Saturday, March 31, 2007

Negating the election

-- by Dave

One of the sunnier outcomes of last November's elections was the defeat of Rep. Richard Pombo, the Republican chair of the House Resources Committee who was the leader of the faction of extremists hoping to gut the Endangered Species Act.

But environmentalists are discovering that the assault on the ESA is continuing apace, thanks to the Bush administration, which has announced that it intends to pick up where Pombo left off with a new set of Interior Department regulations intended to achieve the same effect as Pombo's now-dead legislative attempts:
The U.S. Interior Department is preparing a wide-ranging set of regulations which substantially weaken the federal Endangered Species Act, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Biological Diversity.

"These draft regulations slash the Endangered Species Act from head to toe," said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "They undermine every aspect of law - recovery, listing, preventing extinction, critical habitat, federal oversight and habitat conservation plans -- all of it is gutted."

The draft regulations would:

—Remove recovery of a species or population as a protection standard;

—Allow projects to proceed that have been determined to threaten species with extinction;

—Permit destruction of all restored habitat within critical habitat areas;

—Prevent critical habitat areas from being used to protect against disturbance, pesticides, exotic species, and disease;

—Severely limit the listing of new endangered species; and

—Empower states to veto endangered species introductions as well as administer virtually all aspects of the Endangered Species Act within their borders.

"Kicking responsibility for endangered species protection to the states will make it nearly impossible to restore national oversight when states fail to protect endangered species," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel R. Patterson. "State biologists will be under enormous political pressure to accommodate development interests while lacking, in many cases, even rudimentary legal protection to defend scientific concerns about species survival."

As the Common Dreams story explains, the administration has been upfront in announcing its intent to carry on the right-wing dream of gutting the ESA:
Following the collapse of former U.S. Representative Richard Pombo's efforts to legislatively weaken the Endangered Species Act in 2006, the Bush administration pledged to use administrative rulemaking to accomplish some of the same objectives.

Now, it's unlikely that anyone views the larger election outcome to the Republican record on environmental issues, but the larger picture from the vote -- a rejection of conservative malfeasance on many fronts, including the war, the economy, and the environment, including global warming -- suggests at the very least the public was demanding accountability from an administration that to date has behaved like a power-mad elephant rampaging through the global china shop.

And yet, at every turn, this administration has defied this message and refused to shape its behavior or its policies in a way that acknowledged any kind of accountability whatsoever, whether on the war, the economy, or the many investigations into its malfeasance. These pending regulations reflect just how broadly Bush and his cohorts intend to take this damn-the-voters mentality.

Fund-raiser thanks

Well, with the Orcinus fund-raising week now all wrapped up for another year, it's time for me to say a big thanks to everyone who anted up to keep the blog running for another year.

The final came in at about $3,300 -- a little below last year's total, but actually very high given that the sheer number of donations dropped off quite a bit this year. Those who did give were very generous, and that's very heartening.

I'd also like to say thanks to the folks who linked to the fund-raiser this year, because getting the word out on these things is so critical to their success. Forthwith, here's a big shout-out to the friends who directed readers this way:
Avedon Carol
Steve Gilliard's News Blog
Booman Tribune

Many thanks again to all. Here's hoping you enjoy the next year's worth of writing.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday orca blogging

-- by Dave

For anyone who's interested in these sorts of things, there was good news mixed with the unsettling this week when researchers announced there was a new calf born this winter among the Puget Sound's resident killer whales. On the other hand, the orcas were spotted clear down in Monterey, Calif., fergawdsake:
The new arrival -- scientists don't know yet if it's male or female -- brings the number of orcas up to 86. The population was declared endangered in 2005 by the federal government.

The baby was seen with other Puget Sound orcas over the weekend in Monterey Bay, Calif.

Scientists with San Juan Island's Center for Whale Research recognized the orcas as coming from local waters. Orcas have distinctly shaped dorsal fins and whitish-gray markings on their backs that help identify them.

During the winter and spring, it's common for the killer whales to venture down the coast in search of salmon.

"I'm delighted that they'll go where food is available," said Ken Balcomb, senior scientist with the Center for Whale Research. "They're not going to sit here and starve and wash up on our shores."

