The demise of the left and the new (un)reality: a center-right America


Let’s face it, these are dark days for the left. As we barrel toward the November elections and an almost certain triumph for the GOP, we are losing the national debate and making giant strides backward on key issues.

It’s the new (un)reality:

  • George W. Bush is steadily and surely being rehabilitated and now the question is how much gratitude we owe him.
  • Sarah Palin can move the public discourse with a single tweet, promoting a worldview consisting of unreflective, nationalistic soundbites.
  • Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox are dominating the national conversation, feeding a steady stream of propaganda packaged as moral platitudes to tens of millions of true believers.
  • In the face of overwhelming evidence, climate deniers are choking the life out of the environmental movement and willfully condemning humanity to a calamitous future.
  • From ACORN to Van Jones, liberal scalps are being taken with impunity.
  • Feminism is being redefined and repossessed by anti-feminists.
  • Women are facing an all-out assault on choice.
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is being co-opted by a radio jock.
  • Schoolbooks are being rewritten to reflect the radical right’s anti-science views.
  • The rich-poor divide grows by the minute and teachers and nurses struggle to get by while bankers get massive bonuses.
  • We mark the end of a war based on lies with congratulations to all, and we escalate another war with scarce resources that could save countless lives.
  • An oil spill that should have been a historic inflection point gets excised from public awareness by our own government and disappears down the memory hole (until the next disaster).
  • Guns abound and the far right’s interpretation of the second amendment (the only one that seems to matter) is now inviolate.
  • Bigotry and discrimination against immigrants, against Muslims, against gays and lesbians is mainstream and rampant.
  • The frightening unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration have been enshrined and reinforced by a Democratic White House, ensuring that they will become precedent and practice.
  • Girls and women across the planet continue to get beaten, raped, ravaged, mutilated, and murdered while sports games induce a more passionate response.

All this a meager eighteen months after a wave of hope swept the nation and gave heart to progressives who had battled for sanity and rationality during the dark days of Bush. Well, these days are much darker. Already the national discourse is conducted on the right’s terms.  The marginalization of liberal thought under Bush-Cheney has only accelerated under Obama, and we must accept that indeed, America is — or is becoming — a center-right nation.

Why is this? My thoughts:

There is a simple formula for rightwing dominance of our national debate, even when Democrats are in charge: move the conversation as extreme right as possible, then compromise toward the far right.

This is something Republicans are willing to do while Democrats are not. The media plays along, so the net effect is for rightwing framing to prevail. And prevail it has. The consequence is that public opinion is shifting to the right.

The only question is how far right it can go before there’s a correction. I’m not optimistic.

UPDATE: Let me just add that by no means is this about quitting, but about being realistic. I’d never advocate giving up the progressive fight and I relish taking on those who want to take America “back” instead of taking it forward. With all the setbacks — and we’re facing a major one now — I have faith in the inexorable march of progress. Ultimately, humans will civilize themselves. Let’s hope we don’t bake our species out of existence before that happens.

A bad year for environmentalists is a bad year for everyone


WaPo looks at a horrible year for environmentalists:

Environmental groups have won some victories in recent years, opposing individual coal-fired power plants and pressuring banks to stop funding “mountaintop removal” coal mines.

But for the green movement, this year’s defeat was more than a loss; it was a reckoning, a signal that it had overestimated its influence.

Even in the hottest year on record, even with a historic oil spill polluting the Gulf of Mexico, even with a Democratic Congress and a friendly White House, it couldn’t win the fight it had picked. In fact, in the Senate it couldn’t even start it.

Here’s my take, from last week:

This has been a dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment.

Climate deniers are winning the public opinion battle, even though evidence of warming is piling up astonishingly and alarmingly fast.

A historic oil spill that could have spurred major action has been excised from the national psyche with fairy tales.

Meanwhile:

Thousands of fish have turned up dead at the mouth of Mississippi River, prompting authorities to check whether oil was the cause of mass death, local media reports said Monday. The fish were found Sunday floating on the surface of the water and collected in booms that had been deployed to contain oil that leaked from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times-Picayune reported. “By our estimates there were thousands, and I’m talking about 5,000 to 15,000 dead fish,” St Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was quoted as saying in a statement. He said crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout and red fish were among the species that turned up dead.

