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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Scott Walker Says Ultrasounds Are 'Just A Cool Thing'

Republican Scott Walker dismissed any controversy over a law he signed in Wisconsin requiring women seeking abortions to get an ultrasound, referring in an interview on a conservative radio show to ultrasounds as "just a cool thing out there."

The Wisconsin governor, who is likely running for president and leading in early state polls, spoke about a range of issues Friday on "The Dana Show," including immigration, the economy and education. About 15 minutes in, host Dana Loesch asked, "What place do you think social issues have in 2016? And why do you think so many Republican candidates are scared of them? Are they scared to embrace them; they're scared to get trapped by the media?"

"Well, I think a little bit of it is the media is a 'gotcha,' some do at least, I don't want to say universally." he said. Then he continued:

"I'll give you an example. I'm pro-life, I've passed pro-life legislation. We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talk to, whether they're pro-life or not, I find people all the time who'll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids' ultrasound and how excited they are, so that's a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, you know we still have their first ultrasound picture. It's just a cool thing out there.
"We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would, would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child."

Walker added that issues like abortion "shouldn't be the only thing" conservatives focus on. "We should make sure that people know us for fiscal and economic strengths as well," he said.



KochWalker needs to have an ultrasound wand shoved up his ass and then asked how cool it is....

Trade Is a Striking Example of the Political Power of the Affluent

The Pacific Rim trade deal making its way through Congress is the latest step in a decades-long trend toward liberalizing trade — a somewhat mysterious development given that many Americans are skeptical of freer trade.

But Americans with higher incomes are not so skeptical. They — along with businesses and interest groups that tend to be affiliated with them — are much more likely to support trade liberalization. Trade is thus one of the best examples of how public policy in the United States is often much more responsive to the preferences of the wealthy than to those of the general public.

Skepticism toward free trade among lower-income Americans is often substantial. For instance, a 2013 CBS/New York Times poll found that 58 percent of Americans making less than $30,000 per year preferred to limit imports to protect United States industries and jobs, while only 36 percent preferred the wider selection and lower prices of imported goods available under free trade. But the balance of opinion reversed for those making over $100,000. Among that higher-income group, 53 percent favored free trade versus 44 percent who wanted to limit imports.

This economic divide on trade has existed for decades. On average, polls conducted from 1981 to 2002 found that support for free trade policies or agreements was 23 percentage points higher for Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution than for those at the 10th percentile, according to research conducted by Martin Gilens, a Princeton professor. In his book “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America,” Mr. Gilens concludes that “U.S. policy on tariffs and trade during the past few decades has clearly been more consistent with the preferences of the affluent and has become more so over time as trade barriers have fallen and bipartisan support for an open trade regime has strengthened.”



Wednesday Toon Roundup











Toon: The Trade Cycle

Oregon man proposes anti-farting ordinance in response to new marijuana law

Oregon is one of the states at the forefront of legalizing recreational marijuana use, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on board with it.

In the tiny town of Pendleton, Ore., the city council recently approved a measure that would add marijuana odor to a list of punishable public nuisance violations. But one area resident evidently thought this new ordinance reeked of hypocrisy, so he offered up his own addition to the public nuisance list: farting.

In a clearly tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor published in the East Oregonian, Pendleton resident Peter Walters asked why, if the city government could take the time to pass an amendment banning marijuana odor, they couldn’t also restrict “the other offensive smell that plagues our community.”

“While farting may be legal in Oregon, many (including myself) are offended by the flatulent stench,” writes Walters in a spot-on parody of the current issue. “Too often, homeowners and businesses fail to contain farts to their property, forcing the rest of us to put up with the smell. Some habitual farters argue that they need to fart for medical reasons but that doesn’t mean my kids should have to smell their farts. The city council should stop looking the other way and pretending not to notice.”

Walters went on to add, “This issue greatly affects me as I have a roommate whose recreational farting has been negatively affecting my quality of life for several months now. He claims that he is taking steps to mitigate the odor after I contacted the authorities. But unless our elected officials add farts to Pendleton’s nuisance code, it’s as if he who smelt it, dealt it. I call on our city council to set aside all other work and address this problem.”



Pro-TPP arguments show desperation

If trade agreement supporters are going with their best sell, there’s clearly little to be said in its favor

by Dean Baker

The push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is reaching its final stages, with the House of Representatives soon voting on granting the president fast-track trade authority, which will almost certainly determine the pact’s outcome. The proponents of the TPP are clearly feeling the pressure as they make every conceivable argument for the deal, no matter how specious.

In the last few weeks, TPP advocates have repeatedly tripped up, getting their facts wrong and their logic twisted. This hit parade of failed arguments should be sufficient to convince any fence sitters that this deal is not worth doing. After all, if you have a good product, you don’t have to make up nonsense to sell it.

Leading the list of failed arguments was a condescending editorial from USA Today directed at unions that oppose the TPP because they worry it would cost manufacturing jobs. The editorial summarily dismissed this idea. It cited Commerce Department data showing that manufacturing output has nearly doubled since 1997 and argued that the job loss was due to productivity growth, not imports.

It turned out that the table used in the editorial did not actually measure manufacturing output. The correct table showed a gain of only 40 percent over 17 years. By comparison, in the prior 10 years, when our trade deficit was not expanding, manufacturing output increased by roughly 50 percent.



