Author Archives: Jay Walker

A Year Ago Today, ISIS Announced Its Plan to Create an Islamic State

Mother Jones

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Today marks one year since ISIS, AKA the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, announced that it was officially changing its title to the Islamic State and would establish a Sunni Muslim caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The declaration arrived a few weeks after the insurgent group grabbed international attention by capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, after American-trained soldiers abandoned their posts and weapons. Over the past year, the so-called Islamic State has recruited 20,000 foreign fighters, gained control of 50 percent of Syria and large swaths of Iraq, and gained a reputation for relentless brutality.

A year in, the so-called Islamic State is “neither winning nor losing,” says Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an analyst at the Middle East Forum who monitors jihadist groups. What’s happening with ISIS is “indicative of a long war, with an ebb and flow on different fronts.” The group has become more organized and increasingly appears like a more conventional government now that it’s formed a bureaucracy to administer captured territory. It’s also expanded its influence internationally and inspired lone-wolf attacks in the West. While some argue that ISIS is weakening, Al-Tamimi notes, “People shouldn’t kid themselves about how long this is going to last. This will span years, if not decades.”

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A Year Ago Today, ISIS Announced Its Plan to Create an Islamic State

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The Venn Diagram That Explains How the Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Happened

Mother Jones

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The House just passed the Ryan-Murray budget deal, signaling an unexpected end to the cycle of budget crises and fiscal hostage-taking. A few weeks ago, such an agreement seemed distant. Sequestration had few friends on the Hill, but the parties could not agree on how to ditch the automatic budget cuts to defense and domestic spending. Republicans had proposed increasing defense spending while taking more money from Obamacare and other social programs, while Democrats said they’d scale back the defense cuts in exchange for additional tax revenue. Those ideas were nonstarters: Following the government shutdown in October, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) called the idea of trading Social Security cuts for bigger defense budgets “stupid.”

Which explains why Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray’s deal craftily dodged taxes and entitlements while focusing on the one thing most Republicans and Democrats could agree upon: saving the Pentagon budget. Ryan’s budget committee previously declared the sequester “devastating to America’s defense capabilities.” Murray had warned of layoffs for defense workers in her state of Washington as well as cuts to combat training if sequestration stayed in place.

The chart above shows why military spending is the glue holding the budget deal together. It also shows how any remaining opposition to the bill in the Senate may bring together even stranger bedfellows than Ryan and Murray: progressive dove Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and sequestration fan Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

We’ve got much more coming on military spending and how the Pentagon just dodged a budgetary bullet. Stay tuned.

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The Venn Diagram That Explains How the Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Happened

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John Podesta, climate hawk and Keystone opponent, joins Obama team

John Podesta, climate hawk and Keystone opponent, joins Obama team

Center for American Progress

This post has been updated at the bottom with news that Podesta will recuse himself from the Keystone XL decision.

President Obama is getting a new high-level adviser who cares a lot about climate change and doesn’t care much at all for the Keystone XL pipeline.

John Podesta is no stranger to the White House; he served as chief of staff to President Clinton. And he’s no stranger to the Obama team; he led the president’s transition into office after the 2008 election. Since then, he’s served as an “outside adviser,” The New York Times reports, and “has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch as the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration.”

For the coming year, he’ll be advising from the inside. He will help out on health care and “will focus in particular on climate change issues, a personal priority of Mr. Podesta’s,” according to the Times. Podesta is expected to encourage Obama to take action through his executive authority, as Congress is unwilling and unable to pass legislation on climate change or much else. “Podesta has been urging Obama for three years to use the full extent of his authority as president to go around Congress,” Politico reports.

Podesta is also an outspoken opponent of Keystone, and his move to the White House is making some Keystone boosters nervous, National Journal reports.

InsideClimate News has more:

His arrival comes just as the decision on TransCanada’s proposal to build a controversial pipeline to deliver tar sands crude from Alberta across the midsection of the United States approaches a critical turning point: the completion of a final environmental impact statement by the State Department. That will be followed by a crucial 90-day period in which Obama must decide whether the pipeline is in the U.S. national interest. …

Podesta has allied himself closely with some of [the environmentalists opposing the pipeline], including the wealthy investor Tom Steyer, who has been mobilizing opposition to the project. They appeared together at CAP’s conference to celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall.

