Thursday, December 16, 2010

" . . . the longer we delay, the more unpleasant the adaptations and the greater the suffering will be."

There is still (unfortunately) a lot of "debate" about global climate change, and more precisely whether humans are the driving force behind change rates that exceed natural changes. Much of that debate would be settled, me thinks, by a real reading of, and acceptance of this paper (h/t The Climate Post):

Clearly mitigation is our best option, but so far most societies around the world, including the United States and the other largest emitters of greenhouse gases, have done little more than talk about the importance of mitigation. Many Americans do not even accept the reality of global warming. The fossil fuel industry has spent millions of dollars on a disinformation campaign to delude the public about the threat, and the campaign has been amazingly successful. (This effort is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s effort to convince Americans that smoking poses no serious health hazards.) As the evidence for human-caused climate change has increased, the number of Americans who believe it has decreased.

There are currently no technological quick fixes for global warming. Our only hope is to change our behavior in ways that significantly slow the rate of global warming, thereby giving the engineers time to devise, develop, and deploy technological solutions where possible. Unless large numbers of people take appropriate steps, including supporting governmental regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our only options will be adaptation and suffering. And the longer we delay, the more unpleasant the adaptations and the greater the suffering will be.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How come Republicans are all about law and order except when they are convicted? Meet Tom Delay - convict & and hypocrit.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Only in bizarro land does the conviction of a terrorist in federal civilian court = a disaster. This is not a call for military tribunals, it's a win for law.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's the incentive to save money if the best you can get is 0.5% interest? Why try to force American's to save more under those circumstances?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Did you vote today? I did, not because I'm thrilled with how everything is going, but because I want my vote counted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One Good Thing: Stepping Back From The Brink

Once again Mandy proves why she's one of my heros, both as a writer, and a mom. I couldn't imagine a better person to call friend.

One Good Thing: Stepping Back From The Brink: "This morning at work, I surfed over to the website for one of our news channels in the Triangle, just to see what was going on at home. I sc..."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

There are no Fiscal conservatives . . . The Baseline Scenario

It's about time someone with Simon's clout pu thtis out in public. Too bad he will be dismissed as UnSerious!

The United States stands out as quite different. No one is yet seriously proposing to address our underlying budget issues. There are certainly people who claim to be “fiscal conservatives” – some of the right and some on the left – but none can yet be taken seriously. The implications are very bad for our fiscal future.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

One Good Thing: More Love

Mandy is a great writer, and I have been inspired by her openness, her complete embrace of her horrible circumstances, and he willingness to voice that which too many keep too private. She is, simply, one of my heros. Her story inspired the One Good Thing facebook page that adorns the upper left corner of this blog. And so I was crying with joy when I read this latest missive from her:

One Good Thing: More Love: "Ed and I had long discussed trying to have our second child when Hudson was about two to two and a half years old. For some reason, I’d gott..."

Yes we can try them in federal courts, unless we want to rig the results

Finally, if timidly, a U.S. Federal Court judge begins to reassert the REAL place of the Constitution in our society (emphasis mine):

The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," Kaplan wrote in a three-page order barring Abebe's testimony. "It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world we live in. But the constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not lonely when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction."

Unfortunately, some in our society don't see this a a small and necessary victory in preserving what is left of our tattered civil liberties pillar:

"The decision of the judge to delay the Ghailani trial and dismiss a key
government witness is a clear indication of the problem when prosecuting war on
terror detainees in a federal court," said Kirk Lippold, a senior military
fellow at Military Families United and former commander officer of the USS Cole,
which was attacked by al-Qaeda in 2000 in Yemen. "This is a blatant misuse of
legal proceedings and would not occur if the Department of Justice had pursued
the use of military commissions."

No, Mr. Lippold, the decision by a federal judge to dismiss a tainted witness is not the problem - the torture and indefinite extrajudicial detention of the suspect that caused his tainting is the problem. If these detainees are truly only tri-able in military commissions, then thy need to be treated as prisoners of war, and afforded Geneva Convention protections. leaving that issue aside, there is no "Color of war" exception to the Convention on Torture, to which the U.S. is a signatory, and which was, once ratified by the Congress, made into U.S. law.

This just days after a terrorist, who plead guilty in federal court (despite the assertion that we can't try people there and obtain convictions unless we sue tainted witnesses, or keep it all under wraps because of STATE SECRETS) gave the clearest evidence yet as to how badly U.S. foreign policy continues to hurt our strategic interests (h/t Glenn Greenwald):

If the United States does not get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries controlled by Muslims, he said, "we will be attacking U.S.," adding that Americans "only care about their people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die" . . . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Heart of the Matter: This is Your Brain on War

Following up on some of Glenn Greenwald's excellent reporting on the government's decissions to assinate American citizens without due process, author and former CIA clandestine officer Barry Eisler takes on those (purported on the Left side of the aisle) who seek to defend the President's actions:

But even leaving all that aside, the "but it was done to only a few people" argument is pretty weak. The acceptability of government conduct ought to turn
on its legality, not on how many people were subjected to it. Presumably Sullivan wouldn't offer this defense of government conduct if the conduct in
question had been torture, though of course this was a primary Bush administration defense of its torture regimen -- that only three people were

The Heart of the Matter: This is Your Brain on War

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why It's So Hard for Scientists to Believe in God | Francis Collins | Big Think

Lots of scientists out there reject whole heartedly Franci Collins approach. And he acknowledges as much in the Big Think piece linked below. What I like about Collins' approach however, is his recognition - too often shunted aside by many in the blog-o-sphere, that science and spiritual pursuits, including religion, really are out to deal with different parts of the human experience. There's no reason to hold scientists suspect simply because they too search for meaning (the "why" questions) and science isn't well equipped to answer that quest. And there's no reason to reject religion simply because science makes a better explanation for the creation and ordering of the natural world then religion ever can.

Why It's So Hard for Scientists to Believe in God Francis Collins Big Think

Friday, September 24, 2010

from the DC Dispatches Archives: There's a war brewing, but it may not involve guns...

I decided to repost this piece today, from my first month here over 2 years ago, becaus ethe central idea remains pertenant - we humans are simultaneously taking in, and ignoring, the nuanced existance around us. How else to explain the Tea Party, and politicians on both side sof the aisle who seem to think that spouting plattitudes (and bad ones at that) is leadership.

DC Dispatches: There's a war brewing, but it may not involve guns...:

In other words, the human capacity to deny the seemingly obvious is likely an evolutionarily hardwired trait. So we have to work, really hard, to overcome it. The war, which is already here, is really about which part of the brain, the denying part or the pattern recognizing part, will lead humanity into the future. I'm rooting for the pattern part.

The Existential Manifesto: Can we just move on already???

I like Geek Chick - she's even braver then I am. In this case, she happens to be right. If we don't move past 9/11, not only will we continue to do things as a nation that betray our stated values, but we will continue to have our existance defined by those hell bent on eliminating us. And we'll gladly help them do it,if only because that allows us to feel "safe."

The Existential Manifesto: Can we just move on already???:
"September 11, 2001, was a terrible day. A day that shall live in our nation's memory. A day when we were attacked on our own soil, when in..."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Annual Liberal Blog Post - Richard Cohen checks the box

I'm no fan of the Washington Post's Richard Cohen - he of supporting torture and state sanctioned terror (as long as America practices it). I believe Mr. Cohen serves no agenda but his own -which is undersatndable in a town that hastruly lost any ablity to conceive of real public service.

Yet today he makes some sense (in what is sure to be his annual "See, I'm really a liberal columnist who has to fight off all the big, bad conservatives" column).

This fatuous infatuation with the Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment, is clearly the work of witches, wiccans and wackos. It has nothing to do with America's real problems and, if taken too seriously, would cause an economic and political calamity. The Constitution is a wonderful document, quite miraculous actually, but only because it has been wisely adapted to changing times. To adhere to the very word of its every clause hardly is respectful to the Founding Fathers. They were revolutionaries who embraced change. That's how we got here.

