Wal-Mart promises that its customers will receive emergency contraception without discrimination, delay, or judgment.
FLORIDA: Insurance rates are predicted to rise as global warming intensifies.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: State House votes “to give same-sex couples the same rights, responsibilities, and obligations as married couples.”
NORTH CAROLINA: State House apologizes for North Carolina’s role in slavery.
GEORGIA: Georgia joins “a growing number of states restricting journalists’ access to lawmakers while legislative bodies are in session.”
THINK PROGRESS: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to RNC: turn over your emails.
EZRA KLEIN: The right-wing appropriates feminism to attack Islam and liberals.
ANDREW SULLIVAN: Fox News host Bill O’Reilly “loses it” over the Geneva Conventions.
“I told reporters afterward that it was just like any open-air market in Indiana in the summertime. … I just meant that that was what it looked and felt like…lots of people, lots of booths and a friendly relaxed atmosphere.”
— Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), 4/3/07, on the Shorja market in Baghdad
“‘There’ve been no shootings or car bombings’ at that market since it opened a few years ago, said Robin Gibson, assistant metro editor of the Star Press in Muncie [Indiana]. … ‘Maybe some overeager dogs jumping at people.'”
— Washington Post, 4/4/07
Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.
A Green Gavel
“This is the worst environmental White House that we’ve ever had in American history,” stated environmental lawyer and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. this week. Robert Kennedy cited “more than 400 pieces of environmental legislation that have been rolled back by the White House, ‘as part of a deliberate concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental laws.'” “The Bush administration has been gutting key sections of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, laws that have traditionally had bipartisan support and have done more to protect the health of Americans than any other environmental legislation.” Courts are increasingly siding with environmentalists, who have for the past six years “been suing to try to block the changes” President Bush has implemented. “The Supreme Court gave the Bush administration two rebukes on Monday for its global warming and air pollution policies. These rulings were just the most recent examples of the administration’s losing streak in court on environmental issues,” as two other federal courts recently ruled against Bush’s environmental policies. Nonetheless, Bush has indicated an unwillingness to change his administration’s approach. As Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) noted, “All the institutions of government are now moving towards recognition of the dangers of global warming, except the Bush Administration.”
A ‘MOMENTOUS’ SUPREME COURT DECISION: “The most crippling hit” to the Bush administration’s environmental policies “came from the U.S. Supreme Court” in its first examination of the phenomenon of global warming. “The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Clean Air Act by improperly declining to regulate new-vehicle emissions standards to control the pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming.” Environmentalists have hailed the ruling as “a momentous victory… in one of the most important environmental cases ever decided by the Supreme Court.” Under Bush, the EPA held “that it lacked authority to regulate greenhouse gases and that even if it did, it might not choose to because of ‘numerous areas of scientific uncertainty‘ about the causes and effects of global warming.” In Monday’s decision, the high court “ruled that the federal government does indeed have authority to regulate greenhouse gases linked to global warming.” The Supreme Court’s decision was also a huge victory for states as “California and nearly a dozen other states have adopted their own regulations requiring lower greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. These rules, however, require federal approval, which seemed unlikely as long as the agency could claim that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant — a claim it can no longer make.” Reacting to the Court’s ruling, Bush made clear that “he thought his proposal to increase automobile efficiency was sufficient for the moment; he gave no indication that he would ask the EPA to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases.” Furthermore, Bush added his own “caveats” to the decision, asserting that “any regulatory program should not slow economic growth, nor should its benefits to the atmosphere be offset by mounting emissions from China, India and other growing economies.”
