A recent poll conducted by the Consumers Union found that the majority of Americans do not like antibiotics in their food and agree that the antibiotics pose health risks. According to the full report, “more than 60% of respondents stated that they would be willing to pay at least five cents a pound more for meat raised without antibiotics. Over a third (37%) would pay a dollar or more extra per pound.” Despite growing scientific evidence that antibiotics are unhealthy, the FDA continues to do very little to restrict their use.
A new web video by Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), the Republican nominee for Sen. Dick Lugar’s now-open Senate seat this November, is yet another indication of just how wrong the assumptions underling Justice Anthony Kennedy?s Citizens United majority opinion were. In it the 5-4 majority agreed that ?The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy. By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.?
Already, “independent” Super PACs have been hiring the same political consulting firms as the candidates they are supporting. Already, the Romney campaign has enlisted Karl Rove, the co-founder of two of the largest pro-Romney outside groups, to participate in a strategy retreat with top-level campaign donors and bundlers. Both are apparently-legal moves that fly in the face of the spirit of non-coordination rules.
Now, Mourdock’s campaign is apparently using yet another loophole. Since the campaign made not directly work with allied “outside” groups, it has posted a four-minutes-and-36-seconds-long video of footage of the candidate online, just in case any outside groups happen to want to use it.
The National Journal describes the video, titled “Indiana Footage,” as “essentially a soundless highlight reel of high-quality, uplifting footage of Mourdock shaking hands with voters, speaking, and driving.”
Watch the spot:
Mourdock’s primary win relied heavily on outside spending. This video is either one of the most boring political ads of all time or a not-so-subtle request to well-heeled outside groups to invest more for the November general election.
by Adam James, Andrew Light, and Gwynne Taraska
The final draft text of the Rio+20 Earth Summit agreed on today has disappointed many delegates and activists around the world. Other than the Brazilian chair of the meeting, no one seems to be strongly defending the document.
The World Wildlife Fund has declared the text ?a colossal failure of leadership and vision.? Ida Auken, the Danish Environment Minister and Chair of the European Environment Council, remarked that ?the EU would have liked to see a much more concrete and ambitious outcome, so in that respect I’m not happy with it.? Even Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, said that he had hoped for a more ?ambitious? outcome, though he quickly added that we should understand the difficulty has been over resolving ?conflicting interests? among the parties.
Some of this criticism could be overwrought. Unlike the first Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago, this meeting never aimed to produce a new international treaty or a process that would lead to an international agreement. From the start, its most ambitious aim was to create a set of Sustainable Development Goals that would replace the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed to in New York City in 2000 and are set to expire in 2015. Given the conflicting interests identified by Moon, it is impressive that the parties were able to go on the record supporting as many progressive changes in the development and environment agenda that they did. But while the current Rio text acknowledges (and occasionally even underlines, underscores, and stresses) that action on sustainable development and climate change is urgently needed, it is deficient in specific goals, details on how to achieve them, and target dates.
Some, like former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth, President of the U.N. Foundation, reply that we shouldn?t focus on the text as much as we should focus on the public-private partnerships that are being announced at the meeting around initiatives such as Moon?s Sustainable Energy For All initiative, which has drawn $2 billion in support from the U.S.
Wirth has a good point. At this moment, there may be no need to wrangle further over why the Rio text is as weak as it is. Instead, we should move on to make these newly emerging institutions of international cooperation work as well as they can. In the end, what was produced at Rio looks much more like a G20 text, simply articulating the lowest common denominator among the parties. While activists may have hoped for more, this could be the best we could hope for in this kind of process when an actual treaty is not on the table.
Still, there are some interesting lessons to be learned here from how this text went wrong. If we go back and look at the development of the Rio text, we can see that it could have been bolder if some parties had been allowed to strengthen it.
The Evolution of the Text
We compared the current final text in Rio with the text as it had been negotiated up to June 2nd. We chose the June 2nd version because it still identified requests by parties to put in or take out language from the document. Parties at the time were half-way through a two-week long meeting at the UN in New York during the third round of informal negotiations to draft a text. In contrast, the final draft from earlier this week is a text determined by the Brazilian chair of the meeting to be the best compromise between the competing interests of the parties.
Our main conclusion is that while responsibility for this final text now rests with all the assembled parties in Rio, the chair of the meeting could have pushed harder on the parties to produce a more ambitious text by negotiating throughout the week. Instead, the pattern seems to be one of eliminating any disagreement on any item, which resulted in a joint declaration now charged with failing to provide adequate targets, timelines, or guidelines for achieving any of its aspirations.
Our comparison reveals another conclusion as well: Had the United States? position prevailed in the negotiations, the final text would have been stronger in terms of its chief weaknesses of specific goals and roadmaps for success.
Of course, the same could be said of the changes requested by many other parties. But the comparison with the United States? position is particularly instructive because the U.S. is often criticized for being one of the most conservative parties in international climate negotiations. For example, in the part of the Rio text devoted to supporting the Millennium Development Goals as they move toward their completion in 2015, the United States wanted to eliminate language calling for increased contributions to achieve those goals. But if a party that many perceive as one of the more conservative in these talks was in favor of a stronger agreement, then we can only imagine what would have happened if the negotiations were pushed harder.
Take, for example, the paragraph on Ban Ki-moon?s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL). SE4ALL has three goals: (1) to eliminate global energy poverty by 2030, (2) to double the rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030, and (3) to double the share of renewable energy in the global mix by 2030. Prior to the Rio meeting, Ban Ki-moon was promoting it as a potential centerpiece of a Rio agreement. Although the United States sought to curtail language in the earlier text that implied financial assistance from UN member countries to achieve these ends, it strongly pushed for including language in the text on private sector engagement. The final text, interestingly enough, scrapped both avenues for funding these initiatives ? and just made no mention of funding whatsoever.
So far as we can tell, the Sustainable Energy for All provision in the draft Rio document, as the United States would have had it, is:
We note the Secretary General?s ?Sustainable Energy for All? initiative and its aspirational goals of ensuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. We recognize that resources will be necessary to achieve these results particularly through enabling environments that unlock private sector investments. We encourage voluntary follow-up efforts to coordinate and to catalyse public-private partnerships and to track progress towards its three goals and, in this regard, we encourage States and relevant stakeholders, including the private sector, to conduct, as appropriate, collaborative international research and capacity development based on a roadmap to be developed through a multilateral process, involving all stakeholders.
The final text was dramatically shorter and cut out several important clarifications, including the U.S. comment on enabling private sector investments. Equally important, if not more so, especially given the criticisms of the text now circulating in the media, is the fact that the final version cuts out any mention of the need to develop a roadmap to achieve these goals inserted by Kazakhstan apparently due to objections by China and the ?Group of 77? developing countries. To add insult to injury a caveat is added at the end of the statement essentially letting off the hook any party which doesn?t want to try to achieve these goals.
We note the launching of the initiative by the Secretary General on ?Sustainable Energy for All,? which focus on access to energy, energy efficiency and renewable energies. We are all determined to act to make sustainable energy for all a reality, and through this, help eradicate poverty and lead to sustainable development and global prosperity. We recognize that countries? activities in broader energy-related issues are of great importance and are prioritized according to their specific challenges, capacities and circumstances, including energy mix.
An important caveat to this claim is that while the earlier draft text reveals what parties wanted inserted or taken out, it doesn?t show what all parties thought about every provision. A country would not have been able to articulate an objection if another country already registered a reservation. Still, absent any other evidence, a push for stronger support for SE4ALL would have delivered a better conclusion to the meeting.
At some point though, SE4ALL was eclipsed in the negotiating process by an attempt to use Rio to create a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, which could eventually replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. Here too, we see a pattern where even cautious improvements in the text were rejected.
Sustainable Development Goals are not articulated in the text. The attempt to express them resulted in a burgeoning list of goals, as parties pitched in their favorite priorities. Instead, the final document establishes a new ?high level political forum? charged with starting a process this fall at the opening of the U.N. generally assembly in New York that will come up with a set of new sustainability goals. It is entrusted with a range of things, such as encouraging system-wide participation by all U.N. agencies, enhancing the consultative role of relevant stakeholders in the process, strengthening the science-policy interface for setting goals, and making decision-making more evidenced-based. It will be composed of 30 members, nominated by the member states and representing all regions of the world, and is charged with delivering a final set of recommendations by 2014. This forum also will have an institutional home in the U.N. system and will eventually replace the existing U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, which was the official convener of the Rio summit.
