Monday, August 2, 2010

Last Call

European climatologists estimate we have about five years to change things before the climate damage we're doing tips the planet over into a spiraling disaster.
The finding is likely to put new pressure on the world’s top two carbon emitters — China and the US — both of which were widely blamed for failure to reach a binding global accord on carbon reductions in Copenhagen last December. Furthermore, the non-binding outcome of Copenhagen has global carbon emissions peaking in 2020 — five years too late, according to the latest model.
The model, developed by researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, suggests the world’s annual carbon emissions can reach no more than 10 billion tonnes in five years’ time before they must be put on a steady downward path. After that, the researchers say, emissions must drop by 56 per cent by mid-century and need to approach zero by 2100.
Those targets are necessary to prevent average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees C by 2100. Under that scenario, though, further warming can still be expected for years to come afterward.
It will take centuries for the global climate system to stabilise,” says Erich Roeckner, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute.
In other words it's hot now, and it's going to only get hotter later.   We've already done significant damage to our planet.  This summer so far has been the hottest on record worldwide.  Climate changes are going to start ramping up as ice melts and more carbon is released into the atmosphere that has been buried under permafrost.

At this point it's a matter of how much damage will be done, and the models for our future are very very grim indeed.

Our grandchildren aren't going to look at us too kindly fifty years from now.  They're going to ask us why we stood by and did nothing.

We won't have a good answer.

The Best Congress Money Can Buy

With campaign finance rules all but eliminated, corporations are forming groups to drop hundreds of millions in cash on electing Republicans back into control of Congress.  They want the good old days of the no enforcement Bush era back, and they've got the money to buy it.
One report circulating among Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill last week estimated that more than $300 million has been budgeted for the campaign by a group of 15 conservative tax-exempt organizations.

"A commitment of $300 million from just 15 organizations is a huge amount, putting them in record territory for groups on the right or left," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. "With control of Congress hanging in the balance, this kind of spending could have a major impact."

The money's power is magnified because it will be concentrated in a relatively small number of swing states and districts. Of the 435 House and 37 Senate seats at issue in November, about 100 House seats and 18 in the Senate are considered competitive.

The conservative fundraising commitment has stunned Democrats.

"It's raising the alarm bell," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spent $177 million in all of 2008 for congressional races.

Labor unions and allied liberal groups also plan to spend heavily. The Service Employees International Union, for example, has budgeted $44 million on election-related spending this year.

But the momentum and the new money appear — at least at this moment — to be coming from business and its allies.

"What we are seeing is that major businesses and industries are taking advantage of the recent court ruling and favorable political environment," said Anthony J. Corrado Jr., a political scientist at Colby College in Maine and a leading expert on money and politics. "They are already committing substantially more money than they have in any previous election cycles."

Over the next couple of months you will see hundreds of millions -- if not a billion dollars or more -- thrown at swing districts in order to throw out as many Dems as possible.   Republicans have blocked campaign finance reform laws like the DISCLOSE act, so these massive corporations can run commercials anonymously through the non-profits they create with their hundreds of millions.  The Dems are simply not going to be able to compete, and that's the entire point.

Big Business plans to buy 2010's midterm elections.  And there's basically nothing the Dems can do now to stop it.

The War On Wikileaks Continues

Expanding on my post earlier today about Liz Cheney's call Sunday for President Obama to shut down Wikileaks, Marc Thiessen takes to the WaPo today in an op-ed that declared Wkilieaks founder Julian Assange to actually be a terrorist, one who must be arrested and given the Gitmo Special.

And no, I'm not kidding.  Thiessen goes completely off his rocker here, treating Assange as the Swedish bin Laden.
Let's be clear: WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise. Its reason for existence is to obtain classified national security information and disseminate it as widely as possible -- including to the United States' enemies. These actions are likely a violation of the Espionage Act, and they arguably constitute material support for terrorism. The Web site must be shut down and prevented from releasing more documents -- and its leadership brought to justice. WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, proudly claims to have exposed more classified information than all the rest of the world press combined. He recently told the New Yorker he understands that innocent people may be hurt by his disclosures ("collateral damage" he called them) and that WikiLeaks might get "blood on our hands."

