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Obstruction Of Climate Change Mitigation in Coal Country

Sunset

Sunset

Leadership on what matters most for our future will come from outside the United States. It’s not that Americans are bad people— for the most part, we aren’t. However, many of us have mistaken the advancement of bad ideas as the right ideas, and there is a difference.

The most recent example was last week’s vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is one of the few pieces of legislation that still works through the legislative process the way most of them did back when Congress did more legislative work. Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) offered an amendment which would “prevent the White House from sending funds to the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866.” McKinley questions the validity of climate science research generally, but, according to his website, also argued that reducing the use of coal wasn’t worth the harm it would do to the economy. The amendment passed the House, and is expected to advance to the Senate.

I understand coal country better than most mid-westerners. My family tree has long roots in Appalachia, predating the discovery of coal in Boone County, West Virginia by John Peter Salley in 1742. My career in transportation and logistics took me to Boone County and I learned about its dependence on coal. When the Coal Valley News announced our truck driving school, it was front page news, next to a story about United Mine Worker layoffs in the county seat.

Meeting with businesses, the governor’s office, the school board, local residents and others, I got to know the issues around coal. People didn’t like the mine owners and operators, but were dependent upon them. If life has changed from company-owned coal camps for most, coal camps still exist along with poverty and an extreme dependence on coal to extract a life. The question, “what are we supposed to do without coal?” resonates there if answers don’t.

There is no greater good in McKinley’s legislative work, and there is little point in arguing with climate deniers like him. The preponderance of evidence is that climate change is real, it is happening now, and its effects are causing harm. As the business community wakes up, we are increasingly able to place a dollar figure on the social and economic costs of global warming and related climate change. Economics will drive action to mitigate the causes of climate change, as making a profit remains paramount for businesses. Like it or not, West Virginia, part of mitigation of global warming means drastic reductions in the amount of coal used across the globe.

At the same time, bad ideas like McKinley’s have enough support to advance, making the U.S. Congress less relevant in addressing the most important issue of our time. That’s why I say leadership on climate change, as well as on nuclear abolition and other threats to life as we know it, will come from outside our country. For whatever reason, too many Americans embrace bad ideas to sustain the political will for positive change.

What I don’t get about West Virginia and coal country is that while there is a church in almost every neighborhood, another argument should resonate equally with self-serving economic interests, but doesn’t.

If God is the author of creation and wants humans to do anything, high on the list would be to care for creation. We have not upheld that responsibility even though it transcends politics. Instead, people like McKinley look to mammon for their inspiration, forsaking all of us in the process.

Belief in God is not the same usage as belief in climate change, because the efficacy of the harm done to humans by climate change will out regardless of what people believe or don’t believe. Like many concerned citizens I feel we must wake up to the threat to human health posed by climate change before it’s too late. If the U.S. won’t lead, then others will, because taking action won’t wait for U.S. politicians to get on board with the obvious.

“Affluenza” Defense Unbelievable!

unbelievableYou may have already heard this story. Just in case you hadn’t I wanted to make sure you heard it at least once.

From DailyKos:

I wish this was a snark. But this is so shocking it makes me ill.

16-year old Ethan Couch was driving drunk at THREE times the legal limit and had Valium in his system. He plowed into four people going 70 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone, killing them. Other victims are severely injured; one has severe brain damage. Even after he killed and maimed those people, he was uncooperative and combative with the emergency services and walked away from the police saying “I’m outta here.”

He pleaded guilty, of course. But Ethan’s parents are very wealthy. (We are talking the 1%.) They hired an attorney that brought on a psychologist to say Couch was “a product of wealth” and was used to getting “whatever he wanted.” Because he was so affluent and accustomed to never having consequences, the attorney argued that he should get therapy as opposed to jail.

This was the argument, mind you, used in the defense:

He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller said Couch’s parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed 14-year-old girl.
Miller also pointed out that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. He said the teen was emotionally flat and needed years of therapy. At the time of the fatal wreck, Couch had a blood alcohol content of .24, said Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson. It is illegal for a minor to drive with any amount of alcohol in his or her system.

Prosecutors tried to get 20 years. The Defense argued for therapy and probation.  Texas State District Judge Jean Boyd bought the inane “I’m too rich for consequences” defense and actually sided with the Defense and gave him probation:

(Video of the breaking news report. Includes talk with a victim’s family member.)

