Jeff Goodell, our roving reporter at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting, filed his second dispatch after the talk by the nation’s leading climate scientist.
Maybe Justin Timberlake or Barry Manilow draws a more adoring crowd, but I doubt it. Hansen is not just a rock start here at AGU, but the one true prophet, the Man Who Saw It All Before Anyone Else. And Hansen, in his own quiet way, did not disappoint.
The themes of his talk were not new to anyone who has heard him speak recently (or to readers of Climate Progress) — the dangers of runaway warming, the need to keep CO2 level in the atmosphere at 350 ppm or lower, the urgency of phasing out coal by 2030. Today, Hansen laid it all out with dry, devestating precision.
Near the end of his talk, he predicted that, because of the earth’s current energy balance and the coming solar cycles:
Reader’s Digest has solicited advice for President-elect Obama from various public figures, including Karl Rove. His message to Obama:
The top priorities for the Senator who will raise his right hand on January 20, 2009, and say “I do solemnly swear” are obvious: keeping America safe and growing the economy.
Less obvious is how to create a White House where forceful debate can take place. Plain speaking, straight talk, and dissent must be encouraged, with participants thoroughly prepared, ideas offered with deference for opposing views, and colleagues not subjected to self-serving leaks. The power of the Oval Office can cower critics and silence disagreement; the Chief Executive must labor hard to make it a place of debate and vigorous debate.
This week, a judge ordered the release of three Guantanamo detainees, the first to be released as a result of a U.S. court ruling, because the government failed to prove they were “enemy combatants.” One detainee had particularly strong feelings about being held for seven years without charge at Guantanamo:
“For almost seven years, I was at the end of the world, at the worst place in the world,” Mustafa Ait Idir told the Dnevni Avaz a day after arriving back in his adopted homeland of Bosnia. “It would have been hard even if I had done something wrong (but) it is much harder if one is totally innocent,” he said.
Vice President Cheney said this week that Guantanamo was “well-run” and detainees were “well-treated.”
Dave Weigel runs down the shift in congressional districts from “red” to “blue,” something that will help determine how much support for his agenda Barack Obama is able to count on in congress:
Based on Swing State Project’s numbers, which don’t yet include Alabama, California, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma or Texas, Mr Obama carried at least 34 districts that Mr Bush carried in 2004. When all the states’ numbers are in, we’re likely to find that he carried as many or more as Mr Bush did at his apogee. [...] this means that the current Democratic majority is the most stable in decades. Even when Bill Clinton won the presidency, his Democratic Congress included members from ruby-red Republican districts in the South that Republicans were able to flip when the incumbents retired. Mr Obama’s (and Mrs Pelosi’s) majority is built on safe seats on the west coast, in the southwest, in the midwest, in pockets of the new South, and in the northeast. On the Swing State Project map, only 25 Democrats represent districts carried by Mr McCain, most of them in the deep South and three of them in Mr McCain’s Arizona, which resisted the Democratic surge. And many of those seats—rural New Mexico-02, the University of Virginia-centered Virginia-06—registered huge gains from Mr Kerry’s performance to Mr Obama’s. They have gone from safe Republican seats to swing seats.
Worth keeping in mind.
Of course at this point the political future is just identical to the course of the economic crisis. If the worst happens, and we’re plunged into a global depression that’s still ongoing two and four years from now, Democrats are going to get wiped out. Everything depends on achieving robust recovery.
As part of his annual War on Christmas mania, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly pounced on the town of Great Barrington, MA last year after the town’s selectmen voted 4 to 0 to shut off decorative lights by 10pm in order to be fuel efficient and reduce the town’s carbon footprint. O’Reilly claimed that “the real strategy here is to diminish the public display of Christmas in that secular town” and sent his producer, Jesse Watters, to harass the selectmen.
On his show last night, O’Reilly re-visited the issue with Watters, who had just returned from “yet another visit to Great Barrington.” Watters claimed that the townspeople were “thankful” that O’Reilly “saved Christmas last year”:
O’REILLY: Where’s the love? I’m not feeling any of the love here, Jesse.
WATTERS: Well, here’s the deal. They’re very thankful that we saved their Christmas lights last year. Because without us, they wouldn’t have had any lights whatsoever. But they’re a little embarrassed about the negative attention that their town has drawn because of the controversy.
So on the one hand, they’re thankful that we saved Christmas last year. But on the other hand, they’re a little angry with The O’Reilly Factor and you personally.
