Drill Baby Drill

Matt Yglesias notes that public support for serious action on global warming has fallen recently:

The trouble is that what the public wants is basically a fantasy — a policy that will let us avoid paying the costs involved in coping with the climate crisis. I understand why people want a policy like that — I want one too. The problem is that it can’t happen.

Au contraire!  The Republican Party has just what the public is asking for:

Democrats in Congress [] seem determined to make our energy situation even worse....Instead, the American Energy Act will produce more energy, lower fuel bills, create more jobs, yield a cleaner environment, and lead to a more secure nation. Can there be any doubt what path is best for the country?

See?  Energy policy is easy when you're willing to avoid actual reality and instead simply engage in pipe dream pandering.  That's today's GOP at work.

In last night's Daily Show, a "reporter" toured the New York Times with executive editor Bill Keller in a segment called "End Times". The Daily Show predictably went for low-hanging fruit: the Grey Lady is incredibly old, is made of paper, and is starchier than a pot of potato stew. And did they mention it lost $74 million in the first quarter of 2009?

So yes, the Times is having a hard time lately. But though the Daily Show called it a "creaky old rag," Jon Stewart should be grateful for the paper's existence. The Daily Show—like Google News and Digg and Gawker—relies on newswires and newspapers' first-hand reporting. If the newspapers go down, it won't be just the newsstands that will be empty. Blogs and aggregators would also suffer the effects: definitely functionally, and likely fiscally.

Though you couldn't tell by the segment's tone, the Daily Show acknowledged this point in a Q&A with a Times reporter posted today on the newspaper's art blog. Jason Jones of the Daily Show said: "I think the point of the piece is, really, if I could be serious for one moment, that without institutions like yours, the news would not exist." Bill Keller put it more poignantly: "The last time I was in Baghdad I didn't see a Huffington Post bureau, or a Google bureau, or a Drudge Report bureau there, because there isn't one... because it's expensive, because it's dangerous. It's a lot easier to stay home and riff on the work somebody else does."

One point I think both Keller and the Daily Show skimmed is that just because you're a blogger, doesn't mean that you're not also a reporter. Here at Mother Jones, I believe nearly all of our bloggers also do reporting. And certainly, a blog post can BE a piece of original reporting. I don't know what the path forward for the Times looks like. But I do know that I, like the Daily Show, hope they can change their model however they need to to stay afloat. Even if, as Jones pointed out, their lifeboat is made of paper.

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Brown Shoots

The World Bank is fantastically gloomy about the prospects for the global economy this year:

The World Bank publicly released an update on Thursday [for] 2009, saying it expected the global economy to contract by "close to 3%." That is sharply worse than the World Bank's March estimate of a 1.75% contraction. Mr. Zoellick said that while there are signs of an easing of the recession in wealthy countries, developing nations are suffering from a drop in exports, remittances and foreign investment.

....Mr. Zoellick described the global downturn as occurring in "waves." In the first wave, the financial crisis battered the U.S. and Europe. As markets in wealthy countries dried up, a second wave, hit developing nations. Now a third wave is weakening financial institutions in those countries, which could produce a fourth wave that could further undermine financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe.

Italics mine.  That's a huge change in just three months.  Zoellick didn't provide any details about why the Bank's forecast has plummeted so dramatically since March, but their economists must be seeing some pretty sizeable deteriorations to drive a change this large.

On the bright side, the IMF thinks that the recovery in 2010 will be stronger than they previously thought.  I sure hope so.

My Voltaire Moment

Yesterday, as I learned that The Donald handed Miss California Carrie Prejean a pink slip, allegedly because she failed to meet contractual obligations to make scheduled appearances, I had a Voltaire moment: "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it."

Since Prejeans's interview at the Miss USA Pageant, she has since become one of the most vilified characters in liberal America (even though San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom defended her), as she went so far as to become a spokeswoman/unofficial lobbyist for the National Organization for Marriage.

To be fair, during the infamous pageant she was questioned about same-sex marriage by Perez Hilton, who likely had an agenda to pursue, and whose website received tons of traffic from the incident. Hilton's question was clearly loaded, because as a judge he was aware that Prejean was a student at San Diego Christian College, a conservative, evangelical school in El Cajon, California. Also, I think Prejean's response was actually quite tactful. When questioned by Hilton, she responded, "Well, I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman." (See the video below)

James von Brunn, the white supremacist arrested for the murder of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum, held numerous extremist views, as has been widely reported.

He maintained that 9/11 was the product of a Jewish conspiracy. In one posting, he claimed that only one Jewish person was killed at the World Trade Center--even though the "WTC was the nexus for international Jew trade, located in the largest Jew city in the world." He added, "It is revealing that 3 Jews laughing with glee, pointing at the exploding WTC, were caught by a neighbor on video-tape."

Like many anti-Semitics, von Brunn believed Jews controlled the world financial system, and he used the traditional data points and rhetoric of such hate-mongers: "From this cess-pool of Jews and traitors came the FTAA which in 1994, with Congressional blessings, changed its name to WTO (World Trade Organization)."

