Ben Buchwalter


Will Brazil’s New Dam Displace Indigenous People?
February 17, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: energy, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month, the Brazilian government announced that it would move forward with the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon. Current estimates indicate that the dam will flood 100 square miles of Brazil’s rain forest and cost $17 billion. But critics, including pop star Sting, have warned that the dam could have an even larger negative impact on the area:

Some anti-dam activists have worried that, in addition to harming their forests, the project could displace indigenous populations. Minc rejects these concerns. “Not a single Indian will be displaced,” he said. “They will be indirectly affected, but they will not have to leave indigenous lands.”

The claim sounds reassuring, but it’s difficult to take at face value since the Brazilian government has made a practice of moving indigenous people off their land in the name of conservation. As Mark Schapiro reports for Mother Jones, the Brazilian “green police” is feared for displacing the Guarani Indians as part of their conservation strategy in the Guaraquecaba Environmental Protection Area, a 50,000 acre rain forest funded by General Motors, Chevron, and American Electric Power.



Energy Scientists: Nuclear Loan Increase is Bad Policy
February 17, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

No one can say that economists, environmentalists, and energy scientists have not warned the Obama administration about the dangers of expanding nuclear energy. After the administration announced that it planned to triple the amount of nuclear loan guarantees for nuclear projects, I posted a roundup at MoJo. Here’s an excerpt:

David Kreutzer, an energy economic and climate change analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote in a blog post for the National Journal that increasing the loan guarantees “is a bad idea for taxpayers, consumers and long-term industry competitiveness” because it would “stifle competition and technological development within the nuclear energy industry.”

And in a particularly damning blow to nuclear interests, Dr. Mark Cooper, an energy and environment economist at Vermont Law School wrote a report (pdf) last summer predicting that the cost of 100 new reactors could cost up to $4.1 trillion and that a combination of increased energy efficiency and cleaner renewable energy options would produce the same level of electricity.



“Patriot” Hero Charles Dyer Goes Down
February 17, 2010, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Mother Jones, Scandals | Tags: , ,

The Tea Party movement has produced its share of interesting characters. Chief among them is Charles Dyer, who’s YouTube videos (codename: july4patriot) have made the ex-Marine a hero of the anti-government extremists who say they will fight back against the US government if it threatens the right to bear arms or declares Martial law. Dyer’s die hard supporters were shocked last month when he was arrested on child rape and illegal weapons charges. So shocked, in fact, that they have said that he was set up by the US government. They call him “the 1st POW of the 2nd American revolution” due to his flagrant statements against the Department of Homeland Security and American leadership:

Dyer was already a notorious figure. As an active-duty sergeant in the Marine Corps, he posted incendiary videos on YouTube under the handle July4Patriot. Clad in a skull mask, he warned of grave threats to the republic and called for armed resistance against the American government. In one clip, referring to an April 2009 Department of Homeland Security report (pdf) on domestic extremism, Dyer exclaimed, “With DHS blatantly calling patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is you’’re damn right we’re a threat. We’re a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic.” He invited viewers to join him at his makeshift training area—”I’m sure the DHS will call it a terrorist training camp.”

Dyer will face trial in April, and depending on the outcome, this could be yet another call to arms for the increasingly militant Tea Party movement.



Daily Mail Bends Science to Support ‘Global Cooling’
February 2, 2010, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Environment, Media, Mother Jones | Tags: , , , ,

Climate change deniers pop up all over the place. But they’re rarely part of the Nobel-winning International Panel on Climate Change. So when Professor Mojib Latiff of the IPCC was quoted in Britain’s Daily Mail as a convert to the “global cooling” hypothesis, it raised eyebrows. Well it turns out that’s not what he said at all. I wrote a summary of the controversy that got picked up on the front page of the Huffington Post and the lead of HuffPost’s Green page. Here’s an excerpt:

But speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Latif pushed back hard against the Mail, saying that the tabloid took his comments out of context to make an editorial statement. “It comes as a surprise to me that people would try to use my statements to try to dispute the nature of global warming. I believe in manmade global warming. I have said that if my name was not Mojib Latif it would be global warming,” he said. “There is no doubt within the scientific community that we are affecting the climate, that the climate is changing and responding to our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

This is a predictable misstep for the Mail, which has a conservative streak and recently published a set of denialist stories, including Sunday’s David Rose report “The Mini Ice Age Starts Here,” and a special investigation on the Climategate emails last December.



Dem Casting Call: Who Will Replace CO Gov. Bill Ritter?

2010 started off rough for Democrats, due to a stream of high profile Democratic retirements in important districts. When CO Gov. Bill Ritter added his name to the list of Dem retirements, it set off a flurry of speculation about who would run to take his spot. I compiled a run down of the most likely Democratic candidates:

So let’s take a look at the state’s in-house candidates. The top contender seems to be Andrew Romanoff, the state Rep. who has already launched a 2010 Senate primary campaign against Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet was appointed to complete Salazar’s term last year, but he must win the seat for himself this November.

Some have suggested that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper would be a good fit. Hickenlooper has long been rumored to be a potential Gubernatorial candidate, but declined to run against Ritter in 2006 to replace the term-limited Republican governor Bill Owens, saying “I would not be unraveling the fabric of collaboration.” Asked on the phone by a local reporter if he would run this year, Hickenlooper responded that his cell phone was running out of batteries.

Former Rep. Scott McInnis, the leading Republican in the field, was ecstatic. “We beat the varsity team a little earlier than we thought we would,” said a McInnis spokesman. “They’ve got to go to plan B, or the b-team.”



Bush Legacy Lives On Through State Secrets

A large part of Barack Obama’s campaign message of change was his promise to reverse Bush administration policies regarding torture and state secrets. Since he was inaugurated a year ago, we’ve seen Obama dial back those promises one by one. In December, the American Civil Liberties Union and the US Government faced off before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco regarding five civilians who were detained illegally and transported overseas with the help of Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan and subjected to harsh interrogation tactics. I attended the hearing and wrote this report for MoJo:

At the Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen Dataplan hearing, both sides were equally dramatic. Arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, the ACLU’s Ben Wizner warned that if the court endorses the government’s sweeping claim to secrecy, “it will do tremendous harm to our democratic principles.” Representing the United States, Douglas Letter doubled down on the government’s assertion that simply allowing the case to be heard would result in the disclosure of classified information that could harm national security….

Under US law, the executive branch can request that a lawsuit be thrown out if it would make public information that could endanger US interests or personnel. In a declaration of support for the government, former CIA director Michael Hayden said [pdf] that the case would expose information that “could be expected to cause serious—and in some instances, exceptionally grave—damage to the national security of the United States, and therefore, the information should be excluded from any use.” Letter argued that courts should defer to such leaders’ judgments about national security. Wizner disagreed, maintaining that the lawsuit could proceed with guidelines to keep truly sensitive information secret. If the judiciary “just went with the executive branch,” he said, “there is no role for this court.”

Wizner argued that the government has not been consistent in its treatment of these matters. Though the CIA claims that it cannot confirm nor deny its contracts, “they do so routinely when it suits their interests,” he pointed out. Earlier this week, for example, CIA spokesman George Little gave specific information about the infamous military contractor Blackwater Worldwide. “At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role,” he told the New York Times.



Dodd Deemed ‘Unelectable’ in CT Senate Race

It’s been a crappy year for embattled Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Toward the end of 2009, it became increasingly clear just how dire his reelection chances were. In mid-December, the respected elections predictor the Cook Political Report called Dodd “as unelectable as unindicted incumbents get.” That was a pretty safe prediction considering that, at the time, Dodd trailed former GOP congressman Rob Simmons and former WWE CEO Linda McMahon by 13 and 6 points respectively. On the MoJo blog, I predicted that Dodd’s retirement was imminent and rounded up the field of potential Conn. Dems to replace him. Looks like I was right about one of them:

As Connecticut Attorney General for the past 20 years, Dick Blumenthal has made ripples most recently for his harsh words about financial badboy AIG, which has offices in the state. Back in March, Blumenthal called the legal justification for AIG bonuses “a joke of a justification for squandering scarce taxpayer resources.”