Oil giant Exxon Mobil takes second place on the new Fortune 500 list, with first place going to Wal-Mart. Exxon Mobil, however, was the most profitable company for the fifth year in a row, “raking in a record-breaking $40 billion in 2007 earnings.”
I have a new piece in Salon, “Let’s dump ‘Earth’ Day.” It is supposed to be mostly humorous. Or mostly serious. Anyway, the subject of renaming Earth Day has been on my mind for a while, or at least since this post last Friday:
I don’t worry about the earth. I’m pretty certain the earth will survive the worst we can do to it. I’m very certain the earth doesn’t worry about us. I’m not alone. People got more riled up when scientists removed Pluto from the list of planets than they do when scientists warn that our greenhouse gas emissions are poised to turn the earth into a barely habitable planet.
The earth is certainly not important enough to qualify for an ABC debate question. Who wears an Earth lapel pin? Arguably, concern over the earth is elitist, something people can afford to spend their time on when every other need is met. But elitism is out these days. Only bitter environmentalists cling to Earth Day. We need a new way to make people care about the nasty things we’re doing with our cars and power plants. At the very least, we need a new name.
The AP reports that a Robert Coughlin, former deputy chief of staff of the Justice Department’s criminal division, “was accused Monday of criminal conflict of interest in the latest case stemming from the investigation of disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Coughlin resigned a year ago for “personal reasons”:
Prosecutors accused Coughlin in court papers Monday of providing assistance from 2001-2003 to a lobbyist and the lobbyist’s firm while receiving gifts from the firm and discussing prospective employment there.
The lobbyist isn’t named but The Associated Press has previously reported that Coughlin was lobbied during the period in question by Kevin Ring, a member of Abramoff’s lobbying team who also is under investigation. At the time Coughlin worked for the Justice Department’s office of legislative affairs and Ring worked for Abramoff’s Greenberg Traurig firm.
Coughlin talked with Ring about going to work for Greenberg, according to an attorney with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Ring also provided Coughlin with meals and tickets to events, the AP has reported.
TPM Muckraker has more.
University of Georgia faculty are “concerned” that having Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as this year’s graduation speaker “sends the wrong message after a year of sexual harassment scandals on campus.” The announcement of Thomas as the speaker “setting off rounds of angry and frustrated e-mails between faculty members”:
“What a slap in the face this is to everyone who has been working to bring to light the realities of sexual harassment, and to establish appropriate methods and offices for addressing this significant problem on our campus,” Chris Cuomo, director of UGA’s Institute for Women’s Studies, told The Red & Black student newspaper.
Since September, three UGA professors have resigned over sexual harassment complaints.
Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a national security consultant at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Michael O’Hanlon has yet another op-ed in the Washington Times today arguing that Iran is “seeking to establish itself as the region’s hegemon,” primarily by “stoking violence in Iraq.” Iranian involvement in Iraq has thus become another rationale for O’Hanlon’s open-ended policy of “strategic patience” in Iraq. To prevent Iran from becoming a regional hegemon, the argument goes, “all [the United States] can do is be patient, keep fighting in Iraq… and keep trying to prove we are the reasonable ones.”
O’Hanlon chides proponents of engagement with Iran as failing to “understand the real nature of the situation we face.” As usual, though, it’s O’Hanlon who doesn’t understand the real nature of the situation the United States faces in Iraq and the region more broadly.
As the New York Times reported today, the United States and Iran increasingly find themselves on common ground in Iraq as a result of the open-ended commitment of U.S. forces favored by O’Hanlon and the Bush administration. Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, gave strong support to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Basra: “The idea of the government in Basra was to fight outlaws. This was the right of the government and the responsibility of the government. And in my opinion the government was able to achieve a positive result in Basra.”
The Iranian ambassador’s words could have come out of the mouth of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In an unannounced visit to Baghdad yesterday, she praised Maliki’s “very good decision by the Iraqis to not let Basra continue to be under the control of criminals and militias.” Read more
Colorado State Rep. Douglas Bruce (R) was barred from speaking at the House podium today after raging against a program to help foreign farm workers enter the U.S. legally. “We don’t need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado,” Bruce “told the chamber to an audible gasp.” Earlier this year, Bruce kicked a photographer — and refused to apologize for it — for taking a picture of him during a prayer session in the state House.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report today that found “the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.” According to the House report, nine waivers “involved sex crimes and six involved manslaughter or vehicular homicide convictions.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has asked the Pentagon to explain the increase in conduct waivers.
The Pentagon also recently released figures showing that the number of Army recruits requiring a waiver doubled since 2004, not including waivers for sex abuse crimes or drug and alcohol abuse.
