Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014's Most Popular Posts: Wind Wins, Pedestrians Lose

The top posts of 2014 by page views here at The Green Miles:
  1. It's OK To Hit Pedestrians As Long As You're Not Paying Attention
  2. ABC Wind "Victims" Rebuked as Wind's Winning Streak Rolls On
  3. Meet the Newest Polluter Front Group: The Coalition to Lower Energy Costs
Posts dropped off precipitously in 2014 with the arrival of my daughter Olivia. But if you feel like 2014 looks a little thin, try looking at it upside down while hanging out of a backpack - I hear it's way more fun that way.

A photo posted by Bethanie Grant (@bethaniegrant) on

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Apparently Crosswalks Aren't Legally Binding

Traces, WellingtonTwice in recent weeks, people crossing the street in crosswalks have been hit by cars with no repercussion for the drivers:
  • Man in crosswalk seriously injured after being hit by driver in Warwick, RI at twilight without headlights on; driver not charged.
  • A 71-year-old New Bedford woman was injured November 24 when she was struck by a car in the crosswalk while she was walking across County Street at Union Street, reported The New Bedford Standard-Times. No citation was issued to the driver, Capt. Dennis Hebert said. (No link available.)
What's the point of crosswalks if drivers can run over people using them and not get charged with anything?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Massachusetts Democrats' Fishing Failure

Massachusetts Democrats try to appeal to fishing cities by parroting Republican attacks on science. Why not just support science and attack inequality instead?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NPR Calls Jim Inhofe What He Is: A Climate Science Denier

Thanks to a great catch by Mark Boslough at Huffington Post, we learn that National Public Radio has correctly switched from calling Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) a climate "skeptic" to calling him what he is: A climate science denier.

Maybe other reporters will finally do the same?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pro-Keystone XL "Centrism" Won't Stop Global Warming

Refusing to make hard choices on dirty energy and wishing Republicans weren't crazy won't save us from climate destruction.

Monday, November 17, 2014

When Climate Ignorance Makes News Boring: The Washington Post, Mars & Chocolate

Cocoa podsWhich is a more interesting story:
  • Industry threatened, for some reason, and hopefully they'll figure that whole thing out
  • Industry threatened, identifies problem that menaces all of us, and decides to becomes leader in fighting it, political consequences be damned
Today's Washington Post article on Mars, Inc. facing a looming chocolate shortage never once mentions global warming, even though the climate threats to chocolate production are clear and Mars is a leader on confronting climate change and its threats to the chocolate industry.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hot Water Again Halts Maine Shrimp Season & Again No One Will Say Global Warming

ArrivalOfMaineShrimp-SacoMaine'sCampEllis(Feb10-2011)1From moose to puffins to lobsters, global warming is devastating Maine's wildlife, seafood and economy. Why is it so hard for media to say so?

The latest bad news is hitting Maine's shrimp fishermen:
Federal regulators shut down the commercial fishing season for northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine for a second straight year on Wednesday, citing concerns about the declining population and warmer ocean temperatures.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Northern Shrimp Section voted to cancel the upcoming season, a year after the section closed this year's season for the first time in more than 30 years. A technical committee that advises the section recommended extending the moratorium for another year.

The "depleted condition of the resource and poor prospects for the near future" warrant another closure, the committee reported, adding that "long term trends in environmental conditions" for the little pink shrimp are unfavorable. The amount of the shrimp's population that can be fished is at an all-time low, regulators said.
The Associated Press blames "warmer ocean temperatures" but never directly references global warming, never mind connecting the dots to carbon pollution. It did the same thing last year. The Portland Press Herald repeatedly ignored the climate connection in its news coverage, but did editorialize on it.

The connection to climate change is crystal clear. September ocean surface temperatures were 1.2 degrees F above the 20th century average, "the highest on record for September and also the highest on record for any month," according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Associated Press reporter Patrick Whittle clearly understands the connection between carbon pollution and warmer Gulf of Maine water because he's reported on it before. But global warming is most often treated as its own, separate story and not mentioned in news coverage of climate impacts. Also, I notice that the URL for that story hints his title once called the Gulf of Maine a poster child for global warming. That's since been softened to "Warming Gulf of Maine imperils lobster, fish catch" and the climate connection isn't made explicit until the story's 6th paragraph.

So why didn't the latest coverage of the shrimp shutdown mention global warming? The press release from the 15-state Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission didn't make any mention of climate change, and the AP didn't make the bridge for its readers. A similar story played out last year when the Massachusetts Port Authority issued a report on sea level rise - Massport wouldn't say climate change and reporters wouldn't connect the dots.

What that means is it's not just about the science. Media outlets are requiring a multi-phase scientific and political approval process:
  • The scientific evidence must be iron-clad
  • Scientists must be willing to face threats from Tea Partiers
  • Regulators must be willing to put their jobs on the line in the face of politically-motivated attacks 
Then MAYBE reporters will connect the dots. And that's if media owners will let journalists report on global warming at all. Hubbard Broadcasting directly funds climate science denial. In Maine, two news anchors at WVII and WFVX in Bangor quit on-air, saying climate science-denying station management kept inserting politics into news coverage.

The next time you see a poll on how many Americans accept climate science, imagine what the numbers would look like if the media actually connected the dots to climate change in every story like this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar: Climate Chaos May Not Mean Scientific Enlightenment

Interstellar spoiler alert: Ignoring climate change fails to make it go away.

My wife and I saw Interstellar in Imax 70mm last night and you should too. It's flat-out the best theater experience ever, a 2001 for the digital effects era.

Interstellar is cli fi (climate fiction), seeing a not-too-distant future - maybe late in this century - in which the climate crisis has spiraled out of control. Humanity is reduced to subsistence farming, eating mostly corn, the last thing left that will grow in the heat, drought and extreme storms. The fate of people in coastal areas and big cities is left unsaid, with only passing references to crumbling militaries and failed governments. Crops fail and soil blows away in super-sized Dust Bowl storms, making air pollution a daily, lethal threat. Our choice is life in the stars or life underground.

Climate activists often express hope that increasing evidence of climate impacts, such as superstorm Sandy, will awaken the apathetic and the deniers to the need for action. But the movie hints that dealing with a climate crisis wouldn't necessarily translate to instant, universal scientific acceptance.

To keep Americans focused on the desperate fight to grow food, students are told the Apollo missions were faked. Director Christopher Nolan hints the move isn't strictly practical, but also a political adaptation to the chaos, tinging the scene with Tea Party fervor:

"We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars," laments Matthew McConaughey's Coop. "Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."

