicoDoPetroleo.net); in 2006 he would be one of the founders of ASPO-Portugal and later that year integrated the team that started the European branch of The Oil Drum. Since then he has continuously written about Energy and its interplay with Politics and Economics, both in English and Portuguese. Luís is a regular presence at the collective blog European Tribune and writes on the broader issues of life on his personal blog AtTheEdgeOfTime.

Sat 21 September, 2013

14:34 The House That Randy Built» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

One of the nice aspects of the 7+ years I have been involved with The Oil Drum has been attending conferences and meeting with some of my cyber friends, who by and large figure among the nicest bunch of folks I ever met. In 2007 I attended the ASPO meeting in Houston and it was then that I met Randy Udall for the first time. Well you know what some Americans are like - you meet, you chat a while, discover you get along, down a couple of beers and before you know it you are invited to go visit. And so it was with Randy Udall....

The house that Randy built, sunk low in the Colorado terrain, provides shelter from winter storms and from exposure to summer sun. Photovoltaics, solar hot water (on the roof) and a single wood burner (chimney) provides all the energy needs.

Three years later, my wife and I had a trip planned to the States to go visit Dave Rutledge (another cyber mate) at his mountain lodge in New Mexico and I thought it would be cool to visit Randy en route. We exchanged a couple of emails, he warned that his wife Leslie was cautious about some of his friends coming to stay and that his son once claimed that the family lived in a "mud hut" and by now I was wondering if this was such a good idea. But plans were made and we went to stay with Randy in Colorado for a couple of days in August 2011; on arrival, any trepidation melted away.

A "mud hut", not quite. The stucco exterior finish covers thick foam insulation that in turn covers compressed earth (adobe) blocks. This provides protection from winter cold and summer heat, and thermal inertia from the large temperature swings prevalent in this part of the world.

At first sight Randy's house did indeed have the feel of a "mud hut" but upon entering the reality of a beautifully and lovingly crafted passive house unfolded. I was astonished to learn that Randy had designed and built every inch of this house himself, including the manufacture of every compressed earth brick and the hammering in of every nail - in neat serried ranks.

I wish I had recorded the vital statistics but the mass of bricks was carefully calculated to provide thermal inertia, keeping the house warm in winter but cool in summer. I was also very surprised to learn that all of the insulation was on the outside of the masonry structure which is the opposite of the way we build our houses in the UK. South-facing windows collect wintertime solar energy and the adobe block walls and brick floors soak up much of that heat energy, keeping the home warm through cold nights. During the summer, just opening the windows at night cools off the massive floors and walls, helping the house stay cool during hot days. Putting the insulation on the outside of the exterior walls is the only way to make this adobe wall strategy work effectively.

The house was set low in the terrain, providing protection from winter storms and from the worst excesses of summer heat. Outside you find a large solar PV array, providing a surplus of electricity and solar hot water arrays on the south facing roofs providing all the hot water required and, if my memory serves correctly, some interior heating during winter time.

The rather plain exterior gave way, inside, to simple, beautifully crafted, elegance.

Every timber cut and every nail hammered by one man. This is a masterpiece that will hopefully endure.

Inside, beautiful craftsmanship provides simple but elegant living space to match the view of Mount Sopris that dominated the surrounding landscape. Not many of us leave a lasting legacy. Randy has left memories of a wonderful and thoughtful teacher and a house that will hopefully stand as a testimony to his passion for sustainable living for centuries to come.

The view out of the front window wasn't that bad either. Mount Sopris (3,952 m /12,965 ft) offered Randy and his family fantastic walking, climbing and ski mountaineering opportunities.

Renewable energy and renewable transport. I am seldom pleased with the pictures I take, but there is something about this one I really like.

On the second evening of our visit, we dined with the local mayor and downed a few glasses of red. Randy may look pensive but he is actually looking at his lap top, has my credit card and is planning a road trip for us through Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon en route to New Mexico, one of the best trips my wife and I have ever made. He knew this area like the back of his hand.

To some, this house and lifestyle may seem fabulously exuberant. But the house, in fact, was built for a relatively tiny amount of money with most of the cost coming by way of blood, sweat, tears, knowledge and love of a vision for the future. These Udalls lived a simple life with a very strong sense of community involvement.

Most folks who read these pages will already know that in June of this year Randy died aged 61 of natural causes while hiking alone in the Wind River range of Wyoming, hunting for wild trout. The tragedy here is that he was snatched from his family and the sustainable living community he championed 10 to 20 years prematurely.

Thank you to Leslie Udall for consent to publish this article and to Steve Andrews for some useful editorial comments.

Thu 19 September, 2013

21:27 Twenty (Important) Concepts I Wasn't Taught in Business School - Part I» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Twenty-one years ago I received an MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago. The world became my oyster. Or so it seemed. For many years I achieved status in the metrics popular in our day ~ large paychecks, nice cars, travel to exotic places, girlfriend(s), novelty, and perhaps most importantly, respect for being a 'successful' member of society. But it turns out my financial career, shortlived as it was, occurred at the tail end of an era ~ where financial markers would increasingly decouple from the reality they were created to represent. My skill of being able to create more digits out of some digits, (or at least being able to sell that likelihood), allowed me to succeed in a "turbo" financial system that would moonshot over the next 20 years. For a short time I was in the 1% (and still am relative to 'all humans who have ever lived'). Being in the 1% afforded me an opportunity to dig a little deeper in what was really going on (because I quit, and had time to read and think about things for 10 years). It turns out the logic underpinning the financial system, and therefore my career, was based on some core flawed assumptions that had 'worked' in the short run but have since become outdated, putting societies at significant risks.

Around 30% of matriculating undergraduate college students today choose a business major, yet 'doing business' without knowledge of biology, ecology, and physics entirely circumvents first principles of how our world really works ~ my too long but also too short summary of the important things I wasn't taught in business school is below.

The Blind men and the Elephant, by Rudyard Kipling

Business as usual as we know it, with economics as its guide and financial metrics as its scorecard, is in its death throes. The below essay is going to appear critical of finance and the nations (world's) business schools. But it is too, critical, of our entire educational system. However, physicists, plumbers and plowmen do not have the same pull with respect to our cultural goals and narrative that financial folk do - as such an examination of the central assumptions driving society is long overdue. But before I point out what I didn't learn in MBA school, I want to be fair - I did learn things of ‘value’ for the waters I would swim in the future: statistics, regression, how to professionally present and to facilitate meetings, and some useful marketing concepts. Of course, like any 20 something student, 1/2 of the value of graduate school is learning to interact with the group of people that will be your peers, and the relationships and contacts that develop. Plus the placement office was very helpful in getting us jobs as well.

The culture at Salomon Brothers impressed me the most and I landed in their Private Investment Department, where we were basically stockbrokers for the uber-rich - as a trainee I wasn't allowed to call on anyone worth less than $50 million (in 1993). After Salomon shut our department down I went to a similar job at Lehman Brothers. At Lehman I increasingly felt like a high paid car salesmen and after 2 years quit to go work for a client, develop trading algorithms on commodities and eventually started my own small fund. But increasingly, instead of trading or trying to grow my business I found myself reading about oil, history, evolution and ecological issues. It really bothered me that 'externalities' were not priced into our goods or profits. One day, on a hike, it struck me that what I was doing felt spiritually hollow and despite it ‘paying the bills’ I began to realize I was more interested in learning about how the world worked and maybe doing something about improving it. In 2002 I gave my clients their money back, embarked on basically a 2 year hiking trip with my dog, and a car full of books. Eventually I would obtain a PhD in Natural Resources, but like many of you my real degree was obtained on this site, interacting with the many and varied people I met and continue to call friends and mentors. I am continuing to work on, or at least think about, making the near and long term future better, despite the tall odds, while living on a small farm in Wisconsin. More on this below.

In the years that have passed, modern society has become a crazy mélange of angst, uncertainty and worry. Many of us intuitively recognize that we’ve constructed a ginormous Rube Goldberg machine which for a number of reasons may not continue to crank out goods and services for the next 30-40 years. We blame this and that demographic for our declining prospects – the Republicans, the environmentalists, the greedy rich, the lazy poor, the immigrants, the liberals, etc. We blame this and that country or political system – evil socialists, heartless capitalists, Chinese, Syrians, Europeans, etc. We watch TV and internet about the latest ‘news’ influencing our world yet are not entirely confident of the connections. But underlying all this back and forth are some first principles, which are only taught piecemeal in our schools, if at all. Below is a short list of 20 principles underpinning today’s global ‘commerce’. I should note, if I was a 25 year old starting business school, eager to get a high paying job in two short years, I wouldn’t believe what follows below, even if I had time or interest to read it, which I probably wouldn't.

20. Economic 'laws' were created during and based on a non-repeatable period of human history

"I found a flaw. I was shocked because I'd been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well." Alan Greenspan testimony to Congress, Oct 2011

Click image to enlarge.

The above graphic shows a three-tiered time history of our planet, starting with the top black line being geologic time. The tiny black sliver on the far right, is enlarged in the second line, and the sliver on its far right is again enlarged on the bottom line, where the last 12,000 years are shown. We, both our environment, and ourselves, are products of this evolutionary history. Our true wealth originates from energy, natural resources and ecosystem services, developed over geologic time. Our true behavioral drivers are a product of our brains being sculpted and honed by 'what worked' in all 3 eras of this graph (but mostly the top 2). The dark line on the bottom is human population, but just as well could be economic output or fossil fuel use, as they have been highly correlated over this period.

