Some interesting observations from yesterday's Supreme Court hearing on whether the federal government has the power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, via the New York Times. Reading the tea leaves of the justices' reaction to the arguments before them, the Times predicts the court will do its usual 5-4 split on the question, with Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia seem to be in the "pollutant, shmollutant" camp:
"You have to show the harm is imminent," Justice Scalia instructed [Massachussetts assistant attorney general] Mr. Milkey, asking, "I mean, when is the cataclysm?"
Mr. Milkey replied, "It's not so much a cataclysm as ongoing harm," arguing that Massachusetts, New York, and other coastal states faced losing "sovereign territory" to rising sea levels. "So the harm is already occurring," he said. "It is ongoing, and it will happen well into the future."
Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito both suggested that because motor vehicles account for only about 6 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, even aggressive federal regulation would not be great enough to make a difference, another requirement of the standing doctrine.
Meanwhile, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter seemed willing to consider that automobile emissions pose a serious environmental threat:
Justice Souter engaged Deputy Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre, the lawyer who was defending the administration's position, in a long debate. When Mr. Garre said the plaintiffs "haven't shown specific facts which should provide any comfort to this court that regulation of less than 6 percent or fewer greenhouse emissions worldwide will have any effect on their alleged injuries," Justice Souter demanded: "Why do they have to show a precise correlation?"
"It is reasonable to suppose," the justice continued, "that some reduction in the gases will result in some reduction in future loss." It was "a question of more or less, not a question of either/or," he said, adding: "They don't have to stop global warming. Their point is that it will reduce the degree of global warming and likely reduce the degree of loss."
Mr. Garre replied that given the problem's global nature, "I'm not aware of any studies available that would suggest that the regulation of that minuscule fraction of greenhouse gas emissions would have any effect whatsoever."
Then Justice Breyer took on the government lawyer. "Would you be up here saying the same thing if we're trying to regulate child pornography, and it turns out that anyone with a computer can get pornography elsewhere?" Justice Breyer asked, adding, "I don't think so."
Clarence Thomas seems to have been reliably silent during the hearing.
What do George W. Bush, Jeffrey Skilling, and the guy who sold some Florida swampland to your grandma have in common? According to Elizabeth de la Vega, they’re all scam artists who deserve to have the book thrown at them. For de la Vega, who spent more than 20 years as a federal prosecutor, that’s not just a cheap shot at Bush, it’s her considered legal opinion. In her new book, United States v. George W. Bush et al., she argues that in snookering us into an unnecessary war in Iraq, the president wasn’t simply guilty of dishonesty or incompetence, but guilty of fraud.
Well, not exactly. In our big package on global-warming deniers last year, Bill McKibben dinged Michael Crichton's State of Fear for combining "all the clichés of pulp fiction (heaving breasts, cannibals, poisoning by octopi)" with a deliberate misreading of the science of climate change. After quietly stewing for two years, Crichton has struck back. From today's New York Timesreview of his latest distraction for cross-country fliers: "Next does occasionally turn ham-handed: one of its resident idiots is a whiny environmentalist who reads Mother Jones and thinks genetic modification could make cool protest art." Snap!
Meanwhile, having conclusively disproved global warming, Crichton has moved on. According to his website, "Michael has completed all interviews/speaking engagements regarding State of Fear and related themes and will not be revisiting these subjects in the future." Guess not even breasts and cannibals could convince Hollywood to buy that screenplay. Better luck with this one, Michael!
That's the theory put forth by Laurie David in the Washington Post, describing how the National Science Teachers Association rejected an offer to send 50,000 free copies of Al Gore's shockumentary to schools. The NSTA claimed that it didn't want to distribute materials from "special interests" and besides, the film offered "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members." And, oh yeahit might tick off the global-warming deniers at Exxon:
But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.
That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it.
While the NSTA won't distribute science-based documentaries like Gore's, it does promote curricula from companies including Exxon:
And it has been doing so for longer than you may think. NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association's "Building a Presence for Science" program, an electronic networking initiative intended to "bring standards-based teaching and learning" into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group's corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education.
So much for special interests and implicit endorsements.
Exxon may be funding more than just innocuous science materials. Laurie reports that its free lesson plans for teachers include "propaganda challenging global warming."
A new survey by WorldPublicOpinion.org reveals the depth of Iraqi antipathy towards the contiued American presence in their country. Now a solid majority of all Iraqis, including once pro-U.S. Baghdad Shias, say they want us out of there in a year:
Eight out of ten Shias in Baghdad (80%) say they want foreign forces to leave within a year (72% of Shias in the rest of the country), according to a poll conducted by World Public Opinion in September. None of the Shias polled in Baghdad want U.S.-led troops to be reduced only "as the security situation improves," a sharp decline from January, when 57 percent of the Shias polled by WPO in the capital city preferred an open-ended U.S presence.
This brings Baghdad Shias in line with the rest of the country. Seven out of ten Iraqis overallincluding both the Shia majority (74%) and the Sunni minority (91%)say they want the United States to leave within a year.
One statistical difference worth noting: Baghdad Shias, unlike most other Iraqis, do not favor disarming sectarian militias even though 59% say a U.S. withdrawal will lead to more interethnic violence. That's not just a sign of how bad things are in the capital but also an ominous hint of the power struggle to come. But while the U.S. may be providing a temporary buffer, that doesn't mean it's seen as the good guy who simply needs to holster his gun and ride into the sunset. Nearly 60% of all Shias say they support attacks on American-led troops. And 100% of Baghdad Sunnis and 91% of Sunnis elsewhere say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces.