Thursday, June 3, 2010

"where ordinary reality buffers no longer exist"

Kurtz (TPM): Shocked! Shocked!

Longtime TPM reader checks in:

Granted the administration has been ham-handed in how it has handled some of this stuff, but isn't it ironic that a DC press corps that could barely muster a collective yawn when Karl Rove was moving U.S. Attorneys around like political pawns, is hyperventilating about the White House making it known to potential candidates that there are other ways to serve beyond being a Senator?
A few years ago, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) argued that climate change has "very important" implications for national security. That's clearly an accurate assessment, endorsed by military and intelligence officials.

In California, Carly Fiorina, one of the Republicans hoping to take on Boxer, has decided this is worthy of mockery. "Terrorism kills -- and Barbara Boxer's worried about the weather," Fiorina says with indignation in her new attack ad.

This inanity is interesting on a variety of levels. The first is the obvious one -- anyone who pretends there are no national security implications for global climate change isn't paying attention to the facts, and anyone who thinks global warming fears are comparable to "the weather" isn't very bright.

The second is that Fiorina must perceive this as a winning issue in her primary campaign, since it's one of the last ads she'll air before Republicans head to the polls on Tuesday. It's a reminder then, that, even in California, the GOP rank-and-file still don't take global warming seriously.

And third, it's worth remembering that as recently as 2008, Fiorina said she took climate change seriously.

Republican primaries do strange things to people.

  • from the comments:

    Fiorina's pandering to the most ignorant among us could only happen in a nation where ordinary reality buffers no longer exist. It's been a race to the bottom for some time now. We're just about there.

    Fiorina is not going to win in November but she won't lose any points with this issue. Know-nothingism is alive and well not only among Republican primary rubes but the media elite who deem what's important (say, the Gore marriage) and what's merely controversial. Like science.

    Posted by: walt
Think Progress: As Oil Arrives On MS Beaches, Will Barbour Continue To Praise BP And Mock News Coverage Of The Spill?

The Biloxi Sun Herald reports that oil began covering two miles of Mississippi’s Petit Bois Island yesterday as a “larger glob crept close to Dauphin Island in Alabama, and the edge of the main slick has moved to within about 35 miles of Mississippi, about half the distance it was last week.” Much of the oil hitting the beaches had “escaped detection because it was floating a couple of feet below the surface.” Reacting to the looming disaster, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) sounded the alarm to local press yesterday. “This could turn out to be something catastrophic and terrible, but that has just not been the case so far,” said Barbour.

Barbour’s rhetoric yesterday strikes a very different note from his upbeat tone since the spill. Shortly after the spill, Barbour encouraged tourists to “enjoy the beach,” even as dead dolphins were washing ashore. In another instance, Barbour incredulously declared, “some in the news media keep forcing this on the public as the equivalent of Exxon Valdez. Well, the difference is just enormous.”

And as early as last week, Barbour went on CNN to blame “news coverage” for the state’s woes, telling Wolf Blitzer that “we haven’t had enough oil hit Mississippi’s beaches to fill up a milk jug.” Barbour went out of his way to lavish praise on BP, exclaiming that the British oil conglomerate has been completely cooperative:

BARBOUR: But we haven’t had, really, any impact. I mean, we haven’t had enough oil hit Mississippi’s beaches to fill up a milk jug. Now, we’re prepared and we’re prepared for the worst. But thus far, we haven’t had any kind of incursion, except the news coverage is killing our tourist business. Everybody thinks that the Gulf Coast all the way around is ankle deep in oil. And, of course, it’s not. [...]

BARBOUR: We have. BP has never said no to any requests we have made. Now, some requests we’ve made they haven’t been able to perform. But they have never said no. The federal government, whether it’s the Coast Guard or whomever, has worked hard with us. Like I say, they’re giving a lot more attention to Louisiana and should be. But we are satisfied that they’re trying as hard as they can and that they are being very cooperative. I’m not going to complain.

Watch it:

Barbour’s rise in politics has been largely fueled by the oil and gas industry. When Barbour served as the chairman on the RNC during the 1994 and 1996 election cycles, he courted oil and coal companies to donate over $30 million to Republicans — nearly three times the amount given to Democrats. The lobbying firm Barbour founded relied highly on oil industry clients, with Barbour personally lobbying for regulation changes to the Bush White House. And Barbour’s election to his current office owes directly to his friends in the fossil fuel business — oil and gas companies provided $1.8 million dollars in contributions when Barbour ran for Governor.

While Barbour shilled for BP during the first weeks of BP’s oil crisis, Mississippi’s oily beaches may force him to reconsider his pro-BP posture.

