NASA called out on Climate Science by its own Heroes

The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NAS...

The NASA insignia. Español: Insignia de la NASA. Italiano: Logo della NASA. Русский: Логотип НАСА. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter how many times you read it, or how NASA tries to explain it, the following letter to the NASA Administrator signed by 49 former astronauts, flight directors, research scientists and others associated with some of NASA’s greatest achievements in science and space is like nothing we have ever seen before.

The letter first appeared in the blog What’s Up with That after it was delivered but not acknowledged by NASA. It was picked up by the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper on the Texas space coast.  Then  The Daily Caller asked NASA about it getting the following reply “NASA spokesman Steve Cole told The Daily Caller that they have not received the letter yet. “We are now aware of the correspondence but have not yet had an opportunity to review the contents,” he said.

Read it for yourself in their own words:

“March 28, 2012

The Honorable Charles Bolden, Jr.
NASA Administrator
NASA Headquarters
Washington, D.C. 20546-0001

Dear Charlie,

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites. We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.

The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.

As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate. We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject. At risk is damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA’s current or former scientists and employees, and even the reputation of science itself.

For additional information regarding the science behind our concern, we recommend that you contact Harrison Schmitt or Walter Cunningham, or others they can recommend to you.

Thank you for considering this request.”

Awards and decorations of the United States go...

Awards and decorations of the United States government (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The letter is signed by 49 people including seven Apollo astronauts and two former directors of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.   Here is the complete list of signatories:

