I have some thoughts on the politics of this -- mainly because the politics is what I have some expertise to speak about. But that will be my next post. Before I do that I wanted to state very clearly that the politics of the decision pales before its[...]
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In case you missed it, both Fox and CNN jumped the gun this morning and reported the Court's overturning health care reform. Watch. [...]
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Adding to the chaotic swirl as the Supreme Court announced its decision, CNN beat everyone else to the punch by announcing that the mandate had been thrown out: [...]
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The Young Turks Cenk Uygur did one of the better summations of just what went wrong with this Fast and Furious operation and on Fortune Magazine's investigative report: ?The Fast and Furious program as you know it is a myth? :
Cenk digs into Fortune Magazine?s report following a six-month investigation into claims that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold guns to straw purchasers for Mexican cartels during Operation Fast and Furious. Attorney General Eric Holder may be held in contempt, but Fortune concludes that ATF agents never purposely sold to cartels. Instead, their efforts to track purchasers were often blocked by weak gun control laws. ?You want to know the irony of this? The NRA had those weak laws passed in the first place,? Cenk says. ?Do you know that, in Arizona, all you need to do to buy a gun is to be 18 and pass a background check? In fact ? you can buy 10 guns ? 100 guns, if you want.?
Here's more from Dave Dayden over at FDL's News Desk: On Eve of Contempt Vote, Revelation that Fast and Furious Is a Convenient Fiction:
White House officials have been in consultation with the GOP House leadership in advance of tomorrow?s contempt of Congress vote for Attorney General Eric Holder over the Fast and Furious scandal and the Justice Department?s response to an Oversight Committee investigation and document request. However, the two sides have not reached an agreement, and as of now, the contempt vote will be held as scheduled. Even though the White House provided access to 30 new documents, that was not enough to delay the contempt vote, suggesting that the vote itself and not the investigation is the end goal here.
Meanwhile, a piece from Fortune magazine reveals that the Fast and Furious investigation was not as it has been portrayed, particularly in conservative media. First of all, it was not a so-called ?gun-walking? investigation:
Quite simply, there?s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.
Read the whole thing. This is the heart of the scandal, that ATF intentionally let straw purchasers, who were buying guns for drug cartels in Mexico, walk without investigation or arrest. But it didn?t happen, and it didn?t happen for an interesting reason. The ATF agents tried to make cases, but current state and federal gun drug laws, particularly in Arizona, hobbled them. In other words, the success of the NRA in gutting gun control laws led to the outcomes in the Fast and Furious operation as much as anything else. [...]
That set of facts must frame any discussion of Fast and Furious. The operation was not, as the NRA wants you to believe, an effort to make gun purchasing look bad in order to push a spate of gun control laws. No, it was a failed effort to negotiate those laws and stop guns at the border, made impossible by previously passed, NRA-endorsed legislation. And the Administration won?t tell you that because, as ever, they are afraid of being seen as on the side of gun control, even though they?re being accused of that anyway.
Which is the point Cenk made at the end of his segment above. On one hand, you've got the NRA and Republicans causing this mess, then being willing to exploit it for political gain and Democrats scared to death of the NRA and just making their own problems worse by capitulating to them.
The fact that we've got any Democrats, much less potentially a few dozen, who are so beholden to Wayne LaPierre and his extremist organization just turns my stomach. The man is a wingnut of the highest order who ought to be drummed out of the public square instead of dictating public policy to anyone in either party. He and the NRA have blood on their hands with the radical policies they've been pushing with gun ownership in the United States and the hypocrites are going berserk over one death when they've cost countless numbers of deaths themselves. It's the height of hypocrisy and sadly the better part of our corporate media is not calling them out for it.
