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President Obama had some fun in his energy speech this morning, poking gently at Republican candidates who seem to think oil is the be-all and end-all of energy without alternatives by characterizing them as "founding members of the Flat Earth Society."
He specifically took aim at Newt Gingrich, who has repeatedly ridiculed the President for his stance on algae as an alternative fuel.
I've always thought it odd that Gingrich would call algae biofuel investments "cloud cuckoo land," but no low is too low for Newtie, I guess. Only, he might want to rethink that line of attack, given that ExxonMobil and Chevron have substantial investments and relationships in algae fuel development startups.
Oops, and as it turns out, it seems Newtie himself had an investment in "cloud cuckoo land."
You know what's coming next: Gingrich used to hold interests in a company that developed algae-based biofuels.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based startup was called GreenFuel Technologies Corp., which raised more than $70 million in venture capital funding before closing its doors in 2009. Among its largest backers was Draper Fisher Jurvetson, through a fund in which Gingrich was a limited partner.
It certainly is true that Gingrich didn't personally make the GreenFuel investment decision, but he did choose to back the DFJ management team that believed in GreenFuel. Does that mean Gingrich now believes folks like Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson are "intellectually incoherent?" And, if so, doesn't that throw Gingrich's own judgment into doubt?
Might be time for Newtie to sail off the edge of that flat earth into the sunset.
But to do it, Santorum would have to basically sweep all the big states left:
Illinois next week. (And even that win might not get him most of the delegates because Santorum?s off the ballot in a few districts.)
Then he needs upsets in Wisconsin and Maryland on April 3rd ? plus a sweep of New York and Pennsylvania at the end of the month.
In May, he?d need to win big on the 8th: Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina ? and hope that gives him enough momentum to win three of the five contests on June 5th. One of those wins would have to be either New Jersey or California.
All that would cripple Romney heading to Tampa. Is it likely? Not really, but not impossible either.
Like many progressives, we haven't been too thrilled with Obama's corporate-friendly economic agenda in general and we've been especially critical of his trade policies-- virtually the same devastating globalization trade policies pushed by the Bushes and Clinton. Economist David Korten summed them up nicely-- without even trying (or mentioning Obama)-- here in his book, Agenda For A New Economy:
The elimination of national borders as barriers to the expansion of corporate control of world markets and resources didn't happen as a result of some inexorable law of nature. It came about over a period of some thirty years through the relentless effort of Wall Street interests using every political tool at their disposal to remove legal barriers to their expansion.
Wall Street did not expend all this effort to improve the health of people and the biosphere. It figured out that its ability to generate profits would be best served by a system that maximized each locality's dependence on distant resources and markets.
Take the system by which we produce, process, transport, and market our food. A farmers' market where local producers and consumers gather to engage in direct exchange offers many benefits from a community perspective. The food is fresh, the energy costs of transport are minimal, the personal exchanges enhance community ties, farmers can adapt rapidly to changing local preferences and conditions, and the local economy is cushioned from food shocks elsewhere in the world.
Wall Street has a different perspective. It observes this scene and says in effect:
What's the profit here? We need a global food system in which producers in Chile depend on customers in New York and vice versa. Then both are dependent on us to serve as middlemen. We can monopolize global markets, set prices for both producers and consumers, and force producers either to buy our seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides at whatever price we choose or to lose their market access. The greater our success in convincing local producers that they will have greater selection at lower prices when everything is traded globally, the more they will depend on us as intermediaries, the greater will be our hold on people's lives everywhere, and the more profit we can extract.
When the world's agricultural land is organized on the model of industrialized monocropping, both producers and consumers depend on the global agricultural conglomerates for their survival. Until a crisis strikes, few notice that the resulting increase in global food interdependence increases the real costs of food production and reduces food security for everyone. This in turn creates lucrative opportunities for Wall Street speculators who profit from volatile commodity prices as a weather disruption on one side of the world creates food shortages on the other.
?It?s clear that the Administration?s trade agenda is shifting to more aggressive enforcement, which is welcome news for America?s workers and businesses as they face both subsidized Chinese competition in America and restricted access to China?s marketplace.
?Over the past few years, our activists having been working hard to make sure their elected officials know just what is at stake on trade laws, surging auto parts imports from China, and China?s unfair trade practices such as rare earth mineral export restrictions. It appears that our leaders are finally beginning to listen.
?We are pleased that the Obama Administration and Congress are cracking down on China?s cheating, but there is much more work to do. Our trade deficit with China is growing, not shrinking. China has devalued the Yuan again this year. And, the subsidies Beijing is lavishing on its auto parts sector are threatening the very heart of our manufacturing recovery in America."
According to the rumor mills and betting lines, Summers is now the top contender for World Bank president. If track records mattered, Summers would be nowhere in contention.
Just looking at the economics (i.e. ignoring his stormy tenure as president of Harvard), Summers would not seem to be the sort of person who should be given another position of responsibility. In the 90s, Summers was a top advisor and eventually Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration as it rushed full speed down the road of financial deregulation. He was among the loud voices dismissing then head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Brooksley Born?s concerns about unregulated derivatives.
Summer?s was also a central figure in the engineering of the bailout from the East Asian financial crisis. This bailout sent the dollar and the trade deficit soaring. The resulting build up of reserves by developing countries created the fundamental imbalance in the U.S. and world economy, which still has not been corrected.
Summers completely bought into the Great Moderation myth that Alan Greenspan had somehow ended economic instability for all time. At the famous Greenspanfest held at Jackson Hole in 2005, Summers derided the skeptics as financial ?Luddites.? ... Summers? record as an economic adviser has provided a trail of disasters that few can match. Does it make sense to give him yet another opportunity to do even more damage?
[O]ne of the things that I talked about during the State of the Union address was making America more competitive in the global economy. The good news is that we have the best workers and the best businesses in the world. They turn out the best products. And when the playing field is level, they?ll always be able to compete and succeed against every other country on Earth.
But the key is to make sure that the playing field is level. And frankly, sometimes it?s not. I will always try to work our differences through with other countries. We prefer dialogue. That?s especially true when it comes to key trading partners like China. We've got a constructive economic relationship with China, and whenever possible, we are committed to working with them to addressing our concerns. But when it is necessary, I will take action if our workers and our businesses are being subjected to unfair practices.
Since I took office, we?ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration, and these actions are making a difference. For example, we halted an unfair surge in Chinese tires, which has helped put over 1,000 American workers back on the job. But we haven't stopped there.
Two weeks ago, I created a Trade Enforcement Unit to aggressively investigate any unfair trade practices taking place anywhere in the world. And as they ramp up their efforts, our competitors should be on notice: You will not get away with skirting the rules. When we can, we will rally support from our allies. And when it makes sense to act on our own, we will.
I just signed a bill to help American companies that are facing unfair foreign competition. These companies employ tens of thousands of Americans in nearly 40 states. Because of subsidies from foreign governments, some of their foreign competitors are selling products at an artificially low price. That needs to stop.
This morning, we?re taking an additional step forward. We?re bringing a new trade case against China-- and we?re being joined by Japan and some of our European allies. This case involves something called rare earth materials, which are used by American manufacturers to make high-tech products like advanced batteries that power everything from hybrid cars to cell phones.
We want our companies building those products right here in America. But to do that, American manufacturers need to have access to rare earth materials-- which China supplies. Now, if China would simply let the market work on its own, we?d have no objections. But their policies currently are preventing that from happening. And they go against the very rules that China agreed to follow.
Being able to manufacture advanced batteries and hybrid cars in America is too important for us to stand by and do nothing. We've got to take control of our energy future, and we can?t let that energy industry take root in some other country because they were allowed to break the rules. So our administration will bring this case against China today, and we will keep working every single day to give American workers and American businesses a fair shot in the global economy.
We're going to make sure that this isn?t a country that?s just known for what we consume. America needs to get back to doing what it's always done best-- a country that builds and sells products all over the world that are stamped with the proud words: "Made in America." That?s how we create good, middle-class jobs at home, and that?s how we're going to create an economy that?s built to last.
The latest victimsCue the violins! White men in the Senate are "feeling trapped" by their refusal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act ... not so much because of they're concerned about violence against women, but because it just looks so darn bad:
?Obviously, you want to be for the title,? Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership, said of the Violence Against Women Act.So what's the sticking point? It would:
[...] expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas [...] It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.Well, there you have it! It would aid brown and gay victims of domestic violence (and for all we know, brown, gay victims) ... and today's Republican Party won't stand for that. It's bad enough that those white victims who were asking for it already get handouts in the form of legal and civil protections against violence. So an act that was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and with 415 votes in the House the last time it came up for reauthorization can pound sand.
And besides, Republicans are sure this is just a political ploy by Democrats to make them look bad:
?There are lots of other issues right now that could be dealt with other than this one,? said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, who is responsible for Republican messaging. ?I suspect there?s a reason for bringing it up now.?Well, sure. Other issues like voting to turn women's health care decisions over to the Catholic Church. There aren't enough hours in the day to worry about violence against women too.
As of December, as shown in a YouTube video that has eluded widespread attention, Mitt Romney claimed to not know anything about the Mojahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), a controversial, exiled Iranian group listed by the State Department as a “foreign terrorist organization.” Asked during a campaign appearance about the group, Romney said he’d never heard of the group and asked what they were. Told of the MEK’s status, Romney asked indignantly, “Why would you think that I support a — you said it’s a terrorist group?”