Just last week, CAP co-sponsored a daylong conference with Steyer’s team in Georgetown to argue that the pipeline could not pass the litmus test Obama set back in June — that the Keystone could only be approved if it didn’t significantly exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions. …

[A]s the various interests in the Keystone decision make their final arguments at the White House, Podesta could not be better positioned as a particularly close adviser to voice his own views — and to debunk the arguments of those who favor the tar sands pipeline.

Will Podesta make the difference on Keystone? Don’t count on it. There are already plenty of people in the administration on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, the call is Obama’s alone.

But Podesta could make the difference on UFO issues

UPDATE, from The New Yorker:

A White House aide emailed late Tuesday that Podesta would recuse himself from working on the Keystone Pipeline decision.

“In discussions with Denis,” the aide said, speaking of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, “John suggested that he not work on the Keystone Pipeline issue, in review at the State Department, given that the review is far along in the process and John’s views on this are well known. Denis agreed that was the best course of action.” Podesta’s climate change portfolio will therefore be limited largely to overseeing implementation of E.P.A. regulations, which are already moving along, and not the far more controversial and politically sensitive decision about the pipeline.

Still, Podesta is on record strongly opposing the pipeline. If Obama approves the project, he will have to do so knowing he is contradicting the assessment of his new climate-change adviser.

Full disclosure: Grist periodically reprints posts from ClimateProgress, a Center for American Progress blog.

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Climate & Energy



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John Podesta, climate hawk and Keystone opponent, joins Obama team

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5 Ways Monsanto Wants to Profit Off of Climate Change

Mother Jones

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Global warming could mean big business for controversial agriculture giant Monsanto, which announced last week it was purchasing the climate change-oriented startup Climate Corporation for $930 million.

Agriculture, which uses roughly 40 percent of the world’s land, will be deeply affected by climate change in the coming years. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that warming will lead to pest outbreaks, that climate-related severe weather will impact food security, and that rising temperatures will hurt production for farms in equatorial areas. (In areas further from the equator, temperature rise is actually estimated to increase production in the short term, then harm production if temperatures continue to rise over 3 degrees Celsius in the long term.) Meanwhile, increases in the global population will make it crucial for farmers to be efficient with their land, says UC Davis professor Tu Jarvis. “The increase in food production, essentially, in the future needs to be in yields—output per acre,” Jarvis says, even while weather patterns make farming less predictable or more difficult in some places.

Monsanto, meanwhile, has been gearing up to sell its wares to farmers adapting to climate change. Here are five climate change-related products the company either sells already, or plans to:

1. Data to help farmers grow crops in a changing climate. Climate Corporation, which Monsanto is acquiring, sells detailed weather and soil information to farmers with the stated mission of helping “all the world’s people and businesses manage and adapt to climate change.” This data is meant to help farmers better plan, track, and harvest their crops, ultimately making farms more productive. According to its press release, Monsanto thinks the ag data business will be a $20-billion market, and that farmers using these tools could increase their yield BY 30 to 50 bushels (that’s between 1,700 and 2,800 shelled pounds).

In a video interview about the acquisition, Monsanto vice president of global strategy Kerry Preete told TechCrunch: “We think weather patterns are becoming more erratic, it places a huge challenge on farmers with their production. We think a lot of the risk can be mitigated out of weather impact through information,” Preete said. “If you know what’s going on every day in the field, based on climate changes, soil variations that exist, we can really help farmers mitigate some of the challenges that impact their yield.”

2. Insurance for when it’s too hot, cold, dry, wet, or otherwise extreme outside. Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans that pay out additional benefits when crops go awry. While federal insurance repays farmers up to the break-even point for a failed crop, Climate Corporation insures the lost profits as well. Monsanto says it will maintain this insurance business.

Though the broader insurance industry is concerned about losses due to major natural disasters occurring more often as the result of climate change, insuring crops is less risky because payouts for a damaged crop season a generally smaller than those for dense, damaged urban areas, according to Gerald Nelson, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois.

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5 Ways Monsanto Wants to Profit Off of Climate Change

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Conservatives Are Finally Admitting What Voter Suppression Laws Are All About

Mother Jones

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North Carolina’s new voter ID law is ostensibly designed to reduce voter fraud. That’s the official story, anyway. But if that’s the case, why did North Carolina also pass a whole bunch of other voting restrictions, including limits on early voting? Phyllis Schlafly, the doyen of right-wing crankery, explains that the reason was simple: “Early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game….It is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.” Steve Benen comments:

Have you ever heard a political figure accidentally read stage direction, unaware that it’s not supposed to repeated out loud? This is what Schlafly’s published column reminds me of.

