(EDITOR’S NOTE: See my analysis of the “enhanced Zimmerman arrest video” here.)
One month ago (February 27th), a Florida man named George Zimmerman called 911 for the 47th time in 58 days to report “a suspicious character” inside the gated community where he lived. That “suspicious character” was the 17 year old Trayvon Martin, who had gone out that night to buy his brother a bag of “Skittles” (and himself an iced tea). Zimmerman clearly enjoyed playing “cop”, volunteering for the Neighborhood Watch, calling the police almost daily,
even lying about his father being a retired municipal court judge (Correction: George’s father is a retired Virginia Supreme Court magistrate) and falsely claiming to have applied to the Police Academy (Correction2: Unconfirmed, Zimmerman did apply and was rejected for having a criminal record.) With a gun strapped to his hip like in the Wild West, the armed Zimmerman pursued Trayvon even after the 911 operator told him not to. Eventually, Zimmerman confronted Martin, and at some point pulled his gun and shot & killed the unarmed young man. It is almost impossible to believe there is even a question of Zimmerman’s guilt. And there would be none if it weren’t for a Florida law (pushed by the NRA with the help of a compliant Republican legislature) called “Stand Your Ground” that allows anyone to use “deadly force if they feel their life is being threatened.
I want you to consider that the moment Zimmerman left his home to pursue Trayvon, he was putting himself in harms way and no longer “standing his ground”. Despite the fact the 911 operator told him not to do that, yet he did anyway, THAT made Zimmerman the aggressor, and if Martin of had been carrying a gun, MARTIN would of been well within HIS right to shoot and kill the armed man that had been following him that dark & rainy night.
But defenders of the Florida law are claiming Zimmerman was justified in firing in “self defense” once a confrontation between the two (supposedly) broke out.
Think about that for a moment. Forget about the absurdity that an unarmed 17 year old kid that had just called his girlfriend because he was afraid someone was following him, suddenly turning and attacking an armed 250 lb man. Think about the law that allowed Zimmerman… the aggressor… to claim “self defense”.
If a man tried to hold up a liquor store, and the man behind the counter pulled out a baseball bat to hit the robber with, would the robber then be allowed to “stand his ground” and shoot & kill the clerk in the name of “self defense”?
Most people would say “of course not”, but that’s exactly what this Florida “Stand your ground” law allowed Zimmerman to do. The moment he ignored the 911 operator, Zimmerman became the aggressor. The moment he confronted Trayvon, he became “the attacker”.
The Right is going nuts over the injection of “race” into this issue because once again, Republicans find themselves defending a law of their own creation that automatically assumes any minority to be suspect (see: “Voter ID”, “Welfare Reform”, “AZ’s Papers Please” law, etc). But to me, while “race” is the reason behind why someone can shoot & kill a young black man and not even be detained by police out of the assumption the teen was “up to no good”… even drug testing the victim and not the shooter (whose sounds to me on the 911 tape like a man who had been drinking)… the REAL issue is a Florida law that legalizes murder.
Before “Stand Your Ground”, a person had a duty to try and AVOID a confrontation if they could, and if deadly force IS used, there is an investigation as to whether it is justified. But with this new law, the officer on the scene is forced to make a snap decision as to whether or not a crime had occurred, potentially allowing a murderer… not just go free… but go free WITH HIS GUN. For all the officer on the scene knew, Zimmerman and Martin could of been in a fight earlier that day (afterall, he IS claiming an injured nose and head) and perhaps told Martin that “if he ever saw him again, he’d shoot him.” Maybe Trayvon was dating Zimmerman’s daughter and he didn’t like that. The officer fresh on the scene would have no way of knowing, and yet, this law puts officers in the position of possibly allowing someone with an ulterior motive go free.
“Stand Your Ground” is not just a law that needs to be repealed, it’s a law that never should of passed in the first place. I wish I could say I was surprised that a Republican-led legislature in a Southern state, eager to please the NRA, would push through such a flawed law without fully considering its repercussions.
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Frequent readers of M.R.S. already know how I feel about the proposed “Keystone XL pipeline” and the absurd level of hyperbole from Conservatives regarding the supposed windfall of jobs it would produce along with its ability to bring down gas prices, while downplaying the environmental consequences. With the deep pockets of BigOil and oil tycoons like the Billionaire Koch Brothers flooding the airways with ads trying to convince the general public to support the pipeline (ask yourself “Why anyone would spend millions in TV ads and lobbying Congress to drive prices/profits DOWN?”), I was heartened for a long time by President Obama’s resistance to this disastrous proposed pipeline. But on March 22nd (2012), President Obama announced that he was caving in to pressure from The Right and would be
Myth #1: “1 million jobs”:
API ad claiming Keystone “could create 1 million new jobs”.
“Could” create? Interestingly enough, when you checkout the link they cite at the end of their ad… “EnergyTomorrow.org”… their own website contradicts this claim:
Only 500,000 jobs in 3 years (click to enlarge)
Every independent study estimating the number of jobs that might be created by this pipeline say the actual number is lower. FAR lover. Not even in the “hundreds of thousands”. The company that will actually build the pipeline, TransCanada says Keystone would create “20,000 direct jobs”, consisting of 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 jobs making stuff like pump houses and the pipe itself. TransCanada also estimates a grand total of just “120,000 indirect jobs” added to local economies along the construction route. That’s roughly 15 percent of the total figure claimed in those ads. So where do they get “1 million jobs?” That’s spread out over 20 years. And it won’t take 20 years to construct the pipeline. The number of jobs they estimated refers to “person-years” of employment— a single job that lasts two years is counted twice! You read that right. Since the jobs are temporary, after two years, when that temp job ends and they are replaced (often by the same person) they count the same job again as a “new” job, even though the net job increase is ZERO.
(Update 3/1/2013: Reuters reports Keystone would create no more than 42,100 temporary construction jobs and
just 35-50 permanent jobs.)
