Friday, June 4, 2010

Simply Bizarre.

John R
Well I am certainly glad he is a Republican. At least we won't have to hear about any of this distasteful stuff from the MSM. Up next , Why isn't Obama angry? Senator John McCain joins us to explain the finer points of loosing your temper in public.
The good news is, Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois finally apologized yesterday for a series of highly misleading claims about his military service. Coming down with a sudden case of Bush-itis, Kirk added, "I simply misremembered it wrong."

The bad news is, the list of instances in which Kirk "misremembered" his service record managed to get even longer.

In a new disclosure, Kirk acknowledged that his campaign's promotion of him coming under fire while flying aboard an intelligence reconnaissance plane in Iraq may not be correct because there is no record of whether his aircraft was being fired upon.

But it wasn't just campaign promotional materials that got it wrong. In 2003, as a member of Congress, Kirk told his colleagues, "I just returned from Iraq and the trend is for the better. The last time I was in Iraq, I was in uniform flying at 20,000 feet and the Iraqi Air Defense network was shooting at us."

In his new account, Kirk said he does not recall coming under enemy fire and there is no record to back up his 2003 claim.

The Chicago Tribune added, "Kirk also said last year that he once saw anti-aircraft flack when flying an intelligence mission over Kosovo and thought he might be killed." Whether this incident occurred in reality is also unclear.

The Illinois Republican also exaggerated his service record in a letter to a constituent, claiming to be "a veteran of the Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom missions," which isn't quite right, either.

At this point, it's genuinely difficult to keep track of all of Kirk's claims about his service record that have been proven false. Let's see if I have them all: Kirk (1) falsely claimed he served "in" Operation Iraqi Freedom; (2) falsely claimed to "command the war room in the Pentagon"; (3) falsely claimed to have won the U.S. Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award; (4) falsely claimed to have been shot at by the Iraqi Air Defense network; (5) falsely claimed to be a veteran of Desert Storm; and (6) falsely claimed to be the only lawmaker to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom. There may very well be other instances, but these six are confirmed.

A misstatement or two can be embarrassing, but understandable. Kirk seems to have established a lengthy pattern of exaggerating his service record in a way that appears intended to deceive the public. Given that he served honorably, there's no reason for such wild embellishments.

In other words, Kirk is repeating falsehoods when the truth would be just as good. It's bizarre.

Greg Sargent

* Sorry Mr. President, your latest display of anger about the Gulf spill, in a new interview with Larry King, just won't cut it:

"I am furious at this entire situation," he said. "Somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions and it is imperiling not just a handful of people. This is imperiling an entire way of life and an entire region for potentially years."

Has BP felt his anger?

"They have felt the anger," he said.

Nope, it's not good enough for you to say you're furious, Mr. President. Kick something. Smash a camera with your bare hands. Vulcan Death Grip rhetoric just won't do.

* And this line from Obama, in the same interview, is really problematic:

"This isn't about me and how angry I am. It's about the people down in the Gulf and how they were impacted."

Actually, it is all about how angry you are, Mr. President. Haven't you figured that out yet?

* Steve Benen argues, rightly I think, that Obama's speech yesterday contrasting Dem and GOP visions of government was far more significant than the media has allowed.

Greg Sargent

* There's no getting around the fact that the public is unhappy with Obama's handling of the Gulf spill: A new CBS poll finds that nearly two thirds of Americans want Obama to be doing more.

* Which prompts the question o' the day: Is it possible the public is unhappy with the substance of his response, which has faced plenty of legitimate criticism, as opposed to the theatrics of it? More on this later.

* Obama finally cancels his trip to Indonesia, presumably to focus on the spill. But is he apoplectic yet, or merely just furious?

* And he's heading to the Gulf today. Mr. President, please kneel down on the Gulf shore and beat your breast for a full five minutes. Then Maureen Dowd and I will decree whether the public thinks you've emoted sufficiently yet.

* If you don't want to listen to me about this, listen to Ruth Marcus, who tries to talk some sense into pundit colleages demanding that Obama play "angry daddy."

Bernstein: Scandal!

Ezra Klein returns from China to find a puzzling kerfuffle over the Sestak thing, and asks:

So what's going on? Are people just pretending to be offended?
Short answer: yes, people are just pretending to be offended. That's what's going on.

