In what is becoming a regular event, yet another company has dropped the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate front group that helped spread Stand Your Ground gun laws and voter suppression efforts. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Kaplan, Inc., a for-profit education group owned by the Washington Post Company, has publicly announced that it will not renew its membership. ALEC has come under heavy scrutiny from progressive groups, such as Color of Change, that have been pressuring corporations like State Farm and AT&T to sever ties with the conservative group. See all the companies that have dumped ALEC here.
Recently, the editorial board of the Washington Post asked if the world can fight global warming without nuclear power, looking to Germany and Japan for the answer.
Both countries are known for a nuclear shutdown path. In Japan, only one of the 54 nuclear reactors currently remains in operation. Germany has closed eights reactors following the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima in March 2011 and the remaining nine are scheduled to be closed by 2022.
That obviously must lead to rising emissions, the Post claims. Germany?s ?electricity sector emits more carbon than it must after eight reactors shut down last year.?
If you look at the most recent emissions data, however, the opposite is happening. Germany reduced its carbon emissions in 2011 by 2.1 percent despite the nuclear phase out. How can that be?
The cut in greenhouse gases was mainly reached due to an accelerated transition to renewable energies and a warm winter. In addition, the EU emissions trading system capped all emissions from the power sector. While eight nuclear power plants were shut down, solar power output increased by 60 percent. In 2011 alone, 7.5 gigawatts of solar were installed. By the end of last year, renewable energies provided more than 20 percent of overall electricity.
The Washington Post refers to critics of this transition who ?reasonably predict that the country will instead rely on electricity imports from neighbors running old, reliable coal, gas and, yes, nuclear plants for years to come.?
So this means Germany would import electricity from neighboring countries, such as France, Poland, and the Czech Republic? It’s true, depending on time of day and year, that Germany imports electricity. However, even after shutting its eight oldest nuclear power plants, Germany is still a net exporter of electricity.
In 2011, Germany exported 6 TWh more than it imported, according to the industry federation German Association of Energy and Water Industries BDEW. Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are not as concerned about providing electricity to Germany. On the contrary, they are mainly concerned about wind and solar power surges from Germany offsetting their own production of fossil and nuclear power. Additionally, German electricity exports to Europe?s nuclear power house France actually increased in 2011.
What does this tell us? The nuclear phase-out does not conflict with efforts to fight climate change. You can reduce emissions while shutting down nuclear power. And you can still supply industry and consumers with enough power.
By the end of 2011, Germany had reduced its CO2 emissions by more than 23 percent compared to 1990 levels, overshooting its Kyoto target. In addition, the country has build up a competitive renewable energy industry providing thousands of new jobs, even as competitors like China enter the game and catch up fast. In Germany, fighting climate change and phasing out nuclear power are two sides of the same coin.
Instead of repeating myths about Germany?s nuclear phase-out, the editorial board of the Washington Post would do better by looking at the facts. It would also help to expand the article?s narrow focus to include a question about whether nuclear is even the most cost-effective or safe option to fight climate change. It is not, says even the Economist.
A vast majority of Germans have made up their minds on the need to phase out nuclear. And what happens in Germany will be a major indicator for other countries. As Paul Hockenos, an American living in Berlin, concludes in the European Energy Review: ?Whatever the case, Germans aren’t the only ones waiting for a more pro-active policy. The world is watching Germany’s Energiewende.?
Let?s see where the Germans can go with their energy transition.
– Arne Jungjohann is Program Director Environment for the Heinrich-Boell Foundation.
JR: The Economist article is here. The subhed is “A year after Fukushima, the future for nuclear power is not bright?for reasons of cost as much as safety.” I believe nuclear could play a modest role of, say, perhaps 10% of the solution to averting catastrophic climate change, but only if the industry can figure out how to build far more inexpensive plants both quickly and safely (see “How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution“).