Probably the most damning proof that the number of jobs KXL might produce has been WILDLY exaggerated can be seen in this video of Fox ”news” hosts gradually inflating the number of jobs from “5,000″ to “over a million”, followed by TransCanada VP Robert Jones admitting the actual number would actually be closer to “just 1,000 jobs”:
To infinity, and beyond!
The primary jobs created by this pipeline would come from its actual construction. This is low-skill low-pay contract employment that at most would last only two years. The Washington Post “FactChecker” gives the “million jobs” claim “two Pinocchio’s”, finding the actual number of jobs closer to “13,000 construction jobs over two years.”
Myth #2: Energy Independence:
Republicans are astoundingly good at “catapulting the propaganda”. Far better than Democrats. But part of the reason Republicans are so good at spreading misinformation that benefits them is because they have a huge pool of uninformed, undereducated, Evangelical followers that have been conditioned after decades of religious teaching to never question what you are told, to accept everything “on faith”, and trust pro-Rich, anti-Poor, pro-Big Business, pro-Death Penalty, pro-War, pro-Gun, anti-Environment extremists that they are acting in their best interests. Democrats are far more likely to question everything they are told. This makes for a far more educated voter pool that’s piss-poor at organizing.
Enough of that. Conservatives are absolutely convinced that those Canadian Oilsands contain “100 years worth of oil” that could help reduce/eliminate our dependence on “foreign” oil (someone should point out to them that Canada is also a “foreign country”). And if we don’t have to buy all that oil from the Middle East, we can tell those countries to “go to Hell” and stop “bowing down to the Saudis”.
It is actually incredibly difficult to get accurate figures on how much oil can be extracted from the Canadian Oilsands/tarsands because no one really knows exactly how much “oil” there is. “Oil” is in quotes because the black tar saturating these sands is actually a chemical sludge called “bitumen”, which, when mixed with water and chemicals releases heavy black crude oil (more on that later). The area in question… an expanse of Canada’s Boreal Forest… covers 1.4 billion acres. The number of actual “barrels of oil per acre” depends both on the saturation (how deep into the ground the tar goes) and just how “oily” the soil is, but one study puts the number at “175 billion barrels of retrievable oil”. At our current usage rate of (if Wiki can be trusted) “20 million barrels per day”… if we never use more oil than we do today… that translates to just under 24 years worth of oil. Of course, we use more and more oil every year. One estimate claims an increase of 2 percent a year. I suck at math, so I’m not even going to attempt it, but I don’t see “100 to 300 years worth of oil” coming out of those tarsands. That’s a FAR cry from “energy independence”.
So first, the amount of oil from the tarsands is not enough to make us “self-sufficient” so that we don’t need to import any Middle Eastern oil even if we don’t export a single drop to the rest of the world. But we WILL be exporting that oil. Not just “some” or “a lot”, but MOST of it is intended for export. Six major exporters have laid claim to 76 percent (pdf) of the oil that is to be pumped through the KXL pipeline. The “heavy sour” crude one extracts from tarsand is not very good for producing light low-sulfur gasoline, but is just dandy for producing diesel like they use in Europe and South America. And since “petrol” sells for WAY more in Europe than gasoline does in the U.S., the oil companies are going where the money is. Ask yourself, “Why build a 2,000 mile pipeline through six states, bisecting the entire continental U.S. and risking a major aquifer, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico? Are there no closer refineries? Wouldn’t it be cheaper/safer just to build a refinery in Canada?” Very little of this oil will ever find its way to American gas tanks. So much for “energy independence”.
Which bring us to Myth #3: Lower gas prices:
There is currently a major lack of refining capacity in Europe and South America. That is why the tarsand oil is to be refined here in the U.S. (ibid above PDF). Presently, American refineries produce gasoline for use here in America and export to the rest of the world. But if you shift a portion of American refineries over from refining gasoline for us to refining diesel for export, that means the supply of gasoline will go DOWN not up… driving UP the price at the pump. The KXL is expected to carry roughly 1.1 million barrels a day. That translates to about 8% of our total refining capacity. That’s the equivalent of an 8% cut in the supply of gasoline. And if you think Speculators on Wall Street will stop after the price of oil rises just 8 percent, you haven’t been paying attention these past eight years.
The Washington Post FactChecker also points out that “even if the pipeline were approved tomorrow, it wouldn’t carry it’s first barrel of oil” for another two years. So if gas prices were to fall at all (and they won’t), it won’t be from the “near $4/gallon” it is NOW but the “God-only-knows” price it will be two years from now.
ThinkProgress released a study this week (March 2012) that finds that in 36 years, they could find NO evidence that “increased drilling reduces gas prices”. If anything, looking at their graph, the exact opposite appears to be true, with gas prices typically increasing as production rises.
Keep in mind, unless you plan on SOCIALIZING the entire oil industry (like Venezuela), there’s NO WAY to insulate oil prices in the U.S. from the price set on the Open Market. So whatever the price is in the rest of the world, that’s how much that tarsands oil will go for… and gas prices accordingly. The amount of oil from the tarsands is not enough to glut the market and drive down prices, BUT EVEN IF IT WERE, since prices are set by the World Market, OPEC would simply cut production driving the price back up (something “Professor Newt” fails to take into account when promising “$2.50/gallon gas”.) So gas won’t be any cheaper either.
Then there’s #4 The Environmental issues:
If you wanted to design the dirtiest, least environmentally friendly way of obtaining oil, you couldn’t invent a worse source than tarsand. Unlike conventional drilling, tarsand actually involves “open-pit strip-mining” the Earth and trucking billions of tons of oily soil to a “pumping station”. And you can’t pump “sludge” though a pipeline, so you must mix it with water. “Four barrels of water for every barrel of bitumen” (pdf report). That dirty toxic water is later separated from the oil upon refining where it is dumped into “tailing ponds”… a sea of toxic waste. And since you get TWO barrels of toxic waste for every ONE barrel of oil (ibid same report), that leaves you with a PERMANENT TOXIC WASTE DUMP OF TWICE THE AMOUNT OF OIL CREATED. So Europe gets 15 years worth of diesel and Texas gets giant disgusting lakes of toxic waste staring at us from now till eternity.
Did you know that the “Keystone Pipeline” already exists? The proposed “Keystone XL” is a larger alternate pipeline replacing an existing 1,661 mile pipeline that currently extends as far South as Cushing, Oklahoma (the extension approved by President Obama mentioned at the top of this report will allow it to now reach the rest of the way to the Port of Houston and Port Arthur). The new… more direct route… into Nebraska that would take the pipeline thru some very environmentally sensitive areas and beneath the famed “Ogallala Aquifer”… the primary source of clean drinking water for as many as five states. The currently existing pipeline, when it was built, was predicted to leak (due to aging or unforeseen events) “once every seven years”. Instead, it LEAKED TWELVE TIMES LAST YEAR (its first year). On May 7th of last year near Millner, N.D., the pipeline spilled about 21,000 gallons of oil. So not only do you get giant lakes of toxic waste, you also get thick black oil spills as all that toxic sludge rips holes in our wonderful new pipleline.
And that thick black sludge doesn’t float on the surface where it can be mopped up with skimmer boats like we saw in the Gulf after the BP spill. No, this thick black sludge sinks to the bottom of the river or sinks back into the ground, making it next to impossible to clean up. This just keeps getting better & better.
Diesel fuel also produces more Greenhouse gasses than gasoline when it is burned, making the high-sulfur diesel refined from the tarsands oil one giant “carbon bomb” that renowned NASA climatologist James Hansen said would spell “Game Over” for the environment.
And there you have it. Keystone WON’T “create hundreds of thousands of jobs”, WON’T “decrease our dependence on foreign oil”, WON’T bring down gas prices, but WILL produce an environmental disaster the likes of which you can’t begin to imagine.
President Obama, you should know by now that if you are doing this to please the Right, it won’t. Instead, they’ll use it as a weapon to prove that “they were right all along” and it took them fighting you on this issue to get you to see the error of your ways and “do what the people want.” They are ALREADY saying that the only reason you’re doing this is “because your approval ratings are down”.
Remember what George Bush said about “Fool me once”.
PS: Oh, and for any Right-Wingers reading this: Several sources for this article came from a Fox “news” report entitled “Six reasons Keystone XL was a bad deal all along.”
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Continuing from Monday, there was plenty of stupidity to report last week. A man that had no business even being in Afghanistan was overextended to the point tragedy. And there was the stupidity of a Media that inflicts John McCain upon us for yet one more Sunday show appearance to critique the man he lost to. Do you know how many times John Kerry AND Al Gore were invited on these Sunday shows to comment on George W Bush? If you held up two fingers, you raised one too many. Also, the normally brilliant and well-prepared Rachel Maddow completely botched an exclusive interview with America’s preeminent Global Warming denier, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) last Thursday, failing to challenge him on ANY of his ridiculous arguments… not just climate change, but Inhofe even argues that the planet is “cooling”. Unchallenged, I’m sure this incredibly dangerous man went home more confident in his delusions than ever before. And the GOP… most notably the Republican candidates, have been ramping up the rhetoric and even outright boldfaced lying about the supposed benefits of the “Keystone XL pipeline”. But let’s start with the topic I didn’t have time to get to on Monday:
The Kingmakers: Gingrich & Paul:
With the most recent primary results, most people looking at the numbers agree the GOP Primary is now a “two man race” (UPDATE: Last night, the Illinois Primary ended with Gingrich and Paul in single digits.) Gingrich said he “needed to win either Alabama and/or Mississippi to remain a credible candidate”, but despite losing both, Gingrich announced that he was “going all the way to the convention” in Tampa this year. And mathematically, there’s no path to victory for Ron Paul either. So why are they still in the race? Simple. If Newt were to drop out, not all of his supporters would automatically switch to Rick Santorum. About a quarter of Newt’s supporters say they would go to Romney. So by staying in the race, Gingrich can deny Romney those future delegates and perhaps prevent Romney from reaching the 1,144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, forcing a brokered convention. Newt can then hand ALL of his delegates to Santorum in exchange for the VP spot. This is not so unlikely, since Gingrich frequently praised Santorum on everything from his record on Iran to “running a positive campaign.”
On last Sunday’s “ThisWeek” on ABC, Santorum was given the opportunity to criticize Gingrich and suggest that he drop out of the race. He didn’t. Instead, choosing to attack Romney for not being “a true Conservative”. This follows another opportunity earlier this month when Rick was asked if he thought Newt should “get out of the race”. Again, Rick eschewed criticizing Gingrich, instead simply stating (jokingly) that if would be nice “if everyone dropped out of the race… including President Obama…” and just handed him the presidency. Two chances to tell Newt to get out of the race and he side-stepped both. That tells me he’s thinking the same thing I am: Don’t piss off the Kingmaker.
Meanwhile, Ron Paul has been quietly collecting delegates… more than most people realize, focusing on “caucus” states where the delegates are selected independent of the number of votes received. Using this strategy, Paul may be the actual “winner” in Iowa. While Santorum and Romney were fighting over who received the most votes in Iowa, the Paul campaign was quietly working behind the scenes to make sure they had the most Precinct Captains who actually choose the delegates. Should we see a “Brokered Convention”, Paul could provide Romney with the extra votes needed to put him over the top in exchange for the VP spot… either for himself or (more likely IMHO) his idiot son Rand. And there is plenty of good reason to suspect this: Paul has NEVER criticized Romney in a debate. Not once. And Romney has spoken positively of Paul and his supporters on more than one occasion. He knows he may need those votes.
So don’t bother asking Santorum or Romney if they think the other candidates should get out of the race. It’s far preferable to convince one man to give you ALL of his delegates, then take your chances trying to win over their supporters. And the other two know it.
Next up: The abysmal Maddow/Inhofe interview. A week later and I’m still fuming.
I watch the “Rachel Maddow Show” video podcast each & every weekday. There isn’t a better, more consistently brilliant Lefty political show on TV imho, so it pains me greatly to criticize her for failing so miserably to swat down the giant softball that was Jim Inhofe. Rachel even took the day off the day before her big interview, and I was hoping it was to do show-prep for their big “show-down”. So you can imagine my disappointment.
Senator Inhofe is the King of the Global Warming deniers, having just completed a book entitled “The Greatest Hoax”, where he not only denies the existence of Global Warming, but tries to claim the opposite, that the Earth is in fact “cooling“. The senator’s lead argument against Global Warming is to (selectively) quote The Bible and passages that say God gave us the Earth to use as we see fit and that it will always be with us for that purpose. NOT EVEN THE POPE denies the existence of Global Warming. But to my great disappointment, Rachel didn’t challenge the Senator on a whole host of points:
- During the blizzard of 2010 (“Snowmageddon”) Senator, you dubbed the “igloo” your grandkids built in their front yard: ‘Al Gore’s Summer Home’. Question: Where do you think all that snow came from? (hint: Think massive evaporation.) If he says the snow is evidence it is getting colder, point out that there are regions of Antarctica where it hasn’t snowed in over 10,000 years. Cold weather does not equal snow.
- Senator, you cite Bible passages that claim God said, “the Earth will always be at the service of man” to refute Climate Change, yet you believe in “Global Cooling“… a theory that not only has FAR less evidence to support it, but would be every bit as destructive to the Earth as Global Warming, and refuted by those very same Bible passages you use to refute Global Warming. Please explain the inconsistency.
- Senator, do you believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth? Because the Bible (Joshua 10:13) was used to torture & imprison Galileo for claiming “the Earth revolves around the Sun”, and suppress science for hundreds of years. How can you use the Bible as your basis for refuting any scientific matter knowing this?
- A question I would of like to of heard the answer to: Is it okay for any person or group of people to put their own religious beliefs ahead of the personal safety of over SIX BILLION PEOPLE?
- The Vatican has warned of: “serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases…”, and that “humans must act decisively now to avert a coming crisis”. Why are you right and The Pope wrong?
And those are just off the top of my head. As for his “Global Cooling” stupidity, I’m certain he bases his belief on “increased snowfall” (due to increased evaporation) and “tree ring data”. Tree rings were once used to determine “cold” years, but with rising temperatures, tree rings have narrowed in “warm” years as well. Inhofe likely believes recent narrow tree rings prove that it has been getting “colder” (never mind that we have temperature records. Those can be faked, right?) rather than simply recording “inclimate” weather when the tree did not flourish. Not only did Rachel not point this fact out, she actually said, “we don’t know why” tree ring data is now considered “unreliable”. Rachel, you seriously let us down.
Three REAL ways to bring down gas prices quickly:
The GOP thinks it has found a winning issue when it comes to the infamous “Keystone XL Pipeline” (KXL for short). The benefits of KXL has been ridiculously overblown while the dangers have been almost totally absent from the conversation thanks to a multi-million dollar PR campaign by Big Oil to convince Americans that construction of KXL will mean “1 million new jobs” (a lie the Washington Post fact checker gives two Pinocchios) and lower prices at the pump (which WaPo gives one Pinocchio… but fails to take into consideration the loss of refinery capacity). As I’ve noted on here repeatedly, the number of jobs has been WILDLY over-hyped, they want the pipeline to go to the Gulf for a reason: Export. And reallocating refinery capacity… currently used to refine gasoline for OUR use… to instead refine tarsand into diesel for sale in South America and Europe means LESS gasoline will be produced, driving prices UP not “down”.
But even if you don’t believe any of that, simply ask yourself “why would the oil companies spend $100million dollars in advertising to do something that would drive prices (and their profits) DOWN?”
Oh, and BTW: While Republicans are in hysterics over the number of “jobs that would be created” by the KXL, House Republicans have threatened to block the Highway Transportation Bill that would create over 1 million jobs. Hard to take The Right seriously when they claim to support the pipeline for the jobs it would create, and then threaten to block a desperately needed highway infrastructure bill that would create more jobs in less time.
“Supply” only has an effect on the price of oil when supply is LOW, and right now, production is higher than it was at any point under the Bush Administration, and (thanks to people cutting back due to high prices and environmental concerns), gasoline consumption is at its lowest in 15 years. So why are gas prices climbing back into the stratosphere? When supply is high (like now), the price is manipulated in two ways: “speculation” and “manipulation”.
- Speculation – Speculators on Wall Street take every opportunity to drive prices up to increase profits. Be it a busted pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico or saber-rattling of war with Iran, Speculators will invest in “oil futures” on the Commodities Market or purchase “Hedge Funds” betting against a decline in the price of oil, driving the price up regardless of supply. Over a decade ago, we used to require anyone that invests in the Commodities Market to PROVE they can “take delivery” of the commodities they invest in. Today, any schmuck living in Mommy’s basement with a “Trading App” on their iPhone can purchase 100 barrels of oil. We need to bring this rule back, allowing only those who can take possession of the Commodities they purchase, actually buy them. This will DRAMATICALLY reduce speculation by people simply looking to make a quick buck off driving up prices. (Some have expressed concern to me that such Regulation will simply drive investors to overseas markets w/o the restriction. Where the price is higher? I don’t think so. The big investors are going to go where the Commodities are cheapest, driving the price down everywhere else.)
