2010 - %3, March

Quote of the Day: Fox News

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 12:25 PM EST

From Ezra Klein, on Fox News:

I continue to be amazed that lying brazenly to your audience is such a good business strategy.

Why, it's the oldest moneymaking strategy in the world. Fox News has just polished it up a bit for the 21st century. Details at the link.

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DC "Insiders" and Question Time

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 12:06 PM EST

Proponents of Question Time will be interested in a survey the National Journal conducted of over 200 "insiders"—mainly Democratic and Republican consultants, strategists, and pollsters. The question: Would your party benefit from another televised session between President Obama and Hill Republicans? Democrats said yes (82 to 15 percent). Republicans, though, said no (52 to 46 percent).

The magazine provides sample quotes from unidentified respondents explaining their support or opposition. Here's some of what the pro-Question Time Dems said:

"Anytime the debate becomes a choice between our ideas and theirs, we win. Anytime it becomes a defense solely of our plan, we lose."

"It benefits President Obama more, but it helped Republicans on the margins."

"Have several: Obama comes off as in touch and knowledgeable, while the Republicans come off as political."

"The contrast between Obama talking to the nation and Republicans talking to the 'tea party' is wonderful."

"He appears as a leader and willing to reach across the aisle and get something done."

"The speeches, while beautifully delivered, may have run their course. But one-on-one, the contrast between the president putting forth practical solutions and the Republicans' bleating and posturing becomes clear."

"Anytime Peyton Manning can operate against a high school defense, it's good for Peyton Manning."

"Can we do it in prime time, please?"

The Republicans supporters of Question Time noted,

House GOP Joins EPA Assault

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 11:03 AM EST

The House Republican caucus is launching its own effort to block the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, joining a number of other ploys to prevent or delay anticipated new rules from the agency.

On Tuesday, Republicans plan to introduce their own resolution of disapproval for the EPA's finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health. The effort, lead by Joe Barton (R-Texas), has 79 Republican cosponsors. It mirrors both the Senate version introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that has 40 cosponsors, including three Democrats, and another House measure introduced last week by Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). (A resolution of disapproval is an obscure parliamentary tactic that allows Congress to override decisions from the executive branch.)

Barton, Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) plan to hold a press conference on the measure today. The trio will likely put on quite a good show. Barton believes that humans should find shade to deal with climate change and worries that wind turbines might disrupt the flow of air around the planet. Boehner seems to think that the problem is that carbon dioxide causes cancer, and that the idea that it is "harmful to our environment is almost comical." Pence has objected to funding for climate research and believes that policy to reduce emissions is "tantamount to economic declaration of war on the Midwest by liberals."

Dodd's Financial Hypocrisy

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 10:10 AM EST

After saying last fall that the Federal Reserve had been "an abysmal failure" in its role protecting consumers, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), in the latest twist in the Senate's financial-reform talks, now wants to put the well-being of consumers in the hands of the Federal Reserve, proposing to house a consumer-protection agency within the opaque Fed. The head of this hypothetical consumer agency would be appointed by the White House, according to the Washington Post, and while the agency would have rule-making powers, it would be up to existing regulators to enforce those consumer-oriented rules. It's unclear who'd win out in a power struggle between this Fed-housed consumer agency and other banking regulators, and whether the hypothetical consumer agency's jurisdiction would include certain non-banking institutions. But if there's one thing to take away from this latest leak from Senate's financial-reform negotiations, led by Dodd and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), it's this: Dodd's not taking the high road, and appears willing to appease Republicans to almost any length if it helps him gets a bill passed.

This is the same Chris Dodd, you'll remember, who lambasted the Fed last year for its regulatory failures in the run-up to the crisis. In November, Dodd wanted to strip the Fed of practically all of its oversight power, creating a superregulator for financial institutions and leaving the Fed only to deal with monetary policy. And before that Dodd had generally opposed expanding the Fed's power at all, instead supporting the idea of an independent consumer protection agency. Meanwhile, Dodd's main Republican counterpart on the Senate banking committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), has been an even more boisterous opponent of the Fed on numerous occasions: He's cited the Fed's "history of failure in supervision and regulation" and opposed the renomination of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, who "fiddled while our markets burned," as Shelby put it.

Undoubtedly, the source of the Fed consumer-protection plan is Corker, the main Republican negotiator on financial reform since Shelby abandoned the talks in mid-February. But is the support of a single Republican senator enough to garner bipartisan backing for handing consumer protection off to the Fed? Or as one Senate aide familiar with the negotiations told Mother Jones recently, "Those who are arguing for real reform are arguing, 'Why even compromise if they're going to oppose it anyway? Why are you negotiating against yourself?'"

Eco-News Roundup: Tuesday March 2

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 8:34 AM EST

NY Win: Disabled adults in New York win new housing due to court ruling.

Gold Medals Ain't Cheap: Olympic health insurance is spendy, so the committee hired lobbyists.

Chemical Castration: Chemical changes male frogs to female, wrecking sex ratios. [MongaBay]

EPA Block: Two Democrats are joining GOP in fighting EPA greenhouse gas regulations.

Diluted: Climate change legislation is slowly being watered down in Congress.

No Appetite: An appetite suppressant shows potential as an insulin alternative. [AAAS]

Corn Boondoggle: Ethanol's no greener than gas, so why are we subsidizing it?

Reconciliation?: If the House and Senate could just cool it, maybe healthcare would get passed.

Acting Your Age: Debate on polar bear evolution and if they weathered a previous warm period. [MSNBC]

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for March 2, 2010

Tue Mar. 2, 2010 7:00 AM EST

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A US Army Soldier maneuvers through the village of Heydark Hel as part of a presence patrol in Sayed Abad district in Afghanistan's Wardak province, on Feb. 19, 2010. Photo via the US Army photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest.

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South Dakota to Teach Climate Change Denial in Schools?

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 7:00 AM EST

South Dakota may soon make climate-change denial the law of the land, if an effort underway in the state legislature is successful. Via Brad Johnson, we learn that the state House of Representatives recently passed a new law calling for "balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota."

The resolution, approved by a vote of 36-30, states that public schools should be required to teach students that "global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact" and that a variety of "climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics" could be changing the weather. Yes, that’s astrological, as in horoscopes. And as Brad Plumer points out, thermology involves the science of infrared body imaging. Not quite clear what role that might play in global warming.

The state Senate approved an amended version of the resolution that is slightly less kooky, dropping the "astrological" and "thermological" causes but still asserting that the "global warming debate" has "prejudiced the scientific investigation of global climatic change phenomena."

Now the House will decide whether to adopt the amended version. No matter which version they adopt, it looks like South Dakota could soon be the first state to sign climate change confusion into law.

Corn on "Hardball": Is Bunning Hurting the Republicans?

Mon Mar. 1, 2010 9:56 PM EST

David Corn joined Jay Newton-Small on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews to discuss Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning's obstruction of federal unemployment benefits and whether or not it will hurt the Republican party.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Tea Party Hero's $110K GOP Tab

| Mon Mar. 1, 2010 9:42 PM EST

Fiscal responsiblity. Yes sir, that's what it's all about these days. Along with iPods, plasma high-def televisions, and Snuggies, talking about fiscal responsibility has become a staple of American life (but irony, sadly, not so much). It's not just for Tea Partying, gun-toting conservatives or obstructionist congressional Republicans, but "moderate" Democrats, too—and of course, so-called "independent" voters who have never voted for anyone to the left of Ted Nugent. Health care? Unemployment? Why are we talking about spending more money that we ain't got? That's not how everyday people operate their budgets, we're told, and it shouldn't be how the government operates, either. (Except if the government is run by a Reagan or a Bush, in which case: Spend away).

Nobody's been a bigger beneficiary of all this belt-tightening, balanced-budget posturing than Marco Rubio, the frontrunner for Florida's open Senate seat. The Republican speaker of the state House has styled himself as a Tea Party-friendly, arch-conservative alternative to moderate GOP Gov. Charlie Crist (a maverick who's been burdened with the task of actually governing and managing a budget. And who also has committed the unpardonable sin of being civil to President Obama.) Rubio's red meat has been government waste: His campaign call is for "limited government and opposition to the Crist-Obama agenda of tax, borrow and spend."

Except Rubio loves to borrow and spend—and if you've ever given to a GOP-connected cause, you've probably helped him. The Miami Herald recently broke the news that in 2007 and 2008—the prime recession years, when all our 401(K)'s evaporated—Rubio charged $109,618 to an American Express card opened by the Republican Party of Florida. That included a $133.75 haircut at Churchill's—a high-flying barbershop in his hometown of Miami (insert John Edwards comparison joke here), and $4000 to fix his busted family minivan. Rubio paid the GOP back for what he deemed "personal" expenses on the account, letting the unpaid balance—all $93,566 of it—ride on the card. The state party eventually paid that tab, which included Rubio's broken-car fees.

In fact, this is part of a larger media investigation into the Florida GOP's free-spending ways. Just-deposed state Republican Chairman Jim Greer liked private jets and "lobster dinners," both of which apparently put him in a good state of mind to rail against "unnecessary pork barrel spending" by Democrats.

So Rubio's not the only big spender in the Florida Republican Party. But he's one of the most hypocritical, since he made Crist's acceptance of federal stimulus money the focal point of his political offensive. In a page straight out of the Tea Party playbook, Rubio has said that Obama's and Crist's spending policies "will rob my children and their generation of their prosperity, and some of their freedoms."

Thank God! At least we now know that, if the worst happens, Rubio's children will be reimbursed by Amex and the Grand Old Party. Until, of course, Obama's socialist regime bans credit cards.

 

Getting Science into the Movies

| Mon Mar. 1, 2010 7:06 PM EST

There's a new science literacy program shaping up between the National Science Foundation and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) to bring science and engineering concepts to the public.

The program, called the Creative Science Studio, due to lauch this autumn, will be make use of SCA's professional soundstages, animation facilities, post-production suites, mixing theaters, screening rooms, and all-digital classrooms to more accurately portray the way science works and what science knows.

The basic idea is to exchange tools:

  • To give faculty and students the science and engineering tools (instruments and data visualization methods) to enhance the way science is depicted in the movie industry (and the likes)
  • To give science researchers the creative tools to educate audiences

In the process, the next generation of entertainment producers will be exposed to science themes, be more comfortable with them, and more likely to accurately portray them to audiences of the future. SCA Dean Elizabeth M. Daley tells USC:

"This alliance is a vital and essential one. I'm excited for a symbiosis between these two institutions, which will play a major role in the ongoing evolution of scientific communication for both researchers and storytellers."

The Creative Science Studio's projects will include videos, interactive games, animations, and examples of information visualization, with a larger research project designed to interrogate "information" itself. SCA's Institute for Multimedia Literacy produced a five- minute video describing the Studio: