Okay, so here's what happened. Yesterday evening, Sarah Palin gave a speech at California State University (CSU) Stanislaus. But, well... I'll let FOX Sacramento explain:
Thousands of people from California and around the world tuned in to FOX40.com to listen to a speech prepared by Sarah Palin Friday evening from the campus of California State University, Stanislaus. During that stream, other reporters in the media overflow room were heard on our microphone, due to the unusual circumstances of how we managed to bring the live feed.
First, FOX40 News was the only station streaming a live signal from CSU Stanislaus during Sarah Palin's presentation. Friday, we were told by officials organizing the speech that we were not permitted to beam a live signal direct from the dining hall where Sarah Palin was presenting. Instead, we were offered the opportunity to aim a FOX40 camera at a projection screen inside a room for assembled media several hundred feet from where Sarah Palin was speaking. They would not allow us to get a direct feed of audio, so we had to hold a mic up to their speakers. Our choice was to not carry a speech of local and national importance due to the low-quality video and audio options, or to provide a signal by any means necessary. It was with the public interest in mind that we opted for the latter.
While our cameras pointed at the CSU screen, showing the CSU camera, several reporters for other stations walked in front of our camera. Also, again, since CSU did not offer us a direct audio feed, we had to put a microphone in front of their sound system. Other reporters were overheard on that, despite several warnings that we had a hot mic, and several thousand people watching.
Following Sarah Palin's address from CSU Stanislaus, several reporters were again heard making comments about the speech that some viewers considered inappropriate and unprofessional.
By "inappropriate and unprofessional," FOX40 KTXL means critical of Sarah Palin. You can catch some of those comments here:
Hardly vicious stuff. The commenters laugh and say she jammed "as many quotes in as possible." They say said a lot of "random things." They say she "didn't finish a statement," or maybe that she didn't even make a statement. They say they don't know how they'll make a story out of what she said.
And then: "Now I know that dumbness doesn't just come from soundbites."
Inappropriate and unprofessional? Well, they didn't know they were on tape and, what's more, reporters are allowed to have opinions. It may be inappropriate and unprofessional to share those opinions on air, but they didn't know they were on air.
Otherwise, big deal. Other than the "dumbness" line, what did they say that was so (supposedly) wrong? We all know Palin's speeches are full of random comments and incoherent arguments. As for being dumb, is it not the case the Palin is widely considered to be... how shall I put it... intellectually unimpressive?
Of course, the conservative blogosphere is freaking out, and lashing out, as if some terrible transgression had been committed. I won't bother quoting the all-so-predictable wingnuttery, but you can find some links over at Memeorandum.
Suffice it to say that it can all be summed up with this spot-on headline from Whiskey Fire:
Breaking - In Shocking Scandal, Sarah Palin Perceived as Idiot By Entire Non-Wingnut Universe
And so, really, those reporters caught on tape were just reporting the truth. As impossible as that may be for conservatives to accept.
New British Prime Minister David Cameron is apparently worried about the possible "destruction" of BP. In Toronto to attend the G20 Summit, he will press President Obama to back off a bit:
I think it is also in all our long-term interests that there is some clarity, some finality, to all of this, so that we don't at the same time see the destruction of a company that is important for all our interests...
This is a vital company for all of our interests. The view I take is that BP itself wants to cap the well and clean up the spill and compensate those who have had damages.
It wants to do these things, it will do these things. I want to work with everyone concerned to try to make sure that out of all this there will still be a strong and stable BP, because it is an important company for all of us.
That's true. BP is an extremely important company in the U.K., not just to the government but to a broad range of shareholders, many of whom have BP as a core component of their retirement savings plans. And Cameron is right, to an extent, to come to the company's defence. What if, say, a major American company like GE were involved with, or had caused, a major environmental disaster overseas? Would the American government not seek to protect it, and its shareholders, from collapse? Of course. Cameron knows who his constituents are, and they don't live on the Gulf Coast. He has every interesting in seeing BP remain strong.
But while it's hardly the fault of those British shareholders that BP did what it did, the unassailable fact is that the company caused, mostly if not entirely, the worst environmental disaster in American history, one that threatens not just the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast but the entire way of life of so many in the region. I don't necessarily want to see BP destroyed, but it nonetheless must be held to account for what it did, and forced to pay for what it did. That may mean a dip in its share price, but so be it. Responsibility comes at a price.
Obama can sympathize all he wants, but there's no way he should back down.
General McChrystal was excellent at his job. He had outstanding relations with the White House and entirely proper relationships with his various civilian partners in the State Department and beyond. He set up a superb decision-making apparatus that deftly used military and civilian expertise.
But McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.
By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.
The reticent ethos had its flaws. But the exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important.
So it's the fault of Michael Hastings, the reporter for Rolling Stone, who's to blame for General McChrystal granting him unfettered and unguarded access to him and his staff? It's the reporter's fault that these people suddenly became incredibly garrulous about their true feelings about their bosses and the bosses who boss them? Mr. Hastings must have some awesome powers of persuasion.
Or perhaps Gen. McChrystal and his staff exercised really poor judgment or never learned that most basic lesson you're taught when you get into a position of power: always assume the microphone is on and that what you say will be repeated in some way or another. It doesn't matter if the reporter is from Rolling Stone or Stars and Stripes.
And instead of being shocked and saddened by the vulture culture in Washington -- or anywhere powerful people gather -- Mr. Brooks ought to remember that it's called "reporting" for a reason.
In this case, for putting conservative Andrew Napolitano in his place for defending BP and blaming the Gulf oil spill on the government. (If the government is to be blamed for anything, it is for lax, or non-existent, regulatory oversight -- that is, there was too little government, not too much. But it is ridiculous to be defending BP, much as Rep. Joe Barton did.) Here's HuffPo:
"I'm getting kinda grossed out, Judge," Smith shot back. "You're blaming the government for this?"
"I'm blaming the government for this," Napolitano affirmed.
Smith then went off on BP's record of safety violations and mistakes, asking Napolitano, "And now you're going to turn around and blame the government for these bumbling, fumbling, crazy people?"
"How does it feel to be standing up for BP?" he asked.
It probably feels pretty normal. Conservatives like Napolitano, which is how most of them are, are all about promoting the anti-government corporatocracy that lies at the core of their right-wing ideology. And that, of course, means defending BP in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in American history.
It's the second installment of our new series. Part 1 is here.
TPM's Justin Elliott looks at the Nevada Republican's past party allegiance:
The far-right third party that Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle called home in the 1990s supported abolishing "the debt money system" and ran a vitriolic anti-gay insert in state newspapers that portrays LGBT people -- or, as Angle's party called them, "sodomites" -- as child-molesting, HIV-carrying, Hell-bound freaks, according to documents obtained by TPM.
As we reported earlier this month, Angle was a member of Nevada's Independent American Party, a Christian conservative-cum-libertarian third party, for at least six years while she was getting her feet wet in politics in the 1990s. Independent American Party members told us that Angle switched to be a Republican in 1997 out of political expediency as she was preparing to make a run for state-level office.
These aren't just "gaffes," as Jon Chait has pointed out, and so they're not akin to Harry Reid sticking his foot in his mouth from time to time (e.g., by referring to Obama as "light-skinned" and without a "Negro" dialect). "To the political journalist, a gaffe is any impolitic statement. But, of course, Sharron Angle hasn't committed "rhetorical screw-ups." She has made numerousexpressions of a lunatic worldview." Indeed, as Chait put it elsewhere, "Angle's comments flow naturally from a right-wing ideology that regards taxation as theft and many commonly-accepted practices of government as the equivalent to Bolshevik expropriation of wealth, or at least unconstitutional." And from a right-wing ideology that embraces bigotry and hate.
Obviously, one is not necessarily required or expected to support every single one of one's party's views. You may not support the Democratic Party's position on X, but you may still be a Democrat who supports the party's positions on most other issues. But whereas the Democratic Party, and to a lesser extent the Republican Party, is an umbrella organization containing a number of different views, some of them at odds with each other (e.g., there are pro-choice Republicans), the IAP, the Nevada affiliate of The Constitution Party, is a narrow, ideology-based party of the far right. It's hard to imagine anyone being a member but not supporting its key positions -- because such a party is all about those positions, positions that distinguish it from the two main (and mainstream) American parties.
It's one thing, after all, to be a Republican because you're generally conservative and because it just makes sense to support the generally conservative mainstream party. It's quite another to break from the two-party system and willfully embrace a right-wing extremist party. And that's what Sharron Angle did. She didn't commit a gaffe, she joined a party that reflected her craziness. She may not want to talk about her past, now that she's a big-time Republican in a prime-time Senate race, but she should absolutely be held to account for the views of her former party, for what she used to support and for what she may still support even after her expedient, convenient, and career-minded switch to the GOP.
The amount of extended hurt about to be launched is going to be massive. I don't get why Republicans (and Ben Nelson) can't grasp this. Well, actually I do. They are counting on Americans blaming Democrats. And, with headlines like these, they might be right.
