Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
Support independent journalism:
Suggested $5 donation
Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[Suggested $5 donation]
[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]
Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Sense of humor
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Anyone care to lay odds on how long it will be before the same right-wingers who chide folks on the left that they "need to get a sense of humor" about anti-liberal jokes hinging on violent eliminationist fantasies go apeshit over Steve Colbert's manifest failure to pay proper obeisance to George W. Bush?
It'll go something like this:
"I say we shoot 'im!"
"I say we hang 'im!"
"I say we shoot 'im, then we hang 'im!"
Double journalistic standards
The Los Angeles Times, today, in stripping Michael Hiltzik of his blog for posting comments pseudonymously:
- [E]mploying pseudonyms constitutes deception
The Los Angeles Times, in 2005, regarding faux White House correspondent Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert:
- What is a journalist?
As Brian Montopoli noted at the time:
- If Fitzwater or Neuman honestly believes that there is any comparison to be made between Helen Thomas and a fake journalist with a fake name working for a fake news outlet asking fake questions at a real press briefing, then Neuman's feigned befuddlement over what a journalist is begins to seem less feigned. Alas, if the Los Angeles Times sees fit to print lazy and misleading pieces such as this, then the craft may indeed be facing an identity crisis, the likes of which Jean-Paul Sartre described 50 years ago.
I get letters
Friday, April 28, 2006
... some of which are just too funny not to share:
- The chief "hate" I find, Dave, is the hate you have for your own race. But reading your site and not knowing your personally, (which could modify my view, of course,) I get the impression that you believe ethnic pride and will-to-power, can ultimately be eradicated from the world, and best, perhaps, if such as you can chiefly politic with success against that demonstrated as you believe,by your own group.
As Yugoslavia shows, you are living in la la land. And you have no idea what "hate" is or you wouldn't throw the term around and expect so many others to immediately buckle to your femme impulses....
From someone named "Ken Hoop."
Just to repeat (and expand) something I said over at Firedoglake:
My "race" is the human race.
My "people" are the American people. And they come in all colors, shapes, and creeds.
The values of justice, fair play, equal opportunity, and basic human decency are what bind us. They are indeed essential for our long-term survival -- not just as a nation, but as a part of humanity.
Folks like "Ken Hoop" are doing their damnedest to harm that cause.
A little local fascism
Remember how Ann Coulter once extolled "the benefits of local fascism"?
Well now, thanks to Loyola-Chicago student Laura Patrizi's blog report, we know just what she means:
- The protesting from the balcony only increased with time with shouts of "ANN IS A RACIST" to even an immature, yet mildly amusing, call for "Show us your tits."
Ann addressed her supporters in the crowd with this statement. "You're men. You're heterosexuals. Take 'em out." She chided them further when they did not rise. Before you knew it there was about 25 students marching to the balcony to supposedly "take out" the protestors above. I saw a priest holding students back and deans and security warning the students to go back to their seats. Chaos erupted. Ann left after taking one question.
Pretty soon she'll be adding an English version of the "Horst Wessel Song" to her speech schtick.
Fun and games, eliminationist style
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
OK, let's hear again how the nativists' bile toward Latino immigrants isn't racist in the least:
- Lastly we have the story of a flash-based video game that's spreading through internet via e-mail called "Border Patrol". The object of the game is to kill as many "wetbacks" as possible as they scramble across the US border. The targets included: 'Mexican Nationalist,' 'Drug Smuggler,' and 'Breeder' (pregnant woman with two small children).
NBC San Diego
( if there's any doubt as to who is behind this game, note the Star of David on the flag. This is typical iconography of the neo-nazi and white supremacist hate groups to represent "Jewish" control over US policy.)
A quick google search turns up hundreds of sites offering the game, and a look at the comments section at gamers sites show that many feel there is nothing wrong with the game whatsoever.
