News Roundup for 6/30/10

House minority leader John Boehner

-Headline of the day-
"GOP leader denies charge he's out bar-hopping every night."

MSNBC's token Republican (other than crazy old Pat Buchanan) is the former Rep. Joe Scarborough, who heads up their morning news show. Somewhere, there's an unwritten law that morning news shows have to be idiotic and I guess Joe fit the bill. So he and a bunch of MSNBC people get up early, pretend they aren't on a news show, and -- just coincidentally, mind you -- talk about the news. It's morning and it's fun and aren't they whacky and freewheeling and shut up, you're making me dumb!


Still if you're actually too stupid to understand the news when you get up in the morning, Fox and Friends is your show. The rest are just pretending to be complete idiots -- call Joe Scarborough and the gang at Morning Joe incomplete idiots. Occasionally, all this freewheeling wheels off into some sort of sense and then you've got trouble. Take, for example, this:

See now, this explains the pigmentation -- it's not bronzer, it's jaundice. John Boehner's managed to drink himself orange. Explains all the crying, too. And mistaking the financial meltdown for an ant.

Hold up, though. John says this isn't true at all. "Boehner grew up with 11 brothers and sisters and his dad owned a bar," his spokesperson says, "but the only time he's 'around town' these days is to raise money for our House Republican team."

You know, that doesn't exactly exclude the idea that he's out every night. And why does his spokesperson call him "Boehner?" (Raw Story)

-Republican family values on parade-
I can't do better than to quote the story directly:

Less than two weeks after he was sentenced to six months probation on an impaired driving charge, former state House Speaker Craig DeRoche was arrested early Sunday morning after a family member called and said he was intoxicated and carrying a gun.

"We got a call from a family member," said Novi Deputy Police Chief Thomas Lindberg. "But no shots were fired and no one was injured."

According to Novi Police Department reports, DeRoche's wife told police that she was out of town and concerned for her three children because DeRoche was caring for them but sounded intoxicated on the phone when she called. She also said that one of her children told her he kept falling off his bike when they went for a bike ride.

She called a friend and asked him to get DeRoche out of the house and then her mother to look after the children.

The friend told police that DeRoche did come over to his house, but got upset and left. While the friend rode a bike alongside DeRoche as he walked home trying to convince him to stay at his house, the friend also called police. When DeRoche saw police lights approaching, he ran into a wooded area and police couldn’t immediately find him, the report said.

Shortly later, the mother-in-law told police that DeRoche broke into his locked home, retrieved a loaded, 40-caliber handgun from a safe in the home's master bedroom and walked into one of his children's bedrooms.

He left the bedroom and his mother-in-law convinced him to turn the gun over to her, the report said. He removed the magazine from the gun, handed it over and the mother-in-law, who hid it in the laundry room.

When police arrived shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, DeRoche was holding one of his children and told police he had done nothing wrong. They were able to convince him to put down the child before arresting him.

OK, a couple of points here: One, invoking your Second Amendment right is not parenting. That's just not gonna work. And two, WTF? I've been on a few benders myself, but it's never ended in a decision whether to defend myself from police using a gun or a kid. That's just escalating everything needlessly. I don't care how hammered you are, that just makes you a bad person.

See kids, this is what can happen to you if you ride your bike while you're drunk -- and Republican. Don't do it. I don't care how cool your friends say it will make you.

John Boehner, take notice. This could be you. (Detroit Free Press, via Wonkette)

-Bonus HotD-
"Some 70,000 turtle eggs to be whisked far from oil."

People really need to start putting more thought into the wording of headlines... (Associated Press)

Polling and Human Behavior

As big scandals go, it lacks big sexiness. A lawsuit between the lefty blog DailyKos and their (former) polling firm Research 2000 has all the thrilling intrigue of a fishing show and paint drying combined. Even my eyes glazed over reading the posts about it at FiveThirtyEight.com -- and I love this factual data stuff.

Ok, so that's how you write an exciting lede. I've totally got you hooked with the promise of crushing boredom, statistics, math, and general inside-baseball wonkiness. Who could possibly resist reading further? Except I'm not going to write about any of that -- it's better covered in the links above than anything I could do. Suffice it to say that Research 200 is probably pretty bad and that DailyKos was more than likely getting ripped off.

What I want to talk about is how dependent we've become on polling. Public opinion polling is a weird thing, both factual and invented, both real and unreal. It's been a long-standing complaint (especially on the right, where their ideas tend to poll badly) that you can get any poll results you want by the phrasing of the questions. That's only kinda sorta true. Polling outfits don't really hide their questions, so there's no reason to assume the question is faulty. "If the election were held today, would you vote for X or Y?" is pretty cut and dried. And that's the way most questions are formed. When people make this argument, you'll notice they never explain what was wrong with the question.

More likely is that the pollster is being selective about their respondents or just making stuff up. If you need to explain an outlier poll, that's where Occam's razor would shave; it's a lot easier to just invent numbers or choose respondents most likely to give the results you want than it is to dig into the psyches of respondents and write a sort of mind-control survey. Want a poll to lean right? Poll mostly Orange County, California and rural Texas or, as Rasmussen does, poll only people who've been voting for a while. Either that or just make crap up.

The problem with bad polling is the bandwagon effect -- polls influence polls. A rational person would look at a poll that shows he or she holds a fringe position and would reconsider their own position. That's not an illogical move. When most people tell you you're wrong, it's not crazy to start thinking that maybe you're wrong. Rule out ideologues and I think we can call this the default position of anyone on anything -- this is what I believe, but I'm willing to be convinced I'm wrong. I can't think of a more rational approach to a question.

But this position doesn't consider that everyone else is operating under bad info. Worse, it doesn't consider the possibility that the group presented as the majority isn't the majority at all. Our opinions may be influenced by a misinformed majority or even a phantom majority. I don't think we can help but be influenced by majority opinion. And I don't think that's wrong or unreasonable or illogical. But it turns out that we now have to question what the majority opinion really is.

Which is really, really bad, to put it very simply. We're social animals. We cry out when we're startled to alert others to possible danger. If we see something on fire, our first impulse to to grab a buddy and say, "Holy crap, that thing's on fire!" The first impulse in not to try to put it out ourselves. We always seek out help in an emergency. In most situations, group-think is not a bad thing; it's evolution in action and one of our survival traits.

But group-think is also prone to propaganda. The majority wanted to invade Iraq and the majority was tragically wrong. We were given bad information designed to influence opinion and that screwed us. I guess what I'm taking too long to say is that we should consider the majority opinion, but we should also look at what influences it. Be aware of the people around you, but not at the expense of being smart. Polling can tell you a lot of things, but it doesn't necessarily tell you the truth. There was a time in human history where the question, "Do you believe the world is flat?" would've "destroyed" the argument that the world was round.

Polling, when it's done right and honestly, is factual data. But that doesn't mean the majority is correct.


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News Roundup for 6/28/10

Pictured, l. to r.: VP Biden, some lady, Pres. Obama

-Headline of the day-
"Elena Kagan Has Become Less Known, Cared About Since Her Nomination."

When President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, it was the worst thing ever. The wingnuts have been on a tear ever since. Why, just today the RNC put out a statement saying that Kagan's out to help Obama achieve his secret Muslim terr'ist commie agenda.

