Compassion and Love Are Not Partisan, or Exclusive to Any One Religious View

December 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Yesterday, I posted a commentary from Donald Douglas at American Power in which he said (among other things) that Elizabeth Edwards was a “nihilist” because she said in her last public remarks about her illness that she put her faith in “family, friends, and the power of resilience and hope,” and did not explicitly mention God.

Today, reacting to the news that Elizabeth Edwards has died, Douglas writes the following:

Pray for Elizabeth Edwards. Pray for her soul. We need to, since lefties won’t do it. …

[…]

It’s not a PC issue whatsoever. At death’s door, Elizabeth Edwards lost her faith. I was taken aback when I read her statement yesterday. She had put her faith in hope, but not in God. And it’s sad that there was no greater body of spirit upon which Mrs. Edwards could draw. But it’s also sad that her supposed champions have descended to the putrid depths of recrimination. Yet, I welcome this. Look at the vile hatred spewing from my comments. They hate the truth of Elizabeth Edwards’ rejection of God, her nihilism in the face of the awesome unknown. And they hate not only that I have stressed it, but also the fact that one of their own partisans applauded it — yes, applauded it just as radical progressives applaud John Lennon’s irreligious anthem, “Imagine.” But again, let us pray. We pray for those so injured by the truth of their revealed anti-religious doctrines, for those who espouse fake references to the Word of God. It is on this ideological plain where we meet hatred with heart. Let us pray for those who hate. Let us raise our hands to Him so that he will lead them to love and not vengeance. Pray so they will rejoice in something good and righteous. So that they will relinquish that which drives them to rage. Let us hope to Heaven that they will reject their nihilism.

I don’t usually feel the need to “balance” points of view (to the dismay of many TMV readers, I know!), but in this instance it feels very important to me — in truth, it feels essential — to point out that being a devout Christian (or a devout anything) and/or being conservative or right-wing, does NOT have to mean that you forgot or maybe never knew what your heart is for. For that reason, I am going to round up, here, some reaction to Elizabeth Edwards’ death that comes exclusively from conservatives. To be clear, there is lots of sympathetic reaction from liberals, of course. But you would expect that. I want to focus on what conservatives and even many who are far to the right are saying about Edwards’ passing — to demonstrate that Donald Douglas’s cruelty and judgmentalism are about who he is as a person ONLY, and do not have anything to do with his (supposed) religiosity or his political beliefs. Please note also that I have quoted from literally every conservative blog posting about this news that I could find. I even went to Blogrunner to find more because Memeorandum doesn’t have that much blogger commentary about the news yet, but there just isn’t that much out there yet, liberal or conservative. I’m sure there will be more in the days ahead.

Michelle Malkin:

News breaking from WRAL in North Carolina that Elizabeth Edwards passed away this afternoon. She was gravely ill with breast cancer and announced yesterday that she had stopped medical treatment.

She leaves behind three children who deserve all the prayers that you can muster to lift them up, no matter what your politics are.

[…]

As I noted in 2005, Mrs. Edwards was able to set aside partisanship when it came to the ravages of cancer. As should we all.

Allahpundit (and Ed Morrissey in a postscript):

Just 61 years old. The doctors stopped treating her cancer a few days ago because it would be “unproductive” and she posted a farewell message on Facebook only yesterday.

Her youngest son is 10.

[…]

Her first son died in a car accident when he was a teenager, and if you’ve read “Game Change” (or any of the more salacious excerpts), you know that she and John had had a stormy relationship even before Rielle Hunter entered the picture. Although they were comfortable financially, in many ways she had a tough life. I hope she found some peace at the end.

Update (Ed): Although I don’t share Elizabeth Edwards’ political views, she struck me as a strong woman with more than the usual heavy load, as Allahpundit also notes.  She will have more peace in the next life.  We’ll say prayers for her, her family, and the many friends she made along the way.

Patterico’s Pontifications (a guest post by someone I don’t know named Aaron Worthing):

It is tempting to make some kind of comment about her husband, but let’s show some class and respect for the dead.  Ms. Edwards herself seemed like an okay person, and Cnn is reporting by breaking news email that she is dead.

I hope she left this world in as much peace and as little pain as possible.  And I hope she finds happiness in the next world.

Rhymes With Right (never heard of the blog, but it’s clearly conservative in outlook):

There is a place where politics stops, and human compassion begins. This is one of those places.

On the other hand, Douglas is not the only cold heart in political blogtopia, but I still say it has more to do with the character and heart of the individual and not with political outlook:

She did not apologize to us for participating in the deceit perpetrated by John Edwards, which skewed the 2008 Democratic primaries.


The Moderate Voice

Exclusive: Memos Reveal Anti-Muslim Group’s Early Efforts To Bring Islamophobia Into The Mainstream

December 6, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Last month, Salon’s Justin Elliott published new clues about a mysterious anti-Muslim front organization called the Clarion Fund. Clarion produced “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” a graphic film depicting Muslims as terrorists bent on world conquest, and during the 2008 presidential campaign, distributed 28 million copies of the DVD to households in swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida. Producers of the film have taken credit for the recent surge in Islamophobia, pointing to the anti-Muslim protests sweeping the nation earlier this summer and the protests against the planned Park51 Muslim community center in downtown Manhattan as evidence of the movie’s influence.

Elliott obtained a 990 tax form showing that someone named “Barre Seid” (note the spelling) financed Clarion’s distribution and media outreach in 2008 with a donation of $ 17 million. However, no public record exists for a millionaire named “Barre Seid,” but Salon pointed out that a Chicago-area manufacturing executive named “Barry Seid” has a long history of funding anti-Muslim groups and activists like FrontPageMag’s David Horowitz. Barry Seid denied any involvement with Clarion, despite the 990 form Elliott obtained. It’s likely that either Seid or a small set of wealthy donors underwrote Clarion effort. Reporter Pam Martens discovered that a firm called Donors Capital Trust gave $ 17 million to the Clarion Fund in 2008 in nine installments. Donors Capital Trust helps wealthy right-wing donors anonymously give to right-wing front groups. A copy of the Donors Capital Trust 990 with the donations to Clarion can be viewed here.

