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EPA Report Puts a Staggering Price Tag on Climate Inaction

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 6:59 PM EDT

According to a report released Monday by the Obama administration, doing nothing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions would cost the United States billions of dollars and thousands lives.

The findings come as part of an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency to quantify the human and economic benefits of cutting emissions in an effort to reduce global warming. The report is the latest piece of President Obama's recent climate push and provides a tool that he hopes to use in negotiations at the UN climate talks in Paris later this year.

The report, which was peer reviewed, estimates that if nothing is done to curb global warming, by 2100, the United States will see an additional 12,000 annual deaths related to extreme temperatures in the 49 cities analyzed for the report. In addition, the report projects an increase of 57,000 premature deaths annually related to poor air quality. The economic costs would be enormous as well. By 2100, climate inaction will result in:

  • $4.2-$7.4 billion in additional road maintenance costs each year.
  • $3.1 billion annually in damages to coastal regions due to sea-level rise and storm surges.
  • $6.6-$11 billion annually in agricultural damages.
  • A loss of 230,000 to 360,000 acres of cold-water fish habitat.
  • A loss of 34 percent of the US oyster supply and 29 percent of the clam supply.
  • $110 billion annually in lost labor due to unsuitable working conditions.

The EPA also used a number of charts to illustrate the difference between taking action to stop (or "mitigate") climate change and continuing with business as usual (which the charts refer to as the "reference" case).

For example, if we don't mitigate climate change, temperatures will continue to skyrocket:


Precipitation levels will become extremely volatile:


Air pollution will become much worse:

And the risk of drought will rise for much of the country:

 

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No Joy's Dreamy New Shoegaze Album

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 6:48 PM EDT

No Joy
More Faithful
Mexican Summer

 

Grunge, in the form of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and endless lesser lights, wasn't the only cool thing happening in rock'n'roll during the '90s. Shoegaze, as personified by My Bloody Valentine and Lush, also made its mark and has shown remarkable staying power. Witness the Canadian quartet No Joy, whose exciting third album is textbook shoegaze, blending swirling, echoey voices, distorted guitars, and heavenly melodies into one dreamy and alluring package. It's difficult to determine what singer-guitarist Jasamine White-Gluz and her accomplices want to say, if anything, but the waves of vertigo-inducing sound they generate are the real point. Call it cheap thrills, or high art, or both: In any case, More Faithful will give you a delicious buzz.

South Carolina's Gov. Finally Calls for Removing the Confederate Flag From the State Capitol Grounds

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 4:27 PM EDT

Following days of mounting pressure, Gov. Nikki Haley just announced her support for removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.

"It's time to move the flag from the capitol grounds," Haley told reporters at a press conference, where senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham were also present, on Monday.

"Some divisions are bigger than a flag. We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something we cannot stand," she added.

The flag has been the subject of controversy in the past, including in 2000 when large protests opposing its presence took place in Columbia, the state's capitol. The issue resurfaced, creating national headlines, after the mass shooting inside a historic black church in Charleston. This weekend, a racist online manifesto apparently belonging to the suspected gunman, Dylann Roof, which included images of him posing with the flag, one in which he had a gun in his hand, surfaced.

Following the shooting, a slew of Republican presidential candidates—some of whom shied away from directly stating Roof had racist motives—have been asked about their stances on the Confederate flag. Although he condemned the shooting as an "evil act of aggression," former Florida governor Jeb Bush ultimately said he did not know what was "mind or the heart of the man" behind it, despite the obvious racist symbolism Roof appeared to embrace. After once defending the flag as a "part of who we are," Graham joined Haley on Monday in backtracking his longstanding support of the Confederate flag.

Fox News Host Hits Man With Ax

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 4:04 PM EDT

Thank god this dude is basically all right.

 

I was hit by an axe while performing a drum solo live on National TV.....words I never imagined saying! This happened last Sunday and I have been reluctant to post but starting to receive inquiries from concerned family and friends. I am thankful to God that the double sided blade only hit broadside on the outer elbow with significant impact and a couple of cuts as it fell along my wrist. It could have been much worse or fatal. Focusing on full physical and emotional recovery.

Posted by Jeff Prosperie on Saturday, June 20, 2015

Full story.

Chaser:

 

Republicans Oppose Evidence-Based Medical Research Because....Obamacare

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 3:53 PM EDT

Over at the Monkey Cage, Eric Patashnik ponders an oddity: Republicans generally support healthcare research funding, but they've turned against the idea of funding evidence-based research. This is despite the fact that Republicans, who normally support ways to spend tax dollars more efficiently, have been firm supporters for more than two decades? What's going on?

One possible reason is that Republicans oppose taxpayer funding of all scientific research as a matter of principle. Yet the same House Appropriations Committee draft bill that targets health services research also provides a $1.1 billion increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

A second possible reason is that Republicans are uninterested in evidence-based policymaking. But both Democrats and Republicans argue that better information is needed to make government more effective. For example, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (R-Wash.) recently introduced the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs.

Hah hah. He's just kidding. Patashnik actually knows perfectly well why Republicans have decided they hate evidence-based research. Remember death panels? Remember how the federal government was going to decide which treatments were worth giving to grandma and which ones weren't? Remember how Republicans decided that "comparative effectiveness" research was just a tricky Democratic facade for their effort to take treatment decisions out of the hands of your beloved local doctor and instead put them into the hands of green-eyeshade bureaucrats?

Oh yeah. You remember. Here's Patashnik on what happened to evidence-based research:

Federal investment in this research (although it predated the 2008 election) became closely tied to the Obama administration’s health-care reform agenda....An increased federal role in comparative effectiveness research, together with payments to physicians for voluntary counseling to Medicare patients about end-of-life options and the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (another agency the GOP wishes to kill) contributed to the “death panels” myth, which Republicans have used to frame health-care reform as “rationing.”

....Although evidence-based medicine might seem likely to have bipartisan support, it has become a partisan issue among voters. In 2010, Alan Gerber, David Doherty, Conor Dowling and I conducted a national survey to gauge public support for government funding of research on the effectiveness of treatments. Among those who reported not voting in 2008, there was not a large difference in support across Democrats and Republicans, but there were significant partisan differences among voters. Republican voters were much less supportive than Democrats. During the debates over the stimulus bill and health-care reform, the two parties took opposing stands on the federal government’s role in this effort, which led to the significant partisan split among politically engaged citizens.

So there you have it. Sarah Palin's revenge. Common sense commitments to promoting evidence-based medicine became tied up in the Republican jihad against anything associated with Obamacare. So now it's on the chopping block too. Welcome to the modern GOP.

Marijuana Research Just Got a Green Light From the Obama White House

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 3:25 PM EDT

The White House today lifted a longstanding restriction on medical marijuana research, giving a green light to a growing group of mainstream scientists who are interested in investigating the potential health benefits of pot. Such research will no longer have to undergo review by the Public Health Service, a process that is ostensibly meant to ensure the use of scientifically valid clinical trials, but in practice has served as a barrier to launching studies. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, and even opponents of legalization, had called for the requirement to be lifted.

"This announcement is a pretty big deal," says Christopher Brown, a spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, a group that advocates for access to pot for medical research. "You have a lot of interest in experimental research on medical cannabis and this shows that you are starting to see policies aligned with that."

The announcement comes a few months after US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy signaled the federal government's shifting thinking on medical pot, telling CBS This Morning that preliminary data shows that "marijuana can be helpful" for some medical conditions.

Still, Americans for Safe Access is calling for the feds to loosen restrictions even more. Numerous startup companies are interested in capitalizing on the medical benefits of pot, but scientists who want to use marijuana for research currently must obtain it from a DEA-approved grow facility, a process that can take a year or longer if they need specific cannabis strains. And marijuana remains classified under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, a category reserved for drugs that supposedly have no medical benefit.

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Mexican Piñata Maker Takes Revenge on Donald Trump

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 3:12 PM EDT

Dalton Javier Avalos Ramirez has given people a way to beat up on Donald Trump, and receive candy as a reward.

Ramirez, a craftsman from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, told The Independent that after hearing Trump announce his candidacy for presidency—during which he alleged that Mexican immigrants were rapists bringing drugs and crime across the border—he was inspired to create a Donald Trump piñata. He completed the task in a single day.

Ramirez told The Independent he's received more than 10 orders since Friday. According to Fox News Latino, the piñatas are priced at 500 pesos apiece, or roughly $33.

 

Yep, Obama Said the N-Word. Here Are the Other Candid Things He Said.

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 2:04 PM EDT

Appearing on comedian Marc Maron's WTF podcast on Friday, President Obama shared his views on gun violence and racism in America—two topics that have been thrust to the forefront of a national conversation following the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina last week. The interview, which was posted online today, featured a number of candid moments for the president, including a rare moment in which he said "nigger" to underscore the reality that the country's enduring legacy of racism is far from over.

"The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on," Obama said. "We are not cured of it and it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination."

On the issue of gun violence, he expressed his continued frustration with how little legislative action has been taken on gun control.

"I have done this way too often," he said. "During the course of my presidency, it feels as if a couple times a year, I end up having to speak to the country and to speak to a particular community about a devastating loss. The grieving that the country feels is real, the sympathy, the prioritizing, the comforting of the families, all that's important. But I think part of the point that I wanted to make was that it's not enough just to feel bad. There are actions that could be taken to make events like this less likely. And one of those actions we could take would be to enhance some basic, common sense gun safety laws—that by the way, the majority of gun owners support."

