‘When can we go back?’

As the remains of Florence dissipate in the northeastern United States, residents in towns like Garland, North Carolina reckon with their second bout of record-breaking flooding in two years. The Barnes family, for example, barely crawled out of Hurricane Matthew:

On Tuesday, Mr. Barnes, 42, and his wife, Brandy, 41, sat parked on what was now the water’s edge of Lisbon Bridge Road in Garland, some 60 miles inland from where Hurricane Florence had slugged ashore four days earlier.

They had lived in the house, just across the field from Mr. Barnes’s father, since 1996 and had never flooded out until Matthew. Mr. Barnes didn’t think twice about rebuilding after the 2016 storm, even though he said his flood insurance only covered about $25,000 of the damage. He paid out of pocket to get county approvals to raise the house and even put on an addition.

Mr. Barnes said he was denied a low-interest construction loan through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so he borrowed money and drained the savings his family had built up after several good years running a local repair business.

“I replaced everything,” Mr. Barnes said.

Now, as he looked out at the waters and talked about boating home to check on the house, he said they did not know what to do.

Raising the house yet again would cost thousands. They had raised a son and a daughter there and did not want to leave. Their 16-year-old son, Mason, had been killed in a car crash just before Matthew. When the family had to flee again this month, the first thing their 11-year-old daughter asked her mother was: When can we go back?

Garland is about fifty miles southeast of Fayetteville; my North Carolinian friends will correct my geography. It’s inland. Yet these towns are no worse off for being away from sea level rise. Storms are getting bigger. They’re slowing down. They linger. No one is safe anymore.

And there I was thinking about investing in the beaches of Gainesville in 2075.

The innovative capacity of Florida lawmakers

In an unprecedented bit of collaborating, the editorial boards of the three major South Florida newspapers published exhortations to their communities on Saturday warning about the immediate danger posed by sea level rise. More remarkably, they accept the consensus: there’s no stopping it; the hope is to gather business leaders and, uh, “innovators” and politicians in an attempt to make South Florida a place worth living after our grandchildren deal with effects more permanent than salt water in their toilets.

South Florida could become a world leader on resiliency — one whose engineering, architectural and public works projects steal the show from the Netherlands’ floating cities. Let us become famous for breakthrough marine research at our colleges and universities. Let us embrace the future — but plan for the future — knowing our region is going to look far different than it does today.

“It was a pretty miserable place to live 100 years ago, but people applied themselves and adapted to the land,” said Jim Murley, Miami-Dade’s chief resiliency officer. “It won’t be the same place, but it will be a place I think we can adapt to and have the kind of economy we’re talking about. But we have to stay on track, and use our universities and innovative capacity, because we’re going to need all those things to deal with the rising sea.”

State legislators are not known for their innovative capacity, especially not in a state that once thought South Florida meant Tampa; they’re notorious for skewing north because many attended University of Florida or Florida State. Guess which parts of Florida are least affected by sea level rise. Click on the map above.

When to use ‘corruption’ as an insult

Alex Pareene on how Scott Pruitt, like many phenomena emerging from Trump’s DC, represents a culmination rather than an aberration:

So the problem is, the only difference between Pruitt’s corruption and the widespread corruption of nearly everyone else in Washington, in both parties, is the degree to which he is captured, not the form his corruption takes. Because being socially close to people representing industries seeking to influence the government, and then acting in ways that benefit those industries, and then receiving some sort of renumeration—a job or consulting gig or massively overinflated speaking fees or even just rides on a nice yacht—is basically How Things Work, and whenever you call it “corruption,” a lot of people very heatedly claim to be able to separate their personal or social lives from their political principles and professional obligations.

You see it clearly in the legal profession, as when ex-Attorney General Eric Holder returned to his massive corporate law firm, which kept his office empty for him during his stint in the Justice Department, to resume making millions of dollars working at a firm specializing in white collar defense for banks. There is Jesse Eisinger’s “Chickenshit Club,” which details how careerism in attorneys and—equally important—social pressures caused the Department of Justice to largely abandon the practice of holding corporate executives responsible for white collar crime.

The Beltway allows a harmless white collar kind of hypocrisy but stops short when the suspect picks their pockets.

The GOP and trolling

Today’s New York Times has an account of how the GOP transformed from the party that got a Democratic Congress to sign the Clean Air Act into law and pushed for the Environmental Protection Agency became trollers pushing junk science:

Until 2010, some Republicans ran ads in House and Senate races showing their support for green energy.

“After that, it disappeared from Republican ads,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. “Part of that was the polling, and part of it was the visceral example of what happened to their colleagues who had done that.”

What happened was clear. Republicans who asserted support for climate change legislation or the seriousness of the climate threat saw their money dry up or, worse, a primary challenger arise.

“It told Republicans that we were serious,” Mr. Phillips said, “that we would spend some serious money against them.”

By the time Election Day 2010 arrived, 165 congressional members and candidates had signed Americans for Prosperity’s “No Climate Tax” pledge.

Most were victorious.

“The midterm election was a clear rejection of policies like the cap-and-trade energy taxes that threaten our still-fragile economy,” said James Valvo, then Americans for Prosperity’s government affairs director, in a statement issued the day after the November 2010 election. Eighty-three of the 92 new members of Congress had signed the pledge.

