Mojo - October 2009

More on the Kerry-Boxer Climate Bill

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 5:04 PM EDT

A few things changed in the proposed Senate climate bill between the leaked drafts I wrote about on Tuesday and the official release yesterday.

Most notable is the drop of any reference to China and India. An earlier draft would have required the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to give a a report to Congress each year on whether China and India have adopted greenhouse gas emissions standards "at least as strict as those standards required under this Act," and if the administrator determines that China and India have not adopted standards, the administrator would be required to "notify each Member of Congress of his determination, and shall release his determination to the media."

That's completely absent from the final version the senators introduced on Wednesday. It's an interesting development, as the provision was clearly meant to abate fears from some legislators that domestic carbon regulations without an comparable response from other nations would put us at a disadvantage globally.


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Good News On Iran?

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 4:25 PM EDT

In his new blog, Julian Borger of The Guardian has an intriguing take on today's talks about Iran's nuclear program. From his perspective, there's potential good news:

The dust is settling in the wake of the Geneva meeting, and it seems to have been a lot more productive than expected. Mohamed ElBaradei will be in Tehran on Saturday to nail down an inspection date for the newly-revealed Qom enrichment plant. There will also be another meeting of the E3+3 group with Iran before the end of October to continue negotiations on Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

Most importantly, however, there is an "agreement in principle" that Iran will send out a significant chunk of its low enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for further enriching and then to France, to be processed into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), for making medical isotopes.

If all this happens - and there will be a meeting on the details between Iran, France and Russia at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on October 18 - then a lot of the uranium the world is currently worrying about would be temporarily taken out of the equation. Western officials here say that to restock the TRR, Iran would have to send out up to 1200 kg of LEU. That's about three-quarters of what they've got, and it would be out of the country for a year. When it came back it would be in the form of fuel rods, so it could not be turned into weapons grade material in a quick breakout scenario.

The deal was apparently hatched by the Americans and Russians over the past month, and it could be a masterful means of lowering tensions. It would not infringe what Iran argues is its sovereign right to a fully-fledged nuclear programme, so face would be saved. But it takes off the table, for the time being, the main source of immediate anxiety - the uranium stockpile.

Of course anxiety is only relieved to the degree that you believe that there are no other Qoms hidden up Iranian sleeves. That is a question of confidence to be addressed by a new deal with the IAEA. And Iran would continue to enrich, even under freeze-for-freeze. But time will have been bought.

Of course, the deal could easily unravel on October 18, when the talk turns to details, but it does represent a cheap way for Tehran to achieve what it says it wants to achieve - civilian applications of nuclear technology.

Austan Goolsbee: Not Long for the White House?

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 3:29 PM EDT

Austan Goolsbee, who is on the president's Council of Economic Advisers, is pretty funny (although he takes a while to get going). But as Goolsbee acknowleges at the end of his routine, these jokes aren't exactly safe for politics. If some of this stuff gets picked up on cable news, he could be in trouble:

Then again, they are just jokes.

Chamber of Commerce Climate Civil War Continues

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 1:36 PM EDT

The Chamber of Commerce civil war continues: the latest news is discontent from another significant player, General Electric.

GE spokesman Peter O’Toole told Politico that the company remains a member—though one clearly unhappy about the group's climate position.

"We’re a member of the Chamber because a lot of our customers are there, a lot of our competitors, so we get a good perspective on issues of national import," he said. "The Chamber does not speak for us on climate legislation, but we are still a member."

GE is the latest in a growing list of companies unhappy with the Chamber's position on climate. Yesterday, Nike announced that they are resigning from the board of directors, though they plan to maintain membership. The country's largest electric utility, Exelon, announced on Monday that they are leaving the group, joining California utility PG&E and New Mexico utility PNM in secession.

Alan Grayson and Liberal Moralism

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 1:21 PM EDT

Alan Grayson is at the center of a media concern-trolling storm because he said that the GOP health plan is that people should 1) not get sick and 2) if they do get sick, die quickly. Matt Yglesias says Grayson broke the rules:

I think the real issue—and the real import—of Grayson’s statement is that it involved breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don’t. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms....

