Baked Alaska

Up in Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski trails Joe Miller, a Fairbanks lawyer who received endorsements from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project and the Tea Party Express. With 429 of 438 precincts reporting, Miller has 45,909 votes while Murkowski has 43,949 votes. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, more than 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and fewer than half (7,600) had been returned as of Monday night. The full results won't be known for at least a week and it is possible that Murkowski may yet overtake Miller. The Anchorage Daily News has more:

Miller credited the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his lead.

"I'm absolutely certain that was pivotal," he said.

Murkowski on Tuesday night took a shot at Palin, saying that when Palin resigned as governor last summer she said she would use her new national role to help out Alaska.

"I think she's out for her own self-interest. I don't think she's out for Alaska's interest," Murkowski said as she waited at her campaign headquarters for results to come in.

Her campaign spokesman, Steve Wackowski, was holding out hope that she would benefit from support in rural and coastal areas of the state that hadn't yet reported.

"We knew the race was going to be tight. The rural areas have yet to come in and we know Sen. Murkowski is going to be very strong in the rural areas."

Most of the remaining precincts are in rural areas, where paper ballots are counted by hand.

The final results of the race won't be known for over a week. The Alaska Division of Elections said over 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and as of Monday night 7,600 had been returned. The first count of absentees will be next Tuesday and there will be two subsequent counts as the absentee votes trickle in on Sept. 3 and on Sept. 8.

Polls prior to vote had Murkowski winning comfortably by double digits. The last poll I saw was from RT Nielson poll, a poll commissioned by the Tea Party Express backing Miller, put Murkowski at 46.91 percent and Miller at 35.39 percent. Clearly, the polls were off.

Here's what we know about Miller. He is a 43-year-old father of eight and deeply religious. Born in the mid-west ( I've heard both Kansas and Illinois), he graduated from West Point in 1989 and served in the first Gulf War. He went on to earn a law degree from Yale in 1995 and moved to Alaska to take a law firm job. In Alaska, he earned a Master's in Economics from the University of Alaska. He soon became a U.S. magistrate judge before stepping down in 2004 to make an unsuccessful run for state representative. He is currently an attorney in private practice in Fairbanks. He is a friend of Todd Palin which is how he got the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

Salon has some more color:

His positions on the issues -- though we don't know many specifics -- would put him in line with diehard conservatives in the Senate like Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He says not only that he would repeal what he calls "ObamaCare," but that the health care overhaul law is not consititutional. Ditto for cap and trade legislation: he opposes it, and argues it is unconstitutional. Miller has said he would cut funding to the U.N. and the IMF and other foreign aid, but maintained in a letter to seniors he would not cut Social Security.

Miller also holds that unemployment insurance is unconstitutional. A strict constitutionalist, Miller says he believes the Federal Department of Education and the Department of Energy should be abolished and that, over the long term, the government should stop offering Social Security and Medicare. He believes that the TARP and the healthcare reform are not just wrong but unconstitutional. 

On other issues, Miller has placed himself in line with other Tea Party candidates running for Senate seats this year -- including Nevada's Sharron Angle and Colorado's Ken Buck -- by saying that he is opposed to allowing women to obtain abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In a recent interview with the Fairbank Daily News-Miner, he said that he is "unequivocally pro-life," except "when the mother's life is in danger." He supports the Arizona immigration stance and does not believe the millions of immigrants already here illegally should be granted amnesty.

The winner of the Murkowski-Miller race will face Democrat Scott McAdams, the former mayor of Sitka, in the November general election. If Murkowski does lose, there's a chance that she can run on a third party ticket or perhaps run a write-in candidacy. She cannot, however, run as independent a la Joe Lieberman. The filing deadline for independent candidates ended in June.

 

Quick Hits

Here are some of the other news stories making the rounds today.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a US District Court judge, granted a preliminary injunction Monday to stop federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that he said destroys embryos, ruling it went against the will of Congress. Lamberth's ruling said all embryonic stem cell research involves destroying embryos, which violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending bills. The ruling overturns the guidelines issued by President Obama early in his Administration to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.The full story from CNN.