See a related post from Conor Friedersdorf.

Longer answer: the US has a disconnect between a political system based on parties, bargaining, deal-making, logrolling, and, more broadly, (self-) interested people and groups finding ways to work things out with each other, and a political culture that has quite a bit of disdain for all those things. See, for example, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and the dozens of movies and TV shows that have followed, all built around the idea that parties are bad, interest groups are bad, cutting deals is bad, and the only hope for democracy are radically independent people with pure motives who alone have access to what constitutes good policy. Thanks to that disconnect, there are always plenty of perfectly ordinary things that pols do in the perfectly ordinary course of their jobs that can easily be sold to many reporters as corrupt.

Just watch it.

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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.

What Steve said the prez said . . .

Steve Benen: THE PITCH
President Obama's speech in Pittsburgh yesterday was ostensibly about the economy. Those who read the transcript will notice it was about a whole lot more.

As a practical matter, the speech will go unnoticed by most of the country, and the media seems to have largely deemed it unimportant. That's a shame -- the speech, among other things, offered a very strong hint about the campaign message we'll likely hear the rest of the year, made one of the more pointed critiques of the Republican Party we've heard in a while, and included some strong policy language about pending legislation.

There was a lot to the speech, and it's tough to excerpt, but I especially enjoyed the president explaining why the Republican vision -- a "belief that government has little or no role to play in helping this nation meet our collective challenges" -- is hopelessly wrong.

"The last administration called this recycled idea 'the Ownership Society.' But what it essentially means is that everyone is on their own. No matter how hard you work, if your paycheck isn't enough to pay for college or health care or childcare, well, you're on your own. If misfortune causes you to lose your job or your home, you're on your own. And if you're a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else.

"Now, I've never believed that government has all the answers.... But I also understand that throughout our nation's history, we have balanced the threat of overreaching government against the dangers of an unfettered market. We've provided a basic safety net, because any one of us might experience hardship at some time in our lives and may need some help getting back on our feet. And we've recognized that there have been times when only government has been able to do what individuals couldn't do and corporations wouldn't do.

"That's how we have railroads and highways, public schools and police forces. That's how we've made possible scientific research that has led to medical breakthroughs like the vaccine for Hepatitis B, and technological wonders like GPS. That's how we have Social Security and a minimum wage, and laws to protect the food we eat and the water we drink and the air that we breathe. That's how we have rules to ensure that mines are safe and, yes, that oil companies pay for the spills that they cause."

The right has consistently applied their principles -- against Social Security, against Medicare, against FDIC -- and been proven wrong. We also just wrapped up a decade in which their modern approach to governing was attempted, and failed spectacularly.

"So we know where those ideas lead us. And now we have a choice as a nation. We can return to the failed economic policies of the past, or we can keep building a stronger future. We can go backward, or we can keep moving forward. And I don't know about you, but I want to move forward. I think America wants to move forward."

If that strikes you as a campaign theme, summarizing why Democrats deserve voters' support, we're on the same page.

What's more, as lawmakers continue to ponder whether to pursue energy/climate legislation this year, Obama's speech made a compelling case.

"[T]his brings me to an issue that's on everybody's minds right now -- namely, what kind of energy future can ensure our long-term prosperity. The catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf right now may prove to be a result of human error, or of corporations taking dangerous shortcuts to compromise safety, or a combination of both. And I've launched a National Commission so that the American people will have answers on exactly what happened. But we have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth, and these are risks -- (applause) -- these are risks that are bound to increase the harder oil extraction becomes. We also have to acknowledge that an America run solely on fossil fuels should not be the vision we have for our children and our grandchildren. (Applause.)

"We consume more than 20 percent of the world's oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. So without a major change in our energy policy, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month -- including countries in dangerous and unstable regions. In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.

"Now, I understand that we can't end our dependence on fossil fuels overnight. That's why I supported a careful plan of offshore oil production as one part of our overall energy strategy. But we can pursue such production only if it's safe, and only if it's used as a short-term solution while we transition to a clean energy economy.

