The First Black President

Lester Young was the first jazz musician I really listened to — on an Aladdin 10″ disc called “Battle of the Saxes,” will Illinois Jacquet on one side and Pres on the other. I still have most of his solo on that version of “D.B. Blues” memorized.

Here’s a 1958 clip of a visibly frail Young playing “Mean To Me.” Frail…but still strong.

And a group performance of “Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid” that includes Pee Wee Russell and Coleman Hawkins:

Year 3, Month 8, Day 31: Here Comes The Story Of The Hurricane…

As of August 25, Tropical Storm Isaac is heading straight for the GOP Convention. What could possibly go wrong? The Washington Post:

MIAMI — Forecasters cast a wary eye Tuesday on Tropical Storm Isaac, which was looming in the Atlantic Ocean and poses a potential threat to Florida during next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa.

It’s much too early to say with any certainty whether it will gain hurricane strength or make a beeline for Tampa, on Florida’s west coast. But it’s the type of weather that convention organizers knew was a possibility during the peak of hurricane season — and they have backup plans in place in a worst-case scenario.

Blown away? Dare we hope? Sent August 25:

Fans of irony have much to savor in the news that Tropical Storm Isaac is now moving directly towards Tampa and the site of the Republican Convention. First, information about the storm’s likely path is provided to city, state and federal planners by the exact same government agencies the GOP’s policies would systematically de-fund. Similarly, plans for coping with such extreme weather events — before, during, and after — are unimaginable without the support of U.S. Government agencies, such as FEMA.

That the Convention’s planners apparently never considered that scheduling their event in a storm-prone area might be problematic exemplifies the Republican Party’s difficulty with reality — a difficulty that reaches its apex in the fact that the erstwhile party of Teddy Roosevelt is now the political home of those who deny both the science of global climate change and the very notion of environmental responsibility as a civic virtue.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 30: Two Game Wardens, Seven Hunters, And A Cow.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT) discusses climate change’s impact on huntin’ and fishin’ and all that kinda outdoors-y stuff:

Climate change and the subprime mortgage crisis share two trends: They had early signs that some people ignored or denied, and they can strain the economy, experts said Wednesday.

Four people addressed both trends during a presentation titled, “Feeling the heat: The impact of climate change on Montana’s outdoor heritage,” at the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture on Wednesday.

All four said this summer’s excessive heat and drought were bringing the issue home to more people nationwide. Crop failures in the Midwest and large wildfires in Colorado and Idaho have dominated the news and demonstrate how climate change can cause costly events.

Montana has so far been spared the brunt of the extreme weather. But many Montanans didn’t need the heat to hit before noticing changes that have occurred over the past quarter century, said Bill Geer, a 39-year veteran of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“We believe that sportsmen are actually among the first to recognize climate change, even if they don’t say the word,” Geer said. “They see the evidence in the field because they’re out there hunting and fishing.”

Sent August 24:

There’s one group of people who’ll be among the first to recognize the signs of climate change. When the timing of animal migrations changes radically, when entire forests are devastated by invasive insect species, when regional biodiversity is decimated by shifting patterns of extreme weather — who better to notice and report the damage than hikers, hunters, and fishermen?

It’s a tragic irony that the national discussion of the climate crisis has become politicized through the misrepresentations of conservative politicians and media figures. Teddy Roosevelt, a great Republican president, and a legendary outdoorsman, was the force behind America’s system of National Parks, and a staunch advocate of wilderness conservation; can you imagine his response to the science-denying anti-environmentalists in today’s GOP? A vote for the party of Big Oil and Coal is a vote against the timeless joys of the wild, and for a Big Sky turned gray with smog.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 29: He Said WHAT?

The Waltham News-Tribune (MA) notes that Ed Markey (MA-O7) has some harsh words for candidate Romney’s ludicrous energy plan:


U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, lambasted Mitt Romney for his just-released energy plan that he said was a gift to the oil industry and would put alternative energy in jeopardy.

“Mitt Romney has finally released his energy plan and not surprisingly given the fact that he met with the oil barons just two days ago in Texas, it is a plan which says that it is not ‘all of the above,’ but ‘oil above all,’ that it is a plan that gives the oil industry everything that it has ever dreamed of,” Markey said on Thursday.

The Malden Democrat said the former Massachusetts governor’s plan would “do away with the tax breaks for the wind industry” while keeping the $4 billion in tax breaks given to the oil industry.

“Which industry does not need a tax break?” Markey asked reporters in front of the State House.

In a speech in New Mexico on Thursday, the Republican presidential candidate laid out his energy plan, which reportedly would give states more responsibility for oil drilling permits on federal lands and sets a goal of energy independence by the end of a second term.