It's a fantastic film, but I'd rather count on solar panels and wind turbines to save us from industrial carbon pollution now than wait for the wormhole to appear.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our New Ice Age

Funny how TV news is warning of the impending return of the glaciers when I just killed a wasp because it's 57 on November 11 and we haven't had a hard freeze yet.

I don't doubt that "cold somewhere" is interesting, but "warm everywhere" is the much, much bigger story that TV news continues to completely ignore.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In Defense of Straight-Ticket Voting

ProofI often hear people say they don't vote because they don't know who to vote for. Don't be afraid of voting straight-ticket. People talk about it like it's a brain-dead way to vote, but that's completely wrong - it's sensible! Political parties are more ideologically aligned than ever.

So if you want government to do more on helping the working class, fixing roads & bridges, and climate action, vote Democratic. If you want lower taxes, fewer rules for businesses & more rules for who you're allowed to marry, vote Republican. If you think both parties are irredeemably broken, vote for all the 3rd party candidates you can.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fall River Herald News Lets Polluter Front Group Deny Climate Science

Surveying the Storm - Fall River
Extreme floods in Fall River, March 2010
Last week the Fall River Herald News and sister paper the Taunton Gazette published an op-ed column denying manmade carbon pollution causes global warming. I submitted the following letter to the editor in response:
Tom Harris and Bob Carter may claim to speak for Canada and Australia ("Kerry and Patrick off base connecting climate and energy," Oct. 21), but they're really speaking for two climate science denier front groups funded by big polluters. In fact, both groups have even taken money from the Heartland Institute, the dirtiest of them all. Heartland lost most of its allies two years ago after putting up a truly disgraceful billboard comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber.

NASA data shows the last six months have been Earth's hottest ever recorded. Massachusetts, led by Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Ed Markey, and other courageous elected officials, has shown the way in shuttering dirty coal-fired power plants, investing in clean energy, and saving money by making our homes and businesses more efficient. We need to do much more to cut industrial carbon pollution, like building Cape Wind and other offshore wind farms. But we won't get there by letting polluters deliberately cloud the debate.

The New Bedford Standard-Times editorial board recently announced that while it would continue welcoming debate on what to do about global warming, it would no longer accept opinion pieces that deny the established scientific consensus on manmade climate change. I urge you to do the same.
The Providence Journal ran the same op-ed and has just published a blistering response from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 Ad: The Truth is Undeniable

Great new ad from Tom Steyer's NextGen Climate Action Committee, directed by Darren Aronofsky and voiced by Woody Harrelson:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inspecting Your Child's Halloween Candy Scares Them For No Reason

Halloween StashThere is no such thing as poisoned candy or razor-bladed apples - it's an urban legend that does not happen in real life.

But that hasn't stopped generations of parents from telling generations of kids (like me!) that Halloween candy must be inspected carefully before eating because while our neighbors may seem nice and generous, in fact TONIGHT ONE OF THEM MAY MAKE AN ATTEMPT ON YOUR LIFE.

The myth of booby-trapped candy seems plausible at first, but quickly falls apart. When I was a kid, I could've told you exactly who gave me what candy at which house. If someone wants to hurt the children in their neighborhood, poisoning candy is no more anonymous than trying to wring their necks right there on the porch. Repeating this myth and inspecting candy scares our children for no reason. After all, you don't inspect every piece of candy (or any other food) from the grocery store, and that would be much easier to taint anonymously - there's just no urban legend surrounding grocery store candy.

The other damaging part of the myth is that we teach our children that packaged candy is "safe," but fruit, nuts or anything else not packaged is not, so our children end up eating nothing but sugar on Halloween. As John Oliver explains, that's actually the real danger at the scale Americans eat it (read more in Mother Jones):

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meet the Newest Polluter Front Group: The Coalition to Lower Energy Costs

2007 Halloween Mask parade!It's not yet Halloween, but polluters have already gone out and bought themselves a new mask:
The Coalition to Lower Energy Costs has announced its formation and the beginning of a campaign to increase the supply of natural gas to New England by at least 2 billion cubic feet per day and thereby dramatically lower the region’s energy costs. 
The Coalition is registered to Michael Doherty of the lobbying firm Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios. For whatever reason the Coalition's release never comes out and says so, but it's clearly set up to lobby for Kinder Morgan Energy’s subsidiary, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., and its plan to charge New England ratepayers $3 billion to build Northeast Energy Direct, a fracked gas pipeline through New England for which you'd pay twice.
The coalition is made up of energy consumers and others who are concerned about the energy cost crisis in New England, which is paying far more for natural gas and electricity than the rest of the country.
Amazing that, just like Marc Brown's "New England Ratepayers Association" polluter front group, this group has already brought together all of New England's energy consumers just two weeks after the Coalition was formed. Maybe they can go trick or treating together!
This winter, energy costs are expected to skyrocket in the region. National Grid has already announced that the cost of electric supply for its Massachusetts consumers will increase by 96%.
Fracked gas is DOUBLING electricity costs, so the answer is ... to double down on fracked gas? Talk about blackmail. Buy more of our fracked gas or we'll raise prices even higher!
“It is an economic tragedy for New England that we are unable to access the low cost, domestic natural gas being enjoyed by the rest of country, even though Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is less than 250 miles from Boston”, said Tony Buxton, General Counsel and Spokesperson for the Coalition. “Our businesses and families are struggling with skyrocketing energy costs and we know that we need 2 bcf of gas in order to end this crisis.”
A lot to unpack here. Let's break it down:
  1. You will be like totes shocked to hear Tony Buxton sits three cubes down from Michael Doherty at Preti Flaherty. 
  2. If the Coalition is going to put Tony Buxton out there as the Voice of the Common Ratepayer, it should probably not have him publicly quoted as a spokesperson for Kinder Morgan & the Tennessee Gas Pipeline right up the road in Maine. Googling is REALLY easy, y'all.
  3. "2 bcf"? Who talks like that? Can polluter front group robots not even get through a press release without smoke pouring out of their ears?
The real problem here in Massachusetts is that we've gone from being overly dependent on polluting coal to being overly dependent on polluting fracked gas. It's allowed utilities to jack up electricity rates to 25 cents per kilowatt hour in the winter, which makes Cape Wind's 19 cents/kwh seem downright cheap - and that's before you consider how much fracked gas threatens drinking water and fuels extreme weather.

Maybe we should wait and see how Cape Wind (coming soon) and projects like it impact electricity prices before committing $3 billion to a new fracked gas pipeline.

And for reporters and newspaper editors: I'm not saying you can never talk to these guys, but if you're going to quote them or run one of their op-eds, can you at least ask them who's funding them first? It would make my ANGRY BLOGGER heart grow three sizes that day.

UPDATE: One more thing. Their ad is horrifying. Are those hands hovering over the iPad even real hands, or are they creepy computer generated hands? I'm going to have nightmares about this tonight.

The Ingredient "Good Diet" Prescriptions Ignore: Time

christmas eveIn the New York Times, Mark Bittman concludes you need (only) two rules for a good diet:
Here then, is your two-step guide for an unassailably powerful personal food policy.
  1. Stop eating junk and hyperprocessed food. This eliminates probably 80 percent of the stuff that is being sold as “food.”
  2. Eat more plants than you did yesterday, or last year.
If you add “Cook your own food” to this list, it’s even more powerful, but these two steps alone allow you to reduce the amount of antibiotics you’re consuming; pretty much eliminate GMOs from your diet, lighten your carbon footprint; reduce your chances of becoming ill as a result of your diet; save money; cut way back on sugar, other junk and unnecessary and potentially harmful nonfood additives; and so on.

All without relying on corporate benevolence or the government getting things right. The power lies with you.
Last night I made a butternut squash casserole from the The New Moosewood Cookbook for dinner. It's basically all raw vegetables that you chop, then boil or sautee, then mix together with spices and bake. It was amazingly healthy and delicious, and nailed Bittman's rules perfectly.

But let's be honest about another concern Bittman completely ignores: It took a LONG FUCKING TIME to make. The chopping, the sauteing, the boiling, the mixing, the baking all together took an hour and a half. And that's not counting washing all the bowls and pans.

Parents don't throw a frozen pizza in the oven or order Domino's because they're trying to poison their children. They do it because they're tired, they don't have time to make something from scratch, and they just want to get home and relax with their kids.

Domino's knows this so well it centers its ads around it. Why don't healthy eating advocates?

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Ebola and Global Warming Have In Common

An Ohio man was told by a friend that he was in the same bridal shop at the same time as a woman later diagnosed with the Ebola virus. If only our elected officials could be as level-headed as Peter Pattakos:
Pattakos, 36, a Cleveland attorney who lives in Bath Township, called the health department, which told him to call back if he exhibits any Ebola symptoms. He called a doctor, who told him not to worry.

"I didn't exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "I'm much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop." [...]

Concerns over the deadly disease, which is spread through infected bodily fluids, have led to business, government and school closings throughout Cleveland and Akron. Pattakos thinks people are overreacting, and he blames wall-to-wall media coverage. He hopes Vinson recovers soon.

"I wish people would freak out this much about climate change," he said. "It's one of those problems that's real easy for the media to cover, rather than some of those other problems that people should be more concerned with."
Unfortunately, the Ebola and climate change comparison is apt: In both cases, we're ignoring the experts. Doctors tell us not to freak out over Ebola, and we panic anyway. Scientists tell us we SHOULD freak out about climate change, and we don't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pat McCrory Doesn't Know Our Oil Comes from North Dakota, Not Saudi Arabia

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) is a leader in the fight to drill for oil off Atlantic Coast beaches, yet somehow that position hasn't taught him anything about where the oil in our gas tanks comes from:
A coalition of governors along the Gulf Coast and Southeast who support offshore drilling is chaired by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory said besides the prospect of good jobs and business profits, more states should contribute to building American energy independence from foreign imports by allowing drilling.

“We are hypocrites in North Carolina if we expect to get all our energy from somewhere else and just expect that our hands are clean in this whole thing,” he said.
If McCrory is defining "somewhere else" as North Dakota, then he's right:

Under President Barack Obama, U.S. oil production is nearing all-time highs. In fact, oil prices have been falling thanks in part to "oversupply from the U.S. because of increasing shale oil production." So why do we need offshore oil drilling, or the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to bring in oil from Canada, or any of the American Petroleum Institute's other demands? We don't.

It's hard to know if McCrory's just ignorantly spouting Republican talking points or willfully in Big Oil's pocket. If we've learned anything from Gov. McCrory's administration, it's that he'll say whatever polluters want. In the wake of a coal ash disaster, McCrory worked to protect not North Carolina's drinking water and fish but to shield Duke Energy, his former employer, from accountability. McCrory is also a climate science denier.

Let's be generous and pretend what McCrory means here is yeah, but we still import around half of our oil! Most of the "unfriendly" countries big enough to have slices on this pie chart have economies that are built on oil money - if ISIS took over Saudi Arabia and stopped selling oil, it would go bankrupt approximately 30 seconds later. And since oil is a global commodity, if it just stopped selling oil to the U.S., they'd have to sell it to, say, China, and the oil that would've gone to China from somewhere else would just flow to our pie instead. It's also not 1973 anymore and the government price controls that worsened that era's oil crisis have long since been abandoned.

So what has all this great energy independence done for American families? Gas prices may be slightly lower today, but they're still not far from all-time highs, even as those low prices are subsidized by a shrinking gas tax. It's created jobs, but only in places like North Dakota and Montana, where the oil boom has been a mixed blessing. Overall, drill baby drill has been an epic failure.

The only way to cut our energy bills is to use less energy. The Obama administration has made great strides on fuel efficiency standards, but there's much more we could be doing at the federal, state and local levels to provide public transportation and to allow more housing to be built in cities and close to transit. Well, we could also nationalize the oil industry and give the oil away at cost, but if Congress thinks bike paths are socialism, I'm guessing they'll find this option significantly less palatable.

But "energy independence" is a much easier sell for Republicans like Pat McCrory than the truth, which is "let Big Oil rape our coastlines, kill our wildlife, destroy our climate for future generations, and take all the profit while you pay more for gas."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reuters Covers Sea Level Rise Flooding Miami, But Won't Say Climate Change

Miami families chalk 6' sea level rise at event (Jayme Gershen)
Reuters has a compelling story on how sea level rise is impacting Miami Beach, but even more interesting is what the story leaves out: Climate change. And there's evidence to suggest Reuters' omission is no accident.

