One step forward. Two quick baby steps back.

The Hill:

Conservatives including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist are trying to ensure that a carbon tax doesn’t gain any political momentum.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), said a carbon tax or a consumption tax would violate the ATR pledge against tax increases that a majority of Republicans have signed.

“There is no conceivable way to add an energy or [value-added tax] to the burdens American taxpayers face that would not violate the pledge over time,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

Norquist appeared to be backing off comments he made to National Journal in a story published Nov. 12. He told the publication that he opposes a carbon tax, but said that coupled with income tax cuts it could be structured in a way that didn’t violate the pledge.

But Norquist, who has a seen a drop in the number of lawmakers who have signed the ATR pledge, on Tuesday said that a carbon tax with offsetting reductions would, over time, inevitably lead to overall tax increases.

“The creation of any new tax such as a VAT or energy tax — even if originally passed with offsetting tax reductions elsewhere — would inevitably lead to higher taxes as two taxes would be at the disposal of politicians to increase taxes,” he said.

Beyond ATR, other conservative groups including the industry-backed Institute for Energy Research — which circulated a study Tuesday bashing carbon taxes — are also trying to ensure the idea of a carbon tax coupled with other rate reductions doesn’t gain steam.

Taxing fossil fuels like oil and coal to help address climate change faces long political odds, but the idea is gaining fresh attention, particularly as a way to raise new revenue and close the deficit.

The concept will be the subject of a daylong conference Tuesday co-sponsored by the International Monetary Fund and several think tanks: the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and Resources For the Future.

 

Pre-election, Pre-Sandy polling shows the tide continuing to shift strongly in favor of renewable energy, and climate action.

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:

In Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies in September 2012, we report that a growing majority of Americans say the President and Congress should make global warming a priority and that corporations, industry, and citizens themselves should do more to address the issue.  More than 9 out of 10 Americans also say developing clean energy should be a national priority. In addition, a majority of Americans – across party lines – say the U.S. should increase our use of renewable 
energy immediately.

As the nation focuses on the looming fiscal cliff, the survey also finds surprising public support for a revenue neutral carbon tax. A majority of Americans say they would vote for a candidate who supports a revenue neutral carbon tax 
if it created more jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, decreased 
pollution, or helped to pay down the national debt.

  • Nearly all Americans (92%) say the president and the Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a “very high” (31%), “high” (38%), or “medium” priority (23%). Very few say it should be a low priority (8%).
  • A large majority (77%) say global warming should be a “very high” (18%), “high” (25%), or “medium” priority (34%) for the president and Congress. One in four (23%) say it should be a low priority.
  • Six in ten Americans (61%) say the U.S. should reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.
  • A large majority of Americans (88%) say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs. A plurality (44%) favors a medium-scale effort, even if it has moderate economic costs. One in four (24%) supports a large-scale effort even if there are large economic costs. And one in five (19%) supports a small-scale effort, even if it has small economic costs.
  • Americans say that corporations and industry (71%), citizens themselves (66%), the U.S. Congress (60%), and the President (53%) should be doing more to address global warming.
  • Majorities also support funding more research into renewable energy sources (73%), providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (73%), regulating CO2 as a pollutant (66%), eliminating all subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry (59%), and expanding drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast (58%)
  • These policies, however, have seen declining support over the past several years. Since 2008, support for funding research on renewable energy sources is down 19 percentage points, expanding offshore drilling is down 17 points, regulating CO2 as a pollutant is down 14 points, and tax rebates for the purchase of energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels is down 12 points.
  • Eight in ten (78%) say that in the future, the United States should use renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal much more or somewhat more than we do today.
  • Over half (54%) also say that in the future, the U.S. should use much less (26%) or somewhat less (28%) fossil fuels than we do today.
  • At least half of Americans say they would vote for a candidate who supports a revenue neutral carbon tax, if it created more American jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries (61% would support such a candidate), decreased pollution by encouraging companies to find less polluting alternatives (58%), or was used to pay down the national debt (52%).

This might seem off-topic, but it’s really not, because it gets to the roots of the cultural division we have in the US, a division that wasn’t created by the Republican party, but which, since the 1960s, has been consciously targeted, amplified, and exploited for electoral gain. (strong caution: frequent use of the N word)

Lee Atwater, the Godfather of Below the Belt Dogwhistle politics, gives above an unguarded description of how he aims at exploiting racial tension and fear to further his goals.  This is the tap root of talk radio, Fox News, and the divisions of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion and race that we saw so fully developed in the past decade, and which have finally driven a once-great party into its current, extreme, salivating, anti-science, unelectable frenzy.  The specificity with which Atwater lays it out is stunning.

A few leading republicans are starting to recognize this and call it what it is.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl has now stepped forward to call out what his party has become.  The Stupid Party.

Politico:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich.

