Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Suggestions for Victorious Bus Boycotters, MLK's Powerful Turn Toward Nonviolence

In Suggestions for Victorious Bus Boycotters, MLK's Powerful Turn Toward Nonviolence
By Rebecca Onion
Jan. 17, 2014

This document, drafted by the Montgomery Improvement Association, advised victorious bus boycotters on best practices for riding the newly integrated city bus system.

When the document was distributed on Dec. 19, 1956, the bus boycott had been going on for nearly 12 months. The MIA, headed by Martin Luther King, Jr., coordinated the boycott throughout.

As what had initially been a short-term campaign of a few days stretched into weeks and months, the MIA organized carpools and weathered bombings and legal challenges. African-American citizens walked miles to work, and marched in protest.

In June 1956, a federal district court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional; the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling in November 1956. The MIA waited until December to declare an end to the boycott, wanting to make sure that the ruling would be carried out in Montgomery. Dr. King signaled the official end of the boycott by boarding an integrated bus on Dec. 21, 1956.

Gandhi-inspired civil rights leaders Glenn E. Smiley and Bayard Rustin advised King and the MIA during the boycott. This document shows how far the philosophy of non-violence had permeated the movement by the time of this victory.

Protestors riding newly integrated busses were told to ride with an ally (“Try to get on the bus with a friend in whose non-violence you have confidence”) and to avoid conflict at all junctures (“Do not deliberately sit by a white person, unless there is no other seat”; “If cursed, do not curse back”).

The MIA advocated quiet presence and “calm dignity” in victory: “Remember that this is not a victory for Negroes alone, but for all Montgomery and the South. Do not boast! Do not brag!”

“If you feel you cannot take it,” the MIA finished, “walk for another week or two. We have confidence in our people. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.”

Thanks to Nell Minow for pointing me to this document.

Halliburton manager gets probation for destroying evidence after Gulf spill

Halliburton manager gets probation for destroying evidence after Gulf spill
The Associated Press
Jan. 21, 2014

New Orleans • A former Halliburton manager apologized to his family and friends Tuesday before a federal judge sentenced him to one year of probation for destroying evidence in the aftermath of BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anthony Badalamenti, of Katy, Texas, had faced a maximum of one year in prison at his sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey. Badalamenti pleaded guilty in October to one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence.

The 62-year-old also has to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.

Badalamenti was the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., BP’s cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Prosecutors said he instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP’s blown-out Macondo well.

The judge said that the sentence of probation is "very reasonable in this case."

"I still feel that you’re a very honorable man," he told Badalamenti. "I have no doubt that you’ve learned from this mistake."

Badalamenti expressed remorse for causing "undue stress" on his relatives and friends.

"I am truly sorry for what I did," he said.

Tai Park, one of Badalamenti’s lawyers, said his client had believed that the deleted data could be recreated and could be discarded.

"It did not involve any criminal intent. It did not involve any loss, but it did involve a misjudgment," Park told Zainey.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why the Wealthy Favor Harsh Punishment — for Criminals and Errant Schoolchildren--but not for themselves

Why the Wealthy Favor Harsh Punishment — for Criminals and Errant Schoolchildren
January 13, 2014
by Joshua Holland
Moyers and Company

A growing body of academic research suggests that the wealthy see the world differently than the rest of us.

These studies are more than a matter of passing interest. Last week, the Center for Responsive Politics released a report that for the first time ever, a majority of those representing us in Congress are millionaires. And studies by political scientists Larry Bartels at Princeton and Trinity University’s Thomas Hayes have demonstrated that lawmakers vote to advance the interests of the wealthiest Americans. So in an effective plutocracy, the worldviews of ‘high-status’ individuals translate directly into public policies that affect us all.

Building on earlier research that found that those at the top tend to see themselves as being inherently more deserving than average working people, UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner and Michael Kraus, a colleague at the University of Illinois, looked at how those views might influence the way they view our criminal justice system in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology...

Joshua Holland: When I hear the word ‘essentialism,’ I think of debunked ideas that certain ethnic groups have innate talents or innate shortcomings. The idea that, say, Hispanics are inherently lazy, or Asians are genetically predisposed to be good at math. What is ‘class essentialism’?

Dacher Keltner: The concept of essentialism that you describe has long been with us. It really has no scientific grounding whatsoever, but the belief persists.

Michael Kraus and I got interested in thinking about the social class essentialism that appeared in some of our findings, and it reduces to a simple belief that people who are wealthy or poor are really different biological types. They have different genes; they are categorically almost different kinds of people.

Holland: So it’s the idea that those who have attained a high degree of social status are simply better people, is that fair to say?

Keltner: Yes. I mean, we didn’t necessarily anticipate that in our work, but we keep finding this notion that people from the upper strata of society, as they contemplate their own success and think about why others have less, they arrive at essentialist explanations of their affluence — that it’s due to their better genes, that they have a temperament that’s built for success, that they’re just the kind of people — independent of the neighborhood or society they’re born into — who rise to the top.

... We asked people from different class backgrounds — people in the upper strata making $150–200,000 a year and then those from the lower strata – to explain why some people are doing well and why wealth is expanding for certain individuals. And in that early study, we found this tendency for upper-class individuals to attribute success to superior traits and special talents — and genius, if you will — and for people from lower economic backgrounds to attribute it to cultural or historical or contextual factors, such as having a good chance to get a solid education.

Molly Ivins

Holland: It makes me think of the late, great Molly Ivins. She used to say that George W. Bush was “born on third base and thought he hit a triple.

Keltner: That very notion motivated some of this work. When you are born into a life of great opportunity and privilege in American society, where your schools are good and your neighborhood has great parks and there’s good food around, and quality afterschool programs, and all the things that wealthy individuals have preferential access to, you would hope that would factor into their theories of why they succeed — and we’re finding that it’s not so salient in how they view their lives.

See San Diego Education Report posts on zero tolerance.

Holland:... Your colleague, Paul Piff, found that the wealthy tend to be more likely to have a sense of entitlement than average people. He also found that they were more likely to exhibit narcissistic traits. These all seem to be perfectly complementary.