James Rucker, Psychiatrist, Thinks Psychedelic Drugs Should Be Legally Reclassified

When you think of psychedelic drugs, you might imagine a colorful 1960s scene, when LSD and mushrooms were wildly popular among musicians and artists. But scientists have found ways to extract certain compounds from shrooms, acid, and other psychedelics to the benefit of people suffering from depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.

A stigma around psychedelic drugs exists, yet research hints at their potential medicinal benefits. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 defines them as a Schedule 1 substance — which means they are considered dangerous and have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

This is why psychiatrist James Rucker, who’s an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, is arguing for psychedelics to be reconsidered legally. In an editorial report published in BMJ, Rucker explains that psychedelics were “extensively used and researched in clinical psychiatry” before 1967, when they were prohibited.

Many of these drugs actually proved to make a “beneficial change in many psychiatric disorders” during the 1950s and 60s, he writes, and since then the limited research on them has only reinforced that. For example, a study from 2011 found that a small dose of psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical in shrooms, helped mediate anxiety in patients. Research has also delved into the effects of psychedelics on PTSD and depression, and found that it could potentially become an alternative form of treatment for mental illnesses.



Bernie Sanders Rallies a Progressive Campaign With a Realist’s Eye

Sam Frizell @Sam_Frizell May 25, 2015

Bernie Sanders will hold the first major rally of his presidential candidacy Tuesday in a Burlington, Vt., waterfront park that he helped create as the city’s mayor. Attendees will eat free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and a homegrown Vermont band will bring on the senator. When Sanders speaks in the late afternoon sun, he’ll be framed Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. The setting will be as wholesome and uncompromised as Sanders’ progressive platform.

But nothing is as unblemished as it seems in politics, and Sanders long ago proved himself a far cannier politician than his idealistic trappings might suggest. Tuesday’s speech, for instance, probably would never have happened had the cantankerous Vermont senator not opposed a tax increase during his 1981 mayoral race. The five-term incumbent Burlington mayor, Gordon Paquette, supported raising residential taxes in the city; Sanders, the self-professed socialist, argued it was unnecessary and would hurt middle class residents. It was also a savvy political move: he won the mayoral race by 10 votes, and went on to serve in the House and Senate.

There, he negotiated a major deal with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain on veterans care last year. An avowed opponent of larger defense spending, he nonetheless endorsed the decision to bring F-35 aircraft bases to Vermont, and has a somewhat hawkish record on guns rights, voting against the Brady Act in 1993, which required background checks for gun purchasers, and supporting a bill to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. Military bases and gun freedoms may satisfy his base in Vermont, but are negative notches for many progressives who demand ideological purity.

In an interview with TIME in his office earlier this month, Sanders explained his willingness to compromise. “The way things evolve is you find yourself where you are and how you apply your values and what you believe in in the strongest way possible within the context you are functioning,” said Sanders. “But there is a political reality—there is a legal reality of what you can do.”



It's time we have a holiday to honor those who try to stop wars too

Memorial Day and Veteran's Day often get equated, but there is an essential distinction between the two. Veteran's Day honors all who have served the American military in wars. Memorial Day honors those who've perished. It's an annual reminder that wars have grave human costs, which must be both recognized and minimized.

Those costs are not inevitable. We ought to also set aside time to remember those throughout American history who have tried hardest to reduce them, to prevent unnecessary loss of life both American and foreign: war resisters.

War resistors can be heroes

American history is littered with examples of pointless wars fought for bad reasons, and with people who risked their careers and their freedom to oppose them. The Mexican-American War, for one, was a blatant land grab. While James K. Polk claimed that Mexico had struck first — saying in his war message to Congress that "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon America's soil" — the truth was that he had sent American troops into disputed territory between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers, whereupon Mexican troops, concerned by American encroachment, attacked.

Abraham Lincoln, then in his only term as a Congressman from Illinois, questioned Polk's rationale and introduced what came to be known as the "spot resolutions" demanding that the President point out the exact spot on which American blood had been spilled, to prove that it was really American land. Lincoln received vociferous attacks from Democratic newspapers and meetings back in his district; participants at one rally condemned him as "this Benedict Arnold of our district." But he was on the right side of history: the war was unjustified and caused needless suffering.



CIA Ends Information Sharing with Climate Scientists

Shutting down a program that began nearly a quarter-century ago, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has decided to stop sharing classified information it collects on the ocean and atmosphere with scientists studying climate change.

The CIA has ended its Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis (MEDEA) program, according to news reported by Mother Jones. Under MEDEA, about 60 civilian scientists had security clearances that allowed them to receive classified data, “such as ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by Navy submarines and topography data collected by spy satellites,” wrote journalist Tim McDonnell.

The program provided climate experts with information about global warming and other climate-related threats that they couldn’t access from other sources. The CIA uses that data in its analyses on how weather changes will impact global conflicts. It’s believed that the spy agency had heretofore partnered with the MEDEA scientists to perform their analyses, which then made its way into the agency’s annual Worldwide Threat Assessment (pdf) report, according to McDonnell.

President Obama has called climate change “an immediate risk to our national security” and urged U.S national security agencies to give the matter high priority. He also signed an executive order requiring that climate change data be developed and shared among federal agencies, and made available to the public.

The CIA didn’t state why it shuttered MEDEA, saying in a statement: “Under the Medea program to examine the implications of climate change, CIA participated in various projects. These projects have been completed and CIA will employ these research results and engage external experts as it continues to evaluate the national security implications of climate change.”


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