ThinkProgress has obtained new documents, left open to the public by the Clarion Fund’s webmaster, that offer an insight into the ideas behind the organization’s websites and films. An e-mail from Clarion Fund communications director Gregory Ross to the webmaster, outlines the campaign to promote Obsession during the 2008 presidential election (view a copy here). Ross explains how he would like to brand Clarion’s anti-Muslim campaign with “something pleasing to the eye, edgy, hip and fun!” To bring Obsession’s anti-Muslim themes into the mainstream, Ross wanted to make a symbol or slogan with wide appeal, like “google, banana republic or even coca-cola”:

I’d like something more compact, and not as busy as we have now (www.clarionfund.org), however something that stands out and is not boring. In fact, we can just do something with our name; symbols don’t have to be used. Think google, banana republic or even coca-cola and how they made something out of their name only. […] Lastly, we will also need a logo done for “Yes We Must”. This phrase will be used as a rallying cry for all organizations that are combating radical Islam to ban together. It must be something pleasing to the eye, edgy, hip and fun! We will want everyone to put it on their websites. Think of it as something that you’d almost make into a button that you’d put on your t-shirt. This would be like the slogan Barak [sic] Obama is using for ‘Yes We Can’.

Another memo, a collection of notes written by the webmaster (view a copy here), offers a striking contrast with Clarion’s stated mission of addressing “a minority of vocal and often violent radicals.” It shows the calculations behind selecting scary images depicting Arabs and Muslims on the Obsession website:

The Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter It – Picture of U.S. government hard at work or seeking diplomatic goals or commingling with Arabs or perhaps a picture of violent extremism (like 9/11). This is a long piece given to Congress about the history of arab terrorism and efforts to counter them. […]

Fascism, Islamism and Anti-Semitism – Talks about Arab anti-semitism, Americans turning the other cheek, makes references to Hitler, holocaust denial, etc……… […]

Where are the Liberal Muslims? – We need some picture to suggest (or ask the question) that a “moderate” Islam exists. Whether it is a nice looking calm Muslim shaking hands with someone else, or something else entirely… you get the idea. […]

Understanding Radical Islam – We just need a picture of “radical islam” — whether it is arabs on the march, people with bombs attached to them, kids with machine guns, etc.

Like the movie, which obscures the history of Middle East conflicts and paints the entire Muslim world as dominated by radical terrorist groups, the pictures were selected to elicit a charged emotional response. Although the Obsession movie was presented as a factual documentary, the memo reveals that the creators of Obsession were not strictly addressing “radical Islam,” but were motivated by a desire to spread Islamophobia.

The webmaster memos also underscore how pivotal Clarion has been in bringing Islamophobia into the mainstream — like a consumer brand. Clarion director Frank Gaffney helped organize several of the protests outside of mosques last summer. Hate blogger Pam Geller, who instigated the right-wing hysteria over the Park51 community center, has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the film since it was launched in 2006 and called for her readers to watch it. Several of the groups organizing anti-mosque protests this year, like the Florida Security Council, have specifically cited the film as their inspiration. And one of the loudest voices of anti-Muslim bigotry, Glenn Beck, was quick to help publicize and support the movie.

Clarion’s selling of Islamophobia has been a success in many ways. In recent months, scores of anti-Muslim political candidates were elected to Congress, there has been a surge in the number of attacks on mosques, and prominent politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have adopted increasingly harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric. After groups supported by Clarion rallied against Park51 last summer, polls showed a majority of Americans opposed its construction.

ThinkProgress

Exclusive Letter: 6 Days Before He Died, Senator Robert Byrd Worked To Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

December 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Post image for Exclusive Letter: 6 Days Before He Died, Senator Robert Byrd Worked To Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

On June 22, 2010, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), the longest-serving member in the history of the United States Congress, wrote a letter to a constituent, Jim McKay, stating, “Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ does not change the composition of our armed forces-it merely allows troops to continue to do their jobs without fear of dismissal or blackmailing because of their personal life.”

Six days later, Senator Robert Byrd, 92-years old, died.

Senator Robert Byrd has a unique history, having initially fought against the civil rights battles of the 1960′s, but later worked to support civil rights. While he can’t be described as a gay rights supporter, his work on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should not be ignored, especially as he opposed allowing gays into the military when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was being debated in 1993.

Senator Byrd definitely was a man of thought, and wasn’t afraid to reconsider his positions over time, including on issues like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Surely, if in the last days of his life, a conservative Democrat like Senator Robert Byrd felt repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a sufficiently important cause to work on, our United States Senators in the last days of this session can take the time to repeal it. And Republicans like Mitch McConnell should never again diminish the work their body undertakes as “a waste of time,” even if it means investing time.

The people of this great country deserve it. Senator Byrd, no doubt, would have agreed.

Byrd DADT Letter

My sincere thanks to Jim McKay for allowing us to publish this letter the late Senator personally write to Mr. McKay. He writes, “No one would have blamed him for not getting involved in DADT, especially with his earlier conservative positions, but he was actively working to advance legislation to do the right thing. My hope is that Senator Manchin would do the same thing.”

Jim McKay is State Coordinator of Prevent Child Abuse WV, a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of West Virginia’s children.

Previously, Jim was Program Coordinator of a crisis shelter for runaway youth, and worked for The Education Alliance, a statewide non-profit promoting private support for public education. Jim served as Legislative Assistant to the Speaker of the WV House of Delegates from 1991-1994. Jim currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance of Children’s Trust & Prevention Funds and is Chair of the WV Legislative Action Team for Children & Families.

Jim McKay has been blogging since 2002 at his personal blog, Wabi-Sabi. He is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and wvablue.com and was a credentialed member of the WV State Blogger Corps at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

(Image: Senator Robert Byrd speaks with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, November 30, 2006)



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Related posts:

  1. Collins And Brown Will Vote For Repeal? Don’t Bet On It Yet!
  2. An Open Letter To The Mainstream Media About DADT “Repeal”
  3. Breaking: Service Chiefs All Agree: Yes, Repeal DADT, Survey Focus Correct




The New Civil Rights Movement

Exclusive: Aung San Suu Kyi on How She Missed the IT Revolution

December 1, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Foreign Policy

Another extreme drought hits the Amazon, raising climate change concerns – With exclusive commentary by forest scientist Simon Lewis

November 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Drought in the Amazon (1 month assesment period, through 16  October 2010).  Source: University College London,

We know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event.