Still, some of the more interesting additions to the text, which could have improved this process and even staved off some of the criticisms now being levied against it, were jettisoned last week in the push to find consensus early in the meeting.
In the section on financing these new goals, the U.S. moved in several places to modify the overwhelming reliance on public assistance common in the U.N. system. But they did offer an alternative in a proposed section on tax reform to help the poor, which was struck entirely in the final text. Here?s the U.S. proposal:
We reaffirm that national ownership and leadership of development strategies and good governance are important for effective mobilization of domestic financial resources and fostering sustained fiscal reform, including tax reform, which is key to enhancing macroeconomic policies and mobilizing domestic public resources. Countries should also continue to improve budgetary processes and to enhance the transparency of public financial management and the quality of expenditures. We emphasize the need to enhance tax revenues through modernized tax systems, more efficient tax collection, broadening the tax base and effectively combating tax evasion. We stress that these efforts should be undertaken with an overarching view to make tax systems more pro-poor. ? US (adapted from Monterrey 16)]
This entire section was struck. The final text, which merely says that member nations recognize ?the crucial importance of enhancing financial support from all sources for sustainable development? is not nearly as specific. There were additional attempts to give the financial portions of the Sustainable Development Goals a needed boost, but those proposals were also dropped from the text.
In responding to criticisms of the final text, Brazil?s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said that if you convened 193 of the protestors in Rio, ?they would have difficulty finding a common denominator, too.? He?s likely correct. But given the legacy issues at stake for how this conference will be remembered ? and the possibility that the summit will come to be seen as a reason to abandon meetings of this scale ? a harder push on the assembled parties to strengthen their commitments would have been worth it.
The opportunity to do that, of course, is now over. We hope that the new commission begins its work by mining earlier drafts of the Rio document for actionable ideas.
Adam James is a Special Assistant and Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Gwynne Taraska is Research Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University.
The Business Insider notes that, at the same time that corporate profits are at an all-time high as a percentage of the economy, wages are at an all-time low. Last year, corporations made a record $824 billion, which didn’t stop conservatives from continually claiming that President Obama is anti-business.
If Taylor Schumaker had known the University Club in downtown Moline, Illinois blatantly discriminated against same-sex couples, she wouldn’t have bothered inquiring about holding her wedding reception there. When Bar Manager Kristen Stewart offered to give Schumaker and her fiancé (“he”) a tour of the facility and learned that “he” was in fact “she,” she abruptly rescinded the offer because “we don’t rent to homosexual couples.” When WQAD caught up with Stewart ?whose husband is President of the University Club ? she defended her decision with her religious beliefs:
STEWART: I am a biblical Christian and I do not believe in homosexual marriage, that?s correct. And because marriage is a covenant that God created for man and woman, as a biblical Christian, I cannot help them into or celebrate that sin. My husband?s family does not hold the same view. If there is a homosexual couple I will pass them onto them. I have told him if they want to do homosexual receptions I would not have any part of that. He and his family have decided they will.
Though same-sex marriage is not legal in Illinois, the state does ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, suggesting Stewart’s decision is unlawful. Though Schumaker was hurt by the experience, she and her fiancé (she) are looking elsewhere.
Just today, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council sent an email asking conservatives to oppose the “discrimination” imposed by the “homosexual rights movement,” citing three similar examples of Christians refusing to abide by nondiscrimination protections:
CLAIM: “Catholic Charities of Boston–forced out of the adoption business after more than 100 years and surrendered their license because they would not obey the state’s mandate to place orphans with same-sex couples.”
REALITY: Catholic Charities had two choices to continue its work: stop relying on government subsidy or stop discriminating against same-sex couples. They gave up entirely. When Catholic Charities faced the same dilemma in Illinois, a judge upheld the state’s right to pull funding because of the agency’s discriminatory practices.
CLAIM: “Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a historic New Jersey Christian camp, ordered by a judge to allow same-sex ‘commitment’ ceremonies on their property, even though it violated their religious views.”
