Racist Outrage of the Day (Year?)

Blood, prepare to boil. According to the NBC affliate in Philadelphia, the Valley Swim Club booted a day camp of inner city kids—which had paid $1900 for summer swimming rights—after members refused to swim with black kids. Really.

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor....

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The next day the club told the camp director that the camp's membership was being suspended and their money would be refunded....


The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded.
 
"There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

In a statement! Wow. The mind reels. First at the racism. And then at the PR bungling. When I posted this to Facebook, a got a note from a (white) friend who grew up in Philly. It didn't surprise him, he said; racism in that 'burb is entrenched. Worth noting that the comments on the NBC site, many of which were horrifc a hour ago, have been disabled.

You can follow this link to let Valley know what you think.

 Update: Senator Arlen Specter has said he'll investigate. And the nice people at Girard College, "a private Philadelphia boarding school for children who live in low-income and single parent homes," have offered their pool. (H/T Tim Dickinson via FB)

The Dodd Squad Fires Back

The Chris-Dodd-is-no-K-Street-pawn campaign is ramping up. I just received an email from Colleen Flanagan, communications director for the Connecticut Democratic Party. She'd seen my blog item commenting on today's Roll Call story on the senator's recent efforts to "distance himself from K Street" and wanted to direct my attention to a press release the party issued earlier today defending Dodd's record.

It’s tough being a lobbyist in Washington these days, and Senator Chris Dodd isn’t making it any easier. Yet another story today in the DC press features unnamed lobbyists, who will speak only on the condition of anonymity, whining that they aren’t getting their way with the Banking Committee Chairman and Senator Kennedy’s top deputy on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The release goes on to list a series of quotes in which lobbyists whine that Dodd's shutting them out and ends with a quote from Flanagan:

“It speaks volumes that these industry insiders aren’t willing to be named, yet they continue to peddle their stories to anyone who will listen, trying to gain sympathy and a leg up on these critical legislative measures. The only sympathy these unnamed sources deserve to get is that they sound so silly in article after article complaining that Main Street has Dodd’s ear and not K Street.”

G-8 Summit: The Battle of East vs. West

As the world's most powerful leaders convene in L'Aquila, Italy for the largest G-8 summit ever, one wonders, will anything actually be accomplished?

The Associated Press reported that many of the leaders arrived to the summit in electric cars. (We presume that for security purposes, Obama arrived in a traditional American-made hyper-bulletproof gas guzzler.)

This begs the question, will America take the lead in initiating global change?

As Kevin Drum reported earlier:

The basic problem isn't the 80% reduction by 2050, which is supported by both Obama and congressional Democrats.  The problem is the 2020 goal.  Right now, the Waxman-Markey climate bill requires a 17% cut by 2020, but that's from a baseline of 2005.  Depending on how you crunch the numbers, that works out to a cut of only 0-4% from 1990 levels.
The Europeans, conversely, want to see a 20% cut from 1990 levels by 2020.  Obama, presumably, sees no chance at all of getting Congress to agree to that, and the Europeans aren't willing to compromise their more stringent goals.  So for now, no agreement.  And Copenhagen is only five months away.

Torture in Iran

For weeks, I have been reading Twitter messages from Iran with reports of opposition supporters being detained and beaten to extract forced confessions. Now Human Rights Watch confirms these accounts. From a statement accompanying a report it has released:

The Iranian authorities are using prolonged harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats of torture to extract false confessions from detainees arrested since the disputed June 12 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today. The confessions appear designed to support unsubstantiated allegations by senior government officials that Iran's post-election protests, in which at least 20 people were killed, were supported by foreign powers and aimed at overthrowing the government.

One detail:

A 17-year-old boy who was arrested on June 27 and released on July 1 told Human Rights Watch how his prison interrogator forced him and others to sign a blank statement of confession:

"On the first day, while blindfolded, the interrogator took me to a parking garage. They kept everyone standing for 48 hours with no permission to sleep. On the first night, they tied up our hands and repeatedly beat us and other prisoners with a baton. They kept cursing at the prisoners. The atmosphere was very frightening. Everyone had wet themselves from fear and stress. There were children as young as 15 and men as old as 70; they'd be begging and crying for mercy, but the guards didn't care.

"After two days of interrogation while blindfolded, we were asked about everything: where we had studied, what our parents do, who we voted for, who is educated in the family, if anyone in our family is part of the military. We were forced to give the names of everyone. It was a scary situation because they were threatening us and were very harsh. All we could hear were other people crying and screaming.

"They provided us with a big piece of bread once, but no water. On the last day, they took away the blindfold to force us sign a paper that was blank on top but said at the bottom: ‘I agree with all of the above statements.'"

While many Americans have been obsesing over Sarah Palin or Michael Jackson, there have been a series of Stalinesque confessions broadcast on Iranian television:

State-backed media already have broadcast the confessions of some detainees. Amir Hossein Mahdavi, editor of reformist newspaper Andishe No, confessed on Iranian TV on June 27 that reformist groups had laid plans to create unrest before the June 12 elections. Friends of Mahdavi who saw his confession told Human Rights Watch that it was clear from his demeanor that he confessed under duress.

All of this violates Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. And the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states, "No detained person while being interrogated shall be subject to violence, threats or methods of interrogation which impair his capacity of decision or judgment." (The Bush administration clearly did not hold this accord dear.) Is any government going to raise Iran's treatment of opposition supporters at the UN?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

A Banner Weak for the Climate Bill

The day before the Senate began hearings on HR 2454, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired up the troops with this call to arms: "As a legislator, everything is negotiable."

Indeed. And we saw how that process worked in the House. The Obama administration's tough beginnings melted like a snowman in December under the heat of industry lobbying. Oil. Coal. Agriculture. They all demanded concessions. They all got them.

Many progressives are holding their noses and supporting the "kludge of a bill" for a variety of reasons, all thoroughly debated throughout the blogosphere at this point. The only real news on this front is the action taken today by Greenpeace -- scaling Mt. Rushmore and unfurling a banner that exhorts President Obama to hang tough in this fight.

It was a beautiful sight.

But it will take more than that to get the job done. A blogger at 1Sky rightly points out that "grassroots pressure will be essential" in keeping the climate bill intact, let alone in making it stronger.

Yesterday's hearing before the Senate's Environment committee, was typical Kabuki Theatre. Committee Chair Barbara Boxer warned viewers to prepare for the GOP Hymn #137, "No, We Can't."

Republican Senators spoke early and often about the need to add billions for new nuclear power plants -- not that global warming is real, mind you, but, well, just because...

There are several committee hearings left (including more before Boxer's committee) and time for a grassroots movement to grow under the banner demanding a stronger bill. But that will take more concerted action than supporters have shown so far.

 

Osha Gray Davidson covers solar energy for The Phoenix Sun, and is a contributing blogger for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.

Overtreated

David Leonhardt's column today suggests that maybe I'm not quite as out of touch as I thought I was about the realities of healthcare for most people.  His piece is about slow-growing, early-stage prostate cancers, and to make a long story short, it turns out there are lots of different treatments for it but pretty much zero evidence about which one works best.  However, the price tags range from about $2,000 for doing nothing ("watchful waiting") to $50,000 for the latest whiz bang proton radiation therapy.

But here's the tidbit that caught my eye:

A fascinating series of pilot programs, including for prostate cancer, has shown that when patients have clinical information about treatments, they often choose a less invasive one. Some come to see that the risks and side effects of more invasive care are not worth the small — or nonexistent — benefits. “We want the thing that makes us better,” says Dr. Peter B. Bach, a pulmonary specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, “not the thing that is niftier.”

When I read about healthcare, pretty much the only thing I hear is that everyone wants infinite amounts of it.  And they always want the latest and greatest stuff.

Not me.  My motto is, "That healthcare is best that cares the least."  Or something like that.  Basically, I prefer to get the minimum reasonable amount of healthcare possible, and I have a strong preference for the simplest, oldest, best-known treatments.  I'm not exactly a fanatic about this, but generally speaking I think that most new treatments turn out not to be nearly as effective as we think, and the more time you spend around hospitals the better your chances of catastrophe.

