Organized crime stole $7.4 billion through tradable permits

These permits have only been trading in Europe since 2005 and it is amazing that they could already have had this much fraud. From Fox News:

The top cops in Europe say carbon-trading has fallen prey to an organized crime scheme that has robbed the continent of $7.4 billion -- a massive fraud that lawmakers and energy experts say should send a "red flag" to the U.S., where the House approved cap-and-trade legislation over the summer amid stiff opposition.

In a statement released last week, the Europol police agency said Europe's cap-and-trade system has been the victim of organized crime during the past 18 months, resulting in losses of roughly $7.4 billion. The agency, headquartered in the Netherlands, estimated that in some countries up to 90 percent of the entire market volume was caused by fraudulent activities.

"These criminal activities endanger the credibility of the European Union Emission Trading System and lead to the loss of significant tax revenue for governments," Rob Wainwright, Europol's director, said in a statement. . . .

The problem that allowed the fraud seems to involve high taxes more than anything else.

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Copy of Harry Reid's Manager Amendment for the Senate Health Care Bill is available here

A copy of the 383 page amendment is available here. The word "tax" is used 64 times.

After reading about "NO LIFETIME OR ANNUAL LIMITS" on health care benefits and other regulations that will increase the cost of health care, you can read about how they are going to go about "BRINGING DOWN THE COST OF HEALTH CARE
COVERAGE" (p. 7). Anyway, I haven't done more than glance at this yet.

Who wants to bet that this will increase the cost of health insurance?

The provisions on abortion aren't supported by Stupak.

Stupak said that he has discussed the Senate’s abortion position with Nelson and Casey, and his opposition in spite of intense pressure from the White House to accept it could augur a challenge to the compromise in the House when the two versions of the bill are reconciled.

Stupak said that the Senate language represented “a dramatic shift in federal policy,” but that he was hopeful that the differences could be resolved in conference. Nelson, though, said Saturday that his support for the legislation was contingent on the abortion compromise remaining in it. . . .

The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems, he said.

The manager’s amendment, which emerged after hours of negotiations between Nelson and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, stops short of the total ban on health insurance plans that participate in a new exchange system offering abortion coverage. Instead, it includes a provision that allows states to prohibit abortion coverage in the exchanges. . . .

House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner has this comment:

Fixed it is not. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) latest health care “manager’s amendment” would STILL levy a new “abortion premium” fee on Americans under the Democrats’ health care plan. Just like the original 2,032-page, government-run health care plan from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) and the last version of Senator Reid’s 2,074-page bill, this latest 383-page amendment levies an abortion premium and does not fix the problem of government funds being used to subsidize elective abortions.

Under Reid’s “manager’s amendment,” there is no prohibition on abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans participating in the Exchange. Instead the amendment includes layers of accounting gimmicks that demand that plans participating in the Exchange or the new government-run plan that will be managed by the Office of Personnel Management must establish “allocation accounts” when elective abortion is a covered benefit (p. 41). Everyone enrolled in these plans must pay a monthly abortion premium (p. 41, lines 5-8), and these funds will be used to pay for the elective abortion services. The Reid amendment directs insurance companies to assess the cost of elective abortion coverage (p. 43), and charge a minimum of $1 per enrollee per month (p. 43, lines 20-22).

In short, the Reid bill continues to defy the will of the American people and contradict longstanding federal policy by providing federal subsidies to private health plans that cover elective abortions. The new language does include a “state opt-out” provision if a state passes a law to prohibit insurance coverage of abortion, but it’s a sham because it does nothing to prevent one state’s tax dollars from paying for elective abortions in other states. . . . .

The NRLC has this:

Douglas Johnson, an official at the National Right to Life Committee, a group whose staffers were looped on Smith’s email, released a statement Saturday afternoon calling the Senate compromise “light years” away from Stupak's amendment. . . .