"And the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition. The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future. (Applause.) Now, that means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy-efficient. It means tapping into our natural gas reserves, and moving ahead with our plan to expand our nation's fleet of nuclear power plants. It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.

"But the only way the transition to clean energy will ultimately succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future -- if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed. And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution.

"The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate -- a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans -- that would achieve the same goal. And, Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. (Applause.) I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can. (Applause.) I will work with anyone to get this done -- and we will get it done.

"The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century. We are not going to move backwards. We are going to move forward."

The American Power Act faces an uncertain future, but the more Obama offers strong public endorsements like this one, the better its odds.

  • from the comments:

    Yes, the important speech was ignored by the Corporate/Repiglican media. Yet, that same media 'reported' on the ever important incoherent ramblings posted on Palin's facebook page ...

    Posted by: stormskies

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


TPM Headline of the Day:
Dems Thwart GOP Plan To Kill Jobs Bill With Porn
Marshall (TPM): Palin: Told You So About Drilling!
Sarah Palin says Deepwater Horizon catastrophe proves she was right about 'Drill, Baby, Drill' since she only meant drilling on land -- even though she also meant drilling at sea.
About a month ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) told the Chamber of Commerce that the BP oil spill disaster can be considered "just an act of God that occurred." It seemed like a bizarre assessment -- it's not as if an oil rig just appeared naturally, dug a whole into the earth a mile below sea level, and then exploded.

Nevertheless, Perry isn't the only one to think this way. Rep. Tom Cole (R) of Oklahoma said something very similar on a radio show yesterday:

"There's still a lot that can be done. But again, acts of God are acts of God. And you know, FEMA is not, you know, cannot cope with everything."

Well, no, FEMA cannot cope with everything. But since when are man-made disasters "acts of God"?

There will be incidents that occur from time to time that are natural and unavoidable events, but an explosion on an oil rig isn't one of them.

  • Atrios adds:
    Acts of God happen when my local sports franchise beats your local sports franchise, not when a company drills a mile down and then blows up an oil rig.
thers: Everything You Ever Needed to Know about the Weekly Standard
Verbatim the Weekly Standard:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has obtained Sarah Palin's imminent Facebook post on the Israeli Flotilla incident.
Hooray for Citizen Journalism!
Sully: What Does MoDo Want?

In her column today, she doesn't offer any substantive proposals for the president to stop the oil-gush. His language has been full of rage; he has launched a criminal investigation; he is obviously exasperated; and this is a narrative he simply cannot control. Almost from the start it was clear that only relief wells could stop this, and they take time to drill in that kind of depth.

Maureen has long wanted Obama to be what he isn't. We have a temperamental WASP in the White House. And the whole point of a WASP president - like GHWBush - is that they are best judged over the long term of results rather than the short term of emotion. I can quite see how emotionally, Obama is losing this p.r. war. But since he literally cannot win against a narrative determined by physics, it seems to me that columnists should be pointing out the reality of reality rather than the "reality" of "narrative."


The late, longtime New Yorker critic Pauline Kael was said to have expressed confusion over Richard Nixon's landslide re-election in 1972 — because no one she knew had voted for him. To borrow that notion, conservatives today imagine that everyone views the current occupant of the White House as they do: Barack Obama is the worst President ever. Conventional wisdom posits that this potent right-wing, anti-Obama sentiment will diminish the President's power — enough for Republicans to vanquish Democrats in November, regain control of Congress and weaken the incumbent for 2012.

But this myopia has been created within an electronic cocoon of Fox News, talk radio, conservative websites and rhetoric from Republican leaders, all passionately reinforcing the message that the Obama Administration is disastrous on a historic scale. It's a message that is being transported as gamely by rank-and-file Republicans as it is by erudite conservative columnists with national readerships.


Within the overheated conservative bubble there is little room for discussions of serious policy alternatives to deal with America's problems, reminders that the country is typically drawn to optimistic candidates (like Reagan and Obama) and weighty appeals to the center of the electorate. If Obama is the worst President ever, as conservatives seem to believe, why do they need to say anything more than that to take control of Congress and then get rid of him? But while the conservatives' ultimate condemnation rallies their core supporters and resonates with some centrist voters, over time it is unlikely to produce a majority against the Administration.

