Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Why does Krugman hold Clinton and her campaign harmless for . . .

the public’s cluelessness about Trump’s policy agenda vs. her own?

PHILADELPHIA — On Wednesday night, the Harvard Institute of Politics pulled together a focus group of eight millennial voters from the Philadelphia area, and a small group of journalists watched. One of the millennials supported the Green Party presidential candidacy of Jill Stein. The rest professed to be totally undecided — despondent about the election, offended that they were being asked to choose between major party candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Most of the participants asked for anonymity. A few, including the Green-voting 27-year-old Amanda, offered up their first names and allowed a few follow-up questions. The small sample of voters, in one swing state, was illustrative just as the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs and Researchpoll had been — and with the same tantalizing power for Democrats. Unlike some of the white working-class men who are breaking for Trump, the millennials were onboard with the Democrats’ 2016 agenda. But they were struggling to cast a vote. Among the lessons:

1. They agree with the Democrats on the issues. For the better part of an hour, the members of the group listed their most pressing policy concerns, from climate change to taxes to education to agriculture. When all the terms were written on a whiteboard, they were ask to list their top three, and for each, say which candidate they agreed with. Seven of the eight millennials ended up preferring Clinton on the issues; the eighth, as mentioned above, preferred Stein.

4. They’re counting on something — an assassin, impeachment — to prevent Trump from doing too much damage. Alex paralyzed the room with laughter when he floated a strange and “dark” idea. “If Trump wins,” he said, “he’s probably going to be assassinated, and Mike Pence will become president.”

Alex, a Democrat who had voted for Barack Obama in 2008, had stayed home in 2012 and cooled on most politicians. He had come to like Pence for his demeanor, as seen at Tuesday night’s debate. But the more important point was that a Trump presidency did not seem like a four- or eight-year proposition.

“He’s going to be in court most of the time as president,” said one focus group member who preferred to be anonymous. “He’s going to get impeached.”

5. They’re not necessarily thinking about all the powers a president would have. One of the questions that halted the group’s discussion was simple: How was the Supreme Court affecting their vote? Several members of the group admitted that they had not considered this; when they did, as in the issue round, they preferred that Clinton appoint members of the court.

– Five lessons about millennial voters from a Philadelphia focus group, David Weigel, Washington Post, yesterday

Meanwhile, today, Paul Krugman, Clinton’s penultimate cheerleader pundit, continues to pin on the political news media the entire blame for this epidemic of cluelessness about Trump’s and the Republican Establishment’s actual policy agenda. And for such things as the unawareness that Trump will be appointing Supreme Court justices, lower-federal-court judges, and federal-agency heads, and will be signing Paul Ryan’s fiscal and regulatory bills.

And that if Trump resigns, is impeached, or is assassinated, Mike Pence (the rightwing talk-show host cum Tea Party pol) will.

Krugman often beats the drum with praise for Clinton by reminding the public of such things as how poised and how much stamina she showed last fall during that 11-hour Benghazi House Committee hearing.  He can’t understand why that doesn’t suffice as reason to be fond of her, or at least to vote for her against Donald Trump.

He even more often rages in anger at the appalling, diametrically opposite manner in which the mainstream political media has covered both Clinton and Trump—and its god-awful-absurd, unremitting obsession with Clinton’s email for a full one-and-a-half years until finally it stopped late last month.

But never, ever, does he acknowledge that the profound lack of knowledge, particularly among millennials, about the differences between these two candidates’ agendas, and between their respective parties’ agendas, may be as much because Clinton herself has failed to apprise the public of this.  Some of it at all, some of it with actual specifics, the rest of it with anything resembling consistency.

To wit, Krugman’s column today, titled “What About the Planet?”  It begins:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-­energy policies and international negotiation — a one­-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

He goes on to castigate Kaine/Pence debate moderator Elaine Quijano for her general awfulness and, specifically, for this:

[I]t’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander in chief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice­-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer­-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

I watched that debate from beginning to end (although I’m sure I broke a record for times checking the clock during a 90-minute period).  And I couldn’t believe this moderator’s focus on the national debt.  Or, to be accurate, I couldn’t believe her loaded, circa-2011 questions about it and deep urgency in the tone of her voice.  Might a question specifically about what Trump’s massive tax cuts and massive military board-patrol buildup relative to the debt not have been, y’know, a good thing for her to ask?