So how's this big rightwing freakout going? Not so well. Turns out that the big push to educate the public about what a horrible, horrible nominee Kagan is hasn't really made much of a dent. Or a scratch, for that matter. According to the report, "An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed that 57 percent of Americans either had no idea who Kagan was or weren't sure what to think about her nomination. That was actually up four percentage points from the survey taken one month prior."

So like all Republican educational efforts, it's actually managed to make people dumber. Good job, GOP. (Huffington Post)

-Worst. Obit. Ever.-
Googly-eyed maniac, former presidential candidate, and CEO of a media empire based on his magazine Money Porn, Steve Forbes is the guy people turn to when they want their news... After they've turned everywhere else. Like everyone else who's anyone, Steve's got his own twitters feed, where he lets people know all the great stuff that's happening in the world of cash-humping.

So it was that Forbes announced the death of Senator Robert Byrd thusly; "Good news: Financial reform bill may still fail b/c of loss of Byrd vote & 2nd thoughts from Sen Brown."

Good news, Robert Byrd is dead! Yay for Wall Street douchebags, yay!!

There's nothing left to do but withdraw the bill, rename it the "Steve Forbes is an Asshole Act of 2010," and reintroduce it. (Wonkette)

-Bonus HotD-
"US Supreme Court deals pedophilia blow for Vatican."

I'm not really a big fan of that wording... (Raw Story)

Robert Byrd, the Lone Voice of Reason

Sen. Robert Byrd, March 19, 2003 -- "I weep for my country":

[Greg Sargent:]

Putting aside the problematic aspects of Robert Byrd's legacy, many are properly focusing on the strong and compelling case he made against the Iraq War and against Bush's rough handling of the Constitution.

But what's important about this aspect of Byrd's legacy is not just what he said, but when he said it. His stance against the Iraq War came at a time when many other Democrats, cowed by Bush's swaggering popularity, were too meek and frightened to say the same thing -- even though they undoubtedly agreed with the late Senator.

Byrd's stand against the Iraq invasion is not just a testament to his own courage. It's also a testament to the cowardice of other members of his party at an absolutely critical moment -- an epic cave that may have altered the course of history and should never be forgotten.

I'd add that this is why the right hated Byrd and why you won't find an obit in the rightwing blogosphere today that doesn't mention his one-time association with the KKK. If the right gave a damn about racism, they'd attack the unrepentant racists in their own party and give the repentant a break. And Byrd was repentant -- he endorsed Barack Obama for the presidency.

No, Senator Robert Byrd stood up to Bush when no one else would and that's why the right won't forgive him. Never mind that Byrd turned out to be correct, it's a matter of grudge-holding -- the right never lets go of anything and, if you were declared evil once by rightwing talk radio, you are evil forever. Long after the propaganda value of that hate as faded, the hate itself remains. Because that's just what they do.

R.I.P., Senator Robert Byrd, whose unforgivable crime was in being one of the few people in congress with the courage to be right.

Climategate Dies, But No One Will Run the Obit

I want you to consider what I think is an undeniable and uncomfortable fact; that many so-called "climate change skeptics" are not skeptics at all. They're like the people in the tobacco or asbestos industries denying their products caused cancer. Most of them knew what they were saying wasn't true, but went ahead with the defense anyway, believing their bottom line was more important than your life. It's not a word I use often with any seriousness, but "evil" seems to be the best word to apply here. People were dying a terrible and expensive death, people continue to die that terrible and expensive death and, if these deniers had had their way, people would always die those deaths. Meanwhile, the money would keep rolling in.

As I said, evil.

Now consider how evil it would be if that denial didn't impact a just percentage of the population, but everyone in the world. If you disagree that evil applied before, your argument just got a lot harder to sustain. If climate change deniers' campaign of BS is successful, we can expect that "Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world." What granola-crunching, hippie alarmists warned about that? The pentagon, in 2004. "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," a pentagon report warned the Bush administration. "Once again, warfare would define human life." This puts the knowing denier in the position of putting civilization itself in danger and deciding that it's worth it to keep making money in the short term.

I'm not going to perform a mind-reading act and start trying to figure out who the charlatans are and who are the chumps. In terms of consequence, it hardly makes any difference. I just want you to be aware that there are people on the "skeptic" side of the argument who aren't just wrong, but willfully wrong. The rest are ideologues and idiots, either unable to think outside their little worldview-box or unable to think much of anything at all.

One problem we've been facing has been that the media has been more than happy to play the role of chump on this issue. Sticking by their foolish theory of "balance," they've approached the issue skeptically themselves, bending over backwards to tell "both sides of the story." In the beginning, there might have been some merit to this approach, but as time went on, it became more and more idiotic. The only parallel that pops into my head at the moment is showing up with a news crew at a burning building and asking, "Is it really burning?" then interviewing some lunatic who claims the fire isn't happening at all. The evidence has become so overwhelming that today 97% of scientists agree that global warming is happening and humans are causing it. Need a consensus before you'll believe something? There you go. Among the experts, the debate is over.

But don't expect the media to go along with that consensus. For websites, controversy draws traffic, for newspapers, it brings readers, for television, it brings viewers. When you stop playing to their side of the argument, the deniers stop showing up. They'll go to the wingnut media where they can be sure their biases will be confirmed. And the media isn't in the informing business, so much as they are in the money-making business. If they share something with the knowing deniers, it's that bottom line. There is no sadder day in the corporate boardroom of a media empire than the day a controversy is settled, the day a scandal dies, the day the fighting stops.

Which would make last Friday a very sad day.


A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on, as Mark Twain said (or "before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on," in Winston Churchill’s version), and nowhere has that been more true than in "climategate." In that highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal, e-mails hacked from computers at the University of East Anglia’s climate-research group were spread around the Web by activists who deny that human activity is altering the world’s climate in a dangerous way, and spun so as to suggest that the scientists had been lying, cheating, and generally cooking the books.

But not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April, an investigation at Penn State cleared PSU climatologist Michael Mann of "falsifying or suppressing data, intending to delete or conceal e-mails and information, and misusing privileged or confidential information" in February. In perhaps the biggest backpedaling, The Sunday Times of London, which led the media pack in charging that IPCC reports were full of egregious (and probably intentional) errors, retracted its central claim—namely, that the IPCC statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change was "unsubstantiated." The Times also admitted that it had totally twisted the remarks of one forest expert to make it sound as if he agreed that the IPCC had screwed up, when he said no such thing.

Big news, right? "Climategate," the one thing left to the deniers to hang their hats on, has collapsed under the weight of its own BS.

Tell it to CNN, who -- as far as I can tell -- has yet to run a story about the death of "Climategate." Yet the big news!! that Obama called Twitter "Twitters" makes CNN's front page.

News you can use.

MSNBC is no better. They don't seem to have caught the story either. Of course, if you go to their "Science and Tech news" page, you will learn about the newest video games. And FOX News? Pfffft! You're kidding, right?

Climategate may be technically dead, but that information is useless if no one knows about it. And, so far, the major TV news outlets couldn't be doing a better job of keeping that information to themselves. If knowing human-caused warming is true and arguing the that opposite is the case is evil, what is it when you know the truth and don't make any argument at all?


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News Roundup for 6/25/10

The brilliant man at work

-Headline of the day-
"Gohmert: There's A Diabolical 30-Year Plot To Have Terrorist Babies Born In U.S.!"

