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NASA: October 2014 Tied For Hottest on Record

October 2014 Hottest on Record

(October was again a global temperature record setter. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s monthly global temperature analysis is in and the results are once again record-making. For according to NASA’s global monitor, world temperatures were 0.76 degrees Celsius above the Earth average for the mid 20th Century.

This high temperature departure ties 2005 for hottest in NASA’s 136 year record. A temperature level that global ice core data points toward being hotter than at any time in the past 130,000 years. A record hot month in a string of record hot months for 2014. A resurgence to record high marks amidst an unprecedented spate of rising temperatures that has lasted now for more than a century running.

Global land ocean temperature index

(Global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree C above their low mark at the start of the 20th Century. It is a human-driven pace of warming 15-20 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. Image source: NASA)

Polar Amplification Again Prominent

As in recent months, hottest temperatures were again focused near the poles. The northern polar region in particular observed much hotter than normal readings with a very large zone experiencing +2 to +5.5 degrees C above average temperatures for the entire month. East Antarctica also saw much warmer than normal temperatures with monthly averages spiking from +2 C to more than 4 C above the 20th Century average.

Overall, much of the world showed hotter than normal temperatures with cooler than normal readings confined to sections of the Southern Ocean and Eastern Europe. Small and isolated pockets of cooler than normal readings were found in diminutive oceanic zones. Meanwhile, the rest of the world experienced warmer than normal to much warmer than normal readings.

zonal readings October

(Zonal temperature departures by latitude. Image source: NASA)

Zonal readings also showed very strong polar amplification in the Northern Hemisphere with surface temperatures averaging at 2.6 degrees Celsius above normal in the region above 75 degrees North Latitude. A spike in temperature to +1.3 C above average was also observed in the region of 80 degrees South Latitude.

The Southern Ocean again appears to be the primary zonal heat sink as the only region showing below average temperatures in the range of -0.38 C below average. As we have seen in previous analysis, this region is currently the principle atmosphere-to-ocean heat transfer band. Ocean heat uptake in this region has been shown through recent studies to have resulted in very rapid warming of the top 700 meters of Southern Hemisphere ocean waters. It has also played a role in the more rapid glacial destabilization observed among Antarctica’s increasingly fragile ice sheets and ice shelves.

Polar Amplification Sees Late Fall Vortex Disruption, Severe Dipole Anomalies

Northern Hemisphere polar amplification is a primary contributor to the polar vortex disruptions and extreme Jet Stream distension we’ve seen since about 2005. Current conditions also indicate an extraordinary dipole again developing with heat pooling in the Arctic near Alaska and in the maritime zone between the Kara Sea and Greenland. Already in November, this has caused an extreme meridonal avection of polar cold air over the continents even as warm air drives north toward the pole over Atlantic and Pacific Ocean regions.

Arctic Anomaly Map

(Warm air invasion of the Arctic forcing temperatures to 1.9 C above average drives polar air over Central Asia and Eastern North America on November 19 of 2014. Such displacements of cold air during Northern Hemisphere winter are directly tied to global-warming related polar amplification. Image source: GFS/University of Maine)

2014 Close to Hottest On Record

Currently, NASA’s global temperature average for the first ten months of 2014 puts the year at 0.664 C above the global average. 2010, the previous hottest year on record, stood between 0.66 and 0.67 degrees hotter than the 20th Century average. So we are now in record-making territory for 2014. Any further months with average temperatures above 0.67 C would continue to cement 2014 as a new record holder.

In any case, the excessive heat for 2014 is at least likely to place it among the top 1-4 hottest years even if November and December show less extreme warm temperature departures. An extraordinary degree of warmth for a year in which official El Nino status has yet to be declared.

With global political leaders retaining an overall laissez faire attitude to positive action on climate change and with powerful fossil fuel interests gaining power in the US Congress (Republicans), it is unfortunately very likely that ongoing massive greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 50 billion tons of CO2 equivalent each year will continue to add more heat to the world’s oceans, atmosphere, and glaciers. As time moves forward, this will vastly increase the risk of catastrophic weather and geophysical change events. We see such events now in Brazil, California and across an expanding range of regions. But these early outliers are mild compared to the potential extremity of events as time moves forward and catastrophic emission rates increase.

As with other brands of risk, including financial risk, the world’s current economic and political leaders have shown a terrible ineptitude in working to prevent catastrophic and destabilizing loss. One hopes that political and economic leaders will wise up. But, currently, there is very little to indicate that urgently needed changes will be forthcoming.

Links:

NASA GISS

GFS/University of Maine

IPCC 2014: Adaptation and Vulnerability

(Note edited to include the Eemian, which is probably still hotter than this monthly average by about 0.8 to 0.9 C at peak warming)

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Solar Energy Costs in Free-Fall as World Climate Worsens; Opposition to Renewable Energy Now Mostly Political

 

The evidence just keeps flooding in. From 2005 to 2012 country after country reached solar grid parity until, at the end of this period, a total of 102 nations saw solar energy sources that were cost competitive with fossil fuels. Through 2013 prices kept falling. Now, an increasing number of regions have developed solar energy as least expensive new energy sources. Earlier this year First Solar opened a New Mexico plant in which solar energy produced electricity for 5.8 cents per kilowatt hour. These prices were 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of energy generated from a new coal fired plant. Now, a German Utility has opened a solar plant that produces electricity for less than 10 euro cents per kilowatt hour, also less than the cost of local new coal generation.

By 2020, total solar energy prices are, in the most conservative estimates, expected to fall by at least another 50% (in fact, the cost of new solar generation has fallen by 22% each year for the past five years!). More optimistic estimates show solar continuing to fall by between 4 and 15 percent each year through the next twenty years. These reductions will make solar energy the least expensive energy source in almost all cases within 4-20 years. What is absolutely astounding is that, should these reductions materialize, it will be less expensive to build a new solar facility than it will be to cover the operating costs of existing coal power plants.

A rough graph of the time horizon at which solar out-competes existing coal generation given various rates of price reduction from 4 to 15 percent per annum is available here:

Solar competitive time horizon

(Image source: Monetary Realism)

The various lines start on year 1 (2014) and continue all the way through 2034. In the most rapid cost reduction cases, new solar outcompetes existing coal from 2018 to 2022 and only the slowest advancement results in an outcompeting of existing coal generation by 2034. This graph doesn’t include likely increases in the costs for existing coal due to competition from wind and solar, depletion of the coal source, or requirements by governments to use costly carbon capture and storage technology.

To this point, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is little more than an oft trotted out fossil fuel dog and pony show. Not one CCS plant has been put into anything more than experimental operation. Not one has demonstrated any cost competitiveness with a broader energy market. And not one has advanced further than the pilot stage making any estimated cost for actual systems little more than vapor.

By comparison, solar energy just keeps chugging along, marking gains, new milestones, and greater cost cuts with each passing year. In the US alone, more than 10 gigawatts of solar energy have now been installed. That number is predicted to surge by 80% over the next 18 months to reach 17 gigawatts by end of 2014.

These are massive and optimistic gains. Yet they will have to continue for years to decades if they are to significantly reduce and eliminate US net carbon emissions from electricity generation. With severe weather impacts and sea level rise ramping up from human caused climate change in the present day, it appears we are in a race both against time and against our own worst enemy and the cause of the whole trouble in the first place: ourselves.

A Massive Political Juggernaut Opposes Renewable Energy Adoption and Solutions to Climate Change

If we were rational, our government and policy systems would be rapidly aligning to support a major transition away from fossil fuels. If we were rational, we’d be leveraging the increasingly cost-beneficial energy production systems that renewables provide to stabilize economies harmed by the ravages of petroleum dependency and related economic exploitation. We could bring light to the darkened, non-grid-tied regions of the world. And we could give human civilization a fighting chance against the terrible ravages of climate change caused by our enforced dependence on a dangerous set of fuels. Fuels that must go if we are to have much hope of overcoming what is setting up to be an existential climate crisis.

Yet it is clear, at this point, that we are not rational. At best, we see government gridlock. At worst, entrenched corporations are able to manipulate government in such a way that the dangerous development of dirty fuels continues.

In one example, the US State Department paid reporting agencies with close ties to BP, Exxon Mobile, and Koch Industries to draft a climate impact assessment report for the Keystone XL Pipeline. A report that contained a high level of oil industry fluff and misinformation. One that arguably misled both the public as well as members of public government who would be making decisions on this critical issue. Thankfully, public outrage over this report has caused some reassessment. But the validity of any new report may suffer from similar corruption and is equally in doubt.

In another example, the halls of Congress itself is packed to the gills with a non-representative number of ignorant individuals who out-right deny the existence of human caused climate change. A recent report from Think Progress found that 127 members of the House and 30 members of the Senate denied human-caused climate change. Not surprisingly, a significant majority of republicans in Congress deny climate change. Equally unsurprising is the fact that these members receive vast sums from fossil fuel related donors. House climate change deniers received 242,000 dollars on average from fossil fuel industry coffers. While Senate climate change deniers receive a largess of nearly 700,000 dollars each for their climate change denial efforts. Further, a majority of these members sat on key science and environment committees or held leadership positions in their respective parties.

In a horrid example of the damage this kind of corruption causes, a new bill advanced by Republicans called the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013 would cut NOAA funding for climate change research. Indirectly, these cuts would also likely impact weather satellite coverage and sensors critical to weather prediction. To this point, it is impossible to separate weather from climate. Any efforts to cut climate research also negatively impact our ability to predict the weather. In this instance, as in many others, climate change deniers in Congress are actively harming our resilience to the extreme weather that is almost certainly on its way.

Given this fossil fuel industry stacked US political system, is it any surprise that almost daily proposals to expand coal, gas, and oil dependence hit the floors of Congress? Or that House Republicans are doing their best to kill off critical energy efficiency standards?

Sadly, many utilities themselves are entangled in a dark web of fossil fuel influence. Cosied up to fossil fuel special interests for more than a century, utilities are now fighting net metering laws that have led to more rapid adoption of solar in states like Arizona. These net metering laws allow homeowners to sell any excess energy produced, which utilities must purchase at cost. This policy, put in place in Arizona in 2009, helped rocket the state to number 2 in total solar energy generation, behind California. But now, the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is fighting to kill net metering. In an ironic change of fate, the son of Barry Goldwater is organizing political action to fight APS. Goldwater’s organization — Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed — is now involved in an epic political battle to keep solar energy alive for Arizona’s homeowners.

These are just a few highlights of a broad and ongoing war which fossil fuel special interests are fighting to deny citizens access to clean, alternative energy. It is a war, also, to preserve profits for some of the wealthiest corporations the world has ever seen. What this intensity of action on the part of fossil fuel companies, especially when viewed in light of an increasingly less expensive and competitive renewable energy source,  reveals is that barriers placed to renewable energy adoption are now entirely political and policy related from this point forward. Thus, we are in the midst of an ugly era in which the corporate fossil fuel special interests seem to use every dirty trick at their disposal to maintain their hold over markets, consumers, and governments.

It’s going to be tough, rough fight. But with climate change howling in the wings, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

 

 

“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” Romney Attacks GM in Final Days of Election; GM Defends Record From Romney Lies, Calls Them ‘Fantasy’

Before we get into the new morass of mud and muck dredged up by the Romney campaign and slung at the US auto industry, it’s important to establish a few facts. This effort is useful as the Romney campaign, with its almost daily distortions and flip-flops, has been the most fact-free bid for the Presidency of any election cycle in modern memory. Romney’s most recent smear campaign, waged against the US auto industry and, by extension, American workers, is just the newest in a daily stream of distortions, gimmicks, smears, and attempts to terrorize the US electorate.

First, in an op-ed to the New York Times entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Mitt Romney, in his opening sentence, stated:

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.

Coming into office and facing the worst economic decline since the Great Depression left behind by the Bush Administration, President Obama decided to act to save over 2 million American jobs by directly supporting the auto industry bailout. Though far less expensive than the TARP program to bail out the US financial sector, the auto bailout provided much more direct support to the US middle class by ensuring that auto industry and supply chain jobs were not lost and that key US industries did not collapse. Conservatives of every stripe immediately howled that such government intervention would result in an US auto industry ‘doomsday.’ And Mitt Romney added his voice to those claiming US automakers would fail if they accepted government assistance during the worst of times.

As the years passed, Mitt Romney and conservatives have been proven drastically wrong. The US auto industry has recovered. GM is again the number 1 seller of automobiles in the world. And the industry is in the process of adding US jobs and repatriating jobs from overseas. This dramatic success belies republican and Romney drama to the contrary. It shows that the leadership role Obama took to save the US auto industry is now beginning to pay off. And, most glaringly, it shows the deep, systemic, failure of the current, rigid republican economic ideology.

Meanwhile, the corporation Romney built — Bain Capital — is now preparing to dismantle a factory that manufactures sensors for the auto industry in Freeport Illinois and ship their jobs overseas. Nearly 200 workers at the Sensata factory which Bain bought-out will find their jobs outsourced to China before the end of this year. This is a result of the outsourcing and off-shoring legacy that Romney pioneered while head of Bain Capital. (See more about Sensata here.)

This dual narrative of Obama’s leadership and success combined with Romney still profiting from liquidating US factories and sending the jobs overseas has had devastating effect for Romney in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who know all too well how damaging outsourcing and off-shoring have been to their economies. Loss of critical factories like the one at Sensata has resulted in the gutting of entire communities. Whole neighborhoods in Detroit are now ghost towns as a result of the kind of outsourcing Mitt Romney pioneered at Bain Capital. Some of these lost jobs may never come back, captured by 99 cent an hour Chinese workers and a country that is unwilling to establish laws to protect its own people from the abuses of vulture capitalists like Romney. China may as well have foisted a sign emblazoned ‘Robber Barons R’ Us.’ And, Romney, among many others, came flocking to exploit the slave wage labor there by dismantling US factories and sending them overseas.

Perhaps too late, Romney has realized how damaging these methods of employing equities firms and off-shoring practices to accumulate personal profit have become. But the realization appears to have now stuck with a vengeance. And, in typical Romney fashion, Romney is now waging a media campaign against the very business Obama was so successful in saving and that, since late 2009, has directly added thousands of US jobs.

The Romney campaign is now running a malicious and false advertisement claiming that Jeep plans to ship US jobs overseas to China. The ad comes as Jeep revealed plans to build two manufacturing plants in China over the coming years. But, contrary to Romney’s false assertion, Jeep’s China expansion is not coming at the cost of any US manufacturing. Unlike Romney’s Sensata, no Jeep facilities are being shut down. No workers are being forced to train their Chinese replacements, as Romney’s Bain is forcing Sensata workers to do so. In fact, Jeep and GM have pledged to take profits from the Chinese operation and use it to create more jobs in the US. It’s almost the exact reverse of the Romney model. Call it in-sourcing, or re-sourcing, or repatriating, or even re-shoring. But it’s definitely not the Romney/Bain model for outsourcing and off-shoring.

Since late 2009, Jeep alone has added over 4600 US jobs, showing, in fact, that Romney’s claims are patently false.

GM was quick to defend its record from Romney’s false attacks:

“We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said. “No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.”

Crysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in an email to employees refuted Romney’s claims by simply laying out the facts:

“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne stated in the e-mail. “The numbers tell the story,” followed by specific investments Chrysler has made in Detroit, Toledo and Belvidere, Ill. “Those include more than $1.7 billion to produce the successor of the Jeep Liberty and hire about 1,100 workers on a second shift by 2013.”

The additional 1100 jobs are on top of the 4600 jobs Jeep has already added. In contrast, Romney’s Bain will, in the next couple months, send another 200 jobs to China. So the contrast couldn’t be more stark.

And the media is starting to pick up on Romney’s egregious assault of lies against the US auto industry and US workers. The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently called the Romney advertisements attacking the auto industry ‘economic terrorism.’ The Detroit Free Press has published this in-depth piece exposing Romney’s false claims. The conservative-leaning US News and World Report posted an analysis showing how the US auto expansion in China was helping to support jobs expansion at home. And FactCheck.org labeled Romney’s recent advertising blitz “flat wrong” stating:

“It’s misleading to suggest that Chrysler’s decision to expand into China will cost U.S. jobs — especially after the company has said it would have no impact on its U.S. operations.”

The fact-checking website noted a report from Bloomberg that Chrysler was considering “adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.” Meanwhile Chrysler, in a dramatic refutation of Romney’s doomsday prediction for the US auto industry, just reported a third quarter profit of $381 million, up 80 percent from a year ago.

It seems likely that the Romney misinformation machine may have just bitten off more than it can chew. Considering the wide-ranging backlash taking shape from both the US auto industry and the broader media, it appears that Romney’s false attacks against GM and Jeep are about to erupt in his face. The US auto industry is firmly on its path to recovery, with each new report showing positive results. Further, the US auto industry is in the process of adding thousands of jobs here in America. Both of these points prove Romney dramatically wrong. Wrong in his ‘Let Detroit go Bankrupt’ op-ed and wrong now. Finally, these attacks only serve to call attention to Romney’s own record of sending US jobs overseas, the most recent example of which is Sensata.

Links:

http://www.freep.com/article/20121031/NEWS15/310310091/GM-and-Chrysler-Romney-is-wrong

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html?_r=0

http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2012/10/31/gm-on-romney-campaign-politics-at-its-cynical-worst/

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/rick-newman/2012/10/31/memo-to-mitt-romney-gms-success-in-china-is-good-for-america

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-34222_162-57542993/gm-like-chrysler-refutes-romneys-auto-industry-ad/

http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/gm-aide-romney-ads-part-of-parallel-universe-147753.html

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/10/30/GM-Gap-between-Romney-ad-and-reality/UPI-56761351637557/

Presidential Debate Round #2: The 47%, 8 Trillion Arithmetic, A Binder Full of Women and an “Act of Terror”

Binders and fact checks and smears oh my!

Last night’s Presidential debate, round #2 of 3, was nothing like the first. A fiery and compassionate Obama took firm command of the forum from the start and, with few exceptions, dominated the debate with clarity and candor. In direct contrast, Mitt Romney seemed lost in a tangle of the misinformation web he’d spun for himself.

47% vs the Outsourcing Pioneer

Obama set the tone by immediately calling Romney out for his 47% remarks, illustrating clearly that character is what you are in the dark or, in this case, what you are in a locked room full of millionaires and billionaires. He also returned frequently to the subject of outsourcing, rightly labeling Romney an ‘outsourcing pioneer’ and alluding to the offshoring activities Romney first innovated at Bain Capital. Activities the company Romney founded is continuing to implement (see Sensata).

Sketchy 8 Trillion Arithmetic

Obama also was quick to hold Romney accountable for the tax policy his campaign website says he’s running to implement. During the debate, Romney frequently denied the assertion that his tax cut would cut rates for top earners. Almost as frequently, he said that he wants to lower rates on the middle class. These debate ‘faux pas’ (nice word for lies) directly contradict information put out by his own campaign which still states Romney seeks an across the board 20% tax cut, including a very large and lucrative cut for top earners and very small and piddly cuts for the middle class.

Obama, rightly, ignored Romney’s false claims and continued to debate based on the facts, rather than attempt to muddle around in the smoke Romney was producing in prodigious quantities all evening long. Obama re-asserted the Arithmetic showing how Romney’s across the board cuts, when combined with a 2 trillion increase in defense spending and a 1 trillion dollar extension of the Bush tax cut f0r the wealthy, would blow another 8 Trillion dollar hole in the deficit on top of the debt already piling up from the lingering remains of Bush’s failed policies. (Failed policies the republican Congress has continued to enforce through its vow to Grover Norquist never to repeal.)

Binder Full of Women

In perhaps the most bizarre exchange of the night, Romney, when asked about how he would help women gain a more equal footing in the workplace, hearkened back to a time when his management team had no women. In his, disproven by facts, anecdote, Romney claimed he produced a ‘binder full of women’ from which to select female candidates for positions in the management staff which, Romney admitted, was largely composed of men. Reaction to this comment from women has been shrill and this particular Romneyism seemed to especially grate against the sensibilities of most women who rightly felt subtly insulted and objectified.

What is interesting to note about this particular Mitt-tale is the fact that the ‘binder’ he refers to was produced by a political organization called Mass-GAP which noted the dearth of women holding leadership positions in Massachusetts. So Romney wasn’t responsible for the recommendations of these women, it was produced by a political organization concerned about the lack of women in leadership. However, to Romney’s credit, he did appoint women from the Mass-GAP list so that fully 42% of the positions held at the start of his administration were women filled. But the story doesn’t end here. Romney apparently only filled positions which he thought were unimportant with people from the Mass-GAP program. In addition, the number of women holding positions within Massachusetts government, overall, declined by 3% during the time that Romney served. Hardly a stunning record of someone attempting to appear to care for women’s jobs.

What was most glaring, however, was his failure to mention the Fair Pay Act and, instead, rely on a mostly untrue and bumbling anecdote. I would venture a guess that women aren’t as concerned about a President picking women from a binder for cabinet positions as they are about equal access to jobs and access to a fair compensation at work. And though representation in the cabinet is important (Obama has appointed many women to these positions including political rival Hillary), what is more important is that those visible values fill out in larger society.

Obama noted he supported The Fair Pay Act and spoke for minutes passionately about the role of women in all aspects of American life. No binders. Just  policies to help women. Even more importantly, Obama alluded to women’s rights which would likely come under fire during a Romney Administration. Two Supreme Court justices and a VP nominee who has lead a crusade in Congress to overturn Roe could very well spell an end to women’s reproductive rights in our country. In addition, Obama pointed out that Romney’s past statements about ‘ending Planned Parenthood’ was another assault on women’s freedoms and access to family planning services. To this point Obama rightly noted that it’s not just about women, it’s about families too, a point that appeared lost on Romney.

The ‘Act of Terror’

Perhaps the most poignant event in the debate occurred when Romney began to assert that Obama had failed to identify the Libya attacks as a terrorist incident. This line of attack follows the presumptuous rhetoric that republicans and Romney have followed ever since the Benghazi Consulate was over-run. The day after the attacks, Romney held a press conference accusing the Obama administration of ‘failures.’ This political capitalism has also included a number of, rather fake, teary eyed speeches about those lost in the attacks. Romney’s overplaying of these speeches has lead family members of deceased security and diplomatic personnel to publicly ask Romney to stop using their family members deaths as political props. And though Romney appears to have toned down the rhetoric on diplomatic service member’s deaths, he has continued to presume that the Obama Administration is entirely responsible and at fault for these attacks, making bald and outrageous assertions before any evidence is produced.

Obama rightly called out Romney for his politicization of American deaths saying in a sharp tone that invoked all the power of the Commander and Chief of US forces: “It is offensive!”

