The core of Mitt Romney?s attack on President Obama?s immigration policy is process-related. ?For two years, this President had huge majorities in the House and Senate?he was free to pursue any policy he pleased. But he did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system,? said the Republican nominee in his speech yesterday to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
Today, before the same group, Obama offered a response to Romney?s accusation?blame Republicans. ?The problem is not the lack of technical solutions,? Obama told the crowd, ?We know what the solutions are to this challenge.? Rather, he explained, the problem is that congressional Republicans have blocked every effort to pursue immigration reform. ?When it came up for a vote year and a half ago, Republicans in Congress blocked it,? he said, ?The bill hadn?t changed. The need had not changed. The only thing that changed was politics?
Obama even reached back to the failed comprehensive immigration reform bill of 2006, pushed by George W. Bush, to show that congressional Republicans are the chief obstacle to immigration reform, as well as assistance for the economy. In fact, throughout the speech, there was hardly a mention of Mitt Romney. Instead, Obama focused his fire on congressional Republicans, which is another sign that he intends to run against Congress and?more importantly?tie Romney to his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
At most, Obama had this to say about the former Massachusetts governor, ?In a speech he said when he makes a promise to you he?ll keep it. He?s promised to veto the DREAM Act.? It?s very clear that Obama wants Latinos to remember that fact when they go to the polls in November.
Finally, Republican brave enough to speak the truth ? we are rooting against the economy. (I am paraphrasing. Click on the video below.) Conservatives have made their position extremely clear. They have stated their position in multiple different ways. You have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that his number one priority was to prevent
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He that hath children hath given hostages to Disney, as Francis Bacon would no doubt have put it if he'd lived in our time. That's why the latest reason I'm glad little Thomasina Carson doesn't exist?there are many, and Justin Bieber's existence is the least of them?is the woe I'd feel at watching her innocently toddle off to see Brave.
It's not that the movie's bad, understand. After a shaky start and despite some later missteps, it turns into one of Pixar's best, and definitely one of the most surprising. In the wake of, among others, Up and Wall-E?well, the latter's first half, anyway?presumably we can all agree that's no trivial claim.†
But the movie's power is due to a certain Big Transformation of a major character midway through that, like my colleagues, I have to wrestle with divulging or not?even though, as my pal Glenn Kenny of MSN grumped,†the whole world will know about it by the weekend. (It's already in the movie's plot summary on Wikipedia, making critics' good manners feel even dumber. ) And said Big Transformation triggers sequences so wrenching?they tap into some of childhood's most basic anxieties and fears in an utterly original way?that her mom and I might be comforting our imaginary Thomasina for a month. Put it this way: if you thought Bambi was traumatizing, you don't know how easy you had it.
For Pixar to be doing a princess movie at all is plenty weird enough. It's sort of like NASA trying its hand at curating the National Gallery's skating rink. Early on, Brave's trio of directors?Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell?seem to be playing by rules that don't interest them very much and not making an especially bright job of it. Merida (nicely voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the red-headed daughter of rambunctious, supersized Fergus (Billy Connolly) and demure, diminutive Elinor (Emma Thompson), rulers of an imaginary kingdom in ancient Scotland. Not only does the setting feel like a hand-me-down?the movie's rositering Scots are far too reminiscent of How to Train Your Dragon's roistering Vikings?but a lot of the exposition, from Fergus's revenge fixation on a black bear named Mor'du who gave him a duplicate of Captain Ahab's old peg leg to a legend Elinor tells her daughter about a rebel prince who once laid the kingdom low, just sort of dithers along.
So you wait for something to interest you. True, Merida's more tomboyish than your average Disney princess: not only does she hate dressing up, but she's handy with a bow and arrow. Between this movie and The Hunger Games, manufacturers of junior archery kits must be agog at their unexpected good fortune.
By 2012 standards, though, that isn't exactly mold-breaking. Neither is the dilemma that finally puts the plot in gear: Merida's upcoming betrothal to the first-born son of one of the kingdom's three leading clans, bound by tradition to compete for her hand. Naturally, she doesn't have a say in which one wins, but ... well, we know that none of these three bozos will be The One. So where's Prince Charming, we wonder?the low-born but handsome palace stable boy (or whatever), who will, after many misadventures, etc.?