The kid is not remorseful in the slightest. I’m sure he always expected to get off. He always has before. Meanwhile, the victim’s families are devastated.

Tell me again how there are NOT two Americas and two sets of rules.

We’re All Bloggers

Richard Engel

Richard Engel

Richard Engel of NBC news testified to the United Nations Security Council on July 17, “’We’re all bloggers and punks and rebels with cameras. There is absolutely no respect for career journalists anymore,’ said Engel, who was kidnapped by pro-regime gunmen in northern Syria and held for five days in December 2012.”

Engel was one of four journalists addressing the U.N., calling for world leaders to do more to protect reporters risking their lives in conflict situations. This in light of the 600 journalists killed during the last ten years and 41 killed in Syria alone during the last year. If one has seen Engel’s reports, he gets into the thick of conflict to collect and deliver stories for the corporate media. He’s also on the micro blog twitter.

The Associated Press wrote a story on Engel’s testimony and it can be read here.

It is a marvel there are people like Engel, who put themselves in harm’s way for what they believe is a greater good. In our house we don’t watch television most days, and my Engel fix comes from his 140 character tweets @RichardEngel. It has a democratizing effect, giving meaning to his quote at the U.N., “we’re all bloggers.” He often comes up next to the orchard where I work, @anamariecox and @realDonaldTrump.

Engel was trying to maintain the special status of his profession, something hard to do when there are tens of millions of bloggers, and ubiquitous social media outlets, all chattering away 24-7. With the erosion of the importance of newspapers, magazines and television in many people’s lives, and politicized everything, there are a few who stand out as superior working employees of the fourth estate. What is the fourth estate anyway? I can almost remember it and it has new meaning with Richard Engel in it.

I Am Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning

I Am Bradley Manning
the whole U. S. Calvary is after me
they’re treating me like Crazy Horse
Red Cloud
Sitting Bull
all ROLLED
into one
They got geronimo
down in Gitmo
sayin
Hell
NO!
I won’t go
to your crazy
Middle Asian war
No more
will I Serve
Sir!
No SIR!
No More
will I Serve
your Pentagon
Pig$ at the trough
Your Bechtel
Halliburton
Rockwell
Blackwater
Kellogg Brown and Root
Goldman Sachs
Facebook
Blackwater
Black Ops
Corporate Whores
No more
will you consider People
of Conscience
Faggots on the run
Sir!
No Sir!
The Line starts here
and stretches
All the Way
to Iraq
Afghanistan
and All the other “‘stans”
that ever were
and ever were over ran
into unrecognizable
also rans
Sir!
No SIR!
the line starts here
and stretches all the
WAYYYYY Back!!!
to September 2001
and WAYYYYY Back
to Bush I and 1991
Sir!
No SIR!
The Ball is in your court now
In the People’s Court
We have already WON
There is No Exit
out of your quagmire
and morass
of rendition
secret orchestration
of torture
and harassment
Sir!
why don’t ya try
to google this shit
Guess What
Ya Can’t
Conscience isn’t a game
you can play
In your Court
We The People
Will have a Say
on This Day
Your whole Pentagon scried world is being tried
the tables are being turned
from this you can have no Banning
for you are about
to see
I AM
Bradley Manning
AHO!

John Shumaker
Your Honor
The People rests its case
Parade Rest
AHO!

Rushpublicans And The War On Women

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Republican Party (my name, Rushpublicans) has decided to let their leader, Rush Limbaugh into a battle of hate for women. seems to me to be quite short sighted at best and at worst such a strategy could have huge long range disastrous consequences.

One would almost think what they believed was yet another in the pantheon of enemies that Rushpublicans have been creating, demonizing and then doing battle with over the past decade or two. They have redrawn Muslims into caricature enemies as they have also done with immigrants, people of color, the poor, and basically anyone who does not talk like them, look like them or have their portfolio.

But picking a fight with women is indeed taking on a group that if it united and flexed its muscle could drastically change how this country is run. Maybe this will be the wake up call for women to finally pay attention to some of the neanderthals that are making laws. It is long past time that women should have at least half the lawmaking seats in the country and this seems like a good time to start achieving that. If nothing else, the vast majority should now begin to understand which party and which legislators are on their side. Let me give a hint by saying this party gave America its first female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Besides going to battle with half the population, the Rushpublicans have also enraged a huge number of men in this country who respect women. These men have had women close to them in their life who have shown them that women are more than just another group to be denigrated. Women who have been the mothers, the sisters, the daughters, the wives, the teachers or possibly the boss or co-worker. Most American men have good relationships with the women in their lives and as such are just as insulted by Limbaugh’s remarks.

