2010/05/30

Obama and campaign contributions

In today's Inky editorial on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a commenter again brings up the fact that Obama received more campaign cash from BP than anybody else did. Over the past 20 years, BP has given a total of $2.89 million via their PAC and about $638,000 via individuals. Obama got a total of $77,051 from them. Does that represent a conflict of interest on Obama's part? Erm, not really. Obama pulled in $388,283,755 for the 2008 campaign. That means BP gave Obama about 0.0002% of his total campaign contributions. Obama's top 20 campaign contributors begin at $1,591,395 (University of CA) and go down to $493,835 (Latham & Watkins). So, no. If one is trying to explain Obama's actions concerning BP via their campaign contributions, one would achieve a major FAIL!

BTW, rather concern-raising message in the same comments thread:

Posted 08:41 AM, 05/30/2010
Kaiser Sosa
nancee - Obama and his cronies have NEVER been against "big government". What are you smoking? The progressives are the enemy within and should be crushed at every turn, in every institution. They are a cancer in our society.

Whooo-weeee! Are we a Glenn Beck listener, perhaps?!?!

2010/05/29

And then there are some truly silly people!

A Ms. S.E. Cupp writes an astonishingly stupid piece -

Fallen Rep. Mark Souder, a Republican from Indiana, is just the latest excuse to throw poor abstinence under a bus full of condoms. Salon.com's Alex Pareene wrote about Souder's unseemly tryst with a female staffer - who was not his wife - under the headline, "Abstinence Proselytizer Mark Souder Regrets Nothing." For Pareene, the fact that Souder supported abstinence education is apparently an important thread of the story line.
But why? Granted, the promotional video of Souder and his mistress advocating abstinence is a delightfully vivid and embarrassing twist of irony. But Souder's infidelity, and his inability to abstain from having extramarital sex, has nothing at all to do with abstinence education.

I say this is stupid because abstinence is a great deal more difficult than faithfulness. There are many, many millions of people who observe, at the minimum, "serial monogamy," restricting their sexuality for just one person, or at least just one person at a time. Going without sex entirely is a great deal harder. Souder's inability to restrain himself and to limit his sexuality to just one person shows us that abstinence is an unrealizable ambition, even among those who announce, with great zeal and conviction, that they can do it. Souder's infidelity has absolutely everything to do with abstinence.


The problem that right-wingers have constantly had with their lecturing us progressives on sexuality is that they're committed to an impossible ideal. An ideal that I'm not even sure is actually healthy.

2010/05/22

Status on Arizona's anti-immigrant "Show me your papers" law

Seattle has now become the 11th city to boycott Arizona in reaction to their draconian "Show me your papers" law. Several other cities are considering following suit. The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 23rd, but may be overturned before then as there are presently five legal challenges against it. What would those challenges be based on? Well, a phrase that jumped out at me from Section 2, paragraph B is:

FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS
UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).

What exactly does "lawful contact" mean? That's hard to say. The cited blogger claims that he's searched the Arizona Revised Statutes and has no idea what the phrase actually means. The Arizona Republican House majority's Homeland Security research analyst, Rene Guillen, says:

[L]awful contact is definitely different than reasonable suspicion in terms of the initiation of the contact. So lawful contact is essentially any interaction a police officer may have with an individual through the normal legal, lawful course of the performance of their duties. So it wouldn't just be those suspected of crimes. It could be victims, witnesses or just people who are lawfully interacting with the police officer where through the course of that contact they are able to build reasonable suspicion and therefore inquire.

With 27% of their players being Latinos, the Major League Baseball Player’s Association has taken the lead against Arizona's law.

Players don’t want to go back to an era where they were welcome to play but not welcome to stay. After they play, players want to be able to drive, eat, shop and sleep without being forced to “show their papers.” They don’t want their wives, children and family members hassled and deprived of their due process either.

Attorney General Eric Holder embarrassed himself and his office when he "under repeated questioning by Senator Hunt of Texas, he finally admitted he had not read the Arizona law." The Attorney General shouldn't have read the law simply because he might be questioned on it, but because it's a law that's being intently discussed and the nation's chief law enforcement officer should be knowledgeable about it.

A right-winger I was corresponding with made the charge that the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, said something similar, so I headed over to Fox News (To ensure that I was getting the most damaging statement possible) and the statement was: "I've not reviewed it in detail. I certainly know of it, Senator." I found this to be less than incriminating. Not great, but not a statement that she simply hadn't read it.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who's in a tough re-election fight, showed a less-than-complete familiarity with the law:

I haven’t had a chance to look at all the aspects, but I do understand why the Legislature would act,” he said. Even though it wasn’t clear to him “whether all of it is legal or not,” he said state lawmakers “acted out of frustration because the federal government didn’t do its job.” [emphasis in blog post]

Not much worse than Napolitano's statement.