- Make “hoarding” illegal. – Okay, “hoarding” is a bit of a misnomer here. Oil companies aren’t actually filling tankers up with oil to send floating out to sea for months on end. Nor are they filling up giant land-based tanks with unrefined petroleum waiting for the price to go up. Why go through all that when the oil is already being “stored” just fine underground? No, “hoarding” in this case refers to active wells being “capped” deliberately, creating artificial shortages to drive prices up. Admittedly, this is very difficult to prove. If oil companies WERE actually storing oil in tanks/tankers, it would be easy to prove “hoarding”, but with capping wells, it would take a substantial amount of “hoarding” to affect the global price of oil and prove manipulation.
- Refinery closures – You might remember in the late 1990′s, Enron bought out most of the electricity generation plants in California and then randomly ordered those plants to shut down (for totally made-up reasons), creating artificial shortages to drive the price up (The Tonight Show even did an episode in the dark in June of 2001 because of it). Oil companies today are doing the same with refineries, closing down plants and refining less oil (so says a 2006 FTC investigation) to deliberately drive up prices (I even wrote about this back in May of 2007), and it should be illegal.
(Please note that the words “Drill” and “Keystone” appear nowhere in that list.)
And while we’re at it, how about we end those Billion dollar tax subsidies to Big Oil at a time when they are already reaping record profits that have made Exxon the richest corporation on the face of the planet?
Three quick and simple ways to bring down gas prices quickly. Good luck finding a politician with the stones to call the oil companies and Wall Street out on it.
And another hat-tip to the WaPo Fact Checker for debunking the current GOP meme that “President Obama and his staff said they actually WANT higher gas prices.” That ridiculous bit of nonsense earned Three Pinocchio’s. Why do Republicans insist on making crap up when it’s so easy to debunk?
It’s no wonder Republicans wax nostalgic for the 1950′s. No videotape.
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I had great difficulty deciding on just one topic to focus on in this week. A week that saw a U.S. soldier go “nuts”, sneak out under cover of darkness and murder 16 Afghan civilians (NINE of whom were children); A week that saw the otherwise brilliant Rachel Maddow completely blow an exclusive interview (full podcast here) with lead Global Warming denier Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), wasting half of the interview to confront him on his support for Uganda’s “kill the gays” legislation and never actually challenging him on his anti-Climate Change crackpottery; and yesterday watching as ABC’s “ThisWeek” bring on Fmr. Gov Haley “pardoned 210 felons” Barbour (R-MS) to critique President Obama (only later, fill-in host Karl directing viewers to “visit the ABC News website for their discussion of Barbour’s controversial pardons). Oh, and “Meet The Press” officially declared its irrelevance and became “The John McCain Show” after (as Gregory admitted by the end) McCain’s “68th appearance” on that program (with the Iraq War now over, McCain only leaves his tent in the NBC courtyard long enough to appear on other network shows). With all that, I decided it was best to split this op/ed into two parts, rather than allow any “one” topic to fester in my brain any longer than necessary.
First, the Afghanistan Massacre. Question: Why was a soldier sent on his FOURTH deployment DESPITE having suffered a traumatic brain injury and loss of half of one foot (yet never received a Purple Heart and was passed up for promotion) even IN Afghanistan? And despite supposedly lauded service prior to this incident, what was someone with a civilian criminal record even doing in the military? THAT little loophole came courtesy of President George W Bush in 2005, when he granted “moral waivers”, allowing the recruitment of people with “criminal records, emotional problems, and weak educational backgrounds” after he started running out of cannon-fodder to feed the Iraq War Machine he switched on but couldn’t switch off.
As horrific as this crime was, people are once again asking, “Why are we still there?” The consensus finally appears to be that it is time to leave. Even Conservative icon George Will said on ABC’s “ThisWeek” yesterday: “It is time. To. Come. Home.” The lone holdout? John ”100 Years” McCain, who revived his old reasoning for staying in Iraq, declaring there’s no reason to not stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, telling MtP’s David Gregory, “We still have troops in Korea and Germany.” Good point, Senator. why in the Hell are we still in THOSE countries too?
McCain flat-out lies to The Gregory, claiming that Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants us to stay longer, but after President Obama unilaterally declared a timetable for our withdrawal, Karzai was left with no option but to come out in support of it. Complete bullshit. As author/vet Wes Moore pointed out later in the broadcast, “Obama didn’t set the 2014 deadline. Karzai did!”
Also of note yesterday, both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were invited on as “exclusive guests” to several Sunday shows. Romney appeared on Fox “news” Sunday, while Santorum appeared on ABC’s “ThisWeek” and CNN’s “State of the Union”. On FnS, Romney accused President Obama of a “Failure of leadership” in Afghanistan, claiming Obama is “not engaged” and that if he/Romney were president, he’d “be on the phone with Karzai every day”.
He says this twice. And I’m wondering, “What exactly would Mittens be telling the president of Afghanistan to do? Order Karzai to tell his people to please stop shooting at us?” Maybe have him politely ask the Afghans not to burn the American flag when they protest the massacre of seven adults and nine children? What exactly does Romney think he can fix with daily phone calls to Afghanistan? I’m mean, seriously.
Romney goes on to say, “Time and again he proves this is a president that just does not have experience in tough situations.”
Forget for a moment bin Laden, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, et al… I’m wondering just what “experience” Romney has in “tough situations” that makes him more qualified to be president? “Nerves of steel” that allowed him to fire thousands of workers and still sleep at night? “Tough situations” like “calmly pulling over to hose off the car when your terrified dog loses all bowel control after you strapped him to the roof? (Note: The reporter that first documented the anecdote in a profile of Mitt Romney said it was meant to illustrate Romney’s “emotion-free crisis management” skills. No, I’m not kidding.)