In the washingtonpost.com’s “Post Politics Hour” web chat last Friday, a questioner noted that President Bush is “fantastically unpopular” and that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) “policies are, on the major issues, pretty much the same as Bush’s.” The questioner then wondered: “So what the heck is going on that McCain could be even within 20 points of either” Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) or Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in the polls?
Post reporter Jonathan Weisman said the reason is that McCain has been “branded” an “independent maverick.” As evidence justifying such a brand, Weisman cited the senator’s efforts in 1998 to regulate tobacco despite strong misgivings from his GOP colleagues:
In case you want to stop playing Milbank for a while: Who are these people who loathe everything the Republicans have done in the past seven years, and yet would be willing to cast their votes for McCain anyway?
Jonathan Weisman: I am dead serious. McCain has cultivated an image that has branded him as an independent maverick now for more than a decade. He fought the GOP over tobacco in 1998.
Weisman is correct; McCain championed legislation to regulate the tobacco industry in 1998 that his Republican friends didn’t like. McCain even said he would “never” give up his efforts to regulate the industry.
But Weisman’s defense of McCain’s self-ascribed “maverick” label falls short of the facts. The reality is that McCain’s “never” pledge didn’t last very long. Not only has he since voted against a bill that would have raised tobacco taxes by 61 cents in order to pay for an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, but McCain is now backing away from a tobacco regulation bill that he co-sponsored.
As further evidence that McCain is an “independent maverick,” Weisman said he has “clashed” with Bush “repeatedly” -– but offered no details –- and claimed that McCain “wants to end government-sanctioned torture.” But McCain has actually voted to enable “government-sanctioned torture,” a position that is in lock-step with President Bush.
Weisman concluded that “Americans see McCain the way they want to” and it is “going to be hard to break” McCain’s “maverick” brand. But maybe Americans see McCain as a “straight-talking maverick” because, despite all evidence to the contrary, that’s how the media constantly portray him.
[Sadly, this is only a runner up for the worst Earth Day climate story from the traditional media. I'll post the winner on Earth Day. Hint: It's NBC.]
This week, Slate is hosting some of the world’s most eminent environmental thinkers, leaders, and advocates, and inviting them to answer questions from our readers about what’s happening to our world and what we can do about it.
Yes, Slate then describes Gingrich, author of the recent book A Contract with the Earth, as a “conservative conservationist” who has now “devoted himself to a bipartisan ‘mainstream environmentalism.’ ” And the Post runs their interview with him saying he will “discuss finding a common commitment to environmental stewardship and bipartisan solutions for global warming and other critical problems.”
Seriously. And people ask me if the media coverage of the environment and global warming has gotten better. The traditional media has the attention span and historical memory of an erection.
Back in November, Salon ran an interview (here) with Gingrich, who famously co-authored and then worked to enact the anti-environmental Contract with America (CWA), in which he claimed
I don’t know of a single thing in the Contract that was bad for the environment.
As I noted at the time (here), CWA was a clever, stealthy attack on the environment as detailed by NRDC in a lengthy analysis (summarized here), by the Sierra Club, and by the National Wildlife Federation, which wrote at the time: “Taken as a whole, the House plan constitutes the broadest and deepest attack ever mounted against laws that protect public health, the environment, natural resources and wildlife.”
Regular readers of this blog know precisely what environmental non-strategy
Luntz Bush Gingrich must embrace, and his Washington Post interview does not disappoint, from the very start:
Newt Gingrich: I want to start by saying that I believe we need an entrepreneurial, science and technology oriented approach to the environment, and that most Americans agree with that…. [A] majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans all agree that entrepreneurs can do more than bureaucrats to solve environmental challenges.
If you are a new reader and that doesn’t sound familiar, try this:
That of course would be a direct quote from the Frank Luntz playbook on how to seem like you care about the climate when you don’t, the same playbook our President has used with such great success (see Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah.” and of course, “Bush/Nero climate speech: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, let’s fiddle until 2025.”³
Sadly for Newt, he loves the wrong technology: “A very inexpensive hydrogen car would change the entire trajectory of environmental impact for China and India.” Not!
Needless to say, Gingrich does not favor either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. He favors technology incentives. Now he tells us.
During a segment on Fox News’ Studio B with Shepard Smith today, Fox’s chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron spoke in hushed tones while reporting from an event by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in Thomasville, AL. Reacting to Cameron’s muted speech, Smith quipped, “Carl Cameron in full pornstar voice today as he is in a crowd.” Cameron just smiled after hearing Smith’s description. Watch it:
As Brave New Films have demonstrated, despite Fox’s espousal of family values, the network often gratuitously features risque material.