That’s from an email to CP by forest scientist Simon Lewis, a leading expert on the Amazon (see Scientists: “There are multiple, consistent lines of evidence from ground-based studies published in the peer-reviewed literature that Amazon forests are, indeed, very susceptible to drought stress”).

The figure above is from the University College London Global Drought Monitor via a post by WWF’s Nick Sundt, that I am reposting below.  It represents a 1-month assessment period, through 16 October 2010.

Amazon drought, BrazilBut first, here’s a excerpt from an article (with a video) by the Global Post that Lewis recommends, “Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon: Droughts are growing more severe. Has the world’s largest rain forest reached its tipping point?”  In the photo, “Brazilians cross the muddy bottom of the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon River, in the city of Manaus, Oct. 26, 2010.”

The world’s largest rain forest was dangerously dry, and may well be drying out.

October marked the end of one of the worst Amazon droughts on record — a period of tinder-dry forests, dusty cropland and rivers falling to unprecedented lows. Streams are the highways of the deep jungle and they’re also graveyards for dead trees, usually hidden safely under fathoms of navigable water.

But not this year, and the drought’s significance extends far beyond impeded boats.

While the region has seen dry spells before, locals and experts say droughts have grown more frequent and severe. Scientists say there’s mounting evidence the Amazon’s shifting weather may be caused by global climate change.

The world’s largest rain forest has long been a bulwark of hope for a planet troubled by climate change. Covering an area the size of the continental United States, the Amazon holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water and generates a fifth of its oxygen. With the planet’s climate increasingly threatened by surging carbon emissions, the Amazon has been one of the few forces keeping them in check. But the latest scientific evidence suggests the forest may be unable to shield us from a hotter world.

“Every ecosystem has some point beyond which it can’t go,” said Oliver Phillips, a tropical ecology professor at the University of Leeds who has spent decades studying how forests react to changing weather. “The concern now is that parts of the Amazon may be approaching that threshold.”

Phillips led a team of dozens of researchers who studied the damage caused by a severe 2005 drought to trees and undergrowth at more than 100 sites across the Amazon. His findings, published in the journal Science, are troubling.

Through photosynthesis, the rain forest absorbs 2 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide each year. But the 2005 drought caused a massive die-off of trees and inverted the process. Like a vacuum cleaner expelling its dust, the Amazon released 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2005. All told, the drought caused an extra 5 billion tons of heat-trapping gases to end up in the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Europe and Japan.

It still remains to be seen whether the rain forest’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases has been permanently harmed. “We can’t say for sure — it could be happening now,” Phillips said. “Often you don’t know you’ve passed a turning point until you’ve already passed it.”

Phillips said he’s worried about yet another drought following so closely after the last. Along the edge of the forest in Peru and Bolivia, there were more fires this year than any year on record, he said, along with reports of substantial damage to plants in the normally wet northwestern Amazon.

“The humid tropical forests have evolved at pretty high temperatures but there’s a temperature at which you don’t see them on the planet,” said Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “And some tropical forests in the world now are starting to be exposed to temperatures they’ve never experienced.”

(Courtesy Greg Asner.)

Asner recently completed a study of world rain forests showing just how extensive the damage could be. He took 16 leading models for predicting the next century of climate change and essentially created a map — showing hotspots where they all agreed rising greenhouse gases would substantially change the forest.

He found that higher temperatures and shifts in rainfall could leave as much as 37 percent of the Amazon so radically altered that the plants and animals living there now would be forced to adapt, move or die. When other man-made factors like logging are taken into account, the portion of affected forest could be as high as 81 percent.

Asner said melting polar ice sheets aren’t the only climate change sentinels out there. The world’s largest rain forest — drained, drying, sometimes burning — is on the front lines, too, and just as threatened.

“I hate to pit myself against the polar bears,” he said. “But we’re talking about the Amazon, the majority of the biodiversity on the planet is in the humid tropical forests.”

Locals call the Amazon’s annual dry spells “the burning season,” named for the forest fires landholders regularly set to make room for crops and cows. In past decades, fires kindled on the jungle’s edges burned themselves out once they advanced a few yards into permanently damp virgin forest.

But that changed with the 2005 drought, said Foster Brown, an environmental scientist at the federal university in the Brazilian state of Acre….

“The ecosystems here have become so dry that instead of a being a barrier to fire, the forest became kindling,” he said. “We’ve changed from a situation where a relatively small part of the region would be susceptible to fire to the entire region being susceptible to fire.”

Burned forests aren’t the only evidence of drought. This year, one of the Amazon River’s biggest tributaries, the Rio Negro, dropped 13 feet below its dry-season average — to the lowest level on record. Channels in some areas have become little more than winding belts of mud — leaving boats stranded and remote communities cut off from supplies….

“Everything has changed. We don’t know when we can plant. We plant and then the sun kills everything,” Mariazinha said. “If it continues like this, we expect a tragedy.”

And the point she pressed upon her visitors was, perhaps they should be worried, too.

“I ask you,” she said, “as someone who lives in the outside world who knows the tragedy that’s happening there — is there anything we can do?”

Here is what Lewis has to say about the drought:

We need to be a little cautious when looking at these unpublished results as we don’t know the exact details of the techniques used to generate the maps. But, we know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event, was anomalous as did not occur in a El Nino year, hit South-Western Amazonia hardest (a different pattern to El Nino related droughts), and was associated with high Atlantic sea surface temperatures (not Pacific sea surface temperatures as in El Nino years). Now in 2010, we again have a severe drought, again hitting South-Western Amazonia hard. Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and the north-west movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone seem ripe for careful study to improve our understanding of the 2010 drought.

The good news for the Amazon is that deforestation rates have been radically reduced since 2005, so in that sense the Amazon is doing well. The bad news is these droughts kill trees and promote fires, which are very damaging to forests and leaves them more vulnerable to fire in the future, potentially leading to a drought-fire-carbon emissions feedback and widespread forest collapse.  Most concerning of all is that while two unusual droughts clearly don’t make a trend, they are consistent with some model projections made well before 2005: that higher sea surface temperatures increase drought frequency and intensity, leading later this century to substantial Amazon forest die-back.