In his remarks shortly after Dylann Storm, the suspected gunman who killed nine people in the Charleston church, was captured Thursday, the president said that most other advanced countries don't see the kind of mass killings that have become all too familiar in America. He reiterated this point to Maron on Friday, telling him gun violence is "unique to our country."

Listen to the incredible hour-long interview here.

Money in Politics Is....Top Concern of Democrats. Republicans Continue Not to Care.

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 1:14 PM EDT

I went out for my morning walk today—two-thirds of a mile, woo hoo!—and needed to take a ten-minute break when I got home. So I'm listening to Andrea Mitchell tell me the stunning news that in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, a full 33% of Americans say that money in politics is their top concern about the upcoming presidential election. Specifically, 33% chose as their top concern, "Wealthy individuals and corporations will have too much influence over who wins."

Is that higher than usual? I suppose, though it hardly seems like the makings of a revolution. That's especially true when you see the partisan breakdown:

Democrats were most likely to cite the influence of corporations and wealthy individuals as the top concern, with roughly half of self-described liberals and Democratic primary voters ranking it as their primary anxiety as the 2016 White House race gears up. Only 21% of core Republican voters said it was their top concern.

So....Democrats are upset about money in politics as usual. Republicans don't really care much, as usual. I hope nobody minds too much if I find this a bit of a yawn.

Will Supreme Court Uphold Obamacare Subsidies On Same Grounds It Struck Down Medicaid Expansion?

| Mon Jun. 22, 2015 12:11 PM EDT

Back when the Supreme Court ruled on NFIB vs. Sebelius—the original Obamacare case—there were two basic parts to the opinion: The individual mandate was upheld and the Medicaid expansion rules were struck down. Most liberals thought the reasoning behind the Medicaid decision was absurd, but I didn't. I found it quite plain and persuasive. Basically, Congress had told the states that if they didn't accept the Medicaid expansion, they'd lose all Medicaid funding. But states are supposed to have a legitimate choice about whether to accept new government programs, and this clearly didn't give them any real choice. No state can afford to lose all its existing Medicaid funding. Congress had set things up so that technically each state had a choice, but it was really no choice at all. In practical terms, every state had to accept the expansion, and this was constitutionally unacceptable.

Two liberal justices agreed with this reasoning, as did the five conservative justices, including Anthony Kennedy. Over at the New Republic, Simon Lazarus notes that during oral arguments in the latest Obamacare case, Kennedy suggested a similar dynamic was at work. The plaintiffs were arguing that the text of the law clearly stated that federal subsidies were available only to states that set up their own insurance exchanges. The problem here is that without subsidies Obamacare is not only useless, but could severely damage the existing insurance market in a state:

Such a threat, he observed, could amount to unconstitutional “coercion” to pressure states to set up exchanges. If this is Justice Kennedy’s take, his most likely outcome would be to adopt an alternative interpretation that avoids having to face the constitutional issue. The Obama administration’s interpretation—that the ACA prescribes credits for customers on all exchanges, whether state-run or federally facilitated—fits that bill.

....Previously, only one case had invalidated a law under a coercion theory like the one Kennedy advanced—NFIB v. Sebelius itself. Then, the Court held unconstitutional the ACA's method to incentivize states to expand Medicaid coverage to all adults up to 138 percent of the Federal poverty level. If they declined, states risked losing federal financial support for their pre-existing Medicaid programs, on average over 10 percent of state budgets. That, seven justices agreed in two separate opinions, was a bridge too far. Chief Justice Roberts, joined by progressive Justices Breyer and Kagan, ruled that this “financial inducement” amounted in effect to “a gun to the head . . . so coercive as to pass the point at which pressure turns into compulsion.”

Why were both sides caught off-guard by Kennedy’s attraction to extending the NFIB coercion holding to King, but this time for the benefit of the ACA? The reason, I suggest, is a deep bipartisan cynicism about the Court’s “federalism” jurisprudence....What that cynicism seems to have missed is that, as an ideological matter, Justice Kennedy takes very seriously what he repeatedly lauds as the "federal balance."....In sum, Justice Kennedy might well see King v. Burwell more as an opportunity to advance his federalism ideology, than as a second shot at vindicating the Republican political priority of crippling Obamacare, for which he showed evident sympathy three years ago.

Interesting. Both Kennedy and Roberts could see this case as a way of gaining bipartisan support for a ruling that saves Obamacare but further entrenches the view of federalism stated in NFIB. They might both consider that worth it. While we all twiddle our thumbs waiting for the decision in King v. Burwell to be handed down, it's an interesting possibility to ponder.