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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.

Halliburton Tries to Greenwash Fracking November 17, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Natural Gas.
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Latest post at Change.org:

Some things just can’t be spun, but that doesn’t mean Halliburton won’t try. After being subpoenaed by U.S. EPA for refusing to reveal its drilling chemicals, the company announced it had developed a “green” fracking fluid sourced entirely from the food industry and promised to reveal the generic formula. That’s a start towards public disclosure, but far from good enough.

Full post here.

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.

 

Our Aging Nuclear Reactors Could Outlive the Average American October 12, 2010

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

Our aging fleet of nuclear reactors has outlived its initial licenses. Half of them have already been approved to operate for an additional 20 years and the rest will likely be offered similar extensions. There is even discussion of doubling their lifetimes to 80 years; our nuclear reactors could well outlive the average American.

We must be cautious about doubling the lifetimes of our nuclear plants: the AP reports that 27 of our 104 plants leak radioactive tritium, as demonstrated by the recent leak at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant. The accompanying cover up was less than inspirational. And we all know that leaks are not the worst nuclear risk.

That being said, America seems destined for a nuclear renaissance if for no other reason than Republicans will not support any energy bill without nuclear incentives. The Obama administration has been pushing nuclear as well. In February, it offered $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to spur new construction, and the president has proposed an additional $46 billion alongside significant federal subsidies.

Full post available 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.

President Obama Killed Bipartisanship September 20, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Congress, Media, Politics.
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President Obama campaigned on bipartisanship.  We wanted a change, so he chose not to investigate the partisan excesses and likely transgressions of the Bush administration; he unhinged the pendulum and just laid it on the ground.  Instead of overcorrecting in the other direction, he tried to start anew as a united nation.  America was ready to move forward.  The Republican Party was not.

Ideally, in our two party system, each governing party has a different plan to move America forward.  When problems arise, Democrats propose to move forward slanting to the left, Republicans propose to move forward slanting to the right, and when they finally come together and compromise on necessary legislation, we as a country end up simply moving forward and addressing the problem (see graphic below).

It’s a little messier in practice.  Because one party controls the White House at a time and Congress is rarely evenly split, final legislation generally skews towards the ruling party rather than perfectly straddling the center.  It must also be mentioned that sometimes there is a right and a wrong answer.  And on a related note, a political compromise that pleases both parties is not ipso facto good policy: for example, the stimulus package contained both Democratic spending projects and tax breaks that Republicans would normally support, but it was not enough to promote a strong recovery.

Bipartisanship is not always the solution, but it is an important concept in a democratic republic like ours.  And President Obama bears some responsibility for its contemporary demise.  Although he acted with good intentions, his transcendent quest to achieve bipartisanship ironically doomed itself with partisan politics.

Had Republicans shared this bipartisan vision, Obama’s plan could well have succeeded.  Alas, insert two-way street aphorism here.

At the most basic level, in a two party political system, one party’s success is the other party’s failure.  The converse is equally true.  Again, ideally, a shared desire to address a crisis creates some middle ground for bipartisan compromise.  Yet a hyperpartisan mindset obliterates that middle ground.  Under current Senate rules that allow what should really be called a 41-member “superminority” to obstruct Congressional action, lawmaking grinds to a halt.  Problems progress, but legislation languishes.

Compromise Graphic

When both parties want to address a problem facing America, there is often (but not always) a middle path. When at least one party chooses to pursue political advantage at the expense of our nation’s well-being, compromise becomes impossible.

With surging unemployment and an anemic recovery, Republicans concluded that the painful status quo benefitted them.  They did not want to move forward.  Indeed, they were rooting against America because both America’s failures would be blamed upon the Democratic majority and administration and pay political dividends.  Sadly, in our toxic political climate, you do not earn points for bipartisan assists; all that matters is the score, Republicans vs. Democrats.

Yet Republicans initiated this confrontational scenario, so that much cannot be blamed on President Obama.  There is another variable that can.

Because Obama campaigned on bipartisanship, that middle compromise space between a Democratic policy and a Republican policy turned blue.  In that binary hyperpartisan world, cooperation became a win for Democrats and a loss for Republicans.  So via obstructionism, the GOP could now play legislative defense and political offense simultaneously.

Compromise Graphic2

Because Obama ran on bipartisanship, it had the effect of making bipartisanship a victory for him, and thus Democrats.  Therefore, it dragged the middle ground of what would be a “win” for both parties further to the right.

Of course this tactic held our country hostage and prolonged American suffering in the process.   Unfortunately, overly balanced media coverage combined with admittedly effective GOP spin (having your own network helps) enabled conservatives to pull off this maneuver without being called out for it.

So Republicans holed up.  Elected lawmakers became fulltime law-stoppers, particularly in the Senate.  They voted against a stimulus package that was watered down on their behalf and full of conservative tax breaks.  They opposed an oil spill/clean energy jobs bill that contained entire sections unanimously approved by bipartisan committees and even cosponsored by Republicans.  The conservative caucus is united in lockstep against anything the Democrats attempt to accomplish, no matter how reasonable or nonpartisan the measure may be.

Even though Obama appears to have been sincere in his hope to work together in moderation (as demonstrated by his history of making compromises that please nobody), his plan for bipartisanship backfired because Republicans continued to operate from a hyperpartisan perspective.  Obama said he would end the mud-slinging; conservatives have defeated him simply by continuing to wallow.

In the meantime, the Democratic Party has wasted two years.

Republicans have triumphed at America’s expense.  Unless current electoral indicators are drastically mistaken, they will benefit handsomely from this strategy in November.  I am concerned about that outcome, but far more displeased with the precedent this could set for our country.

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