Keltner: Yeah, Paul Piff’s findings and Michael Kraus’s earlier findings — and studies by Hazel Markus, and Nicole Stephens at Stanford — are all consistent....there’s something about wealth and privilege that makes people perhaps a little too self-focused. And they lose sight of the great breaks they get in life...

And also, importantly, we find that when you are born and live in the lower socioeconomic strata, you tend to be a little bit more sophisticated in how you perceive the contextual factors that influence life...

Keltner: ...In psychological approaches to punishment, you can think about many different kinds of punishment or motives for punishment. And one way to parse that is to think about punishment being retributive — that is kind of an ‘eye for an eye’ form of justice, where the punishment matches the severity of the crime and is really about giving people their just desserts — versus a restorative form of punishment, where the idea is to have a punishment that allows people to regain their dignity and, for people who’ve perpetrated crimes, to improve and to get back in touch with their conscience and their standing in society.

What we’ve learned in this study is that if you think that there are just bad people out there, because of their genes, because of their temperament, because of their biological makeup, you won’t have much hope in restorative justice or restorative punishment. You won’t think there’s really any opportunity for them to change.

And what we’ve found is that because they have this belief that the people who aren’t doing well aren’t doing well because of their genes, upper-class individuals — or people put into this upper-class mindset — are more likely to endorse harsher, more retributive forms of punishment. That’s true when thinking about crimes and also kids cheating in schools — all manner of transgressions. I think that’s really worrisome.

And I’m not only worried about our punitive tendencies. I’d also extend this analysis to other policy areas. For example, the idea of devoting resources to those in need, people who are struggling, is a foundational element of a strong state. And our data would suggest that the well-to-do, who are more likely to be in office, won’t have that intuition about directing resources to those in need...

Joshua Holland is a senior digital producer for He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio.

The wealthy favor harsh punishment--but not for themselves:

VIDEO: Drivers of luxury cars 4 to 5 times more likely to break law while driving
Take Two 'Normal' People, Add Money To Just One Of Them, and Watch

Severe and unequal school discipline preceded the killing of innocent bystander Christopher Lane
Rich People Are More Likely To Lie, Cheat, And Steal Candy From Children

Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

Basketball players suspended from game for hand signals popularized by Boehner, Dekker: why are school administrators so dumb?

Perhaps poor people with substance abuse problems could turn themselves around if they got the treatment received by George W. Bush instead of harsh prison sentences. Mr. Bush was able to clean up his act after two decades of substance abuse.



Book: Bush was arrested for cocaine in 1972
Texas author J.H. Hatfield claims the Republican front-runner did community service at a Houston center.
Salon Staff
Oct. 18, 1999

A new book by Texas author J.H. Hatfield claims that George W. Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972, but had his record expunged with help from his family’s political connections. In an afterword to his book “Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President” (St. Martin’s), Hatfield says he took a second look at the Bush cocaine allegations after a story in Salon reporting allegations that Bush did community service for the crime at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Houston’s Third Ward.

The center’s executive director, Madgelean Bush (no relation to George W. Bush), had told Salon News and others that Bush did not do community service there, and the Bush campaign likewise denied the allegation. But the Texas governor had admitted to working at Houston’s Project P.U.L.L. in 1972, and Hatfield says he began to wonder if that was actually the community service sentence. Hatfield says he confirmed those suspicions with three sources close to the Bush family he had cultivated while writing his biography, which publishes Wednesday.

Bush’s campaign denied Hatfield’s allegation Monday.

By contrast, “First Son: George W. Bush and the Family Dynasty,” by Dallas Morning News reporter Bill Minutaglio, says George Bush Sr. referred his son to Project P.U.L.L. after an incident in which George W. drove drunk with his younger brother Marvin in the car.

But Hatfield quotes “a high-ranking advisor to Bush” who confirmed that Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in Houston in 1972, and had the record expunged by a judge who was “a fellow Republican and elected official” who helped Bush get off “with a little community service at a minority youth center instead of having to pick cotton on a Texas prison farm.”

Hatfield quotes a former Yale classmate who told him: “George W. was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1972, but due to his father’s connections, the entire record was expunged by a state judge whom the older Bush helped get elected. It was one of those ‘behind closed doors in the judges’ chambers’ kind of thing between the old man and one of his Texas cronies who owed him a favor … There’s only a handful of us that know the truth.”...

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do” -President Obama

President Obama Says Pot Is Less Dangerous Than Alcohol For The Individual Consumer
Think Progress
By Jeff Spross
January 19, 2014

...Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report that found African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana, even though both groups use the drug at similar rates. (In Washington, D.C. specifically, African Americans are eight times more likely to be arrested.) This is not an abstraction. Under federal law and in most states, marijuana offenses go on a person’s criminal record and carry jail time. That can make it harder if not impossible to find a job or to vote and often results in the revocation of professional licenses, the loss of education, financial aid or public benefits, and can event prevent a person from adopting a child. More people are arrested for marijuana-related offenses than for violent crime, meaning police resources are sucked away from addressing the latter.

The disproportionate effect of marijuana arrests and prosecutions on minorities is also part and parcel of the disproportionate damage the criminal justice system as a whole inflicts on these communities. Imprisoning massive portions of the country’s black and latino populations breaks up families, frays communities, destroys economic opportunity, and undermines those communities’ faith in the democratic process — leading to falling levels of political and voter participation...

What If Your Classroom Misbehavior Had Led To An Arrest?
by Grizzard
Daily Kos
Feb 28, 2013

Before I was a Houston-area karaoke legend, I was a fourth grader who consistently received progress reports with something similar to the following:

Very bright student, but lacks focus sometimes. Is more interested in singing in class than listening.

I still sing. In the car, in the shower, and when things get unbearable in the third year of law school, in class. It's just that no one's there to write those progress reports anymore. My school room indiscretions weren't limited to testing the building's acoustics, either. With my friends, we disrupted class regularly. In Spanish, we made Senora Lockyer's life some variant of hell by answering legitimate questions with nonsensical answers like "Muy tengo." I was fond, for either lack of creativity or lack of linguistic knowledge, of responding to her inquiries with the bold claim that I did, in fact, have blue shoes.

On other occasions, we would fight. We'd bully each other in the locker room, and some kids got it worse than others. Just about everyone had their turn, though, and the sharp end of a wet towel eluded no man. In tenth grade, one kid mooned a car out of the back of the tennis bus. And on our junior year state championship golf trip, we stupidly pelted a home with eggs. At night, on occasion, we would turn up at school to spend time alone on the football field.

All of us have been juveniles at one point or another, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can think of head-scratching moments from those years. But if you are like me, your indiscretions were dealt with in detention, suspension, or maybe a good parent-teacher conference. You grew up, and the stupid things you did as a 12-year old only follow you if you're stupid enough to diary about them on this or another site.

For many of today's elementary and high school kids, though, things are changing. They're no longer afforded the room to grow. Instead, we are more and more treating in-school misbehavior as a criminal issue. Children are either ticketed or arrested for mistakes that have no business being adjudicated in the courts.

Don't believe me? Fine - just ask the 13-year old New Mexico boy who was arrested for burping in P.E.

Or the Texas couple, so enraged by the throws of a high-school relationship gone bad that they became the lactose lovers, tossing milk on one another. For that crime, they were hauled off to jail.

Or any number of bored doodlers, who are being hauled in under gang-intended graffiti statutes for transcribing such dangerous messages as:

"I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/2010."

There's no word at this point whether police took Lex's directive as a written confession. These stories might be humorous if they didn't end with children herded through the court system, their identities shaken. And the stories here are just highlights. A simple Internet search will uncover dozens of other cases that might just cause pause.

There are bigger issues at play here. Our inability to deal appropriately with our kids is not only a symptom of a broken justice system; it's also a contributing cause.

When the gun debate picked up fire last month, one of the most popular proposals centered on putting more police officers in school. Those officers would presumably be in a school to play the role of movie-like defender in the rare instance that some deranged gunman targets kids. But what does that officer do on those days when his job as a sentry doesn't turn up a killer?

In most schools, he's deployed as a de-facto enforcer. Without specific training on dealing with juveniles, he's left to employ the only kind of justice he knows - putting people in handcuffs for causing trouble. The consequence of placing more police officers in schools is that those officers are put to use. They're called in to deal with situations that might have been better left to the athletic director, the vice principal, or even the teacher. Studies have shown a positive correlation between police officer presence and arrest numbers in schools. Simply put - when put there, police officers are going to do what police officers do.

Literally thousands of students are arrested in our high schools and elementary schools each year. In places like Texas, it's much more likely that these kids will receive tickets. Texas treats many things - including traffic tickets - as class C misdemeanors. These are non-arrestable offenses still handled by the criminal courts. Since they carry no possibility of jail time, people accused of these crimes do not receive court-appointed counsel, nor do they receive the sort of due process that follows a normal criminal proceeding.

For poor families, tickets can carry many additional expenses. First comes the cost of the ticket, which can be as much as $500. In addition, the parent will have to take time off of work to make a cumbersome trip to a local court. Because the matter's processed in the criminal system, all of the usual risks apply for students. If they're late for court or they happen to miss a court date, they can be arrested on bench warrants. Likewise, these courts do not offer the anonymity protections afforded to students in juvenile courts. Where records are sealed in juvenile courts, they become a part of the public record in misdemeanor court. It's an ugly practice that has the potential to scar a student's record permanently over something that might have been better dealt with at the school level.

It's difficult to discuss criminal justice matters without touching on race, and this issue is no different. Would it surprise you to learn that minorities are ticketed and arrested at higher rates than their white counterparts? The Washington Post reported on this issue:

Overall, the data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 were “referred” to law enforcement by school leaders, meaning the students were not necessarily arrested or cited.

In a more focused analysis of school systems with more than 50,000 students enrolled, the data showed that African American students represented 24 percent of enrollment but 35 percent of arrests. White students accounted for 31 percent of enrollment and 21 percent of arrests. For Hispanic students, there was less of a disparity in arrests. They accounted for 34 percent of enrollment and 37 percent of arrests.

That's right - nearly 100,000 children arrested, right in their school. And non-white kids seem to miss out on the benefit of the doubt that a white student might get for throwing his or her airplane in class.

But the real question has to do with the consequences of these policies. Just what sort of society are we creating? Juvenile justice advocate Bryan Stevenson has spoken and written at length about the life-altering effect of identity. His point is well-measured and well-taken: when you tell and show a kid over and over that he's supposed to be something or another, he'll end up being that something.

When I was 17, I received a pre-season football honor. It was somewhat unexpected, but set the stage for what was a good season on my part. After the first game of that season, when I'd made a big play late in a win, one of my teammates' dads approached me. He said something that's stuck with me, and it's applicable here:

"If you give a dog a good name, he'll answer to it."

This is also true for our juvenile offenders. When we call them criminals, expose them to the system, and administer harsh punishments for mundane acts, we transform them into something that no one wants to see. Even in places like Georgia, they can recognize the cause and effect that occurs when you make a wider criminal net your juvenile policy:

"We know from the research that if you arrest a kid on campus, he’s twice as likely not to graduate," Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske said. "If they appear in court, they’re four times as likely not to graduate."

There's certainly something to the idea that kids less likely to graduate in the first place will be more likely to commit offenses, so the arrest itself may not be the tipping point for all kids. But it'd be unwise to ignore the flip side of that correlation, where shipping a child into the juvenile justice system produces as many problems as it solves.

A Princeton study supports the idea that interaction with the juvenile justice system is linked to negative education outcomes, even when other relevant factors are controlled for. That study notes some of the important practical concerns for students in the pipeline. Their court settings cause them to miss school and fall behind on assignments. They can experience some form of social anxiety and mistreatment from their peers. The factors are many, even without considering the psychological effect on a child.

It doesn't take a brain scientist to know that education is correlated to economic outcomes, with high school dropouts making up a large portion of the poverty-level citizenry. In essence, our willingness and desire to deploy police officers to situations where very little harm is caused will contribute to poverty. It will contribute to the sort of disenfranchisement that leads to real, adult crime. When kids are stripped of opportunity, told they're criminals, and ushered out of the mainstream, their limited options often foretells a future of criminal activity.

We have ourselves to blame for this problem. Our laziness and apathy has manifested itself in a juvenile justice apparatus that is anything but prepared to administer justice. It's out of sight, out of mind, and many don't care. While in our schools, 12-year olds are getting their first taste of the criminal life by throwing well-aimed airplanes.

Maura Larkins comment: Here's what happened when poor people were given a stipend. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Can we save middle class kids by saving poor kids?

Rich People Are More Likely To Lie, Cheat, And Steal Candy From Children

See also:
Severe and unequal school discipline preceded the killing of innocent bystander Christopher Lane
VIDEO: Take Two 'Normal' People, Add Money To Just One Of Them, and Watch
Why the Wealthy Favor Harsh Punishment — for Criminals and Errant Schoolchildren
Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior
PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
(Study from UC Berkeley and University of Toronto) Nov. 8, 2011

Rich People More Likely To Take Candy From Children: Real Report
The Huffington Post
By Bonnie Kavoussi

People with a few extra bucks just aren't as nice as the rest of us, at least according to a new study.

Rich people are more likely to take candy from children, lie, cheat, endorse unethical behavior at work, and cut off pedestrians while driving, a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found.

The report contradicts the notion that poor people are more likely to act unethically out of financial necessity. Instead, the researchers wrote the "relative independence" and "increased privacy" of the wealthy make them more likely to act unethically. They also share "feelings of entitlement and inattention to the consequences of one's actions on others" that may play into their moral decisions.

In one experiment, wealthier people took twice as many candies as poorer people from a jar that had been designated for children. In another study, nearly half of all drivers of expensive cars cut off pedestrians at crosswalks, while no drivers of the cheapest cars and about 30 percent of drivers of cheaper cars did the same thing.

Some of the other experiments indicated that the the rich were more likely to cheat in a game and lie to a potential job applicant about the possibility that their job was being eliminated than their poorer counterparts.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that indicates that the rich tend to be less sensitive than others. The mere mention of money makes people less generous, less helpful and less likely to look for teammates, according to research by Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota, cited by The Boston Globe.

In addition, a study by Adam Waytz and Nicholas Epley, professors at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, respectively, found that people with more social connections are more likely to dehumanize others. And a report from researchers at the University of California-Berkeley released in December came to a similar conclusion: That rich people are less likely to feel empathy.

Rich People Are More Likely To Lie, Cheat, And Steal Candy From Children
Meredith Galante
Business Insider
Feb. 27, 2012

The wealthy are more likely to lie, cheat, steal, and break the law, seven separate studies designed to weigh ethics concluded, according to Bloomberg's Elizabeth Lopatto.

The results, which were presented today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the rich were more likely to steal candy from children, lie while negotiating, and cheat when trying to win a price because they “perceive greed as positive and beneficial.”

Participants were found online through sites such as Craiglist and Amazon Inc, to partake in experiments that ranged from self-reporting the outcome of rolling a dice to win a prize to traffic experiments which showed if the participant would illegally cut someone off.

Overall, the experiments measured the likelihood of partaking in bad behavior. The experiments did not measure the relationship between socioeconomic status and violent crimes.

One of the study's authors, Paul Piff, told Bloomberg that the poor might be less likely to cheat because they rely more on the community for support and therefore want to behave within community standards and not exile themselves.

But “upper-class individuals are more self-focused, they privilege themselves over others, and they engage in self-interested patterns of behavior,” Piff told Lopatto.

Maura Larkins comment: Here's what happened when poor people were given a stipend. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Can we save middle class kids by saving poor kids?

6 Scary Facts About California's Drought, starting with satellite photos

Satellite views of the Sierra Nevada, comparing January 2013 to January 2014 NOAA/NASA
6 Scary Facts About California's Drought
By Chris Mooney
Mother Jones
Jan. 18, 2014

"Fire season just didn't end this year."

The comment came from Scott Miller, the Los Angeles County fire inspector, in the wake of the Colby Fire in the foothills near Los Angeles. The fire is now 30-percent contained, but it serves as the latest reminder that California is facing an increasingly alarming drought—one that yesterday prompted Gov. Edmund Brown, Jr., to declare a state of emergency.

Last year was California's driest on record for much of the state, and this year, conditions are only worsening. Sixty-three percent of the state is in extreme drought, and Sierra Nevada snowpack is now running at just 10 to 30 percent of normal. "We're heading into what is near the lowest three year period in the instrumental record" for snowpack, says hydrologist Roger Bales of the University of California-Merced.

Water shortages, devastating wildfires, and growing economic impacts: All could be on the way unless more precipitation arrives, and fast. Here are some scary realities about the drought:

1. It's Bordering on Unprecedented in Some Areas. According to Christopher Burt, weather historian at Weather Underground, the City of San Francisco has received only 2.12 inches of water so far in this water year. The driest water year on record was from 1850-1851, at 7.42 inches. So as of now, San Francisco is below half of the all-time record low.

2. Time in the Rainy Season is Running Out. California doesn't get steady rain all year round. Rather, it has a rainy season each year, and we're currently in it. Typically, the rainy season runs through March; if major precipitation doesn't arrive by then, it probably won't be coming. Granted, this is also the chief source of hope right now: California can sometimes get plenty of water in February and March.

3. The Drought Could Lead to Dirtier Energy Use. Peter Gleick, president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, points out one less-noticed consequence of the drought: The lack of water means less available hydropower. And that has consequences: "Because renewable hydropower is among the cheapest and most versatile of electricity sources," writes Gleick, "California ratepayers will have to pay for more costly fossil fuels to make up for the difference." The result, he notes, is likely to be "billions of dollars in added energy costs and generating more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere."

4. It's Setting the Stage for a Devastating Fire Season. Hotter, drier conditions favor wildfires. Indeed, California has already seen several significant fires since the October 31 end of the traditional fire season, including December's Big Sur fire and the ongoing Colby Fire in the Los Angeles area. That's a bad sign. So is the fact that in just the first 11 days of January, the state saw 154 fires that burned 598 acres. That's way above the five-year average for this time of year.

For California, seven of the 10 largest fires in state history have occurred since the year 2000. And if these dry conditions persist throughout 2014, another new fire may be added to that list.