The economic ‘theories’ underpinning our current society developed exclusively during the short period labeled 'A' on the graph, on a planet still ecologically empty of human systems and when increasing amounts of extraordinarily powerful fossil energy was applied to an expanding global economic system. For decades our human economies seemed to follow a pattern of growth interrupted by brief recession and resumption to growth. This has made it seem, for all intents and purposes, that growth of both the economy and aggregate individual wealth was something akin to a natural law –it is certainly taught that way in business schools. The reality is that our human trajectory –both past and future - is not a straight line but more like a polynomial - long straight stretches, up and down, with some wavy periods in the middle, and ultimately capped. Our present culture, our institutions, and all of our assumptions about the future were developed during a long 'upward sloping' stretch. Since this straight line period has gone on longer than the average human lifetime, our biological focus on the present over the future and past makes it difficult to imagine that the underlying truth is something else.

Evidence based science in fields like biology and physics has been marginalized during this long period of 'correlation=causation'. This oversight is not only ubiquitous in finance and economics but present in much of the social sciences, which over the past 2 generations have largely conflated proximate and ultimate explanations for individuals and societies. In nature geese fly south for the winter and north in the spring. They do this based on neurotransmitter signals honed over evolutionary time that contributed to their survival, both as individuals and as a species. "Flying north in spring" is a proximate explanation. "Neuro-chemical cues to maximize food/energy intake per effort contributing to survival" is an 'ultimate' explanation. In business school I was taught, 'markets go north' because of invention, technology and profits, an explanation which seemed incomplete to me even though it has appeared to be valid for most of my life. Social sciences have made great explanations of WHAT our behavior is, but the descriptions of WHY we are what we are and HOW we have accomplished a vast and impressive industrial civilization are still on the far fringes of mainstream science. Economics (and its subset of finance) is currently the social science leading our culture and institutions forward, even if now only by inertia.

19. The economy is a subset of the environment, not vice versa

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.
Joseph Wood Krutch

When you have to classify the very capacity of the Earth to support life as an "externality", then it is time to rethink your theory. --Herman Daly--

Click image to enlarge.

Standard economic and financial texts explain that our natural environment is only a subset of a larger human economy. A less anthropocentric (and more accurate) description however, is that human economies are only a subset of our natural environment. Though this may seem obvious, currently anything not influencing market prices remains outside of our economic system, and thus only actively 'valued' by government mandates or by some individuals, not by the cultural system as a whole. A landmark study in NATURE showed that the total value of 'ecosystem services' -those essential processes provided to humans by our environment like: clean air, hydrologic cycles, biodiversity, etc. if translated to dollar terms, were valued between 100-300% of Global GNP. Yet the market takes them for granted and does not ascribe value to them at all!!! Part of reason is that the negative impacts from market externalities aren't immediate, and with our steep discount rates (see below), the near term 'benefits' of GDP outweigh 'abstract' costs at some unknown future date.

Mankind's social conquest of earth has brought with it some uncomfortable 'externalities'. We are undergoing a 6th great extinction, which is no wonder given that humans and our livestock now outweigh wild animals by almost 50:1. Our one species is appropriating over 30% of the Net Primary Productivity of the planet. (One can ask, how can we use 30% of sunlight yet have 50x the weight of the other vertebrates and the answer, as we will see below, is our consumption of fossil carbon). A short list of deleterious impacts not incorporated into prices/costs includes: air pollution, water pollution, industrial animal production, overfishing (90% of pellagic fishes (tuna) in ocean are gone), nuclear waste, biodiversity loss, and antibiotic resistance. Perhaps the most ominous is the threat of climate change and ocean acidification, where humans, via burning large amounts of fossil carbon, are impacting global biogeochemical systems in profound and long-lasting ways.

Since GDP, profits and 'stuff' are how we currently measure success, these 'externalities' only measurement is the sense of loss, foreboding and angst by people paying attention. Such loss is currently not quantified by decision makers. In the past, only when there was a ‘smoking gun’ e.g. in the case of chlorofluorocarbons, DDT, unleaded gasoline, did society organize and require rules and regulations for the externalities, but these examples, as serious as they were, were not anathema to the entire human economy.

18. Energy is almost everything

Without natural resources life itself is impossible. From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, comfort, convenience, and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources prosperity is out of reach.
— Gifford Pinchot Breaking New Ground (1998), 505.

In nature, everything runs on energy. The suns rays combine with soil and water and CO2 to grow plants (primary productivity). Animals eat the plants. Other animals eat the animals. At each stage of this process there is an energy input, an energy output and waste heat (2nd law of thermodynamics). But at the bottom is always an energy input. Nothing can live without it. Similarly, man and his systems are part of nature. Our trajectory from using sources like biomass and draft animals, to wind and water power, to fossil fuels and electricity has enabled large increases in per capita output because of increases in the quantity of fuel available to produce non-energy goods. This transition to higher energy gain fuels also enabled social and economic diversification as less of our available energy was needed for the energy securing process, thereby diverting more energy towards non-extractive activities. The bottom of the human trophic pyramid is energy, about 90% of which is currently in the form of fossil carbon. Every single good, service or transaction that contributes to our GDP requires some energy input as a prerequisite. There are no exceptions. No matter how we choose to make a cup, whether from wood, or coconut, or glass or steel or plastic, energy is required in the process. Without primary energy, there would be no technology, or food, or medicine, or microwaves, or air conditioners, or cars, or internet, or anything.

A long term graph of human output (GDP) is one highly correlated with primary energy use. For a while (1950s to 1990s) improvements in efficiency, especially in natural gas plants, complemented energy use as a driver of GDP, but most of these have declined to now have only minor contributions. Since 2000, 96% of our GDP can be explained by 'more energy' being used. (For more data and explanation on this, please see "Green Growth - An Oxymoron"). Some resource economists have claimed that the relationship between energy and the economy decoupled starting in the 1970s, but what happened was just an outsourcing of the 'heavy lifting' of industrial processes to cheaper locations. If one includes energy transfers embedded in finished goods and imports there isn’t a single country in the world that shows a disconnect between energy use and GDP. Energy it turns out, not dollars, is what we have to budget and spend. Quite simply, energy is the ability to do work. How much work, we'll see below.

17. Cheap energy, not technology, has been the main driver of wealth and productivity

Click image to enlarge.

The chemical potential energy available from the burning of things (e.g. wood) is rather astounding when compared with the energy which we supply our bodies in the form of food, and the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas burn even hotter while also being much easier to store and transport. We quickly learned that using some of this heat to perform work would transform what we could accomplish in massive ways. One barrel of oil, priced at just over $100 boasts 5,700,000 BTUs or work potential of 1700kWhs. At an average of .60 kWh per work day, to generate this amount of 'labor', an average human would have to work 2833 days, or 11 working years. At the average hourly US wage rate, this is almost $500,000 of labor can be substituted by the latent energy in one barrel of oil that costs us $100. Unbeknownst to most stock and bond researchers on Wall Street, this is the real ‘Trade’.

The vast majority of our industrial processes and activities are the result of this ‘Trade’. We applied large amounts of extremely cheap fossil carbon to tasks humans used to do manually. And we invented many many more. Each time it was an extremely inefficient trade from the perspective of energy (much more energy used) but even more extremely profitable from the perspective of human society. For instance, depending on the boundaries, driving a car on a paved road uses 50-100 times the energy of a human walking, but gets us to where we are going 10 times faster. The ‘Trade’ is largely responsible for some combination of: higher wages, higher profits, lower priced goods and more people. The average american today consumes ~60 barrel of oil equivalents of fossil carbon annually, a 'subsidy' from ancient plants and geologic processes amounting to ~600 years of their own human labor, before conversion. Even with 7 billion people, each human kWh is supported by over 90kWh of fossil labor, and in OECD nations about 4-5 times this much.

Technology acts as an enabler, both by inventing new and creative ways to convert primary energy into (useful?) activities and goods for human consumption and, occasionally, by making us use or extract primary energy in more efficient ways. Even such services that appear independent of energy, are not so- for example, using computers, iPhones, etc in aggregate comprise about 10% of our energy use, when the servers etc are included. Technology can create GDP without adding to energy use by using energy more efficiently but:

a) much of the large theoretical movements towards energy efficiency have already occurred and

b) energy saved is often used elsewhere in the system to build consumption demand, requiring more and more primary energy (Jevons paradox, rebound effect). Technological improvement thus does increase efficiency, but higher levels of resource consumption and a larger scale of resource extraction offset this advantage.

Despite the power in the Trade, its benefits can be readily reversed. Firstly, if we add very large amounts of primary energy, even if it is inexpensive, the wage increases/benefits start to decline. But more importantly, and has been happening in the past decade or so, as energy prices increase, so too do the benefits of the “Trade” start to wane. The graph to the right (source, page 18) shows that as the price of energy doubles or triples the benefits of this 'Trade' quickly recede. This is especially true for energy intensive transportation, like air travel, and for highly energy intensive processes, like aluminum smelting, cement manufacture- fully 30% of US industry falls into this category. The ensuing reduction in 'salary' from large energy price increases can only partially be offset by efficiency measures or lean manufacturing moves, because the whole 'Trade' was predicated on large amounts of very cheap energy. This is why the mainstream media touting increased oil production or the growth rate in solar/wind is missing the larger point - what matters are the benefits derived at the various cost points of energy extraction/harnessing. Even with large amounts of gross energy, if it is too costly, it is much less helpful or worse, the infrastructure, trade arrangements and expectations built upon continued $40 oil and $0.05kWh electricity will have to be changed. Basically, the benefits to human societies from the mammoth bank account we found underground are almost indistinguishable from magic. Yet we have managed, over time, to conflate the Magic with the Wizard.

