Quote of the Day

“Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with a maid. She kept the child secret for 14 years. John Edwards is going, ‘Why can’t I meet a chick like that?'” –Jay Leno

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Ignorance and Denial of Science on the Right

We’ve long seen the extent of the ignorance of the anti-science right, from believing creationism is a valid alternative to evolution to believing that experiencing  a cold winter day means that global warming is a hoax. It now looks like they have absolutely no understanding of the concepts of either averages or the predictive value of science.

George Monbiot attempted to explain how the increased snow in the U.K. does not contradict the predictions made by climate scientists but actually has been predicted by them. The explanation went way over the heads of many right wing bloggers. They hear the terms “global warming” and they think that means the scientists are saying it will be warmer everywhere year round. What they are actually talking about is averages. Overall it is getting warmer. See the graph above (more here) and human action is responsible.  The past decade has been the warmest decade on record. Last year was the second warmest year. This year from January through November has been the warmest so far. Climate scientists have tried to use the term “climate change’ to help with some of the confusion among right wingers. For several years climate scientists have also been predicting increased snow and colder weather during the winters in many areas.

One of the most ignorant denials of climate change because it is snowing came from John at PowerLine. He dug up a newspaper quote from a climate scientists predicting a future absence of snow in England and used this to deny the predictive value of climate science. This was from a decade ago, well before the consensus statements on climate change were issued. If he had bothered to look at the scientific journals of the time as opposed to resorting to cherry picking a newspaper article he would have found that the predictions of climate scientists have been coming true. The world is getting warmer. Predictions of climate scientists are coming true, from the polar ice caps receding to many areas suffering from drought around the world. The climate is even changing in the United States. Arnold Schwarzenegger has discussed the consequences in California.

If you judge science by its predictive value, climate science has had a very good record–but not perfect. Ten years ago climate scientists did not realize how climate change would increase snowfall in areas such as Great Britain. In more recent years they figured that out. Science advances over time. There have been a number of other errors over the years. Scientists cannot predict with certainty what the snow fall will be in a specific area during a specific year, but they have been correct far more often than wrong, and the overall pattern continues to show that the world is warming. Unfortunately, when the climate scientists have been wrong in their predictions, the reality has been that in some areas global warming has been progressing even more rapidly than they predicted.

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Quote of the Day

“Over Anchorage, AK. Looking everywhere but can’t see Russia from here. Will keep you updated as search continues. http://twitpic.com/2mvxod
–Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter, with attached picture of him flying over Alaska

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Schwarzenegger, Powell, and Petraeus Defend Obama on Stimulus And Terrorism

The Sunday interview shows a few cases of Republicans breaking from the party line and supporting Barack Obama’s policies. Arnold Schwarzenegger along with Democrat Ed Rendell discussed how the stimulus was successful, including at creating private sector jobs, on This Week. They also agreed that the Republicans won the spin war in discrediting this successful program, with Schwarzenegger calling his fellow Republicans hypocrites:

“I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on stimulus money and saying this doesn’t create any new jobs, and then they go out and do photo-ops and they’re posing with the big check and they say, ‘Isn’t this great! Look the kind of money I provide here for the state! And this is great money to create jobs, and this has created 10,000 new jobs, and this has created 20,000 new jobs,’” Schwarzenegger said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It doesn’t match up.”

Asked by “This Week” host Terry Moran if that amounted to hypocrisy, Schwarzenegger responded: “Exactly.”

On Face the Nation Colin Powell disagreed with Dick Cheney’s claims that we are less safe under Obama:

Claims that the United States is less safe under President Obama are not credible, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

He also challenged criticism by some (including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who say that by not using extreme interrogation techniques such as waterboarding on terror suspects the United States is more vulnerable.

“The point is made, ‘We don’t waterboard anymore or use extreme interrogation techniques.’ Most of those extreme interrogation techniques and waterboarding were done away with in the Bush administration,” Powell said. “They’ve been made officially done away with in this current administration.”

