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Jon Waterman | Climate Change Is Thawing Arctic Alaska – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/07/opinion/climate-change-alaska.html

Mr. Waterman is a former national park ranger and the author of National Geographic’s “Atlas of the National Parks.”

“Secluded in the far-flung Gates of the Arctic National Park in northwestern Alaska, the flooded Noatak River pushed our raft downstream into a brisk wind. Caribou trails spider-webbed the hillsides, while cumulus clouds gathered like ripened fruit above a valley so vast that you could feel lost without binoculars and frequent map consultations.

To avoid crashing into the banks, I had to keep sharp eyes on the surging river and hands on the oars. Since extreme rainfall had lifted the river out of its banks (and delayed our floatplane flight in from Bettles, Alaska, for three days), every potential campsite had been sluiced over with silt and left soaking wet.

Thirty-six years had passed since I had last worked as a guide on the Noatak River. This year, instead of simply enjoying a float down memory lane in the wildest country imaginable, I was stunned by how climate change had radically altered the place I once knew.

Drawn to wild places all my life for spiritual renewal, I had chosen the Noatak as the ultimate wilderness trip to share with my 15-year-old son, Alistair, and another family. I had also come to escape the record heat and forest fire smoke in Colorado for what I believed would be a cool interlude in the Far North.”

Bob Dole, Old Soldier and Stalwart of the Senate, Dies at 98 – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/05/us/politics/bob-dole-dead.html

Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“Bob Dole, the plain-spoken son of the prairie who overcame Dust Bowl deprivation in Kansas and grievous battle wounds in Italy to become the Senate majority leader and the last of the World War II generation to win his party’s nomination for president, died on Sunday. He was 98.

His death was announced by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

It did not say where he died. He had announced in February that he had Stage IV lung cancer and that he was beginning treatment.

A Republican, Mr. Dole was one of the most durable political figures in the last decades of the last century. He was nominated for vice president in 1976 and then for president a full 20 years later. He spent a quarter-century in the Senate, where he was his party’s longest-serving leader until Mitch McConnell of Kentucky surpassed that record in June 2018.”

Great obit, thank you. Dole was a great man and leader, who fought fascism in his youth in WW II, and then at near the end of his life, he helped Trump become president, twice, and thereby worked in support of fascism. Yet, he will be cherished as one of the great bipartisan deal-makers, and a man of enormous heart and wit.

Inside Tesla: How Elon Musk Pushed His Vision for Autopilot – The New York Times

“Elon Musk built his electric car company, Tesla, around the promise that it represented the future of driving — a phrase emblazoned on the automaker’s website.

Much of that promise was centered on Autopilot, a system of features that could steer, brake and accelerate the company’s sleek electric vehicles on highways. Over and over, Mr. Musk declared that truly autonomous driving was nearly at hand — the day when a Tesla could drive itself — and that the capability would be whisked to drivers over the air in software updates.

Unlike technologists at almost every other company working on self-driving vehicles, Mr. Musk insisted that autonomy could be achieved solely with cameras tracking their surroundings. But many Tesla engineers questioned whether it was safe enough to rely on cameras without the benefit of other sensing devices — and whether Mr. Musk was promising drivers too much about Autopilot’s capabilities.”

Take away, don’t by a Tesla for it’s self driving technology.

Linda Greenhouse | The Supreme Court’s End Game on Abortion – The New York Times

” . . .  It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who asked the uncomfortable question. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she demanded of Scott Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Thomas who argued for Mississippi as the state’s solicitor general. Listening to the live-streamed argument, I first heard “political acts” as “political hacks,” I suppose because still in my mind were Justice Barrett’s words when she spoke in mid-September at a center in Louisville, Ky., named for her Senate confirmation mastermind, Senator Mitch McConnell. “My goal today is to convince you that the court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said then.

