June 30, 2016

The complexities of greenhouse gases

A table of global sources of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄), and nitrous oxide (N₂O, also abbreviated as NOx) – is reportedly no longer readily available from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here it is as reproduced by the US Energy Information Administration in the December 2004 report, “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2003”.

The table shows that human (anthropogenic) CO₂ emissions in the 1990s were less than 3% of the total, ie, 97% of CO₂ emissions were natural, although more than half of the human emissions exceeded the amount that could be naturally absorbed. For the other greenhouse gases, human CH₄ emissions were 50% greater than natural CH₄, representing 60% of the total, and only 6% of the human emissions exceeded what could be naturally absorbed. Human N₂O emissions represented about 55% of that total, and 55% exceeded what could be absorbed.

One thing that the table does not indicate is the different greenhouse effect levels of the three gases. CH₄ has 20 times the greenhouse effect of CO₂, N₂O 300 times. Therefore, the annual increase in greenhouse gases by effect is about 88% due to CO₂, 3% to CH₄, and 9% to N₂O.

Combining that information with what the table indicates, to halt the annual increases in these greenhouse gases, humans would have to reduce CO₂ emissions to 51% of the level specified here for the 1990s, N₂O to 25%, and CH₄ to 94%.

If the annual increase in greenhouse effect were to be halted by reducing CO₂ alone, humans would have to reduce emissions to less than 43% of their 1990s level. If, however, human CH₄ emissions were halved (relatively easy to achieve by, eg, reducing animal agriculture and capturing leakage at natural gas wells), human CO₂ emissions would have to be reduced to 58% of their 1990s level.

Another important consideration is the very different half-lives of these greenhouse gases. Most strikingly, CO₂ persists for centuries, even millennia, in the atmosphere, whereas CH₄ persists for only about 10 years. In other words, changes to CO₂ emissions would not have an effect for hundreds of years, but the effect of changes to CH₄ emissions would be relatively immediate. (N₂O lasts about 100 years.) (It may well be that the climate change effects we are experiencing today are due to coal burning in the 19th century, which at the time was mitigated by the cooling effect of soot.)

In summary, halting the increase of greenhouse gas emissions remains a formidable challenge, let alone that of reducing their levels in the atmosphere. But N₂O and CH₄ are easy targets for reduction that must not be ignored, particularly because their reduction would have a much more immediate effect than reduction of CO₂.

June 29, 2016

Letter from Bakari Sellers to Democratic National Committee, June 21, 2016

Excerpts (emphases added). Complete PDF available at: http://d1u7i8c4jvis7m.cloudfront.net/Bakari-Sellers-Letter-to-DNC-on-Israel-Platform-Statement.pdf

Every four years we come together as a collective and give our most thoughtful consideration to the ideals and values that define what it means to be a Democrat. In 2016, we do so at an especially critical time in our nation. Never before have the differences between the major parties been perceived to be so stark; so clearly a choice between hope and fear. ...

United States foreign policy in the Middle East is a critical issue our Party must address. Instability is mounting in that already volatile region. Repressive ideologies are on the rise. If the tide is to be reversed cooperation with our allies is imperative. We have no better ally than the state of Israel. ...

When it comes to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, our platforms and our candidates have always been clear. The 2012 platform rightly supported “peace between Israelis and Palestinians ... producing two states for two peoples,” while reiterating that there could be “no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met.” ... As the Secretary has said, “... America has an important role to play in supporting peace efforts and as president, ... I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution. including by the U.N. Security Council.” And, as the Party supports a negotiated peace settlement. it has long included, as it did in the 2012 Platform, a long established policy and reality, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.

On Iran, ... we must do all we can to ensure Iran lives up to its obligations while confronting Iran’s malign activities in the region. As Secretary Clinton recently stated, “Tehran’s fingerprints are on every conflict across the Middle East from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen ...” She has been clear, that the U.S. “must also continue to enforce existing sanctions and impose additional sanctions as needed on Iran ... for their sponsorship of terrorism, illegal arms transfers, human rights violations and other illicit behaviors ...”

[A]nti-Semitism has been on the rise and it has taken a new form — the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. ...

It is for all the aforementioned reasons, best stated by Secretary Clinton herself, that I join the attached signatories [60 as yet unrevealed African-American politicians], all lifelong Democrats, in asking that unwavering support of the state of Israel be clearly articulated in the 2016 Democratic Party platform.

Again, thank you for your service and leadership. It is an inspiration to us all.


Bakari Sellers

June 11, 2016

How to steal an election, Democratic Party edition

Election Fraud Watch 2016” has been documenting the reports of “irregularities” throughout the Democratic Party primaries and caucuses.

This information is not about the schedule and various rules established by the Democratic National Committee seemingly meant to reduce the chances of an outsider gaining ground. It is about how even with those inherent advantages, Hillary Clinton had to cheat to fend off the insurgent campaign of Bernie Sanders.

February’s posts are dominated by Nevada, where Harry Reid instructed casino union bosses the night before the caucus to make sure their members were given time to vote for Hillary. And Nevada arises again during its state convention in May, where Bernie now had more delegates, so the Party decertified more than enough of them to give Hillary the edge and then, just to make sure, made their count while people were still in line to get in and ignored motions for a recount, increasingly shredding Robert’s rules of order throughout the day until the chair, Roberta Lange, closed the convention on her own, fled, and called on law enforcement to clear the hall.

March’s posts are dominated by Arizona.

April brings in reports about Massachusetts (where former President Bill Clinton literally blocked people from voting at two precincts in Boston), Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.

May’s reports include Maryland and Kentucky and more about Illinois and Nevada.

And June’s posts add reports about Puerto Rico and California.

Common “problems”: severe reduction of polling places, missing and incorrect voter registrations, and incorrect recording of votes. In California, 30% of the votes (>2.5 million) have yet to be counted at all.

There are several articles about the pattern of discrepancy between the usually fairly accurate exit polls and the official results in several states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

The writer also links to many other general reports, including:

June 8, 2016

Why is choice desirable for health care, but not for K–12 education?

Here are some comments in reply to a comment posted at a campaign press release published at Vermont Digger concerning school choice in Vermont.

If public schools are the foundation of a civil society, then shouldn’t private schools be banned? Or is freedom of choice – another foundation of civil society – to be available only for the rich? Furthermore, it is disingenuous in the extreme to equate most private schools, particularly in Vermont and neighboring communities, with for-profit schools preying on a very real need in failing urban school systems. Traditionally, private schools are not run for profit, and school choice in Vermont makes many of them as “free and open to all” as public schools. In fact, school choice makes public schools more open to all as well. Not just for the sake of civil society, but more importantly for the sake of every child’s unique and immediate education needs and interests, such opportunity needs to be expanded, not curtailed.

Finally, the commenter’s comparison with health care couldn’t be further off. Again, most hospitals and clinics are not for-profit. And school choice is analogous to single-payer, which is both more progressive and more efficient than for-profit insurance, which limits choice and drives up costs.

June 7, 2016

My Struggle, Book Five

Some weeks later Mom visited us, we went to Gullfoss and Geysir and Thingvellir with her one day, another down to the south coast, where the sand was black and there were immense solitary rocks standing in the sea.

We went to an art museum together, the walls and floor were completely white, and with the sun flooding in through large skylights the light inside was almost aflame. Through the windows I could see the sea, blue with white crests of waves and breakers, a large white-clad mountain rose in the distance. In these surroundings, in the bright white room on the edge of the world, the art was lost.

Was art only an inner phenomenon? Something that moved within us and between us, all that which we couldn’t see but marked us, indeed, which was us? Was this the function of landscape painting, portraits, sculptures, to draw the external world, so essentially alien to us, into our inner world?

When Mom went home I accompanied her to Keflavik Airport and said my good-byes there, on the way back I read Stephen Hero by James Joyce, the first book I had bought by him and quite evidently his weakest, it was also unfinished and not meant for publication, but there was something to learn from it, too, how he slowly transformed the autobiographical element, which was obvious here, into something else in Ulysses. Stephen Dedalus was a strong young character, summoned home to Dublin by his father’s telegram, “Mother dying come home,” but in the novel, Ulysses, that is, this arrogant brilliant young man was perhaps first and foremost a place where things happened. In Stephen Hero he was a person, distinct from the world around him, In Ulysses the world flowed through him and the story, Augustin, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare, everything moved through him and the same was true of Bloom, except that in him it wasn’t the highest and the best that was in motion, that flowed, but rather the town with its people and phenomena, advertising slogans and newspaper articles, he thought about what everyone else thought about, he was Everyman. There was, however, another level above them, namely the place from where they were observed, which was the language, and all the insights and prejudices the various forms of language embraced, almost in secret.