A few days ago, I suggested a general rule for predicting Supreme Court decisions:
In light of the above examples and the Court's generally odious history, and if one must engage in fruitless speculation, I suppose one might adopt this rule of thumb: with the subject and questions of the particular case in mind, what is the worst way the Supreme Court can fuck you? Answer that, and you should at least be in the right ballpark.In this case, the worst way the Supreme Court can fuck each and every one of us is to find the individual mandate constitutional -- which is precisely what the Court did.
You will do exactly as we tell you in every area of your life. You will work as and when we allow you to work, you will spend what little money we allow you to keep as and when we tell you to spend it, you will say what we tell you to say -- and if you disagree with us about any of this, you will indicate your disagreement as and when we allow you to. In brief: you will follow orders. Please don't be tiresome and petulant, telling us this isn't what you want. We've been systematically approaching this end for well over a century. You can hardly claim this is surprising, not if you wish to avoid ridicule. And you might have stopped these developments much earlier -- if you'd wanted to. You didn't want to.
Aw, you're upset. What are ya gonna do? Not vote? Not pay taxes? Not buy health insurance? Hahahahaha. A few Americans have responded that way in the past when the State acted in ways they viewed as deeply evil. One of your great heroes did. But you don't want to do that, do you? Of course you don't. Inconvenient. Might cause trouble. Oh, a few of you respond that way today, but not enough to make a difference. And we know who you are. If we allow you to get away with it, that's only because you amuse us. And when a few of you object in ways that might actually matter and we let you get away with it (at least temporarily), it allows the rest of you to continue to believe you're "free." We love that shit.
So understand this:The Constitution created a government of, by and for the most wealthy and powerful Americans -- and it made certain (insofar as men can make such things certain) that their rule would never be seriously threatened. The most wealthy and powerful Americans were the ones who wrote it, after all.We emphasize: that is what the Constitution itself accomplished. And you say you're surprised by subsequent events? You're making this much too easy. You could at least make it more interesting for us.
Yes, it's all about us. We talk about how much we care about "ordinary" Americans, and constantly proclaim that everything we do is for their benefit -- and some of you actually believe that crap. Christ, you're funny, in a sickeningly pathetic kind of way.
So you'll do exactly what we tell you to do, with regard to everything that matters to us. We're giving you exactly what many of you said you wanted. So shut up and stop being annoying about it.
Oh, there is one more thing. It's a little thing, and almost none of you seem to have even noticed it. Even after you do everything we tell you to do in every area that we care about, there is something else we still might do. We might do it because we're in a rotten mood, or because we're bored, or because we just feel like it. We won't announce our decision, or tell you anything about how we made the decision. What? You think you have a "right" to know such things? God, you are so funny.
So one day, when you're going to the job we allow you to keep, or buying something we tell you to buy, or minding your own business in the home we permit you to live in, we might decide to give the order. Maybe just because we feel like it, or because you pissed off the friend of our sister's husband's father. For some reason, or for no reason at all, we'll decide to give the order.
And you'll be murdered.
There now. Is it all finally clear to you? Now do what we tell you, follow orders -- and shut the fuck up.
Republicans are responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act by setting a date for its repeal. ?The Supreme Court?s decision to uphold ObamaCare is a crushing blow to patients throughout the country,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement. ?During the week of July 9th, the House will once again repeal ObamaCare, clearing the way for patient-centered reforms that lower costs and increase choice.” Millions of Americans have already benefited from the law, and many more are expected to gain coverage in 2014 and beyond.
Tell Congress that you stand with Obamacare by adding your name here.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced a new bill that would recognize benefits for the spouses of military servicemembers and veterans. According to the bill, any marriage recognized by a state would have to be recognized by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments:
Notwithstanding section 7 of title 1, an individual shall be considered a ?spouse? if the marriage of the individual is valid in the State in which the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place in which the marriage was entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State. In this paragraph, the term ?State? means the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the territories and possessions.
