Citing conspiracy theories about “a one-world order,” the Arizona Tea Party is attempting to slip a bill through the legislature that could strip programs designed to help residents in the state become more energy efficient.
The bill’s sponsor, Arizona State Senator Judy Burges, says her goal is to wipe out any environmental program administered or funded by the government to prevent “social engineering … including where we live, what we eat.”
Burges’ bill, Senate Bill 1507, is based upon an unfounded conspiracy theory about “Agenda 21,” a non-binding international plan for environmentally-sustainable development crafted by the United Nations. The plan was adopted in 1992 by 178 countries, including the United States under the George H.W. Bush administration.
Burges and other members of the Tea Party believe that clean energy programs in Arizona are a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives. AZ Central reported on SB 1507:
The bill would bar the state and Arizona counties and cities “from adopting or implementing the United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.”
Under the provisions of Burges’ bill, the state, counties and cities could not accept funds from, spend funds from or give funds to “certain non-governmental organizations,” including non-profit groups and contractors, for any of the declaration’s initiatives.
Wes Harris, a Phoenix resident and tea-party member, also testified with Burges, repeating theories about the declaration that have been floated among conservative organizations such as the John Birch Society, which refer to the declaration as “Agenda 21.”
Harris claimed the declaration “is an attempt to implement a one-world order. It’s been going on for 20 years. It has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. It has been snuck around the back door by the Clinton administration.”
The Arizona conspiracy bill has already moved through the Senate, through a House committee, and is now set for discussion on the House floor. If passed by the House, the bill could block state and municipal programs that help home and business owners invest in energy efficiency improvements.
Chad Campbell, the Democratic House Minority Leader called the legislation “the most ludicrous … I’ve seen in six years…. You could pretty much shut down any form of government sustainability” program.
An onlooker with the Sierra Club called it “wacky.”
The bill was crafted through a “strike-everything” amendment, which allows a legislator to re-write an existing law with limited scrutiny. Burges has substituted language in an unemployment bill with the Agenda 21 wording that would severely limit Arizona’s ability to adopt efficiency and clean energy programs.
This isn’t the first conspiracy theory Judy Burges has been involved in. She is also a fierce “birther” who questions President Obama’s citizenship, despite being presented with a certificate of live birth.
Her previous attempts to pass legislation demanding Obama’s long form birth certificate have failed. But this latest conspiracy-laden bill actually has momentum in the Arizona legislature ? threatening to derail the state’s valuable clean energy programs in the process.
Discussing the spring of freakishly warm, extreme weather across the nation, CNN meteorologist Alexandra Steele explained that this is “kind of the climate change we are seeing.” “It’s such a strange spring, ?CNN Newsroom? host Carol Costello said. “It really is,” Steele replied. ?That?s kind of the climate change we are seeing. You know, extremes are kind of ruling the roost and really what we are seeing, more become the norm.?
Journalist, author and publisher Charles Glass has a feature in this month’s edition of Harper’s magazine called “The Warrior Class,” a feature covering the rise of private security contractors after 9/11. The article describes a number videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for Blackwater. Harpers published clips from the videos yesterday, which show Blackwater guards and other private security contractors operating as if living in the Wild West. One video shows a contractor randomly firing an AK-47 from the turret of an armored vehicle and another shows a private guard yelling obscenities at passers-by and other armored cars smashing into civilian vehicles:
Another video shows what appears to be an American-made SUV running over a civilian without stopping. The car videoing the incident also does not stop:
Harpers reports that “the tape ended with the inscription ‘In support of security, peace, freedom and democracy everywhere.”
Two Wisconsin state courts have declared Wisconsin’s Voter ID law unconstitutional under the state constitution. Moreover, as one of the two judges to do so pointed out, the law already disenfranchised voters during the short time it is in effect — including a Marine veteran and a 84 year-old former elected official. Yesterday, it also appears to have disenfranchised one more elderly voter, despite the fact that the law is supposed to be suspended due to the multiple court decisions against it:
It took persistence – and a second trip to her Waukesha polling place – by a 63-year-old Waukesha woman to vote Tuesday. But she said her 87-year-old mother who couldn’t make the trip back was disenfranchised by a poll worker who asked to see a photo ID.