- 5. Frankly, I don't see this game as "racist" at all. No more than "kill the Cubans" or whatever in GTA. Shooting immigrants that come over the border by some is considered a ligitimate solution to our border security problems. It is not "racist" to enforce US laws. Naming the types of border crosses is more like stereotyping, not racism. It seems that the three kinds of boarder crossers described in the game pretty accuratly reflect the realities of people's motivations for illegally crossing. That is not "racist." As a whole most Americans DO want to clamp down on ILLEGAL immigration. We have nothing against immigrants. But the US is a nation of laws, and it is not right, in my opinion, to reward those who break the law. American politics and policy should not be at the whims of a group of people WHO AREN'T even citizens, or even legal residents in the country, as is happening now. This game just happened to find its way into some liberal jerkwad's inbox. I find his attitude and lack of thick skin about people's freedom to express themselves a much greater danger to society than some stupid flash game.
Posted at 7:08PM on Apr 19th 2006 by jp007 0 stars
11. I love this game!!!
And no... I don't like Mexicans!
Posted at 7:20PM on Apr 19th 2006 by Deustchland 0 stars
31. I love this game but all you idiots obviously forget something called freedom of speech. The one who made this movie has every right to make it just like the KKK and black panthers have the right to march in the streets along with the illegal immagrants protesting saying they should have the right to do what they want in our country. And anyone who says illegal aliens should have any rights in our country ARE IDIOTS! They are no citizens, they robed your rights to come here and probably helped bring in drugs. but im sure you're all abunch of liberal drugies who want more. You people are the ones that need to be shot. but im sure joystiq will delete this cuase liberals only believe in rights and freedoms for themselves.
Posted at 8:01PM on Apr 19th 2006 by Josh 0 stars
Nooooo. That isn't the least bit racist. How could anyone think that?
Incidentally, the White Aryan Resistance site that created the game is a well-known neo-Nazi organization founded by the notorious Tom Metzger.
You might want to point that out to your conservative, Minuteman-supporting brother-in-law when he e-mails it to you.
[Hat tip to Mike Moore. No, not that one.]
All the guns
- Liberals are constantly inflaming the culture war. They seem to forget which side has all the guns.
-- From "Fun Facts About Liberals", on the popular IMAO T-shirt
Boy, we just can't get enough of that right-wing eliminationist humor. Of course, IMAO has something of a history in this regard.
For more, see Digby.
I was especially struck by the T-shirt's back:
Particularly since, as Digby observes, this shirt is being promoted by none other than Ms. "Unhinged" herself, Michelle Malkin.
Last I heard, Malkin was promoting herself as an "investigative journalist." She's constantly referred to as a "professional journalist," though there are reasons to question that. Especially given her recent behavior.
So I'm left wondering:
-- Does Malkin's endorsement of the shirt represent a suicide wish? Or is she no longer a journalist? I'm so confused.
-- Will Malkin wear one of these shirts next time she shows up at a journalism convention?
Immigration and the racial pot
One of the ways that the nativist right has historically succeeded in America is by using race as a wedge issue: setting up interracial competition in a way that drives apart and isolates various groups so that particular "out" groups can be scapegoated.
So it is with the current crop of nativists agitating against Latino immigration. They're also doing their damnedest to recruit African Americans to their cause by claiming that all these Latinos are hurting them when it comes to getting work. And so far, they're having at least some level of success:
- Several black activists plan to join members of the Minutemen Project to protest illegal immigration, which organizer Ted Hayes touted as the "biggest threat to blacks in America since slavery."
The protest, organized by Hayes' Crispus Attucks Brigade and the American Black Citizens Opposed to Illegal Immigration Invasion, is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
Hayes, a homeless activist, alleged that most homeless people in Los Angeles are black and illegal immigration compounds the problem since blacks refuse to accept the "slave wages" that many illegal immigrants accept.
... "While all Americans are suffering from this invasion, we blacks are suffering the most," Hayes said. "We feel like the leaders promoting this issue are being insensitive. This country wasn't built on the backs of immigrants like (Villaraigosa) says. It was built on the back of West African slaves."