/s/ Jack Barneburg, Jack – JSC, Space Shuttle Structures, Engineering Directorate, 34 years
/s/ Larry Bell – JSC, Mgr. Crew Systems Div., Engineering Directorate, 32 years
/s/ Dr. Donald Bogard – JSC, Principal Investigator, Science Directorate, 41 years
/s/ Jerry C. Bostick – JSC, Principal Investigator, Science Directorate, 23 years
/s/ Dr. Phillip K. Chapman – JSC, Scientist – astronaut, 5 years
/s/ Michael F. Collins, JSC, Chief, Flight Design and Dynamics Division, MOD, 41 years
/s/ Dr. Kenneth Cox – JSC, Chief Flight Dynamics Div., Engr. Directorate, 40 years
/s/ Walter Cunningham – JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 7, 8 years
/s/ Dr. Donald M. Curry – JSC, Mgr. Shuttle Leading Edge, Thermal Protection Sys., Engr. Dir., 44 years
/s/ Leroy Day – Hdq. Deputy Director, Space Shuttle Program, 19 years
/s/ Dr. Henry P. Decell, Jr. – JSC, Chief, Theory & Analysis Office, 5 years
/s/Charles F. Deiterich – JSC, Mgr., Flight Operations Integration, MOD, 30 years
/s/ Dr. Harold Doiron – JSC, Chairman, Shuttle Pogo Prevention Panel, 16 years
/s/ Charles Duke – JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 16, 10 years
/s/ Anita Gale
/s/ Grace Germany – JSC, Program Analyst, 35 years
/s/ Ed Gibson – JSC, Astronaut Skylab 4, 14 years
/s/ Richard Gordon – JSC, Astronaut, Gemini Xi, Apollo 12, 9 years
/s/ Gerald C. Griffin – JSC, Apollo Flight Director, and Director of Johnson Space Center, 22 years
/s/ Thomas M. Grubbs – JSC, Chief, Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Branch, 31 years
/s/ Thomas J. Harmon
/s/ David W. Heath – JSC, Reentry Specialist, MOD, 30 years
/s/ Miguel A. Hernandez, Jr. – JSC, Flight crew training and operations, 3 years
/s/ James R. RoundtreeJSC Branch Chief, 26 years
/s/ Enoch Jones – JSC, Mgr. SE&I, Shuttle Program Office, 26 years
/s/ Dr. Joseph Kerwin – JSC, Astronaut, Skylab 2, Director of Space and Life Sciences, 22 years
/s/ Jack Knight – JSC, Chief, Advanced Operations and Development Division, MOD, 40 years
/s/ Dr. Christopher C. Kraft – JSC, Apollo Flight Director and Director of Johnson Space Center, 24 years
/s/ Paul C. KramerJSC, Ass.t for Planning Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Div., Egr. Dir., 34 years
/s/ Alex (Skip) Larsen
/s/ Dr. Lubert Leger – JSC, Ass’t. Chief Materials Division, Engr. Directorate, 30 years
/s/ Dr. Humbolt C. Mandell – JSC, Mgr. Shuttle Program Control and Advance Programs, 40 years
/s/ Donald K. McCutchen – JSC, Project Engineer – Space Shuttle and ISS Program Offices, 33 years
/s/ Thomas L. (Tom) Moser – Hdq. Dep. Assoc. Admin. & Director, Space Station Program, 28 years
/s/ Dr. George Mueller – Hdq., Assoc. Adm., Office of Space Flight, 6 years
/s/ Tom Ohesorge
/s/ James Peacock – JSC, Apollo and Shuttle Program Office, 21 years
/s/ Richard McFarland – JSC, Mgr. Motion Simulators, 28 years
/s/ Joseph E. Rogers – JSC, Chief, Structures and Dynamics Branch, Engr. Directorate,40 years
/s/ Bernard J. Rosenbaum – JSC, Chief Engineer, Propulsion and Power Division, Engr. Dir., 48 years
/s/ Dr. Harrison (Jack) Schmitt – JSC, Astronaut Apollo 17, 10 years
/s/ Gerard C. Shows – JSC, Asst. Manager, Quality Assurance, 30 years
/s/ Kenneth Suit – JSC, Ass’t Mgr., Systems Integration, Space Shuttle, 37 years
/s/ Robert F. Thompson – JSC, Program Manager, Space Shuttle, 44 years/s/ Frank Van Renesselaer – Hdq., Mgr. Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters, 15 years
/s/ Dr. James Visentine – JSC Materials Branch, Engineering Directorate, 30 years
/s/ Manfred (Dutch) von Ehrenfried – JSC, Flight Controller; Mercury, Gemini & Apollo, MOD, 10 years
/s/ George Weisskopf – JSC, Avionics Systems Division, Engineering Dir., 40 years
/s/ Al Worden – JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 15, 9 years
/s/ Thomas (Tom) Wysmuller – JSC, Meteorologist, 5 years

###

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/4/prweb9388844.htm

Free Carbon—Revenue that is!

Economic regions of California, as defined by ...

Economic regions of California, as defined by California Economic Strategy Panel, October 2006 Northern California Northern Sacramento Valley Greater Sacramento Bay Area Central Coast San Joaquin Valley Central Sierra Southern California Southern Border (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cap on greenhouse gas emissions in California imposed by AB32 California’s Global Warming Solutions Act does not go into effect until 2013, but already there is maneuvering by state officials to get their hands on the pot of hoped-for gold at the end of this rainbow.  It is not that we can’t use the money.  California has struggled with huge budget deficits for a decade.

The Governor and Legislature have made billions of cuts in a futile effort to balanced spending with falling revenue in a sinking or stagnant economy.  For politicians, the gold from carbon taxes offers relief from the pain of disappointing special interests each eager to protect their part of the pork barrel that is the California State Budget. Some estimates are that the carbon tax will produce between $1 billion and $3 billion in the early years and perhaps as much as $14 billion by 2015 when it is fully implemented. Last year the state budget deficit was $9 billion—so you see why this is seen as the easy way out—tax the polluters!

In all candor California voters are part of the problem.  We allow ourselves to be seduced into all manner of silly initiative ballot measures that adopt policies, impose costs and target increasingly scarce resources to pet causes.   This is no way to run a railroad—but it is the way California is governed.

