It’s a good thing this is all part of some giant conspiracy, because if I thought scientists at the University of Alaska were undertaking good-faith scientific research I’d be really worried about this:
A section of the Arctic Ocean seafloor that holds vast stores of frozen methane is showing signs of instability and widespread venting of the powerful greenhouse gas, according to the findings of an international research team led by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov.
The research results, published in the March 5 edition of the journal Science, show that the permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is leaking large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.
But there was a freakishly large amount of snow in DC earlier this year!
Meanwhile, climate science deniers are now teaming up with creationists to mount a broad political front against accurate understanding of the world.
As the Senate Banking Committee hashes out its differences on financial regulatory reform, the creation (or not) of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) is the main focal point. But it isn’t the only issue left to be worked out.
Yesterday, the Obama administration officially submitted to Congress its proposal to implement the “Volcker rule,” which would bar banks from trading for their own benefits with federally insured deposits. The administration would also like to forbid any financial institution from owning more than 10 percent of the market share in the financial system (minus insured deposits). But the proposal seems to be going nowhere fast in the Senate:
– Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT): I can’t write regulations, this is way beyond the competency of Congress.
– Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): It is not helpful to the process for the administration to be putting out positions right now on financial regs, especially as it relates to the Volcker rule. It’s just not helpful.
Today, Citigroup’s current CEO, Vikram Pandit, also endorsed a separation between risky trading and commercial banking, saying that “banks should operate as banks, focused completely on serving their clients.” “I don’t believe banks should use capital to speculate that way,” Pandit said, when asked about the kind of trading the Volcker rule is meant to curb. Of course, Citigroup stands to benefit from the implementation of the rule, as it has already ditchedmany parts of the company that engaged in risky behavior, but still, Pandit is the first current CEO of a megabank to explicitly back the rule.
By not giving the Volcker rule much thought, the Senate is showing some short-sightedness and limiting itself to a reform bill that only aims to correct the problems of the last financial crisis. But now that all the big investment banks have converted into bank holding companies, they receive federal guarantees and cheap loans, while still engaging in the same trading practices as before the crisis. That means additional safeguards to correct potential problems with this setup are in order.
So as Paul Volcker himself said when questioned by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), “I tell you, sure as I am sitting here, that if banking institutions are protected by the taxpayer and they are given free rein to speculate, I may not live long enough to see the crisis, but my soul is going to come back and haunt you.”
As ThinkProgress has noted, Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol’s Keep America Safe organization released a web ad on Monday targeting yet-to-be named Justice Department lawyers who had worked on Guantanamo detainee issues as the “al Qaeda 7.” “Whose values do they share?” asked the ad over an image of seven silhouettes juxtaposed with images of Arabic men. When Politico’s Ben Smith first reported on the attack ad, he noted that it “questions the loyalties of Justice Department lawyers.”
But in an interview today on the Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show, Cheney denied that the ad questioned “anybody’s loyalty”:
HOLMES: Liz, good morning. So you released a fairly provocative ad, I have to say. And you ask the question “whose values” [does] Eric Holder share? In your view, whose values does he share?
CHENEY: Well, what the ad does — and actually it doesn’t question anybody’s loyalty. What the ad does is it says that there are nine lawyers in the Justice Department who used to represent al Qaeda terrorists and the Attorney General will only tell us who two of them are and we want the American people to have the right to know who the others are.
Guest host Amy Holmes continued to press Cheney on the point, repeating her question. “But your ad does raise the question ‘whose values’ does Eric Holder share. Who would you say?” Cheney dodged the question, stating that she thinks Holder “believes that you can defeat terror, you can win this war we’re engaged in by treating terrorism like law enforcement.” Listen here:
Cheney is simply lying. Not only does the ad suggest that the lawyers might “share” the “values” of al Qaeda, but it also flashes an image of a headline from the far right Investor’s Business Daily asking if the Justice Department was the “Department of Jihad?” “Just whose side are they on?” asked the editorial.
When Politico’s Smith first reported on the ad, Keep America Safe spokesman Michael Goldfarb gave him a quote that essentially accused the lawyers of treason, saying that they “did far more than represent criminals.” “They have propagandized on behalf of our enemies, engaging in a worldwide smear campaign against the CIA, the U.S. military and the United States itself while we are at war,” said Goldfarb. On Tuesday, Keep America Safe released a fundraising letter in Cheney’s name that used the exact same language:
Former Bush administration officials have pushed back against the ad. “While it’s legitimate for the public to inquire about the past work of DOJ political appointees, we need to recognize that our judicial system cannot function without pro bono counsel, and it doesn’t make a lawyer less patriotic just because he or she has represented a criminal or terrorist suspect,” former U.S. attorney and homeland security adviser Kenneth Wainstein told the Washington Post. “It’s beyond a cheap shot to suggest that a lawyer is an al-Qaeda sympathizer because he advocates a detainee’s position in the Supreme Court,” said former Bush White House lawyer Reginald Brown.