LOWER COURTS GO GREEN: Last week, a federal judge in California “tossed out new Bush administration rules that gave national forest managers more discretion to approve logging and other commercial projects without lengthy environmental reviews.” “The pro-business Bush environmental rules were an attempt to dismantle a policy for national forests and grasslands dating to the Reagan administration, requiring government agencies to maintain viable numbers of plants and wildlife, particularly endangered species.” Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the Federal District Court said the U.S. Forest service violated several laws when it restricted the power of forest managers to “decide whether mines, logging operations, cellphone towers or other development would be appropriate uses of forest land.” In another case, Judge Robert Chambers of a federal court in West Virginia curbed the government’s allowance of the controversial practice of mountaintop removal, a form of strip mining in which coal companies use explosives to essentially remove entire mountains, and “the resulting millions of tons of waste rock, dirt, and vegetation are then dumped into surrounding valleys.” (See a satellite picture of mountaintop removal here). Chambers ruled that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers “violated the [Clean Water Act] by issuing mountaintop removal mining permits that allowed headwater streams to be permanently buried.” In a “victory for environmentalists,” Chambers ruled that “more thorough reviews of the mines’ potential impacts must be done before permits can be approved.”
A STRONG WEEK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: The recent Supreme Court and lower court rulings come just before a major report’s release on Friday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). February’s IPCC report represented “history’s most definitive statement of the scientific consensus on climate change,” concluding global warming is “unequivocal” and human activity is the main driver, “very likely” causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950. Friday’s report will further detail the human and environmental impacts of man-made climate change. “Even the most optimistic forecasts say the climate will continue to change and the planet will be irrevocably damaged.” The new report indicates that “within two or three decades, there could be 1.5 billion people without enough water,” creating “refugee crises like we’ve never seen.” Testament to the importance of the IPCC, Stevens frequently cited its reports in his majority opinion in this week’s case as evidence that “the scientific understanding of climate change progressed.” Already, the United States is attempting to neuter the language in the IPCC report before its release, reportedly taking “the lead in seeking modifications to the report” and “questioning its scientific basis.”
Under the Radar
ETHICS — WHITE HOUSE HIDES PRESIDENT’S EARMARKS FROM PUBLIC SCRUTINY: As the LA Times reports, the total amount of money appropriated by earmarks has tripled in the last decade and reached a record $71.77 billion in 2006. In his most recent State of the Union address, President Bush called on Congress to end the practice of earmarking federal funds, saying he wished to “expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress.” Yesterday, the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated its “online list of all the pet spending projects lawmakers tucked in the federal budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year.” The OMB’s list, however, lacks any “earmarks the president and his administration requested” and, according to the OMB, “cannot accurately be used, to identify the individual sponsors of congressional earmarks,” nor can it be used in all cases to identify the “ultimate beneficiary” of particular earmarks. As the Wall Street Journal has noted, “Presidents like pork, too,” and Bush is no exception, using the federal budget process to “reward political supporters, campaign contributors and sometimes members of Congress” for votes on a presidential priority. Despite his recent focus on transparency, Bush has not once vetoed any of Congress’s pork-laden spending bills. His earmarks often “appear only in closely held supplements separate from the public budget books.” Additionally, “as head of the executive branch, the president often doesn’t need earmarks: Once federal agencies get funding from Congress, his appointees are fairly free to steer sums to places, programs and vendors as the administration decides.”
ETHICS — BUSH USES RECESS APPOINTMENT TO SNEAK SWIFT BOAT FUNDER PAST SENATE: President Bush used his recess appointment powers yesterday to bypass the Senate and appoint Republican fundraiser Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium. The appointment of Fox, whose nomination the White House admits “would not have passed” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is controversial not only because he donated $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, but because it may also be illegal. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the target of the Swift Boat smear campaign that Fox helped fund, said of the appointment that it was “sad but not surprising that the White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate.” Bush has also announced that he will recess-appoint Susan Dudley as his “top regulatory czar” at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Previously, Dudley worked as the director of the Regulatory Program at the Mercatus Center, an “industry funded, anti-regulatory advocacy organization,” where she urged the destruction of major public safeguards. Additionally, Bush yesterday appointed Andrew Biggs, a supporter of Social Security privatization, to the No. 2 spot at the Social Security Administration. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said the move “could derail any chance of a Social Security overhaul.” Bush has such reserved recess appointments for some of his most controversial allies, including John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, right-wing Charles Pickering as U.S. Appellate Judge, and Ellen Sauerbrey, a staunch opponent of reproductive rights, as Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees, Population, and Migration. According to congressional expert Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution, Bush’s use of recess appointments has “outpaced that of Bush I and of President Clinton,” which is “pretty striking” because they have been made during “a period of unified party control of Congress and The White House.”