Abortion rights advocates are claiming that this is a bad day for them, but I guess that this is all part of a strategy on their part to confuse voters and make it seem that those opposing abortion are being less than reasonable.

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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) asks that critic be imprisoned for five years

Rep. Grayson has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking that the person running a website critical of him be imprisoned.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), prone for throwing his own political bombs at Republicans, has threatened a local critic with five years in jail for creating the website “mycongressmanisnuts.com,”

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Grayson wrote a letter this week to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that the federal government imprison Republican activist Angie Langley for five years because of her website criticizing him.

The website, designed to raise money against Grayson, catalogues videos and news clippings that portray the provocative congressman in an unfavorable light. It courts donors to donate money to help elect his Republican challenger next year – collecting $3,725 to date.

Grayson accuses the activist of misrepresenting the fact that she’s a constituent of his (she lives outside his district). . . .

Grayson's letter is shown below.


Is the fix in for Cap & Trade in Senate?

If Robert Byrd accepts Cap & Trade, is there anyway that it can be stopped?

An extraordinary recent statement by Sen. Robert Byrd has stunned his coal-dependent home state and left West Virginia politicians and business leaders scrambling to understand the timing and motivation behind his unexpected discourse on the future of the coal industry.

In an early December op-ed piece released by his office — also recorded on audio by the frail 92-year-old senator — Byrd argued that resistance to constraints on mountaintop-removal coal mining and a failure to acknowledge that “the truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy” represent the real threat to the future of coal.

“Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry,” Byrd said in the 1,161-word statement. “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear: The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.” . . .

Snow on beach in southeastern France (Nice, France, right next to Monaco).

So much for warm weather on the Mediterranean.

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Signs that the Climate Summit didn't work out well

President Obama says: This is "meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough"

Even the Politico, which is generally very positive on the Obama administration, had to say this about the Copenhagen conference.

The climate deal reached between U.S, China and other great powers on Friday night is so vague, hastily hatched and non-binding President Obama isn’t even sure he’ll be required to sign it.

“You know, it raises an interesting question as to whether technically there's actually a signature… It's not a legally binding agreement, I don't know what the protocols are,” said a bleary-eyed Obama, before hopping in Air Force One for the trip back to Washington.

The official accord voted on by the 193-nation COP-15 Conference noted but did not endorse the deal struck by the leaders of the U.S., China, India, South Africa and Brazil.

"It’s a catastrophe," said Dan Joergensen, a member of the European delegation, of the five-nation agreement. "We’re so far away from the criteria that was set up in order to call it a success, and those weren’t really that ambitious to start with."

Obama told reporters he was able to extract a first-ever commitment by India and China to subject their internal monitoring of emissions to international scrutiny, a move he had earlier tied to American participation in a $100 billion-per-year fund for poor nations. . . .

From the PBS NewsHour:

"DANIEL BECKER (director of Safe Climate Campaign, an advocacy group. He was formerly director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming Program): It's a major disappointment."

The summit couldn't even have the traditional photo of heads of state. You know that things are in trouble when politicians won't even pose for a picture.

The photographer had been booked for midday but as the UN climate summit dragged into overtime Friday, the traditional heads of state portrait fell victim to divisions among the family of leaders.
An official statement at the conference said the portrait had been postponed and it was hoped to be rearranged before the leaders leave Copenhagen. . . .

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Obama snubbed at Copenhagen Climate Summit

If all you have to do is sit down and talk with your adversaries, what do you do when their the ones who won't seriously talk?

At an emergency meeting convened at the Bella Center this morning, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown assembled 26 heads of state in an attempt to revive a deal. But China's Premier Wen Jiabao did not attend and was replaced by vice foreign minister He Yafei.

This afternoon, the US president and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton called another meeting with China, but were snubbed again when only three low-level Chinese delegates arrived.

According to a high level source, the US president clearly regarded Premier Wen’s absence as a major diplomatic insult, and snapped: “It would be nice to negotiate with somebody who can make political decisions.”