I always say that if some Republican says something that absolutely stupid and Sarah Palin's not around, it was probably Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert who said it. Seriously, this guy makes Dan Quayle look like the recipient of a MacArthur Genius grant. He's just that dumb.

And so, when someone revealed a 30 year plot to make terr'ist babies who'll bring America to her knees, it came as no surprise that this someone was Louis Gohmert.

So see if you can follow this; it's so damned easy to get into the USA that terr'ist mommies are sneaking in to have babies. These babies are American terr'ist babies! Once the terr'ist babies are born as American citizens, the terr'ist mommies take them back to Terrististan and teach them to yell, "Oodle-oodle-oodle!" while they blow shit up. Then, 30 years later, the terr'ist babies are terr'ist grownups. And they come to America and we let them right in, because they're citizens and that makes it so damned easy to get into the USA.

Ok now, are you seeing the big 30-year superfluous step here? Let me put it another way, then. It's too easy for terr'ists to get in and make babies so that the babies will be able to get in. Got it now?

Now you know why I'm pretty sure that Louis Gohmert isn't all that smart. (Talking Points Memo)

-More video fun-
You ever wonder what a really honest political ad would look like? I don't mean one without any lies, I mean brutal honesty... Let's have a look, shall we?

While we're on the subject; I say that, to tell terr'ist babies from real babies, real babies should all wear suits.

I'm sure Louis Gohmert would agree. (YouTube, via Political Wire)

-Bonus HotD-
"Sarah Palin tells followers to read article comparing BP escrow fund to Nazism."

You know who else wanted their followers to read stuff? Hitler! (Greg Sargent)

Republicans Fail Economics

Let's take a moment and pretend that the common political idea of running government like a business makes any damned sense at all. And let's not wonder which business we should model our government after; Enron, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, BP, etc. Let's just take it at face value and assume this is the best idea anyone ever had. Now, ask yourself this question; is debt a bad business plan?

If it is, then American business is screwed. One of the first problems we had in the Great Economic Unraveling of 2008 was that banks weren't lending money -- to businesses. And this was bad, you'll remember. Businesses relied on credit to keep things rolling. If they couldn't get loans, they wouldn't be able to make payroll or meet other obligations. It became clear that American business, like businesses all over the world, relied on credit. This shouldn't be all that surprising. If your profits are x and the interest rate is y, then it makes good business sense to borrow money if it means the value of x will exceed the value of y. In other words, if credit allows you to make investments in your business that result in profits that exceed the what you have to pay back -- interest included -- you'd have to be a fool not to borrow money to make that investment. We know that debt is good for business, because we witnessed a period when credit wasn't available and we know that it was really, really bad. If our government is running like a business, there will be times that running a debt will be not only necessary, but the wisest course of action. The "government as a business" types like to pretend that businesses don't carry debt, but they're just plain lying. In capitalism, debt is not only good, but crucial -- one of the factors in the creation of wealth are interest payments.

So, in our "government as a business," we can't automatically argue that debt is bad. Before we can do that we have to show that the borrowing won't pay off in the long run. For example, leading causes of our current debt are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Bush's top-heavy tax cuts. In terms of investment, our "government as a business" was shoveling money into a hole with the wars -- we still are -- and the tax cuts were a gamble that didn't pay off. Despite Bush promises that we'd "grow our way out of debt," we never actually did. In this government business, war and tax cuts have turned out to be pretty lousy investments.

But, given all this, we still see Washington and the media freaking out about debt. Not bad debt or bad investments, but just debt -- as if it's all the same. Debt and deficits are bad for the economy, they say -- without ever explaining how, exactly -- and this is the big problem we have to address now, now, now. Never mind that, as a business, there's no reason for us to give a crap about how we influence the economy (think Lehman Brothers did?), but I guess this whole "government as a business" thing requires that we ignore a lot of obvious facts. We're apparently in the Good Economy business.

Part of the problem here is that the media has joined in on this "government as a business" idea. It's suddenly become the consensus. Everyone in America agrees that government really is a business and that debt and deficits are always bad. Period. End of story.

This is what you call "accepted wisdom" and, as is so often the case, the accepted is just plain wrong.

[Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):]

In the June 21 New York Times, John Harwood wrote, "The same polls that show voters upset about joblessness also show them upset about deficit spending, which Democratic leaders consider their only short-term method of reducing joblessness."

Washington Post (6/19/10) put the same narrative on its front page under the headline, "Election-Year Deficit Fears Stall Obama Stimulus Plan." Reporter Lori Montgomery acknowledged that many economists see a greater threat looming if the government doesn't provide additional stimulus. But, she countered, "a competing threat--the exploding federal budget deficit--seems to be resonating more powerfully in Congress and among voters." The piece went on to note that the first stimulus package does not appear to poll very well, and that voters "are sending mixed signals about whether Washington should spend more on jobs or start minding the national debt."

But most recent polls show far more public concern over unemployment than deficit spending or the federal debt. As FAIR noted (FAIR Blog, 5/19/10), recent surveys from CBS/
New York Times and NBC/Wall Street Journal asked voters to rank problems facing the country. Unemployment was more important by a spread of 49 percent to 5 percent in the CBS/NYT poll, 35 percent to 20 percent in the NBC/WSJ survey, and 47 percent to 15 percent from a recent Fox poll. Blogger Ben Somberg raised similar questions (6/19/10) in response to the Post story.

So the people know something that the "government as a business" types in Washington and the media don't; deficits aren't the problem, unemployment is. And we're right. The problem with the economy is that no one's spending money. And if we have a big pool of people without money, then that just makes things worse. Our economy, like all economies, is consumer-driven. If people aren't spending money, the economy isn't healthy.

What you want to do is get money to people who don't have it. Why? Because there is no one on earth so certain to spend money as the person who needs it. They're going to stop buying rahmen noodles and start buying something a little more real. And, if they have money while they're looking for work, they aren't going to take the first crappy job that comes along. Reducing unemployment isn't necessarily good in itself; if everyone's being paid less now, you really haven't helped things much. In our Good Economy business, we've done a pretty lousy job.

Which means that, last night, government was a very bad business.

[The Hill:]

By a 57-41 vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) failed for a third time to advance legislation that would have extended unemployment benefits through November and resuscitated scores of individual and business tax breaks that expired last year.

Today's vote marks the third time that Reid has failed to advance the legislation.

And you know what's craziest about this? It's not going to reduce the deficit. It's not going to pay off any debt. In effect, the senate has turned down a loan that would've been a very good investment -- and they did it in favor of nothing. To further wear a threadbare phrase, they'll bend over backwards to bail out Wall Street, but they won't do a thing to bail out Main Street. A Republican filibuster just hamstrung our recovery.

Here's the thing; it's a Republican myth that business creates jobs. It doesn't. No business is ever going to hire someone they don't need to do a job that doesn't need to be done. Demand creates jobs. If I want a bunch of widgets right now, a business would hire more widget-makers to keep up with demand. On the other hand, if the business hires a bunch of widget-makers, people aren't going to magically start needing them. And if no one has any money, no one needs any widgets. No consumers=bad for business=bad economy=bad job by the Good Economy business.

If this is running government like a business, these businessmen suck.


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News Roundup for 6/24/10

Mermaid in undersea fantasy
Gulf of Mexico, according to BP

-Headline of the day-
"BP 'Blogs from the Gulf' find silvery sheen in dark cloud of oil."