And it is, this smarmy politicking over the deaths of Americans, this failure to stand behind American government’s effort to get to the bottom of the terrorist attacks, and the blatant betrayal of US forces by a party who only seems to care about political gain. But Romney continued up this dark path of demonization and unsupported claims. In his, not the first, allusion to misinformation produced by Fox News, Romney glommed onto the false claim that the Obama Administration didn’t recognize the Benghazi incident as a terrorist attack until two weeks afterward.

In reply to this skewed claim, Obama noted that he held a speech in the Rose Garden about the attacks, claiming that he stated ‘no act of terror would go unpunished.’ Romney refuted the President directly, saying the President said no such thing. Crowley, who appeared to be well prepared to deal with the issues in this debate, had a transcript of the President’s speech on hand and confirmed, to audience applause, that the President had indeed said what he claimed and that Romney was making an incorrect assertion.

Revelation of the Least Truthful Presidential Bid in Modern Memory

This direct fact-checking of Romney’s false statements and visible deconstruction of his entirely political and self-serving rhetoric seemed to crystallize the public’s view of Romney last night. Romney has been accused on all fronts, from Newt Gingrich to Ron Paul, from Rick Perry to Rick Santorum and, finally, to Obama himself, as running a dishonest campaign. He has visibly contradicted himself and changed positions on key policies time and time again. His campaign staff famously labeled this tactic ‘etch e sketch.’ And the informed public seems to view what Romney says as general ‘malarkey.’

But the malarkey reached a new level of ugliness when Romney began to make up stories about diplomatic security forces in Benghazi and official US response to attacks there. His self-serving rhetoric directly harmed the families involved even as it undermined ongoing government efforts to determine the attacks’ cause, reduce risk of future attacks, and care for the bereaved families of those who were lost. Further, republican efforts to de-fund diplomatic security were entirely off the radar as Romney and republicans used every trick in their attempt to turn the Benghazi attacks into a political silver bullet aimed at the President.

This ‘ugly lie’ grew and took a life of its own. Endlessly parroted by right wing outlets, the political right engaged in a war of words to degrade and denigrate US diplomatic forces. And this act and abetment by a politician running for the highest political office in the land is unforgivable.

What we witnessed last night was the unraveling of that extraordinarily damaging lie. This event is likely to send deep fractures through the Romney campaign, through the republican party itself, and to those billionaires, like the Kochs and the Murdochs, who have done so much harm to the American people. It is not the end to their ‘Castle in the Sand’ empires, but it may well be a sign of the start of their disintegration. (The final blows will come from the rising tide of climate change itself, but that is a subject for another article).

Closing Statement: The Eloquence of Obama Returns

At the end of a debate that, often, seemed to balance on the edge of a knife, Obama reclaimed his oratory eloquence to deliver this impassioned final appeal to the American people.

Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this nation that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer.

That’s not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known.

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy’s grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class.

And — and that is part of what’s at stake in this election. There’s a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.

I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.

Folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.

Links:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/2012-presidential-debate-full-transcript-oct-16/story?id=17493848&page=11#.UH75A4ZWIfw

http://blog.thephoenix.com/BLOGS/talkingpolitics/archive/2012/10/16/mind-the-binder.aspx

Romney, in Apology Tour of Lies, Seeks to Profit Politically From Harm to Americans

Ever since extremist-perpetrated attacks on US Embassies in the Middle East began, Romney has endlessly accused Obama of ‘apologizing for America.’ And despite every fact-checker across the political spectrum calling Romney a ‘liar, liar, pants on fire,’ he has continued to repeat this false statement over and over again.

The irresponsibility of Romney’s use of harm and danger to Americans as a political football is difficult to over-emphasize. Political adults, left and right, set aside partisan bickering to present a united front to America’s enemies at a time of national crisis, and especially during a time when war-like violence is being waged against America’s citizens abroad. The reason for presenting a unified front to our enemies is that it serves to deter further assault. It shows that we are resolved. That we will not back down. That we are not divided one against the other and, therefore, easy to take advantage of as a nation.

Romney has decidedly failed in this most basic act of patriotism. And in doing so, he empowers our enemies.

So far, at least nine Americans have been killed in this rash of unconscionable violence. We will never know how many of the attackers felt empowered by the fact that a man who could be President stood apart from those condemning the violence and instead leveled a rhetorical assault against our Commander-in-Chief. We will never know how much the crisis has been enflamed by his verbal attacks. Nor will we know how much damage he has done to the institution of the President and of national defense in his failure to behave responsibly.

Had his political attacks been true, there could, at least, be a shred of excuse for Romney’s vicious assault on US foreign policy. But Romney, in a propagandist and vitriolic manner has endlessly repeated a lie. Only in Romney’s insane political conversation with an invisible Obama in an empty chair has Obama apologized for America. Only Romney’s imaginary straw-man Obama which is as unreal as Romney’s sense of how to employ political speech to defend American interests or to defuse dangerous situations abroad. Yet now, the image grows even darker. For the empty seat Romney hurls his insults at may well harbor the ghost of an American diplomat.

If Romney were a soldier he would be placed under arrest for insubordination and risking the safety of the unit during a time of war. Instead, Romney plays the part of a chicken-hawk politician who, in a far safer position than any of the brave diplomats at these Middle Eastern embassies, imagines himself to possess a knowledge of foreign policy as great as a whale compared to its ant actuality.

And so he blunders about in a fierce, horrible, Godzilla-like fashion, leaving in his wake a bizarre and grotesque wreckage. And so his loose-cannon antics do their damage without a shred of accountability or repercussion.

During the writing of this blog, two more Americans have died. Two more American lives lost amounting to nothing more than a political tool for Romney’s personal advancement. As Americans we should not allow such crass and heartless political profiteering to the detriment of national security. As Americans we should not stand by and let a person of such high position use the national narrative and the political process for such a hollow personal gain. As Americans we should not stand by as Romney turns the deaths of Americans into a bloody political football.

Please join me in signing this petition to Stop Romney’s Apology Tour of Lies.

Halt the nonsense. Stand aside. And give America’s foreign policy and national security professionals a chance to do their work.

Are We Better Off Today? 2008 vs 2012

The best customer for American industry is the well-paid worker. — FDR

Some of the choices that we make are going to be difficult, and I have said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not going to be quick and it’s not going to be easy… — Barack Obama, First Press Conference, 2009

At the end of 2008, after years of failed policies, after two unpaid for wars, after deregulation left the financial markets to their own irresponsible devices, America was suffering from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Today, after 29 consecutive months of jobs growth, after a restoration of the credit markets, after an American automobile industry that has not only been revived, but experienced a renaissance, an America enjoying a revitalized stock market restrained from the worst excesses of greed is now on its feet and in fighting form.

The difference between 2008 and 2012 is the difference between economic devastation and a reason for economic hope.

These disparate situations did not evolve from one to the other in a vacuum. The failed policies that led to the Great Recession were replaced by the successful policies that resulted in an America back on her feet. Dodd Frank reigned in the worst Wall Street excesses. Sound banking policy reinvigorated the credit markets. The Stimulus provided states and communities with much-needed funds during the recession’s darkest days. The first unpaid for war was ended and the second is drawing to a close. GM, which Romney had said should be allowed to go bankrupt, is now the most successful automaker in the world. A vast raft of energy polices pushed by Obama resulted in plummeting US oil imports, increased efficiency, and increased domestic energy production. The alternative energy sources of the future have doubled their production. And the US is producing automobiles like the Chevy Volt which, combined with the renaissance in alternative energy technologies,  give reason to hope for achieving both energy independence and climate security.

In short, Barack Obama gave America back her shot at a good future. Her potential. Her ability to face adversity and overcome it. For a certainty, he did not satisfy everyone’s greatest hopes and expectations. But what he delivered was a stunning and marked improvement over the terrible harm that came to us during the Bush Administration. And this transformation was achieved in a short time. Only four years were needed. It could well be argued that Obama has done the impossible.

Looking around the world, it becomes even more clear that America’s position is vastly improved. Europe is teetering at the edge of recession, China is losing its grip on manufacturing supremacy, and the world is suffering under a brutal regime of increasing food and fuel prices. To achieve any economic growth in such an environment, in the face of such stiff competition, would be a sign of virtuoso, of expertise, of strong leadership. And Barack Obama has certainly delivered.

Even our standing in the world, which was wretched under Bush, has improved. Many nations trust us again, believe that America is again a positive force in the world. Our trade situation, though still difficult, has continued to improve. On the national security front, we have gracefully disengaged from Iraq and have reasonable hope to do the same in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is no longer a threat and Al Qaeda is disorganized, dispersed, and demoralized. The Libyan conflict was handled in a manner that preserved both national treasure and resulted in a positive outcome.

Obama has earned success after success and at every turn, he has been forced to fight against Americans who should have aided him. The Republican Congress, whose policies Obama often adopted, had moved to obstruct Obama at every opportunity. ‘No compromise’ is an understatement to describe the situation Obama was forced to deal with. Never in America has such a level of obstructionism been faced by a standing President. Every single policy measure Obama put forward was demonized even as he was attacked for the responsible act of working for solutions. It would seem that republicans would rather Obama have done nothing. Or had simply re-applied the failed policies that Bush used. The same policies that wrecked the economy in the first place.

The Republican leader of the Senate claimed his number one priority was to make certain Obama didn’t get re-elected. And what proceeded from the Republican sectors of Congress could best be described as willful sabotage. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Republican vendetta against Obama had only been personal. But what started as personal attacks quickly evolved into an assault on America’s prosperity.

The current vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who sat on the critical Simpson Bowles deficit reduction committee, turned his back on Republican deficit reduction policy in order to fight all efforts offered by the President for long-term deficit reduction, no matter how many concessions to Republicans those proposals contained. And, at the height of hypocrisy, Ryan blamed Obama for the failure of Simpson Bowles when Ryan, himself, lobbied Republicans in Congress to vote against the deficit reduction plan. In short, Ryan killed American deficit reduction policy and then attempted to blame Obama. As such, Ryan is the very face of Republican sabotage and obstructionism.

What makes Ryan’s and Republican efforts to sabotage Simpson Bowles so bad isn’t that it hurt Obama. It hurt the American people. It put off the hard work of dealing with the national debt and forced a historic down-grade in the United States credit rating. The result is that the cost of debt increases and this is a devastating long-term harm to taxpayers and to effective government. It results in more wealth being sucked out of the United States and going to creditors both private and foreign.

Republicans seem to love to talk about the need for deficit reduction. But, in practice, both as Presidents and as legislators, they have been terrible at enacting effective deficit reduction policy. Instead, they hand tax cuts to the wealthy, pick more wars than they can afford, and spend like drunken sailors. When money is tight, Republicans, instead of asking for more from the most powerful and privileged members of society, instead turn to prey on the weak, destitute, and voiceless. Medicare and Social Security will be the next programs to be gutted by the Republican’s irresponsible taxation, spending, and war-fighting policies — should they again see power.

Ryan’s own attempt to worsen the deficit crisis in order to harm a sitting President, however, is a vast, destructive, irresponsible and narcissistic misuse of power. It is another departure from effective leadership. A departure that is just one more phase in a long and devastating trend among Republicans in government.

But despite having to fight against an entire wing of US government willing to sabotage US economic security in order to pander to wealthy backers, for the soul cause of gaining power, of winning elections, Obama has still managed to achieve amazing success. He has been able to transcend partisan bickering and reach beyond a barricade of petty personal attacks to lend a helping hand to broad sections of America. The fact that America is now standing, not bleeding on the floor as she was in 2008, is proof enough of that.

