Category Archives: Science

Donald Trump commits the U.S. to his anti-science climate change denial (Updated)

Last week the New York Times reported, Arctic’s Winter Sea Ice Drops to Its Lowest Recorded Level:

After a season that saw temperatures soar at the North Pole, the Arctic has less sea ice at winter’s end than ever before in nearly four decades of satellite measurements.

The extent of ice cover — a record low for the third straight year — is another indicator of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, a region that is among the hardest hit by climate change, scientists said.

“This is just another exclamation point on the overall loss of Arctic sea ice coverage that we’ve been seeing,” said Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a government-backed research agency in Boulder, Colo. “We’re heading for summers with no sea ice coverage at all.”

Dr. Serreze said that such a situation, which would leave nothing but open ocean in summer until fall freeze-up begins, could occur by 2030, although many scientists say it may not happen for a decade or two after that.

Less ice coverage also means that there is more dark ocean to absorb more of the sun’s energy, which leads to more warming and melting in a feedback loop called Arctic amplification.

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Public policy is failing to address the economic disruption from rapidly advancing technology

Back in December I posted about a New report on automation and AI replacing human labor.

The New York Times editorialized in February that No, Robots Aren’t Killing the American Dream. As evidence, the Times cites “the data indicate that today’s fear of robots is outpacing the actual advance of robots. If automation were rapidly accelerating, labor productivity and capital investment would also be surging as fewer workers and more technology did the work. But labor productivity and capital investment have actually decelerated in the 2000s.”

Sarah Bauerle Danzman, assistant professor of international studies at the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, and Jeff D. Colgan, the Richard Holbrooke associate professor of political science at the Watson Institute of Brown University, respond today at the Washington Post. Robots aren’t killing the American Dream. Neither is trade. This is the problem.

Unfortunately, [the Times‘] argument leads many people to conclude that globalization and liberalized international trade must be what’s hurting U.S. manufacturing. That’s the argument that Alan Tonelson, a campaign adviser to both Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), made in a more recent Times op-ed. According to Tonelson, the U.S. economy needs protectionist policies to revitalize it.

But they’re wrong. Worse, those arguments distract us from implementing the policies that could most help the American worker. Here’s why.

1) Automation is reducing employment in key industries.

The U.S. economy has steadily lost manufacturing jobs since the late 1970s. In 1970, manufacturing employed close to 25 percent of the workforce; but today employs only about 8.5 percent of working Americans. At the same time, the real median household income for people with high school diplomas but not college degrees fell 27.8 percent.

One key piece of evidence is that the United States shed 5 million manufacturing jobs from 2000-2014, even as output over the same period rose. That suggests that automation is the primary reason for the loss. If international trade were the chief culprit, we would also expect U.S. manufacturing output to decline.

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The battle over a stolen SCOTUS seat begins today

Today’s the day: Donald Trump Supreme Court choice announcement coming Tuesday 8 p.m. ET.

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post reports:

Burgess Everett (Politico) reports that Democrats look like they’re ready to pull the trigger on a filibuster of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee:

Senate Democrats are going to try to bring down President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick no matter who the president chooses to fill the current vacancy.

With Trump prepared to announce his nominee on Tuesday evening, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump’s nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”

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Arizona’s GOP congressional caucus votes to aid and abet Trump’s violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution

I previously posted about the lawsuit against Trump under the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The legal team intends to use the lawsuit to try to get a copy of Trump’s federal tax returns, which are needed to properly assess what income or other payments or loans Trump has received from foreign governments.

As I pointed out at the end of the post:

Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), the top Democrat on the Senate’s tax-writing committee, along with Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), introduced legislation earlier this month to require all sitting presidents and nominated presidential candidates to release their tax returns for the past three years. Want President Trump to release his tax returns? There’s a bill for that.

Will Tea-Publicans in Congress pass this bill? Or will they enable Trump by aiding and abetting his display of contempt for the public’s right to know and possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution?

Burning_constitution

This past week we learned the answer: aiding and abetting Trump’s display of contempt for the public’s right to know and possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution it is!

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ICYMI: ‘gun nuts week’ at the Arizona Lege

With all the other crazy shit going on in the world this past week, you may have missed “gun nuts week” at the Arizona Lege.

First up, Shannon’s Law, enacted in 2000 with the support of Governor Jane Dee Hull and even the NRA. Shannon’s law is named after Shannon Smith, a fourteen-year-old Phoenix girl killed by a stray bullet in June 1999:

While she stood in her backyard talking on the telephone with a friend, a stray bullet hit her in her head, causing instant death. Smith’s death sparked a furor among Arizona residents. Her funeral was attended by approximately 1,300 mourners. A monument, made with melted metal from confiscated firearms, was raised in her honor at her middle school by her classmates and friends. Tens of thousands of dollars in donations for the monument were primarily raised by Shannon’s friends and classmates holding car washes.

A violation of Shannon’s law is defined as a felony offense in Arizona. The gun worshipers and ammosexual gun fetishists at the Arizona Citizens Defense League now want to gut Shannon’s Law. Panel votes to gut Shannon’s Law on gun discharges:

Arizona gun owners would be able to escape being prosecuted under “Shannon’s Law” if they say it was just an accident that they fired their gun into the air.

On a 6-5 margin, the House Judiciary Committee voted to say that criminal negligence in discharging a weapon within a city would no longer be a felony. Instead, prosecutors would have to show that someone knowingly or recklessly shot off a few rounds.

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Legislative Whirlwind Part 4: Lettuce & Birds (video)

Lettuce in Yuma

Here we can see miles of fields of Romaine lettuce with crews of migrant workers in the distance. In the foreground are 1000s of discarded outer Romaine lettuce leaves. Workers severely trim lettuce heads down, so they can be sold as “Romaine hearts”. The leaves will be plowed back into the ground for nutrients, but still, the waste was surprise to someone like me who heard “waste not want not” many times while growing up.

During our Yuma Legislative Tour in December, we saw miles and miles of lettuce, cotton, broccoli, seed crops, and more. We got muddy and trudged around the Romaine lettuce fields with migrant workers, and we also toured a cotton gin. (More photos are here on my Facebook page.)

After our first day of touring Yuma’s agricultural areas, we heard multiple presentations at a hosted dinner paid for by different growing/ranching industry groups and served up by 4H and JTED youth. The presentation by Paul Brierley, director of the University of Arizona Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, stuck out in my mind. He talked about using engineering technology to help growers in the Yuma area. According to the UA website, “The [Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture], based in Yuma, is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the college and the Arizona and California desert agriculture industry, dedicated to addressing ‘on-the-ground’ industry needs through collaboration and research.” The website continues on to say: “More than two dozen industry partners from Yuma and Salinas, California, have invested in the center, together committing more than $1.1 million over the next three years.”

Brierley is an affable engineer who grew up on a large farm. According to Bierley, the primary problem that industry partners wanted the PPP center to tackle was “productivity”. He talked about different ways to boost productivity by using technology. For example, Brierley said that the date palms needed help with pollination. He showed a photo of a migrant worker pollinating date trees using a machine that looked like a leaf blower strapped on his back. This human-assisted pollination worked, but to improve productivity, the UA and Yuma growers began experimenting with drones. They found that drones to be more efficient pollinators than people. Technology to the rescue: mechanical birds. (For some jobs, this is the future: people being replaced by machines.)

Another problem area that had been identified as a hindrance to productivity was birds.

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