Sunday, June 19, 2011

Netroots Nation--redefining irrelevance

Netroots Nation (NN), a gathering of "progressives" organized mainly by the Dailykos website has been meeting in Minneapolis since Thursday.  We here in Minnesota believe we know a thing or three about progressive politics and hoped that our guests not only enjoyed our June weather, but could pick up on the vibe that once made us a showcase for the progressive impulse.

Well, that didn't happen.  NN made less of impact on Minnesota and the nation than a convention of chiropractors.  It wasn't always this way.  In 2008, NN was a must-stop for politicians hoping unseat the Republicans and the reign of error that was the W. Bush administration.  This time around, there were no national name politicians--the best NN '11 could provide for keynote speakers was Russ Feingold, the recently defeated former Wisconsin Senator, and Al Franken, the professional comedian who became a Senator from Minnesota only after a months-long recount.

The locals were ignored.  We were left wondered if we had bad breath or something.  Of course, Minnesotans worry when we are associated with failure and with cause.  Our pro sports teams suck so bad they could replace gravity.  In 1968, we had the two major candidates of the Democratic Party hail from here.  This year, there are two Minnesota politicians running for president only this time they are not only Republicans, but are of the most insane variety.  But while we might be worried that the failure of NN 11 might have been our "fault", the real problems can be traced back to problems at Dailykos.

The main reason the Kos site is in trouble is that Obama has turned from this progressive wet dream into this hideous monster who sold his soul to Wall Street and the Defense department. So while the economy collapses, we continue to fight wars without meaning that we obviously cannot afford and divert resources away from important life-and-death issues like climate change and the rotten infrastructure.

The only way this insanity can be associated with folks called Progressive is to shout down rational debate. And that is what happens over at Kos. Point out the failings of Obama’s neoliberalism and you get shouted down by the Obamabots. Criticize the foreign policy and the Zionists will be screaming about anti-semitism by the third comment. And so on. The good writers have mostly fled because WHO needs that sort of abuse? 

I live in a southwest Minneapolis suburb, and I could not find any reason to attend any NN sessions. They were WAY too expensive and irrelevant to the point of goofiness. And to think that as recently as 2008, I thought the left blogosphere was going to change politics in a major way for the better. 

I don’t know whether to think a lame NN lineup that utterly ignores all the big issues like peak oil, the collapsing infrastructure, debt restructuring, long-term joblessness, never-ending wars, climate change, peak food, the lack of a Progressive narrative, etc. is that way because the NN folks aren’t very aware or imaginative, or that this is a deliberate attempt to lead the Progressive impulse into an irrelevant little pen where we can all be safely castrated? 

Anyway, back in the real world, we find problems that are much larger than "Why Organizing around Community Colleges Matters" (Thurs. 10:30 am).  We also find engaged citizens who are trying to address these big problems.  NN might ignore climate change, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening.
Arctic melts faster than IPCC's forecasts    
As a fortnight of climate talks wrap up in Bonn, the latest scientific data on the rate of Arctic warming show dramatic levels of melting and sea level rise occurring far faster than previous estimates.
When the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was published in 2007, there was a lack of data on the Arctic, so the panel left a big source of potential sea-level-rise out of its projections for this century.
It estimated a conservative rise of about 18 to 59 centimeters. Many scientists have suspected that the IPCC's projections underestimate the pace of change and the latest research appears to back them up.
Unprecedented Arctic ice melt
New findings by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a working group of the Arctic Council, reveal unprecedented rates of change in the Arctic Ocean, the mass of the Greenland ice sheet and the region's ice caps and glaciers over the past ten years.
The research confirms that warming in the Arctic has been occurring at twice the global average warming trend since 1980.
Surface air temperatures in the Arctic since 2005 have been higher than for any five-year period since measurements began around 1880, and summer temperatures in the region have been higher in the past few decades than at any time in the past 2,000 years.
Although there is a very high degree of variability in the state of sea ice from year to year,
Sebastian Gerland – one of the report's contributors from the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsö - says long-term monitoring at various points in different Arctic regions shows clear trends: Too little ice, shorter winter seasons when freezing takes place and an early onset of spring and summer melting. 
"The clarity of that trend is very striking," says the sea ice expert. Indeed, during the last five years, sea ice in the Arctic summer has retreated to its lowest levels since satellite measurements began in 1979.
Gerland stresses that sea ice in the Arctic is not just of local importance. As well as its influence on the ecosystem in the Arctic, it also actively influences the global climate. The white ice floating on top reflects solar radiation back up into the atmosphere. Without it, the heat is absorbed by the dark ocean. 
Feedback loops
This feedback effect had been anticipated by climate scientists, but clear evidence that a warmer climate has in turn intensified the warming trend has only been observed in the Arctic in the past five years.
Another of these feedbacks referenced in the AMAP report is melting permafrost.
The permafrost stores large amounts of methane, which is around 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a greenhouse gas.
The report indicates that melting permafrost areas can potentially release large amounts of stored methane, as well as CO2, into the atmosphere.
Volker Rachold, Executive Secretary of the International Arctic Science Committee, based in Germany, warns this process could in turn further influence the climate beyond humans' control. more

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