5. It Could Pummel Agriculture. California is an agricultural powerhouse. For crops, the state accounts for 15 percent of national sales and for livestock, 7.1 percent, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. But now farmers are likely to have considerably less water. This won't lead to agricultural collapse, but it will definitely take a toll. "There will be, in agriculture, fewer plantings, fewer harvests, and revenue of seasonal crops," says UC-Merced's Roger Bales. "There could be more expensive pumping of groundwater. And there could be just lower yields if they have less water to apply."

6. It's a Sign of What's to Come. NOAA's seasonal drought outlook projects persistent or worsening conditions in California through April:

US seasonal drought outlook. National Weather Service

Over the longer term, climate projections suggest that this risk will continue or increase. According to the draft National Climate Assessment, the US Southwest—which includes California and five other states—can expect less precipitation, hotter temperatures, and drier soils in the future, meaning that by 2060, there could be as much as a 35-percent increase in water demand. Along with that comes a 25- to 50-percent increased risk of water shortages.

So even if California gets some much needed rain in the coming months, that'll only be a short-term reprieve. Right now, the state needs to engage in some major climate adaptation planning, to get ready for a much drier future.
NASA map of California drought

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords

Jeffrey Eisenach, director of the Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy, said of the ruling on "net neutrality": "There is the potential for the world to change substantially” in terms of how the Internet is run.

See also: Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords

'Net neutrality' ruling could be costly for consumers, advocates say
An appeals court throws out the FCC's 'net neutrality' rules on Internet traffic. The ruling could raise Internet service fees and stifle innovation, some say.
By Chris O'Brien, Salvador Rodriguez and Jim Puzzanghera
LA Times
January 14, 2014

A federal appeals court swept aside government regulations designed to ensure equal access to the Internet, raising the prospects of higher fees for consumers and more barriers for start-ups seeking to compete online.

The decision Tuesday could allow AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and other Internet service providers to charge the likes of Netflix and YouTube more money to deliver movies and video to their customers.

The ruling also throws into disarray the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to limit telecom and cable firms from discriminating against certain Internet traffic by slowing speeds, impeding access or raising fees.

The issue, known by the wonky term "net neutrality," involves complex technical and policy rules. But at its core, the concept comes down to a classic debate about how far government could and should go to ensure a level digital playing field.

"There is the potential for the world to change substantially" in terms of how the Internet is run, said Jeffrey Eisenach, director of the Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy at the American Enterprise Institute think thank. "This is a big deal."

The FCC, which long has made net neutrality a top priority, faces once again a tricky calculation about how to balance the need for consumer and small-business protections against a desire to let the free market run its course.

"I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the 1st Amendment," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

The agency will consider appealing the decision or taking other options, he said, "to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression and operate in the interest of all Americans."

In the short term, the ruling left big telecom companies, small businesses, government agencies and consumers scrambling to understand its effect and making their cases about how they believe the FCC should proceed.

The fear among net neutrality supporters is that absent strong regulations requiring service providers to treat all traffic equally, the Internet eventually becomes a realm of digital haves and have-nots.

Telecom companies could let big Internet companies with deep pockets pay for fast lanes on the Internet and pass those costs on to their customers, while other online companies are stuck at slower speeds.

Or they could block access to certain apps or Web services that compete with their own. Or they could levy extra charges on consumers who spend more time streaming or downloading big files over the Internet.

The telecom and cable industry has fought net neutrality rules repeatedly over the years. The carriers said that building and maintaining the infrastructure that runs the Internet were costly. As such, they needed flexibility in the way they charged for those services to recoup their investment and continue to improve services.

Despite the ruling, Verizon, which filed the court challenge, and Comcast Corp. said they would continue to support an open Internet. Comcast is obligated to follow open Internet rules into 2018 as part of a settlement it signed when it acquired NBC Universal in 2011.

Verizon also reiterated its commitment to keeping the Internet open, but it said the ruling would allow for improvements.

"Today's decision will not change consumers' ability to access and use the Internet as they do now," the company said. "The court's decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet."

Last week, AT&T disclosed a new plan it called Sponsored Data that would charge Netflix, YouTube and other content providers more money to allow AT&T mobile customers to stream movies and videos without exceeding data limits. The company insisted the plan did not violate net neutrality rules.

Tuesday's ruling will open the door to more of those types of sponsorship deals, said David Kaut, an analyst at the investment firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stems from the FCC's latest attempt to thread that needle between free market and consumer advocates with its open Internet regulations.

The 2010 rules were designed to force telecom and cable companies to treat all online traffic equally. The agency had been forced to revisit the issue at that time after losing an earlier high-profile net neutrality case to Comcast.

We aren't greedy, says wealthy Catholic, and we may stop donations to the Church to prove it

Home Depot Founder & Republicans Decry Pope: He doesn't "Get" Rich People
by tmservo433
Daily Kos
Dec 30, 2013

In a headline so laughable that you have to imagine PR departments around the globe slapping their foreheads, the Republican assault on the new, 'potentially communist' (sic Rush Limbaugh) Pope and leader of the Catholic faith continues.

In an interview on CNBC on Monday, Home Depot founder and devout Catholic Ken Langone said that the Pope’s statements about capitalism have left many potential “capitalist benefactors” wary of donating to the Church or its fundraising projects.

According to Langone, an anonymous, “potential seven-figure donor” for the Church’s restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is concerned that the Pope’s criticism of capitalism are “exclusionary,” especially his statements about the “culture of prosperity” leading to the wealthy being “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”

Langone said he’s raised this issue with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who yesterday praised Pope Francis for “shattering the caricature of the Church.”

“I’ve told the Cardinal,” Langone said, “‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country.’”

The message continues that maybe, just maybe, if the Pope keeps up this talk about the poor being oppressed, why, those who are 'rich, 7 figure donors' may stop donating at all! That will show the Pope! He thinks we're greedy bastards, and demands the poor get a better shake.. why, then, we're going to withhold all charity because that seems like the way to prove him wrong!

Langone further said that, in the future, he hopes Pope Francis will “celebrate a positive point of view rather than focusing on the negative.” He does worry, though, because of “the vast difference between the Pope’s experience in Argentina and how we are in America. There is no nation on earth that is so forthcoming, so giving.”