Wisconsin’s new voter ID law was in place for the February primary but not for Tuesday’s general election after a judge ruled it was unconstitutional. The photo ID requirement is on hold while the matter is appealed. . . .
The woman said she and her mother had moved to Waukesha last May and registered to vote at Waukesha City Hall in January. They went to their Waukesha West High School poll Tuesday but were asked to show identification – which her mother hadn’t brought with her. Her own driver’s license had an out-of-date address on it, she said.
“We were listed on their friggin’ poll list,” she said, “and yet we had our names highlighted.” The poll worker said maybe they didn’t register in time, though they clearly had.
As a new Center for American Progress Report points out, elderly voters are frequently the victims of Voter ID laws. A short list of older voters who have been kept from the polls by these laws include Paul Carroll, a 86-year-old World War II veteran from Ohio; Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old African-American woman from Tennessee, and Thelma Mitchell a 93-year-old woman who cleaned the Tennessee Capitol for 30 years.
Yesterday, however, probably marks the first time an elderly voter was disenfranchised by a voter ID law that isn’t even supposed to be in effect.
According to a Stanford University study, “from 2006 to 2010, the percentage of Americans with ‘hardly any’ confidence in banks and financial institutions increased from 13% to 42%, a 29 percentage point increase over four years (7.25 points per year) and a historic high.” Of course, this spike coincided with the bursting of the housing bubble, the 2008 Wall Street bailout, and the Great Recession that was caused, in large part, by Wall Street malfeasance. (HT: Pedro da Costa)
Leading Democrats and the White House have taken note of the threat of a doubling of the student loan interest rate by June 30 (from 3.4% to 6.8%), and are working on steps to prevent it. However, they have to contend with a stingy House GOP that isn't[...]
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Pennsylvania state Sen. Jake Corman (R), a longtime friend of Santorum and his family, said if it appeared Santorum wasn?t going to win the state, the former senator could drop his campaign.
?He?s a realist; he doesn?t have his head in the clouds,? Corman told The Hill. ?As long as he sees a pathway to the nomination he?s going to stay in it, but he won?t stay in it to prove a point. If he gets to the point where he doesn?t think he?ll be the nominee, he?ll get out.?Uh, if he sees a pathway to the nomination that doesn't depend on a meteor knocking Earth of its axis, then he's not a realist. Then again, we're talking about a guy who thinks evolutionary biologists are Satan worshippers, so anything's possible.
The following is the first in a two-part series on Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
For a generation, the main story of working-class America has been the collapse of a living-wage economy due to such forces as globalization, weakened trade unions, and reduced government labor regulation. This trend has been a social catastrophe and, increasingly, a severe embarrassment to free-market ideology.
Enter Charles Murray with a lifeline of alibis. His Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960?2010 has received worshipful treatment from conservative commentators, and for good reason. Faced with the awkward truth of widening inequality, the right usually adopts a strategy of strained denial. Murray offers an alternative. Instead of waltzing around the reality, he deplores the new schisms in America and then executes a deft pivot: Both the elite and the unwashed, he says, are getting what they deserve.
The rich are getting richer because their superior intelligence combines with greater fidelity to what Murray terms the Founding Virtues, namely Industriousness, Honesty, Marriage, and Religion. These same virtues, however, have been eroding at an alarming rate among the dissolute lower class. Murray thus embraces a prime liberal concern, turns the real causality on its head, and in a stroke validates both free-market economics and conservative values. For his fans, this is game, set, match.
His account is such an audacious twist that few other than Charles Murray would dare venture it as social science. What?s remarkable about working-class America, in truth, is not dissolution but diligence. All across the land, you can find churchgoing, law-abiding people, who are holding down jobs but are far worse off than their parents?even though the economy?s average productivity has doubled since the 1980s. Murray somehow missed the world of America?s largest employer, Wal-Mart, with its regimented and underpaid ?associates.? He missed the two-tier wage systems in factory towns. He missed the hard-working new poor in such service-economy jobs as janitors, hotel maids, security guards, retail clerks, and fast-food workers.