With his unprecedented release of more than 76,000 secret documents last week, he may have achieved this. The Post found that the documents exposed at least one U.S. intelligence operative and identified about 100 Afghan informants -- often including the names of their villages and family members. A Taliban spokesman said the group is scouring the WikiLeaks Web site for information to find and "punish" these informers
Well yeah, like the Taliban needed mush excuse to pin bombing a wedding on us or anything.  But Thiessen, man, there's losing it, and then there's losing it.  Thiessen gets him Brad Thor on.
Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States. This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

The first step is for the Justice Department to indict Assange. Such an indictment could be sealed to prevent him from knowing that the United States is seeking his arrest. The United States should then work with its international law enforcement partners to apprehend and extradite him.

Assange seems to believe, incorrectly, that he is immune to arrest so long as he stays outside the United States. He leads a nomadic existence, operating in countries such as Sweden, Belgium and Iceland, where he believes he enjoys the protection of "beneficial laws." (He recently worked with the Icelandic parliament to pass legislation effectively making the country a haven for WikiLeaks). The United States should make clear that it will not tolerate any country -- and particularly NATO allies such as Belgium and Iceland -- providing safe haven for criminals who put the lives of NATO forces at risk.

With appropriate diplomatic pressure, these governments may cooperate in bringing Assange to justice. But if they refuse, the United States can arrest Assange on their territory without their knowledge or approval. In 1989, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel issued a memorandum entitled "Authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Override International Law in Extraterritorial Law Enforcement Activities."

This memorandum declares that "the FBI may use its statutory authority to investigate and arrest individuals for violating United States law, even if the FBI's actions contravene customary international law" and that an "arrest that is inconsistent with international or foreign law does not violate the Fourth Amendment." In other words, we do not need permission to apprehend Assange or his co-conspirators anywhere in the world.

Arresting Assange would be a major blow to his organization. But taking him off the streets is not enough; we must also recover the documents he unlawfully possesses and disable the system he has built to illegally disseminate classified information. 
You know all the times people like Glenn Greenwald would routinely say that that Bush's horrible abuses of power would then become commonplace acts of dehumanizing abuse and torture as our chattering class would routinely begin to call for extrodinary renditions against everyone they didn't agree with?

Yeah, well...who could have imagined, yadda yadda.  How long until we're at a point before anyone who disagrees with Marc Thiessen should find themselves the subject of an op-ed pogrom?

Locating The Disconnect

Greg Sargent clues us in as to why only now the Democrats are getting into the game on the GOP bringing us right back to Bush economic policies:  the public overwhelmingly believes the GOP has reformed on fiscal responsbility.
Less than two years after leaving office, only 25% of Americans believe that if Republicans return to power in Congress their economic agenda will mean a return to former President Bush's economic policies. 65% say that a Republican Congress will promote a "new economic agenda that is different from George W. Bush's policies." Even Democrats and liberals are unconvinced that a Republican Congress means a return to Bushanomics. And moderates and Independents, the key swing blocs in all major policy debates, have completely divorced congressional Republicans from the economic philosophy and failed policies of President Bush.
That's from a poll conducted by Third Way, and it's got the Democrats completely panicking.  The centrists/moderates/Independents overwhelmingly believe the Republicans will be fiscally responsible if elected back into power, despite the idiocy that "tax cuts pay for themselves".

They have been convinced that austerity is the way, and that only Republicans can bring austerity about.  Furthermore, they believe that austerity will only hurt the "lazy and undeserving" and that Real Americans will be fine if we make massive spending cuts.

Even Democrats don't believe that the GOP will return to Bush's economic policies...and yet constant wars, tax cuts for the wealthy, repealing everything Obama did, removing regulation on banks and Wall Street...isn't that exactly a return to Bush's economic policies?

And you're telling me the Dems can't sell that point?

It's A Nuclear Melt-Up, Part 5

Helicopter Ben basically says unemployment is screwed, the housing market is screwed, the recovery is screwed, and that we're basically screwed....
In remarks to state legislators that focused heavily on the problems faced by budget-strained state and municipal governments, Bernanke said constrains at the local level were also hindering the national rebound.