First, the Reuters coverage of the Miami Beach "King Tide" that's expected to peak October 9 at about a foot above normal:
The event, caused by the alignment of the sun, moon and Earth, provides a taste of the potential impact of a longer-term two-foot sea level rise predicted for south Florida by 2060, according to the United States Geological Survey. The low-lying greater Miami area, with a population of 5.7 million, is one of the world's most at-risk urban communities, scientists told a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in April.

The King Tide is expected to rise to almost four feet. With seven miles of coastline, Miami Beach is already seeing more frequent salt-water street flooding at high tide, according to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales.

To combat such widespread flooding, the city has set aside $300 million to 400 million to install up to 50 pumps in the coming years in what some say is a vain effort to protect an estimated $23 billion of real estate.

Bigger sea walls are not an option as Miami Beach's flooding is caused largely by water rising underfoot through porous limestone bedrock. Officials concede pumping water back into the ocean is only a short-term solution.
It's a really interesting article, but it leaves you with an unanswered question: Why is sea level rising? It's a critical part of the story. Leaving out the cause makes sea level rise seem like something that's beyond our control, but it most certainly is not. The intensity of future global warming and the height of future sea level rise will be determined by how much and how fast we cut industrial carbon pollution right now.

You might think it's a coincidence that Reuters left out any mention of global warming - maybe they just assumed everyone knows and accepts mainstream climate science! But there's evidence the action is deliberate. As Media Matters has reported, a former reporter accuses Reuters Deputy Editor-in-Chief Paul Ingrassia of denying the clear scientific connection between industrial carbon pollution and global warming intensity. The reporter accused Ingrassia of letting his personal politics taint Reuters' climate coverage and repeated Media Matters investigations have shown Reuters climate coverage continues to decline in frequency and quality.

Reuters' silence on the connection between sea level rise and carbon pollution comes with real consequences, especially in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott wouldn't even let climate scientists finish making their case for climate action before cutting them off. Sen. Marco Rubio lets his pro-polluter politics cloud his judgment on climate change.

In this case, Reuters isn't just failing to connect the dots for its readers - it's letting science deniers off the hook for their reckless decision to put politics ahead of people.


Tonight, Chris Hayes Begins "All in America: Coal Country"

The All In with Chris Hayes staff has also put together a series of advanced reading posts to learn more about the politics of coal, what is "clean" coal, coal & tobacco, and alternative energy:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Many Times Can Rep. Mike Coffman Be Wrong About Global Warming In One Debate Answer?

election005When Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado try to accept some climate science while still rejecting the need for their polluting donors to cut carbon emissions, they somehow end up sounding even dumber than if they'd just denied climate science outright:
Asked whether humans contributed significantly to climate change, [Coffman] responded that he did not think so.
Wrong. Here are 10 reasons why.
Asked whether climate change could be reversed, he answered, “Don’t know.”
Wrong. We can reverse climate change, though all we really need to do is stop accelerating it.
Asked by a Post moderator, “What? Sir?” Coffman said, “Um, no.”
Coffman quickly sought to clarify his answer, backtracking to say humans do contribute to climate change, but the magnitude of the influence is unclear.
Wrong. Temperature increases we've already seen are at least 75% attributable to manmade pollution.
“On the climate change issue, I just think the science is not quite settled."
Wrong. The greenhouse effect has been established for hundreds of years, global warming was predicted decades in advance, and it's now been confirmed by observations.
"Does it have an impact? Yes,” Coffman said. “Do I know how much of an impact it has, man-made climate change? I don’t know. But I think we need to do everything responsible to bring down carbon emissions. Sometimes, my worry is we go too far."
This is a good place to point out Rep. Coffman has taken nearly half a million dollars from the oil & gas industry in his career, making oil & gas his top industry patron.
“What happens is we push, particularly manufacturing jobs overseas to a country like China, that has no environmental rules, and those products are made with greater carbon emissions than otherwise would have been made in the United States. So I think there has to be a balance to the issue here.”
Wrong. China has announced plans to limit carbon pollution and is rapidly trying to cut is coal dependence in the face of rising protests over its insanely dangerous air pollution.

So that's a 6th wrong, but this answer comes closest to the truth of Coffman and other politicians firmly in the pocket of polluters: Your only choices are letting American polluters smash the planet or letting foreign polluters smash the planet! Or maybe a balance between those two!

Taking back our energy choices from the control of polluters is no more a possibility in Coffman's world view than accepting climate science.

If you have a few dollars laying around, donate to Coffman's Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jon Stewart Proves Climate Science Deniers Wrong With 3rd Grade Science

In 2014, 26 years after James Hansen first told Congress that global warming is now happening, why is the People's Climate March still necessary? As Jon Stewart explained on last night's Daily Show, because the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is run by climate science deniers:

Bristol County DA Sam Sutter Is The Best, I'm The Worst

A few weeks ago I questioned why Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter was pursuing charges against two anti-coal activists. Sutter told me on Twitter that he hadn't been allowed to act or even comment on the charges until Jay O'Hara and Ken Ward had their day in court. The minute they did, Sutter not only dropped the charges immediately, he publicly supported the activists, saying, "I agree that climate change is one of the greatest crisis the planet has ever faced and that we have to act more boldly now."

And Sutter didn't stop there. Last weekend, he went to New York City and joined the People's Climate March, where 310,000 Americans called for climate action:

Was I completely wrong about Sam Sutter? All I can say is ...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today Show Accidently Proves NYC 11-Year-Old Totally Safe Without Parents

Champions / Life underground (54)
Kids on NYC subway, Flickr's Victor Shoup
New York City 11-year-old Kareem Granton ran away from home last spring and spent five days hanging out at Chuck E. Cheese and riding the subway before the police found him. The Today Show presented this as a HARROWING TALE of a near-teenager somehow surviving without a parent monitoring his every move, before giving us a "social experiment" that purported to prove how dangerous everyday life is for kids.

Today's implication was that Granton could've been murdered at any moment, even though half a million NYC students take the subway or bus to school every day, and no less of an authority than New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it's perfectly safe for children ages 8 and up to ride the subway to school by themselves.

So to show how life is actually terribly risky in URBAN HELLHOLES like New York, The Today Show's Jeff Rossen sent an 11-year-old BY HIMSELF to extremely safe, busy public areas, then told bystanders they were history's greatest monsters for not immediately treating him like a kidnapping victim.