Want to know what's really going on in the Gulf of Mexico? Then point your browser to BP's Blogs From the Gulf, where you'll learn that everything is just going super-gangbusters!

There, you'll learn how the skimmer boats dance a "spectacular ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall" -- from real live "BP reporters." In an article about mothers going to clean up the beaches on Mother's Day, we get a touching story "reminding everyone that this spill response is only a very small part of what's important." You think this oil gusher thing is important? When was the last time you called your mom? She worries about you, you know...

In one article, a BP reporter goes out looking for tar balls and comes up empty. Instead, she finds "the beach crowded with people from every age group from young families to a couple in their 80s." Awwww!

Of course, it's hard to get a competing view out there, since BP has been chasing reporters away from the area. But I'm sure that if other journalists got close, they too would see the majestic beauty of the sunlight dancing off the rainbow-sheened waters of that grand open sea.

I understand it's breathtaking... And not just because of the petroleum fumes. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids! You ever wonder how the other half lives? How about the other 25%... or 1%? Well, wonder no more, thanks to...

Lifestyles of the rich and fossil-fueled
Click for animation

It's a super-awesome life and now Tony Hayward has it back! (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"BP's approval ratings approach Saddam Hussein's."

I'm guessing that's not good. (Think Progress)

Logic? Who Needs It? We're Talking About Money Here

Judge FeldmanEarlier this week, I wrote briefly about the decision by US District Court Judge Martin Feldman to strike down the Obama administraton's six month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. Heavily invested [PDF] in oil and energy companies, Feldman's ruling seems more than a little... Well, let's say, "off."

See, it's not the investments themselves that throw doubt on the ruling. After all, it's entirely possible for a ruling to be good for investors and just at the same time. It's that his logic seems to be a real stretch. In his decision, Feldman wrote, "The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is an unprecedented, sad, ugly and inhuman disaster. What seems clear is that the federal government has been pressed by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon into an otherwise sweeping confirmation that all Gulf deepwater drilling activities put us all in a universal threat of irreparable harm." So despite the the failure of a offshore platform anyone at BP, Transocean, or Halliburton would've told you was safe, we can't assume that other platforms are dangerous. Let me put this to you another way. The fact that there weren't enough lifeboats on the Titanic is no reason to start putting lifeboats on other ships. There's no proof that other ships might sink. So let's not get crazy.

Of course, there is reason to believe that other rigs are just as screwed up as Deepwater Horizon. For one, the overseeing agency -- the Minerals Management Service -- has been completely dysfunctional since 2002 at least. In 2008, an Interior Department's Inspector General for a deeply corrupt agency, with regulators doing cocaine and meth -- meth -- with lobbyists, open bribery, and a "culture of marketing," where the focus wasn't on extracting safely, but just extracting more. What Feldman is saying is, "The meth-head says the rigs are fine -- who are we to question that? Twitchy McFrybrain here is, after all, the expert."

And, if further evidence is needed, you can point to the fact that all the response plans for all the oil rigs are all wrong in exactly the same way. In reviewing the plans, Rep. Ed Markey was struck by the fact that the only real differences between different company's plans were the logos on the covers. "What we found was that Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell and BP have response plans that are virtually identical," he wrote. "The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words and made the exact same assurances... The covers of the five response plans are different colors, but the content is ninety percent identical."

In case of emergency, the plans call on an expert to be called -- complete with contact information -- who's dead. Responders are warned to be careful not to disturb walrus habitats, in the Gulf of Mexico. The Associated Press described the response plans as a "slapdash effort to follow environmental rules." To look at all this -- the drug use, the corruption, the dead experts and non-existent walruses -- and think, "Yup. Looks like these fellas have got it together," is a failure of logic that I don't have words to adequately describe. This isn't just a bad ruling, this may stand for quite some time as the worst-case example of a bad ruling.

For their part, the Obama administration has a remedy to Feldman's incompetence:


The Obama administration may let certain deepwater drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico resume during a six-month halt, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

Rules to be issued "will include the criteria under which it is appropriate to take a look at the lifting of the moratoria," Salazar said today in Washington at a hearing of a Senate Appropriations Committee panel.

A six-month halt to deepwater exploration, imposed last month by President Barack Obama in response to the BP Plc spill, was overturned yesterday by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans. The administration said it will appeal the decision, and Salazar announced he will reformulate the rules. Republicans and Gulf Coast Democrats have said the ban is too broad and jeopardizes tens of thousands of jobs.

I never said it was a good remedy. If it were me, I'd issue a new moratorium on drilling over 501 feet (the ban struck down was on 500 feet or more), then 502, 503, until the six months had passed. Sure, a lot of people are out of work while the moratorium is in place, but what about all the people put out of work by the spill? You've got charter boats, fishing boats, shrimpers, oyster fishermen, tourism industry people, etc. Why are they less important than people working in the oil industry? If there's another blowout, they're even more screwed. And who was the idiot who promised oil companies they'd be able to keep people working forever anyway? What entitlement do they have?

If Judge Martin Feldman's ruling proves anything, it's that once money becomes involved, people get stupid. If simple common sense can't prevail, if the freakin' obvious isn't proof enough, where can we go from here but down?


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News Roundup for 6/23/10

Flip-flop sandals
Rep. Joe Barton

-Headline of the day-
"'Joe Barton was right,' Joe Barton tweets."

We all remember when Rep. Smokey Joe Barton apologized to BP's CEO for getting all that nasty saltwater in his nice clean oil. That wasn't actually so bad. What really got people was that, in a display of submission, Joe then laid down on his back with his arms and legs in the air and wouldn't get up until Tony Hayward had rubbed his tummy. You've gotta admit, that was pretty embarrassing.

Seeing how that didn't go over very well, Barton later apologized for apologizing. But this morning, he took it back in a tweet that read "Joe Barton was Right," with a link to an article in The American Spectator about what a Great American Joe Barton is. So Barton was basically saying he was sorry for saying he was sorry about being sorry. It's that sort of quick-witted, decisive leadership that makes Smokey Joe Barton the Great American that he is.

But later in the day, Barton deleted the tweet and the link. A statement from Barton's office said an overeager staffer had put it up without thinking and now it was down and done with and could we please shut the fuck up about what a clown Joe Barton is?

In short, Rep. Joe Barton is now sorry for saying he was sorry about being sorry for saying he was sorry. I think that's right... A couple more of these and we're going to have to start using a calculator to keep track of things. I'm counting them off on my fingers right now. Maybe I should be using a Yahtzee score sheet or something.

Anyway, to sum up, Joe Barton is sorry -- again. (Dave Weigel)

-Behold the awesome-
The first thing I said to myself after watching this clip of Rep. Jim McDermott kick Rush Limbaugh's rhetorical ass was -- and I quote -- "Hee! Hee!"

Can I get an amen? (Media Matters)

-Bonus HotD-
"Fox host: Being president is 'just like' my job."

Wow, talk about setting the bar low. I thought "President Sarah Palin" was a scary thought, but Gretchen Carlson -- the woman who seems to believe that Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade aren't circus freaks?

I may not sleep tonight. (Raw Story, with video)


News Roundup for 6/22/10

Wandered off again

-Headline of the day-
"Where's Gov. Sanford?"

Oh crap, not this again...

