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Environment: Hypersensitive And Still In Denial

While the world celebrated Earth Day, President Bush failed to even mention the words "global warming" in his annual address.

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GOOD NEWS

“Students in Baghdad, where universities have been hard-hit by violence, said they were saddened by last week’s massacre at Virginia Tech and hung up a banner to express their solidarity.”


STATE WATCH

IOWA: Gov. Chet Culver (D) is expected to sign legislation that would develop strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

MISSOURI: State House overwhelmingly passes legislation “that would subject abortion clinics to more-stringent regulations.”

CIVIL RIGHTS: “Four states are new targets for bans on affirmative-action preferences.”


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Paul Wolfowitz rewarded Iraq War allies with key positions at World Bank.

AFL-CIO WEBLOG: “The ugly face of union-busting.”

BAG NEWS NOTES: Why the lack of pictures in the media of the Iraqi separation wall?

CREW BLOG: “Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) won’t resign, setting up legal defense fund and will run for re-election.”


DAILY GRILL

“I think it’s unfortunate that people who have an impassioned view about a topic don’t take the time to afford the President the same respect that they are asking for. The President’s record on climate change is very strong.”
— White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, 4/24/07

VERSUS

“There is a debate over whether it’s [global warming] manmade or naturally caused.”
— President Bush, 6/26/06, ignoring scientific consensus that global warming is manmade


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 April 24, 2007
Hypersensitive And Still In Denial
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Hypersensitive And Still In Denial

On Sunday, while citizens and environmentalists around the world celebrated Earth Day “with events aimed at protecting nature and raising awareness about global warming,” President Bush failed to even mention the words “global warming” in his annual Earth Day address. Bush also failed to mention the issue in a State of the Union address until this year. This weekend, senior political adviser Karl Rove demonstrated once again the great lengths to which the White House will go to avoid talking about global warming. When singer Sheryl Crow and An Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David asked Rove to rethink Bush’s position on global warming, Rove “exploded” at the duo. “We asked Mr. Rove if he would consider taking a fresh look at the science of global warming. Much to our dismay, he immediately got combative. … Anger flaring, Mr. Rove immediately regurgitated the official Administration position on global warming,” they said. The White House defended Rove’s temper flare-up, arguing that Crow and David did not “afford the president the same respect that they are asking for.” The White House’s over-sensitivity on the matter may come from the fact that it is out of step with three-quarters of the American public and is growing more and more isolated on dealing one of the world’s biggest threats

‘A MODEL FOR THE WORLD’: While the Bush has taken only tiny steps to address global climate change, the White House maintains that its approach is a “model for the world.” “The Bush administration is now and always has been committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and confronting climate change. President Bush’s concern about climate change is not new and has been a top priority for the president ever since his first year in office,” said two of Bush’s top science advisers. But on at least three occasions last year, Bush claimed there was still a “debate” among scientists on whether global warming is man-made or natural. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued “history’s most definitive statement of scientific consensus on climate change.” Shirking his electoral promise to curb carbon dioxide emissions, greenhouse gas emissions have steadily increased during Bush’s tenure, giving the United States the dubious title of being the “world’s largest source of greenhouse gases.”

NATIONAL SECURITY AT STAKE: A team of retired military generals, including the former Army chief of staff and Bush’s former chief Middle East negotiator, released a study last week on how “global climate change presents a serious national security threat that could affect Americans at home, impact U.S. military operations and heighten global tensions.” “The report warned that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) discussed these issues in a major climate policy speech yesterday. Echoing the generals’ study, McCain said, “The world is already feeling the powerful effects of global warming, and far more dire consequences are predicted if we let the growing deluge of greenhouse gas emissions continue.” Despite issuing such reality-based rhetoric, there is reason to question McCain’s sincerity. On the same day of the speech, McCain announced that former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger “will advise [McCain’s] campaign on energy and national security issues.” Schlesinger is a prominent global warming denier who has asserted that “we simply do not know what extent” greenhouse gases contribute to global warming.