We ought to remember that every ecosystem has it limits, a point of where they radically change. The open question is whether such a point is being reached in some parts of the Amazon. While little is expected of the climate change talks in Cancun next week, the stakes, in terms of the fate of the Amazon are much higher than they were a year ago in Copenhagen.

And here is an excerpt from a World Wildlife Foundation post by Nick Sundt.

The Amazon region is experiencing the third extreme drought in a dozen years — and it may turn out to be the worst on record. The droughts coupled with recent research findings, suggest that rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will rapidly increase the frequency and severity of droughts in the region. The implications for people, biodiversity and climate are ominous.

As the map below shows, most of the Amazon region was afflicted by drought in mid-October 2010, with large areas in the north and west experiencing exceptional drought – beyond extreme.  Drought conditions, which now are improving, have been concentrated in Brazil, but extend into parts of neighboring countries including large areas of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia.

According to the classification system used by the University College London (UCL) Global Drought Monitor, exceptional droughts normally should not occur more than a couple of times  in a century. Typical impacts include “exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies.” According to UCL,  nearly 8.7 million people live in the locations shown above (which include smaller areas outside the Amazon) that are experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

The drought results from a combination of above normal temperatures over much of the region combined with low precipitation.  As the figure below illustrates, most of the Amazon region received less than 75% of normal rainfall between 1 July and 30 September.  Large areas have received far less precipitation, in many cases less than 25% of normal.

Brazil, Percent of Normal Precipitation, 1 July - 30 September  2010.  Source: NOAA.

In a press release on 22 Oct (Seca pode bater recorde na Amazônia / Drought may hit record in the Amazon), Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia or IPAM) said:

“The drought of 2010 still hasn’t ended in the Amazon and could surpass that of 2005 as the region’s worst during the past four decades. In the Western Amazon, the Solimões River reached its lowest level in recorded history. In Manaus, the level of the Rio Negro (Black River) is approaching that of 1963 – the lowest in a century. Even if this doesn’t occur, the forest will have already experienced three extreme dry spells in just 12 years, two of which occurred during the past five years: 1998, 2005 and 2010. And this is not including the drought of 2007, which affected only the Southeastern Amazon and left 10 thousand sq. km. of forest scorched in the region…`The Amazon that had wet seasons so well-defined that you could set your calendar to them – that Amazon is gone,‘ says ecologist Daniel Nepstad of IPAM…”

Among the consequences of the drought are extremely low flows on many of the region’s rivers.  On 24 October 2010, the Rio Negro, a major tributary of the Amazon, reached an all time low of 13.63 m at Manaus, edging out 1963 when water levels reached 13.64 m (Monitoramento Hidrologico: 2010, Boletim no 33 – 29/10/2010, by the Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais or CPRM).  In contrast, just last year, the river saw an all time record high of 29.77 m as the region experienced devastating floods. (Relatorio da Cheia 2009 [PDF] [2010], by CPRM).  See photos of the flood [PDF]. Records for the Rio Negro extend back 107 years.  See also Flooding Near Manaus, Brazil, NASA Earth Observatory, 19 August 2010.

Writing for the New York Times upon his return from Iquitos, Peru, Nigel Pitman reports that “people were deeply upset by the lack of rain.”  He explains: ”Long dry spells like these in Amazonia wither crops and worsen air pollution and cut off whole towns from the rest of the world, when the arm of the river they’re on turns to mud. They also destroy forests” (Drought in the Amazon, Up Close and Personal, 12 November 2010).  Satellite imagery on 19 August showed a pall of smoke concentrated over Bolivia  (see Fires in South America, NASA Earth Observatory, 8 September 2010), where drought conditions allowed fires to burn out of control, prompting the Bolivian government in mid-August to declare a state of emergency.

Dr Richard Bodmer of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (University of Kent) and the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported on the impacts the drought is having on the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon.  Among the species affected:  the pink river dolphin (see photo below).  “The conditions have resulted in fewer dolphins observed throughout the Samiria River,” says Dr.  Bodmer.  “Overall, pink river dolphin numbers have decreased by 47 per cent and the grey river dolphin by 49 per cent compared with previous years’ population estimates. The dolphins have been forced to leave their habitats in the Samiria River and find refuge in the larger channels of the Amazon.” See Amazon drought results in dramatic fall in pink river dolphin populations (press release from Earthwatch).

Pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)  in the Rio Negro, Brazil.  © naturepl.com/Luiz Claudio Marigo / WWF.

For an outstanding series of photographs documenting the impacts of the drought, see Estiagem na Amazônia posted by Último Segundo (22 November 2010).  See also the Reuters video (6 Nov 2010) below for discussion of some of the major consequences of the drought.

Above: Brazil Looks to Ease Amazon Drought, Reuters Video, 6 November 2010.

The 2005 Drought

Just 5 years ago — in 2005 — the Amazon experienced an extreme drought that prompted the government of Brazil to declare a state of emergency in most of the region. In The Drought of Amazonia in 2005 (by José A. Marengo, Carlos A. Nobre, Javier Tomasella in the Journal of Climate, February 2008), researchers said:

“In 2005, large sections of southwestern Amazonia experienced one of the most intense droughts of the last hundred years. The drought severely affected human population along the main channel of the Amazon River and its western and southwestern tributaries, the Solimões (also known as the Amazon River in the other Amazon countries) and the Madeira Rivers, respectively. The river levels fell to historic low levels and navigation along these rivers had to be suspended. The drought did not affect central or eastern Amazonia, a pattern different from the El Niño–related droughts in 1926, 1983, and 1998.”

The 2005 drought in the Amazon also was notable for its impacts on the global carbon cycle.  Though the exact magnitude of the impacts are a matter of debate within the science community (see Amazon drought raises research doubtsNature News, 20 July 2010), there is evidence that the drought along with elevated air temperatures sharply reduced net primary production (NPP) in the Amazon. NPP is a measure of the amount of atmospheric carbon plants pull from the atmosphere and incorporate into biomass.  Where NPP is reduced, less carbon is fixed by plants and more is left in the atmosphere to disrupt climate.

In Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 Through 2009 (Science, 20 August 2010) researchers using satellite data found that global NPP dropped precipitously in 2005 to its lowest level of the decade.  The largest contributor to the drop was a decline of NPP in the Amazon rainforest that they attributed largely to elevated temperatures and the severe drought.

Similarly, scientists using records from long-term monitoring plots in the Amazon reported in Science a year earlier (6 March 2009) in Drought Sensitivity of the Amazon Rainforest that the drought had a large impact on carbon flows. They note that the Amazon’s old growth forests process 18 Petagrams (or Gigatons) of carbon each year — more than twice the amount emitted annually by burning fossil fuels (1 Petagram = 1015 grams = 1 billion metric tonnes = 1 Gigaton). “Relatively small changes in Amazon forest dynamics therefore have the potential to substantially affect the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and thus the rate of climate change itself,” they said.

They estimated that the drought reduced the biomass carbon balance by 1.2 to 1.6 Gigatons of carbon.  “The exceptional growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2005, the third greatest in the global record, may have been partially caused by the Amazon drought effects documented here,” they add. “Amazon forests therefore appear vulnerable to increasing moisture stress, with the potential for large carbon losses to exert feedback on climate change.”

The scale of such drought-induced changes in the Amazon’s carbon budget can be contrasted with the magnitude of Brazil’s carbon emissions from other sources, and with global carbon emissions from fossil fuels.   The Brazilian government estimates that in 2005, carbon emissions from land-use and landcover changes (including deforestation) were 1.3 gigatons of carbon and accounted for 77% of Brazil’s carbon emissions from all sources in 2005  (Segunda Comunicação Nacional do Brasil à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima [PDF], Coordenação-Geral de Mudanças Globais do Clima, Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Brasília, 2010).

That is at the low-end of the range of 1.2-1.6 gigatons of carbon that may have shifted to the atmosphere in 2005 as a result of the Amazon drought.  In other words, 2005 carbon emissions associated with the drought may have equaled or  exceeded those from deforestation in Brazil that year. Furthermore, at the global level, the range of emissions that may have resulted from the 2005 drought is equivalent to roughly 16-22% of annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use in 2005 (about 7.4 gigatons of carbon).

The 2010 Drought

Just as the 2005 drought was preceded by an El Niño (from Apr-May-June 2002 through Feb-Mar-Apr 2003), the 2010 drought was preceded by an El Niño (May-June-July 2009 through March-April-May 2010).  Consequently, the Amazon experienced well below normal precipitation during the rainy season that normally stretches roughly from September-November through March-May.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in The South American Monsoon System Summary, July 2009-June 2010 [Powerpoint] that precipitation from July 2009 through June 2010 was well below normal over the Amazon basin, consistent with the expected impacts of an El Niño.  Furthermore, precipitation was much lower than during the 2002-2003 rainy season associated with the 2002-2003 El Niño that set the stage for the 2005 drought.

Similarly, as in 2005, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical North Atlantic ocean in 2010 were elevated during the dry season (normally April-September). The maps below show the global temperature anomalies for September 2005 and September 2010 (around the usual end of the dry season) and show that SSTs in the north tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean in both years show a similar pattern.  Likewise, the surface temperatures over the Amazon during both years were elevated — though were substantially higher in 2010.

September 2005 surface temperature anomalies.  Source: NASA

Global Surface Temperature Anomalies, September 2010. Source:  NASA.

The Monthly Tropical North Atlantic Index (TNA) (a measure of the average monthly SST anomaly in the region) has been at record high levels (and above the values for 2005) for every month of 2010 through September. The TNA for October was second only to that of 2003. The separate Caribbean SST Index (CAR) has not been at record levels for most months, but has been anomalously high and for most months has been above 2005 levels.

For both the TNA and the CAR indices, the long term trend is upward.  See for example the long-term trend for the Tropical North Atlantic Index for the month of September below.

Above: The North Tropical Atlantic SST Index for the Month of September, 1951-2010. SST anomalies (relative to 1951-2000) averaged over the region of the tropical Atlantic between Africa and the Caribbean (the region is indicated by NTA on this map) for the month of September from 1951 through 2010.

As in 2005, these high SSTs in the Tropical North Atlantic are resulting in one of the worst coral bleaching episodes on record in the Caribbean, as well as energizing one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.  See our recent posting, Sea Surface Temperatures in Tropical North Atlantic Rise to Record Levels in 2010, With Impacts from the Amazon to Canada (16 November 2010).

Are the high SSTs — as in 2005 — also associated with the Amazon drought conditions during the 2010 dry season?  The answer is most likely “yes,” but the nature of the connection and the role of other factors (such as the 2009-2010 El Niño in the tropical Pacific) will have to await the published research results of scientists.  Similarly, we will not know the impacts of the 2010 drought on the cycling of carbon to and from the Amazon until scientific assessments are conducted and research results are published.

The Climate Change Connection

What connection might these droughts have to rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere and what might we expect during the course of this century as GHG  concentrations continue to rise?

The connections between rising GHG concentrations on the  El Niños is a matter of scientific interest and debate.  El Niño-Southern Oscillation patterns in the tropical Pacific appear to be changing and some research suggests the changes may be related to climate change (see El Niño in a changing climate, Nature, 24 September 2010).  However, the science is very much unsettled, so we cannot say anything definitive about the relationship between rising GHGs and the El Niños that preceeded the 2005 and 2010 droughts.

In the case of rising SSTs in the tropical Atlantic — another major contributor to the 2005 drought and likely to the 2010 drought  –  the connection to rising GHG concentrations is better understood, though there is uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the impact relative to other variables.

When asked about the degree to which rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere were contributing to the trend of rising  sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean, Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said at a Congressional briefing on 30 June 2010 that the temperatures could not be explained without accounting for rising GHG concentrations.  He said that while some researchers thought the rising GHG levels might account for 60-80% of the temperature anomaly, he estimated that about half was due to rising GHGs.