"At New York's famed Coney Island amusement park, Bjorn boarded ride after ride with no mom or dad in sight," reported Rossen, with absolutely no hint of self-awareness that he was actually describing an idyllic day for an 11-year-old of any previous generation. When Bjorn asked questions of strangers, they helpfully gave him whatever he needed.

Fortunately, Rossen was able to turn to John Walsh to inform people on the boardwalk that Bjorn was actually lucky to have survived the hour without being murdered by a lurking predator:
"Yeah, but he seemed comfortable and confident, self-assured," replied one. "He seemed old enough, it's broad daylight, lots of people around."

But Walsh pointed out: "They're not going to be crying or hysterical. And kids are so vulnerable, at that age particularly. They're so trusting, they're so innocent, and you don't want the bad guy to come up and say, 'I can help you.'"
Even if a child looks totally safe and secure, you must still treat them like they're terrified and in grave danger!
The experiment continued at a much quieter park where Bjorn walked through a group of adults, passed women pushing strollers, and listened to a musician. No one even looked twice. When the Rossen team had Bjorn sit alone on a bench for many minutes with no guardian in sight, no one said anything.
An 11-year-old sitting by himself with no one bothering him in a park filled with parents, and no one called the police? YOU SAVAGES.

The moral of the story: If we see an 11-year-old outdoors alone, we should be constantly asking him if he needs help. But having spent my entire childhood roaming the streets of Boston with friends with not one horror story but plenty of Kareem Granton-esque adventures, all I could conclude was:
  • Bjorn had fun
  • No one bothered him and he didn't hurt himself
  • Whenever he needed help, there was always a grownup right there happy to assist him
What Today didn't say is that America's kids are as safe today as they've ever been, but there are real questions about how much harm we're doing by overprotecting our children and arresting parents for letting their go kids outside alone.

Minutes later, Today launched into a new warning to parents: "Kids hooked on the Internet can suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and academic failure."

Might letting them out of the house once in a while by themselves ease that problem? Sorry, we'll have to leave it there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Must-Read Book of the Moment: Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything"

Seems like this is the book everyone's talking about this week. Joe Romm of says Klein is right that unchecked capitalism will destroy civilization. Time to go look for $22 in my couch cushions & I'll try to get up a review of my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

CNN: All Sizzle, No Science

The same CNN that laid off its entire science, environment and technology team sent an entire brigade to produce a live feed of Bill and Hillary Clinton flipping steaks in Iowa 16 months before the caucus:
CNN never pretended the science layoffs were about money. CNN turns $600 million annual profits and is owned by Time Warner, a $60 billion company that's reported $3 billion profits in consective years. It could hire 100 science journalists, but it chooses instead to endlessly debate if global warming is fake anytime it's cold in winter.

CNN can afford to produce world-class journalism. As Jay Rosen writes, it's made the choice to instead to produce state fair-quality crap.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Concord Monitor Nails Scott Brown's Climate Science Flip-Floppery

Climate science supporters often get too caught up in worrying about knowing every scientific detail. All you need to know is climate scientists say man-made carbon pollution is fueling rapidly-accelerating global warming and our politicians not only need to accept that reality, they need to have a plan to deal with it.

If a politician rejects that reality or, like Mitt Romney, accepts science when he's courting moderates but denies science when he's courting big-money polluting donors, he's asking for his leadership to be questioned. Today the Concord Monitor editorial board simply and directly calls out Scott Brown's climate science cowardace:
When running against Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Brown said climate change is real and in part driven by human activity. In New Hampshire, when asked if he believed man-made climate change has been scientifically proven, he said “no.” We await his general election position.
Oh! In the face! IN THE FACE.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bill Koch's Anti-Cape Wind Group Distances Itself from Itself

Astroturf the planetTo no one's surprise, Bill Koch's "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" front group for billionaires who hate looking at distant windmills has pledged to continue fighting Cape Wind despite the fact that the project is now committed to creating up to 1,000 jobs in New Bedford.

The statement from Audra Parker, the Alliance's top lobbyist, calls Cape Wind a "project already struggling under the weight of lawsuits". Audra doesn't say, but those lawsuits have either been filed by the Alliance directly or by partners like the town of Barnstable, which has taken at least $400,000 in Alliance money to pay lawyers. Why isn't the Alliance taking credit for its own lawsuits?

I've worked for or volunteered with several non-profits and at all of them, if we filed a lawsuit that slowed or stopped something we opposed, we'd be desperately trying to take credit for it. We'd have spent months or years rallying grassroots supporters behind our cause and we'd be thrilled to deliver them a win.

The Alliance is doing the exact opposite because it has no grassroots. It's pure Astroturf, using Bill Koch's green to buy the appearance of public support and hoping you can't smell the plastic.

Cape Wind Signs New Bedford Deal. Will Koch Keep Fighting?

Weeks 500Cape Wind has signed a lease agreement to stage its 130-turbine project in Nantucket Sound out of New Bedford's South Terminal, reports Ariel Wittenberg in the Standard-Times:
Cape Wind will pay a total of $4.5 million in rent to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the 28-acre facility, for two years. During that time, Cape Wind will be the only operator of the facility and the terms of lease allow for two one-year extensions.

Cape Wind has said that the assembly, staging and ocean construction of the project will create 600 to 1,000 jobs. Once in operation, the project is expected to employ 150 people, at least 50 of whom are expected to be based in Falmouth to do maintenance on the Nantucket Sound turbines.

The lease agreement is significant not just for Cape Wind but for New Bedford and the commonwealth's future involvement in the offshore wind industry. City officials have long stated that being the first port to stage an offshore wind farm will help the city to attract future projects and industry manufacturers.
Cape Wind also had held a lease option in Quonset, Rhode Island. Audra Parker of the William Koch-funded "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" had been trying to use the Quonset option to divide Massachusetts on Cape Wind, warning Cape Wind would dump New Bedford for Quonset. Various local anti-wind activists like Frank Haggerty joined Parker in pushing the talking point, demonstrating their reasonableness in the comments of Parker's letter:

Y'know, the Nazis had solar panels that they made the Jews wear.

The bottom line here is that Cape Wind is delivering on its promises to harvest clean offshore wind energy for Massachusetts and to bring new, long-term jobs to New Bedford. Meanwhile, the polluter blockade of New Bedford wind energy jobs has finally and fully crumbled. If Bill Koch wants to keep fighting to protect his beachfront estate views from the horrors of distant windmills, it's going to mean putting real people out of work in a city that desperately needs the jobs.

