2009 - %3, December

Copenhagen Eve

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 10:20 PM EST
It's been a long wait. Now the coy leaders step forward. May they work hard, discover cooperation, make us proud of our species, and give us hope for our future.
 
 

See You in Copenhagen is a campaign of short films and ads produced by Found Object Films, in cooperation with the UN Foundation and tcktcktck.org to raise public awareness and support civic engagement in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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A Carbon Tax Hail Mary?

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 8:39 PM EST

On both the left and the right, there are mutterings that the Senate should ditch cap-and-trade legislation in favor of a carbon tax. But is a carbon tax the silver bullet its supporters claim, or simply a product of wishful thinking? 

At an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on climate policy this week, Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska  and Bob Corker of Tennessee repeatedly suggested that a carbon tax would be simpler and more transparent than a cap-and-trade scheme. Corker has also argued that a tax could return the revenues to consumers via rebates.

For carbon tax fans, these kinds of remarks are signals that their favored policy isn't a lost cause. That's the case made by the US Climate Task Force, a project founded by former Clinton administration officials Robert Shapiro and Elaine Kamarck.

 

Eminem's Rape Brag

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 6:54 PM EST

Was anyone else aware that Eminem recently performed a song at the AMA's in which he bragged about 17 rapes? I just found this out while reading the comments section of an Entertainment Weekly blog. Meanwhile, Adam Lambert has been pitchforked by the public and blackballed by ABC for (gasp!) kissing a guy on the same show. Because, you know, that's offensive.

Coincidentally, hours before reading about Slim Shady's rape boast, I came across a Center for Investigative Reporting report about how college campuses routinely mishandle sexual assault cases. Apparently, more than 95 percent of students who are sexually victimized do not report to police or campus officials, and those that do are often encouraged to drop their claim or submit to a gag order.

It's hard enough as is to report sexual abuse. Victims shouldn't have to deal with Eminem's brags, ABC's hypocrisy, campus' injustices, or a culture that just says "meh."

Glenn Beck, Thespian

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 6:01 PM EST

If you skipped last night's Glenn Beck holiday special, The Christmas Sweater: A Return to Redemption, you had company. The live event, beamed into 475 movie theaters nationwide, sold 17 tickets apiece in Boston and New York, and 30 in Washington, DC. At the downtown cineplex in San Francisco, a brisk walk from Mother Jones headquarters and the only theater in the city to air the program, the crowd could be counted on just two fingers—three, if you include this reporter.

The program revolves around a pre-taped, one-man stage production of Beck's semi-autographical novel, The Christmas Sweater (now available in children's book form), in which a young boy, Eddie (played by Beck), rejects his mom's knitted gift, only to watch in horror as she dies in a horrific accident that evening. Eddie runs away from home and hits rock bottom—which a teary-eyed Beck illustrates by collapsing to the floor into a fetal postion—before finding finding salvation and discovering the true meaning of Christmas. It's a real heartwarmer.

Resignation of the Day

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 5:17 PM EST

Ed Kilgore relays some fascinating news:

Georgia's Republican House Speaker Glenn Richardson resigned today, a few days after his ex-wife in a television interview said she knew for a fact that the conservative solon had conducted an extramarital affair with a utilities lobbyist even as he championed legislation highly beneficial to the lobbyist's employer.

That's not the half of it.

Friday Cat Blogging - 4 December 2009

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 4:01 PM EST

What do cats do when they're home alone?  The folks at Nestle Purina PetCare's Friskies division installed cat-cams on 50 cats in order to find out, and they've now announced the results:

Based on the photos, about 22 percent of the cats' time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.

Uh huh.  Look: I work at home.  So I know exactly what my critters do between the hours of nine and five: they sleep.  I'd peg it at about 80% of the time.  The Purina folks clearly have some serious methodological issues here.  Perhaps it's a Heisenberg kind of thing: the existence of the cat-cams affects the behavior of the cats being observed.  They'd have to be pretty small cats, though.  Alternatively, someone just screwed up.

Anyway, photographic proof is right here.  These pictures were taken just moments ago.  Earlier this morning Domino woke up just long enough to hop up on my desk and stare at me until I vacated my chair (no worries, I've got a spare for just these occasions), and then fell fast asleep.  Inkblot didn't even open his eyes that long.  He's been curled up on the red blanket upstairs ever since he finished his breakfast.  Six percent my ass.

UPDATE: More detail than you ever imagined possible about the cat-cam study here.

