Last month, NASA reported it was the hottest January-September on record. That followed a terrific analysis, “July 2010 “” What Global Warming Looks Like,” which noted that 2010 is “likely” to be warmest year on record.
Annalee Newitz has a fascinating, but I think ultimately incomplete, essay on the strengths and weaknesses of portal fantasies up at io9. I agree that heading into a perfect fantasy world doesn’t make for terribly interesting fiction. But what makes portals interesting is the transition. You’ve got to choose to step across a portal and into another world, uncertain of what you might eventually find. Or you find your way across a threshold by accident, and no matter what you find at the end of your journey over it, the terror and anticipation of the journey through it are interesting in themselves.
As with most science fiction, the particulars of what you find at one end of a portal or what you leave behind at the other aren’t particularly the point. What matters is what the traveler knows of him or herself, his satisfactions or dissatisfactions, his courage or lack thereof, when he takes that first step, and what he finds in, or lacking in himself, on the other side. It’s easy for the vehicles for those revelations to be simplistic—unhappy modern lives or a kingdom falling under Christianity’s sway—and for the means of revelation to be simplistic as well, be it a Christ-like lion or a matriarchy. Better inventions tend to lead to better revelations. But it’s the desire for discovery that’s often the most salient thing about the heroes and heroines of portal fantasy.
While much ink has been spilled exploring the civil war between far-right tea party conservatives and more moderate Republicans, there appears to be a new rift emerging among the die-hard conservative wing in the Senate. Echoing the demands of the tea party movement, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) proposed yesterday a ban on earmarks in the Senate, and is aggressively whipping his colleagues to support it. While Republican leaders offered strong rhetoric on the campaign trail about opposing earmarks, now that the GOP has successfully taken power, they have been cool to DeMint’s proposal.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — whom National Journal ranked as the most conservative senator in 2009 — has gone even further, declaring “an all-out war within the Senate GOP conference next week to defeat an earmark moratorium.” Inhofe has said he will take to the Senate floor Monday to deliver a “pretty strong statement” against the ban, and to call out DeMint for supporting earmarks before he was against them. DeMint “was really pro-earmark. … He ran as a pro-earmarker” as a House Member in 2004, Inhofe told Roll Call.
In an interview with conservative radio host Ed Morrissey yesterday, Inhofe said people like DeMint who oppose earmarks are “brainwashed,” adding that if his fellow senators vote to ban earmarks they are voting to “trash the constitution and reject their oath of office”:
INHOFE: They’ve been demagoguing this whole thing on earmarks, but you’ll never convince the American people of it because they are so thoroughly brainwashed. You say earmark, they say, oh, earmarks are bad. But then when they stop and define the earmarks, then they think, that is what the Constitution — that is what James Madison said we are supposed to be doing in the House and the Senate.
So my concern is this…these guys will come in and the first vote they will cast is to trash the Constitution and reject their oath of office. I know that sounds extreme, but I don’t want these guys sitting around worrying about whether or not we will not do our job and whether we will cede our power to the president, or not.
Listen here :
Meanwhile, tea party leaders are furious that conservative favorites like Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) have suggested they will request earmarks. Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, told the Washington Independent’s Jesse Zwick today that the tea party will hold members accountable if they don’t support an earmark ban. “This is a fundamental issue — it’s both substantive and symbolic. … This is a vote that will never go away, like TARP,” she said. In fact, she issued a threat to those who oppose an earmark ban, saying, “in 2012 when they have aggressive, well-funded primary challengers, they’ll know why.” Indeed, her group sent an action alert to members today saying, “Our first battle with the newly empowered GOP” will be over earmarks.
There are many factors here, but this is in part a consequence of America’s sky-high health care costs. The high price of US health care means that Medicare and Medicaid benefits for the elderly tend to crowd out spending on child and family issues.
Dominic Tierney, a political science professor at Swarthmore College, intervenes in the debate over U.S. nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan to suggest that those who support the greater institutionalization of counterinsurgency in the U.S. military “can take inspiration from a surprising quarter: the founders”:
From the start of the Republic, they aimed to create what the historian Michael Tate called a “multipurpose army,” designed for a wide variety of functions beyond combat. Despite the small size of the regular Army, which was capped at 6,000 men in 1821, and despite the miserly pay that led a foreign observer to wonder who would volunteer to be “shot at for one shilling a day,” the early military performed an essential role in forging the young America.
Tierney demonstrates pretty well that the US military was, from the beginning, trained in variety of nation building functions. He’s on much, much weaker ground when he claims that “troops from America’s farming heartlands who are helping Afghans build greenhouses, grow cops and better feed cattle” are “following in the footsteps of our earliest soldiers.” While West Point in the 19th century may have been “a great foundry of nation-building,” the intent was to build this nation. There’s little evidence that the founders envisioned this as a product for export, let alone that they were interested in engaging in nation-building on the other side of the world.
Tierney’s attempt to rope in Thomas Jefferson, specifically, seems especially questionable given the huge debts that the U.S. has racked up to pay for our current foreign nation-building efforts. Jefferson’s opposition to saddling one’s descendants with debt is well-known (even if he failed to meet this standard in his personal affairs). In 1816, Jefferson wrote, “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” In 1820 he added, “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.” And on and on.
Obviously, we live in a very different era from the founders, and there’s no way to know exactly what they’d think about anything. It’s possible that some of them would be thrilled at the level of power and influence now wielded by the republic they created, and just as possible that some would be horrified at the extent of our foreign entanglements and the amounts required to finance them. In any case, it doesn’t seem very credible to imply that they would have been supporters of foreign nation-building and counterinsurgency, especially since what evidence we do have points in the other direction.
The three worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and sea level rise and ocean poisoning: Hell and High Water. But another impact “” far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog “” may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.
We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding decades if not centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source “” if not the source “” of two of our biggest recent wars. As the NYTreported last year:
By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 11, 2010 at 9:19 am
This repost is from World Resource Institute’s Franz Litz and Nicholas Bianco.
With climate change legislation stalled in the U.S. Congress, all eyes have turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for emissions reductions. According to our recent report, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Using Existing Federal Authorities and State Action, EPA can make significant progress to reduce emissions through implementation of measures under the existing Clean Air Act. Yet the prospect of EPA action has caused some in Congress and industry to express fears that EPA will go too far by imposing unreasonable regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Given the built-in limitations on EPA authority contained in the Clean Air Act, these fears are misplaced.
During a hearing Tuesday, Tennessee state Rep. Curry Todd (R) asked a health official if a state health program that helps pregnant women checks the immigration status of its patients before offering benefits. After he was informed that the federal government doesn’t allow citizenship tests for prenatal care because all children born in the U.S. are automatically American citizens, he warned that without status checks, immigrants will “go out there like rats and multiply.” Watch it:
“No other lawmakers on the state Fiscal Review Committee responded to the remarks,” the AP reported. In a follow up interview, he told the newswire service that he should have used less offensive words, saying, “I was actually wrong, and I admit when I’m wrong.” However, he said it would have better to use the term “anchor babies” — an unquestionably offensive term. Indeed, his rhetoric, while extreme, reflects a disturbingly common view amongst mainstream conservative leaders. ThinkProgress identified 130 Republicans in Congress, along with over a third of the incoming GOP freshmen class, who want to end the Constitutional guarantee on birthright citizenship. These include such prominent leaders as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and even some “moderates,” like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Veterans are great and I respect their service. I’m also glad that CAP actually gives us this day as a holiday. But I think we’d be better off celebrating Armistice Day. War is, at the end of the day, more tragic than heroic and our commemorations ought to reflect that.