Republicans should stop whining about Roe v. Wade

gopwomen

It’s hard to get 70 percent of Americans to agree on much of anything these days. But, for the first time, one of those things is Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

According to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, released on the law’s 40th anniversary Tuesday, fully seven in 10 Americans say they would oppose the overturning of the Supreme Court decision. And perhaps more remarkably, 57 percent say they “feel strongly” that it should not be overturned…

The poll also shows for the first time that a majority of Americans (54 percent) support abortion rights. And a new Pew Research Center poll largely confirms those findings, showing 63 percent of Americans oppose overturning Roe, while 29 percent would like to see it scrapped. Even Republicans are split down the middle, with 48 percent opposed to overturning Roe and 46 percent who support overturning it…

The trend line is clear: Americans are becoming more accepting of abortion rights

As they are with issues like gay marriage and illegal immigration, though, Republicans are now caught between their base and the general public.

While much of the GOP base remains firmly anti-abortion rights and those most passionate conservatives would like to see Roe overturned, Republicans need to recognize more broadly that overturning Roe is no longer sound politics.

What’s more, the party has already begun to lose ground on issues concerning women’s rights. Over the last two years, Republicans have struggled with issues like contraception, rape and “transvaginal ultrasounds” — so much so that a pollster at last weekend’s Republican retreat went so far as to urge lawmakers to stop talking about rape altogether.

Abortion isn’t as fraught an issue as the ones listed above, but it’s still a wedge issue that is increasingly working against the GOP and risks turning off female voters, who stuck by President Obama more than a lot of other demographics in 2012.

Republicans have two years – or less – to turn away from becoming America’s Christian Confederate Party. They can continue on the course of strict reliance on Christian fundamentalist conservatives with all the baggage that brings: homophobia, racism, subjugating women, opposing public secular education, fear and hatred of science, the endless mobius loopiness of 14th Century ideology and superstition. If they fail – and I think they will – they are likely to take their place as a permanent minority party.

If and when that happens, the clot of leftover Birchers, Cold Warriors, Confederacy fans, chickenhawks and 19th Century capitalists like the Koch Brothers will shout “huzzah” – and keep it going as a mouthpiece for their dedication to the worst of dead and dying politics.

An American history freak show.

Reflected light illuminates town square

The town of Viganella in the Italian Alps receives no direct sun for 83 days each year. So in 2006 mayor Pierfranco Midali commissioned a 26-by-16-foot mirror to be placed on a nearby mountainside at 3,600 feet. Tracking the sun with computer-controlled motors, the mirror throws light into the town square for six hours each day.

The illuminated area measures 300 square yards. “I can already see my little old ladies coming out of the church after mass and just standing there, enjoying a bit of sun,” Midali said.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Cost of combating climate change surges – politicians do nothing

An agreement by almost 200 nations to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 will be far more costly than taking action now to tackle climate change, according to published research.

Quick measures to cut emissions would give a far better chance of keeping global warming within an agreed U.N. limit of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to avert more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels…

The timing of cuts in greenhouse gases was more important than other uncertainties – about things like how the climate system works, future energy demand, carbon prices or new energy technologies.

The study indicated that an immediate global price of $20 a ton on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, would give a roughly 60 percent chance of limiting warming to below 2C.

Wait until 2020 and the carbon price would have to be around $100 a ton to retain that 60 percent chance, Keywan Riahi told Reuters of the study made with other experts in Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia and Germany…

After the failure of a 2009 summit in Copenhagen to agree a worldwide accord, almost 200 nations have given themselves until 2015 to work out a global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions that will enter into force in 2020.

Amid an economic slowdown, many countries at the last U.N. meeting on climate change in Qatar in December expressed reluctance to make quick shifts away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies such as wind or solar power…

The report…showed that greener policies, such as more efficient public transport or better-insulated buildings, would raise the chances of meeting the 2C goal.

Being the world’s dominant economic power means we’re the focus of cause-and-effect relationships. Especially in politics. Failure of the United States to lead on the question of climate change is key to resolving the future costs – and increases.

Obama made mention of the question briefly in his inauguration. Republicans and Blue Dog Dems have started whining even before the introduction of any useful legislation. Power companies have lots of buck$. Most of the rest of corporate America is ready to pitch in – and do nothing constructive – as ever.

I went after guns. Obama can, too. So says the former Conservative Prime Minister of Australia.

It is for Americans and their elected representatives to determine the right response to President Obama’s proposals on gun control. I wouldn’t presume to lecture Americans on the subject. I can, however, describe what I, as prime minister of Australia, did to curb gun violence following a horrific massacre 17 years ago in the hope that it will contribute constructively to the debate in the United States.

I was elected prime minister in early 1996, leading a center-right coalition. Virtually every nonurban electoral district in the country — where gun ownership was higher than elsewhere — sent a member of my coalition to Parliament.

Six weeks later, on April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant, a psychologically disturbed man, used a semiautomatic Armalite rifle and a semiautomatic SKS assault weapon to kill 35 people in a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania.

After this wanton slaughter, I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy…

Because Australia is a federation of states, the national government has no control over gun ownership, sale or use, beyond controlling imports. Given our decentralized system of government, I could reduce the number of dangerous firearms only by persuading the states to enact uniform laws totally prohibiting the ownership, possession and sale of all automatic and semiautomatic weapons while the national government banned the importation of such weapons.

To make this plan work, there had to be a federally financed gun buyback scheme. Ultimately, the cost of the buyback was met by a special one-off tax imposed on all Australians. This required new legislation and was widely accepted across the political spectrum. Almost 700,000 guns were bought back and destroyed — the equivalent of 40 million guns in the United States.

City dwellers supported our plan, but there was strong resistance by some in rural Australia. Many farmers resented being told to surrender weapons they had used safely all of their lives. Penalizing decent, law-abiding citizens because of the criminal behavior of others seemed unfair. Many of them had been lifelong supporters of my coalition and felt bewildered and betrayed by these new laws. I understood their misgivings. Yet I felt there was no alternative…

For a time, it seemed that certain states might refuse to enact the ban. But I made clear that my government was willing to hold a nationwide referendum to alter the Australian Constitution and give the federal government constitutional power over guns. Such a referendum would have been expensive and divisive, but it would have passed. And all state governments knew this.

In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate.

In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.

But, this is America. We haven’t a habit of letting facts get in the way of political ideology. It will take mass support in every state for any level of reform to gun law.

What passes for conservatism in many other nations still allows for educated opinions. Today’s generation of Republican misleaders got position and power on the basis of religious fundamentalism and bigotry. They may be a dying breed; but they couldn’t care less about how anyone else dies.

Advice from an overweight mouse

One of the puzzles of the modern world is why we humans are growing so tubby. Maybe these two mice offer a clue.

They’re genetically the same, raised in the same lab and given the same food and chance to exercise. Yet the bottom one is svelte, while the other looks like, well, an American.

The only difference is that the top one was exposed at birth to just one part per billion of an endocrine-disrupting chemical. The brief exposure programmed the mouse to put on fat, and although there were no significant differences in caloric intake or expenditure, it continued to put on flab long after the chemical was gone.

That experiment is one of a growing number of peer-reviewed scientific studies suggesting that one factor in the industrialized world’s obesity epidemic (along with Twinkies, soda and television) may be endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals are largely unregulated — they are in food, couches, machine receipts and shampoos — and a raft of new studies suggest that they can lead to the formation of more and larger fat cells…

Endocrine disruptors are a class of chemicals that mimic hormones and therefore confuse the body. Initially, they provoked concern because of their links to cancers and the malformation of sex organs. Those concerns continue, but the newest area of research is the impact that they have on fat storage.

Bruce Blumberg, a developmental biologist at the University of California, Irvine, coined the term “obesogen” in a 2006 journal article to refer to chemicals that cause animals to store fat. Initially, this concept was highly controversial among obesity experts, but a growing number of peer-reviewed studies have confirmed his finding and identified some 20 substances as obesogens.

The role of these chemicals has been acknowledged by the presidential task force on childhood obesity, and the National Institutes of Health has become a major funder of research on links between endocrine disruptors and both obesity and diabetes.

Among chemicals identified as obesogens are materials in plastics, canned food, agricultural chemicals, foam cushions and jet fuel. For example, a study in the fall found that triflumizole, a fungicide used on many food crops, like leafy vegetables, causes obesity in mice…

For all the uncertainty, these latest studies are one more reason to worry that endocrine disruptors may be the tobacco of our time. Science-based decisions to improve public health — like the removal of lead from gasoline — have been among our government’s most beneficial public policy moves. In this case, a starting point would be to boost research of endocrine disruptors and pass the Safe Chemicals Act. That measure, long stalled in Congress, would require more stringent safety testing of potentially toxic chemicals around us.

Golly gee – stalled in Congress? How could that happen? Do you mean that lobbyists who own our elected official actually count for more among political hacks than the needs of those who elected them?

How could that be?