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You've gotta love it, everyone does, when an opponent says something phenomenally foolish. Sometimes the enjoyment overlaps into fiction. Dan Quayle never said that those who live in Latin America speak Latin. Al Gore never claimed to have invented the internet. Barack Obama never said that business owners did not start their own businesses.
But Alaska Governor Bill Walker did suggest a mind twisting proposition about climate change. He began by acknowledging the science is indeed valid. This in itself was a dramatic departure from current Republican theology. And he pointed out that the damage is real, the cost in human misery is already very high.
We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of the change in the climate.
- Governor Bill Walker (R-AK), October 12, 2015
A dozen villages are about to be washed away by rising waters from melting polar icecaps. And government has to intercede to help the victims. Entire communities have to be relocated to safety.
That is our obligation, we stand by that - we need to figure out how to do that. But those are very expensive - we have about 12 villages in that same situation.
- Governor Bill Walker
He is recognizing, at least in this case, the sort of results that have always been the dark underside of history's most successful economic system.
The theory developed by Adam Smith in the 18th century has been accepted as the foundation of economic theory. It rests on a basic human condition. We tend to act economically out of self interest. We work and invest for money. We use the wealth that results to purchase goods and services, and to invest in order to accumulate more wealth.
In its raw form, the theory holds that those who contribute the most economic benefit are rewarded the most. Private selfishness produces public good. Public good happens most when private action is predictably rewarded.
The contradiction comes when the private action that results in public good also results in public harm. If that harm is directly traceable to a definable entity, the law can step in. If you punch me in the nose, I can sue. If a corporation punches me in my bank account I can sue.
But when that harm is diffused, scattered over many years and many lives, legal recourse becomes several steps more difficult. Class action is a theoretical possibility, although it is a practical rarity.
When the sources of harm are also diffused, coming from many directions, a harsh new reality comes alive. Good is rewarded, harm is ignored.
The only way to restore a balance of incentives is through government action. The harm has to be measured in some way, and a proportional cost has to be levied. Regulation and penalty become the only way we can balance the books and create a sort of economic ecology.
In Alaska, we finally have a Republican official vigorously insisting that climate damage is immediate and urgent. Action must be taken and taken now.
The solution demanded by Governor Bill Walker?
Question: So you're saying that given the climate change impacts in Alaska, you need to be allowed to continue to drill and explore and produce oil to pay for some of those impacts in Alaska?" Bill Walker: Absolutely
- Governor Bill Walker
interviewed by Matt McGrath, BBC, October 12, 2015
We must raise revenue to rescue a dozen Alaskan villages by drilling for more oil. Drilling. For. More. Oil.
It is a mind warping bit of Ninja policy. We will meet the challenge of climate damage by imposing more damage on the climate.
We can, and should, ridicule the good governor. His contradiction is public and humorous, in a tragic sort of way.
Exxon is another story. Internal documents from the 1980's have been uncovered. They demonstrate that scientists working for the company proved to the satisfaction of corporate executives that climate damage was caused by the use of fossil fuels, Exxon's fossil fuels. That's pretty bad.
It gets worse.
Exxon funded a diverse collection of research groups dedicated to denying that there was any problem with human generated climate change.
The Heartland Institute is just one of many recipients of Exxon's generosity. Craig Idso recently announced the conclusions of the Exxon sponsored group, that mainstream scientific research is nothing more than this:
... a one-sided recitation of studies promoting climate catastrophism as a means to achieve a political end.
- Craig Idso of Heartland Institute, June 30, 2011
Exxon's sponsorship of this and a host of similar groups has been reported by mainstream media as one more example of corporate sponsored denialism, something akin to the sponsorship of the Council for Tobacco Research by cigarette companies in the last third of the twentieth century.
It is true that Exxon did sponsor groups and political candidates who campaigned for them based on climate denial.
But it is worse than simple denial.
Exxon had in hand, for more than 40 years, compelling proof from their own scientists that fossil fuels were causing climate damage that would have terrible costs to real people. They had that proof of climate damage while they were sponsoring climate change denial.
And it gets worse than that.
Corporate executives were secretly using those studies, the studies on climate damage, to find ways to profit from the damage itself: to anticipate the best places that climate damage would open to drilling, and the best methods to use in that drilling. What parts of the earth should be avoided because waters will be rising? What parts of the Arctic will experience a weakening of the frozen tundra as things heat up. As polar regions are damaged, where will thinning ice make more oil deposits more easily reachable?
Exxon executives were making corporate decisions on how best to profit because of the world heating up as a result of their actions. Their decisions were based on secret scientific studies about climate damage at the same time their sponsored groups were denying climate damage.
Now that documents are discovered and memos are disclosed, it is tempting to imagine panic in the executive suites of the primary offices of the corporation. Let's not strain our imaginations.
