Blogs

Weighing the Climate Impact of the Stimulus Bill

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 2:16 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 2:16 PM EST

Today Greenpeace released a report indicating that the House's $819 billion stimulus bill is a net environmental gain by a longshot. The bill's energy efficiency and conservation provisions alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 61 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of electricity use in 7.9 million American homes. Meanwhile, the worst-case-scenario for the bill's transportation provisions would reduce the overall carbon benefits by only 5 million tons annually. The report, which was written by the respected energy consulting firm ICF International, apparently didn't examine other provisions in the bill, but given that transportation is by far the biggest environmental white elephant, the overall package looks surprisingly eco-friendly. Ironically, the real downside won't kick in unless the stimulus succeeds in reviving the economy, causing consumption to rise. Yet if the bill starts rebuilding the economic system into something sustainable, we'll be better off than where we started.

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Copyright Smackdown: AP Goes After Shepard Fairey

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 2:07 PM EST
Via the Associated Press, we learn that the Associated Press is coming after Shepard Fairey for using one of its photos as the basis of his (everyone say it with me!) iconic Obama "Hope" poster. A few weeks ago, a diligent photographer finally ID'd the poster's source image as a shot taken in 2006 by an AP freelancer. The AP is now crying copyright infringement and says it has "reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney." (It's worth noting that when Reuters briefly thought the shot was theirs, they simply asked for credit.) 

I Am Woman, Hear Me Cower

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:40 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:40 PM EST

From Alternet, via Salon's Broadsheet: This just in—women want to be oppressed.

This October, more than 6,000 women gathered in Chicago for the True Woman Conference '08: a stadium-style event to promote what its proponents call “biblical womanhood," "complementarianism," or—most bluntly—"the patriarchy movement."...
The Associated Baptist Press explains the relationship of biblical womanhood to feminism, highlighting an ambitious initiative that arose from the meeting: a signature drive seeking 100,000 women to endorse its “True Woman Manifesto," which, the ABP writes, aims “at sparking a counterrevolution to the feminist movement of the 1960s.”

Obama Needs To Get Outside the Beltway

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:17 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:17 PM EST

President Barack Obama needs to get outside the Beltway.

Not necessarily by hopping on Air Force One (which he has yet to use), but by reaching out to the millions of Americans who are rooting for him in order to obtain their active support for his economic stimulus plan. In the first fortnight of his presidency, Obama has mainly played an inside game, as he has tried to win congressional approval of an economic recovery package. When the nearly $900 billion measure was being considered in the House, Obama largely deferred to House Democrats, who shoved many long-yearned-for spending initiatives into the bill. Thus, a 647-page creature was born, which included provisions easy for Republicans and conservatives to deride and oppose.

No Census for You, Sen. Gregg

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:16 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 1:16 PM EST

The 2010 census is a mess. As I reported as part of a larger December 2008 story on the federal bureaucracy's failings, the census is on the Government Accountability Office's "High-Risk List" due to "performance deficiencies and uncertain, escalating costs." Doing the census right is particularly important for Democrats and their constituencies — a badly performed census traditionally does a inadequate job of counting minorities and the poor, who tend to be more transitory than the average American. Undercounting comes back to haunt these groups when the census is used to divvy up federal aid and draw electoral districts.

So it's important to have someone in charge of the census who is sensitive to these matters. Well, where is the Census Bureau located? In the Department of Commerce, soon to be headed by Sen. Judd Gregg, a conservative Republican who once voted to defund the department he will now lead.

Digital Divide: Winners and Losers in the Switch to DTV

| Thu Feb. 5, 2009 10:46 AM EST | Scheduled to publish Thu Feb. 5, 2009 10:46 AM EST

In order to keep some 6.5 million TV screens from going dark two weeks from now, both houses of Congress have voted to postpone the deadline for a changeover from analog to to digital television transmissions, from February 17 to June 12. The president had been pushing for the postponement, and after some stalling from peevish Republicans, he got it. It remains to be seen whether the new deadline will provide enough time to resolve what has by now become a completely failed government program–another parting gift from the Bush administration, which managed to raise federal incompetence to new levels, while always seeming to shaft the nation’s most vulnerable people.

According to a January report from the Congressional Research Service, the changeover will be hardest on “low-income, elderly, disabled, non-English speaking, minority, and rural populations.” The DTV switch has become one of those events that throw into especially sharp contrast the dividing lines between the haves and the have-nots. In this case, the line separates people who can afford to shell out for cable or satellite—or a spiffy new digital TV–and people who can’t, instead depending on over-the-air broadcasts to an older, analog television set. Only the latter group will cease to receive transmissions when digital-only service goes into effect, unless they have a properly installed “converter box.” Many of these same people, of course, also lack the resources to purchase and install the needed equipment, which is far from the effortless process featured in public service ads. But there are winners as well as losers in this dramatic relaunch of America’s favorite pasttime.

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Why Are We Obsessed With the Christian Bale Rant?

| Wed Feb. 4, 2009 9:14 PM EST

You take a Monday off, and when you come back, it's like you've emerged into the all-Malkovich world in Being John Malkovich, except it's all Christian Bale, all the time. The Batman actor and apparent douchebag was recorded giving an extended, profanity-filled hard time to the director of photography on his current film project, Terminator Salvation, and the audio was leaked to the media, who immediately whipped themselves into a frenzy like piranhas tossed a bloody steak. But I don't blame the media! Clearly, all humans were suddenly obsessed with this (long) moment of (extremely) inappropriate work behavior. Friends started e-mailing me about it, techno remixes started appearing, Rod Blagojevich referenced Bale in another surreal TV appearance.

No Stimulus Funds for Pastel Lights, Saunas, Blago

| Wed Feb. 4, 2009 8:29 PM EST
TPM reports that Sen. Tom Coburn has introduced an amendment to the stimulus bill that would prevent any spending on "zero-gravity chairs," "rotating pastel lights," or "dry heat saunas." This isn't the first time the Oklahoma Republican has gone after such taxpayer-funded frivolities. In all the hullabaloo over earmarks, it's worth remembering that members of Congress can also slip what might be called anti-earmarks into legislation. We recently collected some classic examples of these "inappropriations," including Coburn's earlier attempt to reign in an outbreak of relaxation at the CDC, which had blown money on the aforementioned zero-g chairs, pastel lights, and saunas. No doubt a few more proposals to restrict who gets stimulus dollars will surface before the Senate's done. And one anti-earmark in the House version of the bill is now moot—the one barring Illinois from receiving a single cent until Rod Blagojevic is no longer governor. 

Corn on Hardball: How Detached From Reality Is Cheney? (Video)

| Wed Feb. 4, 2009 7:17 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Wed Feb. 4, 2009 7:17 PM EST

Dick Cheney is the gift (for pundits) that keeps on giving:

A Quote from Dick Cheney That Says It All

| Wed Feb. 4, 2009 4:38 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Wed Feb. 4, 2009 4:38 PM EST

There's one quote from Dick Cheney's interview with Politico that says it all:

We did worry about [the economy], to some extent.

To some extent.