If there is angst about illegal immigration among blacks, it's not very well grounded. As a recent New York Times report explained, illegal immigration's actual impact on the wages of American workers has been slight at best, including at the lower end of the pay scale.
Moreover, as Earl Ofari Hutchinson explains, the chief employment problem for young black men is not competition from illegal immigrants, but persistent discrimination against them:
- But several years before the immigration combatants squared off, then University of Wisconsin graduate researcher Devah Pager pointed the finger in another direction, a direction that makes most employers squirm. And that's toward the persistent and deep racial discrimination in the workplace. Pager found that black men without a criminal record are less likely to find a job than white men with criminal records.
Pager's finger-point at discrimination as the main reason for the racial disparity in hiring set off howls of protest from employers, trade groups and even a Nobel Prize winner. They lambasted her for faulty research. Her sample was much too small, they said, and the questions too vague. They pointed to the ocean of state and federal laws that ban racial discrimination. But in 2005 Pager, now a sociologist at Princeton duplicated her study. She surveyed nearly 1,500 private employers in New York City.
She used teams of black and white testers, standardized resumes, and she followed up their visits with telephone interviews with employers. These are the standard methods researchers use to test racial discrimination. The results were exactly the same as in her earlier study, despite the fact that New York has some of the nation's toughest laws against job discrimination.
As Hutchinson explains, Latinos are being scapegoated as a way to divert attention from the real problem:
- Dumping the blame for the chronic job crisis of young, poor black men on undocumented immigrants stokes the passions and hysteria of immigration reform opponents, but it also lets employers off the hook for discrimination. And it's easy to see how that could happen. The mountain of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action programs and successful employment discrimination lawsuits give the public the impression that job discrimination is a relic of a shameful, racist past.
But that isn't the case, and Pager's study is hardly isolated proof of that. Countless research studies, the Urban League's annual State of Black America report, a 2005 Human Rights Watch report and the numerous discrimination complaints reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the past decade reveal that employers have devised endless dodges to evade anti-discrimination laws. That includes rejecting applicants by their names or areas of the city they live in. Black applicants may be incorrectly told that jobs advertised were filled already.
The nativists' appeal to black Americans will continue to be very limited, however, for one primary reason that Tom Grayman laid out at MYDD:
- Conservatives -- particularly white conservatives -- often cite the current incongruity between black attitudes and black leadership actions on this issue as a sign that the national African-American leadership is "out of touch" with its own constituency.
They are wrong. Even though blacks -- particularly lower-income blacks -- may not be comfortable with seemingly unchecked immigration, they're even less comfortable with the crew agitating most vocally against it. You will not see blacks kickin' it down on the border with the Minute Men, or in the streets outside Tom Tancredo's office showing their support. There's one simple reason, and it is not that these activists are Republican.
It's that the current anti-immigration movement reeks of racism.
It's not just an odor, either: It's a hard reality, as a new four-part report from the Anti-Defamation League explains in considerable detail:
- Spurred in recent weeks by the debate on Capitol Hill and the groundswell of grassroots activism in support of America's immigrant community, extremists have become increasingly emboldened by, and fixated on, the controversy over immigration policy, encouraging their supporters to capitalize on the issue by encouraging anti-immigrant activism, and even violence against all Hispanics.
While white supremacists have for many years attempted to exploit rising anti-immigration sentiments in the U.S., the level and intensity of their attacks against Hispanics has reached dangerous new highs, with right-wing extremists joining anti-immigration groups, distributing anti-immigrant propaganda and holding frequent anti-immigration rallies and protests.
As a result, Hispanics, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, increasingly are becoming the targets of hatred and violence from hardcore white supremacists.
The report goes on to explore the kind of targeting that's been occurring:
- White supremacists have not simply expressed racist convictions, but have urged each other and white Americans generally, to "fight back" against the perceived invasion of the "white" United States by Hispanics from Mexico.