And in the larger context, this will add to an impressive list of historic accomplishments spanning President Obama's first 18 months in office, a list that will now include Wall Street reform, health care reform, student loan reform, economic recovery, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanded civil rights protections, expanded stem-cell research, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, and the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, among other things.
Sometimes I may not be thrilled with Obama, the Dems, and their watered-down legislation, but this is an impressive list.
Non pudet, quia pudendum est; prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est; certum est, quia impossibile.*
I really want to like Ron Paul. There have been times when I felt we needed Ron Paul, even if only to keep the others honest. I concur wholeheartedly with many of his ideas about leaving people alone in their homes and private lives; about transparency in financial matters. I share the loathing of surveillance, of being forced to carry papers. I agree about the wars that are useful only to increase government power over domestic affairs. I agree about the importance of the Bill of Rights that neither Party seems to care much about -- and so on, but I am constantly reminded that I really don't know how he can say what he says, nor can I understand his motivations without postulating entities sufficient to send Occam running down the street screaming.
Two years ago he told us that
"Congress refuses to allow reasonable, environmentally sensitive, offshore drilling."
They did, of course, allow drilling, but they allowed unreasonable, unsafe and reckless drilling, free of unbiased oversight, which according to Libertarian doctrine should have magically resulted in safe and reasonable results: they allowed the drillers to tell us what was safe enough and what was too expensive to do. They allowed the rig operators to determine what the lives of the workers were worth relative to profits and they allowed them not to give a damn that my grandchildren may never see a clean beach in Florida or eat Gulf shrimp.
It wasn't reasonable, environmentally sensitive drilling that got us into the current mess, now was it? It could have been all that if the laws had been enforced. The blowout might have been prevented if the people in charge of oversight hadn't been on the oil train and had done their jobs; if the regulations themselves hadn't been written by oil men and largely in secret -- if government hadn't been made to look the other way because of a philosophy teaching that government should look the other way. Eleven good men, many of whom saw this coming, would still be alive had we had some very basic oversight -- if we didn't have people insisting that the people who profit write the rules and the people with everything to lose keep silent or be called Communists.
Yet Dr. Paul says it was because oftoo much government that BP cheated and lied and people died -- that vast tracts of land and sea were destroyed, important industries were ruined, property made worthless -- and old fashioned as it may sound, I think contradictions in logic and fact weaken an argument. Is it a contradiction that oversight in an industry that has the capability of doing unprecedented damage is "too much government" while giving tax breaks and incentives to companies making tens of billions in profits is not?
Yes, it is a contradiction! Are we really so afraid of Communism that we're willing to accept what is by definition, giving state supported irresponsibility to state supported industries while calling it "limited government?" Or is it that the rather insignificant benefit of allowing a foreign corporation to pump American oil and sell it abroad in amounts that really don't matter either in terms of conservation or the price of crude, is a consummation so devoutly to be demanded that risking the end of the world is not worth talking about?
"We still need oil, and a lot of good jobs depend on oil production,"
he advises us. But do we need that oil, from there and do we need it so much we'll gamble our country's future on it, people's lives and livelihoods on grabbing a tiny bit more of it. We should be held hostage so that foreign corporations who pay hardly any taxes yet have a bigger vote than you do can add to their already obscene profits: so that they can play while we pay -- and pay forever.
It's a bad argument, a very, very bad argument, even coming from someone not smart enough to see that -- and Paul certainly is smart enough, so why is adding an insignificant amount to the current supply of oil so desperately important? Why are oil jobs more important than the countless other jobs destroyed by oil spills? Are today's fishing jobs, logging jobs, more important than making sure that there are fish and trees next week? Libertarianism would seem to say so. Libertarianism would seem to promise that passenger pigeons will return now that they were hunted to extinction, that we'd still have the American Bison and the Bald Eagle if we'd been allowed to shoot as many as we liked, but you know -- it's not true.
Look, I don't think I'm channeling Marx when I say that we don't have crime simply because we have too many police, that Enron destroyed lives and fortunes because the Government looked at their books; that people wouldn't rob banks if banks had no guards and robbery weren't illegal. I don't think it's communism to have a government say: no dammit, you can't build a fireworks factory next to that school and if you build it anywhere, you'll install sprinklers and put up no smoking signs, but that's just what people calling themselves libertarians are saying.