This is consistent with research results published in Geophysical Research Letters on 29 April 2010.  In Is the basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic Ocean related to atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming?, Chunzai Wang and Shenfu Dong of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, conclude that “both global warming and AMO [Atlantic multidecadal oscillation] variability make a contribution to the recent basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic and their relative contribution is approximately equal.”

If the rise in SSTs in the tropical north Atlantic are being driven in part by rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, and if those SSTs are implicated in the Amazon drought of 2005 and potentially in the drought of 2010, then rising GHG concentrations are among the factors likely contributing to those droughts. However, researchers have not at this point definitively attributed either drought to rising atmospheric GHG concentrations.

More importantly rising atmospheric concentrations of GHGs in the future will continue to affect tropical sea surface temperatures in both the Pacific and the Atlantic,  and research indicates that this — in combination with rising air temperatures over the Amazon – will increasingly dry out the Amazon. In Amazon Basin climate under global warming: the role of the sea surface temperature (Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, 27 May 2008), researchers analyze these connections.

Using a model from the UK’s Hadley Centre, they focused on a period centered around the year 2050.  The analysis suggests that SST anomalies in both the tropical Atlantic and Pacific would combine to reduce Amazon Basin rainfall, “leading to a perennial soil moisture reduction and an associated 30% reduction in annual Amazon Basin net primary productivity (NPP). A further 23% NPP reduction occurs in response to a 3.5°C warmer air temperature associated with a global mean SST warming.”

In Drought under global warming: a review (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 19 Oct 2010) Dr Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 assessment “project increased aridity in the 21st century, with a striking pattern that suggests continued drying” over many land areas including “most of Americas.”  While acknowledging the uncertainties, he says that the model results appear “to be a robust response to increased GHGs.”  He adds: “This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling [the model results]…a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades” in Brazil and many other land areas.

Approaching — or passing — a Tipping Point

The possibility of increasingly arid conditions along with more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon — and the regional and global implications — is a matter of growing and grave concern.  In a report to WWF, The Amazon’s Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire in the Greenhouse [2.49 MB pdf] (Dec 2007, WWF), IPAM’s Daniel Nepstad concludes:

Synergistic trends in Amazon economies, vegetation, and climate could lead to the replacement or damaging of more than half of the closed-canopy forests of the Amazon Basin over the next 15 to 25 years, undoing many of the successes currently in progress to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Counteracting these trends are emerging changes in landholder behaviour, recent successes in establishing large blocks of protected areas in active agricultural frontiers, important market trends favouring forest stewardship, and a possible new international mechanism for compensating tropical nations for their progress in forest conservation, that could reduce the likelihood of a large-scale dieback of the Amazon forest complex. In the long term, however, the avoidance of this scenario may depend upon worldwide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are large enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than a degree or two.”

More recently (in late 2009 and before the 2010 drought), in Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector [PDF], WWF identified the prospect of more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon and the related rainforest dieback as being among the ”tipping points” that could be passed in coming decades, with ”significant impacts within the first half of this century.”

Given the current drought in the Amazon, the report’s discussion of the 2005 Amazon drought should raise some eyebrows:

“…until more recently, 2005-like droughts may have had a frequency of between 1-in-40 and 1-in-100-years. Recent work, however, suggests that, with the now elevated concentration of GHGs  [greenhouse gases] (currently ~430 ppmv CO2e [parts per million, volume, of carbon dioxide equivalent],compared with 280 ppmv CO2e pre-industrial), the return period is of the order of 1-in-20-years and this is likely to increase to 1-in-2 and above by between 2025 and 2050 if stabilization at 450 to 550 ppmv CO2e is achieved (with a higher probability if it is not).”

Given that the 2010 drought is comparable to the 2005 drought — and that they are only five years apart, we already may be closer to a return period of 1-in-2 years than the research suggested.

About the implications of an increase in the frequency of 2005-like droughts, the report says:

“The 2005 drought impacts were relatively severe. However, the social, environmental and economic consequences of such a significant increase in the frequency of 2005-like events are far more than the sum of 2005 impacts x drought frequency. What is currently termed ‘drought’, with such a significant increase in frequency, becomes the norm implying a potentially radical change in hydrological systems in affected regions, with knock-on effects for people, environment, and economy.”


For an excellent discussion of the 2005 and 2010 droughts, climate change and the implications for the Amazon, see the video below from GlobalPost, Rumble in the Jungle: Is the Amazon Losing the Fight Against Climate Change? by Erik German and Solana Pyne.  See also their online article, Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon (GlobalPost, 3 November 2010).

– Nick Sundt

Climate Progress

Exclusive: In Letter, Gates Dismissed McCain’s Concerns About DADT Study

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In late September, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing his concerns that the Pentagon’s Working Group review of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was operating under the assumption that “the policy will be repealed,” rather than studying if it should be changed. “I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and the survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered,” McCain wrote in a letter dated September 28, 2010.

Responding to the Senator’s request in a previously unreleased letter obtained by the Wonk Room dated October 25, 2010, Gates explained that the review was not a “referendum” on the policy, stressing, “I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.” He also emphasized that the final report would inform military leaders of the impacts of lifting the ban and help guide Congress in its decision making:

GATES: I instructed the working group to obtain the input of Servicemembers so that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I, as well as the Service Chiefs, can more fully understand how a change in the DADT policy may impact unit cohesion, military readiness and effectiveness, recruiting and retention and family readiness. […]

The Chairman and I fully support the approach and the efforts of the working group, as do the Service Chiefs. We are confident that the working group’s report will provide us with the information we need to appropriately advise the President, and, if requested to do so, to provide our fully informed views to Congress as it considers legislative action.

[Read a copy of Gates’ letter HERE]

Unfortunately, Gates’ response did not assuage McCain, who reiterated his opposition to the study during a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press, hawking the same talking points. But the Senator is one of the only players involved who is concerned about the scope of the report. Two of the four Service Chiefs — Navy chief Adm. Gary Roughead and Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz — are on public record as endorsing the comprehensive nature of the review. Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos — who has expressed concerns about the “risk” of repeal — also predicted that the Pentagon’s review of the policy would inform the military about how best to implement a repeal and allow the Marines Corp to change the policy “smartly.”

Similarly, during a hearing last week, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We believe this is probably, as far as I could tell, the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”

Cross-posted on the Wonk Room.