Update Barbour has downplayed the oil spill and encouraged families to continue to visit the state and enjoy the natural environment. “We don’t wash our face in it, but it doesn’t stop us from jumping off the boat to ski,” Barbour said in mid-May. Earlier today, CNN reported that families have been spotted swimming on Mississippi beaches soaked in oil. A reporter saw a child covered in and playing with oil, even as clean up crews worked nearby.
Atrios: Silly Democrats
The smart thing for BP to do is funnel all its cash out the door in the form of executive bonuses and stock dividends.

There's just no reason to think BP is a good actor here. Their theoretical primary responsibility is to their shareholders, in practice it's a bit more weighted towards the pockets of top executives. Birds and turtles, not so much.
Gulf spill revitalizes green energy politics
June 2: Rachel Maddow talks with Senator Barbara Boxer about how the BP oil disaster has changed the political landscape for "drill baby drill" supporters and President Obama's goal of an energy bill with an emphasis on rewnewable resources.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thers: Wanker of the Day, Climate Edition
Times of London. One begins to wonder what the British Press won't publish because it's silly anti-science bullshit. Here is a Times article that is ludicrously self-refuting:
Britain’s premier scientific institution is being forced to review its statements on climate change after a rebellion by members who question mankind’s contribution to rising temperatures.
Gosh! But...

Sir Alan Rudge, a society Fellow and former member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee, is one of the leaders of the rebellion who gathered signatures on a petition sent to Lord Rees, the society president.

He told The Times that the society had adopted an “unnecessarily alarmist position” on climate change.

Sir Alan, 72, an electrical engineer, is a member of the advisory council of the climate sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

He said: “I think the Royal Society should be more neutral and welcome credible contributions from both sceptics and alarmists alike. There is a lot of science to be done before we can be certain about climate change and before we impose upon ourselves the huge economic burden of cutting emissions.”

He refused to name the other signatories but admitted that few of them had worked directly in climate science and many were retired.

Unfortunately the Times neglected to find a balancing view from the perspective of obviously unqualified cranks with different views from the obviously unqualified cranks it decided to spotlight. That is the real scandal here, clearly.

Republicans unite against Obama on oil spill
June 2: The Nation's Chris Hayes talks about the GOP's criticism of President Barack Obama for lack of government action regarding the oil crisis.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Jed Lewinson (DKos): David Brooks' dire warning

David Brooks usually likes to position himself as something of a romantic, but every so often he lets down his guard and reminds us that lurking beneath his veneer of optimism there lies a cynical fool. For example, on Monday:

The failure of the top-kill technique in the Gulf of Mexico represents an interesting turning point on the Obama presidency. It symbolizes the end of the period of lightning advance and the beginning of the period of nasty stasis.

Is this guy for real? BP's failure to control the gush of oil means the Obama era is over? That doesn't make any sense, but if were right, why didn't the Republicans think of it sooner?

President Obama swept into office having aroused the messianic hopes of his supporters. For the past 16 months he has been on nearly permanent offense, instigating action with the stimulus bill, Afghan policy, health care reform and the nearly complete financial reform. Whether you approve or not, this has been an era of bold movement.

Aroused? Messianic? Huh? That Brooks sees Obama as a Jesus-like object of sexual arousal might be interesting to a psychoanalyst peering into his mind, but it is utterly irrelevant to the national political debate. (Not to a mention a complete embarrassment to the NYT Op-Ed page.)

But now the troops are exhausted, the country is anxious, the money is spent and the Democratic majorities are teetering. The remaining pieces of legislation, on immigration and energy, are going nowhere. (The decision to do health care before energy is now looking extremely unfortunate.)

The Democratic majority is teetering? True, we lost in Massachusetts, but of the seven special elections in the House, Democrats have won six, resulting in no change whatsoever in the balance of power. Democrats picked up a seat in New York, Republicans picked up a seat in Hawaii, and perhaps most tellingly of all, Dems held on to Murtha's seat in Pennsylvania. That's simply not teetering. Sure, pundits see Dems losing control of Congress, but at least on the generic ballot, everybody other than Rasmussen is showing Democrats with a lead.

And as for Brooks' claim that energy and immigration are going nowhere, and his belief that health care should have been done second, his rush to judgment reveals his own desire to see inaction. His inability to recognize that the gusher in the Gulf will rekindle the urgency of passing energy legislation is remarkable. There's no guarantees that we'll see progress (thanks to the filibuster), but the fact that Democrats demonstrated their willingness to (as Republicans would put it) "walk the plank" on health care should tell GOPers like Brooks that they should not underestimate the ability of this Congress and this administration to push legislation through. Not only did the passage of health care demonstrate the political resolve of Democrats (and a warning shot to Republicans against sidelining themselves), but it also taught Dems what they should avoid in future pieces of legislation. We saw that when Senate Democrats forced Republicans to get on board Wall Street reform by actually making them filibuster.