Justice Barrett’s performance during Wednesday’s argument was beyond head-spinning. Addressing both Ms. Rikelman and Elizabeth Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general who argued for the United States on behalf of the Mississippi clinic, Justice Barrett asked about “safe haven” laws that permit women to drop off their unwanted newborn babies at police stations or fire houses; the mothers’ parental rights are then terminated without further legal consequences. If the problem with “forced motherhood” was that it would “hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities,” Justice Barrett asked, “why don’t safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

She continued: “It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is, without question, an infringement on bodily autonomy, you know, which we have in other contexts, like vaccines. However, it doesn’t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden.”

I’ll pass over the startling notion that being required to accept a vaccine is equivalent to being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. “Gaslighting” doesn’t adequately describe the essence of what Justice Barrett was suggesting: that the right to abortion really isn’t necessary because any woman who doesn’t want to be a mother can just hand her full-term baby over to the nearest police officer and be done with the whole business. As Justice Barrett, of all people, surely understands, such a woman will forever be exactly what she didn’t want to be: a mother, albeit one stripped of her ability to make a different choice.

I will give the gaslighting prize to Justice Kavanaugh and his suggestion that the court should simply adopt a position of “neutrality” with respect to abortion. Abortion is a contentious issue with important interests on both sides, he said to Solicitor General Prelogar. “Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people being able to resolve this?” he said. “And there will be different answers in Mississippi and New York, different answers in Alabama than California because they’re two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently.”

Justice Kavanaugh painted a soothing description of a down-the-middle resolution, but Solicitor General Prelogar, for one, wasn’t fooled. “The nature of fundamental rights is that it’s not left up to state legislatures to decide whether to honor them or not,” she responded.

Can Justice Kavanaugh really believe what he said? We’ll see soon enough. Last month, the court heard arguments in a case that challenges New York’s strict requirement for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Most states have looser restrictions. New York, through its legislative process, is in a minority.

Will Justice Kavanaugh and those of his colleagues who glorify a recently manufactured version of the Second Amendment allow New York City to keep going its own way on gun safety in the name of “letting the people decide”? That’s about as likely as the chance that those very same justices will decide to keep the right to abortion on the books. In both cases, we know what they’re going to do. The only mystery is how they will explain it.”   -30-

Liza Featherstone | Josh Hawley and the Republican Obsession With Manliness – The New York Times

Ms. Featherstone is a journalist who writes frequently about the politics of gender. She has a 15-year-old son.

“Senator Josh Hawley is worried about men. In a recent speech at the National Conservatism Conference, he blamed the left for their mental health problems, joblessness, obsession with video games and hours spent watching pornography. “The crisis of American men,” he said, “is a crisis for the American republic.”

The liberal reaction was flippant. A CNN analysis mocked the speech, contrasting the “decline of masculinity” with real issues like the pandemic and inflation. The ReidOut Blog on MSNBC’s website declared, “Josh Hawley’s crusade against video games and porn is hilariously empty.” But the contempt and mockery his speech received was, at least in part, misplaced.

Mr. Hawley is not alone in sensing that masculinity is a popular cause; around the world, male politicians are tapping into social anxieties about its apparent decline, for their own ideological ends. The Chinese government, for instance, has declared a “masculinity crisis,” and it is responding by cracking down on gaming during school days and by investing in gym teachers and school sports.

There can be a homophobic and fascistic component to such calls: China has also barred “sissy” men from appearing on TV; in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that masks are “for fairies”; and Mr. Hawley, in his speech, fueled anti-transgender prejudice by alluding to a bogus “war on women’s sports.” Nothing justifies this hateful nonsense. But Mr. Hawley, for all his winking bigotry, is tapping into something real — a widespread, politically potent anxiety about young men that is already helping the right.”

Paul Krugman | How the G.O.P. Became Saboteurs, Threatening a Government Shutdown – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/opinion/republicans-government-shutdown.html

“. . . Under Obama, leading Republicans claimed that their fiscal brinkmanship was motivated by concerns about budget deficits. Some of us argued even at the time that self-proclaimed deficit hawks were phonies, that they didn’t actually care about government debt — a view validated by their silence when the Trump administration blew up the deficit — and that they actually wanted to see the economy suffer on Obama’s watch. But they maintained enough of a veneer of responsibility to fool many commentators.