16. Energy is special, is non-substitutable in the production function, and has an upward sloping long term cost curve

"Oil is a renewable resource, with no intrinsic value over and above its marginal cost... There is no original stock or store of wealth to be doled out on any special criterion... Capital markets are equipped to handle oil depletion...It is all a matter of money", M.A. Adelman, Professor of Economics, MIT Source

Physics informs us that energy is necessary for economic production and, therefore growth. However, economic texts do not even mention energy as a factor that either constrains or enables economic growth. Standard financial theory (Solows exogenous growth model, Cobb Douglas function) posits that capital and labor combine to create economic products, and that energy is just one generic commodity input into the production function - fully substitutable the way that designer jeans, or earrings or sushi are. The truth is that every single transaction that creates something of value in our global economy requires an energy input first. Capital, labor and conversions are ALL dependent on energy. For instance, the intro text by Frank and Bernanke (2d ed., 2004, p. 48) offers explanations for increased productivity: …increased quantity of capital per worker, increased # of workers, and, "perhaps the most important,...improvements in knowledge and technology." Nowhere in standard economic literature is there even a hint that the "improvement" in technology they refer to has, historically, been directly linked to the progression of displacing solar-powered human and animal muscle with larger and larger quantities of energy from oil, coal, and gas. Though energy is central (in that even more difficult ore grades require more overburden to extract, requiring more diesel fuel, etc), energy is not the only key limiter – other minerals and metals are finite and deteriorating in quality and cannot be (easily) replaced.

Since energy seemed the same as any other commodity economic models assumed that energy and resources would follow the same decreasing cost curve we have come to expect from gadgets like toasters and coffee cups, where the technology, outsourcing of parts to their lowest cost countries, and efficiencies of scale have generally formed a declining cost over time. For a while, energy too followed this curve, but given that high quality resources are finite, and require high quality processed resources themselves to extract and refine, eventually the cost curve of energy and other key minerals and ores, begins to rise again. This 'dual view' of energy vs regular everyday products is a key failing in economic texts. But for most of the past 60-70 years however this omission was perhaps understandable, as there WAS a continuing supply of cheap energy so its worth seemed to be just the dollar price of it. For most, this is still the dominant worldview – dollars are more important than energy.

Historical cost curves for oil, coal and natural gas for Europe - Graph source: Rune Likvern Click to enlarge

15. Energy has costs in energy terms, which can differ significantly than dollar signals

“It is appropriate to conclude that, as long as the sun shines brightly on our fair planet, the appropriate estimate for the drag on the economy from increasing entropy is zero. William Nordhaus

“ The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. There's only one set of laws and they work everywhere. One of the things I've learned in my time at the World Bank is that whenever anybody says "But economics works differently here", they're about to say something dumb. Lawrence H. Summers

“ ... the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources ... at some finite cost, production can be freed of dependence on exhaustible resources altogether.... Nobel Laureate Robert Solow

In nature, animals expend energy (muscle calories) in order to access energy (prey). The return on this ‘investment’ is a central evolutionary process bearing on metabolism, mating, strength and survival. Those organisms that have high energy returns in turn have surplus to withstand the various hurdles found in nature. So it is in the human system where the amount of energy that society has ‘to spend’ is that left over after the energy and resources needed to harvest and distribute that energy are accounted for. Finite resources typically follow a 'best first' concept of resource extraction. As we moved from surface exploration based on seeps to seismic surveys showing buried anticlines, to deep-water and subsalt reservoir exploration, and finally to hydro-fracturing of tight oil formations , the return per unit of energy input declined from over 100:1 to something under 10:1. To economists and decision makers only the dollar cost and gross production mattered during this period, as after all, more dollars would ‘create’ more energy flowing through our economies. Net energy can peak and decline while gross energy continues to rise, and indeed can go to zero when there is still plenty of gross resource remaining. Everything we do will become more expensive if we cannot reduce the energy consumption of specific processes faster than prices grow. Yet, financial texts continue to view economic activity as a function of infinite money creation rather than a function of capped energy stocks and finite energy flows.

Left chart - western Majors price needed for cash flow break even in yellow, overlayed on OPEC vs non-OPEC crude oil production. Source IEA, Goldman Sach 4/13 report 'Higher long term prices required for troubled industry'. Right curve total oil production from Western Majors - source

Irrespective of the dollar price tag, it requires about 245 kilojoules to lift 5kg of oil 5 km out of the ground. Similar biophysical costs apply to every energy extraction/harnessing technology we have - but they are all parsed into financial terms for convenience. After all, isn't it dollars (euros, yen, renminbi) that our system is trying to optimize? But these physical input requirements will not vary whether the number of digits in the worlds banking system increases or shrinks or goes away. Though fossil fuels are our primary source of wealth, they were created a long time ago, and in drawing down their bounty we have not needed to pay the price of their generation, only their extraction. And, despite enormous amounts of sunlight hitting the earth everyday, real (and significant) resources need to be expended in order to harness and convert the sunlight into forms and at places where it can be used.

There is an enormous difference between ‘gross’ and ‘net’ which manifests in financial sphere via costs. Irrespective of our choice of nominal statistic measuring GDP (wampum or dollars or digits or gold), an increasing % of them will be allocated to the energy sector. If our objective is just to increase GDP, we can just keep growing gross energy by locating and exploiting deeper and deeper pockets of fossil hydrocarbons, but eventually our entire food, healthcare, entertainment infrastructure will be to provide for a giant mining operation. Few media outlets (none actually) handicap the new surge in gross USA oil production by a)capex requirements going up faster than oil prices, b) the enormous increase in diesel use in the shale plays and c) the higher API gravity oil (42 for Bakken, 55 for Eagleford) which exaggerate energy content per barrel between 3.5% and 10.7%. Under current trends, the implications of energy depletion is we will move from energy costing less than 5% of our economy to 10-15% or more. In addition to the obvious problems this will create, we will be using lower quality energy as well. As oil has become more expensive, we are increasingly going towards coal and wood to replace it. Already, in countries with a large drop in ability to afford (e.g. Greece) are cutting down forests to heat their homes in winter.
Net energy is what societies should be focused on, and most don’t even know what it is.

14. Money/financial instruments are just markers for real capital

Some material things make my life more enjoyable; many, however, would not. I like having an expensive private plane, but owning a half-dozen homes would be a burden. Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. Warren Buffet - The Giving Pledge

Some of my 'real capital': Natural capital - my backyard with trees, sun, water, Social capital Here 2 of my dogs, but equally my friends, contacts and family relationships, Built capital Our house, with solar hot water, chain saws, an aloe vera plant, and a deck, and Human Capital My health and skills (identifying edible mushrooms), my fathers health and skills (he's a doctor, and can grow vegetables, etc)

Growing a big bank account is like fat storage for animals – but it’s not, because it’s only a marker for fat – its caloric benefit stored for the future is intertwined with a sociocultural system linked to monetary and credit marker. In business school, (and on Wall St.) we were taught that stocks going up ~10% a year over the long run was something akin to a natural law. The truth turns out to be something quite different. Stocks and bonds are themselves ‘derivatives’ of primary capital - energy and natural resources – which combine with technology to produce secondary capital - tractors, houses, tools, etc. Money and financial instruments are thus tertiary capital, with no intrinsic value – it’s the social system and what if confers that has value and this system is based on natural, built, social and human capital. And, our current system of ‘claims’ (what people think they own) has largely decoupled from underlying ‘real capital’.

13. Our money is created by commercial banks out of thin air (deposits and loans are created at same time)

Though societies require ‘energy’, individuals require money in order to transact in the things energy provides. What is money anyways? I certainly didn't learn in business school (or any school for that matter). Quite simply, money is a claim on a certain amount of energy. When our economic engine kicked into gear in the early 1900s, money (not energy or resources) was the limiting factor. We had so much wealth in our natural resource bank account that we needed ways of turbocharging the broader economy so productive ventures could be undertaken by anyone with skill, products or ambition. It was around this time that banks came into existence - to increase the flow of money to match the productive output of our economies only made sense - too little money and we couldn't produce the 'power' needed by a hungry world. Creditworthy individuals/businesses could now obtain loans from commercial banks who were required to keep a small portion of their assets on reserve with a central bank. And it worked fabulously well. Correlation=causation and all that.

We were taught to view credit creation as a series of consecutive bank "intermediations", where some initial deposit rippled through the banking system and via a multiplier, created additional money. E.g. banks are unable to create credit themselves, but are just passing on some wealth already created. This is true for about 5% of money coming into existence. The reality for 95%+ of money creation is profoundly different. The standard concept of lending describes a transfer of an existing commodity to its exclusive use somewhere else. However, this new credit extended by banks does not remove purchasing power or claims on resources from anywhere else in the economy. Since banks are capital constrained, not reserve constrained they lend when (ostensibly) creditworthy customers have demand for loans, not when they have excess reserves. As such the ‘fractional reserve banking’ system taught in textbooks and demonized on the blogosphere is not the proper description. I didn't learn this until 2007 or so. Banks do not lend money, they create it. And this is why the focus on government debt is a red herring. All of our financial claims are debt relative to natural resources.