We have also made the state revenue picture worse by the steeply progress nature of our tax system which, paradoxically, depends heavily on capital gains taxes and economic growth from the very people the Governor and Legislature now want to ‘soak’ again to get out of the current mess.  It does not take a Cal-Berkeley economist to understand that when the economy sucks and capital gains are reduced that when you target those who are successful they simple change their voting residence from California to Texas or Florida and —POOF!  This double whammy of bad economic luck and bad public policy is strangling the Golden State, driving up the cost of doing business here, driving away successful people tired of game, and worse no longer working to produce the economic growth, opportunity and revenue California depends upon to live into its 21st century potential.

But carbon taxes are going to kick in in 2013 and California hopes to be in the gold again.  There are just a few problems with this calculus:

  • California does not allow the construction of coal fired generation in the state so there are no coal plants to tax.  The once thru cooling water rule will force many older natural gas plants to shut down and most be replaced with much more efficient and less emitting new gas plants.  Neither nuclear power nor hydropower produce carbon emissions and thus are exempt and all that wind and solar also beats the carbon tax.  So what’s left to tax?
  • Well technically this is NOT a tax it is a fee.  This makes a big difference and complicates life for politicians.  A tax in California requires a 2/3 vote of the State Legislature or a Referendum so AB32 imposes a “fee” set administratively each year by the California air Resources Board so no requirements that politicians must ‘vote’ to raises taxes even if they could get a 2/3 majority in the Legislature which all agree would be impossible.  But a ‘fee in California also has limitations under a 1991 California Supreme Court Decision in the Sinclair Paint v California case where the court ruled that the proceeds from a fee can only be used to mitigate or offset the health or environmental impact of the industry affected.  Let the game begin!
  • Eureka!  Charge out of state power plants selling into California!  You can imagine how happy Utah and other states with cheap coal fired generation are to hear of that ‘California dreamin’.  But what if those power producers decide to sell their energy to other states?  Since California is a net importer of about 20% of its electricity requirements it may have trouble meeting peak demand unless the price goes up enough to cover not only the competitive market price but also the carbon tax thus socking California rate payers with their own carbon tax.  Or alternatively California will have to build more power plants to satisfy its own demand.
  • Carbon Taxes and Offset Policies in Europe and the Northeast Are Not Working!  Another problem is that the carbon allowance markets now in operating in Europe (European Trading System) and the Northeast (RGGI) are struggling to survive with falling prices for carbon allowances.  Make no mistake they have raised a lot of money.  In the case of RGGI more than $900 million over the past several years but the states have different policies on how they use those funds and many have just suctioned them up and spent them to reduce deficits or fund pet causes.

This is the situation is facing California now. The carbon tax is not a tax it is a fee.  But fee revenue must be spent on things directly related to the health and environment effects giving rise to the fee.  No problem says Governor Jerry Brown we’ll spend the AB32 money on the high speed bullet train project.  As you can imagine this is going over like methane in a crowded room as the bullet train project is so far over budget, so expensive that is can easily consume all the money the ‘fee’ produces and then some.

Governor Brown’s proposed state budget beginning July 1 2012 includes $1 billion from cap and trade revenue for the fiscal year.  So far it is unclear how that money will be allocated, but $ 1 billion is too rich a pot of gold to be left to the whims of mere Governors so the pigs are lining up at the trough to be fed.

So where is all this going?

With California’s overbuilt electricity market awash in wind and solar resources even if there is new power plant construction it likely will be limited to a few clean natural gas plants or peakers that only run a few days a year.  That will not produce much carbon fee revenue.  Out of state power producers are likely to look for alternatives to doing business in California or raise their prices to recover the carbon fee in bids sticking it to California ratepayers.

The only other source of carbon fee revenue is gasoline prices and since California has a unique set of boutique fuels only sold in the Golden state you can bet fuel prices will get slammed.  That makes the progressive carbon fee among the most regressive of revenue raising schemes going and risks alienating drivers and residents in the faster growing ‘warm side of the hill’ and in the Great Central Valley which demographically tends to vote Republican more than the foggy coastal urban centers.

Welcome to California!

There is one more thing—-the inconvenient truth is the Nunavut Government in Canada reports polar bear populations at an all-time high and climate scientists not intimidated by peer pressure to say so tell us that climate temperatures have not risen in more than a decade.

Holy Carbon Fee!

Coke and Pepsi Change Product to Avoid California Regulatory Stupidity

Coca Cola!

In the ‘Don’t these Regulators have Something Better to Do’ department comes this over the news wires—both Coke and Pepsi decided to change the way they produce their soft drink products to use less 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) – a chemical used to give the soft drinks their color which California added to its list of carcinogens covered by the warning labels provisions of Proposition 65. And since it makes little sense to produce one product for California and another for the rest of the country the change will be made across the board.

So is 4-methylimidazole really a carcinogen?

Not even the US Food and Drug Administration that never met a chemical it would not like to regulate was buying into this one.  California said the chemical was linked to cancer in laboratory animals.  But the FDA said you would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi a day to get the same dose of the chemical that was given to the lab rats.

Pepsi

Pepsi (Photo credit: *Sally M*)

Do you see what I mean?

California is nearly broke yet it persists in doing dumb stuff like this which drive business crazy, increase the costs and hassle factors of doing business in the Golden state—and sends what in the private sector might be an actionable defamatory message about another person’s product.

The Coke spokesman said the company “wanted to ensure their products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning”.

It’s the real thing!

Two Nukes in Thirty Years Do Not a Resurgence Make!

Falling US Reserve Margins

I know it’s an election year and the administration is looking for good news anywhere it can find it, but the press reports about Energy Secretary Steven Chu saying “the resurgence of America’s nuclear industry starts here in Georgia, where you just got approval for the first time in three decades to build new reactors,” are both sad and laughable.

He was of course talking about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s February 9th approval of the two unit expansion at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia.  The Secretary said rightly that nuclear power has played an important role in the U.S. energy portfolio and still provides 20% of total electricity produced and 70% market share of all the carbon-free electricity produced.

Story is sad because nuclear power’s spectacular performance for more than 30 years gets no respect from environmental advocates clamoring for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  Another inconvenient truth is that if we had not killed off every new nuclear plant since the 1970’s we would today have a lot less coal fired generation today and would be a lot closer to the goal of emissions reduction.

What was laughable in Secretary Chu’s remarks was his warning that global competition for nuclear technology leadership is “fierce.”  It is laughable because it is true everywhere but America. He said we needed to build more nuclear power today or import it tomorrow—–hello!   News Flash for the Department of Energy, the US surrendered long ago in the fight for nuclear power.  The technology, manufacturing and expertise are now found in Japan and South Korea and China and the US must get in the queue and wait our turn.

Enough ranting, the approval of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design is indeed good news but we should not get excited about seeing many of these giants built.  We won’t.  The cost is too high and the risk of fickle regulation too large, and ruinous inflation too near over the long construction cycle.  Building a new nuclear power plant is a career not an assignment.

There is indeed a future for nuclear energy but this is not it.  The new future for nuclear is small, modular, passive designs that allow package plants to be build in baby nuke factories and trucked to their locations.  If Secretary Chu wants to change the future he should make a bet on this new modular nuclear technology and give America a chance to reclaim its leadership role in clean, reliable nuclear power.

There ends the rant, and begins the prayer.

Illinois as Smart Grid Metrics Pioneer? Really?

The dome on the Illinois State Capitol in Spri...

Illinois State Capitol via Wikipedia

Exelon and Constellation Energy have won approval for their merger, but now they must live with the terms of the deals cut to win that approval and also deliver on the smart grid performance metrics imposed in a recent legislative contest of wills.

The political brawl that played out in Illinois from the legislative battle over smart grid is typical of the Land of Lincoln where everything is political and everything has its price. But while the outcome is not what was planned or predicted it may end up being an interesting lab experiment on whether smart grid can earn its keep.

