# White House

Time to Turn Off The A/C At the White House?

As President Obama prepares for his meeting tomorrow with Senators at the White House to discuss clean energy and climate change legislation, he might want to check with the White House staff on an important matter first. No, not the details of the legislation, although that’s important of course. Instead, what President Obama might want to make absolutely sure about is the non-trivial matter of whether the White House air conditioning is in tip-top shape. I say “non-trivial,” but these days it’s more like “life or death.” How hot is it in the Washington, DC area?  As NBC Washington puts it, “We're Talking Spontaneous Combustion.” (UPDATE: it's more likely this is apocryphal than literally true, but it sure feels like plants could catch on fire these days in Washington, DC!)

How hot is it? It's so hot that dead plants are spontaneously combusting in Frederick, Md.

Don't believe it? Just ask Frederick County Fire Marshal Marc McNeal, who told the Frederick News-Post that excessive heat caused a dead plant to catch fire Sunday afternoon in a hanging planter on the rear deck of a townhouse.

The hanging basket fell to the deck and burned some vinyl siding, causing about $3,000 in damages.

It has definitely been hot in the Washington region. Monday will be the 10th day in a row that we've reached 90 degrees or higher, and this will be the 17th day of the month that the thermometer has reached 90.

NBC4 meteorologist Tom Kierein said that when it's all said and done, June 2010 likely will be the hottest June on record in the District.

Dead plants catching on fire in the hottest June on record in the Washington, DC area?  Sadly, this may not be an aberration, but a frightening sign of things to come in a global warming world.   True, we shouldn’t draw broad conclusions about the earth’s climate from one heat wave in one specific geographic area, as certain climate change deniers dishonestly did during last winter’s “snowpocalypse” blizzards.  However, when we see month after month, decade after decade of record-setting heat globally, it starts to get a bit hard to ignore.  

In fact, climate scientists are not ignoring these heat waves and other phenomena.  Earlier today, for instance, The Project on Climate Science reported that the “record-breaking heat wave” we are currently experiencing in the eastern United States “is consistent with climate change.”  According to Tom Peterson, Chief Scientist for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, “We’re getting a dramatic taste of the kind of weather we are on course to bequeath to our grandchildren.”  Of course, as The Project on Climate Science points out, “individual heat waves can be driven by a number of factors.” However, they conclude, “more frequent heat waves are one of the more visible impacts of climate change already underway in the United States” and “will occur more frequently in the future.”

In sum, if you enjoy record-setting warmth – not to mention the stronger storms, mass extinctions and “record sea ice shrinkage” in the Arctic  that go along with that warmth – you have a lot to look forward to!  If not, then you should contact your Senator and let him or her know you want climate action now.  

Come to think of it, perhaps we should all hope for the White House air conditioning to be broken tomorrow – or turned off on purpose – so that the Senators meeting there get a taste of what the planet will feel like everywhere if they don’t do something about it now.  When you think about it, a bit of Senatorial sweat and a few stained shirts is not too high a price to pay if it results in long-overdue, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation on the President’s desk sometime this sweltering summer.  Is it?

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The dangers of a fake public health insurance option

The White House and key Democratic senators, including Iowa’s Tom Harkin, appear to be walking into a trap for the sake of bipartisan agreement on health care in the Senate.

There is growing support for a fake “public option,” as opposed to a government health insurance plan that would compete directly with private insurance companies.

If Congress passes this kind of deal and President Barack Obama signs it, we will get a enormously expensive non-solution to an enormous problem, and Democrats will pay the political price.

After the jump I’ll explain why political hacks as well as policy wonks should refuse the latest efforts to derail the public option.  

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It's the least they could do

The White House is apparently not responding to Gordon Fischer’s requests for a meeting with an official in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, Radio Iowa reported today, citing Fischer’s Facebook page.

Any citizen who asks several times to meet with a White House official should at the very least get an answer, even if it’s just, “I’m sorry, so-and-so’s schedule doesn’t permit that meeting.” Ideally, a junior staffer or receptionist should seek further information about why the citizen wants the meeting before rejecting the request.

The lack of common courtesy is even more baffling when you consider all the volunteer hours Fischer put in for Barack Obama’s campaign, before and after the Iowa caucuses. He deserves a meeting with this official, or some reply with a explanation for why his request is being denied.