In his first interview since his party’s electoral thumping last week, Jindal urged Republicans to both reject anti-intellectualism and embrace a populist-tinged reform approach that he said would mitigate what exit polls show was one of President Barack Obama’s most effective lines of attack against Mitt Romney.

He was just as blunt on how the GOP should speak to voters, criticizing his party for offending and speaking down to much of the electorate.

“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal said. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Another popcorn moment. Better lay in a good supply.

National Journal:

In case you missed the election results, green groups are hammering home the message.

Environmental advocacy groups are launching a cable TV and online-ad blitz aimed at influencing Washington’s policymakers, one of the groups announced today.

The cable buy, sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters, will run from today through Nov. 18 in the Washington TV market. The ad’s video will also run online at the Huffington Post,Washington Post, and Politico, the League’s Jeff Gohringer said today in a statement.

Separate online ads on those sites will begin running on Tuesday, according to the statement.

The buy cost in the six figures and is aimed at telling leaders that they “must move forward with a clean energy/clean air agenda that: protects health; creates jobs; secures our energy future through clean energy investments; and addresses climate change,” according to the statement.

The 30-second video ad dings the “other side” for opposing environmental measures.

“The other side may have spent hundreds of millions fighting it on the airwaves, but look who won–at the polls,” the narrator says.

Trailer: World War Z

November 13, 2012

Looks like the ultimate Zombie movie. With Brad Pitt.

I’m sure that the world must look like a zombie movie to  disappointed culture warriors who put their hopes on Romney to stem the tide of Godless heathen takers and tokers.

Washington Post:

She had devoted her life to causes she believed were at the heart of her faith and at the core of her Republican Party. She counseled young married families at church, spoke about right to life in area schools and became a stay-at-home mom with two daughters.

Now, in a single election night, parts of her country had legalized marijuana, approved gay marriage and resoundingly reelected a president who she worried would “accelerate our decline.”

Everything in her version of America had confirmed her predictions: the confident anchors on Fox News; the Republican pollsters so sure of their data; the two-hour line outside her voting precinct, where Romney supporters hugged and honked for her handmade signs during a celebration that lasted until the results started coming in after sundown. Romney’s thorough defeat had come more as a shock than as a disappointment, and now Cox stared at the actual results on her computer and tried to imagine what the majority of her country believed.

In other post election years, the reflexive journalistic response is always to to draw mirror-image equivalence between two sides of the political chasm. That was the clueless response to complaints of democratic voters in say, 2000, or 2004. This year, an emerging theme is the degree to which republican voters were not only shocked by losing, they were brought up short by an abrupt collision with a larger reality that existed completely at odds with their Fox News mediated bubble world.

Whether its enough of a shock to awaken the real-life zombies, is yet to be sorted out.

Well not quite. Baby steps.

James Carville noted on Bill Maher last week, there’s nothing that clarifies the mind quite as well as a two by four upside the head.  “..And”, he added, “..that sound you hear’d on tuesday night? That was the sound of pine on skull..”

Are we seeing a crack in the door?

National Journal:

In a step that may help crack open the partisan impasse on climate change, Grover Norquist, the influential lobbyist who has bound hundreds of Republicans to a pledge never to raise taxes, told National Journal that a proposed “carbon tax swap”—taxing carbon pollution in exchange for cutting the income tax—would not violate his pledge.

Norquist’s assessment matters a lot, and could help pave the way for at least a handful of Republicans to support the policy. Over the past six months, a growing number of conservative voices, including former Republican officials and renowned economists, have amped up pressure on their party to finally address climate change.

One group, the Energy and Enterprise Initiative headed by former Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., has been working for months to persuade the GOP to take up a carbon-tax swap as part of a broad tax-reform package next year. The idea is to create a market signal to drive consumers away from fossil fuels by taxing the carbon pollution caused by burning coal, oil, and natural gas.

The problem is that creating a new “energy tax” would be viewed by some as political suicide. And Republicans who have signed Norquist’s pledge would be barred from supporting it.

That’s where the “swap” side of the policy comes in: The new carbon tax would be paired with a cut in the income tax—something Republicans have long sought. The idea essentially would be to cut the tax on income and move it over to carbon pollution—keeping the proposal revenue-neutral.

“It’s possible you could structure something that wasn’t an increase and didn’t violate the pledge,” Norquist told National Journal.

See my interview with Rep. Inglis below:

Read the rest of this entry »

When Al Jazeera and The American Conservative are in agreement that you have a problem, you probably have a problem.

The American Conservative:

But the problem wasn’t just that conservative media gave Romney supporters bad information. The people in conservative media also seem to have been fully taken in by the idea that Romney would win and would do so in decisive fashion, and the campaign came to believe its own propaganda, too. As York notes, Romney didn’t have a prepared concession speech. It apparently never occurred to his campaign that he would lose. That’s not so remarkable by itself, but it is just one part of the overall pattern of the Romney campaign and the conservative movement’s reaction to Obama. Romney spent years running against a fantasy record and campaigning on a series of gross distortions and falsehoods, and so it shouldn’t be too surprising that his campaign and his conservative media boosters didn’t have the firmest grip on political reality.