It can't be pleasant for Obama to be the subject of such attacks. And solving the country's major problems in a bipartisan fashion will be difficult under these rancorous circumstances. But as long as those trying to beat him are blind to the fact that tens of millions of voting Americans think Obama is doing a fine job, this President has a great ally in his enemies.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) isn't satisfied with the federal response to the BP oil spill disaster because -- get this -- she wanted to see the federal government seize control and ownership of more private property. Seriously.

"Where were the boats that could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region to deal with that oil plume as it was coming up to the water and destroying marine life? Nowhere to be found. Why? The administration was hands off on this policy."

As a substantive matter, arguing that the administration has taken a "hands-off" approach to the disaster is absurd. When it comes to reality, Bachmann is strikingly confused.

But that's an everyday occurrence. What makes these remarks special is the way in which Bachmann is so desperate to attack President Obama, she's apparently forgotten her own extreme worldview.

As Lee Fang explained, Bachmann "is known for decrying almost every form of government action as socialism. Bachmann has denounced emergency loans to banks, student lending programs, health reform, and regulations as examples of 'gangster' government and onerous government takeovers. 'People don't want the federal government to either own or control the private economy,' she said."

I can only assume that if the Obama administration had forcibly seized ownership of private property, Bachmann would have led the charge, howling about a "government takeover," and a heavy-handed federal government. Why, she would ask, can't the administration save tax dollars and allow private enterprise to tend to the disaster a private company created?

The point, for Bachmann, is to lash out hysterically and attack the president. Whether it makes sense or is consistent with her so-called principles is irrelevant.

Kevin Drum: What Tea Partiers Think

Bruce Bartlett passes along the results of a recent poll in Washington state that asks for the views of hardcore tea party members, not just those who are generally sympathetic toward tea party goals:

What I think this poll shows is that taxes and spending are not by any means the only issues that define TPM members; they are largely united in being unsympathetic to African Americans, militant in their hostility toward illegal immigrants, and very conservative socially. At a minimum, these data throw cold water on the view that the TPM is essentially libertarian. Based on these data, I would say that TPM members have much more in common with social conservatives that welcome government intervention as long as it’s in support of their agenda.

The serious tea partiers don't think it's the government's job to guarantee equality of opportunity, strongly approve of Arizona's new immigration law, don't like Obama's outreach to Muslims, and believe that gay lesbian groups have too much political power.

  • from the comments:

    Surprise, surprise.

    Tea Party Patriot is just a pretty euphemism for Nativist. It's basically a tribal phenomenon.

    jon beats me to the point:

    jon beats me to the point: the tea partiers are nothing more than a right-wing populist group with strong nativist overtones. frankly, the racial issue is the most important here, as it always has been with american right-wing populism.

    this is why their "philosophy" makes no sense: those are not predispositions that lead one to logical thought....

John Cole: Speaking of Hacks

I thought this comment from an earlier thread was rather prescient:

What’s ridiculous is that we’re literally the only country really trying to protect Israel on this. We’ve gone out of the way to block an international UN investigation in favor of one helmed by Israel, and yet I still know that within days there’s going to be another volley of “Obama hates teh joos and loves the arabs” columns from the Charles Krauthammers of the world, because single-handedly trying to defend Israel from the entire rest of the UN isn’t sufficient penance for yelling at Netanyahu over settlements and suggesting that maybe Israel should try and comply with the NPT.

Don’t worry, Rick Moran is on it:


It’s too bad America’s best ally in the Middle East has to deal with this empty suit in the White House. With the entire rest of the world in full throated outrage over the terrorist ambush – and it has been for more than 24 hours – we have yet to hear from the man who is ostensibly the Commander in Chief and has been constitutionally delegated to make our foreign policy.

Where the hell is the President of the United States?

Trying to save Netanyahu and Israel’s ass by running interference for them in front of the rest of the world:

Behind closed doors, U.S. diplomats sought to prevent the council from authorizing a U.N. investigation into the Israeli raid, saying Israel should be given a chance to conduct a credible investigation first.

The United States found itself in the difficult position of trying to mediate between two important allies at the emotionally charged session, which provided a barometer of international anger over the Israeli attack.

