Friday Cat Blogging - 13 November 2015

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 2:55 PM EST

According to Marian, the second Friday the 13th of the year isn't unlucky. Is this really a thing? Or is she just yanking my chain?

Beats me. But why take chances? This week our (mostly) black cat gets a rest, and our lovely gray-and-white cat takes center stage. She does not look like she expects any kind of bad luck at all. And she was right! By rolling over and looking adorable she got an immediate tummy rub. Life is good.

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Ted Cruz Really Hates Climate Change

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 2:36 PM EST

Yesterday I dinged Ted Cruz for blathering about how he'd eliminate five cabinet departments. Big deal. The programs would just go elsewhere. Instead, tell me what programs you'd eliminate.

As it turns out, Cruz does have a list of programs he wants to get rid of. It's really hard to find because his website is a horrific mess, but here it is:

  1. Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative
  2. Climate Research Funding for the Office of Research and Development
  3. Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool
  4. Global Methane Initiative
  5. Green Infrastructure Program
  6. Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
  7. New Starts Transit Program
  8. Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund
  9. Regulation of CO2 Emissions from Power Plants and all Sources
  10. Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles
  11. Renewable Fuel Standard Federal Mandates
  12. UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  13. UN Population Fund (abortion)
  14. USDA Catfish Inspection Program (genuinely wasteful)
  15. Appalachian Regional Commission (helps poor people)
  16. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Obama program)
  17. Corporation for Public Broadcasting (culture war)
  18. Corporation for Travel Promotion (???)
  19. Legal Services Corporation (helps poor people)
  20. National Endowment for the Arts (culture war)
  21. National Endowment for the Humanities (culture war)
  22. Presidential Election Campaign Fund (no one uses it anymore)
  23. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (???)
  24. Sugar Subsidies (anti-Rubio)
  25. Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (part of hated Obama stimulus program)

I've re-ordered this list to make clear just how much Cruz hates climate change. Nearly half of his cuts are to programs related to the environment or climate change. Cruz also wants to ditch some culture warrior stuff (arts, humanities, public broadcasting), some anti-liberal stuff (legal services, CFPB, TIGER), some anti-Rubio stuff (sugar subsidies), and some genuinely stupid stuff (USDA catfish inspection, a clever protectionist measure beloved of catfish-producing states).

So how much would this save? Cruz says $50 billion per year, but that seems pretty optimistic. The catfish thing, for example, costs $14 million, and lots of items on the list don't cost the government anything. I suppose I could google all 25 of them and see what they add up to, but not today. My horseback guess, though, is maybe $10-20 billion.

I've tried to identify the reasons Cruz hates each of these programs, but I came up blank on two of them: travel promotion and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Maybe they're genuinely wasteful. I'm not sure.

In any case, this is it. Cruz deserves credit for at least making a list, which is more than most candidates are willing to do. But will this actually save more than a tiny fraction of his stupendous tax cuts? Not a chance.

This Chart Shows Which Countries Are the Most Screwed by Climate Change

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 2:33 PM EST
Verisk Maplecroft

One of the cruel ironies of climate change is that its impacts tend to fall hardest on the countries least equipped to manage them.

When drought or sea level rise strike the United States, communities at least have access to federal aid, top scientific expertise, public investment in expensive climate-ready infrastructure, and the like. But some of the most extreme effects of global warming are headed for developing countries—drought wiping out crops in East Africa, or catastrophic hurricanes pounding Southeast Asia—that don't have access to those resources.

New research from Maplecroft, a UK-based risk consultancy, paints a pictures of where vulnerability to climate change is most pressing. Their analysis drew on three criteria: exposure to extreme events, based on the latest meteorological science; sensitivity to impacts (i.e., does a country have other sources of income and food supply if agriculture takes a hit?); and adaptive capacity—are the country's government and social institutions prepared to work under adverse climate conditions and help citizens adapt to them?

Unsurprisingly, Africa and Southeast Asia ranked the lowest, while Scandinavian countries ranked the highest. (While definitely at risk from sea level rise, countries such as Norway and Sweden have rich, highly functional governments to manage adaptation.) The major global climate talks in Paris are coming up in just a couple weeks; the chart above makes it clear why it's so important for big players like the US and China to work closely with delegations from developing countries on solutions that will provide immediate support and relief.

James Foley's Parents Aren't Impressed by the Probable Killing of His ISIS Executioner

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 1:55 PM EST

The Department of Defense announced on Friday that it was "reasonably certain" it had killed "Jihadi John," the English-speaking ISIS fighter who took part in the filmed executions of Western journalists. But the executioner's probable death meant little to the parents of James Foley, the American journalist who was perhaps Jihadi John's most high-profile victim.

"It is a very small solace to learn that Jihadi John may have been killed by the U.S. government," said John and Diane Foley in a statement on Friday. "If only so much effort had been given to finding and rescuing Jim and the other hostages who were subsequently murdered by ISIS, they might be alive today."

Jihadi John was the nickname given to Mohammed Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait but moved to the United Kingdom as a young child. After leaving the UK for Syria in 2013, he became internationally famous as the face (albeit, masked) of ISIS's execution campaign against Western hostages. He appeared in a series of videos that showed the brutal killings of Foley, fellow journalist Steven Sotloff, aid worker Peter (or Abdul-Rahman) Kassig, and several other ISIS captives. That notoriety apparently vaulted him onto the Pentagon's list of priority targets: When Department of Defense spokesman Peter Cook briefed the press on Friday, he referred to Emwazi as a "high-value individual" and the sole intended target of the strike.

"He was a recruitment tool for that organization," US Army Col. Steve Warren said in a press briefing from Baghdad on Friday. "I mean, this guy was a human animal…Killing him is probably making the world a better place."

Warren said the strike was carried out using a Hellfire missile fired from a drone over Raqqa, the Syrian city that serves as the self-proclaimed capital of the ISIS caliphate. Cook said there was no reason to believe there had been civilian casualties.

A Question For New Parents

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 1:12 PM EST

Does it ever bother you that in a few years your kids will be able to Google all the stuff you're now saying on social media?

And for not-so-new parents: Do your kids Google all the stuff you said on social media ten years ago? Do you have any amusing stories to tell about this? Any advice for new parents?

Donald Trump Insulted Every Evangelical in Iowa Last Night

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 12:24 PM EST

Apropos of Donald Trump's temper tantrum in Fort Dodge last night, a number of people have hastened to make the point that you can't blame it on the fact that Trump is now losing to Ben Carson. He's not losing. He's just not as far ahead as he used to be. That's true enough, on a national level. But in Iowa—which is where Trump was speaking—he really is losing. The Iowa GOP is heavily dominated by evangelicals, and they love them some of that old time Ben Carson. Trump, by contrast, apparently doesn't understand evangelicals even slightly. I suppose he doesn't run into them much in New York developer circles. For example, here's part of yesterday's attack on Ben Carson:

"He goes into the bathroom for a couple of hours and he comes out and now he's religious," Trump said. "And the people of Iowa believe him. Give me a break. Give me a break. It doesn't happen that way. It doesn't happen that way....Don't be fools, okay?"

But this is precisely how evangelicals think it happens. Trump is bluntly insulting every evangelical in the audience with this show of temper. He just doesn't get it, and it's driving him nuts.

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Go Ahead, Make Your Best Case Against the Oxford Comma

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 11:59 AM EST

Atrios is singing my song:

The one "grammar debate" I don't get is the Oxford Comma debate. Of course there should be one. There's no argument for leaving them out, and a million obvious ones for including them. There is no debate. Include it, barbarians.

I've never gotten this either. Even if the lack of a final comma creates ambiguity only one time in a hundred, why not use it for that one time in a hundred? It's completely harmless the other 99 times, isn't it? Seriously: what's the argument against the Oxford comma?

Look at These Sexist Campaign Buttons Some Dude Is Selling at a Republican Conference

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 11:32 AM EST

In an election rife with racist and sexist insults and one Donald Trump, sexist crap aimed at Hillary Clinton should not be surprising. And yet:

The fun buttons, spotted at this year's Sunshine Summit– the annual, two-day, GOP confab in Florida—are actually old news. They were first spotted in 2013. But their reemergence today is a reminder that, like any hardy perennial, misogynistic trolling will always remain in vogue for at least one robust fringe of the Republican party.

This Election Is Not About the Economy

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 11:16 AM EST

Ezra Klein says America is doing a whole lot better than Republican presidential candidates make it sound:

They would be surprised to find that unemployment is at five percent, America's recovery from the financial crisis has outpaced that of other developed nations, the percentage of uninsured Americans has been plummeting even as Obamacare has cost less than expected, and there's so much money flowing into new ideas and firms in the tech industry that observers are worried over a second tech bubble.

....This leaves Republicans with two problems. The first is that the economy simply isn't as bad as they're making it out to be — and so the apocalyptic rhetoric may well run into month after month of good jobs numbers during the general election....The second is that Republicans are increasingly focused on economic problems they don't really know how to solve, and don't have much credibility to say they will solve.

This is all completely correct, but I think there's an interesting point buried here: Republicans aren't really talking about the economy when they adopt this "apocalyptic" rhetoric. In fact, so far this hasn't been an election about the economy at all.

It's a culture war election. The topics that have really driven the campaign so far are illegal immigration, political correctness, abortion, Obamacare, Vladimir Putin, the war on Christianity, and so forth. By contrast, the attacks on the economy mostly feel pro forma and are used primarily to add flavor to the real issue driving Republican voters. And right now, that issue is the apparent feeling among many conservatives that the America they love is spiraling down the drain, becoming weak and dependent and altogether too brown.

Obviously this has been building for years, but it feels like this is the first election in which it's really front and center. Of course, if America is really sinking into socialism and social degeneration, then the economy must be doing badly too. So all the candidates do their best to make it sound like Democrats have driven us into a ditch. That's normal politics, but this year it's also a stand-in. When they say the economy is doing badly, what they really mean is that America is doing badly. And their audiences are eating it up.

Jennifer Lawrence Slams Her Republican Roots, Predicts "End of World" Scenario for Trump Presidency

| Fri Nov. 13, 2015 10:09 AM EST

In the newest issue for Vogue—and umpteenth edition of Jennifer Lawrence being so "real" and so "hilarious"—the Hunger Games actress reveals why she's disavowing her Republican roots, particularly in light of a potential Donald Trump White House.

"If Donald Trump is president of the United States, it will be the end of the world," Lawrence tells Vogue's Jonathan Van Meter. "And he's also the best thing to happen to the Democrats ever."

Lawrence, who is the world's highest paid actress, also didn't mince words when it came to Kim Davis, the defiant Kentucky county clerk who made national news by refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses back in September.

"I just can't imagine supporting a party that doesn't support women's basic rights," she said. "It's 2015 and gay people can get married and we think that we've come so far, so, yay! But have we? I don't want to stay quiet about that stuff."

When Van Meter asked her about Davis, Lawrence called her "that lady who makes me embarrassed to be from Kentucky."

"All those people holding their crucifixes, which may as well be pitchforks, thinking they’re fighting the good fight," she goes on. "I grew up in Kentucky. I know how they are."

As for Trump, Lawrence describes her opinion as "pretty cut and dried."

Somewhere, Hillary Clinton is nodding in agreement.