- Notes on the Oil Spill. First BP lied about how much oil was leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. Now it's lying about what's making the clean-up workers sick.
- Notes on Race. You don't actually have to hate anybody to be a racist. Just systematically short-changing them is enough.
- Other Short Notes. Safety problems in biotech. Closing in on DADT repeal. Palin has the First Amendment backward. Hotter than 98. Rand Paul vs. the 14th Amendment. The $100,000 infield. What if Juliet had a sassy gay friend? And more.
Little-noticed data posted on BP's website and the Deepwater Horizon site show that 32 air samples taken near workers have indicated the presence of butoxyethanol, a component listed as present in an oil spill dispersant used by BP, known as Corexit. The Environmental Protection Agency considers it toxic.BP is not supplying masks for its clean-up workers, in spite of Corexit's manufacturer's warning that people should "avoid breathing vapor". According to CNN, Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association, charges that BP has been threatening workers who speak out about health concerns. "Some of our men asked, and they were told they'd be fired if they wore masks." (Wild speculation on my part: Public relations? Was BP afraid that TV images of guys wearing masks would scare the public?)
I continue to be impressed by the foul-mouthed but right-to-the-point coverage from Daily Kos' Fishgrease, who claims to have spent 30 years in oil and gas exploration and production. In this post, he explains why the Top Kill failure was obvious after 3 hours, even though BP took days to admit it.
Newsweek describes the BP/government efforts to limit press access to damaged sites.
This sums up the state of journalism: All the best interviews are done by comedians. I link to Jon Stewart all the time, but here Bill Mahr talks to Phillippe Cousteau (grandson of Jacques) after his dive into the oil slick. Cousteau comments on the environmental costs that are regularly passed on to the government and the general public:
Socialism ... that word gets thrown around a lot. Well we as taxpayers in this country are subsidizing major businesses that are making billions and billions of dollars every quarter ... They never really pay the full cost of their product. We end up paying for that. And that's the problem.
Only a few meters down, the nutrient-rich water became murky, but it was possible to make out tiny wisps of phytoplankton, zooplankton and shrimp enveloped in dark oily droplets. These are essential food sources for fish like the herring I could see feeding with gaping mouths on the oil and dispersant. Dispersants break up the oil into smaller pieces that then sink in the water, forming poisonous droplets — which fish can easily mistake for food.
... The timing for exposure to these chemicals could not be worse. Herring and other small fish hatch in the spring, and the larvae are especially vulnerable. As they die, disaster looms for the larger predator fish, as well as dolphins and whales. ... In a short time, the predator fish will either starve or sicken and die from eating highly contaminated forage fish.
It's hard to assess the political impact the oil spill will have. On the one hand, it is a disaster on Obama's watch and so far there has seemed to be little he could do about it. (Much of the political criticism has centered on imagery: He should look more involved. He should do more to show the people of the Gulf states how much he cares.) He looks weak and ineffective, which is never good for a president.
Haven’t we just seen how the giant financial firms almost destroyed the American economy? Wasn’t it just a few weeks before this hideous Deepwater Horizon disaster that a devastating mine explosion in West Virginia — at a mine run by a company with its own hideous safety record — killed 29 coal miners and ripped the heart out of yet another hard-working local community?The idea of relying on the assurances of these corporate predators that they are looking out for the safety of their workers and the health of surrounding communities and the environment is beyond absurd.The instant reaction of Republican politicians and conservative pundits was to minimize the spill and close ranks around BP. If the public decides it wants to "crack down hard" on "corporate predators", it's not going to trust Republicans to carry out that mission.
... President Obama spoke critically a couple of weeks ago about the “cozy relationship” between the oil companies and the federal government. It’s not just a cozy relationship. It’s an unholy alliance. And that alliance includes not just the oil companies but the entire spectrum of giant corporations that have used vast wealth to turn democratically elected officials into handmaidens, thus undermining not just the day-to-day interests of the people but the very essence of democracy itself.
