Friday, February 18, 2005

Ocean temperatures rising

Temperature's rising; Fever is high; Can't see no future; Can't see no sky

- Cold Turkey by John Lennon

"The debate over whether or not there is a global warming signal is now over, at least for rational people."

- Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography

It’s too bad that we have irrational people running the country because this is some scary stuff.

New computer models that look at ocean temperatures instead of the atmosphere show the clearest signal yet that global warming is well under way, according to Barnett, who presented his data at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Barnett said climate models based on air temperatures are weak because most of the evidence for global warming is not even there.
"The real place to look is in the ocean,"

Other researchers found clear effects on climate and animals.

Ruth Curry of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that melting ice was changing the water cycle, which in turn affects ocean currents and, ultimately, climate.
"As the Earth warms, its water cycle is changing, being pushed out of kilter," she said. "Ice is in decline everywhere on the planet."
A circulation system called the Ocean Conveyer Belt is in danger of shutting down, she said.

Sharon Smith of the University of Miami found melting Arctic ice was taking with it algae that formed an important base of the food supply for a range of animals.
And the disappearing ice shelves meant big animals such as walruses, polar bears and seals were losing their homes.

Multiple Choice:
What will the right-wing response be to these latest scientific studies.

A. Ignore it.
B. Denounce it as biased.
C. Call for more studies.
D. All of the above

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Brit Hume should resign

Resign Brit Hume
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.

Brit Hume, the chief anchor/propagandist for Faux News, recently committed a journalistic sin a hundred times worse than anything that Dan Rather ever did and should therefore resign.

Following is a summary of Hume's deliberate manipulation and misrepresentation of quotes by Franklin Roosevelt in an effort to create a false impression that the founder of our Social Security system would support our current president's efforts to dismantle his legacy.

Here's Brit Hume, the Fox News Channel's top news anchor, on February 3: 

In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, "Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age," adding that government funding, quote, "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

Hume's claim is that FDR wanted to replace Social Security with private accounts. Hume is lying. Here's the FDR statement that Hume is misquoting:

In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.

So, FDR was proposing three things: a temporary "old-age pension," for seniors who wouldn't have time to pay into the Social Security system; a compulsory-contribution annuity--meaning, Social Security as we know it today--which would become a "self-supporting system," and, third, voluntary individual accounts. Ultimately, the old-age pensions would be supplanted by the self-supporting annuity system (meaning, Social Security.)

Hume turns this completely on its head. He pulls two unrelated bits out of the FDR quote, and adds the wrods "government funding" between them. Because it's so carefully done, it's clear that it's deliberate. And it's a nasty form of dishonesty. Hume is manipulating Americans' trust of FDR in order to build support for dismantling FDR's legacy.

Although it won't be as explosive politically, this is worse than Dan Rather's memo scandal. First of all, it's deliberate. Secondly, it's untrue. Dan Rather was guilty of being insufficiently skeptical of forged, true documents. But Brit Hume, Fox News Channel's #1 anchor--not commentator, not editorialist, anchor--is deliberately perverting the words of a hero to destroy the hero's legacy. 

Brit Hume should resign.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

More broken promises

President Bush has failed to deliver on yet another promise. I mentioned earlier how Bush made big promises to spend billions on AIDS prevention in Africa during his 2003 State of the Union speech and has so far failed to follow through with it.
This time the criticism comes from a former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives who says the Bush administration “lacks a genuine commitment to its "compassionate conservative" agenda.”

“The White House reaped political benefits from the president's promise to help religious organizations win taxpayer funding to care for "the least, the last and the lost" in the United States,” David Kuo said recently. But then the administation did not follow up and help get the funding through Congress. Kuo notes that after promising to provide tax incentives for private charitable giving during his first year in office, the administration chose to drop that provision from his $1.6 trillion tax cut legislation "to make room for the estate-tax repeal that overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy."

Of course, Kuo is not the first former Bush official coming out of the faith-based office to question the administration’s committment to its stated goals.

“In August 2001, John J. DiIulio Jr., then-director of the faith-based office, became the first top Bush adviser to quit, after seven months on the job. In an interview with Esquire magazine a year later, DiIulio said the Bush White House was obsessed with the politics of the faith-based initiative but dismissive of the policy itself.”

As I said earlier, this is just another instance of Bush’s political dishonesty - saying one thing before an election to boost his political support and then dropping it afterwards.