Does that make me an outlier?  It seems like it.  But maybe the difference is just information: I read an awful lot about this stuff, and it's convinced me that there are dangers to overtreatment just as there are dangers to undertreatment.  Leonhardt's "fascinating series of pilot programs" suggests that with better information, more people might agree.

T. Boone Pickens Scraps Plan for Massive Wind Farm

T. Boone Pickens' $10 billion plan to build the world's largest wind farm on the Texas panhandle has been scrapped. The high-profile project had benefited from the "Pickens Plan" media blitz in the lead-up to the 2008 elections, when the oil tycoon spent millions on TV ads promoting natural gas and wind power.

Though Pickens was lauded in the media at the time as an environmental hero, I was among a few reporters who questioned his motivation for building the wind project. His early plans would have used a right-of-way for the windmills' power lines to bring water from the Ogallala aquifer to cities downstate, draining a vast region of a fragile reserve. Pickens ultimately failed to find a buyer for the water, then faced a drop in energy prices due to the recession. In December, his Mesa Power LP put the wind project on hold before announcing last week that it would abandon it in favor of several smaller projects.

In making the announcement, Pickens cryptically cited problems associated with building his own power lines. It's odd that he can't tap those already being built to the Panhandle by the Texas Public Utility Commission. The Dallas Morning News reported that the lines "won't follow a path that Mesa had suggested" but didn't elaborate. Did Pickens' power lines fail because they needed the accompanying water pipeline to be profitable? A spokeswoman for Pickens didn't return a call.

 

Torture For Thee, But Not For Me

Glenn Greenwald was on NPR yesterday to talk about their policy of refusing to call torture by its proper name, and while he was waiting to go on he listened to NPR's ombudsman explaining their policy:

She also said — when the host asked about the recent example I cited of NPR's calling what was done to a reporter in Gambia "torture" (at the 20:20 mark) — that NPR will use the word "torture" to describe what other governments do because they do it merely to sadistically inflict pain on people while the U.S. did it for a noble reason:  to obtain information about Terrorist attacks.  That's really what she said:  that when the U.S. did it (as opposed to Evil countries), it was for a good reason.

Jeez, that Glenn.  Always exaggerating.  For the record, here's what she actually said about NPR's piece on Gambia:

In that case, these were strictly tactics to torture him, to punish him, versus in the United States, and the way that it's used, these are tactics used to get information.  The Gambian journalist was in jail for his beliefs.

Wow.  She really did say that, didn't she?  When other people do it for other reasons, it's torture.  When we do it for our reasons, it's not.

You don't usually find people willing to say this quite so baldly.  Congratulations, Alicia Shepard.

Staff Sgt. Ronal Cantarero (right), from Belton, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Snyder, from Pontiac, Mich., sit down and watch their children's high school graduation live in Belton, Texas, through a video teleconference from Camp Taji, Iraq. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

No Agreement on Climate

Apparently the G8 meeting in Italy won't produce any agreement on climate change:

As President Obama arrived for three days of meetings with other international leaders, negotiators dropped a proposal that would have committed the world to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by midcentury and industrialized countries to slashing their emissions by 80 percent.

.... The breakdown on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India. In the end, people close to the talks said, the emerging powers refused to agree to the limits because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in 2020 and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help in reducing emissions.

“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’ ” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in the United States. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”

The basic problem isn't the 80% reduction by 2050, which is supported by both Obama and congressional Democrats.  The problem is the 2020 goal.  Right now, the Waxman-Markey climate bill requires a 17% cut by 2020, but that's from a baseline of 2005.  Depending on how you crunch the numbers, that works out to a cut of only 0-4% from 1990 levels.

The Europeans, conversely, want to see a 20% cut from 1990 levels by 2020.  Obama, presumably, sees no chance at all of getting Congress to agree to that, and the Europeans aren't willing to compromise their more stringent goals.  So for now, no agreement.  And Copenhagen is only five months away.