Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Moment on Earth with John and Teresa Kerry

The title of this post is a play on the title of John and Teresa Kerry's new book, This Moment on Earth--a treatise on the nature of the modern environmentalist movement.

As I mentioned in my diary on Tuesday, Senator Kerry was in the Los Angeles area yesterday at a bookstore in Brentwood as part of his book tour.

I got to meet a few friendly faces there, including SusanG, whom it was an absolute pleasure to meet in person. shayera was also there--I had only seen her once since YK, and that just happened to be an "Inconvenient Truth" screening with Al himself. I took some photos, but unfortunately no notes--I didn't bring my laptop. I might be able to get an audio recording for download, but there are some technical issues we're working through right now, so stay tuned on that :-)

The event was held in the outdoor courtyard at Dutton's Brentwood--you can follow the link to see a picture of the courtyard in question. It was a little more than slightly chilly--John remarked that we were such a welcoming crowd that we had even managed to bring Boston weather out to Los Angeles to meet him.

And despite the weather, it was indeed a warm welcome--everyone was surprised by how many people came out to see the Senator and Teresa speak. The entire courtyard area was packed, and people were sitting on both sets of stairs and standing on the upper balconies as well. It was exciting to see that type of turnout--I'm hoping it bodes well for the future of the movement.

Senator Kerry began by giving an exegesis of sorts on the problems, solutions and principles contained in the book, weaving a narrative filled with facts, humor and passion. It's worth noting that his initial presentation included so much scientific data and information about CO2 levels, melt rates, positive feedback cycles, peer-reviewed publications (986 of them, to be exact!) that I began to wonder whether I was listening to the 2004 Democratic nominee or the 2000 Democratic nominee. On that note, it's worth pointing out that Kerry teamed with Al Gore to hold the first Senate hearings on climate change back in the 80s.

My memory may be faulty--it's certainly not photographic--but I don't really remember anything groundbreaking in the Senator's speech--just a affirmation of the dire need for reform of our nation's environmental and energy policies, and a reaffirmation of the fact that we have the capability to do something about it just as long as we have the political will. Perhaps others who attended--such as SusanG or Kevin in Long Beach--can weigh in on particular points I might have overlooked.

Before taking questions, John turned the mic over to Teresa, who spoke on environmental issues relating more to women. This included what was probably one of the more humorous (and informative!) moments of the evening--a discursus on disposable diapers! Seriously, I had no idea that "disposable" diapers took 500 years to make good on their commitment to biodegradability.

After Teresa spoke, members of the audience got to ask questions--and though the preferred topic was environmental issues, the questioners also touched on Iraq, immigration, and a host of other issues and current events--lots of which ended up boiling down, in essence, to environmental and energy policy.

From murphy in the comments on my DailyKos diary: Kerry was asked who he was leaning toward in the 2008 primary, and said that he didn't know yet because none of the candidates had come out as strongly on environmental issues as he would like.

But by far my favorite part of the evening was actually talking to the Senator Kerry in the signing line! If you read my diary on Tuesday, you can see that I asked him whether he had heard of Energize America, and he sounded interested. Well, I brought some materials about Energize America with me including some background information about the Neighborhood Power Act, one of EA2020's signature legislative ideas, and gave them to the Senator--and he turned to his aide and said, "put these with my papers--and make sure I have it!" I think that was my first time ever lobbying a sitting Senator or Congressman, and I definitely hope I can repeat the experience.

This little personal experience also wouldn't be complete without mentioning my girlfriend Andi, who came with me--she has been a lifelong environmentalist and was a supporter of Kerry back in the 2004 primary because she found his environmental record so appealing. And because I told her that I thought the event would be inside so she probably wouldn't need a jacket, she spent a good deal of time shivering...but she thought it was worth it!