**(Edit - This new paper by Bank of England states precisely what I did just above -banks are not just intermediaries as taught in textbooks)

12. Debt is a non-neutral intertemporal transfer

The left graph, shows the disconnect between GDP and aggregate, non-financial debt. In every single year since 1965 we have grown our debt more than we have grown our GDP. The right graph shows the inverse - how much GDP we receive for each new dollar of debt - declining debt productivity. Source: FED Z.1 2013, NBER

(Note: I use the terms credit and debt interchangeably, though creditor and debtor are opposites)

Of the broad aggregate money in existence in the US of around $60 trillion, only about $1 trillion is physical currency. The rest can be considered, ‘debt’, a claim of some sort (corporate, household, municipal, government, etc.) If cash is a claim on energy and resources, adding debt (from a position of no debt) becomes a claim on future energy and resources. In financial textbooks, debt is an economically neutral concept, neither bad nor good, but just an exchange of time preference between two parties on when they choose to consume. (* we were taught in corporate finance, because of the deductibility of interest, choosing debt over equity is preferred in situations with taxes – but in the real world, when capital markets are open and credit is flowing, if a CEO has choice between financing a project with equity or debt, he/she will almost always prefer debt. And so they do.) However, there are several things that happen when we issue debt/credit that cause the impact of the convention to be much different than in the textbooks:

1) While we are issuing debt (especially on a full planet) the best and easiest to find energy and resources deplete making energy (and therefore other things) generally more expensive for the creditor than the debtor. People that choose to save are ‘outcompeted’ by people who choose to consume by taking on debt. At SOME point in the future SOME creditors will get less, or nothing. (the question now is ‘when’ and ‘who’)

2) We increasingly have to issue more debt to keep up with the declining benefit of the “Trade”, lest aggregate demand plunge.

3) Over time we consume more rather than adding productive investment capacity. This lowers debt productivity over time (debt productivity is how much GDP we get for an additional $ of debt, or the ratio of GDP growth relative to debt growth). If an additional dollar of debt created a dollar of GDP, or anything close, it would be more or less like the textbooks claim – a tradeoff in the temporal preferences of the creditor and debtor. And, when debt productivity is high, we are transforming and extending wealth into different forms of future wealth (energy into productive factories etc). But when debt productivity is low (or approaching zero as is the case now), new debt is really just an exchange of wealth for income. This is happening now in all nations of the world to varying degrees. E.g. since 2008, G7 nations have added 1 trillion in nominal GDP, but at a cost of increasing debt by $18 trillion – and this doesn’t include off balance sheet guarantees.

Debt can thus be viewed two ways – 1) from a wealth inequality perspective, for every debtor there is a creditor – a zero sum game, 2) all claims (debts) are relative to the energy and natural resources required to a) service them and b) pay off the principle. (So, think 2 Italians: Gini and Ponzi.)

11. Energy measured in energy terms is the cost of capital

The cost of finite natural resources measured in energy terms is our real cost of capital. In the short and intermediate run, dollars function as energy, as we can use them to contract and pay for anything we want, including energy and energy production. They SEEM like the limiters. But in the long run, accelerating credit creation obscures the engine of the whole enterprise - the ‘burning of the energy’. Credit cannot create energy, but it does allow continued energy extraction and much (needed) higher prices than were credit unavailable. At some point in the past 40 years we crossed a threshold of 'not enough money' in the system to 'not enough cheap energy' in the system, which in turn necessitated even more money. After this point, new credit increasingly added gross energy masking declines in our true cost of capital (net energy/EROI). Though its hard to imagine, if society had disallowed debt circa 1975 (e.g. required banks to have 100% Tier 2 capital and reserves) OR if we had some natural resource tether – like gold – to our money supply since then, global oil production and GDP would likely have peaked 20-30 years ago (and we’d have a lot more of the sub 50$ tranche left). As such, focus on oil and gas production numbers isn't too helpful without incorporating credit forecasts and integrating affordability for societies at different price tranches.

An example might make this clearer: imagine 3,000 helicopters each dropped a billion dollars of cash in different communities across the country (that’s $3 Trillion ). Citizens that get there first would stuff their backpacks and become millionaires overnight, lots of others would have significant spending money, a larger number would get a few random hundreds stuck in fences, or cracks, and a large % of the population, not near the dropzone, would get nothing. The net effect of this would be to drive up energy use as the new rich would buy cars and take trips and generally consume more. EROI of the nations oil fields wouldn’t change, but oil companies would get a higher price for the now harder to find oil because the economy would be stronger, despite the fact that those $3 trillion came from thin air (or next to it). So, debt went up, GDP went up, oil prices went up, EROI stayed the same, a few people got richer, and a large % of people got little to nothing. This is pretty much what is happening today in the developed world.

Natural systems can perhaps grow 2-3% per year (standing forests in USA increase their volume by 2.6% per year). This can be increased via technology, extraction of principle (fossil carbon), debt, or some combination. If via technology, we are accessing energy we might not have been able to access in the future. If we use debt, we are diverting energy that would have been accessible in the future to today by increasing its affordability via handouts/guarantees and increasing the price that energy producers receive for it. In this fashion debt functions similarly to technology in oil extraction. Neither one is 'bad', but both favor immediate consumption on an assumption they will be repeated in continued iterations in the future.

Debt temporarily makes gross energy feel like net energy as a larger amount of energy is burned despite higher prices, lower wages and profits. Gross energy also adds to GDP, as the $80+ per barrel oil extraction costs in e.g. Bakken Shale ends up being spent in Williston and surrounding areas (this would be a different case if the oil were produced in Canada, or Saudi Arabia). But over time, as debt increases gross energy and net energy stays constant or declines, a larger % of our economy becomes involved in the energy sector. Already we have college graduates trained in biology, or accounting, or hotel management, working on oil rigs. In the future, important processes and parts of non-energy infrastructure will become too expensive to continue. Even more concerning is that, faced with higher costs, energy companies increasingly follow the societal trend towards using debt to pull production forward in time (e.g. Chesapeake, Statoil). In this environment, we can expect total capital expenditure to keep pace with total revenue every year, and net cash flow become negative as debt rises.

In the last 10 years the global credit market has grown at 12% per year allowing GDP growth of only 3.5% and increasing global crude oil production less than 1% annually. We're so used to running on various treadmills that the landscape doesn't look all too scary. But since 2008, despite energies fundamental role in economic growth, it is access to credit that is supporting our economies, in a surreal, permanent, Faustian bargain sort of way. As long as interest rates (govt borrowing costs) are low and market participants accept it, this can go on for quite a long time, all the while burning through the next tranche of extractable carbon and getting reduced benefits from the "Trade" creating other societal pressures. I don't expect the government takeover of the credit mechanism to stop, but if it does, both oil production and oil prices will be quite a bit lower. In the long run it's all about the energy. For the foreseeable future, it's mostly about the credit

But why do we want energy and money anyways?

Continued in Part II

Wed 18 September, 2013

21:17 So, What Are You Doing?» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

It's September and we still have 7 more 'final' posts in the queue (myself, Joules, Jerome, Jason, Art, Dave Murphy, and Euan...) and will run them every 2 days until finished. Leanan will post a final Drumbeat later this week where people can leave website links contact details, etc.

For 8 years we read about what people think about energy related themes. I thought it would be a good idea to use this thread to highlight what people are actually doing in their lives given the knowledge they've gleaned from studying this topic, which really is more of a study of the future of society.

What do TOD members plan to do in the future? Herding goats, fixing potholes, creating web sites, switching careers, etc? I'll go first. Feel free to use my template or just inform others what you're doing. This might be interesting thread to check back on in a few/many years.....(Please no posting of energy charts etc. and let's not respond to others in this thread, just a long list of what people are doing w/ their time).

Ere we scatter to the ether, please share, anonymously or otherwise : what are people doing?

Thu 12 September, 2013

11:32 The Exponential Legacy of Al Bartlett» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Colorado, died September 7, 2013 at the age of 90. It is coincidental that, in the year that he "officially" retired from teaching (1988), I first heard his famous lecture Arithmetic, Population, and Energy (although I don't recall if that was the title at the time). I was in my last year in graduate school, and his talk was one of the keynote presentations (or perhaps during dinner) for a scientific conference. It was seemingly out of place given that the subject of the meeting was surface chemistry and physics, but it most certainly became stuck somewhere in my mind for reasons other than its novelty.

Most scientists are transfixed on interesting scientific details, some with relevance to technological problems, and perhaps buzz-worthy enough to attract funding. There has never been much money in solving problems with no real technological solution. I became reacquainted with this talk in 2006, probably via a link on The Oil Drum. TOD was by its nature dealing with limits to growth (of oil, if nothing else), and over the last few years, we have discussed the various ways in which we could perhaps keep the oil flowing or replace it with something else. Perhaps the implications of exponential growth was kept in the back room somewhere, like an embarrassing relative, while the latest "game changing" solution was bandied about. But we need to continually remind ourselves that, while important, finding the next energy source or improving efficiencies the keep the economy growing are not long-term solutions for a finite planet.

Below are some more reflections on Prof. Bartlett's legacy, from ASPO-USA (where he had long been on the advisory board) and from the University of Colorado.

Albert A. Bartlett: Ode to a Gentle Giant

Dr. Albert Allen Bartlett enjoyed 90 years of rich life on this earth; moreover, thousands of people have enjoyed and been touched by Al's life.

He is of course most widely known as a tireless, eloquent, and supremely caring voice for charting a sustainable path for humanity. With seemingly endless determination, he applied his training in math and physics and skills as a master teacher to focus attention on a simple but paramount idea--on a finite planet, "growth" is unsustainable. "Sustainable growth is an oxymoron", is how Al is sometimes quoted.

His most reknowned quote, however, is "the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function"--referring to the accelerating rate exhibited by anything growing as a constant percentage increase.

Al developed a now-famous lecture that illustrated the power and importance of this mathematical phenonomenon, and reportedly delivered that lecture more than 1700 times over the following decades. That one man would be compelled to devote much of his career to the understanding of a basic, unassailable fact of life speaks volumes about the world we live in, as well as Al's great character.

ASPO-USA is proud to have had Al as a longstanding member of our advisory board, and I was exceptionally fortunate to be acquainted with him in his latter years. While the nature of our relationship was professional, what I will always remember is the warmth, humility, and quiet joy that he brought to his work and his relationships with his colleagues and students.

For those that dare to concern themselves with the monumental issues that concerned Al, there is a risk of gloominess creeping into our outlook on life and humanity. Al is a beautiful reminder that need not be the case.

The note that Al wrote to us after he visited his doctor was filled with the peace and happiness of a man who had understood long ago what was important in life and had lived his own life accordingly. We should all be so blessed, and some of us were also blessed to know Al.

In honor to Al, inspired and informed by his life and his friendship, we re-commit ourselves to continuing and building on his legacy.

Click below to view Al's famous lecture - Arithmetic, Population, and Energy:


Jan Mueller Executive Director, ASPO-USA


CU-Boulder campus mourns death of longtime, celebrated physics professor Al Bartlett

excerpted from here

“Al Bartlett was a man of many legacies,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “His commitment to students was evidenced by the fact that he continued to teach for years after his retirement. His timeless, internationally revered lecture on the impacts of world population growth will live beyond his passing, a distinction few professors can claim. And we can all be thankful for his vision and foresight in making the Boulder community what it is today.”

Bartlett was born on March 21, 1923, in Shanghai, China. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Colgate University and spent two years as an experimental physicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project before earning his graduate degrees in physics at Harvard. He then started his teaching career at CU-Boulder.

When Bartlett first delivered his internationally celebrated lecture on “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” to a group of CU students on Sept. 19, 1969, the world population was about 3.7 billion. He proceeded to give it another 1,741 times in 49 states and seven other countries to corporations, government agencies, professional groups and students from junior high school through college.

His talk warned of the consequences of “ordinary, steady growth” of population and the connection between population growth and energy consumption. Understanding the mathematical consequences of population growth and energy consumption can help clarify the best course for humanity to follow, he said.

The talk contained his most celebrated statement: “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” A video of his lecture posted on YouTube has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

This year, the world population is about 7.1 billion and the CU Environmental Center announced a program this summer in which 50 student and community volunteers received training in exchange for a commitment to give Bartlett’s talk at least three times in 2013-14.

Before his death, Bartlett requested that any memorial gifts be made to the University of Colorado Foundation Albert A. Bartlett Scholarship Fund, in care of the Department of Physics, 390 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, 80309.

Tue 10 September, 2013

06:59 Of Milk Cows and Saudi Arabia» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Under the desert in eastern Saudi Arabia lies Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world. It has been famously productive, with a per-well flow rate of thousands of barrels per day, owing to a combination of efficient water injection, good rock permeability, and other factors. At its best, it set the standard for easy oil. The first wells were drilled with rather rudimentary equipment hauled across the desert sands, and the oil would flow out at ten thousand barrels per day. It was, in a sense, a giant udder. And the world milked it hard for awhile.

However, this article isn't just about a metaphor; it is also about cows, the Holsteins of Haradh. But in the end, I will circle back to the present and future of Saudi oil production.

I registered on The Oil Drum over seven years ago, and one of the subjects that fascinated me was the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. There was much discussion about the largest of these, Ghawar, and whether it might soon go into steep decline - taking the world with it. About that time, an application called Google Earth added some features which enabled users to mark up the globe with their own placemarks and such, and I set out to find Ghawar (or at least its footprints) in the vast sandscape that is the Eastern Province. Starting with published maps which could be overlaid atop the satellite imagery in Google Earth, I found some initial wells...and then a lot more...and kept going. An article authored by Saudi Aramco engineers showed well locations in northern Ghawar, and I noticed that many wells which I found yet were not on the map. I deduced that these were wells drilled after the map was drawn, and their locations seems to indicate intensive drilling in the center of the field, which was previously bereft of wells. I began publishing some of these findings on the blog Satellite o'er the Desert and was invited to contribute to The Oil Drum.

In my Google Earth-enabled virtual travels around Saudi Arabia looking for oil wells and such, I have come upon many strange sights. Some of these are of natural origin yet can only be appreciated from a satellite's perspective, as is the case for this tidal pool located near a gas oil separation plant for the Safaniya oil field:

Figure 1. My favorite Google Earth view, near Safaniyah oil field, Saudi Arabia

There are many crop circles scattered about eastern Saudi Arabia -- by which I mean circles of crops watered by central pivot irrigation (as opposed to circles of crops flattened by aliens). A line of such circles cuts across the southern tip of the Ghawar field, seemingly following the course of a dry river bed.

Figure 2. Irrigation along the southern fringe of the Ghawar Oil Field, Saudi Arabia. Arrows indicate location of features of interest.

Located on this line, just to the west of the field periphery, are three rather symmetrical structures:

Figure 3. Symmetrical objects of interest near Ghawar oil field.

Each of these is about 250 meters in radius. It took me awhile to discover what these were, as at the time, crowdsourced mapping was just getting started. It so happens that they are part of a huge integrated dairy operation, one of the largest in the world. Fodder crops are grown in nearby circles, cows are milked with state of the art equipment, and the milk is packaged and/or processed into cheese and other products before being shipped. All of this happens in the northernmost fringe of the Rub' al Khali desert, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. Start here to browse around Saudi Arabia's Dairyland on your own using Google Maps.

Turning Black Gold Into White Milk

Here is a glossy PR video describing the operations:

Although the original intent was to locally breed cows more suited to the Saudi climate, it seems they had to import them. Here is another video describing the transport of cows from Australia. A bit different than a Texas cattle drive.

They Built It, But They Didn't Come

Answering why and how these dairy farms came to be located here reveals some interesting history of Saudi Arabia. Although great wealth of the country results from its abundant store of fossil fuels, the necessity of diversifying the economy has long been recognized. The lack of food security was always a big concern. In addition, there remained the nagging problem of what to do with the Bedouins, nomadic peoples who resisted efforts to be integrated into the broader Saudi society. And since they now had it in abundance, they decided to throw money at the problems. What could go wrong?

As related in the book "Inside the Mirage" by Thomas Lippman, a problem with Saudi agriculture is that most of the private land was owned by just a few people, and they were wealthy aristocrats, not farmers, and there wasn't much local knowledge of modern large-scale agriculture in any case. One of the proposed solutions was to create huge demonstration projects by which modern techniques of farming could be learned and applied. As for labor, the goal was to provide individual farms, housing, and modern conveniences to the Bedouin, who would settle down for a life on the farm. The largest such project was the al-Faysal Settlement Project at Haradh, designed for 1000 families. It didn't work out as planned, though, because the Bedouins never came:

You know of the Haradh project, where $20 million was spent irrigating a spot in the desert where an aquifer was found not too far from the surface. This project took six years to complete and was done for the purpose of settling Bedouin tribes. At the end of six years, no Bedouin turned up and the government had to consider how to use the most modern desert irrigation facility in the world.

(From a 1974 Ford Foundation memo)

Eventually, the Saudi government partnered with Masstock, a Dublin-based industrialized endeavor run by two brothers. The Haradh project became the largest of their operations in Saudi Arabia at the time. Eventually, a new company called Almarai (Arabic for "pasture") was created which involved Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer. In 1981, a royal decree created the National Agricultural Development Company (NADEC) for the purpose of furthering agricultural independence, and (for reasons I haven't discerned), NADEC gained control of the Haradh project. Almarai went on the become the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world, and Al Kabeer is a hidden billionaire.

As a side note, NADEC sued Saudi Aramco a few years ago as a result of the latter using some NADEC property for Haradh oil operations, and a lower court ordered Saudi Aramco to vacate. The web links to those reports have disappeared, and one wonders how the appeal went. Separately, NADEC has reportedly obtained farmland in Sudan. Food security.

Speaking of Cash Cows

A half decade ago, much of The Oil Drum's focus was on possible problems with Saudi Arabian oil production. Was the flow from Ghawar tanking? Were all of their older fields well past their prime, and were their future options as limited as Matt Simmons suggested in Twilight in the Desert? My analyses and those of others here seem to suggest a rather aggressive effort to stem decline. With further hindsight, it is clear that Saudi Aramco was caught a bit off guard by decline in existing production. But over time, they were able to complete several decline mitigation projects as well as many so-called mega-projects with many million barrels per day of new production. With each project, the technological sophistication has grown - along with the expense. The Khurais redevelopment, which is reportedly producing as expected, features centralized facilities for oil, gas, and injection water processing. Water goes out, and oil comes back.

Figure 4. Left: map showing Saudi oil fields, Right: Khurais Project pipeline network (source: Snowden's laptop)

The most recent project, the Manifa field redevelopment is a logistical marvel. These have so far proven to be very successful projects (even though Manifa is not fully completed). But if one looks for the impact of the projects on their total output, one comes back somewhat underwhelmed. In the following graphic I show Saudi Arabian production with the theoretical (zero depletion) and official (as reported directly by Saudi Aramco) production capacities.

Figure 5. Saudi Arabian crude oil production increases from megaprojects since 1996, compared with actual crude production (source: Stuart Staniford). Cumulative increases are superimposed on the Saudi Aramco reported baseline value of 10.5 mbpd capacity in 1995. Blue dots denote values obtained from references 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Here are some conclusions one might draw from the above (including the references):

  • Saudi Aramco has generally been self-consistent when reporting spare capacity and total capacity in light of actual production
  • Production capacity increased subsequent to startup of megaprojects. However, the net production capacity increases were uniformly and substantially less than the planned increments. In total, 5 million barrels per day of production was added, but capacity increased by only 2 mbpd.
  • It is most unlikely that reported production capacities accurately reflected what was producible at any point in time, given the reported values as correlated with the timing of the increases from the megaprojects.
  • However, actual production did not generally increase immediately after projects were completed, indicating that production capacity was not completely exhausted beforehand. But there was certainly an impetus to add a lot of production quickly.

The gap between what might have been (red staircase) and what is reported as production capacity (blue dots) is explained by considering the net of two competing developments: 1) depletion of legacy fields (Ghawar etc.) as they are produced, and b) mitigation of this depletion by drilling new wells in these fields. Since Saudi Aramco does not release data for individual fields or new vs. old wells, we are left to speculate on the relative magnitudes of these. On the plus side, the 5 mbpd from the new projects will (hopefully) deplete less rapidly than older fields. On the minus side, only 2 mbpd capacity was added - and they have exhausted all of the major fields in the pipeline. On the double minus side (for the world, anyway), only 1 - 1.5 mbpd of actual production was added since 1995, and (according to BP) all of that increase went into internal consumption. So after nearly 20 years, though total world crude production (and population) has increased, Saudi Arabia exports the same amount of oil as before. And yet, there is still a lot of hydrocarbons under Saudi Arabia. And it seems they already realize the need for more, as there are reports of planned increases from Khurais and Shaybah totaling 550 kbpd by 2017 to "take the strain off Ghawar". I feel its pain.

Addendum: According to this news report, oil has not actually flowed yet from Manifa. The new Jubail refinery has reportedly no received any Manifa oil as of yet:

The refinery is configured to run on heavy crude oil. But two industry sources said the refinery had not received any of the heavy crude expected from Aramco's new Manifa field and that it was running instead on light crude. Aramco said in April that it had started production at Manifa.-Reuters

Still the One?

Despite all of the negativity emitted above, it is also evident that Saudi Arabia has had and will continue to have a role as the primary provider of spare capacity which can be deployed to buffer variability in world demand. It can do this because Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, can effect oil prices by virtue of what it can put on or take off the world market. Contrast the Saudi production profile with that of the United States, shown below.

Figure 6. United States monthly crude oil production (source: EIA)

Aside from some minor month-to-month fluctuations and some notable downward spikes caused by Gulf of Mexico hurricanes in 2002 (Isadore), 2004 (Ivan), 2005 (Katrina and Rita), and 2008 (Gustav), production follows a smooth trend. Especially noteworthy is the contrast between Saudi and US production subsequent to the economic downturn in 2008, when oil prices collapsed: Saudi Arabia throttled back while the US kept pumping. Any individual producer in the US had little incentive to hold back oil. However, with the increased importance of Shale plays (Bakken and Eagle Ford) to US production, this might change the dynamics going forward. Since these wells deplete rapidly, any decrease in drilling caused by low prices will also throttle demand (although with a time lag).

The Hungry Cow

The other new "above ground factor" is the problem of growing internal consumption in Saudi Arabia, of just about everyting including oil. To air condition all of those cows, it takes a lot of electricity (and currently oil). And all of that milk feeds a growing, young population. But that milk is bound to get more expensive, since the aquifers from which those massive dairy operations get their water are being rapidly depleted.

Milk consumption in Saudi Arabia reached 729.4 million litres in 2012
The Kingdom has already depleted 70% of these sources of water and must now turn increasingly to desalinisation which when factored into the cost of producing fresh milk is very expensive. Experts have estimated that it takes between 500- 1000 litres of fresh water to produce 1 litre of fresh milk if one takes into around the irrigation required to grow the Rhodes grass or Alfalfa required to feed the cows.

It seems Saudi Arabia has cash flow problems, although it is hard to imagine why, given that they are currently producing as much oil as ever at $100/barrel. For one thing, their population keeps growing:

Figure 7. Saudi Arabia population growth (source: Thanks, Jonathan!)

and they need to spread around some money to maintain political stability. Their energy use is out of control, as is their water consumption. And for those segments of Saudi society into which much of the oil revenue flows, consumption is a happening thing. And nobody really knows where the all money goes.

Saudi Aramco is overseen by the Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ministry and, to a lesser extent, the Supreme Petroleum Council, an executive body. The company pays royalties and dividends to the state and supplies domestic refineries. Revenues go to the Finance Ministry, but the amounts are not published. There is no transparency in the national budgeting process, and it is unclear how oil revenues are used. Environmental impact assessments are required, but the results are not made public. Laws and decrees concerning the extractive industries are published and include guidelines for the licensing process in sectors other than upstream oil, but do not contain details on fiscal arrangements. Saudi Arabia has no freedom of information law.

Some ends up in London, where some Saudi tourists spend the entire summer. Of course, this was true in 2002 (and oil was $26/barrel then).

But they do seem to have money to throw around to garner political influence (note that the US does the same with money that it doesn't have). And they have grand plans for looking beyond their petro-heritage:

Best hopes for wise spending.

Au revoir. Au lait.

Sat 07 September, 2013

20:05 IEA Sankey Diagrams» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

The International Energy Agency has taken its share of abuse from The Oil Drum over the years for its rather optimistic forecasts. But it deserves a hearty shout-out for an invaluable resource it has on its web site: Interactive Sankey Diagrams for the World.

Sankey Diagram showing world energy flows (Click for larger view)

As long as you understand what a Sankey Diagram is, not much more introduction is needed here. You can look at individual countries, consumption patterns as well as production, and more. Click on individual flows and graph over time.

World energy use for steel production (Click for larger view)

One curiosity, though:

The world oil imports (2295) and oil exports (2218) don't match in the top graphic. "Statistical difference"?

As with data from the BP Statistical Review series, there might be occasional quibbles with the numbers. Also, I've seen prettier Sankeys. But if you've been wondering what to do with all of your time after The Oil Drum goes on hiatus, there you go.

Fri 06 September, 2013

21:13 My Last Campfire Post» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I checked my user profile for this site and discovered that as of today I have been a member for 7 years and 37 weeks. Wow! So much has happened to me and my family over those years and a lot of it was shared on The Oil Drum. For reasons I’ll explain, I haven’t been around much lately. My most recent article was over three years ago.

My first writings for The Oil Drum were over six years ago as guest posts through Nate Hagens, and then as a staff contributor for the “Campfire” section of the site. I am not an energy expert so my role wasn’t about modeling depletion or providing context to the energy news of the week. What I did was consider the broader relationships between energy, resources and society, and explore the implications of more expensive and less energy to our consumer-oriented economy and culture. The most complete and succinct example of this role is probably my “Beware the Hungry Ghosts” piece, which includes this passage:

Several religious traditions describe what are termed “hungry ghosts.” These sad beings have insatiable appetites, with tiny mouths and huge stomachs. Modern society creates hungry ghosts among the living. We “have” more than ever, but are constantly bombarded with messages that it is never enough. The poor go to dollar stores, the middle class spend hours at Bed Bath and Beyond, the rich buy ever larger yachts, and city planners are always looking for more land and water in which to expand their urban sphere. Wants have become indistinguishable from needs. I anxiously walk among our nation of hungry ghosts, asking myself what these addicts will do when they can't get their fix?

What many of us found at The Oil Drum was a place to share our anxieties with those who share our anxieties. I am not being dismissive of this at all! Many here have points of view that place us outside of conventional wisdom, and this can be socially difficult. Where else can we go to have conversations that may be impolite, misunderstood and dismissed by the hungry ghosts we live among?

A fine example of thinking profoundly differently is in Kurt Cobb’s essay “Upside Down Economics” in which he gives a visual representation of U.S. GDP from the perspective of an Ecological Economist:

Figure 1

Many of my articles framed topics from an Ecological Economics perspective, where the economy is a subsidiary of the planet and functions by extracting resources and depositing wastes. Essential resources like energy, mineral ores, food and fiber can only be easily ignored when they are inexpensive to buy and reliably available. Many of us are alarmed because we see existential threats to the bottom of a top heavy pyramid and would like those situated higher up to pay attention and look below.

At the bottom of Cobb’s chart you see the economic sector “Agriculture & Forestry.” That is where I currently work, and where much of my writing here was about. I didn’t just explore the food growing sector, but also the so-called Food System, that includes transportation, processing and warehousing, retailing and end-use. Classic statistics discussed, and that devoted readers of The Oil Drum can probably rattle off at any cocktail party, include:

The U.S. Food System consumes several fossil fuel calories for each food calorie eaten.

The typical grocery store has about three days supply of goods on its shelves.

Each U.S. farmer (plus machines with fuel) feeds 100 people.

Figure 2. Graphic used in the post “Ecological Economics and the Food System

Two additional posts, “Save it for the Combine” and “Energy Descent and Agricultural Population” perhaps best capture the sense of the transformative change fossil fuels made in agricultural production and labor inputs, and offer some perspectives on adaptation to lower fossil fuel availability.

Figure 3. The percent agriculture population is plotted in relation to per capita energy use.  Nations with abundant use of exosomatic energy tend to have less of their population involved in agricultural production, presumably either because they can afford to import much of their food or employ labor saving devices in food production.  For example, only about 1% of the US labor force is involved in farming.  Data comes from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Original article containing figure is here.

The Campfire series was not only about exploring heterodox ideas, it was also meant to be a place where practical advice was shared. Many of us wanted to go beyond the talking stage and “do something” about the information and analyses presented on the site. This brings me to why I haven’t been writing here lately.

