Archive for 2012 February

It’s hard out here for a reporter

And here's why:


I'm in the wrong business, obviously. 

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Global warming is driving Rick Santorum crazy

Following Rick Santorum on the campaign trail for Slate, Dave Weigel declares that Santorum is "really swinging for the fences on global warming denial." Weigel thinks that's smart in Michigan, and maybe that's true in a purely political GOP primary, but still…he's sounding strange. And the strangeness seems to be escalating: 

We're not here to serve earth. Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. (Saturday)

I trust YOU, not the ravages and uncertainty of what earth is going to do as we leave it alone. (Sunday)

CO2 is a pollutant? Tell that to the plants. CO2 is a pollutant? Tell that to the plants. CO2 is a pollutant? Tell that to the plants. (Monday)

But Mitt Romney doesn't sound much saner. Rall has a theory:

Who are these guys? 

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World’s largest seal rookery found in Ventura County

For the Ventura County Star, Zeke Barlow reports from the world's largest seal rookery, on San Miguel Island far off the Ventura County coast. The sea lions, some weighing as much as 6,000 pounds, where nearly driven to extinction a hundred years ago, but have rebounded wondrously: 

"We first saw two pups here in 1986," [researcher Brent] Stewart said as he flew over nearby Santa Rosa Island to count the seals that frequent just about every sandy beach there now. "From that two in 1986, there are now 6,000 to 7,000 pups on Santa Rosa these days."


Wonderful story, and wonderful pictures too, courtesy of Juan Carlo. 

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Wondering where all the rain has gone?

Now you know: 

From NOAA, via reporter Mark Grossi's Twitter feed

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Santorum: Best line of the last GOP debate

Prominent lefties and journos independently say that Rick Santorum blew it in the last debate of the Republican primary, but surely he had the line of the night: From Dan Balz

When Romney noted that he had balanced the Massachusetts budget for four straight years, Santorum scoffed, saying that was required by the state’s constitution. “Don’t go around bragging about something you have to do,” he said. “Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years. Does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don’t think so,” he added, referring to another former Massachusetts governor.


Romney really is a kind of a GOP Dukakis, but without the joie de vivre

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Reworking unemployment (oh, and the payroll tax cut)

From a front-page New York Times story today. Here are the details that were hidden in the fight over the payroll tax cut and the unemployment (UI) extension. 

Congress and the President agreed on some shockingly good ideas, including importing the concept of "work sharing" from (no!) Europe. 

The bill additionally expands “work sharing” programs that can help reduce layoffs at big businesses. In effect, businesses would have the option of cutting the hours of five workers by 20 percent each, say, rather than laying off one worker. The business could then use unemployment insurance money to help supplement the workers’ wages to make up for the lost hours.


Economists also applauded the work-sharing provisions, which have found success in states including Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as in countries like Germany.

“Work sharing is an incredibly smart thing to do,” said Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, a research institution in Washington. “But it’s a tragedy that we didn’t do that on a large scale over the past four years.”

Yes. Sigh. 

The provision may help reduce layoffs in the coming years, Ms. Shierholz said, supporting the recovery. She also said that being laid off tended to hurt a worker’s earnings and career prospects down the road. Work-sharing helps to minimize economic pain and keep families afloat, she said.

This part of the bill was a bipartisan effort, evidently. Amazing if true. 

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Climate scientist admits deception, engulfed in drama

Peter Gleick, the scientist, the advocate, and the MacArthur Fellow, who helms the influential Pacific Institute, today admitted in his column that he did something he shouldn't have in his on-going struggle with the right-wing climate change skeptics at the Heartland Institute: 

I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document [that came to him anonymously from Heartland files]. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name.

Andrew Revkin, the most-storied of all climate reporters, unloads on Gleick as I don't believe I ever have heard him unload before, in all the years I have been reading him in the The New York Times.

Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others. (Some of the released documents contain information about Heartland employees that has no bearing on the climate fight.) That is his personal tragedy and shame (and I’m sure devastating for his colleagues, friends and family).

The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the “rational public debate” that he wrote — correctly — is so desperately needed.

Yes. Sad to see the climate science go up in the smoke of this self-destructive drama. Already Gleick is getting damage control advice from a prominent Democratic politico, and lawyering up for the inevitable lawsuits to come. 

The surprise is that Gleick's confession is not mentioned on the front of either the Times nor Drudge, though Drudge does link to Miami's record-breaking heat.


Suspect Gleick will soon become all too famous. This scandal is far more dramatic and eyecatching than the hacked emails of the so-called Climategate affair, and comparable in some respects to the tabloid tricks that have cost Rupert Murdoch and his papers so dearly

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The last great rock star

In 1967, perhaps the last great rock star…


…was born this day

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Santorum: Global Warming is a dangerous world view

Leading in the national polls in the Republican party, at least for this week, Rick Santorum denies on Face the Nation that he ever said President Obama wasn't a Christian, though he implied as much yesterday with a remark about his phony theology.

Today he implies that Obama's faith has been corrupted by environmentalism: 

I just said that when you have a world view that elevates the world above man, and says that we can't take those resources because we're going to harm the Earth by things that are frankly just not scientifically proven, like for example the politicization of the whole global warming debate, I mean this is just all an attempt to centralize power and give more power to the government.



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Global warming stresses bird marriages

Scientific American has been a surprisingly sexy magazine as of late, with Jesse Bering's classic ode to semen, and now a cheeky look at global warming and bird biology. The headline:

Climate Change increases mate-swapping in birds

A study by Carlos Botero et al in PLoS ONE reveals that, the mag says: .

Birds typically bond to one partner throughout a breeding season and sometimes nest with the same mate year after year. Before the 1990s, this phenomenon led scientists to believe that more than 90 percent of all species were monogamous, but thanks to improved genetic testing, we now know most birds actually stray from their partners.

Despite birds' long history of infidelity, extreme temperature fluctuations appear to be intensifying the effect. If global climates continue to grow more erratic, the affected areas could see a steady increase of promiscuity among birds, Botero says.

Translating this idea from the study:

We show that after controlling for potentially influential life history and demographic variables, there are significant positive associations between the variability and predictability of annual climatic cycles and the prevalence of infidelity and divorce within populations of a taxonomically diverse array of socially monogamous birds.

Real news may be the evolutionary logic revealed. To increase genetic variability, to better allow survival of young in a wider array of conditions, temperature stress drives infidelity in birds. 

h/t: Jess Zimmerman/Grist

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