For North Carolina Republicans, the state’s new voter-suppression measures are ostensibly legitimate — GOP officials are simply worried about non-existent fraud. The response from Democrats and voting-rights advocates is multi-faceted, but emphasizes that some of these measures, including restrictions on early voting, have nothing whatsoever to do with fraud prevention and everything to do with a partisan agenda.

And then there’s Phyllis Schlafly, writing a piece for publication effectively saying Democrats are entirely right — North Carolina had to dramatically cut early voting because it’s not good for Republicans.

Remember, Schlafly’s piece wasn’t intended as criticism; this is her defense of voter suppression in North Carolina. Proponents of voting rights are arguing, “This is a blatantly partisan scheme intended to rig elections,” to which Schlafly is effectively responding, “I know, isn’t it great?”

Actually, I doubt that Schlafly was very far off the reservation here. Generally speaking, I think conservatives have gotten tired of keeping up the pretense on the purpose of their voter suppression laws. Why bother, after all? It might make sense if they needed to convince a few Democrats to join their cause, but that’s obviously hopeless. Alternatively, it might be necessary if they needed to maintain a legal fig leaf for future court cases, but the Supreme Court has ruled that purely partisan motivations for voting laws are A-OK. Finally, they might care about public opinion. And they probably do. But not much.

At this point, the jig is up. Everyone knows what these laws are about, and there’s hardly any use in pretending anymore. In fact, the only real goal of the voter suppression crowd now is to provide a plausible legal argument that what they’re doing isn’t intentionally racist. That’s really the only thing that can derail them at this point, and the best way to fight back is to shrug their shoulders and just admit that they’re being brazenly partisan. That’s what Texas attorney general Greg Abbott did in his brief supporting his state’s voter suppression laws, and he did it with gusto. But if that’s the official argument that you have to make in your legal briefs, there’s not much point in denying it in other forums. You might as well just go with it.

Schlafly wasn’t reading stage directions. She was reading from the script. It’s just a new script, that’s all.

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Conservatives Are Finally Admitting What Voter Suppression Laws Are All About

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Suffer No More! Find A Good Solar Panel Contractor Using These Steps!

Inspiration has struck, and your vision for your remodeled home or office could not seem any more inviting. Don’t let these good ideas evaporate; record them so that you can provide your hired solar panel installation contractor with a better picture of what you really want. In the mind of a skilled professional, even the most rudimentary and obscure ideas can turn into smart and complex designs. Innovation is the name of the game–keep reading to see how to spot a contractor who will best integrate your thoughts with his own expertise.

When you start searching a solar panel installation contractor for your project first it seems difficult. One of the best ways is to stay organized and write a list of requirements that you need in your contractor. Before interviewing the contractors, try to make list of questions that you will ask during interview and make sure you do not forget any question. Though it consumes time a lot but it’s safe and secure for long run.

Does the solar panel installation contractor require his workers to be drug tested? Hiring a contractor with untrustworthy workers can be devastating. These workers are going to be on your job on a daily basis so you need to know they are tested.

Let the solar panel installation contractors give you references who you will contact to confirm on their competency. Frequently visiting of the site will let the contractors realize that you need quality work done and done to perfection. It is wise to ensure that each contractor you employ signs a contract which will have what you expect of them. Signing the contract will help save your money in some way and you will realize a tremendous amount of profit.

Solar Panel Contractors are always competing for business so it is not uncommon for them to overstate their ability to complete a project with regard to timelines or budgets. Got the feeling a potential solar panel installation contractor is being dishonest about his ability? Move on to someone else, your gut knows,

Google is a great resource when it comes to searching for a good solar panel installation contractor. Start off by searching for what type of contractor you’ll need for your project. Later on, once you have a list of potential contractors, search each individual one and their reviews online before you make any final hiring decisions.

Listen to the questions the solar panel installation contractor asks you very carefully. Does he seem interested in your vision on the project? If he is too busy talking to listen to your wants and needs from the project, he is probably not a good fit for you.

In order to save your time, it is advised to conduct interviews on call with potential solar panel installation contractors. Ask them about their current schedule and if they are willing to do your work. You may get to know some inexperienced or unwilling contractors. Therefore, think twice before taking final decision.

Interested in finding more about the topic of solar options? Be sure to go to Yahoo and search for solar heating solutions. You’ll be able to find quite a bit of helpful tips.

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