Herman Cain's debate performance last night was one for the ages.[...]
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* In the National Journal poll, 56 percent of non-college-educated whites agree with the [Occupy Wall Street] protesters; only 31 percent disagree.
* In the Time poll, 54 percent of non-college-educated men, and 48 percent of non-college educated women, agree with the protesters. (That?s roughly 51 percent overall.) Meanwhile,only 29 percent of non-college-educated men, and only 19 percent of non-college-educated women, disagree. (That?s roughly 23 percent.)
By the way, this doesn?t necessarily help Obama. As Alex Altman noted in his excellent write-up of the Time poll?s overall numbers, Obama?s approval rating among these voters is an abysmal 26 percent. But this polling suggests that embracing the protests are not part of the problem ? quite the opposite, in fact.I'd have liked to have seen how this group feels about the GOP. Along those lines, Alex Altman finds that while Obama's support among another key demographic, college-educated women, has dropped, they like the Republicans even less.
Even among the demographic groups that flocked to him in droves four years ago, Obama is falling out of favor amid high unemployment. In a TIME survey taken in June, 57% of college-educated women approved of the President?s job performance. This month that number fell to 49% in TIME?s survey, a notch above the 47% who disapproved, but a significant slip in a few short months. Obama still trounces his leading Republican rivals in the race for this key group?s likely voters, holding a 54% to 38% edge over Romney and a 56% to 34% advantage over Perry among likely voters. But his diminishing support among a demographic squarely in his wheelhouse must be disconcerting for his boosters.It's good for the President that a lot of polls show him still more popular than the Republicans, but low popularity all around could depress (and thus supress) voting across the board, leaving the election up to each party's diehards. And the GOP diehards are far more motivated at the moment than our diehards. That's slowly changing, I think, as each new absurdity from the GOP House and the GOP presidential candidates riles up key Democratic constituencies. But will it be enough by November of next year?
The Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance held a candidate forum last night for Virginia Delegate Adam Ebbin (D) and Tim McGhee (R), who are vying for a seat in the Virginia Senate. McGhee decided to use the opportunity to reach out to the audience with a short Bible-based anti-gay sermon, suggesting God created homosexuals as sinners so that He could forgive them:
MCGHEE: For some of you here this evening, your frustrations go way beyond a state senate candidate. Some of you are beyond frustrated with God right now. Some of you refuse to believe in Him altogether. You?ve asked the question or perhaps given up asking a long time ago, ?Why? Why would God make me who I am and then tell me that it’ wrong?? May I put a question before you tonight? What if that?s exactly what God did? What if that?s exactly what God had to do to fully demonstrate who he is?
The blog Not Larry Sabato has the full transcript and audio of McGhee’s remarks. Listen to it:
Our guest blogger is Jeremy Ayers, Senior Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began debate on a bill to revise No Child Left Behind, a revision that was originally due to be completed in 2007. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) shut down the committee by invoking a rarely enforced rule that limits committee meetings to two hours when the Senate is in session. That?s an interesting move given that he said at the hearing he wants to change or even throw out NCLB, the very thing the committee was attempting to do.
So what led Paul to prevent the Senate from revising the very law he says he wants to revise? In his remarks he complained that he did not have time to read the bill and that the committee had held no hearings since he was elected (comments at 59:12):
We are given an 868 page piece of legislation on Monday and expected to digest it. Look at the amendments here. I?ve probably got 1,000 pages of amendments, not to mention mine. I may have another 1,000 pages of amendments.
But Paul filed 74 amendments to revise the bill being considered. Apparently, he had enough time to read the bill to think up, draft, and submit 74 changes. Plus, the original version of the bill was actually released to the public over a week ago, on October 11. Of course, private versions were circulated weeks before that among senators, staff, and some members of the public.
But that?s probably not what really motivated Paul. After the committee hearing ended, he went to the Senate floor to continue his protest. There he revealed why he?s actually obstructing the process for changing No Child Left Behind:
There’s no provision in the Constitution for the federal government to be involved [in education] period. This was part of the Republican platform from nearly 30 years, that we didn’t believe in federal control, we wanted to leave local control.
It?s understandable to hold philosophical principles about the role of the federal government. But if you object to federal involvement in education, perhaps being on the Senate education committee is not the best assignment. And it seems odd to shut down the entire process that is trying to fix and improve a bill you claim to want to fix. But perhaps nothing will be satisfactory to the far right until federal education programs are gutted entirely. In the short-term at least, Republican leaders will have to decide where to spend their energy on appeasing the Tea Party right or improving schools for America?s students.
Salon.com has a selection of excerpts from MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan’s new audio book, Suicide of a Superpower. In the book, Buchanan describes same-sex marriage as an “absurd notion of equality” and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as Congress “imposing San Francisco values” and “indoctrinating recruits, soldiers, and officers into an acceptance of the gay lifestyle.” Listen:
The Texas Ranger nominated Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki to throw out the opening pitch at one of their World Series home games. And why not? Dirk is a Dallas sports icon, and a historic figure as the first European to win an NBA MVP. His team, the Mavericks, is also the reigning NBA champions and thus an excellent good luck charm for a fellow Metroplex squad.
But Major League Baseball vetoed the idea out of respect for the NBA owners’ lockout of its players.
Note that this kind of “secondary strike” is illegal when done on the labor side. In other words, if one union goes on strike at a firm somewhere, other unions aren’t allowed to engage in solidaristic boycotts of the firm if it decides to stay in business by hiring replacement workers. The teamsters can’t refuse to make deliveries. This ban on secondary strikes deprives unions of the potentially powerful tool of cross-sector solidarity. For political purposes, unions can team up and collaborate, but in the basic world of labor negotiations they can’t. But when the NBA owners decide they won’t stage any games until players agree to accept lower pay, other rich types across the country come to their assistance and it’s all perfectly legal.
Tuesday’s Republican debate contained several examples of creative foreign policy budget solutions. Michele Bachmann suggested, to much applause, that Iraq should “reimburse” the U.S. for “what we have done to liberate” them. But former Massachusetts governor stepped forward with a new proposal to have China take over the U.S.’s humanitarian aid responsibilities around the world. He said:
Part of [the foreign aid budget] is humanitarian aid around the world. I happen to think it doesn?t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are taking that borrowed money today.
What Mitt Romney doesn’t mention is that China already has an active foreign aid policy in Africa. And the aid rarely comes with onerous conditions like anti-corruption measures, government and economic reforms and accountability for how the money is spent. A Council on Foreign Relations report on Chinese efforts to secure access to African oil, says:
International observers say the way China does business?particularly its willingness to pay bribes, as documented by Transparency International, and attach no conditions to aid money?undermines local efforts to increase good governance and international efforts at macroeconomic reform by institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
While western economic aid is frequently criticized for requiring recipients to undergo at times disastrous economic reforms, the Chinese model is aimed toward securing access to natural resources with few strings attached to aid dollars.
A recent Chinese government report on foreign aid in Africa suggests that its aid “falls into the category of south-south cooperation and is mutual help between developing countries,” but critics charge that Chinese aid in Africa has frequently been used to strengthen authoritarian governments and feeds corruption.
After the U.S. abandoned Zaire strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, China stepped in, sending an estimated 1,000 Chinese technicians to work on agriculture and forestry projects in the early 1990s.
And earlier this year, China’s foreign minister pushed for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe, provided an additional $7.5 million in aid to Robert Mugabe’s government and signed a new bilateral agreement between the two countries.
While Mitt Romney seems to think that encouraging China to take over the U.S.’s humanitarian assistance responsibilities is an easy and cost-free method of cutting the federal budget, he should take a closer look at how U.S. foreign policy interests in Africa might be effected by increasing the influence of Chinese foreign aid.