In full disclosure I spent five years working for the Illinois Commerce Commission as Manager of its Public Utilities Division and then my last year as General Manager of the agency. I learned to navigate the Illinois political calculus including “freeze exceptions” for hiring state employees which served as a pretext to send me a list of patronage candidates to consider. If I agreed to hire one from the list I got my freeze exception. If not I had to wait. I was never forced to hire anyone but there clearly was a cost for not doing so.

I also learned that just because utilities were regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission did not mean they were helpless subjects to be trifled with. There was always a political way to fix a problem. That is the situation with Exelon’s need to move forward with smart meter deployment and smart grid implementation. It was not a matter of whether this was a good idea only how much it would cost to implement—and to win the approval needed to do so. Ameren thought it could piggyback on a good deal and ended up being caught in the crossfire.

The problem was smart meter deployment got caught up in other issues including anger over power outages from storms that made customers mad and put politicians on the defensive. Then Governor Pat Quinn, an unabashed ratepayer advocate and frequent opponent of utilities for more than 30 years, played his role true to type. Then there was the utilities fear that the ICC might not approve their smart meter costs as “prudent” after the fact so they wanted approval in advance. No dice said the Commission. Add to that the political sparing between the Governor and Legislature and you have the classic makings of a Chicago-style food fight.

When the utilities went to the Legislature over the heads of the ICC to get legislative approval—the fight was on! Everyone who wanted or needed to score points found reasons and ways to do so. Governor Quinn scored by vetoing the bill. Take that!

But that enraged the Legislative leaders who cobbled together another political deal with a veto-proof majority and sent it back to the Governor. To get that veto proof majority the trailer bill, as these things are called, was loaded with favors for those who delivered the votes to rub the Governor’s nose in the mess.

But a funny thing happened–the bill finally passed sets performance standards for smart grid implementation! In street language this might be called “stink control” in the halls of the Illinois General Assembly this is getting the people’s business done.

So the utilities (Commonwealth Edison and Ameren) will get their smart grid deployment but the amount was reduced from $3.2 billion to $2.6 billion and they must spend one-half on upgrading the transmission grid to reduce power outages.

Yes customers will pay more—that was never in doubt. But while the performance metrics have more to do with predefining the terms of regulatory approval to reduce the discretion the ICC may exercise, they do make Illinois one of the few states with such bold, legislatively approved performance metrics.  Stay tuned to see how this works out before judging whether Illinois is setting a model for anyone else to follow.

The price the utilities are paying for this new ‘model of smart grid accountability’ is that they must use the smart grid approved revenue to fix the outage problems that give politicians headaches AND THEN still perform to make smart grid work.

$1 Trillion Spending Bill and No BS Regulations

President Obama will quietly sign a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress to avert a government shutdown.  No one wanted to Scrooge Christmas with a conflict over a mere trillion dollars spending.  But getting the spending bill passed did allow the Republicans to attach a few riders that put coal in the President’s Christmas stocking including:

  1. Blocking enforcement of federal light bulb efficiency standards
  2. Prohibiting the White House from hiring additional climate change staff
  3. Blocking US EPA livestock operations and manure management systems emissions regulations
  4. Transferring EPA’s air quality permitting authority to the Department of the Interior.

But there will still be fireworks over the price the President must pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut.   A deal in the Senate between Leaders McConnell and Reid is in trouble in the House at this writing because House Republican freshman again told their leaders to forget it.

“Two months, really? Come on!”

So the House is expected to pass a year-long extension of both the payroll tax cut and emergency federal unemployment benefits to solve the matter rather than just pushing the fight into the new year. This is what the President said he wanted but the question is what he will be forced to pay for the extension. House Republicans are also want a two-year “doc fix,” or delays in pay cuts to Medicare physicians. All three measures are currently set to expire December 31.