Coming Apart is the latest in a series of Murray books whose signature is good humor, ostensible concern for the underdogs, and torture of what is represented as data. The best known of these, for many readers, is The Bell Curve (1994), in which Murray and co-author Richard J. Herrnstein contended that blacks fare worse in the economy because they have lower IQs?ignoring evidence that the black-white test-score gap had narrowed as discriminatory barriers fell.
Murray?s most influential book, though, was the one that marked his arrival as a public intellectual. In Losing Ground (1984), Murray argued that America?s overly generous welfare state was destroying both the work ethic and the custom of marriage, especially among African Americans. He proposed the draconian remedy of ?scrapping the entire federal welfare and income--support structure for working-aged persons, including AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children], Medicaid, Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance, Workers? Compensation, subsidized housing, disability insurance, and the rest.? Instead of receiving benefits, poor people would be disciplined by the tender mercies of the job market.
Murray?s evidence was soon demolished by one scholarly and popular review after another. Critics pointed out that he had artfully picked a state, Pennsylvania, where welfare benefits had grown twice as fast as the national average; in most of the country, work was a far better deal for the poor than welfare. He mistakenly counted food stamps as part of the welfare package; in fact, the working poor qualified for them. He skipped over recent data and deliberately used statistics from two decades earlier, ignoring the 1970s, a period when the value of the welfare package eroded by 30 percent. In that decade, contrary to Murray?s hypothesis, more people went on the AFDC rolls?not because of rising welfare benefits but because of rising unemployment. Nor did the data bear out Murray?s claim of a correlation between state welfare levels and single motherhood among black women. The better explanation, as sociologist William Julius Wilson would soon document in The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), was the relative scarcity of employed black men.
As it happened, liberals of that era were mindful of the risks of poor people getting stuck on welfare. But unlike Murray, they did not blame AFDC for poverty. They urged a set of income supports that would raise living standards of the poor without deterring work, such as wage subsidies, universal child care, and health care. The only one of these reforms to pass Congress (in 1975) was the Earned Income Tax Credit. In the meantime, Murray?s claim of a ruinous welfare state became an article of faith, first for conservatives and later for New Democrats who identified a political need to ?take welfare off the table? as a target of conservative attack. In 1996, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich collaborated on a compromise welfare reform that abolished AFDC in favor of a program with meager work supports. This turned out to improve the living standard of the poor for only as long as full employment lasted.
For Murray, championing the role of market forces, the behavior of the poor was all about incentives. The wrong policy incentives?the welfare package?led people to desert work. But after the turn of the new century, welfare reform ran into rising joblessness and falling wages; incomes of the working poor declined. So Murray, without so much as a by-your-leave, shifted ground. Evidently, the key factor determining whether the poor would rise out of poverty wasn?t incentives after all. It was values. Never mind.
In Coming Apart, Murray begins by describing white America on the eve of the Kennedy assassination?a unified society where everyone watched the same three networks, few people had children out of wedlock or got divorced, neighbors didn?t need to lock their doors, and most folks felt themselves to be middle class. Murray wields the symbolic power of the rupture that ripped America on November 22, 1963, to suggest a parallel break in our economic lives. He contrasts a notional working-class neighborhood, ?Fishtown,? with ?Belmont,? home to the most affluent 5 percent. Since 1963, he reports, our coherent world has given way to cultural and economic fragmentation. America ?is coming apart at the seams.?
Murray baits his trap with descriptive material that reads like an American Prospect article, quoting Robert Reich?s ?secession of the successful,? Robert Putnam?s dismay at the erosion of ?social capital,? and the class-skewed decline in civic participation documented by Theda Skocpol and others.
Then comes the pivot, inverting cause and effect. The rich got even richer, he claims, because of both their virtuous behavior and ?the increasing market value of brains.? As the economy becomes more complex, rewards go to those ?who can navigate through labyrinths? of new complexity. And with global scale, ?the bigger the stakes, the greater the value of marginal increments in skills.?
Tomorrow: Coming Apart caps three decades of Murray's faux concern for the poor.