Let me start off by saying that the books are gone, and the success of offering that incentive put me at about the 1/3-of-the-way mark. Given the success we had with the book, we have another incentive -- five baseball caps from the Midtown Kansas City chapter of Drinking Liberally (I'll post the pic when Gary gets it to me later today or tomorrow). Anyway, one of them can be yours for a $50 donation. I'm also working on another premium incentive, but I was never the girl to plan the wedding just because I had a crush, so I'm keeping quiet until I have the gift in hand...
I still hate asking for money, but I feel a little less like a loser if I have something to offer in return, so I think incentives will be a regular feature of fundraising...
Hey, I just had an idea -- since this place exists for and because of **you** why don't you let me know, either in comments or via email, what you would like/prefer -- for example, ball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs, water bottles, flash-drive key rings -- and I will start researching what would be involved in making it happen by this time next year...
In the meantime, I still need to raise a thousand dollars for the operating expenses for the next year, and every little bit helps -- and just for the record, subscriptions are a lifeline, and I count every one as sixty dollars toward my goal. Because of them, subscriptions don't lapse.
One more thing -- anyone who is struggling needs to hang on to their money, it's no good here. I may be a student with a tight budget, but any problems I have are all totally first-world, and I would rather run the appeals a couple days longer than think someone who needs the money worse than this place does made the sort of sacrifice it would represent to send anything along.
Now, just let me say thanks, and have a great weekend.
Read The Full Article:
President Obama (White House photo)
Speaking to troops, veterans, and military families at Fort Stewart, President Obama laid out a plan to make it harder for for-profit colleges to prey on military families to get GI Bill money:
First, we?re going to require colleges that want to enroll members of our military or veterans or your families to provide clear information about their qualifications and available financial aid. You?ll be able to get a simple fact sheet called ?Know Before You Owe.? Know before you owe. (Applause.) And it will lay out all the information that you need to make your own choices about how best to pay for college.For-profit colleges recruit veterans heavily because GI Bill funding can be counted toward the 10 percent of the colleges' revenue that must, by law, come from nonfederal sources. Without that law, some for-profit colleges might be completely funded by federal loans. Not that the total is low now, as the desirability of GI Bill students makes clear:
Second, we?re going to require those schools to step up their support for our students. They need to provide a lot more counseling. If you?ve got to move because of a deployment or a reassignment, they?ve got to help you come up with a plan so that you can still get your degree. (Applause.)
Number three, we?re going to bring an end to the aggressive?and sometimes dishonest?recruiting that takes place. We?re going to up our oversight of improper recruitment practices. We?re going to strengthen the rules about who can come on post and talk to servicemembers. (Applause.) And we?re going to make it a lot easier for all of you to file complaints and for us to take action when somebody is not acting right.
A recent Senate report on 15 large, publicly traded for-profit education companies said they got 86 percent of their revenue from taxpayers and have spent a combined $3.7 billion annually on marketing and recruiting.Like so many other things, Obama had to accomplish this through an executive order, as a Congress heavily lobbied by for-profit colleges and universities (using federal loan money for their lobbying just as they use it for recruiting and marketing) won't rein in this abusive industry through legislation.
The White House wants to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "free trade" agreement with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Japan is waiting in the wings, Canada and Mexico want in, Taiwan has[...]
Read The Full Article:
Presenting the latest installment of crazy, this time from Mitt Romney ally and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who claims that Democrats are running a bigoted campaign against Mitt Romney's Mormon faith by using Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to attack "some of their practices":
HALEY BARBOUR: The Obama campaign will not be about policy.The practice to which Wiesel was referring was the practice of posthumously baptizing Jewish Holocaust survivors to the Mormon faith?including changing genealogical records to reflect their posthumous conversion, in the process erasing evidence of the magnitude of Nazi Germany's genocidal campaign.
ANDREA MITCHELL: The Obama campaign will be about policy when it tries to challenge Mitt Romney's policies. You know that they're going to try to do that. They're going to portray him as the Etch-A-Sketch candidate.
BARBOUR: That's not about policy. That is saying, well, he's a flip-flopper, you can't trust him, his character is bad, he's mean to his dog, he's a Mormon and you know they're crazy.
MITCHELL: Well they have not gone after him for being a Mormon.
BARBOUR: They have not, but certainly other people have. Elie Wiesel, who is a big Democrat, made the point that Mormons shouldn't be carrying on some of their practices.
Here's what he said:
I think it?s scandalous. Not only objectionable, it?s scandalous. . . I wonder if as a candidate for the presidency Mitt Romney is aware of what his church is doing. I hope that if he hears about this that he will speak up.Wiesel says 650,000 "proxy baptisms" of Holocaust victims have taken place and has campaigned against the practice for years, long before Mitt Romney appeared on the presidential stage. His only agenda is to stop posthumous conversions, and at least in its public statements, the Church of Latter Day Saints itself told the Anti-Defamation League that it also opposes posthumous conversions of Holocaust survivors. Presumably, Romney would agree with that position, though his campaign refused to comment on the issue when Huffington Post asked about Wiesel's comments.
But Romney's personal views really aren't the point here. Wiesel's comments were neither bigoted nor made on behalf of the Democratic Party. Haley Barbour, meanwhile, does speak on behalf of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, and he leveled a pretty serious accusation without any support whatsoever. The reality is that Democrats aren't running a bigoted campaign, no matter what Romney and the GOP may claim. And if they're on the hunt for anti-Mormonism, they need look no further than the 2012 Republican primary exit poll cross tabs. They'll find plenty of it there.
What would you call an outraged critic of the House Republican budget whose one-sided distribution of costs and benefits cleaves precisely along class lines, with 37% of all tax benefits going to those at the very top while 60% of the budget's burdens are borne by those at the bottom? Well, if you were today's Republicans you'd call such a scold: "Divisive."
What would you call a critic who thinks it immoral that the way to help the poor climb out of poverty is to raise their taxes by as much as $4,000 a year, as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor thinks we should do, so that wealthy "job creators" can have even more to perhaps spend and invest on employment opportunities for those 70 million Americans the Wall Street Journal calls "lucky duckies" too poor to pay income taxes? Well, if you were a Republican you'd call such a skeptic: "Negative."
And what do you call President Obama when he shines a light on the Romney/Ryan Republican budget, exposing truths about the plan's specifics that its architects would rather keep vague? Well, as Paul Krugman of the New York Times says, if you are Obama's Republican critics the word of choice would be: "Partisan."
Since divisive, negative and partisan are bad things that don't poll well with independents, you can bet Republicans will accuse the President of one, if not all three, of these moral imperfections whenever he attacks Republican proposals as "radical" or "outside the American mainstream," no matter how right the President might be on the merits.
The 2012 election is shaping up to be a contest about "Big Ideas," which means that it will turn on the competing visions that have always animated American politics in the past: Whether we are a single country or a bickering confederation of separate states and regions; whether when Americans collectively pull together it's a sign of a healthy democracy or of an enervating "Socialism!;"whether E Pluribus Unum is a motto we can all be proud of or whether it's a menace to our racial, religious and cultural identities.
Because 2012 will be about Big Things that also means it will be a contest in which much of the specificity on real issues will get siphoned out as we dig in for the long, hard slog of a campaign over competing slogans, catch phrases and buzz words.
It's like what Thomas Frank said in his mostly sympathetic Harper's obituary on the late right wing bomb-thrower Andrew Breitbart -- that Breitbart's worldview was both a wholly politicized one that saw "every stray comment" as a work "of fiendish propaganda" but also one that was completely superficial. "He was an ardent collector of grievances, of the stupid things public figures say about one another," says Frank. "But the actual substance of controversy mattered very little."
In a similar way, when President Obama talks about the wealthy "paying their fair share" to support health and educational programs that give others a chance to get ahead, Romney ridiculously talks about funding for these valuable programs being the way Democrats "punish success."
Thus, when Obama talks about investing in alternative energy to end our dependence on fossil fuels, Romney says what we need to do instead is stop "the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends' businesses."