Will Koch carry on his quixotic crusade, or will he finally tell his army of lawyers and lobbyists to stand down? We're about to find out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Data: Climate Crisis Accelerating Faster Than Anyone Expected

Goodbye, Cruel World!!Public statements about climate change, whether from scientists, journalists or politicians, are always tempered by an element of "surely at some point reasonable people will decide to act."

But it's 2014 and the world has yet to collectively act, and now the data is screaming at scientists that the climate crisis could be much worse than anyone predicted.

And tomorrow Congress will again fail to act, but no one will freak out because at some point, I'm sure someone will have to fix it, right? Right. Glad we settled that so we can go back to enjoying low-cost-today coal, oil and fracked gas, comforted by the knowledge that future reasonable people will pay the horrible bill that comes due.

Even Koch-Funded Push Poll Shows Majority Support For Wind Tax Credits

It's not enoughThe American Energy Alliance, a virtual subsidiary of Koch Industries, has a new energy push-poll out today. Not only are the questions rigged, the sample is skewed – while only 26% of US population is age 55 or older, 45% of poll respondents are 55 or older. Asked the most pressing issue facing America, this group’s #3 answer is “President Obama.” (???)

But one question contains a revealing result for the strength and bipartisan depth of support for government incentives for wind energy. Keep in mind that by this point in the poll, respondents have already been falsely primed to think tax credits mostly benefit foreign companies and don’t work:
9. Companies that generate electricity using wind power get a tax credit from the federal government which is paid for by taxpayers. In general, do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?

51 Good thing
37 Bad thing
12 Don’t know/refused
The poll then comically keeps pushing respondents further and further against wind (well what if a turbine fell on your dog, would you support wind tax credits then?), but the poll's damage to the Koch's message is done. It's more proof that, as Joan Walsh wrote for Salon this week, Democrats should fear the Koch machine's money but not its message.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Are Anti-Cell Tower Activists Making Up Science?

You know cell service is bad when u need an antenna extender ;)AT&T wants to add mobile phone antennas to the top of a water tower in Dartmouth, MA. Are local NIMBY activists citing a made-up "study" when the truth is they just don't want to look at the antennas?

Here's the line that caught my eye in the New Bedford Standard-Times coverage:
Tucker Lane resident Amy Goulart cited Boston University and Harvard University studies that have called cell towers "a radiation hazard."
It just sounds funny - Harvard and BU usually put out studies on their own. Have multiple studies showing different things been combined to claim something the individual studies didn't? Or is someone putting the two names together just because it sounds more believable that way?

But more broadly, a study that showed that result would be big national news, altering the planning process for every cell tower that came after it. Yet a Google search turns up no direct links to a study like that.

Instead, the "studies" turns up as frequently referenced - but never directly linked - by anti-cell tower activists, often in smaller newspapers like the Standard-Times where corporate profits are prioritized over giving journalists and editors time to fact-check.

More alarmingly, the reference is often changed, again seemingly embellished to add false credibility:
  • "More than 40 physicians and scientists at Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health claim cell towers are a 'radiation hazard' and 'public health emergency.'" (example)
  • "Over 100 physicians and scientists at Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health have called cellular towers a radiation hazard." (example)
In reality, the Federal Communications Commission says, "radiofrequency emissions from antennas used for cellular and PCS transmissions result in exposure levels on the ground that are typically thousands of times below safety limits." The FCC concludes, "there is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students." Don't believe BIG GOVERNMENT? The American Cancer Society says, "Cell phone towers are not known to cause any health effects."

Look, I don't care whether AT&T gets its cell tower in Dartmouth (I have Verizon), though it's frustrating that cell service around here stinks in part because NIMBYs fight every single attempt to add a tower. It's fair to ask if companies like AT&T (2013 profit: $18 billion) should sweeten the deal for communities to speed the process. As we already know, cash is a miracle cure for "wind turbine syndrome."

But much like with wind turbine opposition, it sounds like anti-cell tower activists are spreading phony science because "I don't want to look at them" doesn't sway people in the face of a clear public need. (If I missed something and this study does exist, please post a link in comments.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Will You Feel Safer if MA Anti-Coal Activists are Imprisoned? (UPDATED)

Bristol County wants to put two anti-coal activists in prison for the crime of trying to stop climate change, reports the AP's Philip Marcelo:
Environmental activists Ken Ward and Jonathan ‘‘Jay’’ O’Hara say they don’t intend to dispute many of the facts of the case during their jury trial, which opens Sept. 8 in Fall River District Court. Instead, they want to prove that global warming is real and that bold action is needed to stabilize the planet, according to their website,

The two are charged with disturbing the peace, conspiracy, failure to act to avoid a collision, and negligent operation of a motor vessel for the May 2013 incident at the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset. [...]

The defendants say they face months, if not years, in prison if convicted. A spokesman for the Bristol district attorney’s office declined to comment.
The protest delayed one shipment of coal for one day. That's worth "years" in prison?

From start to finish, the Brayton Point protest has been met with embarrassing overreaction and wastes of taxpayer money from local government. The police chief in sleepy Somerset spent $30,000 on riot gear specifically for the peaceful protest and had his officers pose for media looking ready for war while brandishing billy clubs.

How is the public's safety enhanced by trying to imprison these activists? Was Big Coal in danger of scratching its anchor? The only message being sent here is that DISSENT WILL NOT BE TOLERATED, even if the status quo is steering us towards catastrophe.

Bristol County DA Samuel Sutter should drop these charges.

UPDATE: The DA dropped the charges! It turns out Sam Sutter is wicked awesome.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Erick Erickson: Screw Our Children, I Want Cheap Coal Now

Flooding Danube"Let the seas rise. Let the wind blow." That's top Republican commentator Erick Erickson's position on climate change. I would say he's a "conservative" commentator, but there's absolutely nothing conservative about gas up your SUV cheaply now and leave the bill for future generations to pay. It's pure selfishness - "I've got mine so screw you" presented as profound political philosophy.

Erickson may just be one blogger, but here he gets to the core motivations of today's Congressional Republican leadership - America isn't worth investing in. Energy? Just give me what's cheapest today, if we need alternatives tomorrow, someone else can spend the money on it. Education? If my family needs that, I can pay to send my children to private school, but I won't volunteer a dime in additional taxes to improve our community. The environment? I can buy home air filters and bottled water - if you can't, too bad for you & yours.

"We are all going to die," Erickson cynically concludes. "Just not today." And by then, it'll be up to our children and grandchildren to build massive hurricane barriers outside every East Coast city to keep out the rising seas and monster storms as the bill comes due for all that cheap coal, oil and fracked gas.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How TV News "Balance" Slants Towards Cranks, Against Science

Why do TV news stories about anti-science cranks tend to slant towards the cranks and against science? It's mostly because of the same wrong idea about balance that skews climate change stories - but it's also revealing of how TV news forces reporters to do stories fast & cheap.

Here's an example of a crank profile from New England Cable News, which devoted an entire segment to a Cambridge, MA resident who doesn't like new street lights. But "I don't like to look at them" is no more of a winning argument against street lights that are saving taxpayers $500,000 a year than it is against wind turbines, so the guy is also claiming they're making him sick:
Abrams also says he doesn’t like the shadows the new lights cast either. "There's hundreds of shadows on the sidewalk, these lamps cast, it kind of makes me dizzy," he said.
So, crank with an agenda says one thing, who should we put him up against? If you've followed how the media covers climate change, you know anti-science cranks must be juxtaposed with opinionless, objective science:
The U.S. Department of Energy online says it remains unproven that typical exposures to outdoor lighting have negative health impacts, but also say it cannot be ruled out without more data.
That's where the skewed idea of "balance" pushes the story towards the crank. The opposite of a crank isn't a scientist - it's a progressive:

But in the constraints of one eight-hour night shift, finding that progressive to defend science can be hard. Gotta just make the Cambridge city worker the "other side" and call the story done.

Another problem with crank stories is that often the reporter must hold back key facts to prevent the reporter from looking stupid for doing a crank story in the first place. Check out the very last line of this story:
The city also points to some light shields they can install to block the light from going in peoples windows. The city says before the most recent yellow lights, the city had bright white lights. They believe it's just a matter of people getting used to them. Other cities such as Boston have converted the bulk of their lights over to LED, and cities like Los Angeles and Seattle have done so as well.
Cities with a total population of 5.1 million people have installed these lights with no evidence of problems, but the reporter has to put that at the end, because otherwise the story would be revealed as a waste of time just two sentences in.

One final thing the reporter never talks about: How scientists long ago cracked the mystery of how to keep out unwanted light ...

"How I hate venetian blinds"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A New Surprise Benefit of Cutting Lead Pollution

Contains LeadStudies have shown a strong connection between the phase-out of lead in gasoline starting in the mid-1970s and a plunge in violent crime in the following decades. As Kevin Drum reports at Mother Jones, a new study is connecting lower levels of childhood lead exposure to a later drop in the teen pregnancy rate:
For years conservatives bemoaned the problem of risky and violent behavior among children and teens of the post-60s era, mostly blaming it on the breakdown of the family and a general decline in discipline. Liberals tended to take this less seriously, and in any case mostly blamed it on societal problems. In the end, though, it turned out that conservatives were right. It wasn't just a bunch of oldsters complaining about the kids these days. Crime was up, drug use was up, and teen pregnancy was up. It was a genuine phenomenon and a genuine problem.

But liberals were right that it wasn't related to the disintegration of the family or lower rates of churchgoing or any of that. After all, families didn't suddenly start getting back together in the 90s and churchgoing didn't suddenly rise. But teenage crime, drug use, and pregnancy rates all went down. And down. And down.

Most likely, there was a real problem, but it was a problem no one had a clue about. We were poisoning our children with a well-known neurotoxin, and this toxin lowered their IQs, made them into fidgety kids, wrecked their educations, and then turned them into juvenile delinquents, teen mothers, and violent criminals. When we got rid of the toxin, all of these problems magically started to decline.
Today, we're debating whether to cut the toxic heavy metal and carbon pollution from coal by shutting down the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. But the benefits aren't hidden - we know coal kills thousands of people every year and causes thousands more asthma attacks in children.

Electricity rates and jobs are obviously important, but why do reporters talk almost exclusively about those, and hardly at all about these very real impacts on our lives? When did human health become a sidebar story?

Friday, August 1, 2014

MA's Secret Plan to Make Regional Bus Commuting More Awesome

Given the "Plus" AND +, how do you say this
out loud? Bus Plus Plus?
I say "secret" because it seems like it's gotten virtually no news coverage - it's been ignored by the statewide standard-bearer Boston Globe and my local New Bedford Standard Times.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is making it much more fun, productive and comfy to ride longer-distance regional commuter buses with a program called BusPlus+:
The initial BusPlus+ regional bus purchase will provide thirty one of the new buses to carriers that currently or previously operated an IBCAP regional bus, including Peter Pan Bus Lines, Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company, DATTCO, The Coach Company, Bloom Bus Lines, and Yankee Line. In addition, MassDOT is proud to welcome Greyhound as its newest private sector partner.

Customers will experience a more comfortable and convenient service, with new buses that include the latest advances in safety and equipped with fully outfitted restrooms, increased leg room, new comfortable seating, Wi-Fi, and 110V power outlets at every seat.

Through the BusPlus+ program, MassDOT will also work toward the goal of providing a universal smart phone ticketing application to all riders.
I'd noticed the Dattco buses between New Bedford and Boston were newer, roomy enough to fully open my laptop, and with much more reliable WiFi, but had no idea why until I noticed the BusPlus+ sticker on the side of the bus as I was boarding the other day.

At first I wondered about giving taxpayer-purchased buses to private companies. But then again, no one expects public transit to turn a profit, so this may actually be the more fiscally conservative move - instead of taxpayers having to fund a whole new route, they get the benefit of increased service for a relatively small one-time cost.

In the long term, SouthCoast Rail is still the best solution, but until then, small steps to promote bus service make sense.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ignoring Climate Change Enters 26th Year of Failing to Stop Climate Change

Since climate scientist Michael Mann warned Congress of the emerging climate crisis in 1988, Congress has wholeheartedly embraced the strategy of ignoring climate change in hopes it goes away.

As Eric Holthaus reports at Slate today, ignoring climate change just had its strongest quarter ever of failing to stop climate change, with April to June 2014 going into the books as Earth's warmest three months on record.

But switching to solar and wind power might cost you an extra dollar a month on your electricity bill. Best to stick to ignorance! /hits self in head with hammer

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Striped Bass Shift Linked to Climate Change? Don't Ask Virginian-Pilot

Albert Spells measures a striped bass; this one is longer than 28 inches and too big to keep. ©Janet Krenn/VASGWhen reporters ignore climate change in their stories, they end up sounding like they're blaming the supernatural for events easily connected to climate change. Take this Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot story on a sharp decline in catch of striped bass:
They say there are a handful of elements that have lowered the ocean take the past two years.

Weather has been the biggest reason. Warmer starts to the past two winters have caused many rockfish to stay in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, or up the coast around upper Maryland and New Jersey. [...]

"It's been the strangest year," said Rob O'Reilly, chief of fisheries management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. "The weather has been so screwy that some fish haven't moved south like they usually do, and the ones that have positioned themselves offshore."
Reporters are often reluctant to connect the dots to climate change because they're not climate science experts and they're worried that doing so will draw the ire of anti-science Tea Party activists.

But when reporters ignore reality, they leave their audience in the dark. Strange! Screwy! Don't ask me for answers, you're on your own!

And then newspapers wonder why half of their audience has stopped paying $15 a month for a subscription. If you have to go find the truth yourself anyway, might as well do it for free on the internet.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Massachusetts Scores Big on Best Complete Streets Policies

Day 178It seems like common sense: Make policies to help people get around, not just to help vehicles get around. Massachusetts does a better job of getting it right than many places, with Littleton and MassDOT earning recognition from Smart Growth America.

Then again, even here, many communities still have a long way to go. Why is it so hard?

Almost all of the key decision makers drive everywhere. At the top, governors and state agency heads are often chauffeured in SUVs and only wait for public transit in photo ops. And studies show politicians at all levels are most responsive to the concerns of wealthy constituents, who are much less likely to have to wait for a bus or bike to work or school than low-income families.

Monday, July 7, 2014

But Hurricanes Wouldn't Dare Hit Our Nuclear Plants, Because MURRICA

Japanese nuclear power plants the path of Super Typhoon Neoguri: Two

Nuclear power plants on America's hurricane-vulnerable East and Gulf Coasts: Thirteen

Ohio's Pro-Fracking Governor Ignores Fracking Earthquakes

A State of EmergencyOhio is being hit by earthquakes in areas where gas fracking operations are underway, but Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is best buddies with big polluters, so you end up with stories like this:
State regulators ordered a gas drilling company to halt operations in an area of northeastern Ohio after three minor earthquakes were felt in the area. No property damage had been reported from the earthquakes that happened Monday morning just west of Youngstown. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says there's nothing indicating that the earthquakes are connected to any injection wells.
Who'd be so crazy as to say Ohio's brand-new earthquake zone is connected to fracking? Oh yeah - the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said that two years ago. Multiple studies have also linked Oklahoma's outbreak of more than 2,500 small quakes to fracking.

But Kasich has state employees spending taxpayer dollars on doing public relations for gas fracking, so state regulators have to do the bizarre dance of shutting down fracking wells while not saying the wells are causing the earthquakes. Then why shut them down at all?

Learn more about the risks to land and drinking water at the Ohio Environmental Council.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" Con: Newt Won, America Lost

Back in the summer of 2008, incurable Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pushed the slogan "drill here, drill now, pay less," claiming that making the U.S. more oil-independent would be a solution to high gas prices. Democrats, worried voters would reject the reality there's nothing we can do to lower market-set gas prices and absolutely terrified of saying no to Big Oil, embraced the slogan. Later, President Barack Obama implemented it as our national policy. Six years later, how's drill baby drill working out for you?

Today, while U.S. oil production is near all-time highs, gas prices also remain near all-time highs. Drill baby drill has been great for multinational oil companies, but terrible for American consumers. Meanwhile, we continue shoveling billions in annual taxpayer subsidies to those same oil companies.

A side effect of higher oil production is that oil transportation disasters are also at record highs. Oil train wrecks and spills, gas pipeline explosions, and oil pipeline ruptures are skyrocketing. Our communities, wildlife and clean air and water are now at the mercy of our national petro-state.

Note that gas prices hit their all-time high of $4.46 in July 2008 under President George W. "Texas Oilman Who'll Lasso Those Saudi Arabians Into Submission" Bush, well above the prior peak of $3.70 under President Ronald "Yes Another Oil-Friendly Republican Are You Seeing The Pattern Yet" Reagan.

Aside from Big Oil's record profits, there was one other winner from Newt's drilling push. Gingrich got 1.5 million people to sign his petition, allowing him to cash in by spamming his big new email list. As Chris Hayes has said, "much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Today in Phony Food: Turkey Hill's "Light" Ice Cream

On the left is Turkey Hill Moose Tracks Light Recipe, billed as "the creamy, rich taste you'd expect from Turkey Hill Ice Cream, but it is lower in fat and sugar." The label claims it has 50% less fat and 22% fewer calories than regular ice cream.

On the right is Turkey Hill Moose Tracks Stuff'd, billed as "frozen dairy dessert that is jam-packed with nuts, candies, and flavor" and "stuffed to the lid with all of your favorite ingredients."

"Light" and "Stuff'd" have exactly same amounts of calories, total fat and sugar:

Ice cream is my favorite thing to eat in the whole world. But it's bad for you and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Your Cable Boxes Secretly Cost You an Extra $100 a Year. Each.

Cable boxes are the biggest energy users in many homes, each one sucking nearly $100 a year out of your wallet. "The seemingly innocuous appliances — all 224 million of them across the nation — together consume as much electricity as produced by four giant nuclear reactors, running around the clock," reports Ralph Vartabedian reports for the Los Angeles Times.

I thought I'd see how much heat is needlessly thrown off by my Comcast box made by Motorola, so I put a thermometer on it and went out to run some errands. When I came home, it registered 86 on top of the box (compared to 75 in the room), but apparently at some point it had hit an astounding 94 degrees.

As I've covered before, this a failure of the free market, which gives cable companies no incentive to provide you anything more energy efficient than the crappy boxes they currently give you. It's not them who has to pay the electricity bill for these energy hogs.

That's why cutting the cord and getting rid of cable not only will save you big money on your cable bill, it'll save you small but noticeable money on your electricity bill. While cable boxes use 35 watts of power even in standby mode, streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku only use a maximum of 3 watts even when in use.

Congress could pass legislation mandating efficient boxes, which would save us money twice - once on our electricity bill, and again in infrastructure (those power plants) that we wouldn't need to build to power the boxes. But then the cable companies would give money to Americans for Prosperity to gin up outrage promote freedom and run attack ads. Best not to do anything - and by best I mean "best for Republican politicians' continued employment."