Browsing the blog archives for May, 2010.


Remember the Gulf

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disasters, natural and unnatural, environment

It’s a gorgeous Memorial Day here in Westchester County, New York. I’m sure lots of people are heading for the shores of New Jersey and Long Island today. Owners of seasonal businesses must be very happy.

I don’t know what the weather is like along the Gulf Coast today, but I suspect the moods are darker. “Top kill” failed after all. The oil could keep gushing for months. This is the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It’s affecting fisheries, tourism, shipping, and wildlife.

Whether the spill is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, as some are saying, is questionable; I think the young folks have forgotten the Dust Bowl. But it’s really, really bad nonetheless.

I read somewhere that the oil spill isn’t expected to affect the U.S. economy, but I think whoever said that must be a fool. How can it not?

This was in a news article from yesterday (emphasis added):

“This scares everybody: the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far,” BP’s chief operating officer Doug ­Suttles said yesterday.

“Many of the things we’re ­trying have been done on the surface before, but have never been tried at 5,000ft.”

However, back when BP was applying for a permit to drill in the gulf, the company declared it could handle a spill ten times larger than the one it can’t handle now.

In other words, the permit application was written by the company’s marketing department, not the engineering department. I’d bet money there were engineers at BP who realized there were contingencies they weren’t prepared for, and they were told to shut up about it if they wanted to keep their jobs.

Well, as Bill Kristol brilliantly said, offshore drilling is perfectly safe “except where there is a disaster like this.” No, really, he said that.

For the record, Kristol is also wrong when he said the Exxon Valdez spill was worse.

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Not Quite Like Old Times

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Obama Administration

The wingnuts are making an issue of the fact that a cleanup crew was brought in by BP to prepare the scene for President Obama’s visit to Grand Isle, Louisiana, yesterday. The Jammie Wearing Fool (I don’t know about the jammies, but … ) wrote

Maybe the alternate photo caption should read something like “I can see the end of my presidency from here.” Well, we all figured this would be a carefully choreographed photo op for the current occupant of the White House, but little did we know having their boot firmly on the neck of BP meant the folks at BP were obliged to send in some stooges for the visuals.

What I suspect really happened: Realizing that there would be tons of cameras and national attention drawn to the beeches of Grand Isle, Louisiana, BP headed off further PR disaster by busing in workers to clean up the beaches. In other words, the clean beaches were more a benefit to BP than anyone else.

But this news also brought to mind some other great photo op stories from recent years. For example, remember the firefighters who volunteered to help clean up New Orleans and found themselves being used as props for the Shrub? And what about the tool belt? I remember you guys got a real kick out of that one.

And then there was the Jimmy Breslin column from March 2004 in which the Unparalleled Mr. Breslin wrote about the large crew of Nassau County, New York, park workers that had to be pulled together to build a walkway for the President. Bush was going to attend a groundbreaking ceremony of a 9/11 memorial in Long Island, after which he was to walk across the park to a restaurant. But the President’s feet were not to touch the ground, Nassau County was told.

The Grand Isle crew was paid by BP, notice, not taxpayers. When Bush went to Long Island, the taxpayers paid. It’s possible the White House reimbursed Nassau County, but I’d be surprised if they did.

And then there was the Great Chinese Box incident, in which boxes stamped “Made in USA” and used as a backdrop for a Bush speech were found to have come from China. Good times.

And then there was the time that Bush flew to Jackson Square to give his post-Katrina speech of fake plans he never intended to implement, but which sounded good at the time. The White House, or somebody, brought in big generators to bring lights back on, which was the first electricity people had enjoyed for days. The the President left, and so did the electricity.

And who can forget …

Seriously, whenever I see a rightie get outraged about something Obama did that Bush did a lot worse, I wonder if they were all in comas for the eight years Bush was president. But no; they were just watching faux news.

Speaking of Teh Stupid — and unrelated to photo ops — some organization with the email address TeaParty@teaparty.org has presumed to put me on its email list. Today’s email started this way:

Obama will use Memorial weekend as a gad-fly schmoozing with his homies in the Chicago hood, maybe even barbeque some weenies. …

Racist, much? Then later, it says,

The last time the Obama family has been home (and I don’t mean Kenya) was – in February of 2009. But now they will make the trip over Memorial Day weekend of all times! But it doesn’t stop there, an official trip of this caliber means the tax payers are shelling out of the kazoo for his bump and grind in the hood. …

Do we want to talk about presidents on vacation, Mr. Party? Seriously? Well, all right, then — this is picked up from an old post

Let’s review:

George W. Bush took more vacations than any other President in U.S. history.

