As global warming from unlimited fossil fuel burning accelerates, the Arctic is being radically transformed. This winter saw large regions of Canada and Greenland about 10°C (about 15-20°F) above the historical average. Temperatures in eastern Canada in the dead of winter were a staggering 21°C (37.8°F) above average. The extreme Arctic warming is wreaking havoc with the polar ecosystems and is linked to the catastrophic snowstorms that pummeled the United States. In a summary of how global climate change is becoming observable to people in their daily lives, NASA scientist James Hansen was forced to redraw his global map with hot pink:
The temperature anomaly in the Arctic — the amount that current temperatures differ from historical norms — is now so severe that NASA’s James Hansen had to add a new color to his charts in order to accurately depict it: Hot pink.
“One sure bet is that this decade will be the warmest in history,” Hansen writes in his survey.
One of the primary points of contention in the stalemated government funding fight is the GOP’s unwavering insistence on including riders on unrelated social and environmental issues in the legislation, including a ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a prohibition on Washington DC using its own non-federal funds for abortion, and provisions limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. These types of riders are precisely what forced a government shutdown in 1995.
During yesterday’s Tea Party rally at the Capitol, ThinkProgress spoke with one Texas congressman who wants to widen the scope of the shutdown in order to exemplify the conservative argument that society could do without certain federal agencies. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) argued in favor of shuttering both the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency during a government shutdown because “both of those things could be closed and life would go on”:
KEYES: Given that so many folks have said that “we want less federal government in our lives, we want smaller footprint.” Do you think that we should take this a step further and maybe shut down, for instance, the EPA or the FDA during this impasse as a way to show that life goes on?
MARCHANT: I think that both of those things could be closed and life would go on.
Marchant is not alone in his desire to see the EPA closed. GOPers from presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich to Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Pete Olson (R-TX), and Rich Nugent (R-FL), have all called for abolishing the EPA. It is not yet clear whether the GOP will follow Marchant on the road to The Jungle by shuttering the FDA.
Right now, the federal government is on the verge of being shutdown due to an impasse in funding negotiations. Conservatives want deep cuts to programs for Main Street Americans like the Pell Grant and Head Start, claiming that they are necessary to rein in the budget deficit. Yet at the same time, House Republicans voted unanimously to protect taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil, even with major oil companies like Exxon paying absolutely nothing in federal corporate income taxes in 2009.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) appeared on Fox Business Network yesterday and criticized the industry’s subsidies, asking why we they need billions of dollars a year from taxpayers. Host Eric Bolling attacked Garamendi for his criticism, saying that oil companies are paying the most taxes in the world and that their profit margins aren’t very high:
GARAMENDI: The wealthiest industry in the entire world, the oil industry … They’re going to see extraordinary profits yet about 12 billion dollars a year is used to subsidize the oil industry.
BOLLING: Sir do you know who’s paying the most taxes in the world? Do you know who’s paying the most taxes right now in America? Those oil companies you’re pointing the finger at. They’re paying taxes on the profits. Their profit margins aren’t high. By the way, they’re also paying royalties to be able to drill on the land.
GARAMENDI: So given all of that why do we subsidize them?
Drier conditions projected to result from climate change in the Southwest will likely reduce perennial vegetation cover and result in increased dust storm activity in the future, according to a new study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California, Los Angeles.
The research team examined climate, vegetation and soil measurements collected over a 20-year period in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in southeastern Utah. Long-term data indicated that perennial vegetation in grasslands and some shrublands declined with temperature increases. The study then used these soil and vegetation measurements in a model to project future wind erosion.
Dust-Bowlification “” combined with the impact on food insecurity of Dust-Bowlification (and other extreme events) “” is, I believe, the biggest impact that climate change is likely to have on most people for most of this century (until sea level rise gets serious in the latter decades).