For more on Cheney’s smearing of the Justice Department lawyers, read today’s Progress Report.
American Bar Association President Carolyn Lamm told TPMmuckraker’s Justin Elliott today that Keep America Safe’s ad is “a divisive and diversionary tactic” to impugn “the character of lawyers who have sought to protect the fundamental rights of unpopular clients.”
,The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer points out that Keep America Safe Spokesman Aaron Harison struggled in an interview with Main Justice to say that the group wasn’t claiming the lawyers are sympathetic to al Qaeda:
Harison said that private attorneys advocating for detainees raised a lot of questions because “sometimes you can’t make the distinction” between representation and being “soft on terror.” Harison also said the organization was more concerned that the DOJ lawyers are soft on terror than that they hold sympathetic views about al Qaeda.
,Former Bush administration official Peter D. Keisler told the New York Times today that the attack on the Justice Department lawyers who defended detainees is “wrong” because “there is a longstanding and very honorable tradition of lawyers representing unpopular or controversial clients.” “It’s wrong to suggest that people who took that position are somehow sympathetic to Al Qaeda,” said Keisler.
,John Bellinger III, a former legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, is also defending the DoJ lawyers who formerly worked on behalf of detainees. “I think it’s unfortunate that these individuals are being criticized for their past representation, it reflects the politicization and the polarization of terrorism issues,” Bellinger said. “Neither Republicans nor Democrats should be attacking officials in each other’s administration’s based solely on the clients they have represented in the past.”
Yes, I’ve been harping on the FT’s coverage of Israel. Perhaps, you haven’t agreed with my complaints. Well, read what the paper has to say about the subject this morning. The column is by the historian Andrew Roberts, and it’s a must read.
Andrew Roberts? The same Andrew Roberts who was the subject of Johann Hari’s excellent 2007 takedown in The New Republic? It seems so. Well Roberts, in addition to being an apologist for Boer War-era concentration camps and the Amritsar Massacre is really not the kind of friend Israel needs as it seeks to rebut allegations of similarity to apartheid-era South Africa:
In 2001, Roberts spoke to a dinner of the Springbok Club, a group that regards itself as a shadow white government of South Africa and calls for “the reestablishment of civilized European rulethroughout the African continent.” Founded by a former member ofthe neo-fascist National Front, the club flies the flag of apartheid South Africa at every meeting. The dinner was acelebration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day the white supremacist government of Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, which was pressingit to enfranchise black people. Surrounded by nostalgists for thisracist rule, Roberts, according to the club’s website, “finished his speech by proposing a toast to the Springbok Club, which hesaid he considered the heir to previous imperial achievements.”
The British High Commission in South Africa has accused the club ofspreading “hate literature.” Yet Roberts’s fondness for the Springbok Club is not an anomaly; it is perfectly logical toanybody who has read his writing, which consists of elaborate andhistorically discredited defenses for the actions of a white supremacist empire–the British–and a plea to the United States to continue its work.
I half-suspect the FT’s editors of playing some kind of elaborate prank here. Surely Israel deserves better than this.
Over the last few days, Republicans have repeatedly cited Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) opposition to passing comprehensive health care reform through the reconciliation process as proof that Democrats are skirting Senate rules to “ram through” unpopular legislation. Republicans reason that if Byrd — the Senate pro tempore and an architect of reconciliation — believes that the process cannot be applied to reform, then Democrats — who no longer have a supermajority in the Senate — should “scrap” the existing legislation and “start over” on a bipartisan basis:
- SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): “As Senator Byrd says, running health care through the Senate like a freight train is an outrage because it basically turns the Senate into the House, into a majoritarian institution.” [The Atlantic, 3/04/2010]
- SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): “The man who wrote the Byrd rule is Robert Byrd. He said so as recently in the last twelve months that it should not be used for health care.” [Washington Times, 2/25/2010]
- SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): “Less than a year ago, the longest-serving member of the Senate, West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, said, ‘I was one of the authors of the legislation that created the budget ‘reconciliation’ process in 1974, and I am certain that putting health-care reform . . . legislation on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted.” [The Washington Post, 3/01/2010]
But as it turns out, Byrd doesn’t oppose using the reconciliation process to pass a small package of fixes to the Senate health care bill. In a letter to the editor published in Thursday’s Charleston Daily Mail, Byrd writes that it’s appropriate to use reconciliation on a package that reduces the deficit.
