America the new Gitmo?

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As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study the Risks

From The New York Times:

Published: December 16, 2011

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A bubble rose through a hole in the surface of a frozen lake. It popped, followed by another, and another, as if a pot were somehow boiling in the icy depths.

Every bursting bubble sent up a puff of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas generated beneath the lake from the decay of plant debris. These plants last saw the light of day 30,000 years ago and have been locked in a deep freeze — until now.

“That’s a hot spot,” declared Katey M. Walter Anthony, a leading scientist in studying the escape of methane. A few minutes later, she leaned perilously over the edge of the ice, plunging a bottle into the water to grab a gas sample.

It was another small clue for scientists struggling to understand one of the biggest looming mysteries about the future of the earth.

Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and other organic matter trapped in icy soil — a mix that, when thawed, can produce methane and carbon dioxide, gases that trap heat and warm the planet. But they have been stunned in recent years to realize just how much organic debris is there.

A recent estimate suggests that the perennially frozen ground known as permafrost, which underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere.

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Austerity discredited: Ireland goes into reverse

From The Independent UK:

Praised across the world for its model recovery, Dublin finds the pace of cuts too much to bear

Ben Chu
Saturday 17 December 2011

Ireland, the poster child of the eurozone’s austerity drive, saw its economy shrink in the third quarter, according to the latest national accounts from Dublin.

Irish GDP contracted by 1.9 per cent, on an annualised basis, in the three months to September, throwing an impressive run of two consecutive quarters of growth in the first half of 2011 into a sharp reverse.

The Dublin government’s achievement in generating growth despite severe public spending cuts had been hailed by some economists as an example of a successful “expansionary fiscal contraction”. And Ireland, which was forced to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in November 2010 after investors fled the country’s sovereign bonds, had been held up by European policymakers as an example for other distressed eurozone nations such as Greece and Portugal to follow.

But the latest figures show that the country was the worst-performing economy apart from Greece in the eurozone in the third quarter. The 1.9 per cent GDP fall over the three months to September was almost four times higher than the 0.5 per cent than economists had expected. Ireland’s export boom continued, with sales abroad up 21.8 per cent compared with the same period in 2010. But that boost to growth was swamped by declining domestic demand as the economy continued to shrink under the pressure of government spending cuts and tax rises. Investment was down 20.9 per cent on the year before.

With growth slowing in two of Ireland’s major exports markets– the UK and the eurozone – the country’s ability to export its way back to economic health looks increasingly uncertain. Ireland’s trade surplus came in at €850m, down from €1.8bn in the same period last year.

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How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation

In the mid-1960s, when I was a student in a SUNY Cortland I haunted the library.  I was involved in the campus Left and was part of SDS.  Our Library carried the John Birch Society publication.  We used to go out and harass the folks at the JBS Bookstore on the weekends so I read their publication in order to know what points I could question them on.

Ayn Rand’s “Objectivity” was at the core of their neo-Nazi philosophy.

I always thought Ayn Rand was an incredibly shitty writer and that those who thought she was some sort of deep thinker were either evil or morons.

Which sort of sums up the Republican party and today’s vast right wing conspiracy.

Evil or stupid.  Great pair of traits to base a society upon, don’t cha think?

From Alternet:,_greedy_nation/

Thanks in part to Rand, the United States is one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world.

By Bruce E. Levine
December 15, 2011

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society….To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.— Gore Vidal, 1961

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Rand’s impact has been widespread and deep. At the iceberg’s visible tip is the influence she’s had over major political figures who have shaped American society. In the 1950s, Ayn Rand read aloud drafts of what was later to become Atlas Shrugged to her “Collective,” Rand’s ironic nickname for her inner circle of young individualists, which included Alan Greenspan, who would serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1987 to 2006.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan wrote in a personal letter, “Am an admirer of Ayn Rand.” Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) credits Rand for inspiring him to go into politics, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundation book.” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) says Ayn Rand had a major influence on him, and his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is an even bigger fan. A short list of other Rand fans includes Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; Christopher Cox, chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in George W. Bush’s second administration; and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

But Rand’s impact on U.S. society and culture goes even deeper.