What is almost as amazing as Limbaugh picking this fight with women is that none of the so-called leaders of the Rushpublican Party has enough guts to stand up to Limbaugh and say he was wrong. Mitt Romney only said “those are not the words I would have used.” Thus he endorsed Limbaugh’s sentiment, just not his language. Even a woman Rushpublican, Sarah Palin, defended him. Sarah, would you have defended him were that your daughter he was speaking of? In general he was, Sarah. Still OK with that?

But not only at the national level have the Rushpublicans failed to condemn Limbaugh. Gov. Branstad? Senator Grassley? Rep. King? This is the man that speaks for your party these days. How about Bob Vander Plaats? The silence is deafening.

Makes me almost wish that one of my all time heroes, Billie Jean King would come back for one last battle. She could challenge him to a duel of brain power at 50 paces. And once more, Billie Jean would vanquish an arrogant man. Because in such a battle, Limbaugh would come in unarmed.

You Have Been Robbed Big Time

If you needed something else to keep you awake over the Halloween season, this one should be good for months of sleeplessness. Over the night between Monday and Tuesday, the Federal Reserve  and Bank of America agreed to move their derivatives from an uninsured part of their organization (the old Merrill-Lynch unit) to a part of their organization that is insured. Thus the risk for losses incurred by Bank of America has been moved the stockholders of BofA to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation . I am sure most of you are aware that the eventual insurer of last resort in this case will be you and I

Think about this for a minute. Now in the case of a bank failure due to derivative failure the losses will not be covered by those owning stocks and bonds in BofA as it should be. The losses will be covered by the FDIC which in turn gets its money from the banks around the country which in turn gets its money from its depositors – you and me.

I will admit that I have possibly not done an adequate job of explaining the situation. Bloomberg News has a good explanation here:
“Bank of America Corp. (BAC), hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people. The bank doesn’t believe regulatory approval is needed, said people with knowledge of its position.

Three years after taxpayers rescued some of the biggest U.S. lenders, regulators are grappling with how to protect FDIC- insured bank accounts from risks generated by investment-banking operations. Bank of America, which got a $45 billion bailout during the financial crisis, had $1.04 trillion in deposits as of midyear, ranking it second among U.S. firms.

“The concern is that there is always an enormous temptation to dump the losers on the insured institution,” said William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a former bank regulator. “We should have fairly tight restrictions on that.”

I strongly recommend that you read the whole Bloomberg article along with a couple of analysis pieces that really flesh out the details. The first is from  zerohedge which has these two scary paragraphs:

“The reason that commentators like Chris Whalen were relatively sanguine about Bank of America likely becoming insolvent as a result of eventual mortgage and other litigation losses is that it would be a holding company bankruptcy. The operating units, most importantly, the banks, would not be affected and could be spun out to a new entity or sold. Shareholders would be wiped out and holding company creditors (most important, bondholders) would take a hit by having their debt haircut and partly converted to equity.

This changes the picture completely. This move reflects either criminal incompetence or abject corruption by the Fed. Even though I’ve expressed my doubts as to whether Dodd Frank resolutions will work, dumping derivatives into depositaries pretty much guarantees a Dodd Frank resolution will fail. Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. [Background.] So this move amounts to a direct transfer from derivatives counterparties of Merrill to the taxpayer, via the FDIC, which would have to make depositors whole after derivatives counterparties grabbed collateral. It’s well nigh impossible to have an orderly wind down in this scenario. You have a derivatives counterparty land grab and an abrupt insolvency. Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.”

Over at Dailykos, Marie notes:

“The “genius” of Bernanke and Geithner appears to be that they kicked part of what they called a liquidity crisis can down the road and into the FDIC house. Now, instead of TARP II and/or more FED bailouts, the FDIC will be the insurer and loss-payer. That spreads the costs of the risk right down into the pockets of every federally insured customer of a financial institution. How that works is the FDIC raises its rates to it’s members and they in turn pass along the increased costs to customers.

It’s been a capital crisis since the housing bubble began to pop. A question that nobody wanted answered was how deep the hole was. A second question was how to stick it to the 99%. A question we should be asking is why the credit rating bureaus waited until now to downgrade and the counterparties silently bided their time. It’s not as if those derivatives are significantly more impaired today than they were last year. Is it too ludicrous to mention that last year there were two women familiar to dKos readers standing in the way of more dead-of-night deals for the 1%? Elizabeth Warren and Sheila Bair, Chairperson of the FDIC until July 8, 2011. The wrong two people were most definitely let go.”