This is one of those situations where my instincts as a journalist, and my instincts as an advocate for feminism in entertainment come into conflict. An actress is suing the Internet Movie Database for publishing her true age on the grounds that discrimination against actresses over 40 is so pervasive that revealing her age would complicate her efforts to find future employment. IMDb is, of course, a resource both for journalists and for folks who work in the entertainment industry, so it can be used to both inform and to discriminate (it isn’t always accurate, either, which is a larger but separate problem).
But I suppose I come down on the side of keeping her age in there, though I would be curious as to where IMDb got the information because birth certificates, as we’ve learned via national farce, aren’t always part of the public record. Ultimately, hiding it is capitulating. I don’t think that changing norms around actresses and age is easy, and the battle to shift them will have costs for individuals along the way. But ultimately I think the cause of building good databases and asserting that age discrimination is wrong is more important. I’d be curious to hear this actress name the jobs she’s been unable to land because of age discrimination. It’s not people who put the information out there who are doing wrong. It’s people who are using it to make pop culture even more homogenous and youth-oriented.
Somalia’s “mis-government” has turned a brutal drought into a horrific famine. But “if it weren’t in drought, it wouldn’t be in famine,” as Dr. Chris Funk, one of the world’s foremost authorities on East African drought explained to me in an exclusive interview today.
And Funk’s work provides strong evidence that global warming has exacerbated the drought.
Funk, a US Geological Survey scientist and founding member of UC Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazard Group, deserves our attention because he is “part of a group of scientists that successfully forecast the droughts behind the present crisis,” as he explained in an August article in Nature.
In Dadaab in northeastern Kenya, the IRC gives fortified food to malnourished young children whose families are fleeing drought and famine in Somalia. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC
You might assume bloggers who write about East Africa — confusionists who falsely assert that “Those who are familiar with Somalia?s recent history and current state of affairs do not mention climate change as a relevant factor to the country?s latest tragedy” — would actually read the relevant scientific journals. But I find again and again that many people writing on the subject just don’t know what they’re talking about or even bother to spend even a minute or two googling the subject.
I have been reviewing the literature on drought in the past few weeks for a major article on Dust-bowlification invited by a leading science journal. It will be published next week!
It seems increasingly clear that global warming is exacerbating the East African drought in a number of ways. As Funk explained to me, the sea surface temperature [SST] rise in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific in recent decades are “well-correlated with global temperatures.” This is an area where “models and observations agree.”
Funk examined the historical data to show that those rising SSTs have already had serious consequences for East Africa — in a 2010 journal article he co-authored, “A westward extension of the warm pool leads to a westward extension of the Walker circulation, drying eastern Africa.” Here is how Nature summarized its findings in a January piece:
Ask farmers about rain, and they will tell you that the timing matters more than how much falls in a given year. In Eastern Africa, the months of the ?long rains? or ?belgs? are between March and June.
A new study in the journal Climate Dynamics suggests that these months will be much drier in the future in Kenya, Ethiopia and other East African nations because of climate change. Some 17.5 million people in the Horn of Africa already face food insecurity in the region, with stagnating agricultural production, population growth and recent drought….
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California, Santa Barbara, studied the flow of air currents over the Indian Ocean.
Over the past 60 years the Indian Ocean has warmed rapidly due to greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. The warmer Ocean heats up the air above, causing it to rise until it hits a cooler patch in the atmosphere. At that point, the hot air condenses and falls as rain (the process of convection). Unfortunately, the rain falls in middle of the tropical Indian Ocean and not over land. This region is part of a global atmospheric current called the Walker circulation.
The air, which has now lost its moisture, flows westward and descends over eastern Africa. The winds bear little rain.
Scientists say that between 1980 and 2009, oceanic heating has reduced precipitation over eastern Africa during the vital ?long-rains? season.