Alejandro Wolff, the United States’ second-highest-ranking ambassador to the United Nations, said Monday that the United States is still trying to “ascertain the facts” but that it “regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries.” Wolff said the United States expects “a credible and transparent investigation and strongly urges the Israeli government to investigate the incident fully.”

But Wolff also scolded the members of the humanitarian convoy, saying that their unapproved delivery of aid “by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances.” Wolff said that “non-provocative and non-confrontational” procedures exist for delivering assistance to Gazans.

These people are just hopeless.


New reports out of Afghanistan point to a province where Taliban followers hope to become judges, so they can apply their religious beliefs to court rulings, rather than the secular tenets of the law.

Wait, did I say the Taliban in Afghanistan? I meant Christian conservatives in California.

A group of conservative attorneys say they are on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in a rare challenge that is turning a traditionally snooze-button election into what both sides call a battle for the integrity of U.S. courts.

Vowing to be God's ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates are backed by pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriages.

"We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values," said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who is one of the group's candidates. "Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary."

I suppose the obvious observation here is that the direct election of judges -- the law in 33 states -- may not be the best idea.

But there's far more to this particular problem, called the "Better Courts Now" initiative. Here we have a series of far-right attorneys who are running on a fairly specific platform -- they promise to be biased, partial jurists, basing their decisions on a religious agenda. The difference between these kinds of judges and those found in Iran and Saudi Arabia is ... well, there really isn't a difference.

In other words, these judicial candidates want to turn their courtrooms into a position consistent with a theocracy. Indeed, the initiative was launched by two pastors.

"Any organization that wants judges to subscribe to a certain political party or certain value system or certain way of ruling to me threatens the independence of the judiciary," San Diego County's District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis told the AP."Judges should be evaluated based on their qualifications and their duty to follow the law."

Except that is apparently old-school thinking, which some elements of the right have no use for.

Why elect a judge who will provide a legitimate forum for a fair trial when you can elect a right-wing religious activist who believes he's following instructions from above?

And given that voters don't often turn out for down-ballot races like these, and that the candidates themselves are generally not well known to the public, organizers of this effort believe they have a reasonably good chance at pulling it off -- and they may very well be right.

Adam Serwer: Marc Thiessen's Latest Mendatious Column on Gitmo.

Recently, The Washington Post decided to give torture apologist and former BushMarc Thiessen a permanent platform to exonerate the Bush administration's lawlessness after the fact. Today, he cherry picks information from the recently released Task Force report on Guantanamo Bay detainees to conclude speechwriter that "95 percent of those held at Guantanamo are confirmed terrorists."

Here's the preceding paragraph:

On Friday, while most Americans headed to the beach, the Obama administration unceremoniously released the Final Report of its Guantanamo Review Task Force. The task force found that of the 240 detainees at Guantanamo when Obama took office, roughly 10 percent "played a direct role in plotting, executing, or facilitating" terrorist attacks against U.S. targets. Another 20 percent had "significant organizational roles within al-Qaeda or associated terrorist groups" including "individuals responsible for overseeing or providing logistical support to al-Qaeda's training operations in Afghanistan; facilitators who helped move money and personnel for al-Qaeda ... and well trained operatives who were being groomed by al-Qaeda leaders for future terrorist operations." Another nearly 10 percent "occupied significant positions within the Taliban regime" or insurgent networks "implicated in attacks on Coalition forces." About 55 percent were rank and file "foreign fighters with varying degrees of connection to al-Qaeda , but who lacked a significant leadership or other specialized role." Only 5 percent did not "fit into any of the above categories."

As is typical, Thiessen leaves out the part of the report that he doesn't like. Of that 55 percent Thiessen mentions, that the report concludes that they “do not appear to have been selected” for “training geared towards terrorist operations abroad.” The report adds that while al-Qaeda used the training camps to vet potential recruits, “only a small percentage of camp detainees were eligible for these operations,” meaning "terrorist operations against civilian targets." In other words, they aren't "confirmed terrorists," even if one concluded that an internal executive branch review of the evidence against these men could be viewed a substitute for a jury trial of any sort. Indeed, the report, despite its certainty about its own statistics, notes that at least 48 detainees will be held indefinitely, because "there is presently insufficient evidence to establish the detainees’ guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in either a federal court or military commission, or the detainees conduct does not constitute a chargeable offense in either a federal court or military commission.” Convincing! And I haven't even mentioned those the report states must be held indefinitely because of their "strong family ties" to "extremist organizations."