Al Jazeera:

After the election, a number of different people tweeted about a rather obvious connection – how the same people who didn’t believe the polls don’t believe global warming, either. There’s a further correlation here: On the polling side, the supposedly most liberally-biased pollsters actually came closest to hitting the mark, both in the Fordham analysis of national polls and a more sophisticated analysis of state polls by Emory political scientist Drew Linzer at his Votamatic website.

On the global warming side, a new study comparing climate models finds that those predicting the largest climate impacts by 2100 are the most accurate in modelling climate change that’s already occurred – specifically, humidity levels related to cloud formation. In short, the reality being denied in both cases is even worse than it first appears, so attempts to “compromise” or give conservatives “the benefit of the doubt” actually lead us further astray (since I first wrote this, David Roberts of Grist has written an excellent comparison of the twin delusions).

But there is more than just a correlation here. There is a common causal factor involved: Conservatives, trusting their guts, have created their own separate reality, with their own authorities, and their reasoning dominated by ideology, where certain sorts of facts simply cannot intrude. Election day was one of those rare moments in which the bubble they live inside collapsed.

Dave Roberts in Grist:

In the face of model projections like Silver’s, Jonah Goldberg said that “the soul … is not so easily number-crunched.” David Brooks warnedthat “experts with fancy computer models are terrible at predicting human behavior.” Joe Scarborough said “anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue.” Peggy Noonan said that “the vibrations are right” for a Romney win. All sorts of conservative pundits were convinced the Romney campaign just felt like a winner.

Empiricism won. It didn’t win because it’s a truer faith or a superior ideology. It won because it works. It is the best way humans have figured out to set aside their perceptual limitations and cognitive shortcomings, to get a clear view of what’s happening and what’s to come.

As it happens, there’s another issue in American politics where empiricists are forecasting the future and being ignored. Here’s what the Nate Silvers of climate science are up to:

Looking back at 10 years of atmospheric humidity data from NASA satellites, [John Fasullo and Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research] examined two dozen of the world’s most sophisticated climate simulations. They found the simulations that most closely matched actual humidity measurements were also the ones that predicted the most extreme global warming.

In other words, by using real data, the scientists picked simulation winners and losers.

“The models at the higher end of temperature predictions uniformly did a better job,” Fasullo said. The simulations that fared worse — the ones predicting smaller temperature rises — “should be outright discounted,” he added.

The Washington Post spells out what that means:

That means the world could be in for a devastating increase of about eight degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, resulting in drastically higher seas, disappearing coastlines and more severe droughts, floods and other destructive weather.

Hat tip to commenter Rayduray for this link.

Description:

The Yes Men visit the devastated Rockaways after Superstorm Sandy, and amidst the rubble they find hope in one relief effort being organized by the Occupy movement, Greenpeace, and others. The video includes an interview with Diego from Occupy Sandy at the Yana relief center, and Jesse Coleman from Greenpeace, who rolled in with their “Coal Free Future” solar truck to help out a few days after the storm.

This year the very timely theme is “Dirty Energy Causes Dirty Weather”.

“24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report”, a live online broadcast with former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, begins on November 14 at 8 p.m. EST.

Meatless Monday

November 11, 2012

I’m not a vegetarian, but I think the rise of the “flexitarian” citizen is a positive one for our health as individuals, as a nation, and as a planet.

US News:

 Los Angeles is hoping to persuade people to become vegetarian – at least one day per week. Under a resolution unanimously approved by the city council this week, all future Mondays in the City of Angels have been declared “Meatless Mondays.”

It’s part of an international campaign to cut down on meat consumption for health and environmental reasons.

Both the spiritual home of the hamburger and a haven for the health-obsessed, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to support the Meatless Monday campaign. The nonprofit initiative, started in 2003, is associated with Johns Hopkins University’s public health school.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who introduced the motion with Councilman Ed Reyes, noted the environmental impacts of meat production, and she emphasized that a high-meat diet has been linked to health problems such as colon, prostate, kidney and breast cancers, as well as heart disease.

Her motion posted 12-0 in a council session Friday.

Reyes said it is easy for individuals to feel helpless in the face of issues as big as global warming or the obesity epidemic, “but the small changes we make every day can have a tremendous impact. That’s why this ‘Meatless Monday’ resolution is important. Together we can better our health, the animals and the environment, one plate at a time.”

The council resolution referred to the link between livestock and environmental problem, and noted that reduced consumption of animal-based foods can “lower our carbon footprint.”

The decision was made “in support of comprehensive sustainability efforts as well as to further encourage residents to eat a more varied plant-based diet to protect their health, protect animals and protect the environment.”

The resolution also pointed to statistics showing more than half of Los Angeles County residents are obese or overweight, and stated reduced meat consumption can lower health risks.