And now this:

The Obama Administration has decided to side with polluters when it comes to the Clean Air Act (CAA), providing a brief to the Court arguing that Federal administrative and regulatory action obviates any standing for states or private entities to use CAA “nuisance” provisions to act in protection of their citizens’ or their own interests.

Over the past century, nuisance law provisions have proved a powerful tool for dealing with polluters who, for whichever set of reasons, are falling outside serious governmental action to curb the damage their “externalities” are causing others.

The Obama team’s action is almost incomprehensible. As Joe Romm notes

“As with the decision to embrace offshore drilling, we’ll no doubt eventually learn that this decision — which lies somewhere on the scale between between unproductive and counter-productive — was made without serious input from those in the administration who represent science or the environment. … I couldn’t find anyone who thinks this moves makes much sense. NRDC’s David Donger told the WSJ, “We are appalled.”

More from the NYT:

Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general’s office on June 24, it seemed they had “a lot of friends in the room,” he said.

“We feel stabbed in the back,” Pawa said. “This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

Top attorneys at environmental advocacy groups are buzzing about the brief, sources say. Some feel betrayed by a White House that has generally been more amenable to environmental regulation than its predecessor.

“This reads as if it were cut and pasted from the Bush administration’s briefing in Massachusetts,” said David Bookbinder, who served as the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel until his resignation in May.

With the right ascendant, and with Democrats in full election panic mode, I fear this dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment — will only get worse.

The critical point here is that environmentalists are fighting for all of us, not just themselves, so a bad year for them is a bad year for everyone. Including the deniers.

A dreadful year for environmentalists


This has been a dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment.

Climate deniers are winning the public opinion battle, even though evidence of warming is piling up astonishingly and alarmingly fast.

A historic oil spill that could have spurred major action has been excised from the national psyche with fairy tales. Meanwhile:

Thousands of fish have turned up dead at the mouth of Mississippi River, prompting authorities to check whether oil was the cause of mass death, local media reports said Monday. The fish were found Sunday floating on the surface of the water and collected in booms that had been deployed to contain oil that leaked from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times-Picayune reported. “By our estimates there were thousands, and I’m talking about 5,000 to 15,000 dead fish,” St Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was quoted as saying in a statement. He said crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout and red fish were among the species that turned up dead.

And now this:

The Obama Administration has decided to side with polluters when it comes to the Clean Air Act (CAA), providing a brief to the Court arguing that Federal administrative and regulatory action obviates any standing for states or private entities to use CAA “nuisance” provisions to act in protection of their citizens’ or their own interests.

Over the past century, nuisance law provisions have proved a powerful tool for dealing with polluters who, for whichever set of reasons, are falling outside serious governmental action to curb the damage their “externalities” are causing others.

The Obama team’s action is almost incomprehensible. As Joe Romm notes

“As with the decision to embrace offshore drilling, we’ll no doubt eventually learn that this decision — which lies somewhere on the scale between between unproductive and counter-productive — was made without serious input from those in the administration who represent science or the environment. … I couldn’t find anyone who thinks this moves makes much sense. NRDC’s David Donger told the WSJ, “We are appalled.”

More from the NYT:

Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general’s office on June 24, it seemed they had “a lot of friends in the room,” he said.

“We feel stabbed in the back,” Pawa said. “This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

Top attorneys at environmental advocacy groups are buzzing about the brief, sources say. Some feel betrayed by a White House that has generally been more amenable to environmental regulation than its predecessor.

“This reads as if it were cut and pasted from the Bush administration’s briefing in Massachusetts,” said David Bookbinder, who served as the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel until his resignation in May.

With the right ascendant, and with Democrats in full election panic mode, I fear this dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment — will only get worse.

James Cameron calls global warming skeptics “swine”


Director James Cameron called global warming skeptics “swine” at a renewable energy conference in Aspen.

That’s the blunt approach.

Here’s another way of looking at it: what odds are deniers willing to accept that alarmists are right and they’re wrong? How willing are they to play Russian roulette with their children’s future? Are they so convinced of their position that they don’t even entertain the possibility they might be wrong? If so, they are delusional. There’s no certitude on what the next day might bring, let alone the next century.

If they do realize they’re gambling with their children’s future, then “swine” is too polite a term.

