Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prominent Climate Change Denier is Now a Climate Change Believer

The world's most high-profile climate change sceptic is to declare that global warming is "undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today" and "a challenge humanity must confront", in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled "sceptical environmentalist" once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN's climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.

The whole story

Glenn Beck's rally was the Waterworld of white self-pity.

White Fright

One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. This awareness already exists in places like New York and Texas and California, and there have even been projections of the time(s) at which it will occur and when different nonwhite populations will collectively outnumber the former white majority. But it also exerts a strong subliminal effect in states like Alaska that have an overwhelming white preponderance.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Blow for Cuccinelli, a Win for VA Taxpayers

Judge quashes Cuccinelli subpoena of U-Va. records

An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann.

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a "reason to believe" that Mann had committed fraud.

The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained that he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.

The whole story

"9/11 Christian" cult to Build a Church need Ground Zero

So, what if, in addition to the Park51 interfaith cultural center and basketball courts that are not at Ground Zero, we had a bigoted kook-church for people who believe Islam is a "religion of 'hate and death'" that's also not at Ground Zero? Then, everything would be even-Steven, right? Well, good news, then, from the Salon War Room:

A bigoted pastor who has assailed gays and Muslims is launching the "9-11 Christian Center at Ground Zero" a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site this Sunday but so far the project hasn't drawn a peep of protest from those who are outraged by the "ground zero mosque."

Pastor Bill Keller of Florida said today he will begin preaching this Sunday at the Marriott at 85 West Street (see proximity to ground zero here). A weekly service is planned at the hotel until the $8 million 9/11 Christian Center finds a permanent space. (Fundraising is going well, Keller told Salon today.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ken Plum: Sizing down government in VA

Recently I received an automated “robo” survey call on my home telephone from Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. After a brief explanation that Gov. Bob McDonnell was seeking to reduce the size of state government, the recording of Lt. Gov. Bolling posed the first question: Do you agree with Gov. McDonnell that the size of state government should be reduced?

My answer choices were either “yes” or “no.” I like the question; it is one I could debate either side at length. I replied “no.” That clearly was not the answer the surveyors wanted to hear, for after asking my gender – for whatever reason that mattered – the call ended. If I had responded yes, the follow-up questions would probably have picked at the agencies of state government to see where I would agree to reductions. Given the complexities of state government and its many functions, I wonder how informed the responses were to the questions.

Budget cutting with the economic recession has reduced the size of state government. Currently there are nearly 54,000 positions authorized for Virginia government to be paid for by tax revenue. The unit of government with the most tax-paid employees is public safety with just over 18,000 employees. That number includes the 14,421 prison guards and others who operate the adult and juvenile prisons and correctional facilities. That number also includes nearly 2,500 state police.

The next highest number of tax-paid state employees is in higher education with 17,597 employees who staff our colleges and universities. Public school teachers and administrators are local and not state employees. The third highest category of general fund state employees is in health and human services with nearly 9,000 employees who run the state mental health hospitals and mental retardation facilities. These three services constitute 80 percent of state government employees. The remaining units of government employ fewer than a thousand taxpayer-paid employees each.

There is a total of 61,000 additional state employees who work in programs that through fees or contracts pay for themselves including 35,000 in higher education alone. Eliminating these positions also eliminates the source of revenue that supports them with no net gain to the budget. In the instance of the Alcoholic Beverage Control system, eliminating the 1,078 positions in the agency would eliminate the nearly $150 million in annual revenue provided to local government from the profits of the ABC system.

For those who got the same robo telephone survey as I did and who voted in favor of reducing state government, please let me know where you would make the reductions beyond the belt-tightening done recently with the economic recession. Send your suggestions to me at kenplum@aol.com, and if feasible I will lead the effort to reduce government in those areas. I hope there is agreement that we need our prison guards, state police, college professors, and support personnel, as well as our mental health workers.

Ken Plum serves in the Virginia House of Delegates.

So Much for Being "Fair and Balanced."

Fox News Rejects Ad Highlighting Its $1 Million GOP Donation, Admits News Corp Opposes 'Democratic Candidates'

Mediate's Colby Hall has a new report today raising the question of whether progressive media watchdog group Media Matters was "serious" about putting up the funds to run an ad on Fox News about News Corp's $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), pointing to the fact that Media Matters refused to edit its ad to meet Fox News' exact requests. But in an interview with the Huffington Post, Vice President of Research and Communications for Media Matters for America Ari Rabin-Havt disputed these accounts.

