July 30, 2006

Utilities Pay Scientist Ally on Warming

The head-in-the-sand crowd, when claiming through their sand-filled teeth that global warming is a myth and isn’t happening, likes to pony up a few front scientists to support their cause and create debate over old issues proven by old and new research. It’s not a new tactic, essentially by claiming that this point or that point is still a point of contention (even though it could be corroborated by several studies and a great deal of experimental data) they attempt to draw out the global warming debate so long that people will give up on taking action to correct the actual widespread environmental problems that our global community has been presented with.

Well, as if it were any surprise to the rest of the scientific establishment, literally none of whom now truly question the existance of global warming or debate the human impact on global climate change (the question now isn’t what’s happening or why it’s happening, it’s how bad is it going to be) it appears that one of those scientists that the anti-environment advocates like to parade around as a dissenting voice is nothing more than an expensive scientific call-boy to energy interests and utilities. “We’ll give you money to stir the pot and incite debate.” Another example of the conservative right’s war on science, integrity, and honesty, but nothing new to the rest of us.

Coal-burning utilities are contributing money to one of the few remaining climate scientists openly critical of the broad consensus that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying global warming.

The critic, Patrick J. Michaels, is a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and Virginia’s state climatologist.

“This is a classic case of industry buying science to back up its anti-environmental agenda,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the Washington advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

Sounds about right to me. Some people want to dismiss this as lobbying; this isn’t about lobbying, this isn’t about influencing opinion in a philosophical debate; this is about science and scientific studies and experimental results. You don’t have a consensus and one dissenting voice-one dissenting PAID voice-and allow that to throw the scientific process into debate. Between global climate change and evolution, its clear that the conservative war on science will never end until they have absolute control over what is said and what isn’t said, what’s researched and what isn’t reasearched, and what results make it to the public and which ones don’t. Of course we know which results those will be-the ones that support and are in the best interest of their benefactors-in this case the Coal industry, isn’t that right, Dr. Michaels? There’s no room in that paycheck for the best interests of the planet, is there?

Ah well. Just more fuel, or rather, another log on the conservative right’s own funeral pyre.

[ Utilities Pay Scientist Ally on Warming ]
Source: The Associated Press (courtesy of The New York Times)

Chest-Beating — While Losing the War

Perhaps the most evocative line from this story is this:

“War is the total failure of the human spirit,” says British journalist Robert Fisk, which I think encapsulates it better than just about anything I have heard.

But war forces humans to survive under seemingly impossible circumstances, and in these conditions some strive to help others when barely capable of helping themselves.

That’s a signature line if I’ve ever seen one. Dahr Jamail writes for the Associated Press from the front lines in Beirut, covering the war there in all of its horrific details; a war started by Islamic extremists and then enflamed out of control by the overcompensation of a nation offended. Haven’t we heard that story before?

The story is an excellent primer on the conflict in Lebanon for the unitiated, albeit told from the perspective of someone who very much believes that Israel overstepped its necessary force in this arena, and the all but collapse of a fledgling democracy that only months earlier the United States and Israel have been supporting without question in the attempts to “bring democracy” to the region. Now, officials like Secretary of State Condi Rice claim that we’re witnessing the “birth of a new middle east” as opposed to the truth; a burning region set aflame by western arrogance and eastern hatred, and the President claims that these people are simply “enemies” trying to “stop the march of Democracy,” which is another example of our own arrogance. Still, regardless of the rhetoric at home, the bodies are still piling up in Lebanon, and all we can do at this point is watch and hope that eventually the people there will be convinced to put their weapons down. Jamail brings us the story in incredible detail.

[ Chest-Beating — While Losing the War ]
Source: MotherJones

Frist’s Obsession

Even though the effort to repeal the Estate Tax, the tax that only fewer than the top 1% of Americans pay but brings billions of dollars to the Treasury, has gone down in flames every time the Republicans have tried to get rid of it, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist keeps bringing the matter back up again and again in an attempt to legislate the tax away, depriving federal coffers of billions of dollars at a time when the deficit is at an all time high and government spending on defense, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and homeland “security” are essentially spiraling out of control. Why? Why would Frist, one of the Republicans at the heart of this cabal of spending and irresponsible madness, want to deprive himself of essentially the lifeblood of his conservative agenda?