 There’s a semi-legitimate practical reason for this, namely the fact that substantially more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals. Consequently, progressive politicians are at pains to describe their proposals as essentially pragmatic and non-ideological which doesn’t lend itself to moralism.

This is right. But people respond to rhetoric about morality. As Yglesias acknowleges, it's "very hard to do big things without a certain amount of moralism." I'd go farther: it's hard to recruit people to your cause if you don't couch your rhetoric in moral terms. Most people relate to issues by thinking about what's right and what's wrong. But liberals too often speak in the language of the lawyer or the bureaucrat instead of the language of the pastor or the parent. Much of the perception of liberals as "weak" stems from this disconnect. Couldn't liberal politicians' unwillingness to talk about morality be part of the reason so many more people identify as conservatives?

Fiore Cartoon: Taming Iran

Thu Oct. 1, 2009 1:04 PM EDT

It seems America has considered two strategies to deal with Iran:

1) Hit 'em with sanctions

2) Bomb their uranium back to the stone age

Watch satirist Mark Fiore take on the effectiveness of each after the jump:

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The Mommy Option: 1 in 4 Moms Stay-at-Home

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 12:31 PM EDT

Yesterday, the Census Bureau released its new report on stay-at-home moms, one that's now being hailed as proving the myth of the "opt-out revolution." The opt-out theory goes like this: high wage earning, highly educated women land promising and high paying jobs, only to leave them once they have babies. The trend has been debated, and now, if you believe The Washington Post, has been debunked.

This is seen as either a good thing, read: women are able to balance work and motherhood and carry on doing both without having to make tough choices to leave or give up parenting. Work/life balance problem solved, strong feminists can have their job, and baby too. Or, the report's results are actually much more complicated than that and mean that women who want to choose to stay home can't now for a host of reasons, that those who do have little choice in the matter (many of whom are also feminists, and all of whom are feminine), that more women are actually just losing their jobs, and that the data doesn't capture the true state of stay-at-home motherhood.

I open door #2:

Max Baucus Hearts Lobbyists (397th Edition)

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 12:12 PM EDT

Money buys results in Washington. And health insurance companies and their lobbyists are spending a lot of money trying to buy results from Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus is playing a key role in writing health care reform legislation. The health insurance industry has all the reasons in the world to make sure they're on his good side. That's probably why, as an investigation by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics recently revealed, it's not just health insurance companies giving Baucus money—it's their lobbyists, too:

From January 2007 through June 2009, Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.

In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists. (See chart here and full list here.)

Of course, it's considered impolite in Washington to point out, as Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor once delicately did, that no one except politicians seems to understand the difference "between contributions and bribes."

GOP Unites Against Kerry-Boxer, But for Wildly Different Reasons

| Thu Oct. 1, 2009 11:46 AM EDT

Republicans, as usual, were fairly unified in their opposition to the Senate climate bill released Wednesday. But things got awkward when they attempted to describe why they're against it—because the party is divided between those who think action will destroy the economy and those who still question whether climate change is occurring at all.

On Wednesday afternoon a handful of Republican senators hosted a press conference following the release of the Boxer-Kerry bill. The assembled lawmakers included a few, like Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, who do acknowledge that climate change is a) real, b) caused by people, and c) a problem. But they were joined by climate change deniers James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kit Bond of Missouri, and Mike Barrasso of Wyoming, who trotted out the usual skeptic talking points.

Inhofe, as usual, did not disappoint. "We've asked that question of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and the answer is no," he explained. "They're feeling is that God is still up there, we go through cycles, and there's not that strong of a relationship between anthropogenic gases and climate change."

Bond placed similar faith in farmers from his home state. "None of the farmers I have talked to in Missouri have expressed concerns about human-caused global climate change," he said. "We have seen in Missouri the benefits of the cooling that started in '98. We've had ample rain. We are right now worrying about making sure the growing season is long enough."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 1, 2009

Thu Oct. 1, 2009 7:59 AM EDT

U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Saladin leads the rear element as he patrols an alleyway in the Rusafa neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, on Feb. 17, 2008. Saladin and his fellow soldiers are from the Army's 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey, U.S. Air Force.)