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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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How Elizabeth Warren Is Yanking Hillary Clinton to the Left

She may not run, but she’s already exerting a gravitational pull

Elizabeth Warren, the famously anti–Wall Street Senator from Massachusetts, has become the lunar goddess of liberal politics. Just as the moon pulls the tides, Warren is slowly but steadily towing the economic conversation in the Democratic Party to the left. Witness the barn-burning speech she gave on the Senate floor in December, railing against the fact that lobbyists from Citigroup and other big banks had been allowed to squeeze a rider into the latest congressional budget bill that would make it easier for federally insured banks to keep trading derivatives, which Warren Buffett once described as the “financial weapons of mass destruction” that sparked the 2008 crisis. Then there was her opposition to President Obama’s most recent Treasury nominee, Antonio Weiss, a banker who Warren told me “has no background to justify his nomination other than working for a big Wall Street firm.” (Weiss dropped out shortly after Warren began denouncing him.) Couple that with her continued calls to break up the big banks and criticism of policies espoused by longtime Democratic economic advisers like Bob Rubin and Larry Summers, and you’ve the makings of a consequential gravitational pull.

Warren is more than just a dogged critic. The former Harvard law professor’s influence comes in large part because she’s tapped into an existential crisis on the left: namely, liberals’ belated anxiety over the capture of the Democratic Party by high finance, which began two decades ago. Ronald Reagan might be the President most closely associated with laissez-faire economics, but both Republicans and Democrats have frequently turned to finance to generate quick-hit growth in tough times, deregulating markets or loosening monetary policy rather than focusing on underlying fixes for the real economy. Shrugging and citing a market-knows-best philosophy to avoid difficult political decisions has been a bipartisan exercise for quite a long time now.

And the anxiety is deepened because democrats, like Republicans, bear blame for the financial crisis of 2008. Jimmy Carter deregulated interest rates in 1980, a move that pacified consumers and financiers grappling with stagflation but also helped set the stage for the home-mortgage implosion. In 1999, as President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Rubin signed off on the Glass-Steagall banking-regulation death certificate, a move that many, Warren included, believe was a key factor in worsening the crisis. Loose accounting standards supported by many Democrats during the Clinton years also encouraged the growth of stock options as the main form of corporate compensation, a trend that French academic Thomas Piketty, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and many other economists believe exacerbated the staggering gap between rich and poor in the U.S. today. I asked Warren whether she blamed such policies for our current wage stagnation, which has persisted despite robust economic growth. “I’d lay it right at the feet of trickle-down economics, yes,” she says. “We’ve tried that experiment for 35 years, and it hasn’t worked.”

Speculation has been rife that Warren might consider a presidential run of her own, taking on front runner Hillary Clinton just to make sure the same trickle-down team doesn’t end up in office again. When I ask her flatly if she’d run if she thought a Rubin or Summers would be making economic policy for the next four years, she paused. “I tell you … I’m going to do everything I can. I’m going to fight as hard as I have to. This has to change.”



The Most Anti-Science Congress in Recent History Is Now in Session

Over the last four years, Congress developed a reputation for institutionalizing an “anti-science” attitude. During the 112th and 113th Congresses, the label was typically applied to its Republicans, who controlled the House of Representatives, and typically because of their propensity to dismiss climate change science. Typically, but not only—misinformed musings about women’s reproductive processes, support for creationist education, attempts to remove the peer review process at the National Science Foundation, and efforts to roll back funding for research programs also ignited the ire of the science-loving public.

It’s climate change that figures most prominently, though. An incredible consensus of scientists—97 percent of climatologists working in the field, according to one peer-reviewed survey—agree that greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans are warming the globe. A significant majority of congressional Republicans have consistently disagreed, and, succumbing to genuine scientific ignorance or mere political expedience, have vocally denied the science outright. Some ventured to call climate change a hoax, others falsely and repeatedly claimed the science simply wasn’t settled.

In 2010, political historian and journalist Ronald Brownstein noted that “it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here.” Eileen Claussen, then the president of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, told Brownstein that there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of." (Now, some contenders may have emerged.) The House grew so hostile to climate science and environmental regulations that Democrats drew up a report, backed with a mountain of vote-count evidence, to try to demonstrate that Republicans were leading “The Most Anti-Environment House in the History of Congress.”

But until 2015, Republicans only controlled the House. The Democratic Party’s slim majority in the Senate served as a check on its climate change-dismissing twin. While the science-challenged House succeeded in blocking any significant legislative efforts to reduce US carbon emissions, that was essentially all it did: lock President Obama’s environmental agenda in a stalemate.


World’s largest camera will capture billions of stars

by Emiko Jozuka

Funding has been secured to construct what will be the world's most powerful digital camera. Weighing in at more than three tons—around the same size as a small car—and packing a 32,000-megapixel punch, the camera will capture high-res images and video of our cosmos.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope camera, or LSST for short, will be constructed at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, with operations set to begin in 2022. The goal is to take digital images of the entire visible southern sky from atop Cerro Pachon mountain in Chile.

