2010 - %3, August

Corn on "Hardball": How Can Obama Regain Control of His Image?

Mon Aug. 30, 2010 5:21 PM PDT

David Corn and Eugene Robinson joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the floundering state of President Obama's public image and how he might reclaim it from those who deny his religion and nationality.

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

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Exclusive: Fannie Regulator Digs in on Clean-Energy Opposition

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 4:29 PM PDT

The Federal Housing Finance Agency solidified its opposition to the home-greening program Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) in a letter to members of Congress Thursday, telling them it doesn't see a way to let the program move forward.

FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco rejected the possibility of a PACE pilot program, seen as the last best hope for bringing the suspended finance tool back to life in the near term.

"Discussions have failed to produce concepts that would mitigate the threat to FHFA-regulated institutions or to broader financial markets," DeMarco wrote to PACE-supporting Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). "FHFA, therefore, has determined that its guidance to its regulated entities must remain in place."

The remaining options for saving the popular PACE program are a court battle, legislation, or possibly intervention from the Obama administration. That last option seems remote since the administration has so far refused to put its top people on the case.

Audio: Michael Mann on Ken Cuccinelli's "Climategate" Investigation

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 3:45 PM PDT

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's crusade against climate science was dealt a setback today after a judge denied his attempt to subpoena documents relating to former University of Virginia climate scientist, Michael Mann. Need to Know’s Alison Stewart spoke with Mann about the dangerous precedent the Cucinelli's case could have set and about what he calls the climate change denial "industry."

This podcast was produced by Need to Know as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Devastating Psychological Effects of BP Disaster

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 2:45 PM PDT

Anger, depression, and helplessness are the main psychological responses to BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. And these responses are likely to be long lived, according to an interview in Ecopsychology, a peer-reviewed journal exploring the relationship between environmental issues and mental health and well-being.

The anger being expressed in response to the recent BP oil rig explosion and resulting spill of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is a way of masking the really unfathomable and profound despair that is just under the surface as we watch this catastrophe unfold. This according to Deborah Du Nann Winter, a psychologist at Whitman College, WA. Winter predicts chronic depression, withdrawal, and lack of functioning among people directly affected by the events in the Gulf. She predicts the same for people nationwide and globally who aren't directly affected by the catastrophe but who who identify or empathize with those who are.

In the interview, Winter discusses her own personal attempts to deal with the negative emotions she is experiencing by focusing at times on hopeful, positive feelings related to the "tremendous self-sacrifice and generosity of spirit" among those affected by the spill and those helping to contain it and clean up the oil.

 

 

Onward Christian Pop-Rock Soldiers!

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 2:08 PM PDT

In the military, it's said, training never ends. Officers at one Virginia base reportedly think that maxim extends to their soldiers' religious development, as well: The Army is investigating allegations that soldiers there were ordered to attend a Christian pop-rock concert, or else remain confined to their barracks.

"Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down," Private Anthony Smith told the Associated Press, referring to himself and the other 100 or so men who declined to attend the concert. "It seemed very much like a punishment."

While the AP first reported the incident on August 20, it missed some tasty details about the base general who organized the $23,000 concert—and many more like it. It also didn't say much about the band involved, an all-teen trio of sisters called BarlowGirl who are kind of a big deal in Christian pop circles.

The May 13 concert was the brainchild of a self-professed "reborn" officer, Maj. General James E. Chambers. While commanding Ft. Eustis in Newport News two years ago, he "promoted a series of concerts, featuring Christian performers, aimed at awakening Soldiers' spiritual awareness," according to an Army profile from 2008. When he moved over to Ft. Lee, he continued "that outreach," the Army said. "The idea is not to be a proponent for any one religion," he told his profiler back then. "It's to have a mix of different performers with different religious backgrounds."

Papers, Please

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 1:56 PM PDT

Megan McArdle writes about the loan paperwork she had to fill out before buying a home recently:

The underwriting standards have been very tight, in terms of the paperwork I have had to produce — in order to use money that we received as wedding gifts as part of our downpayment, for example, I needed to produce a copy of our license, an invitation, and the announcement from the Times.

Say what? Just the fact that you have money in a bank account isn't good enough? And what would have happened if the Times had declined to print an announcement?

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End the FDIC!

