Kevin Drum

Thrilling Land Use Post

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 2:51 PM EDT

When someone says "land use policy," what do you think?  Time for a beer?  Time to clip my toenails?  Worthwhile Canadian initiative?

I feel your pain.  And yet: it's important!  Here are two examples.  First, from Kaid Benfield at NRDC, there's urban land use:

It's quite possible that California's new land use and transportation planning law, SB375, has been a game-changer....Suddenly people who two years ago wouldn't give smart growth advocates the time of day are talking about things like transit-oriented development and growth boundaries (if they still haven't caught on to revitalization and walkability, unfortunately), and mainstream enviros are beginning to seek ways to increase neighborhood density instead of opposing it.

....Smart growth and smart transportation choices can reduce the amount Americans need to drive — as measured in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) — by 10 percent per capita from 2005 levels. A 10 percent reduction in per capita VMT would reduce annual transportation emissions by 145 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTCO2) in the year 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 30 million cars or 35 large coal plants.

And now, rural land use.  In particular, an amendment to an appropriations bill last week that would have banned federal scientists from considering land use changes when calculating greenhouse gas emissions.  It failed, but only barely.  Michael O'Hare comments:

This is a particularly vile attempt to protect the corn industry at the expense of the planet by short-circuiting the science Obama promised would guide his administration....I can't be too clear or flatfooted about this: there is no respectable or responsible view that growing biofuel feedstock on land that could be used for food does not cause an indirect land use discharge of greenhouse gas, and corn ethanol is the biofuel with the largest indirect land use change effect.

....This is not a close scientific call even though the size of the LUC effect for a given fuel is subject to debate, it's a disagreement between people who will say anything for money and people who know what they're talking about....If we are willing to make stuff up and stifle the science with legislation like this, countries like India and China, and the Europeans, have no reason to get on board, especially after the last eight years of Bush administration denial and ignorantism and stasis on climate. It will be a catastrophe.

Mike wrote that last week, and as I said, the amendment ended up failing in committee.  But only by 30-29, and it's coming back to the floor this week.  Mike has more here on what you can do about this.

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Google Reader Bleg

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 1:23 PM EDT

I guess I should have done this over the weekend, but I have a technical bleg.  I use Google Reader for my RSS feeds, and it seems to work fine for every RSS feed except one: mine. Here's the problem: Instead of showing up a few minutes after I write them, my posts seem to sit in limbo for a few hours and then show up in batches all at once.  I've checked the feed itself, and it goes out within a few minutes of publishing a post, so the problem appears to be with the reader, not the feed.

Some people seem to have this same problem and some people don't.  So two questions.  First: if you use Google Reader, does this happen to you?  Second: does anybody have any idea what might cause this?  Thanks!

Obama Derangement Syndrome Watch

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 12:55 PM EDT

I guess I shouldn't really be surprised at anything Andy McCarthy says these days, but he somehow manages to surprise me anyway with some regularity.  Here he is telling us the real reason Barack Obama has been restrained in his public statements about Iran:

The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society.

Believe it or not, it goes downhill from there: McCarthy thinks Obama actually wanted to make a statement supporting the mullahs, but that wouldn't have gone over well with Joe Sixpack.  So he did the next best thing and stayed quiet.  Still, "Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters."

Also worth noting is that in the spirit of true paranoids everywhere, McCarthy manages to twist his theory so that it explains all of Obama's actions, both past and future.  No matter what Obama does — whether he speaks up or not — it will be in service of his overarching hard Left ideology and the volcanic anger and resentment that controls his life.

Somebody really needs to have a little chat with Rich Lowry.  I don't expect a lot from National Review these days, but McCarthy's public descent into madness isn't pretty to watch and doesn't do the magazine any favors.  Maybe it's time to ask him to work out his issues a little more privately.

UPDATE: I missed this the first time around, but to his credit, Lowry does respond to McCarthy here.  Remarkably (or not, perhaps), McCarthy then digs himself in even deeper here.  "I detect in your post a sense that I'm this close to the fringe," he says.  Well, there's no need to sense what I'm saying in my post, Andy.  You are batshit crazy.

The Circular Firing Squad

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 12:19 PM EDT

As long as we're on the subject of liberals being their own worst enemies — and we were on that subject, weren't we? — check out Josh Harkinson's piece on the civil war over Waxman-Markey among enviros.  It's been brewing for a while, but it's now starting to go mainstream.  For a look at what they're fighting over, a handy W-M checklist is here.

Monopoly Healthcare

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 12:07 PM EDT

Republicans pretty much oppose all Democratic proposals to reform healthcare.  So naturally they oppose the creation of a public option as part of healthcare reform too. No mystery there.  But why do so many Democrats oppose it?  Paul Krugman speculates:

I may have a new hypothesis about the political economy of the health care fight. One thing that’s obvious, if you look at the balking Democrats I chided in today’s column, is that almost all of them come from states with small population. These are also, by and large, states in which one or at most two private insurers dominate the market.

So here’s a suggestion: while the opponents of a private plan say that they’re trying to defend market competition, what they’re actually doing is defending lucrative local monopolies.

There's probably something to this.  It doesn't even have to be especially sinister: politicians routinely pay outsize attention to companies with a big presence in their state even if they aren't outsize campaign contributors.  Though the latter certainly doesn't hurt.

Anyway — interesting theory.

Quote of the Day

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 11:31 AM EDT

From Sen. John Thune (R–SD), commenting on his disappointment with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court:

"She doesn't have the punch out there in terms of fundraising and recruiting, I think — at least so far."

That's a real shame, isn't it?  But don't lose hope. I'm sure there's still plenty of mileage left in pretending that Obama wants to take away your guns, force your daughters to abort their babies, and outlaw the Bible.

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Best in Blog: 22 June 2009

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 10:33 AM EDT

Was Sunday's calm the beginning of the end in Iran, or just the calm before the storm? This video of a teenage girl being gunned down suggests the latter. Meanwhile, the EPA declared an environmental emergency in Montana, there's beef in KFC chicken, and Tuesday's debut of the film New Muslim Cool shows how Bush-era Islamophobia affected one Latino family's daily life.

What's Next in Iran?

| Mon Jun. 22, 2009 1:46 AM EDT

The BBC reports that a day after Saturday's crackdown in Tehran, things were quiet on Sunday.  The Guardian suggests this might be the beginning of the end:

Protesters who have shaken the authorities by venting anger en masse at the "stolen" elections that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office spoke of a hiatus, even a despair, settling on the movement after yesterday's Saturday's clashes killed at least 10 and wounded scores more.

But in Time, Robin Wright says this may be the calm before the storm, partly thanks to the widely circulated video of a woman known as "Neda" being gunned down on Saturday:

Although it is not yet clear who shot "Neda" (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran's rich history.

....Shiite mourning is not simply a time to react with sadness. Particularly in times of conflict, it is also an opportunity for renewal. The commemorations for "Neda" and the others killed this weekend are still to come. And the 40th day events are usually the largest and most important.

If Wright is correct, Tuesday could be a pivotal day.  Stay tuned.

Iran Update

| Sun Jun. 21, 2009 3:03 PM EDT

The New York Times: "Estimates of the death toll in clashes [Saturday] between security forces and demonstrators protesting what they called a fraudulent presidential election varied. State television said that 10 had died, while radio reports said 19 people had been killed.  Major streets and squares of Tehran were saturated with police and Basij militia forces. There were reports of scattered confrontations with the police, but there was no confirmation of any new injuries Sunday evening.".....LA Times: "There was uncertainty over what might unfold next. Would protesters rally again despite the government's blunt warnings it would use force to clear the streets, as they did Saturday? Or were both sides recalibrating strategies to keep the nation from sliding into further chaos?"

Juan Cole: "The regime has arrested Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, daughter of the former president, who spoke at a pro-Mousavi rally, along with 4 other members of that family. This step is typical of an old Iranian ruling technique, of keeping provincial tribal chieftains in check by keeping some of their children hostage at the royal court."

Roger Cohen reporting from Tehran: "I don’t know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering.".....Shahram Kholdi: "There is a division in the ranks of the police, which in a way is a good sign. Two close friends [...] were stopped at a check point and their car trunk was full of posters and green bands. The constables took them to their immediate commander who confiscated all the material and ordered them to be arrested. However, as they were taken to another check point where the district commander was, he overruled his superiors [...] As they got in the car to leave the station, the district commander told them that they have to be extra careful and told them Movaffagh Bashid (meaning roughly 'good luck').".....Andrew Sullivan: "Just watch this pitched battle in the streets between a crowd and the riot police (via BBC Farsi). And watch it to the very end, as the police suddenly turn tail and run."

Chatham House on irregularities in the vote: "The massive increases from 2005, the collapse of regional variations, and the absence of any clear correlation between increases in turnout and increased support for any candidate on their own make the results problematic.".....BBC: "Iranian authorities have asked the BBC's correspondent in Tehran to leave the country within 24 hours."

Al Arabiya: "Iran's religious clerks in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by former President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.".....The Lede: "More splintering among Iran’s clerics is reported by Reuters.".....Fareed Zakaria: "Something very important has been laid bare in Iran today — legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular support.".....Bill Clinton: "Basically, this is about a government trying to deny the modern world."

Chart of the Day

| Sun Jun. 21, 2009 1:03 PM EDT

Republicans have been screaming blue murder for months about the cost of the cap-and-trade provision of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.  It's going to cost us $1,600 each! No, that's wrong: it's going to cost us $3,100 each!  Head for the hills!

So Rep. Dave Camp, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means committee, asked the Congressional Budget Office for a verdict.  And guess what?  The net cost turned out to be — at most — $175 per household by the year 2020.  That's less than $70 per person:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the net annual economywide cost of the cap-and-trade program in 2020 would be $22 billion — or about $175 per household. That figure [...] does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in GHG emissions and the associated slowing of climate change....Overall net costs would average 0.2 percent of households’ after-tax income.

Low income households would fare even better.  The CBO's table of net costs is below.