LATE UDPATE: Fischer says he is permanently “retiring” from politics.

Is Obama putting a Monsanto exec in charge of food safety?

(UPDATE: Jill Richardson’s sources differ on whether these appointments are imminent.)

I received a disturbing action alert today from Food Democracy Now about who may oversee food safety regulations in the new administration. (Note: I got the action alert via e-mail, and it hasn’t been posted yet at the Food Democracy Now website. The link above is to the organization’s main page.)


There’s a possibility that former Monsanto executive Michael Taylor and irradiation proponent Dr. Michael Osterholm will be named to top food safety spots in the new Administration. […]

1. Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive, whose career literally fits the definition of the revolving door between government, lobbying and corporate interests. Before serving on the Obama ag transition team, Taylor made a name for himself rotating in and out of law firms, Monsanto, the USDA and FDA. While at the FDA he helped write the rules to allow rBGH into the American food system and our children’s milk.

Now we’ve learned that Taylor may be in line to run an office in the White House on food safety!

2.  On Monday, Secretary Vilsack is set to announce the appointment of Dr. Michael Osterholm, a food safety expert, to lead the Food Safety agency at the USDA. According to Food  & Water Watch, Osterholm has been “a zealot in promoting th[e] controversial technology (of irradiation) as the panacea to contaminated food.”

Irradiation allows food processors to nuke disease from contaminated food at the end of the production line, while ignoring the root problems that create unsafe food.

For Osterholm, the recent peanut butter fiasco apparently was just another example of how irradiation could save the day. “Clearly it’s a problem where the raw peanut butter or paste is consumed and not cooked,” Osterholm said.

Food Democracy Now wants people to e-mail Vilsack immediately, asking him to block these appointments. The action alert included a sample e-mail, which I’ve posted after the jump, but it’s always better to write this kind of letter in your own words.

You may recall that in November, the Organic Consumers Association came out strongly against Vilsack for secretary of agriculture, largely because of his connections to Monsanto and other biotech companies. But it’s worth noting that President Obama put Michael Taylor on his transition team before he chose Vilsack to run the USDA. If Taylor does end up running a White House food safety office, don’t pin that mistake on Vilsack.  

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Patrick Dillon will be the White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs

President-elect Barack Obama has appointed Patrick Dillon to be the White House Deputy Director of Political Affairs, according to an Iowa Democratic Party press release on January 16.

The news completes Dillon’s transition from one-half of an Iowa power couple to one-half of a Washington power couple. Dillon managed Chet Culver’s gubernatorial campaign in 2006 and served as the governor’s chief of staff until a few days ago.

Dillon’s wife, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, directed John Edwards’ presidential campaign in Iowa and then served as battleground states director for Barack Obama’s campaign before Obama chose her to be the new executive director of the Democratic National Committee.

Rahm Emanuel will be Obama's chief of staff

SECOND UPDATE: He took the job. Special election on the way to fill Emanuel’s D+18 House seat. Outgoing DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen may seek to replace Emanuel as Democratic caucus chair in the house.

UPDATE: Apparently this report has not been confirmed, so it’s possible Emanuel will turn down the offer from Obama.

If you were hoping Barack Obama would “turn the page” on the Bill Clinton years, you’ll be disappointed to learn that he has hired Congressman Rahm Emanuel, a veteran of the Clinton administration, to be his chief of staff.

I think this is a master stroke by Obama. He gets a senior staff member with recent White House experience, good ties to the Clintons and tremendous contacts in the House Democratic caucus.

Also, if Obama has a particular person in mind to replace him as Illinois’ junior senator, giving Emanuel a different job removes a rival candidate that Governor Rod Blagojevich might appoint.

I’ve been worried that Obama would not drive a hard bargain with Congress, but Emanuel is a tough advocate.

A side benefit from my perspective is that this gets Emanuel out of the House of Representatives. He was rising fast and could have become speaker someday. Nancy Pelosi is not particularly effective in my opinion, but our second tier of leaders (e.g. Steny Hoyer) are terrible. I want to build a progressive bench in Congress.

So, now that Emanuel is out of the picture, who will replace Obama in the U.S. Senate?

American007’s speculation is here, and other links on the same subject are here.