As the questioner informed Romney, one of Romney’s foreign policy advisers — former Ambassador Mitchell Reiss — has been active in the very public, well-financed campaign to get the MEK off the terror list. Romney then replied:
I’ll take a look at the issue. I’m not familiar with that particular group, or that effort on the part of any of my team.
Watch the video of the exchange from December:
It might seem like a small and obscure issue, but the MEK has attracted much attention, including paid speeches by top American politicians and former officials here and in Europe, and multiple full-page newspaper adverts. Another Romney backer, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, has advocated forcefully on behalf of the MEK. More recently, NBC News did a long report on the group’s ties to terror activity in Iran. And the Treasury Department recently announced that it is investigating payments to prominent former American government officials to speak in support of the MEK.
Beyond the public attention, the Romney campaign has been engaged in the MEK issue well before his professed ignorance in December. Romney may not have been aware of it, but Reiss’s advocacy for the MEK was used by neoconservatives in the Romney camp to marginalize Reiss.
In a November GOP debate, Romney spoke of using Iranian “insurgent” groups. (The MEK is by far the best organized militant group opposed to the Islamic Republic.) The remark prompted the conservative Daily Caller website to make a number of inquiries to the campaign that went unanswered, and wrote that the campaign wouldn’t “clarify whether he was referring to the MEK, and what his position is on the organization.”
Now that three months have passed, Romney should make clear his grasp of MEK issues — which involve not only matters of Iran and Iraq policy, but also issues of terrorism — and stake out a position on the group. (HT: Matt Duss)
Fueled by hundreds of billions of tons of carbon pollution, this March is broiling the United States with heat and humidity. Over 1000 records for daily high temperatures have been shattered in a heat wave that stretches from coast to coast, and 675 records for rainfall with flooding precipitation. In total, the past week has seen 2600 records broken, with record highs outpacing record lows by a ratio of 17 to 1, HAMweather records:
I am, and I suspect many of you are, excited for Community’s return to NBC’s airwaves tonight and for the possibility of a fourth season of the much-adored, little-watched experimental sitcom. But a dissenting voice comes from Larry Fitzmaurice in GQ:
In real life, the desire to have friends doesn’t excuse decaying, bigoted excuses for human beings. Yes, this is television. It’s unreasonable to expect a portrayal of real life from a show that considers zombie outbreaks and runaway monkeys a part of its balanced breakfast. Still, for a show as episodically self-contained as Community, watching these characters step on the same rake over and again has devolved into pure frustration. In “Comparative Ecology” the beloved study group were branded the “Mean Clique.” But, more accurately, it exposed their toxic, mob-mentality inertia. A frequent third-act gambit involves Jeff, the group’s alpha male, giving a clear-hearts-full-assholes speech about how all conflict must be resolved with the group dynamic fully restored and faults forgiven because it’s essentially better that way. That’s it.
This is a fairly succinct recapitulation of the reason most of Community‘s critics can’t find a way to emotionally attach to the show, and it’s one I can kind of understand. But I think there’s something interesting about the fact that we’ve had a decade of television in which we told ourselves we were morally sophisticated for sympathizing with monsters on dramas, and yet anyone would object to the idea that a comedy isn’t working because its characters are merely stuck or unlikable.
That’s part of what I like about Community, actually, the prospect that this is essentially as good as it gets. Abed is probably not going to grow up to make nationally-distributed movies. Troy seems likely to go into a trade. Shirley’s never going to open her brownie business?she’s returned to her husband rather than getting some sort of revenge on him. Jeff may return to his swinging lawyer ways, but it’s not really clear that he was genuinely happy in that life, either. Pierce is a fixed curmudgeon. Annie and Britta’s destinations have yet to be determined, which does mean the show’s invested its potential for fully surprising trajectories in two women, one who returned college sadder and somewhat wiser from her jaunt into the world, another of whom never even got out into it before heading to rehab. Not everyone gets their dream job, and an apartment with a lot of brushed steel and big windows, and the perfect relationship. Everyone plateaus at some point.
And if that’s not the narrative of most sitcoms, that doesn’t make it untrue, or uninteresting. Norm is not less funny or less warm on Cheers for essentially being the same person over the course of the show’s run. Ron Swanson plateaued at a place that’s very, very funny and complex but that doesn’t exactly open up enormous potential for emotional growth. That doesn’t mean I’m bored with them and their flaws and virtues?just that the writers have to be very smart about a very narrow window they’ve been given. Community‘s wild inventiveness is a testament to how that show’s writers have found their lanes and are working miracles within them.
Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund are apparently organizing to again pursue a constitutional amendment in Colorado that would give religious groups free reign to discriminate against LGBT people and control what kind of health benefits women have access to. The so-called “Religious Freedom Amendment” asserts that a “sincerely held religious belief” cannot be “burdened” by the government:
(1) The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.