Brooks, in his conclusion, offers yet another reminder of his cluelessness:

We should be able to build from cases like this one and establish a set of concrete understandings about what government should and shouldn’t do. We should be able to have a grounded conversation based on principles 95 percent of Americans support. Yet that isn’t happening. So the period of stagnations begins.

Put aside the fact that he's trying to explain why the Obama presidency is entering a period of stagnation without having established that the Obama presidency will enter such a period. The thing that strikes me here is that Brooks thinks the core of the problem here is that we're not grounding political discourse in principles 95 percent of Americans support.

That idea is so broad it is virtually meaningless, but Brooks would be smart to remember the reason that there is deepwater drilling in the first place is that Democrats (like President Obama) have compromised with Republicans. Outside of Mary Landrieu (and perhaps Mark Begich), there are virtually no Democrats who are enthusiastic about deepwater drilling. It's the GOP that's the party of "drill baby drill." But in the name of cooperation and accommodation, many Democrats have grudgingly accepted the policies which led to this disaster in the Gulf.

Maybe, instead of stagnation, BP's oil spill will remind Democrats that when Republicans are wrong, accommodating them is also wrong, and that instead of listening to David Brooks' dire warning, they should seize the opportunity of them moment to make this country and this world a better place for all of us.

Greg Sargent:

* Beltway head-in-the-oily-sand moment of the day: Bruce Vincent, the president of the big oil industry trade group, calls on lawmakers to refrain from using the Gulf spill to regulate oil companies with this doozy:

"When a plane crashes, you don't just shut down every airline in the fleet until you find out what happened."

Like, is a single plane crash really comparable in damage to what may be the largest environmental calamity in U.s. history?

* Jason Linkins adds more to the backlash against the ridiculous "Obama as Spock" meme: "No amount of emotion, of raging, of garment rending, will ever be enough."

* And here's proof, in the form of an extraordinary CNN caption:

President Obama has dealt with the Gulf Coast oil spill tragedy with his signature cool, calm and collected approach, but now, the public is asking him to get mad.

* But never mind Spock. The comparison du jour is that Obama is Jimmy Carter, and the oil spill is his hostage crisis. Keep an eye out for more of this one.

B. Morrill (DKos): Abbreviated pundit round-up

Gail Collins wants South Carolina to give another state a turn:

The political sex scandal spotlight is on South Carolina, which has hogged that stage so much lately you’d think it would be willing to give somebody else a turn.

Maybe there’s something in the water. Or perhaps it’s difficult to maintain marital unions in the state that invented nullification.

But what about the issues in the race?

The issues in the primary have basically been which Republican dislikes government most. During the Tuesday debate, Bauer claimed that illegal immigration was caused by lavish government welfare payments, which caused poor people to refuse to do manual labor. Haley bragged that she had opposed the federal stimulus program. The attorney general, Henry McMaster, who is currently suing to try to stop the federal government from bringing health care reform to South Carolina, attributed the failures of the state’s public schools to teachers’ being so busy “filling out federal forms that they can’t teach.”

“Here we are in this very poor state that needs help very much,” said Mark Tompkins, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina. “We’re sixth in the nation in unemployment, and we’re fighting about whether the federal government can help us with health care.”

Government may not be the problem, but the people doing the governing could definitely use some work.


E.J. Dionne highlights an underreported event:

It should become the philosophical shot heard 'round the country. In a remarkable speech that received far too little attention, former Supreme Court justice David Souter took direct aim at the conservatives' favorite theory of judging.

Souter's verdict: It "has only a tenuous connection to reality." [...]

Souter attacked the fatal flaw of originalism -- which he relabeled the "fair reading model" -- by suggesting that it would have led the Supreme Court in 1954 not to its Brown v. Board of Education decision overturning legal segregation but to an affirmation of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling upholding "separate but equal" public facilities.

"For those whose exclusive norm of constitutional judging is merely fair reading of language applied to facts objectively viewed, Brown must either be flat-out wrong or a very mystifying decision," Souter said.

Read the whole thing.

Dana Milbank discovers a kinder, gentler John Ashcroft:

It's not as if Ashcroft is some sort of squishy moderate. At Heritage on Wednesday, he could be heard arguing that it was "slander" and "bankrupt" to call the Guantanamo prison evil. "People are safe there; people are treated humanely there," he said. "The idea of detaining people who fight against you is an act of mercy." He also offered the quirky argument that "it's too easy to judge in retrospect" that it was wrong to force Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II.

The difference is that Ashcroft's rule-of-law conservatism now sounds genteel at a time when so many Republican leaders have gone off in the direction of anti-government hysteria.

David Broder comes up with his own idiotic variation on a GOP talking point ... instead of calling the oil spill "Obama's Katrina," he compares it to Jimmy Carter and the Iran hostage crisis.

Craig Shirley must have shared a cab with Broder this week.

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