And then there is still the matter of the Keystone XL pipeline approval.  The Senate bill required the President to decide the matter within 60 days instead of deferring it past the election, but House Republicans now fear the President will just reject the deal to spite them calculating that even if it irritates his labor supporters they have nowhere else to go and won’t likely work against him.  But approving the pipeline now would enrage the President’s environmental constituency.   While they too have nowhere else to go they will make the President’s life miserable between now and the election.

I bet the President wishes now he would have told Hilary to sign off on the Keystone Pipeline deal and let her take the heat for the decision while he took credit for the 20,000 new jobs.

Occupy Labor

Port of Oakland

Port of Oakland via Wikipedia

The press reports here in the San Francisco Bay Area tell us the cost of the Occupy movement to the city governments in Oakland and San Francisco now total about $ 1 million each in additional police, public works and cleanup costs. But that is only a fraction of the true cost of this hard to categorize movement.

I was downtown San Francisco yesterday and the size of the Occupy crowd had dwindled to a handful in front of the Federal Reserve Building.  The policy now prohibits tents and camping out but still permit the peaceful protest as long as the crowd does not block ingress and egress from the building.

In Oakland it is a different story, after the siege of downtown Oakland that resulted in violence and force many small businesses to close, the City finally shut down the camp.   There are still day protesters but it is a shadow of the former presence.  The erratic handling of occupy situation has now resulted in a recall petition against Mayor Jean Quan for bungling the first big problem on her watch.

Occupy the Port of Oakland Escalates the Conflict

But the problem gets both worse and gains clarity in what is happening at the Port of Oakland near Jack London Square where the Occupy Movement has relocated in change of tactics now focused on shutting down the Port of Oakland in order to ‘punish the 1%’.

This shift in tactics seems to suggest both the waning of interest and the digging in by the hard core of the movement.  It has been subtle but apparent that the Occupy movements in Oakland and San Francisco were aided and supported by selected labor unions including the Teachers and Service Workers unions and perhaps others either encouraging or choreographing, it is not clear, events to support their own political agendas.  That there was embarrassment for the liberal progressive politicians that originally supported them as the demonstrations went on was thought to be regrettable collateral damage.  That small business who clearly do not fit the label of the 1% were horribly affected as the movement drove customers away was often only a sidebar story on the evening news outshouted by the protesters.

But the move on the Port of Oakland is different.  Either the Occupy Movement has been reduced to its radical core now uping the ante in an effort to keep it going—or—the parts of the labor movement which originally supported occupy are now hearing loudly and clearly the complaints of other voices in the labor movement like the Longshoremen that closing the port entrances with Occupy protests is going to cost workers their paychecks for Christmas.  In the first few days of the Port tactics the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the average daily cost for cargo disruption at the Port of Oakland is now about $4 million in lost revenue and pay for 750 workers at the Port sent home. Police reports say there may have been as many as 3,000 protesters at the Port entrance and that the Occupy ports tactic change was spreading to 11 other West coast ports.  This is not coincidence.

The Occupy Movement is at a critical point because its original message calling attention to income disparities and the hardships the rotten economy is visiting on the 99% resonated with many.  We get it. But the longer it goes the more muddled the message.  This is NOT the left wing version of the Tea Party as some on the Democrat side had hoped.  The Tea Party had a message and a clear philosophy of lower taxes, less government spending and debt and less intrusion in the lives of ordinary Americans.  The Tea Party members also were quickly assimilated in the broader fabric of American politics.  The Occupy crowd has overplayed their hand and is increasingly seen as doing more harm than good for their message.

The Good News is Durban is a Dud!

As expected not much progress is being made in Durban on solving the world’s carbon emissions challenges.  Kyoto Protocol became effective in 2005, requiring greenhouse-gas reductions in nearly every developed nation.  The US recognized the unsustainability of a treaty that excludes the fastest growing polluters China, India, Russia and Brazil because they were emerging markets while requiring the established markets to effectively write them big checks so they could keep growing and pollute more.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a worthy goal, but one nation or block of nations alone cannot solve that problem.  Signing up for a giant wealthy transfer from developed countries to emerging and undeveloped countries was a tough guilt-tripped sell in the booms times of the global economy.  It is a non-starter now that the global economies except for those emerging markets are in the ditch.

So the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period will end in 2012 and there is nothing to replace it laments the assembled delegates in Durban.  GOOD!  We can now all quit pretending it was a good idea in the first instance. Canada, Japan and Russia all signed onto Kyoto the first time but now realize they scored few green points for such a commitment and don’t plan on continuing the charade by re-upping for another five years of greenmailing.  The EU said it was willing to sing-up for a second five year commitment—-IF and ONLY IF everyone else did so.  Fat chance of that!

The best that can be said of the Durban conference is that thousands of delegates will have improved the economy of Durban by their whining and wining.  The release of another round of leaked emails about climate scientists behaving badly when the science did not fit their politically correct views soured the event further with reminders of the first Climategate scandal.  They now face a second round of red-faced bluster knowing that there are still more than 220,000 documents to be leaked.

If the world is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions then everyone must take action on their own to do so.  We don’t need a treaty for that—we need resolve.  Gaining consensus about that resolve also means that the cure cannot be worse than the disease.  Kyoto was worse than no treaty at all.  It tried to guilt the 1% nations into paying reparations to the 99% as penance for their economic growth and success.  The US made the right decision to just say no to such a dumb idea.  The EU played politics for domestic consumption but now cannot continue to hide the stupidity of its decision.

The world public is skeptical that this enterprise is worth the cost and aggravation because of the overreach of political pandering and the Climategate scandal revelations that the ‘incontrovertible scientific evidence’ isn’t so incontrovertible after all.  That should not be interpreted as lack of public resolve, but rather public realistic public resolve.  Our politicians have nearly bankrupted us with their mismanagement of the economy—let’s not give them control over the earth!

The Occupy Movement, the Cultural Revolution and Andy Stern

If you have had trouble figuring out what the Occupy movement is all about and why it seems to have emerged out of nowhere and be everywhere, you are not alone.  I get that the economy is rough.  I get it people feel disaffected and want to protest.  I get the concept of the 1% and the 99%.  But that is not enough to explain either the speed, intensity or the duration of this protest movement.

The other issue with Occupy I found fascinating was reaction of elected officials to the movement.  First there was Nancy Pelosi quick to criticize the Tea Party movement but now she seemed to be almost thrilled with the Occupy movement.  I could not tell whether she saw it as a Democrat counterweight to the Tea Party or what?  Then other politicians weighed in at the Federal level trying to make clearer distinctions.

It was tough to call the Tea Party names then turn around and praise the occupy movement.  The Tea party protesters tended to have a clear message and demands.  The Occupy movement seemed to be waiting together to reach consensus about their demands.  Their conclusion was if you are not down here freezing your butt off with us 99% you are the 1%.

The lingering pressure from local business disrupted or shut down by the Occupy movement encampments in many large cities put the local officials who at first praises the occupy protesters and then tired of the hassles they were causing.  Here in the Bay Area we have had occupy protests in all three major cities:  San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland.  San Jose and San Francisco officials got it right telling the Occupy folks you can protest all you want but no camping overnight (San Francisco relented on this while the Mayor election was going on but after Mayor Lee was re-elected the camping is being curtailed), no blocking merchants or streets, no violence—and we mean it!   That actually seemed to work best since everyone knew where the bright line between acceptable free speech protest was and where it ended.  In other locations, like Oakland the line kept moving and the police found themselves ordered to close the encampment one day and then apologize for doing so the next.  The protesters were angry and confused, the police were furious at their weak politicians for not supporting them, the Mayor looked like a fool, merchants were forced to shut down because the public was too uncertain about the safety of downtown Oakland to go down there.  It got out of control fast.

What is this about?

There have been many reports about the nature of the protesters.  In many cases these people seemed like they were right out of the Berkeley free speech movement.  In other cases it felt like beneath the surface there was a subtle form of organization and choreography going on.  Some reports said labor unions were paying some organizers.  Other reports accused George Soros sponsored organizations of fomenting and supporting the Occupy movement.  Hopefully enough unbiased journalists are covering this story that someday we will have a better picture of the movement origins, organization and operational objectives.

By I have my own opinions which I confess are conjecture and may be wrong.  But it started to come together for me around several themes I think are driving this including the following:

  1. The President’s policies have failed and his approval poll numbers show him as likable but weak, ineffective and vulnerable.  Obama’s decision to essentially abandon governing in favor of near full time campaigning has not changed his approval numbers.  He is running scared.
  2. The President’s base is terrified and angry. The labor unions, environmental groups and other groups who invested heavily in him in 2008 are disappointed that he has delivered so little for them.  They are angry and fearful that he will do what Bill Clinton did and pivot to the center to win re-election throwing them under the bus.  They are terrified because they have nowhere else to go and a loss in 2012 will un-do everything they worked so hard to achieve.
  3. The occupy movement is a message to Democrats to stick with the agenda.  It is a tactic of the unions, environmental groups and any other left leaning causes sharing the same frustrations.  It is a hang together or hang separately call to action. It is a classic Saul Alinsky tactic of vilifying your opponent—the 1% —and trying to win back the affection of the blue collar labor union members who are telling their leaders they have had enough of the jobs killing, coal hating president.
  4. The reason is the only thing the unions fear more than a loss in 2012 is a revolt by their own union members—the 99%.  They see the President as a failure and can’t believe that the Obama they elected is now throwing them and their need for jobs under the environmental bus with his job killing regulations, opposition to domestic energy production and low energy prices that will bring back the high paying, union jobs in manufacturing, housing, transportation and services across the economy.
  5. And then along comes Andy Stern’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (how ironic) praising China and its political and business model.  Why can’t America be more like China, Stern writes. He praises the jobs created by China’s massive growth.  He praises the growth in tax revenues and wages.  If only America had a plan as assertive and clear as China things would be better. At first I wondered if this was veiled criticism of the Obama Administrations, but as I kept reading it seemed to me that Stern was longing for the comfort of a benevolent socialist as if THAT is what he thought he had elected in Barack Obama only to discover after the fact that while Barack’s heart was with him his lack of experience made it doubtful Barack could deliver—he could only vote present.  Or should I re-phrase that by saying Barack Obama has merely been “occupying” the White house for the last three years.

So there you have my theory on the origins and meaning of the Occupy Movement. 

Be sure to Vote!

The Supremes Take the Initiative

The California Supreme Court sided with the Initiative Process today.

The California Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision today validating that the Proposition 8 supporters do have standing to appeal the decision by Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker declaring the proposition invalid because it violates the California and US Constitution.  By upholding the right of the losing side in that Federal case to take their appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the ninth circuit, the court was not taking a position on the merits of the appeal but acting on the important procedural principle that when state officials decline to defend a law passed by the voters that the proponents of the initiative petition in question may act for the state in doing so.

To decide the matter otherwise would have sent a chilling message to the people of California that their votes don’t matter in initiative petitions if the Governor and Attorney General do not favor the measure in question.  The Supreme Court reasoned that was not the intent of the people in permitting the initiative and referendum in the California Constitution.

That the court decided the matter unanimously sent a clear message to state elected officials that they do not get to pick and choose the laws they like, but have a duty to defend the laws unless and until the question of the validity of the measure is finally resolved.

It was a prudent and common sense decision.

Now the parties can argue the matter of Proposition 8 on its merits and no matter what the final outcome may be all will know they got a fair hearing on those merits and were not denied their appellate rights by a procedural trick by politicians seeking to substitute their personal views for those of the voters.