the weary travelers are on the island
My daughter and family finally made it to the Island. They are at Jenny's mom's tonight and will be here at Honeymoon Lake tomorrow.
Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2008
thanks to Neatorama
global climate change
While were are inundated in snow let's not forget that *overall* things are warming up.
Arctic Melt Tipping Point Arriving Ahead of Schedule
If we cross the melting Arctic tipping point, then we are basically farked.
We have passed the tipping point 10 years ahead of schedule.
Therefore, we are farked, the children really farked, and, if there is anything left in the Treasury, we ought to build a porcelain Bush memorial for the grandkids.
This blog has oft repeated the first part of the above syllogism, most recently for the benefit of the Republican vice president candidate. I don’t think she saw it. At least, she didn’t comment on it.
Perhaps, my albedo warning was screened by her beauty consultant. Don’t want to cause unneccessary worry lines, donnchakno. And, she probably did not get the really worrisome word from Professor Romm, i.e., the tundra feedback, coupled with the climate-carbon-cycle feedbacks that the IPCC models, could easily take us to the unmitigated catastrophe of 1000 ppm. Bottom Line: we lose a livable climate.
While this blog previously has elaborated upon the second part of the syllogism, the conclusion — the Arctic is melting faster than the doomsday scenarios — became even more evident with recent, ominous news from NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center). NSIDC scientists have found the first unequivocal evidence the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world. They found evidence at least a decade before climate models predicted that such a phenomenon would occur.
thanks to Politics in the Zeros
i don't think it's ever going to end
It's still snowing. Another 3". There is now 9" on the ground. I've never seen this much snow on Whidbey Island. It's supposed to remain cold keeping the snow on the ground with more snow maybe on Wednesday. It can stop. It really can. It looks like it will be a white Christmas.
I found this great weather bog on Puget Sound weather:
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
will this damned snow ever end?!
Another 2" last night giving 6" total. No high winds and the power stayed on. But more snow is due tonight. It can go away now. I walked around Honeymoon Lake and took this pano. My daughter Jenny that I visited in Colorado Springs is on the way up with husband William and kids Robyn and Evan. Today they started out on the Idaho/Oregon border and made it only to Hermiston on the Oregon/Washington border but still in Oregon. It was just impossible to make it any further so the are holed up in a Comfort Inn for the night. We are all having a fun time now!
Change You Won't Believe
by Jim Kunstler
The peak oil story has not been nullified by the scramble to unload every asset for cash -- including whomping gobs of oil contracts -- during this desperate season of bank liquidation. The main implication of the peak oil story is that we won't be able to generate the kind of economic growth that defined our way of life for decades because the primary energy resources needed for it will be contracting.
Just as global oil production peaked, our economy evolved into a morbid hypertrophy, and the chief manifestation of it was the suburban sprawl-building fiesta that has now climaxed in the real estate bust. By the early 21st century, when so much American manufacturing had been swapped out to Asia, there was no business left except sprawl-building -- a manifold tragedy which wrecked the banks that financed it, and left the ordinary people mortgaged to it with ruinous liabilities.
That economy is now in its death throes. The "normality" it represents to so many Americans is gone and can't be brought back, no matter how wistfully we watch it recede. Even so, it was obviously not good for the country. The terrain of North America has been left scarred by unlovable objects and baleful futureless vistas that, from now on, will shed whatever pecuniary value they once had. It represents the physical counterpart to the financial mess that has been left to the young generations to clean up -- and the job will take a very long time.
We have to, so to speak, get to place mentally where we can face the kinds of change that are now necessary and unavoidable. We're not there yet. It's not clear whether the elected new national leadership knows just how severe the required changes will really be. Surely the public would be shocked to grasp what's in store. Probably the worst thing we can do now would be to mount a campaign to stay where we are, lost in raptures of happy motoring and blue-light-special shopping.
Whiner to Fed: You Can’t Fool Us
In a Hail Mary pass that gives new meaning to desperation, the Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate to as low as zero — virtually giving money away in the hope that this will jump start the economy.
The stock market went positively giddy with relief, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up by over 350 points after the Fed promised to keep its fund rate at “exceptionally low levels … for some time.” But you know that.
Will it work? While we’d like to believe that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is Superman, Santa Claus and the Car Czar all wrapped up into one brilliant Economic Savior, we have our doubts. If Bernanke had only asked The Whiner for some advice, here’s what we would have told him:
You can’t convince us to borrow any more money. Most of us realize that we should have borrowed less money. We’d like to get rid of our credit cards and all those nasty home equity lines of credit. Nothing short of hypnosis is going to convince us to borrow our way back into a black hole, just so that we can pull the economy back from the brink.
You certainly can’t convince us to spend any more money. Whether we borrow it or pull it out of an investment account (are there any of those left anymore?), we’d have to be nuts to spend money on anything that isn’t downright essential. After all, many of us are out of work or only marginally employed at the moment and we’ve seen estimates (so have you, Bernanke — admit it) that predict that as many as 3 million more people will lose their jobs between now and the spring of 2010. With many states already running out of unemployment funds, we need all the savings we can get.
Our phony economy
Suppose that the head of a federal agency came before this committee and reported with pride that agency employees had burned 10 percent more calories at work last year than they did the year before. Not only that–they had spent 10 percent more money too. I have a feeling you would want to know more. What were these employees doing when they burned those calories? What did they spend that money on? Most important, what were the results? Expenditure is a means, not an end, and to assess the health of an agency, or system, you need to know what it has accomplished, not just how much motion it has generated and money it has spent. The point seems obvious, yet Congress ignores it every day when it talks about “the economy.” The administration and the media do it, too. Every time you say that “the economy” is up, or that you want to “stimulate” it, you are urging more expenditure and motion without regard to what that expenditure is and what it might accomplish, and without regard to what it might crowd out or displace in the process.
That term “the economy”: what it means, in practice, is the Gross Domestic Product–a big statistical pot that includes all the money spent in a given period of time. If the pot is bigger than it was the previous quarter, or year, then you cheer. If it isn’t bigger, or bigger enough, then you call Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke up here and ask him to do some explaining. The what of the economy makes no difference in these councils. It never seems to come up. The money in the big pot could be going to cancer treatments or casinos, violent video games or usurious credit-card rates. It could go toward the $9 billion or so that Americans spend on gas they burn while they sit in traffic, or the billion plus that goes to such drugs as Ritalin and Prozac that schools are stuffing into kids to keep them quiet in class. The money could be the $20 billion or so that Americans spend on divorce lawyers each year, or the $41 billion on pets, or the $5 billion on identity theft, or the billions more spent to repair property damage caused by environmental pollution. The money in the pot could betoken social and environmental breakdown–misery and distress of all kinds. It makes no difference. You don’t ask. All you want to know is the total amount, which is the GDP. So long as it is growing then everything is fine.
I am not talking about an obscure technical measure. This is not stuff for the folks in the back room. I am talking about what you mean when you use that term “the economy.” Few words induce such a reverential hush in these halls. Few words are so laden with authority and portent. When you say “the economy” is up, no news is better. When you argue that a proposal will help the economy or hurt it, then you have played the ultimate trump card in your polemical deck, bin Laden possibly excepted.
This, by the way, is not an argument against growth. To be reflexively against growth is as numb-minded as to be reflexively for it. Those are theological positions. I am arguing for an empirical one. Find out what is growing and the effects. Tell us what this growth is, in concrete terms. Then we can begin to say whether it has been good.
The failure to do this is insane. It is an insanity that is embedded in the political debate and in media reportage, and it leads to fallacy in many directions. We hear, for example, that efforts to address climate change will hurt “the economy.” Does that mean that if we clean up the air we will spend less money treating asthma in young kids? The atmosphere is part of the economy, too–the real economy, that is, though not the artificial construct portrayed in the GDP. It does real work, as we would discover quickly if it were to collapse. Yet the GDP does not include this work. If we burn more gas, the expenditure gets added to the GDP. But there is no corresponding subtraction for the toll this burning takes on the thermostatic and buffering functions that the atmosphere provides. (Nor is there a subtraction for the oil we take out of the ground.) Yet if we burn less gas, and thus maintain the crucial functions of the atmosphere, we say “the economy” has suffered, even though the real economy has been enhanced.
thanks to The Landscapist
What to Do
By Paul Krugman
What the world needs right now is a rescue operation. The global credit system is in a state of paralysis, and a global slump is building momentum as I write this. Reform of the weaknesses that made this crisis possible is essential, but it can wait a little while. First, we need to deal with the clear and present danger. To do this, policymakers around the world need to do two things: get credit flowing again and prop up spending.
The first task is the harder of the two, but it must be done, and soon. Hardly a day goes by without news of some further disaster wreaked by the freezing up of credit. As I was writing this, for example, reports were coming in of the collapse of letters of credit, the key financing method for world trade. Suddenly, buyers of imports, especially in developing countries, can't carry through on their deals, and ships are standing idle: the Baltic Dry Index, a widely used measure of shipping costs, has fallen 89 percent this year.
Clearing the Path for a Workers' Surge?
Even though the Federal Reserve is now the biggest single participant in the financial system, the myth of a "free market" still lingers on. It's mind boggling. The Fed has expanded its balance sheet by $2 trillion, guaranteed $8.3 trillion of dodgy mortgage-backed paper, provided a backstop for bank deposits, money markets, commercial paper, and created 8 separate lending facilities to ensure that underwater financial institutions can still appear to be solvent. The whole system is a state subsidized operation buoyed on a taxpayer-provided flotation device which bears no resemblance to an invisible hand. More astonishing, is the massive power grab engineered by the Fed which has taken place without the slightest protest from 535 shell-shocked congressmen and senators. Elected officials have either kept their finger in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing or timidly caved in to Treasury's every multi-billion dollar demand. It's flagrant blackmail and everyone knows it. Congressional oversight is an oxymoron.
Anyone who has followed the financial crisis from its origins knows that the Fed's bloody fingerprints are all over the crime scene. Still, that hasn't stopped well-meaning liberal economists (Krugman, Stiglitz, Reich) from supporting Bernanke's increasingly unorthodox attempts to flood the financial system with liquidity ("quantitative easing") and invoke whatever radical strategy pops into his head. In fact, many of the experts believe that Bernanke should do even more given the sheer size of the meltdown. There's growing support for a gigantic stimulus package ($700 billion) which will focus on road construction, infrastructure, state aid, extensions to unemployment benefits and green technologies. The Obama camp hopes that government programs and deficit spending will make up for the huge losses in aggregate demand which threaten to drag prices down even further in a self-reinforcing deflationary cycle. Even so, its natural to wonder at the wisdom of giving even more power to the very people who created the mess to begin with and who seem more interested in proving their depression-fighting theories than throwing a lifeline to struggling homeowners, consumers or auto workers. Maybe its time to try something different.