But in Stephen Hero there was none of this, there was just the character, Stephen, in other words, Joyce, set apart from the world, which was described but never integrated. This development culminated, from what I could infer, in his final book, Finnegans Wake, which I had bought but hadn’t read, where the characters had disappeared in the language, which lived its own everyman life.

I jumped off the bus at the stop between the university and the landmark building Perlan and walked the last part home through the embassy district. It was raining and misty, I felt empty, like a nobody, as a consequence of saying good-bye perhaps. In the apartment Gunvor was huddled up in the armchair reading with with a cup of tea on the table beside her.

I hung up my coat and went in.

“What are you reading?” I said.

About the famine in Ireland,” she said. “The Great Famine.”

—Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle, Book Five (Min kamp 5 [2010], translated by Don Bartlett)

May 24, 2016

Dodd-Frank’s part in the destruction of the middle class

“Stagnant Pay Slowing Area House Sales” (Valley News, May 22) misses another culprit: Dodd-Frank.

On July 15, 2015, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified to the Senate Banking Committee: “Demand for housing is still being restrained by limited availability of mortgage loans to many potential homebuyers.” [link]

Dodd-Frank tightened the rules on mortgage lending, but the real cause of the 2008 crash was the ever-more-complex bundling of loans to feed the speculative exuberance of investors. Dodd-Frank, as far as I’ve been able to determine, did nothing to protect the housing market from profiteering investors. Indeed, in 2013, the New York Times reported that the same games had resumed. [link] It seems clear that the main purpose of Dodd-Frank was to protect speculators by limiting the risk that expanding homeownership necessarily entails. In other words, it made it much harder for most people to buy a home for themselves.

This is particularly true for the self-employed, independent contractors, contingent workers, and freelancers, who are projected to represent 40% of the workforce by 2020, if they don’t already. At the beginning of 2014, real estate attorney Shari Olefson, quoted by Yahoo Finance, said that “about 20% of people who have mortgages right now will not be able to get qualified mortgages” and that “more people will be pushed into the rental market” (again, benefiting investors – and Dodd-Frank’s tightened rules do not apply to loans for rental properties). [link]

Census Bureau data show homeownership continuing to plummet in every region of the U.S. since a peak in 2004, most dramatically for those under the age of 45. Since housing prices have also plummeted, that indicates a much deeper change than stagnant pay, which has been that way for most Americans since 1965 and slowly declining since 1999.

May 22, 2016

Clinton: more and more unfavorable

From a memo to superdelegates, Hillary Clinton campaign, May 27, 2008:
Because our country’s electorate is relatively divided along party lines, presidential candidates who are competitive and have been in the public arena for a period of time typically have higher unfavorable ratings.

For example, Hillary and Senator Obama have comparable unfavorable ratings – in the most recent Newsweek poll of national registered voters, 43% are unfavorable to Hillary and 40% are unfavorable to Senator Obama. Senator McCain has similar unfavorable ratings – 40% are unfavorable to him in that same poll.

As might be expected, Senator Obama’s unfavorable numbers have steadily risen over the last two years – in a May 2006 Newsweek poll, 10% said they were unfavorable towards him. By July 2007, that number had risen to 19%; 8 months later it was at 28%, and in the two most recent Newsweek polls, conducted in April and May of this year, his unfavorable rating is at 40% – 4 times higher than it was two years ago. Hillary’s unfavorable rating has remained relatively steady (according to the same Newsweek polls, in May 2006, her unfavorable rating was 45% – it is now 43%). Similarly, Senator McCain’s unfavorable ratings have likewise remained relatively unchanged (according to the same Newsweek polls, in March 2008 his unfavorable rating was 35%; 41% in April 2008, and 40% in May 2008; Newsweek did not record unfavorable ratings before March 2008 for Senator McCain).

More importantly, candidates’ unfavorable ratings do not indicate they are too polarizing to win the Presidency; to the contrary, these ratings reflect the divisions in our country between our parties as candidates become known and associated with the Democratic or Republican Party.
That was a nice try to put the entire blame on partisanship, but there is a clear trend in 2016 that argues against Clinton:

It looks even worse over the long term, since Clinton left the Department of State after 2012:

In stark contrast, as Bernie Sanders became more widely known, his favorable rating steadily increased:

Even Donald Trump is trending better than Clinton: