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Obama Negotiates with Himself on Oil. Again. May 16, 2011

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Media, Offshore Drilling, Politics.
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President Obama’s position on oil has been one of the most disappointing and incoherent facets of his administration to date.   On Saturday, this trend continued as the President announced a series of shifts to increase domestic oil production.

Pundits say he had to respond to high gas prices (which presidents do not control).  This maneuver is political capitulation in the face of a mismanaged narrative in the public discourse.  For years, this “debate” about gas prices has been dominated by flat out lies and misinformation in one of the more disgraceful displays of unaccountability in contemporary American politics. 

I have attempted to clear the air (pun intended) on this topic a number of times.  For a fuller explanation, please see this previous post.

Here’s the short version: conservatives claim that high gasoline prices are caused by liberal overregulation stifling domestic oil production.  That just isn’t the slightest bit true.  Oil is a global commodity, so its price is determined on the global market.  We, the United States, represent 25% of world oil demand and about 3% of world supply.  The point here is that we simply don’t have enough oil to affect global supply and thus prices.  And the kicker is that even if we could, OPEC is a cartel; they could/would effortlessly decrease their production to offset any impact we could have. 

Here’s another inconvenient truth: domestic oil production is already up 11% under Obama and was down 15% under Bush.  That reality doesn’t match this GOP argument.  Increased domestic drilling cannot lower gas prices.  Period.  Don’t take my word for it, read for yourself – even the mainstream media have finally caught on recently. 

Domestic oil production does not drive gas prices.

So back to Obama.  After failing to enact a single piece of oil-spill legislation, the President was finally starting to sound like a progressive on energy again.  In an earlier address he even pointed out the supply/demand reality I described above, although he inexplicably refused to take it to its logical conclusion that drilling cannot be a solution.  To now increase drilling as a response to gas prices validates the baldly fabricated GOP narrative.  Much like the current deficit focus, we’re conceding not only the point but adopting their frame as well.  No good can come of that.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

Recall that last year, right before the Congressional energy debate, the administration unveiled a plan to dramatically increase offshore drilling.  For which it asked nothing in return.  Rational negotiators might reward unilateral compromise.  A GOP party that miraculously resurrected itself by vociferously opposing any- and everything Obama does would of course do no such thing.  So we gave away a bargaining chip for free [that most progressives would have rather kept] and no energy bill was passed.  Also, this episode occurred just one month before the BP oil spill, which prevented the administration from using that catastrophe as a catalyst for needed change.

In both cases, the only rationale I can see is political maneuvering.  We know the Obama campaign prizes the supposedly undecided independents and what moderate Republicans still exist “in the middle.”  They think that carving out GOP territory for Obama will undercut Republican attacks.  But even if they pick up some independents, if they sell out progressives to do it that is not a net gain.  Additionally, the GOP won’t care that oil production is up – more than they want these policy objectives, they want to keep their base angry.  Have Obama’s oil moves blunted their attacks on this president as anti-oil or trickled into the Fox Newsiverse?  No. 

Obama’s tactics seem to operate from a flawed premise on bipartisanship about which I have previously written, and I am concerned about this plan.

Drill, baby, drill is political welfare for Big Oil, plain and simple.  It does not help America, it helps oil executives.  If we’re going to cave on offshore drilling, leverage it for a coherent energy policy.  If we’re going to increase domestic oil production, call it the compromise that it is and justify it as job creation (with a side of pollution and risk); don’t validate their lies.  I can stomach a certain amount of political compromise, but I can’t start defending the Fox News reality as truth.  

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GOP vs. the Vatican? May 9, 2011

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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Three years ago, the Roman Catholic Church commissioned a report to investigate the environmental changes occurring on our planet.  The Vatican’s non-denominational scientific arm, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, reached out to international experts and asked them to compile the report that will soon be delivered to Pope Benedict XVI.

Brace yourself, because this document issues some shocking warnings: at our current trajectory, we risk “serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses.”  Even more unsettling, it urges deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, offering at least tacit papal approval for socialism (by which I mean cap and trade or a comparable system, of course).  It should be fun to watch Newt Gingrich denounce the pope as a tree-hugging communist any minute now.  Ah, what luck!  A segue… 

One of the most disturbing trends in America is the politicization of science.  Applying politics to science ensures that what threats we encounter will remain unaddressed – how can we ever agree on a solution when half of the political establishment refuses to even acknowledge that a problem exists?  While I am not unbiased, it is objectively fair to say that in this story, Republicans are the bad guys.  Most politicians selectively choose facts that advance their cause, but the GOP attacks any concrete numbers as “fuzzy” and gleefully persecutes scientists just because the reality they study does not conform to dogmatic conservative ideology.  Watching the way Republican congressmen interact with scientists at Congressional hearings will literally dispel any sense of hope you have for our future while they wield any sort of control over our government.

Polling consistently shows that most of our nation’s god-fearing Republicans take it as an article of faith that climate change is a hoax or occurring naturally.  Both of those viewpoints are based entirely on political talking points and polluter-funded propaganda campaigns; scientists do not support these views.  Baseless beliefs of this type are difficult to dislodge, especially with the GOP on a disgustingly successful warpath to discredit everyone with an advanced degree as lying conspirators and/or partisan hacks. 

Enter the Pope.  Granted, His Holiness wasn’t out there measuring glaciers for this report and those dastardly scientists actually wrote the thing, but surely this is different from purely academic work.  It will be interesting to see how, if at all, conservatives respond to the Vatican.  Not that I expect anything at all to change, it will just be interesting to watch. 

Campaign Curiosities May 3, 2011

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Politics.
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For the last few months, I’ve been working for a campaign consultant group.  Others might find collecting and formatting electoral data boring, but I actually enjoy it.  Every so often you come across a real gem or bizarre anecdote, and I finally have the time to share a few of these with you.  Please forgive me for the following schizophrenic list:

The 2012 Republican candidate for Kentucky Attorney General is named Todd P’Pool [sic].  Evidently his family could not find a satisfactory Earth language to pick a name from.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), a dentist, took in about $631,000 of individual contributions to his 2010 campaign.  More than half of those contributions were from other dentists.  He also took the usual committee contributions, but fully 1/5 of his campaign was funded by dentists.

There are two different potential 2012 GOP senate candidates named Salmon – one in Vermont, another in Arizona. 

Of the 100 current U.S. Senators, 9 of them were Eagle Scouts (3 D’s, 6 R’s).  2% of boy scouts become Eagles Scouts.  Tangential side-note: the current president of the Boy Scouts of America is ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.  Ick. 

While gathering historical election results from Massachusetts, I encountered numerous 3rd party candidates who did not earn a single vote; they didn’t even vote for themselves.  Neither did their mothers, spouses, friends, or children…

Having scanned hundreds of FEC reports, it seems like every company has a political action committee (PAC) these days.  The usual suspects you’d expect are all there, like defense contractors and oil companies and unions.  But you’d be surprised by some.  For example, Cracker Barrel has an active PAC that uses your breakfast money to support conservative politicians.  I don’t find that particularly funny.  I do, however, enjoy the Land O’Lakes Political Action Committee because it is abbreviated on some FEC filings to “LOL PAC”.  There is also an ICE PAC, but it isn’t fun or even interesting in its longer form.  Further, the Frat and Sorority PAC supports the ~160 current US senators and representatives who were Greek, ostensibly in hopes of earning their support for Greek life legislation should it ever arise?  I don’t get it.  But in case you were wondering, so far in this cycle, the brothers of the Kappa Alpha Order are contributing more than the rest of PanHel combined. 

