Fire raged in a neighborhood near the west end of Bastrop, Texas, on September 5.
On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry left the presidential campaign trail in South Carolina to attend to the most destructive wildfire in his state's history. Touring the flames in Bastrop, which has lost 600 homes to the blaze, he urged people to be "incredibly careful" because "people's lives, pets, livestock, and frankly, legacies of generations to come can be put in jeopardy." Perry was warning against sparking fires with cigarette butts, but not, it would seem, against sparking them with his own risky brand of climate change denial.
According Jianbang Gan, an environmental science professor at Texas A&M University, global warming is strongly tied to an increase in wildfires. He predicts that if the temperature climbs by 7 degrees Fahrenheit—what climate experts predict for Texas by the end of the century—the number of wildfires will more than double. Increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause plants to grow faster, while higher temperatures will dry them out more quickly, setting the stage for the kind of intense blazes that have consumed 3.5 million acres in the Lone Star State this year.
The direct causes of this year's wildfires are a record-breaking heat wave and the worst single-year drought in state history, which is itself linked to climate change. The drought has been the result of storms shifting northward—the same conditions predicted by climate change models. Though it may also be caused by the naturally occurring La Niña weather pattern, human-induced global warming "is almost certainly making this extreme event worse," Texas A&M climate scientist Andrew Dessler toldThinkProgress Green. "There is absolutely no way that you can conclude that climate change is not playing a role here."
You've got to hand it to the Taiwanese for doing whatever it takes to educate the masses about politics. Ok, so maybe Karl Rove didn't really have a snake shooting out of his mouth when he convinced Rick Perry to become a Republican, and maybe Slick Rick has never ridden an elephant or shot up the governor's mansion with lasers, but who cares? It's a metaphor, dude. If you still think those Carly Fiorina Demon Sheep clips are weird, you've obviously never seen this masterpiece from Next Media Animation:
The red line is the share of the economy taken up by wages, salaries etc. The blue line is the share taken up by corporate profits. So the graph shows that corporations have bounced back from the recession even as workers' share of the economic pie continues to narrow.
Why is this happening? Jared Bernstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, who put together the graph, says companies have raked in the dough by selling into emerging markets while cutting costs through outsourcing and automating domestic jobs. I'd say the demise of unions certainly also plays a role.
As the chart also makes clear, widening income inequality in America is no longer just a matter of stratified wages. Today's investment class—the CEOs, the hedge fund managers, the bankers—owns a stake in an economic system that no longer needs to share much of its wealth with anyone else. In other words, it takes money to make money. And of course, spending some of it to buy off Washington doesn't hurt either.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to remove a state commissioner who opposed expanding a West Texas nuclear waste dump run by one of his largest political donors, Reuters reports today. When it became clear that Bobby Gregory of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission might be able to block the dump from accepting out-of-state nuclear waste, Perry's office offered him an alternative job—a prestigious post on the board of regents of a state university.
The news is certain to fuel the longstanding political scandal over the dump, which was licensed in 2008 by Perry's top environmental regulator, Glenn Shankle, over the objections of his staff, three of whom resigned rather than sign off the on the deal (Shankle later left to become a lobbyist for the dump's parent company, Waste Control Solutions). WCS is owned by Harold Simmons, a billionaire corporate raider who has given Perry's campaigns at least $1.2 million.
As I reported in March, WCS had been trying to expand the dump from a fairly limited repository for waste from Texas and Vermont into what could become one of the largest nuclear waste dumps in the country. Approving the expansion was up to the compact commission, which was composed of six Perry appointees and two appointees from Vermont. But with the Vermont appointees likely to be replaced by anti-nuclear Democrats and Gregory and another Texas commissioner opposed to the expansion, Perry's office apparently saw a need to replace someone on the commission with a crony more friendly to Simmons.
After Gregory refused the governor's job offer, Reuters reports, the commission was called to vote on January 4th, before the terms of the Vermont Republicans ended. It approved expanding the dump by a vote of 5-2.
It might make sense for a small business to pay its top brass more than it doles out to Uncle Sam in taxes, but what if that company has tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in profits? Well, this is America folks. What follows is a list of 25 mega corporations that paid one guy—their CEO—more money than what they spent on their entire federal tax bills last year. The same companies averaged $1.9 billion each in profits—money that was earned, in many cases, by cutting thousands of American jobs.