August 08, 2015

Vacation! With start-up glitches! (and updates)

I'm off on my first real vacation in more than three years. Because spammers, years ago, led me to put even this small blog, in terms of readership on moderation for comments, and because I'll probably be "unplugged" a fair amount of the time, my apologies if you don't see a comment go up right away.

Unfortunately, it's gotten off to a fucked-up start. Southworst had to scrub a plane and find another for my flight out of Houston. That, in turn meant I missed my rental car pickup, and Dollar shuts in Albuquerque at 11:30 p.m. Yeah, they'll hold it, I've been told, and I can get it ASAP Saturday, but, that doesn't feed the bulldog who already wanted to be on the road.

I guess on the car, I should have noticed, via Priceline, that Dollar closed relatively early. That said, none of the rental companies here are open after 1 a.m., and by the time I got my checked bags and got shuttled out there, I would have, at a minimum, been cutting it very close for comfort.

Update, Aug. 9: Things are better as of Sunday afternoon. I'm at a local coffee house in Durango, after hiking Chaco Canyon during the day on Saturday, then speding time with my brother in Farmington on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I'll do some putz-around hiking at Canyon of the Ancients on my way out to Canyonlands, then head back over into Colorado.

Update, Aug. 12: Canyonlands was nice, though I deplore removing trail mileage figures from the latest trifolds, and worse, apparently putting at least one new cellphone tower in or near the Needles, and removing the old big-ass sign that warned that cellphones basically didn't work inside the park.

I did get some great (I think) astrophotography pix at both there and arches.

Right now, I'm in Boulder, Colorado, recharging camera battery as well as being online. The pix, at 3200 or 6400 ISO, at 15-30 secs, suck up a lot of juice.

But, I'll shoot some tonight, too, at Rocky Mtn. National Park, as part of the first night of Perseid meteor showers!

I'll have pix and thoughts from the Desert Southwest when I get back. I hope.

August 06, 2015

#ClimateChange and tree health — a vicious circle

Turns out that trees that fight the effects of drought rather than going with the flow may come out ahead in the immediacy but struggle in the next few years after that.

The effect is most noticeable in already arid climates. We're looking at you, Colorado Plateau and Desert Southwest:
Scientific models of the global carbon cycle –  which are important for projecting climate change – don't account for this slow-down in growth. "The models assume there is no lag, so as soon as climate is better, so is growth," says Nate McDowell, who researches the physiology of tree death at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. That means that models may overestimate the ability of ecosystems to store carbon – and underestimate the severity of future climate change. 
If droughts do become more frequent and severe, (forest ecologist Bill Andregg) says, as climate models predict, "this suggests that more forests are going to spend more and more of their time recovering, and become less good at taking up carbon."Anderegg estimates that in Southwestern forests, the lag could amount to a 3 percent reduction in their carbon storage over a century. That may not sound like much, but when it comes to squirreling away the emissions we stubbornly keep spewing, we need all the help we can get. 
 And, of course, we know that the Southwest is headed for a period of long-term drought, as well as global warming. Given that aspens "fight" drought a lot, by opening their stoma, and that they're less resistant to the effects of doing this than are juniper, 40 years from now, a lot of Rocky Mountain hillsides are doing to be aspen-denuded.

And, otherwise, Andregg is right. It's working at the margins, but 3 percent is 3 percent.

#Hiroshima: 70 years ago today — reality vs. inaccurate revisionism

Contra some nuclear apologists of both years past and today, yes, nuclear weapons are, to some degree, qualitatively different than other so-called "conventional" arms.

Are they different from others in the class of what once was more neutrally called ABC weapons, for Atomic, Biological and Chemical, or what is today called, with emotional edge, "weapons of mass destruction"?

I think not.

Yes, radiation sickness and cancers killed people years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And pneumonia and other pulmonary illnesses killed World War I veterans who hadn't gotten their gas masks on in time for years and years later, too.

As for the immorality in general?

Sorry, but the cadre of left-liberals who says we should never have dropped either bomb at all, like Gar Alperowitz, or yesterday, Christian Appy?

