Afghanistan Planning To Resume Public Stoning As Punishment For Adultery

Attacking Afghanistan made far more sense than to attack Iraq as George Bush did following the 9/11 attack. * I could see an attack to disrupt al Qaeda and was happy to see bin Laden killed, but questioned if we would see any long-term benefits from installing a government there. This somewhat confirms my skepticism–Afghanistan is now planning to restore the Taliban policy of stoning women for adultery:

Afghanistan is planning to reintroduce public stoning as punishment for adultery 12 years after the Taliban was ousted from power, according to a new draft penal code.

The move has shocked human rights campaigners and will dismay donors who have poured billions of pounds into the country for reconstruction.

It will be viewed as another backwards step at the end of a year that has seen women’s rights undermined, with a slew of legislation and murders of prominent women.

Human Rights Watch called for international donors to withhold funding if the government goes ahead with the plan.

“It is absolutely shocking that 12 years after the fall of the Taliban government, the Karzai administration might bring back stoning as a punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW…

As repulsive as both groups are, stoning is far worse than the forced vaginal probes and restrictions on reproductive rights which are supported by the American Taliban.

(* I would hope that by now the whole Truther line that 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration instead of a terrorist act by al Qaeda has been forgotten. In case anyone is still interested in that nonsense, Noam Chomsky has recently joined many others in debunking that conspiracy theory. Chomsky mocked “people around who spend an hour on the Internet and think they know a lot physics.” On the other hand, that is how the Internet works. How many other people on the far right with no knowledge of biology or climate science are coming up with arguments against evolution and global warming?)

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Polls Show Saner Republicans Unhappy With Nuttier Tea Party Wing

Polls are showing that an increasing number of Republicans  now dislike the Republican Party, along with once again showing that the Tea Party represents the lunatic fringe. First from Washington Wire:

October was clearly a cruel month for both President Barack Obama and the Republicans, both of whom saw their images slump to new lows in Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling.

But hidden within the data is a more disturbing reality for the Republican Party. Put simply, Democrats are largely content with their own party, while distaste among Republicans for the GOP has grown exponentially this year.

First Read believes it is the non-Tea Party Republicans who are breaking away from the Republican Party:

Non-Tea Party Republicans are breaking from the GOP: Our NBC/WSJ poll has shown that fewer respondents are identifying as Republicans. So who is leaving? Well, one set of numbers gives us a big clue. In a three-way generic congressional contest, the Democrat gets 35%, the third-party/independent candidate gets 30%, and the Republican candidate gets 28%. You might think that it’s Tea Party Republicans who are siding with the third-party/independent candidate. But you’d be wrong. The third-party support is coming mostly from self-identified independents and NON-Tea Party Republicans. In other words, it’s the NON-Tea Party folks who are splitting from the GOP. Here’s the data:

Among Democrats: 73% back the Dem candidate, 2% support a GOP candidate, 19% third party/indie
Among Republicans: 65% GOP candidate, 2% Dem, 28% third party/indie
Among Tea Party Republicans: 72% GOP candidate, 0% Dem, 25% third party/indie
Among NON-Tea Party Republicans: 58% GOP candidate, 5% Dem, 32% third party/indie
Independents: 13% GOP candidate, 12% Dem, 61% third party/indie

And if you dig even deeper into the demographics, you see that a lot of groups that usually lean GOP (but ONLY lean) are the ones most intrigued about bolting to a third-party candidate. A year ago, many Republican Party leaders were concerned about Tea Partiers leaving the party (it’s something Erick Erickson has threatened from time to time). But according to this polling data, the threat is from SOFTER more moderate Republicans.

A Pew Research Center survey shows just one example of how the Tea Party represents the bat-shit crazy wing of the GOP:

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say there is solid evidence that the earth has been getting warmer over the last few decades, a figure that has changed little in the past few years. While partisan differences over climate change remain substantial, Republicans face greater internal divisions over this issue than do Democrats.

Just 25% of Tea Party Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, compared with 61%of non-Tea Party Republicans.

Greg Sargent added further information on the breakdown:

Ron Brownstein has suggested that climate change — along with social issues — is one of a handful of priorities that is increasingly important to the very voter groups that could well give the Democratic Party a demographic edge over the GOP into the future. That “coalition of the ascendant” includes young voters, minorities, and college educated whites, especially women. I asked Pew for the percentages among these groups who believe there is solid evidence of global warming, and the theory is borne out:

* 73% of those aged 18-29 believe it’s happening.

* 76 percent of nonwhites believe it’s happening.

* 67 percent of college educated whites believe its happening.

The correspondence between social conservatives, who wish to use government to impose their religious views on others, and those who deny science is no surprise. I suspect that it is the views on social issues held by the Republican base which will do more to marginalize the Republican Party as their views become to be seen as increasingly repugnant by growing numbers of people.

Sargent also points out that Republicans not only disagree with the scientific consensus, but many are unaware of what the scientific consensus is: “Most Democrats say there is scientific consensus on global warming (71%). Only 41% of Republicans say that scientists generally agree, while 48% say they do not.” Again, this ignorance on the part of anti-science Republicans comes as no surprise.

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Quick Guide To The New Climate Report: Five Minutes Before Midnight

The Atlantic gave a quick summary of the climate report with a post on What Leading Scientists Want You to Know About Today’s Frightening Climate Report. For those who don’t want to read even this much, here are the key points:

The polar icecaps are melting faster than we thought they would; seas are rising faster than we thought they would; extreme weather events are increasing. Have a nice day! That’s a less than scientifically rigorous summary of the findings of the Fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released this morning in Stockholm.

Appearing exhausted after a nearly two sleepless days fine-tuning the language of the report, co-chair Thomas Stocker called climate change “the greatest challenge of our time,” adding that “each of the last three decades has been successively warmer than the past,” and that this trend is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Pledging further action to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “This isn’t a run of the mill report to be dumped in a filing cabinet. This isn’t a political document produced by politicians… It’s science.”

When I asked him for his headline, Michael Mann, the Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State (a former IPCC author himself) suggested: “Jury In: Climate Change Real, Caused by Us, and a Threat We Must Deal With.”

It is now 95 percent likely that human spewed heat-trapping gases — rather than natural variability — are the main cause of climate change, according to today’s report. In 2007 the IPCC’s confidence level was 90 percent, and in 2001 it was 66 percent, and just over 50 percent in 1995.

What’s more, things are getting worse more quickly than almost anyone thought would happen a few years back.

“If you look at the early IPCC predictions back from 1990 and what has taken place since, climate change is proceeding faster than we expected,” Mann told me by email. Mann helped develop the famous hockey-stick graph, which Al Gore used in his film “An Inconvenient Truth” to dramatize the sharp rise in temperatures in recent times.

Mann cites the decline of Arctic sea ice to explain : “Given the current trajectory, we’re on track for ice-free summer conditions in the Arctic in a matter of a decade or two… There is a similar story with the continental ice sheets, which are losing ice — and contributing to sea level rise — at a faster rate than the [earlier IPCC] models had predicted.”

But there is a lot that we still don’t understand. Reuters noted in a sneak preview of IPCC draft which was leaked in August that, while the broad global trends are clear, climate scientists were “finding it harder than expected to predict the impact in specific regions in coming decades.”

There are some possibilities that are deliberately left out of the IPCC projections, because we simply don’t have enough data yet to model them. Jason Box, a visiting scholar at the Byrd Polar Research Center told me in an email interview that: “The scary elephant in the closet is terrestrial and oceanic methane release triggered by warming.” The IPCC projections don’t include the possibility — some scientists say likelihood — that huge quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas thirty times as potent as CO2) will eventually be released from thawing permafrost and undersea methane hydrate reserves. Box said that the threshhold “when humans lose control of potential management of the problem, may be sooner than expected.”

Box, whose work has been instrumental in documenting the rapid deterioration of the Greenland ice sheet, also believes that the latest IPCC predictions (of a maximum just under three foot ocean rise by the end of the century) may turn out to be wildly optimistic, if the Greenland ice sheet breaks up. “We are heading into uncharted territory” he said. “We are creating a different climate than the Earth has ever seen.”

The head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, speaks for the scientific consensus when he says that time is fast running out to avoid the catastrophic collapse of the natural systems on which human life depends. What he recently told a group of climate scientist could be the most chilling headline of all for the U.N. report:

“We have five minutes before midnight.”