The rhetoric in such pronouncements has grown increasingly radical. "Beaner Brown Supremacist Militias of Latino Communist immigrants firmly intend to conquer [the southwest]," suggested a topic heading on the white supremacist Legion of Saints message board recently. "Will White Americans sit back, watch it happen & let them do it? Or will White Americans 'remember the Alamo!?'"
The execrable Hal Turner (Sean Hannity's pal) gets his own section in the report, which details some of his radio-show pronouncements:
- October 31, 2005: "Slowly but surely we are headed toward the solution that I have been advocating for years: KILL ILLEGAL ALIENS AS THEY CROSS INTO THE U.S. When the stench of rotting corpses gets bad enough, the rest will stay away."
October 11, 2005: "For years I have been publicly advocating on my radio show and this web site, that Mexican illegal aliens be SHOT DEAD as they cross into the U.S. illegally…I plant the seeds verbally and the seeds grow in the minds of others…I am proud to advocate even MORE killings!"
July 15, 2005: "I once again advocate EXTREME VIOLENCE against Mexicans…Once they're dead, their heads should be cut off and put on pike poles as a warning to others."
May 17, 2005, responding to news that a restaurant owned by the mayor of Denver had employed an illegal alien who allegedly murdered a police officer: "…his policy of affording sanctuary to other illegal aliens makes Mayor John Hickenlooper worthy of being KILLED. I sincerely hope that someone takes a rifle with a scope and puts a bullet through [his] head."
May 15, 2005: "I advocate extreme violence against illegal aliens…I think it would be terrific to trap them by their ankles in steel bear traps then beat them to death when you return and find them in the trap…Oh, if any American sides with the illegals—like a bigmouth politician or a politically correct, ass-kissing local sheriff, lawyers, judges, or the like—it would be a real public service to kill them too!"
We heard similar rhetoric recently in communications between a "border patrol" organizer and a group of neo-Nazis, advising the latter to engage in a campaign of violence and harassment against Latinos.
This kind of rhetoric isn't going unheeded, either. As night follows day, there has been a spike in hate crimes against Latinos nationwide.
Finally, the report explores the activities of supposedly "mainstream block watch" operations like the Minutemen:
- The vigilante border patrol groups have operated for several years but have expanded greatly in the past twelve months, spurred on by the media attention given to the so-called "Minuteman Project." In April 2005, Chris Simcox, who founded the Arizona-based Civil Homeland Defense, a border vigilante group, and Jim Gilchrist, based in California, joined forces to create the Minuteman Project, whose purpose was to gather thousands of volunteers for a month-long watch for illegal border crossers in Arizona. The project, which was highly publicized among right-wing extremists and white supremacists, attracted far fewer volunteers, many of them armed, during its first week. However, the publicity generated by the event resulted in numerous Minuteman chapters and spin-offs forming across America, even in states such as New York, Virginia, Vermont, and Illinois. These groups use the same radical rhetoric: that the United States is being "invaded" by Mexicans who must be stopped.
That message was clear at a three-day summit, "Unite to Fight Against Illegal Immigration," held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in May 2005. More than 400 anti-immigration activists gathered at the event to hear speakers describe illegal immigrants as "the enemy within" and "illegal barbarians," while suggesting that America was "at war" with illegal immigrants and urging people to "take America back."
That isn't just an odor of racism. That's what you call a pervasive stench.
And it isn't just African Americans who can smell it, either.
Killer whales indeed
Check out this video. Especially the ending.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
The irreplacable Digby dug up an interesting exchange the other day between a student [edited] and President Bush:
- Q Thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor to have you here. I'm a first-year student in South Asia studies. My question is in regards to private military contractors. Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.
THE PRESIDENT: I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter.) Help. (Laughter.)
Q I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter.) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that very much. I wasn't kidding -- (laughter.) I was going to -- I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I've got an interesting question. (Laughter.) This is what delegation -- I don't mean to be dodging the question, although it's kind of convenient in this case, but never -- (laughter.) I really will -- I'm going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That's how I work. I'm -- thanks. (Laughter.)
