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Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Global Cooling and a Climate Denialist Who Forgot Who Once Solved the Acid Rain Problem

The following is from an email to a friend who denies global warming as having a man made cause. He dropped of a 1975 Newsweek article on Global Cooling:

Read the article. Interesting. Thanks. Looked it up some and found this on Wikipedia, that great source of information for Rand Paul speeches: 

 Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth‘s surface and atmosphere culminating in a period of extensive glaciation. This hypothesis had little support in the scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s and press reports that did not accurately reflect the full scope of the scientific climate literature, i.e., a larger and faster-growing body of literature projecting future warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. The current scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth has not durably cooled, but undergoneglobal warming throughout the 20th century.[1]

 Also, found the graph of global warming and cooling cycles for the past 425,000 years covering 5 glacial periods. The data stops at 1990 on this chart:

Global Temperature

http://www.planetseed.com/relatedarticle/temperature-change-history

And between 1990 and the present the rate of temperature rise has exceeded the highest peeks from the past 425,000 years to about +4 degrees celcius. You will also notice that we really should be entering into a global cooling period based on the pattern you see above. Here is the current trend:

Global temperature

So to say the temps have been rising since the last ice age is as true as it is irrelavant. We should be heading into the next ice age, not shooting up to tempretures that haven’t been seen for a million years.

I also reminded my friend that Acid Rain was once a much bigger problem. Everyone accepted back then that it was a man made problem caused by sulfer released from coal and oil fired electric plants. A sequestration plan and cap and trade system was passed, which was a Republican plan opposed by many Democrats. But it worked and acid rain is not the critical problem it was back then. So here we are facing an even bigger man made problem and the opposition is from the party that solved acid rain with a cap and trade method that worked. go figure.

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Carbon, Climate and a Mirror to Our Future

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

If you asked most forward thinking Americans to name a disruptive challenge we face today, global warming would be high on the list. Climate changing levels of carbon dioxide have been released into the air and the impacts on weather, on raising ocean levels and melting glacier are underway. The most socially responsible among us are already reducing their carbon footprint by recycling, buying more efficient cars, better insulating their homes, buying Energy Star appliances, using florescent or LED lighting.  More and more people are also taking advantage of incentive programs to install rooftop solar or wind power generation systems.

The impact from these early pioneers of change is still quite small relative to the problem, but it is significant.  So significant, in fact, that the industries which release carbon dioxide to produce the energy we buy are feeling threatened.  After all, every time you replace an incandescent light bulb with an LED bulb you reduce their revenue.

Our power generation and distribution companies can adapt by getting into the LED lighting business for example, or they can maladapt by killing government regulations and initiatives to reduce carbon emissions.  It appears they have chosen to do both.  Some energy companies are investing in wind, solar or other renewable energy technologies while others are busy hatching plans to manipulate the democratic process in order to scuttle government incentives and regulations that threaten their bottom line.

When the power generation utilities think about the disruptive challenges we face as a nation they quite literally see a mirror image of what the rest of us see. The threats they see include “demand side management” (DSM) which refers to consumer energy conservation measures, and “distributed energy resources” (DER) meaning residential power generation such as rooftop solar systems.  This is explained in an national industry report released this past January by the Edison Electric Institute.  Entitled, “Disruptive Challenges, Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business,” the report describes how disruptive consumer conservation and residential energy generation can be to their business. To help electric utility executives better understand the disruptive forces of socially responsible citizens it offers this useful flow chart: [http://tinyurl.com/m5py4rg]

Vicious Cycle from Disruptive Forces Graph (2)

Edison Electric Institute, Washington, D.C. – www.eei.org

Another study conducted for PacifCorp was released in March of 2013 by The Cadmus Group, Inc., another D.C. based firm. This industry study looks at the potential impact of consumer conservation on corporate energy sales over the next 20 years in states served by the Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power Companies.  The Cadmus Group defined DSM this way:

Demand-side management involves reducing electricity use through activities or programs that promote electric energy efficiency or conservation, or more efficient management of electric energy loads. These efforts may:

  • Promote high efficiency building practices
  • Promote the purchase of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR® products
  • Encourage the transition from incandescent lighting to more efficient compact fluorescent lighting
  • Encourage customers to shift non-critical usage of electricity from high-use periods to after 7 p.m. or before 11 a.m.
  • Consist of programs providing limited utility control of customer equipment such as air conditioners
  • Promote energy awareness and education

http://www.pacificorp.com/env/dsm.html

This report suggests that energy conservation efforts and residential power generation over the next twenty years will reduce these energy company sales by up to 15%. About 76% of this reduction will come from residential customers, mostly from conservation measures.  Numbers like these are causing energy companies everywhere to start defending their business model. The Arizona Public Service Company,  for example, recently  funded non-profit agencies to start what looks like a grass roots attempt to turn public opinion against both rooftop solar and the states’ publically elected Arizona Corporation Commission, which has final authority over utility rates.  Rooftop solar initiatives are a prime target for utility companies both because of its rapid growth and the direct way these installations impact utility company profits.  The reason why conservation efforts and residential power generation may be scary to utility companies from a business perspective becomes clear when you look at the bigger picture.

