Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Big Coal Sinking Fast, Taking Paid Deniers With It

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 3, 2015

Courtesy of the Intercept by way of the Guardian, we find out that Big Coal is in a death spiral, and – to the surprise of no one who’s been paying attention – a longtime and heavy funder of various climate-change-denial actions:

We have known for years that privately funded organizations have attacked climate scientists, both in the US and the UK, to the extent that they had to set up a legal defence fund. But we’ve known little about where their money comes from, beyond efforts to connect the dots between different groups.

Now, the bankruptcy filings of Alpha Natural Resources, a large Virginia-based coal company, provide a rare window into the list of political and advocacy organizations the company has funded. E&E Legal (formerly known as the American Tradition Institute) is one of them. Other recipients include the Heartland Institute, which compared climate scientists to the Unabomber, the American Legislative Exchange Council and numerous others.

If Big Coal had invested in, say, large-scale cleantech battery research all the money it had invested into doing things like buying the North Carolina legislature, the businesses that comprise it could have smoothly transitioned away from coal. But of course the bosses don’t care what happens to their workers as the bosses have set up their own golden parachutes, with no doubt further gilding achieved by raiding the workers’ pension funds.

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The Mexican civil war simmers on

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015

Dan LaBotz, UpsideDownWorld:

Since June Oaxaca has been occupied by thousands of soldiers and police, and only a few days ago it came to light that in late July the governor had officially called upon the federal government to send the Army, Air Force, and Navy to maintain order. Governor Cué has argued that the strength of la CNTE, which has shown that it can put over 80,000 teachers into the streets, makes it impossible for him to govern without the backing of the military.

Oaxaca has been at the heart of the militant teachers movement, and the federal and state governments are determined to break the union’s significant power there. Since 1992 when, under teacher pressure, the state created the State Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (IEEPO), the Oaxaca state government has been obliged to hire all graduates of the teachers colleges, which are dominated by the same left groups that lead la CNTE.

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The end of impunity in Guatemala

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015


In Guatemala, the Legislature voted unanimously to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of immunity from prosecution, clearing the way for his arrest. The ruling echoes the decision by the country’s Supreme Court last week and makes it possible to prosecute Pérez Molina as part of a corruption investigation that has sparked protests calling for his resignation. We’re joined from Guatemala City by Allan Nairn, a longtime journalist who has covered Guatemala since the 1980s.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, people were cheering, they were crying, setting off fireworks. This is an example for the world. This is a general we’re talking about, one of the generals—one of the U.S.-backed generals who carried out the massacres that devastated the Mayan population of the northwest highland. I met him in the highlands as he was doing that, and his troops described how they strangled, executed civilians and threw them into mass graves. He then became president. Prior to that, he was placed on the CIA payroll. And now he’s going to be treated like a common citizen, and perhaps a common criminal. He could be taken at any moment by the authorities.

Last night after the verdict, I walked by the Casa Presidencial, the presidential house—it’s the White House of Guatemala—and spoke to a soldier outside who is a member—a corporal of the presidential guard. And I asked him how his unit would react if the Ministerio Público, the justice department, comes and tries to arrest the president, Pérez Molina. And he said they would not resist. They would take their orders from the Ministerio Público.

Our State Department, May 8th is, of course, propping up the corrupt, murderous thug:

The U.S. Government takes note of the decision of Guatemala’s vice president to submit her resignation. We support President Otto Perez Molina and his administration’s efforts to address charges of official corruption in Guatemala. [emphasis added]

Apparently they’ve gone silent since Perez Molina was charged. So I guess they’ve transferred the support to the CIA. Jeff Abbott, UpsideDown World:

Throughout the crisis, the embassy has maintained their support for the embattled president, leading many protesters to claim that the United States is meddling in Guatemalan politics once again. But since the announcement of charges against the President, the embassy has remained silent.

Early on in the crisis US Ambassador Todd Robinson appeared beside the embattled Guatemalan President to announce the United States plan to help “reform” and “modernize” the Guatemalan tax collection agency.

Posted in abuse of power, Latin America, State Department | Leave a Comment »

Tough guy

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015

Sarah Everts, C&EN:

Smaller than a finger nail, the marine slug Elysia tuca may not seem like a formidable predator. Yet the tiny gastropod has an unwavering predilection for a rather intimidating prey. The slug hunts Halimeda incrassata, a species of seaweed that packs toxic defense compounds and is more stone than flesh—its body is 85% calcium carbonate, the same mineral found in limestone and coral.

After finding its prey, the slug pierces the seaweed with a sharp saw-like appendage called a radula, and sucks out the seaweed’s cytoplasm, including its chloroplasts, which the slug then uses to make its own energy from sunlight. “It’s a solar-powered slug,” Rasher says, explaining that it gets 60% of its fixed carbon from these stolen photosynthetic organelles. The slug also steals the seaweed’s toxic arsenal of halimedatetraacetate—one of the compounds used by the slug to track the seaweed—for use as its own defense.

While you’re there, read up on a self-cleaning membrane that could help to pick up oil slicks

Posted in environment, Just for fun | Leave a Comment »

Give the man points

Posted by Charles II on September 2, 2015

Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian:

Pope Francis has opened the door for women who have had abortions – an act considered a grave sin by the Catholic church – to be absolved if they express contrition and seek forgiveness from their priest.

“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” the pontiff wrote in an extraordinary letter that was released by the Vatican on Tuesday.

“I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal,” he added.

The order, which temporarily allows all priests to grant forgiveness to women who have elected to have an abortion and profoundly regret the procedure, is part of the church’s jubilee year of mercy, which begins on 8 December and runs until 20 November 2016.

Maybe they could extend the jubilee to just do what’s right all the time. But this is a big step forward.

Posted in Good Things | Leave a Comment »

A deserving journalist is flogged.

Posted by Charles II on August 29, 2015

That is, a journalist who should have been flogged, was. Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s next iteration of an afactual fact checker, awarded Bernie Sanders Four Pinocchios for this:

“A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), interview in the Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 2015

[Added: Historian Mark Roseman, interviewed by Deutsche Welle agrees with Sanders, saying that the Nazis were by far the largest single party.]

Kessler recites the facts that he says proves Sanders is a four Pinocchio liar:

In 1930, the Nazi party won a surprising increase in the number of seats in the Reichstag (Parliament), going from 12 to 107 seats (out of 608), making it the second-largest party.

Hitler…placed a distant second when the elections were held March 13, 1932. Hindenburg received 49.6 percent, just short of a majority to avoid a run-off, compared to 30.1 percent for Hitler.

When the run-off election (with three candidates) took place April 10, Hindenburg received 53 percent and Hitler 36.8 percent.

The new chancellor, Franz von Papen, called for a new Reichstag election in an effort to bolster his position, but the July 31 elections resulted in the Nazis winning 230 seats and 37 percent of the popular vote.

The government fell and yet more elections were held for the Reichstag on Nov. 6. This time, the Nazis lost 34 seats, ending up with 196.

But Hindenburg’s next choice for chancellor also could not form a government. Finally, on Jan. 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor in an effort to break the deadlock.

Hitler then dissolved the Reichstag and called for new elections, set for March 5.

But on Feb. 27, the Reichstag building was burned, with the deep involvement of the Nazis — who then pinned the blame on their main rival, the Communists. Hitler asked Hindenburg for a decree that suspended many civil liberties and gave his government vast powers to crush his opposition. Thousands of people were arrested. Yet even so, with all the propaganda tools of the state at their disposal, the Nazis were still unable to win a majority of the vote March 5, receiving 44 percent.

Dylan Matthews of VOX reams Kessler, pointing out that Germany is a parliamentary democracy. You don’t need a majority, just enough seats to form a government:

Kessler’s argument basically boils down to the fact that when Adolf Hitler personally ran for Reichspresident in 1932, he lost to the incumbent Paul von Hindenburg. But this is obviously not what Sanders was referring to. He was referencing the fact that the Nazi Party, with Hitler as its leader, became the plurality party in the Reichstag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, in July 1932. And though the party lost seats that November, it retained its status as the largest party.

Kessler awarded four Pinocchios to Sanders. That’s the same as calling him a liar.

Lost in all of this was Sanders’ point: Elections matter. Hitler gained power largely through legal means, not by a military coup.

Just as that lover of democracy, Jeff Bezos, got control of the Washington Post through legal means, and is using it to promote an illegal war with Iran and attacks on progressives.

At any rate, Kessler’s readers called him on this. I did not see a single comment supporting him. I hope that people will write to the reader’s representative ( and reinforce the message that when a newspaper’s fact-checker has little regard for the truth, it reflects ill upon the institution.
Added: Glenn Kessler does have a little bit of support… from the Hitler was a socialist and so is Bernie Sanders crowd:

6:25 AM MST
history and facts have never been strong subjects for the left.

FYI, Sanders and Hitler were both socialist…so at least they got that in common.

6:14 AM MST
Angry Populists in 1932, angry populists in 2015.
1932: They say “A conspiracy of rich Jewish bankers is the cause of all our problems!”
2015: They say “A conspiracy of rich bankers (many of whom are Jewish) is the cause of all our problems!”

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Posted in Media machine | Leave a Comment »

A case for the Crown

Posted by Charles II on August 28, 2015

Lisa O’Carroll, The Guardian:

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering bringing corporate charges against Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper publisher over phone hacking, it has emerged.

The Metropolitan police handed over a file of evidence on News International – now renamed News UK – to the CPS for consideration after an investigation stretching back to 2011, when the News of the World was closed at the height of the scandal.

“We have received a full file of evidence for consideration of corporate liability charges relating to the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation,” a spokeswoman confirmed.

Posted in crimes, Fox Noise, media, Rupert Murdoch | 1 Comment »

Stephen Cohen on Ukraine

Posted by Charles II on August 26, 2015

Stephen Cohen, 8/25 on John Batchelor Show.

Posted in Russia, Ukraine | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Charles II on August 26, 2015

Posted in economy | Leave a Comment »

Using more than 10% of our brain: more thoughts on mitigating global warming

Posted by Charles II on August 24, 2015

OK, so suppose that we were to do as I suggested and bring ocean water inland to mitigate sea level rises, then evaporating it to generate power and create fresh water. This would serve the purpose of cooling the continental interior, bringing water inland to substitute for the degradation of the natural conveyor, and generate power without burning carbon.

We understand the technology, and it is not without its problems

Laurene Veale, MIT Technology Review:

[The basic issue is that there is very little freshwater]

The two main desalination processes are Multistage Flash (MSF) distillation and Reverse Osmosis (RO)

A more radical solution [than reverse osmosis] is solar-powered desalination, now being deployed in Tunisia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with Jordan and Morocco announcing their intention to desalinate water with renewable energy.

However solar or wind power will not resolve a major environmental challenge posed by desalination: brine, the highly saline slush created from the desalination process. For every litre of freshwater, a litre of brine is produced. “When desalination is done inland, far from the coastline, dealing with the brine is a problem. You cannot dump it in the sea, and the only solution it to dump in the ground, but this contributes to increasing the salinity of the groundwater, which is destructive for the environment” explains Arafat.

Discharging the brine back into the sea is harshly criticised by marine biologists, who deplore its destructive impact on the marine environment. The high salinity and the high temperature of the brine can destroy marine flora and micro-organisms which in turn affects the entire marine food chain in the area.

One of the solutions proposed by Arafat is to crystallise the brine to make salt…

Now, this isn’t the last word.

1. Reverse osmosis also can cause damage to marine systems. One solution is to distribute the high-salinity effluent over a large area.
2. It’s not impossible, as the article implies for desalination to be done far from the sea. There’s just an associated energy cost.
3. The problem for marine systems is not just with output. It’s with input as well. One doesn’t want to sweep up plants and small animals with the intake feed. And then there’s the point that effluent can alter the temperature of the effluent and damage marine systems that way.
4. The problem of contaminating groundwater is real, and has to be dealt with.

But these are not impossibilities. They are simply technical problems to be overcome. For example, one could consider using the high brine effluent to grow brine tolerant plants. Here’s an ARAMCO document by Luis Lujan Rodriguez on desalination:

Desalination discharges have been shown to represent detectable environmental effects in seagrass habitats, phytoplankton, invertebrate and fish communities in areas near the discharge sites. Some species show that an increase in salinity of only 1-2 parts per thousand (ppt) can affect highly sensitive seagrasses. Salinities of 40-45 ppt increase the mortality in exposed plants, and epifaunal mysids and echinoderms. Other marine animal species may also be affected as some species of worms have been observed to become more dominant whereas others decreased in diversity up to a distance of 400 m from a discharge point. Reductions in the abundance of plankton, sessile invertebrates, and echinoderms can also be related to the discharge of brines especially when the copper concentration was high.

In addition to diluting the salt with other wastewater, this document suggests extracting valuable (e.g. precious metal) and toxic (e.g. copper)salts from the effluent, and converting the salt using CO2 into sodium bicarbonate (which additionally sequesters carbon).

But this is far from exhaustive. One could, for example, use brine tolerant plankton (or other aquatic life) to concentrate the salt, then release the organisms back into the environment. One simple example: grow algae or seaweed, then use them as human or animal food. In the case of plankton, one could release them into the sea to help restore the damage we have already caused to the ocean.

The point is that we haven’t even really thought about the issue. When we do, we will think of solutions. But our immediate problem is that global warming will radically damage our productive industrial plant, trigger conflicts, and reduce agricultural productivity due to interior continental warming. We do need to cut carbon emissions. But that’s not going to happen overnight. We need to use all our brainpower as a species.

Added, from Phoenix Woman’s link (Tina Casey, Clean Technica), on the recovery of valuable minerals from saline water:

Here’s how it works on the agricultural drainage water of Central Valley, which is typically discarded as an unsuable byproduct of irrigation. The salinity level for drainage water in that region can range higher than the content of seawater.

Phase 2 is where the rubber will hit the road in terms of resource recovery. Due for completion this fall, phase 2 is expected to demonstrate that resource recovery can from the brine can be managed with minimal environmental impacts, if any.

The recoverable products include gypsum and calcium compounds that are widely used in the building industry for drywall, plaster, and cement.

Also present in the brine from this particular drainage area are magnesium salts, which are used in the medical industry, selenium (a health supplement), nitrates (fertilizer), and boron, best known for its use in bleach and pyrotechnics among many other uses.

Boron is also coming into its own in high-efficiency electronics and cutting edge solar technology, and for the record, selenium is also used in electronics as well as glass making, so altogether the region could be looking at a new high-value, job-creating industry in tandem with its agriculture base.

Posted in climate change, environment, global warming | 7 Comments »

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