ThinkProgress

Exclusive: In Letter, Gates Dismissed McCain’s Concerns About DADT Study

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In late September, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressing his concerns that the Pentagon’s Working Group review of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was operating under the condition that “the policy will be repealed” rather than studying if it should be changed. “I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and the survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered,” McCain wrote in a letter dated September 28, 2010. [Read a copy of McCain’s letter HERE]

Responding to the Senator’s request in a previously unreleased letter from October 25, 2010, Gates explained that the review was not a “referendum” on the policy, stressing, “I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.” He also emphasized that the final report would inform military leaders of the impacts of lifting the ban and help guide Congress in its decision making:

GATES: I instructed the working group to obtain the input of Servicemembers so that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I, as well as the Service Chiefs, can more fully understand how a change in the DADT policy may impact unit cohesion, military readiness and effectiveness, recruiting and retention and family readiness. […]

The Chairman and I fully support the approach and the efforts of the working group, as do the Service Chiefs. We are confident that the working group’s report will provide us with the information we need to appropriately advise the President, and, if requested to do so, to provide our fully informed views to Congress as it considers legislative action.

[Read a copy of Gates’ letter HERE]

Unfortunately, Gates’ response did not assuage McCain, who reiterated his opposition to the study during a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press. But the Senator is one of the only individual concerned about the scope of the report. Two of the four Service Chiefs — Navy chief Adm. Gary Roughead and Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz — are on public record as endorsing the comprehensive nature of the review. Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos — who has expressed concerns about the “risk” of repeal — also predicted that the Pentagon’s review of the policy would inform the military about how best to implement a repeal and allow the Marines Corp to change the policy “smartly.”

Similarly, during a hearing last week, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — told Senate Armed Services Committee, “We believe this is probably, as far as I could tell, the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”

Wonk Room

EXCLUSIVE “TSA-Junk” T-Shirts Designed by The Lid

November 21, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

I created Some Fun TSA-Related T-Shirts which you can purchase one at a time or (for much cheaper) in volume. Please consider buy one or ten, I get 15% of each purchase (and could use the cash). Below are some of the designs and you can customize the Shirts .Click on the link below to go to my store and buy some shirts.

http://thelid.logosoftwear.com/

 
 




YID With LID

CBN Exclusive Video: Al Qaeda Training in North Africa

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

I have one more alert for you before heading out of the office for a bit on diaper duty with my second child (arriving in the next day or two!).

CBN has acquired exclusive, never-before-seen footage of Al Qaeda’s North African branch training in the Sahara desert for new attacks against the West.

You can watch it by clicking on the viewer here:

The group is known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb-or AQIM.

North African intelligence officials tell CBN News that AQIM has an extensive network in Western Europe. They are concerned that the Obama administration’s attention is being diverted by Pakistan and Yemen as a gathering al Qaeda storm brews in the Sahara.

Come next week, I will be available for interviews-with video-about this emerging front in the global jihad.

Big Peace

Stakelbeck on Terror Show Exclusive: The Iran/Venezuela Axis

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The latest episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show is a special 30-minute expose of the growing Iran/Venezuela axis in our hemisphere.

Watch as former high-ranking State Department official Roger Noriega and leading Iran expert Ilan Berman provide exclusive evidence that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is providing heavy assistance to Iran on virtually every level: militarily, economically and in the nuclear realm.

We reveal how Iran is mining for uranium in venezuela. We also feature never-before seen-photos that show how Venezuela is working closely with Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.

And we analyze how Hugo Chavez may be working on a nuclear weapons program of his own-in our backyard—as the U.S. government fails to respond.

You won’t get this information anywhere else. Watch it here:

Breakdown by segments:

Top of the show: Venezuela helping Iran get around UN Sanctions

Second segment: Iran mining for uranium in Venezuela. Chavez Seeking his own nuclear weapons program? (6:48 into the show)

Third segment: Iran training Venezuela security forces? Plus, Iran/Venezuela military and nuclear cooperation grows (11:43 into the show).

Fourth segment: Exclusive aerials of covert Iranian military installation in Venezuela. Plus, never-before-seen photos of Venezuelan officials meeting with Hezbollah in Lebanon (17:14 into the show).

Fifth segment: What, if anything, is the U.S. government doing about this growing threat in our hemisphere? (23:31 into the show).

Big Peace

Natalee Holloway: Exclusive Jossy Mansur Interview … “jaw bone is human and it belongs to a white person”

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Breaking News from Jossy Mansur, Managing Director of Diario – Aruba regarding the jaw bone found by tourists last Friday. Jossy claims they have heard from officials that that the jaw bone is human and it belongs to a white person. “It may belong to a Natalee Holloway, we just don’t know yet.”

In an interview tonight with Jossy Mansur, Dana Pretzer get the exclusive interview. Listen tonight live,

Share This

Scared Monkeys

Exclusive: Rep. Upton Vows to Fight for Tea Party Principles

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The powerful Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship is up for grabs.  Former Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) is seeking a waiver to regain the post.  As supporters of term-limits, we believe new blood and new leadership is essential for democracy.


Upton Memo - E_C Chairman Pledge

Barton is being challenged by more moderate Fred Upton (R-MI).  Rep. Upton has had some questionable votes in his past, but Big Government has obtained a memo that Upton is circulating to his colleagues that makes it clear he has received the message of the election of 2010 and has pledged to govern the Committee with a conservative reform agenda that is sorely needed.

The memo in part states:

  1. I pledge to protect the sanctity of life through the vigorous oversight and by passing Rep. Pitts’ Protect Life Act and Rep. Chris Smith’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act to ensure that no taxpayer dollars every go to abortion.
  2. I will reveal, repeal and replace ObamaCare.
  3. I will exert tireless oversight of the EPA and stop implementation of a carbon regulation scheme and other job killing regulations.
  4. I will immediately adopt new committee rules to foster spending cuts and eliminate government spending programs.
  5. I will prevent the FCC from regulating the Internet.
  6. I will ensure all of the Committee’s legislation is consistent with traditional family values.

It seems clear that our message is being heard with Fred Upton.