America is certainly far better off. But, sadly, she is still afflicted by an ancient brand of greed and short-sightedness that appears to have entirely devoured the Republican party. And so long as that harmful philosophy — not that of enterprise and innovation, not that of freedom, which should be a virtue enjoyed equally by all — but that of dominance, hoarding, and the endless gathering of wealth and power by fewer and fewer ‘privileged’ individuals. So long as that devastating philosophy afflicts us, we will continue to experience danger.

So we must stand up. So we must help the President who has done so much in his efforts to help us. So we must do our best to make certain that the failed policies and ways of thinking that wrecked America in the first place, that are inhibiting our progress even now, that are attempting to hold America’s very success as a hostage, do not regain hold of our great democracy.

We have seen that dark road. We have walked it long enough. We do not wish to return to the debacle that was 2008.

The Republicans Turned Obama into an Invisible Man; And Now You Can Follow Him on Twitter

Perhaps the most bizarre event at this week’s republican convention was Clint Eastwood’s surprise speech. The supposed republican ace in the hole. Their coupe de gras. Their outflanking maneuver to send the democrats running.

Yet this speech was both far more and far less than what they intended. Instead of sending democrats running in route, the surprise speech was, instead, a self-inflicted wound. And the speech was nothing short of surprising. It included, among other things, a down-talking ramble to an invisible Obama sitting in a chair on stage.

Clint asked the invisible, mute, captive Obama a number of off-color and degrading questions. It was a sort of odd massacre of beat-nick humor, stand-up comedy, acrid politics, and ad-lib all recast to appeal to the narrow persuasions of the Republican Convention audience.

Clint’s invention of the invisible Obama is like an odd melding of the sock puppet, the effigy, and the straw man. All are tools that republicans would be familiar with. The first being the oft-seen anonymous troll in political chat rooms who seems to endlessly spout, line-for-line and without deviation the most recently packaged set of republican misinformation. In this case, however, the sock puppet was produced to serve as an object of mockery. A mental outcast of Clint Eastwood and a reflection of republicans deep denigration of Obama.

As such, Invisible Obama absorbed the painted faces held aloft by tea party supporters, becoming a form of grotesque mental effigy that accurately portrayed the cognitive dissonance projected by a party motivated by disdain, increasingly disconnected from reality. Which brings us full circle to the ‘straw man.’ Poor invisible Obama was just an empty chair erected to contain all the fallacious arguments Clint or other republicans might dream up to throw at an imaginary object. One with no ability to respond to the oft-tossed barb.

In short, Invisible Obama is the dream opponent for republicans. He conforms to all their darkest fantasies. He doesn’t talk back. He looks as scarey as they can imagine in their most horrifying nightmares. And, last of all, he doesn’t respond. He is their invisible, mute, derided, painted punching bag.

But the deepest irony of Invisible Obama is an unintentional channeling of the seminal literary masterpiece by Ralph Ellison. The Invisible Man is a story about a man robbed of identity by an adversarial culture. A man whose achievements, brilliance, and talents go unrecognized. A man forced to live like a troglodyte, underground.

A more perfect allegory to what republicans have attempted to do to Obama could not have been crafted by the political and literary geniuses of our time. It took Clint Eastwood to tell the truth. To summarize for us all the detractions of Obama’s critical achievements, to reveal for us their downplaying of his eloquence, to unmask their denial of his sound and solid leadership. First they character assassinated him. Now they turn him into a wraith whom they exhibit, circus-like at their convention.

It took Clint Eastwood to unintentionally part the curtain on the republican psyche and reveal for us its ugly, bizarre and repressive inner workings. It took Clint Eastwood to show that the man republicans are running against isn’t our president at all, that it is, instead, a mute, invisible, hated contrivance. A Gollum-like creature enslaved, corrupted, and made permanently invisible. A fantasy foe for a party that can’t quite come to terms with the reality of Obama our President.

But perhaps the republicans have unintentionally invented something worthwhile here. Worthwhile at least in the way The Onion may find worthwhile. An Invisible Obama does have a certain appeal as parody of the republican psyche. As a revelation of their fears, racism, narrow-mindedness, and great lack of capacity to handle change. And, for this reason, it is likely that Invisible Obama has received over 45,000 followers on Twitter.

Romney Launches Hate Campaign Speech to Distract From Ryan’s Attempts to Kill Medicare, His Own Attempts to Dodge Accountability on Tax Returns

Today Mitt Romney launched a vitriolic campaign of attacks on President Obama unprecedented in Presidential politics. At a campaign speech in Ohio, Romney stated:

“Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.”

Romney’s accusation is as vicious as it is patently false, especially when it’s leveled against a President who has been the object of right wing hatred and its many manifestations: birtherism, Obama accused of being a Stalinist, the proliferation of Obama targets for the rifle range, and the endless parade of Obama faces painted up as a scary clown.

To the contrary, Obama and Democrats have only leveled legitimate criticism of Romney and Ryan. Why is Romney hiding his tax returns? Why does Romney ship his money overseas? Why did Romney outsource key middle class jobs to China during his tenure at Bain? Why did Romney support Romneycare then and oppose it now? Why did Ryan submit a budget plan that kills Medicare and gives the largess over to the wealthy? And why is Ryan lying about Obama de-funding Medicare when Obama extended the lifespan of Medicare by over a decade, cut costs to seniors, and made healthcare providers grant more of their profits for actually taking care of people?

But perhaps Ryan believes that making providers and insurance companies shift some of their profits to care is a ‘Medicare cut?’ I suppose a corporate CEO like Romney, one trained to squeeze as much profit as possible out of workers and customers, would see things this way. But what about the rest of the American people? Does Romney care a whit about them? Did he while he was shipping jobs overseas at Bain?

These are legitimate political questions to which the Romney and Ryan campaign appears to have no solid answer. And Obama has been right to continue to raise questions about these key issues, critical, in fact, to an economy in dire need of recovery and an end to Republican obstructionism and doubling down on policies that only benefit the wealthy and not the rest of America.