Climate deniers: belief in warming reflects “mental instability”


Listen to this astonishing exchange and consider what it will sound like in 50 years:

Here’s some context:

Think Progress notes that all the major Republican candidates have joined the ranks of climate change deniers. This means that all three Republican candidates

Last week we found out that Susana Martinez and Steve Pearce also doubted that climate change was happening or was man-made. Pearce and Martinez both have received a lot of money from the oil and gas industries.

…To say that the science is not settled is to ignore the vast majority of scientists and scientific work and instead believe a small slice of scientists who are mostly conducting their research funded by oil and gas companies — not exactly uninterested parties in the topic.

The hateful psychology of climate alarmists


I’ve written about the pathology of climate and gulf denialists, now here’s a look at the psychology of a climate alarmist:

  1. Hates cooking (herself)
  2. Hates breathing (filth)
  3. Hates swimming (in flood waters)
  4. Hates people (who condemn her kids by denying reality)
  5. Hates freedom (to pollute, to drill, to spill, to despoil)
  6. Hates silence (when the future is at stake)
  7. Hates wealth (at the expense of well-being)
  8. Hates pleasure (at the expense of responsibility)
  9. Hates intelligence (in the service of greed)
  10. Hates politicians (for being cowards on the gravest threat facing humanity)

With that in mind, here’s an example of a climate alarmist in action:

Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. And there is no way out. The 10,000-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt. And humankind, which thought it was given dominion over the Earth and all living things, will be taught a painful lesson in the necessity of balance, restraint and humility. There is no human monument or city ruin that is more than 5,000 years old. Civilization, Ronald Wright notes in “A Short History of Progress,” “occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the two and a half million years since our first ancestor sharpened a stone.” Bye-bye, Paris. Bye-bye, New York. Bye-bye, Tokyo. Welcome to the new experience of human existence, in which rooting around for grubs on islands in northern latitudes is the prerequisite for survival.

We view ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as oil and natural gas companies, coal companies, chemical industries, plastics manufacturers, the automotive industry, arms manufacturers and the leaders of the industrial world, as they did in Copenhagen, take us to mass extinction? It is too late to prevent profound climate change. But why add fuel to the fire? Why allow our ruling elite, driven by the lust for profits, to accelerate the death spiral? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?

…We face a terrible political truth. Those who hold power will not act with the urgency required to protect human life and the ecosystem. Decisions about the fate of the planet and human civilization are in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls such as BP’s Tony Hayward. These political and corporate masters are driven by a craven desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of human life. They do this in the Gulf of Mexico. They do this in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, where the export-oriented industry is booming.

The leaders of these corporations now determine our fate. They are not endowed with human decency or compassion. Yet their lobbyists make the laws. Their public relations firms craft the propaganda and trivia pumped out through systems of mass communication. Their money determines elections. Their greed turns workers into global serfs and our planet into a wasteland.

So hateful.

What is Gulf Denialism and why is it a potential crisis for the White House?


Gulf Denialism is the corollary to climate denialism, which Greenpeace explains in this detailed report:

Current efforts to deny climate science are part of an organized campaign that dates back 20 years, when the fossil fuel industry first formed a lobbying apparatus to stifle action on global warming, the environment group Greenpeace said on Wednesday.

In a report titled “Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science,” the group accused ExxonMobil of being the ringleader of what it called a “campaign of denial.”

Exxon was a prominent member of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, one of the first industry groups established in 1989 to refute findings of the then-newly formed UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since Exxon’s 1998 merger with Mobil, the oil giant has spent $23 million on stoking opposition to climate action, Greenpeace said. It continues to fund 28 groups that run denial campaigns, according to the report, though the oil giant is hardly alone in betting against climate change.

The report said that the think tanks at the forefront of challenging the science of warming — such as the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — receive a majority of their climate-related funds from a raft of utility, coal, oil and car interests.

I’ve been pretty blunt about the anti-environmental movement:

Of all the wrongheaded ideas proudly trumpeted by America’s right, anti-environmentalism occupies a unique position: it is at once the most devoid of a rational or moral foundation and the most dangerous. It is selfish, crass, illogical, willfully blind, a denial of the undeniable reality that humans are pillaging irreplaceable natural resources and spewing filth into the air and water and soil at unsustainable rates.

Green-bashers stubbornly negate what is directly before them. In the face of irrefutable evidence that environmental degradation is a mortal threat, they put their hands over their ears, shut their eyes and scream, “Not true!” This isn’t about good faith questioning of science, much as these naysayers pretend it is. It isn’t about genuine skepticism, much as they want to believe it is. There is no moral imperative underlying their belief (or lack thereof). It’s about unbridled hostility at the suggestion that we must all make shared sacrifices. It’s about refusing to acknowledge that the environmental movement has been right to sound the alarm. It’s about laziness. And greed. And irresponsibility. And colossal shortsightedness. Forget about the tragedy of the commons, this is the abject and gleeful refutation of common sense.

…This is our only planet. It’s the only place we can survive. We can’t afford to take chances. We can’t afford to do anything less than everything in our power to rectify the problem. We have no choice but to be alarmists — there’s no second chance. We get it wrong and we’ve doomed our children and their children. For what? Because we don’t want to recycle? Because we don’t want to stop polluting? Because we don’t want to bother making sacrifices? Because we don’t want some eager young kid who cares about the earth to dictate to us? Because we don’t like Al Gore? How profoundly selfish can someone be, to deny what they see with their own eyes: car fumes, bus fumes, truck fumes, factory fumes, chemical waste, human waste, toxins coursing through our waterways, in our food, filth we create in immense quantities turning our planet into a garbage dump. If anything, we should be outdoing one another trying to address the issue, not smugly questioning the need for action under the guise that the science is imperfect. Reversing the damage we’re doing to the earth should be a priority for every citizen. Instead, environmentalism is treated like an annoyance that the media will occasionally poll about and that we bring to the fore once every April.

I can think of few things more irresponsible and reprehensible than gambling with humanity’s future by pretending that our actions have no consequences. This is about the world my daughter will inhabit, so it’s as personal as it gets for me. And it is truly disturbing that rather than use the Gulf calamity as an inflection point and an opportunity to wake the country out of its environmental stupor, a Democratic administration would aid and abet oil companies in ‘disappearing’ the BP spill. It’s obvious why the White House and Democratic leaders don’t want to discuss the dangers and damaging effects of the spill: it’s bad for their electoral prospects in November.

How utterly cynical and craven. But reality has a way of intruding whenever politics trumps principle:

Two congressmen on Thursday questioned why the Obama administration made a major announcement about what happened to the oil in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month without the science to back it up .

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey demanded that NOAA surrender the data and algorithms behind its increasingly controversial estimate, so that independent scientists could assess the credibility of its conclusion that the vast majority of the oil BP spilled in the Gulf is gone.

At a subcommittee hearing he chaired, Markey said the report was premature, has led to false confidence, and could be flat wrong.

…According to two congressional sources who were on the call, Lehr said the decision to release the oil budget to the media was made by the White House — not by administration scientists. Lehr reportedly also said that scientists had concerns about it being released.

Coming along with the capping of the well, it was a public relations coup for a White House eager to get the oil spill story off the front pages, reassert control over a narrative that had gotten away from them, and calm fears.

The White House also spun the report in a particularly favorable way. Deciding whether most of the oil is gone or not depends primarily on one’s views about oil that’s dissolved or been dispersed. When the report came out, administration officials encouraged the view that the approximately 50 percent of oil estimated to be dissolved or dispersed no longer posed a risk — was, essentially, gone. By contrast, some independent scientists have been saying for months that subsurface oil is likely causing massive environmental damage, even if it can’t easily be seen.

Since the oil budget went public, several independent scientists have called for the release of its supporting data. Others have reached their own, conflicting conclusions.

One group organized by the Georgia Sea Grant this week calculated that 70 to 79 percent of the oil remains underwater, and concluded that “the media interpretation of the report’s findings has been largely inaccurate and misleading.”

Scientists from the University of South Florida have found oil deep on the Gulf seafloor that they say may be more toxic to marine microorganisms than previously believed.

And in a major, peer-reviewed article in Science magazine, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Thursday described their discovery in June of a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s about the size of Manhattan.

Furthermore, the scientists found that contrary to the NOAA report, the oil was not “biodegrading quickly”– at least not at that depth.

I’ve been railing against Gulf Denialism for weeks and I’m glad to see that media coverage of this deadly serious issue is ramping up again. If Republicans weren’t in the pocket of oil companies, we’d be seeing the most serious crisis this administration has faced.

UPDATE: watch this PBS report…