“I believed then, as now, that the Senate should debate the health reform bill under regular rules, which it did,” Byrd wrote. “The entire Senate- or House- passed health care bill could not and would not pass muster under the current reconciliation rules, which were established under my watch.” “Yet a bill structured to reduce deficits by, for example, finding savings in Medicare or lowering health care costs, may be consistent with the Budget Act, and appropriately considered under reconciliation.”
So now that “the longest-serving member of the Senate” has endorsed the Democrats’ strategy, will Republicans abandon their campaign against majority rule? It’s unlikely.
Yesterday, President Obama signaled his support for passing the Senate health care bill in the House alongside a reconciliation package of fixes, but pro-life Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) have pledged to oppose the Senate bill unless Congress strengthens the prohibitions against federal funding of abortion.
Stupak has relied on a fundamentally dishonest interpretation of the Senate bill to argue that it would allow for public funding of abortion, and the media has failed to fact check his assertions. Instead, most reports have covered the dispute between Stupak and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a he-said/she-said story, adding legitimacy to Stupak’s gross misrepresentations:
– On Good Morning America, Stupak told host George Stephanopoulos that “if you go to page 2069 to page 2078 [in the Senate Bill] you will find in there that the federal government would directly subsidize abortions.” Stephanopoulos failed to press Stupak on the matter.
– A February 23rd CNN piece on Stupak’s grievance asserts, “There is extensive debate over which measure best complies with current law limiting federal abortion funding and whether the Senate version does or does not allow public funding of abortion.”
In fact, the “extensive debate” has been settled. Pages 2069-2078 of the Senate health care bill clearly prohibit federal dollars from funding non-Hyde abortions. Contrary to Stupak’s claim, page 2017 (lines 18-21) of the Senate bill give insurers the choice of providing abortion coverage. “The issuer of a qualified health plan shall determine whether or not the plan provides coverage [for abortion].” If the carrier chooses to provide abortion coverage, “the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to any of the following for purposes of paying for [abortion] services,” the bill says, before barring insurers from using government premium credits and cost sharing reductions to finance abortion coverage.
Furthermore, the bill requires insurers to “collect from each enrollee in the plan (without regard to the enrollee’s age, sex, or family status) a separate payment” for abortion services and deposit the payments into separate “allocation” account. “The issuer of the plan shall deposit…all payments described in subparagraph (B)(i)(I) into a separate account that consists solely of such payments and that is used exclusively to pay for services other than services described in paragraph (1)(B)(i).”
Stupak has also expressed concern about paying at least $1 into a reserve fund for abortion coverage. But that provision was actually included in the legislation to allay pro-lifers’ concerns and ensure that no taxpayer money is spent on abortion. The $1 is coming out of private premiums, not public dollars, and is a way of ensuring that carriers have sufficient funds to cover the services they offer. But Stupak is just shifting the goal posts. First, he complained about taxpayer funding for abortion; then, once Democrats strengthened the Senate language, he began arguing that private funds should not go towards abortion coverage. He can’t have it both ways.
But because the Senate’s rules are dumb, and because Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is a moral monster, guided by a poisonously misguided ethical compass and a callous disregard for human welfare, there’s been no vote on the bill thanks to Coburn’s hold. Activists are staging an Oklahoma Hold Out to try to pressure the Senate to change his thinking:
Since December of 2009, Senator Coburn has blocked the passage of a bill intended to help end the longest running war in Africa and support communities ravaged by horrific violence at the hands of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by indicted war criminal Joseph Kony. During these three months of Dr. Coburn’s hold, Kony’s forces have gone on to attack, murder, and abduct innocent civilians across South Sudan, the DR Congo, and Central African Republic. The reality is that every day of inaction on this issue comes with a severe and painful price.
Senator Coburn’s lack of personal engagement indicates that ending this crisis is not a high priority. We believe it should be.
From the Human Rights Watch report, here’s a 12 year-old boy who was abducted from school by the LRA in September of 2008 and escaped three months later:
I cried so much after I was abducted and they told me that I was to become a soldier. I wanted to be in school. I didn’t want to fight. They said to stop crying and not to think about home, but I thought about it everyday.
And here’s a 17 year-old girl abducted in April 2008:
I was assigned to a commander. He spoke a different language from me, so we never spoke to each other. He forced me to sleep with him whenever he wanted. If I resisted, he whipped me. Sometimes he even grabbed my neck and tried to strangle me.
This is Pierre, age 15, abducted from CAR in September 2008:
After the first two weeks in Kiswahili, we went back to a camp called Gambungbu for four days. Two abducted children from CAR had tried to escape, and Kony gave the order that their friends had to kill them in front of all the other children. Kony wanted to be there himself when they were killed. There were about sixty children who had to watch the killing.
At any rate, I totally get that Tom Coburn is a man of principle. He thinks that minimizing federal spending is very important and preventing the rape, kidnap, and massacre of children is much less important. Those aren’t my priorities, but politics is all about the fact that priorities differ. To me, with interest rates so low, borrowing some money to minimize the rape, kidnap, and massacre of children is an investment worth making, but Coburn sees it another way. Which is exactly why you need to settle these things through votes. If Coburn doesn’t like the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, the appropriate way for him to express that is by voting “no” on the legislation. Plenty of other people aren’t as nutty as Coburn and are happy to vote for it. But this business of holds is simply unacceptable.
So, I really dislike the term “freak” for women are sexually adventurous and liberated. It sets up a strange, ugly double standard, where being a sexually expressive is both desirable and deviant: women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. One of the reasons I liked Cee-Lo’s “Closet Freak,” I suppose, was that he was applying a feminized term to himself, making freakiness equal-opportunity. Plus, sparkly wings!
But I don’t think that the reason it’s titled “Freak” is the only reason I’m not really grooving on Estelle’s new single with Kardinal Offishal (it’s in a list on the page, just scroll down a bit). I’m sorry, but “Every single girl should embrace their inner freaky freak / Don’t be scared, don’t be shy, yes you’ve got to let it breath” is neither the level of insight nor the quality of wordplay I expect from the woman who gave us “1980,” and “Just a Touch.” Much less “Don’t Talk,” which lets her take on a traditional male role, telling a hot guy she doesn’t want him for his conversation:
As Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) work to craft comprehensive climate legislation that can overcome a fossil-fueled filibuster, swing vote Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is trying to dig the carbon hole deeper. Before climate policy had a chance of becoming reality, Murkowski claimed to recognize that global warming from fossil fuels is destroying Alaska. Now, she has continued down that path by demanding that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is “one of the must-haves“:
I’m still saying ANWR is one of the must-haves. You want to have me sit down at the table and talk about what a strong domestic production piece is, you have to be willing to talk to me about ANWR. Pretty simple.
Murkowski is increasingly sounding like an oil industry lobbyist, leading the effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act with respect to greenhouse pollution. Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act resolution is a blatant rejection of science and safety on behalf of her fossil industry contributors. This week, she praised Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) two-year Clean Air Act moratorium, saying she is “hopeful that this bill will draw additional support and advance quickly.”
Only in the United States Senate could you find someone demand that a climate bill involve drilling in one of the last pristine places on earth. Murkowski is working to unleash the only two imminent threats to the remote and unique Arctic Refuge — global warming and oil drilling. Murkowski, it seems, is willing to destroy her state in order to save it.
Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorner responds by e-mail:
Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is, has been, and always will be a non-starter. Drilling for more oil at one of the places most impacted by global warming is perhaps the furthest thing from a solution that I can imagine.
,Adam Kolton, the National Wildlife Federation’s
senior director for Congressional & federal affairs and the former Arctic Campaign Director for the Alaska Wilderness
League, responds by e-mail:
Just as there are bridges to nowhere, there is legislation to nowhere. Senator Murkowski’s demand that the price for her vote on a climate bill is drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a non-starter and she knows it. It was rejected when the Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House and it would obviously be rejected with the Democrats in charge. For someone like Senator Murkowski, who says she wants to pass a climate change bill, to make such a demand calls into question her sincerity and must be a huge disappointment to those in Alaska who believe the state is on the front lines of the climate crisis and that we urgently need to reduce emissions. The National Wildlife Federation has always worked to block any legislation that would give Big Oil drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and we’ll continue to do so moving forward.
,Sens. Graham and Lieberman say drilling in the Arctic Refuge is a “deal-breaker“:
“That’s a deal-breaker,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). “That’s just not going to happen. We’re looking at a lot of things, and that one is a no-no.”
“It’s not in our bill,” added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Still, Graham added, “I don’t blame her for asking.”