If there were any other Kossacks there beyond the ones I've mentioned, please speak up and state your opinions! Like I wrote in my earlier diary, I had no idea until now that Kerry was such a strong leader on environmental issues. Seeing his level of conviction makes me all the more happy that we have people like him and Senator Boxer heading up our Senate committees rather than Senator Inhofe. Elections have consequences, so let's keep winning!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Senator Kerry talks to me and other bloggers on the environment

Earlier this evening I joined with a few other Los Angeles area bloggers in a conference call with Senator Kerry. Also on the call was SteveAudio, Pamela Leavey of The Democratic Daily (and kerrygoddess on DailyKos), and last but not least, DailyKos frontpage editor SusanG.

The conversation is part of his ongoing tour to promote his and Teresa's new book, This Moment on Earth. (The Senator will be at Dutton's Brentwood Wednesday 4/4 at 6pm as part of his book tour, if you're in the L.A. area.)

Below is are some rough notes of the questions we asked, and some rough notes of the Senator's comments. The conversation focused chiefly on environmental issues, as that is the nature of the book, but we did touch slightly on Iraq and foreign policy.

Opening remarks: The book is a broad effort by Teresa and me to try to focus on a lifetime of effort on the environment, and focus people’s energy on how and why the grassroots of America is ahead of Washington, and why there’s urgency on not only global climate change, but also air quality, water quality, toxins, food, air and water—a moment where we have to decide whether we’re going to make responsible choices about the future, or capitulate to a series of tipping points—fisheries, pesticides, chemicals and so forth.

This is as critical a moment for the environment as the original earth day in 1970. The book is about how individuals in America are taking initiative to hold the government accountable.

SteveAudio: The EPA is refusing to discuss the melamine-infected wheat gluten, and the Endangered Species act.

Kerry: These guys are so Orwellian it’s not funny. They’ve taken away the “polluter pays” principle, and put it to the “everyone pays”. They’ve undone the roadless forest rule—it’s a shocking, negligent malfeasance on issues critical to our national welfare and safety. If it weren’t true, you wouldn’t even write it as fiction. They’ve been beholden to the oil industry—and they’re blocking renewable alternative fuels from getting into the marketplace. The sooner Gonzales resigns, the better

Hekebolos: Regarding the Mass. v. EPA decision—where does this go from here?

Kerry: Mass and Cali are now free to do what they want. Kerry wants to proceed forward on these issues in the Senate and the Commerce committee efforts. We’ll try to set a standard—require people to push the technology curve, and respond to the urgent demands of global climate change.

SusanG: There’s a lot of pressure from corporations for this deregulation. I’m puzzled about the human nature that would allow them to continue these deregulation patterns. Do they think that their families are exempt from the things occurring in their own bodies?

Kerry: I think that a lot of them haven’t had time to look at the facts and the issues, and also, a lot of them are forced into thinking about the short term because that’s the way Wall Street has worked. It’s not always the way it works, because there are exceptions. There’s a “quarterly report” short-term syndrome that’s infected a lot of corporate leaders, and lots of them are just not aware. It’s not as conspiratorial as people think, but it’s definitely negligent. And there are corporations that are exercising responsibility. The Climate Change Action Partnership has Dow, GE, IBM, BP, Layman Brothers—they’re exerting enormous leadership, and showing people that it’s good business and good bottom line to engage in energy efficiencies and adopt different practices. They’ve all reduced emissions voluntarily and found that they’re saving money as a consequence. Part of the purpose of the book is—chapter 7 and 6—the conclusion, there’s a lot of money to be made, wealth to be created. The environmentalists have been fringed by a myopic group that has said that they care more about a snail than a job—and that’s a false straw man presentation. But in fact, responding to these things that we’re promoting are in fact, job-creating and increases health and tens of thousands of jobs. China will confront this issue headlong of how it provides for its power demand without killing everyone through pollution, and that requires them not building one pulverized coal plant, and the only way to do that is embrace carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies. What we used to think of as a two-fer, this is a five-fer, and minimum. You do one good thing and you get 5 benefits out of it. Reduce hospital visit, create jobs, improve American security, expand your tax base. All of these things happen as a consequence of tackling these issues, and the real test here—and this is in the book—if we’re wrong after 928 peer-reviewed studies each of which documents that human activity is creating this—then even at that, the worst that can happen is you still get all those other benefits. But if they’re wrong—if Jim Inhofe and the flat-earthers are wrong—the worst that happens is absolute global catastrophe. So which side of the ledger do you want to be on?

Hekebolos: have you heard of Energize America 2020, the netroots-built energy policy platform?

Kerry: No, but I think it’s a fascinating idea. It’s a wonderful, welcome development and it just goes to show how the grassroots and the blogosphere are ahead of Washington on these issues. I'm looking forward to see it, and we’ll try to incorporate them in the finance committee and commerce committee.

SteveAudio: There’s a growing movement to encourage you and your colleagues to just say “go screw yourself” to Bush if he vetoes the funding, and not send any more supplemental bills to his desk. Does that have political merit?

Kerry: We have to find a legitimate mechanism to end the war. I joined with Russ Feingold. This confrontation is good, healthy. His simplistic exploitation of the issue is exactly what’s gotten us into this hole. He hasn’t dealt with the realities of how this will be resolved. Kissinger just said there’s no military solution. So in that case, where’s the diplomatic and political solution. And that’s what we need, and that’s what will support the troops and address American interests at the same time.

As for my own personal commentary--I previously hadn't been aware of Senator Kerry's commitment to environmental issues, but I am a lot more aware now. My girlfriend is an environmentalist, and she told me no more than a couple of days ago that when she was making her decision on whom to support in the 2004 primary, she took a look at the environmental platforms of all the candidates and Senator Kerry was by far her favorite.

I also continue to appreciate Senator Kerry's efforts to reach out to bloggers and activists on these issues, even though he's not seeking any higher office than the one he currently possesses.

I will be attending the booksigning tomorrow and will post a report and perhaps some photos from that event.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

White House oil hack admits tampering global warming reports

It seems like not a day can go by but what we get even more evidence of the Worst Administration in History™ doing yet another scandalous thing to cover up evidence, falsify data, and generally endanger humanity.

Todays outrage du jour comes courtesy of The Australian, which reports that Phillip Cooney, a current lobbyist for Exxon Mobil and former Chief of Staff of the "White House Council on Environmental Quality" (how's that for Orwellian!), rewrote scientific reports about climate change to water down the degree to which global warming was likely anthropogenic.

Now, before I even get started on this, I'd like for everyone to ask themselves exactly what all the right-wingers would have said if the Clinton Administration had been caught rewriting and falsifying scientific data to achieve a political end. I hesitate to think about such an egregious possibility--the scandal would never die down! It just shows how hopelessly evil and corrupt this administration is that something that would be considered notorious in any preceding administration will likely barely get a "yeah. so?" out of the audience assembled here.

"My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his administration," Mr Cooney told the house government reform committee. He defended aligning supposedly independent scientific reports with the White House political view on the environment by saying the changes reflected a comprehensive 2001 National Research Council report on the issue.

That report, while firmly stating the case that the earth was being endangered by greenhouse gases, was unable to answer all questions on the causes of climate change completely, leaving room for those who believe environmentalists are overstating the case - the predominant view within the Bush administration and its friends in the business sector.

Now, I don't know how many times I need to go over this--because I've gone over it before in a number of other areas as well: policy is, and ought to be, a response to facts on the ground. Facts should not be altered to suit a pre-existing ideology. Or, wait...what was that phrase that Downing Street used? "Facts were being fixed around the policy"? Yeah...I was wondering where we'd seen something like that before.

But let's talk about loyalty for a minute. It would have been one thing if this reprehensible hack of an oil lobbyist had come out and told Waxman's committee that he did what he did simply on political grounds to try to get policies enacted that were favorable to his favorite industry...but he didn't do that. Instead, he said he did what he did out of loyalty to Bush! What type of soulless lackey to you have to be--how devoid of any values or moral rectitude--to knowingly lie and re-write scientific data out of a sense of personal loyalty? If you actually do something like that professionally over the long term, how do you manage to sleep at night? That's really something I'd like to ask these guys--how exactly it is that they manage to sleep at night without the albatross of their multitudinous and egregious sins against truth and justice oppressing their consciences.

And again--I've written on this before, but I'll say it one more time. Why exactly is it that scientists have to be able to answer 100% of all questions concerning global warming in exact detail before it becomes legitimate, in the eyes of some, to take the threat seriously? We don't do that with foreign policy threats. We don't do that with economic policy. Insurance companies sure as hell don't write actuarial tables that way. Why is it that anything less than 100% certainty about this issue obviates the need for action?

Yeah, I already know the answer to that question: they're a bunch of Milton-Friedman-worshipping hacks. Moving on.

Now, even scarier than previous reports of political pressure on scientists is the shocking number of alterations and revisions that were made:

Documents released by Democrats yesterday revealed that in 2003 Bush administration officials made at least 181 changes to a plan to deal with climate change that were aimed at playing down the scientific consensus on global warming.

There were another 113 changes that made less of the human causes of climate change, and even changes made to herald potential benefits to higher temperatures.

"These changes must be made," according to a note in Mr Cooney's handwriting. "The language is mandatory."

The Environmental Protection Agency was so against Mr Cooney's alterations - saying they were "poorly representing the science" - that it chose to leave the entire section on climate control out of its 2003 State of the Environment report.

Yes, that's right--this hack, who used to work for the American Petroleum Institute and now works for Exxon-Mobil, rewrote so much of the EPA's scientific findings that the EPA was forced to omit the entire section from its report, rather than put its name on scientifically inaccurate (that is to say, false and politicized) data.

But of course, it gets worse. The White House didn't just seek to edit this one EPA report--it sought to control any communication between scientists working at NASA's climate institute about global warming. James Hansen is a top expert in climate change who works for the aforementioned institute:

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like an e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. "... there is a new review process ... ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued.

The CBS/60 minutes article cited above is worth reading in its entirety--and there's also a video player there where you can watch the 60 minutes interview with James Hansen--who said that he was also invited to go on NPR, but that NASA wouldn't allow it because it was "too liberal."

I'm not sure about the finer points of law--but somewhere, somehow, some of this has got to be a crime. And I'm really hoping that Henry Waxman's committee can lay bare even more of this unconscionable coverup of a scientific data that concerns the very future of our species' existence on this planet.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Global Warming: The IPCC was a CONSERVATIVE estimate

From a diary by my friend (and energy policy expert) Adam Siegel.

For all those who were using the IPCC report as "proof" that Al Gore was blowing a bunch of hot air, or saying that the report proves that things aren't bad yet:

The IPCC report only took into account what we could model for fairly certain, and didn't include any consequences of modeling positive reinforcement cycles. And it was also altered due to political pressure from our "ally" Saudi Arabia and our frenemy, China.

Please stop embarrassing yourselves by citing the IPCC report in your denials. Thank you.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Continuing on the global warming theme

A prominent young Republican at UCLA wrote an editorial in the Daily Bruin in light of the IPCC report trying to deny the consensus and implications contained therein. Unfortunately for him, his editorial was so full of intellectual dishonesty and a complete disregard for fact that it defies belief.

I sent in an email to the editorial board in some sort of attempt to counterbalance the obvious untruths contained therein. Turns out they published a redacted version of my response in the form of an LTE.

I'm not complaining that they didn't publish the full version--it was likely too long and included links to charts and what not. What bothers me more is that the Republican in question has any more permission to publish editorials in the paper after such a shameless sacrifice to the altar of bald-faced lying.

Are we really this desperate for intelligent, young conservative viewpoints? Just another one in the sad line of Ben Ferguson, Ben Domenech and likely so many others. Can't they do better than that?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On global warming: turning their own theories against them

Seriously, I am. I read way too many stories yesterday on the global warming "controversy." Take this post by Digby. Or the report that the Great Barrier Reef will be dead in 20 years. Or the prospect of a serious catastrophe in Algeria.

I'm done trying to explain to every subscriber of National Review exactly why it is that thickening of the center of the Antarctic ice sheet is actually evidence of global warming, rather than a refutation. I'm sick of laying out the evidence once again why this isn't just a "natural fluctuation."

