Coming attractions

So we have another Dust Bowl to look forward to!

The amount of dust being blown across the landscape has increased over the last 17 years in large swaths of the West, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The escalation in dust emissions — which may be due to the interplay of several factors, including increased windstorm frequency, drought cycles and changing land-use patterns — has implications both for the areas where the dust is first picked up by the winds and for the places where the dust is put back down.

“Dust storms cause a large-scale reorganization of nutrients on the surface of the Earth,” said Janice Brahney, who led the study as a CU-Boulder doctoral student. “And we don’t routinely monitor dust in most places, which means we don’t have a good handle on how the material is moving, when it’s moving and where it’s going.”

Based on anecdotal evidence, such as incidents of dust coating the snowpack in the southern Rockies and a seemingly greater number of dust storms noticed by Western residents, scientists have suspected that dust emissions were increasing. But because dust has not been routinely measured over long periods of time, it was difficult to say for sure.

“What we know is that there are a lot of dust storms, and if you ask people on the Western Slope of Colorado, or in Utah or Arizona, you’ll often hear them say, ‘Yeah, I grew up in this area, and I don’t remember it ever being like this before,’ ” said CU-Boulder geological sciences Associate Professor Jason Neff, Brahney’s adviser and a co-author of the paper. “So there is anecdotal evidence out there that things are changing, but no scientific data that can tell us whether or not that’s true, at least for the recent past.”
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Update

Just wanted to let you know that thanks to your help, my neighbor has worked out an arrangement with her landlord, and if she can keep up with her payments, she can stay.

So thanks to each and every one of you who donated!

Oops

So PRISM wasn’t really the reason this plot was stopped? Well, slap me silly!

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration declassified a handful of details Tuesday that credited its PRISM Internet spying program with intercepting a key email that unraveled a 2009 terrorist plot in New York.

The details, declassified by the director of national intelligence, were circulated on Capitol Hill as part of government efforts to tamp down criticism of two recently revealed National Security Agency surveillance programs.

Najibullah Zazi’s foiled plot to bomb the New York subways has become the centerpiece of that effort. It remains the most serious al-Qaida plot inside the United States since the 9/11 terror attacks.

In the rush to defend the surveillance programs, however, government officials have changed their stories and misstated key facts of the Zazi plot. And they’ve left out one important detail: The email that disrupted the plan could easily have been intercepted without PRISM.

Your voice of centrist reason

The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson really puts professional twerp David Brooks in his place:

David Brooks, in a column on what he takes to be the inner life of Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. leaker, has a long list of those he believes Snowden has betrayed. Among them are “his employers,” Booz Allen and the C.I.A., who “took a high-school dropout and offered him positions with lavish salaries. He is violating the honor codes of all those who enabled him to rise.” He also “betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed.”

This is an odd perspective. The founders created the Constitution in part so that a solitary voice could be heard, whatever strictures of power surround him. More than that, they would not want a twenty-nine-year-old to feel so overcome with gratitude for his social betters—so humbled that they had noticed him—that he would be silent. The “honor code” that Brooks claims was violated is perhaps nothing more than condescension mitigated by social obligation. People with graduate degrees thought that giving someone not in their circle a chance was proof of their decency; by getting his hands dirty, Snowden not only broke whatever non-disclosure agreements he was asked to sign but intruded on their sense of their own goodness. By David Brooks’s logic, the next time they put aside the résumé of someone who attended a community college, it’s really Edward Snowden’s fault.

And she ends:

The press is not among the elements of civil society that Brooks lists; and yet it is the one to which Snowden turned. He did not drop his documents from a helicopter, and neither did the reporters, who are often there when what Brooks might regard as less crass safeguards fail. Whistle-blowing and investigative reporting can be loud, and grating, and necessary.

Reading Brooks’s laments about Snowden and “the fraying of the social fabric,” I found myself thinking about Norman Rockwell, if not in the same way Brooks might. (In 2008, after what he saw as a rhetorical triumph by Sarah Palin, Brooks wrote, “Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.”) The image that came to mind was one of the panels from Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series: the one on freedom of speech, in which a man stands up at what looks like a town meeting. He might be about twenty-nine. He is wearing a work jacket, so maybe he’s a high-school drop-out. There are better dressed people in the hall. And they are listening to him.

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Tell Me What Is Being Done In My Name…

Charles Pierce:

OK, let us persist in the notion that I am an American citizen. Let us persist in the notion that I am the citizen of a self-governing political commonwealth. Let us persist in the notion that I have a say — and important and equal say — in the operation of my government here and out in the world. Let us persist in the notion that, in America, the people rule. If we persist in these notions — and, if we don’t, what’s the fking point, really? — then there is only one question that I humbly ask of my government this week.

Please, if it’s not too damn much trouble, can you tell me what’s being done in my name?

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