Big Government

Exclusive Photos: Dan Choi, GetEQUAL LGBT Vets Hold DADT Repeal Vigil At Sgt. Leonard Matlovich’s Grave

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Post image for Exclusive Photos: Dan Choi, GetEQUAL LGBT Vets Hold DADT Repeal Vigil At Sgt. Leonard Matlovich’s Grave

Lt. Dan Choi, whose attempt to re-enter the Army was ended last month when they shredded his paperwork, joined other LGBT Vererans this morning at a vigil organized by GetEQUAL at the grave of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich. The vigil is designed to honor the service of Matlovich and to put pressure on the Senate, which begins its so-called “lame duck” session today, to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Sgt. Leonard Matlovich's Grave

Sgt. Leonard Matlovich's Grave

Autumn Sandeen lays wreath at Sgt. Leonard Matlovich's grave

Autumn Sandeen lays wreath at Sgt. Leonard Matlovich's grave

Autumn Sandeen, Dan Choi, Evelyn Thomas, other LGBT Vets

Autumn Sandeen, Dan Choi, Evelyn Thomas, other LGBT Vets

LGBT Vets holding GetEQUAL Signs

LGBT Vets holding GetEQUAL Signs

LGBT Veterans graveside

LGBT Veterans graveside

Via GetEQUAL:

“The vigil, held to coincide with the starting day of the lame-duck session of Congress, will send a clear and frank message to the United States Senate – repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Barack Obama, and other Democratic leaders have continually reassured the LGBT community that the legislation would be repealed during the current session of Congress.

“The vigil is set to center around the gravesite of gay Vietnam Veteran Leonard Matlovich.  Matlovich, a recipient of both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, made headlines in the 1970s after he came out as openly gay and fought to stay in the U.S. Air Force – landing him on the cover of Time Magazine.  Matlovich’s tombstone at the Congressional National Cemetery is meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans and is inscribed with the well-known phrase: “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Photos by Justin Elzie.

Related posts:

  1. A-List: New York’s Reichen Lehmkuhl Joins LGBT Vets In NYC’s Times Square At DADT Repeal Rally
  2. Howard Dean And Dan Choi Speak At “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Rally In D.C. - Exclusive Photos!
  3. BREAKING: Six Gay Vets Chain Themselves To White House In DADT Protest




The New Civil Rights Movement

Exclusive: Ensign Privately Lobbied Obama Admin For Nearly $1 Million In Health Reform Money

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

As the new class of GOP lawmakers prepare to assume office, congressional Republicans are increasingly divided over earmarks. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and others are fighting to preserve the practice. On the other hand, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is leading a group of Republicans deeply opposed to earmarks of any kind. Over the weekend DeMint released an updated list of senators standing behind him and his cause. Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R-UT), one of DeMint’s most stalwart lieutenants in his earmark battle, clarified that the GOP’s opposition to earmarks would include any specific grant money authorized by larger legislative items. Referring to the earmarking process, Lee told libertarian radio host Eric Dondero that he is fed up with lawmakers playing “Santa Claus” by doling out money from grant programs in laws like President Obama’s health care reform and economic stimulus package.

However, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), one of DeMint’s anti-earmark supporters, appears to have been playing “Santa Claus” by demanding money from the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s health care reform law enacted early this year. Over the summer, Ensign sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting grant money authorized by the law for the University of Nevada School of Medicine for “Primary Care Residency Expansion.” This grant program is one of many included in the health law to increase the number of doctors in America. In the letter, Ensign explained that “Nevada continues to have an extremely low number of physicians per capita,” and that the grant would help alleviate the “growing challenges Nevada continues to face with providing access to much-needed health care.”

ThinkProgress obtained a copy of the letter using a Freedom of Information Act request. Below is a screen shot of Ensign’s health reform request letter, and a copy may be downloaded here:

According to HHS, Ensign was successful with his request. The HHS website notes that the agency has awarded $ 960,000 in health reform money to the University of Nevada for a Primary Care Residency Expansion program.

This is not the first time prominent Republicans have played “Santa Claus” with laws they have opposed. In 2009, Republicans like Ensign smeared Obama’s stimulus as a waste and a failure. However, Ensign (and even DeMint) privately requested stimulus money for their states.

Ensign’s letter to HHS serves as a stark reminder that while Republicans have ludicrously smeared the health reform law with lies and demagoguery, in private they realize its benefits to their constituents. Like every other GOP lawmaker, Ensign voted against the Affordable Care Act and like nearly every other GOP lawmaker, has pledged to repeal the entire law — including the grant program from which he requested money for his own state. Similarly, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has taken credit for Medicare improvements made possible by the Affordable Care Act, even though he too opposed the law. As the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky has reported, Republican governors posturing as staunch opponents of health reform have quietly worked to quickly implement the law.

The GOP seems committed to playing politics with the nation’s health care crisis. The earmark debate, and the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are nothing more than political theater designed to distract from the reality that Republicans have proposed no substantial solutions to the nation’s most critical problems. There are tens of thousands of Americans dying because of lack of proper health insurance, and as Ensign’s letter shows, many states are already suffering from a broken, unregulated system of care. But rather than fix any serious problems, Ensign and his cohorts are focused solely on breaking Obama’s agenda so that he is a “a one-term president.”

ThinkProgress

Blackfive National Geographic Exclusive - Restrepo footage of SSG Sal Giunta

November 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Wanted you to know that the television premiere of Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s acclaimed film, Restrepo, is on Monday, November 29 at 9pm ET/PT.

As you may know already, one of the prominently featured stories in Restrepo is that of Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, who, on Tuesday, November 16, will be receiving the Medal of Honor for his heroism and valor during Combat Operation Rock Avalanche in Afghanistan. In honor of SSG Giunta, and of all veterans and those serving the country on this important day, the filmmakers have made available an exclusive, 14-minute video clip of SSG Giunta recounting the combat operation during which he dragged his critically wounded best friend, Josh Brennan, out of the hands of 2 insurgents who had captured him.

 

The Sal Giunta Story from Ryan Blaind on Vimeo.

For more information about the TV premiere of Restrepo, please visit www.natgeotv.com/restrepoFor additional information about the film, please visit www.restrepothemovie.com, and join them on Facebook and Twitter.




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