But it also might have been a good thing for Kaine to ask.  And it might have been helpful if he’d responded to Pence’s false statement that the debt has increased massively since Obama assumed office with a truthful statement that in fact it has been significantly reduced, but he didn’t.  But Kaine had one, and only one, assignment in that debate, and it wasn’t to make either of those two points.  It was instead to force Pence to accept, reject, or deny the fact of Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynist, vulgar, etc., etc., pronouncements.

Mission accomplished.  Unless, of course, the mission was to educate the public about the Trump agenda that huge swaths of the public—including, apparently, most millennials—doesn’t know about.

Including all those court and agency-head appointments. And what that would mean.

I don’t expect that Clinton and her campaign strategists can be disabused of their foundational presumption that moderate suburbanites just love extreme tax cuts for the wealthy, further deregulation of the finance industry, global warming, and complete control of government at every level by a handful of billionaires and some mega-corporations.  Which is why she doesn’t campaign on these, and campaigns almost entirely on the racist, xenophobic, misogynist, etc., etc. stuff, in the belief that only that will sway or hold moderate suburbanites.

So I suppose it would make no difference if someone other than me—someone like, say, Krugman—pointed out that Clinton’s been an extreme enabler of the political news media’s de facto blackout on these dramatic policy-and-appointments agenda differences.  But it would be worth a try.

Although first the people I’m urging to do this would themselves have to be persuaded that Clinton’s poise and stamina during the Benghazi hearing did nothing to educate the public about those policy-and-appointments agenda differences.

I guess I won’t hold my breath.  Even though time is now so short that I probably wouldn’t even turn blue.

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Have you noticed your Home owners insurance? Clean energy news and lots of water.

A year ago I noticed my property owners insurance has been rather high.  I say property because some is home, some is business.  So, being that have been using accounting software since 1991, I went back a few years to see how much.  In 2003 the house was $454/year.  This year it will be $1543.  Better than tripled.   Do you know why?  Natural disasters.  Google it.

That brings me to 2 recent articles.  This one regarding how fast the ice is melting.  Faster than they thought.

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.

The science of ice melt rates is advancing so fast, scientists have generally been reluctant to put a number to what is essentially an unpredictable, nonlinear response of ice sheets to a steadily warming ocean. With Hansen’s new study, that changes in a dramatic way. One of the study’s co-authors is Eric Rignot, whose own study last year found that glacial melt from West Antarctica now appears to be “unstoppable.” Chris Mooney, writing for Mother Jones, called that study a “holy shit” moment for the climate.

Well, I think that is the correct response.

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The Political Science of Small-Government Science

If they had proper regard for science, politicians in both parties would fight harder against the devastating cuts to federal research that have happened under sequestration, endangering medical progress and jeopardizing our global leadership. And lawmakers trying to prove their fiscal prudence wouldn’t irresponsibly smear all scientific inquiry by cherry-picking and theatrically denouncing the most arcane, seemingly frivolous studies the government has funded.

Republicans, Meet Science, Frank Bruni, New York Times, today

Indeed.

It should be noted that Gary Peters, the Michigan congressman who easily won the open Senate seat of the retiring Carl Levin, discussed climate change at length in his campaign.

And as I said in my earlier post today: When Republicans use the mantra of incompetent big government, ask them whether they are suggesting we try fighting Ebola with small government.

It hasn’t worked out that well in Liberia or Sierra Leone.  But this is America!  So maybe it will work out well here.

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The Lone Star Strategy or The House that Conservatives built

Having heard Senator Sander’s discussion on the floor, I thought the outing of the republican vision for this nation in total should be preserved on the net in writing.  People hear bits and piece but never put the entire picture together.   Maybe reading the list will help people picture the finished house the conservative mind is working overtime to build.

