Sunday, July 29, 2012

Last Call

Shorter Romney camp to America's press:  Know your role and shut your mouth as the Romney team decides to put an end to the gaffe factory by simply excluding the media on his trip to Israel.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who touched down here Saturday night for a day of meetings with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders, plans to wrap up his visit to Israel by collecting money from some of his biggest benefactors behind closed doors.

Some of Romney’s Jewish donors are flying here from the United States to attend the Jerusalem fundraiser on Monday morning, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to personally give tens of millions of dollars to a pro-Romney super PAC.

But Romney’s campaign announced Saturday that it would block the news media from covering the event, which will be held at the King David Hotel. The campaign’s decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April, when Romney wrapped up the Republican nomination and began opening some of his finance events to the news media.

Under the agreement, a pool of wire, print and television reporters can cover every Romney fundraiser held in public venues, including hotels and country clubs. The campaign does not allow media coverage of fundraisers held in private residences.

Campaign spokesman Rick Gorka declined to explain the campaign’s decision to violate protocol with the Jerusalem event. Pressed repeatedly by reporters to offer an explanation, Gorka said only that the fundraiser was “closed press.”

“That’s all I’ve got for you — it’s closed press,” Gorka said. 

Translation:  screw you for the London trip.  Your job is to help Mitt get elected, not "report objectively on the facts".  This is the Romney camp putting the media "in its place" for daring to report on unflattering news.  LA Times political reporter Maeve Reston summed it up on Twitter:

The length to which Romney has gone to try to avoid making news on this trip is beyond mind-bending. Why are we here again? 

To which she gets a brutally truthful answer from National Review's John Podhoretz:

@MaeveReston Who told you to go along?

Such is our "media".  The Romney camp declared you the enemy weeks ago if you had been paying attention.

By the way, can you imagine what kind of coverage and what kind of screaming Barack Obama would have gotten by going to a foreign country, holding a fundraiser with billionaire fat cats, and then closing it to the press?

Think about it.

Arms Akimbo

Negotiations for the UN Small Arms Treaty, globally regulating the flow of firearms, has completely collapsed.  Some are blaming President Obama.  Smarter people are blaming the NRA and the gun lobby that controls our politics.

The United Nations indefinitely suspended action on an international arms trade treaty Friday after the United States and several other countries asked for more time.

The decision sparked angry reactions from human rights groups often allied with the Obama administration, who believed a treaty to regulate the export of deadly weapons to rogue regimes was within reach. The UN had spent the entire month of July hammering out a deal, and Friday was the deadline for an agreement on a treaty that has met with the staunch opposition of the National Rifle Association and bipartisan concerns in the Senate.

“This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough that would have required all nations to deny arms export licenses where there was an overriding risk that the weapons would be used to facilitate serious crimes against humanity.”

And Scott Stedjan, Oxfam America’s senior policy advisor, called the failure “a tremendous loss for thousands of innocent civilians around the globe who die each year from armed violence fueled by the unregulated transfer of arms.”

The treaty never would have passed the Senate, period.  Under no circumstances would the United States ever ratify an international gun control law.  Blaming President Obama for "stunning cowardice" is pointless when our Senate is bought and paid for by the NRA and firearms makers.  The treaty itself only affected transfers of firearms to foreign countries and specifically was changed to protect the Second Amendment, but that of course meant the gun makers couldn't ship thousands of weapons to rogue regimes and warlords willing to pay big bucks.

Doesn't matter.  Our society is ill and corrupt in many ways, and this is one that will continue to kill for years to come.

Touching Story Passes Snopes Test

Ah, Snopes, you made me proud today.

I compulsively check the rumor-crushing site that lets me know when circulating stories are made up or embellished.  I checked this one out, fully expecting it to be confirmed as too good to be true.  Stuff like this doesn't just happen.  Except this time it did.  That awkward moment when you expect something to fail and it blows you away instead.

The super condensed version will never touch the full story, so please read it here.  The condensed version goes like this: 12-year-old boy has been sick his entire life.  After beating leukemia for a third time he contracts a brain infection that is going to kill him because of his compromised immune system.  He has expressed repeated admiration for Marines.  The Marines decide to make him an honorary member.  The boy's health fails, and one soldier stood guard outside his hospital room all night until he passed away.  The solider and the boy's family stay in touch.

That's all I can do without tearing up, but please check it out.

Senseless Stupidity

(CBS News) WASHINGTON, Mo. - A 17-year-old Missouri mother was killed when her car was hit by a truck driven by a 13-year-old girl.
Authorities say a Franklin County Deputy was on Highway 47 around 12:04 a.m. early Friday when he saw the 13-year-old's truck cross the shoulder line.
The deputy tried to make a stop, but the suspect did not yield.
Deputies said the driver lost control of the truck while approaching the intersection of Highway 47 and Highway 100. The truck then hit 17-year-old Aubrey Nothum's Mazda, which was stopped at a traffic light.
This is the sort of thing that I read over with my niece and nephew.  They are old enough to think up stunts like this and young enough to possibly give in to stupidity.  The reality is, dumb kids do this all the time.  Unfortunately, the reality is also that things like this can happen.  A mother gone, a child left to grow up never having known her, and a teenager left with guilty and memories that will never go away.  Everybody loses, and it was all preventable.

I Was Blind But Now I See

The conversion of climate change skeptic and UC Berkeley physics professor Richard Mueller to a believer in the overwhelming data supporting man-made climate shifts was to be expected, but let's remember that his skepticism was turned into a cause celebre' by the wingers and the Koch Foundation, who gave him a lot of money in order to test his skepticism.  He did and found that it's the deniers on the right who have always been full of hot air.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. 

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural. 

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions

I'm hoping that this will put an end to the debate and allow the country and the world to move on to try to do anything before it's too late.   Sadly, there's little to no chance of that as long as Republicans and the uncaring corporate masters remain in power over our political process.  Mueller too calls for action:

What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years. 

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done. 

Sadly, as long as our politics are controlled by people who believe that evolution never happened and that the Earth is 6,000 years old, we will continue to do absolutely nothing.  Another 1.5 degrees in 20 years would be a catastrophe.  And yet if nothing changes, the summer of 2012 here in the US will be considered mild by comparison very very soon.
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