Friday, April 29, 2005

Yet more scientific evidence on Global Warming

But at least the anti-science Right has popular fiction novels on which to base their claims...

I first saw this in the Wall Street Journal today...

Climate scientists armed with new data from the ocean depths and from space satellites have found that Earth is absorbing much more heat than it is giving off, which they say validates computer projections of global warming.

Lead scientist James Hansen, a prominent NASA climatologist, described the findings on the planet's out-of-balance energy exchange as a ''smoking gun" that should dispel doubts about forecasts of climate change.

Hansen's team, reporting yesterday in the journal Science, said they also determined that global temperatures will rise by 1 degree Fahrenheit this century even if emissions of greenhouse gases are capped tomorrow.

The NASA-led researchers were able to measure Earth's energy imbalance because of more- precise ocean readings collected by 1,800 technology-packed floats deployed in seas worldwide beginning in 2000, in an international monitoring effort called Argo. The robots regularly dive as deep as a mile undersea to take temperature and other readings.

Their measurements are supplemented by better satellite gauging of ocean levels, which rise from meltwater and as the sea warms and expands.

With this data, the scientists calculated the oceans' heat content and the global energy imbalance. They found that for every square meter of surface area, the planet is absorbing almost 1 watt more of the sun's energy than it is radiating back to space as heat -- a historically large imbalance. Such absorbed energy will steadily warm the atmosphere.

''There can no longer be genuine doubt that human-made gases are the dominant cause of observed warming," said Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University's Earth Institute. ''This energy imbalance is the 'smoking gun' that we have been looking for."

Think of the Planet Earth as someone who is smoking six packs of cigarettes a day. We are being presented with reams of evidence showing that smoking is detrimental to its health and is damaging its lungs. But the other side insists that we must continue smoking six packs a day and perhaps more or else the world economy will suffer.

Who are you going to believe? The legions of scientists on one side of the debate, or the right-wing politicians and corporate funded think tanks on the other side?

Methodists back off on gay purge

I was happy to see today that my church is starting to rethink this issue:

Methodists to reinstate defrocked minister

LINTHICUM, Md. (AP) -- The United Methodist Church reversed itself Friday, deciding to reinstate a lesbian minister who was defrocked after revealing her relationship with another woman.
A church panel voted 8 to 1 to set aside an earlier decision to defrock Irene "Beth" Stroud for violating the church's ban on openly gay clergy.
The Philadelphia minister said she was relieved by the ruling and hopes the church will become more inclusive to people regardless of sexual orientation.

GOP's awful excuse for a budget

What an absolute travesty this Republican budget is.

...a $2.56 trillion federal budget for 2006 that aims to trim the growth of Medicaid by $10 billion over five years, add $106 billion in tax cuts and clear the way for oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge.

So the Republican budget calls for $10 billion in cuts to healthcare services for the poor while turning around and showering the wealthiest folks with $106 billion in tax cuts.

I especially like this part of the story buried at the bottom of the article in the Washington Post:

The cost of those tax-cut extensions would more than nullify the savings from the spending cuts... the budget instructs lawmakers to raise the federal government's statutory debt limit this fall by $781 billion, to $8.96 trillion. The government's borrowing limit will then have climbed by $3 trillion since Bush took office.

There is the Bush legacy for you: $3 trillion added to the nation's debt - and climbing.
And don't forget that the billions being spent on the Iraqi quagmire is all off budget stuff!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I’m not always reasonable when I’m angry

Shouldn’t Bush’s judicial nominees be permitted an up-or-down vote before the full Senate? Isn’t that a reasonable thing to ask?
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole makes that case on today’s NY Times op-ed page.

But reasonable as that sounds, I’m still opposed. Why? Because I’m still angry about the things that Dole neglects to mention in his article. Dole tries to make it seem that the Democrats just started filibustering judicial nominees without any provocation.

”By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution.”

That “tradition of self-restraint” apparently wasn’t in effect back when Bill Clinton was in office either. Back then, Republicans used other Senate procedures to keep more than 60 of Clinton’s judicial nominees from receiving up-or-down votes. That is six times as many as Bush has faced from the Democratic opposition. How come there were no anguished cries and gnashing of teeth from conservatives back when those judicial nominees were left to languish without an up-or-down vote?

Since that time, the Republicans have abused their majority status by altering the rules to eliminate blue-slipping and other procedures once available to the minority party. Without access to these “pocket vetoes” which Republicans used incessantly throughout Clinton’s two terms, Democrats were forced to use the filibuster option lest they have no say whatsoever in the appointment of judges.
And to their credit, Democrats have used that power very infrequently - blocking only 10 of Bush’s picks out of more than 215, for a 95 percent approval rate. That rate would be even higher today except that Republicans have lately taken to holding up votes on some of Bush’s non-controversial nominees in order to keep that number as low as possible for political purposes.

When I think of all the Democratic judges who were blocked from recieving a confirmation vote a few years ago I tend to get angry. And when I get angry I am not always persuaded by logic and reason. If you think that the Democrats blocking 10 of Bush’s judicial picks is unfair, then you should understand why it was even more unfair (six times over) when the same thing happened to Clinton appointees. Even with 10 blocked nominees, the Republicans are coming out of this with a much better deal than the Democrats got. Why should they get every judicial nomination they want, especially when Bush is making no effort to compromise and pick people who would be even nominally acceptable to the other party?

If the Republicans were really committed to reforming the judicial confirmation process they would let these 10 nominations go before trying to change the rules of the Senate. Instead, they are trying to obliterate the last option Democrats have for having any voice in this process in order to punch through this last motley bunch of nominees. If they are successful Bush will have no more reason to moderate any of his nominations. He will have carte blanche to fill up the courts with all the like-minded far-right evangelicals he can find and be assured of the kind of 100 percent approval rate from the rubber-stamp Senate that would make most dictators blush.

GOP surrender monkeys to throw Tom DeLay to the wolves


GOP to Reverse Ethics Rule Blocking New DeLay Probe

House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party's image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee...

Republicans touched off a political uproar in January by changing a rule that had required the ethics committee to continue considering a complaint against a House member if there was a deadlock between the committee's five Republicans and five Democrats. The January change reversed this, calling for automatic dismissal of an ethics complaint when a deadlock occurs.

Republicans on the committee say they will launch an investigation of DeLay's handling of overseas trips and gifts as soon as the impasse over the rules is broken. The Washington Post reported last weekend that Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff charged DeLay's airfare to London and Scotland to his American Express card in 2000. House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists.

As Kos notes, this is only one of a string of things that Republicans have caved on recently. He mentions Social Security privatization, which is going nowhere in the Senate; the the Terri Schiavo/Judge-bashing fiasco, and the Nuclear Option power grab, which Sen. Frist keeps putting off as wavering Republicans refuse to commit to a vote.

But you can also throw in the John Bolton nomination to be U.N. ambassador which is for all practical purposes dead in the water after moderate Republicans in the Senate couldn’t be corralled by the party’s leadership.

I certainly hope that these wussy Republicans will buck up and support their illustrious majority leader to the bitter end. I can’t think of a better person to lead a party which has become so corrupted by power that it is constantly finding itself on the opposite side of public opinion. The GOP deserves Tom DeLay.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Americans oppose eliminating filibuster

This really isn’t surprising.

...a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll....

...The wide-ranging survey also recorded a precipitous decline in support for the centerpiece of Bush's Social Security plan -- private or personal accounts...

...The poll also registered drops in key Bush performance ratings, growing pessimism about the economy and continuing concern about U.S. involvement in Iraq....

The radicals who run the Republican Party today are constantly on the wrong side of public opinion. Whether it is pushing forward with a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, privatizing Social Security or getting involved in the Terry Schiavo case - they are constantly pushing an agenda that is contrary to popular opinion.
Unfortunately for American democracy, they don’t care. President Bush and his supporters believe they have been annointed by God himself and therefore do not care what anyone else thinks. And as long as they can depend on gobs of corporate campaign money, a jury-rigged election system and a public that is easily duped by phony terror alerts and tall tales of imminent threats posed by tiny far away nations, they won’t have to.

Keeping "People of Faith" off the Bench

News Flash

Conservative Christian leaders railed against the filibusters Sunday night at a nationally televised rally in Louisville, Kentucky.
Speakers characterized the filibusters as a Democratic-led campaign to keep "people of faith" off the federal bench.

So if the Democrats are blocking all the "People of Faith" from the federal bench, does that mean all the other judges that have been approved are not "People of Faith"?

Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush's 215 judicial nominees through filibuster threats, contending they were too far to the right to be fair judges; 205 have been confirmed.

So why is President Bush appointing all these non-People of Faith? More than 95 percent of his nominees are apparently heathen pagans and non-believers. Why aren't these Christian conservatives upset with Bush for such a dreadful record of court appointments?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Gurwitz whitewashes DeLay scandals

It wasn’t illegal and Democrats do it too.

That’s a quick summary of Jonathan Gurwitz’ column on Sunday in which he attempts to defend House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Of course that kind of defense didn’t go over well with Republicans when Bill Clinton used it. After all, nothing that Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky was illegal. And it was true that Republicans were also guilty of committing adultery - Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, Bob Barr, Rudolph Giuliani, and so forth. But they still impeached him anyway.

And the rest of Gurwitz’ attempt at defending DeLay doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny either. He tries to downplay all the charges against DeLay by putting his best possible spin on them:

DeLay's problem is not that he played a major role in the GOP redistricting effort in Texas two years ago. That's hardball politics, Texas-style...

No, the problem is not that DeLay played hardball politics over the re-redicstricting fiasco. The problem is that DeLay may have broken state laws by funneling corporate money into state races as part of that hardball effort. That is what the DA in Austin is looking into.

DeLay's problem is not that Travis County's Democratic district attorney, Ronnie Earle, is on an extended fishing expedition to net him...

Gurwitz tries to pull the wool over his readers’ eyes here by talking about Earle’s 1994 case against GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for allegedly misusing state telephones for political business. Earle dropped the case after a judge questioned the admissibility of his evidence at a pretrial hearing.

That certainly hasn’t been the case this time.

Following a two-year investigation, Earle has obtained indictments against eight corporations, in addition to three people close to DeLay - John Colyandro, executive director of DeLay’s PAC Texans for a Republican Majority; Warren Robold, a Washington, D.C., fund-raiser for DeLay; and Jim Ellis a key aide to DeLay. The charges include multiple counts of money laundering and the illegal use of corporate contributions.

If Earle had evidence of wrongdoing by DeLay, in all likelihood he would have gotten a grand jury indictment before the November election.

Not necessarily. As any prosecutor knows, it is not always easy to pin blame on the top guy. They are usually well shielded by subordinates who end up taking the fall in their place. In this case, Earle is biding his time waiting to see if one of the underlings will turn on their boss.

DeLay's problem is not that he has taken perfectly legal trips paid for by businesses and trade associations.

No, the problem is he took trips paid for by corporate lobbyists which is not allowed under House rules. As the Washington Post reported this weekend, DeLay’s plane trip to London and Scotland in 2000 was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff.

DeLay's problem is not that his wife and daughter drew perfectly legal salaries for work done for his campaign and political action committees. An Associated Press review of lawmakers' hiring practices found that roughly four dozen members of Congress hired spouses and children for campaign and political work, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif.

Once again, the “everybody does it” defense falls flat especially when you are caught exploiting the rules to the extent that DeLay does. The half a million dollars paid to his wife and daughter over four years pales in comparison to what most other House members have done. This is like a guy who gets pulled over for flying down the road at 110 mph saying he should be excused because some other folks were going 75 mph.

Finally, Gurwitz concedes that DeLay does have some problems, but he chalks that up to his being too cozy with Washington scoundrels like Abramoff. His harshest criticism of DeLay is that he is starting to act like the Democrats did before they lost control of Congress in 1994. But I would argue that DeLay has far exceeded the level of sleaze that Republicans were willing to tolerate back then. The “musty smell” that Gurwitz refers to is particularly rank this time.