... The local population is composed of three family groups or pods. The new baby belongs to the L-pod. The K-pod is also in California now, while the J-pod recently was seen in Haro Strait between Vancouver, B.C., and the San Juan Islands.

Experts said the baby is the offspring of one of two orcas, which happen to be a mother and daughter. If it's the daughter's baby, it would be her first, giving it only a 50-50 chance of making it through its first year. If it's the mother's baby, it would be her third, which means its chances of survival are better.

Balcomb's center has more here. As the piece notes, the whales have been seen in northern California waters the past several winters, though as far as researchers know, this is unusual, and almost certainly reflects the paucity of chinook salmon -- their preferred food -- being produced by the Columbia River system, which provided food in their more traditional northern coastal winter range.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch has the stats. As you can see, it's gray-whale season down there as well, though these orcas do not molest grays (as contrasted with the transient orcas that also sometimes ply these waters). Here's a shot from a local gallery.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

'Post human'

-- by Dave

Mark Steyn, whose propensity for eliminationist rhetoric has been duly documented previously, provides us with an interesting iteration that fits neatly into conservatives' attacks on liberalism and its "decadent" effect on society, in a recent post at the Corner:
By the way, look at the first word of that report, from The Times of London: "Desperate" mothers. Why, in a land of socialized health care and lavish welfare, are mothers so "desperate"? Feckless boyfriends seem to play a part. But then Germany has one of the lowest marriage rates in the developed world.

It's getting harder not to conclude that parts of Europe are evolving into a kind of post-human society.

"Post-human"? The clear implication of this coinage is that these people are also sub-human, or in any event non-human -- and by extension, fully worthy of extinction or elimination.

And then Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush picked it up and ran with it, extending the reach of these "post humans" to America as well, and concluding thus:
There are two things which can stop this slide into barbarism and death: the conquest of the west by people who believe in something, or the revival of a west which has returned to its moral and intellectual roots. Those are the choices - be conquered by Moslems (who at least believe in something higher than themselves and their personal pleasures), or become Judeo-Christian. Death or conversion, take your pick.

It isn't too hard to see the basic theme of palingenesis running through this analysis -- which, combined with the ugly eliminationism, makes this meme possibly the most definitively fascist talking point to proceed from the "mainstream" right yet.

You know how these things spread. I now look forward to hearing from the usual right-wing suspects -- Limbaugh, Coulter, Savage, Malkin -- describe their pet targets, particularly liberals, as "post-human" as well. Not to mention having it pop up among the trolls. And all points in between.

These people are treading down this path on their own inevitable momentum, and probably nothing can be said to stop that. What we have to wonder, though, is how many people are going to go along with them.

[Hat tip to Jason.]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Up to the Minutemen

-- by Dave

One aspect of vigilante movements like the Minutemen that is both a problem and an advantage is that they attract antisocial characters with paranoid and violent tendencies. This is an advantage because their personality traits lend to highly unstable organizations and a lack of general organization; the problems, on the other hand, are obvious in that they enable, encourage, and empower individuals who act out in ways that are highly destructive for the rest of us.

So in the past week in the San Diego area, we've seen two separate cases of this emanating from the Minutemen. First there was the Minuteman who got violent who got violent with some day laborers:
A member of the Minuteman Project faces nine misdemeanor counts, including battery and interfering with the civil rights of two day laborers, one of whom he allegedly punched, City Attorney Michael Aguirre announced Monday.

The charges against John Matthew Monti, 36, stem from an incident last Nov. 18 in Rancho Penasquitos where day laborers often gather to find jobs, Aguirre said.

Monti is scheduled to appear in court April 13 on four counts each of battery and interference with civil rights and one count of filing a false crime report to a peace officer.

According to the complaint, Monti, a member of the private Minuteman group that monitors the flow of illegal immigrants across the border, began taking photographs of the workers while calling them "Mexicano Cochinos," or dirty Mexicans.

He allegedly began punching one of the victims, Estanislao Gonzales, who tried to walk away because the defendant was sticking his camera in the man's face, according to the complaint.

