Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) broke down in tears today on the floor of the Senate while discussing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Franken, who has been a staunch advocate for domestic violence victims, got emotional discussing women who face homelessness after being abused. “Once a woman becomes homeless, she becomes even more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse,” he said. Watch it:
Just over half of all physicians, including 46 percent of primary care doctors, believe they are paid a fair wage for their work, according to a Medscape survey released this week. A study of compensation levels last year found that some doctors could earn as much as $315,000 a year, depending on their field. Despite that, only 11 percent of doctors surveyed considered themselves rich, due in large part to debts and expenses, the study of more than 24,000 physicians found. Fifty-four percent said they would choose medicine as a career again.
by Jason Walsh and Kate Gordon
Last year threw into stark relief America?s interlinked economic, energy security, and climate crises.
On the economic front Americans called out those lawmakers who work relentlessly to build an economy that works for the wealthy few rather than for all of us, but faced determined resistance from conservatives bent on preserving the status quo. At the same time our nation?s debilitating dependence on fossil fuels and the damages caused by climate disruption became ever more obvious. Yet here too conservative resistance was implacable. Backed by climate-science deniers and opponents of clean energy-generously funded by their industry backers-conservatives ramped up their campaign of disinformation about dirty energy to push their pollution-promoting policy advocacy work in Washington and around the nation.
The result: seemingly insurmountable gridlock.
And yet 2011 also was a year of historic clean energy investments. The United States passed China to become the global leader among nations in clean energy investment, and new data revealed the startling growth of several clean energy sectors in years of sluggish growth for the overall economy. These trends are further evidence of how our economic, energy, and climate crises offer enormous opportunity to build a clean energy economy that makes America more secure, competitive, and equitable. By transitioning our energy infrastructure from capital-intensive, risky, and often highly polluting energy sources to clean, labor-intensive energy sources we can create many new jobs, grow our middle class, ensure greater energy security, and protect our nation and planet from the predictable ravages of unchecked climate change.
In fact, as we argue in this paper, we can take steps today that will get us on the path toward achieving three critical goals:
These goals remain achievable even in today?s gridlocked political environment.
The U.S. Department of Labor?s Bureau of Labor Statistics just released data showing 3.1 million jobs in the United States associated with the production of green goods and services in 2010, accounting for 2.4 percent of total employment. Of those 3.1 million jobs, 2.3 million were found within the private sector, with 461,800 in the manufacturing sector alone. An earlier Brookings Institution report produced similar numbers and showed that the newest renewable energy industries grew at a ?torrid pace? annually between 2003 and 2010: Solar thermal expanded by 18.4 percent; wind power by 14.9 percent; solar PV by 10.7 percent; and biofuels by 8.9 percent. Overall these newer ?clean tech? sectors grew by 8.3 percent annually, double the growth rate for the national economy over the same period.
But we need to do much more. We must accelerate the economic transformation that has already begun and move forcefully into a completely new clean energy economic era defined by stronger industries, better infrastructure, and a steadily growing middle class.
In this paper we propose how to do just that. We identify clean energy and climate solutions that are effective, strategic, and winnable this year. We focus on public policies at the global, national, regional, state, and local levels as well as on private-sector actions that simultaneously address our three broad goals. In the pages that follow we will detail how to achieve these goals this year, but here are our proposals in brief.
The significance of each of these goals, and the strategies that underlie them, is explained in the main pages of this report. For a more visual representation, see a chart of our solutions menu on pages 66.
Building this clean energy economy will yield benefits far beyond the jobs and businesses it creates. We will ultimately become more secure as a nation as we depend less and less on inherently volatile commodities such as oil, whose price is set by a global market that is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events, political unrest, and sudden price spikes caused by shifting global demand exacerbated by speculation. And we will finally begin to chip away at the threat of climate change, with all the economic, environmental, and national security nightmares that come along with rising global temperatures.
We do not pretend that the strategies we lay out here will fully save our climate or our economy. These strategies will not get us to a 17 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, which is what the United States agreed to in global climate negotiations in Copenhagen. They will not replace the millions of jobs lost during the Great Recession. But they will begin that process.
Some of the strategies we lay out here can be won at the federal level, but we are fortunate that Capitol Hill does not define the parameters of what is possible. Many of the most important solutions can be advanced at local, state, regional, and international levels, and in the private sector. As Environment America showed in their 2011 report, ?The Way Forward on Global Warming,? an ambitious set of clean energy policies at the federal, state, and local level can actually bring U.S. carbon emissions down by as much as 20 percent by 2020.
