Yesterday, the Buffalo News reported that Lewiston-Porter school board President Robert J. Weller is being criticized for “regularly” forwarding offensive e-mails to friends and former members of the board. One e-mail contained a list of a dozen male chauvinist “jokes,” such as an explanation that women have smaller feet to allow them “to stand closer to the kitchen sink.” Other e-mails included:
– A photo of Barack Obama, depicted making a campaign promise to deliver jobs to “everyone who can work.” In the background of the doctored image is a group of African-Americans running away.
– A mock news release from the Detroit Police Department that claims the department will replace German shepherd police dogs with “coon dogs, due to the fact the city is not having any problems with Germans.”
– A doctored photo of Chelsea Clinton holding up a T-shirt that reads, “My mom is getting her ass kicked by a Negro.”
“If you’re not white and Christian, in Bob Weller’s world, you don’t exist,” commented former board President Robert L. Laub, who served on the board with Weller. Though Weller is standing by his actions – going as far as telling a reporter that his critics can “accuse all they want to” – a pastor of the True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo is organizing an e-mail campaign to persuade him to apologize or resign. (HT: Wonkette)
On Fox News Sunday this weekend, conservative columnist Cal Thomas declared that “as usual,” Rush Limbaugh is “absolutely right” when he calls Judge Sonia Sotomayor a “racist.” Thomas complained that the media has a “double standard” when it comes to covering Supreme Court nominees accused of racism, citing two judges nominated by Richard Nixon — Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell:
THOMAS: It is double standard, as usual. Rush is absolutely right, as usual. I went back and looked at some of the Republican nominees. Richard Nixon nominated two justices to the Supreme Court, named Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell. Many Democrats denounced both of them as racist, one because he belonged to an all-white country club. that was enough for him. It depends on whose ox is being gored. A racist is a racist. If you think you are superior because of your race or gender, if that isn’t racist, what is?
It’s telling that Thomas mentioned the reasons that only one of Nixon’s nominees was considered racist. As Media Matters’ Jamison Foser noted last week when Pat Buchanan laughed about his support for Carswell, the judge’s nomination ran into trouble when “a blatantly racist” speech he delivered was revealed. “I believe that segregation of the races is proper … and the only practical and correct way of life in our states. I yield to no man in the firm, vigorous belief in the principles of white supremacy and I shall always be so governed,” said Carswell at an American Legion gathering.
Okay, it isn’t a shock to long-time readers that the US Geological Survey sharply scaled back projections of economically-recoverable US coal (see “Are we approaching peak coal? Part 1” and “Part 2“). As I reported in January, the USGS concluded:
The coal reserves estimate for the Gillette coalfield is 10.1 billion short tons of coal (6 percent of the original resource total).
Although it didn’t get much media attention, this December report was a shocker because the USGS is highly credible and the Gillette field, within Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, “is the most prolific coalfield in the United States” and in 2006 provided “over 37 percent of the Nation’s total yearly production.”
But I think it’s a shocker that the Wall Street Journal finally makes it their front page story, “U.S. Foresees a Thinner Cushion of Coal.” The piece discusses the USGS survey — and facts on the ground:
Mining companies report they have to dig deeper and move more earth to extract coal from aging mines, driving up costs. Utilities have grown skittish about whether suppliers can ship promised coal on time. American Electric Power Co., the nation’s biggest coal buyer, says it has stepped up its due diligence to make sure its suppliers can make deliveries after some firms missed shipments last fall. It even bought a mine to lock down supplies.
“We are very much concerned, and it’s getting worse,” said Tim Light, senior vice president for AEP.
The WSJ has an important graph comparing coal production by region. And yes, the WSJ used the term “Peak Coal,” though perhaps “Peak Coal East of the Mississippi” might be more accurate.
Q: What happens if coal gets more expensive for Eastern and Southeastern utilities, because of the rising cost of Eastern coal and/or the transportation costs associated with Western coal (especially as peak oil drives prices back to record levels and beyond over the next several years)?
A: A bunch of good things from the perspective of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost while jumpstarting the transition to a clean energy economy.
Appearing yesterday on Inside Washington, Charles Krauthammer followed up Friday’s mendacity by calling President Obama’s Cairo speech a “victory for the Iranian radicals.” Krauthammer claimed that the president “did more in three minutes to delegitimize the existence of Israel than any president in American history,” — at which co-panelist Nina Totenberg understandably couldn’t contain her laughter.
An undeterred Krauthammer then charged that the president, by recognizing both Jewish and Palestinian suffering, was making a “moral equivalence” (a favorite term conservatives use when they can’t come up with an actual argument) between genocide and displacement. Krauthammer then insisted that the state of Israel bore no blame for the displacement of the Palestinians:
The Palestinian displacement occurred not as a result of the birth of Israel, but as a result of the invasion of Israel at its birth, by Egypt Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Transjordan, and by Palestinian irregulars. It was the war of extermination started by the Arabs which resulted in the Palestinian refugees. Now that is an extremely important distortion of history.
The real distortion of history here is, of course, committed by Krauthammer. The Palestinian displacement began months before the Arab invasion of May 1948, the result of a civil war between Palestinian Arab and Zionist militias. By March 1948, some 100,000 Palestinians had already fled their homes and lands. The problem only grew worse with the invasion of Arab armies. While there is some disagreement among historians as to the extent to which expulsion of the Palestinians was a set policy of the Zionist leadership, there is general consensus that various acts of expulsion and cleansing of Arab villages took place.
While I generally concur with the other panelists that the most important thing is to deal with the here and now, at the same time I think one has a responsibility to honestly represent the scholarly-historical consensus, to the extent that it can be gleaned, and push back against the sort of denialism in which Krauthammer is engaged. While we shouldn’t get bogged down in historical blame arguments, we should recognize that stupendously dishonest renderings of history by prominent newspaper columnists play an important role in preventing American political support for attempts to broker peace.
Related, earlier I attended a panel discussion at the Woodrow Wilson Center in which conservative scholar/activist Martin Kramer, while discussing the current problem of Palestinian disunity, raised the tired old question of “Are the Palestinians really a people at all?” As an academic question, this has essentially been settled. Of course, the purpose of this question is in no sense scholarly, but purely political. Questioning the genuine “peoplehood” of the Palestinians is intended to imply that the right of the Palestinians to a homeland is not equivalent to Israel’s, and, as with Krauthammer’s coloring book version of 1948, to support the idea that Israel bears no special responsibility toward a resolution of the Palestinian problem.
I was happy to see other panelists jump on Kramer for this, and then Kramer somewhat clumsily qualify his answer in response. Conservative scholars and pundits have been making these kinds of discredited claims for a long time, far too often going unchallenged in the mainstream media. With President Obama’s Cairo speech, however, in which he recognized both the Palestinian dispossession narrative and placed their claim to statehood on an equal footing with that of Israel, the president effectively placed the views of people like Krauthammer and Kramer where they belong: Out on the margins.
Memo to Washington Post: Please, please trade editor Fred Hiatt to the Wall Street Journal editorial page where his penchant for allowing unfact-checked crap into the paper — and for writing it himself — would no longer hurt the reputation of a (once) great newspaper.
But what kind of newspaper would attack the bill because it sets a standard that requires new buildings to become more energy efficient? That is a hard-core conservative critique. Pretty much everybody else understands the multiple market barriers that work against energy-efficient design — including the fact that the overwhelming majority of buildings are not built by the people who occupy them. Construction and management companies emphasize minimizing first cost, spending the least amount of money upfront, which has the effect of maximizing lifecycle cost, leading to much higher energy bills that otherwise rational decision-making would lead to.
And so most reasonable, non-conservative observers understand and support national standards for energy-efficient appliances and buildings, such as you find in the Waxman-Markey bill (see “Better buildings soon? Energy and climate bill would set national energy codes“). But not if you work for the editorial page of the Washington Post, which is usually derided as leftist by the right-wing and derided as centrist by progressives, but is now just plain derided by everybody.
Let’s go through the critique in Sunday’s unsigned Washington Post editorial, a piece that is both na¯ve and paranoid at the same time (which one can safely assume ed page editor Fred Hiatt had a big hand in) and Hiatt’s signed column today (which he apparently wrote because Krauthammer, Will, Samuelson, and the occasional Schlesinger column don’t satisfy his need for pushing right wing disinformation).
First we have the conspiracy-theory pushing Sunday editorial:
Today, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch sat down with Fox News host Neil Cavuto for a softball interview. At one point, Cavuto asked Murdoch if he feels like Rodney Dangerfield — “not getting that respect” — even though Fox is “pretty much the envy of the world right now.” When Cavuto asked about perceptions that Fox isn’t fair and balanced, Murdoch said that those allegations were “obviously not true”:
If we weren’t fair and balanced, we wouldn’t have the number one network in news — by a very wide margin. People believe we’re fair and balanced, and they love us.
There’s no proof that the American public is tuning into Fox because it genuinely believes the network is fair and balanced. After all, a 2008 poll found that just three percent of O’Reilly’s viewers identified themselves as liberal. Twenty-four percent called themselves moderates, and 66 percent said they were conservative. Similar numbers were found in the survey for Hannity’s show. Media watchdog group FAIR has called Fox “the most biased name in news,” and a Fox News vice president admitted that the network’s job was to be “the voice of opposition” to the Obama administration.
The group he first joined included among its members people responsible for arson attacks on Jewish property and synagogues. According to the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight, which has been tracking his career for decades, Brons appears to have approved. In a letter to Jordan’s wife, Brons reported meeting an NSM member who “mentioned such activities as bombing synagogues”, to which Brons responded that “on this subject I have a dual view, in that I realise that he is well intentioned, I feel that our public image may suffer considerable damage as a result of these activities. I am however open to correction on this point.”
By the 1970s, Brons had moved on the National Front, then the leading far-right group in Britain. He was voted on to the NF’s national directorate in 1974 and, as the NF’s education officer, he hosted seminars on racial nationalism and tried to give its racism a more “scientific” basis. [...]
After drifting out of far-right politics, he became a lecturer in politics and law at a further education college in Harrogate. He joined the BNP in its current incarnation three years ago. Divorced, with two grown-up daughters and four granddaughters, his election platform was that he “would work to expose the activities and corruption of the EU to strengthen Britain’s case for withdrawal” and “would co-operate with patriots in other countries who seek to bring the EU to an end”.
The rise of the BNP is all the more shocking for the fact that UK voters already have a “mainstream” far-right option available to them in the form of the UK Independence Party, so it’s hard to rationalize BNP support as simply a sign of disgruntlement with the establishment options.
In a speech last week, Vice President Cheney gave some of his strongest comments yet in favor of same-sex marriage, saying that “people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish.” The right wing is now furious at Cheney. Washington-area pastor Bishop Harry Jackson is a “point man” for far right causes and a “star” of its efforts to “elevate the visibility and voices of politically conservative African American pastors.” In an interview with OneNewsNow, Jackson said that he is “outraged” by Cheney’s remarks:
Jackson, a Washington-area pastor and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, says ironically, at the same time President Bush “lost steam” on the marriage issue in 2006, Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary was talking openly with the media regarding her lesbian lifestyle.
“I believe that Cheney’s own ambivalence that has now manifested itself into what seems like a backhanded pro-gay approach was one of the things that kept the President [Bush] from going forward,” he contends. “So, I’m outraged that we’ve been promised things by the GOP — specifically by the president — that haven’t really come into fruition.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel has an interesting interview with Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) about his quest to create some room for single-payer around the health reform table. I’m in sympathy with Sanders’ goals, and it’s my belief that if we get a health reform package that includes a “strong” public plan—something along the lines of what’s in Ted Kennedy’s bill—then we’ll be on the right track. But I did want to push back against a piece of language she uses that I’ve also heard elsewhere:
This week, Senator Bernie Sanders has been firing on all cylinders as he continues his advocacy for real healthcare reform that controls costs while extending quality care to every American.
Even something very watered down like this proposal from Third Way would, especially when combined with the other reform proposals that relate to other issues, very much be real reform that would do a lot to help a lot of people. I think a robust public plan is highly desirable and people ought to work for it. But they shouldn’t be working for that goal in a manner that winds up disparaging all the other aspects of health care reform. Creating a regulated health care exchange and providing subsidies to ensure that insurance is affordable for all are very important in their own right. It’s all real reform. It’s just a question of how much real reform are we going to get.