No, they don't leave me cold, they leave me angry. Because they're simply not correct, and not telling the truth. (And, people, don't claim I haven't read this stuff; I read Alperowitz's whole book.)

First, a sidebar. I have not said, and do not say, the bombings were "justified." Philosophy minded friends of mine in general should take note that I generally reject the use of that word period, based largely on Walter Kaufmann and his thought-provoking "Without Guilt and Justice," reviewed by me here.

Or, another way to look at Hiroshima is in the words of former Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who called the nuclear bombs the "least bad" option. I think that gets it about right.

First, naval blockade alone wouldn't have hastened the end of the war very much at all. Not even when the Soviet Union jumped in. Yes, that caught Japan off-guard. (It didn't catch them by "surprise"; Japanese leaders ignored that Stalin's lieutenants stopped talking to them after May 8, 1945 and that their neutrality treaty had a 90-day opt-out. Say what you will about Stalin elsewhere, and note that he used those 3 months to refit his European theater veteran units, but he scrupulously waited those 90 days, declared war, and attacked.)

But, Japan could have moved troops from elsewhere in China to Manchuria. Iwo Jima did bring us closer to bombing more of mainland China, to interdict roads and railroads, but, it wouldn't have stopped troop movements, just bollixed them. It could have pulled Unit 731's labs back into Korea, while releasing its terror on Soviet troops had it wanted to do so.

Meanwhile, more and more Japanese troops would have died in fighting in China, Southeast Asia, etc. More and more Chinese and Soviet troops, and American naval and air forces, and army troops in the Philippines, would have died, too.

I've blogged about this issue before; no, the Russkies didn't force an end to the war just by their entry into it.

To the degree a naval blockade might have had partial effect, more and more Japanese civilians would have died of starvation, or hunger-related illnesses. And, more and more would have died from conventional bombing. I've read estimates that, if we blockaded Japan for six months, and cut links between the different Home Islands as part of that, more Japanese would have died from starvation in 1946 than were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

As it was, Japan did not ask for the face-saving Imperial-conditional surrender until after the second bomb at Nagasaki.

AND, AND, AND ...

Hirohito, in his Imperial announcement or rescript, ONLY cited the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs and not the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. (He does mention reaching out to its government, as well as the American and British ones, in seeking peace; that's the only mention of the USSR, and there's not even a hint about its invasion of Manchuria.)

Ward Wilson says that Hirohito DID mention the USSR's war entry, and ignored the Bomb, on a separate rescript Aug. 17.

However, that just illustrates my point. It was for just the troops, not the general public. Given that the Japanese Army had long wanted to fight the Russkies, could be that's why Hirohito told the troops exactly what he did.

Beyond that, historians in general normally mean the rescript of the radio broadcast to the Japanese pubic, the link I first gave. And, I'm pretty sure Ward Wilson knows that.

As for how many, or how few, American or allied lives Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved? To put it in blunt war terms, if ONE life was saved, that was enough.

Unlike Appy, and perhaps a straw man he's creating, I've never claimed the bomb was an act of "mercy." I've long claimed, per the immortal William T. Sherman's "war is hell," that it was an act of realism indeed.

And, speaking of military officers, Chet Nimitz, Ernie King and others at the end of WWII should have read them some Sherman before blanketly opposing the bomb, too.

Maybe this is another way in which Clemenceau is right: "War is too important to be left to the generals."

Or, maybe the brass hats with scrambled eggs said this because, especially with things like the later 1940s tests of blowing up fleets with atomic weapons, they were worried about becoming irrelevant. They clearly exhibited that attitude later on in fights over what service branch would control the military missile program.

And, per this whole issue, this is definitely why I identify myself here as a "skeptical left-liberal."

As for leftists who call Hiroshima a war crime? No, the real war crime was that Hirohito, the man who knew plenty about Unit 731 and the Rape of Nanking at the time they were happening, didn't surrender sooner.