(2) A burden includes indirect burdens such a [sic] as withholding of one or more benefits, assessing one or more penalties, exclusion from one of [sic] more government programs, and/or exclusion from one or more government facility [sic].
Aside from the offense of writing numerous typos into the Colorado constitution, the amendment not-so-subtly demands that religious groups have more power over citizens than the government by essentially giving them veto power over all policy decisions. This language could easily be construed such that the government would be permanently tethered to subsidizing religious groups, no matter how exclusive the policies of that group would be.
For example, after civil unions legislation passed in Illinois last year, the state decided to stop subsidizing Catholic Charities’ adoption services with taxpayer funding because the agencies refused to serve same-sex couples. Were this amendment to pass in Colorado, the state could never back out of such funding if organizations claimed their discrimination was based on a “sincerely held religious belief.” (Incidentally, even though Colorado’s proposed civil unions law actually would create a religious exception, Catholic Charities announced they would nevertheless shut down all services if the bill passes.)
One Colorado, the state’s LGBT advocacy organization, has put out a call to action to oppose the amendment, highlighting its many consequences for all Coloradans:
Imagine a law that allows a pharmacist to refuse to fill a birth control prescription. A law that permits an employer to refuse to hire people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A law that gives protection to teachers who refuse to teach sex education or evolution. All for the sake of so-called religious freedom.
Conservatives failed to place a similar amendment on the ballot in 2010. Ideally, this proposal will meet the same fate.
The most vindicated climate scientist in America, Michael Mann, has published an excellent new book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. How much to the climate science disinformers want to discourage you from reading it? I’ve reported that the deniers immediately launched an attack on the book and on the positive reviews on Amazon.com.
Now Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal has decided that rather than just ignoring the book, they would get it ‘reviewed’ by their leading anti-science and anti-scientist editorial page writer, Anne Jolis.
I say anti-science because, as recently as Septmber, Jolis wrote an entire “opinion” piece on “The Other Climate Theory: Al Gore won’t hear it, but heavenly bodies might be driving long-term weather trends.” Yes, she was pushing the long-debunked “cosmic ray” theory of climate change based on a CERN paper whose lead author felt obliged to explain last summer (long before Jolis’s piece) that the paper “actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it?s a very important first step.” Multiple peer-reviewed papers make clear that cosmic rays aren?t driving significant climatic change (see here).
I say anti-scientist because, as forest science expert Simon Lewis, wrote here in a 2010 debunking of another one of Jolis’s masterpieces of misinformation:
I asked Peter Cox what he thought about the WSJ article. He was surprised that he was featured in a climate science bashing editorial. While his quotes were correctly transcribed Prof. Cox was not told that the article was about attacking climate science. The same journalist tried the same sleight-of-hand with me over a potential Amazongate article. So memo to scientists. If Anne Jolis of the WSJ contacts you, watch out, or you could find yourself being tricked into starring in an article about scientists not being open and honest.
It’s safe to say that if you ask Jolis to write review of a book on climate science, you know what you’re going to get. And, indeed, the review, reveals that Jolis remains a one-trick pony.
Here she is with what I suppose she considers a devastating example of hypocrisy:
Yet for all his caviling about “smear campaigns,” “conspiracy theorists” and “character assassination,” Mr. Mann is happy to employ similar tactics against his opponents. Patrick Michaels, former president of the American Association of State Climatologists and a past program chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Committee on Applied Climatology, is introduced as “a prominent climate change contrarian at the University of Virginia primarily known for his advocacy for the fossil fuel industry.” (Nowhere does Mr. Mann explain why a scientist might be more easily corrupted by a check from, say, a coal company than by one from a politically controlled institution.)
To be clear, there is no equation between Mann and Michaels. Michaels makes crap up on climate for a living. As Skeptical Science has detailed, Patrick Michaels is a ?Serial Deleter of Inconvenient Data.?
As they show in 3 different instance, ?Michaels has deleted the data which contradict his constant arguments that the planet will warm less than most climate scientists expect, and thus that global warming is nothing to worry about.? NASA?s James Hansen said Michaels? distortion of his work was “treading close to scientific fraud.? You can find many more debunkings of Michaels online and here.
Jolis may think it needs explanation why fossil fuel funding would call into question a scientist’s repeated attempts to spreads pro-pollution disinformation, but it’s rather obvious to everyone else. Of course, Jolis herself is part of a much larger enterprise to deceive the public on climate. As one Australian scientist put it, ?The Murdoch Media Empire Has Cost Humanity Perhaps One or Two Decades in Battle Against Climate Change.?
In contradistinction to the discredited and endlessly debunked Pat Michaels, Michael Mann is one the most vindicated climate scientist in America. The final independent vindication noted,that his work “from the beginning of his career, has been recognized as outstanding” and it “clearly places Dr. Mann among the most respected scientists in his field.”
Mann?s ?Hockey Stick? work has also been utterly and repeatedly indicated: