Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Obama Response

Hot Air Drama

Not to interrupt campaign lying or media stupidity which is already in progress, but...

Eight square miles of ice from the Ward Hunt shelf in the Arctic has split away, the largest mass of ice to detach in three years. This shelf has been solid for at least 3,000 years. And scientists expect more, as they discern major changes, happening much faster than predicted, due of course to global heating.

Yet in Washington, the current Bushite director of the Environmental Protection Agency has been so influenced by political directives from the White House that four Democratic Senators today called for his resignation. They also sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey asking him to investigate possible lying to their committee.

According to the Washington Post: "The senators, all members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Johnson -- the first career scientist to head up the agency -- had repeatedly succumbed to political pressure on decisions vital to protecting health and the environment.
The senators also allege in the letter to Mukasey that Johnson made false statements before the committee in January when he said that he alone had decided California should not regulate the gases blamed for global warming from motor vehicles.
A former top EPA official told the committee this month that Johnson initially had decided to grant a partial waiver to the state but changed his mind under pressure from the White House."

Meanwhile, the state of California announces today that it is once again suing the federal government for "wantonly" ignoring its duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ships, aircraft, and construction and agricultural equipment. CA previously sued, along with other states, concerning the fed's failure to regulate car and truck emissions, and ozone pollution.

If that isn't dramatic enough for you, a BBC two-part dramatic series on climate crisis politics is getting good reviews in the UK. Burn Up folds a sex and murder story into what one participant in real world climate crisis negotiations wrote is a credible representation of such discussions, and outlines a credible scenario of the world racing to avoid its own self-destruction.

Of this particular plot point, Jeremy Leggett wrote in the Guardian: Now, such warnings have entered the mainstream, for those with the eyes to see and ears to listen. Last week at a meeting in London, for example, a top German climate scientist told an audience of 150 captains of industry that climate scientists couldn't guarantee that a runaway greenhouse effect wouldn't happen, if emissions continue apace. He and the majority of his fellows now believe that we face a race to save civilisation of the kind Burn Up portrays."

I don't know if or when we're going to get a chance to see this in the U.S., but already available in paperback are Kim Stanley Robinson's climate crisis trilogy of novels: Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting. I read them one after the other this summer, and they are excellent. The characters are fascinating in a mostly low-key way, which is what absorbed me the first time through. But reading them together, and knowing the characters already, I was most impressed by the science and politics--both the problems (which could well be in our immediate future) and the solutions.

Hint: the solutions get real traction with the election of a new President who runs on this issue.

In the meantime, this is highly recommended summer reading.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

Crab Nebula Posted by Picasa

Some Media Step Up (with Updates)

In addition to the media reporters and outlets mentioned in the Update to the previous post (primarily MSNBC and the Washington Post), the Washington Post front page Wednesday declares: "McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence." It begins:

"For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true."

"Despite serious and repeated queries about the charge over several days, McCain and his allies continued yesterday to question Obama's patriotism by focusing attention on the canceled hospital visit." the story continues. "McCain's advisers said they do not intend to back down from the charge, believing it an effective way to create a "narrative" about what they say is Obama's indifference toward the military."

The McShame campaign continues to insist that Obama cancelled the visit because media cameras weren't allowed, but when asked for the evidence, they were unable to provide any. (They cited "news reports," but the ones they offered supported their allegations, according to the Post.

A reconstruction of the circumstances surrounding Obama's decision not to visit Landstuhl, based on firsthand reporting from the trip, shows that his campaign never contemplated taking the media with him." the Post wrote, which is exactly what Andrea Mitchell and other reporters who were on the scene have reported.

Which tells us this about the McCain campaign: they are ignoring the truth, and repeating the lie. They are liars, and that's the basis of their campaign.

As to Obama's indifference to the troops, it has been well-reported that Obama visited wounded troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan (witnessed by two other U.S. Senators, who said so on CBS Sunday), and several times has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed in Washington, most recently last month (verified by media reporters, who Obama asked to remain outside.) Even in Germany, where his campaign got signals from the Pentagon that the visit might be seen as political and Obama didn't go, Obama spoke to soldiers at the hospital over the phone.

What about McCain and his indifference to the troops? McCain's voting record is poorly rated by two veterans organizations for his "support." He voted against armored tactical vehicles for troops in Iraq, against several measures to make medical care for troops easier to obtain and more affordable, and so on.

And McCain didn't visit wounded troops in Germany on his last trip to Europe, even though it was an official taxpayer-funded trip and therefore would have posed no problem, unlike Obama's, which at that point was financed by his campaign.

As for other charges in the ad: Obama didn't chair subcommittee hearings on Afghanistan because the full Foreign Relations committee held them--but McCain, the ranking Republican on that committee, didn't even attend any of them. Obama voted to fund the troops except on one procedural vote to pressure the Bushites to set a timeline for withdrawl. He has a much higher rating than McCain for supporting the troops as given by two prominent veterans organizations.

And in the McShame campaign's most blatant show of contempt for American voters, the ad utters the false charge that Obama didn't visit the troops but used the time to play basketball, with footage showing Obama playing basketball with American troops in Kuwait--footage taken by a military cameraman.

This is the worst sort of swift-boating, and it tells you something about McCain: he'll lie to win a political campaign.

Update: Responding to the Post front page story, Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine, who was also on the Obama trip to Europe, writes: This front-page account in the Washington Post is absolutely consistent with what I know, based on my reporting, about Obama's cancelled visit to Landstuhl. So how many more times are the McCain campaign and the Republicans going to repeat what is a thoroughly baseless charge?"

The PBS News Hour did a segment on it Wednesday evening, also confirming that the McCain ad is baseless. And First Read catches McCain and the Republican National Committee repeating two more lies--as refuted by Obama voting to raise taxes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MoveOn for Obama

Media Shame (with Update)

Four years ago, our so-called news media knew
that the Swift Boat Veterans Against Kerry were
lying in their now-notorious ads, but pretended
an "objectivity" that allowed them to treat these lies as
a legitimate controversy, which not coincidentally
gave them something hot to flog and increased
their ratings. As a result of this shameful dereliction
of journalistic duty, we lost four more years, thousands of
lives and billions of dollars in Iraq. We almost lost the future.

Now the Republican candidate himself, John McCain,
has approved a TV ad with multiple lies, and with a
few exceptions (Keith and Rachel of course, but also Andrea
and Jonathan Alter to a degree), our so-called
journalists are letting him get away with it. Along with
his other lies, mistakes and cover-ups. Another day of
shame for American journalism.

Update: The Washington Post has exposed the McCain
ad lies Tuesday, as has Marc Ambinder
at the Atlantic blog sees this ad as part of a McShame
campaign trend, and quotes USA Today on an earlier
McCain ad: "Even by the elastic standards of political ads,
this is more than a stretch. It's baloney. It's also a marker
on the path toward the kind of simplistic, counterproductive
demonizing that many expect will poison the fall campaign." Posted by Picasa

McCain Can't Handle the Truth

From Dr. Katherine Scheirman, Chief of Medical Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, who retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of colonel. Most recently, she was at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, which saw the majority of those injured during the war in Iraq:

"John McCain's new ad is dishonest and shameful, and I say that as the former Chief of Medical Operations. Senators Hagel and Reed confirmed to Bob Schieffer yesterday that Senator Obama visited the Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad as a part of their CODEL, with no media present.

"In Germany, Senator Obama made the right decision to respect wounded troops, and the doctors and nurses doing crucial and time-sensitive work, by not making a visit that was characterized as a campaign event by the Pentagon. Senator Obama should be thanked for putting our military above politics. And, I would hope that John McCain would think in those same terms, the next time he is put in a similar situation."

"Senator Obama has voted for the troops when John McCain has not, most recently on the new GI Bill. I am happy that Senator Obama puts the welfare of our troops above politics."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Obama Love-In? Not So Much

Perhaps you've heard the stats that Obama gets
more media coverage than McCain. A new study
adds another stat--most of that coverage has been
negative. The Center for Media and Public Affairs
found that in the first 6 weeks of this general election
campaign, stories on Obama on the three commercial broadcast
networks--CBS, ABC and NBC were negative 72% of the
time, and positive 28%. But for McCain, they were roughly
equal: 43% positive and 57% negative.

Despite this, and the failure of all news media to jump on
McCain's false statements and gaffes the way they surely would
if it were Obama saying them, the latest Gallup tracking poll
has Obama at 49%, McCain 40%. Another new poll gives him
a 51% to 39% lead. For more politics, check American Dash. Posted by Picasa

"Obama is Speaking!"

At least he was in the playroom of this pre-schooler.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leadership: Barack on the World Stage

From the Frank Rich column today in the NY Times:
"He [Obama] never would have been treated as a president-in-waiting by heads of state or network talking heads if all he offered were charisma, slick rhetoric and stunning visuals. What drew them instead was the raw power Mr. Obama has amassed: the power to start shaping events and the power to move markets, including TV ratings...

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain...This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq’s $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan. That’s the high-rolling political casino where Mr. Obama amassed the chips he cashed in last week.

"“We have one president at a time,” Mr. Obama is careful to say. True, but the sitting president, a lame duck despised by voters and shunned by his own party’s candidates, now has all the gravitas of Mr. Cellophane in “Chicago.” The opening for a successor arrived prematurely, and the vacuum had been waiting to be filled. What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

Mr. McCain could also have stepped into the leadership gap left by Mr. Bush’s de facto abdication. His inability to even make a stab at doing so is troubling."