John Boehner's Economic Plan Would Increase Deficit By $3.781 Trillion, Think Tank Finds

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was short on specifics during his much-touted economic address in Cleveland this week,promising to offer a more detailed plan as the election approached.

But the Ohio Republican did outline some ideas about how President Obama could restructure both his White House staff and the economy. And in a subsequent report analyzing his suggestions -- which included the firing of top economic advisers -- the progressive think tank NDN estimates that the plans could exacerbate the deficit by roughly $3.7 trillion over the next ten years.

The whole story

Monday, August 23, 2010

Republican nominee Robert Hurt has a hole in his jobs platform on free trade.

“Robert Hurt is a typical politician who remains so out of touch with the experience of working families that he doesn’t even realize the devastating effects free-trade agreements have had on the Fifth District. Now he’s even pledging to continue supporting these bad trade deals and protecting corporations that ship good American jobs overseas,”said Jessica Barba, spokeswoman for the Tom Perriello campaign.

The jobs issue would seem to be a voting issue in the Fifth, where several local economies have unemployment rates beyond 10 percent.

The Perriello camp is pushing back at Hurt on jobs, criticizing the state senator on his ambiguity on extending NAFTA-style agreements to cover more foreign markets and his opposition to legislation that rewards corporations for shipping jobs overseas.

“If Sen. Hurt weren’t so busy standing up for companies that outsource jobs, maybe he’d realize free-trade agreements are bad for Southside Virginia,” Barba said.

David Toscano: The privatization of ABC in VA

During campaign season, voters frequently hear the statement, “government ought to be run like a business.” How many businesses do you know would be willing to eliminate a profit center that realizes some $118 million per year in net revenue and another $120 million in taxes for a price that is speculative and which may come with some undesired consequences? Well, that is exactly what the Commonwealth is considering doing if it embraces Gov. McDonnell’s proposal to privatize the ABC stores.

While the precise proposal has not yet been outlined, the general principle is for Virginia, one of only 18 states that now run liquor operations, to sell or license the ABC retail operations to the private sector in exchange for cash up front. Estimates of the revenue from the sale range from $150 million to $500 million. That one-time influx of money would be dedicated to transportation, a critical need in the Commonwealth.

While I agree with many others that the liquor business is not a core service of government, we should recognize that the Commonwealth’s ownership of liquor operations has brought needed revenue into the General Fund, some of which goes directly to mental health, retardation, and substance abuse funding by statute.

The Virginia ABC presently operates 332 stores and employs 2,680 people. In Fiscal Year 2009, it deposited $248 million in profits, excise and sales tax into the General Fund, the Commonwealth’s primary funding source for public safety, education, and healthcare. It is not at all clear what will happen to this revenue stream in any privatization. Without raising the excise tax on liquor sales, it is very possible that the amount of money that the General Fund presently receives will be much less after privatization. Some argue that the only way to replace the lost monies is by increasing the number of stores and/or concentrating liquor sales into big box outlets like Costco and Walmart. In the end, then, any privatization proposal, independent of the ideological assertion that the private sector is the better outlet for this business, must be considered by comparing the risk of losing consistent General Fund revenue after the ABC sale against the benefit of receiving an undetermined amount of money for the sale of the operation that would go into transportation.

Ronald Reagan Ranks in Top Ten of Most Overrated People in History

He was always a popular President, but he has since been recast (mainly by conservative historians) as a great one as well. Yes, you can easily place him on that pedestal. You would merely need to ignore the Iran-Contra scandal, the huge budget deficits, his environment ignorance, his do-nothing reaction to the looming AIDS epidemic, his courting of Saddam Hussein, and numerous other blunders. “Reagan was truly a great president whose achievement rivals that of Franklin Roosevelt,” wrote conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, in his 1997 reappraisal where he credited Reagan for everything from the strong Clinton economy (go figure) to world peace (while somehow forgetting to mention Iran-Contra anywhere in the book).

GOP, Beck Aid Radical Extremists

Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.

Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant Web sites at the security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, said supporters of Al Qaeda have seized on the controversy "with glee." On radical Web forums, he said, the dispute over the Islamic center, which would include space for worship, is lumped together with fringe developments like a Florida pastor's call for making Sept. 11 "Burn a Koran Day."

"It's seen as proof of what Awlaki and others have been saying, that the U.S. is hypocritical and that most Americans are enemies of Islam," Mr. Kohlmann said. He called the anti-Islam statements spawned by the dispute "disturbing and sad" and said they were feeding anti-American sentiment that could provoke violence.

The whole story

Evangelist leads 'disinformation campaign' on Obama

Rev. Franklin Graham is leading a "disinformation campaign" against President Obama by attacking Obama's Christian faith and distorting Islam's theology, says a leading religion professor.

After CNN's John King gave Graham a full news cycle to raise a lifted eyebrow at President Obama's Christian profession of faith, Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, came on King's show Friday night to undercut Graham and question why CNN would ask an evangelist known to slur Islam, to speculate on its theology.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GOP Candidate Exploits 9/11 Victims for Campaign Purposes

GOP Senate candidate yanks video showing smoldering 9/11 site
This one is ugly.

GOP Senate candidate Roy Blunt's campaign has pulled down a Web video displaying the smoldering remains of the 9/11 attacks alongside audio of his Democratic opponent saying the location of the Islamic center should be up to New Yorkers to decide.

And now the Dem, Robin Carnahan, is going on the offensive over the issue, demanding that Blunt apologize to the families of 9/11 victims for exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

The Carnahan campaign claims it pulled the video off of Blunt's campaign Web site late yesterday, and a local blogger has now put the video on You Tube:

Proposition 23, Anti-Environment 'California Jobs Initiative', Is Funded By Big Polluters In Texas And The Midwest

Proposition 23, the so-called "California Jobs Initiative" threatening to suspend some of California's unprecedented clean air and renewable energy legislation, is raking in millions of dollars from Texas oil companies and special interest groups in the Midwest that stand to profit from rolled-back environmental regulation.

The initiative, which is to be voted on in California's upcoming November elections, aims to suspend clean air and energy laws...........

The whole story

Sharon Angle and the Extremism of Christian Reconstructionists

Sharron Angle, the Republican challenger to Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada Senate seat, has also emerged this election season to challenge Sarah Palin's throne as the conservative leader most likely to say baffling things in public.

In discussing religion, Angle often edges into the prophetic. When she was confronted about her unwillingness to support exceptions to an abortion ban even in the case of rape and incest, she said straightforwardly, "God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives." She objects to laws that prevent pastors from endorsing candidates from the pulpit. Most interestingly, she claimed that entitlement programs of all sorts violate "the First Commandment," and in case her point wasn't clear, she elaborated in biblical talk: "We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We're supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."

Return of the BP Cover-Up

Earlier this month, the federal government claimed that three-quarters of the oil in the Gulf had magically disappeared. But as reported Wednesday, the federal government has so far refused to provide congressional investigators and the media with the numbers to support that claim. Now, it looks like the official report, with all the data and substantiating material, won't be released for months.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Visions of Virginia's Tomorrow

Visions of Virginia's Tomorrow

Bob McDonnell and Mark Obenshain

Also appearing: 
Todd Gilbert, Steve Landes, and newcomer Tony Wilt

Possible surprise performances by Richard "Dickie" Bell and Emmett Hanger


Friday, August 13, 2010

Sustainable Energy Today!

The Living Planet City is a virtual city, but real communities in Canada and around the world are already using similar systems. In these communities, citizens are gaining a whole new understanding of energy, and actively engaging in the fight against climate change. They are lowering greenhouse gas emissions and securing a local, renewable energy supply, all while reducing their energy bills and creating good, green jobs.

Click on the image!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fox Biz News for Dummies

GOP plan to extend tax cuts for rich adds $36 billion to deficit, panel finds

A Republican plan to extend tax cuts for the rich would add more than $36 billion to the federal deficit next year -- and transfer the bulk of that cash into the pockets of the nation's millionaires, according to a congressional analysis released Wednesday.

New data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation show that households earning more than $1 million a year would reap nearly $31 billion in tax breaks under the GOP plan in 2011, for an average tax cut per household of about $100,000.

