In a change of pace from the AGW discussion, I figured I'd write another edition of Why This Matters.
- A recent CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's personal approval rating is only one point lower than President Barack Obama's Presidential approval rating. Both sides of the political spectrum have expressed surprise at this turn of events.
Why This Matters: This shows us the real reason media outlets use polling data: to create news. A personal approval rating has nothing to do with a Presidential approval rating because one is based on popularity and the other is based on a number of factors, such as perception of job performance. As interesting of a factoid as this is, it means nothing. The media know there are many people who like to talk about Palin, so they're going to do anything they can do to put Palin out there by any means necessary. For those charged with bringing us the news to try to invent news like this is a statement of how pathetic the media have become.
- The EPA announced an "endangerment finding" is in the works naming carbon dioxide to be a danger to the environment, thus making it subject to regulation. Once this finding is made public, it may be used to circumvent the lack of agreement on any environmental treaty coming out of Copenhagen.
Why This Matters: Not only does this finding do an end run around the Senate (the entity that is charged with approving all treaties, even climate change ones), but it comes off as a purely political desperation move to avoid having to deal with the implications of the ClimateGate scandal. AGW proponents point to carbon dioxide production as proof that we're screwing up the environment, but the problem is that increases in carbon dioxide production occur after a temperature increase. And when you consider carbon dioxide represents a little less than 4% of the total greenhouse gasses (with water vapor making up the bulk of it to the tune of 95%), regulating carbon dioxide may not have nearly the impact on the environment as some think it will.
- Senator Al Franken introduced an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would prevent private contractors doing business with the government from making private arbitration of issues such as sexual harassment and rape a condition of employment. When many Senate Republicans voted against it, Franken said they were "pro-rape."
Why This Matters: Franken's amendment was promoted as being "anti-rape", but it's actually more anti-contract. If you sign a contract that says you must agree to do X to be considered for employment and you sign it, it is expected that you abide by the terms of the contract. It's unfortunate that a woman was raped by one of the private contractors hired by the government, as rape is a serious matter. To have Franken use it as a partisan cudgel in this case, especially to hide the fact that the amendment would make it legal to ignore the terms of a legally-binding contract, is nothing short of disgusting. Then again, Franken did make a rape joke on "Saturday Night Live" in 1995, so maybe it's not out of character for him.
- In the advent of the ClimateGate scandal, Senator Barbara Boxer has stated that she wants to launch a criminal investigation into the people who allegedly hacked the email account of the University of East Anglia that started the ClimateGate scandal in earnest.
Why This Matters: Boxer needs to learn her geography and legal limitations. The victims of the alleged crime are in England. The source of the leak is in Russia. I'm no Senator or law enforcement officer, but I'm pretty sure the U. S. Senate doesn't matter to England or Russia. And all to cover up the implications of ClimateGate.
- Yeah, I've avoided talking about it, but I need to mention it. Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed a White House state dinner honoring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. As this story has unfolded, the White House has said they weren't invited, but the Salahis said they were. Also implicated in this matter is White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, who may or may not have been involved with the decision to allow the Salahis into the event. Also, three Secret Service agents have been released as a result of this.
Why This Matters: I don't think either side is telling the truth here for a number of reasons, and with good reason. Nobody looks good here. The Salahis look like opportunists looking to hobnob with political players. The Secret Service looks bad for allowing unknown people close to the President. Rogers looks bad because she's not willing to go before Congress and explain her role in this situation. The real concern here is revealed by the parts of the story not being focused on, like the fact that Tareq Salahi is on the board of directors of the American Task Force on Palestine. Given how poorly the Obama Administration has treated Israel, one can't overlook this tie. This makes me believe that someone higher than Rogers and the Secret Service gave the okay for the Salahis to attend, and the whole "gatecrasher" angle is a way to create controversy as a means to distance the Obama Administration from that decision. I hope I'm wrong, but until facts to the contrary are made evident (and I don't think they're forthcoming), I have to go with what I see, and what I see is an Administration thumbing its nose at one of our staunchest allies on any level they can.