Thus, when the President talks about respecting labor and the right of workers to bargain for better wages and working conditions, Romney says the real issue is stopping "the unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing."
Thus, when the President talks about the need for government to keep teachers in the classroom and cops on the beat Romney says he will "stop the unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve."
Thus, when the President talks about having to pull himself up by his own bootstraps because he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth Mitt Romney thinks Obama is talking about him and boo-hoos that the President is waging "class warfare" against his kind.
Romney trotted all these ideas out in a victory speech following his five-state sweep earlier this week that has conservatives everywhere swooning that the presumptive Republican nominee has finally found his voice with an economic message he can ride to the White House.
Less worshipful observers are wondering, however: Where's the beef?
"Romney delivered a 15-minute address that was heavy on rhetoric and light on policy proposals," reports Reid Epstein in Politico. "He offered familiar criticisms of President Barack Obama with signature syrupy paeans to Americana while offering the quadrennial challenger's question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"
Yet, when Obama offered far more meat in his own kick-off speech to the Associated Press earlier this year - charging, for example, that the Ryan Budget which Mitt Romney has embraced would cause more than 10 million college students to see their financial aid cut by $1,000; would mean Alzheimer's research would be slashed; would mean 200,000 children would lose their chance to enter Head Start - Republicans heard only atmospherics.
The Washington Post's resident Romney apologist, Jennifer Rubin, accused the President of engaging in a "hyper-partisan jag" during an "overly political address" that she says was at odds with Obama's optimistic message of hope and change - an ideological "throwback to the Democratic rhetoric of decades past."
Tellingly, not once in Rubin's Frank Luntz-inspired takedown did Rubin engage the specifics of Obama's complaint or consider whether that complaint might be justified. The mere fact of the President being critical of her guy was all it took to earn the President the content-free opprobrium: "Negative."
Not to be out done, New York Times conservative David Brooks accused the President of taking "the low road" in that same speech -- of leveling an "embarrassing avalanche of distortion," of unleashing "every 1980s liberal cliché in the book," and of resorting "to hoary, brain-dead clichés" to make Republicans look heartless and mean.
This, after Brooks conceded the Romney-endorsed blueprint "has some disturbing weaknesses," such as: It would "cut too deeply" into discretionary spending; produce "self-destructive cuts" in scientific research, health care for poor kids and programs that boost social mobility;" openly promote "regressive" tax cuts for the wealthy; and dishonestly fail to identify those closed tax loopholes "that might hurt Republican donors."
Thus, after essentially corroborating the President's damning case against the Romney/Ryan budget, Brooks then accuses the President of falsifying evidence.
Brooks is right, up to a point, says Ezra Klein of the Washington Post. Obama did attack cuts that appear nowhere in the Romney/Ryan budget. But that's only because "Ryan refused to provide the specifics himself."
Budgets like Paul Ryan's matter, say Klein, because they are one of the few times in a campaign when the parties can't hide behind their vague abstractions and poll tested platitudes but must instead put real numbers on the table we can see and dissect. And in those numbers, says Klein, "we can see the decisions the parties make when they're forced to choose between competing priorities and constituencies."
Numbers matter, says Klein, because they show what the fights in American politics "are ultimately about." But that can only happen if we force those numbers "off the page and into the world voters actually inhabit."
And like the unnamed federal agencies Mitt Romney says he intends to eliminate, or the loopholes Paul Ryan says he'll close but refuses to identify, Republicans want to take credit for being a sharp-knifed budget cutters but without paying the political price that goes with telling us what those cuts would be. And Republicans then cry "foul!" whenever President Obama tries to fill in the blanks.
But the truth is, says Klein, that under the Romney/Ryan budget, cuts to education, food stamps, transportation infrastructure "and to pretty much everything else besides defense," are draconian while a Medicaid program that covers more than 25 million children would be hit "with particular force."
Ryan wants none of this out in the open, says Klein. But if the only way to defend the Romney/Ryan's budget is to beat back any attempt to make their cuts specific, then the budget itself "is an empty, useless document."
And whenever Obama does try to flesh out the details so that the national debate over budget priorities gets "the rigor and clarity" it deserves, Republicans go on the attack, as Romney did in his victory speech this week, accusing the President of waging a "campaign of diversions, distractions, and distortions."
If ever there was a case of Democrats being from Venus and Republicans from Mars it's the debate over putting the nation's finances in order.
President Obama says there are only two ways to deal with the deficit. We can either adopt a balanced package of spending cuts and tax hikes. Or, those "who've done extraordinarily well" by America can get another free ride while the "entire burden gets placed on the middle class and the poor."
Stunningly, Paul Ryan calls this "a stunning assertion from the President."
Spending cuts plus tax hikes do not equal deficit reduction, says Ryan. Indeed, tax hikes don't figure into the equation at all. The real winning formula, says Ryan, is "reasonable, responsible spending restraint" combined with "economic growth" fueled by tax cuts for the wealthy. Of course. To suggest any different, says Ryan, is to succumb to the President's feeble and faulty "zero-sum logic."
We're entering brand new political territory here.
Remember the old economist's joke -- "assume full employment...?" Paul Ryan's fuzzy budget math is no less phantasmagorical. Assume tax cuts pay for themselves, says Ryan. Assume further that massive cuts to the health, education, income and food assistance programs relied on by the poor don't hurt the poor at all but instead give them jobs that wouldn't exist otherwise.
Conservatives are like medieval alchemists who believe they can turn lead into gold, so no amount of historical or empirical evidence that supply-side economics doesn't deliver what it promises will persuade them to relax their white-knuckled death grip on the superstition that every economic trouble can be solved with another tax cut for the rich. Because conservatives don't want to be persuaded. And they have powerful incentives to remain so.
Ryan's dispute with Obama over the budget, like his presumptuous lecturing of the Catholic bishops over the true meaning of the Church's social justice doctrines, are not based on real facts or arguments but rather on ideologically plausible ones. And like Arizona Republican John Kyl when he said his attacks against Planned Parenthood on the Senate floor "were not intended to be a factual statement," Ryan's arguments on the budget are not meant to be true. They are only intended to be plausible so that right wing militants like him can screw the poor on behalf of privilege and do so with a clear conscience.
How is this possible, asks David Frum, one of the few conservatives still left in existence who cares about facts and intellectual integrity, that Paul Ryan could give a major speech about the nation's looming debt crisis and completely "walk past" the single most important fact of federal budgeting -- which is the drop in federal revenues and the demand for federal spending caused by the economic collapse of 2008-2009?
How can Republicans make credible plans for the future, wonders Frum, "if they blind themselves to what is happening all around them in the present?"
The ancients warned us there would be times like these. Remember Plato's Allegory of the Cave from The Republic? Prisoners were shackled in such a way they could only see the shadows projected on the wall in front of them by the fire that burned behind them. Over time, these cave dwellers would mistake the shadows on the wall for the objects they refused to believe were real whenever they were freed from their confinement.
The lessons of Plato's Cave became the inspiration for Walter Lippmann's own concept of "stereotypes," a word he coined and developed in his 1922 classic, Public Opinion.
As Lippmann described it, stereotypes are "the core of our personal tradition, the defenses of our position in society." However unreal these imagined ideas might be, stereotypes do provide "a more or less consistent picture of the world, to which our habits, our tastes, our capacities, our comforts and our hopes have adjusted themselves."
Stereotypes may not provide a complete or accurate picture of the world, Lippmann conceded, but they do offer a picture "of a possible world to which we are adapted." And in this world, he says, "people and things have their well-known places, and do certain expected things. We feel at home there. We fit in. We are members."
Stereotypes are, in short, "the fortress of our traditions," behind whose defenses "we can continue to feel ourselves safe in the position we occupy."
Of course, Lippmann's stereotypes are not "fortresses" at all, but prisons - prisons just like Plato's Cave where, if Republicans get their way, people will never get to see the world as it really is but only the manipulative representations of it, visible in the Republican's flickering falsehoods where the reality of our common existence is transformed into the "divisions," the "negativities," the "partisanship" and the "class warfare" that become the projected shadows on the wall of our own sunless caves.
Read The Full Article:
Now, about those tax returns, Mr. Romney ...
The candidates for Senate from Massachusetts, Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Scott Brown, both released several years of tax returns today to general yawns. Really, there's pretty much nothing there.
Now that we're done with that bit of campaign theater, let's talk about the interesting part: why Eric Fehrnstrom, who advises both the Brown and Mitt Romney campaigns, thinks personal tax transparency is so important in the Massachusetts Senate race, but doesn't matter in the presidential race.
Fehrnstrom isn't the only one. Here's Karl Rove in a Wall Street Journal column, on vetting a vice presidential candidate:
Having played a role in this process, I know that if done well this will be a political proctology exam for each individual considered. Ms. Myers and an army of lawyers, researchers and accountants will examine the person's every public statement, vote or executive decision; they will review tax returns and financial records; and they will scrutinize friends and associates. They also will ask finalists what in their background could embarrass Mr. Romney if it came out, because it will. [...]So, even though the VP nominee doesn't decide elections, all the candidates will undergo "political proctology." But the top of the ticket gets away with refusing to bend over?
But such political decisions run into one hard reality: Running mates haven't decided an election in more than a half-century.
California has two nuclear power plants. San Onofre, between Los Angeles and San Diego, has been offline for months as everyone tries to find an excuse for the alarmingly rapid wear on new reactor tubing. (Being shut down, however, did not prevent a fire[...]
Read The Full Article:
Another day, another reported incident of American government personnel having run-ins with prostitutes abroad.
A lawyer for a Brazilian "sex professional and dancer" says his client plans to sue the U.S. government, three Marines, an American staff member, and one of the Embassy's Brazilian drivers for injuries allegedly sustained in an incident in Brasilia late last year, the Associated Press reports.
What happened depends on who you ask. Cezar Britto, the lawyer, told the AP that his client, Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, met the four Americans at a nightclub called Apples on December 29, 2011. She and three other women left with the men in three vehicles, two of which belonged to the embassy. Britto claims that one of the Marines pushed Ferreira out of one of the vehicles after an argument with the driver, and that his client broke her collarbone, two ribs, and punctured a lung when the vehicle then ran her over. Antonio Rodrigo Machado, another of Ferreira's lawyers, told The Los Angeles Times that the fight started after the driver didn't want to help the women speak English with the Americans.
"We'll be suing the U.S. Embassy because it authorized the use of a vehicle that was used for attempted murder," Machado said.
The State Department offered its version of the story at a press briefing on Thursday.
"[M]y understanding is that she was initially in the car; she was asked to leave the car; she got out of the car; the doors were closed. As the Pentagon guy said, the vehicle was at rest. And then, as they started to drive away, she chased after the car, tried to get back in, and that's when she was hurt," Victoria Nuland told reporters. Asked if Ferreira was run over, Nuland responded that "I do not have that she was run over by the car."
According to Nuland, none of the Americans involved in the incident are still in Brazil (Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in Brazil on Tuesday, told reporters that those involved "were reduced in rank and they were severely punished for that behavior," adding that "I have no tolerance for that kind of conduct, not here or any place in the world."), cooperation has been given to the Brazilian authorities investigating the incident, and the State Department is still conducting an investigation into the conduct of its employee.
Dean Cheves, information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, told TPM in a phone interview Friday that the embassy had been in touch with Ferreira and local police "immediately" after the incident.
"After our initial investigation, all four [Americans involved] were removed from the country," he said.
Cheves told TPM that, as far as he knew, U.S. personnel interacting with prostitutes is "definitely not common."
Cheves stressed that no lawsuit has yet been filed.
Britto told the AP that his client had turned down an offer from the embassy of 4,000 reais ($2,115), saying that they had asked for 150,000 reais ($79,370), instead. Cheves told the AP he did not "know of any particular numbers."