I don't understand and I'm quite sure I don't understand because it's not to be understood, it's to be believed. The pieces of the puzzle don't need to fit, the ideas don't need to work. In fact they have a history which proves it so. It's the logic of emotion; the argument from anger and the special pleadings of selfish solipsism: I don't care what happens to my country if oil is a penny a barrel cheaper for two weeks. I don't care if it's a Ponzi scheme because I'm making money. I don't care if I poison the river, my property rights are my property rights. I don't care if your grandmother can't ride my bus -- it's my bus and my right. I don't know if I'm more disturbed by the fact that I don't understand or by the fear that I do understand.
*There is no shame because it is shameful; it is wholly credible, because it is unsound; it is certain, because impossible.
Last night, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island took to the floor of the Senate to address the ongoing Republican opposition to restoring extended unemployment benefits that, under the stimulus bill, expired on June 1. He pinned the blame exactly where it belongs:
I understand the point about the debt and the deficit and the spending. But to me, that doesn't have an enormous amount of credibility, because when President Clinton left office, he left an annual surplus... At the end of [George W. Bush's] term, we had $9 trillion in debt. We would have none of this if it hadn't been for the Republican debt orgy that they went through.
I understand the need for fiscal sanity, too, but at a time of economic crisis -- and we're not out of it yet -- punishing the unemployed is hardly the right thing to do. And it really is ridiculous to think that many of the unemployed are living happily off government benefits. Whitehouse continued:
The notion that you're going to cut off somebody's unemployment insurance and have them go out and find a job is just plain nuts. There aren't a lot of people lying around enjoying the luxury of unemployment insurance payments. They want to be getting to work.
Welfare is always an "allure," as Republicans have put it, but it's also a necessary safety net precisely for times like this. And it's not just the unemployed who will suffer at the hands of the Republicans. As Arthur Delaney of HuffPo reports:
Democratic leaders in the Senate have apparently failed to win enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster of a bill to help the poor, the old and the jobless, despite making a series of cuts to the measure over the past several weeks to appease deficit hawks.
"It looks like we're going to come up short," said a senior Democratic aide on Wednesday evening. "It looks like Republicans are prepared to kill aid to states, an extension of unemployment benefits, and ironically, the Republicans are prepared to kill efforts to close loopholes that allow companies to export jobs overseas."
The legislation, known as the "tax extenders" bill, would reauthorize extended unemployment benefits for people out of work for six months or longer, would protect doctors from a 21 percent pay cut for seeing Medicare patients, and would provide billions in aid to state Medicaid programs.
Come Friday, 1.2 million people will lose access to the extended unemployment benefits, a number that will grow by several hundred thousand every week after that.
As Steve Benen correctly notes, the votes are actually there for the bill. The problem is the filibuster, and the Republicans won't even let the bill get to the floor for a vote:
Democrats appear to have lined up 58 votes, but in the Senate, 42 is greater than 58, even when our economic health is on the line.
In the real world, this means millions of jobless Americans will lose their already-modest benefits, and hundreds of thousands of workers will be laid off over the next year, including teachers, police officers, and firefighters. All of this will happen because Republicans are more concerned about the deficit -- a deficit they created under Bush/Cheney -- than the economy.
It's unpleasant to think about, and I really hope it's not true, but it may be time for a discussion about whether GOP lawmakers are trying to deliberately sabotage the economy to help their midterm election strategy. After all, these same Republicans have supported deficit-financed tax-extenders before -- there's no credible reason to change course now. On the contrary, with the economy struggling to break through, the need for this package is more obvious, not less, if your goal is to actually improve economic conditions.
I think that's a discussion we need to have. Senate Republicans, including the supposed moderates like Susan Collins and joined by "Democrat" Ben Nelson, seem to be doing everything in their power to block economic recovery and destroy the safety net that so many American need, a net that will allow many of them to get back on their feet again. Pat Garofalo at Think Progress writes that at least 200,000 jobs could be lost from withholding aid to state Medicaid programs. And in addition to cutting benefits to the unemployed, the failure to pass the bill, the Republican failure, would lead to dramatic cuts to services all across the country, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report cited by Garofalo:
Arizona would have to cut funding for its state court system, Colorado's likely cuts "include eliminating state aid for full-day kindergarten for 35,000 children, eliminating preschool aid for 21,000 children, and increasing overcrowding in juvenile detention facilities," while New Mexico "could eliminate a wide range of Medicaid services, including emergency hospital services, inpatient psychiatric care, personal care assistance for the disabled, prescribed medications, and hospice care."
And so on, and so on. And yet Republicans don't seem to care, so focused are a few of them on the deficit and many more of them either on playing politics by trying to sabotage the Democrats' agenda or on slashing government altogether, cutting even essential services like health care and policing. And even significant Democratic concessions haven't won over any Republicans.