General David Petraeus, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan Taliban's momentum has been reversed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, as well as near Kabul. The Christian Science Monitor has the details.

One in four Californians lack health insurance according to a study released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. According to the latest estimates, the state's uninsured population rose by over 31 percent over the past two years. The number of uninsured has reached 24.3%, or about 8.4 million, up from 6.4 million in 2007. In Los Angeles County, 28.9% of residents were uninsured for all or part of last year, the largest number of uninsured residents of any county in the state. The Los Angeles Times has more on this story.

My former colleague at Goldman Sachs, Wallace Turbeville writes about how an SEC/CFTC roundtable exposes how little is being done about the next financial time bomb in a post entitled Derivatives Clearing: At the End of the Beginning over at New Deal 2.0. The post tackles the issue of clearinghouses that were set up the recently passed 880 page Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law and that are dominated by ten or so large financial institutions. As Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism writes "we were skeptical of derivatives reform efforts as inadequate to deal with the product that needed to be reined in, credit default swaps, and subject to evisceration depending on how various details were sorted out" noting that "if the types of contracts that wind up being covered are reasonably broad, the new derivatives clearinghouse is merely another too big to fail entity." Turbeville suggests that new derivatives clearinghouses "are, or soon will be, Too Big to Fail." This, of course, points to the problem of doing incremental, if not half-assed, reform. No credit will be rewarded for moving the ball forward and all blame will come due when the inevitable failure occurs. 

Former House Majority Leader and de facto leader of the Tea Party Movement Dick Armey (R-Texas) on Sunday said lawmakers who have not signed onto Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget lacked “courage” and could be targeted by the conservative tea party movement as a result. “All Paul Ryan is saying is let Social Security be voluntary, let Medicare be voluntary,” Armey said. “The fact that he only has 13 co-sponsors is a big reason why our folks are agitated against the Republicans as well as the Democrats — the difference between being a co-sponsor of Ryan or not is a thing called courage.” Or political suicide. More from the Congressional Quarterly.

Quick Hits

Here are some of the other news stories making the rounds today.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a US District Court judge, granted a preliminary injunction Monday to stop federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that he said destroys embryos, ruling it went against the will of Congress. Lamberth's ruling said all embryonic stem cell research involves destroying embryos, which violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending bills. The ruling overturns the guidelines issued by President Obama early in his Administration to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.The full story from CNN.

General David Petraeus, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan Taliban's momentum has been reversed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, as well as near Kabul. The Christian Science Monitor has the details.

One in four Californians lack health insurance according to a study released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. According to the latest estimates, the state's uninsured population rose by over 31 percent over the past two years. The number of uninsured has reached 24.3%, or about 8.4 million, up from 6.4 million in 2007. In Los Angeles County, 28.9% of residents were uninsured for all or part of last year, the largest number of uninsured residents of any county in the state. The Los Angeles Times has more on this story.

My former colleague at Goldman Sachs, Wallace Turbeville writes about how an SEC/CFTC roundtable exposes how little is being done about the next financial time bomb in a post entitled Derivatives Clearing: At the End of the Beginning over at New Deal 2.0. The post tackles the issue of clearinghouses that were set up the recently passed 880 page Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law and that are dominated by ten or so large financial institutions. As Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism writes "we were skeptical of derivatives reform efforts as inadequate to deal with the product that needed to be reined in, credit default swaps, and subject to evisceration depending on how various details were sorted out" noting that "if the types of contracts that wind up being covered are reasonably broad, the new derivatives clearinghouse is merely another too big to fail entity." Turbeville suggests that new derivatives clearinghouses "are, or soon will be, Too Big to Fail." This, of course, points to the problem of doing incremental, if not half-assed, reform. No credit will be rewarded for moving the ball forward and all blame will come due when the inevitable failure occurs. 