"We have a considerable way to go to achieve full recovery in our economy, and many Americans are still grappling with unemployment, foreclosure, and lost savings," Bernanke said. 
The market reaction?  Dow up 200 points at mid-day.  We've now fully priced in Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press.  The worse the economic news gets, the more chance of Bernanke turning on the fire hose filled with cash and spraying down Wall Street with it.  And everyone wants a piece of that action.

Big Casino is about to break the bank open and roll the slots jackpot, and everyone knows it's coming.

The Fourteenth Apostles

Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl becomes the latest Republican calling for the overturning of the Fourteenth Amendment's Citizenship Clause.
Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., said today that Congress should hold hearings to look into denying citizenship to illegal aliens' children born in the United States, as the fight over immigration widens into the explosive "birthright" issue.

Kyl told CBS' "Face the Nation" that he supports a call by fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to introduce a new amendment to repeal the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Support is growing for this stunning reversal from Graham, who in 2007 drew the ire of Republicans when he lobbied for granting legal status to 12 million undocumented workers, and along with President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the failed immigration reform effort that would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

The 14th Amendment was enacted in 1868 to ensure that states would not deny citizenship to former slaves. It reads, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Arizona's Republican State Sen. Russell Pearce - the architect of the controversial immigration law that was largely struck down by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton - also separately proposed the same measure.

"The 14th Amendment [has been] interpreted to provide that if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what," Kyl said. "So the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?" 
He wants hearings into a 150 year-old part of the Constitution.  Republicans are so terrified of minority groups in this country taking political power away from whites that they are willing to rewrite the Constitution in order to try to stop it.  Suddenly,  Republicans find something wrong with the Constitution and it needs to be changed to give them political power.  Th Citizenship Clause has been settled legal precedent for a century and a half...but Jon Kyl doesn't care.  Republicans want immigrants out.

Hasn't occured to them that if the citizenship clause no longer applies, there are a whole lot of Native Americans who would kindly like their country back...

Nationally Lampooned Vacations

Well, I have to admit, part of me knew this nadir of complete Teabagger idiocy was coming.
They stand in the crowd listening closely as the costumed actors relive dramatic moments in the founding of our country. They clap loudly when an actor portraying Patrick Henry delivers his "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. They cheer and hoot when Gen. George Washington surveys the troops behind the original 18th-century courthouse. And they shout out about the tyranny of our current government during scenes depicting the nation's struggle for freedom from Britain.
"General, when is it appropriate to resort to arms to fight for our liberty?" asked a tourist on a recent weekday during "A Conversation with George Washington," a hugely popular dialogue between actor and audience in the shaded backyard of Charlton's Coffeehouse.
Standing on a simple wooden stage before a crowd of about 100, the man portraying Washington replied: "Only when all peaceful remedies have been exhausted. Or if we are forced to do so in our own self-defense."
The tourist, a self-described conservative activist named Ismael Nieves from Elmer, N.J., nodded thoughtfully. Afterward, he said this was his fifth visit to Colonial Williamsburg.
"We live in a very dangerous time," Nieves said. "People are looking for leadership, looking for what to do. They're looking to Washington, Jefferson, Madison."
"I want to get to know our Founding Fathers," he added. "I think we've forgotten them. It's like we've almost erased them from history." 
That's right.  The Teabaggers are harassing the historical actors in Colonial Williamsburg to be more teabaggy.  To stay on script.   For the Teabaggers have invaded.
The executives who oversee Williamsburg said they have noticed the influx of tea partiers, and have also noted a rise in the number of guests who ply the costumed actors for advice about how to rebel against 21st-century politicians. (The actors do their best to provide 18th-century answers.)

"If people . . . can recognize that subjects such as war and taxation, religion and race, were really at the heart of the situation in the 18th century, and there is some connection between what was going on then and what's going on now, that's all to the good," said Colin Campbell, president and chairman of Colonial Williamsburg. "What happened in the 18th century here required engagement, and what's required to preserve democracy in the 21st century is engagement. That is really our message." 
Somewhere, the ghost of George Washington is really, really missing his corporeal form right now so that he could bayonet some people.  Repeatedly.  Like somehow, an actor portraying John Adams or Thomas Jefferson somehow makes their lunatic arguments more valid, and yet it is exactly this validation they crave.  It's insanity wearing a tricorner hat.