The question of military benefits for same-sex couples is at the heart of the case McLaughlin v. U.S. brought by eight married couples. Republican leadership in the House is defending the Defense of Marriage Act against the couples’ suit, arguing they are not deserving of equal benefits for service.
by Shuana Theel, via Media Matters
Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they’re also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming’s “evil twin” or the “osteoporosis of the sea.” Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half.
Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the oceans to become around 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and if we do not lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the ocean surface could be up to 150 percent more acidic by 2100. At that level, the shells of some plankton would dissolve, large parts of the ocean would become inhospitable to coral reef growth, and the rapidity of the change could threaten much of the marine food web. According to the National Research Council, the chemical changes are taking place “at an unprecedented rate and magnitude” and are “practically irreversible on a time scale of centuries.”
Despite a boom of recent scientific research documenting this threat, there has been a blackout on the topic at most media outlets. Since the end of 2010, ABC, NBC, and Fox News have completely ignored ocean acidification, and the Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, and CBS have barely mentioned it at all.
While most coverage described the basic scientific phenomenon or listed ocean acidification as a serious environmental challenge, the Wall Street Journal dismissed the problem. All three mentions of ocean acidification from the Journal were from columns that downplayed the threat — there was not a single straight news article interviewing scientists. One of those columns was a full article devoted to distorting and cherry-picking the science on ocean acidification. The Journal also published a letter to the editor (not counted in this study) from the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Chris Horner who summarily dismissed ocean acidification as “the latest nominee to supplant troubled CO2-warming theory.” But the threat is nothing to shake off.
Since the Industrial Revolution, global surface temperatures have increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. But we would have warmed up more if the ocean did not absorb about 30 percent of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere. At first scientists focused on the benefits of this absorption in reducing the amount of warming expected to result from CO2 emissions. But more recently they have been studying how dissolved CO2 is increasing the acidity of the ocean. These changes are happening rapidly, harming the ability of species to adapt to them. As the National Research Council explained in a comprehensive 2010 report, the ocean ecosystems on which humans rely “evolved over millennia to an aqueous environment of remarkably constant composition,” but are now facing major chemical changes due to human activities:
The chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions; the rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at least the past hundreds of thousands of years. Unless anthropogenic CO2 emissions are substantially curbed, or atmospheric CO2 is controlled by some other means, the average pH of the ocean will continue to fall. Ocean acidification has demonstrated impacts on many marine organisms. While the ultimate consequences are still unknown, there is a risk of ecosystem changes that threaten coral reefs, fisheries, protected species, and other natural resources of value to society.
Organisms forming oceanic ecosystems haveevolved over millennia to an aqueous environment of remarkably constant composition. There is reason to be concerned about how they will acclimate or adapt to the changes resulting from ocean acidification–changes that are occurring very rapidly on geochemical and evolutionary timescales.
The following chart from the report shows that ocean pH remained fairly constant over hundreds of thousands of years and is projected to fall considerably during this century:
An increase in carbon dioxide directly lowers the pH levels of sea water, making it more acidic. Sea water is alkaline (basic), not acidic, but scientists use the term acidification to refer to the water becoming more acidic. Higher carbon dioxide levels reduce the amount of calcium carbonate minerals, with which many organisms form their shells and skeletons in a process called calcification. Ocean acidification will make it more difficult for many calcifying organisms like shellfish and coral to build their shells and skeletons and will cause the water to be more corrosive to some organisms’ already built shells.
The sea butterfly, a snail-like type of zooplankton, could be the earliest victim of ocean acidification. As they awkwardly flap through the ocean, sea butterflies smaller than a lentil are eaten en masse by salmon and many other sea creatures. This makes them very important for the oceanic food web. But by 2050, they may not be able to form their shells in the Southern Ocean any longer. And by the end of the century, the projected acidity levels would dissolve their shells.
Coral reefs will also dramatically decline and several species of corals will face extinction if we do not reduce our carbon emissions. Coral reefs are the home to so much biodiversity that even though they make up less than 1% of the ocean, one in every four sea species depend on coral reefs.