Gen. David Petraeus disagreed with Dick Cheney regarding torture and  closing Guantanamo on Meet the Press:

Appearing on Meet the Press, the general made a compelling case against torturing terrorist detainees, saying he found it far more pragmatic and beneficial to stick to methods authorized by the army field manual.

“I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values. And I think that whenever we’ve perhaps taken expedient measures, they’ve turned around and bitten us in the backside. We decided early on, in the 101st airborne division, we just said, we decided to obey the Geneva Conventions…

“In the cases where that is not true [where torture takes place or international human rights groups aren’t granted access to detention sites] we end up paying a price for it, ultimately,” he added. “Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are non biodegradable. They don’t go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick…. Beyond that, frankly, we have found that the use of interrogation methods in the army field manual that was given the force of law by Congress, that that works.”

Petraeus wasn’t done there. In another contrast with former Vice President Cheney — as well as the vast majority of congressional Republicans — he reiterated his support for closing Gitmo, albeit without a date-specific time frame.

“I’ve been on the record on that for well over a year, saying it should be closed,” he said. “But it should be done in a responsible matter. So I’m not seized with the issue that it won’t be done by a certain date. In fact, I think it is prudent to insure that as we move forward with that, the remaining detainees are relocated and so forth… is really thought through and done in a very pragmatic and sensible manner.”

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Republicans Supporting Health Care Reform

Republicans currently in Congress are determined to prevent the Democrats from having a political victory by passing health care reform, regardless of how much this is needed or how much better off the country would be. In contrast to those currently in Congress, many other Republicans are backing health care reform ideas similar to the current Democratic plans.  Arnold Schwarzenneger is the latest Republican to support health care reform, issuing this statement today backing a national push for health are reform:

For Immediate Release:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on National Push for Health Care Reform

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement urging the passage of health care reform at the national level:

“As Governor, I have made significant efforts to advance health reform in California. As the Obama Administration was launching the current debate on health care reform, I hosted a bipartisan forum in our state because I believe in the vital importance of this issue, and that it should be addressed through bipartisan cooperation.

“Our principal goals, slowing the growth in costs, enhancing the quality of care delivered, improving the lives of individuals, and helping to ensure a strong economic recovery, are the same goals that the president is trying to achieve. I appreciate his partnership with the states and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people.

Earlier in the year, former Republican Senate leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker backed ideas similar to the current health care reform legislation. Bill Frist also agreed recently. In many ways the current Democratic proposals are like Mitt Romney’s plan, with ideas on financing coming from John McCain.

Even Bobby Jindal supports the ideas in the current health care proposals, even if he isn’t bright enough to realize it. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Bobby Jindal wrote a bizarre op-ed in which he claimed, “The debate on health care has moved on. Democratic plans for a government takeover are passé.” Jindal showed he doesn’t really understand what is in the Democratic plans, such as with his false characterization of them as a “government takeover.” Jindal then proceeded to lay out what he considered Republican ideas for health care reform, and they wound up being fairly close to the current Democratic ideas which he claims are passé. The difference is that Jindal just provided general principles without any concrete mechanism to put these ideas into practice–such as those present in the Democratic health care proposals.

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Liberty Counsel’s Program to Pray For Liberals

You just can’t make up stuff stranger than what is coming out of the right wing. The Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, has started a program to adopt a liberal and pray for them:

Since the landmark 2008 general election, there can be no doubt that a very large percentage of our Nation’s leaders have a liberal mindset. The undeniable fact is that the 111th Pelosi-Reid Congress and the Obama Administration demonstrate a far left political philosophy. And since the President nominates federal judges and Justices of the United States Supreme Court, the judicial branch of government could take on a decidedly more liberal bent as the Obama Administration wears on.

