Monday, August 29, 2011







Not That Message, For Sure


The Center for American Progress reports that Representative Michele Bachmann has remarked

I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.

Not to worry, though, because her campaign manager now says "obviously, she was saying it in jest." Hopefully, the Bachmann camp is lying, because otherwise a member of the United States Congress believes joking publicly about God's influence on the course of human affairs is great sport.

Bachmann, though given to saying things hardly anyone even modestly informed would believe, probably was dead serious about her Irene comment, though she may have decided to make a point by exaggerating. About God.

The GOP presidential contender should have stuck with her original comment because, accidentally, she may- may- have been 50% accurate. Back in an earlier time- three days before an earthquake chose the unlikely target of the northeastern quadrant of the U.S.A. and nine days before a hurricane in the northeastern U.S.- The New York Times observed

Normally, three or four weather disasters a year in the United States will cause at least $1 billion in damages each. This year, there were nine such disasters. They included the huge snow dump in late January and early February on the Midwest and Northeast, the rash of tornadoes this spring across the Midwest and the more recent flooding of the Missouri and Souris Rivers. The disasters are responsible for at least 589 deaths, including 160 in May when tornadoes ripped through Joplin, Mo.

These nine billion-dollar disasters tie the record set in 2008, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The total damage done by all storms, tornadoes, flooding and heat waves so far this year adds up to about $35 billion. The National Climatic Data Center says it estimates the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates and are likely to change as assessments become more complete. With four months to go in 2011, this year’s total amount of damage is likely to rise. Forecasters are already predicting further meteorological mayhem as hurricane season intensifies.

Predictably, Times reporter Katherine Q. Seelye did not address any possible impact of climate change, lest global warming deniers raise howls of protest against the "liberal media." While Hurricane Irene was not caused by climate change, Joe Romm notes that warming makes hurricanes more destructive because sea level rise makes storm surges more destructive, the increased water vapor in the atmosphere increases rainfall and the risk of flooding, and water vapor and higher ocean temperatures help fuel a storm, making it more intense and bigger.

A day before Irene hit landfall, Michael D. Lemonick of Climate Central explained

.... sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are higher now than they used to be, thanks to global warming, and ocean heat is what gives hurricanes their power. All other things being equal, a warmer ocean means a more powerful storm. It’s hard to say that all other things are exactly equal here, but it’s certainly plausible that Irene would have been a little weaker if precisely the same storm had come through, say, 50 years ago.

What we know for sure, however is that thanks largely to climate change, sea level is about 13 inches higher in the New York area than it was a century ago. The greatest damage from hurricanes comes not from high winds and torrential rains — although those do cause a lot of damage. It’s from the storm surge, the tsunami-like wall of water a hurricane pushes ahead of it to crash onto the land. It was Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge, not the wind or rain, that destroyed New Orleans back in 2005.

And now that we have had back-to-back extreme weather events in a densely populated area of the nation, the Repub presidential contender says the Lord is trying "to get the attention of politicians" because "government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.” TPM's Alex-Seitz Wald notes "It’s ironic that God would use a hurricane to send a memo about cutting government spending, considering that the damage it causes it likely going to increase government spending."

It's also highly unlikely, given the message-"I'm sending earthquakes and hurricanes because you're spending too much money- is extremely cryptic." I might as well contend that I'm posting this blog so you know to get a haircut this week. There is no connection, other than the ironic one identified by Seitz-Wald, whose message would be the opposite observed by the Minnesota psychic.

But there is at least a chance that Michele B. is partially right. Perhaps God is displeased, as well as perplexed, that a sizable number of politicians (the vast majority from the congresswoman's party) continue to deny the reality of human influence upon the climate. Preferring something more subtle than a baseball bat applied to the cranium of the corporate stooges who aren't listening, the Almighty might prefer the succession of blizzard, tornado, and flooding events this nation alone has endured of late. The alternative explanation is "the wholly human origin of all that is human," as Camus put it.

Either way, two things are clear: any message from above is not the one Michele Bachmann wishes it were; and Michele Bachmann's campaign is lying.


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