I don’t deny — see what I did there — that, as Jane Mayer’s Dark Money clarifies, the Kochs have the conviction of fanatics, but with green industry and natural gas making the profits that cap and trade bill defenders in 2010 could only point at and laugh, the only way to explain GOP intransigence is assholism. When I talk to climate science deniers about their views, these men (always men) aren’t Christians waiting for the angel to break the seals: they’re burgher types, solid guys who own their businesses or work for people who do. They don’t even believe scientists and leftists have formed a cabal. They don’t want to be told what to do by liberals. Nothing more. Like I wrote above, they troll the left.

Meanwhile this stupidity has consequences. My congressman, the impish and endangered Carlos Curbelo, has prominent quotes in the NYT article. Local politicians? Mushmouthed and craven.

Sticking it to liberals

I knew Trump intended to screw over tree huggers and other liberals when during his speech announcing American abdication of its responsibility to reduce fossil fuel consumption he mentioned “draconian” as if the scriptwriters learned the word from the Reader’s Digest feature “It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power”; I knew he was trolling libs when he insinuated that effeminate snobs in Paris were going to tell Pittsburgh residents not to use briquettes for Sunday cookouts. Michael Grunewald:

The entire debate over Paris has twisted Republicans in knots. They used to argue against climate action in the U.S. by pointing out that it wouldn’t bind China and other developing-world emitters; then they argued that Paris wouldn’t really bind the developing world, either, but somehow would bind the United States. In fact, China is doing its part, dramatically winding down a coal boom that could have doomed the planet, frenetically investing in zero-carbon energy. And it will probably continue to do its part even though the president of the United States is volunteering for the role of climate pariah…California just set a target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, and many U.S. cities and corporations have set even more ambitious goals for shrinking their carbon footprints. Trump can’t do much about that, either.

This is what matters:

What Trump can do is remind his supporters—and everyone else on the planet—which side he’s on, and, more to the point, which side he’s fighting. He’s taking a shirts-and-skins stand against liberals, against goo-goos, against condescending scolds in Birkenstocks who don’t like Styrofoam or hulking SUVs or real Americans, against naïve globalists who want the U.S. to suck up to the French and the Chinese and the United Nations. Climate change will affect the entire earth, from drought-ravaged farm villages in Africa to floodprone condo towers in Miami, but for Trump it’s just a symbol of the stuff that people who don’t like Trump care about. Paris is just an Obama legacy that he can kill, when he doesn’t have the votes to kill Obama’s health reforms or Wall Street regulations or tax hikes on the wealthy. Whatever damage Trump’s climate policies cause to the planet will be collateral damage, shrapnel from his political war on elites and the left and Obama.

I wrote about this phenomenon yesterday. I accept that so long as the Democratic Party relies on the altruism of venture capitalists and suburban upper middle class voters it’s fucked in the long term or, in an example of history reversing itself, transforms into a coalition of comfortable technocratic liberals cool with capitalism but with social consciences, like the Republican Party before 1920. But only the Democratic Party wants healthy Americans in the physiological and holistic senses of the adjective, even if it’s a result of concluding that a healthy capitalist is a happy capitalist. Ask me on Sunday if I’ve made my peace with this sobering conclusion.

Screw the world

Sean McElwee:

This is it. The GOP satraps can have abortions, attend the weddings of gay friends, and buy organic food; the poor in Pennsylvania, rural Mississippi and in my own state Florida can chew on the rinds of their loathing for the women, blacks, Mexicans, and gays who take their disappearing jobs or, as is more likely, who insist on being treated as human beings. I hope McElwee writes an essay built on these theses. Motivating Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accords, underscored by the presence of smirking Scott Pruitt and by Paul Ryan’s shit-eating “fuck Obama” expression is a contempt for the idea of community itself.

‘Pipelines spill and leak’

My monthly reminder that we still take seriously the construction of these pipelines. :

Two barrels, or 84 gallons, spilled due to a leaky flange at a pipeline terminal in Watford City on March 3, according to the state’s Health Department. A flange is the section connecting two sections of pipeline. Oil flow was immediately cut off and the spill was contained on site. Contaminated snow and soil was removed.


The pipeline leaked 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota on April 4. That spill at a rural pump station also was quickly cleaned up and didn’t threaten any waterways. The state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources posted a report in its online database but didn’t otherwise notify the public. Its policy is to not issue news releases on spills unless there is a threat to public health or water.

Tribal leaders and attorneys say the leaks bolster their demands for further environmental review of the pipeline.

“We have always said it is not a matter of it, but when,” tribal attorney Jan Hasselman said after the South Dakota leak. “Pipelines spill and leak. It’s just a fact.”

One hundred-seventy gallons of oil doesn’t major, not when compared to, say, the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But context, context. Last December, the Belle Fourche pipeline spill dumped almost two hundred thousand gallons of the awful stuff into a creek. Every time North Dakotans have been lucky: no threat to water or arable land for now. All it takes is one systemic failure to turn Fargo into Flint, and I’m not sure what the answer when Congress and the president’s views are no different from Scott Pruitt’s — you know, the filing clerk for the fossil fuel industry.