Coal is the enemy of the human race

And it’s also a very prickly political and economic issue. But if we really do want to stop massive flooding, fires and storms, we’re going to have to do something. From Grist’s David Roberts:

Yesterday, Jessnoted a new paper in the American Economic Review: “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy.” Brad Johnson has a longer summary here. I want to emphasize the paper’s conclusions and make a few related points. But mostly I want to beg everyone:spread this around. Coal’s net economic effects on the U.S. are poorly understood, to say the least, and this paper’s findings are stunning.

Once you strip away the econ jargon, the paper finds that, on the margin, electricity from coal imposes more damages on the U.S. economy than the electricity is worth. That’s right: The next coal-fired power plant is a net value-subtraction. A parasite, you might say, that will enrich a few executives and shareholders at the public’s expense.

If you’re of a wonky bent, it’s worth digging in. The authors try to establish a framework for integrating air-pollution costs into national accounts — that is, a systematic way of accounting for those “externalities” you’re always hearing about — and come up with something called gross external damages (GED). They calculate GED for several common industries and find that not only coal power, but “solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, [and] marinas” have air-pollution externalities that exceed their total value added.

But coal power is a parasite in a class by itself, with a GED equal to the combined totals of its three closest competitors. In fact, coal plants “are responsible for more than one-fourth of GED from the entire U.S. economy” — roughly $53 billion in damages a year.

Crazy fundies playing power games, Part 297


Bad news! A lady was raped. Good news! She went to the hospital, was cared for, and was given two birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Bad news! The lady was arrested by the Tampa PD on a warrant when filing her police report. Good news! Er, hmmm. Bad news! Prison employee Michele Spinelli refused to give the lady her second pill, on “religious grounds.” Good news! The lady did not get pregnant anyway. Bad news! We will just repeat that again: Prison employee Michele Spinelli refused to give the lady her second pill, on “religious grounds.”

Good news! A US District Court judge says the lady can indeed sue Spinelli. Bad news! But not the sheriff who was supposed to oversee the jail. Good news! Florida has a “conscience clause” stating that any pharmacist or doctor cannot be held liable for refusing to fork over your slut pills. Oh wait, that is bad news. This story kind of sucks! Bad news! Even the judge allowing the lawsuit to go forward refers to the morning after pill as “terminating a pregnancy” instead of “keeping a pregnancy from occurring.” Bad news! Just like they took over the schoolboards in the ’80s, the Christian Right has had a long-term goal of practically preventing women from getting birth control by stacking the pharmaceutical colleges and getting conscience clauses passed throughout the nation. Bad news! Some counties only have one pharmacist, and she is Michele Spinelli.


Did you ever throw out something you really, really need because you thought it was a spare?

Oh, nice!

It looks like the only chance we have to get justice over bank fraud will be these local efforts. Here’s hoping they actually go ahead with this, because it will interesting to see which local politicians are under those rocks:

After financial agreements called interest-rate swaps went south along with the economy a few years back, the city and the Philadelphia School District had to fork over millions of dollars to major banks to sever the deals.

This spring, the city retained an outside law firm to examine whether to file a lawsuit. The move followed a resolution that Councilman Jim Kenney introduced in March calling for hearings to investigate interest-rate swaps.

“Our transit agency is suffering, our schools are in a terrible situation and the city is always on the brink of financial calamity,” Kenney said Tuesday at a news conference held at City Hall to draw attention to the swap deals. “So we’re hoping that the law firm that we have engaged to look at this comes back with a favorable idea to go forward with a lawsuit to sue Bank of America, Wells Fargo and all of the others — everybody who was involved in the collapse of the economy.”

He said he hoped that a lawsuit would force the banks to come to the table to negotiate a deal that does not include “punitive payments.”

The city’s Law Department said the outside law firm — Faruqi and Faruqi — will “evaluate potential claims related to these transactions, but it has not yet reached a decision on whether to file suit.” The firm would only be compensated if the city recovered damages from a suit.

Critics of the deals say that in the early 2000s bankers persuaded local governments and schools throughout the country to purchase swaps that were contingent on the future of U.S. interest rates. But those deals went sour in 2008, when the economy crashed and governments were forced to pay banks the difference once market interest rates plummeted.

Kenney was joined at the news conference by other critics of the swap deals, the Transit Workers Union Local 234 and Fight for Philly. Organizers pointed to a report titled Riding the Gravy Train, issued this month by a group of transit advocates and workers known as the Refund Transit Coalition. The report details costs of interest-rate swaps for cities across the country and its impact on public transit systems.

Hat tip to Jason Kalafat, Attorney at Law.

God said fire, not a flood next time

Colorado (and particularly the Air Force Academy) is a place where fires are frequently seen as a sign from Jesus, and not of extreme climate change. I feel sorry for those fundies, because they must think Jesus is very angry at them right now.