Ocean acidification poses yet another threat to coral reefs that are already endangered due an increase in widespread coral bleaching from global warming, overfishing and agricultural runoff.
Damaging ocean life could have costly impacts for humans: one study found that coral reefs alone provide a $29.8 billion global net benefit per year from fisheries, coastal protection, tourism/recreation, and biodiversity. Coastal communities, including those in Florida and Hawaii, would be hard hit by the loss of protection from storms and tourism from scuba divers and snorkelers.
And the impacts of ocean acidification on the oceanic food web would hurt many of the fisheries that provide 1.5 billion people a significant amount of food. Just earlier this year, scientists “definitively linked an increase in ocean acidification to the collapse of oyster seed production at a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon, where larval growth had declined to a level considered by the owners to be ‘non-economically viable,’” according to an Oregon State University press release about the study. Almost 50 percent of U.S. fishery revenue comes from shellfish and crustaceans, species that may be affected by ocean acidification because they depend on calcium carbonate to make their shells:
In sum, ocean acidification is a major threat to our oceans and the millions of people who depend on them for their food and livelihoods. Yet 77 percent of Americans say they have read or heard nothing about ocean acidification, according to a 2010 survey conducted for the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Of the 23 percent who say that they have heard of ocean acidification, only 32 percent understand that ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide. In other words, less than 8 percent of Americans understand the very basics of one of the largest threats to our oceans — and a major culprit for that ignorance is the national media.
This Media Matters study is based on a search of Nexis and Factiva from January 1, 2011 through the morning of June 26, 2012. The search terms used for Nexis were: “(ocean! w/10 acid!) or (ocean! w/10 carbon) or (ocean! w/10 chem!)” and the equivalent search was used for the Wall Street Journal at Factiva. For the daytime programming at MSNBC and Fox News, we searched an internal database for terms such as “ocean” and “acidic.” The study included articles in all sections of the newspapers, but did not include any newswire reports that were run in the paper. A newspaper article whose focus was on ocean acidification was labeled a “full article,” and any mention less than a full article was labeled a “mention”; a TV segment that explained ocean acidification at some length was labeled a “full segment,” and any segment that mentioned that oceans were becoming more acidic was labeled a “mention.”
The results for the Kardashians were based on a Nexis and Factiva search for “Kardashian!” and included all results. These results do not include daytime programming for Fox News and MSNBC because they are not in the Nexis database.
Shauna Theel is a researcher with Media Matters for America. Jocelyn Fong created the graphics for this report. This piece was originally published at Media Matters and was reprinted with permission.
— CNNPolitics (@CNNPolitics) June 28, 2012
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) June 28, 2012
CNN: Supreme Court releases health care opinion, rules individual mandate unconstitutional
— TIME.com (@TIME) June 28, 2012
BREAKING: #SCOTUS rules individual health care mandate unconstitutional
— FOX6 WBRC-TV (@myfoxal) June 28, 2012
A lot of the time, I write about the fact that it’s frustrating that, when pop culture tackles politics, it often reduces complex issues to matters of will and determination. I understand that these reductions are a means to of telling simplified stories, and that they feel good to tell. But it’s a convention that both reduces the actual drama of a story, and blurs the reality of our political system.
But as Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan joked on Twitter this morning in response to the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision, “Roberts is the Severus Snape of the Supreme Court.” There are extremely rare moments where enormous political issues hinge on the will of single political actors. And while this is a mixed victory?the narrowing of the Commerce Clause may have wide-ranging consequences?this was, against popular expectation, one of those moments. Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision reaches into my life, and the lives of so many others, and truly made a difference. It’s a reminder that people who write television and movies aren’t wrong to believe that sometimes, the better angels of our nature can govern our nation. But that sometimes, they should save the speeches that turn the tide and the wrenching personal decisions for the good of the nation, recognizing them as the truly unusual things that they are, and understanding that they’re powerful precisely for being so rare.