The leaders are currently negotiating on a draft text which say the world should aim to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels, according to a new draft text at a UN climate summit that makes concessions to developing nations and small island states. . . .

Of course, now Venezuela's Chavez calls Obama the devil.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he "still" smelled sulfur after President Obama made a keynote speech at the Copenhagen climate conference Friday, accusing the American president of carrying the same satanic scent that Chavez believes followed Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush.

Chavez, who was not included on the original list of speakers for the final day of the summit, ended the proceedings with bitter references to the Peace Prize-winning Obama as the "Nobel Prize of War." . . .

Castro previously nice words for Obama were replaced with this:

Veteran Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Friday dismissed US President Barack Obama's trip to UN climate change talks in Copenhagen as a "show," and complained that the world's poor will shoulder the burden of any summit agreement. . . .

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Democrats indicate that they have Ben Nelson's agreement on passing the government health care takeover

I suppose that this is what was expected.

But there were other signs Democratic leadership felt good about securing Nelson’s vote. “"It's been a long, hard but extremely productive day," Schumer said. “I've been in Harry Reid's office for 13 hours, and I'm glad to get out of there."

Reid needs to get a deal in place to begin the procedural steps necessary to pass the health care bill by Christmas Eve. Immediately following the vote on the DOD bill, Reid is expected to introduce the health care compromise language as part of a “managers’ amendment.” Senate Republicans are then expected to ask for a full reading of the amendment, which could take several hours, depending on its length.

Reid needs the reading to end by 11:59 p.m. Saturday. This is because Reid needs at least one day, which would be Sunday, between when he moves to end the debate on the amendment and when the Senate votes early Monday morning.

Nelson may not signal his support for the deal publicly. But Senate Democratic aides say if Reid introduces the amendment Saturday, he has been reasonably assured that he has 60 votes to break a series of Republican filibusters next week. There is a chance Reid could move ahead without private assurances, but that is widely considered a very high-risk strategy. . . .



Al Franken is an idiot (pardon me for borrowing from Franken's obnoxious title "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot")

Senator Thune clearly states that the "spending" benefits from the proposed Democrat health care plan in the Senate doesn't kick in until 2014. So what does Al Franken start yelling about? His first example is a regulation that starts immediately (now we could point out that the benefit he mentions will actually raise costs by more than the benefits or insurance companies would already be offering it, but that is somewhat besides the point). The next example is a tax credit.

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China and India don't want their compliance with any global warming treaty to be monitored

Thank goodness for China and India. One can only hope that their actions defeat this proposed treaty.

And the U.S. was still wrestling with China and India over international monitoring of their emissions cuts, a sticking point that ground the entire conference to a halt early Thursday. . . .

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Why Senator Ben Nelson might vote against the health care bill

The polls show that Nelson would bear a big cost if he supports the health care bill.

In the survey (500 LVs, 12/14-15, MoE +/- 4.5%), respondents were asked: "In general, do you favor or oppose President Obama's plan to expand health care coverage to most Americans even if this plan increases the role of the federal government in health care and increases the cost of the deficit." Two-thirds responded that they oppose it, compared to 26 percent who favor it.

But it should be noted that the wording of the question differs significantly from the question other firms ask, and Democrats and the White House contend that their plan would actually reduce the deficit. On another question, 39 percent say they favor "major changes" in the current health care system, and another 8 percent say a new system should replace the current one; 46 percent say only minor changes are needed.

The real warning for Nelson, who holds what may be the 60th vote for Democrats, comes in this result: 61 percent say that if Nelson votes for the current plan, they are less likely to support him for re-election in 2012; 26 percent say it would make them more likely to support him. . . .

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Avatar movie review: add an anti-Vietnam war attack and political correctness to environmentalist platitudes

The WSJ likes the eye candy in Avatar but is put off by the heavy handed leftwing tilt of movie:

The fantasy quotient of "Avatar" takes its first major hit when the Na'vi take their first hit from the American military. Mr. Cameron has devoted a significant chunk of his movie to a dark, didactic and altogether horrific evocation of Vietnam, complete with napalm, Agent Orange and helicopter gunships (one of which is named Valkyrie in a tip of the helmet to "Apocalypse Now.") Whatever one may think of the politics of this antiwar section, two things can be said with certainty: it provokes an adrenalin rush (what that says of our species is another matter), and it feels a lot better when it's over.

Other narrative problems intrude. For all its political correctness about the goodness of the Na'vis, "Avatar" lapses into lurid savage rituals, complete with jungle drums, that would not have seemed out of place in the first "King Kong." While Ms. Weaver's performance is a strong one, it isn't clear what her character is doing as an avatar, or how the Na'vi perceive her. . . .

UPDATE: Another review claims that the movie is inherently racist.

By far the most contemptible theme in Avatar involves the hero, a young disabled American called Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington. Before the humans declare war on the Na’vi, Sully is sent to them (in the form of a blue-skinned avatar) in a last ditch attempt to find a diplomatic solution. But, lo and behold, he becomes one of them – sympathising so much with their plight that he decides to lead them into battle against the humans.
As Left-wing conceits go, this one surely tops all the others: the ethnic Na’vi, the film suggests, need the white man to save them because, as a less developed race, they lack the intelligence and fortitude to overcome their adversaries by themselves. The poor helpless natives, in other words, must rely on the principled white man to lead them out of danger. . . . .

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"Franken Shuts Down Lieberman on Senate Floor"

So much for the niceties of the Senate.

Democratic Sen. Al Franken took the unusual step Thursday of shutting down Sen. Joe Lieberman on the Senate floor.

Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, currently is the target of liberal wrath over his opposition to a government-run insurance plan in the health care bill.

Franken was presiding over the Senate Thursday afternoon as Lieberman spoke about amendments he planned to offer to the bill. Lieberman asked for an additional moment to finish -- a routine request -- but Franken refused to grant the time.

"In my capacity as the senator from Minnesota, I object," Franken said.

"Really?" said Lieberman. "OK."

Lieberman then said he'd submit the rest of his statement in writing.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona came to his friend Lieberman's defense, saying he'd never seen such a thing occur.

"I must say that I don't know what's happening here in this body but I think it's wrong," McCain said on the floor.

Franken's spokeswoman, Jess McIntosh, said that the Minnesota senator wouldn't allow Lieberman to continue because time limits were being enforced by Senate leaders rushing to finish a defense spending bill and get to the health bill.

McCain claimed that this was the first time that he had seen something like this happening in the Senate. Presumably, the desire to get legislation through quickly has occurred at other times during the past 20+ years that McCain has been in the Senate.

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Should we ban Champagne?

Who knew that there were 20 million bubbles of carbon dioxide in a bottle of champagne? Is that bottle of champagne really worth the horrible damage that it will do to the world's environment? Hopefully some very intelligent politician will see this danger and just simply ban champagne. Possibly they can add Coke and other soft drinks to the list also.

I worry a little bit that by raising this issue someone will take it seriously.

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Copenhagen expects white Christmas

During the last 109 years Copenhagen has had seven white Christmases, that is a 6 percent rate.

World leaders flying into Copenhagen today to discuss a solution to global warming will first face freezing weather as a blizzard dumped 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow on the Danish capital overnight.

“Temperatures will stay low at least the next three days,” Henning Gisseloe, an official at Denmark’s Meteorological Institute, said today by telephone, forecasting more snow in coming days. “There’s a good chance of a white Christmas.” . . .



Senator Schumer calls Flight Attendant a "Bitch"

This story originated from a Republican aide on the airplane, but it is acknowledged by Schumer's staff that it is true.

a flight attendant then approached Schumer and told him the entire plane was waiting on him to shut down his phone.