Then came Rick Santorum, who doubled down on his ridiculous lie to the people of Puerto Rico, telling them that their statehood was legally dependent upon their ability to speak English. More bovine excrement. There is no “you must speak English before you’re granted statehood” law or Constitutional requirement. Rick just pulled that out of his Santorum. But when asked about his comment on ABC’s “ThisWeek”, Santorum claimed that “in the past, SOME states were required to speak English first before becoming states.” Another flat-out lie. This would come as a huge surprise to Alaska or Hawaii… the last two states admitted to the union. Just before them, New Mexico and Arizona were granted statehood simultaneously in 1906. 50% of New Mexicans spoke Spanish while 20% of Arizonians were Native American. It’s also worth noting most Puerto Ricans ALREADY speak English. Rick probably got the idea from the “English only requirement” that elected officials… both state & Federal… must speak English. But this has nothing to do with statehood. Conservatives have NO problem making up ridiculous nonsense out of thin air simply to support their mistaken beliefs. Just watch Fox ”news” for half a day and I guarantee you’ll hear at least five examples before lunch.
Well, that’s enough head shaking and eye-rolling for one morning. I’ll have to get to the “Kingmarkers: Gingrich & Paul, later. Be sure to return Wednesday for Part-2. Oh, and… as noted above… be sure to subscribe to our Twitter Feed.
Two years ago, I posted the job-creation stats for every president since Jimmy Carter, making the point that Democrats have been FAR better for the economy than Republicans. Despite being repeatedly vilified by the Right as “an abject failure”, Jimmy Carter actually created MORE jobs annually (2.6million) than Ronald Reagan (2.0million) (second only to Bill Clinton – 2.9million). Reagan actually has just the FOURTH best annual job creation record (also behind LBJ @ 2.3mil). And as of the latest job creation figures (nice interactive chart), it looks like President Obama is on track to surpass “The Gipper” as well.
(Editors Note: The precise number of jobs created monthly under Obama is FAR higher than under Reagan, but that number is misleading and unfair to Reagan, as the U.S. population was roughly two-thirds of what it is today, so I do not include the raw totals in this analysis. - Mugsy)
The Unemployment figures for February came out last week. Unemployment held steady at 8.3% despite the number of jobless claims hitting a four year low and 227,000 new jobs created. The reason the rate did not budge is because more long term unemployed reentered the job market, optimistic that they might actually find work. Naturally, Right Wing websites like Michelle Malkin’s (appropriately named) “Hot Air” blog spun the stalled unemployment figure and increased number of people in the job hunt as “bad” news, citing a Gallup poll showing “non-seasonally adjusted unemployment hitting 9.1%” (you will find the Malkin link at GoogleItYouLazyBastard.com). This supports my maxim that “Republicans consist of ‘The Willfully Painfully Misinformed’ and the ‘Deliberate Misinformers’ that know better but lie to advance their agenda.” (actually, when it comes to Malkin, who has demonstrated a Palin-like grip of the facts, I suspect she’s more the former than the latter.)
The Reagan Administration did create more jobs overall than Carter (16.0m vs 10.5m), but it took Reagan eight years to do it (vs four for Carter). With the latest unemployment report released last week, the Obama Economy is now creating more than 200,000 jobs per month (and rising). That’s 2.4million jobs a year. Outpacing Reagan’s 2.0million figure by the end of his second term (though as I note above, raw totals are a bit unfair due to population growth. Percentage wise, the two are about equal.)
But what about “by the end of Reagan’s FIRST term”? Remember that the crisis in Iran pushed unemployment up a full 1.3% Carter’s final year in office (ibid first link). Gas prices spiked as a result of the Russian oil embargo and the economy plunged into a recession. One year into Reagan’s first term, unemployment continued to rise another 2.6% (to 9.7%), and unemployment was STILL 9.6% a year after that (Reagan’s third year). Unemployment didn’t fall below 8 percent (to 7.5%) until just in time for the November election four years later, where he beat former VP Walter Mondale in the most lopsided victory in history (Mondale winning only his home state of Minnesota and D.C.) by asking voters if they were “better off now than they were four years ago?” For most of Reagan’s first term, the clear answer was no. Unemployment was up over 9.5% most of that time and the National Debt had nearly doubled (from $900b to over $1.5T). But an improved economy just in time for the election coupled with an inept challenger (Mondale told voters he would “raise taxes. So will Reagan. The difference is that he won’t admit it. I will.” Time proved Mondale right, but it cost him the election) gave the incumbent president a huge victory on election night. And his “defeat of the Soviet Union” placed him firmly into virtual sainthood with Republicans that lasts to this day (and my readers know as well as anyone that “St. Ronnie” bears NO resemblance to the man that tripled the Debt, negotiated with terrorists, raised taxes 12 times, passed pro-choice legislation, said it was “nuts” for a millionaire to pay less in taxes than a bus driver, and gave amnesty to 10million illegal immigrants.)
Compare this to President Obama (all numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Before he took office, unemployment spiked nearly THREE FULL POINTS (2.9%) in just the last 11 months of the Bush presidency (as Wall Street collapsed, the housing bubble popped, and saber-rattling against Iran pushed gas prices up over $4/gallon in July before the election). Like Reagan, unemployment continued to rise Obama’s first year in office (but reversed course and plunged just prior to the GOP retaking Control of The House in 2011), at which point unemployment halted its rapid decent and bounced around the 9 percent mark until last October when it began its trek to below 8.5%. The day President Obama was inaugurated, the DOW closed at 7949 (a loss of OVER FOUR THOUSAND POINTS IN ONE YEAR; down from 11971 the year before.) Right now, it is hovering just below 13,000.
Despite being over 9 percent for much of his presidency, unemployment was higher (and climbing faster) when President Obama took office (7.8%, up from 4.9%) than when Reagan took over from Carter (7.5%, up from 6.3%). By the end of Reagan’s second year in office, unemployment hit a whopping 10.8 percent. By the end of Obama’s second year, unemployment was 9.4%… never going above 10.0% in October of his first year. Republicans have (and continue to this day) criticized President Obama for not getting unemployment down “faster”, but can’t deny that it is indeed coming down. My favorite response to this nonsense Talking Point came from Congressman Xavier Becerra a few weeks ago who said that, “Even Superman needed some track to stop the train.”