The history of U.S. energy use is one of annually increasing demand. Population growth and consumer  purchases of more energy reliant products guarantee increased electric demand well into the future. It remains a growing market, but the rate of growth is slowing. This has been true since the 1950’s. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “The growth of electricity demand (including retail sales and direct use) has slowed in each decade since the 1950s, from a 9.8-percent annual rate of growth from 1949 to 1959 to only 0.7 percent per year in the first decade of the 21st century.”  The following chart shows how the increase in electric demand is declining in this country.

US ElectDemand Declining

US. Energy Information Agency http://tinyurl.com/nnz9rgg

Meanwhile coal continues to be the biggest fuel source for power plants. The use of coal accounts for about 42% of the electricity we generate.  Coal is expected to remain predominate though 2040, although its share of the energy generation mix will fall to around 35% of the total as natural gas and renewable energy soruces grow. This means that for the foreseeable future carbon emissions and growing electricity demand will still be with us if nothing changes. Of course nothing ever stays the same. The real question is whether the energy utilities, reacting to market forces, will dominate the direction we take in producing carbon based energy or whether pressure to save the planet will rise to a point where we can achieve meaningful reductions in green house gas emissions.

Bogus Claim: Obama Uses IRS to Buy Votes

There appears that a phony new scandal is taking shape on some conservative corners of the internet.  It may or may not gain traction, but it is worth a peek.  David DeVine, on the Website entitled TheWestern Free Press, and others, are accusing President Obama of using the IRS to create “de facto amnesty” for illegal aliens. It has to do with an aspect of federal tax law that has been ignored for years.

IRS W-7 ITIN header

Here is the actual claim:

ITIN amnesty scam empowers Obama IRS to buy votes

“Outraged that illegal aliens claimed child-tax-credits, but no outrage that current tax law allows them to report income and pay taxes without threat of deportation?”

Apparently some on the right have finally discovered that many resident aliens actually do have IRS identification numbers that allow them to file and pay their federal income taxes and receive some tax benefits.

For years now rightwing conservatives have complained that undocumented aliens (by which they usually mean all non-citizens of color) don’t pay taxes and are a burden to taxpayers. This has never been entirely true, of course. Even setting income taxes and payroll deductions aside, all resident aliens pay sales taxes, property taxes (sometime indirectly by paying rent), gas taxes, cigarette taxes, tolls, fees , etc. But the biggest misconception has been that most resident aliens don’t pay income taxes. Many, perhaps most resident aliens do pay income taxes. Even my liberal friends have had a hard time believing this.

For more than forty-years the IRS has issued a nine-digit Individual Taxpayer Identification Number  ( IRS application form W-7)  to resident aliens who are not eligible to apply for Social Security. These identification numbers may be issued to resident aliens who earn income in the U.S. and either have a “Green Card” eligibility or meet the “Substantial Presentence” eligibility test.  In fact, the instructions on the W-7 states, “A foreign individual living in the United States who does not have permission to work from the USCIS, and is thus ineligible for a SSN, may still be required to file a U.S. tax return”, and therefore obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).  So regardless of how a foreign citizen came to be here, if they earn money while here they are required to file income taxes.  For example, a foreign citizen who came here in January and earned money and is still here in December must file income taxes and apply for the ITIN by attaching the application to their return.

Depending on their status and circumstance they may also be eligible to receive federal tax rebates and some other benefits under the tax law for themselves or their dependents. This includes the Child Tax Credit when a dependent child is a citizen or meets criteria in the IRS code. What resident aliens cannot collect is the Earned Income Tax Credit. It says so right on the ITIM application.

These IRS issued ITIN’s have be around at least since the 1960’s but some on the right what to use this rediscovered revelation to accuse President Obama of buying votes by making the IRS issues Child Tax Credits to “illegals.” This claim ignores the fact that all resident aliens are ineligible to vote. Some conservatives also want to pin on Obama their outrage that undocumented aliens are even allowed to report income without the threat of deportation.  They would prefer, I suppose, that undocumented aliens be exempt from paying income tax, or else forced to hide their income out of fear of instant deportation.

Immigration enforcement is not the job of the IRS. It is their job to collect taxes on all residents who earn income regardless of whether they are citizens. It will be interesting to see if this issue gains traction or finds its way into round 2 of the immigration reform debate on the horizion.