The Arizona Association of Police Chiefs is opposed to the law, though they assure us they'll enforce it anyway. Sarah Palin says: "We're all Arizonans now!" Uh, as Tonto says when he and the Lone Ranger find themselves surrounded by potentially-hostile Native Americans: "What do you mean 'we' white man?"

And now this gets really good. The sponsor of SB1070 is now trying to overturn the 14th Amendment and to outlaw "Anchor Babies."

[T]he 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark demonstrated without reservation that an American-born child of foreign parents was automatically a United States citizen, even if those parents were in the country illegally.

Republican State Senator from Arizona Russell Pearce wants to overturn that and to make the children of undocumented persons not-US citizens.

2010/05/20

Broder's "reporting"

David Broder starts by lavishly complimenting his subject, Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT).

Bennett, 76, who followed his father to Washington and Capitol Hill, is the kind of legislator reporters value, because he can speak thoughtfully and dispassionately about his colleagues' collective mood without subjecting you to gobs of self-serving rhetoric.

Bennett then complains that the Federal Government is "big and intimidating, and it's out of control." Ehh, I agree that it's big because, well, it's dealing with big problems. It's a nice theory that we can get along with no authority higher than that of a county sheriff, but what is a county sheriff supposed to do about, say, a massive oil leak about a mile under the ocean's surface? If BP could have dealt with the problem by itself, I presume it would have done so.

This uncertainty is compounded by political and economic trends, and by individual companies quietly disregardful imposed regulations.

As the Deepwater incident reveals, shareholders are responding to uncertainty and complexity by demanding additional disclosure on environmental practices, safety protocols, overall risk exposure and a company’s response to forthcoming regulations. [emphases added]

Yes, the Federal Government fell down on the job of regulating BP so that the spill might never have happened, BP was clearly cutting corners, they didn't even have an up-to-date disaster recovery plan in effect, but that's hardly an argument for shrinking the government and making it even less effective. President Obama may not have fixed the problem by now, but he's at least got people working hard to try and solve it.

The Federal Government is "out of control"? Really? How, exactly, has the government demonstrated that it's "out of control"? Bennett's primary example is that

...Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced an unusual Sunday session of the House of Representatives to push through an amended version of the Obama administration's health-care bill. "It was a Sunday, which is a very special day for me and my fellow Mormons," Bennett said. "And it was really a display of partisan political muscle."

Awwwww. Weep. Sob. Wail. It of course never occurs to the columnist playing stenographer to the Senator to point out to readers that Republicans were digging in their heels and fighting the passage of the Affordable Care Act every single inch of the way and were using every single, solitary parliamentary trick and procedure at their disposal to delay the vote in any way possible, thereby making a Sunday session a necessity if the wishes of the majority of the American people who voted for a President who clearly and explicitly promised to pass a health care reform bill were to be respected. But nooooo, Broder can't possibly introduce any objectivity, why, that's something only a reporter might do!

Bennett attributed his difficulties to a mainstream reaction against the centralization of power in the capital...

You mean the tea party folks? Not only were the tea party people never the majority of the country, their main figurehead, Glenn Beck, has clearly seen his days of fame and glory come and go.

Think about all the magazine covers, the massive amount of media coverage and free publicity that Beck generated over the past 12 months. Think about the fact that Beck is supposed to be at the forefront -- the media point person -- for a burgeoning political, right-wing revolution that's unfolding across the country. Beck is the anointed leader of the almighty Tea Party movement. And what does he have to show for it one year later in a nation of 300 million people? About 100,000 more television viewers.

Nah, the tea party's big moment in the sun was last year's 9/12 rally in Washington D.C., a gathering of around 70,000 people. Not a bad number to assemble on the National Mall by any means, but there have been no similarly large gatherings since and their lobbying has definitely hit the point of diminishing returns. No, sorry to inform Senator Bennett, but "reaction against the centralization of power" doesn't explain much of anything.

The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Uh, Blanche Lincoln failed because she was shown to be a corporate shill who couldn't care less about anybody who makes under a quarter of a million dollars a year. The "same sentiment" had nothing to do with anything. Broder also attempts to draw the once-Republican Arlen Specter into the same corral, but again, his grand, sweeping generalizations have nothing to do with the reality of Tuesday's races.

Sorry, but Broder and his subject, Senator Bennett, have both achieved a major FAIL!