Finally, my favorite new piece of trivia: The state of Hawaii has five counties.  Four of them are normal.  The fifth, Kalawao County, is truly bizarre.  It is located on the tiny Kalaupapa Peninsula on the northern coast of the island of Moloka’i.  It is surrounded by high cliffs and the only land access to the entire county is a mule trail.  But that’s not a big deal because the county is home to 90 residents.  Why?  Because it was a leper colony from the 1860s until 1969, when the disease was deemed treatable.  Yet even once the quarantine was lifted, many of the patients chose to stay and they have been granted permission to live out their lives there (the 2000 census counted 147 residents).  State law prohibits new people from moving there and children under 16 are forbidden to visit.  The county is administered by the Hawaii Department of Health and has no county government except a sheriff who is appointed from among the residents.  Kalawao is understandably the poorest county in the country (by median income).  It is not, however, the least populous – that distinction belongs to Loving County Texas, with 82 residents.  As I understand it they’re not lepers, they just live in the middle of absolutely nowhere. 

So there you have it.  Hopefully you found those mildly interesting.

For the last few months, I have not posted an original post here. When I have posted, it has linked a post at Change.org that I was not allowed to repost in its entirety.  Lately I stopped even doing that.  Today, I am happy to report that I am winding down my various commitments in advance of law school and, at least for the remainder of the summer, will be back to using this blog more frequently.  

Utah Legislators to Brainwash Youth for Fossil Fuel Industry November 29, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Coal, Natural Gas, Politics.
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Indoctrination. That is what Utah state lawmakers decided to implement last week.  A state committee voted unanimously to recommend the Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Act.  This bill would use oil, gas, and mining revenues to develop an elementary school curriculum to teach young children “the virtues of mineral industries.”

Republican state Rep. Jack Draxler outlined the intolerable situation that left him no choice but to sponsor the Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Act: “Few elementary school-age children can say how important oil, gas and coal are to Utah’s economy or for paying for their educations.”

Read the full post and sign a petition to stop this bill at Change.org.

Ok, GOP, Let’s Talk About Compromise November 3, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Congress, Election, Politics.
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I made the mistake of turning on the TV this morning.  Ms. Generic Correspondent was interviewing triumphant supporters from John Boehner’s district in Ohio about what their win means for America.  What I heard floored me.  This was live and I was too stunned to think to record it, so I’m paraphrasing:

OHIO RESIDENT:  “For the last 2 years, it’s been Obama’s way or the highway.  Finally we’ll get some compromise in this country.”

REPORTER: “You really think this election will result in more compromise?”

OHIO RESIDENT: “Yup.  That’s what this election said to Congress.  It’s time for Democrats to actually work with Republicans now.”

For starters, we really need to set the record straight on the alleged liberalism of Obama’s first two years.  He embraced tax cuts and offshore drilling and punted on much of the liberal agenda.  There’s a reason the base didn’t come out to support Democrats yesterday, and it’s not because we went too far.  More on this later.

Back to Boehner’s band of merry [white] men, this was not an isolated incident.  Most of the guys that were interviewed in this segment spoke about compromise.  What’s wrong with a conciliatory post-victory tone?  It’s a disingenuous 180-degree reversal.  Sure, one district’s Kool-Aid could go bad, but Boehner’s?  That’s bizarre.

Just last week, in Boehner’s own words:

“Now is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you we will not compromise on our principles.”

And you want to tell Democrats about misinterpreting a mandate?  Please.

I know conservative activists only listen to their Fox News echo chamber, but surely they must at least listen to their candidate when he’s on Fox News! Especially when that man is now a glowing beacon in the House of Representatives, piercing the darkness to guide them through.… ok, I don’t have an end to this metaphor – the man is orange.

The point is, the next two years will be nothing but gridlock.  Congressional Republicans have come right out and said that their single highest legislative priority is making sure Obama doesn’t get reelected.

That means the only “compromise” they will propose or accept is the kind that makes Obama less appealing to his base.  They will advance nothing that doesn’t detract from Obama’s re-electability.  House Republicanswill reach across the aisle, but they will extend a sword, not their empty hands; they will allow Obama to move forward only by pulling himself up their blade towards the hilt.

With this strategy in place, let me assure you, compromise is dead.  Conservatives hijacked the contemporary narrative, but in retrospect we will see that Obama briefly attempted centrist bipartisanship – and it failed.  Liberals were unsatisfied and conservatives either feigned or successfully deluded themselves into their trusty partisan outrage.

Obama’s attempt at compromise was unilateral disarmament, and the GOP hit with everything it had the moment he let down his shield.  Clearly, that was good short-term electoral strategy.  Obama had hoped that Americans would appreciate this effort to transcend partisan politics.  That did not happen.

So yesterday, the GOP won big.  But conservatives, don’t you dare for a second claim to have the moral high ground and make false overtures of cooperation.  That’s not what’s going to happen and it’s not even what you want.  You wanted gridlock and now you’ve got it.  Congratulations.

Now own it.  Or as your mercifully endangered Mama Grizzlies would say, “Man Up.”

FL-Sen: Steele Queues Race Card for RNC Re-Elect Bid November 3, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Congress, Election, Politics.
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On today’s menu for political scandal du jour is a report that Bill Clinton tried to encourage Kendrick Meek, the Democratic senate candidate in Florida, to drop out of the race in favor of independent candidate Charlie Crist.  At the moment, Kendrick is trailing in very distant 3rd place, splitting the Democratic-leaning vote with Crist and ensuring a Republican victory next week.

As often happens when such situations arise, a trusted party figure tried to get the trailing candidate to step down for the good of the party.  It’s pretty simple.  However, Kendrick Meek is an African American.

Predictably, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had this to say:

“One can only imagine the response if Republican leadership tried to force out of the race…a qualified black candidate”.

As luck would have it, this probably won’t be a hypothetical for long.  It does not stretch the imagination to predict that the GOP will soon attempt to ouster its own prominent black politician: RNC Chairman Michael Steele (admittedly, this is not a perfect fulfillment of Steele’s scenario – I said it 19 months ago and I maintain today that Steele has proven himself far from qualified).

This month, when one would expect the RNC Chairman to be focused on the upcoming midterm elections, Steele has instead visited and donated money to Republican leaders in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Obviously, there are not any important Congressional races in these territories.  However, party members from these islands do vote to select the committee chairman.  Steele is clearly planning a reelection bid for RNC Chairman; there is no other explanation for his selfish beach getaways at the height of election season.

I’m just going to come out and say it: Steele has done an atrocious job as RNC Chairman.  I would happily work for his reelect campaign after I’m done helping out at Organizing For America for the midterms.  I’d cite links about his poor performance, but it’s everywhere: very public gaffes, terrible fundraising, party infighting…Steele’s mismanagement is one of the few things breaking for Democrats in this election cycle.

Many GOP leaders are rightly fed up with Steele.  Suffice it to say they would not be enthusiastic about continuing his control of the RNC.  So when Steele injects race into this textbook political situation in Florida, it reads like more than just a leader of the party of angry white men jumping at the opportunity to call Democrats racist.

Michael Steele is queuing up the Race Card to play when his RNC reelection bid encounters its inevitable resistance.  Instead of seeing calls for his replacement as what they are – an attempt to remove a horrendous politician from power – Steele will undoubtedly accuse his detractors of racism.  Republicans don’t get to do that a lot, so Steele is apparently warming up so that he doesn’t hurt himself when he plays the Card.

Tangentially related: Democrats/anyone who cares at all about the environment – if you haven’t already, go vote early! Volunteer if you can.  If you’re in the DC area, get on a free bus with us to a nearby battleground state to help Get Out The Vote!

Canadian Tar Sands Threaten America’s Water Supply October 21, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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New post at Change.org:

What if I told you there was an alternative to offshore oil? Don’t get too excited, it’s still oil. What’s more, it’s an alternative that releases three to five times the greenhouse gas emissions and also contaminates up to five barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced, all with the added ecosystem devastation of mountaintop removal mining. Enticed yet? Well, meet tar sands.