THE NEED FOR CARBON LIMITS: Some prominent conservatives have parted with their ranks and publicly acknowledged the human cause of global warming. For example, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) “said he accepts there is a general consensus among scientists that Earth has gotten warmer over the last century and that humans have contributed to that problem, conceding that his views might not find favor with some of his fellow conservatives.” In a debate with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Gingrich distanced himself from skeptics like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), asserting that “the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon-loading of the atmosphere.” While his recognition of global warming is a welcome step, Gingrich’s strict market-based solutions are not tenable. “[Gingrich] believes the best way to solve the problem is to unleash the spirit of American entrepreneurship, not the power of government. ‘Regulation and litigation are the least effective methods of getting to solutions,'” he argued. In response, Kerry asserted, “You can’t just sit there and say, oh, let the market respond. That’s like saying, Barry Bonds, go investigate steroids. Or like saying, Enron, you take over the pensions for America. Not going to happen.” Kerry instead advocated a ceiling on carbon emissions, which is being successfully implemented in California and is predicted to be a boon to the state’s economy. Such caps, like the limit on sulfur emissions in the 1990 Clean Air Act, have been effective environmental and public health strategies. Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators pledged to introduce “legislation that would cap carbon emissions from power plants.”

CONGRESS TAKES THE REIGNS: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson will testify today in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. His testimony comes in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that the federal government “does indeed have authority to regulate greenhouse gases linked to global warming” despite the White House’s claim to the contrary. “In his prepared remarks, Johnson asserts that even before the Supreme Court decision, ‘the Administration had been implementing aggressive steps to tackle climate change.'” Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) responded, “When I called him to task on the environmental rollbacks, he gave a speech on how wonderful everything is. He doesn’t get it, or he doesn’t want to get it.” Johnson “will be flanked by two of his predecessors — a Republican and Democrat — who believe the Bush administration is downright truculent in its opposition to a greenhouse gas regulatory scheme.” Boxer said she will press Johnson on climate change today. “When EPA Administrator Steve Johnson comes before my committee today, I will challenge him to use the power EPA has had all along to address global warming, and has refused to use.”

Under the Radar

ETHICS — FBI QUESTIONING REP. FEENEY: The FBI is now looking into Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) and “his dealings with Jack Abramoff as part of its ongoing investigation into the lobbyist convicted of defrauding clients.” While FBI agents refuse to say whether Feeney is under federal investigation, they “have asked the St. Petersburg Times for an email sent to the newspaper by Feeney’s office describing a golfing trip the congressman took with Abramoff to Scotland in 2003.” Feeney is one of three House members who “accompanied Abramoff to Scotland on trips that included rounds of golf at the legendary Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.” The other two: former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who is serving prison time for corruption, and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-FL), currently under criminal indictment. Feeney said in a statement that he “considers this an embarrassing episode in his 17-year career as an elected official and an expensive lesson for him as a public servant.” But Feeney is also listed as “Representative #3” in Justice Department documents filed in federal court yesterday on Mark Zachares, “a former Bush administration official and House GOP aide who is expected to plead guilty tomorrow on a federal corruption charge” related to Abramoff.

ETHICS — MIERS PROPOSED FIRING U.S. ATTORNEY INVESTIGATING REP. LEWIS: Last October, former U.S. Attorney Debra Yang abruptly resigned her post in the middle of her investigation of Rep Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and his “lucrative ties” to a lobbying firm. While Yang contends that she resigned “for personal reasons based on financial concerns and the fact that she is a single mother,” America Lawyer found that she was “lured away by a $1.5 million-plus offer to become a partner at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP,” which employs several former Bush administration officials and is defending Lewis in the Justice Department probe. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) “has repeatedly questioned the circumstances surrounding Yang’s departure” from the Justice Department. “Feinstein said to reporters on March 20, ‘Was she asked to resign, and if so, why? We have to ferret that out.'” During Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s testimony last week, Feinstein stated that former White House Counsel Harriet Miers “discussed whether to remove Deborah Yang from Los Angeles.” Feinstein’s accusation is said to be based “on interviews” and follows her previous concerns that several other U.S. attorneys were also forced out because of their involvement with criminal investigations of Republican members of Congress. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said of last week’s testimony, “[T]he arrow points more and more to the White House…in regards to who put together the list.”

