TPM Cafe: Opinion

Some pretty important decisions that will affect generations to come are being made right now.

The new regulations on carbon emissions announced this week are, as Brad Plumer writes, the “most sweeping policy yet to address global warming.” States and utilities will need to cut carbon emissions from power generation in order to rein in the gases that cause climate change.

As predictably as morning follows sunrise, these rules are drawing fire in a number of ways.

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After yesterday’s “Super Tuesday” (eight states holding primaries), there remain 28 states with nominating contests on tap, and another six with runoffs. But all of the closely contested Republican Senate primaries that represented most of the national excitement prior to November have come and gone — except for runoffs in Georgia and yes, improbable as it might have seemed, in Mississippi.

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The state of Wisconsin spent last week in court defending a new law requiring every doctor who performs abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. This new major limit on abortion rights — which could cause clinics to close around the state — was signed into law in July of 2013 but was blocked by a federal judge from going into effect while litigation played out in court.

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Thomas Piketty’s analysis of inequality through the ages kicked off an important debate about the causes of and solutions to the problem of the increased concentration of wealth and income. Central to Piketty’s economic mechanics is his assumption that, barring some cataclysm, wealth will increasingly accumulate to those at the top of scale as long as its rate of return (the rate at which wealth holdings appreciate) exceeds the economy’s growth rate. From this diagnosis, his prescription is redistribution through the tax code. This certainly falls out of his model: once you accept the inevitability of narrowly held wealth accumulation, the only solution is to tax and redistribute.

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As director of a graduate program in climate science and policy, every day I look into the faces of my 24 year-old students, and think about the world 30 years from now. In 2044, I will be an old man — 84 — and my students will be my age now, 54. At that time, in a very profound way, we will know the future of the earth.

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President Obama’s EPA will issue proposed greenhouse gas limits for existing power plants. By all accounts the rules will be a remarkable step forward in the fight against global warming, with the U.S. finally demonstrating significant leadership on an issue on which it has lagged behind for more than a decade. And yet from what we know about the proposed rules, they are market and business-friendly in a way that press accounts so far have yet to emphasize.

Megan Herzog has already done a terrific job describing the proposed rules and their potential legal vulnerability here. My own view is that EPA is on solid legal ground in moving away from a traditional plant-by-plant basis of regulation and instead allowing states to meet statewide emissions limits through a variety of mechanisms, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, demand response and cap-and-trade. In fact in the most recent pronouncement from the Supreme Court about EPA’s ability to regulate, the Court, joined by six justices including Chief Justice John Roberts, emphasized the discretion the agency should have to resolve ambiguous provisions of the Clean Air Act:

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On Sunday, May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in his Kansas church by Scott Roeder. Later found guilty of the murder, Roeder claimed that his action was justified because Tiller performed abortions; indeed, George Tiller was one of the most high-profile abortion providers in the country. And he was also no stranger to anti-choice harassment and violence. In 1991, Tiller’s Wichita clinic was the site of a months-long protest by anti-choice activists, and two years later Tiller was shot in both arms by an anti-choice extremist.

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The following is what should have been included in President Obama's speech. The portion below in italics is reproduced from the original speech.


Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. ...

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On Monday, President Obama is expected to release proposed regulations to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. Leaks to date suggest that the rules, which will cover 40 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, will be ambitious and far-reaching, requiring cuts of approximately 20 percent from the electricity sector.

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Following the success of horror dramas like Supernatural, True Blood, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story, it’s no surprise that networks continue to produce shows that cater to fans of witches, vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Fascination with the paranormal has a long history, and its modern reach boomerangs from books to movies to television. WGN American recently launched its first original scripted program called Salem, a drama series loosely based on the infamous Salem witch trials. The show ignores the opportunity to shed light on the mass hysteria that affected parts of New England and instead picks up the mantle of puritanical 17th century America. Expressions of sexuality are proof of evil and deviance. The show should be subtitled Nothing Good Comes From Sex. (Spoilers ahead.)

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