That’s 487 days at Camp David and 77 trips to Crawford, Texas, where he spent all or part of 490 days. I calculate that to be about two years and eight months.

I don’t know what the travel time is from the White House to Camp David — I assume just a few minutes — but I figure Crawford must be at least three hours one way by air, and I assume there’s no Crawford International Airport, so there’s motorcade time to figure in, also. Assuming a 6 hour two-way trip, times 77 trips, equals 462 hours, or more than 19 days days spent just flying back and forth to Crawford.

Bush was in Crawford when he blew off the memo “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.” as being too trivial for his attention. As I remember it, he was in Crawford during the great electricity blackout of 2003, and it was several hours before he addressed it. He was in Crawford while two wars were going on in the Mideast.

And need I say … Hurricane Katrina?

For a collection of outraged snark at the Endless Vacation that was the Bush Administration, see Source Watch. I think the only reason there wasn’t more outrage is that Bush was such a bad POTUS, most of the time it didn’t matter whether he was on vacation or not.

Even when he wasn’t officially on vacation, Bush wasn’t famous for staying put in the White House. Especially in his first term, when the War on Terror was still new and sparkly, as I remember he spent about half of his not-vacation time traveling to Republican Party fundraisers. The pattern was to schedule some “official” event like a ribbon-cutting or a speech in a particular city, where by some coincidence there happened to be a GOP fund-raider going on that very evening, so he could take Air Force One on Republican Party business without reimbursing taxpayers. (See, for example, “Taxpayer Mugging for Political Fundraising.”)

How could anybody who was not sound asleep 24/7 for the entire eight years Bush was President not know this? Really, this goes beyond Teh Stupid.

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Any Excuse Is Good Enough

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Obama Administration

I’ve been sorta kinda following the Sestak pseudo-scandal trying to figure out why it was scandalous. But of course there’s no reason except that the Right wants it to be a scandal because they want to impeach President Obama.

The charge is that the White House tried to bribe Joe Sestak into dropping out of the Senate primary race against Arlen Specter. The reality appears to be that former President Bill Clinton was sent to ask Sestak to consider not entering the race, not to drop out of it. And perhaps Sestak would have been appointed to an unpaid advisory position. No money was offered, in other words.

It sounds vague and preliminary, and it also sounds like fairly standard political horse trading to me. Exactly where is the scandal? I’m not seeing it.

Yet this non-scandal has been sucking all the air out of political news for the past couple of days — proof that the Republican Noise Machine is still in operation.

Steve Benen speaks to what will no doubt happen if Republicans re-take the House and/or Senate in November. The GOP will not rest until they can bring articles of impeachment against Obama, and they won’t be terribly picky about what charges they concoct to do so.

Jonathan Bernstein writes,

I continue to believe that if Obama sits in the White House for six years with a GOP majority in the House of Representatives that the odds are very good — better than 50 percent — that he’ll be impeached. Not convicted, of course, but impeached, forcing a Senate trial.

I’ve been asking for guesses about when the first impeachment resolution will be filed in the House (leave your prediction here). To be fair, I’ve already been wrong about one thing — I predicted that Michele Bachmann would have introduced a resolution by now (actually, I predicted April 15). So perhaps I’m just as much of an alarmist as those Republicans who believed that a Pelosi-led House would impeach George W. Bush in 2007. Perhaps! But I don’t think so. In fact, impeachment talk moved yesterday from Tea Party rallies to at least one Republican Member of the House, Darrell Issa. And Issa’s not an obscure backbencher; he’s the ranking Republican on Oversight and Government Reform, and he also sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Issa currently is calling the Sestak episode an impeachable offense. Seriously.

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Corked?

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Obama Administration

There is some optimism that the latest effort to cork the oil leak has been successful, but I take it no one is uncorking the champagne bottles just yet. It will be a few days before they know for sure if the leak is permanently plugged.