A classic Bush non-answer: "I'll ask about that." Digby goes on to explain how this is emblematic of an administration out of control and unanswerable to anyone, which really is the larger problem here.
But this instance also raises a very specific issue that likewise strikes at the very real dangers posed by the Bush regime -- namely, the way government, and particularly the Pentagon, is using private contractors as a way to avoid accountability.
In the case of the Iraqi contractors, the lack of accountability runs the gamut from outright embezzlement of government funds to abuse of Iraqi citizens.
But even more pernicious is the Pentagon's hiring of private contractors for gathering domestic intelligence:
- Lockheed Martin Corp. is seeking a counterintelligence analyst to work for the Pentagon's newest intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), in its Colorado Springs facility to "create and deliver briefings, write reports, and represent Counterintelligence Field Activity," according to a Web classified ad.
These positions and thousands like them are part of a growing trend at the Pentagon to contract out intelligence jobs that were formerly done primarily by service personnel and civil service employees.
But, by using contract employees, government agencies lose control over those doing this sensitive work and an element of profit is inserted into what is being done. Also, as investigations have revealed, politics and corruption may be introduced into the process.
The office of Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte has quietly begun to study the contracting issue because "it already is a problem," a senior intelligence official said in a recent interview.
A related concern for intelligence agencies inside and outside the Pentagon is that the government is training people and getting them security clearances, but they then leave for better pay offered by contractors, sometimes to do the same work.
This is all part of a Pentagon push to expand its domestic surveillance:
- The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.
The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.
The real burning question, as Kurt Nimmo suggests, is one of accountability:
--If these private contractors decide to break the law in pursuit of this intelligence, who is there above them to prevent that from happening?
-- And if they do break the law, who in the chain of governmental command would face any consequences?
Tim Shorrock, writing for Mother Jones,, explained awhile back that in fact there is no accountability anywhere in the system for these contractors:
- Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, believes that the kind of military intelligence work contracted to CACI, Titan Corp., and other companies is particularly ripe for problems because intelligence agencies "operate under unusual authority." He adds: "I don't think the current oversight system is equipped to monitor the activities of contractors. That is one of the central lessons of the Abu Ghraib affair."
Like the defense industry, the intelligence business is driven by a network of lobbyists and a web of close connections between government and the private sector. But unlike the arms industry, intelligence contractors operate in a world where budgets are classified and many activities -- from covert operations to foreign eavesdropping -- are conducted in secret. Even the bidding for intelligence contracts is often classified. As a result, there is virtually no oversight of the intelligence community and its corporate partners. That was one of the central findings of the 9/11 commission, which called congressional supervision of intelligence and counterterrorism "dysfunctional."
However, this administration is nothing if not predictable. Were a reporter to ask anyone in the administration about this surveillance, it's a near certainty they'd be told that it was a good question that would be looked into. Next! [Laughter]
Politics and the environment
Monday, April 24, 2006
One of the things that often gets lost in the hurly-burly of politics -- especially when the burly is being hurled as much as it is under the current regime -- is that the gamesmanship often becomes bigger than the reality of how policies play out in the real world.
What often results is that, while we remain preoccupied by the minutiae of the political shell game, those realities accumulate, a step at a time, until they release an avalanche of disaster that can no longer be swept under the political rug -- and, indeed, becomes the most pressing political issue of the era.
One of these making headlines currently is the matter of gas prices and American oil dependency, manifesting the growing warnings about the peak oil phenomenon (The American Prospect recently did an exemplary job of compiling the requisite information and analysis on it).
As James Wolcott noted awhile back, a lot of this falls at the feet of our current national leadership:
- The only explanation, apart from Bush's cognitive disability in facing reality, is that he sociopathically doesn't care about the coming calamity endangering the planet because he and his cronies will be financially prepared even as most Americans lose their standard of living.
