|February 27, 2007|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
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On Sunday, Vice President Al Gore’s global warming film An Inconvenient Truth won two Academy Awards, including Best Documentary Feature (watch a video montage of Gore at the Oscars). Just as conservative critics blasted the Grammy-winning Dixie Chicks, many are claiming that An Inconvenient Truth was honored simply because Hollywood agrees with Gore’s views. The truth is, two years ago, global warming was still considered a fringe issue to many. Today, the debate is over — Americans overwhelmingly agree that the climate crisis exists and that we must act now to reverse it. An Inconvenient Truth had a profound impact on how Americans view the issue of global warming. Al Gore deserved this award. Now, he’s set to launch “a series of worldwide concerts to focus on the threat of climate change, with a powerhouse lineup from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Snoop Dogg to Bon Jovi.” The 24-hour event on 7/07/07 is part of a campaign called Save Our Selves (SOS) — The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis. “In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to reach billions of people,” Gore said today. “The climate crisis will only be stopped by an unprecedented and sustained global movement.” (For more, check out our blog dedicated to global warming, Climate Progress.)
ATTACKING GORE: The right wing is angry that Gore has won so much public attention and goodwill for his work on global warming. Determined to smear his efforts, influential Internet gossip Matt Drudge yesterday published details of Gore’s electricity bills under the screaming headline: “Gore Mansion Uses 20x Average Household; Consumption Increase After ‘Truth.'” (Drudge’s attack comes two weeks after Fox News host Sean Hannity accused Gore of hypocrisy for taking a private jet to President Clinton’s State of the Union in 2000, and a year after “a seemingly amateurish Youtube video mocking the ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ turned out to have been produced by slick…public relations firm called DCI, which just happens to have oil giant Exxon as a client.”) Gore rebutted Drudge’s recent attack, pointing out 1) that his family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology; and 2) Gore has consistently purchased carbon offsets to make up the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand. (Calculate your own carbon footprint.) These are the lengths that climate skeptics must go to suppress action on global warming. There is no meaningful debate within the scientific community, so the right-wing busies itself with talk about Gore’s electricity bill — and even then it distorts the truth.
ACTION SPURS PROGRESS: While Gore continues to lead a shift in the public debate, the new leaders of the 110th Congress are leading a legislative shift on climate issues. Capitol Hill will see more than a dozen briefings on issues that impact global warming this week alone, and this kind of action is producing results. The Wall Street Journal reports today, “Seeking to shape legislation before Congress, three major energy trade associations [which include Edison Electric Institute and the American Gas Association] have shifted their stances and decided to back mandatory federal curbs on carbon dioxide and other man-made emissions that could accelerate climate change.” This news — yet another sign that corporate America is changing course on climate policy — “underscores [the] belief that Congress is in a mood to pass some form of mandatory emissions controls, perhaps before the next election in 2008.” Meanwhile, the states are taking action where the Bush administration has proved impotent. “Five Western U.S. states have formed the latest regional pact to bypass the Bush administration to cut emissions linked to global warming through market mechanisms,” it was announced yesterday. “The Western Regional Climate Action Initiative requires Oregon, California, Washington, New Mexico and Arizona to develop a regional target in six months for reducing greenhouse emissions” through a market-based plan, such as a load-based cap-and-trade program. Several eastern U.S. states have signed a similar agreement called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
THREADING THE ANTI-SCIENCE NEEDLE: At this point, most global warming deniers have tipped into hysteria — blaming climate change on dinosaur flatulence, a secret plot by socialists, or Satan. Others — namely, Vice President Dick Cheney — are taking a more subtle approach. The White House released an “open letter” this month stating that President Bush has “consistently” acknowledged “humans are contributing” to global warming. But as science writer Chris Mooney points out, it “depends on what the meaning of ‘contributing’ is.” Last week, Cheney unveiled a new effort the thread the needle on climate change science, saying that while “we’re in a period of warming,” there “does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that’s part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it’s caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera.” In other words, humans may have some impact on warming, but that impact may be minor. Cheney added later in the interview, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.” No kidding. Real scientists — like those who produced the gold-standard Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report — state that the climate crisis is caused primarily by human activities. [More at IPCCFacts.org.] Even the White House’s Office on Science and Technology acknowledged in a statement this month, “human activities have very likely caused most of the warming of the last 50 years.”