The short analysis is that the monied interests (counterparties) have once again privatized gains and socialized their losses in a big way. Is it legal? Maybe, maybe not, but it has been done and I doubt it will be undone since they servants of those monied interests (the Republican Party) have been and are now in positions to limit any action that would harm their masters.

This is EXACTLY what OWS is about. The 1% has once again robbed the 99%. Yet, the news of this has been buried as far as I can tell. While I do not listen to news nearly as much as I used to I still have not heard anything abut it on the general media.

Incompetence And 9/11

This week I will forego the normal Sunday Funday post. The anniversary of the only attack on the American mainland seems hardly the time for game playing. Things will be back to normal next week.

There is an aspect to 9/11 that seldom gets discussed, especially on the anniversary itself. That is the fact that despite many warnings coming from within our government and sources outside, those in charge appear to have chosen to ignore them all.

While no one could ever keep the United States perfectly safe, there is an expectation that those who wield the reins of power should take all threats with some seriousness. As the 9/11 hearings – or at least those that the public were allowed to hear – made it abundantly clear that there were warnings that were not acted on.

This incompetence raised its ugly head again when Katrina hit New Orleans. Despite nearly a full week of warning FEMA – the government’s response team – was in no way ready to respond when the time came. With the agency headed by a political hack who had no business anywhere near an agency like FEMA. Who can ever forget “Heckuva job, Brownie.”

Whether driven by ideology or just plain stupid, incompetence like this has no place in leadership. Yet, we see it once again in Republican leadership’s response to this years outbreak of incredible weather phenomena. Eric Cantor has tried to place himself squarely in the path of aid going to those whose lives have been decimated by the likes of a tornado in Joplin, Missouri and the one-two punch of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee on the east coast. Cantor – in an incredibly incompetent and arrogant move acted to deny aid unless the moneys spent were offset.

Were that the only recent act of Republican incompetence. Texas Governor Rick Perry cut the budget for the states volunteer fire departments by an incredible 75% despite possibly the worst fire season ever in Texas and possibly the United States. This is hardly the only area where Perry demonstrates incompetence. Does America deserve another big talking, totally incompetent president?

Perry is hardly the only republican presidential candidate that exudes incompetence. Mitt Romney can’t seem to make a decision on anything. In a country being held hostage by the Republican congress trying to kill any jobs for Americans, Romney comes from a background of buying businesses, stripping all the value out of them and starving the employees. I am sure he would not have a clue how to deal a with real economy.

We can go on down the list. Bachmann, Paul, Gingerich, Santorum, Caine are all driven by ideology – the same ideology that has been so successful in Iraq and in shaping our current economy.

Barack Obama has demonstrated a cool competence. In comparison to what the Republican record is and what their future portends, Obama is truly the only choice for anyone who really cares about America’s survival.

Just to remind you where this country was about 10 years and 9 months ago, The CBO had calculated that in 10 years, this country would be out of debt – OUT OF DEBT! – had the trajectory at the time been maintained. That despite huge deficits that had been run up under Reagan and Bush 1. Thanks to the incredible incompetence in every area of administration, Obama inherited a country divided, deeply in debt and full of incompetents.

If Obama is not re-elected, you can be assured we will immediately return to those days. Bush, Bush and Reagan have left a clear example of what Republicans do when they have power. They screw things up royally.

The Bachmann Challenge for Iowa Democrats

Michele Bachmann could be the greatest challenge Iowa Democrats face during the 2012 Presidential election. It is not because she could win Iowa should she get the Republican nomination for president. It is because she is a real person, with genuine views, in a way that engages people. The Bachmann effect will be one of helping Republicans continue the organizing they began in the wake of their stunning losses in the 2008 election. She is doing this in a way that supplements the organizing and education efforts of Bob Vander Plaats’ The FAMiLY LEADER, but reaches to a broader audience. We hope that audience is not broad enough to matter, but there is reason to pay attention.