Watters is delusional when he says that O’Reilly “saved” Christmas and Christmas lights in Great Barrington. The town never banished lights. They only chose to turn them off two hours earlier than they had previously. Additionally, there is no indication that O’Reilly’s outrage had any effect on changing the town’s policies. It only resulted in “angry, even obscene e-mails from across the country.”
This isn’t the first time The O’Reilly Factor has taken credit for things he had no measurable effect upon. In 2005, O’Reilly claimed that his “reporting and some reporting of others” led to lower gas prices. That same year, he falsely claimed that his French boycott “hurt France.”
You shouldn’t throw shoes at speakers at public events, especially not foreign heads of state. But the Mutander al-Zaidi situation in Iraq is a nice encapsulation of how divergent the Iraqi understanding of the war is from the one that still prevails among American elites:
As Parliament began to discuss legislation on the withdrawal from Iraq of armed forces from nations other than the United States, a group of lawmakers demanded that the legislature instead take up the issue of the detained journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 29. After his shoes narrowly missed Mr. Bush’s head at the news conference on Sunday, Mr. Zaidi was subdued by a fellow journalist and then beaten by members of the prime minister’s security detail, who hauled him out of the room. Mr. Zaidi’s cries could be heard from a nearby room.
The legislative session became so tumultuous that it prompted the speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, to announce his resignation, according to The Associated Press. A spokesman for Mr. Mashhadani, Jabar al-Mashhadani, refused to confirm whether the speaker had tendered his resignation, although he would not deny it.
Some in Parliament say the government should release Mr. Zaidi immediately, while others say the judiciary should decide his fate.
Chrysler announced today that it would shut all 30 of its North American plants for a month, starting this Friday. ABC News reports that while 46,000 union workers will be shut off from their regular paychecks, the “white collar” management will continue to receive their salaries:
These [UAW} workers will not be receiving their regular income. There will be an unknown number of white collar workers who will not be working as well, but the expectation is that they will continue to receive their regular salaries during this time.
Chrysler said that union workers will receive “state unemployment benefits as well as supplementary payments from Chrysler” based off “a union negotiated formula.” (HT: Marcy Wheeler)
When supporters of President-elect Barack Obama hold house parties to discuss ways of fixing the health care system over the next two weeks, they may find some unexpected guests. The health insurance industry is encouraging its employees and satisfied customers to attend….The meetings, originally envisioned as a way to make good on Mr. Obama’s commitment to “health care reform that comes from the ground up,” could thus turn into living-room lobbying sessions involving some of the biggest stakeholders in the health care industry.
There’s nothing wrong with some healthy debate. The danger comes when the health insurance industry co-opts progressive messaging to convince attendees that everyone is really on the same page about reform and that the industry really wants to provide everyone with affordable insurance coverage.
Since insurance companies will likely conflate universal coverage with affordable coverage and resist cost-containment measures that could undermine industry profits, below is a quick and handy guide for unraveling industry spin:
What They’ll Say
What They Mean
The federal government should subsidize coverage on a sliding scale up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level.
The federal government should subsidize our outrageous premiums, that way we don’t have to take a hair cut.
If every American is required to purchase health insurance coverage, we’ll provide everyone with coverage.
If everyone is forced to buy coverage from us, we’ll keep the profits.
Congress should set a target of 300% reduction in future growth.
But we don’t want to compete with a more efficient public option, use bargaining power to negotiate cheaper rates for services, or charge everyone reasonable premiums.
Low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates shift costs to private payers. A new public program similar to Medicare would exacerbate cost-shifting.
We assume that all payers should pay the same rates and the the total level of payments to providers is appropriate, refuse to gain volume discounts and restrain total spending. We prefer to pass on rising costs to individuals and increasing our profitability.
On a positive note, Faith In Public Life notes that Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon and supporter of same-sex marriage, is giving the benediction at the end of the event.
People For the American Way expresses its disappointment with the Warren selection: “He has repeated the Religious Right’s big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors.”
Today, PEBO officially named former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to run the Department of Agriculture. I have met him on more than one occasion, and he certainly understands that corn ethanol is not the future of biofuels. He also believes in strong action on greenhouse gas emissions.
He is a biotech guy, as Grist makes clear. And he isn’t the greenest Ag guy in the country (see here). But he is more green than not, as Greenwire reports:
Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said today he was pleased with the Vilsack selection. The coalition’s members in Iowa have had an easy time working with Vilsack, who has consistently shown support for conservation programs, Hoefner said.
“He is not going to be a revolutionary change agent,” Hoefner said. “But relative to other political names that were suggested, he is more on the change end of the continuum than many other names.”