?While there appear to be many factors that govern interannual variability in east African long-rains precipitation, convective activity during [the March to June season] has steadily declined in eastern Africa for the past 30 years as the convective branch of the Walker circulation has become more active over the Indian Ocean,? the paper states.
Funk said to me, “I think we’re already seeing the impacts from climate change” in the area.
It is important to note that Funk’s work, and other recent work, strongly suggests that many IPCC model predictions of increased precipitation in the region were incorrect:
Conventional modeling suggests that the tropical Walker circulation will become weaker due to climate change, resulting in more rainfall in eastern Africa. In the IPCC report, 18 out of 21 models predicted greater precipitation in the region. But recent studies, including this one, argue for a strengthening of the Walker circulation. This study uses observational data to show that the Walker circulation has extended westward, which makes precipitation more likely over the Indian Ocean and droughts the norm in eastern Africa.
Funk considers it a “first-order impact of global warming” that SSTs will continue to rise. He warned in his piece, ?If the climate continues to tilt toward an intensified Walker circulation, or a westward extension of its western branch, rainfall should continue to decrease in the most food insecure region of the world.? In short, things are likely to “persist or intensify” in the coming decades.
On the basis of his work, Funk was asked to join the Famine Early Warning Systems Network set up by the US Agency for International Development to help policy-makers prevent humanitarian disasters.
As he explained in the August Nature article, “We thought trouble was coming”:
Last summer, our group was meeting when a La Niña weather system was forecast. We knew that such an event could bring trouble, and we issued an alert that East Africa might experience severe droughts.
We based this conclusion on information from three sources. First, we knew that La Niña events are commonly associated with weakened rains in the Horn of Africa from October to December.
Second, from work on the ground, we knew that persistent poor rains at the end of the past decade, combined with high food prices, had weakened the population’s resilience to food emergencies.
And third, research has linked warming in the Indian Ocean as a result of climate change to drying of March-to-June rains in East Africa. This warming has intensified the negative impact of La Niña events; it was the chance that both the autumn and spring rainy seasons could be affected, back to back, that really concerned us.
Sure enough, the autumn 2010 rains were poor, or failed completely. The outlook for famine or survival then rested on the spring rains. April came without rain. May came without rain. And we feared the worst.
A key point I and others have made over and over again is that the most extreme weather occurs when climate change compounds the natural variability of the climate. In this case, global warming appears to be intensifying the impact of the La Niña.
But you also see that the long-term drying — persistent poor rains at the end of the past decade — have contributed. Again, climate change has contributed to the underlying problem.
It is also true that the rise in temperatures worsens any drought, by drying out the soil. I will discuss that in greater length in a later post.
And, of course, one of my favorite recent topics of 2011, the high food prices of the past year, also makes the situation worse. As now seems clear, those high food prices have been driven, in part, by extreme weather — see Washington Post, Lester Brown explain how extreme weather, climate change drive record food prices and my various posts on “food insecurity.”
These high food prices are most likely going to get even higher in the coming decades, as population pressures collide with climate change — see Oxfam Predicts Climate Change will Help Double Food Prices by 2030: ?We Are Turning Abundance into Scarcity.?
Funk explained in his piece what high food prices mean right now:
The situation on the ground quickly deteriorated. FEWS NET runs a food-price tracking system that showed that the price of maize (corn) in Kitui, Kenya, had soared by 246% in 12 months. And the value of a goat in Bardera, Somalia, usually sold to buy grain, had halved. Satellite measurements of vegetation health tracked the emerging drought in disturbing detail. FEWS NET put out a second alert on 7 June that warned: “This is the most severe food security emergency in the world today, and the current humanitarian response is inadequate.”
Two months on, the grim statistics show that the massive crisis is outstripping the international resources available to address it. Famine conditions are expected to spread farther across Somalia, and large areas of Kenya and Ethiopia could see food availability fall to crisis levels. In all, some 11.5 million people across East Africa need emergency assistance.