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Soccer Madness

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 3:46 PM EST

I know you're all interested in the World Cup draw, right?  Well, the United States (ranked #14 in the world) ended up in Group C, the second easiest group, along with England (#9), Algeria (#28), and Slovenia (#33).  The Daily Fix reports:

[Landon] Donovan nods and smiles as Algeria and Slovenia are placed in the U.S.'s group. He is trying to be diplomatic. But there's no question that he's relieved, and that the U.S. got a good draw.

....Drawing England will make for huge viewership and some in England feared the U.S., but the U.S. will have its hands full with England. The rest of the group, Algeria and Slovenia, looks workable. The USA has a decent chance of advancing — they dodged some huge obstacles (France, Portugal) and drew a weakish seed. I bet the USA camp will be in decent spirits.

Anyway, just thought I'd let everyone know.  Schedule here.

New Military Drone: The Beast of Kandahar

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 3:14 PM EST

Photo: Secret DéfensePhoto: Secret DéfenseWired's Danger Room has the lowdown on new photos of a long-rumored new unmanned drone the military is supposedly operating in Afghanistan, popularly known as "the Beast of Kandahar":

Earlier this year, blurry pictures were released by the French magazine Air & Cosmos of a previously unknown stealth drone taken at Kandahar in Afghanistan. The photos, snapped in 2007, prompted a wave of speculation about the classified aircraft. That speculation grew even more intense this week, when a blog belonging to the French newspaper Libération released an even better photograph. But while the new picture may answers some questions, it also creates a heap of new mysteries. Chief among them: Why use such a fancy, stealthy aircraft in Afghanistan? The Taliban have neither the radar to spot the plane, nor the weaponry to shoot it down.

The speculation is that the stealthiness of the drone is intended to allow it to operate undetected in Pakistan or even Iran. Wired has much more, including this:

 

The Beast has also been identified with the covert Desert Prowler program, identified by black ops spotter Trevor Paglen. The Desert Prowler’s patches include the phrases “alone and unafraid” and “alone and on the prowl” as well as the figure of a wraith taken from an album cover by Insane Clown Posse. The wraith is said to represent the Grim Reaper…peculiar as it may seem, Paglen has shown that a remarkable amount of information can be gleaned from Black Ops patches and has written a book on the subject.

Peglen's book, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World, is pretty cool, and he has a website where you can get a taste of what it has to offer. It's a treasure trove for anyone interested in Black Ops, symbology, or random trivia.

Reining in Entitlements

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 2:51 PM EST

The healthcare legislation winding its way through Congress is chock full of cost-savings measures.  But will they be allowed to take effect, or will Congress cave in and repeal them once they start to bite and interest groups start to squeal?  A new CBPP report suggests the former:

The history of health legislation in recent decades demonstrates that, despite some critics’ charges, Congress has repeatedly adopted measures to produce considerable savings in Medicare and has let them take effect....In arguing that Medicare cuts never “stick,” critics point in particular to Congress’ repeated refusal to let the reductions in physician reimbursement rates under Medicare’s so-called “sustainable growth rate” (SGR) mechanism, which it enacted in 1997, take full effect. The SGR cuts, however, represented a badly designed measure that was not intended to produce large savings (the projected SGR savings represented less than five percent of total Medicare savings in the 1997 bill), but turned into a blunt instrument that would have produced cuts far in excess of what was anticipated and would have had harsh and indefensible effects. (Moreover, even though Congress did not allow the full cuts required under the SGR formula to take effect, it has still cut the physician reimbursement rate substantially — at its current level, the reimbursement rate in 2010 will be 17 percent below the rate for 2001, adjusted for inflation.)

The SGR mechanism has little in common with most of the other provisions that Congress has enacted over the years to produce savings in Medicare and that have, in fact, taken effect. This distinction is important because most of the Medicare savings provisions in the House and Senate health reform bills are similar in nature to the types of Medicare provisions that Congress has enacted in the past that have taken effect — and they differ markedly from the blunt-instrument design of the SGR cut.

....Every significant deficit-reduction package in the last 20 years has included Medicare savings, most of which have been implemented as planned....And most of the savings enacted in 1997 other than the SGR cuts — nearly four-fifths — were implemented as well.

Obviously it's impossible to predict which cost savings measures will work and which ones won't.  But CBPP's summary of past efforts suggests that most of them will be allowed to take effect and most of them will have a noticeable effect.  They're still only small steps in the right direction, but anyone who's serious about reining in entitlement spending should welcome them.  Much more detail at the link.

Quote of the Day: Sarah and the Birthers

| Fri Dec. 4, 2009 2:18 PM EST

From Sarah Palin, asked if she thinks questions about Barack Obama's birth certificate are legitimate:

I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that.

The mainstreaming of insanity in the Republican Party continues apace.