Some of the most important policy solutions are not possible in 2012, but if we start to implement the most feasible of them this year, we can maintain the momentum needed to effectively meet our clean energy and climate protection goals in the future. And we can set the stage for 2013 and beyond to take advantage of what we hope will be a more favorable political and policymaking terrain on which more transformational victories can be won.
To be clear: The solutions we focus on in this paper are those that are effective, results-driven, and, most important, those that already have some momentum and can feasibly be won or advanced in 2012. Any victory in the current political environment is essential. After all, we won?t achieve this clean energy transformation by hiding from hard facts. Consider some of the most significant indicators that emerged in 2011:
These are not indicators of a country or a planet heading in the right direction.
Unfortunately, comprehensive energy reform continues to be blocked by conservatives in Congress who are far more responsive to fossil-fuel industries and status quo policies. In the face of such intransigence, and the urgency of the interrelated crises we face, it can be difficult to remain hopeful. Any realistic assessment of the current national political landscape must acknowledge that we won?t win a federal price on carbon anytime in the immediate future. A national clean energy standard seems more likely as a near-term solution, though this too is probably an unrealistic goal for 2012.
We make this judgment with the caveat that plans simultaneously released in 2011 by six of the nation?s leading think tanks, including the Center for American Progress, across the political spectrum to confront the nation?s fiscal challenges point to political possibilities on the horizon. With the exception of the conservative Heritage Foundation, all six included a price on carbon as an effective means of raising revenue. This bipartisan consensus can perhaps lay the foundation for future policy negotiations. A price on carbon would not only raise revenue to drive down our deficit, but would drive down greenhouse gas emissions by forcing fossil fuel-based energy producers to pay for the pollution that they create, which would also level the playing field for clean energy.
Regardless, political realism is no excuse for despair or inaction. The dysfunction of our national politics in the face of the urgency of the climate crisis and our mounting energy insecurity makes it all the more essential that we apply a laser-like focus to what is actually achievable in the short term. While our three achievable goals are each individually critical to the stability and security of the clean energy economy, they are also crucially interrelated. We should not think about scaling up our investments in renewable energy without also thinking about the jobs and industries that will benefit from those investments. We should not focus on reducing pollution in our current power sector without also thinking about building a smarter, and more balanced, infrastructure for the future.
One thing we?ve learned from countries such as China and Germany, both of which are taking clean energy and climate solutions seriously, is that the best policy approach to these issues is one that combines environmental strategies with those more traditionally found in economic and workforce development. It would be a huge mistake for us to take a less integrated approach and focus only on one technology, sector, or policy solution as if it alone could solve our climate, economic, or energy security challenges.
The critical question is not if we must pursue these strategies, but rather when we will achieve them. Our choice is between achieving them now-when they are eminently affordable, putting the United States in the pole position to win the most important global economic development race of the 21st century, and not incidentally save the planet-or achieving them later, when they will be expensive, possibly too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and leave us playing economic catch up to China and other countries as everyday Americans suffer more and more.
Given that choice, we vote for now, or at least pretty darn soon. It is not too soon to pursue strategies that will move us further down a path toward a more sustainable energy future.
To read the whole report, go to the Center for American Progress website.
Jason Walsh is an independent consultant and Kate Gordon is Vice President for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.
Since March, advertisers have been abandoning Rush Limbaugh in droves following a series of sexist attacks on Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke.
Today, Limbaugh turned his attention to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Limabugh said that Clinton “has reached a pinnacle and all she is is a secretary,” adding that the left has “the strangest definition of success.”
Limbaugh then said he was being prodded to talk about Clinton’s need to wear “Spanx,” but suggested she had a greater need for “Spankles.” Spanx are undergarments designed to reduce the visibility of body fat. Listen:
You can listen to Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke here.
Same-sex couples are more likely than their opposite-sex counterparts to be interracial or interethnic, and same-couples that include a partner belonging to a racial or ethnic minority are more likely to be raising children, data from the recently released 2010 U.S. Census reveals. One-third of same-sex couples that include an Hispanic partner are raising children. Interracial couples were most prevalent in the West, where 21 percent of all same-sex unmarried households had partners of different races. “Fifty percent of same-sex unmarried partner households in Hawaii had partners of different races, followed by California, Oklahoma, and Alaska (23 percent each).”
Rupert Murdoch admitted Thursday there had been a "cover-up" of phone hacking at his flagship British tabloid newspaper and apologized for not paying more attention to a scandal that has convulsed his media empire and rocked the British political establishment. [...]
"Someone took charge of a cover-up, which we were victim to and I regret," he said at the Leveson Inquiry, an independent British probe prompted by charges of illegal eavesdropping by his newspaper.
Bill Clinton is the best surrogate in the country.
When it comes to primaries, especially, the man just wins. [...]
?Bill Clinton isn?t just a bright shiny object for the primary, he?s a gold star in the general as well,? said Democratic strategist Jef Pollock. ?President Clinton can be very effective and remains popular with a broad range of voters who will be key swing groups come November.? [...]
Clinton is a particularly good surrogate in this day and age, because he reminds people of a better day, when a Democratic president was delivering budget surpluses.
Jerry Meekins says he is dying.
The St. Petersburg man says he has been battling esophageal cancer for some time, but doctors recently told him the cancer has spread and his condition is terminal. [...]
Meekins recently purchased tickets from Spirit to see his daughter in New Jersey but he says, "Two weeks after I bought the ticket, I found out I was terminal."
He said his doctors told him he should not fly, so he called the airline to ask for a refund. [...]
A spokesman from Spirit Airlines issued a statement: "Our reservations are non-refundable, which means we don't do refunds and we are not going to issue Mr. Meekins a refund."
McCarthy?s tweet: "They put two guys on the 'Kiss Cam' tonight. What hilarity!! (by hilarity I mean offensive homophobia). Enough with this stupid trend."
Norwegians raised their voices in unison on Thursday to get under the skin of admitted mass killer Anders Behring Breivik.
An estimated 40,000 people turned out in central Oslo's Youngstorget square to sing "Children of the Rainbow," a Norwegian version of "My Rainbow Race," written by American folk singer Pete Seeger.
During his trial for the killings of 77 people last summer, Breivik cited the song as an example of Marxist influence on Norwegian culture.
The Affordable Care Act is doing what it was supposed to. You won't hear that from congressional Republicans or Mitt Romney (or, probably the Supreme Court), but the provisions that have already gone into effect are working. That includes people up to age 26 being covered by their parents' plans, free wellness exams for seniors, "doughnut hole" Medicare prescription drug savings, and insurers no longer being able deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition.
Here's another one. Beginning in 2011, health insurers were required to spend at least 80 percent of premiums (for small group plan, 85 percent for large groups) on actual medical care, and if they failed to meet that standard they had to pay a rebate of the difference. They'll have to make those rebate payments by August of this year.
The Kaiser Family Foundation just finished a survey of what happened in 2011 [pdf] with that rule, the "medical loss ratio," and found that insurers will be paying $1.3 billion in rebates for 2011 including "$426 million in the individual market, $377 million in the small group market, and $541 million in the large group market." About one-third of consumers in the individual market are going to see rebates, averaging at $127 per person. For the group plans, the purchaser of the plan (employer or other sponsoring group) will get the rebate, and 28 percent of the small group market and 19 percent of the large group market will get the rebates (which will be much smaller per person, about $14).
But what's really interesting about the study is that is suggests that the medical loss ratio rule actually means that insurance is doing what it's supposed to do: provide health care. As Sarah Kliff writes, experts expected that rebates, based on 2010 numbers, would have amounted to at least $2 billion. Which means that $700 million in premiums paid went where the Affordable Care Act said it was supposed to go: into providing health care coverage.
In a rant described by one scientist as "either incredibly ignorant" or "intentionally misleading," Fox News host Greg Gutfeld denied deforestation and distorted climate science.
Gutfeld Falsely Claims We Plant More Trees Than We Cut Down. During the April 23 edition of The Five, Gutfeld said "we also have to be aware that for every tree that we cut down, we plant seven more. And in the northern hemisphere, the -- the actual forest growth has more than surpassed what's happening in Brazil." He later added, "We now have more trees than we did before." [Fox News, The Five, 4/23/12]
In Fact, The Globe Is Losing Forests The Size Of Costa Rica Every Year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment found that while the global rate of deforestation has declined, the net change in global forest area is still a loss the size of Costa Rica every year:
Deforestation - mainly the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land - shows signs of decreasing in several countries but continues at a high rate in others. Around 13 million hectares of forest were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year in the last decade compared to 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. Both Brazil and Indonesia, which had the highest net loss of forest in the 1990s, have significantly reduced their rate of loss, while in Australia, severe drought and forest fires have exacerbated the loss of forest since 2000.
Afforestation and natural expansion of forest in some countries and regions have reduced the net loss of forest areas significantly at the global level. The net change in forest area in the period 2000-2010 is estimated at -5.2 million hectares per year (an area about the size of Costa Rica), down from -8.3 million hectares per year in the period 1990-2000.
The following map from the FAO report shows that while some temperate and boreal forests in the northern hemisphere are growing, those gains do not make up for the loss of tropical forests:
[FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2010]
Forests Serve As Critical 'Carbon Sink,' Absorbing One Third Of Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels. The New York Times reported last summer:
According to a study published online on Thursday by the journal Science, the world's forests absorb 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, or about one-third of the carbon dioxide released through the burning of fossil fuels.
The lead author, Yude Pan, a research forester at the Forest Service, describes the study as the most comprehensive analysis of the global carbon budget to date. It shows that forests are a far more significant carbon sink than previously thought. At the same time, the report emphasizes the devastating effects of tropical deforestation and the need to protect trees that perform an enormous global service. [New York Times, 7/15/11]
Gutfeld Claims "Americans Produce Very, Very Little CO2." Gutfeld said, "We have to remember that Americans produce very, very little CO2. The numbers are like .0002 percent of the air. You know who produces more CO2? Termites produce 2-1/2 times amounts of CO2". [Fox News, The Five, 4/23/12]
U.S. Has Emitted Far More CO2 Than Any Other Country. Between 1850 and 2007, the U.S. emitted 339 trillion tons of CO2. China came in second with 106 trillion tons. [The Guardian, 4/21/11]
U.S. Per Capita CO2 Emissions Second Only To Australia. The U.S. emitted more CO2 than any other country aside from China in 2010. On a per capita basis, Americans emitted more CO2 than any other country aside from Australia in 2010. [European Commission Joint Research Centre, September 2011]
Increase In CO2 -- Not Size Of Emissions Relative To "The Air" -- Is What Matters. As the Congressional Research Service explained, the release of CO2 from fossil fuel use causes the otherwise balanced carbon cycle to overflow into the atmosphere:
If humans add only a small amount of CO2 to the atmosphere each year, why is that contribution important to global climate change? The answer is that the oceans, vegetation, and soils do not take up carbon released from human activities quickly enough to prevent CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere from increasing. Humans tap the huge pool of fossil carbon for energy, and affect the global carbon cycle by transferring fossil carbon--which took millions of years to accumulate underground--into the atmosphere over a relatively short time span. As a result, the atmosphere contains approximately 35% more CO2 today than prior to the beginning of the industrial revolution. As the CO2 concentration grows it increases the degree to which the atmosphere traps incoming radiation from the sun, which further warms the planet. [Congressional Research Service, 2/18/09]
Gutfeld's Comparison To Termites Is Spurious -- Their Emissions Are Part Of Natural Carbon Cycle. Responding to Gutfeld's comments, Dr. John Abraham of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team said "he is either incredibly ignorant or is intentionally misleading." Abraham explained that unlike greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, termite emissions are part of "a closed and natural cycle":
[I]t is true that termites produce a lot of carbon dioxide because, well... they eat wood. So, in truth they are not "producing" carbon dioxide. They are transforming carbon that was in solid wood to airborne carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide was previously in the air, it got absorbed by the tree, and then is released during decay. It is a closed and natural cycle. It is sort of like saying "decaying leaves produce more carbon dioxide than humans" without acknowledging that the leaves took in carbon dioxide just a few months earlier. [Email to Media Matters, 4/24/12]
Gutfeld Claims Climate Change "Ain't Coming From Us. And It's Not Having An Effect." Gutfled said, "And you know, the heat capacity of the ocean is 1,000 times what humans do. It ain't coming from us. And it's not having an effect." [Fox News, The Five, 4/23/12]
National Research Council: "Many Lines Of Evidence Support The Conclusion" That Human Activities Are Driving Most Of Recent Warming. In a comprehensive 2010 assessment of the state of climate change science, the National Research Council explained how scientists came to the conclusion that human activities are driving most of the observed warming in recent decades:
Many lines of evidence support the conclusion that most of the observed warming since the start of the 20th century, and especially over the last several decades, can be attributed to human activities, including the following:
1. Earth's surface temperature has clearly risen over the past 100 years, at the same time that human activities have resulted in sharp increases in CO2 and other GHGs.
2. Both the basic physics of the greenhouse effect and more detailed calculations dictate that increases in atmospheric GHGs should lead to warming of Earth's surface and lower atmosphere.