It’s like the HGTV show Property Brothers.  I am always amazed at the inability of the people to see the potential results when they are shown a property that has the foundation needed to realize their desire of what a home should have and be. The new home owners have presented a list of wants.  They are unable to see how their wants fit with the properties shown.  Then the brothers show them the CAD visuals and the people get it.  Yet even during the building out of the project, the new owners struggle with accepting the completion will be what they envisioned and saw in the plans.

We’ll, here is the version of what the conservatives (not just republicans, but the libertarians and New Democrats) have in their minds for an ideal America. As you read it, keep in mind what you would like to see in the house, what you would like to have it feel like :

1. An orderly transition to individual private retirement accounts and the elimination of Social Security.

2. Privatization of Veterans health care.

3. Abolish all federal agencies who’s activities are not enumerated in the constitution including the department of education and the department of energy.

4. Oppose mandatory kindergarten

5. Abolish the EPA

6. Abolish the 16th amendment and thus get rid of the IRS to be replaced with a national, state collected sales tax.

7. Abolish the capital gains tax and estate tax.

8. Repeal the minimum wage.

If you are struggling with what this list means regarding the way your house will look, the way your house will flow as you walk in it you best start talking to people who might be able to help you imagine it.  You might want to ask these planners/builders exactly what the results will be and do not let them speak in generalities.

If this plan is not what you are envisioning, then you best inform the designers and builders.   There will not be a CAD plan presented so that you can have an idea of what this list results in, there will only be the reality of the list as the door is opened to this new home.

To help you imagine the experience of living in a home based on the above list of requirements I present Bill Moyers essay of 9/27/2013:  Joblessness is killing us

Bill Moyers Essay: Joblessness is Killing Us | Moyers & Company | BillMoyers.com.

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Regular coastal towns and cities and sea level rising

Seeing this piece by Andrew Revkin Can cities adjust to a retreating coastline? reminded me to also look closer to home. We all too readily forget that NYC is not a typical problem of a coastal communitiy…so what do planners in smaller towns face? How do they choose responses, for instance, if an engineering report proposes possible loss of 20% of your tax base by 2050 due to rise in sea level predictions and the particular configuration of your coastal areas? The towns of Scituate, Duxbury, and Marshfield in MA face real decision making in terms of planning. As Selectman Rick Murray of Scituate told a friend of mine, “They who keep their heads in the ground will drown.”

As an exercise in arguing sea level rise and consequences in or near your own neighborhood, walking the information and language through this lens might help to clarify some of the problems involved that are not at such a large scale point of view and beyond most of our imaginations and expertise, and could be in your own neighborhood or vacation home. (Or is your land sinking?) (Disclosure: I do not own any coastal property. Nertz.)

Sea level rise

Scituate news

Final South Shore Adaptation Planning Report

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Reader (and Statistician) Jan Galkowski’s Quick Primer on CO2 and Climate Change

This weekend’s open thread here on AB produced an awesome post by reader, statistician and obvious genius Jan Galkowski on the significance of last week’s report on the level of CO2 now in the atmosphere.  Here’s part of the thread, including Mr. Galkowski’s post:

Rjs / May 11, 2013 4:54 am

in case you missed it, yesterday we breached 400 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide…

all you need to know in just one chart

Sammy / May 11, 2013 3:54 pm

rjs,

Don’t fall for the scare tactics. The y axis scale on your graph is “parts per million.” So we’ve gone from 300 max parts per million, to 400 parts per million. Or .0003 to .0004 percentage CO2. This is statistically insignificant. Plus, as Jack pointed out, there “little correlation with global temperature.”

This graph backs up Jack’s point over a longer time frame; and also shows that we are historically at a low in atmospheric CO2:

Sammy / May 11, 2013 3:54 pm

rjs,

Don’t fall for the scare tactics. The y axis scale on your graph is “parts per million.” So we’ve gone from 300 max parts per million, to 400 parts per million. Or .0003 to .0004 percentage CO2. This is statistically insignificant. Plus, as Jack pointed out, there “little correlation with global temperature.”

This graph backs up Jack’s point over a longer time frame; and also shows that we are historically at a low in atmospheric CO2:

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=CO2+over+time&FORM=HDRSC2&&id=F13D874C4502CF62C6C7A3A8DB2764DBC4C2E038&selectedIndex=1#view=detail&id=F13D874C4502CF62C6C7A3A8DB2764DBC4C2E038&selectedIndex=0

Jan Galkowski / May 12, 2013 2:52 pm

@Sammy,

Surely you’ll agree the argument that materials in systems are safe as long as their concentrations are small is erroneous. There are many examples where tiny amounts will derail proper operation.

But, to your specific point, the fact that CO2 concentration is, as Richard Alley calls it, The Biggest Control Knob of Earth’s climate is due to a simple confluence of [t]hree physical facts.

First, blackbody radiation from a body at Earth’s temperature happens to have the bulk of its outgoing radiation in the region of the infrared spectrum between 400 per cm and 1000 per cm.

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Second, CO2 happens to have a broad absorption between 550 per cm and 750 per cm.

Third, CO2 happens to resonate strongly at 667 per cm and, when it goes to ground state, reemits photons with frequencies very close to that. CO2′s cross-section for 667 per cm photons is very high. Thus, a stray photon at 667 per cm will in all likelihood be reabsorbed by another CO2 molecule.

This means about 2/3 of the radiation in the 550-750 per cm band gets captured by CO2, and the stronger the concentration, the more thorought the lasing effect of emission and reabsorption.

The net of this is that about 1.8 Watts per square meter are re-radiated from CO2 in the lowest 100 meters of atmosphere all around the planet. 1.8 Watts per square meter times the area of the Earth is about 690 Terawatts. That energy has to go somewhere, and does, boosting convection in atmosphere and oceans, as well as being conveyed in the water evaporation and condensation cycle, which essentially serves as a heat pump. Some goes into deep ocean, raising its temperature and weakening its ability to absorb CO2.

The greater differences in energy density, as always, demand equalization, so the poles warm more, percentagewise, than the tropics and intermediate lattitudes. This 690 Terawatts increases to 2000 Terawatts at 700 ppm CO2.

There is no trending or paleoclimate evidence needed to establish this. This is simple physics. It would be truly remarkable if 690 Terawatts of additional forcing had no effects upon Earth weather.

They who might be interested in more details regarding this should monitor my blog,

http://hypergeometric.wordpress.com

where a 4-part lecture describing these mechanisms and the reason we know atmospheric CO2 increases are due to people’s actions, namely fossil fuels, will be described in detail, probably some time this summer.

Thanks.

Those among us who can do such things as add and subtract will have an easier time understanding the specifics of Mr. Galkowski’s post than those among us (okay, the one among us) who cannot.  But even those of us in the latter category can understand the gist of this.  And its importance.  (Trust me on that.)

 

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Climate change, NY State bonds, and risk

The New York Times points us to a possible first in the state government bond market. My initial reaction was to wonder about flood insurance risk assessment by state, and wether our conversation might go beyond FEMA into more real areas of risk assessment. Mostly we seem to spend our time not avoiding risk but arguing about reactions to risks taken over time.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has started to caution investors that climate change poses a long-term risk to the state’s finances. .

The warning, which is now appearing in the state’s bond offerings, comes as Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, continues to urge that public officials come to grips with the frequency of extreme weather and to declare that climate change is a reality.

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said he believed New York was the first state to caution investors about climate change. The caution, which cites Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, is included alongside warnings about other risks like potential cuts in federal spending, unresolved labor negotiations and litigation against the state.

But David Hitchcock, a senior director in the public finance practice at Standard & Poor’s, said climate change was not a criterion in evaluating state finances. “I have a hard time finding a direct relationship for climate change on New York State’s economy at this point,” he said, adding, “It’s not something that’s really on our radar screen right now.”

Emily Raimes, a vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, said “more disclosure is always a good thing.” But she added that most of the risk for local and state governments from powerful storms was mitigated by the presence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster aid to assist states and local governments.

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Updates on atmospheric methane and volume measurements of Arctic sea ice

Here is a link filled update on the rise of atmospheric methane and a decrease in volume of Arctic sea ice from reader rjs.

Today we’d like to make note of an interesting development in the arctic during January. Below we have 3 images of methane concentrations above the Arctic Ocean from 3 ten day periods in january (January 1-10, January 11-20, and January 21-31) from Russian physicist Dr. Leonid Yurganov.. The methane concentration scale, with darker reds being the highest, can be viewed by clicking on the image to enlarge it.

Quite obviously, there’s been a sudden increase in atmospheric methane in an area of the arctic ocean north of eastern Europe and western Asia. As shown in the post about this at Arctic News, that area where the methane concentrations are highest coincides with the area of the arctic ocean that is still relatively ice-free.
This dramatic increase in atmospheric methane seems to be similar to an arctic event that we covered a little over a year ago that occurred in November 2011. At that time Russian scientists had observed vast plumes of methane bubbling to the surface of the arctic ocean off the coast of eastern Siberia, which they described as “powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter”.

Back then we figured that since that eastern Siberian area was one of the shallowest areas of the arctic, it had warmed enough during a period of unusual atmospheric circulation that fall to thaw the extensive amounts of frozen methane hydrates known to be locked up by high pressure and cold temperatures on the ocean floor, and they were melting and rising to the surface. In this case it appears that a branch of the warm gulf stream current is causing enough warming to destabilize the frozen methane on the ocean floor in the areas between Norway and Svalbard and points east. This is similar to a scenario that was warned about in a study in the journal Nature in October.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but Dr Yurganov’s records indicate that higher levels of arctic methane emissions have been increasing over time. (US scientists must now rely on Canadian & European monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions because NOAA’s monitoring of Arctic methane and CO2 was halted last week by budget cuts). We’ve pointed out before that atmospheric methane hit a new high of about 1813 parts per billion (ppb) in 2011, which was at 259% of the pre-industrial level, and that 40% of the increase was coming from natural sources such as this. Methane is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years, and methane’s global heat trapping effect is now roughly one-third that of CO2. Further thoughts on the potential impact of large abrupt release of methane in the Arctic are here. Suffice it to say that if all the ancient carbon were to be released from the arctic it would be enough to raise global temperatures 3C on top of the 4C temperature rise from human activities predicted by the recent World Bank study

Our awareness of this comes the same week that the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe has confirmed the conclusion of the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center that not only is the extent of the arctic ice receding, but it’s thickness has diminished considerably as well. The combined result has been a collapse in total arctic ice volume to one fifth of what was the minimum ice volume as recently as 1980. With the associated warming in the arctic, we can only expect the frequency and range of such arctic methane releases to increase, from both the seabed and the permafrost.

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Coastal damage to be more common and extensive?

From The Guardian comes this news:

Marcia McNutt, who last week announced her resignation as director of the US Geological Survey, told a conference that Sandy had left coastal communities dangerously exposed to future storms of any size.

“Superstorm Sandy was a threshold for the north-east and we have already crossed it,” McNutt told the National Council for Science and the Environment conference in Washington. “For the next storm, not even a super storm, even a run-of-the-mill nor’easter, the amount of breaches and the amount of coastal flooding will be widespread.”

McNutt, a professor of marine geophysics, was careful to preface her public remarks by saying she spoke as a scientist and not an Obama Administration official. But the unusually stark warning from a departing Obama official indicates the challenges ahead in protecting American population centres from the extreme storms of a changing climate.

“Before Sandy, someone asked me what my climate change nightmare was. Before Sandy, I said it was that with the extra energy in the atmosphere-ocean system it feeds super storms that intersect mega-cities left rendered defenceless by rising seas,” McNutt said in a brief interview following her public remarks. “That is where we now are.”

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