Reid and Snowe Introduce Measure to Allow Gore’s Live Earth Concert on Capitol Grounds

The Washington Post reports that Harry Reid and Olympia Snowe have introduced a measure to allow Al Gore to have a concert to raise awarness about Global Warming on the Capitol grounds:

If the bipartisan resolution is approved by the Senate and the House, it will clear the way for the former vice president to produce his free “Live Earth” concert on July 7 on the Capitol’s west side…

Using popular music to bring attention to his pet issue of global climate change, Gore is planning a single-day, worldwide series of concerts modeled after Live 8. Live Earth will feature seven major concerts on seven continents, with scheduled performers to include the Police, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Fall Out Boy, Genesis, Akon, Bon Jovi and, yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Watch for conservatives to take this article in The New York Times out of context and exaggerate the differences of a few who don’t represent the consensus of scientific thought. There’s plenty to cherry pick to claim to show disagreements between scientists and Gore. If you take the full body of scientific literature there is potential for disagreement over specifics. It is also common for scientists to find flaws in simplified presentations of their ideas by a non-scientist, even if they agree with the overall work. The bottom line is that the consensus of scientific thought is that global warming driven by human activity presents a serious problem. As one scientist said:

“On balance, he did quite well — a credible and entertaining job on a difficult subject,” Dr. Oppenheimer said. “For that, he deserves a lot of credit. If you rake him over the coals, you’re going to find people who disagree. But in terms of the big picture, he got it right.”

Update: Media Matters, Grist, and Real Climate debunk the criticism of Gore.

Even TNR Has Had Enough of Joe Lieberman

Not long ago we considered Joe Lieberman and The New Republic as being united but on the wrong side compared to most Democrats in their support of the war. While TNR has drifted left (frustrating David Brooks), Joe Lieberman has moved further to the right, resulting in today’s criticism in The Plank. Jonathan Chait writes:

Joe Lieberman is very quickly becoming not just a non-Democrat, but a very partisan Republican. At his AIPAC address yesterday, he said, “There is something profoundly wrong when opposition to the war in Iraq seems to inspire greater passion than opposition to Islamist extremism….Some of this wrong-headed thinking about the world is happening because we’re in a political climate where, for many people, when George Bush says ‘yes,’ their reflex reaction is to say ‘no.’ That is unacceptable.”

The first point has a grain of truth to it. I think there are people on the left for whom opposition to Bush has become the touchstone of their entire foreign policy, and who seem to have trouble understanding that our enemies abroad are evil in a way that Bush is not.

But Lieberman is simply making a classic conservative error. Yes, most American liberals devote more energy to opposing domestic conservatism than to opposing foreign totalitarianism, even though the latter is vastly worse. Lieberman’s mistake is in assuming that this is because liberals think Bush is worse than bin Laden. In fact, it’s because our society aggrees that Islamist extremism is evil, but it doesn’t agree that the Bush administration is very bad, so we spend most of our time debating the point of contention. Likewise, American conservatives spent more of their time complaining about American liberals than complaining about Islamist extremists. This doesn’t mean they think Nancy Pelosi is worse than bin Laden. (Except, of course for Dinseh D’Souza, who apparently does think this.)

The second part of Lieberman’s remark is even worse. He claims that anti-Bush partisanship is driving opposition to the Iraq war. But opposition to the war transcends partisanship. Not only do most democrats oppose Bush’s strategy, so do most independents and even many Republicans. What this suggests is that it’s not Democrats who are being driven by partisanship, it’s Republicans. If partisanship all melted away tomorrow, Bush and his strategy would be even less popular.

Lieberman, though, seems to live in a world where partisanship is primarily a Democratic phenomenon. This is the mental bridge that is leading him from being a bipartisan scold to becoming a Republican scold.

Chait makes excellent points in refuting Lieberman’s use of Republican talking points. There may be a grain of truth that for some on the left opposition to Bush is the touchstone of their beliefs, but for most people opposition to Bush is a result of seeing how disasterous his policies have been. Opposition to Bush is hardly a radical liberal thought considering his approval rating is in the low 30’s. Fifty-four percent now agree that Bush misled the country about WMD before the war. When someone has been so universally wrong and would stoop to lying the country into an unnecessary war there is some logic in assuming that any policy they recommend is bad for the country unless proven otherwise. I’d like to see Lieberman come up with a Bush policy which liberals now oppose but would not if it came from someone other than Bush.

Hypocritical Hillary and the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

Hillary Clinton is in the news again for referring to the “vast right wing conspiracy.” While conspiracy might not be the word I would choose, we understand what she is referring to. Conservativism has turned into an authoritarian movement with a highly sophisticated propaganda machine which promotes an alternative reality to attack their opponents. It is often impossible to differentiate between those intentionally spreading lies and all the ditto heads who actually believe their propaganda. In terms of Clinton’s actual statement using this line, the use of voter suppression techniques by the right, including the phone jamming scheme in New Hampshire, have been well documented.

Hillary Clinton should know about the behavior of the right wing as well as anyone. What is distressing is that she attacks them when politically expedient, but also repeats their attack lines when politically expedient. When John Kerry was under attack by the right wing noise machine which twisted his joke about George Bush into an attack on the troops, Hillary went along with the right wingers and joined in on the attack on Kerry when she thought he might be an opponent for the nomination. Last month she played into right wing smears when she attacked opponents by saying, “Some people may be running who may tell you that we don’t face a real threat from terrorism.”

The way to fight the “vast right wing conspiracy” is to dispute their falsehoods every chance she gets. At very least she cannot try to use their dishonest smears to her political advantage. As long as she does this, she is just a tool of the “right wing conspiracy” that she is attacking.

Climate Change–The Roots of Darfur

The Atlantic Monthly shows the relationship between climate change and the genocide in Darfur, showing that our actions are partially responsible for what is happening there. Further blogging on this article at Climate Progress and Thoughts from Kansas:

The fighting in Darfur is usually described as racially motivated, pitting mounted Arabs against black rebels and civilians. But the fault lines have their origins in another distinction, between settled farmers and nomadic herders fighting over failing lands. The aggression of the warlord Musa Hilal can be traced to the fears of his father, and to how climate change shattered a way of life.

Until the rains began to fail, the sheikh’s people lived amicably with the settled farmers. The nomads were welcome passers-through, grazing their camels on the rocky hillsides that separated the fertile plots. The farmers would share their wells, and the herders would feed their stock on the leavings from the harvest. But with the drought, the farmers began to fence off their land—even fallow land—for fear it would be ruined by passing herds. A few tribes drifted elsewhere or took up farming, but the Arab herders stuck to their fraying livelihoods—nomadic herding was central to their cultural identity…

Why did Darfur’s lands fail? For much of the 1980s and ’90s, environmental degradation in Darfur and other parts of the Sahel (the semi-arid region just south of the Sahara) was blamed on the inhabitants. Dramatic declines in rainfall were attributed to mistreatment of the region’s vegetation. Imprudent land use, it was argued, exposed more rock and sand, which absorb less sunlight than plants, instead reflecting it back toward space. This cooled the air near the surface, drawing clouds downward and reducing the chance of rain. “Africans were said to be doing it to themselves,” says Isaac Held, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But by the time of the Darfur conflict four years ago, scientists had identified another cause. Climate scientists fed historical sea-surface temperatures into a variety of computer models of atmospheric change. Given the particular pattern of ocean-temperature changes worldwide, the models strongly predicted a disruption in African monsoons. “This was not caused by people cutting trees or overgrazing,” says Columbia University’s Alessandra Giannini, who led one of the analyses. The roots of the drying of Darfur, she and her colleagues had found, lay in changes to the global climate.

The extent to which those changes can be blamed on human activities remains an open question. Most scientists agree that greenhouse gases have warmed the tropical and southern oceans. But just how much artificial warming—as opposed to natural drifts in oceanic temperatures—contributed to the drought that struck Darfur is as debatable as the relationship between global warming and the destruction of New Orleans. “Nobody can say that Hurricane Katrina was definitely caused by climate change,” says Peter Schwartz, the co-author of a 2003 Pentagon report on climate change and national security. “But we can say that climate change means more Katrinas. For any single storm, as with any single drought, it’s difficult to say. But we can say we’ll get more big storms and more severe droughts.”


Dan Rather: What We in Journalism Need is a Spine Transplant

For several years the media has given the Bush administration a free ride, failing to adequately question them during the run up to the Iraq war, and repeating Repubican talking points without critical examination. Dan Rather gave a keynote speech at South by Southwest Interactive, discussing the role of the internet and the failings of the news media:

“The Internet is a tremendous tool for not just news, (because) its potential is unlimited for that,” Rather said, but for “illumination and opening things up.”

But he spent most of his time on stage talking about why he thinks many people have lost faith in journalists.One reason for that, Rather said, is that a sense has developed that questioning power, especially at a time of war, is perceived as unpatriotic or unsupportive of America’s fighting troops.

That’s “a very serious charge in this country,” Rather said.

“We’ve brought it on ourselves,” he added, “partly because we’ve lost the sense that patriotic journalists will be on his or her feet asking the tough questions. My role as a member of the press is to be sometimes a check and balance on power.”

Indeed, Rather’s ascendance to the pinnacles of power in journalism came as a result of his reputation for asking very tough questions and–as Hampshire pointed out–not being afraid to ask follow-up questions, of powerful people like President Richard Nixon, the first President George Bush, current President Bush, Saddam Hussein, and many others.

“In many ways,” said Rather to loud applause, “what we in journalism need is a spine transplant.”

Rather then reiterated his feeling that many journalists today–and he repeated that he has fallen for this trap–are willing to get too cozy with people in positions of power, be it in government or corporate life.

“The nexus between powerful journalists and people in government and corporate power,” he said, “has become far too close.”

You can get so close to a source that you become part of the problem, he added. “Some people say that these powerful people use journalists, and they do. And they will use them to the fullest extent possible, right up until the point where the journalist says, ‘Whoa, that’s too far.'”

Therefore, it is incumbent on journalists to be willing to risk their access to power to search out the truth behind a story, he said. And they shouldn’t be willing to water down the truth to protect their access to power.

Rather also said that the consolidation of power in a small number of media companies has hurt the search for the truth in newsrooms across the country. As media conglomerates get bigger, the gap between the newsrooms and the boardrooms is too big and the goal becomes satisfying shareholders, not citizens, he said.

Therefore, Rather supports increased competition between media companies and between journalists, he said.

“So next time someone says, ‘I believe in the capitalist system,'” Rather said, “tell them Dan Rather says ‘Amen.'”

Rather reiterated the journalist’s role as a watchdog.

“Not as an attack dog…But what does the lapdog do, he just crawls into someone’s lap,” he said. “A good watchdog barks at everything that’s suspicious. I submit to you, the American press’ role is to be a watchdog.”