If you want to know what a serious dust storm looks like, the place to go is the canary in the coal mine for climate change — Australia. Here’s an amazing video of the great Sydney Dust Storm of September ’09: Read more
As a key sign of just how much Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser’s corporate supporters are willing to spend to keep him on the bench, Prosser’s campaign just announced its hire of one of the most high-profile election lawyers in the country — Bush v. Gorerecount attorney Ben Ginsberg. Ginsberg, who also spearheaded former Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) unsuccessful legal team in the 2008 Minnesota recount, is not simply known for his key role in two high profile elections. Ginsberg is also a victim of his own unintentional honesty. In a 2006 speech at Duke Law School, Ginsberg made a surprising admission about what the GOP really thinks about voting rights:
A quick note on perhaps the most interesting issue that came up [during Bush v. Gore] as we dealt with it, and that was Equal Protection . … Now, just like really with the Voting Rights Act, Republicans have some fundamental philosophical difficulties with the whole notion of Equal Protection.
Of course, this view places the GOP at odds with the very text of the Constitution. According to the Fourteenth Amendment, no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Nevertheless, Ginsberg will now bring his cavalier attitude towards the Constitution and voting rights to bear in order to ensure that Justice Prosser is still empowered to decide equal protection and voting rights cases for the many Wisconsin residents who will bring cases before his court.
During yesterday’s debate on the Upton-Inhofe bill (H.R. 910) to block climate pollution rules, Democrats who support clean energy manufacturing debunked conservative myths about the green economy. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) discussed their amendment to study the economic impact to American competitiveness of abolishing climate standards while the rest of the world wins the future. With the help of Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), they debunked the myths of a hapless Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Inslee decried the eagerness of the Republican Party to “shut down the government”:
It is deeply disappointing that our Republican colleagues are so willing, able, and apparently eager to shut down the government. This bill fundamentally shuts down the government. It shuts down the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to help lead us into a clean energy future. Why shut down the agency that can help develop these biofuels that we were just talking about? Why do they want to shut down the engine of innovation? Shutting down the government is not a solution. Shutting down the EPA is not a solution. Shutting down American innovation is not a solution.
Watch these excerpts from the debate:
Myth: China and India won’t impose limits on climate pollution. The fact is, as Doyle explained, China is moving forward both with taxes on energy-intensive industriesand cap-and-trade systems to limit carbon pollution. China also pased ambitious clean energy mandates in 2005 that are driving its explosion of green manufacturing. India imposed a carbon tax last year, and its energy efficiency progress is outstripping the United States.
Myth: Climate standards kill the manufacturing economy. In fact, Germany, which has some of the most stringent climate and clean energy regulations on the planet, now has $41.2 billion of private investment in the new economy, leaving the United States in third place behind Germany and China. Germany is one of the world’s top economic powerhouses because its commitment to advanced manufacturing — demonstrating that industrial jobs don’t require a race to the bottom.
Myth: Cap-and-trade is a socialist-liberal-progressive plot to destroy the economy. As Ryan colorfully explained, Republican idol Ronald Reagan was the first president to implement cap-and-trade markets, successfully eliminating leaded gasoline and ozone-destroying pollutants. George H. W. Bush implemented a cap-and-trade market to stop acid rain pollution with supporters like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).
Kinzinger’s claim that the Upton-Inhofe bill, which amends the Clean Air Act, “doesn’t change the Clean Air Act at all,” doesn’t even rise to the level a debunkable myth. That’s just a lie.
Unfortunately, the Tea Party climate zombies that run the House of Representatives ignored the reality today, voting to pass H.R. 910 by a vote of 255 to 172, with 19 Democrats supporting the Republican effort to deny science and deny America a clean and healthy future.
Mark Kleiman writes about a friend who’s a great admirer of East Asia’s successful autocracies and observes that disdain for democracy is “not a viewpoint often seen in print; I wonder how widespread it is?”
My sense is that in a sublimated way, anti-democratic sentiments are very common among the American elite. This is one reason why there’s such tenacious support for counter-majoritarian elements of the legislative process. If major legislative change requires agreement between the leadership of both major political parties, then elections have very little efficacy in terms of determining policy outcomes. To my way of looking at it, that’s a bad thing because it undermines democratic accountability. But if you don’t believe in democratic accountability, it’s a good thing because essentially the same relatively small group of senatorial pivot points determine the outcome at all times. Of course this also generates a massive status quo bias that the elite often dislikes in one respect or another. But instead of proposing to alleviate the status quo bias by making the institutions less bound to the status quo, the conventional wisdom is that we need more bipartisan commissions to further ensure that decision-making is divorced from electoral accountability.
I think all that’s nuts. I’m not much of a populist, and it’s not that I think the masses have all the answers (if you look at polls it’s clear that public opinion is confused about a great many things) but I really do think that democratic accountability is very important. People who win elections should govern, and if the results of their governance are bad they should lose power. That’s an incentive-compatible mode of governance. Something like “procedure nobody understands determines outcomes, and the party that doesn’t hold the White House benefits from bad results no matter who was responsible for them” is not.
Slate’s Dave Weigel noted that five minutes after the White House declared H.R. 1363 unacceptable, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) slammed President Obama for threatening to veto a bill to “ensure that our troops are paid.” Minutes later, Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) ripped Democrats for “girding to oppose a ‘troop-funding bill.’” Republican lawmakers quickly picked up the rallying cry. Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Harold Rodgers (R-KY) called it “astonishing” and “inexplicable” that Obama would, as GOP shutdown architect Newt Gingrich put it, use the troops as “bargaining chips for budget negotiations.”
There’s only one problem with this talking point — it’s the opposite of true. Today, the House Democrats tried three times to pass a measure that would ensure the troops received pay. The Republicans overwhelmingly opposed every single “troop-funding” opportunity:
– Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) offered a motion to recommit that would ensure all military personnel received pay for the rest of the year. Only one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (NC), voted with every Democrat to consider this amendment.
– House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), first by unanimous consent and then by amendment, offered an alternative budget measure that would provide a 1-week extension of the current budget agreement until April 15. The “clean” continuing resolution alternative includes funding for the military but omits the irrelevant policy riders the GOP attached to H.R. 1363. Republicans unanimously voted against consideration of the alternative.
What’s more, the Obama administration announced today that it “would support a short-term, clean Continuing Resolution” like the alternative Democrats offered. Thus, by voting against these measures, House Republicans are flatly refusing to support any “troop funding bill” unless their anti-abortion and anti-environmental riders get passed. Incidentally, Republicans have ensured that, unlike the troops, Members of Congress will still get paid. Last Friday, the House voted on a measure to stop their paychecks should the government shut down. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) was the only Republican to vote in favor.
As the House Armed Services Committee prepares to hold hearings on the implementation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal, House Republicans and potential GOP presidential contenders continue to voice their support for bringing back the ban against open service. And of all the right-wing spokespeople, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has been most vocal and effective in building opposition to the change — pushing Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Haley Barbour (R-MS) to publicly endorse reinstating the ban, despite the overwhelming opposition of the American people.
And what about families who rely on on DoD schools for their children’s education? If LGBT personnel teach and pro-gay indoctrination is allowed in military-run classrooms, does the DoD have any way of determining how many families will choose not to re-enlist because of this? If pro-marriage service-members want educational alternatives because of LGBT curricula in DoD classrooms, will alternatives be provided, or will they be forced to suffer the brainwashing of their children as long as they serve?
The GOP candidates have yet to endorse this line of argumentation, but they have all previously agreed with Fischer that the next President must bring the country back to its Christian roots and have generally accepted his premise that gay people are harmful to society.
Newt Gingrich dismissed the idea of outlawing gay teachers in public schools in 2005, but on Monday he wholeheartedly defended the AFA as a “Christian” organization. “You bring a series of allegations that I can’t check about a group that is largely a Christian based membership group,” he said when I read to him a series of anti-gay statements made by Fischer.