So it is understandable, perhaps, given the twisted, misleading, untrue, and convoluted logic of their campaign, that Romney is dearly wanting for a distraction.

But one wonders about his judgement in shifting so immediately to hatred. One wonders what is his fascination with the word, so vitriolic to many of his republican followers, who so recently slavered over Glenn Beck’s fantasy of poisoning Nancy Pelosi when Beck still had his show on Fox?

And this brings me to a very valid concern. Is Romney trying to incite violence? The word hatred itself is something that shouldn’t be used as part of a Presidential speech. The word itself is overly incendiary and shows Romney’s own deep lack of responsibility to the American public. So why is he using the word? This word. This terrible word. Why?

This is another issue for which Romney should be held to accounts. Why must he lean on hatred?

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Seven Dark Truths About High Gas Prices

Over the past few weeks, politicians have made much hay over high gas prices. Republicans blamed Obama. Obama fired back. And much misinformation flew back and forth. The sad truth is that there are a number of hard realities keeping prices high and the only viable solution is weaning ourselves off of oil over time.

Truth #1 Conventional Crude Oil Peaked in 2004                                                                              

In 2004, production of the stuff we all think of as oil peaked. It topped off at around 70 million barrels per day. And since that time, no matter how much prices increased, conventional crude oil would not significantly exceed 70 million barrels per day. It is a sad fact that the world has struggled to increase crude oil production and failed. $100 oil is proof enough of that.

Truth #2 Increases in Production Have Come From Fuels That Aren’t Oil                                                   

There are many fuels called oil that really aren’t. They include: condensate, natural gas liquids, tar sands oil, oil shale, and bio-fuels. Condensate is a product of gases turned to liquids during the refining process. Natural gas liquids are condensed from wet gasses. Tar sands and oil shales are low energy fuels that have been enriched through a process called hydrogenation. And bio-fuels are liquid fuels interchangeable with oil but produced from crops.

The total production of all these fuels is now more than 18 million barrels per day. All are less energy dense than traditional oil. Most of them cost more to produce. In short, these fuels are simply less economical. This lack of economy makes them more costly, harder to access, and less useful. For example, tar sands cost between 50-60 dollars per barrel to produce. And this increased cost pushes up the overall cost of oil by setting a bottom on prices equal to the cost of the most expensive fuel produced. The reason these new fuels put a bottom on prices is that this marginal oil won’t be produced for very long if prices fall below the cost of production.

Of these 18 million barrels of non-oil, 2.5 million barrels come from tar sands and 2 million barrels come from bio-fuels that require oil to remain in a price range of 50 dollars per barrel or more. These high costs, in turn, push up the price of oil.

Truth #3 Depletion is Increasing the Cost of Crude Production       

Returning to conventional crude, it’s important to note that the cost of production is rising for it as well. The reason is that most of the new crude comes from special wells that require enhanced oil extraction techniques. One example of enhanced extraction is oil fracking. Fracking breaks rock in order to liberate both oil and gas. And the fracturing techniques require more expensive machinery, chemicals and water which increases the cost of production. With oil fracturing, the price of oil needs to also stay above about 50 dollars per barrel. New oil derived from fracking represents about 1.5 million barrels per day. So this flow of oil is also putting a bottom on prices.

Truth #4 World Oil Exports are Declining 

As oil exporting countries make economic gains by selling their costly product, economic activity along with oil consumption in-country increases. This results in net losses in the amount of oil available for export. Among top oil exporters Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Mexico, and Norway, exports are going down. Other countries who were once exporters, including the UK and Indonesia, have now turned into net oil importers. Reduced flows of exports means less oil is sloshing around in a world full of buyers. So demand, long-term, is increasing while supply, long-term, is going down.

Truth #5 Speculators Matter                                                                                                             

Recent estimates from economists indicate that speculators have pushed up oil prices enough to increase the cost of gasoline by 50 cents per gallon. Speculators trade in paper barrels of oil and manipulate floating stocks to increase costs and profit at the margin. That said, unless oil markets were tight, speculators wouldn’t have this ‘opportunity.’ Oil scarcity and fear keep the speculators preying on high prices by making the cost of oil and, therefore, gas even higher.

Truth #6 Current High Prices are Supported By Fear                                                                                      

Recent fears that Iran will mine the Persian Gulf and use military force in an attempt to close the Straights of Hormuz have helped to keep oil prices above $105 per barrel in the US. Currently, fear is probably pushing the price of oil up by about ten or fifteen dollars per barrel. Likely, without such a geopolitical constraint on oil, prices would fall to the low 90s as 100+ dollar per barrel oil has caused demand destruction in various markets worldwide over the past year.

Truth #7: 80 million New Cars are Produced Each Year                                                                                    

There are more than one billion automobiles in this world. And each year one is produced for every person born. These vehicles require energy to operate and the vast majority of them require oil. This reality places a very high demand on depleting oil. The only way to curtail this demand and still rely on oil is to, at times of scarcity and high price, reduce the amount of driving. The result in this reduction is a curtailment in economic activity resulting in slower growth or recession. So you have tightening, more difficult to access supply pushing directly against rapidly increasing demand in the form of a broad swath of new vehicles and machines produced each year.

Prognosis: Without Alternatives, Increased Efficiency Oil Prices Will Keep Rising Long Term                        

The combined realities of a plateau in conventional crude oil, the increased cost of producing new oil, rapid depletion in existing oil fields, and the contentious geopolitics of oil mean that over the long-term oil prices will continue to rise or remain high. The only way out of this depletion price trap is to drastically increase efficiency and to shift vehicle, machine, and industrial systems to fuels that are not depleting, preferably alternative fuels and renewable energy. These changes require long-term efforts and large investments. The alternative pushed by political forces aligned with the oil industry — relying only on increased drilling — is a short-term fix that will only more rapidly deplete the remaining, meager and difficult to access stores of oil.

 

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