That’s my congressman! Sent August 24:

Ed Markey’s remarks about Romney’s energy plan are right on target. While ordinary Americans are struggling to get by, big oil and big coal are already the world’s most profitable industries, raking in billions — and Romney wants to give them even more tax breaks, effectively asking the public to subsidize more multimillion dollar bonuses for their executives.

Let’s not forget that these industries have a lengthy rap sheet of safety and environmental violations — but Mitt would loosen even the poorly enforced regulations currently in place. Notice that the rest of the world’s developed and developing nations are investing heavily in renewable energy sources — while this retrogressive proposal does the opposite.

Finally, consider the overwhelming scientific evidence linking fossil fuels to global climate change. As a world leader, America’s energy economy should be an example of responsible planetary stewardship — not Romney’s reckless glorification of waste and inefficiency.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 28: Nice Work If You Can Get It

The Arizona Star discusses the problem and tries to be even-handed, while simultaneously pointing out that the denialists are full of shit:

The following appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Friday:

It’s official: July was the hottest month in the continental U.S. since the government began keeping those records in 1895.

For years, scientists have warned that climate change is happening. They reached that conclusion not because of a hot summer like this one, but from decades of data that show slowly rising temperatures.

In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences unequivocally warned: “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”

Americans have heard similar alarms before, and no doubt many have become adept at tuning them out, which is why we’d like to draw attention to physicist Richard Muller, a prominent climate-change skeptic who has changed his mind. Here’s what Muller wrote in a July 28 New York Times op-ed:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that in my mind threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

One reason Muller’s conversion is drawing attention: His Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which has a history of supporting groups that deny climate change.

Muller’s latest scientific paper will be pawed and poked by climate scientists – skeptics and believers alike. We’ll see how well it holds up.

One thing we can predict with certainty: Muller will not convince all climate doubters. But complete agreement usually isn’t necessary or achievable in science. Heck, there are still physicists who don’t think Einstein got it right.

Climate is complex and doesn’t yield easily to computer models and scientific calculations. Scientists won’t ever be able to predict with 100 percent certainty how bad warming will get and when.

And let’s acknowledge this isn’t just about data. Somewhere along the way, what started out as a scientific debate turned into a political, even ideological, spat. Highhanded advocates for slashing our use of fossil fuels backed extreme restrictions that would damage the world’s developed economies – America’s included. Skeptics pushed back, as aggravated by the righteousness of the climate-change Cassandras as by their doubts about the underlying – and incomplete – science.

Sent August 23:

Now that erstwhile skeptic Richard Muller has satisfied himself that the science of global warming is real and indisputable, the doubters are running out of scientists to reassure them that the greenhouse effect isn’t really happening. Leaving aside the voices of a few television weather forecasters and a phalanx of conservative pundits, the only scientists still supporting the denialist side are MIT’s Richard Lindzen and the University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer — names certain to appear frequently in the coming months as the evidence confirming climate change continues to accumulate.

Lindzen is notorious for his continued refusal to accept a causal relationship between cigarettes and lung cancer, and Spencer’s papers have been repeatedly debunked. Sure, these two contrarians could still be right, and thousands of climatologists could be wrong. But American energy and environmental policies should be based on the worldwide scientific consensus, not a handful of extreme minority opinions.

Year 3, Month 8, Day 27: Nobody Here But Us Hippie Chickens

The Des Moines Register discusses climate change’s impact in Idaho and the nation:

Can we learn from the drought of 2012? Is this truly the “new normal” climate for which we need to plan? Let’s consider the following.

Weather is what we experience on a day-to-day basis at any location. But climate is the long-term manifestation of weather recorded over decades to centuries and longer.

One indication of decadal climate change lies in long-term trends of daily high temperature records set at weather stations throughout the world compared to the number of record daily low temperatures. In a variable climate system, there will always be new extremes experienced as the record grows longer. But the ratio of record highs to lows should average 1:1. However, on a warming planet, the number of record highs should significantly exceed the number of lows.

That’s exactly what’s occurring — the United States recorded about two new daily highs for every record low temperature in recent years. But by mid-century, climatologists project that the ratio of record highs to lows will increase to 20:1 and by the end of the century it will be 50:1.

I’m just a hippy. What do I know? Sent August 22:

For generations beyond number, humanity’s traditional cultures have offered a way for us to think in time spans longer than individual lifetimes. The emergence of our modern industrial civilization has drastically curtailed our access to this type of wisdom, and we are all the poorer for it. Nowhere is this more evident than in our ADD-driven inability to respond to the obvious and undeniable threat posed by global climate change. When corporations are unable to think beyond the next fiscal quarter, when politicians are unable to think beyond the next election, when citizens are unable to think beyond the next paycheck, and the media is unable to think beyond the 24-hour news cycle — it’s unsurprising that a slow-motion emergency of multi-generational scope receives less attention than pop star marriages and political scandals du jour.