When Roberto Pena tried to help Gonzales, who is described in court papers as being disabled, Monti, too, assaulted him, prosecutors allege.

Immediately afterward, Monti contacted police, claiming he had been robbed and assaulted by six to eight migrant workers, Aguirre said.

The second case involved previous activities by the Minutemen, which culminated in a civil lawsuit filed against two of them, as described in this North County Times report:
An anti-illegal immigration activist from Fallbrook and an Oceanside man who founded the San Diego Minutemen group have been accused in a new lawsuit of defaming a woman who worked with organizations that monitored rallies last year at day-labor sites.

Joanne Yoon, 24, identified in the lawsuit as a college student in Los Angeles and a former San Diego resident, is asking for more than $1 million in damages from Jeff Schwilk of Oceanside, the founder of San Diego Minutemen, and activist Ray Carney of Fallbrook.

The San Diego Minutemen are a group of activists against illegal immigration. The group frequently organizes rallies to protest the hiring of day laborers in North County. Carney said he is not a member of the group.

Filed last week in the Superior Court in San Diego, the lawsuit alleges that Schwilk, Carney and others "targeted" Yoon because of her work with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and as an independent contractor for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has observed Minuteman rallies.

Yoon's attorney, Daniel Gilleon, said Yoon was "scared and offended" by comments Schwilk and Carney are alleged to have made about her on the Internet and in e-mails, but that was not why she moved to Los Angeles.

What's especially worth noting in this case is that some of the behavior included targeting the victim at her home, a trend we've been seeing increasingly among the more frothing elements of the right:
Yoon alleges in the lawsuit that Schwilk and Carney exchanged e-mails Sept. 6, 2006, as they tried to determine Yoon's name and address after noticing her monitoring them at rallies held at day-labor sites.

The next day, Schwilk is alleged to have sent a mass e-mail to the San Diego Minutemen in which Yoon was described as an "anorexic ACLU slut," which the lawsuit calls a "per se defamatory statement."

Asked about the e-mail in December, Schwilk told the North County Times that the note was intended for a close circle of people and not for the public. Schwilk also said then that the words were his and that he stood by them.

"She works for the ACLU," Schwilk said then. "She is Korean. She looks anorexic, and she dresses and looks like a slut."

An e-mail from Schwilk that included a copy of the North County Times article was attached to the lawsuit as an exhibit.

The lawsuit also alleges that Carney posted a photo of Yoon and three Latino men on the Web, "referring to her as a 'skank' who 'beds down' on a 'daily basis' with 'those little brown Border Hoppers.' "

Obviously, these guys have what they call "issues." But then, as we know, misogyny and fascism go hand in hand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's fundraising week!

-- by Dave

As I discuss in more detail below, this week marks the annual Orcinus fund-raising drive. It's the one time of the year when I ask readers to toss some change into my cup as a way of keeping Orcinus operating. Since I don't use ads, it remains the one source of income I can obtain through blogging.

Last year's fund-raiser was remarkably successful, bringing in a little over $4,000. I'm terribly grateful to everyone who's donated over the past year, because it definitely helps make all the work worthwhile. And I'm also very grateful to the many friends who directed readers here to help out during the fund-raising.

Try to think of it as a kind of subscription: Orcinus, I hope, remains a unique place for getting news and analysis you won't find anywhere else. Your nickels help keep it going.

Just click on the PayPal button on the upper left. If that doesn't work for you, my snail-mail address is P.O. Box 17872, Seattle, WA 98107.

[This post will remain atop the blog for the week.]

Cancerous nonsense

The venality of the pundit class was brought front and center this week by the chorus of response to the news that John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, has incurable cancer.

Among the moral giants jumping to second-guess the Edwardses' decision to carry on with the campaign were Rush Limbaugh ("You know, most people when told a family member's been diagnosed with the kind of cancer Elizabeth Edwards has, they turn to God. The Edwards turned to the campaign") and Joan Vennochi ("That is where John Edwards could step in, or should. But, for whatever the reason -- her strong will, his strong ambition -- the two keep racing forward"). As Digby says:
This is one of the characteristics I viscerally loathe in certain members the human species -- sanctimonious, busy-body, judgmentalism coming from people who have neither the insight, the perspective or the sensitivity to render any kind of opinion about other people's personal lives and marriages. And yet they do it, with great confidence in their own ability to see inside other people's most personal relationships.

But almost certainly the worst of the lot was Katie Couric's interview with the Edwardses, which was simply a triumph of the worst impulses of the current generation of journalistic elites -- particularly the willingness to trump serious discourse about the course of the nation with personal issues that have little or nothing to do with it. As Taylor Marsh put it:
Over and over and over and OVER again, Ms. Couric asked variations on the "you know you're dying so what's the point?" theme. How about a segue into health care? No. Talking about how the Edwards have opportunities for health care others don't have and just maybe that's what they're fighting for? No. How about talking about their faith, which anyone can see is at the core of their ability to be strong during this challenge. Nope, Couric only wanted to talk about how others might judge them, their ambition, how it's too stressful to take care of his wife and be president at the same time. As if while being president life can't throw you some challenges. Good Lord, it was a disgrace, as well as a missed opportunity.

If understanding how a candidate for higher office deals with life-threatening illnesses and personal loss is critical to gaining insight into their ability to run the country, then let's make that consistent across the board, shall we?

For instance, if we want to gain insight into how a real Republican deals with it, we need merely apply the Newt Gingrich standard here:
In 1962, Gingrich married Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher, when he was 19 years old; she was seven years his senior at 26 years old. Jackie raised their two daughters, worked to put Newt through graduate school and was a loyal political wife. Gingrich and Battley divorced in 1980. Battley has charged that Gingrich discussed the terms of their divorce settlement while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery. According to L.H. Carter, his campaign treasurer, Newt said of Battley: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer."

This being the case, I hope the next time Katie Couric has Gingrich in the studio, she'll repeatedly ask him about this. Or at least she can make a glancing reference to it. Lord knows, the last time she didn't -- in fact, she simply let Gingrich get on the air and repeat one of his famous urban legends. I guess the "toughness" she brought to the Edwards interview wasn't needed on that occasion.

Monday, March 26, 2007

'Unbelievably nasty'

You all remember how Ann Althouse revealed herself unwittingly last year as a world-class phony when she decided to make fun of Jessica Valenti for her breasts. Of course, most of us have moved on, having relegated Althouse to the intellectual rubbish heap where she belongs.

But not Althouse. Just ask the misfortunate Garance Franke-Ruta, who conversed at Bloggingheads with Althouse. Her eruption about 50 minutes into the interview has to be seen to be believed.

Most of the discussion leading up to the eruption involved Althouse's unremitting whine about the liberal blogosphere, particularly regarding how it has been "unbelievably nasty" to her, touting her liberal bona fides and claiming that while the right side of the blogosphere, strangely, has treated her warmly, the left side has just declared her a "heretic": "They're just much nastier, and they're trying to enforce a conformity that I just find really ugly."

Franke-Ruta largely did her best to play along, but Althouse finally forced her hand. And then erupted:
Althouse: Well, that's been my experience, and I know you know some of the people who do this. So why don't you ask some of them why they treat me so badly, and come back and tell me what the problem is?

Franke-Ruta: I’m not really aware of anything until this whole Jessica Valenti breast controversy, um ... so, I know that there was some grudges and hostility that came out of that ...

Althouse: Well, um ...

Franke-Ruta: I mean, that's the blogosphere. It's a tough place. Apparently, it's an extremely tough place. You know, one of the best things I --

Althouse: I'm not complaining about the fact that I have to be tough and fight back, because I will, I will stand my ground, I don't accept your -- [crosstalk] -- wait a minute, wait a minute [pointing] -- I don't accept your saying the Jessica Valenti breast controversy. I consider that an insult. -- You know, I'm on the verge of hanging up with you for bringing it up that way.

Franke-Ruta: Really? I'm sorry --

Althouse: It was character assassinating to talk about it like that. There's a whole controversy that could be explained if it was one of our subjects, it could be explained in a way that would make sense to people. But you just throw out a term, that's character assassination toward me, and I don’t like it.

Franke-Ruta: I didn't mean to --

Althouse: [shouting and pointing] There's a whole story there! You want to talk to me personally about it, why don't you find out what the story is, and raise it in a way that has a factual context that makes sense to people, instead of throwing out a term like that that's just an assault on me! I find it very offensive.

Franke-Ruta: That certainly wasn’t my intention. I had just watched this segment where you and Glenn Reynolds were talking about it, and it was a phrase that used within that discussion, so I just -- I certainly didn't mean to --

Althouse: Well, you were raising it within a context of people who are trying to assassinate me on frequent occasions, who say the most nasty things about me with no cause, or just any context -- they take things out of context -- It's a very nasty, ugly thing and I don't like it at all and I don't like just glancing references to it in a way that makes me look bad like that. It's not part of what we're talking about, we had developed the context, and to just throw out a label like that, which is the label from the side of the people who attack me, in the way I'm trying to talk about, in saying that your side of the blogosphere is ugly -- you know, I just consider that undermining and against the whole context of trying to have a conversation here.

Franke-Ruta: I'm sorry, I didn’t realize it was such a sensitive topic. Because really, I haven't followed it that closely. It was just -- there was a controversy, right? I mean, we can talk about it, but it sounds like you don't want to and I'd frankly rather not, because --

Althouse: It would take a long time to explain, and I don't even think it's interesting to listeners, because it's just --

Franke-Ruta: I don’t either!

Althouse: -- a blogosphere flame war, in which I've been mistreated -- [crosstalk] – wait a minute -- I've been mistreated consistently --

Franke-Ruta: It's just part of this controversy that I’m aware of, and if there are other ones, I just -- I don't follow some of these interblog controversies --

Althouse: Well, I don't either, and I don't think they’re appropriate subjects for Bloggingheads --

Franke-Ruta: I don't either.

Althouse: ---- these are flame wars, and what I'm trying to say on the overarching point, is that the left side of the blogosphere is vicious and unfair and nasty to me, and I don't like it, and I'm trying to ask you why that's the way they treat me when I support most of what they're for. Meanwhile, on the right side of the blogosphere, where there's much less overlap, I think, I am treated in a very warm and connecting kind of way. And you're really just kind of undermining my point, uh, by bringing that up like that.

Actually, of course, at this point Althouse herself has just spent the previous couple of minutes thoroughly undermining her point all by her little ole lonesome.

But just to answer her question: There's a reason the right blogosphere is so warm and welcoming to her -- she's useful to them.

Look, I've got no hesitation about criticizing Democrats on serious policy grounds (see here for a relatively recent example), and I don't think anyone in the liberal blogosphere has denounced me as a heretic for doing so.

But what Althouse has built a career out of as a blogger is criticizing Democrats (quite frequently, it must be added, on the most frivolous grounds) in a way that transparently buys into, and supports, right-wing talking points (most notably including the claim that left-wing bloggers are inherently more nasty than those on the right, a claim I think I have documented as patently false). In doing so, she's handy for conservatives the same way Michelle Malkin is handy for bigots -- they can hold her up as an example of some talking point and say, "See, even the liberal Ann Althouse says it, so it must be so!"

The reason the left blogosphere shuns Althouse is that she's a phony, a Fox liberal, a tool. That should be simple enough to understand, but for someone as deeply in denial as Althouse, one can rest assured that any attempt to explain this to her will only result in further incomprehension.

In any event, Franke-Ruta at this point tries to wrap it up, while Althouse keeps talking about how the liberal blogosphere "just seems to be dominated by vicious, ugly people." Franke-Ruta then scores a real point:
I think if that's your opinion of them, that's why they're unkind to you. Right now, at least.

Althouse seems at a loss to respond. Instead, she tries to close it herself, finishing with a big heaping gob of gross hypocrisy:
I don't want to bring up old flame wars. It's not as if I attacked them.

Um, Ms. Althouse? Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but the "Jessica Valenti breast controversy" began when you attacked her.

But I'm sure that didn't count. It never does for special people.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has the edited video. And Scott Lemieux has more.