Progressives often dismiss Michele Bachmann as a buffoon or worse with her many gaffes and distortions of common knowledge. The fact of the matter is that people are forgiving of her gaffes and when we consider the Republican field, she stands out. Consider Mitt Romney. When I heard him speak in Cedar Rapids before the 2010 midterms, he looked like a zombie in casual attire. He spoke of conservative principles, but from his measured tone of voice and mannerisms it seemed his heart was not in it and he would fit in better at a country club. Consider Tim Pawlenty. When I heard him speak in Iowa City, it was as if Bob Vander Plaats had written the talking points. His delivery? He was like a mannequin speaking, dry and without personality, in a suit that was a size too big for his frame. Bachmann has none of these problems.

Bachmann kicked off her Independence Day weekend in Iowa at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City (Read Deeth’s live blog of the event here). Located on the same block as the Hamburg Inn, a stopping place for previous Republican and Democratic candidates, the liberal twitterverse was abuzz with statements about how she disrespected the Hamburg Inn, and about boycotting the Bluebird Diner if the owners support Bachmann. The significance of this campaign stop was that Bachmann demonstrated that she is her own person and playing by her rules. That will gain her points with Republicans. Her campaign is smarter than we give them credit.

Whether Iowa Democrats will get organized for 2012 is an open question. In 2010, we talked the talk, but could not walk the walk. By competing in Iowa and with the TEA Party ideas that gained popularity in the last election cycle, the Bachmann candidacy will serve to make the Iowa Republican organization stronger. It is time for progressives to take her seriously and get to work organizing for the victory in 2012 we can have and surely need.

Senate Hearing on Afghanistan Next Week

Senate Hearing on Afghanistan Next Week


On May 3, 2011, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Afghanistan: What is an Acceptable End-State, and How Do We Get There? Here is the link where written testimony will be posted. In July, the United States is to initiate a draw down of forces in Afghanistan, and for people interested in ending our wars, it is time to take notice of this Senate Hearing.

As Matt Southworth of Friends Committee on National Legislation wrote on April 25th, “Will the Obama Administration finally acknowledge that the military led strategy in Afghanistan is failing
by every metric and shift to another kind of mission in Afghanistan?
The U.S. should not continue to slug on militarily while being
outmaneuvered
by Taliban with shovels. Perhaps a diplomatic mission with the desired
ends of a political settlement with all Afghan groups would be best to
deliver peace and regional stability. Next weeks hearing has the
potential to shape the impending policy shift. You can weigh-in by
contacting your elected officials today.
” Read the rest of Southworth's article here.

DOD to Continue to Sponsor NASCAR

DOD to Continue to Sponsor NASCAR


by Paul Deaton

Following the debate in the US House of Representatives over the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution was something like raking sand in the desert. A tedious task at the end of which, the desert looks little different from when we started. While the New Republican majority was quick to assert that we can't afford the big spending ways of the federal government, in a 281-141 vote, they declined to prohibit the Department of Defense from sponsoring NASCAR. Regrettably Congressmen Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA) voted to continue NASCAR sponsorship, and only Bruce Braley (D-IA) of Iowa's delegation agreed that DOD sponsorship of NASCAR was something that could be cut during a recession. Seriously?

The New York Times described the FY2011 Continuing Resolution debate, “It was billed as a battle over numbers, but the marathon floor fight in the House this week was more a drama over core political beliefs, with long-simmering resentments, partisan grandstanding and startling personal revelations sprinkled throughout the script.”

John Isaacs is Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World. On Saturday he wrote,
“amendments to cut the defense budget by members of both parties were
defeated, aside from the Rooney (R-FL) amendment to cut funds for the
second F-35 engines.”
To see a list of the national security related amendments, click here.
If House members couldn't see fit to cut defense spending, what could they cut? “Virtually no aspect of American life, from farms to the Internet to sexuality to education, was left untouched,” said Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times. There were proposals to cut AmeriCorps, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, border security and immigration programs, environmental regulations, the space program, a program to round up wild horses, federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and much more.

A pattern is beginning to emerge from the new Republican House majorities at the federal and state level. Get the chain saw out and hack away at programs we don't understand or don't like and do it under the aegis of “fulfilling campaign promises.” Never mind that the Democratic Senate in Washington will have its own ideas, just like Iowa's Senate Democrats did with HF 45. At least the House Republicans decided they shouldn't name projects after themselves. And by the way, Representative Steve King (D-IA) continued using the word “Obamacare” in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution debate after Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) suggested the House cease use of the term. Too much hot air from a town known for it. One hopes the electorate is watching these shenanigans.

~Paul Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul Deaton