I went to the 2008 ASPO meetings in Sacramento not only to learn, but to network and hopefully meet someone who could help me with something. I wanted to farm at a significant scale to practice and demonstrate a form of agriculture that needs much fewer external inputs and is thus adaptive to our times. I met my eventual business partner (and TOD member) Craig Wichner in Sacramento. We were able to introduce our company, Farmland LP, at ASPO 2009 in Denver, where I gave two talks that eventually became posts (here and here). Over the past four years Craig and I have taken a heterodox idea and turned it into something substantial: Farmland LP currently owns and manages 6300 acres of cropland in California and Oregon.

So, I’ve been pretty busy. I am still writing on my company website but most of my posts are news related to the business. On occasion I do develop articles that look at the big picture and do in-depth analyses, such as “ The Many Benefits of Multi-Year Crop Rotations” and “Google Earth, Rotational Grazing and Mineralization, Part 1 and Part 2” but I won’t have time for more of that sort of writing until we are done with planting this fall.

This brings me to the end of my last Campfire post. In customary fashion I will pose some questions and ask readers to share their experience, wisdom, frustrations, and final thoughts for The Oil Drum.

Did any of you follow similar paths to mine, whereby the information and critical thinking shared on this site led to significant changes in your life path? (I never thought I’d be a farmer when I grew up.)

What barriers to making the changes you wanted did you encounter? Did they stop you from going on or did you overcome them somehow? (My wife gave me the foundation I needed to do this work. She had the income-earning job and the patience to allow me time to explore. Thank you Kristin!)

Thu 05 September, 2013

06:22 The Economic and Political Consequences of the Last 10 Years of Renewable Energy Development» The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future

I've been privileged to be an editor of TOD over the past several years, and am glad to have been invited to do a final post as the site moves to an archive status.

When I started writing about energy on the blogs in 2003/2004, I was writing mostly about Russia, gas pipelines and gas geopolitics. There were so many conspiracy theories abounding on topics like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline or (a bit later) Russia vs Ukraine pipeline conflicts that I felt the need to put out a different version, given that I knew the inside story on many of these issues - and that got me invited to contribute these to TOD as well. In the meantime, my job (which was, and - full disclosure - remains, to finance energy projects) slowed moved from oil&gas work to power sector transactions and, increasingly, to renewable sector deals, and I started writing about the wind business, in my mind from the perspective of a banker wanting to make sure that these projects could be paid back over periods of 15 or 20 years.

While my work is now almost exclusively focused on offshore wind in Northern Europe, I still do not consider myself a 'wind shill'... but it does give me a different perspective on the debates currently going on about energy policy in various places, and on the changes to the power sector caused (among others, by renewables) that are underpinning such debates, and I thought it would be a useful complement, together with Big Gav's overview of the clean energy sector, to the other articles more traditionally focused on the oil&gas side of things.

I'll focus on Germany, where the transformation has been most advanced (and even has brought a new word to us: the Energiewende), and where the consequences of high renewable penetration are most visible.

A lot of rather unusual things have been happening in the Germany power sector lately, from negative prices, to utilities closing down brand new power plants and, naturally, a ferocious debate as to whether to cut support for renewable energy (as has already been done in Spain).

I've long described renewable energy producers as a price takers (i.e., they don't influence market prices in the short term and have to "take" market prices as set by other factors, unless shielded by specific regulatory regimes), but we are getting to the point, in a number of places, and in Germany in particular, where the penetration of renewable energy is such that it has a real macroeconomic impact on the prices of electricity, both at the wholesale and the retail levels, and thus on the way power markets run, and on the politics surrounding them. There's the additional factor that apparent spending on renewables is targeted by governments at a time of austerity in Europe, egged on by hardly disinterested utilities.

It is worth going through what's been happening in some detail.

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In the good old days, wholesale prices of power followed the price of natural gas, as gas-fired plants are the producer of the marginal kWh most of the time. This is still the case in the USA, and it looks like this:

Source: neutroneconomy

Retail prices tend to follow the average wholesale cost, plus a slice for distribution costs and taxes which can vary quite wildly from country to country:

Source: eurostat

But we've seen prices diverging across markets over the past two years, as shown in the following graphs:

  • gas prices diverging sharply across continents (notably as a result of the gas shale developments in the US and increased demand for gas in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, while European prices remain largely indexed to oil):

  • Source: Fidelity

  • wholesale power prices diverging from gas prices:

  • Source: Die Welt, via gwpf

    Note: the lines above represent long term break-even prices for, from the bottom, nuclear power plants, coal-fired plants and gas-fired plants

  • retail prices moving in the opposite direction to wholesale prices, and increasing:

Source: wikipedia (DE)

German wholesale prices have been trending down over the past several years, despite the closure of close to half of the nuclear plants of the country, and despite the persistently high natural gas prices on the continent, while retail prices have been going up, including due to contributions to pay for guaranteed fixed prices to renewable energy producers (the "EEG" component in yellow in the last graph).

The fall in wholesale prices means that most traditional power plants are not economical at current levels, as the second graph above shows.

There are some temporary factors to the current situation. One is the general economic woes of the eurozone, which are pushing demand downwards and thus prices as well. The other is the temporary higher use of coal-fired power plants, which itself comes from a combination of short term factors:

  • cheap imports from the USA (where coal use has been displaced for a while by cheap gas in power generation) made coal more profitable than gas, and
  • regulatory incentives mean coal plants have (under the (the Large Combustion Plants EU directive) a limited number of hours to run and operators have every reason to use these up quickly, and especially if the plants are profitable, or less unprofitable than gas ones (UK coal plants have the additional incentive that a carbon tax will be imposed on them from April 2013).

These factors have made it possible to claim that Germany was increasing pollution and carbon emissions because of wrongheaded policies (depending on your stance: closing nuclear plants or pushing renewables), but this looks like a temporary arbitrage between coal and gas.

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The real long term story is that the power spot markets are being completely upended by the increasing penetration of renewable energy. In Germany, new renewables represent around 50% of the overall installed capacity, and already provide close to 20% of all power generation (split in 2012 in 3 almost equal parts between wind (7%), biomass (6%) and solar (5%)), up from almost nothing 15 years ago, and on many days now they provide 50% or more of total output:

Source: Paul Gipe

This reduces demand for mid-load producers and peakers over more and more periods throughout the year. As the graphs below shows, on good days in the warm season the PV capacity almost eliminates altogether the need for intermediate load; in winter, wind takes over (in aggregate, although not with as regular a daily profile):

Source: DoDo on European Tribune


This was the slice of demand served by coal-fired and gas-fired plants and they are simply not being used as much as they used to, and certainly not as much as their owners expected.

And prices are being squeezed down not just for these producers, but for everybody else as well, in particular during the peak day time hours which used to be the most profitable for all power plants (because baseload plants also receive the more expensive peak hour prices even if they did not bid at such prices). This means that existing capacity is less and less profitable - not just the peakers or intermediate plants, but also the nuclear and other baseload workhorses of the system. Thus the few highly publicized plant closures, and the ongoing utility complaints about lost revenues. Moreover there currently is no business case to invest in any kind of power plant (other than renewables under specific revenue regimes), which utilities use to argue against renewable support.

But here's the thing: preventing new renewables will not eliminate the current existing capacity, which means that the economics of the sector will not recover even if no new renewables were built... The wholesale market as it was designed 20 years ago (de facto based on gas-fired plants of various efficiency targeted at different points of the merit order curve setting up the marginal price) is irreversibly broken. The system is now dominated by plants with very low marginal cost of production (but high upfront investment), which means that spot prices are systematically too low for everybody - you can't invest in plants with high upfront investments (like nukes), and you can't invest in plants with high marginal running costs (gas-fired plants) unless you are betting on persistently low gas prices into the future. That may explain the push for shale gas in Europe, but who believes that shale gas will bring low prices? Even in the US prices are trending up again (and forward prices even more so).

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In the meantime, retail prices have kept on increasing, and the fact that the contribution of the support regime (in Germany, the "EEG-Umlage") to retail prices has become visible has made it a target of lobbyists and thus a political topic, despite the fact that retail prices increases have been caused, to a large extent (and in particular until 2009) by increases in gas prices.

This leads us to an hidden truth: a large fraction of the massive increase in renewable energy production is not paid for by consumers, but by incumbent producers who see their revenues decline as the price they earn per MWh goes down. Utilities, which see their margins on the retail side increase, but have very little renewable energy production capacity of their own are caught between two conflicting trends, with their upstream business losing profitability, but their downstream business earning more. IPPS are suffering, but have less voice. Unsurprisingly, utilities are focusing public attention only on the first part, and are naturally blaming renewables - not hesitating to point fingers at their support regimes as the cause of rising power prices, in the hope that these regimes will be weakened. They claim they are victims of unfair competition from "heavily subsidized" sources which have priority over them and can dump power with no worry for consequences into the network. They use a mix of real arguments and weaker ones to push against renewables:

source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

  • one of the true arguments is that the cost of supporting solar PV has become larger than expected and faster than expected. Just 5 years ago, a number of countries had tariffs in the 500-600 EUR/MWh range, and regulators were surprised by the volumes that managed to be installed - and capture the advantageous prices levels. when they dropped the price support for new projects, they were again surprised by how fast the industry was able to match the lower prices through new technology (and a brutal price war). The result has been an amazing drop in the price of solar panels (-80% in just a few years, as shown above), bringing them close to grid parity, and a rather large (multiple GWs in Germany, Italy, Spain) stock of solar PV capacity which is entitled to very high tariffs for many years, at a visible cost to consumers;
  • in some places, the regulatory regime allowed producers to capture the best of both worlds - the higher of the fixed tariff or the market price (whether wholesale or retail), thus preventing the network, and the public, from benefitting from the "cap" that a real fixed tariff would have provided;
  • in Spain, retail power prices were kept artificially low for political reasons), and the the gross cost of the fixed tariffs was not absorbed into the general cost base of the network and instead explicitly imposed on utilities, which used that as an obvious argument against renewables (even though a good part of the price increases were linked to increased gas prices before the merit order effect acted on wholesale prices); the government's U-turn on tariffs, which imposed negative tariff changes on already operational projects, alienated the utilities further (as they had, contrary to what happened in Germany, become significant operators of renewable capacity and lost money in the process) and created a precedent that also scared off lenders and investors and put the sector in disrepute;
  • in Germany, the renewable energy surcharge applies only to retail consumers, and large sections of industrial users (but not all) are exempted. That means that the gross costs is borne by a smaller fraction of the overall consumers, and that some industries are complaining that they are being treated unfairly. Meanwhile, those benefitting from the situation (the bug consumers who benefit from lower wholesale prices and do not pay the surcharge) are staying silent so as to avoid attracting attention (they failed - this quirk is likely to be corrected soon);