Former House Majority Leader and de facto leader of the Tea Party Movement Dick Armey (R-Texas) on Sunday said lawmakers who have not signed onto Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget lacked “courage” and could be targeted by the conservative tea party movement as a result. “All Paul Ryan is saying is let Social Security be voluntary, let Medicare be voluntary,” Armey said. “The fact that he only has 13 co-sponsors is a big reason why our folks are agitated against the Republicans as well as the Democrats — the difference between being a co-sponsor of Ryan or not is a thing called courage.” Or political suicide. More from the Congressional Quarterly.

President Obama Reframes Stem Cell Research As He Lifts Bush's Ban

This morning, President Obama reversed Bush's ban on federal funding of stem cell research. The order allows for taxpayer money to be used to fund research on any stem cell lines created after Bush's August 2001 order. It does not, however address a separate ban precluding the government from funding the development of stem cell lines. Obama has left that up to congress to address.

During his remarks at the ceremony (TPM has them HERE), President Obama did three really important things. First, he slammed the Bush administration repeatedly for its war on science and promised to usher in a new era of government-supported scientific inquiry. Notice how he appeals to Americans' nationalism, a decidedly right-wing appeal.

Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield. [...]

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let's be clear: promoting science isn't just about providing resources - it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient - especially when it's inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda - and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

By doing this, we will ensure America's continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

Obama also advanced the idea of the importance of government intervention in medical research, again appealing to a sort of nationalistic pride:

Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research - from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit - and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome - that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

And finally, Obama also addressed the false choice the right has set up between science and religious faith. The idea that the two are mutually exclusive is at the heart of right-wing arguments on anything from evolution to abortion to stem cell research and has contributed to the idea that liberals are anti-religion. Obama ripped this argument to shreds by reframing the funding of stem cell research as a moral imperative.

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research - and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

To paraphrase Rachel Maddow, the president praising science and the role of government in medical research? I hardly recognize my government anymore.

There's more...

Science is Back!

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday overturning the Bush administration restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research.  The White House sent out an e-mail yesterday saying it was planning a ceremony "on stem cells and restoring scientific integrity to the government process. At the event the president will sign an executive order related to stem cells."

The move will spark delight among scientists who have long campaigned for the Bush policy to be overturned, but will likely be condemned by conservative right-to-life groups.  Obama spelled out his campaign policy on stem-cell research last August in a list of answers to the Science Debate 2008 scientific lobby group.

"I strongly support expanding research on stem cells," Obama wrote. "I believe that the restrictions that president Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem-cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations."

Reports about Obama's plans were immediately condemned by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "Today's news that President Obama will open the door to direct taxpayer funds for embryonic stem-cell research that encourages the destruction of human embryos is a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life," Perkins said.

Bush barred federal funding from supporting work on new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos in 2001, allowing research only on a small number of embryonic stem-cell lines which existed at that time.  He also several times vetoed legislation passed by Congress backing the research, which advocates say could help find a cure to diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's. Bush argued that using human embryos for scientific research-- which often involves their destruction -- crossed a moral barrier and urged scientists to consider other alternatives.  Embryonic stem cells are primitive cells from early-stage embryos capable of developing into almost every tissue of the body.

Yesterday, the Health and Human Services Department moved to rescind a controversial rule, made final just before Obama took office, that would allow health care workers to invoke their consciences in refusing to provide health services or information to patients.  This was strongly opposed by abortion rights activists.  Critics and HHS staff have said the wording of the Bush "conscience" rule was vague enough to let health professionals invoke the conscience clause to deny patients contraceptives, family planning advice, and even vaccines and blood transfusions.

The Right is always citing the decline of American society as it pushes for backward-thinking legislation like that which Obama is now undoing. But history shows that wars against science and reason are symptomatic of societies in decline, not remedies against societies ills.

All I have to say...  Hallelujah- science is back!

There's more...

Diaries

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