The Right sees blood in the water, not oil. They are still drooling that the oil leak is “Obama’s Katrina,” which sounds like a great name for a race horse, but never mind. I don’t want to jump too quickly into making long-range comparisons, because people’s perceptions of an event can change over time. But right now, it seems Oil Blob isn’t as damaging to Obama as Katrina was to Bush.

If you go to the “disasters” section of pollingreport.com, and scroll down a bit, you can see the results of post-Katrina polls from 2005. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll taken Sept. 26-28, 2005, had a majority disapproving of the way President Bush handled Hurricane Katrina by 54 to 40 percent, 6 percent unsure. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, taken May 21-23, showed the public disapproving of the way President Obama is handling the oil spill by 51 to 46 percent, with 3 percent unsure.

Now, this could change. If more information comes out that there were things the federal government could have done to stop or slow the spread of oil that were not done, the disapproval spread could increase. I haven’t heard much yet about how much damage the Blob is doing to the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf Coast, so there could be more bad news ahead.

But, again, if you move up the “disasters” page and look at polls taken early in 2006, it seems disapproval of Bush’s handling of Katrina had grown much worse from what it had been in September 2005. In a poll taken February 2006, 72 percent said Bush had “no plan” to help the people left homeless by Katrina. In April 2006, people disapproved of Bush’s handling of relief for victims by 59 to 37 percent.

IMO the continuing damage to Bush was not just that he didn’t respond well to the Katrina disaster as it was happening; it was that as days and weeks and months went on, the Bush Administration continued to not respond.

Regarding Oil Blob, people are not impressed with the Obama White House’s actions, but they blame BP more. A CBS News Poll of May 20-24 showed people disapproving of the administration handling of the Blob by 45 to 35 percent, 20 percent unsure; but they disapproved of BP by 70 to 18 percent, 12 percent unsure.

And if you look around the pollingreport energy page, you see that support for offshore drilling has dropped like a rock since the BP disaster. Although there are exceptions.

My impression at the moment is that the Obama Administration could have been more publicly assertive about the Blob — waved their arms about a little more, as it were — but it’s not clear to me there was more the federal government could have done to lessen the disaster (other than go back in time and force BP to follow safety protocols before it happened). Maybe there was, and if we find out there was then certainly the Obama Administration deserves to be criticized.

On the other hand, someone on another blog asked if the government was supposed to dismiss BP and then send the oil leak a sternly worded warning to cease and desist. Heh.

My sense of the thing is that if the administration is reasonably pro-active in whatever assistance and cleanup is needed in the next few months, then the political damage won’t come anywhere close to the environmental damage. For most of the country the Blob is a big concern but less of an emotional gut punch than the days after Katrina were. And so far, the president hasn’t strutted around grinning like a big doofus telling people they’re doing a heck of a job, when the job obviously was not being done well at all.

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The Restraint of a Saint

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Obama Administration

So during a meeting between GOP senators and President Obama yesterday, Senator Bob Corker said the President has not been genuinely bipartisan and was using the Republicans as props.

“I felt like there was a degree of audacity in him being there today, after passing his third large partisan bill,” Corker told me, insisting Republicans had been stiff-armed by the Whte House on financial reform, health care, and the stimulus.

“I told him I felt like a prop afer the actions they had taken regarding bipartisanship,” Corker said. “It hit a nerve.”

Yet the President did not punch Corker out. Restraint of a saint, I say.

Sen. Pat Roberts told the media that the President should have taken a Valium before meeting with Republicans. But how do we know he didn’t? Very few men would not have jumped over the table to choke somebody under the same circumstances. The President either has the discipline of Gandhi, or he was heavily medicated.

Last night at a San Francisco fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer, the President hinted he was done playing Charlie Brown to the GOP’s Lucy with the football.

“The day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership.” There is hardly any “room for cooperation” in the Republican Party, Obama said.

Do tell.

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Check and Balance Goldberg

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Obama Administration

Exhibiting the keen intellect of a petrified dodo egg — I think an adult stuffed dodo would outsmart him, actually — Jonah Goldberg confuses free-wheeling corruption and dysfunction with constitutional checks and balances.

Apparently Tom Friedman said this on Meet the Press yesterday:

MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, David, it’s been decimated. It’s been decimated by everything from the gerrymandering of political districts to cable television to an Internet where I can create a digital lynch mob against you from the left or right if I don’t like where you’re going, to the fact that money and politics is so out of control—really our Congress is a forum for legalized bribery. You know, that’s really what, what it’s come down to. So I don’t—I, I—I’m worried about this, it’s why I have fantasized—don’t get me wrong—but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don’t want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.

To which Goldberg responded ina blog post titled “It’s Like He Does it On Purpose“:

All of those checks and balances aren’t a bug of the system, they’re a feature!

The word for the day, boys and girls, is non sequitur. It’s like he does it on purpose.

Unfortunately, Goldberg is not the only idiot writing for the Web. At the Catholic site First Things, The Anchoress turns Friedman’s words into a hysterical rant about a leftist totalitarian takeover.

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All in Their Heads

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Obama Administration

Sarah Palin says that Rand Paul is learning what it’s like to be her. Resentful and whiny?

I want to go back to something I read yesterday. Rand Son of Ron wants to eliminate the Americans With Disabilities Act, which he said is burdensome to small business. He gave the example of a small business in a two-story office building forced to install an elevator for one employee. John Cook of Yahoo News writes that Rand doesn’t seem to understand what the ADA actually says, and that most small businesses are exempt.

But here’s the interesting part:

Trouble is, we searched far and wide for a single instance in which a private employer was successfully sued under the ADA for failing to provide an elevator, or was compelled by a lawsuit to do so, and we came up empty. We searched the case law, contacted ADA experts — both proponents and opponents of the law — the Justice Department, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Not one of them knew of any case involving the government-ordered installation of an elevator. It looks like Rand Paul is either peddling a myth or spinning some vanishingly small number of elevator installations we’ve yet to hear of into an epidemic big-government overreach.

So, essentially, Rand Son of Ron is screaming about an alleged injustice that isn’t actually happening and therefore doesn’t need addressing.

It hasn’t happened lately, but in decades past Republicans in Washington liked to introduce laws or constitutional amendments banning flag burning. And they’d go on and on about how awful it was that those hippies burned flags, but research always failed to turn up any epidemic of flag burning.

And then yesterday we were blessed with the comment from “Liberty Dawn” —

Only the dumbed-down media can try to make a racist bash out of individual and states’ rights. Point being the federal government has shoved its fist down our throat — and Americans aren’t going to take it anymore.

And, of course, one hears this stuff all the time, but I’ve yet to see anyone screaming about government fists down throats who appears to have a genuine grievance. Not in the U.S., anyway. Exactly what is the government doing to these people that is so oppressive? And if you push them for an answer, if you get an answer at all it’s usually something about using their tax money for something they don’t like. This was L.D.’s second point —

No national heathcare, no more spending of billions of dollars that aren’t theirs to give away.

Never mind that if the health care reform bill goes into effect as written as works as planned, it will save L.D. and the rest of us money in the long run. We all pay taxes for all kinds of stuff we don’t use personally. My taxes have paid for roads I will never drive on, bridges I will never cross, schools my children will never attend, wars that are a damnfool waste of everyone’s money. And it’s perfectly normal, and reasonable, for us citizens to disagree with each other how our tax dollars are spent.

But that’s not oppression. That’s not government fists down throats. That’s just the normal kind of stuff citizens disagree about. Because the disagreement here is not between “the government” and “citizens.” It’s between “citizens who favor health care reform” and “citizens who don’t favor health care reform.” And because the former group did a better job getting their politicians elected during the last couple of election cycles, now there’s a health care reform law. This is how republican representative government is supposed to work.

BTW, if you want to see what real government fists down throats look like, catch the documentary Burma VJ sometime. HBO has been showing it lately.

The tea partiers are marching around saying they want to take their country back, but from whom? and for whom? and by repealing the 17th Amendment? Frank Rich wrote of Rand’s acceptance speech,

Paul said the voters’ message was to “get rid of the power people, the people who run the show, the people who think they’re above everybody else” — or, as he put it on an earlier occasion, the establishment who “from their high-rise penthouse” look down on and laugh at the “American rabble.”

That Paul gave his victory speech in a “members only” country club is no contradiction to white Tea Partiers.

And repealing the 17th Amendment will rectify this?

The pundits keep trying to analyze the teabaggers as if they had some kind of coherent agenda that is just laying there waiting to be uncovered. I don’t think so.

A few days ago there was a nice essay by Paul Rosenberg at Open Left called “America’s Delusional Politics.” The real key to understanding the teabaggers is in here —

Conservatives believe that they should rule the world. Liberals, not so much. Liberals tend to believe much more in process-that whoever wins elections should rule, and that ideally whoever’s ideas are best should prevail. As long as there are processes in place protecting basic rights, liberals tend to trust the political process-or at, to trust its legitimacy. Conservatives, OTOH, tend to regard any loss of power as somehow illegitimate.

They are not in charge; therefore, they are oppressed. It’s not about issues. The entire tea party movement is about a bunch of aged children throwing a tantrum because they’ve been told they have to play nice with other kids. They don’t have real grievances, so they make some up.

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Rand Paul, Skedaddler

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Obama Administration

At The Atlantic — which really does have some good writers, Megan McArdle notwithstanding — Joshua Green has a post called “Explaining the Rand Paul Disaster” that’s worth a read.

Green says that the Rand Paul we’ve been watching in national media this week has an entirely different persona than the Rand Paul who campaigned for the Kentucky primary.

What Paul spoke about on the stump was mostly the size of the deficit, his desire for a balanced budget and term limits, and his belief that a lot of what Congress does has no basis in the Constitution. Paul’s favorite example was health care, not civil rights. But the interesting thing to me, as I wrote on Monday, is that he took care to emphasize those parts of the Tea Party agenda that appeal (he claimed) to independents and moderates. There was no talk of race, civil rights, secession, birtherism and general Fox News lunacy. “The Tea Party is not about extremism,” Paul said again and again. The impression in the broader media, including the liberal blogosphere, that Paul is an angry, unlikeable nut was not borne out by my experience on the campaign trail.

The other part of the equation is that Kentucky newspapers and other news outlets have been decimated by job cuts, reducing the ability of the press corps to run the candidates through the gauntlet, as it were. So Kentucky journalists have been letting Paul slide by. I’m not sure I buy the last explanation entirely, but Kentucky media did seem to let him slide for some reason.

So he was not at all prepared to be in the glare of national media attention, which focused on him after his appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show Wednesday night. So now he’s canceled a scheduled appearance onSunday’s “Meet the Press,” which I think was cowardly — I mean, if you can’t face David Gregory, who can you face?

See also Steve Benen, “When Extremism and Ignorance Collide.”

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Wingnuts Smear the Dalai Lama

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Religion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Thursday I attended a press conference held by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is in New York City giving teachings at Radio City Music Hall. This morning I found that the Rightie Hate Brigade had seized on some out-of-context quotes from the press conference to hurl ridicule and invective at His Holiness. I set the record straight on the other blog — see “Out of Context Quotes Used to Smear Dalai Lama.”

The amount of ignorance exhibited by the wingnuts is unprecedented, except by everything else they write.

Update: Mostly so I can send trackbacks — the worst offenders are Jim Hoft on the Catholic website First Things; Doug Powers, writing at Michelle Malkins’s blog; Allahpundit, writing at Hot Air; David Swindle, writing at NewsRealBlog; and Sheik Yer Mami, at Wings of Jihad. [Update: Here’s one more, by BigGator5 at RedState.]

Because the lengthy explanation of what His Holiness actually said, including a transcription of a voice recording of part of the conference, is at the other blog, I’m cutting off comments to this post.

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Rand Paul: Welcome to the Big Leagues

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Obama Administration

First, I want you to know that I came up with the title of this blog post before I saw that Domenico Montanaro at MSNBC beat me to it.

Until this week national news media was only mildly interested in Rand Paul, but now that he won a blowout primary election and is the front-runner (so far) in a Senate race, he’s getting closer scrutiny. And it appears he wasn’t ready for prime time. Yesterday he wanted to uphold the right of businesses to exercise racial discrimination, and today he said the Obama Administration was being “un-American” to criticize BP Oil.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t want to get rid of the EPA?

PAUL: No, the thing is is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

And there are reports Rand whined that he wasn’t getting a “honeymoon” with the press. As a great man once said, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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