For two weeks we've been listening to the story of the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia—a media tempest in an English teapot. And all the time the biggest scandal has been directly under our noses.

This afternoon at Copenhagen a document mysteriously leaked from the UN Secretariat. It was first reported from the Guardian, and by the time it was posted online it oddly had my name scrawled all across the top—I don't know why, because I didn't leak it.

My suspicion, though, is because it confirms something I've been writing for weeks. The cuts in emissions that countries are proposing here are nowhere near good enough to meet even their remarkably weak target of limiting temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. In fact, says the UN in this leaked report, the  cuts on offer now produce a rise of at least three degrees, and a CO2 concentration of at least 550 ppm, not the 350 scientists say we need, or even the weak 450 that the US supposedly supports.

In other words, this entire conference is an elaborate sham, where the organizers have known all along that they're heading for a very different world than the one they're supposedly creating. It's intellectual dishonesty of a very high order, and with very high consequences. And it's probably come too late to derail the stage management—tomorrow Barack Obama will piously intone that he's committed to a two degree temperature target. But he isn't—and now he can't even say it with a straight face.

Friedman's War

Matt Yglesias reads Tom Friedman so you don't have to:

I think I lack the words to adequately express how morally outrageous Tom Friedman’s call for a Muslim civil war is. But we can at least focus a bit on how factually inaccurate it is.

I was all ready to be outraged, but it turns out Friedman probably isn't asking for the military kind of civil war at all:

We don’t need more NATO allies to kill more Taliban and Al Qaeda. We need more Arab and Muslim allies to kill their extremist ideas....Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam....What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most “legitimacy” in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public....How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few....Etc.

I say Friedman "probably" isn't asking for a military conflict because, unfortunately, he also includes a paragraph about the "ferocity" of the American civil war and says, "Islam needs the same civil war."  But it's still couched as a war against bad ideas, and I imagine that's what he's really focused on.  Still, Friedman could stand to clear this up for us.  Just what kind of war does he want in the Muslim world?

In the final 48 hours of the Copenhagen climate conference, one of the biggest differences remains a very small number: half a degree.

While most of the attention here is focused on the remaining divide between the United States and China when it comes to measuring and verifying emissions reductions, a much larger split remains between the 102 countries that have called for a limit on temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius and the much more powerful nations that have called for a 2 degree target.

The nations pushing for a 1.5 degree target include members of the Alliance of Small Island States, the G77, the bloc of Least Developed Countries, the Africa Group, and several nations from Latin America and Asia. But there is significant pressure being exerted on these nations to consent to the 2 degree target that has been embraced the United States, European Union, China, and other nations here seen as the most powerful players in a final deal. But leaders from the 1.5 camp say they are holding firm on their target, and won't sign onto a deal that calls for anything else.

"I will not sign anything less than 1.5," said Apisai Ielemia, Prime Minister of the tiny island nation of Tuvalu, which may become one of the first casualties of global warming. The low-lying Pacific island nation made headlines last week for shutting down talks with calls for a legally binding treaty. Now they're staking out their desire for a deal at this summit that will not condemn them to rising tides, they say. "This meeting is about our future existence," said Ielemia. "We don't want to disappear from this earth ... We want to exist as a nation, because we have a fundamental right to live beside you."

"For developed countries to choose to not use that figure, is morally, politically irresponsible," said Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the G77.

The debate over what figure to put in the final agreement here maybe meaningless, however, if the corresponding emissions reductions goals would not put the world on a path to stay below that limit. A leaked draft analysis from the UNFCCC of the commitments put on the table from developed countries states that what they have pledged so far would lead to a 3 degree temperature rise. If targets aren't raised, "global emissions will remain on an unsustainable pathway," the document states.

Meanwhile, frustrations remain high among developing nations over what they see as pressure from rich nations to consent to a higher target. "We are not yielding to these pressures, because our future is not negotiable," said Ielemia.

Fiore Cartoon: Bonusmas

Satirist Mark Fiore takes on the classic Night Before Christmas with a spin for Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and other finance greed mongers. Sample line: "The bonuses were hung by the chimneys with care, in the hopes the angry mob wouldn't notice them there..."

Watch below:

Bond Mania

I have an idea.  Instead of complaining about all this "war bond" nonsense, why don't we jump on the bandwagon?  It could be great!  We could sell "healthcare bonds" to pay for premium subsidies.  We could sell "unemployment bonds" to pay for unemployment insurance.  We could sell "carbon bonds" to pay for cap-and-trade.  The possibilities are endless.  And since financing things via bonds apparently makes them free, the entire liberal dream could be paid for totally painlessly.  Who's with me?

Is the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that blocked commercial banks from participating in riskier investment banking, set for a revival? That's what a new piece of legislation, introduced yesterday by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), would do, forcing major changes to financial titans like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America. 

But first, here's McCain on the new legislation on CNBC:

Reestablishing the firewall between commercial and investment banking poses a dilemma for banks such as JPMorgan Chase, which snapped up Bear Stearns' trading operations earlier this year, and massive Citigroup, which includes more staid consumer banking branches as well as riskier trading operations. The already controversial, shotgun-wedded Bank of America and Merrill Lynch relationship wouldn't survive if Glass-Steagall was revived, either. And you can throw Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo into that mix, too. The McCain-Cantwell legislation would give such institutions a year to break up their different banking arms.

The Depression-era law, you'll remember, was abolished in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, one of the most significant pieces of deregulatory legislation in the past few decades, paving the way for the emergence of financial behemoths like Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup (though Citi received somewhat of an exemption to grow even before 1999). It's a long shot at this point, but bringing Glass-Steagall back would be a watershed moment for financial regulation and major step toward scaling back the excesses and ridiculous risk-taking of the past decade or so. At the very least it would protect consumers' savings from use in banks' riskier operations.

And talk about a role reversal for John McCain! McCain voted for Gramm-Leach-Bliley back in 1999—a vote to tear down a law he now wants to restore. And as David Corn wrote last year, one of McCain's closest economic advisers during part of the presidential campaign was the godfather of deregulation himself, former Sen. Phil "Nation of Whiners" Gramm

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) is going to introduce similar legislation in the House, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Hinchey tried to get his bill into the House's big financial-reform package earlier this month, but Democratic leadership blocked him.

Since the Senate probably won't take up financial regulation until early 2010, it's unclear how soon the McCain-Cantwell legislation will get its day in the sun. It could be tucked into the Senate's financial regulation plans, or introduced as an amendment later in the sausage-making process. Either way, it's a promising idea and an encouraging start to the Senate's financial overhaul.

Divide and Conquer?

Kate Sheppard reports from Copenhagen that the solidarity of the G77 bloc of developing nations is starting to crumble:

Late on Tuesday, the governments of Ethiopia and France announced that Ethiopia, "representing Africa," had agreed to adopt an "ambitious agreement" that would call for limiting the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. Previously, the African bloc, along with the G77 coalition of poor countries and the Alliance of Small Island States, had firmly insisted that a 1.5 degree limit was imperative to prevent dire consequences in their regions.

....The major powers welcomed Ethiopia's defection from the 1.5-degree target. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has endorsed the side deal with France, and on Tuesday, White House officials confirmed to reporters that Obama had placed a call to Zenawi earlier in the day. The US president, they said, had "expressed his appreciation for the leadership role the Prime Minister was playing in work with African countries on climate change."....But developing nations — which appear to have been caught somewhat off guard by the announcement — aren’t applauding. They fear that major powers are trying to pick off key players from the developing bloc via secret pacts. The fact that the agreement was made and announced in Paris — not at the official United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen — has fueled such suspicions.

Hmmm.  "Trying to pick off key players" mostly seems like standard issue negotiating to me, not some nefarious plan to sow discord.  But read the whole thing and decide for yourself.  It's dealmaking time in Copenhagen with only two days of the conference left.

George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist and global warming author who combines pugilistic defenses of climate science with Monty Pythonesque levity, is struck by a paradox at the heart of the attempt to achieve action here in Copenhagen. For, as he put it to a full room last night at a panel hosted by the Danish science magazine FORSKERForum, "In the past year, there has been a massive upsurge in climate change denial in the United States, even as the science gets stronger."

Opinion polls certainly support Monbiot’s contention. According to results released in October by the Pew Research Center, considerably fewer Americans now believe the Earth is warming (the decline has been from 71 percent to 57 percent over the space of a year and a half). And as for agreement with scientists about the cause of global warming—human activities, human emissions—that too has sloped downwards, to just 36 percent today.

How is this possible?

Dreamland

A few weeks ago I began taking a blood pressure med, and yesterday my doctor asked if I'd noticed any side effects.  I told her I had a bit of dry mouth at night and that my dreams were a little more vivid than usual.  However, since I normally don't remember my dreams at all, "a little more vivid" didn't really mean much.

But last night was a deluge.  Four dreams that I remember!  Holy cow.  Here they are: (1) I reached an agreement with a contractor to add an innovative new kind of room addition to my house that was half above ground and half underground.  There were allegedly environmental benefits of some kind to this.  (2) I recorded a radio program explaining the differences between a 401(k) and a defined benefit pension.  I kept getting interrupted, and at one point I got distracted and made up a cockamamie explanation for what "401" stood for.  Then I remembered it referred to a section of the tax code and tried to pass off my previous explanation as a joke. (3) I was in the oceanside apartment of a pair of blogger friends.  They were pointing out the window to a dock, showing me where the press boat was going tie up so that I knew the sightlines for taking pictures. (4) I was part of a group that had just caught some terrible virus and was being herded into a van for transportation to an army quarantine center.  Sirens were blaring and lights were flashing when I suddenly woke up.

WTF?  I normally remember maybe one dream a month, and even then only momentarily.  And now four in one night?  Because I'm taking a diuretic to lower my blood pressure?  And one of them is about 401(k)s?  Come on.

Some articles make you less informed after you read them. Exhibit A is today's New York Times story on the federal debt limit, which was raised last night. Here's one paragraph that illustrates the problem:

Lawmakers quickly returned to partisan sniping before voting 218 to 214 to raise the federal debt limit, with each party blaming the other for running up the national debt over the last decade.

The article then continues on for another thirteen paragraphs without even attempting to inform the reader about anything other than the two parties' talking points. At no point does the Times let readers know that which party is mostly to blame for running up the national debt is an empirically verifiable fact. It's not a matter of partisan opinion. The Times could have even gone to its own reporting on this subject. In June, the Times ran an article by David Leonhardt explaining that most of the deficit is due to the recession and the Bush tax cuts—not overspending by Democrats in Congress, President Obama's budget, or even the bank bailouts. If the author wanted some partisan balance, he could have mentioned Leonhardt's conclusion that Obama doesn't have much of a plan for closing the gap.

The article could also have referred to this study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which was conveniently released just yesterday. It's called "President Obama Largely Inherited Today’s Huge Deficits: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers." It even comes with a pretty chart, which you can see to the right.

Times readers who relied on this failbag of an article are now less informed than they were before they read it. For all those readers know, President Al Gore and Speaker of the House Dick Gephardt were the ones running up the deficit after Clinton left office.

Why even bother writing the article if you're not going to try to adjudicate a factual dispute? Next time, the Times should simply republish the Democrats' and Republicans' press releases and be done with it. FAIL.