Is it callous to call the Titanic?s sinking everybody?s favorite disaster? No doubt, but you know what I mean. Considering how oodles of the tragic minutiae no buff can do without bump up against the climax?s unknowns, April 15, 1912, is like an ideal cross between the assassination of JFK and the Alamo.
The unprovoked attack on a blameless iceberg by the pride of the White Star Line is far from the worst maritime disaster on record. It?s dwarfed in loss of life by the 1945 torpedoing of the Nazi leisure tub turned refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Only three years after the Titanic?s demise, the Lusitania?s sinking in 1915 had more historical consequence, rallying neutral America against the Huns and dangling the temptation of playing world policeman.
For resonance and romance, though, there?s no contest. On a bitterly cold night 100 years ago, modern civilization didn?t just say goodbye to more than 1,500 boosters. It gained an industry. Now that the centenary is here, Titanic--mania is getting its biggest revival since James Cameron?s 1997 movie. The main event is said flick?s rerelease in 3-D, giving us our best chance yet to pick a winner in its most momentous collision: Leonardo DiCaprio?s plucky chin versus Kate Winslet?s Olympian jawline. But that?s only the tip of the ? ah, never mind.
A glut of anniversary-themed books is headed our way, from Bianca Turetsky?s The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic to Stephen Spignesi?s fact-packed The Titanic for Dummies. The list of home-video Easter treats is topped by the Criterion Collection?s Blu-ray edition of 1958?s remarkably sturdy A Night to Remember, based on the Walter Lord book that did the most to repopularize the whole tale.
Meanwhile, two new TV epics will compete to drown us in tears: the 12-part Titanic: Blood and Steel, starring Derek Jacobi in a dramatization of the doomed ship?s story from its construction on, and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes?s terse-by-comparison (only four hours) Titanic. Since Downton Abbey itself began with the news of the Titanic?s demise, and social hierarchies are Fellowes?s bread and butter, there?s a certain inevitability about his eagerness to clamber aboard. But his Titanic is as frothily watchable as you?d expect.
Cameron?s movie has made the ship?s environment and real-life celebrity passengers so familiar that Fellowes?s version can?t help seeming, and sometimes being, imitative. Fellowes knows his strengths, though. He?s much more juicily expert than Cameron about class distinctions?not only between categories of privilege but also between layers of underlings. His thumbnail sketches of 1912 politics?Irish Home Rule, anarchist plots, and women?s suffrage all get cameos?root the story in a historical moment more unsettled than we?re usually nudged to recall.
Despite the miniseries?s elegant structure (we keep looping back for the inside scoop on scenes we?ve seen only in fragments) and entertaining dialogue, at heart this Titanic is another swank Fellowes soap opera: doomed shipboard romances, snubs, revelations, Toby Jones as a mousy husband who reconciles with his shrewish wife before the big glug-glug. It lacks Cameron?s extravagant, vulgar pop poetry. Yet we?re hooked for the most primitive reason: We want to find out who lives.
That the story can hardly be bettered as an illustration of how inequality works is one reason for its enduring fascination. Still, who?d have supposed yet another retelling would be so timely? The pernicious but amusing flip side is that the tale lets us revisit a time when our plutocrats were elegant, poised, and even had codes of conduct that weren?t wholly chimerical in the crunch.
So it?s just as well that, as historian David Donald once wrote about Abraham Lincoln, ?consistency is not an essential in folklore.? Jostling each other and yet reconciled in the popular imagination, both the proletarian interpretation of the Titanic?s notoriously imbalanced casualty list, which does give ?stacked deck? a whole new meaning, and the aristocratic version (?I say, our chaps behaved awfully well when the chips were down?) have been part of the legend pretty much since the sinking.
The economic disparities haven?t lost their power to shock. While 97 percent of the women in first class survived, fewer than half of those in steerage did. Yet to bluebloods and male chauvinists at the time, the statistic that mattered most was that two-thirds of the men in first class had apparently met death with fortitude. So had an even larger percentage of their less moneyed counterparts down below. As prescriptive behavior for gentlemen and proles alike, all this was an excellent tutorial for World War I.
