Monday, September 12, 2011

Al Gore's 24-Hour Broadcast To Convert Climate Skeptics

Gore promotes his “Climate Reality Project” in this video.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore plans to hit the climate crisis hard with a day of organized global action on Sept. 14.

The day of action aims to broadcast 24 straight hours of climate activism, encouraging others to get up and undertake climate mitigation efforts as well.

The campaign also asks people to hand over control of their social networking accounts on Facebook and Twitter to it for 24 hours to deliver Gore's message.

The presentations will look at politically motivated climate skeptics and explore who funds the development and distribution of media content that denies the findings of thousands of climate scientists worldwide is real and accurate.

Learn more about Al Gore's 24-hour program at Climate Reality.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Paul Krugman 9/11 Blog Post Stokes Controversy

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman drew conservative outrage on Sunday when he wrote that the anniversary of 9/11 had become a marker of "shame" for the U.S.
Huffingtonpost: The New York Times columnist wrote a blog post called "The Years of Shame," in which he said that "what happened after 9/11" was "deeply shameful." Krugman castigated people like Rudy Giuliani and President Bush as "fake heroes" who exploited the attacks for their own personal, political or military gain. He also said that many in the media had "[lent] their support to the hijacking of the atrocity.

Krugman concluded, "the memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And, in its heart, the nation knows it." He said he had turned off the comments on the post "for obvious reasons."

Conservative commentators quickly seized on Krugman's post. Blogger Michelle Malkin called him a "smug coward." Writer Glenn Reynolds called the post "an admission of impotence from a sad and irrelevant little man." A writer at the Big Journalism site called Krugman "vile."

However, some progressives defended Krugman. Blogger Glenn Greenwald vociferously backed the post on Twitter.

"Michael Moore & The Dixie Chicks were just as right back then as Krugman is today - but today the taboos (& their enforcers) are much weaker," he wrote.

And, on Crooks & Liars, Nicole Belle said that Krugman was simply telling the truth. "That day was the impetus for us to attack and invade Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks and posed no threat to us," she wrote. "To date, we've lost 4,752 allied service members in Iraq and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians. How is this not a black mark of shame on the legacy of 9/11?"
Our Blogger friend Ted McLaughlin also wrote a thought provoking post at Jobsanger, "A Macabre American Holiday:"

The Courage Of United Flight 93 Passengers And Crew

by Michael Handley

The 40 passengers and crew who fought back against their hijackers aboard United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 performed a courageous act. The hijackers of Flight 93 intended to crash the plane in Washington DC, likely the Capitol Building or the White House, but never made it because of the determination and valor of the passengers and crew.

President Bill Clinton said at a ceremony dedicating the first phase of a memorial at the nation's newest national park near Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed, "With almost no time to decide, they gave the entire country an incalculable gift. They saved the capitol from attack. They saved God knows how many lives. They saved the terrorists from claiming the symbolic victory of smashing the center of American government. And they did it as citizens."

Ed Felt, my colleague at the Internet infrastructure start up software company BEA Systems, was one of the passengers on Flight 93 that day. Ed was traveling on Flight 93 from BEA's east coast office to the company's headquarters office in San Jose, CA - a flight other BEA employees, and I, frequented.  Ed was one of the top five software engineers at our billion-dollar start up company having just received a U.S. patent in August 2001 for software he designed for BEA.

Flight 93 became an American profile in courage on that day that claimed almost 5,000 lives, toppled buildings that stood like a twin Colossus on the New York shore, took down one side of the Pentagon, and ushered in two wars.

What made Flight 93 different was a decision reached somewhere over the skies of Western Pennsylvania, after passengers learned on cell phones that their hijackers planned to crash their Boeing 757 plane into a building as the fourth in a quartet of suicide attacks. Here is the story of Ed and the other 39 passengers and crew members of United Flight 93.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

U.S. Endures Hottest Summer Since Dust Bowl Era

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other skeptics of climate change will have to explain away yet more evidence contrasting their disbelief.

The U.S. has experienced its hottest summer in 75 years, according to USA Today and the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. This latest summer season, with an average temperature of 74.5 degrees, has also been recorded as the second hottest ever. Only the Dust Bowl year of 1936, at 74.6 degrees, was warmer.

The middle south experienced the heat wave more than any other region, with Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico having their hottest year ever. Texas has also suffered through its driest summer since record keeping began in 1895, and the longest drought span, now by a slim margin, since the 1950s.

Friday, September 9, 2011

GOP Derides Obama Jobs Plan As ‘Second Stimulus,’ Ignoring Success Of The First

Last night, President Obama rolled out a $450 billion job creation package before a joint session of Congress, calling for a plan that includes a payroll tax reduction, money for infrastructure and school modernization, as well as help for homeowners and reforms of the unemployment insurance program. “This plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it,” Obama said.

By Pat Garofalo posted from ThinkProgress Economy

But while the GOP leadership has made some conciliatory comments — with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) saying that “the proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration” — many Republicans have derided the plan by calling it another stimulus, along the lines of the 2009 Recovery Act.

Of course, all of this criticism is based on the incorrect assumption that the 2009 Recovery Act didn’t work. But as the Congressional Budget Office has continually found, the Recovery Act created or supported millions of jobs, keeping the unemployment rate up to two points below where it otherwise would have been. At its height in the third quarter of 2010, Recovery Act funds were supporting up to 3.6 million jobs.

In June of this year, Recovery Act funding was still supporting up to 2.9 million jobs. This chart tracks the change in employment that occurred following the passage of the Recovery Act:

Thus far, economists have offered “mainly positive reviews” of Obama’s plan, with Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics estimating that “the plan would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth next year, add 1.9 million jobs, and cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point.” Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that the plan will boost growth by 1.5 percentage points, while the Economic Policy Institute said that the plan will create 2.6 million jobs and support another 1.6 million, boosting overall employment by almost 4.3 million.

The reason that unemployment is so high, even with the Recovery Act, is that it wasn’t big enough to deal with the scale of the problem. But to Republicans, the millions of jobs created by the Recovery Act signal abject failure, and therefore Obama’s new jobs plan doesn’t warrant consideration, even as the economy struggles to throw off the chains of the Great Recession.

Full article @ ThinkProgress

As Bridges, Roads And Water Systems Crumble, GOP Remain Opposed To Infrastructure Investment

I35 bridge in Minnesota that was rated "structurally deficient"
President Obama’s plan to kick start the economy and put the American people back to work includes investing in the nation’s rapidly deteriorating roads, bridges and public water and sewer utilities. Studies show that America's public infrastructure is in critical need of as much as $2 trillion in immediate repair and replace just to keep it from crumbling in decay.

In the past, Republicans have agreed that infrastructure improvements are needed, but they remain opposed to federal spending on America's roads, bridges and water supply systems that Pres. Obama continues to prioritize. Republicans have chosen to ignore the nation’s infrastructure and jobs crises, in their demand to slash government spending while giving big tax breaks to multinational corporations, who use America's infrastructure earn record profits.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, about 12 percent of the nation’s bridges are considered “structurally deficient,” the same rating given to the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people. Roughly another 12 percent are considered “functionally obsolete.” In four of the states represented by Republican congressional leadership, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Arizona and California the rate of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges outpaces the national average.

Roads, bridges and public water and sewer utilities in Texas also need attention, not to mention that Texas could use a few more water reservoirs.

Top Three Texas Infrastructure Concerns according to the American Society of Civil Engineers:

Jobs vs. Deficit -- Where the Public Stands

Following President Obama's address before a joint session of Congress on Thursday to lay out a plan to spur jobs creation, the political and policy debate in congress continues to be about stimulus spending to create jobs vs slashing government spending to cut the deficit.

While Republicans, and particularly the new Tea Party lawmakers who joined them on Capitol Hill this year, spearheaded the drive to put deficit reduction front and center, deficit reduction had risen at least modestly in the list of public concerns.

But public support for deficit reduction as the top economic priority over the job situation has been weakening under the weight of increasingly bad economic news in recent months resulting from the fragile recovery and the failure of the jobs market to improve.

A Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll conducted Sept. 1-4 shows a steady rise since March – from 34% to 43% – in the percentage of those saying that the job situation is the economic issue that worries them most. Those citing the budget deficit as their top worry declined from 28% in May and 29% in July to 22% in September.

A mid-August poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found a similar trend on a somewhat different measure.

In June, 52% had said the higher priority for government should be reducing the deficit, compared with 42% who favored spending to help the economy recovery. But the August poll showed the public almost evenly divided over whether the higher priority should be spending to help the economy recover (47%) or reducing the budget deficit (46%).

Those results showed the same sharp partisan split that characterized the budget battles throughout the year. Republicans favored deficit reduction over spending to help the economy by 66% to 29% and GOP Tea Party adherents held that view even more strongly, 82% to 16%. Democrats favored stimulus over spending reduction by 61% to 32%.

The big factor driving down overall public preference for deficit reduction over stimulus since June was a change in outlook among independents.

In June, they favored deficit reduction over stimulus by a 54% to 39% margin, but in the August survey, 47% backed spending on the economy while 46% stuck by deficit reduction as the higher priority.

The recent shifts in public opinion on the importance of deficit reduction comes as worsening economic news started to seep into the American conscience during August.

Obama Tells Congress To Pass $447 Billion Jobs Plan

Pres. Obama shares plan to create jobs with joint session of Congress. September 8, 2011
President Barack Obama Thursday challenged Republicans to halt a "political circus" and immediately pass a bigger than expected $447 billion jobs plan he said would jolt the "stalled" economy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Perry Doubles-Down On Opposing Social Security

Another great post from our blogger friend Ted McLaughlin at the Texas Panhandle blog Jobsanger:
I have to give Rick Perry a little credit -- he actually showed up for the debate yesterday. I had thought he would once again use the wildfires as an excuse to duck appearing on the same stage with his fellow candidates. And he should have, because he made a giant mistake in the debate -- one that will haunt him on the campaign trail.

A few months ago Perry wrote a stupid and very ill-timed book. Evidently he thought at the time he wrote the book that he would never run for another political office, because he wrote in the book that he believed Social Security and Medicare were both unconstitutional. He went on to say that each state should be able to opt out of either or both programs.

This was not too bright, and now that he's a candidate, he should be begging forgiveness for ever saying such a thing. It probably wouldn't work (since he actually put his opposition to Social Security in print), but maybe he could have claimed he was "temporarily insane" when he wrote the book, or maybe it was a mis-print and the fault of his editor -- anything but what he actually did during the debate.

What he did was double-down on his hatred for Social Security. When what he had said about Social Security was brought up, he acted like he was proud of that and even went on to called Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" and say it would not even exist when today's young people need it. That's right, he attacked Social Security on nationwide television. ...

Read the rest @ Jobsanger

Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

by: Mike Lofgren, Truthout

It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.

Virtually every [Senate] bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

John P. Judis sums up the modern GOP this way:

"Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today's Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery."

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ("Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

The media are also complicit in this phenomenon. Ever since the bifurcation of electronic media into a more or less respectable "hard news" segment and a rabidly ideological talk radio and cable TV political propaganda arm, the "respectable" media have been terrified of any criticism for perceived bias. Hence, they hew to the practice of false evenhandedness. Paul Krugman has skewered this tactic as being the "centrist cop-out." "I joked long ago," he says, "that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read 'Views Differ on Shape of Planet.'"

Read the full article @ Truthout