The camera is expected to snap up the "widest, deepest and fastest views of the night sky ever observed" over a ten-year time span. This will be the first time a telescope will catalogue more objects in the universe than there are humans on Earth. In other words, this device will spy out tens of billions of objects and produce films of the sky in crystal clear imagery.

"The telescope is a key part of the long-term strategy to study dark energy and other scientific topics in the United States and elsewhere," said David MacFarlane, SLAC's director of particle physics and astrophysics.



Bitcoin revealed: a Ponzi scheme for redistributing wealth from one libertarian to another

If Bitcoin were a currency, it'd be the worst-performing one in the world, worse even than the Russian ruble.

But Bitcoin isn't a currency. It's a Ponzi scheme for redistributing wealth from one libertarian to another. At least that's all it is right now. One day it could be more. Venture capitalists, for their part, are quick to point out that it's really a protocol, like the early internet, and its underlying technology could still be revolutionary. What are they supposed to say, though, when they've bet hundreds of millions of dollars on it?

But that's not much of a consolation to anyone who bought anywhere near Bitcoin's $1,100 top. Or near $1,000, or $900, or $800, or, well even yesterday's prices. That's because Bitcoin hasn't just fallen 76 percent the past year. It's fallen 36 percent the past two days, as you can see below, with a 24 percent decline the past 24 hours. It's too bad Bitcoin doesn't have a central bank to help stabilize its value.



Sen. Sanders: Rebuilding the American middle class

By Sen. Bernie Sanders

POSTED: 01/14/2015 08:56:54 PM
There is, in Vermont and across this country, widespread frustration about the inability of Congress to address the most important issues facing the American people. The simple truth is that, over the last 40 years, the middle class of this country has been in decline. Millions of working families have seen a reduction in their incomes, young people are finding it harder to afford higher education and seniors are struggling to pay for their food, heat and medicine. At the same time, the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, corporate profits are soaring and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.

While the economy has significantly improved over the last six years, we still face a major crisis in terms of high rates of unemployment and underemployment. The official unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, but real unemployment is 11.4 percent, youth unemployment is 17.7 percent and African-American youth unemployment is close to 30 percent. The fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Every day we see bridges in disrepair, congested roads with potholes and inadequate transit services. Nearly a quarter of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and more than 30 percent have exceeded their design life. Almost one-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 42 percent of major urban highways are congested.

Our airports and seaports desperately need upgrades. Our passenger and freight rail lines are obsolete. Our water and wastewater systems, energy grid, dams and levees, schools and parks all need improvements.
If we want our country to be more productive, efficient and safe we need to make a substantial and sustained investment in infrastructure. The bad news is we must invest $1.7 trillion by 2020 just to get our nation's roads, bridges and transit to a state of good repair — more than four times the current rate of spending. The good news is that a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure will create and maintain 13 million jobs. That is what we should do and I will introduce legislation to try to make that happen.


One Small Victory: W.Va. state school board moves back toward original climate change standards

After widespread criticism from teachers, professors and others, the West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to withdraw a set of science education standards containing controversial modifications to the teaching of climate change.

The new version, which will be open for a 30-day public comment period, doesn’t contain the alterations to the three standards on climate change the board earlier approved.

Clayton Burch, executive director of the state’s Office of Early Learning and interim associate state superintendent, said the version will be up for a board vote in March. The standards will go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.

After previously defending the changes as a way to foster student debate and critical thinking on the topic, the Department of Education recommended at Wednesday’s meeting going back on the alterations.

- See more at: http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150114/GZ01/150119623#sthash.yz70IUrY.dpuf

Eminent domain fine and dandy for Keystone-obsessed GOP

By Jane Kleeb - 01/14/15 08:07 PM EST

Republicans have lost their way (“Key court approves Keystone’s route through Nebraska,” Jan. 9). It used to be that property rights were a conservative value, but when oil company interests are involved, apparently property rights mean nothing. You might expect Republicans to bend over backward to help farmers and ranchers prevent the taking of their land by a foreign corporation. But in the case of Keystone XL, those farmers and ranchers have been ignored and belittled as “fringe extremists.” The obsession over trying to take down President Obama has led the GOP down a path of hypocrisy.

After the famous Kelo eminent domain case in 2004, House Republicans passed a bill that made it clear “farmland owners need to have long-term certainty regarding their property rights in order to make the investment decisions to commit land to these uses.” The bill went on to say, “the use of eminent domain to take farmland and other rural property for economic development threatens liberty, rural economies, and the economy of the United States.”

Placing a high-risk, high-pressure, maximum-capacity pipeline that has tar sands and chemicals like benzene is anything but adding “certainty” to a farmer. Helping expand tar sands adds to carbon pollution, which leads to climate change — also something not on the “good” list for farmers’ livelihoods and rural economies.


The only principle the GOP follows is "Who will pay me the most?"

Thursday TOON Roundup 4- The Rest


Death Penalty



Thursday Toon Roundup 3- Cartoons and Gawd

Thursday Toon Roundup 2- GOP and Politics

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