2010/05/14

Latest updates on BP oil blow-out

Unfortunately, when it comes to the British Petroleum (BP) oil blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, the one phrase that keeps coming to my mind is the title of the UCMJ charge (Article 92) "Dereliction of Duty." (Frankly, if America were to settle on a single phrase with which to sum up the years of the younger George Bush, that's my nomination) The latest news makes it clear that, sure enough, there was massive failure due to dereliction on the part of regulators. As Stephen Lendman in PhillyIMC puts it:

-- since 2001, 69 deaths and 1,349 injuries have occurred from Gulf drilling operations as a result of 858 fires and explosions on 90 big rigs and 3,500 production platforms;

-- the US Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued 150 reports "documenting non-compliant offshore drilling operations;"

-- 172 Gulf spills exceeding 2,100 gallons have occurred in the past decade;

*snip*

On May 5, Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum reported that BP has "the worst safety and environmental record of any oil company operating in America." In recent years alone, it pled guilty to two crimes (among many), paying over $730 million in fines and settlements to the federal and state governments and civil lawsuits for "environmental crimes, willful neglect of worker safety rules, and penalties for manipulating energy markets."

Lendman cites a lengthy history of violations and the coziness between Barack Obama and BP going back many, many years. Personally, I see the Bush and Obama coziness with oil companies in general as being far more similar than they are different. Sure, Obama may have inherited a bad situation, but he wasn't inclined to do very much to change that situation. By the same token, Bush may have inherited a bad national security situation from Clinton, but there isn't the slightest shred of evidence that he did anything to affirmatively change that situation before 9/11.

So, can we blame Clinton for 9/11 or Bush for BPs appalling record of sloppy and derelict work? Negative. Both Bush and Obama are responsible for the problems on their watch as neither of them did anything to change the situations they inherited. There's no evidence that had either crisis occurred a year later, that the situation would have been any different as neither president was making any effort to change their respective situations.


Heh! President Obama is now planning to "get mad" about offshore drilling. Yeah, a bit late on that.


Does the BP oil spill equal "Obama's Katrina"? Uh, no. That's a truly stupid comparison as Obama's team was on top of the blow-out situation as soon as it occurred and both BP and Obama's team have been making apparently sincere and strenuous efforts to fix the problem. Sure, BP is also strenuously trying to underplay the problem:


"It's been 21 years and the litigation between the federal government and Exxon is still not over."
What he details next, however is telling “The executives at BP must be reading the Exxon spill response playbook because they’re doing exactly what Exxon did,” he said. For those of you without access to the oily inner sancta, the playbook’s rules are these:
1 — Understate the amount of oil spilled.
2 — Understate the environmental damage caused by the oil.
3 — Overstate the effectiveness of your company’s response.
4 — Try to buy off the locals with tiny amounts of money (BP is offering $5,000 each to coastal residents in Mississippi) in exchange for waivers promising not to sue for damages.
5 — Slap gag orders on anyone doing business with the corporation. (Fishermen who want work from BP in the cleanup efforts have to agree in writing not to speak to the media. The gag orders are legally meaningless; it’s the intimidation factor that counts.)
The dispersants that BP has slopped all over the spill are somewhat helpful. Climate Progress says: "Chemically dispersing oil spills 'solves the political problem of visible oil but not the environmental problem,' ” but there's no indication that BP and Obama's team aren't doing their best to fix the leak and to prevent any more oil from gushing into the sea than necessary. The really serious problem is that the bulk of the oil may lie about 200 to 300 feet below the surface, where it's pretty much impossible to track. We may never know where the oil is going to end up until it suddenly starts washing up on beaches hundreds, perhaps even thousands of miles from the spill.


FireDogLake has a whole webpage devoted to tracking the spill and what's being done to stop it.

2010/05/13

More on oil well blowout

Investigations are now showing that there were serious problems with one department communicating with another and that engineers wasted many precious hours working with inaccurate diagrams.
Who ordered the alterations in the blowout preventer, the 500,000-pound mass of gears and hydraulic valves that sits atop and underwater well and is intended to snap the pipe if disaster threatens, was the subject of dispute at Wednesday's hearing.
Transocean, the owner of the blowout preventer and of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, said any alterations would have come at BP's instigation; BP, which owns the well and hired Transocean to drill it, said it had never sought the changes.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said the changes prevented BP's engineers from activating a "variable bore ram" intended to close tight around the pipe and seal it.
"When they investigated why their attempts failed to activate the bore ram," Stupak said of BP engineers, "they learned that the device had been modified. A useless test ram _ not the variable bore ram _ had been connected to the socket that was supposed to activate the variable bore ram."
"An entire day’s worth of precious time had been spent engaging rams that closed the wrong way.” [emphasis added]
FDL has a webpage summarizing and keeping track of the unfolding disaster.
This reminds me of the time when my father and I were reviewing the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack. I came across the item that pointed out that actually, had the Monitor's guns been tested to their full extent, their cannonballs would have torn right through the Merrimack's armor and ended the battle very quickly. Dad pointed out "The people who denied victory to the Union were not the people on the ship. The person who messed up was the guy in charge of the testing program. Had he done his job, the Monitor would have promptly knocked out the Merrimack!" His statement rung true then and rings true today. The battle doesn't always depend on those who are on the front lines. Sometimes, it's the people long ago and far away who are decisive.

2010/05/05

Deepwater Horizon BP oil well

Michael "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown of FEMA during the Hurricane Katrina clusterf*** in New Orleans, had an interview with MSNBC in which he made the wild, hysterical, unhinged claim that the Obama Administration delayed its response to the blow-out of the Deepwater Horizon oil well owned by British Petroleum (BP). To its credit, MSNBC responded with a good deal of skepticism and questioned his claims.

Fox News also hosted Brown and failed to question any of his claims and so got spanked by the President's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

The whole idea that the Obama Administration's response to the BP oil spill compares in any possible way, shape or form to Bush's Katrina response completely falls apart once the facts are known.

The problem with, as Brown puts it, the media showing pictures of Bush playing guitar during Katrina was that it made the whole government response look incompetent. And hey, President Obama didn't go to the Gulf of Mexico until very recently. Problem with this theory though, was that the picture of Bush playing guitar as people in New Orleans drowned was that it very precisely describd exactly what the situation in August 2005 was. Bush's whole government was asleep at the wheel and failed to effectively respond until FAR too many days after the disaster. Obama's government, as one person put it "Scored 100 out of 100 in its' response," which is why the press, try as it might, can't seem to find anyone of any seriousness or credibility to say that Obamas' response was slow or in any way faulty.


Good pieces with extensive details on the crisis. One. Two.

Interesting conspiracy theory on the initial blow-out

2010/05/01

Evidence, the nature of


I had a dispute with a right-winger today in the comments section to the Inky's letters page. I had commented earlier on the astroturfed nature of the teabaggers (Nah, we can't call them that in these comments as the Inky won't allow those comments to be posted).
Posted 09:05 AM, 05/01/2010
turkytom
rich! Tea party folks are accused of racial taunts against reps, and nothing caught on tape anywhere... Lewis turned down an offer to get $10,000 donated to a black scholarship if he submitted to a lie detector test. The same offer was made for anyone who could produce any recordings of those slurs. Nothing. Yet that lie is still told. But video evidence of not taunts, but outright violence, and you brush it off with "No blood, no injuries, no sort of limp"!!!

To which I responded:
Posted 09:15 AM, 05/01/2010
rich2506
turkeytom, there were several reporters present who testified to the insults. How one Earth did anyone prove anything before the invention of cheap, handheld video cameras?

Later:
Posted 11:14 AM, 05/01/2010
turkytom
Rich, the homophobic comment was reported by several, and the TP'rs turned on the person immediately, Nobody has documented the racial slurs.

Teabaggers turning on the homophobe is news to me (No one ever denied that Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a "faggot"). I certainly never heard of any teabaggers "turning on" the person. But the racial slurs were not documented?!?!? From the Huffington Post:
Three Democratic congressmen – all black – say they heard racial slurs as they walked through thousands of angry protesters outside the U.S. Capitol. A white lawmaker says he heard the epithets too. Conservative activists say the lawmakers are lying.
-----------
The dispute pits the lawmakers – one of them, Lewis, is a leader and survivor of 1960s civil rights battles – against conservatives determined to counter claims of racism within the predominantly white and middle-aged tea party movement.
----------
A fourth Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who is white, backed up his colleagues, telling the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News that he heard the slurs.

And I'm sorry, I really hate quoting Bill O'Reilly as the sensible voice of reason here, but:
O'Reilly said, "Just because it's not on tape doesn't mean it's fabricated."

And I agree, since when does the lack of video evidence prove anything? If there was no video of the name-calling, well, there very simply was no video of it. I don't blame Lewis for not wanting to drag the issue out by submitting to a lie-detector test. I frankly think he was probably pretty insulted by the notion that he might have lied and would have to prove otherwise.

Widely accessible video cameras are a pretty recent invention. Did people have no way of proving anything before video cameras? Nothing was considered "documented" until it could be electronically recorded? Needless to say, such a concept would be news to a lawyer, who deals in eyewitness evidence all the time.

BTW, the dispute that "turkytom" refers to is over Kenneth Gladney, who another commenter described as "savagely beaten." That description would lead one to believe that Gladney spent some time in intensive care, followed by recovery time in a hospital bed. In reality, Gladney never even took any medical complaints to a paramedic, let alone a doctor. The video that was shot of that incident shows Gladney tussling with a union person, then getting right up minus any visible evidence of any sort of injury. Not saying that the union person was right to be tussling with Gladney in the first place, but "savagely beaten" is obviously an absolutely HUGE overstatement.