Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Morning Reading -- May 8

I love it when someone is ahead of me with reading. Contributors at 3Quarks Daily often do the heavy lifting, sifting through endless piles of content to find the nuggets worth passing along. This morning I found two (thus far) the I want to pass along as well.

First is a long read by Jonathan Chait pointing out that while the president appears to be fighting (and losing?) uphill political battles his administrative muscles are getting a good workout -- and good results.

Obama Might Actually Be the Environmental President
His climate-change policy has been an abject failure, says Al Gore and just about everyone else. They’re wrong. Here’s why.
By Jonathan Chait
Published May 5, 2013

The assumption that Obama’s climate-­change record is essentially one of failure is mainly an artifact of environmentalists’ understandably frantic urgency. The sort of steady progress that would leave activists on other issues giddy does not satisfy the sort of person whose waking hours are spent watching the glaciers melt irreversibly. But there is a difference between failing to do anything and failing to do enough, and even those who criticize the president’s efforts as inadequate ought to be clear-eyed about what has been accomplished. By the normal standards of progress, Obama has amassed an impressive record so far on climate change.

There are two basic ways to measure this, which must be taken together. The first, and simplest, is to ask: How much carbon are we emitting into the atmosphere?
In the first year of Obama’s presidency, the United State pledged that by 2020 it would reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 17 percent (starting from the level set in 2005). That 17 percent reduction is the brass ring of the environmental movement. It is the target the cap-and-trade legislation was designed to hit. It is also the target that Obama must be able to claim he is on track to reach by the time of the next international climate summit in 2015. That occasion, most observers agree, will probably be the world’s last chance to sign an accord that averts catastrophically and permanently higher temperatures.
This metric isn’t entirely fair, of course, because most, though not all, of this drop occurred for reasons having nothing to do with Obama. About half of the emissions drop can probably be attributed to the recession. (When people cut back on their spending, they do less driving, don’t run the air conditioner as high, and so on.) Another portion of the decline occurred because the fracking boom flooded the market with cheap natural gas, which replaced much dirtier coal. These trends will probably level off, as the price of natural gas has plunged so quickly drillers have already scaled back their production. Still, even if the progress was temporary and mainly a result of luck, it has provided Obama with breathing room that most observers haven’t been willing to grant him.

The second way to measure Obama’s climate-change record is: What has he done? He has done quite a bit, probably far more than you think, and not all of it advertised as climate legislation, or advertised as much of anything at all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was many things—primarily, a desperate bid to shove money into enough Americans’ pockets to prevent another Great Depression—but one of them was a major piece of environmental reform. The law contained upwards of $90 billion in subsidies for green energy, which had a catalyzing effect on burgeoning industries. American wind-power generation has doubled, and solar power has increased more than six times over. As Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald detailed in his book The New New Deal, the new law suddenly transformed the Department of Energy, previously a sclerotic backwater charged mainly with overseeing the nuclear-weapons cache, into a massive new engine of cutting-edge environmental science. 
[Spoiler alert.] 
On December 31, 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. The dispatches from that era feel unfathomably remote. The law passed Congress with Pearl Harbor war-resolution levels of support: In the House, 374 members favored it, with just one Nebraska Republican opposed. The Senate passed it 73-0. “Anti-pollution laws,” explained the Times, “did not excite political rivalry.” The law embodied a sweeping brand of environmental absolutism that would make Al Gore blush. It mandated that power plants use the best available technology, with no apparent thought given to the cost. 
Obviously, nothing remotely like such a law could pass either chamber today. (Even Democrats favor more-cautious approaches to limiting pollution.) But the four-decade-old law has gained a new relevance to the climate crisis through a cascading, often dramatic series of recent events. The law requires the EPA to regulate “air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Scientists at the time did not recognize that carbon dioxide contributed to global warming; they were more concerned with the human health effects of carbon monoxide and other chemicals. But as the scientific case for climate change hardened, environmentalists filed suit to force the EPA to regulate carbon emissions like other pollutants. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in the environmentalists’ favor. In 2008, the agency officially deemed carbon dioxide a pollutant, and sent its finding to the White House. The Bush administration refused to open the e-mail, thus, incredibly, running out the clock on any legal obligation. 
The coming of the Obama administration, with its greater affinity for opening e-mails and lower affinity for fossil-fuel industries, resolved the question of whether Washington had an obligation to regulate carbon emissions. After Obama’s original cap-and-trade plan failed, he started using the agency regulatory powers directly. (This is how Obama has been able to issue new regulations on cars, fuel, appliances, and future power plants.) 
So far, there is one hole in his regulatory agenda: power plants that currently exist. This is, unfortunately, a very large hole, as these plants, mostly coal, emit 40 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. Coal is so inherently dirty that no available technology can prevent a plant from emitting unacceptable levels of greenhouse gases. You can require more-efficient cars or more-efficient refrigerators, and the industry will respond. You can’t really require coal plants to be anything more than slightly cleaner; it’s just physically impossible. The only meaningful standard one could impose for a coal plant would result in all of America’s coal plants shutting down—which, even if phased in slowly, would carry large costs and likely provoke a revolt from people suddenly staring at huge electric bills. The EPA’s choice, as environmental writer David Roberts has put it, appears to be “either a firecracker or a nuke.”

Then there is this: 


On how Rightwing Israel-firsters don’t actually like Jews: Glenn Beck’s Nazi Bloomberg
Juan Cole hits one out of the park.

The wingnut psychopathology of Glenn Beck and many other hyper-conservatives doesn’t prevent them from being lionized in the media, turned into millionaires by media corporations, and having their own media (“The Blaze”) taken seriously on television. Meanwhile, we ordinary everyday liberals are considered by the corporate media to be too controversial to put on the air. 
One of the more profound contradictions in wing-nuttery is an absolute idolatry of Israel’s Likud government combined with a lightly veiled contempt for American Jews and their liberal values. Back in the 1990s the Conservative code word for Jews was the “Hollywood elite”, seen as promoting sex outside traditional marriage, gay rights, gun control, workers’ rights, etc. Go back and look at Dan Quayle’s attack on the sitcom Murphy Brown with Candace Bergen, the real target of which was the imaginary “Hollywood elite.” (Hollywood is actually a diverse enterprise.). Most American Jews vote Democratic. 
At the same time, the right wing developed a fascination with muscular Zionism in Israel. They configured Israel as the Alamo of White People, surrounded by barbarian hordes and terrorists. Glenn Beck developed ties to the Israeli Likudd Party and was praised by PM Binyamin Netanyahu even though 8 of his “9 most dangerous men” are Jews. He has said slanderous things about George Soros. He characterized the young Israeli protesters for social justice in summer, 2011, as a leftist Islamic Nazi plot. He compared Reform Judaism to al-Qaeda.
Now Beck has compared Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stances on controlling hand guns and his public health campaign against huge doses of sugary soda to a Nazi salute. 
ABC has video 

The true friends of Israel are the ones working against the occupation of the Palestinian territories captured in 1967, an Occupation that is deeply harming Israeli interests. For Beck, Israelis are merely Gurkhas for American Empire, and when they decline to serve far rightwing US interests, he is happy to smear them as Nazis.


In other news, Sanford won his bid for the South Carolina seat vacated by Tim Scott, appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint in December to take a job as president of the Heritage Foundation.
Don't get me started.


Pictures like this make our political arguments seem trite. 