Schumer asked if he could finish his conversation. When the flight attendant said “no,” Schumer ended his call but continued to argue his case.

He said he was entitled to keep his phone on until the cabin door was closed. The flight attendant said he was obliged to turn it off whenever a flight attendant asked.

“He argued with her about the rule,” the source said. “She said she doesn’t make the rules, she just follows them.”

When the flight attendant walked away, the witness says Schumer turned to Gillibrand and uttered the B-word.

“The senator made an off-the-cuff comment under his breath that he shouldn’t have made, and he regrets it,” Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon told Shenanigans. . . .



Obama threatens financial industry executives if they don't stop lobbying congress

This is the transcript from Obama's remarks yesterday.

Now, I should note that around the table all the financial industry executives said they supported financial regulatory reform. The problem is there's a big gap between what I'm hearing here in the White House and the activities of lobbyists on behalf of these institutions or associations of which they're a member up on Capitol Hill. I urged them to close that gap, and they assured me that they would make every effort to do so.

In the end, my interest isn't in vilifying any one person or institution or industry; it's not to dictate to them or micromanage their compensation practices to ensure that consumers and -- my job is to ensure that consumers and the larger economy are protected from risky speculation and predatory practices, that credit is flowing, that businesses can grow, and jobs are once again being created at the pace we need. . . .

What Obama's arm twisting obtained:

The executives pledged during a White House meeting with President Barack Obama that they would personally intervene on behalf of the legislation.

Some of the CEOs said their lobbyists had taken stronger stands than they would have wanted, an assertion met with raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D, Mass.), chief architect of financial-overhaul legislation in that chamber, said in an interview he was "highly skeptical."

The gathering permitted Mr. Obama to deliver his criticism of Wall Street directly to executives from American Express Co., U.S. Bancorp, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Capital One Financial Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Bank of America Corp., State Street Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. . . .

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New Fox News piece: Passing the Proposed Drug Amendment Could Be Harmful to Your Health

My new Fox News piece starts this way:

For days now, the health care legislation in the Senate has been stalled. Democrats are divided over a proposed amendment that would let consumers buy pharmaceuticals from abroad. During the presidential campaign, Obama promised to allow such purchases. But earlier this year he announced his opposition in return for pharmaceutical companies promising to spend at least $150 million, and possibly as much as $200 million, to push his health care legislation.

President Obama obviously faces a dilemma: either he keeps the campaign promise he made to voters or he keep his later promise to drug companies. Passing the proposed drug amendment may bring down the entire health care bill, losing the votes the votes of Democratic Senators from New Jersey and Delaware, where the largest pharmaceutical companies are located. Politico reports: "Senate Democratic leaders are blaming Republicans for the hold up, but insiders argue that those leaders are trying to figure out how to give Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.) a vote on his amendment without busting the carefully crafted and fiercely protected deal between drug companies and the White House. Some Democrats worry that a broken [Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] agreement could send health reform completely off the rails." "[The pharmaceutical] industry support is considered a key to passage," the The Los Angeles Times claims.

Americans are upset that Canadians can buy American-produced drugs at a lower price than Americans, especially since nearly all of their prescription drugs are made in the U.S. in the first place. . . .

The vote on all this is apparently scheduled for Tuesday.

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The government monitoring what political protestors put up on Facebook and Twitter

This is pretty scary. Why would the government be looking at Facebook to monitor "political protesters"? One also wonders what percentage of the Facebook pages reveal information about tax delinquents.

The government is increasingly monitoring Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for tax delinquents, copyright infringers and
political protesters
. A public interest group has filed a lawsuit to learn more about this monitoring, in the hope of starting a national discussion and modifying privacy laws as necessary for the online era.

Law enforcement is not saying a lot about its social surveillance, but examples keep coming to light. The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that state revenue agents have been searching for tax scofflaws by mining information on MySpace and Facebook. In October, the F.B.I. searched the New York home of a man suspected of helping coordinate protests at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh by sending out messages over Twitter.