You’re right, it doesn’t make much sense; and even though the vast majority of Americans understand now that the lies the Republicans have been feeding the public about the Estate Tax being some kind of “death tax” or a tax on small businesses and farmers or something similar is completely false, and in reality it’s only the absolute wealthiest Americans that have to pay the Estate tax, Frist keeps pushing the Agenda, and President Bush acts behind the scenes to help his deep-pocketed friends out. (as we saw recently when the IRS fired over half of the lawyers responsible for auditing the taxes of the rich in America) So where’s the fire to cut of the flow of money to the federal government, and who’s going to have to make up the difference when the richest Americans take advantage of the tax breaks they’ve been shoveled by the Bush Administration? (both now and in the past) That’s right-probably you and I, middle class Americans across the spectrum of the middle class, and the poorest Americans who can’t afford to pay more in taxes and barely make a living wage.

Adam Hughes, director of of OMB Watch’s Federal Fiscal Policy program, has a few choice words on the matter, and on Frist’s incessant desire to keep bringing it up in Congress. He levels his sights solidly on Frist, and he has every reason to;

But outside the exclusive confines of country clubs, mahogany board rooms and private jets, the mood in the country is shifting away from the unaffordable repeal of the estate tax. A coalition of national advocacy groups sent a sign-on letter this summer urging support of the estate tax that garnered 740 organizations—a 500 percent increase over last year. What’s more, editorial boards and op-ed articles have appeared all around the country in numbers never before seen opposing repeal of the tax.

Despite this noticeable shift, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist and a gaggle of House Republicans have been hell-bent on gutting the country’s only tax on massive inheritances. Let’s review: Last August, Frist announced the Senate would move to consider the House-passed full-repeal bill first thing in September. But after Hurricane Katrina hit, Frist apparently decided the biggest natural disaster in American history pre-empted even top-GOP priorities like more tax cuts for the rich.

But after all is said and done and the final outcome is known, the one thing that will remain a mystery is whether the GOP ever wanted to win a vote on the estate tax in the first place. Certainly a man of Sen. Frist’s education and intelligence should realize the votes to pass such a radical proposal are not available in the Senate. Why then does the Estate Tax Cut Caucus continue to beat their heads against the wall—even to the point of jeopardizing other priorities? Perhaps the GOP is not worried about what will happen to their multi-millionaire friends after they die, but whether they will write large checks this fall.

Interesting idea; as to whether or not it’s a token gesture, or not high enough on the Republicans’ priority list at all in the first place. Maybe it’s just a matter of cementing support among the wealthiest Americans by proving that the Democrats are hell bent on keeping them taxed and not giving them any breaks. Maybe it’s just another divisive effort by the Republicans to draw the battle lines and clearly separate the “ours” versus “theirs” camps. Who knows.

[ Frist’s Obsession ]
Source: TomPaine.com

July 26, 2006

Religious Left Gears Up to Face Right Counterpart

Now THIS is what I’m talking about. Religion and progressive politics aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive by any means, it just seems that the far right Christian fundamentalists and extremists are the ones hijacking the discussion in the name of all religious people in America. Because of this, many progressives tend to write off the religious as completely invalid in any political discussion, but this isn’t the case. I’ve written about the difference between America’s religious extremists and regular faithful Americans whose faith compels them to equality, justice, compassion, and charity in the past, and it looks like the religious left is finally mounting a push-back against the radical religious right.

With a faith-based agenda of their own, liberal and progressive clergy from various denominations are lobbying lawmakers, holding rallies and publicizing their positions. They want to end the Iraq war, ease global warming, combat poverty, raise the minimum wage, revamp immigration laws, and prevent “immoral” cuts in federal social programs.

Some, like the Rev. Robin Meyers of the United Church of Christ in Oklahoma, marry gay couples and seek to reduce abortions while rejecting calls by the right to outlaw them.

“I join the ranks of those who are angry because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus but whose actions are anything but Christian,” declared Meyers, who has written a new book, “Why the Christian Right is Wrong.

According to scholars, the religious left has become its most active since the 1960s when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other clergy — black and white — were key figures in the civil-rights and anti-Vietnam war movements.