It's all quite appalling, and so deeply harmful both to the economy broadly and to the American people, so many of whom will continue to suffer through the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. The stupid filibuster rule in the Senate is partly to blame, for even a party with a large majority that actually wants to do something is stuck, but the blame really does need to be on the Republicans, who seem to have zero interest in compromise and zero interest in doing what is right for the country. It is imperative that voters remember this come November.
Wade Barnes is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a veteran naval officer, and a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He is a graduate student at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. This is his first guest post at The Reaction.
The circumstances that culminated in the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan should rightfully disappoint every citizen of the United States. Though this incident should not discolor the general's 34 years of faithful service, we as a nation deserve better than flag officers who speak out publicly against their superiors.
As a former military officer, I believe that President Obama's decision to accept General McChrystal's resignation was inevitable given the tone and public nature of his gaffe. The president's subsequent selection of General David Petraeus as General McChrystal's successor, however, represents a strategic choice that will ultimately enhance American national security.
Sometimes leadership means choosing the right person for the job. By appointing General Petraeus to lead coalition forces in Afghanistan, President Obama selected the U.S. military officer most skilled in the nuances of modern warfare. An expert in counterinsurgency – he literally helped write the manual – General Petraeus will arrive in Afghanistan at an inflection point.
Following a difficult campaign in Marja, in the midst of preparations to apply pressure on Kandahar, and with the administration's July 2011 phased withdrawal deadline fast approaching, General Petraeus faces a tough road to hoe. Nevertheless, as General McChrystal's direct superior and having recently salvaged the U.S. war effort in Iraq, there is no soldier, sailor, airman, or marine better equipped to deliver the conditions necessary for Afghans to establish functional self-governance.
Leadership by example is the best kind of leadership. It is too easy to accuse the White House of blunting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan by relieving General McChrystal of command. This only tells half of the story. When junior officers or enlisted service members undermine the authority of their senior chain of command, this is termed "insubordination" and is often addressed with non-judicial punishment. When generals and admirals snipe at the civilian chain of command, however, it grinds at the very core of our national security architecture.
President Obama demonstrated leadership by example when he said, "I welcome debate... but I won't tolerate division." After all, valuing debate over division is the lubricant that facilitated our military's transition from a reactionary peacetime service on September 10, 2001 to a dynamic fighting force capable of prosecuting pitched battles and counterinsurgency alike in pursuit of U.S. national security interests.
America suffers when tensions such as these emerge from the shadows. In 1951, General Douglas MacArthur reminded our country that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away." There is no joy in watching General McChrystal walk down this road, only somber reflection on the otherwise meteoric career of a decorated warrior and a venerable member of the Army's post-Powell New Guard.
President Obama showed wisdom by selecting a devoutly apolitical military leader who packs as much diplomacy under his belt as he does strategy and tactics. If America is to emerge stronger and safer from the Afghan conflict, we must reject the pall of Afghan defeat that shattered Soviet vitality in 1989. Already energized by a comprehensive strategy and sufficient resourcing under the Obama administration, the appointment of General Petraeus to replace General McChrystal will lend terminal velocity to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. General Petraeus has the vision and experience to make that strategy a reality.
I remember reading Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon many years ago. It's about an old Soviet apparatchik fallen from grace and thrown into one of Stalin's prisons to await some miserable and sordid fate in the Lublyanka cellars. It came to mind because there's a mention in it of group photos of the Old Guard, the early, idealistic, committed Communists out to make a better world and how one by one, the official photos on the office wall were replaced by newer ones with certain people missing, certain others added.
It was long before digital photography and before it made it so easy for unscrupulous, devious, dishonest, America hating, indecent propagandists to produce photos of John Kerry and Jane Fonda, for instance, or Barack Obama saluting improperly -- and do it far better than old Ivan in the back room could with a razor and some glue. It is far too easy for the kind of trolls who work for right wing rags owned by foreign born lunatics like the Washington Times to produce photos of Elena Kagan in a black Turban so as to insinuate perhaps, and without any sense of journalistic integrity, that she's a terrorist supporter as well as a probably homosexual cross dresser and part of an "ominous plot" to insinuate Sharia Law into this country.
It's far too easy for an American public so insanely desperate, so grossly, childishly irresponsible that they will get into bed with the Moonies just to have one more idiotic piece of dung to fling at the opposition. It's so easy for a public who never reads to miss the parallels between what they do and what the people they claim to hate did. It's so easy for an infantile America to dismiss someone for having Communist cooties because they simply haven't the brains to do much more and certainly can't be expected to discuss her actual qualifications and record.
It's so hard for a person who likes to see people get their just desserts when those people are the country he so wishes to be proud of.
One pretty much knows what to expect from the oil industry. Regardless of the disastrous situation in the Gulf of Mexico, it will ignore the obvious lessons stemming from that ongoing catastrophe and continue to push for drilling and more drilling. Perhaps one also pretty much knows what to expect from government, namely, that it will continue to hand the oil industry what it wants and look the other way when it matters, failing to provide the necessary regulatory oversight, but one expects, or should expect, better. Government, after all, exists not to, or should not exist to, help private industry maximize its profits but to advance the broader public interest. Such optimism is clearly unwarranted. The Timesreports:
The future of BP's offshore oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico has been thrown into doubt by the recent drilling disaster and court wrangling over a moratorium.
But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.
All other new projects in the Arctic have been halted by the Obama administration's moratorium on offshore drilling, including more traditional projects like Shell Oil's plans to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort.
But BP's project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an "onshore" project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island — a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water — built by BP.
The project has already received its state and federal environmental permits, but BP has yet to file its final application to federal regulators to begin drilling, which it expects to start in the fall.
As bad as that is, it gets worse:
Rather than conducting their own independent analysis, federal regulators, in a break from usual practice, allowed BP in 2007 to write its own environmental review for the project as well as its own consultation documents relating to the Endangered Species Act, according to two scientists from the Alaska office of the federal Mineral Management Service that oversees drilling.
The environmental assessment was taken away from the agency's unit that typically handles such reviews, and put in the hands of a different division that was more pro-drilling, said the scientists, who discussed the process because they remained opposed to how it was handled.
"The whole process for approving Liberty was bizarre," one of the federal scientists said.
Well, that's one word for it, but, when you think about it, it's not really all that bizarre. This is government not doing what it should be doing, and therefore what it so often does, not just looking away but encouraging the irresponsible activities of the oil industry -- responsible to shareholders, perhaps, despite the obvious risk, but irresponsible to the broader public, which, as along the Gulf Coast, will suffer the consequences should there be another environmental disaster, and irresponsible in terms of environmental stewardship.
Otherwise, to put it more bluntly, this is just insane. BP gets to do this because it built an artificial island and claims that it's actually onshore drilling (when it clearly isn't)? And the government just lets BP write its own environmental review and consultation documents?
Makes you wonder who really runs the country. Until you realize that we already know who does.
If they can they should read Harold Meyerson in today's WaPo discussing their collective cluelessness when in comes to jobs and the deficit. More likely, however, they will piss on their WaPo copy. Which is no different than what they are doing to the American economy.
I do agree that this whole McChrystal dust-up gives Obama a chance to reassess his almost-certainly-doomed-to-fail Afghan policy. Will he reassess? I highly doubt it, but it's still fun to chase liberal ponies every now again.
Mike Huckabee, destined to be the Campaign 2012 version of a folksy Pat Buchanan, is against gay marriage because of what he calls the "ick factor."
"I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes," Huckabee said in a recent New Yorker profile. "Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn't work the same."
Actually, the only ick factor is that apparently Mr. Huckabee is incapable of thinking beyond his adolescent obsession with what other people do with their naughty bits. People who have a healthy understanding of marriage and the relationships between two people realize that there is more to it than what happens in the bedroom.
He later goes on to say that "No culture in the history of mankind has ever tried to redefine marriage." So he thinks marriage today is the same as it was back in the days -- in the Old Testament for example -- when a man had as many wives as he could afford, fathers sold their daughters off as part of a business transaction, and arranged marriages were made between families in order to settle feuds? I guess that means all those June brides and grooms in the Society pages who are getting married for silly reasons such as love and mutual respect are radicals who are redefining marriage, and even the churches are going along with it. Oh, the horror.
This has been making the rounds recently, but, if you've missed it, check out this rather amusing video of BP execs dealing with, or failing to deal with, a potentially disastrous coffee spill. What it misses, I suppose, is the abject arrogance of BP, including the deception and dishonesty. Otherwise, it's excellent satire.
Question #1: If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?
Question #2: If failed Supreme Court nominee and right-wing judicial extremist Robert Bork comes out publicly against a generally well-respected and well-qualified Supreme Court nominee like Elena Kagan, if, for that matter, he gives his opinions on anything, SCOTUS-related or not, does anyone beyond the walls of the right-wing Insanitarium actually give a shit?