13 Benghazis That Occurred on Bush’s Watch Without a Peep from Fox News
By Bob Cesca · May 08,2013

The Republican inquisition over the attacks against Americans in Benghazi has never really gone away, but it appears as though in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this week there’s renewed psycho-histrionics over Benghazi. 
Lindsey Graham and Fox News Channel in particular are each crapping their cages over new allegations from an alleged whistleblower, while they continue to deal in previously debunked falsehoods about the sequence of events during and following the attacks. Fox News is predictably helming the biggest raft of hooey on the situation — turning its attention to Hillary Clinton in an abundantly obvious early move to stymie her presidential run before it even begins. 
So I thought I’d revisit some territory I covered back in October as a bit of a refresher — especially since it appears as if no one, including and especially the traditional press, intends to ask any of these obnoxious, opportunistic liars about why they’re so obsessed by this one attack yet they entirely ignored the dozen-plus consulate/embassy attacks that occurred when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were allegedly “keeping us safe.” 
The Benghazi attacks (the consulate and the CIA compound) are absolutely not unprecedented even though they’re being treated that way by Republicans who are deliberately ignoring anything that happened prior to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. 
January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.
June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.
October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.
February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.
May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.
July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.
December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.
March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News would even recognize the name “David Foy.” This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.)
September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.
January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.
July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.
September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months. 
A few observations about this timeline of attacks. My initial list was quoted from an article on the Daily Kos which actually contained several errors and only 11 attacks (the above timeline contains all 13 attacks). Also, my list above doesn’t include the numerous and fatal attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraq war — a war that was vocally supported by Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Fox News Channel. 
Speaking of Graham, I ran a search on each attack along with the name “Lindsey Graham” in the hopes of discovering that Graham had perhaps commented about the attacks or raised some questions about why the administration didn’t prevent the attacks or respond accordingly to prevent additional embassy attacks. No results. Of course. Now, this could mean the search wasn’t exhaustive enough. But one thing’s for sure: neither Graham nor any of his cohorts launched a crusade against the Bush administration and the State Department in any of those cases — no one did, including the congressional Democrats, by the way. 
This leads us to the ultimate point here. Not only have numerous sources previously debunked the Benghazi information being peddled by the Republicans and Fox News (for example, contrary to what the Republicans are saying, yes, reinforcements did in fact arrive before the attack on the CIA compound), but none of these people raised a single word of protest when, for example, American embassies in Yemen and Pakistan were attacked numerous times. Why didn’t the Bush administration do something to secure the compounds after the first attacks? Why didn’t he provide additional security? 
Where was your inquest after the Karachi attacks, Mr. Graham? Where were you after the Sana’a attacks, Mr. Hannity? What about all of the embassy attacks in Iraq that I didn’t even list here, Mr. McCain? Do you realize how many people died in attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates when Bush was supposedly keeping us safe, Mr. Ailes? Just once I’d like to hear David Gregory or George Stephanopoulos or Wolf Blitzer ask a Republican member of Congress about the above timeline and why they said nothing at the time of each attack. Just once. 
Nearly every accusation being issued about Benghazi could’ve been raised about the Bush era attacks, and yet these self-proclaimed truth-seekers refused to, in their words,undermine the commander-in-chief while troops were in harm’s way (the line they repeated over and over again during those years). 
So we’re only left to conclude the obvious. The investigations and accusations and conspiracy theories are entirely motivated by politics and a strategy to escalate this to an impeachment trial. In doing so, the Republicans have the opportunity not only to crush the president’s second term, but also to sabotage the potential for a Hillary Clinton presidency. 
Even if they never arrive at that goal, they have in their possession a cudgel formed of horseshit — a means of flogging the current administration with the singularly effective Republican marketing/noise machine, including conservative entertainment complex. Very seldom does this machine fail to revise history and distort the truth. Ultimately, they don’t even need a full-blown impeachment proceeding when they have a population of way too many truthers and automatons who take all of these lies at face value — not to mention dubiously sourced chunks of “truth” proffered by radio and cable news conspiracy theorists who, if nothing else, are masters at telling angry conservatives precisely what they want to hear: that the probably-Muslim president is weak on terrorism. And so they’ll keep repeating “Benghazi-Gate, Benghazi-Gate, Benghazi-Gate!” without any regard for history or reality. Like always.


If you need something more to worry 
or make small talk about...

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