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More Climate Propaganda

Yesterday’s post was an amazing video showing how climate change deniers cast doubt on the science when there really is not any significant scientific doubt. But there are many other ways that propaganda is used by the climate deniers.

For example, in 2012 the New York Times (the poster child for the supposed left-wing media) published an article titled “A Fine for Not Using a Biofuel That Doesn’t Exist“. The biofuel in question is cellulosic ethanol, which is a form of fuel alcohol made from agricultural waste products like corn stalks and cobs, leaves, wood chips, and other plant residue.

On the surface their article sounds reasonable – why should fuel suppliers have to pay a fine for not blending in a fuel that doesn’t exist?

Conservative media outlets jumped on the story. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial saying “Congress subsidized a product that didn’t exist”, while Fox News called the fuel “merely hypothetical”. The National Review Online went one step further, saying that the “EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire leprechauns.” But my favorite quote is from The Daily Caller, which blames the whole thing on Obama:

First, President Obama decided that the government can punish consumers if they don’t buy a particular product (e.g., health insurance). Now, his administration has decided that the government can punish consumers if they don’t buy a product that can’t be purchased because it doesn’t exist.

Well, first of all, the law mandating the use of cellulosic ethanol was passed by Congress in 2007. So it is difficult to imagine how the Obama administration, which didn’t exist until 2009, is responsible for that law. Not only did Dubya sign it, it was passed with broad bipartisan support.

But the big lie is that the fuel didn’t exist. Of course it existed. The whole point of the law was to create incentives to dramatically increase production of the fuel, which generates an amazing 96% less greenhouse gasses than gasoline because it uses raw materials that often get burned as waste.

And the law worked. There is now a cellulosic ethanol facility in Iowa which can convert 570 million pounds of crop waste into 25 million gallons of ethanol each year. And that facility is the first of three such plants scheduled to start production this year.

This is great news in the fight against climate change and it also significantly reduces our dependence on foreign oil. But of course, none of the right-wing media outlets mentioned it. Personally, I’m waiting for the National Review to write an article admitting that it was wrong, that leprechauns do exist.



Unfortunately, propaganda works, especially with enough money pumped into it, and with help from the right-wing media. How many times do we fall for this snow job before we get wise to their tactics?

Another propaganda technique is telling people that they can’t do anything about the environment. For example, saying that it will destroy our economy. Well, you can do something about the environment. Thirty years ago we were facing an environmental catastrophe from a hole in the ozone layer, but we did something about it and now the UN has announced that the ozone layer is showing “signs of recovery”. It is estimated that this has already prevented around two million cases of skin cancer. That’s not just a lot of lives saved, it represents a lot of money saved.

For more information about climate change and things you can do go help, see The Climate Reality Project.


We Hate You, But We Vote For You Anyway

Obama has a 54% disapproval rating. The Democratic Party has a 61% disapproval rating, making the party in general even more unpopular. But nobody beats the Republican Party, which has a whopping 72% disapproval rating. In fact, 47% of Americans – nearly half – say they “strongly” disapprove of the GOP.

And yet, according to FiveThirtyEight politics, Republicans have a 59% chance of winning enough seats in the November election to get control of the Senate. Note that their forecast is updated regularly based on new polls, so the numbers might change slightly by the time you click on the link, but that’s a pretty significant lead.

So, how can around half the country “strongly” disapprove of the Republican Party, and yet we are ready to hand control of both the House and the Senate to them? Because ironically, many of the people who hate the Republican Party … are Republicans. While 63% of Democrats approve of their party’s delegation in Congress, only 34% of Republicans approve of their GOP Congress-critters. They may hate their representatives, but they will almost certainly still vote for them anyway (maybe because someone even more right-wing isn’t on the ballot).

Is this just an example of “haters gotta hate“? (Go ahead, click on that link. You’ll be glad you did!)

And the House is even more screwed up, mainly because of gerrymandering. In 2012, 1.4 million voters picked Democratic representatives over Republican ones, but the GOP won a 33 seat advantage anyway. And 2014 will probably be just as bad.


Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama will attend a NATO summit in Wales this week with 67 other world leaders. He’s trying to project strength, so the White House says he’ll be wearing his toughest shade of tan suit.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama will be at a NATO summit, where he will discuss the recent actions of Vladimir Putin, who wasn’t invited. Then Putin said, ‘Has that ever stopped me before?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Vladimir Putin said today he hopes to have a Ukrainian peace deal by Friday. He’s reached out the olive branch. And if there’s no peace deal by Friday, Putin said, ‘I will crush Ukraine like bug under boot.'” – Craig Ferguson

“President Obama is back on the job, and he’s visiting Estonia. He said he wanted to be there before Russian tanks rolled in.” – David Letterman

“Apple is sprucing up the iPhone. Tomorrow you can get the new iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 is a lot like President Obama’s hair. Every year it’s lighter and thinner.” – David Letterman

“Apple plans to launch a mobile wallet to replace credit cards. That’s good because if there’s one company you want to trust with your money, it’s the company that leaked your nude photos.” – Conan O’Brien

“A survey showed that 71 percent of Americans do not believe Washington should drop the name of their team – the Redskins. Also, most Americans believe that New York should just drop the Jets altogether.” – David Letterman


Obamacare has Failed

… to live up to the warnings from the detractors.


It’s the System, Stupid!

A few days ago I posted a story about Hillary Clinton (told by Elizabeth Warren) about how after becoming a Senator, Clinton voted for something that she fought hard against before that. Go watch that video if you have not already.

And now, we have a similar story from the other side of the aisle. Senator John McCain voted against overturning the Citizens United ruling that gave corporations and unions the right to spend infinite amounts of money in political campaigns. This is hypocritical because when the Supreme Court decision was announced, McCain denounced it as the Supreme Court’s “worst decision ever” and blasted the court for demonstrating “a combination of arrogance, naivete, and stupidity, the likes of which I have never seen.”

McCain is well known as a promoter of campaign finance reform, including the McCain-Feingold Act.

McCain’s office claims that the reason he voted against it is because it had no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House. And he has a point. It is clear the the main reason the Democrats introduced this bill was so they could use it as an election issue to keep control of the Senate. They knew it had no chance of passing the House.

But that just begs the question, why would Republicans refuse to vote against campaign finance reform? McCain himself is evidence that there are influential Republicans who support reform. But unfortunately in today’s gridlocked political world it has become a partisan issue.

Which to me brings up the real point. Both Clinton and McCain are evidence that the problem is not people, it is the system. And indeed, both show that we need to find some way to reduce the influence of money in politics. And there are definitely ways to do this without compromising the right to free speech. One way would be to require the disclosure of every person and organization who donates money for political ads. We need more transparency.

We also need to slow down the revolving door between politics and business. Otherwise, our representatives will only represent their future (or past) employers.

And finally, we absolutely need to reduce the power of political parties. A very good way to do this, which is already working in a few states is nonpartisan primaries (also sometimes called open primaries), where all candidates appear on the same ballot and the two highest voted candidates proceed to the regular election, which is actually acts as a runoff election.

I think it is absolutely crazy that we have partisan primaries, which are paid for by the taxpayers. It is insane that I am not allowed to vote in a taxpayer-funded primary election that may well determine who becomes my representative (or even president) unless I register as a member of that party. The constitution gives me the right to vote for my representatives.

You would think that even Republicans would be in favor of nonpartisan primaries, since it is well known that current Republican primaries end up being a race to embrace the lunatic fringe. Candidates are forced to go so far to the right in the primary that they often become unelectable in the general election. I’ve seen the same thing happen in Democratic primaries too, although not to the extent seen in recent Republican primaries.

Another thing that needs to be done is to take redistricting out of the hands of the political parties. Stop gerrymandering now.


Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama shows up at a press conference and he’s wearing a beige suit. Well, this drives the Republicans crazy. It’s nothing but, ‘How could he?’ and ‘What’s he trying to pull?’ Republicans would just rather have a beige President.” – David Letterman

“Over the weekend the White House chef married an MSNBC news anchor. Or as Fox News reported it, ‘Person who serves the president marries person who serves the president.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Texas Senator Ted Cruz has invited President Obama to play golf on the US-Mexico border. Cruz thought it was a funny way to point out problems the president hasn’t fixed yet. While Obama said, ‘So are we playing or not?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“There is a certain irony to being judged on one’s physical appearance by a group of men who, if you squint, look on a good day like a bowl of dried fruit. I’m not going to name names, but our Senate is filled with people who look like balls.” – Jon Stewart (on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s revelation about the sexual harassment she faced from her congressional colleagues)

“Folks, I do not have to tell you that the world out there is spinning out of control. The Middle East is in flames. Russian troops have crossed into Ukraine. But the biggest news this weekend was the shocking invasion of Boob-istan.” – Stephen Colbert (on the celebrity nude photos scandal)


The Past is Present

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

We should be living in a golden age of enlightenment and advanced technology, but instead we seem to be preoccupied by greed, anger, and selfishness. Will we survive?


So help me…

On October 30, 2013, the Air Force changed their rules. It used to be that they would allow you to omit the phrase “So help me God” at the end of their enlistment oath. But no more.

So for now, you have to swear to God in order to be in the Air Force. And indeed, an airman who crossed out the “So help me God” part has been told that if he does not sign the full oath and also recite it (including the God part), he will be kicked out.

Considering that the constitution prohibits the establishment of any religion, and further prohibits requiring religious tests to hold an office or public trust, this will be an interesting court case.

Personally, I think that putting religious beliefs ahead of the constitution is a supremely bad idea. The Hobby Lobby ruling was bad enough, but at least that was not an actual arm of the government requiring someone to swear an oath to God.


Late Night Political Humor

“According to a report from the United Nations, the damage from global warming could be irreversible. It’s clear we need to do something. We need to give the Earth the ice bucket challenge.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“In Washington state you can now smoke weed. But they have something I’ve never heard of. It’s weed soda. It is the opposite of diet soda, if you think about it. A minute ago I was just thirsty. Now I’m starving. Weed soda!” – David Letterman

“Race is there; it exists. You’re tired of hearing about it? … Imagine how fucking exhausting it is living it.” – Jon Stewart (on Fox News’s coverage of Ferguson, MO)

“President Obama watched the Emmys and said the U.S. would be out of the Emmys by 2017.” – David Letterman

“Israel bugged John Kerry’s phone last year while he mediated Middle East peace talks. They listened in on John Kerry’s phone calls. It’s the rare case where the crime IS the punishment.” – Seth Meyers

“Republicans have a video game for the kids. You have an elephant on your video game and it tries to accumulate seats in the Senate. It’s not the first. Remember George W. Bush had a video game back in 2000 — Grand Theft Election.” – David Letterman

“Burger King is moving to Canada. They bought the doughnut place, Tim Horton’s. Financed by Warren Buffett, Burger King will be moving to Canada to avoid paying taxes. Hearing about it, President Obama immediately took away Buffett’s medal of freedom.” – David Letterman


Warren on Clinton

In this interview of Elizabeth Warren by Bill Moyers from 2004, she recounts a story about then Senator Hillary Clinton. It is an interesting story about Clinton, but even more it is an indictment of the insane influence of money on our political system.


Conservative or Liberal?

Louis CK
© Louis CK

Here’s the longer quote from Louis CK:

I don’t have any political opinions, I just am very curious. And it’s very interesting to listen to what people say. What’s the best way to run a country and the world? Those are really profound questions. I don’t have the confidence to say that I know one way or another. Some things I think are very conservative, or very liberal. I think when someone falls into one category for everything, I’m very suspicious. It doesn’t make sense to me that you’d have the same solution to every issue. I just like listening. I try to take people who are way far away from what I think or understand and put a representative of them on my show. I like to try to learn form them. When we did the show with the Christian anti-masturbating lady, it would have been easy to have a stupid Christian anti-masturbating lady… it was more fun to have her be really eloquent and see if I could learn from someone who never masturbates. There really is a very blissful, beautiful idea behind that. I f I could stop, I would be very happy. When I went to Afghanistan with the USO, I’m a pacifist, and I’m really against any violence, and I think there’s zero reason to ever do it. I learned so much from being around those folks, and I feel like I was enriched by it.

I think this is an excellent philosophy — be open to other attitudes and opinions, and take good ideas from where-ever you can.


No Alternative to Bombs?

Ted Rall
© Ted Rall

It’s true. Everything I hear about ISIS (or ISIL, IS, etc.) is that they are totally evil and must be stopped. Even Rand Paul, who called Hillary Clinton a “War Hawk” did an immediate about face and called for us to bomb them.

But then I started hearing that Muslims are just as appalled at ISIS as we are, and are trying to figure out ways to stop them. Wouldn’t it make far more sense to give them a chance before we start dropping bombs?

Why do we think we always have to be the police of the world?


Are You Sure?

Thirty years ago, two black, mentally disabled men were convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. One of the men spent all thirty years on death row. A few days ago, DNA evidence was used to show that both men are innocent, and they have been ordered to be released.

Now here’s the ironic part. Back in 1994, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used this case as an example of why the death penalty was necessary, saying in a legal opinion:

For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!

And this is exactly the problem with the death penalty. It is justified based on the perceived horror of the crime, and not paying much attention at all to whether or not the convicted is clearly guilty or not. We recoil at the horror, and use that to justify the ultimate punishment.

In this case, there was plenty of evidence that should have created doubt that the men were guilty. But that evidence was ignored, in order to create the appearance of justice.

My problem with the death penalty is not so much that I think it is morally wrong. The point is, we are woefully unqualified to make decisions in capital cases. After all, who are we to judge?


Will the Revolving Door hit Cantor in the Butt?

Used Tool Purchased for $1.8 Million

[satire by Andy Borowitz]

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—A used tool that has been on the market for several months was purchased on Tuesday for the whopping price of $1.8 million.

While it may not have set a new record, the sale price raised eyebrows, with many observers noting that $1.8 million was a lot to pay for this particular tool.

But others defended the purchase, arguing that the tool had been successfully bought and sold many times in the past.

Borowitz is of course talking about Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader who somehow managed to lose his Republican primary in what pundits called a shocking upset. He then resigned his seat in Congress in August (not even finishing out his term), and now in early September he is taking a position at investment bank Moelis with a $1.6 million salary plus a million dollar signing bonus.

What is Moelis paying for? Former corporate lawyer Dennis Kelleher tells New York magazine:

Let’s look at Cantor’s résumé. Let’s look at all his investment-banking experience. Let’s look at his capital-markets experience. He has none. He has no experience or skills that would qualify him to be even an intern at a fifth-tier firm in the financial industry. I mean, come on!

They’re paying him a guaranteed — you’ve got to love Wall Street, you guarantee money because you can’t fail on Wall Street — they’re guaranteeing him $3.8 million. You don’t guarantee someone $3.8 million because you’re training him to be an investment banker.

Wall Street is after what it’s always buying in Washington: access, influence, and unfair advantage. And Cantor is a big catch for anybody who wants access. Look, if you’re in congressional leadership for X number of years, you know plenty that’s worth a lot of money. If you’re the majority leader, who’s in charge of the agenda and vote counting? One of your jobs is to make sure you’re doling out favors to people. There are dozens and dozens of House members indebted to Eric Cantor for the things he’s done for them. You’re worth a lot.

In addition, Eric Cantor knows why some things got done and other things didn’t get done. He knows why someone voted for or against a bill or amendment. He knows how to strategically target everybody in the House on the issues that anybody cares about in a way that’s close to unique.

And that, my friends, is what “free speech” (i.e., money) buys in Washington these days.

Senator Elizabeth Warren points out how this infects politics:

It worries me about what happens if people in government are looking for that next job: ‘Yeah I’m working now, not as much money as I could be making, but when I leave here, that’s where I’m headed.’ That ultimately infects whatever it is that they’re doing. I think this is just wrong.