REALITY: The pavilion’s tax-exempt status was part of a recreational real estate agreement with the state to ensure its availability to the public. It was not tied the church’s religious designation.
CLAIM: “Marcia Walden, a counselor with the Centers for Disease Control, fired when she politely declined to help a lesbian continue a same-sex relationship. Marcia, a Christian, felt she wasn’t the best counselor.”
REALITY: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Walden’s firing ? not because of the anti-gay religious beliefs she held, but because of her insistence upon imposing them on clients.
The question at stake isn’t even same-sex marriage, but whether or not religious beliefs qualify as legal criteria for discrimination. Conservatives will likely come to Stewart’s defense, claiming that she is the victim. But the real victims are the LGBT people who are routinely treated as second-class citizens in society.
On the one hand when celebrities come out, it has generally been good for their communities. But not always. There are times when we just want to be thought of as regular people...and celebrities are by definition not "regular people".In the[...]
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No, of course it's not Mitch orAynRandPaul. The same week that the Senate slapped down Mitchie-poo's whine to leave Big Coal alooooooooone!, the senior Senator from the only coal state more backward than Kentucky had an attack of reality.
Jay Rockefeller deserves major kudos for finally calling out the coal industry for lying to workers and the state that the EPA and environmentalists are costing coal jobs:This EPA rule - two decades in the making - also moves utility companies ahead on employing technologies that will help guarantee coal jobs well into the future. Some utilities, including some in West Virginia, already have invested in technology and are ready to comply with the rule.
But across our state, there also are smaller, older and less efficient coal-fired plants slated for closure, not because of EPA regulations alone, but - as corporate boards decided long ago and companies themselves will tell you - because they are no longer economical as compared to low-emission, cheaper natural gas plants.
I remain deeply concerned about job losses. And I believe we need not only an immediate plan for job transition opportunities, but also a renewed and collective focus on the future - on the jobs that will come with new manufacturing and next generation technology.
In West Virginia, we need allies - not adversaries. But coal operators have yet to step up as strong allies and partners ready to lead, innovate and fight for the future.
Instead of moving the conversation on coal forward, some in the industry have demanded all-or-nothing, time and again, for the ill-sighted purpose of a sound bite or flashy billboard. These efforts make no progress, they don't pursue attainable policy change, and they certainly don't create or save jobs.
Change is upon us - from finite coal reserves and aging power plants, to the rise of natural gas and the very real shift to a lower-carbon economy.
Denying these factors and insisting that the EPA alone is going to make or break coal is dishonest and futile. Feeding fears with insular views and divergent motivations will leave our communities in the dust.
West Virginians deserve better.
Damn right they do.
Tom the Dancing Bug, by @RubenBolling. Follow @DailyKosComics and find out the instant a comic is posted!
In a disappointing but expected move yesterday, New Hampshire governor John Lynch vetoed a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana in the state. Lynch had vetoed a similar medical marijuana bill back in 2009.[...]
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The Senate is reportedly getting close to a deal to keep student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent rather than letting them double to 6.8 percent on July 1. One sign that there may really be a compromise coming is that the proposals aren't going to lend themselves to the straightforward terms of political advertising:
Included will be a proposal originally advanced by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to raise premiums paid by businesses for federal pension insurance--a plan that may be accepted by executives because it will be paired with new rules allowing them to lower pension liabilities, according to a top Senate Democratic aide.I get awfully nervous any time anyone starts talking about monkeying around with pension rules, and that includes Harry Reid. It's hard to know without more information, but if this in any way trades affordable student loans for less retirement security, it isn't a great deal. Republican proposals that might be in the deal include:
shortening the period during which part-time students would be eligible for federally subsidized loans; limiting the ability of states to recoup Medicaid costs through taxes on providers, which would lead to a slight reduction in Medicaid use and, therefore, lower costs to the federal government; improving coordination with states and local governments to reduce Social Security overpayments.Senate staffers are negotiating this now. That means we need to keep up the pressure to get a good bill. Democrats have to stay strong and keep Republicans from, yet again, trading one middle-class sacrifice for another while corporations get off scot-free.