The New York Times: "Regulators Failed to Address Risks in Oil Rig Fail-Safe Device." The authors try to piece together just what happened on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The so-called "blind shear ram" failed to seal the well, and the rest is ongoing environmental catastrophe. And the failure goes straight back to Washington:
An examination by The New York Times highlights the chasm between the oil industry's assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality. It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.
It also shows that the Obama administration failed to grapple with either the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers or the sufficiency of the nation's drilling regulations even as it made plans this spring to expand offshore oil exploration.
It's an extremely interesting piece, worth reading in full. And hopefully the lessons have been learned. Letting the oil industry have its way without rigorous rules and oversight is, quite clearly, a recipe for disaster.
I've been waiting to use that title for some time, and why not now, what with a new poll showing Independent (Republican) Charlie Crist leading Republican Marco Rubio by 11 points, 42 to 31, a relatively wide margin, with Democrat Kendrick Meek well back at 14. Other polls have shown a much closer race. Rasmussen had the race tied just a couple of weeks ago, while Crist's lead has been in single digits.
It's odd to root for Crist, but it's really a two-man race, with Meek an also-ran, and, within the GOP, Crist is very much the anti-Rubio, just as Rubio is the anti-Crist. The fact that Rubio surged ahead of Crist and didn't look back, and that Crist, with effectively no shot of winning the Republican nomination, decided to challenge his own party as an independent, shows just what has happened to the Republican Party. Rubio, after all, is just the sort of extremist the party likes, the proponent of an extremism that is new mainstream of the GOP, a mainstream that is really just a narrow ideological sliver on the right. For more on that, see:
And so Crist it must be, a Republican who doesn't seem to be insane, a Republican who seems to be open to working with Obama and the Democrats, a Republican with the courage, however much motivated by political self-interest, to say enough is enough to a party that no longer had any use for him, a party that effectively had rejected him. Here's hoping the polls continue to show him with a decisive lead.
Oh, how truly and utterly Republican J.D. Hayworth is. Like so many on the right, he's more than happy to take government money (think corporate welfare), or, for a lucrative fee, to show you how to take it (as below), and yet he persistently rails against government like the good conservative he is:
Republican Senate challenger J.D. Hayworth appeared in a 2007 television infomercial in which he helped convince viewers that they could rake in big bucks by attending seminars that would teach them how to apply for federal grants that they wouldn't have to pay back.
National Grants Conferences, the Florida-based company that hosted the classes and produced the infomercial, has faced criticism from multiple state attorneys general and Better Business Bureaus.
Hayworth, a former Arizona congressman who is running against incumbent Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the Aug. 24 GOP primary, made the infomercial after losing his U.S. House seat in the 2006 election. References to his TV appearance on behalf of National Grants Conferences appear in his Wikipedia entry, on the Internet Movie Database and other places on the Web. But the footage was unavailable. Highlights of Hayworth's appearance are now posted on YouTube.com at this link.
The infomercial promotes seminars that ostensibly instruct attendees how to get the "free money grants." Tucson TV station KVOA did an investigation of National Grants Conferences that you can watch here. The TV station's investigative team found that the workshops cost from $999 to $1,200 and federal government grants really aren't even available to individuals.
So he's not just a hypocrite, he's party to a big scam, and possibly an illegal one.
"Well I don't want to shock anybody's sensibilities, but I have to use a four-letter word: Real. This is real," Hayworth says in the infomercial (see damning clip below), according to TPM's Eric Kleefeld. "The money is out there, the opportunities are out there. And by the way, it's not something where it's the government's money -- it's really your money. You surrendered it in the form of taxation. Now's the time to take advantage of a situation where the government can invest in you. And in turn, you'll have a chance to build a business, or make a better life for yourself -- and in so doing, you'll help improve the country."
I suppose that would be his defence against the hypocrisy charge. It's just you getting your money back -- forget that taxation is legal and constitutional and that the government needs it for all sorts of things, including some that Hayworth no doubt supports, like the military. As Steve M. puts it, amusingly: "Isn't that what teabaggers think all government programs are? Don't they think all tax money is essentially poured down a rat hole, while elves and fairies maintain the Interstate highways and conduct FBI investigations and run the Pentagon and the national parks and the Centers for Disease Control for free?"
Even The Weekly Standardthinks this might be it for Hayworth. Then again, the pro-McCain forces at that neocon rag have every interest in seeing Hayworth beaten.
McCain should beat Hayworth, but it won't be because of this, however embarrassing. On the right, after all, taking money from the government, and dismissing the government as useless, is seen as an act of patriotic rebellion. Instead of being called a hypocrite and scam artist, he'll continue to be celebrated as a hero. This won't change anything.
Of course, what Hayworth is really doing is taking money not from the government but from the suckers who buy the bullshit he's selling. He may be an ideological extremist, even by Arizona standards, but ultimately he's all about making a quick buck, loads of quick bucks, off the stupidity and ignorance of others. I suppose that makes him truly and utter Republican, too.
There was a point not too long ago when Democrats thought the focus should be "jobs, jobs, jobs." Now, with the elections drawing closer, some of the Dems have decided the focus should be "deficit, deficit, deficit" -- a deficit that will, by the way, get worse if more Americans are unemployed.
And once the Dems fully (and wrongly) embrace "deficit, deficit, deficit" they will be hit for not caring about "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Sorry, Louisiana legislators, but it's going to take an awful lot more than prayer to fix the oil spill. You know, it's going to take something, well, real.
Given the enormity of the disaster, though, and the sense of helplessness you must all feel, I suppose many of you thought it couldn't hurt:
State senators designated Sunday as a day for citizens to ask for God's help dealing with the oil disaster.
"Thus far efforts made by mortals to try to solve the crisis have been to no avail," state Sen. Robert Adley said in a statement released after last week's unanimous vote for the day of prayer. "It is clearly time for a miracle for us."
The resolution names Sunday as a statewide day of prayer in Louisiana and calls on people of all religions throughout the Gulf Coast "to pray for an end to this environmental emergency, sparing us all from the destruction of both culture and livelihood."
I suppose you could instead have asked your God why he allowed the disaster to happen in the first place, if you think he's so omnipotent, but let's not delve too deeply into your superstitions.
What you might want to do, if you actually want to deal with reality, is look into why the disaster happened, and that would mean looking into a culture that many of you enabled, if only through ignorance, a culture of corporate deregulation and environmental pillage, a culture of greed and profit, a shameful culture of utter irresponsibility. Sure, some of you didn't know what was going on, but I suspect that some of you did, and that many of you didn't really give a shit until all that oil started pouring out of the leak, killing wildlife, and destroying so much of the way of life of the people of your state.
It's a massive wake-up call, to be sure. And prayer ain't the answer.
Given that Canada didn't make the World Cup finals, and given that Canada isn't all that good at international soccer, I'm rooting for England. In fact, I've always rooted for England in international competition, going back to the first World Cup I remember, Spain 1982. I was in England at the time and remember England tying both its second-round games, against West Germany and Spain, and failing to make the semis. I remember Italy winning it all, 3-1 over West Germany. I remember being incredibly disappointed.
And that's generally been the story with England in major international competition since it won the World Cup at home in 1966: far too much hype, excessively high expectations, appalling mediocrity, bitter disappointment.
And it's the same this year, with England tying its first two matches, 1-1 against the U.S. thanks to a horrible goaltending blunder on a weak American shot, and 0-0 against Algeria, a truly pathetic performance against a feisty but underwhelming opponent. A win over Slovenia next week would put them on top of the group, but it's been bitterly disappointing so far, that's for sure, and they certainly don't look like a side that can get very far.
I actually thought England had a chance to win it all, or at least to make it pretty far, with what looked its its strongest team in a good long time, a team coached by a world-class manager, Fabio Capello, and led by some of the world's greatest club players, stars in England's Premiership, the strongest national club league in the world: Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, etc. A lot of the top teams looked vulnerable, even Brazil (young and un-Brazilian) and Argentina (great playmakers up front, bad defence, a crazy manager in Maradona). Even Spain lost its first game. And then Germany lost. And Italy only tied. So why not England?
Well, because it's England. And I know you know what I mean, if you follow England, and if you're a fan of England yourself. The names on the backs of the jerseys change, but some things remain pathetically the same.
As if to drive home the point, I found this fantastic tweet earlier this evening by xpre552 (re-tweeted by someone I follow):
The England team visited an orphanage in Cape Town today. "It's heartbreaking to see their sad little faces with no hope" said Jamal aged 6.
Brilliant. And hilarious. And, given what England is going through, absolutely perfect.
Allow me to deal with all the bitter disappointment with a bit of irony. Here's Green Day performing Queen's "We Are the Champions" at the 2004 Reading Festival.
I have no confidence at this point that England will keep on fighting till the end. But, come the next match, I'll be cheering the boys on anyway, hoping against hope, or at least against history (since '66), that all the bitter disappointment will wash away in a sea of glory.
Because that, too, is part of being an England fan.