So I'll tell you what I'm going to do next: make them defend themselves to me, using the 1% doctrine.

For those of you who don't know what the "1% doctrine" is, allow me to explain: it's supposedly the foreign policy doctrine conceived by Dick Cheney and can be explained as follows:

In his heralded new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," Ron Suskind writes that Vice President Dick Cheney forcefully stated that the war on terror empowered the Bush administration to act without the need for evidence or extensive analysis.

Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine as follows: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' ... Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply."

Now, when I see things in this light, it seriously makes me cringe to see or hear tell of any noble environmentalist fighting the good fight and trying to convince some Republican of the merits of the science of global warming when these same Republicans are basing the core of one of their chief doctrines around the idea that evidence and probability need not apply as factors.

I'm done being scientific and rational. I think it's time to operate on the "fear" principle instead. After all: if your average Republican can continue to justify spending $500 billion and the lives of over 3,000 American soldiers to supposedly justify averting the 1% risk of another September 11th, how much more, then, should we all be willing to spend--or perhaps even sacrifice our lives?--to avert the possibility of seeing Ground Zero under water?

I hear a bunch of conservatives whine and say that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will harm our economy and cause unemployment. You know what? I'm done trying to argue against that point. I'm done trying to argue back and forth about the potential benefits of a technological revolution for American industry. I'm done trying to argue about how much we can reduce the trade deficit. Or how having kids with healthier lungs will put less stress on the healthcare system.

The reason I'm done is because it seems that the Republican mentality is seemingly incapable of either imagining a better world, or wanting to help those of us who can, turn our dreams into reality--and the absolute last thing they're willing to do is be in the least bit conscientious about making the changes that would help create a better world for everyone.

From now on, the next time I hear a conservative lament the effect that the Kyoto protocol, or raising CAFE standards, or any other such admission of responsibility, would do to our economy, I won't try to argue back. I'll just say:

I'd like to see how well the NYSE performs underwater.

You know, normally I'm not prone to overt sensationalism. But dealing with Republicans is kind of like dealing with children. Let me tell you why.

If your kid keeps on making goofy, disturbing faces in the mall, you might start by asking him to stop. If he keeps it up, you'll eventually be moved to explain that it's embarrasssing, that he's making a scene, and all that jazz. But when he keeps it up with even more audacity and vigor than before, you're left with one option: if you keep making faces, it'll get stuck that way.

With some types of people, fear is the only thing they really understand. The only major difference in the analogy is that while we all know the kid's face won't get stuck that way, it's still entirely within the realm of possibility that the NYSE could be under water.

Republicanism is, at its economic heart, a form of collective sociopathy. It is founded in the selfish desire-turned-ideology that every man acting in his own best interest will lead to the best possible world for everyone. What economic Republicanism fears most is the idea of consequences. The idea, in fact, that collective selfishness may have deleterious effects.

For them, global warming cannot be allowed to be true because the fact of anthropogenic climate change--even more so than widespread poverty, massive inequality in wealth distribution, or any other such concern for the well-being of people--is the one thing that destroys their laissez-faire "it'll take care of itself" ideology. Arguing on moral concerns about poverty against an ideology devoted to the morals of amorality is like beating your head against a brick wall.

BUT: something as distinctly impersonal as global warming represents a systemic failure of the laissez-faire Milton Friedman-worshipping Republican economic model, moral concerns notwithstanding. This will never be overcome through logical argument or rational science.

No, the only way it will ever be overcome is through a fear greater than that of any potential restriction on their Friedmanist freedom. So from now on, any denial of global warming will likely not be met by logical argument from me. It will instead be met by the most fear-inducing things I can think of that can still be counted as legitimate potential consequences.

Believing in inaction on global warming now is tantamount to believing that if we had known about 9/11, we shouldn't have done anything about it until the hijackers were already on the plane.

Cheney's 1% doctrine wouldn't stand for that about terrorism. So why should we stand for it about global warming?

Enjoy your beachfront property in Vegas.