In some cases, the government appears to be engaged in deception. The Boston Globe recently quoted a Massachusetts district attorney as saying that some police officers were going undercover on Facebook as part of their investigations. . . . .

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Putting recent temperature changes in perspective

When people talk about "record" temperatures it is important that they are talking about temperatures that have been recorded since 1850. This discussion helps put Michael Mann's work in perspective.

Thanks very much to Chris Borneman for this link.

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Congress and President Obama move to regulate college football

Government tackles football: The federal leviathan is fiddling while America burns

Unemployment is over 10 percent, the national debt is bigger than ever, the dollar is sinking, Iran is getting nukes, and we have troops in combat without a plan for victory. Amid all this tumult, Congress has focused its attention on regulating college football. It's offensive that the political class has decided to fiddle while America burns.

The United States used to be the land of freedom. Now, however, federal regulations dictate how many gallons of water our toilets and washing machines can use and the miles per gallon our cars must get. Proposed legislation is targeting what freedom still remains to pick the level of health insurance individuals can choose. Just about every aspect of our lives is regulated in major and minor ways. . . .



Conflicting views of the Obama administration on economy

From Larry Summers:

The President’s top economic advisor, Larry Summers, told me that “by spring employment growth will start turning positive.”

During my "This Week" interview, Summers said that “everybody agrees that the recession is over,” but he did not say when the unemployment rate could be expected to drop further. . . .

From Christina] Romer: "Asked by moderator David Gregory if the recession were over, [White House economic adviser Christina] Romer shot back: 'Of course not. For the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering, the unemployment rate is still 10 percent.'"

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The amendment that may kill the health care bill

Allowing people to re-import drugs will destroy the incentive to engage in pharmaceutical research, but the amendment here could kill the health care bill and prevent drug re-importation from occurring.

Politico reports: "Senate Democratic leaders are blaming Republicans for the hold up, but insiders argue that those leaders are trying to figure out how to give Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.) a vote on his amendment without busting the carefully crafted and fiercely protected deal between drug companies and the White House. Some Democrats worry that a broken [Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] agreement could send health reform completely off the rails." "[The pharmaceutical] industry support is considered a key to passage," the Los Angeles Times claims. The AP notes: "Some participants on both sides concede it will be difficult for Dorgan to win the 60 votes he needs."

UPDATE: More bad news for the government takeover of health care.

Risking the wrath of Democrats, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., threatened Sunday to join Republicans in opposing health care legislation if it permits uninsured individuals as young to 55 to purchase Medicare coverage.

Lieberman, whose vote is critical to the bill's prospects, expressed his opposition twice during the day: first in an interview with CBS, and more strongly later, according to Democratic officials, in a private meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid, who is hoping to pass the legislation by Christmas, needs 60 votes to overcome Republican objections, and has been counting on Lieberman to provide one. . . .


Dems compare those who question man-made global warming to those who don't believe smoking causes cancer

Can anyone point to such name calling on the other side of the debate? From the Hill:

House Democrats said Thursday that denying humans were causing climate change is like denying smoking causes lung cancer.

Reps. Edward Markey (Mass.), Jay Inslee (Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) also compared climate change "deniers" to “teabaggers” who spread the false rumor about death panels and swift boaters who attacked Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) war record during the 2004 presidential race.

The three members of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming called a news conference on Thursday in response to the controversy over the hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which has now become known as Climategate.

Markey, who is the chairman of the select panel, said climate change skeptics were “engaging in a policy of distraction” by promoting the hacked emails. But he said the emails do nothing to refute the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing global warming.

“There is no magician trying to trick his audience,” Markey said. "Our world is getting hotter, faster." . . .

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Doctors' views on Democrats health care plans

I can only assume that doctors' opposition has grown overtime with the increased opposition in the general population.

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