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 1:40 PM PDT

Mike Konczal dips into 15 years worth of financial regulation advice from the Cato Institute and is impressed with their consistency:

With one exception [], there are no new ideas on financial market regulation as a result of the financial crisis. None....You would have no idea that we’ve just experienced the most major financial crisis since the Great Depression by reading their high-level policy suggestions. How cool is that?

The only change is that in 2009 they aren’t calling for abolishing FDIC insurance....They do that every year except their latest version. I wonder why they’ve backed off that all of a sudden? Did the financial crisis show a lack of panic in the commercial banking system, and they suddenly support FDIC insurance? Or are they biting their tongues and sitting it out for a half decade or so before calling for it to be dismantled again?

I'm guessing the latter. Still, I'm disappointed that they've turned out to be so craven on this vital issue of libertarian principle.

Why Pakistan Aid is Lagging

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 12:57 PM PDT

As tens of millions displaced and homeless Pakistanis continue to weather the effects of flooding, donations for flood relief remain sluggish. Pakistan is getting far less in donations (and media attention) than the Haiti earthquake. The flood relief effort has about 2/3 of the funding it needs, the US State Department estimates. According to one Oxfam representative, after 3 weeks the Pakistan effort garnered roughly $230 million committed; Haiti had three times that within 10 days.

BBC surveyed several experts as to why the response to Pakistan is lagging behind that of similar disasters. There were many reasons, among them "donor fatigue" and "terrorism," but one of the most intriguing was the idea that the floods were simply the "wrong disaster." As Yale economics professor Dean Karlan told BBC, "sudden events seem to generate more funds... [for Pakistan] there isn't any one single day in which news is huge... massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us." A Pakistan expert added ominously that the flood's low fatality rate actually masks the incredible magnitude of the disaster (livestock killed, low food supplies, ruined infrastructure), which will get worse as the year goes on. The whole article is worth a read, you can access it here.

 

 

 

ACLU, CCR Sue Obama Over "Targeted Killings"

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 12:14 PM PDT

The Obama administration seems to believe that the President has the authority to order the assassination of anyone, including American citizens, if they meet certain as-yet-undisclosed criteria. One American, accused terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, has been widely reported to be on a US government "kill list"—making him just one of several US citizens the government is reportedly trying to kill without charge or trial.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sued the government to force a change to this policy. (Their client is Nasser al-Awlaki, Anwar's father.) The groups hope that a court will rule that non-judicial "targeted killing" off a battlefield like Iraq or Afghanistan "is illegal in all but the narrowest circumstances." They also hope to force the government to explain exactly how it decides to put US citizens like Awlaki on a government "kill list." Here's an excerpt of their press release (you can watch a video version below):

Judge Blocks Virginia AG's Climate Witch Hunt

| Mon Aug. 30, 2010 11:30 AM PDT

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been waging a war on climate science, among his many other right-wing crusades. Today, his climate mission was dealt a setback after a judge denied his attempt to subpoena documents relating to a former University of Virginia climate scientist.

Cuccinelli was seeking the records of Michael Mann, a climate scientist now at Pennsylvania State University, in an attempt to prove the scientist  perpetrated some type of "fraud" via global warming warming work. Mann is best known for the so-called "hockey stick" graph illustrating the uptick in global temperatures over the last century. His work was at the center of the bogus controversy over the so-called ClimateGate emails, which skeptics continue to harp on as evidence that climate change is a conspiracy devised by a cabal of scheming scientists, even as investigations have found no such evidence or even any sign of wrongdoing.

Cuccinelli wanted access to five grant applications Mann wrote while at UVa., as well as his email records in order to investigate whether Mann willfully mislead colleagues and the public during his employment at UVa., which as a state school uses taxpayer dollars. Cuccinelli has been trying to pursue a case against Mann under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. But today's ruling is bad news for Cuccinelli's case. The Washington Post reports:

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a "reason to believe" that Mann had committed fraud.
The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.
According to Peatross, the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, under which the civil investigative demand was issued, requires that the attorney general include an "objective basis" to believe fraud has been committed. Peatross indicates that the attorney general must state the reason so that it can be reviewed by a court, which Cuccinelli's failed to do.

This fight isn't over yet. The judge indicated that Cuccinelli could take another stab at the subpoena. Given Cuccinelli's zealous pursuit of the climate issue in the past, there's little doubt that he will.