While there are technological and cultural solutions available for many aspects of the climate crisis, these will amount to very little unless we — all of us, corporations, citizens, politicians and pundits alike — learn anew to think in the long term, developing the wisdom that comes from considering not our own happiness and prosperity, but that of our posterity.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 26: Big Bee Gets The Honey

The Kitsap Sun (WA) is one of a number of papers running a Seattle Times story about a scientist who studies flowers:

SEATTLE (AP) — University of Washington researcher Elinore Theobald is studying the relationship between flowers and their pollinators on Washington’s highest mountain. And what she is finding so far — avalanche lilies at higher elevation set seed at one-third the rate of lilies elsewhere on the mountain — points to troubling questions.

Is it possible that the lilies are struggling because of a mismatch in their timing with their pollinators? And does that, in turn, point to trouble as the climate changes?

Theobald, a doctoral candidate, is working with field assistants Natasha Lozanoff and Margot Tsakonas to understand not just how a single species might be affected by even small changes in temperature, but how biological interactions between species respond to changing climates.

It is, if you will, a burning question: The average annual temperature in the Pacific Northwest has increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1920, and is projected to increase an additional 3.6 to 7.2 degrees or more by the end of the century, according to the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.

What might that mean for plant and animal communities? One way to find out is to head to the mountain, Theobald figured, where the range in elevation can be a proxy for the shifts in climate that are forecast.

She posits that understanding how plant and pollinator interactions are playing out at those different elevations today might be a clue to what will occur in the future. And if you love avalanche lilies, it might not be good.

A flower is a lovesome thing. Sent August 21:

One of the most important things to be learned from studying ecological relationships is that every living thing on the planet is connected intricately with countless other living things. Humanity’s perch at the high end of the food chain depends on the millions of complex symbiotic relationships that collectively form Earth’s biosphere — like those between flowers and their pollinators. The University of Washington’s Elinore Theobald and her team of researchers have uncovered some very troubling evidence suggesting that these examples of nature’s genius in fostering teamwork may be at considerable risk due to the rapid acceleration of global climate change.

Just as individual achievements depend on the infrastructure created by a well-functioning society, so is our species’ collective progress built on an environmental “infrastructure” millions of years in the making. While the past century of industrial growth has brought our civilization to a level of remarkable accomplishment, it has also disrupted the climate in ways that seem likely to have disastrous consequences.

If our internet goes out for an hour, we feel sorely inconvenienced. But the planetary environment is a larger, older, and far more essential kind of “world-wide web” — one we cannot afford to lose.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 25: Come Back With Your Shield, Or On It.

The San Francisco Examiner notes that California governor Jerry Brown is taking steps on behalf of science-type stuff:

Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t shooting for the moon on this one.

On Monday, the governor used an annual summit in Lake Tahoe to launch a new website to rebut skeptics of climate change, commonly referred to as global warming. California has implemented many programs and laws to lead the fight against emissions that contribute to climate change, and now Brown is using his bully pulpit to counter critics who deny there is a problem.

The issue is especially pressing for California, where miles of coastline, including here in the Bay Area, could be hit by rising sea levels, larger waves and higher storm surges in the coming decades. The best science we have points to the inescapable conclusion that emissions from human activity are preventing heat from escaping the atmosphere, causing our planet to warm. Such higher temperatures have myriad consequences, including altered weather patterns — such as droughts, scorching heat waves and stronger storms — and the rapid melting of polar ice, which adds more water to the oceans.

A recent report from the National Research Council pointed out that a sea level change could affect oceans around the world. But one key highlight was that the sea level along the California coastline could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100. For San Francisco, a city bordered on three sides by water, this is a critical topic to address. Thousands of residents and businesses near the ocean or Bay could be affected, as well as key infrastructure such as San Francisco International Airport.

With an urgent need to focus on the monumental task of working to curb future emissions and to plan for those climate changes that it’s too late to avoid, it is frustrating that effort must still be expended to combat climate change deniers. Too much energy is being wasted on peripheral fights that delay the real work that needs to be done. Many might remember “ClimateGate,” the investigation into emails stolen from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit in 2009 that allegedly showed scientists were exaggerating the perils of climate change. Years later, the core of the studies have held up, showing an overall warming of Earth. Fighting against such allegations merely diverts time from solving the real problems.

Good for him. Sent August 14:

Governor Brown’s recent climate-change website launch is a salutary example of a politician advocating on behalf of the truth. There will always be people proclaiming that human-caused global warming is illusory (or a liberal hoax), but this isn’t a valid argument against the scientific consensus. Some people believe the Earth is flat, that aliens abducted their aunts, that Elvis lives in Buenos Aires, that the Moon landing was staged — every absurd notion has its adherents. A responsible news media, however, has no obligation to report on such eccentric “true believers.”

Climate change denialists in politics develop energy and environmental policies rooted not in reality, but in a fantasy world where tax cuts for the rich create jobs, President Obama was born in Kenya, and human CO2 emissions have no impact on the planetary greenhouse effect. Responsible politics, like responsible media, should be based on facts and evidence, not ideology.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 24: You Say Ee-ther, I Say Eye-ther…

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in an editorial:

While those with vivid memories of weather during the Depression might take umbrage, it is now official that July 2012 was the hottest month ever in the United States.

So far, 2012 is the driest and hottest year in more than a century. Farmers are battling a drought estimated to cover 63 percent of the country. Crops are failing and livestock are being put down. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated half of all counties disaster areas and expects the lowest corn yield in 17 years. This soon will be reflected in higher food prices.

Meanwhile, wildfires have been a problem nationwide. Rivers are receding and exposing once dark river beds to direct sunlight. At the same time, heavy rains have hit parts of the United States, but the damage to crops and livestock has been done.

Writing July 28 in The New York Times, former climate-change skeptic Richard A. Muller conceded what most of the scientific community has already considered gospel — global warming is real. Mr. Muller now agrees that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to the rise in the planet’s temperature, but he also believes much of the extreme weather is the result of cyclical, natural forces.

While there will probably be an argument about the validity of global warming until the last polar bear drowns, the oppressive heat of July 2012 will be remembered for a long time — or until its record is broken.

That is to say, August. Sent August 13:

The scientific argument about the reality of planetary climate change was settled quite some time ago — well before the recent conversion of erstwhile skeptic Dr. Richard Muller. The overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists (ninety-seven percent, more or less) are in agreement on the issue, differing only in their interpretation of particular details.

Yes, there probably will “be an argument about the validity of global warming until the last polar bear drowns,” as your editor writes. Heck, there’ll probably be such an argument as long as there are enough humans to encompass a wide range of opinions and beliefs. But just because there’s an argument doesn’t mean that both sides have equivalent factuality. The Earth is not flat; astronauts actually landed on the moon; Elvis is dead; global warming is real, human-caused, and getting worse.

Without a responsible news media, the Jeffersonian ideal of “a well-informed citizenry” is unachievable — and if there ever was a time when we needed such a citizenry, it’s now.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 8, Day 23: If This Had Been A Real Emergency, You Would Have Received Instructions…

The Sarasota (FL) Herald Tribune assesses the grim situation:

In drought-scorched parts of the country these days, some farmland bears a resemblance to NASA’s photos of Mars’ barren plains.

Here on Earth, crops are suffering. On Friday, the federal Department of Agriculture cut by 17 percent its estimate for the corn crop and said the U.S. soybean crop is expected to drop, too. Soaring prices are forecast.

The drought stems from a number of causes, science suggests. But some of it appears to be consistent with the kind of long-term drying patterns seen in global-warming climate models.

Furthermore, James E. Hansen, a NASA expert in the field, issued a report last week tying man-made climate change to three severe heat outbreaks from 2003 to 2011.

These latest developments won’t resolve long-running arguments over global warming or its causes. But they heighten the sense that precious time to address the problem is evaporating.

There’s no mystery as to what needs to be done: Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel must be cut.

The fossil-fuel industry is an ichneumon wasp which has laid its eggs inside our civilization. Ick. Sent August 12:

Why is our political system unable to address climate change in anything approaching a responsibly adult manner? The answer rests in the synergy of three separate forces, interacting to produce paralysis: fossil fuel money, politicians’ cupidity, and media irresponsibility.

Taking full advantage of our compromised campaign finance system, the oil and coal industries use their huge financial resources to purchase the loyalty of as many lawmakers as possible. More of that same money funds conservative “think tanks” and “institutes” which generate spurious studies using cherry-picked data and misinterpreted statistics — and also produce telegenic pundits trained to deliver denialist talking points on cue. Hewing to the doctrine that there are two exactly equivalent sides to every story, our print and broadcast media then allow equal time to worried climatologists and petrol-funded shills — reinforcing the notion that “the debate on climate change isn’t settled.” Purchased politicians seize on this false notion as an excuse for continued inaction, which is all Big Oil and Big Coal require.

Repeat and fade.

Warren Senders