A Passionate Call for an Alternative to Poliltics

What follows is the very essence of passion and disphoric expression by the next generation towards today’s intractable political systems that serve the interests of the rich and powerful. Russel Brand’s passion and rejection of establishment processes to bring about change mirror the essence of the Occupy movement. The outragiously disparate distribution of wealth and power has so distorted and hoplessly incumbered politics and democracy that he and many young people today are repulsed by it all. They struggle for an alternative that doesn’t yet exist and may never exist. The rant is perhaps a glimps into the hearts and minds of the coming generation. Through the social media an emotional consensus is building which has no clear expression or pathway to change.

Actor Russell Brand reduces BBC newsman to stunned silence with diatribe against corporate oligarchy

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, October 24, 2013

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/24/actor-russell-brand-reduces-bbc-newsman-to-stunned-silence-with-diatribe-against-corporate-oligarchy/

Actor and comedian Russell Brand is calling for a political and philosophical revolution in his guest editorship of the New Statesman magazine, and he explained what he wants to see in a passionately argued interview on BBC’s “Newsnight.”

Combative host Jeremy Paxson asked the British actor, who’s known for his past drug use and his brief marriage to pop singer Katy Perry, what gave him the right to promote his political beliefs, particularly since he’s never voted.

“I don’t get my authority from this preexisting paradigm, which is quite narrow and only serves a few people,” Brand said. “I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”

Darwin, Religion and the Rise of a Secular World

By Brian Lynch, MSW

During most of human history divine creation was the only paradigm for understanding our place in the universe. It was the grand context, the social ocean in which we lived out our lives. Human beings were divinely created in a special way that set us apart from the rest of God’s creatures. We were born, we lived and died in God’s world. There were no alternative perspectives. Our frame of reference, world view and the society in which we lived were profoundly influence by this inescapable constant. There were always questions and great disputes about nature, especially with the rise of science, but nobody seriously doubted our divine creation. Religion, and therefore religious leaders, held sway over every aspect of our social and intellectual development…  that is until one reluctant scientist came to see that human beings arrived here by natural evolution and not a single act of divine creation. Charles Darwin glimpsed the profound impact his discovery would have on the world. He knew there would be unintended consequences and a contemporary backlash that would make his life difficult. He waited as long as possible before publishing “On the Origin of Species.”

ChasDarwin

At that moment a new paradigm for human understanding became inevitable. It spawned a natural view of creation and the universe that would successfully compete with mystical beliefs in a god-centered universe. It eventually opened up a vast new social space that could be occupied by those seeking an alternative to a religious view. Today we call this vast social space a secular society, but nothing like it ever existed before. It was (and can still be) liberating and wide open with possibilities that were unimaginable under the divine paradigm. It was a space where science and technology thrived. A new sense of objectivity was a direct outcome. Ethics and morality could be studied from perspectives that were independent from specific religious texts. New philosophies sprung up and took root. It allowed us to create secular institutions of learning, medicine and other scholarly disciplines . We created secular governments, secular economies, secular business corporations and all manner of social organizations not immediately related to religion. It allowed for the creation of truly pluralistic societies and more religious tolerance than the world had ever known. But it also challenged and diminished the power of religions across the globe.

The secular paradigm that has emerged is not antithetical to God or a rejection of religion or spirituality. It is just a social  framework. It is a religion neutral space where individuals are free to explore spirituality, question their beliefs or challenge tenants of their faith traditions without fear of social reprisals. It also allows citizens to accept or reject a creator god. In these ways it undermines priestly traditions and the central authority of many world religions. Religious fundamentalists who view the world as either good or evil are prone to see secularism as evil.

It is almost unimaginable today to conceive of a world without a secular alternative to a totally faith based society, especially when the fault lines separating the secular and religious worlds are still so active. In my view, the growing religious fundamentalist movements around the globe are just the most recent reactions to the declining power of organized religions to effect social change. Among Christian fundamentalists, at least, Darwin’s theory of evolution still remains at the epicenter of competing beliefs, especially with respect to the belief systems to which children are exposed. So much of the polarity and apparent disconnect found in our current politics derives from these underlying tensions between the religious and the secular. In fact, many of the global conflicts today share these same roots. The denial of climate change and the mistrust of science by conservative or fundamentalist constituents are a further manifestation of this divide.

The 19th Century saw the rise of civil secularism and the 20th Century was its flowering period. Secular societies refer to themselves as the “modern world.” They are associated with the rise of free markets, powerful business corporations and the technological revolution that has transformed every aspect of modern life. The global rise of religious fundamentalism is a rejection of modernity and secularism.  It is easy to see this play out in the Middle-East where Muslim fundamentalist have resorted to violence in efforts to regain control over their people and establish Shari law. Islamist groups openly reject modernity and refer to the United State, that great exporter of secular culture, as “the Great Satin.”

Here at home these same underlying tensions are hidden in plain view because our fundamentists happen to share America’s dominant religion. The rise of politically active religious conservatism should also be seen as a rejection of modernity and secularism, just as it is in the Arib world. In many Christian communities there is strong peer pressure for Christians to conform to social norms that most resemble 18th Century America. There is also a strong distrust of secular media, secular science and especially secular government. Christian fundamentalist often view the government as corrupt because it is non-thestic and therefore evil. Secular society is evil because individuals are free to reject God’s authority. They seek to change that and establish the centrality of God in government and all aspect of American life. A theocracy would not be out of the question for them. Theirs is a direct assualt on our constitutional government as it was originally intended. Out of “Christian love” the majority of American’s continue to tolerate the increasingly intolarent Christian Right.

Ironically, most Christian fundamentalists have no problem embracing godless corporations and the free market economy. Secular society has allowed capitalism to slip the bonds of religious morality. This launched a corporate movement that is currently challenging and overpowering civil control of government. Part of the reason for its success is this alliance with the Christian right. The dynamics between secular society, fundamentalist religious society and the corporate, free market elite account for most of the forces driving today’s social changes.  The current government shutdown might signal the first crack in the corporate/fundamentalist alliance.

This conceptual outline of underlying social forces has helped me make sense of current events and today’s social movements. I find myself returning to these themes whenever I need to place new developments into context. I hope that other readers might find this framework as useful.

Ted Cruz, Money and the Power to Turn Out The Lights

Most people agree that Senator Ted Cruz, a freshman Senator from Texas, is the quartback of the federal government shutdown. He has his ideological reasons for pulling the plug, for sure, but instead of following the confusing politics behind his crazy Jihad against Obamacare, I decided to follow the money trail that backs him. Ultimate it is money, not ideology, that translates into the power to shutdown the federal government.

In the 2012 election Club for Growth and the Senate Conservative Fund  were Sen. Cruz’ top two donors. These conservative fund raising groups contributed over a million dollars to his campaign.

The Senate Conservative Fund (SCF) was Cruz’ second biggest donor, contributing $385,103 to his campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org. The SCF is a leadership PAC, which means it is money raised by other politicians to support certain candidates running for office within their own party. The SCF is associated with James W. DeMint, a former South Carolina Senator and the current president of the conservative Heritage Foundation.   SCF gave about $2.1 million to Republican candidates in the 2012 election cycle, which means Ted Cruz received 18% of their direct candidate support. This is significant since James DeMint has been characterized as the hidden hand behind the move to defund the Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare).

Club for Growth (CFG) contributed $705,657 to Ted Cruz, making them his biggest donor. That donation amounted to almost 17% of all the money CFG spent in contributions to support Republicans in the 2012 election. Only Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona received more money from CFG (one-million dollars).

But the most revealing fact about CFG’s support for Cruz is that the organization spent $4.27 million supporting a few Republican candidates while also spending a whopping $10 million (in outside spending) to oppose other Republican candidates.  In other words CFG is like a wrecking ball destroying fellow Republican candidates who don’t meet their conservative standards.

I tried to learn where CFG gets its money, but this is difficult because it is a “527” organization, a 501(c)4 not for profit, that is allowed to collect unlimited contributions. CFG doesn’t have to disclose its donors or reveal its activity. According to a February, 2011 article by John Nichols of The Nation, The Club for Growth is “an organization funded by extremely wealthy conservatives to carry out their budget-stripping goals.”

What seems to emerge from this view of the government shutdown is a tectonic rift in the financial power base  underneath the Republican party. Well organized and well funded sources of money are narrowly targeting resources to heavily fund a select few candidates while, in the case of Club for Growth, using resources to undermine  Republican candidates who  are less ideologically pure.  Indeed, Club for Growth uses its club to cull the herd, a development that has no equal in Democratic politics.

Up until now the Senate and House Majority Leaders held all the purse strings of power to punish or reward members of their party. Not so any more. Ted Cruz does not stand alone when he defies his Republican colleagues in the Senate, as pundits have suggested. Rather, he is the tip of an iceberg around which his caucus has to navigate.  He is able to side steps House Speaker John Beohner and whips support for defunding Obamacare in the House because he carries with him both a carrot and a club.

It is difficult to work out all the implications that may result from this rift in the fabric of Republican politics, but over the short term it can’t be very good. The rift is just the public view of a subsurface divide between the wealthy elite who are the titians of power in America. It isn’t clear, to me, exactly what is at play. What are the control points that one group seeks over the other and what would be the gain? Intrigue at that level of play is heavily cloaked in secrecy.  For now, all we can do is to try and read the tea leaves.