Remind me to avoid Williamsburg for a while.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

I'm honestly not sure which is more depressing, Paul Krugman's morose observation that Washington has accepted 9.5% unemployment as the new structural norm, or David Broder's silly delusion that the GOP will magically stop blocking Obama's efforts to save the economy if only the voters would please, please let them regain control of the House in January and then they would a reason to care about governing again instead of being nihilists.

The root of both columns involve the fact that the Republicans are holding our economy hostage until they get power back.  Broder says we should give in to their demands, Krugman says in the end they just don't give a damn anyway because they're nihilists.

Neither option is very palatable, is it?

The Dynamics Of Static Kill

BP is hoping they can get their relief well based "static kill" to permanently seal the Deepwater Horizon wellhead underway as early as tonight.
The operation is one of two bids to definitively "kill" the damaged well, which has spewed noxious crude into the sea since April, devastating fragile habitats and bringing financial ruin to many residents along the US Gulf Coast.

BP officials in recent days said they hoped the "static kill" operation would take place Tuesday, but on Sunday the US point man for the spill response, Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, said it "could start as early as Monday night, depending on final testing of the mud injection systems."

If successful, the "static kill" will allow crews to plug the well from above with cement, but the procedure is untested and similar to a previous "kill" attempt that failed at the end of May.

Still, 104 days into the spill, Americans are desperate for a sign that the leak will soon be permanently capped, allowing the full focus of BP and government officials in the region to shift to clean-up operations and repairing the economic damage caused by the worst oil disaster in US history.

Somewhere between three million to 5.3 million barrels leaked into the Gulf between April 20 and July 15, when a cap placed over the wellhead was sealed, fully containing the flow of oil for the first time.

While locals are eager to see the well plugged for good, there are fears that a successful kill operation will prompt a mass exodus of officials brought into the region to respond to the crisis.

Crews have already begun collecting some of the millions of feet of protective boom after skimming vessels said they were having difficulty finding spilled crude on the sea surface anymore.
No point in booms, the oil has been dispersed and is now mixed into the seawater.  The entire Gulf is now a toxic soup of water and oil and Corexit, and that stuff is going to be in the water for a very, very long time.  I really do hope that the static kill works, because if it doesn't, it could backfire and make things much, much worse.

We'll see.

Liz Cheney Declares War On Wikileaks

Liz Cheney has determined that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a terrorist sympathizer, and wants President Obama to shut down Assange's website and put him in irons or it proves Obama doesn't love America or something.
"I would point out that although you've got the news about the WikiLeaks documents that that came out this week and clearly Julian Assange's effort was to change course for the US policy in Afghanistan," Cheney told Fox News' Chris Wallace Sunday.
"He was unsuccessful in that. He does clearly have blood on his hands potentially for the people whose names were in those documents who helped the US and I think that's something he will have to live with now," she continued.
"I would really like to see President Obama to move to ask the government of Iceland to shut that website down. I would like to see him move to shut it down ourselves if Iceland won't do it. I would like to see them move aggressively to prosecute Mr. Assange and certainly ensure that he never again gets a visa to enter the United States," said Cheney.
"What he's done is very clearly aiding and abetting al Qaeda. And as I said, he may very well be responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan," she concluded.
Last time I checked, Liz Cheney had the national security credibility and experience of a pallet of toilet paper at Wal-Mart, so I'm wondering why she would be asked to go on TV and give her opinion on pretty much anything other than growing up with the Nameless One as a father.  You might as well ask Bo the White House dog, he has about the same credentials.

Secondly, Liz Cheney accusing anyone outside of her father of having "blood on their hands" in Afghanistan really needs to be responded to with peals of incredulous laughter.  By her own logic ol' Dick there is "responsible for the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan" too.

So when do we get to prosecute your dad, Liz?


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