It is often a real sign that people through out 'America gives the most to Charity!'. It's true, but it fails to address the fact that a lot of US charity is... to other US citizens. This is something that doesn't necessarily happen in the next nations on the list, like Sweden/etc because in those nations the level of direct need is less, since they have things like universal care, a better social safety net, etc... meaning that while we here in the US donate quite a bit to safety net programs like homeless shelters/etc. the level of income disparity in those countries is so considerably less that it's not comparabe.

. In explaining the high-tax/low-philanthropy (and low-tax/high-philanthropy) correlation, liberals and conservatives fall squarely on opposite sides of a chicken-and-egg debate.

On the one hand, France, for instance, has less income disparity and less poverty than the U.S. So if people are motivated to give by seeing need around them, it may simply be that the French give less because they see less need. French citizens may also feel that since they are highly taxed, it’s the government’s responsibility, not their own, to take care of the poor in their community.

The most recent attack on the Pope's message follows the words of leader Paul Ryan, who issued much the same statement a few days ago.

“What I love about the pope is he is triggering the exact kind of dialogue we ought to be having,” Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “People need to get involved in their communities to make a difference, to fix problems soul to soul.”

But he couldn’t suppress either his right-wing politics or his supreme capacity for condescension for very long. “The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina,” Ryan said (referring to the pope as “the guy” is a nice folksy touch.) “They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don’t have a true free enterprise system.”

Read this and read the statement above. It's just those people 'in another country', Rich and Poor, those people are somehow bad. They do it wrong. We here in the US do it right, it's just those dirty Argentina people. We're far more OK with how we treat our poor.

"It's sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth."

In fact, Argentina was a battlefield between leftist socialists and right-wing security forces during much of Francis' early career in the country, where he was a Jesuit priest and later archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Limbaugh, who is not Catholic, said he admires the faith "profoundly." He admired Pope Francis as well, "up until this," Limbaugh said.

The talk show host also said that he has made numerous visits to the Vatican, which he said "wouldn't exist without tons of money."

"But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him," Limbaugh added. "This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope."

It is funny that this would be the attack they would take. To steal a phrase that appeared in my facebook feed this morning:

2000 years ago, a Middle Eastern man who befriended prostitutes, beggars and the sick demanded that the rich give more to their peers; he tossed those who sought money as a goal out of a church at the end of the whip, and begged men to love one another as their first commandment.

Today, for the first time in a long while, a leader of a religious group is calling for exactly those things. And the Right Wing, those reportedly Big "G" God fearing people are going ballistic with how wrong this is.

Makes you wonder how they can reach the same conclusion, doesn't it?

Maura Larkins comment: Here's what happened when poor people were given a stipend. The frequency of behavioral problems declined by 40 percent, nearly reaching the risk of children who had never been poor. Can we save middle class kids by saving poor kids?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chemical spill in West Virginia: Koch brothers' Freedom Industries had freedom from EPA regulations

Sign petition to hold Freedom Industries responsible. UPDATE

Oh, by the way, says Freedom Industries, there was a second chemical leaking from that tank
by Meteor Blades
Daily Kos
Jan 21, 2014

Chemicals, schemicals, you can't expect Freedom Industries to keep track of all of them.

Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette reports:

Federal and state investigators learned today that an additional chemical that wasn't previously identified was in the tank that leaked on Jan. 9 at the Freedom Industries tank farm just upstream from West Virginia American Water's regional drinking water intake.

Company officials told investigators that the "Crude MCHM" that spilled also contained a product called "PPH," which stands for polyglycol ethers, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

The chemical, the company claims, has "low oral toxicity."

Uh-huh. And it's probably as safe for pregnant women as the other stuff they spilled into the Elk River.

by GleninCA

The Koch brothers

WV: Freedom Industries Has Ties to Koch Brothers
Daily Kos
Jan 11, 2014

Very briefly ...

If news reports have left you with the impression that Freedom Industries - the company that has contaminated the water supply serving 300,000 people (and who knows how much wildlife) in nine West Virginia counties - is a rinky-dink Charleston operation, that might be because the media isn't mentioning its influential ties.

In 2008, Freedom Industries was specially selected by Georgia-Pacific Chemicals as a distributor of G-P's Talon brand mining reagents for West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Minnesota, Kentucky and Michigan.

Georgia-Pacific Chemicals is, of course, a subsidiary of Georgia-Pacific, which was acquired by Koch Industries in 2005.

"We are excited to offer our customers inventive products like Talon that push past the status quo in coal recovery to bring profit and productivity benefits to mining preparation plants," said Joshua Herzing, director of business development for Freedom Industries. "Georgia Pacific's longstanding technical expertise and R&D capabilities combined with the industry knowledge, skill and reputation of Freedom Industries will provide an excellent platform for growth and development of new technology to meet existing and future customer demands. We are proud to be part of Georgia-Pacific's strategy as a global supplier of mining reagents in multiple market segments."

There's lots more to the story, People.

SURPRISE: Water-Poisoning Freedom Industries Had ‘Freedom’ From EPA Regulations!
John Prager
January 13, 2014

Freedom Industries, the company that freely and negligently poisoned the water supply in nine West Virginia counties with a chemical used in the coal industry, seems to be enjoying a lot of freedom from EPA regulations. According to the New York Times, the company is exempt from Environmental Protection Agency rules because it stores chemicals, rather than produces them.

The tank, which leaked over 7,500 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (2,500 more than previously estimated) into West Virginia’s Elk River, had reportedly been leaking for an extended period of time. MCHM is not lethal unless ingested in large quantities, but can cause non-stop vomiting, burning throat, blisters, and other “poor people problems.” CEO Dennis P. Farrel’s fur-wearing girlfriend told Facebook that she was able to brush her teeth and shower therefore, despite Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declaring a state of emergency and numerous experts urging customers not to drink the water or use it for anything besides “flushing,” she feels that “no one and no thing” has been harmed due to the leakage.

Farrell himself has avoided facing the public for his company’s reprehensible and irresponsible lack of safety measures, but president Gary Southern has made it very clear that…he doesn’t care either.