Thiessen trots out the straw man that "The Left" sees all the detainees as "really innocent goatherds," but that's never been the argument. The argument has been that the burden should be on the government to prove these people are dangerous, and in a number of cases, the government has avoided doing so. When it has been forced to, it has lost about three-quarters of the time. Thiessen thinks the government should be able to imprison any Muslim suspected of being a terrorist indefinitely without court review and is then obligated to torture them because they are Muslim.

Thiessen would like to think that the Task Force report proves that anyone ever held at Guantanamo is guilty of being a terrorist. Sadly, that would mean that his former boss was criminally irresponsible -- as the report notes, 70 percent of detainees who had been held at the prison were transferred before 2009. Thiessen forgot to talk about that part, since it either undermines his argument that anyone ever held at Gitmo is a terrorist, or it proves that his boss was actively releasing terrorists from Gitmo. Thiessen also glosses over the mismanagement of Gitmo detainee cases that made the Task Force necessary. "The government did not have a preexisting, consolidated repository of such information," rather "each federal agency stored information concerning Guantanamo detainees in its own systems, consistent with its particular mission and operating protocols." The Bush administration's tough rhetoric on terror was undermined by a staggering lack of organizational competence.

Thiessen, not content merely to cherry-pick the report, concludes that "the folks [Liz Cheney] dubbed as al-Qaeda lawyers really are al-Qaeda lawyers." This is incredibly stupid -- Thiessen himself notes in the very same column that most of the detainees are not actually al-Qaeda, and the view that everyone should get a fair trial and a decent lawyer is hardly indicative of terrorist sympathies; it's indicative of belief in the American system of justice, which Thiessen obviously lacks.

John Cole: Probe Opened into BP

And their stock just fell off a cliff:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the massive oil spill spreading through the Gulf of Mexico.

Holder said the investigation would be comprehensive and aggressive. He promised that the federal officials will prosecute anyone who broke the law.

Holder, who made the announcement during a visit to the Gulf, called early signs of the spill heartbreaking and tragic. The attorney general was in the Gulf to survey the BP oil spill and meet with state attorneys general and federal prosecutors from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to the Justice Department.

In May, a group of senators—including Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California—sent Holder a letter expressing concerns “about the truthfulness and accuracy of statements submitted by BP to the government in its initial exploration plan for the site,” and asking Holder to investigate possible criminal and civil wrongdoing.

And now, in the next 24 hours, we watch all the Republicans and their talking heads in the media suddenly shift gears from “Why is Obama not doing enough to hold BP accountable” to “Why is Obama attacking big businesses and destroying our economy.” And they’ll do it without missing a beat.

John Cole: Hoocoodanode- Not Just for Bankers Anymore

Really smart piece by David Leonhardt in the Times:

In retrospect, the pattern seems clear. Years before the Deepwater Horizon rig blew, BP was developing a reputation as an oil company that took safety risks to save money. An explosion at a Texas refinery killed 15 workers in 2005, and federal regulators and a panel led by James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, said that cost cutting was partly to blame. The next year, a corroded pipeline in Alaska poured oil into Prudhoe Bay. None other than Joe Barton, a Republican congressman from Texas and a global-warming skeptic, upbraided BP managers for their “seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues.”

Much of this indifference stemmed from an obsession with profits, come what may. But there also appears to have been another factor, one more universally human, at work. The people running BP did a dreadful job of estimating the true chances of events that seemed unlikely — and may even have been unlikely — but that would bring enormous costs.


Similarly, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan liked to argue, not so long ago, that the national real estate market was not in a bubble because it had never been in one before. Wall Street traders took the same view and built mathematical models that did not allow for the possibility that house prices would decline. And many home buyers signed up for unaffordable mortgages, believing they could refinance or sell the house once its price rose. That’s what house prices did, it seemed.

Read the whole thing.