Here is how the company is actually reacting in public to the disclosures. They are boasting about their secret research.
...our scientists and researchers were among the first to grapple with the fact there might be a connection between the carbon dioxide emissions from humanity’s use of fossil fuels and climate fluctuations.
It should surprise no one that we have remained committed to pursuing climate change research since that initial discovery.
- Ken Cohen, Vice President of Exxon Mobil Corporation, October 15, 2015
Well, I suppose you can put it that way. Among the first to recognize human generated climate change, committed to pursuing their own research. Kind of noble, if you think about it.
It's not as humorous as the Alaskan governor. At least I'm not laughing.
From Jon Perr at PERRspectives:
During his failed 2012 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Mitt Romney offered this sage advice to college students worried about finding jobs after graduation. Citing the experience of a friend who secured a $20,000 loan from his parents, Romney counseled, "Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business."
As it turns out, it wasn't just the Romneys who practiced what they preached. The current 2016 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump did as well.
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From Tommy Christopher at The Daily Banter:
Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton rolled out a delayed-reaction attack line over a remark that Bernie Sanders made during the first Democratic debate, nearly two weeks ago. On a couple of different occasions this weekend, Hillary told crowds that she wasn’t about to be silenced on the issue of gun violence:
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From Ryan at Secular Ethics:
It is taken as fact within many conservative circles that liberals are a group of whiners who love to play the victim card. Even if that’s true, the debate this week proved that conservatives are no better.
During the third GOP presidential primary debate, candidates bristled at CNBC moderators’ supposedly offensive or useless questions or statements and took advantage of the situation to take shots at a favorite conservative target: the liberal media. Afterwards, Carson called for the candidates to band together against such treatment. And now the RNC has suspended its relationship with NBC News.
Consider some examples of the abuse that these poor adults running for the highest office in the country had to endure:
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From Ted McLaughlin at jobsanger:
Texas is number one in another statistic, but it is not one that any Texan should be proud of at all. Texas leads the nation in the number of children that have no health insurance coverage -- about 783,938 children. That's far more than any other state, and makes up about 17.8% of all uninsured children in the entire United States. Let me put that another way -- Texas has nearly one out of every five uninsured children in this country!
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First off, let me just say that I don’t understand this Ben Carson thing. Word on the street is that in a few polls, Ben Carson is actually beating Donald Trump. Yes, in Iowa, of all places. According to reports, BenCarson’s lead in Iowa is due in large part to his support among white evangelical women.
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From Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg:
The Republican presidential candidates are apparently ready to revolt against the presidential debates. Several of their campaigns are meeting in Washington on Sunday to plan changes. In what's likely an effort to regain control, the Republican National Committee -- which is excluded from Sunday's meeting -- today suspended the February debate on NBC because of complaints about CNBC's handling of the one earlier this week.
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From PZ Myers at Pharyngula:
The NY Times has put together a lovely illustrated story about data collection on Greenland. The story is prettily terrifying, though. The ice is melting, and forming lakes of liquid water on the surface of the ice cap, which then drains away in fast-running rivers that cut deeper into the ice and then drain into holes that run even deeper into the glacier — it’s a dangerous place, and if you fall in, you’ll be swept away and instantly dumped into a pit. It also means the ice sheet is porous and riddled with rot already.
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From libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives:
Robin Hood is often invoked by statists to defend forced income redistribution. For example, in a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter titled Christie's reverse-Robin Hood act continues on Social Security, the correspondent wrote, in part,
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From Michael John Scott at MadMikesAmerica:
The tragic crash of a speeding car driven by Adacia Chambers, 25, when Chambers crashed into a parade crowd at the Oklahoma State University’s homecoming celebration, killed four people, and left scores of folks injured. To add insult to the tragic injury, the evil and infamous Westboro Baptist Church is promising on Twitter to picket the funerals of the OSU victims, as reported by Heavy.
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From The Moderate Voice:
Using Nazi analogies is typically a loser’s game. Comparing someone or something to Hitler or the Third Reich stifles debate, almost always is in bad taste and triggers inevitable side debates about whether calling someone a Nazi is as bad as calling them a “kike” or “nigger.” Then there is Godwin’s Law, which states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have broken what for me has been a cardinal rule about not using Nazi analogies. This is when I written about the Bush administration’s embrace of torture techniques right out of the Nazi playbook, as well as the deafening lack of response from most Americans to this and other outrages not unlike the Germans who failed to speak out against the excesses of the Third Reich. My first such reference was in 2007, and I feel even more strongly now that these analogies were apt given the circumstances.
All of which brings us to present circumstances and Dr. Ben Carson, who is an especially nasty example of how really smart people can be profoundly ignorant.