EDUCATION — GRADUATION PROMISE ACT WILL HELP IMPROVE HIGH SCHOOLS AND REDUCE DROPOUT RATES: Yesterday, the Graduation Promise Act, which is designed to improve high schools and reduce dropout rates, was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the Chairman of the Health, Education, Pensions, and Labor Committee. The legislation, which authorizes $2.5 billion in new funding, will help align federal, state, and local efforts at “transforming the nation’s lowest performing high schools” in order to “ensure high school educators and students facing the highest challenges receive the support they need to succeed.” “Despite several decades of intensive efforts to improve educational outcomes, the U.S. graduation rate has not reached above 70 percent in decades, and some states appear to be losing ground.” “Forty years ago, the United States led the world in high school graduation rates; it now ranks seventeenth,” said Marlene B. Seltzer, President and CEO of Jobs for the Future. “We are moving in the wrong direction. The Graduation Promise Act answers the need to move forward and ensure that all students stay in school and graduate ready for college and work.” “The U.S. Department of Labor projects that almost 90 percent of the fastest growing U.S. jobs require at least some postsecondary education,” which means high school dropouts face increasingly significant challenges in the job market. The situation is especially dire for minority and low-income students. Students living in low-income families drop out at six times the rate of their high-income peers, while only about 55 percent of African-American students and 52 percent of Hispanic students graduate on time from high school with a regular diploma. “America is facing a dropout crisis,” said John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress. “This crisis…is the big flashing sign saying ‘Act Now’ that Congress should heed.”


Think Fast

An “obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel” is launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operation that “for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.” The administration-led inquiry will be a unified investigation covering many facets of Rove’s operations. “We will take the evidence where it leads us,” said Scott J. Bloch, a Bush appointee who heads the Office of Special Counsel. “We will not leave any stone unturned.”

U.S. Central Command has retired the phrase “the long war” to describe the struggle against global extremists, after cultural advisers became concerned that the concept “alienated Middle East audiences by suggesting that the United States would keep a large number of forces in the region indefinitely.”

“World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz met yesterday with senior managers to promise unspecified changes in his leadership and to appeal for their help.” “He is not going to resign,” his lawyer said. “His mood is just fine. … He feels people are trying to interfere with his job to get at world poverty.”

Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) “will soon introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage — what he calls ‘a simple moral imperative,'” becoming “the first governor in the nation to introduce a gay marriage bill.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will conduct a hearing today into misleading information from the battlefield. The hearing will focus on the death of Army Ranger Specialist Patrick Tillman in Afghanistan and the capture and rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq, and question why inaccurate accounts of these two incidents were disseminated. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, Rep. David Hobson (R-OH), who recently went on a congressional trip to Syria, confirmed that he never received any of the attacks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did. He noted that “none of his Republican colleagues broached the subject.” “Nobody ever called me to say, ‘Why are you going to Syria with those people?'”

“Despite President Bush’s vow that all Americans would have access to high-speed Internet service by 2007,” a new study suggests the United States is continuing to fall behind other developed countries in broadband subscriptions.”

The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.”

And finally: Voters in Florida may now be going to the polls…to not vote. State Sen. Mike Bennett (R) has introduced a bill to “require ballots to have the additional option of ‘I choose not to vote.'” Bennett notes that some races are so nasty that voters don’t want to choose any candidate, and his bill would “enable uninformed or disgusted voters to opt out.”