He even manages (sort of) to point out that President Obama's Liberal credentials are, at best, strained:

Similarly, only a spell can explain why much of the Republican Party insists on calling Obama a socialist. To apply this label to the very man who saved Big Finance, who rescued Goldman Sachs and the rest of the boys, who gave a Heimlich to the barely breathing banks, can only be explained by witchcraft or voodoo or something like that. It has caused the GOP to lose its mind. Obama did something similar to the American auto industry, saving it from itself. He did not let it fail or nationalize it, as a socialist would have done, but pumped cash into it so that -- this is me speaking -- it can fail later on.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Almost a defense of liberal policies in a town where the policies, and their defenders get few and far between as the weeks drag on.

My problem with believeing this, of course, extends to Mr. Cohen's fetish for defending the indefensible:

At the same time, we have to be respectful of those who were in that Sept. 11 frame of mind, who thought they were saving lives -- and maybe were -- and who, in any case, were doing what the nation and its leaders wanted. It is imperative that our intelligence agents not have to fear that a sincere effort will result in their being hauled before some congressional committee or a grand jury. We want the finest people in these jobs -- not time-stampers who take no chances.

The best suggestion for how to proceed comes from David Cole of Georgetown Law School. Writing in the Jan. 15 New York Review of Books, he proposed that either the president or Congress appoint a blue-ribbon commission, arm it with subpoena power, and turn it loose to find out what went wrong, what (if anything) went
right and to report not only to Congress but to us. We were the ones, remember, who just wanted to be kept safe. So, it is important, as well as fair, not to punish those who did what we wanted done -- back when we lived, scared to death, in a place called the Past.

Its a great place Mr. Cohen live in, where we as a nation can break our own laws, destroy probably innocent lives (on both sides of the torture chamber) and then run around calling the people who did it great patriots. And as long as Cohen stand by these words, I can't stand by him as a liberal.

So thanks for your annual broadside at consrvatives. It happens to all be true. Sadly, it does nothing to buff your images with real liberals.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/11 and American Exceptionalism - Chapter 3 (In which the slumbering beast starts to stir)

Leave it to one of my blogging "heroes" Glenn Greenwald to do a great job of aggregating writings on this issue that I would have other wise missed. That, in and of itself, is one of the central benefits of the blog-o-sphere: good bloggers make it easy for other bloggers to find good source material to work from.

And Glenn has done it again though the sources he has pointed me to are not, for me at least, going to be about scare tactics used to "motivate" voters. Rather, I am indebted to him for allowing me to continue my look at so called American Exceptionalism, and more importantly how (and someday why) the "liberal media" and the Left side of the political aisle are just now waking up to how badly the current Administration is doing.

From Tim Rutten, at the Los Angeles Times, we are treated to this:

James Madison once wrote, "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." In armed conflict, he argued, "the discretionary power of the executive is extended ... and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people.... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

Great words written by a great man. And its true that we as a nation have seen our freedoms erode as the "War on Terror" has progressed. We have entered the disgusting legion of nations of torturers - which the media defends. We have begun to allow assassinations of our own citizens without so much as a show trial to cover our backsides. And we continue to allow the federal government to shield private companies and persons from legal scrutiny lest they be forced to reveal "state secrets." All in the name of fighting off a band of radical "Islamic" terrorists who, like "Christian fundamentalists" distort the teachings of their holy text to justify heinous actions in the supposed furtherance of a political and economic agenda.

To be sure, Mr. Bin Laden is probably planning his next attempt at attacking us, and his next and his next. To be sure if one of them succeeds, in spite of our ever growing security state, there will be calls for ever more and ever tougher surveillance. And to be sure, politicians more concerned with keeping their large campaign donations will acquiesce - unless the American People rest back control of our government from the oligarchs sitting at the top of the economic food chain.

My question to you is this - where do we draw the line in the sand? What ELSE do we surrender of our freedoms in the name of physical and economic security? Why and for how long will we continue to tolerate politicians who claim to lead us but seem to only decieve time and time again? When does the pursuit of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" cause us to say enough is enough?

I fear the answer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Power Politics and Economics 101 - protect you rbottom line at all costs!

this is why I love Simon and James' blog:

At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it’s politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone’s control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society’s wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.

Sadly, I do not share their hope.

9/11 and American Exceptionalism - The Second Chapter

Lest anyone think that Ted Koppel's missive last week on the national compulsive over-reaction to 9/11 was just an attempt by a single former media darling to regain current exposure, along comes this missive from Fareed Zakaria:

So the legitimate question now is: Have we gone too far? Is the vast expansion in governmental powers and bureaucracies -- layered on top of the already enormous military-industrial complex of the Cold War -- warranted? Does an organization that has as few as 400 members and waning global appeal require the permanent institutional response we have created?
The obvious answer to me, and to many more Americans I suspect, is yes we've gone too far. The problem is the message it too many days late, and too few dollars short. See, many on the Left did decry the excesses of the Bush years, and many of us warmed to Candidate Obama because we expected him to roll those excesses back. But just as Mr. Koppel talked in generalities about our national mind-state and not in specifics about what our current regime is doing, so too Mr. Zakaria tries to avoid being pushed out o fthe "Liberal media" camp by not calling out Mr. Obama directly.

Cowardace is alive and well on the Left side of the political aisle, and while I fear its repurcussions in the forthcoming election, Democrats and liberals generally have no one to blame but themselves for allowing this state of affairs to persist.

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11 and American Exceptionalism - What hath our Nation wrought?

It's an easy and far too convenient conceit to believe that 9/11 changed our Nation not by our own hand, but by the hands of those 19 hijackers and some far away madman named Bin Laden. Today Ted Koppel shows us why that conceit is a complete lie:

We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus; and we are so absorbed in our own fury and so oblivious to our enemy's intentions that we inflate the building of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan into a national debate and watch, helpless, while a minister in Florida outrages even our friends in the Islamic world by threatening to burn copies of the Koran.

If bin Laden did not foresee all this, then he quickly came to understand it. In a 2004 video message, he boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. "All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written 'al-Qaeda' in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Shame of Barack Obama - protecting torturers

Lest anyone doubt how far we've fallen, as a nation, under a supposedly "liberal" "Progressive" President, read this from the New York Times:

The state secrets doctrine is so blinding and powerful that it should be invoked only when the most grave national security matters are at stake — nuclear weapons details, for example, or the identity of covert agents. It should not be used to defend against allegations that if true, as the dissenting judges wrote, would be “gross violations of the norms of international law.”

All too often in the past, the judges pointed out, secrecy privileges have been used to avoid embarrassing the government, not to protect real secrets. In this case, the embarrassment and the shame to America’s reputation are already too well known.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, the editorial is a response to a decision yesterday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to deny the opportunity of 5 men to confront and seek punishment for torture they suffered that was arranged by the U.S. through its Extraordinary Rendition Program:

In a
6-5 ruling issued this afternoon
, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ's argument that Bush's rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are "state secrets" and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts. The Obama DOJ had appealed to the full 9th Circuit from last year's ruling by a 3-judge panel which rejected the "state secrets" argument and held that it cannot be used as a weapon to shield the Executive Branch from allegations in this case that it broke the law. I've written multiple times about this case, brought by torture/rendition victim Binyam Mohamed and several others
against the Boeing subsidiary which, at the behest of the Bush administration, rendered them to be tortured.
Its not enough apparently to strut around on stage and call out Mr Bush for what are most likely violations of war crimes laws and federal statutes - as torture clearly is. Nope, apparently once in office, one has to actually enable future torture by protecting prior torture. That, so the current Democratic theory goes, is how we secure our nation, and show we're tough guys - and thus should be reelected.

Except this sort of thing is a major reason that I'm looking for other liberal candidates to support. Its a major reason that I do not believe the President when he speaks. Its a major reason that I do not trust the President. And since I vote, he ought to be worried about that. Of course he won't be, largely because I won't be handing him big campaign checks next year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bitter Anniversaries

Today is a day that, frankly, I have dreaded for a few weeks now. Today, my little Peanut is as old as Hudson was when she lost her life so suddenly and so tragically. It's an eerie, odd feeling to know that we're now at this milestone - 17 months and 12 days. And its a milestone I would trade anything not to experience, if only to ease the suffering of two dear friends - Mandy and Ed - who do not deserve the grief they now feel daily.

Mandy wrote recently about how she missed all the things Hudson would now be doing now if she had passed this day:

Hudson would be 21 months old today. Rounding the final bend into her second birthday. I can only imagine all the incredible things she’d be doing now—making full sentences, pronouncing syllables she couldn’t say before, eating popsicles, maybe using the potty and sleeping in a big girl bed by now. Who knows what else? I hate that I have to wonder.
And I understand, in a tiny small way, how she feels. Hudson was our guide post - for those of us parents with younger kids we could always count on Hudson to show us where our little ones were headed. If Hudson was making a certain sound, or word or gesture by a certain age, it was a safe bet that Peanut would be too within a couple of days of that age in Hudson's life. When Hudson started walking, and climbing the stairs in our daycare room, I could see Peanut and the rest of the kids watching intently, and trying to catch her. Looking at Hudson, and Mandy and Ed, we all knew what was coming.

Except now we don't. Tomorrow, when Peanut wakes up, she'll be 17 months and 13 days old. Hudson never made that day. Tomorrow, we start experiencing Peanut in a whole new way - as the trailblazer, with no one to serve as our guide. Tomorrow we start living a life that Ed and Mandy can not yet live (though I am certain they will have more kids - such is the nature of their love for each other).

No doubt we'll have a ton of joy from this. Hopefully, we'll be able to share that joy with everyone, Mandy and Ed included. But it will always be tempered by the sure and sadly painful knowledge that we're missing the head of the line. We'll always know that our guide is missing, and we'll always wish that Peanut and Hudson could have grown together, to a point of deep friendship and mutual inspiration. What would that have been like? I only know in my imagination, and as Mandy says, I hate that I have to wonder.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Exceutive Micro-managing - it even happens in government

I tried to post this comment three times at the WP site, but it kept saying i had to be registered . . . except I was logged in. In any event, From inside the Executive branch, down at the mid-senior career level . . . the political appointees of the Administrations ARE micro-managing the Executive enterprise. And it is starting to cause problems. So unless you are a federal Senior Executive Service, or GS13-to 15 employee, knock off the attempts to run Jena McGregor's analysis off the tracks. She's right - and I see it nearly daily.

That said, it isn't a lack of executive experience that causes this problem - it's a political state where openness and trust of career civil servants is antithetical to the perpetual campaign that politicians seem to prefer to governance. Many of the inner circle at the WH were senior campaign folks, and were retained under the misguided notion that successful campaigning naturally translates into successful governance. It does not, and thus there are a number of folks who feel that they have to micromanage, lest the message get off track, and the news/election/campaign cycle get derailed

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Duldrums in the blog-o-sphere

In case you at home have wondered why I haven't been blogging lately - this sort of sums up one of three major reasons:

He's proved himself to be a lightweight and a poseur. I'd nearing the point where I'd prefer an honest conservative (is there such a being?) over someone who advocates for lots of lofty things in word, then absolutely undercuts those goals in deed. What a wasted opportunity.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

oil, oil everywhere, so why am I going home? the answer - we rely too much on safety studies and too little on common sense.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The jobless recovery - yeah right it's all Obama's fault

Over in the digital pages of today's Washington Post, Steven Pearlstein makes the genuine case that, whatever the faults of Mr. Obama's economic policies are (and I think there are more then a few), the lack of job creation isn't one of them:

This week, Princeton's Alan Blinder, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics and a onetime adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, released a paper laying out in simple and compelling terms how the government saved the country from another Great Depression. Using a standard econometric model, they backed out everything the government did to tame the financial crisis and stimulate the economy -- the zero interest rates and extraordinary lending by the Fed, the bailouts of the banks and the auto companies, the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the tax cuts and the infrastructure payments and the money for the states. And what they concluded is that, without these actions, the economy would now be 8 percent smaller, with 8 million fewer jobs and a federal budget deficit this year of $2 trillion rather than $1.4 trillion.

The irony is that this set of bold government initiatives that saved the country from economic catastrophe remain as unpopular today as when they were introduced.

Now I've written before about how the economic crisis, dubbed the Great Recession, isn't all its cracked up to be. I've also written about how the myth that government doesn't create jobs needs to die. Yet here we are still slaved to the idea that if only businesses were free to do what they wanted, they would hire, and the economy would recover.

Its a nice theory, but it doesn't hold water. Yes, GM and Chrysler are adding new employees, thanks to government bailouts. But with the Chevy Volt set to debut at $41,000 one has to wonder if they have really learned anything. To say nothing of the fact that, nearly two years into the supposed recovery:

One would have hoped that, by this point in the recovery, businesses would have begun to use some of that cash to ramp up spending on research and development and to invest in new plants and equipment. But after falling sharply for two years, such spending has only just begun to rebound, and much of it has focused on faster-growing markets outside the United States. Some of the cash has been used to pay down debt or buy back stock. But so far the one thing businesses haven't done is hire back full-time employees, preferring instead to contract for temporary workers or increase the hours of the workers they already have.

The failure of the unemployment rate to back off from ts 9 to 10% "precipice" is not a failure of the White House's economic policy. Its conscious decison by business large and small (but mostly large) to hold profits for short term gain rather then make long term investments. Call me nuts, but didn't that behavior get us into this mess in the first place?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

E.J Dionne - a Newly strident voice for Liberals!

E.J.Dionne is my new favorite liberal commentator. Not because he's new as a commentator, but because he has - finally - started to call our present government what it is:


Sadly, as a Washington Post columnist, he's likely to soon be working for Huffington Post (as his former colleague Dan Froomkin is). But atleast until then, I really hope we see more of this:

I'm a chronic optimist about America. But we are letting stupid politics, irrational ideas on fiscal policy and an antiquated political structure undermine our power.

We need a new conservatism in our country that is worthy of the name. We need liberals willing to speak out on the threat our daft politics poses to our influence in the world. We need moderates who do more than stick their fingers in the wind to calculate the halfway point between two political poles.

And, yes, we need to reform a Senate that has become an embarrassment to our democratic claims.

More Invasions of Privacy by the FBI The National Security Letter Goes Viral

There is absolutely no way this can be anything but the opening of a huge can of toxic worms:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

Sorry folks, but from a privacy and civil liberties stand point, the "need" to intercept terrorist plots just doesn't outweigh the Constitutional directive to protect citizens from warrantless search and seizure. And rooting around in my browser history and diving into my email traffic is the modern equivalent of compiling a list of my known associates, or even worse, the Blacklists that were generated during the Red Scare of the 1950's. This sort of thing is what rogue nations do; it is historically the tool of authoritarian states like the Soviet Union and 1930's Germany where the government used fear and active spying to undermine the fabric of society. An nation divided against itself is a nation that is easy to manipulate.

And it comes from a Democrat too now, not just a Republican. Shame on Mr. Obama for even considering it. And shame on us for voting for him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Shirley Sherrod Affair Redux - E.J. Dionne finds his back bone (Sort of)

Hard on the heals of the pillarying of Shirley Sherrod for becoming more racially sensative and thus a more effective advocate for the poor, columnist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post manages to find some backbone:

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

Now Let's be frank - The Washington Post has long been part of the problem. They, like all MSM these days, seem to fall victim to this false "fairness" doctrine daily. Two of my blogging "heros" - Glenn Greenwald and Dan Froomkin - have called the Post out regularly for this kind of behavior. I suspect they will again.

Still, it's nice to see at least one Post columnist actually earning the "Liberal Media" label that is so often, and so falsely, pinned on the Post by these very same right wing talking heads.

Now, Adams is accusing the Obama Justice Department of being "motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense -- and it's nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hey hey, ho ho, Charlie Rangel's got to go!

Harking back to the days of real protest marches, and the pithy chants that seemed to go with them, I am calling today for my fellow Democrats to purge yet another political dinosaur from our ranks. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel now stands formally accused of numerous ethics violations, including failure to pay taxes on a vacation house, using House stationary for campaign fundraising, and improperly dealing with donors to a "pet project" on government relations.

Mr. Rangel, the recently deposed House Ways and Means Committee chair, of course maintains his innocence. After all, the House Ethic Committee is now moving to what passes for a trial phase in its work, and Mr. Rangel needs to be able to defend himself.

That said, Charlie Rangel is another of the political dinosaurs who kills the Democratic Party, all the while smiling and proclaiming that, if he did anything wrong, it was all in the name of public service. Excuse me while go hack a hairball out of my throat.

What bugs me about Mr. Rangel's conduct - like the conduct of so many national politicians these days - is that Mr. Rangel seems to really believe that the ends justify the means. So he "slipped" a little with the IRS - he needs that house as a place to truly retreat thus ensuring his focus on the issues of his constituents. So he "misused" some stationary. He'll buy more out of his pocket to replace the lost stuff. And besides, in this day and age you need the real stuff to prove that the letter asking for money is really for a Congressional campaign. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

In that mindset, however, Mr. Rangel betrays the common Washington affliction - the rules don't apply to me because I'm a (insert Congressman, Senator, President here) and thus far too important to be bound by silly little things like laws or ethics or morals. I have important work to do for you the people, and you shouldn't care how I get it done. Or so it seems to go.

Out here on Mainstreet, however, Mr. Rangel's actions ar just another sordid tale of a Washington Politician loosing touch with reality, and thus not being worthy of our time or interest. As these scandals have grown in number and complexity over the years, ordinary people have reached the conclusion that if you are elected to Congress, or electable, you have to be some sort of sadistic narcissist, and thus not really normal. Is it any wonder that political identifications, by party, are falling off?

So to the Democratic Party, and the House of Representatives (and the DCCC) I say this - as a liberal I'll vote for you more then against you, but only because I have no real alternative. That means you have an obligation to make sure your ranks are peopled with the best and the brightest, not the sleaziest and the laziest. Charlie Rangel is hurting our brand, he's hurting liberal politics, and he's making it hard to keep the Democratic Party separate from the Republican Party, at least based on conduct. He's a mill stone around our collective necks.

Hey hey, ho ho, Charlie Rangel's got to go!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

from a close friend - One Good Thing: Guilt Trip

While I have added mandy's blog to my blog roll on the right side of the aisle, I wanted to call this one out. it's especially tough to read but it's so worth it. Once you are done, spend some time in the other entries - you will be glad you did.

One Good Thing: Guilt Trip: "I had another guilt dream last night. In this one, I was taking care of someone else’s baby (I have no idea whose). I laid the baby back in ..."

The Shirley Sherrod Affair

The only person who comes out good in the recent firing and now probable re-hiring of Shirley Sherrod at USDA is Ms. Sherrod herself. Not only was she revealed (finally) as a person who is open to what her life can teach her, but she showed grace and class under extraordinary pressure. Pressure that came, I might add, because Shirley Sherrod gave an honest, heartfelt speech abotu a change in her world view based on a racial incident.

In the "we look like asses" department - nearly all the MSM, the White House, USDA, and definitely Andrew "I hate context and nuance" Breitbart. Its so sad that honest criticism of the Tea Party's one-time refusal to deal with its own racists devolved into a proud African American woman loosing her job.

And yet, this, my fellow readers, is what We The People now allow our polticians and media to do in our names. That, in my humble view - puts us all in the "wee look like asses" department as well. For what its worth, I thnk we ALL owe Shirley Sherrod an apology.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Here comes the rain again

I haven't posted since 22 June, and it's been both refreshing and frustrating. I spent most of that time down in Louisiana as part of the federal government's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mentally,I think I have that processed, but I am not yet sure how much I want to write here. Sadly, the Administration for whom I work is really clamping down on communications regarding the spill, and I am having an internal debate about whether the spill is really worth my career.

In that respect, sadly, the fear mongers have won.

UPDATE (22 July 2010):
Check out this article on early signs of the ecological impact of the spill.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The NRA wants an exemption from new campaign finance disclosure law. If the don't get it they will campaign against Congressmen. WhoLs running Congress?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fox News reports internal BP documents call for up to 100,000 barrels of oil leaking per day. With tar balls floating to Panama City, FL. Great days!
62 days and counting - in the Gulf of Mexico. Are we prepared for the losses to span the summer?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP's president didn't slip up calling Gulf Coast residents "small people." That's how corporatists see working class people, which is why risks are taken.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

interesting thought - would a regional natural resource management council system prevent another Deepwater Horizon? We use councils to manage fisheries.

The Deepwater Horizon response - get your boots off the neck of the federal workforce

Every time I read a news story about the federal response to the oil spill, I have to cringe. Deepwater Horizon has become – for some – the lode stone around President Obama’s neck, and yet another example of government ineptitude. Or so we’re told.

The truth is, of course, much more nuanced. Deep Water Horizon is, in fact, proceeding according to plan, or as much of a plan as can be developed by a federal government with limited response capability and legal authority. In fact, hundreds of my colleagues from dozens of federal agencies are working really hard each and every day to collect as much information as possible, and to both predict the spill’s path and its effects when it comes ashore. Local university scientists are also hard at work right along side us.

For that reason, I share Anne Applebaum’s assessment that Deepwater Horizon isn’t, and shouldn’t be, comparable to the Katrina response (which I was also on the ground for in Mississippi). Where she and I part ways, however, is in both what the President should be doing about it, and what the citizenry should expect of him.

Here is the hard truth: The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks. Even the combined wisdom of the Obama inner circle -- all of those Harvard economists, silver-tongued spin doctors and hardened politicos -- cannot prevent tens of thousands of tons of oil from pouring out of hole a mile beneath the ocean surface. Other than proximity to the Louisiana coast, this catastrophe has nothing in common with Hurricane Katrina: That was an unstoppable natural disaster that turned into a human tragedy because of an inadequate government response. This is just an unstoppable disaster, period. It will be a human tragedy precisely because no government response is possible.

Which leads me to a mystery: Given that he cannot stop the oil from flowing, why has President Obama decided to act as if he can? And given that he is totally reliant on BP to save the fish and the birds of the Gulf of Mexico, why has he started pretending otherwise -- why is he, in his own words, looking for someone's "ass to kick"? I suspect that there are many reasons for this recent change of rhetorical tone and that some of them are ideological. This is, of course, a president who believes that government can and should be able to solve all problems. Obama has never sounded particularly enthusiastic about the private sector either, ad some of his congressional colleagues -- the ones talking of retroactively raising the cap on BP's liability, for example, or forcing BP to pay for the lost wages of other oil companies' workers -- are downright hostile.

Three things to consider. First, given BP’s track record of oil spills in Alaska, and plant fires and explosions elsewhere, is it any wonder the President Obama, and many, many others, are skeptical that BP can indeed “fix” Deepwater Horizon? The evidence gathered by Congress prior to today’s hearings suggests not.

Second, the President s not “totally reliant on BP to save the fish and the birds of the Gulf of Mexico.” He has a U.S. fish and Wildlife Service, a NOAA Fisheries Service, the state fish and wildlife agencies of four Gulf States, and countless wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations to help with that phase of the attack. Plus an Army Corps of Engineers that has done monumental work on coastal habitat restoration in coastal Louisiana. The staff level experts in those agencies, if given orders to, could easily and quickly drum up plans and put them into action that would be at least as effective, if not more so, then anything BP has so far done. And they are already on the federal payroll, so there would be no contracting delays and no added expense for their salaries.

Third, the human tragedy is occurring in spite of the best government response our nation can mount. But part of that tragedy is because a private company, under current laws, made a really bad risk assessment that favored the company’s bottom line instead of the Nation’s ecological health. Federal Regulators helped them by looking the other way. The President has every right to want to “kick someone’s ass” over that, since he’s the person in charge (at least nominally) of maintaining that ecosystem health.