The leak has been shut off and levels of the chemical are slowly dropping, but residents still do not know when their water will be declared safe by anyone who is trying to deny that there is a problem. Governor Tomblin has promised to look into tightening regulations relating to chemical storage facilities. “There are certain reporting things that companies have to do,” he said. “And I do think we have to look at them to make sure this kind of incident does not happen again.”

President Obama has declared a federal emergency, and federal law enforcement authorities have opened an investigation into the release of the chemical.

FEMA has brought in over 360,000 gallons of water to the nine counties affected by Koch-affiliated Freedom Industries‘ “freeing” of a dangerous chemical into the water supply, but residents are still having trouble even finding clean water at the store. Over 120 people to date have gone to the hospital reporting nausea and vomiting.

EXCLUSIVE: Girlfriend of CEO Whose Company Poisoned WV Water Plays the Victim While Enjoying Lavish Lifestyle
John Prager
January 12, 2014

“I showered and brushed my teeth this morning and am just fine,” may seem like an odd justification for poisoning the water that supplies nine counties and over 300,000 people ... that logic comes from the girlfriend of the CEO of Freedom Industries...

Social media strategist Kathy Stover-Kennedy, Freedom Industries CEO Dennis P. Farrell’s girlfriend spoke out on Facebook, saying that poor Denny has been receiving threats over his company’s lax, uncaring, and completely unfair treatment following the incident. She remarks on the backlash her beloved has received over his avoidance of publicly addressing the matter, saying that he “is not a spokesperson and has no desire to be.” She elaborates, indicating that he is too important to address such mundane matters as the poisoning of an entire population’s water supply himself in a Facebook post. Besides, according to her, there is no public danger for this “accidental” failure to identify what has been deemed a likely long-term leakage from a company tank.

Sister Simone Campbell: What Makes This Nun on the Bus Roll?

Listen to podcast interview of Sister Simone Campbell:

Listen to other podcasts of Ben Winkler's "The Good Fight".

Sister Simone Campbell: What Makes This Nun on the Bus Roll?
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
The Huffington Post

Sister Simone Campbell is the Executive Director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby. In 2010 she wrote a letter in support of President Obama's health care reform bill that was credited with helping the bill to pass. She and other members of NETWORK also initiated the famed Nuns on the Bus in the summer of 2012, which toured nine states bringing awareness of the effects of budget cuts to on the most vulnerable of society.

Sister Simone Campbell was recently honored by Auburn Seminary in their Lives of Commitment ceremony. I spoke with her last month about the latest on the Vatican censure of the nuns, her spiritual practices, plans for the Nuns on the Bus to ride again, and her favorite poem.

Sister Simone Campbell

PBR: How was your Easter last month?

SSC: It was glorious, just glorious. It was a wonderful opportunity for some space and reflection. I had to acknowledge that I had hope for change within our beloved church, and then I had to deal with my fear of that hope being betrayed. So, it was a very good Holy Week meditation because that is exactly what Jesus did. It was challenging but good.

Speaking of hope and betrayal, what do you think of the news from the Vatican about Pope Francis re-affirming the censure of the American Nuns?

I must say that I had hoped that nobody would ever talk about the censure again and that was really unrealistic on my part. I can certainly see that in the context of the big story, we are a really small story that I doubt that he followed in Argentina. So, I have a hunch that there are a variety of movements at work here.

What is the affect of the big goings on at the Vatican on the things that you believe in and what you are working for?

(Laughs ) None. The fact is that we are being faithful to our mission and we are going to continue to be faithful to our mission; which is to respond to the needs of those on the economic margin of our society. And I am sure that Pope Francis understands that mission -- or it appears. And so, eventually by the time our small little group percolates up to the top, he will understand what we are doing, I'm sure.

So you have confidence things will work out?

Yes, but I also understand that we are really small in very big macro politics. And we are not at the table of power. One of their criticisms was that we thought we were the teachers of the church. We are not. We are the doers of the church. It's all politics, but it is politics way above my head.

Speaking of politics, what are the issues you continue to be passionate about here at home?

The pressing issues are gun violence, because it is about peace building in our country. The second is Medicaid expansion. Every state needs to expand Medicaid. Many of the governors that are turning down Medicaid claim that they are pro-life and what I say is that they are only pro-birth. If you are pro-life in the richest nation on earth then folks who don't have access to health care -- should. It's a pro-life stance in my view.

What do you think of the efforts to roll back abortion in many of the states around the country? Is that something you support as well?

Nah, we are not in on that. Those are specific state efforts and we are a federal lobby. And we don't lobby on the abortion issue one way or the other because we are about the broader perspective of life so we are trying to get people health care.

Will the Nuns ride again?

We are going to be on the bus for three weeks riding around the country for immigration reform. That starts will start on May 28th at Liberty Park (New Jersey) looking out on Ellis Island.

Can you tell me a little about the role of prayer and how the traditional disciplines of faith give courage to the work that you and the other sisters are doing?

What a lovely question -- not many people ask me that question. It is at the heart of what we do. I know that for me, I do an hour of meditation every morning and that is the source of being able to keep doing this. Meditation is about listening. Not telling God what to do, but listening to where we are being led and it is the nudges that come from listening that are the source of our action.

I know that you are a lawyer, a poet, as well as a Nun -- it seems like you are bringing all these disciplines to this essential effort of the betterment of life for all. Who are the mentors who allowed you to not compartmentalize these disparate interests but view them as part of a whole?

Well it would have to be my family. My sister and I became interested in civil rights in grammar school but it was always connected to faith for us. I think it must have been Martin Luther King's amazing speeches. And as kids we would listen to his speeches and they touched me. So, I always knew that it was about the Gospel.

And my teachers in school were the Immaculate Heart sisters in California who ended up getting thrown out of the church by Cardinal Macintyre; but they gave me a grounding by emphasized that faith was not separate -- faith was integrated in life.

And how did you become a lawyer?

I was community organizing up in Oregon and we organized some tenants to testify at the state legislature for the need for tenants rights. A curmudgeon of a legislator asked me about the 'covenant of something or other' and I didn't know what he was talking about and it made me mad -- I hate power imbalance.

So, I decided that if I was going to keep doing this work -- and I did like doing that work -- then I had to go to law school. So, after I took final vows, my community allowed me to go to UC Davis for law school. And then I found that I liked practicing law so I did that for 18 years -- all high conflict, low income cases in Alameda County in Oakland.

