Why fight global warming when the weather is so nice?

Really enjoyed this Op-Ed from Political Scientists Patrick Egan and Megan Mullin.  Good (and disturbing) stuff:

In a poll taken in January, after the country’s warmest December on record, the Pew Research Center found that climate change ranked close to last on a list of the public’s policy priorities. Why?

In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, we provide one possible explanation: For a vast majority of Americans, the weather is simply becoming more pleasant. Over the past four decades, winter temperatures have risen substantially throughout the United States, but summers have not become markedly more uncomfortable… [emphases mine]

Our findings are striking: 80 percent of Americans now find themselves living in counties where the weather is more pleasant than it was four decades ago. Although warming during this period has been considerable, it has not been evenly distributed across seasons. Virtually all Americans have experienced a rise in January maximum daily temperatures — an increase of 1.04 degrees Fahrenheit per decade on average — while changes in daily maximum temperatures in July have been much more variable across counties, rising by an average of just 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade over all. Moreover, summer humidity has declined during this period.

As a result, most people’s experiences with daily weather since the time that they first heard about climate change have generally been positive…

To those of us who believe climate change is the most profound challenge of our age, our discovery is both illuminating and disheartening. In previous work, we’ve shown that Americans make sense of climate change in part through their personal experience of the weather. Our new findings suggest that the weather changes caused by global warming cannot be relied on to spur the public to demand policies that address the problem. By the time the weather changes for the worse later in this century, it may be too late.

And it will change for the worse. Under all likely scenarios, seasonal trends are projected to eventually reverse: Future warming in the United States will be more severe in summer than in winter. Should greenhouse gas emissions proceed unabated, we estimate that 88 percent of Americans will be exposed to less pleasant weather at the end of this century than they are today.

Fascinating combination of science and social science.  Also, damn, that sucks!  I love pleasant weather!  I know, hedonic adaption and all that, and various research suggests I’m no happier with good weather.  But I’m pretty sure I am.  For example, I just cannot get enough of this late April weather– warm, no humidity yet, and no mosquitoes yet.  I really feel like I actually enjoy my days more.  And damn it, I guess by the time I’m an old man I’ll be hating April.  Carbon tax?

My Russian take on last night

Was not actually planning on writing a post, but since I was asked for my comments by the Russian news agency, TASS, I figured I might as well share them here as well:

1) Democrats.  It’s over.  It may take Hillary Clinton through the end of voting to actually have enough delegates to clinch, but barring anything truly surprising and unforeseen, the nomination is hers.  Tonight was a string of strong victories that push her delegate lead ever further ahead.  Again, there really is no plausible way for Sanders to catch her now.  I fully expect Sanders to keep running.  He clearly is giving voice to an important part of the Democratic electorate and presumably sees little reason to stop doing so as he is still drawing huge crowds and impressive numbers of voters for a candidate who now seems destined to lose.  I expect that HRC will increasingly turn her attention to Trump and the Fall campaign.

2) Very good night for Donald Trump.  Yes, it was essentially expected, but that doesn’t change the fact that he picked up a lot of delegates and avoided showing any weaknesses which might give the “neverTrump” folks some hope.  Furthermore, even if does fall short of the magical 1237, this string of victories (added to NY) where he winning substantial majorities (as opposed to his earlier plurality wins) suggest a candidate gaining strength who can no longer be written off as simply the beneficiary of a crowded field who cannot actually achieve Republican majorities.  There is still very much a non-trivial chance that the Republicans have a contested convention, but I would say that chance definitely looks smaller now than it did before tonight.

And while I’m at it, credit to Bernie for striking just the right note and, I think, taking a very sensible approach.  Here’s Yglesias with the summary:

Bernie Sanders campaign put out a statement tonight that, for the first time, implicitly admits what delegate-counters have been saying for a few weeks now — he’s not going to be the nominee.

He’s not going to drop out of the race, but the opening paragraph of his statement he speaks of looking forward “to issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come” — an indication that he’ll be ratcheting-down the anti-Clinton rhetoric not ratcheting it up. But the real bombshell comes later in the statement where he describes the goal of amassing delegates primarily in terms of influencing the party platform rather than determining the nominee.

Read the whole thing (with emphasis added):

I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victories tonight, and Ilook forward to issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come.

I am proud that we were able to win a resounding victory tonight in Rhode Island, the one state with an open primary where independents had a say in the outcome. Democrats should recognize that the ticket with the best chance of winning this November must attract support from independents as well as Democrats. I am proud of my campaign’s record in that regard.

The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.

This amounts to a savvy, classy way to begin winding down a campaign that was much more successful than anyone expected it to be but still quite far from actually winning. Sanders is staying in the race and giving his supporters something to vote for, thus giving his operation something to continue organizing around.

Yep.  I’m truly glad Bernie ran (and will keep running).  Maybe now, just maybe, his supporters can admit this isn’t happening and get behind Hillary.  Unless, that is, they truly want President Trump.

Bernie and the short and long range future of the Democratic party

First, Matt Yglesias (who has generally been quite positive about Bernie) makes a compelling case for why he is substantially less electable than Hillary Clinton:

But what worries the Democratic Party professionals who’ve rallied to Clinton’s side — not just her inner circle, but the vast majority of the party’s elected officials and interest group leaders, including people who are more ideologically in-sync with Bernie — isn’t Sanders’ personal standing.

 It’s his ideas and, especially, his approach to politics.

Sanders’ appeal in the primary is based largely on the idea that he, unlike Hillary Clinton, full-throatedly embraces the liberal agenda and always had…

But it’s no great mystery why Clinton’s record is different from Sanders’ in this regard. She’s a careful, opportunistic politician who is more likely to follow public opinion and lead it. That’s what makes her a less-inspiring candidate. Someone who’s less likely to attract a vast crowd to her rallies, and less likely to inspire an ordinary person to take $15 or $50 out of her wallet and hand it over to Clinton. But it’s also, in the view of most professionals, what makes her the more electable candidate. Careful opportunists win and the establishment worries that Sanders won’t be careful or opportunistic enough… [emphases mine]

An exchange in the most recent Democratic debate illustrates, beyond polling, exactly what has professional political operatives worries about Sanders. Things that he brings to the table as his primary virtue in a nominating contest — primarily a willingness to take tough stances regardless of the political consequences — are likely to be weaknesses as a nominee…

If it were just carbon taxes, Sander’s issue positions probably wouldn’t be enough to outweigh his poll numbers in the eyes of most political insiders.

But Sanders — quite proudly and openly — takes these kind of stances on a wide range of issues. He markets himself in the primary, accurately, as the bolder, more politically courageous candidate.

Yep.  And plenty more good stuff in this article.  Even if Bernie is better for the long-term future of the Democratic party, short-term, he is more likely to lose them the 2016 election (personally, that’s a risk I’m unwilling to take).

As for Bernie and the long term, Yglesias had another good post on that:

The votes of old people count just as much, of course, but any young and ambitious Democrat looking at the demographics of the party and the demographics of Sanders supporters has to conclude that his brand of politics is extremely promising for the future. There are racial and demographic gaps between Clinton and Sanders supporters, but the overwhelming reality is that for all groups, the young people are feeling the Bern…

Hillary Clinton’s campaign — and, frankly, many DC journalists — has been repeatedly taken by surprise by the potency of some of Sanders’s attacks, because they apply to such a broad swath of the party. But this is precisely the point. Sanders and his youthful supporters want the Democrats to be a different kind of party: a more ideological, more left-wing one…

But though Democrats are certainly the more left-wing of the two parties — the party of labor unions and environment groups and feminist organizations and the civil rights movement — they’re not an ideologically left-wing party in the same way that Republicans are an ideological conservative one. Instead, they behave more like a centrist, interest group brokerage party that seeks to mediate between the claims and concerns of left-wing activists groups and those of important members of the business community — especially industries like finance, Hollywood, and tech that are based in liberal coastal states and whose executives generally espouse a progressive outlook on cultural change.

Sanders’s core proposition, separate from the details of the political revolution, is that for progressives to win they need to first organize and dominate an ideologically left-wing political party that is counterpoised to the ideological right-wing Republican Party.

I’m not sure of Sanders is right or wrong on this.  He may be right.  But I hope he’s not, because it’s bad enough having one ideologically-driven party that is largely impervious to facts.  I’d hate for their to be two in a two-party system.

United States of North Korea

I’ve written about Civil Asset Forfeiture before.  I’ll write about it again.  It’s appalling, evil, horrible, has no place in a democratic society, etc.  If I told you there is a country where it is perfectly legal for the government to take your cash without charging you with a crime, you’d think North Korea or Yemen or Myanmar or some such place.  And yet, it is the law in the United States of America.  But, just one more in a series of utterly deplorable cases.

How police took $53,000 from a Christian band, an orphanage and a church

Eh Wah had been on the road for 12 hours when he saw the flashing lights in his rear-view mirror.

The 40-year-old Texas man, a refugee from Burma who became a U.S. citizen more than a decade ago, was heading home to Dallas to check on his family. He was on a break from touring the country for months as a volunteer manager for the Klo & Kweh Music Team, a Christian rock ensemble from Burma, also known as Myanmar. The group was touring the United States to raise funds for a Christian college in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand.

Eh Wah managed the band’s finances, holding on to the cash proceeds it raised from ticket and merchandise sales at concerts. By the time he was stopped in Oklahoma, the band had held concerts in 19 cities across the United States, raising money via tickets that sold for $10 to $20 each.

The sheriff’s deputies in Muskogee County, Okla., pulled Eh Wah over for a broken tail light about 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27. The deputies started asking questions — a lot of them. And at some point, they brought out a drug-sniffing dog, which alerted on the car. That’s when they found the cash, according to the deputy’s affidavit.

There was the roughly $33,000 from ticket sales and donations, much of it earmarked for the religious college back in Burma, according to Eh Wah and the band members…

All told, the deputies found $53,000 in cash in Eh Wah’s car that night. Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said he couldn’t comment on the particulars of Eh Wah’s case because of the open investigation, but it is clear from his deputy’s affidavit that the officers didn’t like Eh Wah’s explanation for how he got the cash. “Inconsistent stories,” the affidavit notes. Despite the positive alert from the drug-sniffing dog, no drugs, paraphernalia or weapons were found. Just the cash.

The officers ended up taking all of the money — all $53,249 of it. “Possession of drug proceeds,” the property receipt reads. But they let Eh Wah go. They didn’t charge him with a crime that night, instead sending him back on the road about 12:30 a.m., with the broken tail light.

NC is plenty backward, but at least, we have one of the best laws in the country.  But so much of the country operates under laws like this.  And it absolutely must change.  Damn would I love to hear a presidential candidate talk about this.  And if the left and right cannot come together here– where?


Loved this Wonkblog piece on what we have done to dairy cows through artificial selection:

If there were one thing Temple Grandin, who teaches animal science at Colorado State University, could change about the milk business, it would be the way the industry has messed with its cows.

“What they’ve done is basically the equivalent of taking a car, putting it in neutral, and then dropping a brick on the accelerator until it blows up,” said Grandin. “These cows are constantly in the red zone.”

The chart below shows the simultaneous fall in the number of milk cows and rise in the amount of milk each cow produces on average. There are almost 2 million fewer milk cows today than there were in 1980, but production has remained fairly stable. And guess who is shouldering the brunt of that load?

The answer, of course, is milk cows.

With bottom lines in mind, the industry has long pushed to get more out of its four-legged employees. For many years, that meant operational tweaks, such as changing barn design, altering what cows were fed and being fussy about things such as milking schedules. But more recently, it has meant screwing with the actual anatomy of the animals.

Holsteins, the majestic black and white cows that make up the vast majority of milk cows in the United States, don’t look like they used to. In fact, we have altered their genetic makeup by 22 percent since the 1970s, as Modern Farmernoted in 2014. Today’s cows are taller, heavier, have higher and larger udders, and tend to stand on differently shaped legs. [emphasis mine] And there’s a growing sense we have gone too far…

In many ways, Grandin is one of those advocates. A longtime dairy-industry expert, she divides producers into two categories: the progressives and the not progressives. The former, which she says account for about a third of the industry, have moved away from the practice of breeding “milking machines,” choosing to raise smaller cows that tend to be healthier, as well as productive over a longer period, and opting to feed their herds grass as often as possible. The latter, meanwhile, are driving up the efficiency numbers you see in the chart above, selecting for cows that tend to suffer from a number of adverse health outcomes.

1) This is just awful.  Yes, on some level any use of dairy cows is exploiting animals.  But we can do it in more or less humane ways and this is undoubtedly at the wrong end of that spectrum.  How about we pay a little more for a milk and have a little more decency in the lives of the cows.  Sounds like a more than reasonable trade-off.  (And the article makes a good case that it’s the long-term sensible thing to do as well).

2) I wish all the Cassandras who spend their time railing against perfectly healthy soybeans, etc., that have many benefits, but were created through genetic manipulation in a lab would pay more attention to the extreme genetic manipulation that happens every day through good old selective breeding practices.  I’m far more concerned by what we are doing to the cows (and chickens!) than what we are doing to corn and soybeans.

Where have all the environmentalists gone?

Check out the time series from Gallup:

Trend: Americans' Self-Identification as "an Environmentalist"

As you’d expect, this has been especially true among Republicans, but there’s been a solid drop among Democrats, too.

Trend: Americans' Self-Identification as "an Environmentalist," by Political Party

Interestingly, it is probably more so that the label “environmentalist” has come to disfavor, rather than the actual beliefs behind it.  Here’s the long-term GSS data on spending on the environment.


Though there’s been some decline since a 1990’s peak, we are still looking at a solid majority who thinks we are spending too little to protect the environment.  (Though, the anti-environmentalism among the GOP is presumably working to a modest degree when you see that the small number of those who think we spend too much has pretty much doubled).  Anyway, why the label has fallen out of favor is probably worth a good political science study.

Bathroom predators

One of the best posts I’ve yet read, via ScaryMommy blog.  Even the title nails it, “Stop Using your children as an excuse to be a hateful human being.”

“As a mother, how in the world could you be in support of transgender bathrooms,” wrote one person on my professional Facebook page. “You are now in support of allowing every child molester and rapist in the bathroom with your daughter because he is allowed, all he has to say is that he identifies with women

As a mother, there are a lot of ways I could respond to this. I could point out that a paltry restroom sign was never going to prevent a true predator from harming someone in the first place. I could remind everyone how offensive it is to even make the leap from talking about the transgender community to discussing sexual predators in the same sentence. I could even point out that the majority of us have probably shared a restroom with a transgender person at some point and not even known it because they just want to pee.

If you’re truly worried about child sex abuse, then as a responsible parent, it’d behoove you to know that in three-quarters of sex abuse cases, children are harmed not by pooping strangers, but by members of their own family or someone they know. Furthermore, while girls carry a one in four chance of being sexually abused before age 18, the risk for boys is one in six. If bathroom predators are truly an issue, why on earth would I be worried about my daughter but not my son?

Yep, yep, yep.  This is all about fearmongering and not a whit about actual bathroom safety.  Thank you North Carolina Republicans!


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