Today, the Department of Interior overturned a Reagan-era regulation, permitting loaded firearms at 388 of 391 national park sites. The decision allows guns in parks in “any states with concealed carry laws, not just those that allow guns in their state parks as originally proposed.” While the Department cited safety concerns as a factor, the National Park Conservation Association notes:
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there were 1.65 violent crimes per 100,000 national park visitors in 2006—making national parks some of the safest places in the United States. The new regulation could increase the risk for impulse shootings of wildlife, and risk the safety of visitors and rangers. Despite the potential affect on national park wildlife and resources, the Administration did not conduct an environmental review as required by law.
The text of the rule notes that earlier, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) wrote to the Interior Dept. supporting the rule change. Check out ThinkProgress’s updated report on Bush’s 11th hour regulations and rule changes.
Both the FBI and the ethics committee have declined to provide any information about whether they’re looking into Coleman. So we’ve been calling Coleman’s office to ask whether he’s heard from investigators. In fact, in the last few weeks, we’ve left at least ten detailed voicemail messages for Leroy Coleman, the senator’s Washington press secretary (and no relation) asking exactly that question. And we’ve received no response whatsoever.
[Here's a guest post by SustainUS delegates to the UNFCCC negotiations in PoznaÅ„, Poland this week -- Matthew Maiorana, Dominic MacCormack, Ben Wessel, and Casie Reed.]
SustainUS is a US Youth Network for Sustainable Development, with a delegation of seventeen young people from across the country represented in Poland. They are part of the larger International Youth Delegation present at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) in Poznan, Poland. Together, the international youth delegation consists of over 500 young activists representing 54 different countries from six continents (Antarctic youth have not yet surfaced). SustainUS and their international partners are attending the Conference to voice the opinions of the over 50% of the global population under the age of 30, the largest constituency on Earth.
The negotiations taking place in Poznan are progressing much the way you might suspect — developing countries arguing with developed countries about what is needed to protect our future. The process of international negotiations is a slow one, but vital to ensure that necessary commitments are made to protect our collective future. While most of the happenings here are identical to those in years past, there are also a few big policy surprises and important developments to note.
Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee today, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner said that his company has spent over $103 billion over the last fifteen years on pensions and post-retirement health care benefits. “Obviously if we had the $103 billion and could use it for other things, it would enable us to be even farther ahead on technology or newer equipment in our plants or whatever,” Wagoner said.
Considering these enormous costs, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) asked Wagoner whether he would support “a national health care program in order to stay viable.” Wagoner agrees that serious health care reform would “undoubtedly” help the Big Three stay competitive with foreign automakers:
GWEN MOORE (D-WI): Wouldn’t this have been a great time for GM to say, we need a national health care program in order to stay viable? You correctly identify the problem, that other markets — China, Latin America, Russia where GM does not have the burdens of those costs. Why did you stop short of saying that this kind of initiative would help our industry?
WAGONER: Well it undoubtedly would help level the playing field for the industry. … We’ve then tried to we have been very active in the health-care debate since here in Washington. … Our competitors do in most other countries have a significantly greater government role.
In fact, just yesterday Toyota cut the ribbon on a new plant in Ontario, Canada. Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) pointed out that the only cost difference between operating in the U.S. and Canada “has got to be entirely on health care.” Though GM had supported President Clinton’s health care reform efforts, Frank scolded the entire industry for remaining silent. “Among the mistakes the auto companies made was in 1993, when there was an effort by President Clinton to do something about health care, you didn’t help him,” Frank said.
HALL: If I were to characterize this jobs report I would say it’s very dismal jobs report. There’s very little in this report that’s positive. This is maybe one of the worst jobs reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics has ever produced.
CUMMINGS: And how long has the Bureau been around?
HALL: 124 years.
CUMMINGS: 124 years. And so that means we’re sliding down the slippery slope fast.
Either in December or after the new legislative session starts in January, Congress is going to have to decide the size and scope of an economic stimulus package. Economists from allover the ideological spectrum acknowledge the need for massive economic stimulus, but there are disagreements over how the spending should be targeted.
In order for the stimulus package to be effective, it should — at least in part — be geared towards those hardest hit by the economic crisis. As explained by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “Because this recession is likely to be deep and the government safety net for very poor families who lack jobs has weakened significantly in recent years, increases in deep poverty in this recession are likely to be severe.”
Focusing some of the package this way, though, would not make it a bailout for the poor at taxpayer expense. At a Center for American Progress (CAP) event today entitled “Stimulus and Recovery: Where Should the Spending Go?,” CBPP Executive Director Robert Bernstein explained that focusing stimulus in this way is “not simply for social or equity reasons, but for hard-headed economic reasons,” like keeping consumer demand up and thus preserving jobs.
The reason these measures are particularly effective at spurring demand is basic. Those most in need are compelled by their circumstances to spend the money they receive just to obtain the necessities. Thus, while some stimulus policies face the risk that the funds dispensed will end up getting pocketed instead of spent, producing little change in the economy, policies to help those in need face no such risk.
As Will Straw, CAP’s Associate Director for Economic Growth and a co-author of the report said, “this is not a socialist plot,” it’s just that with large tax cuts “there’s no guarantee it’ll be spent.”
During an interview yesterday with NBC News’s John Yang, President Bush offered his reason as to why he and his wife Laura haven’t been “big entertainers” at the White House over the years:
BUSH: We’ve had a lot of fun in this experience. We haven’t been a real social first couple. A lot of it had to do with the war. There were periods of the presidency where it was just inappropriate to be big entertainers But we had a lot of friends and family here in the White House and its been really a lot of fun.
Last May, Bush also said that he gave up golfing because of the Iraq war, in “solidarity” with U.S. troops and their families. Nevertheless, as Bush noted, his time in the White House has “been really a lot of fun.”
Jim Arkedis suggests “civilian power” as an alternative term to the much-derided “soft power.” I think this suggestion actually shows that we don’t need one term to replace soft power, but rather that the underlying concept can probably be split into a few different ideas. One thing, that seems to be well-described as “civilian power” is the idea that the government needs to mobilize more of the non-military instruments available to us — things like diplomatic resources, technical assistance, development aid, etc. There are a lot of problems on the planet and not all of them can be solved primarily by blowing things up. But right now our budget is heavily tilted toward the “blowing things up” side of the ledger. We would do well to balance better.
But there’s also something else that, as I said before, I don’t think is well-captured by the term “power” at all. Maybe it’s easier to think about it in terms of another country. One thing that’s good about the United States is that we have a brand that, when we’re at our best, is very broadly appealing across ethnic and religious lines. By contrast, Iran can have strong appeal in southern Lebanon or in Iraq, but theocracy based on Shiite Islam is an inherently tough sell. Similarly, Putin-style Russian nationalism is a potent force in Russia, but hardly an ideology that’s ready to travel the globe. But insofar as the United States comes to be identified with torture, bullying, and aggressive warfare rather than with humane liberal values we lose that brand advantage.