Also re Hirohito? Until late spring of 1945, he hoped to retain all Japanese possessions up to 1920, ie, what it got after World War I. Even up to just before the Soviet intervention, he appeared to hope to retain the Empire as it was in 1905, after the Russo-Japanese War.

August 05, 2015

#VoterID: Greg Abbott sues Obama again, loses again ... and again,

Yes, the former Texas AG, now its governor, has won a few cases here and there, but his "wake up and sue Obama" schtick has lost more than two-thirds of the time and cost the state millions of dollars.

And, it just did again.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals unanimously killed the state's new voter ID law. Details here.

The appeals court reversed plaintiffs' one claim of discriminatory intent and told the district court, which had ruled in their favor, to look again at that issue. It rejected in toto the claim that it was a poll tax, which the district court had ruled it was. Since that ruling, the state had removed fees to obtain some voter-related IDs, so this was the correct ruling there. Overall, yes, per the Morning News, it was a narrow ruling.

But, it said that it did violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Given how conservative the Fifth Circuit is, this has to be considered some sort of win. And it's notable that it specifically mentioned Section 2, the "effects" clause, which that Wikipedia link notes has not had clear rulings by SCOTUS.

However, even if narrow, the Fifth Circuit did indicate it wanted a remedy.

Which means our state's beloved AG, "Kenny Boy" Paxton, upholding the tradition of idiotic Kenny Boys, is just wrong with this news release, which says in part:

“Today’s ruling was a victory on the fundamental question of Texas’ right to protect the integrity of our elections and the state’s common sense Voter ID law remains in effect.”
Uhh, that sentence is totally wrong, at least the primary clause.

Again, the judges said:
We AFFIRM the district court’s finding that SB 14 has a discriminatory effect in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and remand for consideration of the proper remedy.
Period.

That means that it wasn’t a victory. Period.

Hell, even Dan Patrick partially disagrees with Kenny Boy:
“I strongly disagree with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which rejected a portion of that law,” Patrick said in a statement. “Texas’ Voter ID law was passed by the legislature with the intent of preserving the integrity of the voting process. There was never any intention of preventing anyone from voting who is legally qualified to do so.”
Back to you, Kenny Boy.

On the other hand, the Fifth Circuit may be hinting it wants the nation's blind, business-tilting umpire, John Roberts, to make a definitive ruling. However, Wiki notes that SCOTUS, in Mississippi Republican Electoral Opinion vs Brooks, issued a summary judgment that Section 2 is constitutional.

So, stand by.

A Roberts Court could use this as a final gutting of a key portion of the VRA. Or, it could stand aside.

As for remedies? If that's upheld, it's not clear if the state will take any in-depth remedies before 2016's primaries, or even general election. Again, stand by.

Lab meat: Beyond #GMOs, the ultimate #Frankenfood

Regular readers should know my stance on GMOs. I support following the actual science, just like I do on climate change, and like ... well, like a fair amount of Green Party members, other alleged environmentalists, and other New Green Left types don't, as I've blogged clearly before.

That said, if GMOs make you go batshit, even though irradiation-produced Texas grapefruit don't (and I'm going to keep reminding folks that their Ruby Red is produced by radiation), what about meat created in a laboratory?

First, PETA supports it on grounds of reducing animal cruelty, which could split the New Left types.

Second, I support it myself in large part on environmental grounds.

Just like the graph below details.


Now, ardent vegetarians will say: Don't eat meat at all, perhaps. I'd rather face reality, and see if we can't get the price lowered on this further and go from there. Maybe this can even be married to 3-D printer technology at some point.

In any case, even if it can't make filet minion, it could make hamburger/meatballs/sausage level meats. Lunchmeat bologna.

Let's pursue this, and let's get investor money to pursue this. That graph above don't lie.

August 04, 2015

Say it ain't so, Joe (Biden)

"Et tu, Joseph?" Hillary Clinton whispers
Rumor is that Vice President Joe Biden is eyeing a possible 2016 Democratic presidential contest with ever-wider eyes. And, reportedly, with an ever-more-cynical angle to testing the testing of the waters.

That's one reason to "just say no, Joe," or for Democratic primary voters to "just say no to Joe."

Others?

Biden's possible a shade more liberal than Clinton, but no more than that. Among his various political positions, he like her supported the Iraq War. He's not made any separation between himself and his current boss on the Patriot Act. (Would be nice to hear Bernie Sanders talk more about that, too.)

That said, Biden would certainly make the race more lively.

Hillary Clinton comes off as way too buttoned-down.

Bernie Sanders seems like a scolding schoolteacher at times. (And, yes, some may like that, but in general, Americans don't care for that. See "Jimmy Carter, 1980" and "malaise." [And, yes, I know he never used that actual word.])

And Lincoln Chafee feels like a bland former liberal Republican.

Biden's unscriptedness — gaffes and all — would make the race much more fun, and spare the lamestream media from having to play up a Sanders-Clinton "horse race" this early in the contest.

And, if he entered the race, and actually got some traction, I expect we'd see an explosion of both his gaffes, and his unscrupulousness. (Neil Kinnock, anybody?)

Something else Biden would do?

Make Democrats look even more geriatric.

He's 72. Sanders turns 74 in a month. Jim Webb is 69.

Hillary Clinton looks a bit young now at 67, doesn't she?

And, at 62, Chafee's a young pup, relatively.

Let's tackle that age issue as it relates to Bernie Sanders.

At the risk of being accused of age discrimination, do we really want as president a person who will be older at the start of his presidency than Ronald Reagan was at the start of his second term?

As for timing? I think Biden has to either shit or get off the pot by Labor Day. Stay tuned.

August 03, 2015

TX Progressives talk Ken Paxton, oil, energy

The Texas Progressive Alliance prefers Attorneys General who aren't themselves lawbreakers as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff is dismayed but not surprised by the business community's apathy about the coming effects of climate change in Texas.

Ken Paxton's indictments broke news on Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours later than PDiddie at Brains and Eggs predicted.  The one remaining question is: how long does our lazy-eyed attorney general twist in the wind before Gov. Greg Abbott cuts down his stinking carcass?

Nonsequiteuse is concerned we may never get back through the looking glass. She realizes that facts are a quaint vestige of simpler times, but cannot resist offering not one but five of them, plus a conclusion, an opinion, and even a bonus prediction about Ken Paxton's pending felony indictment, words that give her great delight to type over and over and over again.

Socratic Gadfly talks about the initial rollout of Congress' "new" energy plan and how so little of it is new.

Neil at All People Have Value made note of former President Carter referring to the U.S. as an oligarchy. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com

CouldBeTrue of http://stxc.blogspot.com/2015/07/you-can-thank-ronald-reagan-for-all-of.html">South Texas Chisme
say http://stxc.blogspot.com/2015/07/you-can-thank-ronald-reagan-for-all-of.html">you can thank Ronald Reagan and his greedy friends for all of the mentally ill people out on the streets.  An Edinburg woman is a widow thanks to Ronnie and the new, militarized police.

====================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Scott Braddock analyzes the Donald Trump-inspired proxy war between Rick Perry and Ted Cruz.

Lone Star Ma prays for peace and justice.

David Ortez explains what the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is and why it matters.

Street Smart shows how sacrificing the local street grid for highways can be devastating to the surrounding area.

The Texas Election Law Blog has some hope for restoring regulatory balance to the voting rights process.

Ken Paxton and the sound of Texas GOP crickets

Kenny Boy's official mugshot
As the Washington Post notes, top-tier Texas Republicans aren't rushing to defend state Attorney General Ken Paxton, even as we await the unsealing of the indictment against him from last Tuesday.

Given that this has already been covered in some depth, those crickets can't be from ignorance of the charges. Arguably, the opposite is true, if anything. Top GOPers may well not only be familiar enough with the charges, but give them enough credence that they're staying silent. Indeed, the Post piece compares these crickets to the loud protests when Rick Perry was indicted about a year ago.

Probably, as the story notes, the Texas Rangers' lead role in the Paxton investigation is another factor muting a chorus of protests over Paxton. The Rangers are long known for being thorough and non-partisan in investigations at any level of government within Texas.