So, Ms. Applebaum, how about giving the federal government its due? We’re a lot more capable then you seem to think we are and we’re not going to rest Deepwater Horizon this gets made right. I’d much rather have a boss encouraging me to do that then preventing me from doing that, especially since Louisiana is my home, and those beaches are part of my personal history.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Polarized Politics in DC - finally the Washington Post admits the media are part of the problem (sort of)

AMEN! (emphasis mine)

I'd argue that the climate in Washington is being shaped by an artificial presentation of attitudes on cable TV and talk radio. To view and to listen is to become convinced that there are only two, diametrically opposed philosophical approaches to the issues. And yet, working daily in both mediums, I often think that the only people I meet who see the world entirely through liberal or conservative lenses are the hosts with whom I rub shoulders.

Buying gas or groceries or attending back-to-school nights, I speak to people for whom the issues are a mixed bag; they are liberal on some, conservative on others, middle of the road on the rest. But politicians don't take their cues from those people. No, politicians emulate the world of punditry.

Any sane person, possessing a modicum of analytical reasoning skill knows this. Several liberal and progressive bloggers like myself have been saying thins for a long time. But to see it in the conservative love fest that is the Op-Ed section of the Post is both refreshing, and disconcerting.

Refreshing in that the Obama bashing that the writers of opinion there (All supposedly liberals except Charles Krathammer) engage in daily has done nothing to move the country along to a better path. This has the potential to change that, in as much as admitting you have a problem is the first step to addressing it.

Disconcerting in that politics, and politicians, are most likely to now ignore the conclusions the author brings to the table, because these conclusions do not serve the politician as overlord-centric world view that many of them hold. If the media points out that politicians in DC are in an information bubble, fed a corrosive diet of distorted mis-information, then the politicians become nothing more then puppets for the interests that control those media (GE, anyone?). And no self-respecting national politician will ever admit to being a puppet.

All of which leaves more elected officials beholden to the fringe elements of their parties, which in turn means less gets done. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it is robbing our televisions and radios of the substantive dialogue the country desperately needs, while leaving our politics a petty and unproductive mess.

Sadly, though, Mr. Smerconish leaves off just as the "gettin' gets good." There's no witty rejoined to his media colleagues about ways to pull back. No forceful directive to we, the viewers as to how best to pull out of the death spiral. No politically savvy homecoming speech to the politicians that will invite them to break the trend and buck back to the political center where many Americans still vainly live.

And that's an equally troubling problem with political commentary today. Glenn Greenwald, one of the progressive bloggers I most respect, is guilty of the same thing. Yes, you have pointed out a serious flaw that exists in the way we as a nation conduct our business. Yes, you've made that flaw personal for each of us. But what the bloody hell do you think we should do about it?

In a day and age where sound bites rule our lives, and two or three generations of Americans keep people they know and love up to date in 140 characters, does Mr. Smerconish really believe that the reader of the Post will have the first clue how to deal with this media driven forced polarization? Couldn't he have thrown in a short, three sentence paragraph at least hinting at the answer?

Since he couldn't, I will. Turn off the TV. Put Rush in his place by switching to baseball. Write electronic letters to the editor (it doesn't take any longer then composing a good email). Email their ombudsman. Attend media sponsored public fora, and don't take No for an answer at the mike.

And for heaven's sake, WRITE EMAILS TO YOUR POLITICIANS! They are all looking for some political shield to hide behind in doing their work, and if they have 10,000 constituent emails to hide behind (since they all want to get re-elected), its easier for them to take on BP, GE and the like.

oh, and least I forget -


Thursday, June 10, 2010

From ABC news: feds now say between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil flow per day. That's 840,000 to1,680,000 gallons per day. For 52 days.
Today is E.O. Wilson's birthday. best known for his work "Island Biogeography" Prof. Wilson is now working to reconcile science & religion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Criticizing the President

Again on NPR this morning, I heard a story that got me thinking. It seems that the attendees at the Progressive-laden America's Future Now Conference are disappointed in where the Obama Administration is going, but are still not willing to criticize the President himself.

This is the money quote:

But Bob Kuttner, the editor of the liberal magazine American Prospect, had a different answer. "We criticize [Timothy] Geithner; we criticize [Lawrence] Summers; we criticize [Rahm] Emanuel; we criticize the oil companies; we criticize Wall Street; we criticize everybody but Obama," he said. "Because we feel a little bit goosey about criticizing Obama." Kuttner said progressives must hold Obama accountable. Piecemeal accomplishments are not enough, he said, to keep the movement going. "If he doesn't do more on jobs, and on mortgage relief, and on a handful of things that affect regular people where they live, it all goes down the drain in the midterm," he said. "And then the moment is lost and the crazies take over."

Now call me nuts, but I think I've said plenty that would count as criticism of the President. So does Glenn Greenwald (who has been a guest repeatedly on NPR). For that matter, so does Dan Froomkin. But finding that out must be tough. Unless you know how to Google . . .

Science Attacks the BP Deepwater Horizons Oil Spill

Here's some good news about the oil spill - and some good press about the work of science and scientists in the spill zone.

"If you think of information as a wave, the wave of truth in this calamity is not being driven by the government and government information sources. It's being driven by independent academics who are working under pressure and creatively to get information out," MacDonald said. "It's truly astonishing to see what's happening. The data cloud is so large and so complex, it's beyond the scope of one person to figure it out."

"This is so complicated and has so many dimensions. It will take a lot of science to figure out what is happening from a biological point of view, from an oceanographic point of view and from an economic point of view," said W. Ross Ellington, associate vice president for research at Florida State, where the task force is based.

You can read more about the taskforce's work HERE.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Defending us from ourselves - Do we need arrests like these?

On NPR this morning (and run in the Washington Post) we learn that federal and state law enforcement authorities have arrested two men from New Jersey who were headed overseas to Somalia, supposedly to join up and fight with "Islamic" terrorists.
The increasing allure for some Americans of destinations such as Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen has alarmed U.S. officials, though no evidence has surfaced that the two men planned any immediate attacks in the United States or overseas. Officials fear that radicalized Americans, even if they start off as naive as the two New Jersey aspirants appeared to be, could return home battle-hardened and determined to commit terrorist acts on American soil.

Now, a few things you need to know. First, both are U.S. citizens, and so the "usual" canard about holding foreigners shouldn't apply. Second, they have yet to actually be linked to any attack that is planned or known about, so the arrest appears to be preemptive in nature. Third, amongst their training regimen was the use of paint balls and first person shooter games.

Ok, you say, the authorities need a pat on the back for getting a couple of rotting apples before they broke open and stank up the place, so to speak. But root deeper, and one has to ask what's the difference between a Palestinian-American who uses paint balls to learn how to shoot, and a white American who does the same thing from within a white supremacist militia? How radical is it to go and fight, overseas on the side of people you believe your government is oppressing?

My second question there is an important one, historically, as Americans fought with the Zionists as they battled to set up what we now know as Israel. Ditto for Americans fighting with Franco in the Spanish Civil War. But because history deemed those "good, moral" causes (Franco's later dictatorship not withstanding), those Americans were not ever persecuted or demonized.

So now, we wait and see if the U.S. Justice system can live up to its reputation. One hopes that these two men will be afforded their full Constitutional rights, since they were arrested on American soil long before they could become enemy combatants. Sadly, the Holder Justice Department seems as blind on this issue as his predecessor.

While we wait, ponder this - these two Americans have been arrested by our government for the crime of deciding to take up arms against a regime that they see as evil and oppressive. All they did was talk a lot, and play games that many of us play each weekend (or night, or afternoon). They haven't actually done anything yet, but our "leaders" now call them terrorists. Imagine what would have happened if Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and the Concord Militia had all been rounded up while they were still talking, and practicing "terrorist training" by shooting their muskets to hunt. What, dear readers would the world look like then?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Celebrate National Doughnut Day

Lest you all think me COMPLETELY serious all the time, I offer this: Tomorrow (Friday, 4 June) is National Doughnut Day. Seriously. Now hold the jokes about bureaucrats and doughnuts, but do get yourself to the closest Krispy Creme or Duncan Donuts, where you can get free eats!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

34,083,300 gallons of oil and counting acccording to CNN.
37% of the US waters in the Gulf of Mexico are now closed to commercial fishing. BP can't possibly cover that opportunity cost. Can the US?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Regulatory Capture - What does it really mean?

