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!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Tax Man Cometh - but not for you if you are a corportation

There is a great hew and cry this time of year about how much income tax federal employees owe - $962 Million according to one source. As a fed, who pays his taxes every year, in full and on time, that irks me.

But not as much as this:

HOUSTON -- As you work on your taxes this month, here's something to raise your hackles: Some of the world's biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do--that is, if they pay taxes at all.

The most egregious example is General Electric ( GE - news - people ). Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.

Yes, you read that right - the largest most profitable company in the U.S. was owed a refund by the IRS of $1.1 Billion.

So, what my fellow federal employees owe in taxes is less then what we GAVE BACK to G.E. But solving the Nation's revenue stream is best done on my back, not G.E.'s. Hum, yeah, right.

The U.S. Government wants to kill one of our citizens

This, friends, Romans and Countrymen, is a sad day in U.S. History. For the first time, American 0fficials, speaking on that all hiding condition of anonymity, have confirmed that the U.S. has authorized the targeted killing of an American Citizen, because in the view of the Administration he represents the most severe kind of threat to our national security that he must be removed. Yes folks, the nation that claims it is such an exception in the modern world as to lecture the Afghani government on corruption (a government the last Administration installed and which we prop up), is now among the handful of nations that openly advocates the assassination of its citizens.

That fact should disgust each and every one of you, as it does me. and it should result in the ringing down of shame on the Obama White House. We have, of course, seen internal killings of opponents before - the practice was rampant in South American in the 1970's and 1980's. Israel is reported to routinely assassinate Palestinian leaders it considers a threat - often by rocketing their houses while they sleep surrounded by their families.

But we, of course, are not terrorists. And killing one of our citizens will keep us eternally safe because he's a very bad man.

To paraphrase Martin Miemoller:

First, I let them kill Muslims, because I was not a Muslim
Then I let them kill American Muslims, because I was not an American Muslim
Then I let them kill Americans whose politics I disagreed with, because I was not one of them
Then they came to kill me, and there was no one left to stop them.

Shame on us.