3. The vertical pattern of observed warming--with warming in the bottom-most layer of the atmosphere and cooling immediately above--is consistent with warming caused by GHG increases and inconsistent with other possible causes (see below).
4. Detailed simulations with state-of-the-art computer-based models of the climate system are only able to reproduce the observed warming trend and patterns when human-induced GHG emissions are included.
In addition, other possible causes of the observed warming have been rigorously evaluated:
5. As described above, the climate system varies naturally on a wide range of time scales, but a rigorous statistical evaluation of observed climate trends, supported by analyses with climate models, indicates that the observed warming, especially the warming since the late 1970s, cannot be attributed to natural variations.
6. Satellite measurements conclusively show that solar output has not increased over the past 30 years, so an increase in energy from the Sun cannot be responsible for recent warming. There is evidence that some of the warming observed during the first few decades of the 20th century may have been caused by a slight uptick in solar output, although this conclusion is much less certain.
7. Direct measurements likewise show that the number of cosmic rays, which some scientists have posited might influence cloud formation and hence climate, have neither declined nor increased during the last 30 years. Moreover, a plausible mechanism by which cosmic rays might influence climate has not been demonstrated. [National Research Council, 2010]
NASA: "Global Climate Change Has Already Had Observable Effects On The Environment." From a NASA document on the effects of climate change:
Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.
Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occuring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.
Below are some of the regional impacts of global change forecast by the IPCC:
- North America: Decreasing snowpack in the western mountains; 5-20 percent increase in yields of rain-fed agriculture in some regions; increased frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves in cities that currently experience them.
- Latin America: Gradual replacement of tropical forest by savannah in eastern Amazonia; risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction in many tropical areas; significant changes in water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation.
- Europe: Increased risk of inland flash floods; more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion from storms and sea level rise; glacial retreat in mountainous areas; reduced snow cover and winter tourism; extensive species losses; reductions of crop productivity in southern Europe.
- Africa: By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress; yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent in some regions by 2020; agricultural production, including access to food, may be severely compromised.
- Asia: Freshwater availability projected to decrease in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia by the 2050s; coastal areas will be at risk due to increased flooding; death rate from disease associated with floods and droughts expected to rise in some regions. [NASA, accessed 4/26/12]
Welfare applicants aren't the only people the courts have forced the state of Florida to stop drug testing. A federal court ruled on Thursday that Gov. Rick Scott also doesn't get to randomly drug test 80,000 state workers.
Judge Ungaro said Mr. Scott had overreached in his executive order because there was no evidence of a large-scale problem and no reason to mandate drug tests.Scott plans to appeal. Not only that, Florida may face two more drug-testing lawsuits, one over another requirement in Scott's executive order, calling for drug testing of applicants for state jobs, and one over a law passed last month and taking effect in July, "that allows all state workers to undergo random drug testing but does not make it a requirement." Because obviously there would be no pressure to take a drug test that you were "allowed" but "not required" to take at work.
The governor?s drug testing requirement ?does not identify a concrete danger that must be addressed by suspicionless drug-testing of state employees,? Judge Ungaro wrote. ?And the governor shows no evidence of a drug-use problem at the covered agencies.?
I fully expect that soon Rick Scott will be trying to "randomly" drug test everyone to cross the border into Florida, and using state money to fight off those lawsuits, too.
The Justice Department's Inspector General should look into allegations that the FBI used the "guise" of outreach to Muslim communities to investigate various organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a letter Thursday.
ACLU officials wrote that the FBI "has improperly targeted American Muslims and Americans of Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent, and their religious, community, cultural, and student organizations, and that it has violated the Privacy Act by recording and disseminating as intelligence, information about these innocent Americans' First Amendment-protected speech and activities."
The ACLU's allegations are based on FBI memos they received from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
"First, the FBI targeted American Muslims and Americans of Arab, Middle Eastern, and
South Asian origin for intelligence gathering under the guise of mosque or community outreach programs at mosques, community organizations, and college campuses, based on their religion or national origin," the ACLU letter states. "Second, through these 'outreach' efforts... the FBI recorded intelligence about Americans' religious beliefs and practices, associations, opinions, and expressive activities in violation of the Privacy Act."
The DOJ Inspector General's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An FBI official previously told TPM that the ACLU "may misunderstand the distinction between documentation for community outreach purposes and documentation to an investigative file" and said that some of the documents the ACLU published "relate to investigations, not to community outreach."