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U.S. judge mulls overturning federal marriage law

From The Vancouver Sun:

By Ronnie Cohen, Reuters
December 16, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. judge appeared sympathetic to a lesbian federal employee’s bid to strike down a law denying health-insurance benefits to her spouse, in the first hearing since the Obama administration decided to quit defending the statute.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White heard two hours of arguments on Friday at a hearing on a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

“The court is faced with enforcing the equal protection clause in the context of a fundamental right – that is marriage,” White said. The judge did not make any rulings from the bench.

Congress passed DOMA in 1996 and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. It prevents same-sex couples who are legally married in seven states and the District of Columbia from enjoying more than 1,000 federal benefits awarded to heterosexual married couples.

Karen Golinski has worked as a staff attorney for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco for 20 years.

She sued the U.S. government after it refused to enroll her spouse, Amy Cunninghis, on her federal family health insurance plan. The couple married during a five-month legal window in California before voters passed Proposition 8, a gay marriage ban.

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice initially argued that DOMA prohibited Cunninghis from receiving the same benefits as she would receive if Golinski were a man.

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G.O.P. Monetary Madness

From The New York Times:

Published: December 15, 2011

Apparently the desperate search of Republicans for someone they can nominate not named Willard M. Romney continues. New polls suggest that in Iowa, at least, we have already passed peak Gingrich. Next up: Representative Ron Paul.

In a way, that makes sense. Mr. Romney isn’t trusted because he’s seen as someone who cynically takes whatever positions he thinks will advance his career — a charge that sticks because it’s true. Mr. Paul, by contrast, has been highly consistent. I bet you won’t find video clips from a few years back in which he says the opposite of what he’s saying now.

Unfortunately, Mr. Paul has maintained his consistency by ignoring reality, clinging to his ideology even as the facts have demonstrated that ideology’s wrongness. And, even more unfortunately, Paulist ideology now dominates a Republican Party that used to know better.

I’m not talking here about Mr. Paul’s antiwar views or his less well-known views on civil and reproductive rights, which would horrify liberals who think of him as a good guy. I’m talking, instead, about his views on economics.

Mr. Paul identifies himself as a believer in “Austrian” economics — a doctrine that it goes without saying rejects John Maynard Keynes but is almost equally vehement in rejecting the ideas of Milton Friedman. For Austrians see “fiat money,” money that is just printed without being backed by gold, as the root of all economic evil, which means that they fiercely oppose the kind of monetary expansion Friedman claimed could have prevented the Great Depression — and which was actually carried out by Ben Bernanke this time around.

O.K., a brief digression: the Federal Reserve doesn’t actually print money (the Treasury does that). But the Fed does control the “monetary base,” the sum of bank reserves and currency in circulation. So when people talk about Mr. Bernanke printing money, what they really mean is that the Fed expanded the monetary base.

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Anti-gay Minnesota GOP Senate Majority Leader resigns amid scandal with senate staffer

From LGBTQ Nation:

Friday, December 16, 2011

SAINT PAUL, Minn.– Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R) has resigned her leadership post amid allegations of an “inappropriate relationship” with a Senate staffer.

Koch, who is is married with one child, has been one of the leading proponents of Minnesota’s 2012 ballot initiative aimed at amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

At a hastily called news conference Friday afternoon after news of the alleged relationship was published online, Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel of Edina, who took over as interim leader after Koch stepped down, said the senators decided to confront Koch after hearing complaints in the past several weeks from “multiple sources” that the alleged relationship was interfering with the Senate work environment.


The situation raises “potential legal risk” for the Senate, he said.

Those bringing complaints did not describe the relationship as sexual, Michel said, and the senators did not characterize it that way when they broached the subject with Koch.

“In the end, there’s probably only two people who really know what kind of relationship and how long that may have been happening, but it certainly had risen to a level within our Senate family that people were coming to us,” he said.

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