Although I did not support Bush for president, there once was a time when I thought he might actually accomplish some good things in office. His promises to be the “education president,” and some parts of his “compassionate conservative” agenda gave me hope that things would not be all bad under a Bush administration. Sadly, I was wrong. In nearly every case where Bush has made some promise or proposal on an issue that I found even slightly beneficial to society and the greater good - it has turned out to be as empty and meaningless as his pledge to send a manned mission to Mars.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Why the Jeff Gannon scandal matters

A lot of people have apparently missed the significance of this Jeff Gannon scandal. I keep reading comments at various rightwing blogs about how the resignation of Eason Jordan is so much more significant because he was a senior executive at CNN while Gannon was a nobody working for an unknown web-based publication.
But the point is not who Gannon is or what he did, it’s about the White House trying to manipulate its press briefings by planting partisan shills amongst the reporters to lob administration-friendly questions.

Let’s step back and look at the inevitable result of this kind of policy if it is allowed to fester. Why even bother to have press conferences? If the White House can plant phony reporters who will be called on to ask pre-packaged questions then we might as well not even bother.

Imagine if Bill Clinton had done something like this when he was president. Just as an example, let’s say that the Sierra Club, NOW, ACLU, People for the American Way, NARAL, and so forth all set up front faux “news organizations” and then the White House credentialed each of their “senior correspondents” and made sure they got seated at the front of each news conference where they would be called on to ask questions that allowed the president to push his agenda without ever being challenged on anything.

That is why this is a scandal and why it needs further investigation.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The era of big government being over is over

The New York Times had an interesting piece in its Week in Review section this Sunday titled Cut Short: The Revolution That Wasn't

It is about the Republican Revolution that Newt Gingrich led 10 years ago and the article asks the obvious question - What happened? Here are some key snippets from the article:

Last week President Bush unveiled a $2.57 trillion budget for 2006, the largest in the nation's history.

Overall federal spending has increased twice as fast under Mr. Bush as under Mr. Clinton. At the same time, the federal deficit is projected to hit a record high of $427 billion this year.

The White House estimated last week that the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, originally projected at $400 billion from 2004 to 2013, would, in fact, be $724 billion from 2006 to 2015. Republicans called for scaling back the benefit, but on Friday, Mr. Bush said no and vowed to veto any changes to the Medicare bill.

"The era of big government being over is over," declared Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist Democratic research organization.
“Yesterday's revolutionaries are today's pragmatic politicians," he said. "It's a classic tale of any revolution. They start out as revolutionaries wanting to storm the Bastille and the end up as 'All the King's Men.' "

The one thing I disagree with here is his characterization of the current crop of Congressional leaders as “pragmatic politicians.” That may be true for a few of them, but most would be more accurately described as incompetent goofs and reactionary radicals.

Of course, Mr. Bush has also proposed lots of spending cuts in his 2006 budget, but these would have little impact on the deficit even if they are all adopted which is not likely. The The New York Times Editorial Board puts it this way:

Mr. Bush has been talking the deficit reduction talk, but there's no sign that he is willing to walk the walk. In his 2006 budget, he pledges to slash spending, but largely in areas that would have only a small impact on the deficit and where cuts would be politically difficult, not to mention cruel, such as food stamps, veterans' medical care, child care and low-income housing.

I’ve heard Bush partisans defend these cuts by saying the programs are redundant and weren’t accomplishing what they were supposed to be doing. But this begs just one question - Why did Bush wait until now to request that they be cut? He’s been president for the past four years and didn’t request they be cut in his past four budgets. What changed? Were they not redundant and wasteful last year but they are this year?

Finally, Bush’s dedication to cutting the deficits would be more plausible if he wasn’t taking other steps at the same time that will more than overwhelm any savings produced by his proposed spending cuts. Here is the NYTimes again:

Meanwhile (Bush) is pounding the table for more deficit-bloating measures - making his first-term tax cuts permanent, at a 10-year cost of as much as $2.1 trillion; putting into effect two high-income tax breaks that were enacted in 2001 but have been on hold, at a 10-year cost of $115 billion; and introducing new tax incentives to allow high earners to shift even more cash into tax shelters, at a cost that would ultimately work out to more than $30 billion a year when investors cashed in their accounts tax-free.

And don’t forget the trillions of dollars that Bush wants to borrow over the next several years on behalf of his Social Security privatization scheme as well as the expanding cost of his foreign policy misadventure in the Middle East where we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to make it possible for hardline Islamic clerics affiliated with Iran to take control in Iraq.