Honestly, it's no small thrill when we catch on he's nowhere in sight?and won't be forthcoming, either. Instead, feeling understandably balky about the whole three-suitors deal, Merida betakes herself to the forest and is a led to a witch (Julie Walters) who cheerfully agrees to cast a spell that will change her fate. But you know how it goes when you forget to specify how, which is where the Big Transformation comes in.†
Redeeming the long build-up and then some?if†Wall-E's first hour evoked Samuel Beckett, the homely metaphor for domestic relationships that turns startlingly literal in Brave's second half is a projection of family tensions not too many rungs down from Kafka's "The Metamorphosis"?the rest of the movie involves Merida's race to reverse the spell before "the second sunrise" makes it permanent. And here's where life gets frustrating for reviewers who've decided not to give too much away. Repeating the advice I've already given to at least one brainy but tender-hearted female friend?"Do Not See This Movie With Your Mother"?is about as far as I'm prepared to go.
So let's see what I can tell you instead. That both the costs and the value of adolescent rebellion get their fair due, as do both the hassles and the benefits of having parents whose duelling temperaments turn a kid's life into ping-pong. That the classic-Disney tradition of cutely anthropomorphic animals was probably long overdue for a twist that turns it scary and enormously moving at once. That the post-transformation animation of the character in question is as purely lovely?delicate, humorous, poignant, and somehow more evocative of the original's true nature than the original was?as anything Pixar has done.
What else? That any child who's ever been frightened by the sight and sound of Mommy and Daddy at odds into thinking "It's all my fault" is in for one agonizing ride before the (c'mon, calling this a spoiler would be silly) happy ending. But that he or she will also learn that parents are never more truly parents than when they're protecting their offspring from danger. That if How to Train Your Dragon's scenes of the dragon being tormented were too much for your wee one?and who says I don't try to be responsible??better wait a couple of years before renting Brave.
And, oh, yeah: that I hope Thomasina would have been made of tougher stuff than I am. The cranky reviewer who drove to the screening knows very well that Brave's storytelling and characterizations have their flaws and too-easy bits?maybe more of them, in fact, than any Pixar classic. But the sack of mush who drove home couldn't have cared less, and it's just as well the whole thing doesn't work as well as the climax does. Then my remnants of dignity really wouldn't have a leg?or should that be a peg leg??to stand on.
Footnote:†It would be remiss of any reviewer to write anything at all about movies this week without mourning the loss of Andrew Sarris (1928-2012), the father of us all. In this epigone's case, not that either of them knew it, the hypothetical custody battle between him and Mom -- Pauline Kael, of course, and she got to me first -- may mean that my two cents on the great man's legacy are too puerile and/or obvious to share. We took them so personally, no matter which side we were on or thought we were.† Maybe next week, but in the meantime, I recommend two apt, heartfelt, very different tributes:†Peter Gerstenzang's and David Edelstein's. There will be many more, and should be.
The big story of the day is a deeply reported piece by Tom Hamburger, showing that Mitt Romney's Bain Capital in many ways invented the cottage industry of shipping US jobs overseas.[...]
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Rep. Darrell Issa's chief investigative counsel offered to stop the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder in exchange for the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Newsweek's Dan Klaidman is reporting.
Issa staffer Stephen Castor brought up the issue of "accountability" during a phone call with a senior DOJ official last week, according to the report. Castor reportedly said they could head off the contempt vote if Breuer stepped down.
Breuer, who heads the Justice Department's Criminal Division, apologized in October for not telling other Justice Department officials that guns were allowed to "walk" during the Bush administration when Congress first raised questions about Operation Fast And Furious in early 2011.
Breuer said in a statement last that he "did not draw a connection between the unacceptable tactics used by the ATF years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver and the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious, and therefore did not, at that time, alert others within Department leadership of any similarities between the two. That was a mistake, and I regret not having done so."
Emails show that Breuer was aware that the tactics were used during the Bush administration and met with ATF officials to discuss the matter.
"At the time, I thought that dealing with the leadership of ATF was sufficient and reasonable, and frankly given the amount of work I do, at the time I thought that was the appropriate way of dealing with it," Breuer testified last year. "I thought we had dealt with it by talking to the ATF leadership."
DOJ officials think the offer to drop the contempt vote in exchange for Breuer's scalp was further evidence that Issa's investigation was more about making headlines than determining facts.
"The reason that this contempt motion happened is that Issa didn't come up with any evidence and didn't get a scalp," Matthew Miller, DOJ's former communications director, told Klaidman. "When you set expectations that high and you don't deliver, you have to explain why."
Obama speaks to National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Watch live. [...]
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Some insight on that Syrian shootdown of a Turkey military jet today over the Mediterranean from a knowledge TPM reader who lives in Turkey ...Wanted to offer my two cents on this.Someone got to Erdogan, and got to him quickly, to keep him from saying[...]
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It was 102 here in Philadelphia today, and all my plants are wilted on my front steps. Imagine how bad it will be when California's farming industry is the lucky recipient of so many more scorching days:
By the middle of the century, the number of days with temperatures above 95 degrees each year will triple in downtown Los Angeles, quadruple in portions of the San Fernando Valley and even jump five-fold in a portion of the High Desert in LA County, according to a new UCLA climate change study.
The study, released Thursday, is the first to model the Southland's complex geography of meandering coastlines, mountain ranges and dense urban centers in high enough resolution to predict temperatures down to the level of micro climate zones, each measuring 2 1/4 square miles. The projections are for 2041 to 2060.
Not only will the number of hot days increase, but the study found that the hottest of those days will break records, said Alex Hall, lead researcher on the study by UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. The record for downtown Los Angeles is 113 degrees, set Sept. 27, 2010, when the Department of Water and Power electricity demand reached a historic peak of 6,177 megawatts.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the forecasts provide the groundwork for local governments, utilities, hospitals and other institutions to prepare for the hot spells to come. Villaraigosa said the region may have to strengthen building codes to reduce risk to residents. "That could mean replacing incentives with building codes requiring 'green' and 'cool' roofs, cool pavements, tree canopies and parks," he said.
The study, aided by a UCLA supercomputer, is 2,500 times more precise than previous climate models for the region, said Paul Bunje, executive director of the UCLA Center for Climate Change Solutions. The computer made roughly 1 quintillion calculations ? the equivalent of eight times all the grains of sand on the beaches of the western United States ? over a period of six months to assess every aspect of 25 global warming models that might be applicable to Southern California.
Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom has a character, news executive Charlie Skinner, who says nice things about ThinkProgress in the third episode of the show. I wish I could return the complement to my employer, but The Newsroom, which debuts at 10 PM on Sunday on HBO is a show full of deeply unpleasant characters. That might be excusable if the show had something genuinely new to say about how to report and present the news, and about the temperament it takes to do great reporting in the present environment. But it’s a bizarre combination of naive and condescending. I wrote, in a review for The Atlantic that’s was based only on the pilot (HBO got me the other episodes just this morning):
The Newsroom appears to operate on a hierarchy of condescension. At the top is executive Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), who describes MacKenzie as if she’s a fragile flower rather than an experienced war correspondent. He says, “She’s mentally and physically exhausted…and she’s been to way too many funerals for a girl her age. She wants to come home.” Will, a notch below him, is unpleasant to everyone in sight, starting in the opening sequences, when he tells a college girl, “You are, without a doubt, the member of the worst period generation period ever period.” (The show later validates Will’s nastiness to her by making her seem spoiled and entitled: She sues her college for emotional distress.) Don (Thomas Sadoski), Will’s soon-to-be-former executive producer, can’t risk snarking on MacKenzie, his replacement, “She’s like a sophomore poli-sci major at Sarah Lawrence.” Jim, MacKenzie’s deputy, snaps back: “She’s exactly like that. I guess the only difference are her two Peabodies and the scar on her stomach from covering a Shiite protest in Islamabad.”
Sorkin’s characters are often accused of sounding alike. Here, what they have in common is a sense that they’re superior to someone who hasn’t submitted to their needs, wishes, and worldview.
At the bottom of this miserable totem pole is Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill), formerly an intern, promoted only recently to be Will’s assistant, who is condescended to by everyone. “He didn’t promote you, honey. He thought you were his assistant,” Don, her negging nebbish of a boyfriend tells her at the beginning of the episode. Will, trying to prove he’s attentive to his staff, insists that her name is Ellen. MacKenzie declares that Maggie is “me, before I grew into myself and got hotter with age!” And when Maggie volunteers for a reporting task, both Don and Jim treat Maggie like an idiot. “Can you do this? You can’t just look it up on Wikipedia,” Don tells her. “It’s true, Maggie,” warns Jim.
The subsequent episodes didn’t improve things. Sorkin’s given us perhaps the worst new female character to debut in 2012 in MacKenzie, who gives tendentious speeches, pretentious lectures on news reporting, and whose behavior is so unprofessional it gave me a physical twitch. When it isn’t condescending to women, The Newsroom makes a fetish of nastiness. Will’s aggression is what’s presented as admirable, his ability to fillet someone dumb, rather than his ability to elicit new information. And that’s a huge problem for the show’s presentation of the news business. There’s not actually anything admirable or interesting about gutting a college student for asking a dumb question at a forum, or lecturing Tea Party adherents about the wealth of the Koch Brothers: instead, it’s an attempt to appeal to the mean, superior, lizard parts of our brains. Sorkin wants Will to be an alternative to the shouty creeps who literally are meant to make Will?and us?feel physically ill in the opening sequence. Will may be an ass of Sorkin’s creation. But that doesn’t mean he’s not an ass.
by Chris Peters, via the Carbon Brief
Fellow Europeans, apparently we’re all committing ‘green energy suicide’ — that’s according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal by Rael Jean Isaac, who has recently authored a book about climate activism for the US Heartland Institute.
The general tone of the piece is, as you might guess, not particularly favourable towards renewable power, and the article contains a bewildering array of statistics and figures. And a closer look at the sources reveals a mixed bag – some are accurate and up to date; others are both old and dubious. It all adds up to a somewhat chaotic economic argument.
Here’s our take on some of the claims made in the piece. First, what looks unproblematic: A description of EU energy targets seems correct, as does a brief appraisal of Danish energy policy. Short sections dealing with Spain and Italy we haven’t checked in detail as we don’t know much about them.
We have limited ourselves to examining the part of the article that deals with UK energy policy, which includes an accurate (although partial) reporting of the effect that UK government energy policies will have on UK energy bills. But there are also some problems.
Job loss claims: only one report cited
The piece begins by arguing that energy intensive industries will lose out because of “green energy suicide”, referencing a report from consultancy Verso Economics, which:
“…has calculated the opportunity cost of the United Kingdom’s subsidy system for renewables to be 10,000 jobs between 2009 and 2010 alone”.
This figure is from the report Worth the candle? The economic impact of renewable energy policy in Scotland and the UK (March 2011), which says:
“…policy to promote renewable energy in the UK has an opportunity cost of 10,000 direct jobs in 2009/10 and 1,200 jobs in Scotland”.
The report argues that there would be 10,000 fewer jobs under UK green energy plans than otherwise. However, the report focused only on Scotland, with Full Fact suggesting that the jobs conclusion had been “extrapolation… in which it is difficult to have full confidence”.
It’s worth noting that the consultancy which produced the report isn’t particularly well known, and so this claim sits alongside other alternative viewpoints on what effect green targets will have on employment. It doesn’t seem to us that there is a particularly clear answer yet.
141 per cent costs to energy intensive industry: range of estimates obscured
Turning to the cost of green policies to energy intensive industry, the piece says:
“A report by the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG) (which represents energy-intensive British businesses) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) cited steel making, ceramics, paper, cement and lime manufacture, aluminum and basic inorganic chemicals as industries facing up to 141% in additional energy costs by 2020 as a result of CO2 emissions-reduction schemes”.
The actual figure comes with quite a range of uncertainty – the report in question says:
“By 2020 the UK’s climate change policies will increase energy costs to intensive users by between 18% and 141%.”
Although the WSJ article does say “up to” 141 per cent, leaving out that huge range could be seen as pretty disingenuous.
But does the blame lie with the WSJ on this one? Perhaps there’s a more unlikely culprit, because this section of the article bears a striking similarity to a 2010 BusinessGreen article “Carbon policies will drive heavy industry out of the UK, report warns”.
“The report cites steel making, ceramics, paper, cement and lime manufacture, aluminum and basic inorganic chemicals as the industries based in the UK which face increases in their energy costs of up to 141 per cent by 2020″.
…almost word-for-word what the WSJ piece says. Of course, both could be working off a press release which we haven’t been able to find, but this seems unlikely, because of this quote in the BusinessGreen piece:
“The current policies do seem to be angled towards creating a market for overseas competitors” EIUG director Jeremy Nicholson told Businessgreen.com
…which is repeated verbatim in the WSJ:
“EIUG Director Jeremy Nicholson notes that “the current policies do seem to be angled towards creating a market for overseas competitors”.
Clearly the statistic wasn’t checked before it was used, as doing so would have revealed the range of the estimate.
Costs of wind power to the UK: apparently taken from a Christopher Booker article
Next, the WSJ takes aim at a mysterious wind farm project which will ‘ring’ the UK coastline:
“The government estimates that a planned offshore wind farm project ringing the coast will cost GBP 140 billion, or GBP 5,600 ($8,972) for every household in the country.”
This section appears to have been taken from a piece by Telegraph climate skeptic columnist Christopher Booker, in which he says:
“Government’s offshore wind farm plans would, by 2020, cost £100 billion [...] plus £40 billion more to connect these windmills to the grid, a figure given us by the National Grid last year.”
According to Booker the ultimate source of this figure is an announcement by the government made “three years ago”. The only likely source we can find for this is the estimation by the Crown Estate that the “The capital investment required for Round 3″ of the offshore wind expansion programme “is in the order of £100bn”. Round 3 was first announced by the Crown Estate in 2008. This 2011 report to the Offshore Wind Developers Forum also agrees:
“Agreements to deliver consents for 32 GW of operating wind farms that could then be operating by 2020. This will require funding of the order of £100 billion, excluding the cost of grid”.
But there’s an important caveat here. As far as we can tell, the UK government isn’t planning for there to be 32GW of offshore wind by 2020. The government’s ‘central range’ aim is 18GW, with the Committee on Climate Change recommending a 13 GW target by 2020, “unless there is clear evidence of cost reduction”.
Comparing the cost of gas and offshore wind : Energy from offshore wind is not 20 times more expensive than energy from gas
The WSJ argue that “[c]onventional energy could provide the same amount of energy at 5% of the cost”. This also appears to come from Booker, who writes that “Britain’s newest gas-fired power station” in Plymouth could generate ” 882MW at a capital cost of £400 million – just £500,000 for each megawatt” He compares this to the costs of offshore wind he’s already quoted, saying this shows that offshore wind is “22 times more expensive”.
What Booker’s calculation tells you is that it’s cheaper to build a megawatt of gas capacity than a megawatt of offshore wind capacity. But this isn’t the correct way to compare the cost of energy itself, because gas plants have ongoing fuel costs, whereas wind farms don’t.
To compare the cost of actually generating electricity, ‘levelised costs’ include capital costs (the cost to build the power plants), fuel costs, operating costs and the cost of carbon. To get an idea of the levelised costs of wind and gas, a report published in 2011 by consultancy Mott McDonald for the Climate Change Committee estimates that the current levelised cost of offshore wind is £169/MWh, and puts the cost of gas power (with carbon capture and storage) at £100-105/MWh. DECC has recently estimated the levelised cost of gas without CCS at £76.6/MWh.
So, by this measure, it’s currently twice as expensive to generate electricity from offshore wind as it is from gas – not twenty times more expensive.
Despite some figures and facts which are accurate, it does seem that this is an article written from a very definite perspective, which picks and chooses from the research available to make its case. It also appears to borrow facts, statistics and arguments from less-than-authoritative sources.
It’s worth pointing out that the piece ends with the claim that “Evidence mounts daily that man-made global warming is a phony apocalypse…” Perhaps this is what you’d expect from an author who is being promoted by the Heartland Institute – and it might also suggest the extent to which the author is prepared to consider evidence which runs counter to her hypothesis.
Chris Peters writes for the The Carbon Brief. This piece was originally published at the Carbon Brief and is reprinted with permission.