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From Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot:
One of the problems with the early series of spy satellites was simply this: Every photo frame counts. And many of the photographic frames returned by the early CORONA satellites were of cloud-covered sites. It was accepted as a risk that the weather wouldn't always cooperate. The automatic control worked well enough that pictures were only taken during daylight, but whether the actual meteorological conditions would allow collection of useful intelligence was something that would only be known once the film capsules were recovered and developed.
What they really needed was a way to determine -- in real time -- if a target's lighting and cloud cover would allow a useful picture to be taken.
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Conservative James Wigderson has found a liberal piece on gun control authored by a college professor. The piece to which Wigderson reacts is so amateurish he does not believe it came from that professor or from any liberal. He suggests some conservative played a dirty trick on the paper.
The professor's thesis is that President Obama let America down by not unilaterally banning all guns from America, presumably by some sort of executive order. The alleged author happens to be from my alma mater and the newspaper in question is one I once read every day. I can only attest to the existence of the professor, having looked it up, and the idiocy of the professor's article, having read it. I appreciate Wigderson's generosity, but it looks like the drivel is genuine.
Green Eagle remembers Martin Shkreli, who bought a pharma corporation for the sole purpose of cornering the market on a low cost drug lots of people need to survive and jacking up the price to more than many mortgage payments. It seems market forces may have dealt a blow to at least this bad guy. Oh well, on to the next Romney-type project.
Conservatives could have presented Barack Obama as proof of conservative values.
Why did they sacrifice those values? How did they lose what could have been the most compelling conservative argument in a century?
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From Associated Press:
HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu Police Department opened an internal investigation Wednesday into allegations that an officer wrongfully arrested a vacationing lesbian couple after seeing them kissing in a grocery store.
Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, who were visiting Hawaii from Los Angeles in March, said in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that they were harassed and arrested because the officer didn't like their public displays of affection in a Foodland store on Oahu's North Shore.
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Mitch McConnell gave most Senate Republicans exactly what they wanted: His bipartisan budget compromise effectively eliminates shutdown and default threats through the 2016 elections, makes modest entitlement reforms and beefs up national security.
And boy, are most Senate Republicans mad about it.
In interviews with more than 20 Senate Republicans on Wednesday, a broad swath of the caucus either said they were outright opposed to the accord or ticked off concerns — rather than benefits — about the deal...
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From U.S. News & World Report:
Even before Jeb Bush's uninspiring debate performance Wednesday night, his sputtering presidential campaign was working to prevent defections.
Bush's top lieutenants convened with donors in sopping wet Houston on Monday to calm their fears and retrench for the unforgiving haul ahead.
After the confab, Bush's team distributed a 45-page PowerPoint presentation to select reporters, summarizing an optimistic view of the race, touting the Republican candidate's cash and organization, and assuring supporters that early polls are rarely indicative of ultimate success.
But in that leak to select media, the campaign purposely left out more than half of what was furnished behind closed doors.
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From The Progressive Paradigm:
Many people are aware of the simple definition of consciousness, but even the most intelligent among us fail to understand how and why we are conscious beings.
Scientists have now made strides regarding the composition of consciousness, which aims to explain exactly how and why we are conscious.
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Our friend T. Paine recounts one of the earliest published speeches of young Mr. Lincoln.
From T. Paine at Saving Common Sense:
In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American People, find our account running, under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era.--We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us.
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At the beginning of the last century, on October 16, 1901, the country found itself in an uproar. President Theodore Roosevelt had invited an African American to dinner with him and his family. The reaction of Senator James K. Vardaman of Mississippi exemplified conservatism as it existed in those days. He complained of a White House "so saturated with the odor" ...and here he used the "N" word ... "that the rats had taken refuge in the stable."
Sadly, that reaction finds its echo in the reflexive core of much of today's conservatism. It also represents a remarkable loss of conservative opportunity.
Booker T. Washington's autobiography, Up From Slavery, was intended as a walking guide to success, not only for individuals, but for an entire oppressed people. The recipe included learning a trade, hard work, getting an education, and developing relationships with white people, even the most hostile of white people. The model was Booker T. Washington's own life.
He was a child when emancipation reached him. He taught himself to read, attended school, met and made friends with white benefactors, went to an institution of higher learning, and became the head of a teacher's college, Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
In 1895, he made the speech that pretty much defined him and the movement he led. He urged what became known as the Atlanta Compromise.
He told his audience that white people had a responsibility. They should guarantee due process of law and should allow at least some limited training for black people.
Black people, he said, should stop agitating for equal rights, the ability to vote in fair and free elections, integration, or anti-discrimination laws. They should accept limitations on their education, staying with vocational training, and acquiring the ability to teach. Prohibitions against liberal arts, science, literature should not be challenged. Above all, black people should submit to white rule in the South. There should never be resistance or even objection to racist behavior.