This time, Republican obstructionists aren’t even pretending to care about red ink. Instead, they’re threatening to shut everything down unless the Biden administration abandons its efforts to fight the coronavirus with vaccine mandates.

What’s that about? As many observers have pointed out, claims that opposition to vaccine mandates (and similar opposition to mask mandates) is about maintaining personal freedom don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. No reasonable definition of freedom includes the right to endanger other people’s health and lives because you don’t feel like taking basic precautions.

Furthermore, actions by Republican-controlled state governments, for example in Florida and Texas, show a party that isn’t so much pro-freedom as it is pro-Covid. How else can you explain attempts to prevent private businesses — whose freedom to choose was supposed to be sacrosanct — from requiring that their workers be vaccinated, or offers of special unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated?

In other words, the G.O.P. doesn’t look like a party trying to defend liberty; it looks like a party trying to block any effective response to a deadly disease. Why is it doing this?

To some extent it surely reflects a coldly cynical political calculation. Voters tend to blame whichever party holds the White House for anything bad that happens on its watch, which creates an incentive for a sufficiently ruthless party to engage in outright sabotage. Sure enough, Republicans who fought all efforts to contain the coronavirus are now attacking the Biden administration for failing to end the pandemic.  . . . “

Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns) – The New York Times

“WADING RIVER, N.Y. — If Bill Jacobs were a petty man, or a less religious one, he might look through the thicket of flowers, bushes and brambles that encircle his home and see enemies all around. For to the North, and to the South, and to the West and East and all points in between, stretch acres and acres of lawns.

Lawns that are mowed and edges trimmed with military precision. Lawns where leaves are banished with roaring machines and that are oftentimes doused with pesticides. Lawns that are fastidiously manicured by landscapers like Justin Camp, Mr. Jacobs’s neighbor next door, who maintains his own pristine blanket of green.

“It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Mr. Camp said, nodding to wooded wilds of his neighbor’s yard. “I mow lawns for a living, so it’s not my thing.”

Mr. Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, don’t have a lawn to speak of, not counting the patch of grass out back over which Mr. Jacobs runs his old manual mower every now and then.”

” . . . About 20 years ago, he began compiling quotes from the Bible, saints and popes that expound on the sanctity of Earth and its creatures, and posting them online. He considered naming the project after St. Francis of Assisi, the go-to saint for animals and the environment. But, not wanting to impose another European saint on American land, he instead named it after Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th Century Algonquin-Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism as a teenager and, in 2012, became the first Native American to be canonized.”

Why a Pollster is Warning Democrats About the 2022 Midterm Elections – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/us/politics/midterm-election-polls.html

“Brian Stryker, a Democratic pollster, didn’t work for Terry McAuliffe’s campaign in the Virginia governor’s race. But Mr. McAuliffe’s narrow defeat in a liberal-leaning state alarmed him and most every Democratic political professional.

That defeat also prompted a centrist group, Third Way, to have Mr. Stryker convene focus groups to examine why Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin won in a state that President Biden had carried by 10 points last year.

Mr. Stryker drafted and posted a bluntly worded memo with his analysis from the focus groups, and that memo has circulated widely in his party.

The participants hailed from the suburbs of Washington and Richmond and had the same political profile: Each supported Mr. Biden in 2020, and either voted for Mr. Youngkin in November or strongly considered supporting him.

In an interview with The Times, Mr. Stryker expanded on what he learned from the voters and the course correction he believes Democrats must take.

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

What was the first thing you told your partners after you got done with the groups — what was your big takeaway?

I was surprised by how dominant education was in this election. I was also struck by how much it was this place for all of these frustrations for these suburban voters, where they could take out their Covid frustrations in one place.

So if you’re advising a Democratic client running in 2022, what do you tell them?

I would tell them that we have a problem. We’ve got a national branding problem that is probably deeper than a lot of people suspect. Our party thinks maybe some things we’re saying aren’t cutting through, but I think it’s much deeper than that.

What is that branding problem, in a nutshell?

People think we’re more focused on social issues than the economy — and the economy is the No. 1 issue right now.”    . . .

STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

Energy Miser

Mark Durrenberger’s Blog — writing about homes and energy.

STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

December 1, 2015

Solar Installation in New EnglandYou’re the proud owner of a new 7,800-watt solar energy system. But every time you check your online monitoring, your system is operating below the full 7,800 watts of capacity.

Then you notice the rating plate on your inverter in the basement says 7,600 watts. What the heck?

I can explain the perfectly legitimate reasons for the discrepancy, but first, I have to go off on a tangent and discuss solar panel testing.

 

Standard Test Conditions (STC)

A solar panel is first tested right in the factory. As the panel comes off the production line, a worker (or robot) places the panel on a “flash table” and hooks up the positive and negative leads to a measuring device. The panel is then “flashed” with fake sunlight.  The connected electronics record a number of performance values including the panel’s voltage (volts), current (amps) and power (watts).

STCThese testing conditions are called “Standard Test Conditions” or STC. But what’s standard about them? Well, the light source is calibrated to a defined set of wavelengths and so that precisely 1,000 watts per square meter fall on the front glass of the solar panel. Temperature is the other key test condition – everything is at 77°F (25°C). The solar cells, glass, aluminum frame, and back-sheet are all at 77°F.

If you haven’t noticed already, these test conditions are nothing like the real world. So why does the manufacturer even bother?

As it turns out, there is quite a bit of natural variation – upwards of 5-6% – in the power output from solar cells and panels, even from panels made in the same production run. The manufacturer uses STC testing to sort panels by power and ensure that similar panels are sold and used together.

For example, let’s say that after a flash test, a panel measures out at 257 watts. The manufacturer will “bin” that panel in the “255 to 259.9 watt” bin. A 263.4 watt panel will end up in the “260 to 264.9 watt” bin and so on. The manufacturer will then sell the 255-259.9 watt panels as 255-watt panels, and the 260 to 264.9-watt panels as 260-watt panels. (By the way, even though the panels come off the same production line and cost exactly the same to manufacture, manufacturers charge more for the higher wattage panels.)

Unfortunately, this testing gives only a rough indication of how solar panels will perform in the real world. That’s where the next test comes in.

 

PVUSA Test Conditions (PTC)

In the mid-1990s, under the direction of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a set of test conditions were developed to measure solar panel performance under “real world” conditions. The conditions were called “Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications Test Conditions” or PVUSA Test Conditions; more commonly “PTC.”

Source: STC vs. PTC: Why Solar Panel Testing Matters

After Hurricane Sandy, a Park in Lower Manhattan at the Center of a Fight – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/us/hurricane-sandy-lower-manhattan-nyc.html

Listen to This Article  Listen 44:42

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“The day after the storm swallowed her neighborhood, Nancy Ortiz woke before dawn to buy ice. It was 2012, and Hurricane Sandy had reclaimed Lower Manhattan for Mother Nature. Making landfall near Atlantic City, it swept north, ravaging the New Jersey coast, destroying thousands of homes and inundating New York City with waves as high as 14 feet.

Sandy shuttered Wall Street, rattling global markets, and for a moment the storm restored Manhattan’s early 17th-century coastline. A brackish murk of waist-high water submerged all the landfill that humans had dredged, salvaged and shipped to widen the island, and that now supported the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. It also swamped a large cluster of public housing developments and a beloved but bedraggled ribbon of greenery built by Robert Moses during the 1930s called East River Park.”

“. . . . In the debate over what is officially called John V. Lindsay East River Park, I sensed there might be some useful lessons about how we got here and how we might try to think differently. The park saga is not a conflict between bad versus good actors, but a confluence of different interests, different areas of expertise, different notions of community. It is a parable of progress.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Great story, thank you Michel Kimmelman. It’s complicated, and hard to fathom what is best. It seems at first glance that the Dutch solution, the Big U, was always the best of the various options, with the longest timeline and deepest bow to ecology. Sorry DiBlasio killed it.
Sooner or later, more Americans will come to see that including nature, and allowing nature to thrive and do its thing, will be an essential part of any successful long term fight against rising seas and the disruptions of climate change.
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