Thursday, August 24, 2017

Who saw this coming?

By Don Kent
Chief Meteorologist

Last week Harvey was as its name implied just a harmless mass of warm moist water vapor chugging away near the Yucatan.  Now it's expected to hit the Texas coast as a Category 3 hurricane, bringing with it,  in the words of the normally staid National Hurricane Service, “LIFE-THREATENING AND DEVASTATING FLOODING.”

What happened?

According to scientists who observe climate for a living, the rapid intensification of the storm over the Gulf of Mexico was due to the enormous energy trapped in the ever-hotter waters of the Gulf of Mexico, in many places in excess of 90°.  Here's one scary Tweet for ya':

We've heard that them he-man tall-in-the-saddle Texans staring into the face of this cataclysm are whining about why they didn't get more advance warning so they could stock up on long-necks and ammo.  But those of us who have paid even scant attention to the warnings of climate experts over the past 25 years haven't been so surprised.

In fact, just last week at the movies a nice grandfatherly guy with a friendly Southern accent named Al told his audience that ever more severe storms were a likely consequence of climate change because warmer oceans store more potential energy that hurricanes feed on.  I wonder what Maureen Dowd would think of him?

In fact, the pace of ocean warming since 1970 has been to quote one study, “robust.”  This is why real climate scientists (that is to say, not former community-college history instructors now shoveling reactionary anti-science talking points for The Washington Post) fear more dangerous hurricanes and other ocean storms.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has summarized the relevant learning thusly:
Because of this link between warm oceans and hurricane behavior, warming of the surface ocean can increase the intensity of hurricanes, with the stronger ones getting the biggest boost.

While hurricanes that make landfall are comparatively rare, they are responsible for vast economic damage in the United States.

Two other factors may also be contributing to the rising intensities of hurricanes. First, warm air holds more water vapor than cold air—and the rising air temperatures since the 1970s have caused the atmospheric water vapor content to rise as well.

This increased moisture provides additional fuel for hurricanes. Indeed, hurricanes indicate a trend toward producing more torrential downpours, both in the historical record and in climate models that project future conditions.

Second, as ocean temperatures rise, there is also less cold, subsurface ocean water to serve as a braking mechanism for hurricanes. When strong storm winds churn up cold subsurface water, the cooler waters can serve to weaken the storm. But if deeper waters become too warm, this natural braking mechanism weakens. Hurricane Katrina, for example, intensified significantly when it hit deep pools of warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.

You could hardly blame Texans for not paying attention to climate change and its likely effect on them (inundation).  Their former governor, now a coatholder in the Grifter-in-Chief Regime, spends his days promoting well-washed coal as the solution for all of our woes.  Their current governor, like every other Republican plutocrat and whackjob that Bubba has put in charge of their state, thinks the whole global-warming thing is just a lot of cow pie:
[M]any scientists believe that certain human activities impact the climate. Others dispute the extent to which any activity has a particular level of influence on the climate, which is why this matter needs to continue to be investigated.
Hope the Noahide flooding that will cripple Texas for months if not years doesn't cause all that investigating to slow down too bad.

But not to worry – the cowboy libertarians of Texas are happy to get off their high horse and head to the Federal chuck wagon when it comes to paying for their climate change denial.  When Hurricane Ike wiped out Galveston a few years ago, Texas was perfectly happy to load up the saddlebags with over $12,000,000,000 in federal aid to pump itself out.

Maybe when Governor Abbott, Loathsome Ted Cruz, and John “All-Hat” Cornyn attempt to raid the Treasury to clean up the mess left by Harvey and their own bought-and-paid-for fact-free climate change denialism, America should tell them that their hurricane victims don't need federal money.  Just like the sick poor of Texas, condemned to suffering and death by Texas's refusal of Medicaid expansion.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why We Fight: Chapter 97,453

KABUL, Afghanistan — The senior security official in northeastern Takhar Province was deferential when he telephoned Commander Bashir Qanet. After all, he was talking to one of the most powerful government supporters in the province, who has hundreds of militiamen under his command.

 “Please could you stop killing your own people?” he asked the commander, whose irregulars had just opened fire on a couple of dozen pro-government worshipers inside a mosque, during prayers, killing five and wounding 37. 

The commander responded with a profane comment about the caller’s wife — the worst possible insult to an Afghan — and slammed the phone down. At that point the death toll of Afghan civilians attributed by the authorities to Commander Qanet’s three-month-long rampage in Takhar was about 30 (seven in just the last week), none of them insurgents, but the police and security officials as of Friday had been powerless to stop him or his followers. 

“Game of Thrones” has nothing on 2017 Afghanistan when it comes to violence in politics and crassness in war, not to mention plots almost too complex to follow. Just to be clear: Both men on the phone call were supposed to be on the same side, putatively supporting the beleaguered government in Kabul. The country may be in the midst of a steadily worsening, existential war against a determined Taliban insurgency, but Afghanistan’s leaders in the government camp often seem mostly at war with one another. 

That has hurt the government’s efforts to tame the insurgency. It is no coincidence that many of the places where the insurgents have made their biggest gains have been in the northern provinces, where warlords have long held power — and often are deeply resented.

This week, the largest city in the north, Mazar-i-Sharif, was in turmoil after Asif Mohmand, a provincial councilman, posted on Facebook the week before to scold a supporter of the famously vain governor of Balkh Province, Atta Muhammad Noor, whose picture has been pasted all over the northern capital on giant posters. There is not even an election going on.

 “Twenty times I told you not to put up another poster of that pimp and miscreant Atta,” Mr. Mohmand told the supporter in a video online. “This time when I catch you, I’ll kill you, you shameless fool, I’ll pump 30 bullets into your forehead, and then help myself to you.” (It was not clear what he meant by the last phrase.) . . . .

According to the normally authoritative New York Times,
infighting among Afghan government officials is
hampering the fight against the Taliban.
Governor Atta, a notorious warlord himself and hardly one to shy away from a fight, sent his gunmen and a contingent of police officers to meet the provincial counselor’s plane when it landed, only to encounter Mr. Mohmand’s own armed supporters there to defend him from arrest. The ensuing firefight raged through the terminal and its parking lots, killing two, wounding 17 and temporarily shutting down Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport. 

These violent disputes in Balkh and Takhar Provinces are the most recent evidence of the infighting that is diverting resources from the fight against the insurgency and undermining public support. Similar government supporters have taken place in other parts of the country, including the capital, Kabul, where the first vice president, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, was forced into exile this year after the authorities charged him with the kidnapping, torture and rape of a political opponent. 

The infighting could be traced to ethnic tensions, grudges dating back to the civil war in the 1980s and ’90s and the government’s shaky American-brokered coalition of bitter political rivals that is long past its expiration date. Parliament should have been disbanded two years ago and the executive branch is split between two antagonistic leaders — President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. 

The result is the central government does not really control large swaths of its own territory, even where the Taliban is not a factor. Instead, it cedes authority to warlords, some in government and some just aligned with it, who are too powerful to be subdued and often too angry at one another to focus on their common enemy, the Taliban. Such infighting among the warlords is precisely what helped catapult the Taliban to power in 1996. 

And many of those warlords are still on the scene, on the government side.. . .

The New York Times, Aug. 19, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Crimestoppers, North Carolina edition

By Leo Frank
Southern Bureau Chief of The Massachusetts Spy

Civic beautification ain't free, at least according to law enforcement in Durham County, North Carolina, the state that, notwithstanding its pretensions to civilization, somehow isn't too busy to hate.

That's the moral to be drawn from the police and prosecutors' response to the dastardly War on Statues now being waged by a group of protesters who have the temerity to demand the removal of monuments celebrating treason, white supremacy, slavery, and historical revisionism, or, as they are known south of the Potomac, monuments to Confederate soldiers, generals, pols, and other insurrectionists.

Earlier this week, a group of protesters, unencumbered by assault weapons, Tiki Torches, clubs, shields, or ill-fitting khakis did the following deed, according to the Durham, N.C. Herald Sun: (PS Don't let children read the bloodcurdling details of the outrage)
Monday’s rally began around 6 p.m. as more than 50 people gathered in front of the now Durham County administration building. They chanted. They shared their experiences in Charlottesville, Virginia and demanded that people fight racism across the South.
Sheriff’s deputies recorded the event but did not intervene as a protester climbed a ladder amid applause and chants and slipped a yellow, bungie-like cord around the soldier’s head and arm.
Protesters chanted “We, we are The Revolution” and cried out, “You can’t stop The Revolution.”
They tugged the yellow cord.
And the statue did a somersault, collapsing against the stone pedestal in front of the old county courthouse on East Main Street. Demonstrators kicked and stomped the soldier in front of the cameras the sheriff says his officers are now using to identify those responsible.
The sole victim of the “riot.”
Oh, the humanity!  At the end of the mayhem, there lay Johnny Reb on the ground as dead as Trayvon Martin.  Of course, Johnny Reb is a statue and Trayvon was a real-life young man.  Oh, and there's one more difference, if the Durham County District Attorney has anything to say on the subject: unlike the murderer of Trayvon Martin, the desecrators of Johnny Reb will be convicted of a felony.

What felony, inquiring minds want to know?  The individuals allegedly involved in ridding Durham of an unsightly public nuisance are being charged with:

▪ NC Gen. Stat. 14-288.2(c) Participation in a riot with property damage in excess of $1,500 (Class H felony).
▪ NC Gen. Stat. 14-288.2(e) inciting others to riot where there is property damage in excess of $1,500 (Class F felony).

A riot?  What riot?  They came, they pulled down a statue commemorating treason, they danced around, and they went home.  Is that a riot?  We think of a riot as more like when Nazis drive cars into and club protesters who have the nerve to stand up to them, or as the Bigot-in-Chief would call it, “Both sides.”

Doesn't a riot have to involve some serious breach of the peace, or at least more serious than littering with bronze symbols of white supremacy?  Apparently not – even the Model Penal Code Section 250.1 says that a person is guilty of riot if “he participates with two or more others in a course of disorderly conduct; (a) with purpose to commit or facilitate the commission of a felony or a misdemeanor . . . ”  So riot is an inchoate offense, like conspiracy, only louder.

And incitement to riot?  In North Carolina, when someone urges someone else to riot and sometime later there's a riot, that's also a felony.  So if you're sitting in a coffee shop whining about how oppressed you are by state-sponsored symbols of racism and treason, and your interlocutors are thereby inspired to pull down the offending statue of Saddam Hussein [Surely, a Confederate soldier? – Ed.], you've committed a felony!  There's no requirement of imminence or clear and present danger.  You can look it up.  There may be another body of law that has something to say about that, assuming it's still in effect at time of trial.  You can look that one up too.

We're not aware of too many miscreants charged with rioting when they for example go out together and one of them buys beers for the others on a forged ID (or weed), but that would fulfill the requirements of the Model Penal Code for the crime of rioting.  Thanks, Herb.

And who says big piles of treason worship are worth $1,500?  How much would you pay for a life-size bronze Confederate soldier?  Since the GOP-rigged North Carolina Legislature has determined that cities and towns can't remove such odious memorials without their approval, the answer must be that tokens of segregation are indeed priceless.  By the way, we bet you could get a redneck with a welding gun to glue Johnny Reb's head back on for a lot less than that.

Now we suspect that in a few weeks this case will quietly be buried and those who rid Durham of its Jim Crow excrescence will go on with their lives, as Bree Newsome did when she pulled down the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina (a different place, apparently).  But in the current climate of neo-Nazi subversion of our constitutional order, sanctioned by the deranged bigot in the White House, loosely using criminal statutes with serious penalties for what are at best petty offenses could be dangerous.  Bigly.