Andrew Sullivan has further reactions to the report.

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Conservative Bloggers Can’t Handle The Truth About The Effects Of Climate Change

The headline at The Daily Caller: Democratic senator uses Okla. tornado for anti-GOP rant over global warming

Well, not exactly. At least it isn’t as bad as the original title: Democratic Sen. Whitehouse Blames Republicans for Tornado. On the one hand, global warming is causing warmer, wetter weather which is fueling the catastrophic weather changes we are seeing. On the other hand, we could imagine inappropriate statements which might sound inappropriate this soon after the Oklahoma tornado. Let’s look behind the headline at what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said:

“So, you may have a question for me,” Whitehouse said. “Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we’re in this together.”

Whitehouse went on to condemn the current Republican position on global warming, citing economic, environmental and diplomatic damages.

“You drag America with you to your fate,” he continued. “So, I want this future: I want a Republican Party that has returned to its senses and is strong and a worthy adversary in a strong America that has done right by its people and the world. That’s what I want. I don’t want this future. I don’t want a Republican Party disgraced, that let its extremists run off the cliff, and an America suffering from grave economic and environmental and diplomatic damage because we failed, because we didn’t wake up and do our duty to our people, and because we didn’t lead the world. I do not want that future. But that’s where we’re headed. So I will keep reaching out and calling out, ever hopeful that you will wake up before it is too late.”

This was widely quoted on conservative blogs but unfortunately they won’t learn from this. There is nothing inappropriate here. It is an accurate assessment of the political divide in this country over science and its effects, placing the Oklahoma tornado in context. It is probably premature to say with certainty whether any one event is caused by climate change, but overall there is no doubt about the role that climate change has in more volatile weather conditions. Conservatives might not be able to handle the truth, but their denial of science does cost lives. If they don’t care about this, their policies are also causing considerable economic damage. This is reactionary extremism, not conservatism in the traditional sense.

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Republican Congressman Cites Biblical Flood To Deny Climate Science

I have often complained of the tendency of conservatives to use government to impose their religious beliefs upon others. A similarly dangerous problem is the tendency of conservatives to ignore science based upon their religious beliefs. Today Texas Representative Joe Barton used the Biblical story of the flood to argue that climate change isn’t caused by actions of humans:

I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural.

I think there’s a divergence of evidence. I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.

There might have been a major flood in the distant past which inspired Biblical stories, but this certainly has no bearing on the science of climate change. Unfortunately many conservatives don’t care about facts and science  as much as they care about what the read in the Bible.

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Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration

Today Barack Obama joined a small group of people who have taken the oath of office more than twice. The oath was repeated in 2008 to avoid giving right wingers another reason to deny Obama’s legitimacy after John Roberts made an error when first administering the oath. (I note Roberts did use a note card today). He was sworn in for his second inauguration in a private ceremony on January 20, with the public event postponed to Monday. Only FDR and Obama have taken the oath of office four times. Bill Clinton is the only other president to my knowledge to have been sworn in more than twice as one of his inaugurations also occurred on a Sunday.

With Obama being sworn in, dogs everywhere gave a sigh of relief. Maybe now that Obama has been sworn in two more times Karl Rove is willing to give up hope for a Romney victory and concede defeat. Tea Partiers and Mitch McConnell swear to oppose Obama’s agenda and make him a two-term president. (Surprisingly some commentators do not realize how the Republicans really did decide to oppose everything Obama did on the day of his first inauguration.) All the living former presidents were in attendance except for George H. W. Bush, for health reasons, and George W. Bush, because everyone in Washington hates his guts.

Getting serious, Obama gave a liberal speech to mark the start of his second term (full text here and video above). He sounded neither like the socialist Republicans claim he is or the conservative a handful on the far left claim he is. James Fallows found this to be a startling progressive speech. Think  Progress called this a landmark moment for LGBT equality. Obama made a strong push for taking action on climate change.

While Obama has learned he cannot compromise with the extremism and intransigence of Congressional Republicans, I do like see Obama continue to try to explain how the real world works to conservatives in the hopes that there are some who will listen. Radical conservatives and libertarians believe a mythology that the free market is something which exists in nature, and that any government action is an abomination. In reality, markets are a creation of men and require government regulation to exist. Rothbardian anarch0-capitalism provides a fun background for some science fiction stories, but cannot exist in the real world. Obama explained:

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

He did learn it is politically dangerous to point out the truth that businessmen did not build the infrastructure they depend upon after the Republicans themed their convention around misquoting Obama, claiming Obama was saying businessmen did not build their businesses.

Obama’s record is not perfect. No president’s record is. Even if he did not do everything hoped for by the left, in a two party system, and with the constraints on presidential power, Obama did have a strong first term. Even his frequent critic Paul Krugman has been acknowledging this in recent columns, such as yesterday’s column, calling Obama’s record a Big Deal:

Health reform is, as Mr. Biden suggested, the centerpiece of the Big Deal. Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman; they’ve finally succeeded.

True, this wasn’t the health reform many were looking for. Rather than simply providing health insurance to everyone by extending Medicare to cover the whole population, we’ve constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through.

But this was what was possible given the political reality — the power of the insurance industry, the general reluctance of voters with good insurance to accept change. And experience with Romneycare in Massachusetts — hey, this is a great age for irony — shows that such a system is indeed workable, and it can provide Americans with a huge improvement in medical and financial security.

What about inequality? On that front, sad to say, the Big Deal falls very far short of the New Deal. Like F.D.R., Mr. Obama took office in a nation marked by huge disparities in income and wealth. But where the New Deal had a revolutionary impact, empowering workers and creating a middle-class society that lasted for 40 years, the Big Deal has been limited to equalizing policies at the margin.

That said, health reform will provide substantial aid to the bottom half of the income distribution, paid for largely through new taxes targeted on the top 1 percent, and the “fiscal cliff” deal further raises taxes on the affluent. Over all, 1-percenters will see their after-tax income fall around 6 percent; for the top tenth of a percent, the hit rises to around 9 percent. This will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution that has taken place since 1980, but it’s not trivial.

Finally, there’s financial reform. The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it’s certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.

Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn’t as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favored Mr. Obama in 2008 — but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost).

All in all, then, the Big Deal has been, well, a pretty big deal

While Obama’s record was not perfect, there is no problem which would be handled better if the Republicans had taken the White House. Just think of the executive orders which were not issued today because Mitt Romney did not have the opportunity. Romney, like Republicans before him, would have probably immediately reinstated the Global Gag Rule, limiting access to abortions world wide. While it would probably take more than a quick executive order, he would probably have made an effort to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He may have immediately put an end to federal funding of stem cell research. Who know what else what he would have done to accommodate the far right on his first day alone.

Seeing Barack Obama sworn in to be president for the next four years is a Big Deal.

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2012 Warmest Year On Record In United States

It is getting harder and harder to deny climate change, but we can be certain that the dupes of the petroleum industry propaganda will continue to try. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s  annual “State of the Climate” report found that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States and the second most extreme year on record for the nation:

2012 was a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms; however, tornado activity was below average

2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.

The average precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. for 2012 was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record for the nation. At its peak in July, the drought of 2012 engulfed 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains, and Midwest experiencing the most intense drought conditions. The dry conditions proved ideal for wildfires in the West, charring 9.2 million acres — the third highest on record.

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as landfalling tropical cyclones, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998. To date, 2012 has seen 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley.

Hat tip to Talking Points Memo

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Right Wing Paranoia

It may be a new year, but we have the same old right wing paranoia, as is seen in several stories today. First there is the warning in an email from the American Family Association (via Think Progress)  that within 50 years Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era:

What will religion look like in the year 2060?

Conservative Christians will be treated as second class citizens, much like African Americans were prior to civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Family as we know it will be drastically changed with the state taking charge of the children beginning at birth.

Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a “family” group at will.

Churchbuildings will be little used, with many sold to secular buyers and the money received going to the government.

Churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues, even if it affects the church directly.

Tax credit given to churches and non-profit organizations will cease.

Christian broadcasting will be declared illegal based on the separation of church and state. The airwaves belong to the government, therefore they cannot be used for any religious purpose.

We will have, or have had, a Muslim president.

Cities with a name from the Bible such as St. Petersburg, Bethlehem, etc. will be forced to change their name due to separation of church and state.

Groups connected to any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care. Health centers get tax money from the state, making it a violation of church and state.

Get involved! Sign THE STATEMENT.

Sincerely,

Donald E. Wildmon

Think Progress pointed out that such extremism has been common among the AFA:

As absurd as they may be, these 2060 predictions may not even rank among the AFA’s most extreme ideas. The group’s spokesman has called for kidnapping the children of same-sex couples through a modern-day “Underground Railroad” system. When one man heeded this advice and aided a woman in kidnapping the daughter of a lesbian woman, the group advised him to flout American laws and flee the country. AFA also organizes against any individual or company that shows the slightest tolerance for LGBT people, including Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, JC Penney, and Google.

Some additional examples of right wing paranoia in the news and blogs:

Wisconsin state Senator Glenn Grothman has issued a press release waging a War on Kwanzaa, which he describes as a fake holiday aimed at dividing blacks and whites. He also says

“Of course, almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans,” Grothman said. “Irresponsible public school districts such as Green Bay and Madison … try to tell a new generation that blacks have a separate holiday than Christians.”

Grothman adds Karenga “didn’t like the idea that Christ died for all of our sins, so he felt blacks should have their own holiday — hence, Kwanzaa.”

Conor Friderersdorf described the conservative interest in Second Amendment solutions:

In the National Review, Kevin Williamson argues that nearly everyone calling for gun control either doesn’t understand or refuses to address the actual purpose of the 2nd Amendment. They talk, he says, as if there’s no legitimate reason for an American to have military grade weapons, as if the 2nd Amendment protects mere hunting and home security. “The purpose of having citizens armed with paramilitary weapons is to allow them to engage in paramilitary actions,” Williamson writes. “There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons, because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny.”

Walter E. Williams makes a similar argument in a Townhall column. “There have been people who’ve ridiculed the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, asking what chance would citizens have against the military might of the U.S. government,” he writes. “Military might isn’t always the deciding factor. Our 1776 War of Independence was against the mightiest nation on the face of the earth — Great Britain. In Syria, the rebels are making life uncomfortable for the much-better-equipped Syrian regime. Today’s Americans are vastly better-armed than our founders, Warsaw Ghetto Jews and Syrian rebels. There are about 300 million privately held firearms owned by Americans. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.”

I note that this is occurring during a time of record gun sales.

Beyond the absurdity of thinking they can, or should, take on the United States militarily, Conor pointed out the conservative inconsistency in backing Second Amendment solutions while they “actively oppose so many other important attempts to safeguard liberty.”

Finally (for the purposes of this post–conservative paranoia extends much further), Amanda Marcotte links the belief of many conservatives that Hillary Clinton faked her concussion to avoiding testimony with other forms of wingnuttery and conspiracy theories:

It’s worth noting that most conspiracy theorists identify as “skeptics”, but of course they’re doing the opposite of skepticism, which requires evidence to support extraordinary and implausible claims, such as the claim that hundreds of people could come together to help Secretary Clinton fake a series of illnesses without a single person blowing the whistle. Remember: Bill Clinton couldn’t even keep the lid on an affair that had only two witnesses to the actual acts of it. Althouse may feel entitled to full information on demand of any Clinton body part she desires, but that doesn’t actually mean doctors have to violate federal law to give it to her.

Of course, wingnuttery nowadays is entirely dependent on the asinine belief that widespread conspiracies are a daily occurrence. These folks believe that thousands of scientists worldwide have been in cahoots for decades to perpetuate the false claim that global warming is real for no other reason than a vague hatred of capitalism, and that not one has ever thought to blow the whistle on this evil scheme. Marshaling the State Department and the staff of a major hospital into a conspiracy theory seems like tiddlywinks compared to that.

But riddle me this, wingnuts: If Secretary Clinton is such an evil mastermind that she can repeatedly bend so many people to her will with full confidence that not a one will ever blow the whistle, why couldn’t she just get up and say whatever the hell she wants under oath if she did testify? Seems like a conspiracy of one would be easier to pull off than repeated faked hospitalizations. Why do you believe someone who would supposedly create one elaborate scheme after another to avoid testifying would suddenly start spilling truths only she knows under oath? Do you believe that taking an oath is like a magic spell that causes the person who did it to be incapable of lying? (Not that I think she has anything to lie about, honestly, just curious what the fuck they think is going on here.) If that’s so, why did you demand that Bill Clinton be impeached for perjury?

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Hurricane Sandy Shows Dangers Of Republican Policies

The most important consideration regarding Hurricane Sandy is the safety of those in its path and recovering from damage. There is the danger that discussing the political implications might seem distasteful, however very recently the Republicans began to play politics with the death of Americans in Libya with total disregard for waiting for the facts to come in. There is no reason not to look at the political implications of a tragedy where the facts are clearly on our side. Policies have consequences and Sandy shows the consequences of the Republican beliefs being wrong in two areas–disaster management and climate change.

Mitt Romney would return us to the disaster management policies of George Bush just like he would return us the economic policies of George Bush.  Over the last couple of days numerous sites have linked to multiple statements from Mitt Romney talking of cutting FEMA.  He has argued this should be handled by the states, but he also vetoed money for flood prevention while governor. Cutting funding for FEMA is also the position of the Republican Party:

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

Now Romney either avoids answering questions about FEMA or claims he will not cut it. Campaigning for cuts to big government programs in the abstract is popular. It is a different matter to identify individual programs. Romney claims he will cut federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP by 2016  but refuses to say what he will cut. It would be folly to vote for someone who refuses to answer this question.

Mitt Romney made fun of Barack Obama, saying he “promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet” at the Republican convention. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now. Bill Clinton mocked  Romney for a similar attack on Obama at the first debate (where sadly Obama failed to defend himself):

I was actually listening closely to what the candidates said in these debates. In the first debate, the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney. You remember what he did? He ridiculed the president. Ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said, ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday. All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.’ In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.

Many Republicans deny science, claiming that global warming is a hoax despite all the evidence that the earth has warmed due to activities of mankind. Scientists, along with the insurance industry which must rely on facts, acknowledge that severe weather events are related to climate change. From Scientific American:

Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”

Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”

A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”

Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”

Now, as promised: If you still don’t believe scientists, then believe insurance giant Munich Re. In her October 29 post at the The New Yorker, writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes:

Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” … While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

If Democrats can capitalized politically on Hurricane Sandy’s demonstration that Republicans are wrong in cutting government disaster funding and wrong about climate change they could do very well next week.

On the other hand, if they have not been able to benefit politically from running against a candidate who would destroy Social Security and Medicare, and if they still have not yet been able to sell all the benefits of Obamacare to the public, there is no reason to be confident that the Democrats will win this argument despite having the facts on their side. The Republican tsunami of misinformation,which covers up facts and presents a direct danger to liberty and democracy, is even more harmful to this nation than any single natural disaster.

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GOP Convention Day Four: Lies, Damn Lies, and Romney-Ryan

Mitt Romney continues to campaign against the imaginary version of Barack Obama he created rather than the real Barack Obama. The only way he can keep from being humiliated in the debates is if he can speak to an empty chair like Clint Eastwood did. Unless the goal was to have someone come on to make Romney look good by comparison, the Clint Eastwood appearance was very odd. If they wanted to put on an old crackpot, why didn’t they just go with Ron Paul?

Romney came out by walking through the convention–the first candidate to do this since Michael Dukakis. Romney’s speech started out with his biography. When he got to his father, George Romney, why didn’t he point out how many years of tax returns his father released? He moved on to attack fictional Obama, such as repeating his false claims about Medicare, attacking Obama for an “apology tour” which only occurred in Romney’s mind. He attacked  Obama for raising taxes on small business and the middle class when Obama actually decreased them while Romney’s tax plan will increase taxes on the middle class. It was just bizarre to complain about jobs going to China from the man who was an out-sourcing pioneer. Romney announced a plan to create 12 million new jobs which reminds me of Richard Nixon’s secret war to end the Viet Nam war. Where’s the beef? His talk about Iran was scary, raising fears that he will get us into another war (while failing to pay for it).

Romney’s failure to address the big issues of the day can be seen in his outrageously ignorant attack: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.” As Craig Crawford tweeted: “Mitt not worried about rising seas , he’s got a car elevator.”

Paul Ryan’s speech has been called the most dishonest convention speech ever. Romney did have fewer lies in his speech, but only because it was so devoid of content. The Romney-Ryan ticket is shaping up as the most dishonest in history.

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