Lots of hand wringing (again) about the "lax" regulation that MAY have allowed BP to set up a rig that would fail, catastrophically, under certain circumstances. Lawrence Baxter talks about this phenomenon in detail, and it's a post worth considering:

Not all industry influence is inappropriate: after all, industries exist to make money and, if lawful, their prosperity benefits us all. They should be able to influence the development and application of sensible and appropriate regulations. And industries are entitled to proper regulatory expertise and intelligent, well-versed regulators. But backdoor influence that leads to the kind of capture to which I am referring undermines the whole point of regulation. To use the old metaphor, it leads to the fox guarding the henhouse.

To be sure, there are many public-minded Americans–perhaps even proportionately more than in most other countries–but public service is seldom a chosen career path, at least for very long. And for good reason. We don’t teach its virtues and we don’t reward public service adequately. Where are the professors of regulation in the US? We don’t give knighthoods to regulators. They don’t get paid much in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, either but at least they are considered important. But what do we do? We pull them up in front of Congress and beat up on them, so they go get highly paid jobs in the private sector.

H/t James @ The Baseline Scenario
Why do we in government talk about "drivers" instead of just calling them laws?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Federal Oil Spill Response - a little more reality if you please

There are a lot of calls all over the Internet and news media for the Federal Government to take over form BP the job of responding to the oil spill that is destroying the northern Gulf of Mexico. Some, like Mike’s, are based on the perceived lack of effective response to the oil in the marsh; others are rooted in a well deserved distrust of BP.

Being a Louisiana native, no one on the Internet aches more then I do for the marshes that now must absorb the fruits of our fossil fuel hubris. The areas now fouled will take a long time to clean, if they ever do come completely clean. We’ve learned, painfully, that cleaning Valdez Alaska was not really effective, and oil continues to seep from the beaches today.

That said, I’ve also had hazmat training, done federal disaster response from the Army Corps of Engineers, and read more then a little case law. So I have a few experiences and some knowledge to answer those calls.

First, oil spill response in the U.S. is regulated by federal statute – in this case the Oil Pollution Control Act of 1990 (OPA 90). In the Act, the principle liability for response and clean-up falls to the “the responsible party for a vessel or facility from which oil is discharged” which in this case is BP. The federal response is also laid out in the Act, and governed by the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) and that starts with the Coast Guard and EPA taking joint charge (As they have in the Gulf). The NCP also lays out how and under what general headings each federal agency responds – directing NOAA, for instance, to run the scientific response, as it is presently doing. Specific Agency Responsibilities are found at § 300.175 Federal agencies: additional responsibilities and assistance. Interestingly, only the U.S. Coast Guard is authorized by the plan to contract for spill response, and only then with “appropriate state in order to implement a response action.”

So to say that the federal government is just sitting back and letting BP run the show is just wrong, both in statute and in fact. Hundreds of my federal colleagues are on the ground, on the beaches, and working really long hours to do really tough jobs. To say BP hasn’t pulled its weight is, however, also fair, as their contingency planning was clearly not up to snuff. That needs to be investigated, and since all federal agencies working the spill have been directed by the Department of Justice to preserve their records, I suspect criminal investigations will begin, is they haven’t already.

But more to the point, what more does the federal government have an obligation to do? And with what resources? I’ve heard that the Navy should be deployed, but to what end? Destroyers and guided missile frigates are too big to pull skimmers or boom; smaller in shore craft lack endurance for staying at sea for weeks on end. Most, if not all of the private sector vessels that are equipped for response are already contracted to BP, so the feds couldn’t really bring in any more boats or crews.

On shore, boom was pulled along hundreds of miles of coast line well before the oil arrived, and the oil got through anyway. Having done oil boom placement and retrieval, I know of no way the government could have done it that the shrimpers and BP’s contractors didn’t. And now that the oil is in the marsh, the real question of how do we get it out is raised. Here the federal government may be able to predict what the impacts to ecosystems and species are, but do you really want the Army Corps of Engineers pulling up giant bucket-fulls of marsh mud and plants to remove the oil? That’s the only real mechanical solution that a federal agency could undertake, and it would destroy – as much as the oil is destroying – one of our Nation’s most productive ecosystems.

So for those of you who think the feds need to ride in on a white horse, and that this is Mr. Obama’s Katrina, tell me what, specifically and LEGALLY you think we, who are your federal government, should do that we haven’t. Chances are for every idea you bring up, I can find all sorts of federal employees and contractors already doing it, or some really good reason why they aren’t.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wise Words - too little and too late

"Deregulation" is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren't issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its Tea Party critics claim it is.

But the truth is that we have disempowered government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task. The sludge in the gulf is, finally, the product of our own contradictions.

E.J. Dionne is right of course - and he should have written this column two years ago when Wall Street nearly melted the economy in a shroud of non-existent regulation for an industry that Alan Greenspan said last year did the thing he couldn't understand - put short-term profits ahead of long-term survival.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Richard Cohen talks out of both sides - and his generation needs to stop it.

In today's Washington Post, Richard Cohen - he of torture defense and Iraq ballyhooing - laments how the really difficult decisions about Vietnam his generation grappled with have been sullied recently:

But his most appalling lie was to turn a complex truth of that era into a simple matter of shame. It was obscene to send young men into a war that had lost its purpose and was being opposed by major political and intellectual figures in the United States. Opposition to the war was not merely a matter of avoiding duty but an agonized grappling with a hideous moral dilemma. I am not ashamed that I did not fight. I am not ashamed, either, that I did not want to fight. Neither do I denigrate those who did. I admire their bravery. I am humbled by their courage. I am mourning their deaths -- and I will never stop asking: Why?
Memo to Mr. Cohen - my generation is going through the same thing over Iraq and Afghantistan. We are asking WHY the very same way you did, and we thought your generation, having had an "agonized grappling with a hideous moral dillema" would have handled these two present wars differently - which is to say you all would have run screaming away from them as quickly as possible. That you and your generation, who now purport to "lead" our nation did not, says you have forgetton the hard lessons of your youths, and you are no more fit to preach to us in righteous indignation then you are to preach to a fellow generational member who extends his real service record to score political points.

Stop being such Hippocrits!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Climate Crisis goes on - and no one notices

The latest monthly climate averages are out from NOAA, and as usual they paint a . . . challenging picture for policy makers.

Hard though it may be to believe, the Earth experienced the warmest April, the warmest January-April period, and the warmest sea-surface temperature ever recorded. That’s right folks, actual temperature measurements by actual scientists the globe over show once again that we’re slowly edging up. Not computer models, actual temperatures.

So what does that mean in real, ecological terms? Well the 3 to 5oC rise in average temperatures over the U.S. and Canada are located squarely on top of our agricultural belt. If you look at precipitation data for, say, North Dakota, which is sitting on the 3oC edge of the warm mass, you also find that average precipitation is up over the last 180 days. Taking that into account, and looking at the annual average change in both temperature and precipitation, what you see is that our agricultural belt is heating up, and while it is wet right now, if annual and inter annual temperatures continue to rise, they will soon pass a point where existing agriculture can be sustained, since temperatures will become too hot for both the plants themselves, and for existing precipitation to keep the plants properly watered.

In other words, If this keeps up, we may well start seeing persistent drought in the upper mid-west and Canada, which would result in significant crop losses, or significant diversions of water for irrigation – unless we as a nation have the intestinal fortitude to move our agricultural apparatus to some other part of the country.

These, dear readers, are the kind of decisions we need to make NOW, not in 10 or 20 or 50 years when we have “better” data. Otherwise, our national economy may be imperiled, as well as our national food supply.

