The only thing that really, truly stuck with me from the Republican presidential debate was Rick Santorum misspeaking and saying “court the illegal vote” before correcting himself to say “Latino vote.” I sometimes find myself discussing with other people whether I identify as Hispanic, and the answer is that I’m really not that strongly identified with my one grandparent’s Cuban heritage but this kind of thing really does piss me off more than being offensive about other groups of people would. I like living in an America where I can show up at a polling place, give my Spanish last name to whoever’s working there, and not be immediately operating under a cloud of suspicion. Apparently that’s not Santorum’s America.
But wasting a paragraph on Rick Santorum is a reminder of how frustrating it is to have so much airtime taken up by nonsense candidates. It was interesting when Rick Perry and Mitt Romney went head-to-head. There appear to be some real policy disagreements between the two of them, and it would be good to see them hashed out thoroughly. The moderators of the MSNBC/Politico debate seemed to have the good sense to discriminate in favor of the serious candidates and against the grandstanding of Santorum, Gingrich, etc., but Wolf Blitzer unfortunately played it straight. I think it would be smart for Romney to challenge Perry to a mano-a-mano debate.
Crowd At GOP Debate: Society Should Let The Uninsured Die |
As Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) responded to a question about how he would help a 30-year-old man without health insurance who needs intensive treatment, the crowd cheered when moderator CNN debate moderator Wolf Blitzer asked if society should let him die. Watch:
By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Sep 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm
A recent EPA study estimated that just one law — the Clean Air Act — prevented 230,000 deaths, 3.2 million lost school days, and 13 million lost work days a year in 2010. The benefits of this act, including savings in medical expenses and increased worker productivity, are 30 times greater than its cost of implementation, and the benefits of regulation, more generally, also have been shown to exceed costs [PDF].
The right-wing noise machine has mastered the art of repeating a few key nonsensical messages over and over again until some people actually believe them. It has much in common with the sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, who repeat the pigs’ perversion of the original principles: “Four legs good, two legs better!” or “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
And so in the Orwellian world of the right-wing, the word “rich” is out and “job creators” is in. There simply are no more rich people in the Tea Party fantasyland. Of course, no jobs are being created, and the rich are simply sitting on their billions, accumulating a staggeringly disproportionate amount of the wealth to shame the Gilded Age — the richest “400 people have more wealth than half of the more than 100 million U.S. households,” Politifact was grudgingly forced to agree that Michael Moore’s statement was correct. So one would have to be a sheep to keep calling them job creators.
Oh, but wait, say the sheep, the reason the job creators aren’t creating jobs is because of the “job-destroying EPA,” a phrase repeated as often as “job creator” is. In a sane world — I know, I know, another counterfactual, but bear with me — everyone would call it the “life-saving EPA.” But that would require a president with coherent principles and messaging skills to lead the way, as opposed to one who caved on the life-saving ozone rule — even though a National Bureau of Economic Research study found “robust evidence that ozone levels well below federal air quality standards have a significant impact on productivity: a 10 ppb decrease in ozone concentrations increases worker productivity by 4.2 percent.”
In the interest of continuing to set the record straight, what follows is a post by Elizabeth A. Stanton, a senior economist with the Stockholm Environment Institute-U.S. Center, via TripleCrisis (and Grist).
9:53: Asked what he’d bring to the White House, Cain said: “I would bring a sense of humor to the White House because America is too uptight.”
9:52: This would have been a good time for Newt to scold the media for asking stupid questions.
9:50: Wolf Blitzer asks the candidate a vapid question about what they would change in the White House. If Rick Santorum was president, he would expand the White House — not for government, but for his seven children who would need lots of bedrooms.
9:50: Neocon favorite Rick Perry, the so-called “hawk internationalist” wondered if U.S. assistance to Afghanistan “is best spent with 100,000 military who have a target on their back in Afghanistan? I don’t think so at this particular point in time.”
9:49: Rick Perry: It’s really important for us to maintain a presence in Afghanistan. When it comes to his Afghanistan position, consistency is not Perry’s strong suit, however: “Time to bring our young men and women home as safely as we can, but important to keep a presence there.” He responded to Huntsman who called for withdrawal — and got best applause of the night for it.
9:48: FLASHBACK: Before it was known as Tea Party Express, CNN’s debate co-sponsor was known as “Move America Forward,” a Republican front group that organized pro-Iraq war rallies.
9:45: One hour and forty-five minutes into the debate and finally a person of color gets to ask a question — an Afghan woman.
9:45: Audience begins to boo Ron Paul when he tries to explain to Rick Santorum why we can’t blame all Muslims for terrorism caused by extremists. Audience again boos when Paul complains of “unfair treatment” of Palestinians.
9:44: Paul says most of the danger to America comes from the “lack of wisdom” that comes from our foreign policy. He says we’re in “great threat” because of our occupations of other countries and vast network of military bases worldwide. Santorum accuses Paul of blogging on his website that the United States was responsible for 9/11. Santorum says Paul is “parroting” what Osama bin Laden said. Santorum says we were not attacked because of our actions in the world, but rather because of our character — leading CIA and Pentagon analysts disagree.
9:40: The two largest audience cheers in last two debates: government execution and death by lack of health insurance. See the video from tonight’s crowd reaction:
9:38: Huntsman takes a shot at Romney: “We could spend all day” talking about Mitt’s flip-flops.
9:36: Rick Perry stands by the Texas DREAM Act because it’s a states’ rights issue, and he decided it was the right choice for his state.
9:33: Bachmann: The immigration policy in America worked very well until liberals changed the policy in the 1960s. Incidentally, that “change” was an end to the discriminatory “immigration quotas” that dictated the numbers of certain ethnicities that could emigrate to the U.S.
9:32: Huntsman says that for Perry to say you can’t secure the border is a “treasonous comment.” He then smirks, suggesting it’s a joke — Perry does not look amused.
9:30: Perry booed when saying that we should allow illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition. Bachmann wildly cheered when saying that is not “the American way.”
9:29: Oops: Santorum confuses “Latino vote” with “illegal vote.” “What Gov. Perry has done is he provided in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, maybe that was an attempt to attract illegal — I mean Latino — voters,” Santorum said.
Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), a lobbyist and current advisor to Mitt Romney
Boston Globe reporter Donovan Slack reports today that Mitt Romney’s top energy advisor also works for a lobbying firm that counts coal giant Peabody Energy as a top client.
Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) has emerged as a key player in Romney’s policy circle, and is featured in Romney’s jobs plan writing about the importance of the coal industry. As Slack reports, Talent simultaneously maintains a lucrative career at a firm that represents Peabody, one of the largest coal companies in the world:
What the former Missouri senator’s essay does not mention is that the Washington lobbying and communications firm he leads as co-chairman, Mercury Public Affairs, counts among its clients Peabody Energy, a St. Louis-based company that is one the largest coal producers in the world.
Peabody Energy has paid Talent’s firm an average of $125,000 every year for the past five years to help represent its interests in Washington. The energy company also retains other firms, spending an average of $2 million each year on lobbying, records show.
As ThinkProgress Green’s Brad Johnson noted back in May, Romney has sought energy advice from other polluter lobbyists. One of them, Jeffrey Holmstead, has worked as a registered lobbyist for Duke Energy, Southern Company, and other fossil fuel giants.
Romney’s current energy policy includes polluter friendly ideas like “amending the Clean Air Act to exclude regulation of carbon and opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil production.”
Robert Farley suggested I weigh in on the Great Satan’s Girlfriend controversy, so over the weekend I spent a little bit of time poking around the foreign policy and milblog community where the buzz has been hottest. For the uninitiated, Great Satan’s Girlfriend is a blog about foreign policy, diplomacy, and military issues, ostensibly written by a woman named Courtney Messerschmidt, who illustrates her posts with images of scantily-dressed women and pop stars like Avril Lavigne. The upset comes partially from female commentators on those issues who feel that Messerschmidt’s schtick made it harder for other women in the field to be taken seriously. And most recently, it comes from the fact that Courtney turns out not to be a real person, but of four, two of whom are men, one of whom is the “brains behind the thing.” Bloggers like Starbuck at Wings Over Iraq have defended the project on the grounds that the product was useful no matter the source, while Carl Prine and Thomas Ricks (both of whom have published pieces by the collective in their spaces) have said they think it’s a brilliant bit of performance art.
I can’t really rate the quality of the collective’s thinking, though describing the disposal of Osama bin Laden’s body as “in a fun, friendly ‘forget you’ way—hauled off the body as booty and chucked it overboard from an American aircraft carrier (sovereign American turf—no less) as shark bait,” feels like a deliberately light reading of events with both solemn and dark overtones, but that’s not the point. What’s interesting to me is the ways in which reminds me of the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax, another case of a man taking on a woman’s identity to attract a readership for their commentary and observations on international events. Gay Girl in Damascus was arguably more damaging — the author wasn’t in Syria, and deliberately suggested the character was in danger because of her sexual orientation to garner sympathy. Great Satan’s Girlfriend apparently seemed like a performance rather than a reality to many readers even before the collective was unmasked, and looks (from my reading) like it was mostly reporting opinions rather than faked experiences. In addition, a Courtney was actually involved in the project, so it’s not solely a man pretending to be a woman.
Still, there’s something fascinating to me about men’s desires to take on minority status, whether it’s to be a rarer commodity in a male-dominated field as with Great Satan’s Girlfriend, or to exploit the solidarity of the vulnerable for fun, profit, and recognition as with Gay Girl in Damascus. It speaks to a blindness some men have to their own privilege, a resentful sense that attention to diversity means transferring unwarranted privilege to women, gay people, people of color, etc. And there’s something quite strange about trying to get a piece of that so-called advantage through the practice of non-consensual fiction. It’s not an impulse I particularly get, and in neither case do I think the results were wildly compelling on an artistic level. Instead, they were mawkish in the case of Gay Girl in Damascus and sort of overheated and exhausting in the case of Great Satan’s Girlfriend (at least to this outsider, who may not fully appreciate the way the blog riffs on existing military and diplomatic commentary). I’m all for men trying to get more sensitively and thoughtfully in women’s heads when they write fiction. But I’d sort of like to know they’re men when they’re writing so I can assess for myself how well they’re performing that experiment.
It’s pretty clear that a lot of the average American’s hostility to “illegal immigration” and “illegal immigrants” is, on a self-conscious level, driven by the “illegal” part. You’ll often hear people say that they love immigration, but they don’t understand why it can’t be done legally, the way grandpa didn’t it.
The reality that they don’t get is that your immigrant ancestors almost certainly came into the country under a very different border control regime than the one today’s unauthorized migrants face. Bryan Caplan notes the sign at Ellis Island, which says that only 2 percent of people were turned away there. Most Americans’ European ancestors came in during that period of de facto open borders. Meanwhile, there was no legal curb on immigration from Latin America until 1965, though there was a lot of quasi-legal harassment. But then anyone who came into the country from Latin America in the ensuing 20 years wound up getting an amnesty during the Reagan administration. Cuban Americans have been allowed to immigrate to this country without restriction during the intervening period, and of course the bulk of Americans’ African descendants came here on slave ships, not by getting an immigration visa.
You also have a fair number of people who get in under special visa programs for certain categories of high-skill workers. But if your family lore contains anything remotely resembling a classic immigrants’ story of a poor person coming to this country, and combining hard work with American opportunity to obtain a higher living standard than was possible in the Old Country the odds are overwhelming that this didn’t involve navigating anything resembling the current process by which a low-skill person can legally obtain permission to come here.
A Texas power company is suing the Environmental Protection Agency to block a clean-air rule that it claims will force it to shut down decades-old power plants and close coal mines, killing 500 jobs. EFH Luminant is fighting the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which calls for substantial reductions in smog and acid rain pollution by Texas sources beginning in January 2012:
Dallas-based Luminant has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to remove Texas from a new Environmental Protection rule due to go into effect early next year that the company says will force it to idle two power plants and end mining operations at three lignite mines, including one in Central Texas.
In reality, the two units being idled — Monticello 1 & 2 — were part of a bad deal made by Luminant in 2007. Plummeting natural gas prices and increased electricity production from wind have made the coal plants “almost worthless.” The plants purchased in 2007, including the Monticello units, are now worth about $1 billion but carry $10 billion in debt.
As the population of Texas booms and its temperatures rise, the threat from air pollutants like NO2 and SO2 grows. Millions of Texans — especially children and senior citizens — are at risk from Luminant’s outdated coal plants. The level of pollution from the units violated the Clean Air Act well before the new rule was slated to go into effect. A 2009 State of the Market analysis by ERCOT, the Texas electric commission, found that coal power was becoming a “marginal fuel” in the region:
As significant additional wind, coal and potentially nuclear resources are added to the ERCOT region and transmission constraints that serve to limit existing wind production are alleviated, it is likely that the frequency of coal as the marginal fuel will increase in the coming years.
EFH/Luminant is attempting to make the Environmental Protection Agency the scapegoat for consequences of their poor business decisions. They want people to believe that Americans have to choose between their health and their jobs, but it’s just a crass shifting of blame.