Remember how S. Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford disappeared a while back and no one knew where he was or what he was doing and it turned out he was making kissy-face with Evita Peron in Argentina? Yeah, that was about a year ago. And it looks like Sanford's decided to commemorate the time his political career evaporated by re-enacting that event. He's gone and no one knows where.

"The governor is entitled to personal time, vacation time. No problem with that," says John Crangle, director of Common Cause, a nonprofit that encourages open government. "But, because of the importance of the office of governor, he should at least notify the lieutenant governor if he's outside the state. When you assume a public office, you forfeit some of your privacy because you're accountable to the public." See, that's because the Lt. Governor is the Governor in the Governor's absence -- so it would make sense that the Lt. Governor know he's the Governor in case any governing needs to be done. If the Lt. Governor doesn't know he's the Governor, than the state is in reality Governorless -- which arguable may not be a bad thing, considering.

Of course my money -- and everyone else's -- is on Sanford being down visiting with Kissy-face Evita again. But another possibility is that he really could be doing naked hiking this time.

In which case, I don't want to know anything about it. (The State)

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is a freakin' trainwreck. Everyone knows it. That's not the most controversial statement in the world. So Republican bigs Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, a former RNC head, decided that if the GOP was going to raise some serious scratch to get crazy people elected, they'd have to bypass the RNC and raise that money on their own. They set up what they called a "Shadow RNC" -- because that sounds so trustworthy -- and named it American Crossroads. AC would raise stupid amounts of money from people unwilling to give it to Mike Steele so he could light his cigars with it. And then they'd run ads and stuff for good, patriotic lunatics who know that the only things that matter in America are oil, stopping abortion forever, oil, cutting taxes below 0%, oil, and always being at war -- preferably for oil.

How's this going? According to the report, AC "raised only $200 last month, according to a report it filed Monday with the Internal Revenue Service, bringing its total raised since launching in March to a little more than $1.25 million." They promised to raised $50 million, so it's not going so well. In fact, that $1.25 million comes from just two donors -- Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Chief Oil and Gas, and B. Wayne Hughes, the chairman of Public Storage. Donors aren't exactly knocking down their door.

So Karl and Ed, it's official -- you're even more incompetent than Michael Steele.

And let me tell you, that takes talent. (Think Progress)

-Bonus HotD-
"Steele Makes Up Facts: 'George Bush Created A Lot Of Jobs.'"

See? This is what you're worse than, guys. (Think Progress, with video)

A Rant in Defense of Democracy

Man wearing hoodie that reads-Republic not DemocrayIf you've talked to anyone who buys into rightwing talk radio, you've heard the argument; the United States is a republic, not a democracy. It's actually a silly argument. Democracy is a system, while a republic is a structure. What they mean -- or what I think they mean -- is that the US isn't a direct democracy. Citizens don't vote on everything, we elect representatives to do that. Those representatives go on to work within the structure of a republic; i.e., a lawmaking governing body. Still, democracy is more something you do, not something you are. To me, saying, "This is a republic, not a democracy," sounds a lot like, "This is a cake, not a baking." We vote for people to go to Washington and vote for a living -- the whole system hinges on democracy.

But this argument has seemed to evolve. It comes up whenever you bring up democracy in any form. They seem to have come to believe that democracy is in itself a bad thing. I used to think that this was simply idiotic semantics -- Democrats=democracy, Republicans=republic. Democrats are bad, therefore democracy is a bad word. Republic is a good word, because it's right there in Republican. It's a sort of quasi-logical equation that assumes the governing philosophies of both parties can be summed up with single words; we're a republic, not a democracy, because Republicans are always right and Democrats are always wrong.

And I really don't have any problem at all believing that many in the Republican base really do see it that way. Yes, it's simplistic to the point of infantile, but these are people marching around with misspelled signs warning that Obama is a socialist, just like Hitler (there's no "H" is "socialist," guys). They obviously don't waste a lot of time with reason or facts. They live in a world where whatever you want to believe -- no matter how far-fetched or nonsensical -- is true, true, true if you just believe it with all your little wingnut heart. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Barack Obama is really an illegal alien. Despite all evidence to the contrary, global warming is just a socialist plot to bring down capitalism. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the framers of the Constitution were hyper-Christian zealots and the United States is therefore a hyper-Christian nation by design. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there were WMD in Iraq -- Saddam just moved them someplace else. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Republican Party represents the people.

But clearly, these room temperature IQs didn't cook up this whole "democracy-bad, republic-good" thing on their own. They don't come up with anything on their own. Sheep in rugged-individualist clothing, they believe what they're told to believe -- even if it contradicts other edicts handed down from on high. If polls show a certain policy or proposal is unpopular with a big enough segment of the population, they play the Will of the People card. If another poll shows something is wildly popular, then it's back to "democracy is bad." I could excuse this wild inconsistency in philosophy if there were some sort of nuanced argument behind it where one situation differs from another, but Republicans -- and their base especially -- hate nuance. Either a fifth-grader can grasp the concept instantly or it's just some fancy-pants elitist intellectual claptrap.

All of this boils down to one over-arching belief among the Republican elite -- that you are stupid. And, if you aren't, you should be. Good Americans march around with their "OBAMA=HITLER" signs. Those are the patriots; this big homogeneous mass whose belief-system is whatever you tell them it is. And if you dare to disagree with that belief-system, you're a traitor and it's tyranny and you hate America and Jesus and the troops in the field and love terrorists and commies. End of story.

But the "democracy is bad" argument has a deeper root than just convenience. It has a basis in the political philosophy of a leading thinker on the right, Leo Strauss. Strauss really did believe that the masses were stupid and that a ruling elite should guide them. And this would require the destruction of the middle class, making the population more dependent on corporations.

[Robert Barker:]

[I]n the 60s and '70s, a group of alarmed conservative ideologues viewed the predominantly middle class US social upheavals as negatives. Women demanding equal pay and reproductive rights, African-Americans standing up for voting rights and equal access to public facilities, working people pushing for fair wages, activists screaming for a clean environment, a growing anti-war movement. These all spelled bad news for extreme conservative ideologies.

Suddenly the far right ideologues thought what they were seeing were indications of our social order disintegrating. It confirmed their trepidation, which echoed an alarm of the early founders like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, who argued that augmented democracy could lead to social anarchy. A ruling elite operating under the "pretext" of democracy loomed as the most steadfast form of government to these people. And a strong middle strata like we developed in the '60s and '70s meant people had too much time on their hands; and too little fear. As a sociologist it is obvious to me that the industrial, commercial, and service rendering of mid- social stratification is the hallmark of national economic success. Citizen' standing up for their Constitutional rights is to my thinking very American; to the right wing ideologues it caused trepidation.

A strong middle class meant that people could organize and the right knew how bad that could be from the success of the labor movement. Inherently authoritarian, the right believed -- and still believes -- in a strict, top-down social hierarchy. "In reaction to the liberated sixties enters the philosopher and far right ideologues, disciples of Leo Strauss and his elitist, nihilist, domination theory," Barker tells us. "Reminiscent of Nietzsche, Strauss believed in the ruling elite or autocracy as the best form of government. He taught his students to practice Illusions of nationalism, morals, religion and democracy, while surreptitiously tearing these populous precepts and paradigms apart." Strauss's students include leading Republican thinkers like William Kristol, Richard Pearl, and Paul Wolfowitz.

You don't know what's good for you, they know what's good for you -- therefore, democracy is bad. This authoritarian hierarchy takes the form of corporations these days, which explains Republican protection of them. In a world without Straussian political philosophy, Joe Barton's apology to BP, for example, would be unthinkable. Yet Barton was merely stating what was the accepted Republican line the day before. And Barton, shunned by his party for nothing more than poor timing, has no trouble finding defenders in that vast pool of idiots called the Republican base. Corporations should neither be questioned nor held accountable for their actions, because that's tyranny!

On the other hand, if you're having trouble feeding your kids, tell them to go dumpster diving. If that sounds like France before the revolution, it is -- because autocracy is good. We can forgive a corporation anything, but you've got to muddle along as best you can without any help, because E Pluribus Unum means "get off your lazy ass." At no point and in no situation will a Republican say, "We're all in this together."

So you've got Rand Paul saying that criticizing BP is un-American, while saying that the solution to unemployment is to go out and get your slacker ass a job. We've got the reliably lunatic Rep. Steve King thinking the coast is clear to say that Barton was right on the money. We've got Rep. Darrell Issa saying that, if the GOP takes the house in November, he'll stop investigations into corporations and start seeing if he can figure out some way to get Obama impeached.

At every turn, if there's a choice to be made between moneyed interests and you, they'll chose moneyed interests. Every time. Because they don't trust you, they don't believe in you, and -- frankly -- they're scared to death of you. And you have way too much political power. You're a problem and they're solving it.

So the US isn't a democracy, it's a republic. Because democracy is bad.


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News Roundup for 6/21/10

Phone with message - SarahPalinUSA You are dumb...
Sarah Palin's Blackberry

-Headline of the day-
"Fact Checking Sarah Palin: Joe Barton Reflects The Philosophy Of Over 115 Republicans."

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's This Week that Smokey Joe Barton's apology to BP was no accident -- it was the result of core GOP principles.

"That's not a political gaffe, those were prepared remarks," Rahm said. "That is a philosophy...They see the aggrieved party here is BP, not the fishermen. And remember, this is not just one person. Rand Paul...said the way BP was being treated was un-American."

Well, Sarah Palin wasn't going to take that lying down! No siree Bob! She picked up her Frankenberry-phone-gizmo and tweetlepated the following; "RahmEmanuel= as shallow/narrowminded/irresponsible as they come,to falsely claim Barton's BP comment is"GOP philosophy"Rahm, u lie."

Turns out that, as much as it might seem to be impossible, you can fact-check a bowl of word salad like that. In fact, I'd already shot it down before Sarah's furious thumbs stamped her mini-tirade out. 115 members of the Republican Study Committee said the $20 billion escrow account set up by BP and the White House constituted a "shakedown" and was therefore the worst thing ever. That was the day before Smokey Joe made an idiot of himself by saying the exact same thing. The RSC makes up most -- 65% -- of the Republican house. That means that it's the majority philosophy of the house GOP.

Sarah,u lie (Think Progress)

-You too can be a welfare queen!-
If there's anyone who hates the government more than teabagger hero and Arizona senatorial candidate J.D. Hayworth, I don't know who it is. John Wayne reincarnated as an eagle, maybe. See, Hayworth knows the problem is that government spends way too much money, just giving it away to all the lazy good-for-nothing bums with their hands out. People should work hard for their money, not look to big gummint to fork over the bucks.

Here's Hayworth in 2007, demonstrating the problem:

You too can get free money from big gummint, just by asking for it! Yippee!

Wait, it gets better. Turns out this whole thing was just a big scam (there's a shocker, huh?). The report quotes a John McCain spokesperson as saying, "J.D. Hayworth lent his name and the credibility of the U.S. Congress to an obvious rip-off scam -- as demonstrated by the actions of the 24 attorneys general across the country, the Vermont attorney general, and KVOA-Tucson's investigative report exposing NGC's fraud." McCain, Hayworth's opponent in the GOP primary, has taken money from the company, but has since donated it to charity.

So remember Arizona voters, elect J.D. Hayworth to the US Senate and he'll protect you from welfare scammers -- like J.D. Hayworth. (Political Wire, Arizona Republic, YouTube)

-Bonus HotD-
"Departing RNC staff chief got $100K payout."

Want to know another get-rich quick scheme? Get a job with the Republican National Committee, pay a stupid amount of money for a bondage-themed lesbian sex show, get fired for it, then watch the bucks roll in.

It's just that easy. (Politico)

Griper Blade: The Effects of the Offshore Drilling Moratorium on Gas Prices

Griper Blade: The Effects of the Offshore Drilling Moratorium on Gas Prices

The Effects of the Offshore Drilling Moratorium on Gas Prices

Replacement axe handleIn Adam Smith's seminal economics work, The Wealth of Nations, he made a simple observation. If you find a stick on the ground, it doesn't have a lot of value. Let's face it, there are a lot of sticks lying around and if someone wanted one bad enough, they wouldn't have a lot of trouble finding one. For the sake of argument, we can set the value of a stick at "free."

However, if you take that stick back to your workshop and fashion an axe handle out of it, that stick suddenly has value. If you were to sell it, the value wouldn't be determined by the resource it came from -- after all, it's that same free stick -- but from the labor and skill you put into making it an axe handle. Maybe someone else doesn't have that skill, maybe they do and just don't want to take the time to do it themselves, but someone will now pay good money for your formerly free stick. In this example, 100% of the value is conferred by the woodworker's labor. When someone buys it, they aren't really buying the axe handle, what they're doing is paying you to make an axe handle after the fact.

The stick was a resource and, to tell the truth, in most cases resources aren't free. But a resource isn't a product. Even resources that have a lot of intrinsic value need to have labor applied to them -- i.e., diamonds must be cut and gold must be refined. And the value of the resource increases after it has been worked -- by labor -- into a product. In short, even when the stick isn't free, labor still increases its value. Call that Economics of Manufacturing 101, the super-simplified fast course.

I bring this up because this very simple economic truth is being lost on Republicans all over the damn place. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama imposed a moratorium on offshore drilling. This is the worst thing ever. In fact, in a fit of cartoonish buffoonery, Mississippi governor and former head of the Republican National Committee Haley Barbour argued that the moratorium is worse than the spill itself. See, the ban puts people out of work and will drive up the cost of gas, argues Barbour -- which is half-true, it'll put people out of work. Of course, in addition to the $20 billion Obama secured from BP for damages, he got $100 million to help pay out-of-work rig workers. So no actual hit there.

And the rest of the argument is just as dumb. As Digby points out at Hullaballoo, "I'm surprised these conservatives haven't used this argument [for] the food and drug companies when their products are killing people: sure, the e coli may be deadly but we can't stop selling that tainted meat because it costs jobs and drives up prices."

But will it drive up prices? Not really, no. Crude oil is a resource, not a product. Unlike the stick, it's far from free, but the increase in value still comes mostly from labor. You have to refine crude oil or it's just useless and poisonous crap no consumer in their right mind would want. Oil is a commodity sold on a global market. Unless you want to argue that all the oil in the world is extracted from offshore drilling in the United States, any effect of the moratorium will be limited. The price at the pump isn't dictated by the availability of the resource -- like the stick, oil isn't rare -- but in the production. Despite the fact that a fortune in oil was being spewed out into the Gulf of Mexico, gas prices were falling. Keep in mind, the moratorium's been in place this whole time too.

What's actually driving the price of oil up and down right now are supply and demand. You can make all the axe handles you want but, if no one needs any, good luck selling them. As the global recession went on, it reduced demand for refined petroleum. People were cutting back, people weren't going to the mall, people weren't going on vacation -- in short, people weren't burning as much gas. Production's been outpacing demand. Too many axe handles, not enough lumberjacks, so the price falls.

Never let it be said that good news ever comes without accompanying bad news. Just as the recession (bad news) kept gas prices low (good news), so a recovery will have the opposite effect.

[Gainesville Sun:]

Crude oil prices have begun to rise and some analysts see that as a good sign that the economy is rebounding.

According to the New York Mercantile Exchange, prices for crude oil rose last week to their highest level since mid-May. A primary factor driving prices higher is increased demand, which is viewed as an indicator that the economy is improving. The demand has been the result of consumers being willing to buy more gas, according to Jessica Brady, manager of AAA Public Relations.

So an economic recovery will bring gas prices (and the price of everything else) back up to normal. I guess you could see rising gas prices as the bad news here, but you could also argue that the real bad news is that it'll seem to back up the Republican lie. Don't fall for it.


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News Roundup for 6/18/10

One car parked on top of another
Wall Street wizard shown parking his car

-Headline of the day-
"Wall Street Said 'Buy, Buy, Buy' BP Stock As Gulf Crisis Unfolded."

See? That's what you like about financial wizards; their solid grasp of reality. According to the report, as "the out-of-control" gusher spilled into "rich fishing grounds and nearby resort beaches [raising] the specter of horrific damages and untold potential liabilities" for the company, "the dozens of securities analysts who followed the British oil giant were unfazed" and were unified by one message: "Buy, baby, buy!"

For example, the geniuses at Credit Suisse "did not even mention the accident in an April 28 report" and boosted their earnings estimate for BP. Then, as BP's stock tanked, other wizbang minds said it was undervalued -- and urged everyone to buy. Citigroup estimated that the company's liabilities would be a mere $450 million. With a $20 billion escrow account set aside for damages -- on top of the cost of the clean up and fines -- the word "dwarfed" seems inadequate in describing the Citi's estimate in comparison to the actual cost.

So people who listened to these super-expert experts are now getting soaked. Hey teabaggers, tell me again about the superiority of the private sector... (Huffington Post)

-The psychic racist-
Rep. Steve King can tell who's an illegal immigrant by using ESP!

This is actually pretty surprising to me; I figured a mindreader would necessarily need a mind. (Crooks and Liars)

-Bonus HotD-
"Hayward to play reduced role in spill response."

It turns out that getting an apology from Smokey Joe Barton is a career killer. BP CEO Tony Hayward will now have less involvement in the response to his company's oil gusher. And I have only one question...

How is it even possible for him to do less? (MSNBC)

-Extra Bonus HotD-
"After Blaming Dems For 'Spending Money We Don't Have,' Rubio Faces Foreclosure On House He Can't Afford."

Here's a very thoughtful and well-reasoned reaction to that news. (Think Progress)

The Grand Oil Party

It's true that Republicans often say stupid and ridiculous things. In fact, in a world where Sarah Palin is a celebrity to the rightwing base, it's expected of them. It's part of their "oppose everything" strategy and it often paints them into a rhetorical corner; if you're going to fight even the most rational positions, you're often going to find yourself playing proponent to the irrational. So, since President Obama helped arrange a $20 billion escrow fund to make sure BP will cover the costs to people's lives, the default position is that this is a bad thing. Never mind that it's a necessary thing. Twenty-one years after the Exxon Valdez spill, ExxonMobil has only paid $500 million of an up to $7 billion bill. BP will not be able to weasel out of their obligations so easily.

But, as I said, opposing everything means opposing even the good ideas. And this forces Republicans to embrace bad ideas. Texas Rep. Joe Barton -- known in some circles as "Smokey Joe" for his undying support of the oil industry -- demonstrates what this looks like.

If you need a transcript of that, Talking Points Memo has it. The teabaggers love this because, let's face it, they aren't very smart. But no one else was much of a fan. With the White House getting tough with the oil giant, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" turned out to be a really stupid line of thought. Especially from someone who used to be an oil exec himself.

The White House was quick to capitalize on Barton's apology, sending out an email blast to supporters asking them to "Stand with us to show that the American people support holding BP accountable -- and we won't apologize for doing so."

The Republicans weren't quite so fleet of foot. It's easy to understand their surprise. After all, some Republican somewhere says something equally stupid every, single day. Joe Barton's apology wasn't anything unusual, but it was on CSPAN. And it was on at a time when a lot of people tuned in to watch BP CEO Tony Hayward -- easily the most hated man in America right now -- squirm. Watching Smokey Joe kiss his backside and beg forgiveness wasn't exactly what they were hoping for. By the end of the day, GOP leadership issued a statement of opposition to his apology (more on that in a bit) and Barton's position on the Energy and Commerce Committee is now "within a centimeter" of being pulled by the party. Barton's apology was also retracted.

But the GOP was caught completely flatfooted by the public reaction to Barton's obsequiousness. Sen. John Cornyn -- who joined in on the official statement denouncing Barton -- originally said he shared Smokey Joe's concerns over the escrow account. But then it turned out that this was the politically disadvantageous position, so he changed teams.

And Barton had reason to believe the party had his back on this -- mostly because they've been saying pretty much the same thing:

[John Nichols, The Nation:]

Barton's not an outlier. Other prominent Republicans are rallying to BP's defense. Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann counseled that: "[If] I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there—'We're not going to be chumps, and we're not going to be fleeced.' And they shouldn't be. They shouldn't have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest—they've got to be legitimate claims."

The problem, explained Bachmann is not BP but Obama. "The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from," griped the conservative Congresswoman.

Just the day before, the Republican Study Committee issued an official statement saying almost exactly what Barton did, sans the apology. "BP's reported willingness to go along with the White House’s new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics," said chairman Tom Price in the statement. "These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration's drive for greater power and control. It is the same mentality that believes an economic crisis or an environmental disaster is the best opportunity to pursue a failed liberal agenda. The American people know much better."

And that leadership statement denouncing Barton? Yeah, I haven't forgotten about that. Even while trying to position themselves as really, really mad at BP and Smokey Joe, they make sure to give the oil company some wiggle room.

The oil spill in the Gulf is this nation's largest natural disaster and stopping the leak and cleaning up the region is our top priority. Congressman Barton's statements this morning were wrong. BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose.

The families and businesspeople in the Gulf region want leadership, accountability and action from BP and the Administration. It is unacceptable that, 59 days after this crisis began, no solution is forthcoming. Simply put, the American people want all of our resources, time and focus to be directed toward stopping the spill and cleaning up the mess.

Yeah, this is terrible and Joe Barton's a moron, but this whole oil gusher thing really is just a "natural disaster." This echos the statements of people like Alaska Rep. Don Young, who argue that this sort of thing is a "natural phenomenon."

"Oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries, will continue to do it," Young said earlier this month. "During World War II there was over 10 million barrels of oil spilt from ships, and no natural catastrophe... We will lose some birds, we will lose some fixed sealife, but overall it will recover."

Republicans are now pretending outrage at Smokey Joe, but in truth they're in complete agreement. It doesn't require mindreading on my part to come to this conclusion, I just need to read what they've said.


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News Roundup for 6/17/10

Father and son watch Obama at TV store
Smart TV man make us feel dumb, sad

-Headline of the day-
"Our discourse has come to this..."

CNN went to an expert to find out what exactly was wrong with Barack Obama's first Oval Office address. Too vague, without any real specifics about his alternative energy plans? No, that's not it. Too much focus on the problem, too little on the solution? Wrong again.

The problem, says Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor, was that this Barack Obama fella is smart and you are dumb. Let me put that to you in a way that Dr. Payack seems to believe you'd better understand: Obama use big words. Sentences too long. He not aware of your stupidity.

See, the speech was "written to a 9.8 grade level," which is bad. Why? Because you're dumb. Really, try to keep up here. CNN reports "the president used slightly less than four sentences per paragraph," while "his 19.8 words per sentence 'added some difficulty for his target audience,'" according to Paul J.J.

Get it now? You are dumb. Way to dumb to understand any of this.

"One of the things I've always liked about Obama is that, as a rule, he treats the public like adults. During the campaign, when he talked about changing the nature of politics, one of the underlying points was about the way in which leaders would communicate with the electorate," writes Steve Benen. "Apparently, communicating at a 10th-grade level will draw rebukes. Our political discourse is just that bad."

Yeah, whatever Poindexter. Save your fancy-talk for someone who can understand it. (Political Animal)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Knuckles is back! Yay!

Back in Black
Click for animation

And everyone thought his show was canceled... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Alvin Greene Asks Time Magazine For 'Man Of The Year' Award."

See, he doesn't do any of that there fancy-talk, so he deserves it. (Mediaite)

The Nightmare Scenario

Underwater gusherAs I write, BP CEO Tony Hayward is just beginning his grilling by the Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations. It's not going well. Capital Police have already pulled a protester out of the audience. If you missed it, Huffington Post has his prepared testimony here. It's not especially enlightening. This is bad, BP's doing everything they can, they're drilling relief wells and catching a bunch of oil and blah, blah, blah. I didn't learn anything new. If you care, Tony says he's "personally devastated" by this whole thing. I'm sure that makes everyone feel much better.

It's against this backdrop that I bring something extremely disturbing to your attention. Sharon Astyk at ScienceBlogs directs us to a comment in a comment thread at a popular oil news blog:

Reader Stephen B. pointed me to this comment at The Oil Drum by someone who argues that there's more going on under the Gulf that we think. For those who think it is strange that I be highlighting a comment in a thread, I should note that TOD attracts many, many petroleum geologists and other professionals, and while sometimes the comments are the same "pulled it out of my ass" as on every other website, often, the technical knowledge on offer is pretty astounding. This one passes my smell test, which is usually pretty good -- that doesn't mean I claim commenter Doug R is right -- it means I think his information is interesting enough to be worth exposing to a wider audience for clarification or correction.

I wouldn't normally pass something like this on. But the comment is detailed, sourced, and thorough enough to qualify as its own blog post and it's caught the attention of both Astyk and Mother Jones environmental journalist Julia Whitty. What Doug R argues is that all of the actions BP has taken so far are consistent with an escalating problem. And that problem is that the well site is basically collapsing into the well, which would result in an unstoppable gusher. "It's a race now," he writes, "a race to drill the relief wells and take our last chance at killing this monster before the whole weakened, wore out, blown out, leaking and failing system gives up it's last gasp in a horrific crescendo."

It's not my intention to pass on rumor, especially from an anonymous comment in a blog -- no matter how knowledgeable that commenter seems to be. If he's right, even capturing a significant percentage of the oil as it escapes would be impossible -- and somewhere around 2 billion gallons will spew out into the Gulf before the well finally gives up the ghost. We'd think of the Gulf Coast as it is right now -- oil-soaked birds, poisoned marshes, and all -- as the good old days. I'm not suggesting that this is happening, but I want to point out that this is possible.

And if it's possible at Deepwater Horizon, it's possible at any other of the deepwater sites out there. This could happen and, no matter how unlikely the odds, each rig increases them. How much of a risk is it wise to take -- especially when the consequences can be so catastrophic?

If this did happen, no corporation in the world would be able to cover the damage. You could liquidate the entire company and it wouldn't make a dent. The Gulf of Mexico would be become the graveyard of extinct species and the coastlines would have to be evacuated. The cost would fall on the taxpayers and the economy would take a massive hit.

Right now, I'm working on the assumption that Doug R is either wrong or needlessly pessimistic. Mostly because I've still got to get through the day. But ask yourself how badly it is that we actually need oil. Ask yourself how long we're going to keep taking this risk. Ask yourself how bad the consequences have to be before it's not worth it anymore.


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News Roundup for 6/16/10

He's just asking the questions no one else is asking...
because those questions are stupid

-Headline of the day-
"GOP congressional candidate: The federal government and BP colluded to spill oil in the Gulf."

Bill Randal doesn't know what to do about the big oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, but he knows who to blame -- everyone. See, the way the N. Carolina congressional candidate and teabagging enthusiast sees it, it's pretty clear that it's all a big conspiracy to... Well, he doesn't know. But something.

Here's how it went down. The Obama administration looked the other way while Deepwater Horizon got all screwed up. Then, while nobody was looking, BP tried to spill a little oil. That didn't go very well and stuff exploded and a bunch of people died and pelicans got all messed up. And all in the name of... Well, he doesn't know. But something.

"Is there a cover up going on?" Bill demands to know. "I'm not saying there necessarily is. But I think there's enough facts on the table for people that [they] really need to do some investigative research and find out what went on with that and get a subpoena of records and everything else."

Is Randall completely insane or just stupid? I'm not saying he is or isn't either one. I'm just saying someone ought to investigate the possibilities. (Think Progress)

-Wasting taxpayer money used to be bad-
Now that President Obama has helped to set up a $20 billion escrow fund so BP will have plenty of money to pay for the damage they did, this action is quickly becoming the Worst Thing Ever. BP shouldn't have to pay for any of this stuff, you should. So says many of the GOP's bestest and brightestest.

"The president just called for creating a fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund," says super-genius Rep. Michele Bachmann. "And now it appears like we'll be looking at one more gateway for more government control, more money to government." See, this is bad because we'd be taking wealth from BP and redistributing it to pay for... Well, what they owe us. If things were as the Founders intended, you and I would be on the hook for billions -- so says Shelly Bachmann. Yeah, it's not the best argument, but she just came up with it. Give her time to knock the bugs out of it.

Not to be outdone, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour worries that if we ask BP to set money aside so they'll be able to afford to pay us what they owe, BP won't make enough money to be able to afford to pay us what they owe.

No, seriously.

And finally, de facto Republican Party head Rush Limbaugh wonders why the federal government doesn't have to kick into the fund designed to save the taxpayers money -- because he's smart that way.

At the heart of all these arguments is that BP shouldn't have to pay for this, you should. Corporate welfare at the expense of the taxpayers?

Where's that public teat? (Minnesota Independent, Think Progress, Media Matters)

-Bonus HotD-
"Palin: Call in the Dutch!"

Sarah Palin told Bill O'Reilly that she doesn't understand why Obama doesn't get a hold of the Netherlands to help with the oil gusher, because they're all good with dikes and stuff.

No, really. (Talking Points Memo, with video)