As of last week, there are about 240 administration nominees waiting for a vote in the Senate, an almost comically ridiculous number given how long they've been waiting. On Thursday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) tried to move about a third of them as a bloc -- all of whom had had already been through the vetting process, and been approved by the relevant committee -- but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused.

McConnell didn't have a good reason, except to say his feelings were hurt when the White House gave a recess appointment to Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year. Last week was McConnell's way of saying he holds a grudge -- and doesn't much care if the federal government has the personnel in place to function as it's supposed to.

With that in mind, don't be too surprised if President Obama, left with little choice, makes some recess appointments during Congress' Memorial Day recess.

"The president is naturally frustrated at another work period ending with a record-breaking number of nominations bottled on the floor, and he will consider next steps over the course of the coming days," a White House aide said. [...]

Congressional aides have suggested Obama may use this week to circumvent the Senate confirmation process and clear at least some of the more than 100 names lingering on the executive calendar. Obama has used his recess appointment powers just once, clearing 15 names in March.

It's not just scandalous Republican obstructionism that's the problem here, though that's clearly part of it. There's also the matter of limited Senate floor time left this year, and the fact that, with GOP filibusters on practically everything and everyone, it takes 30 hours for the chamber to vote on one nominee, even if he or she will end up being confirmed easily.

The government has important government offices that need qualified officials. The country need not suffer because Republicans have broken the Senate. Recess appointments are far from ideal -- I've really never cared for them -- but I just don't see how the GOP has left with the White House with any other choice.

President Obama has two options: allow key posts to remain vacant indefinitely in the face of unprecedented obstructionism, or start embracing recess appointments. I reluctantly endorse the latter.

Way back in November, House Republicans unveiled their health care reform "plan," to serve as an alternative to the Democratic proposal. The GOP proposal was fairly pathetic, and even some Republicans wanted nothing to do with it.

And yet, seven months later, it's back. Christina Bellantoni reported yesterday:

Just in time for the midterm elections, the Republicans introduced legislation to scrap "Obama care" -- even parts that voters like -- and sub in their own version.

As a refresher, their plan would let people buy insurance across state lines, give states more power and would include tort reform to end so-called "junk lawsuits" that the Republicans say make health care costs more expensive. The CBO score last fall found the GOP plan would cover just 3 million more people "leaving about 52 million" without insurance at about the same as the 2009 share of uninsured people. It would reduce premiums by between zero and three percent, CBO said.... It reduces the deficit over time, but so does the Democrats' law.

The GOP plan is now its own bill (H.R. 5424), and though Congress is on recess, it already has 30 co-sponsors.

I'm not entirely sure why Republicans are bothering. Presumably, GOP candidates want to be able to campaign this fall, saying, "We're not the 'party of no'; we even produced our own alternative health care bill!"

And while there will be some truth to that, let's not forget, as a substantive matter, the GOP plan was nothing short of laughable -- it largely ignores the uninsured, does nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and offers nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it's needed most. While the Democratic proposal was put together out in the open, with Republican ideas, and subjected to months of public hearings in five separate congressional committees, the GOP plan was an entirely partisan proposal, written in secret. The Republican approach to reform sought to create a system that "works better for people who don't need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It's basically a health un-insurance policy." And as we learned last year, the plan included provisions that "mirror the suggestions put forth by the lobbying entity of the private insurance industry way back in December 2008."

That Republican lawmakers now want to re-introduce the same package, apparently as some kind of election-year stunt, suggests the party is convinced that voters are fools.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our Failed Media

The Economist: How about shutting them all down?
SARAH PALIN thinks Barack Obama has taken too "doggone long to get in there". James Carville wants Mr Obama to "put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving." Maureen Dowd doinked Mr Obama Saturday with her silly-straw-like wit, faulting his "inability to encapsulate Americans' feelings." Yeah, you know who would've killed as the president facing a deep-sea oil blowout? Philip Seymour Hoffman. Or maybe Meryl Streep. Did you see them in "Doubt"?

Ms Dowd's involvement is fitting, as this may be the sorriest spectacle of content-free public hyperventilation since Al Gore's earth tones. The difference is that in this case the issue is deadly serious; it's the public discourse that is puerile. There is plenty of room for substantive critique of the flaws in governance and policy uncovered by the Deepwater Horizon blowout. You could talk about regulatory failure. You could talk about corporate impunity. You could talk about blithely ignoring the tail-end risk of going ahead with deepwater drilling without any capacity to cope with catastrophic blowouts. Precisely none of these subjects are evident in the arguments our pundit class is having. Instead we have empty-headed squawking over what the catastrophe is doing to Barack Obama's image.

Who's raising concrete critiques of administration policy? Chiefly Mr Obama. Last Thursday he laid out a series of mistakes he felt he had made. Chief among them was taking oil companies at their word when they claimed to have the capability to cope with worst-case deep-sea drilling catastrophes. Now, if we feel that the president has failed to act aggressively enough on this issue, both before and since the accident, then what course of action should we now be calling on him to take? One logical step might be for the government to immediately shut down every offshore drilling rig in proximity to America's coasts, pending the development of redundant, fail-safe capacity for capping and remediating catastrophic blowouts. Is this a good idea? I don't know. But if you wanted to argue concretely that the administration had not been acting aggressively enough in this crisis, then this is the sort of more-aggressive action you might be calling for.

But how would the American people actually feel about that? Would that really "encapsulate their feelings", as Ms Dowd puts it? Or do their feelings actually contain a bit of a soft spot for low gasoline prices? Might such a performance fail to adequately interpret the deep ambiguities of the American people's helpless crush on those handsome bad boys in the oil industry?

And how would Mr Obama's chief critics feel about shutting down offshore oil rigs until the government has the capacity to stop blowouts and clean up massive spills? Presumably the same way they reacted to his six-month moratorium on new wells and suspension of drilling on 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.

"I take issue with the President's decision to extend the moratorium on deepwater drilling should it be used to indefinitely suspend offshore drilling," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement. "The BP spill in the Gulf is a tragedy and there is no question we must conduct a thorough investigation into what led to this devastating spill, and we must take every step to stop and contain the leak. But with the needed safety measures in place, domestic drilling should be continued and encouraged."

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the plan could mean "effectively killing Shell's participation in Alaska," the Associated Press reports. "That's not acceptable to me or Alaska."

What we're seeing here is a perfect circus of media nothingball: people aggressively criticising the administration for not acting aggressively enough while aggressively ignoring the fact that they oppose anything aggressive the administration does.

But he should get on in there and put somebody in charge! What's taking him so doggone long?

  • from the comments:

    Bill E Pilgrim

    What a reasonable article. Of course, at least one of the commenters had this to say:

    would this be like spilling something in the kitchen and doing a bad job with the cleanup so you decide instead to never cook food again?

    Yes, it would be exactly like that. If what you spilled was so toxic that somehow you couldn’t figure out a way to clean it up even after decades and it made your kitchen unsuitable for habitation and killed most of the food you ever put in it so that you couldn’t use any of it. So you decided not against ever cooking again, but not to cook with whatever that particular toxic poison was.

    Oh and if your kitchen were thousands and thousands of square miles wide and fed an entire region of the country.

    I think comment sections are the oil spills of the Internet. Yes, sometimes including this one.

DougJ: Good news for Bobby Jindal

Even the liberal New Republic is impressed:

Constantly jumping in and out of National Guard helicopters and drawing up plans for additional “burrito levees” and “boudin bags” needed to stop the oil slick from flowing further into his state’s marshes, Jindal has quickly mastered the details of the issue. At a press conference in New Orleans in mid-May, the Washington Post reported that “he gave updates on the size of tar balls washing up in Port Fourchon (up to eight inches), the number of sandbags to be air-dropped (1,200) and state money spent to date ($3.7 million). He also provided a weather forecast (‘The winds continue to come out of the southeast, 10 to 15 knots’).”

This reminds me of when America’s mayor won the Battle of 9/11.

That long black cloud is coming down.

John Cole: Math for Assholes

Leave it to the NRO to go the extra mile:

“One final note on proportionality: Fifteen “peace” activists dead is a tragedy, but they represent only one one-thousandth of the death toll of a French heatwave.”

And the number killed on 9/11 was only .00012% of the death toll of Bubonic plague. I guess that makes it ok.

Anyone know how this compares to the violence in Detroit?