Also, per the actual charges, many Republican officials may not just believe the charges are credible, they may have personal experience with the charges being credible. They may feel that Paxton, if they were clients of his, mislead them in some way, shape or form. Add in that the federal SEC was investigating fraud allegations against Servergy, and a few Republicans may even be worried about their money.

Indeed, one GOP consultant calls him "seriously wounded" and notes the GOP silence is "the loudest noise in the room."

Update, 3 p.m. The crickets have gone away now, but state GOPers still don't have too much to say. Aaron Whitehead tosses the stinky old red herring of Planned Parenthood on the table.  The Collin County GOP does nothing but roll out tea party talking points.

And, maintaining a fairly high crickets level is the man who pushed Paxton to run for this job, Sen. Ted Cruz.

And Mucus, Micheal Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texas, thinks the reason many top GOPers (Speaker Straus top example) are cromulent with the indictment is that they actually wanted something like this.

Update 2, Aug. 4: Supporting my initial thoughts on the crickets, Steve Rep. Byron Cook may hae been among the "burned." He's one of two complainants on the first-degree felony count. And former state Rep. Bob Griggs sued Servergy in 2014 for various investment documents which the SEC also wanted at the time.

And, the SEC lawsuit lists a number of questionable actions by Servergy, including various versions of bubble-blowing. Makes it sound like Kenny Boy was a rainmaker, and that's why he got his commissions.

Beyond that, Servergy and Kenny Boy gots some unhappy investors, speaking of bubble-blowing:
Lewis Abronski, an Alabama investor, said he invested $50,000 two years after attending a lunch meeting. He said Paxton had nothing to do with his purchase of the stock. 
"They send me a letter every once in a while that tells me good things are on the horizon," said Abronski, 94. "At that time, it sounded really rosy, but a lot of these things do." 
He did not seem hopeful he'd ever get return on his investment. 
Gary Garner, another investor from Alabama, described himself as a "very unhappy" investor. 
"It looks like I will never get my money back," he told News 8. "It was kind of sold to us that you will get 10 times your money back, and maybe 20 times." 
Garner would not say how much he invested, but he said the minimum buy-in was $50,000. 
"I don't usually take out my wallet and light a match to it," he said.

Ken Paxton, wallet-burner.

August 02, 2015

Obama tights up energy plans more to fight #climatechange

It all sounds good — as far as it goes. He's toughened up draft proposals by the EPA on the next steps in power plant regulation. His goal is not only to move coal-fired electric plants to natural gas, but get electric companies to do more, more quickly, with renewable fuels.

However, while this is an important part of controlling carbon emissions, it's only one part. This doesn't touch transportation. Nor, unlike my dream of a carbon tax plus carbon tariff, does it force the rest of the world to play along.

The story notes after the inevitable suit by wingnuts in red states (cue Greg Abbott's "I wake up and I sue Obama" line from his days as Texas AG), many states that accept the regulations may go to some sort of cap-and-trade system.

Problem? Cap-and-trade, as the European Union has shown, is the Obamacare of meaningful battles against climate change.

Carbon tax + carbon tariff, on the other hand, is the equivalent of national health care.

Dear Leader says this:
Mr. Obama intends to use the new rules to push other countries to commit to deep reductions in their own carbon emissions before a United Nations summit meeting in Paris in December, when a global accord to fight climate change is expected to be signed.
But, that’s toothless.

Specifically, as toothless as this:
Mr. Obama’s pledge that the United States would enact the climate change rules was at the heart of a pact that he made last year with President Xi Jinping of China, committing their nations, the world’s two largest carbon polluters, to substantially cut emissions.
Which I noted was toothless at the time it was inked.


It’s all neoliberal at end … yes, it involves regulatory controls, but the regulations are designed, in part, to be a Cass Sunstein-type “nudge.” Pure neoliberalism.

And, per the story, if Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, really believes this gives Obama a "lever," then I've got a date with Greg Abbott to sell him.