It isn't just Bush, of course; the same could be said of the entire leadership of the conservative movement, including its media figureheads. Nonetheless, as I pointed out at the time of the Katrina disaster,, Bush embodies what is congenitally wrong with movement conservatives:
- Those policies were a product of this administration's priorities, which in the end are always about promoting the well-being of the moneyed class at the expense of the middle classes and poor, while effectively driving a wedge within those classes. That's no conspiracy; it's just the way the world works, especially with men like Bush in charge.
The Katrina disaster, though, was the embodiment of the power of nature to overwhelm the false "reality" created by movement propaganda and White House spin. The disaster was a fiasco for Bush because it laid bare his administration's incompetence. The nation saw, clearly, that this malfeasance in disaster response and preparedness was similarly reflected in the mounting disasters and casualties in Iraq, in the growing national income gap, in confronting corruption within their own ranks, and in those steadily skyrocketing gas prices.
But of all the historical gaffes committed by this administration -- and by conservative-movement rule generally -- perhaps none will have greater long-term ramifications for Americans and for the world than its manifest failures in confronting the realities of global warming. Like Katrina, it is a mounting force of nature that cannot be wished away by spin. And like the peak oil crisis, it will affect millions of Americans and the very way we live. There's a reason Al Gore is out stumping on the issue now: He was right in 1992, and he's right now.
Even a manifestly Establishment organ like Time magazine recognizes that this is not, in the stock characterization of corporate apologists (see especially Michael Crichton), mere fear-mongering. The evidence and scientific consensus has become insurmountable, and any "controversy" that might remain is largely manufactured for the benefit of vested short-term interests.
Nonetheless, the response both of movement conservatives at large and the Bush administration in particular has been simply to "deal with it", to just "adapt" to whatever changes we might wreak on the global environment:
- Perhaps the action -- or rather, inaction -- that most typifies Bush's disastrous approach to the environment has been his handling of the global-warming phenomenon. After spending most of his campaign and the first two years of his Oval Office tenure denying that the problem even existed (a la Rush Limbaugh's typically hallucinatory assertions), the administration did a stark about-face and admitted that global warming indeed is real. However, the Environmental Protection Agency's report said that -- even though the phenomenon is certain to destroy many of the nation's natural resources, particularly forested areas, alpine lakes, glaciers and wetlands -- no serious steps were warranted outside of "voluntary" efforts by corporations to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, and typified those looming disasters as requiring mere "adjustments" on the part of Americans. A couple of days later, Bush dismissed the report as the work of "the bureaucracy."
Moreover, as Chris Mooney has been steadily documenting, this administration, and Republicans in Congress as well, have simply subverted science so that contradictory data is suppressed.
Are salmon counters finding too few salmon on the Columbia? Cut their funding!
Likewise, government data-gathering that indicated a looming environmental disaster has been meeting an ugly death at the hands of the Bushevistas:
- Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.
What are those NASA scientists trying to say? That we're looking at a significant natural catastrophe that will raise ocean levels at rates unheard of in geological history, incuding climatic changes and certainly rapidly increased extinction rates:
- This new satellite data is a remarkable advance. We are seeing for the first time the detailed behavior of the ice streams that are draining the Greenland ice sheet. They show that Greenland seems to be losing at least 200 cubic kilometers of ice a year. It is different from even two years ago, when people still said the ice sheet was in balance.
Hundreds of cubic kilometers sounds like a lot of ice. But this is just the beginning. Once a sheet starts to disintegrate, it can reach a tipping point beyond which break-up is explosively rapid. The issue is how close we are getting to that tipping point. The summer of 2005 broke all records for melting in Greenland. So we may be on the edge.
Our understanding of what is going on is very new. Today's forecasts of sea-level rise use climate models of the ice sheets that say they can only disintegrate over a thousand years or more. But we can now see that the models are almost worthless. They treat the ice sheets like a single block of ice that will slowly melt. But what is happening is much more dynamic.