Hear hear. This is probably the best thing that could happen to religon and politics since then as well.

[ Religious Left Gears Up to Face Right Counterpart ]
Source: The Washington Post

July 24, 2006

Civil Rights Hiring Shifted in Bush Era

Only a few days after standing in front of the NAACP and claiming that he is committed to equal rights, freedoms, and justice for all, just days after claiming that his faith compelled him to believe that all of God’s children should be treated equally and justly, does it come out that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is quietly filling its ranks with conservative lawyers whose records show little to no experience with civil rights law or litigation, but whose background show impressive conservative credentials, namely to ensure that should any issues do some up before the Civil Rights Division they’ll be tossed out on their ears. Quietly but purposefully, the Bush administration is claiming that they care about equality and justice under the law for every American citizen while crossing their fingers behind their backs and refusing to let their actions follow their speech. For example:

The profile of the lawyers being hired has since changed dramatically, according to the resumes of successful applicants to the voting rights, employment litigation, and appellate sections. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Globe obtained the resumes among hundreds of pages of hiring data from 2001 to 2006.

Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds — either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups — have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies.

Meanwhile, conservative credentials have risen sharply. Since 2003 the three sections have hired 11 lawyers who said they were members of the conservative Federalist Society. Seven hires in the three sections are listed as members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, including two who volunteered for Bush-Cheney campaigns.

Several new hires worked for prominent conservatives, including former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, former attorney general Edwin Meese, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, and Judge Charles Pickering. And six listed Christian organizations that promote socially conservative views.

The changes in those three sections are echoed to varying degrees throughout the Civil Rights Division, according to current and former staffers.

At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.

This is the big sham of the new racist movement; claim “reverse discrimination,” claim that minorities have too many rights and freedoms and they should be scaled back, completely ignoring the issue of white privilege, for example, and claim that by speaking out and demanding respect, people of non-Christian religons are somehow oppressing the vast majority of Christians in America from being themselves. Somehow.

First of all, “Reverse Discrimination” doesn’t exist. Discrimination is discrimination, and attempting to add legitimacy or some evil connotation to it by claiming its “reverse” is nothing more than a language ploy, which is to be expected from the conservative christian radicals who are hell bent on taking America back to the 1950s, where women were dutifully in the kitchen and the world was devoid of Black people, Latinos, and Asians.

Every instance of discrimination should be followed up on and examined closely, but trying to illegitimately perpetuate the notion that racism and hatred in America are somehow in the minds of the minorities and is in actuality on the decline just by ignoring actual cases of discrimination and racism makes me ill; and then trying to claim that the real problem is a rise in the inverse is just a disturbing trend.

[ Civil Rights Hiring Shifted in Bush Era ]
Source: The Boston Globe

What to Read While the Cradle of Civilization Burns

In the absence of a good and proper Not So Humble reading list, I’ll pose Alternet’s excellent roundup of excellent books that we can sit back and read in the summer heat to help us undersand the kind of heat that the United States is facing when it comes to Israel, Iraq, Iran, and the entire middle east. The article, titled “What to Read Whie The Cradle of Civilization Burns,” lists off some excellent books to give the reader historical perspective on the conflict in the middle east, one that began long long before the establishment of the Israeli state after the second world war, but not completely exclusive of it.

Among the books in the list are The Yellow Wind By David Grossman, which helps us understand the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict, how it got that way, and why it’s not too late to put a permenent end to the conflict there. Also on the reading list is the story of an American activist who was crushed to death by a bulldozer while trying to stop Israeli demolishers from tearing down the home of a doctor in Gaza, the book is called My Name Is Rachel Corrie, Edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner. Another excellent book on the list is Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History By George Crile, which outlines how Afghanistan became such a breeding ground for anti-american extremists and terrorists, and the CIA war in Afghanistan against the Russians when they attempted their invasion of Afghanistan. Crile tells the story of how one politician changed the course of history by arming and funding the mujahideen to fight the russians, and the implications for America when the Russians were driven away.

These are only a few books on the list, and there are several more, some involving the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 which are also timely reads. Stop by and see what to pick up from your bookstore this summer if you’re looking for perspective on why the middle east is so turbulent, and why the entire region of the globe is in flames.