Yet another climate change disaster and no prominent politicians can bring themselves to connect these dots:

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters’ perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 32,000 residents, including the U.S. Air Force Academy, and destroying an unknown number of homes.

Heavy smoke and ash billowed from the mountain foothills west of the city. Bright yellow and orange flames flared in the night, often signaling another home lost to the Waldo Canyon Fire, the No. 1 priority for the nation’s firefighters.

Interstate 25, which runs through Colorado Springs, was briefly closed to southbound traffic Tuesday.

“It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said after flying over the 9-square-mile fire late Tuesday. “It’s almost surreal. You look at that, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before.”

With flames cresting a ridge high above its breathtaking, 28-square-mile campus, the Air Force Academy told more than 2,100 residents to evacuate 600 households.

Oh, and by the way? Federal firefighters are largely temp workers – with no health insurance. Nice, huh.

Senate freezes student loan rate increase

Senate leaders have removed an increase in student loan rates (an unpopular idea for students and their families} from the table, at least for another year — pending House approval. But since we already know which party was trying to double the interest rates, I don’t think students are going to forget:

More than 7 million college students could be spared higher loan rates under a deal reached Tuesday by Senate leaders.

The agreement would freeze the interest rate for a year, preventing it from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, making college more affordable for students even as tuition costs are rising.

Although leaders in both parties said they favored the rate freeze, they argued about how to cover its $6 billion cost.

While they bickered, President Obama traveled the country to rally college students to press for congressional action. If the deal emerges from Congress intact, Obama is likely to take credit for having forced the issue to the front of the agenda, but Republicans have countered that an agreement could have been reached weeks ago had Democrats not decided to make it a campaign issue. Republicans say that Democrats slow-walked the negotiations to allow the president to paint the GOP as the recalcitrant party and willing to risk higher college costs.

The deal was announced Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told reporters that they had worked out the arrangement but were still discussing how to push it through Congress in the final busy days before lawmakers leave Washington for a week-long Fourth of July holiday.

The proposal’s passage will be contingent upon an embrace from the GOP-held House, although McConnell indicated that he thinks the chamber’s leaders will favor the deal.

Cantor vulnerable

Interesting news, especially in light of the fact that, as far as I know, the DCCC is indifferent to supporting Wayne Powell and taking Cantor down. This is a very conservative district! Not sure that the race between Obama and Romney won’t tighten up closer to the end (it all depends on whether we get our base out), but I’m beginning to think the Dems seem likely to take back the House:

In the poll from from Harrison Hickman obtained exclusively by ThinkProgress, voters say they would support a pro-choice candidate over a candidate who is pro-life by an unexpectedly large margin, 68 percent to 23 percent. The finding comes after intense media coverage of efforts by state Republicans to mandate transvaginal ultrasounds prior to obtaining an abortion, a procedure described by critics as “state-sponsored rape.” The resulting backlash from women in Virginia forced Governor Bob McDonnell (R) and his allies at the statehouse to moderate their efforts.

Eric Cantor has a 100% rating from the National Right To Life Committee.

The poll also calls into question Republicans’ scorched earth policy when it comes to working with the Obama administration. Fifty nine percent of voters say they would support a candidate who works with President Obama some of the time compared to just 32 percent of respondents who say they would vote for the candidate who opposes virtually everything proposed by the White House, as Cantor and the rest of the GOP have insisted upon for much of Obama’s first term.

And asked about Cantor specifically, voters disapprove of his handling of government spending, health care and reigning in the budget deficit, three key issues that Cantor and House Republicans have campaigned heavily on since 2008.

Sorkin too old-school for ultra-hip blogger

Here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, an Atlantic editor and blogger, quoting from Aaron Sorkin’s “deeply unpleasant, condescending and sexist” interview with the Globe and Mail:

“I think I would have done very well, as a writer, in the forties,” [Sorkin] says. “I think the last time America was a great country was then, or not long after. It was before Vietnam, before Watergate.”

Coates thought Sorkin, in the interview, was insensitive to victims of segregation and “gender repression” back in the ’40s. He scolded Sorkin for extolling a great era that never existed, and for expressing “attendant notions that the internet [has] ruined everything.”

What a crock. In the interview, Sorkin betrayed a nostalgic streak and apparent insecurities about the quality of his work. But I’m still trying to figure out what it is about him and his new HBO show, The Newsroom, that so deeply offended Coates and the many Sorkin non-fans who posted comments on Coates’ site.

They all seemed to miss the main points Sorkin made in the first episode of his new show, especially in the initial rant about America’s decline, delivered by Jeff Daniels, playing (at least in this scene) a latter-day Howard Beale.

More here.

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