Funk agreed with me that the fact that Somalia is a failed state is a major reason that a brutal drought has turned into a devastating famine: “No doubt, the most important thing, is the mis-government,” as he called it. But the point is that a “climate-driven drought set up the conditions where mis-governance could lead to catastrophe.”
One final point. It’s true that Somalia’s mis-government has meant that the drought has had a more severe impact on Somalia than surrounding states. And it’s true that planning for the drought has helped alleviate the famine in neighboring countries. But it hasn’t eliminated the danger in those countries.
As Dan Glickman, former Agriculture Secretary, and Dr. George Rupp, CEO of the International Rescue Committee, explained last month:
After the last East African famine in 2002, leaders had the insight to invest in long-term programs that have delivered astonishing results, including the Famine Early Warning System Network. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently noted, the number of Ethiopians at risk of starvation in that previous famine was 13 million, while in the midst of today?s crisis, that number has been slashed by more than 60 percent to 5 million.
So, no, even Ethiopia has not escaped the threat posed by this drought. There are still 5 million at risk of starvation in that country alone.
The bottom line is that leading experts have concluded that global warming is exacerbating the East African drought, they used that knowledge to accurately predict the current drought, and they warn that unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases pose a grave threat to the food security of the region.
The confusionists who try to muddy the waters try to turn every serious discussion about the contribution of global warming to some current impact on humans, like this drought, into “you said global warming caused the problem and that isn’t true” or some such misrepresentation. They seriously undermine efforts of scientist like Funk to inform the world community of what’s happening now and what’s likely to happen in the future so that we can plan ahead.
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The very beginning of Tuesday's GOP debate was devoted to Herman Cain's 999 tax gimmick, or at least, devoted to tearing it down. All of the candidates on the stage were ready to pull out their sharp teeth and even sharper claws after Cain catapulted into the limelight this week as a (temporary) frontrunner.
However, it was Rick Santorum who wins the prize for the most creative arguments. They fit right in with his obsession over abortion and "saving the children", which we should all understand to be saving the white children because Santorum is deeply, deeply afraid that whites will someday become the minority in this country. But really, it's a huge stretch to leap from Herman Cain's plan to a decrease in the birth rate because of taxes..
COOPER: Senator Santorum, will his plan raise taxes?
SANTORUM: Herman's well-meaning, and I love his boldness, and it's great. But the fact of the matter is, I mean, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan. That's the analysis. And it makes sense, because when -- when you don't provide a standard deduction, when you don't provide anything for low-income individuals, and you have a sales tax and an income tax and, as Michele said, a value-added tax, which is really what his corporate tax is, we're talking about major increases in taxes on people.
He also doesn't have anything that takes care of the families. I mean, you have -- you have a situation where, under Herman's plan, a single person pays as much in taxes as a -- as a man and a woman raising three children. Ever since we've had the income tax in America, we've always taken advantage of the fact that we want to encourage people to -- to have children and not have to pay more already to raise children, but also pay that additional taxes -- we gave some breaks for families. He doesn't do that in this bill.
And we're going to -- we've seen that happen in Europe. And what happened? Boom, birth rates went into -- into the basement. It's a bad tax for -- again, it's bold. I give him credit for -- for starting a debate, but it's not good for families, and it's not good for low-income...
Hmmm. A value added tax in Europe, and boom! Birth rates decline? Really?
No, not really. This UPenn study (PDF) is a pretty good analysis of why birth rates are on the decline in Europe. There are many reasons, some social and some economic. Women waiting until later to have children, for example, is one reason. Another is the economic instability young people are experiencing. Costs of having children alongside difficulties getting stable housing or being able to buy a house are others. But I didn't really see where taxes were a huge issue.
Who among us decided to have kids because it meant we got a deduction for them on our tax returns? I promise you it wasn't even close to the first thing on my mind at the time.
Rick Santorum has a one-track mind. His pony is abortion and making babies. Preferably white babies. But even for Mr. Frothy, this one is a bit out in the twilight zone.