News from California and the American Southwest tells of rapidly increasing angst there over the apparent long-term absence of water since serious drought visited the region four years ago. Snow cover in the Sierra Mountains, the source for much of the potable and irrigation water for tens of millions of people and thousands of farms growing more than $50 billion worth of produce, sits at about 6% of normal. Scores of climate scientists agree that the situation is becoming chronic and dire, and for good reason. Most climate models reveal a movement of water away from the American Southwest to the Northeast where mountains of snow have fallen, and rainfall has increased dramatically. Alterations in the flow of the jet stream forced by powerful high pressure systems, themselves amped up by general warming have caused water to skirt around the Southwest and travel further into the interior United States.
Acknowledging the reality on the ground – despite cranky noise from climate change deniers – leaders in California are turning to more forceful (but not really drastic) measures like enforced conservation, water usage pricing and desalination. The latter approach is fraught with peril because it is extraordinarily expensive – both to build and operate – and requires enormous energy (mostly generated by carbon-based fuels) which is part of the reason why California is suffering to begin with.
My guess is that the efforts will have marginal effect. First, powerful forces will work successfully to shirk calls for conservation: big agriculture, celebrated golf courses, rich bastards living in gated communities in Palm Desert surrounded by acres of lush lawns more at home in Kentucky. Second, desalination sufficient to meet the needs of the multiple millions of thirsty souls would overtake a great deal of prime real estate and defile precious Pacific Ocean habitat (after all, when you’re done desalinating sea water, where do you deposit your millions of gallon of briny poison?)
Knowing that the United States is not going to let such metro areas as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego and Las Vegas go back to being whistle stops, might we see calls for a movement of the water back to where it should have been in the first place? Might the hefty numbers of Congressional representatives of California and Texas stake a claim on the Great Lakes, for example, home of the largest fresh-water repository on planet Earth? If millions of barrels of oil can be routinely transported via fat pipes from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, might it not be possible to construct some type of aqueduct that would bring copious amounts of fresh agua across the once-fruited plain?
Governors and Congressmen of the states bordering the Great Lakes, as well as the Canadian government would unite against such a play. There are existing laws on the books preventing diversion of Great Lakes water, but so what? If the alternative is widespread humanitarian disaster inside our borders, do you think a water-grab couldn’t happen? (Canada would object, so America would have to annex them.)
I truly think the population on the West Coast and Texas are whistling past the graveyard, hoping that the drought ends next year – but the smart money is on widespread devastation. And the whole country will be expected to pitch in.
GM Slimes Out of Their Obligation
Sadly, “New” General Motors has managed to manipulate bankruptcy laws to nullify a vast swath of lawsuits stemming from injuries and deaths caused by faulty ignition switches. Switches that GM engineers and surely some executives knew were faulty and could cause moving vehicles to suddenly and without warning shut down completely, rendering airbags inoperable.
I understand that U.S. bankruptcy laws exist because in general society benefits more when companies are allowed to restructure and survive than when they cease to exist – either way, creditors get fucked, but when allowed to restructure, jobs are saved, communities are less-devastated and the economy moves on. Still, it is patently unfair when companies can abuse the laws to abrogate contracts, lay off workers, shaft suppliers, and walk away unscathed to re-enter competitive arena with no baggage.
Even though GM’s audacious behavior is the proximate cause of at least 84 deaths, a federal judge the other day in Manhattan absolved “new” GM of the sins of “old” GM. Given that the offending behavior occurred before the cleansing nature of bankruptcy, “new” GM could not be held accountable for any damages caused by their evil twin. Experts say the amount of claims swept off the table by this ruling hover between $7 and $10 billion. Not only did GM extort money from taxpayers to help them weather tough times completely of their own making, and in doing so benefit from an unlevel playing field when competing with Ford who took no money and had to continue to pay its debts, but this arrogant “new” GM has just thumbed its nose at thousands who suffered death, injury and property damage.
There were many things Mitt Romney espoused that I disagreed with, but denying a bailout to GM was not one of them. Unlike the financial firms whose demise could have damaged the country and the world for decades, the loss of GM was not that serious. Making up 18 percent of the auto market, the loss of production from GM would have easily been made up by Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and the dozens of other car companies around the globe. Most suppliers and workers would have found opportunities in the industry. It was not that important to save GM.
But now that we have, the repayment from GM to the people it injured is not one of remorse and recompense for dastardly deeds, but a rank manipulation of the very laws that allowed them to live another day.
Shame on “new” GM.