IRAQ — LAURA BUSH CLAIMS IRAQ IS ‘STABLE’ WITH JUST ‘ONE BOMBING A DAY’: Last night on Larry King Live, First Lady Laura Bush reiterated her support for the war in Iraq, calling it the Iraqi people’s “opportunity to seize the moment, to build a really good and stable country.” She commented further that “many parts of Iraq are stable now,” adding, “but, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everybody.” In fact, the latest Brookings Institution Iraq Index report found that as of Nov, 2006, there were approximately 185 insurgent and militia attacks every day. At least 3,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in attacks since the beginning of 2007. Seventy-three U.S. soldiers have died in February alone. While Mrs. Bush said last night that leaving Iraq would be a “serious mistake,” a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 53 percent of Americans favor setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and over half of the nation’s veteran households say they “strongly believed that the war is not worth fighting.” The same poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of the war in Iraq.
IMMIGRATION — DEMAND FOR ENGLISH CLASSES OUTSTRIPS SUPPLY: The right wing has repeatedly attacked the nation’s immigrants for their supposed refusal to learn English. In his recent book, Pat Buchanan claims that Mexicans “prefer to remain outsiders” and “do not wish to assimilate.” CNN pundit Glenn Beck argued that “they want to keep their Spanish language.” Earlier this month, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced legislation to make English the nation’s official language, and nationwide at the state and local levels, conservatives are pushing English-only measures. But in reality, the demand for English classes is outstripping the supply. More immigrants “are waiting months or even years to get into government financed English classes.” In 2005, the Department of Education determined that only one in 10 foreign-born adults who are not fluent in English are enrolled in a public English program. “A survey last year by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials found that in 12 states, 60 percent of the free English programs had waiting lists, ranging from a few months in Colorado and Nevada to as long as two years in New Mexico and Massachusetts, where the statewide list has about 16,000 names.”
U.S. officials yesterday displayed bombmaking parts said to have been transported by Iran into Iraq. The cache “included items that appeared to cloud the issue. … The boxes appeared to contain shipments of tubes directly from factories in the Middle East, none of them in Iran.”
The National Wildlife Refuge System provides safe havens for imperiled species. But since 2003, funding has remained flat, “while salaries and other operating costs have risen.” Officials expect that they will have to “trim 75 regional and headquarters office jobs and 248 more field jobs.”
Prosecutors from the International Criminal Court yesterday “named the first two suspects accused of committing war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region.” One of the suspects — Ahmed Haroun — “is currently Sudan’s state humanitarian affairs minister.”
Former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle criticized key Bush aides for having failed the president. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “was in way over her head from the beginning,” Perle said, and Colin Powell was a “disaster.”
The Office of Women’s Health “just had more than one-quarter of this year’s $4 million operating budget quietly removed, insiders say.” The move will “effectively halt further operations for the rest of the year.” Women’s health advocates believe it is “a long-anticipated payback for the trouble the office stirred during the prolonged debate over nonprescription sales of Plan B.”
Governors “pressed” President Bush yesterday “to provide more money” for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, “as many states expect to run out of funding for the program by September. “In response, administration officials said states should make better use of the money they already had.”
Starting on Friday, several “House and Senate committees will begin oversight hearings into how Walter Reed Army Medical Center subjected wounded soldiers and Marines to bureaucratic indifference and allowed them to live in squalor.”
“Basing their estimates on hotel and restaurant figures, vendor permits and crowd size,” New Orleans officials “think the economic impact of the 2007 Mardi Gras celebration was strong, if not quite up to the levels reached before Hurricane Katrina.”
And finally: Arnold’s solution to America’s red-blue divide — a smoke-filled room. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) “decried the partisan rancor” in D.C. and described the positive effects his smoking tent has had in California: “People come in there, Democrats and Republicans, and they take off their jackets and rip off their ties, and they sit down and smoke a stogie, and they talk, and they schmooze. … You can’t catch a socially transmitted disease by sitting down with people who hold ideas that are different than yours.”