As Stephen Biel recounts in his 1997 Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster, the ship?s sinking was the most adaptable of tragedies. Whether as a byword for overconfidence, an indictment of capitalism?s heartlessness, or an example of how to drown in style, it really had something for everybody. That included its use as an argument against women?s suffrage on the grounds that ?women and children first? wouldn?t be long for this world once those bitches got the vote.
As for the drowning-in-style bit, Biel is especially good at explaining how the image of silk-scarved but gallant toffs accepting their noblesse oblige doom as the womenfolk got rowed away was used to teach the unnervingly no-longer-supine Great Unwashed why their social betters had the gig in the first place. Yet in all fairness to yesteryear?s richies, the myth wasn?t spun from whole silk. White Star Line owner Bruce Ismay really did spend the rest of his life as a social pariah after ignominiously boarding a lifeboat to listen to his clientele?s dying screams. Moneyed New York was proud of John Jacob Astor, the richest man on the passenger list, for stoically welcoming the Atlantic?s embrace.
In fact?as Fellowes shows?Astor had asked permission to join his pregnant, much younger wife on a lifeboat but didn?t argue when he got turned down. Say what you will, it?s hard to imagine Donald Trump playing the same role?or being turned down, sadder still. Even Warren Buffett is a maybe at best.
Because James Cameron is a leftist the way Zelda Fitzgerald was a ballerina?all that effort, and no one cares?his movie tried to spell ?chivalry? without using the letters ?r-i-c-h.? The lead upper-crust nabob, Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane), is a psychotic coward. Honor and sacrifice are left to DiCaprio?s footloose Jack Dawson, whose mission in death is to make Rose DeWitt Bukater (Winslet) safe for democracy.
The shallowness of the writer--director?s politics?or maybe just how they?re outranked by opportunism?is most blatant in his use of the Titanic?s stewards and such as authority figures worth humbling. Most often, it?s for comic relief, which is fairly grotesque in this context. Does Cameron have anger-management issues with parking valets? If so, he?d hardly be the first Hollywood radlib who?s failed to spot the contradiction.
I?m an unreconstructed fan of Titanic just the same. What?s most original about it is Cameron?s affirmation of modernity. It?s traditional to view the sinking as a microcosm of a doomed society?those blinkered Edwardians, suddenly knowing they?re going to die (the Alamo parallel) in the traumatic curtain-raiser to even worse cataclysms to come (the JFK-assassination one). Yet only Cameron?s version salutes what replaced it by sending forth the now-liberated Rose to live through and incarnate the rest of the 20th century before dying satisfied at age 100. The ship went down to let her arise, you see.
Like many a filmmaker, Cameron does keep telling the same damned story. The Terminator, Titanic, and Avatar all pit technological hubris against a naif who triumphs over it after the conversion experience of great sex with someone outside her or his comfort zone?a time traveler in Terminator, a bohemian interloper in Titanic, and a member of a literal alien species in Avatar. Whether his setting?s the present, past, or future, this is a man with a theory of history. An upbeat one, too, even though Marx would blush.
Predictably, though, Cameron does no better than anyone else at telling us what we most want to know. What went through people?s minds at the last? How did it feel to die aboard the Titanic? We?d all like to make plans. The appeal of disaster cultism may be how it turns the ultimate metaphysical puzzle into a detective story by adding special circumstances to the mix. The question can?t be resolved, but it?s here in our brains. And our brains do go on and on.
Like clockwork, a Romney victory at the polls has been followed by an embarrassing admission from a surrogate. Here?s former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich:
That Mitt Romney plans to change his rhetoric for the general election is not a surprise, but it would behoove the campaign not to emphasize the point. Moreover, they would be well-served by avoiding words like ?real views,? which suggests that the former Massachusetts governor is lying to conservatives, and intends to reveal his inner moderate to the public at large once it?s too late for Republicans to make a different choice.
For my part, I?m not sure why anyone would trust Romney either way. If he?s willing to lie to win the nomination, what?s to say that his ?real views? aren?t lies either? And if he wins the White House on the strength of those lies, who is to say that he won?t stop lying once in office? Given the degree to which Romney?s campaign is actually defined by mendacious dishonesty, this is a question that all voters need to answer, not just conservatives.