Think I’m blowing smoke? Consider this – “the global ocean surface temperature was 1.03°F (0.57°C) above the 20th century average of 60.9°F (16.0°C) and the warmest on record for April. The warmth was most pronounced in the equatorial portions of the major oceans, especially the Atlantic.” That means that we’re half way to the temperature increase needed to cause coral reefs to bleach (1-2O). And coral bleaching has nasty consequences. Not only do corals die, but the reef structure destabilizes, and becomes more susceptible to storm damage. This in turn leads to looses of local reef fish community productivity, and reefs, particularly in tropical areas serve as the fundamental nursery grounds for commercially important fish species. They also form the protein basis for some of the world’s poorest coastal economies. If a single degree or two rise in ocean temperature can lead to that sort of cascade – and evidence is now pointing that way – then a rate of global average temperature increase like we’re seeing here in the U.S. can just as easily threaten our purported “bread basket.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Good Bye Sweet Angel

Last night this precious little girl named Hudson lost her life to bacterial meningitis at Washington D.C.'s Children's Hospital. Hudson became ill on Monday, and her parents and the doctors did all they could. Husdon is a classmate/playmate of my youngest daughter, and both I and my wife had looked forward to many years of friendship with Hudson and her folks. Even in the face of great tragedy, Ed and Mandy welcomed every friend, no matter how minor, to the hospital room, they used those 21st century technologies of Facebook and texting to send wide updates, and the displayed a calm composure that speaks to their strength as parents, and their love for their little girl.

Every afternoon for the last 5 months, when I go to pick Peanut up from daycare, Hudson would toddle over, touch my goatee, laugh, and toddle off. It was a small, simple act by a little girl who wanted to know and understand the world around her. But it was also a powerful act by a strong little girl who loved everyone she knew, and wanted to touch - literally - everyone around her. I can't even begin to plumb all my feelings on this, but I can tell you all that our hearts are broken, we are bent, and we are leaning on each other as much as possible. This post is dedicated to Hudson's memory.

Soar with the Angels, Sweet Little One.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's in a Tea Party?

From a comment in Glenn Greenwald's post today on erosion of U.S. Citizen rights, comes a link that took me to this:

So are the Tea Partiers ordinary people with no political leanings, as they say they are? Definitely not. The findings cited above and other data in the polls indicate that the Tea Party is overwhelmingly stocked with Republican supporters. They are by no means "ordinary people," although the public's perception that they are is one of their strongest suits.

Are they just economic conservatives then? The Winston survey tells us much about Tea Partiers‟ economic views, and the "Contract from America" released on April 14, 2010 focuses on taxes, federal spending, and big government. But if you Google the questionnaires that local Tea Parties send to candidates, you will almost always find more than questions about these issues. You will often discover inquiries about religion as well (e.g., Do you support school prayer? Do you recognize God‟s place in America?). And often there are questions about abortion and gay marriage and teaching Creation Science in public schools. And you run into queries about gun control, law and order, and immigration. So while Tea Partiers overwhelmingly take conservative economic stands, which bind them together most, many seem to be strong "social conservatives" as well. Local groups often speak of wanting only "pure
conservatives" or "100 percent" conservatives as candidates.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Eulogy for the Bayou - Blogging the Gulf Oil Spill at The Intersection

My latest guest post over at Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirschenbaum's The Intersection is up, and it begins a series they are working on of the impacts from the oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. I won't give away the other authors, but when all is said and done, it will be some august company to be in.

Down the bayou, fishing, shrimping and oil are ways of life. They get passed from father to son, and generations of families shrimp, trap, fish, and go to the rigs together. For better or worse, they help feed the nation, and with 27% of our petroleum products going through south Louisiana, they fuel our Nation as well.

So as the oil comes ashore in the weeks and months ahead, the losses will be found across the spectrum of ecosystem components. Those dolphins, the shrimp and crabs whose descendents now ply those waters, and the Cajun fishermen and roughnecks who fled that sinking burning rig into the abyss will, and have, already suffered. All in the name of oil – and all in the name of our Nation.

UPDATE (Thursday 6 May 2010):

Joe Romm, continuing his fine service to the Nation at Climate Progress, shares this study on human dimensions and impacts of the oil spill:

We are in uncharted waters with this disaster. Sadly, it is likely to become an exemplary case study in how badly people and communities can be injured by an oil spill and its response. Experience with oil spills inside and outside the United States demonstrates that oil spills produce dramatic consequences for people’s lives. To better prepare for responding to spills, it is wise to learn from experience and be pro-active about planning for how to deal with impacts to humans. Hopefully, a broad understanding of the human dimensions of oil spill hazards can help these responders make wise decisions.

Congratulations to Science Cheer Leader - Getting Citizen Science Right!

My colleague Darlene Cavalier set some loft goals for herself when she founded Science Cheerleader:
1) help increase adult science literacy (see Brain Makeover). [Check!]
2) raise the ranks of citizen scientists and create a shared space for researchers and the public to socialize and work together. (see [Check!]
3) open doors to public participation in science policy (see this breaking news item) [Check!]

So its great to see her reach those goals, and in lightening speed - at least by Washington D.C. Standards! So I think an Internet round of applause is in order! And this slight poke - go check out her sight, find a local science project or issue, and dive right in. You will be glad you did!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thought - human capitol management sounds great, but it probably sounds too lofty for folks to get one's head around. Perhaps that's why no one likes it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Science Friday Update - Units of measure

from NPR's Science Friday - is Virginia now a unit of measure? yes, but only for algae-based energy production.

Mobile Blogging comes to Blogger

mobile blogging - this a test of the new mobile blogging system. If this goes through, I will use it sort of like Twitter - you'll get more of me but few words.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill in living color

Thanks to NASA's excellent satellite program, this is why we as a nation do not need anymore offshore oil drilling. NOAA now estimates that 5000 barrels of oil have leaked each day since Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank. That's 210,000 gallons of oil per day leaking from the broken, submerged remains of the rig. Threatening our nation's most productive shrimp fishery. Potentially about to foul some of the most ecologically productive coastal wetland in the U.S. Within a reasonable boat ride of New Orleans.

When is enough enough? How much longer will my home state of Louisiana have to suffer the ravages of our oil addiction (which is also a major contributor to coastal wetlands loss there)? Do we really want to "Drill Baby Drill" anymore?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quote of the Day - Strong on terror equals weak on fiscal issues

Frank said he imagines many politicians avoid the topic for fear of being assailed as weak on terror. But, he said, "I don't think any terrorist has ever been shot by a nuclear submarine."

From Dan Froomkin's blog at Huff Po

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona's new Immigration Law - sticking your head in the sand is not good policy

As you might imagine, there is a lot of chatter in the blog-o-sphere about Arizona's new anti-immigration law. Given that it was passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor, there are many of my liberal colleagues who dismiss it as so much a political stunt, and not the declared frustration of an overtaxed state. Those same colleagues would do well, me thinks, to rail equally against all the other federal mandates and laws that local jurisdictions end up taking on, since as we all know, the federal government is too busy spending your tax dollars on all sorts of other, useless things (like clean air, safe drinking water, and protection of endangered species: oh and fighting two overseas wars).

That said, there are three key points that I think we need to reinforce in the discussion. First, illegal immigrants in Arizona are overwhelmingly Hispanic, so when Arizona's new law says that you can't use race or ethnicity as the sole factor to establish "reasonable suspicion" that someone is here illegally, I have to ask what other basis will local cops use unless they always ask EVERY Latino they encounter for papers. We're already in a quasi-police state where our very phone conversations (and this blog and all your emails) can be read by the federal government without a warrant if the THINK you MIGHT be talking to a "terrorist."

Why does that matter? Well, to my second point, Arizonans have targeted a law at 29.4% of their population. Yes, you read that right - Arizona, a state that is 59.6% white has passed a law essentially requiring local police to stop and question nearly 1/3rd of their population in hopes of locating, detaining and ultimately deporting about 400,000 illegal immigrants a year. How this is not racially motivated is beyond me, especially when you consider that the Hispanic birth rate in Arizona is around 45% annually, and the non-Hispanic birthrate is 41%. That puts Arizona on the clear glide to being a white minority state sometime between 2015 and 2020 - i.e. within the next ten years.

Third, as Mike has pointed out over at Ames' place,

So then, again, why not put the pressure on employers? If they have immigrants working for them they should have papers. Period. Show up to a job site and make them produce. That will nab the majority of the illegals. I certainly don’t want them driving down the street and stoping Jose on his bike. That becomes harassment.

Unfortunately, this law does not address the economic issue. While this might well be the single most effective "reform" that could be made to deal with illegal immigration, Arizona has not added this power to its local police forces. No sir, employer raids are still the sole purview of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and ICE shows no signs of stepping them up any time soon. Thus, we're back to enforcement at the lowest level, leading to harassment of legitimate immigrants, increased distrust in law enforcement, and displacement of the problem back to Texas, New Mexico and California. None of this is a win for the people of Arizona (whose legitimate complaints about federal inaction will be drowned out by the laughter at this law); none of this is a win for immigration into the U.S. and none of this will stop those crossing vast deserts, at great peril to themselves, to enter a land whose most famous statue cries out:

"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The Washington Post's George Will - the supposed voice of reasoned Conservatives everywhere - has weighed in, and as always he tries so hard, and falls so flat:

Non-Hispanic Arizonans of all sorts live congenially with all sorts of persons of Hispanic descent. These include some whose ancestors got to Arizona before statehood -- some even before it was a territory. They were in America before most Americans' ancestors arrived. Arizonans should not be judged disdainfully and from a distance by people whose closest contacts with Hispanics are with fine men and women who trim their lawns and put plates in front of them at restaurants, not with illegal immigrants passing through their back yards at 3 a.m.

Where Will goes off the rails is assuming that the Hispanics he referrences here are two distinct groups - and that because Arizonans encounter them in one setting Arizonans get to treat them differently. Here in the DC area, there are scores of Hispanics, and they do indeed trim the lawns, serve the food, care for the children, build the houses, build the roads, go to church, buy stuff at Target, and drive a thriving segment of the local economy. If I had to guess, I'd guess some are illegal, but I have no way to tell, even if they are cutting through my yard at 3AM. Neither does Mr. Will, unless he assumes they all are. So too, the local cops in Arizona will have no other way to develop this elusive "reasonable suspician." And that is why liberals object to Arizona's Go It Alone Approach.

UPDATE 28 April 2010:

Unlike his Post colleague George Will, former Bush Administration speech writer and Jack Kemp Staffer Michael Gerson, writing in today's Washington Post, gets it, and makes Justin's point from the Comments below:

This law creates a suspect class, based in part on ethnicity, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent. It makes it harder for illegal immigrants to live without scrutiny -- but it also makes it harder for some American citizens to live without suspicion and humiliation. Americans are not accustomed to the command "Your papers, please," however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be "Go to hell," and then "See you in court."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Making the grade- the Carnival of Progressive Politics April 2010 edition

For the second time in a year, I'm humbled and proud to be featured in a political blog carnival - The April 2010 edition of the Carnival of Progressive Politics. Go over and check out some of the authors I've been featured with - there is some really great writing there, especially on immigration and civil liberties.

The immigration bill that is close to becoming Arizona law, a bill that would allow police officers to detain anyone they suspect of not being a U.S. citizen until they receive documentation, is an example of how ignorance—and its offspring, fear—engender prejudice and encourage regression.

Seth Freed Wessler, on the RaceWire blog, says the bill “suggests that immigration restrictionists who have relied on rhetoric about the threat of crime from immigrants are indeed not concerned with criminality, but rather with immigration itself.” That point reflects the belief of Rinku Sen, director of the Applied Reseach Center, in our 2009 interview about immigration policy. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, however, “Arizona is directly in the crossfire of the violent drug wars waging in Mexico and the state is the most popular point of entry for illegal aliens who come into the United States.” But is this the best way to deal with that problem?

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Houston chronicle accepts the climate crisis - why can't you?

Since today seems to be all about short, hopefully pithy posts, here's a stunner of an editorial from yesterday's Houston Chronicle (h/t Joe Romm):

As writer Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the current issue of the New Yorker, “The message from scientists at this point couldn't be clearer: the world's emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories — these are all a distraction from what's really happening.”

For those of us living in hurricane-vulnerable areas, keep in mind this ominous measurement: Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic main development area for tropical storms last month were the warmest ever recorded for March, already reaching levels typical of late June. The conjunction of several climate patterns combined with ongoing overall warming of the world's oceans is thought to be the cause.

Despite all the spinning and hot air, the science is solid and global warming is a real, deadly serious concern. It's time to deal with it.

I couldn't agree more. See, even in oil producing states, like the one just east of Texas where I was raised, the effects of the climate crisis will be felt. If they aren't already. Better for both the economy and the environment to recognize them now, and get ahead of the curve, instead of having to play catch-up later, and in a more costly fashion. Of course, this day has been a long time coming, and we're still in a pitched battle against some dark forces.

Leadership in Washington -Compromise shouldn't be a dirty word

I've written a lot in this blog about government accountability - and especially the former Bush Administrations infamous disregard for the ideas and ideals of the public it claimed to serve. So it is with great interest that I read this today in the Washington Post:

That said, however, great leaders must also have their fingers on the pulse of their constituencies and be willing to reach out to the displeased among the ranks when necessary. While full policy reversals aren't advisable based solely on the public's whims, a healthy dialogue can often open leaders' eyes to viewpoints they haven't considered or options that were previously unseen. Because leaders often can't generate the results they seek without a broad base of support, they must always be attuned to the public sentiment to know when greater efforts at compromise or communication are required.

Now two things you should consider when reading this: first, the author was a political appointee in the George Bush '43 Administration. Second, he'd likely have been fired had he made this statement publicly back then. Both credentials give me pause, especially the second one. If this is really a deeply held core view of his, he should never have worked for the Bush White House.

Now having said that, let me say this - he is also 100% right, particularly about the listening and compromising part. Several of the other posts in the set make similar points, and I sincerely hope the Obama White House AND Republican leadership are reading this and taking it to heart. Otherwise, they will go down in history not as leaders, but a mere politicians, and our Nation will be poorer for it.

A small but important victory - civil charges rise from the ashes of the Great Recession

Reports are surfacing this morning that the Securities and Exchange Commission has leveled civil charges against Goldman Sachs for its CDO's that were a major part of the sub-prime mortgage securities driver from the credit bubble burst.

Sadly, these are not the sort of charges that send people to jail, and the fines that may ultimately result are not likely to cause Goldman to fold - much less fire anyone. But for now, at least, the media will be forced to use the term Fraud when talking about Goldman, and that brings a small measure of accountability to the story.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

American Political worries - both Parties will loose this year if nothing changes

Judging by this poll from Fox News, its going to be a rough election season for incumbents of both parties:

By a nearly 2 to 1 majority, Americans of all political views chose the Economy as their most important issues for the mid-term elections. Healthcare and Government Expansion - two of the battle cries of the Tea Party movement - came in so far in second that, taken together, they don't equal the percentage of those polled worried about the economy. Liberals' twin whipping posts of the Iraq and Afghan wars likewise nearly fell off the radar, and no one (except perhaps Ron Paul) seems worried about taxation when they think about voting these days.

So what does one make of all this, especially from a Liberal Progressive standpoint? First, if Democrats can't credibly show how they are protecting and working to restore jobs, they are toast. Period. And given healthcare's slide as a national driving issue, many Americans do not either see or believe the link between the recently signed healthcare "reform" law and economic growth. I suspect the later, because it has always been delivered by liberal leaning economists and politicians in a convoluted way.

Second, given that American do not appear to be worried about Taxes, terrorism, or Government Expansion, Democrats have a real opportunity to hit Republicans hard on each issue. Granted, on Deficits, Democrats are no better the Republicans were, but if they want to continue to hold the majority in the House and Senate, they have to remind voters why Republican ideas and policies in these areas are bad for the country. Bipartisanship has no place here.

Third, this poll clearly shows Republicans that hitting Democrats back for passing the Healthcare bill isn't good election strategy. It won't win them back voters, nor wil it translate into a majority in eithe rhouse of Congress. What they need is an economic-based election platform that focuses on 21st Century jobs, American innovation, and preventing another economic meltdown (yes, I'm suggesting that Republicans lead on regulatory changes instead of just trusting market forces).

Will any of this come to pass? Perhaps not, but if these number hold through out the summer, then James Carville's 20 year old words will still be ringing true - It's the Economy, Stupid!