Deficits 101 - Economics for Republicans

You too can understand the poverty of economic vision offered up by the Republican Party. Watch this video of Republicans talking about the nation's financial state. And for our rightwing friends, who don't read, and like their information delivered on the Tee Vee, it's perfect. If you can't sit still for 7 minutes, here's the short version:

FAREED ZAKARIA (8/1/2010): You see, George Bush's massive tax cuts are the single largest chunk of our structural budget deficit. ... Were the tax cuts to expire, the budget deficit would instantly shrink by about 30%, or more than $300 billion dollars.


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

U.S. blackouts skyrocket as system allowed to age...

Joing the Pike Team

Experts on the nation's electricity system point to a frighteningly steep increase in non-disaster-related outages affecting at least 50,000 consumers.
During the past two decades, such blackouts have increased 124 percent -- up from 41 blackouts between 1991 and 1995, to 92 between 2001 and 2005, according to research at the University of Minnesota.

In the most recently analyzed data available, utilities reported 36 such outages in 2006 alone.
"It's hard to imagine how anyone could believe that -- in the United States -- we should learn to cope with blackouts," said University of Minnesota Professor Massoud Amin, a leading expert on the U.S. electricity grid.

Read the article

Drawbacks exist to privatizing alcohol sales...

Virginians consume approximately the national average of beer and wine. Conversely, they consume approximately 20 percent less liquor per capita than the national average. That is due to less availability, no advertising, strict enforcement of ABC laws and aggressive promotion of moderation by Virginia ABC. Due in large part to this lower consumption, Virginians suffer less from alcoholism, DUI, sclerosis, fetal alcohol syndrome and underage consumption, among other health and public safety problems. In general, Virginia is in the lowest percentiles in the U.S. for these undesirable occurrences.

Read the article

Monday, August 9, 2010

What to do in Afghanistan?

What do you think the United States should do regarding Afghanistan?
Bring the troops home as quickly as is possible and cut our losses.
Stay on the offensive and defeat the Taliban.
Take the war to Pakistan if they don't cooperate.
Invade Iran.
Ask the United Nations to take over the situation.

Free polls from Pollhost.com

Friday, August 6, 2010

7 Ways Republicans Want to Alter the Constitution They Claim to Hold Sacred

Since President Obama took office, Republicans have shrouded their agenda of opposition by wrapping it in the flag and the Constitution. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) even went so far as to label her radical anti-government views “constitutional conservatism.” Yet, for all of their constitutional pablum, the GOP’s agenda is nothing less than a direct assault on America’s founding document. Time and time again, Republicans have called for basic constitutional freedoms and fundamental aspects of our constitutional government to be repealed either by amendment or by activist judges:

First Punish The Unemployed, Then Declare War On The Employed

Over the past few months, Congressional Republicans and skittish Democrats who've lingered too long at the Deficit Panic Kool-Aid Stand have made life extraordinarily difficult for the most vulnerable members of society -- the nation's unemployed.

Rather than extend unemployment benefits so that the millions of Americans who are out therebusting their humps to find the needle-in-a-haystack that is a job of any kind, they've demanded that those benefits be offset, essentially punishing the unemployed for the deficits they giddily ran up for years.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Do Red States Have the Worst "Family Values"?

The "red family system" preaches early marriage and traditional gender roles -- a model no longer suited to our post-industrial economy. No wonder "red families" are falling apart.

Why are conservative “values voters” who consider themselves “pro-family” more likely to divorce, and have higher teenage pregnancy rates, than their liberal counterparts?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Republicans Have Crippled The Economy

Four Deformations of the Apocalypse

IF there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation’s public debt — if honestly reckoned to include municipal bonds and the $7 trillion of new deficits baked into the cake through 2015 — will soon reach $18 trillion. That’s a Greece-scale 120 percent of gross domestic product, and fairly screams out for austerity and sacrifice. It is therefore unseemly for the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, to insist that the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers be spared even a three-percentage-point rate increase.

Five myths about the Bush tax cuts

The tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, known as the Bush tax cuts, are set to expire Dec. 31, and the fight over what to do is increasingly heated. Should the tax cuts expire, as some Democrats have said? Should they be extended, as most Republicans maintain? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between, as the Obama administration, led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has argued in recent weeks?