The planned Keystone XL pipeline will bisect our nation as it pumps pressurized oil 2000 miles from Alberta to Texas. The Great Plains may not be densely populated or a biodiversity hotspot, but it is America’s breadbasket. An oil spill beneath this proposed pipeline could have devastating consequences. The Midwest is home to the Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world. It sprawls over 174,000 square miles beneath most of Nebraska and eight different Great Plains states. It provides 30 percent of the nation’s irrigation water and 82 percent of the drinking water consumed by those who live above it.

Were oil to spill from the Keystone XL pipeline, it could migrate into and contaminate this vital water source. And it’s not as if pipeline leaks are unheard of: just this year, within the United States, we’ve already had leaks in MichiganIllinois, and Alaska.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she’s about ready to approve the project.  Read the full post here and sign a petition to stop it here.

 

Virginia: The Latest Front in the GOP War on Science October 6, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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New post at Change.org about how Virginia’s attorney general is earning a name for himself as an anti-science zealot:

Cuccinelli was deeply moved by the fake scandal in Britain [Climategate]. Based on that alone, he chose to investigate a prominent American scientist for fraud, setting a new baseline legal precedent for probable cause that a local newspaper articulately dubbed “hey-it’s-not-impossible.”

Since then, all the researchers have been repeatedly vindicated.

After these developments, this week, Mr. Cuccinelli pursued the only logical course of action: He served a new subpoena to UVA.

Unable to challenge climate science on technical merits, the GOP has taken the fight to the streets. Or worse yet, to Congress. Beyond legislating their values, conservatives are now trying to write laws dictating what is true and what is false – arbitrarily striking down facts via legal decree. As if a 60-vote supermajority could by mutual self-delusion muzzle the laws of atmospheric chemistry. FYI, just in case that doesn’t work, they’re also trying to ban climate science from the classroom.

Full post here.

Russians to Float Nuclear Plant in the Arctic as Ice Melts September 28, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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Third post is up at change.org:

Last year, Russia began constructing a floating nuclear power plant. It is scheduled for deployment in the Arctic in 2012 and eleven additional units are currently planned. (Hat tip to Richard Galpin at BBC News.)

I know what you’re thinking: Might there be some remote risks associated with floating nukes in the Arctic? Well, relax, because there actually aren’t any risks whatsoever. Not one. At least not according to a Russian spokesman for the project: “We can absolutely guarantee the safety of our units one hundred percent, all risks are absolutely ruled out.”

Great news, folks, the Russians have unlocked the secret of zero-risk nuclear technology: remove solid land from the equation. Voila! Energy crisis solved.

Read the full post here.

Baby Steps: The Senate Eyes a Renewable Electricity Standard September 22, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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Just finished my second post at Change.org’s environment page:

At this point, we’ll take what we can get. This is the resigned tune being sung by many environmentalists and clean energy advocates as Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Neb.) unveiled a proposal to implement a national renewable electricity standard on Tuesday. And, amazingly enough, it looks like the votes are actually there.

You can read the full post here, but I want to highlight the last paragraph:

Finally, I’d also like to take a moment to highlight the quality of criticism against a renewable energy standard.  You read above that a 15 percent by 2021 standard will have virtually no impact on the energy market.  Yet the energy experts at the conservative Heritage Foundation are sounding the alarm with their analysis that this basically symbolic law would “kill a million jobs and cut a trillion dollars from the national income by the end of the decade.”  Booga booga!

We have to raise the level of political discourse if we are to have sensible governance in this country.  Former President Clinton said yesterday that he thinks we may be entering a “fact free” period in politics.  Such a world might make for nice sound bites, but real problems need real solutions.  And I’m not saying that a weak RES typifies real solutions, but we need to have honest debate about matters of such importance to our country.  Let’s at least not blatantly lie.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Heritage Foundation.