Once the ice starts to melt at the surface, it forms lakes that empty down crevasses to the bottom of the ice. You get rivers of water underneath the ice. And the ice slides towards the ocean.
Our NASA scientists have measured this in Greenland. And once these ice streams start moving, their influence stretches right to the interior of the ice sheet. Building an ice sheet takes a long time, because it is limited by snowfall. But destroying it can be explosively rapid.
This is what we know is happening right now. Hansen then tells us what this means for us in the future, largely in terms of the rate of change:
- How fast can this go? Right now, I think our best measure is what happened in the past. We know that, for instance, 14,000 years ago sea levels rose by 20m in 400 years -- that is five meters in a century. This was towards the end of the last ice age, so there was more ice around. But, on the other hand, temperatures were not warming as fast as today.
How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today -- which is what we expect later this century -- sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth's history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.
It's hard to say what the world will be like if this happens. It would be another planet. You could imagine great armadas of icebergs breaking off Greenland and melting as they float south. And, of course, huge areas being flooded.
How long have we got? We have to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide within a decade, or temperatures will warm by more than one degree. That will be warmer than it has been for half a million years, and many things could become unstoppable. If we are to stop that, we cannot wait for new technologies like capturing emissions from burning coal. We have to act with what we have. This decade, that means focusing on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy that do not burn carbon. We don't have much time left.
This is just taking into account the Greenland ice cap, which alone would contribute to a global oceanic rise of 15-20 feet were it to melt; it doesn't begin to account for what's happening to the much larger polar ice caps.
Mary at the Left Coaster put it just about right:
- What's clear is we have no more time to waste. And we can't wait until Bush is out of office to get moving. The wholesale evacuation of New Orleans is a small harbinger of what we will see along all our coasts. 30 meters is more than 95 feet and many places like Portland, Oregon have sizable elevations significantly lower than that. (In downtown Portland, the US Bank Tower is at an elevation of 34 feet.) Manhattan would be gone as would much of Florida.
In the United States alone, much of the Florida Panhandle and the Gulf Coast would be underwater, as well as major population centers along both coasts. Then there are the thousands of South Pacific islands that would be inundated, as well as the numerous major coastal populations in Asia, Africa and Europe.
Neither does all this take into account related global-warming phenomena such as the warming of frozen methane at the bottom of the world's ocean's, or the catastrophic effect of oceanic warming on major ecosystems like the world's coral reefs and salmon populations. We're not simply endangering our own habitat and that of wildlife; we're putting the world's food supply at serious risk.
All this stands in direct contradiction of the corporate apologists and conservative naysayers who, like Rush Limbaugh and friends, have tried to pretend that there really isn't a problem here. How many have spouted suppositions -- such as claiming that any ice-cap meltoff would take "thousands of years" -- that now look Pollyanish?
Yet, how many have paid a price for it? Will Bush, for that matter, ever pay a price for his stubborn inaction, besides the condemnation of history that he already seems to be earning?
Probably not, because there will always be an army of sycophants, people invested (both financially and emotionally) in the conservative movement and Bush, leaping to gloss over the mounting evidence. The primary tactic here, as with the Bush approach to science generally (especially the question of Darwinism and "intelligent design"), is to pretend that the views of a tiny fringe of (mostly well-financed) dissenters have status equal to an unusual broad consensus among the vast majority of informed scientists.
Witness Jonah Goldberg (complete with an approving link from Professor Lloyd Christmas) opining that simply pointing out that the scientific consensus on global warming is overwhelming means you're cutting off debate:
- And if you disagree, get ready for the witch hunt. Major news media have gone after scientists who argue there's still time to study global warming rather than plunge into some half-baked environmental jihad that could waste possibly trillions of dollars.
Of course, people like Goldberg -- who seem, strangely, not to blanch the slightest at the prospect of half-baked geopolitical jihads that definitely waste trillions of dollars, as well as thousands of lives -- couch their charges in words like "could" and "possibly," because they really don't know.
And that, for conservatives, is the key: Because we really don't know what will happen, nor can we prove the cause beyond any reasonable doubt, we should just continue with the status quo. Even for centrist/liberal observers like Mark Kleiman [note: this analysis was done as a class exercise, and does not necessarily reflect Kleiman's views] this cost-effectiveness argument trumps everything. If we can't prove it, then won't taking action run the risk of just being a big waste of money?
This is the same misguided calculus behind the Katrina disaster, when federal officials believed the tiny likelihood of a large enough hurricane made levee upgrades a lesser priority:
- This calculus is deeply flawed, for the reason that just played out in New Orleans: Even if there were only a 0.5 percent chance that the city would be hit by a Category 4 hurricane or worse -- a questionable figure in any event, given that hurricanes have been rising in frequency and intensity in recent years -- the costs of allowing the flooding that would ensue under the existing system to occur were so high as to be incalculable. Planning to simply evacuate the city in the event of a Catgory 4 or 5 hurricane was horrifically bad planning.
Likewise, the costs of doing nothing to reduce carbon emissions, as well as to slow the rate of global warming to a reasonable pace, are so high as to be incalculable. When the potential costs include massive economic and demographic dislocations, massive natural disasters (including, most likely, more Katrina-sized storms), and massive starvation and loss of life, those trillions of dollars will seem like a drop in the bucket.
And that's presuming that it actually would prove to be a waste. In reality, many of the potential solutions could actually deliver real efficiencies to the economic system. We won't know until we try.
Conservatives can sit on their hands all they like. It's time for the rest of us to learn just to ignore them and get moving. They have already earned their place in history, and it won't be a kind one.
For the rest of us, the mounting and irrevocable evidence of a looming disaster -- from melting ice caps and starving polar bears to vanishing reefs, glaciers, and alpine lakes to tropical storms of historical ferocity -- demands that we act. It's called responsibility. And it's one of those things where actions always speak louder than words.
The beast within
Sunday, April 23, 2006
If you listen to Lou Dobbs or Michelle Malkin or Sean Hannity, you'd have the impression that the Minutemen are just a bunch of sincere citizens whose only concern is hearing the border. Sure they are.
That would explain why a Colorado legislator received racist death threats late last week for making some disparaging remarks about the Minutemen:
- Colorado Rep. Terrance Carroll received an e-mail Thursday, purportedly from a supporter of the Minuteman Project, the anti-illegal immigration group, that referred to lynching and told Carroll to "enjoy hell."
The Denver Democrat turned a copy over to the Colorado State Patrol, which is investigating.
Carroll, a lawyer who is black, said he was most bothered by the lynching reference.
"It was disturbing," he said. "This nation has an awful history of lynching."
The e-mail said, "You are so SOOOO lucky lynching and the firing squad for treason aren't available punishments anymore . . . I'd vote you in, in a heartbeat . . . "
"Enjoy Hell, Yellow Belly," the e-mail continued. "It takes a patriotic man to represent his country, and Sir, you are neither patriotic . . . nor a man."
What inspired this ugliness? Some remarks Carroll made earlier in the week, suggesting a little turnabout as fair play for the Minutemen:
- The subject line in the e-mail read, "Build a wall around Colorado to keep out the minutemen." Carroll said that was a reference to a joke he made, which appeared in the Rocky Mountain News.
"I said, 'Perhaps we should build a wall around Colorado and keep Minutemen out,' " Carroll said.
He said the joke was made about what he sees as doomed approaches to "trying to stem the flow of immigration."
I'm sure I sound like a stuck record, but this incident is also notable for the naked eliminationism expressed in the e-mail. But then, eliminationism and racism are essentially two sides of the same coin.
So, for that matter, are the nice, "sincere citizens" and the ugly brutalists on the unlit side of their ranks -- whose presence, of course, is just a coincidence.