On ABC’s “ThisWeek” yesterday, guest panelist Elliot Spitzer said it was likely President Obama would “campaign on Reagan’s famed line: ‘Are you better off today than you were four years ago?’ And the overwhelming answer is Yes.” (add to that this list of 50 Incredible Accomplishments.) Naturally, the Conservatives on the panel absolutely denied this fact to be true. But it is undeniable. Despite being handed an economy that was in FAR worse shape than the one Carter handed Reagan in 1981, unemployment never getting anywhere NEAR as high under Obama as it did under Reagan and coming down a full year sooner into Obama’s presidency than it did for Reagan, the fact is, President Obama has a phenomenal performance record under FAR worse conditions than that of the Conservative icon.
Also, Reagan reduced unemployment the final year of his first term by freezing public sector layoffs (followed by increasing public sector hiring in ’85 & ’86 - ibid)… unlike President Obama, whose job growth numbers have been offset by massive public sector layoffs pushed by a GOP hounding him over “government spending”. Unemployment would unquestionably be well below 8 percent today if it weren’t for all the public employees that lost their jobs in all this Conservative “austerity” mania. Which is certainly one of my pet-peeves with President Obama, constantly giving in to Republican demands for spending cuts and tax cuts, only to then have the GOP vilify him for “job loses and the growth of the deficit.” (What did Bush say? “Fool me once…”)
Oh, and as for President Obama’s record as Commander-in-Chief (7 seconds):
Super Tuesday is now history, and the Republican presidential candidates have all given their “victory” speeches (not Ron Paul, who won no states). And it is clear from listening to them that each one of them absatively-posalutely believes they will be running in November against some fictional “un-American” president with a record that bears no resemblance to the record of President Obama.
Newt Gingrich talked about high gas prices. He noted that when HE was Speaker, “gas was only $1.13 a gallon.” Yes, and a Democrat was president. And the country was at peace rather than waging a preemptive war in the Middle East. Newt tacks on The Sin of Omission: “Gas was only $1.89 when President Obama entered office”. Yes, but JUST SIX MONTHS earlier, it was $4.11. The resulting economic contraction followed by the collapse of Wall Street caused gas prices to plunge by the end of the year. Is THAT Newt’s recipe to bring gas prices down to “just $2.50/gallon”… which is were it was just one year ago before The Right started saber-rattling over Iran. Newt (and Romney, and Santorum) have ALL said they would “send aircraft carriers into the Straights of Hormuz” to “stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon”. Just what does Gingrich think would happen to gas prices if he did that? Forget “$2.50″, try $6.00/gallon. “Moonbase” Gingrich recently called President Obama’s encouragement of Algae-based biofuels: “wacky” (Exxon doesn’t seem to think it’s “wacky”), so we KNOW “Green Energy” is not part of Newt’s strategy. Instead, Gingrich again raises the “Drill here. Drill now!” battle cry. THE ONLY WAY “threatening war with Iran” does NOT affect gas prices here at home AND for us to have enough fuel to be “energy independent”, Gingrich would have to NATIONALIZE all the oil companies (like Venezuela) and not trade it on the open market. That seems awfully COMMUNIST to me. “Government takeover” of the largest industry in this nation and eschew “The Free Market”? I’m happy to debate this conclusion with anyone. Go for it in the Comments below.
Next was Rick Santorum, who proclaimed that “When ObamaCare takes full affect in a few years, 100% of the country will be dependent upon the Federal government!” Huh??? Like just about every other Republican, Ricky CLEARLY has NO CLUE what “ObamaCare” is: a mandate that everyone must purchase PRIVATE health insurance from a PRIVATE insurance company. Rick seems to be confusing “ObamaCare” with “Single Payer” (where the government is the only insurance company.) I truly WISH Santorum were right and “ObamaCare” were “Single Payer”, but it’s not. (Why am I reminded of all the Limbaugh-defenders this past week defending his “slut” comment because they all think Sandra Fluke’s testimony had ANYTHING to do with “having sex” and not treating ovarian cysts?) And is this a sneak-peak into what Santorum thinks of “Medicare”… which IS “Single-Payer”?
Mitt Romney gave his usual laundry list of “Obama failures” that started on Bush’s watch. But his signature line was his “formula for reviving the economy”: a “20% across-the-board tax cut”, followed by “I will repeal the minimum tax and eliminate the Death Tax!”, which the crowd behind him wildly applauded. How many of the people on the grandstand behind Romney do you think make “at least one million dollars a year” or would inherit an “estate” worth “$5 Million dollars or more” so that either tax would affect them? I’d wager the only multimillionaires on that stage answer to the name of “Romney”.
The returns are still coming in as I type this, and the coveted state of Ohio is still “too close to call” between Romney and Santorum. Ricky has led in Ohio nearly all night, but the powers-that-be KNOW Mitt Romney MUST win Ohio or it’s all over for him, so, much like in Iowa (where he lost but was prematurely declared the winner the next day so be would be perceived as “inevitable”.) A Santorum win would be a disaster as Rick polls FAR worse against Obama, so I expect to learn “Mitt won Ohio by 2%” tomorrow morning. (UPDATE: Mitt “won” Ohio by less than one percent. As noted on DailyKOS, Rick Perry received more votes in Ohio than the margin of error between Romney & Santorum: 6,559.)
I first noticed it right after the 2006 Mid-term election when Republicans lost control of both the House & The Senate after near unbroken control by the GOP since Newt Gingrich’s infamous “Republican Revolution” in 1994. Suddenly, no one (that I *personally* came in contact with) was willing to admit to being a “Republican”. It’s like they vanished from polite society overnight. Ever since then, if you “accused” a clearly partisan Conservative hack of being a “Republican”, they would (and still do) get very upset and DENY they are a “Republican”. They’re all “Independents” now (and with the rise of Ron Paul, the label “Libertarian” is now popular). But don’t dare call them a “Republican”! The only thing worse would be to call them a “Lib’rul”.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I’ve just finished yet another week of “debates” on YouTube with two retarded Conservative “Bush-apologists”… a term I use deliberately to annoy them because: 1) they always deny being Republicans or liking Bush at all despite their fierce support of him, and 2) Because “it’s not an apology if you don’t think Bush did anything wrong”, and they don’t. In their world, Saddam had WMD’s (and we found them!), America was never attacked, Bush laid the groundwork (in 2002) that eventually got bin Laden NINE years later (when he said he “wasn’t concerned about him”? That was a ruse), and the economy didn’t fall apart until after a completely happy and satisfied electorate suddenly decided to up and change control of both houses of Congress on a whim in 2006. And, of course, both denied being
In 2007, it didn’t take me long to figure out why obvious “Republicans” were suddenly unwilling to admit they were “Republicans”: George Bush. After Bush left office, I started receiving an an actual explanation from obvious Republicans why they didn’t like being called “Republicans”. The answer was always the same: “George Bush wasn’t a (true) Conservative!” (the “true” appears to be optional. The equivalency of “Conservative” with “Republican” appears to be not). And just “why” wasn’t Bush a “true Conservative”? Because he doubled the National Debt and “spent like a Democrat!” Of course, the last Democratic president balanced the Budget and left a surplus (to which they credit the Republican Congress… the same Republican Congress that “left Bush a Recession” and was in control the first six years of the Bush presidency.) Bush was a tax-cutting, deregulatin’ fool. That’s what “Republicans” do. The results might not of been what “Conservatives” think was supposed to happen when you do all that, but just because the economy imploded as a RESULT of Conservative policies, doesn’t mean “Bush wasn’t a Republican”.
Nor does it mean THEY are not “Republicans” either.
This past month of ridiculous Republican debates on the morality/necessity of Birth Control… a matter most Americans considered long settled… opened a lot of peoples eyes and had them asking: “THIS is what you think is the most pressing issue facing our country right now? You think you’re going to win the White House by railing against birth control???” Mitt Romney unwittingly opened this can of worms last January when he told Mike Huckabee that he would support a “Personhood Amendment” to the Constitution that says “life begins at conception”. But when people started pointing out to him that “hormonal birth control does not prevent fertilization/conception” and would therefore be made illegal if a “Personhood Amendment” were to pass, Romney clearly didn’t get it and insisted he was “not against birth control”. In his next debate, Romney was taken aback by the question: “Who’s talking about making birth control illegal?” he asked, incredulous. This was followed up by the Obama Administration mandating that ALL private corporations… even church owned private businesses with employees of varying faiths… must cover contraception (something 28 states already require). The debate grew to a climax (pardon the pun) last week when a clearly befuddled Rush Limbaugh called a college student a “slut” because she was “having so much sex, the cost of birth control was bankrupting her”… because in Rush’s World, “The Pill” is just like Viagra (something Rush is very familiar with). The more sex you have, the more pills you take, no? (yes, I’m being facetious.)
Today, I’m a Democrat. I’m a LIBERAL Democrat. I do NOT call myself “Progressive”. I hate the word. I think some Liberals call themselves “Progressive” because they’ve allowed Republicans to redefine the word “Liberal” to mean something bad. No. Sorry. It’s MY word and I’m not giving it up without a fight. “Liberal” is not a bad word. It means “generous” and “open-minded”, and I REFUSE to allow the other side turn it into something to be ashamed of. You see, I’m an adult. I can disagree with my Party and still call myself “a Democrat”. In Republican Land, if a person disagrees with their Party on anything, they think that makes them an “independent”. I’ve yet to meet an “independent” that wasn’t really just a disaffected/disappointed Republican. Republicans comes in two forms: the seriously misinformed (that never question what they are told because it confirms what they already believe or want to believe… like Obama is a secret Muslim with a fraudulent birth certificate), and the deliberate misinformers that know what they are saying is a lie, but say it anyway to advance their personal agenda.
I used to be a Republican. I was raised in a Republican home. My father listens to Rush Limbaugh every day and Fox for most of his news. And despite what Rick Santorum thinks, I called myself a “Republican” while in college too. I bought into the nonsense that “Democrat” was a dirty word and could not imagine why on Earth anyone would call themselves one. Yet, I was “uncomfortable” with Republican positions on most issues, and the first Presidential election I was old enough to vote in, I supported Al Gore. Not in 2000, but in 1988. Yet I still thought I was an open-minded “Republican”. Four years later, I was enthralled with “Independent” Ross Perot. I was a big Perot-zealot in 1992 the same way most Ron Paul supporters are today. I signed up for the petition drive to get Perot on the ballot in all 50 states, went to Perot-events and talked him up to all my friends (all these things were MUCH more difficult before the Internet, but we did it.) And while today I recognize the fact that a “President Perot” might have been a miserable failure (a fact Ron Paul fans will come to realize 20 years from now), I temper my foolish naivete’ with the knowledge that “Ross was absolutely right about NAFTA and that giant-sucking sound” we’d hear coming from Mexico as our jobs moved South (Paul fans will have no such rationalization to fall back on unless they evolve into anti-war Democrats.)
By 1996, Bill Clinton made me “a Democrat”. No longer calling myself a “Republican” or “Independent”, my “come-to-Jesus” moment was the ceaseless parade of investigations into Bill Clinton by the GOP for no discernible reason other than simply because he was a “Democrat”. He turned around the economy, gave us The Internet, and was doing a great job, yet they acted like he was the Devil himself, spending millions to dig into his private life. Every week it seemed like there was another “Gate”: “Mail-Gate”, “File-gate”, “Trooper-Gate”, “Whitewater-Gate”… I guess I have Newt Gingrich to thank for helping me realize I was really a Democrat, not a “moderate Republican”.
But it took George W. Bush to make a “Liberal”, and for that, I will always be grateful.