But von Brunn also tracked updates on the global financial Jewish conspiracy. In 2003, von Brunn posted on Stormfront.org, a site of "white pride," information about Google that he had found at the website of Holocaust denier David Irving. The basic charge: Google was founded, funded and controlled by Jews. And you know what that means.

I don't have any special comment about the upcoming Iranian election pitting hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against moderate reformer Mir Hossein Mousavi, but I thought Marc Lynch's musing was worth passing along.  Here it is:

The Iranian election has already captivated the Arab public sphere — it has been all over the headlines and the TV stations. I imagine that many of the Arabs who see democracy as an important and positive issue find this Iranian election inspiring (as they did Khatemi's 1997 campaign). The Arab public may regard a Mousavi victory as the same kind of opportunity to rethink relations with Iran as Obama's victory offered for relations with the United States. Arab leaders may find it harder to mobilize opposition to Iran with the seemingly reasonable Mousavi in office than with the cheerfully inflammatory Ahmedenejad.

....Of course, if Ahmedenejad wins, the reverse effect may take hold. When George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004, a very wide swathe of Arab public opinion concluded that this meant that the American people really did bear responsibility for Bush's unpopular policies. If the U.S. is really a democracy, they asked, then didn't Bush's victory mean that his war on terror and invasion of Iraq really did represent the American popular will? If Ahmedenejad wins, the same dynamic may hit Iran in the Arab world: the Iranian people had the chance to correct their policies, and chose to continue as they were. That might lead to a hardening and deepening of anti-Iranian sentiment, at least among elites and leaders.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is a funny dude. In fact, Gibbs could be the funniest press secretary in the history of media-crazed presidential administrations. In Gibbs' first four months on the job, the White House stenographer recorded more than 600 separate outbursts of "(laughter)" compared to a paltry 57 laughs during Dana Perino's first four months as press secretary for the Bush administration.

Gibbs has even been criticized for being too jovial in the press room about somber matters. But rather than poking fun at such issues, Gibbs uses humor to deflect difficult questions in an often-obvious and certainly skilled, attempt to keep the media at arm's length.

Behold the list of top five funniest moments in the Gibbs press room (video after the jump).

Felix Salmon has the story here.  I found it unaccountably entertaining.  Cashing out Daddy's art collection after blowing through your inheritance has never been easier.

Getting to 17%

The Waxman-Markey bill requires a 17% drop in carbon emissions by 2020.  Joe Romm explains how we can get there:

Clean energy deployment from the stimulus....carbon dioxide emissions will be some 2% lower in 2020 than in 2005....Obama’s recent fuel economy deal....Let’s call that another 2% emissions drop....Then we have Waxman-Markey itself.  It achieves huge energy efficiency savings....That’s another 5% drop.

....Let’s say 1% of the target will be met with domestic offsets....Let’s say 1% of the target will be met with international offsets....cofiring biomass....2% of the 2020 target.

That's about 13% already, and the rest of the reduction can be met simply by utilizing existing gas-fired electric plants at a higher rate than we do now:

It now appears likely that, thanks to unconventional supplies, natural gas alone could meet a great deal of the Waxman-Markey CO2 target for 2020 — without requiring gobs of new power plants to be sited and built or thousands of miles of new transmission lines.

....Today, dirty coal plants are being “dispatched” (or utilized) to provide electricity by grid operators first, while natural gas plants that could provide electricity with far lower emissions of carbon dioxide remain unutilized or underutilized — even though their electricity costs are only slightly higher.  This is occurring in at least two regions of the country, according to a major under-reported May study by the Energy Information Administration, “The Implications of Lower Natural Gas Prices for Electric Generators in the Southest.”  A cap on CO2 emissions and even a low price of CO2 will switch the dispatch order, generating large emissions savings at low cost (if the gas is available, as now seems likely).

Joe suggests that a carbon price of around ten bucks a ton — which is pretty low — is all that we'd need to motivate utilities to change the dispatch order of their plants enough to meet the rest of the 17% target.

Bottom line: meeting the Waxman-Markey targets for 2020 is pretty easy.  We'll have over a decade to start getting ready for the harder measures it takes to make serious cuts.  Doom mongers, take note.

Blackwater (renamed "Xe") has been kicked out of Iraq. Baghdad has revoked its operating license, and the State Department cancelled its long-standing private security contract earlier this year, replacing it with competitors DynCorp and Triple Canopy. But ridding Mesopotamia of Erik Prince and his hired guns is apparently not that simple. According to a lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday in the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, Blackwater continues to operate in Iraq under the mantle of Greystone Ltd., one of an array of smaller sub-companies under the Blackwater/Xe umbrella. (Dan Schulman and I wrote an in-depth piece about Greystone and its practice of hiring Third-World mercenaries for duty in Iraq in the March/April 2008 issue of Mother Jones.)

The contract in question is with a State Department-funded group called the International Republican Institute (IRI). Nominally nonpartisan, it claims to be promoting good governance and the rule of law in Iraq. In reality, the organization's leadership is heavily populated with Republicans, including Senator John McCain, who serves as chairman of the board. Bill Sizemore of HamptonRoads.com reports that, between 2005 and 2007, the IRI paid Blackwater $17 million annually for security services, almost a quarter of the group's $75-million annual budget.