... The U.S. will never get its act together until we develop the courage and the will to crack down hard on these giant corporations. They need to be tamed, closely monitored and regulated, and constrained in ways that no longer allow them to trample the best interests of the American people.
This week's find is The Bobblespeak Translations, which claims to translate TV-talking-head-speak into real English -- or at least humorous English. Its translation of Sunday's Meet the Press has David Brooks saying:
This disaster proves that conservatives are right - there are limits to what government can do to fix the disasters caused by conservatives.
opposed the part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that interfered with a private business' right to deny service to anyone they didn't want to serve. He denounced racial segregation and said he wouldn't patronize a business that practiced it, but he didn't think stopping private-market segregation was the government's job.
Jacob Weisberg draws a regional distinction between Republicans in various parts of the country, particularly the Goldwater-style Western Republicans (who are driven by anti-government economic theories) and the Wallace-style Southern Republicans (driven by race, religion, and social issues).
So, what we're seeing now isn't a shift of influence in the GOP from the South to the West so much as Southification of the West. They're not only becoming the hub of a new racial politics, but they're growing more culturally conservative as well.
If you want to get publicity and make a name for yourself in a 3-way race, pander to bigots. That's what Tim Cahill has decided to do in the Massachusetts governor's race, where he's running as an independent and is far behind incumbent Governor Deval Patrick and Republican challenger Charlie Baker.
When he heard that Gov. Patrick had met amicably with a Muslim group and endorsed cultural sensitivity training for police, Cahill released a statement talking about terrorism and "political correctness run amok". The statement artfully invokes bigoted ideas without repeating them, juxtaposing phrases without actually connecting them.
I fully support equal protection under the law for every American, regardless of race or creed, but ...Does it matter what comes after but? I don't think it does. If you need a but, you don't "fully support" anything.
The overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans are peaceable people who love this land, but ...
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is also making the Hispanic/Muslim connection. Mexicans, Pakistanis -- maybe there's one big brown-people conspiracy or something.
The Israeli pirate attack seems to be getting remarkably little coverage so far. Ordinarily I'd leave this to next week because I don't understand it yet. But I'm amazed this isn't getting the 24/7 treatment.
One of the staples of global-warming denial is to say that warming stopped in 1998. This lie is spun around a nugget of truth: 1998 was a spike in the temperature graph, much warmer than either 1997 or 1999. The overall warming trend didn't catch up to it until (by some measures) 2005.
January-April 2010 global average temperatures were the warmest on record.
Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV (son of congressman Connie Mack III and great-grandson of legendary baseball manager Connie Mack) explained in the WaPo why conservatives should oppose Arizona's immigration law:
Our Constitution protects individual freedoms and liberties. Nowhere does this document speak of protecting the majority over the minority. Anger about the economy, increased crime and security concerns are fueling this law, not constitutional principles.
Speaking of Arizona, consider what might happen if police make mistakes. Here's a case in Illinois where a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico was nearly deported to Mexico.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
But that's just the Constitution. Who cares about that?
And while we're at it, who cares about facts? Paul said: "We're the only country I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen." Deoliver47 points out that Paul is referring to the legal concept called jus soli, literally right of soil. Wikipedia lists 34 nations that practice jus soli. But other than the United States, they're all barbarous places like Canada. I'm not surprised Rand Paul hasn't heard of them.
Republicans want a special prosecutor to investigate a report that President Obama offered Joe Sestak a job in the administration if he wouldn't run against Senator Arlen Specter. (Sestak did run and beat Specter in last week's Democratic primary.) Even if everything claimed is true -- and it seems not to be -- it's hard to see what the legal or moral issue is. Offering a congressman a job in exchange for voting a particular way could be bribery, depending on how explicit the quid-pro-quo is. But Sestak was making a decision about a career move, not a bill in Congress; if Obama offered him a different career move, what's the problem?