Liberty Counsel has therefore named this special new prayer-in-action program Adopt a Liberal. And that’s exactly what we invite you to do — adopt a liberal who is in authority for regular, intense prayer in accord with St. Paul’s admonition to his disciple, Timothy. In fact, we expect that many of our friends and supporters will choose to adopt many liberals as subjects of regular prayer!

Pick one or more of the liberals from the list we have posted online at www.LC.org, or choose your own liberal(s) to adopt. If you are led to choose one or more of the liberals we have selected for consideration, please read their brief biographical statement, including the reasons they stand in need of prayer.

Pray earnestly and intensely for them! Pray that the Lord would move upon them and cause them to be the kind of leaders who will encourage others to lead “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” We encourage you to seek the Lord’s guidance on how to pray for your liberal(s), always allowing Him to temper your prayer with His love and mercy.

Please pray daily for the liberal(s) of your choice, so each can become a good influence on our Nation’s culture. Prayer is powerful! It allows God to change the minds of those for whom we are praying. In fact, we fully expect that many of our adoptees will “graduate” from this prayer program with vivid testimonies of God having changed their lives and worldviews!

They even provide a list of names of liberals to pray for, including the “Unknown Liberal” for any additional liberals:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Congressman Barney Frank
Director John Holdren
Mr. Barry Lynn
Secretary Janet Napolitano
President Barack Obama
Senator Harry Reid
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Senator Olympia Snowe
The “Unknown Liberal”

Reading the warped descriptions of the views of the people on their list is also good for a few laughs.

(Hat tip to Amygdala and Andrew Sullivan)

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Republicans Need Constitutional Amendment To Expand Presidential Choices

The Republicans have two problems with regards to finding someone who sounds rational to take the 2010 nomination. First the two Republicans who have made the most sense lately are unlikely to win the nomination and secondly neither is constitutionally eligible.

I”ve already noted sensible comments from Arnold Schwarzenegger in posts such as here. These ideas make it unlikely he could win the nomination. He might have a shot due to his celebrity status except he is note eligible due to not being a natural born American citizen.

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While I’m not seriously proposing her as a candidate, Meghan McCain is also making far more sense than most of the Republicans around. Even if the Republicans would nominate her, which is far less likely than Schwarzenegger, she is too young to be eligible. She was interviewed by Larry King. Here’s a portion:

King: Do you consider yourself a moderate? Are you moderate liberal?

McCain: I consider myself a progressive Republican. I am liberal on social issues. And I think that the party is at a place where social issues shouldn’t be the issues that define the party. And I have taken heat, but in fairness to me, I am a different generation than the people that are giving me heat. I’m 24 years old. I’m not in my 40s, I’m not in my 50s and older.

King: Therefore, you must, based on what you said, disagree with your father? … Do you discuss it?

McCain: We have a very big generation gap between me and my father. Yes, we discuss them. He’s very open-minded. I was raised in an open-minded home. I was raised a Christian, but I was raised open-minded Christian — one to accept people, love people, not pass judgment. …

I believe in gay marriage. … I personally am pro-life, but I’m not going to judge someone that’s pro-choice. It is not my place to judge other people and what they do with their body.

I do give Meghan some slack for her presidential vote in 2008. We really can’t expect her to have supported anyone other than her father, and she did back John Kerry in 2004. Still, I wish she hadn’t ended the interview by attributing some of her attitudes to “having a maverick as a father.”

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A Positive Republican View of Obama’s California Trip

While many conservatives and Republicans are dwelling on a single gaffe during Barack Obama’s California trip, there is at least one Republican who shows signs of rationality. From the Republican Governor of California:

When have you ever seen a president be that out there?”

That was a mesmerized Arnold Schwarzenegger after Obama’s town hall meeting.

“I’ve never seen that,” Schwarzenegger said to a couple reporters as he and his wife, Maria Shriver, tried to make an exit. “Usually people are so guarded. The aides are always so guarded. They’re so afraid that you will blow it or that you will make news that’s unintended and all those things.”

Schwarzenegger continued to gush about Obama.

“But I think he’s so smart,” he said. “He’s so clear with his thinking and he’s so well informed and has been dealing with policy in all this and is also very philosophic it’s almost like. I think he’s just like – I think it’s beautiful.”

Asked how he feels about supporting a stimulus package most members of his party did not, he said. “You know me. I don’t look at things as a Republican. If it’s good for California, it’s good for me.”

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Obama Lifts Ban on Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The long awaited for executive orders came earlier today and, after eight years of quasi-theocratic rule, the United States is now fully prepared to enter the twenty-first century.  One of the most outrageous policies of the religious right, restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research, has been lifted and the United States government has firmly stated its intention of basing scientific policy on actual science. It is regrettable that such a policy even needs to be announced.

Barack Obama began his statement with a discussion of stem cell research:

Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.

But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research – from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit – and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome – that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

After further discussion of stem cell research, Obama discussed his Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity to the policies of the United States government:

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

By doing this, we will ensure America’s continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

It might be years before we fully see the benefits of embryonic stem cell research. In addition to the expected benefits of funding embryonic stem cell research, there are also downsides. It appears that approval of such funding can cause (or actually exacerbate pre-existing) insanity. That is the only explanation for this reaction by Glenn Beck:

BECK: So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research, and then some, fundamentally changing – remember, those great progressive doctors are the ones who brought us Eugenics. It was the progressive movement and it science. Let’s put science truly in her place. If evolution is right, why don’t we just help out evolution? That was the idea. And sane people agreed with it!

And it was from America. Progressive movement in America. Eugenics. In case you don’t know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. …. The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening. So I guess I have to put my name on yes, I hope Barack Obama fails. But I just want his policies to fail; I want America to wake up.

Of course stem cell research is not at all about eugenics or developing the master race. Fortunately not all Republicans have been driven to insanity by stem cell research. Here are some other responses:

FORMER FIRST LADY NANCY REAGAN: “I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them, and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers. Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases — and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious.

CA GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: “President Obama’s executive order is a huge win for the millions of people who suffer from spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and many other illnesses. Californians were the first in the nation to support and fund embryonic stem cell research and we are big believers in the power of this revolutionary science to not only improve but to save lives. Because of the federal ban, Californians world-renown research facilities have had to have separate areas for the federally-funded and the non-federally funded programs, causing duplicative efforts. I applaud President Obama for removing this barrier which allows California to maximize critical research funding so we can continue to lead the world in stem cell research.”

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A Republican at HHS?

At present there are three Republicans confirmed or being considered for Obama’s cabinet and now there is speculation that a Republican might be chosen to replace Tom Daschle at Health and Human Services. Marc Ambinder and Karen Tumulty suggest Mitt Romney.

Romney’s name came up because of the attempts at developing a universal health care plan in Massachusetts, but problems with the plan might make his name less attractive. Having a Republican involved in promoting Obama’s health care plan might provide some political cover. Far right Republicans would still object, but more moderate Republicans (if there are any left) and independents might be less likely to see a plan with Republican involvement as an over-extension of government.

Besides the problems with Massachusetts’ plan, Romney’s opposition to abortion rights could be a serious problem (assuming he doesn’t flip back to his earlier pro-choice views). His views on abortion and contraception could create problems at HHS, even if Romney was the right person to oversee expansion of health care coverage.

Many like the idea of a governor running HHS  both due to the administrative skills needed for such a massive bureaucracy and due to the experience governors have with Medicaid. Medicare is a totally different beast than Medicaid, perhaps making governors somewhat less qualified than proponents of appointing a governor believe.

Jonathan Cohn suggests some governors and does point out that the more socially liberal Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a far better choice. Cohn fears Arnold would be “too toxic on the left” but I’d find him far preferable to Romney. Besides, Arnold has shown himself to be one of the more rational (and less toxic) Republicans still holding office.

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