In time, he felt, the descendants of slaves would earn the respect of southern whites. Equality would come in increments if black people would stay in their place, the place in society assigned to them by white conservatives.
It is difficult for those of us living today to imagine the degree of hardship endured in those days. At the time of Booker T. Washington's 1895 speech, the practice of lynching was at an all time high. Slavery had been replaced with random kidnappings, legal authorities pulling people off the streets or from gathering places, charging them with breaking laws that were often unwritten and unknown, made up on the spot. Those taken were then rented out to businesses or plantations who would pay. Outright ownership of slaves was replaced by the leasing of human prisoners. The practice was widespread and has been documented through to the beginning of the Second World War.
Booker T. Washington was concerned about the reaction of black people then living in the south. Active resistance was pretty much always fatal. Those looking for a viable alternative found it in a vast migration to the cities of the north. Washington thought of the migration as a form of collective abdication.
In his Atlanta speech, he told a parable about a ship adrift, helpless in the Atlantic, its passengers dying of thirst, surrounded by undrinkable saltwater. They were rescued by a signal from another ship, instructing them to cast their buckets where they were. Finally, following the advice, they discovered that they had drifted into the outflow of the Amazon River. The water was fresh, drinkable. And they were saved.
The lesson Booker T. Washington preached was to "Cast down your bucket where you are." Freed slaves in the South and their descendants should stay where they were, accommodate, develop slowly, earn the friendship and respect of the white people around them.
There were those who rejected the Booker T. Washington approach of serving meekly and waiting patiently for the long arc of the moral universe to bend toward justice. Those who wanted a more activist approach toward equal rights, were considered in their day as black militants. W.E.B. Du Bois and Monroe Trotter took the radical step of becoming civil rights advocates.
Booker T. Washington died in 1915, but his influence continued through generations. White politicians pointed to him as a dual example. Black people were happy, contented to live without rights, including the right to vote. And, if Booker T. Washington could become successful in Alabama, any black person could become successful without all the bother of rights.
Successful black people have often been used as an argument against social change. The phrase "Be more like Booker T. Washington" became a cliche, used by white people who lectured black people on living successfully. Others joined him in the pantheon of icons, successful people who proved that anyone could succeed.
President Obama is an odd case. It would be easy to understand conservatives seeing him as a mixed blessing. We do get some of that logic from time to time. Racism is ended. A black President is proof.
Hatred of policies and viewpoints is understandable from those who disagree. But the hatred exhibited toward the Obama family by conservatives frequently goes beyond policy. The challenge goes to personhood itself, to personal legitimacy. He is not one of us, not truly American. He is alien from the American experience.
The personal opposition that goes so far past policy is hard to explain rationally.
He is the example conservatives have professed to crave. He is a son abandoned by his father, raised by a single mother, who devoted himself to community, putting himself through college, shining brightly in the academic world, earning the leadership of a prestigious law journal. He is a devoted father, a steadfast husband, who eventually rose to become the head of the free world.
When he was first elected, I pictured a conservative friend pointing to President Obama. "I completely disagree with his philosophy and his policies," I could imagine my friend saying. "But he is proof that anyone can make it in this country."
It is a remarkable story that fits neatly into the "Be like Booker T." narrative of conservatives. And that story, the story of Booker T. Washington, has not been entirely in the province of racial conservatives. When I was young, parents were still holding him, and others, as an inspiration to youngsters to work hard to succeed.
Denzel Washington, Michael Jordan, Frederick Douglass, and now Barack Obama have had their turns as icons. They are exceptional. They have served as examples offered by generations of parents. Parents want to think of their children as potentially beyond exceptional, and always hope that it will be true.
It has been that way with me. The lecture is one with which I am familiar. The words have been mine. You can be frozen by an unfair playing field, or you can devise a strategy of winning on an unfair field of play, working harder and smarter, overcoming. What is unfair does not need to be unstoppable.
It is often a seesaw argument, used as an example to inspire and as an excuse to deny solutions for historic wrongs.
Becoming exceptional should be an aspiration, not a requirement for fair treatment. Exceptional achievement, especially against great adversity, should be an inspiration, something to be admired, not yet another obstacle, another argument against fairness.
Even in that regard, even as a new Booker T. example, conservatives have missed their latest, best, opportunity.
This President of the United States is the very model of conservative standards - hard working, talented, purposeful, resolute, and ultimately successful. He is the example conservatives can embrace as a reason to to hold off on what the rest of us see as social progress. Instead, many conservatives, perhaps most, treat him with denigration, treat his accomplishments with derision.
History may forgive them as they argue against themselves. They know not that they have sacrificed the best moral case they could ever have wished to make.