But what is not true is that wind has contributed in any meaningful way to retail price increases (most of Germany's wind capacity was installed before 2008 and the EEG component is all but invisible at that date), and not has offshore wind (which is indeed more expensive, but very little of which has been built to date). When you look at average costs, one sees that onshore wind is largely competitive on wholesale markets (and yes, that does take into account grid access and balancing costs - there is enough experience with large wind penetration in various networks to know that it can be done and that it has no meaningful impact on costs), that solar is already competitive against retail prices in many markets (the famous "grid parity"), and that other technologies are somewhere in-between. Offshore wind is still more expensive, but is expected to come down in price by the time it will reach significant capacity:

source: Goldman Sachs, via Zero Hedge

Note that these average costs of production, always include very political assumptions about the cost of money, and the future price of gas, to apply to such projects. The discount rate (at the time of investment) is the main driver of the cost of wind or nuclear whereas the cost of gas-fired power is only an estimate, based an assumptions about the cost of gas in the next 20 years. And that also means that the price of power from a wind farm or a nuclear plant is largely fixed and known once the plant is built, while the cost of power from a gas-fired plant in the future is essentially unknown. The cost of money is a fundamentally political decision (derived from investors' estimates of macro risks like inflation, of regulatory risks applying to the sector, and technology risk); the consensus on future gas price estimates is also influenced by many factors, including long term projections by public bodies like the IEA, the US EIA or private firms with their various agendas.

As an aside, the more renewables you have in the system, the less it is possible to take out the regulatory support regime, because spot prices tend to go towards zero - which makes investment in renewables (or in any other kind of power generation assets, for that matter) impossible. So "grid parity" is an illusory target, in a sense, because it is a moving target. Technologies with high variable costs (all fossil-fuel plants) cannot compete at any price when there is enough zero-marginal cost capacity in the system, and technologies with high upfront investment costs need comfort about price levels over a long period as they need such prices on a constant basis to amortize the initial investment. This is why the UK government is working on a "contract for differences" (essentially the same thing as a fixed tariff) for new nuclear plants.

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Altogether, the reality is that the consumers and the utilities is paying for a few expensive years of early solar PV technology (to the tune of a few cents per kWh, ie a few hundred euros per year and per household), and now the utilities are bearing almost in full the further impact on the system: they are no longer making (much) money on their current fleet - not on gas-fired plants, barely on their coal-fired plants, and they don't have much renewable energy capacity. They are stuck with a capital stock (including recent plants), which is increasingly uneconomic in today's markets, caught between high fuel prices and lower power prices. And that is the result of strategies over the past 10-15 years that willfully ignored policies to promote renewables pursued pretty consistently across Europe, and the likely impact they would have on power prices (the infamous "merit order effect" - which I discussed in detail at least 5 years ago, and which was already the topic of academic papers before that).

So it's not like they had no warning and no notice... In a sense, utilities have been consistent: one of their past arguments was that renewables would never reach critical mass and thus were not a serious solution to reduce carbon emissions. And they surely did not take recent investment decisions (mainly to build base-load or mid-load gas-fired plants) with the scenario of heavy renewable penetration in mind, otherwise they would not have been so surprised by the current situation...

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Utilities do make a legitimate point when they underline that the system still needs their capacity (because renewables are not available on demand, and do not provide the flexibility required in the very short term), and that this needs to be paid for (and, at some point in the future, existing capacity will need to be replaced, and they need to be able to make a business case for that, which is not possible today).

In the previous regime, where power prices were determined by gas prices, it was possible to pay for the flexibility in the form of price spikes that gave the right signal for mid-load and peaker gas-fired (or oil-fired, or hydro) plants to be used, and their frequency of use was relatively predictable over a year, allowing for a sound business model to be implemented. Now, with plenty of renewables, the price signal is completely different. There are many more periods of very low prices when renewables flood the system (and this is particularly the case in places with lots of solar, as it is available during the day, ie when demand is stronger and thus prices used to be higher). This has two consequences: gas-fired plants get much less use than in the past (and less than their business plans expected), and baseload plants like nukes or big coal-fired plants get lower prices during periods when they were cashing in more money. The latter earn less money (but still run); the former now run a lot less than expected , which has income implications but also consequences for gas consumption and storage - patterns of use become very different, moving from the usual "once a day" pattern (a few hour at peak demand times), to short bursts several times a day (as renewables drop out), or very long periods of use over multiple days when renewables are not available at all.

Given that the penetration of renewables will continue to change every year, it has become really hard to identify the business model to use for flexible plants - and even harder to know what it will be in 1, 5 or 10 years from now. These flexible plants will be needed, at least to some extent, and they need to be paid for, and that cannot really happen with today's regulatory regime (and as noted above, stopping support regimes for renewables won't change that now: the existing stock of wind and solar is already big enough in several countries to keep the current market arrangements broken). One solution, thankfully being considered in several markets, and which already exists in places like California, is to put in place a capacity market, where plants make themselves available for rapid changes in output, without actually producing anything most of the time, and get paid for that availability: ie a market for MW in addition to the market for MWh.

:: ::

The politics of this transition are messy. You can have articles saying (without any real argument) that "Too much green energy is bad for Britain at the very same time that you have record cold weather, with critical weakness in the gas supply infrastructure and wind actually coming to the rescue... (in the UK last March).

People are presenting capacity markets as another subsidy to renewables, whereas system security has always required a significant margin of unused capacity for safety: power demand varies from 1 to 2 or one to 3 every day, peaks can be more or less intense depending on weather, and even large plants can go offline on a scheduled or unscheduled basis. That safety margin was simply paid for in a different way, either by imposing capacity buffers on utilities, or through spot price peaks that were high enough to pay in a few hours for the peaker plants which are otherwise idle most of the time. There's naturally a lot of talk that policies to develop renewable have failed, being costly (only partly true, as shown above, and increasingly less so as time goes by), ineffective at reducing carbon emissions (not true, each MWh of renewable energy has, by and large, replaced a MWh generated previously by fossil fuel plants) and damaging to the system (obviously not the case). But the cat is out of the bag: once renewable energy reaches a critical mass, its impact on power systems is pretty much irreversible and no amount of lobbying by utilities is going to get them their previous business model back: wind turbines and solar panels are there and they will keep on cranking out zero-marginal-cost MWh for a very, very long time...

So utilities would be well advised to focus their lobbying on fixes to the system that actually solve problems (like capacity markets, or maybe new rules on grid access for "must-run plants), and to not cut the tree on which they are sitting (killing the support regime for offshore wind, the only sector in renewables which is "utility-scale" and where they have been able to take a leading share, and the only sector of the power sector where they can actually make money these days...)(I note here again, for full disclosure, that I work in the offshore wind sector and appreciate that this may sound rather self-interested).

The politics of power prices are rather volatile, and people have little sympathy for the big utilities, which are typically seen as profiteers anyway, so the focus on the high retail prices could end up damaging them more than it impacts renewable energy producers. Energy is a rather complex topic, not really suited for soundbites, and it is easy to confuse people or say outright lies without getting caught right away. But, by and large, Germans still support the Energiewende - both the move away from nuclear and the support for renewable energy - and are willing to pay for it. And for areas like Bremerhaven, all the manufacturing activity linked to wind and offshore wind is rather welcome.

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In summary:

  • Renewable energy is reaching the scale where it has an impact on the overall system; the effects are irreversible, and highly damaging to incumbents;
  • The net cost to get there has been relatively low, and largely paid for by utilities, which have constantly underestimated the ongoing changes, even as they were both (wrongly) dismissing them and (relatively ineffectively) fighting them;
  • there are legitimate worries about the way to maintain the fleet of flexible plants that was required in the past and will continue to be needed in the new paradigm, but can no longer pay its way under current market arrangements; the solution is not to fight renewables (it won't make the existing fleet go away) but to ensure that the right services (MW on demand) are properly remunerated;
  • the shale gas revolution will have a limited impact in this context (it had almost none in Europe, other than via some cheap coal exports from the US for a short period), and does not change the economics of gas-fired plants to the point that they can be competitive in a system dominated by renewable energy production capacity;
  • more generally, the future for gas suppliers is bleaker than for gas turbine manufacturers - there will be a need for a lot of gas-fired plants but they won't be burning a lot of gas (they will be selling MW rather than MWh);
  • overall, a future with high renewable penetration is not only possible but increasingly likely, and it's a good thing.

Part of the wind power series.

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