[ What to Read While the Cradle of Civilization Burns ]
Source: Alternet

July 20, 2006

Bush Bombs At NAACP

Completely unsurprisingly, President Bush, speaking in front of the NAACP for the first time in five years and snubbing them because of “scheduling conflicts” that apparently no other President has ever had, delivers a completely forgettable speech in which he does indeed walk the walk, but has already proven to himself to not talk the talk, as Barack Obama put it, in remarks before the convention.

The President said all the right things, that racism still lurks in America, and that its easier to pass a law than to change hearts and minds, but we all know how well his efforts to change hearts and minds are going in Iraq, and how changing hearts and minds to the President and his gaggle of supporters really means “Get in line with our view, citizen. You don’t hate freedom, do you?”

Some people have suggested that the President only speaks to the NAACP now because he’s trying to look good after Hurricane Katrina, and the government’s massive botch on the collective saving throw for the gulf coast; I don’t think that’s the case. The President dares show his face before the NAACP now (and similarly dared show his face at perhaps one of my personally most hallowed sites-the balcony where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated; where he stopped after visiting Graceland with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi-seeing Bush on that balcony was enough of an outrage) because he, and by extension the Republican Party, desperately needs the support of the black vote. They’re wholeheartedly subscribed to the policy of tokenism; doing the traditional dog-and-pony show of showing off Condaleeza Rice as a good little house negro Black Republican they’ve managed to bait into the plantation house GOP, and in order to continue their crusade of pissing on the collective faces of Black America and calling it rain against civil rights while claiming their agenda is the quite the opposite, they need more tokens in more places to prove that a conservative party, who views its golden years to return to as the pre-civil rights era, can be inclusive. No one’s fooled. The Republicans are fronting Black candidates for governor in Pennsylvania, for a senate seat in Maryland (which he will most certainly lose to another Black candidate), and for governor of Ohio. (in the form of the villainous Ken Blackwell, who did everything in his power to disenfranchise his own people of the vote in Ohio as Secretary of State in 2004)

So what does the President do to give the Republicans a boost? To smile at Black America while holding their collective crossed fingers behind their backs? He parades himself, Condi Rice, and Karl Rove (of all people) on stage in front of the NAACP and gives a bland and boring speech about how his faith compels him to believe in equality (right, as though we haven’t seen racist evangelicals before) and to wave the renewal of the Voting Rights Act around as a flag when the folks in his own party have been trying to gut it. By the by, as the Presidentdid in his spech, calling on the ghost of Abraham Lincoln and touting the GOP as “the party of Lincoln” may be true linguistically, but completely ignores the revolt that essentially flipped the mirror of American politics during the Civil Rights movement-a revolt CAUSED BY THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT that essentially made yesteryear’s Republicans into today’s Democrats and vice versa. Sorry Republicans, but you can’t claim to be in line with Lincoln’s moral vision anymore; he’d retch if he could see what you’ve done.

They just don’t learn. But to his credit, at least the President was sincere.

[ Bush Bombs at NAACP ]
Source: TomPaine.com

[ Bush Touts Voting Rights Act Renewal ]
Source: The Washington Post

Stem Cell Bill Gets Bush’s First Veto

The “culture of death” strikes again. As if it weren’t clear before, it should be absolutely and completely clear that the religious extremists and evangelicals (and yes, I’m referring to the Christian ones here in the United States) have far too much sway over the White House, and by extension the Republican Party. They care little for life even though they cry that they do, these anti-choicers who claim to be but aren’t in any way “pro-life,” these religious fundamentalists who refuse to discuss moral issues in any context other than the “well you disagree with me so instead of discussion I choose to walk on your rights and then pray for your eternal soul” context. They claim to be protecting the unborn, the children yet to be.

More smoke, more mirrors, more absolute fallacies.

These are the same social conservatives who demand an end to the kinds of social programs that would help those children become better, more productive, more educated, and happier, more contributive American citizens. These are the same social conservatives who would dash education budgets, limit access to contraception or deny it altogether, stood in the way of a vaccine for cervical cancer because they were scared that a cancer vaccine would enocurage sexual activity. These are the same social conservatives who believe that keeping those same children in the dark is the way to raise them. These are the same social conservatives who would, rather than even allow ethical research to take place, sentance millions of unborn children to lives of chronic and terminal disease, painful debilitating conditions for which theraputic technologies could be developed with the use of embryonic stem cells. These are the same social conservatives who have turned their backs on the millions of living humans today who could have the quality of their lives drastically improved by this research.

These conservatives aren’t interested in a cure. They’re not interested in research, they’re not interested in science, or medicine, or the health of the American people. They’re not interested in you, they’re not interested in me, they’re interested in one thing: control. Control over our lives, control over our government, control over what goes on in our bedrooms, in our doctor’s offices, in our schools, in the halls of government, in the courts, in our offices, everywhere. And they want it all to obey by their moral code, nothing else. They want to make the rules, and deviation from those rules will not be tolerated. They want to own you, they want to own me, and they want to own us completely, and then tell us its in our best interest. These people are no different than the Mullahs and Clerics in the Middle East, urging their people to holy war, to overthrow governments because they dare air television featuring women with ankles bare, or radio stations that air “western-style” music. Our religious fundamentalists are no different, with their letter campaigns against PBS documentaries, complaints over television shows they’ve never heard, and crusades for censorship. Their faith, after all, compels them to.

I share that faith, and I call bullshit-as do many many other faithful Americans. You can join the coalition of faithful Americans who refute this social domination in the name of God at [ http://faithfulamerica.org/ ].

Back to stem cells, however, and while its sad that this veto lines up nicely with President Bush and the evangelical far-right sect’s desire for domination over our lives, it’s even sadder that the President’s first veto comes not on an issue of real contentous importance, but on an issue that the legislature and indeed the vast majority of the American people support. The American people want medical technology to progress. The American people want treatments for some of the worst diseases of our time. They want a brighter future for our children.

Apparently the President wants none of that-and his conservative, evangelical supporters want none of that either.

[ Stem Cell Bill Gets Bush’s First Veto ]
Source: The Washington Post

July 18, 2006

Hate Has No Place in the Media

I can’t top what Media Matters for America [ http://mediamatters.org/ ] has to say about this, so I’ll leave it to them:

Recently, the major television networks have given a platform to conservative hate merchants like Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Melanie Morgan.

Coulter’s column is distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, one of the country’s largest syndicates. Beck was recently hired by CNN Headline News. Morgan broadcasts from a radio station owned by Disney. And all three — and countless others like them — are regularly given guest spots on cable-news networks.

The fact that these right-wing pundits — who have called for the execution of public officials and others — are given a platform in the major media is unprecedented.

Media Matters is circulating a petition to make your voice heard on this important issue; essentially hatemongers polluting our airwaves with far more disinformation and untruth than is called for-this is the kind of nonsnese the airwave nannies should be complaining about. In addition to signing the petition and adding your name to the list, I would reccomend hitting the distributors and media outlets that support and grant these nutjobs airtime where it really hurts; in their pocketbooks. Send mail or call the sponsors of some of these shows and let them know that as long as they’re supporting such biased news and information, they’re obviously not targeting you as a market, and let them know you’l be considering alternatives to their products and services because of it. Then speak with your dollars and actually follow through on it-it’s not enough to walk the walk, you have to talk the talk as well. But still, signing the petition and adding your name to the list is a good start.

[ Hate Has No Place in the Media ]
Source: Media Matters for America

July 13, 2006

It’s The Conservatism, Stupid

Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, is back at work poking holes in modern conservatism. After all, Waldman would know, Media Matters for America’s [ http://mediamatters.org/ ] mission is to combat conservative disinformation in the media and clear the air with fact checking and to cut through the conservative rhetoric and talking points that seem to be all over the airwaves at this point.

His three significant points are ones that I wholeheartedly agree with and can see as active in today’s conservative base and political discourse:

1. Conservatism has failed.

2. Conservatism is the ideology of the past—a past we don’t want to return to.

3. Conservatives are cowards, and they hope you are, too.

Agreed on all three counts. Waldman points out that liberals in America need to embrace the culture wars instead of running from them, define the debate and prove to the people what their perspective is instead of reacting to conservative hate speak, and by lashing back at conservatives with facts and the truth behind their own double-talk as a method of allowing them to discredit themselves.

[ It’s The Conservatism, Stupid ]
Source: TomPaine.com