You are also a poet. As you are a nun, I know you are devoid of any feeling we might call pride. That said, what is the poem that you wrote that you would like people to most identify you with?

Oooooh, that's tough -- there's two. One's called "Compassion's Path," and the other is called "Incarnation." "Incarnation" might be the stronger one. The last stanza is:

And let us recall on drear distant days, we are promised Christmas joy.
We live as one, this fragile gifted life, for we are the body of God.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why Chris Christie's office shut down traffic on the Washington Bridge

September 13, 2013: Port Authority police and maintenance crews removing traffic cones to reopen all lanes and tollbooths at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee; see Road Warrior: Living with an inscrutable giant TARIQ ZEHAWI/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Was Loretta Weinberg the real target of Chris Christie's office?

An alternate theory of the Christie scandal (CLICK HERE TO SEE MADDOW VIDEO)
Rachel Maddow presents a new possibility of what the induced Ft. Lee traffic jam was retribution for if it wasn’t over the mayor’s gubernatorial endorsement.
Rachel Maddow

Did Rachel decide she didn't want to look like Ann Coulter?

Maddow: Was Senate Leader Target of N.J. Scandal?
By Adam O'Neal
Real Clear Politics
January 10, 2014

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow weighed in on the Chris Christie bridge controversy Thursday night, theorizing that the lane closures were motivated by Christie’s spat with legislative Democrats over New Jersey Supreme Court nominees.

Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly -- who was fired by the governor Thursday -- demanded lane closures on the George Washington Bridge for what is believed to be political retribution. E-mails released Wednesday suggest that the September lane closures were meant to cause traffic jams in Fort Lee, ostensibly to punish the city’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s 2013 re-election bid.

But Maddow has offered another theory. In 2010, Christie refused to reappoint a liberal state Supreme Court justice, John E. Wallace Jr. The move angered New Jersey Democrats, and they refused to confirm Christie’s nominees to replace Wallace. Maddow referred to the incident as the start of “a big political crisis” in the state.

The feud became so intense that Christie called state Democrats “animals” for failing to approve a Republican to a separate seat on the court last summer. Christie called a press conference on Aug. 12, 2013, to blast Democrats for not backing his choice.

And that is where Maddow’s theory comes into play. The morning after Christie’s fiery press conference, Kelly ordered the lane closures. New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, one of Christie’s chief antagonists in the nominee fight, represents Fort Lee.

Maddow suggested that Weinberg, and not Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, was the intended target of the closure:

“Roughly 12 hours after Governor Christie blows up at the Senate Democrats and torpedoes the career of a Supreme Court justice who he likes because he says the Senate Democrats are animals … the leader of those ‘animals’ in the Senate sees her district get the order of destruction from Governor Christie's deputy chief of staff.”

Christie has denied any involvement in the lane closures, saying that he was not told about them until months after they occurred.


Road Warrior: Living with an inscrutable giant
September 14, 2013 By JOHN CICHOWSKI

Port Authority police and maintenance crews removing traffic cones to reopen all lanes and tollbooths at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee on Friday.

If you were imprisoned in your own car for two hours or so each morning this week as you tried to cross the George Washington Bridge, you’ll be happy to know that the river-crossing gods have finally issued a reprieve.

Shortly after 8 a.m. on Friday, Port Authority police removed the orange cones that had shrunk access to the bridge from Fort Lee streets — a maneuver that clogged traffic for five consecutive mornings because two of three tollbooths were shut down. Then, as if by magic, the changes were reversed.

"We just got a phone call saying that the Port Authority was lifting the plan," said Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul.

Plan? What was this ill-conceived "plan" all about?

It turns out that the week of gridlock that made adults late for work, forced kids to get up an hour or so early to reach school on time, and diverted local police from emergencies, amounted to a "study," explained an agency spokesman, Steve Coleman.

"The Port Authority has conducted a week of study at the … bridge of traffic-safety patterns," Coleman said in an email. "We will now review those results and determine the best traffic patterns. ... We’ll continue to work with our local law enforcement partners."

Answers to basic follow-up questions: What was the goal? Who authorized this plan? And why didn’t the Port Authority publicly warn motorists about it? — were met with stone-cold silence.

Silence and evasiveness are often usual responses when you live with a giant. As a bi-state agency, the Port Authority sometimes doesn’t answer state or federal lawmakers either — about political rationales for hiring cronies, for example, or virtually giving away naming rights, or raising tolls that will soon rise again.

Not always, though.

The agency can be quick to announce coming changes in traffic patterns when road work on either side of the Hudson is expected to cause delays. Sometimes the Port is mistaken, as it was in July 2012, when it insisted that a major road repair project on the New York side would cause three months of backups. The delays were modest at best, but unlike this week, at least the agency took preventive action back then...

UPDATE: Christie was with Wildstein on 9/11/13 during Bridgegate
by blue aardvark
Daily Kos
Jan 14, 2014

Gov. Chris Christie was with the official who arranged the closure of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11, 2013 — the third day of the closures, and well after they had triggered outrage from local officials beset by heavy traffic.

It isn’t known what, if anything, Mr. Christie discussed with David Wildstein that day, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official was among the delegation of Mr. Christie’s representatives who welcomed him to the site of the World Trade Center for the commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks there.

Wall Street Journal commits journalism

This is the guy Christie barely knew, remember? The guy who arranged the lane closures and worried he wasn't getting enough credit.

I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election,” which was held Nov. 5, Mr. Christie said last week. “You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact with David.”

There's a picture, Chris. David is that guy on your left about two feet away, reaching out his hand so that he almost touches the end of your tie. I guess that since he didn't actually touch you there's no "contact", right?

And now the bridge scandal really takes off, because Christie has been caught in a lie. And neither Christie, nor Wildstein, nor Baroni, nor Samson, all of whom were there, are willing to respond to the Wall Street Journal regarding this meet-up. Baroni and Samson were up to their eyebrows in the traffic mess.

This is Chris Chistie, center-left, having no contact with David Wildstein, red tie with hand almost touching Christie. The date is 9/11/13, while the Fort Lee fiasco was in its 3rd day...