IRAQ — PENCE CLAIMS BAGHDAD BAZAAR IS LIKE ‘ANY OPEN-AIR MARKET IN INDIANA IN THE SUMMERTIME’: On Monday, Republican lawmakers visiting Iraq tried to argue that President Bush’s escalation in Iraq has made Baghdad — especially the Shorja market — safer. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) told reporters that Shorja — where a suicide bomber killed 88 people in January — is now “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.” On his blog, he wrote, “I didn’t mean that Baghdad was as safe as the Bargersville Flea Market; I just meant that that was what it looked and felt like…lots of people, lots of booths and a friendly relaxed atmosphere.” But Indianans find any similarities between Bargersville and Baghdad ludicrous. “There’ve been no shootings or car bombings” at that market since it opened a few years ago, said Robin Gibson, assistant metro editor of the Star Press in Muncie, IN. “Maybe some overeager dogs jumping at people,” she ventured. “Avon Waters, a former features editor and writer for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson, the other relatively big town in Pence’s largely rural congressional district, said he never wore a flak jacket and ‘never felt afraid’ when he spent a couple of recent years covering farmers markets in Madison County.” Iraqis also disagreed with Pence’s assessment of the Shorja market’s “friendly relaxed atmosphere.” Karim Abdullah, a textile merchant at Shorja, said that the lawmakers “were laughing and talking to people as if there was nothing going on in this country or at least they were pretending that they were tourists. … To achieve this, they sealed off the area, put themselves in flak jackets and walked in the middle of tens of armed American soldiers.” A day after the congressional delegation visited Shorja, 21 Shorja market workers were “ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital.”
In an editorial entitled “Cheney’s Chance,” the New York Sun encourages Vice President Cheney to run for president. The Sun claims that, were he in the race, “it’s hard to imagine that the president’s approval ratings would not be five or 10 points higher” because the administration would have “a defender on the campaign trail.” Note: Cheney’s approval is even lower than Bush’s.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said this week of purged U.S. attorney Carol Lam, “She’s a former law professor; no prosecutorial experience; and the former campaign manager in Southern California for Clinton.” In fact, Lam served as a prosecutor for 15 years, and according to Lam, was neither a law professor nor a Clinton campaign worker.
The Justice Department’s White House liaison Monica Goodling yesterday “refused a request from the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions in a private interview.” Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) earlier indicated that if Goodling refused to grant the private interview, she may be required to attend a public hearing and invoke the Fifth on a “question-by-question basis.”
A new Amnesty International report states that conditions at Guantanamo Bay prison have worsened. “Most detainees have suffered harsh treatment throughout their detention,” the report says, and a new facility opened in December “has created even harsher and apparently more permanent conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation.”
10,328: The number of housing complaints received in 2006 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Fair Housing Assistance Program agencies, “up 65% from the 6,270 complaints received in 1996.” Last year’s number was a record, “with disability and race as the leading reasons for filing a complaint.”
“A newly formed consulting firm hired to account for more than $7.3 billion in Iraqi reconstruction money did not deliver a database that could help investigators track waste and fraud. … The result: Two years after uncovering one major fraud case, auditors still haven’t determined whether there was more graft in the spending of Iraqi oil proceeds.”
And finally: Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has been greeted at events recently by someone dressed up as a dolphin, dubbing himself Flip, who is highlighting Romney’s “flip-flops” on various issues. Earlier this week, Flip tried to enter a campaign event “but was caught in a net of young Romney staffers. ‘You need to leave the building,’ bellowed one, as he porpoisely pushed out the heckler.” The dolphin “would only admit to being a student from Davenport, Iowa. Asked what he school he went to, Flip offered: ‘The University of the Pacific Ocean.'”