- A Briton gets it. Gary Younge:
In response to the Aurora shootings in July, President Obama was right to suspend the routine campaign rhetoric and play the statesman. Nobody wanted to hear about Mitt Romney's tax records and stimulating the economy on that day. There were other days for electioneering, true, but he was wrong to insist on this:Despite Carney's gutless asininity, the president's own statement seemed to hint at something more. Let's hope so.
"There are going to be other days for politics. This is a day for prayer and reflection."Yet that "other day" for debating gun laws never came – not at any point in the three months that remained before the election. Even now, right on cue, the president's spokesman, Jay Carney, has intoned the familiar strain that "now is not the time" to talk about gun control.
For what are we to reflect on if not how this, and so many other similar calamities, came about. Those who insist that we should not "play politics" with the victim's grief conveniently ignore that politics is what caused that grief. Not party politics. But a blend of opportunism on the right that flagrantly mischaracterises the issue, and spinelessness on the left that refuses to address it.
- The upcoming IPCC update on climate change was leaked last week, and of course the denier nexus immediately began its usual lies and mischaracterizations. The reality is that that IPCC tends to be cautious and conservative, and we now know that the last revision underestimated the pace and impact of climate change. The real news is this:
The draft report, which was still undergoing a peer review process, said that “there is consistent evidence from observations of a net energy uptake of the earth system due to an imbalance in the energy budget.”Among those debunking the dishonest deniers has been Graham Readfearn, Peter Sinclair doing double duty, Dana Nuccitelli, and Leo Hickman.
“It is virtually certain that this is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations. There is very high confidence that natural forcing contributes only a small fraction to this imbalance.”
- Here's hoping for a quick recovery for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- David Dayen:
Somehow, the tea leaf-reading of what frontiersmen living 230-plus years ago thought about gun ownership takes precedence over the actual consequences of a current situation where guns are so easily obtained and used. Just to pick at random, here are a couple headlines at the Hartford Courant site just from the past 24 hours: Woman Shot, Man Dead After Standoff In Rocky Hill. Armed Robbery At Hartford Bank, Two In Custody. It’s not that school shootings like this are abnormal. They are depressingly normal. The fact that there were no shootings in one day in New York City recently was seen as a major achievement, which shows you how desensitized we have become to gun violence as a normal occurrence of daily life.
It’s just completely exhausting, and invites little but despair. The political leadership of the country long ago turned over gun policy to a trade group called the NRA which is primarily concerned with profits from the sale of guns and ammunition. And seemingly no crime, no matter how horrific, can change that reality. Not even on the order of completely sensible, completely modest regulation over things like background checks for those who purchase at gun shows, or anything else.
It just saddens me.
- Of course, the American Legislative Exchange Council is involved.
- There was some good news this week:
The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it will set new limits for the airborne microscopic particles known as soot, one of the most deadly forms of air pollution.And let's hope that it is, indeed, a signal.
The widely watched decision, which was expected to signal how the Obama administration will approach environmental issues in its second term, should curtail the amount of soot released from diesel exhaust, coal-fired power plants, refineries and other emitters by requiring costly pollution controls.
- Some Constitutional scholars have weighed in (pdf) on the legality of a simple majority of Senators changing the filibuster rule, at the beginning of the next Congress:
Despite the numerous precedents confirming a new Senate’s authority to change its rules by majority vote, some warn that disregarding the convention of supermajority approval will upend the Senate’s unique role as the more deliberative chamber, particularly sensitive to the rights of the minority. Such an objection misunderstands the appropriate role of the two-thirds rule, and the source of the Senate’s unique status.The letter was signed by Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University; Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law; Norman Dorsen, Frederick I. and Grace A. Stokes Professor of Law, New York University School of Law; Charles Fried, Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Sanford V. Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law, University of Texas Law School; Gerard N. Magliocca
The two-thirds rule is constitutional to the extent that it ensures Senate procedures will not be manipulated during a legislative session to the detriment of the minority. As we have demonstrated, however, it would be unconstitutional to use the two-thirds rule to impose the procedural judgments of a past Senate on a newly-elected body. Moreover, it is the Constitution, not the Standing Rules that distinguishes the structure and representative nature of the Senate from that of the House. The length and staggered nature of Senate terms creates a membership that is more stable than that of the House. An individual must be older to run for the Senate than the House, ensuring a body with more senior and experienced members. And each state, no matter its size or population, has equal representation—two senators—in the upper chamber. These distinctive characteristics, not internal procedures, are the mechanisms that James Madison imagined would insulate democracy from the “fickleness and passion” of a majority that would seek to “oppress the minority.”
As the 1959 and 1975 precedents confirm, changing a rule by a majority vote on the first day of a new Senate is consistent with the Senate’s tradition of judiciously revising its Rules when necessary for maintaining the path to deliberative and functional lawmaking. While Senates throughout history have invoked this authority sparingly, there is no question of the right to do so. Any determination to the contrary would be unconstitutional.
Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Law; Thomas E. Mann, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution; Michael W. McConnell,
Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law, Stanford Law School; Burt Neuborne,
Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties, New York University School of Law, and Michael J. Perry, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law. Their institutional affiliations were listed for identification purposes only.
Even if you believe, as most Americans do, that the Second Amendment grants Americans the right to bear arms, one must also acknowledge the right of other Americans to not bear arms and be safe.
Where are the voices for those who choose not to — or are not old enough to — own guns? Are the gunless to have no advocate? Will our politicians forever cower before the gun lobby?
- Brian Angliss has begun a series that already is a must read:
Industrial climate disruption, aka climate change or global warming, is perhaps the most important issue that humanity has ever faced. Scientists have concluded based on an overwhelming amount of data and over a century of well established and verified science that humanity has probably never faced the kind of disruptions to our world that are coming as a result of our emissions of greenhouse gases. But there is small and vocal minority of people who reject the science and data underlying this conclusion, and in the United States those deniers have successfully convinced the bulk of the Republican party to act as if that science is wrong and doesn’t matter.
Ever since I encountered my first example of a climate disruption denier I’ve wondered what kind of person could deny the reality that is industrial climate disruption. Over the years of writing on climate, however, it became clear that there were two groups of people who made up the majority of the serious deniers – libertarians and engineers of various stripes. As an electrical engineer myself, however, I didn’t understand how individuals trained in mathematics, science, and logic could fail to see glaring scientific, mathematical, physical, or logical flaws in their own arguments. Eventually, though, something clicked: most of the engineers I work with today and have worked with since earning my MSEE are either libertarians themselves or have some libertarian leanings.
This is the first part of a series of posts exploring the personality traits and moral values of libertarians, engineers, and the relationship of those traits and values to the denial of industrial climate disruption.