Rick Perlstein has a great piece in today's Washington Post that compares right wing rage of yesteryear with the carnival sideshow we're seeing today. He notes that the media enables such insanity today in ways that it didn't used to do:
The media didn't adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American
paranoia as a set of "conservative claims" to weigh, horse-race-style,
against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally
labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as "extremist"
-- out of bounds.
TPM has posted a reader's note about the reaction this should engender among those who are currently so befuddled by this crazier-than-a-shithouse-rat ranting that keeps getting so much play in the media:
Obama isn't saying the right thing. He should be saying, "Stop lying."...
All the broadcast MSM does is report what politicians say. They don't
fact check them. Afterwards, they have blowhards sit around in panels
and have disingenuous spin-meister discussions about whether or not
what was said is playing well with the general public...
If the Republicans are lying -- and they are -- we have to call them on
it. If we don't, no one will. And by "we", I mean our politicians. They
have to say, "Stop lying." If they say that, the blowhards will say,
"Do people like it when the president calls his opponents liars?" And
after that, they'll say, "Is it a lie to say that there will be death
This is exactly what Kerry did when he got swiftboated. The whole,
"This is so stupid, and so insulting, I won't even dignify it with a
response," response. It's why he lost. If you don't dignify something
with a response, the other side controls the entire discussion.
That's exactly right, and if Democrats don't start doing something about getting over the Stockholm syndrome that makes them refuse to "dignify" such lies with a rebuttal, they'll cede the discussion and lose the argument...again.
My friend Ship Bright has just launched a new site about the issues around shrinking global fresh water supplies, Fresh(water) ideas for a thirsty planet. It should be an interesting source for all things freshwater.
Coincidentally, I just read the passage below in the book I'm reading, The Upside of Down, by Thomas Homer-Dixon (for an online discussion of the same topics, have a look at the book's related web site). It sums up the problem pretty compellingly:
"What about freshwater? Humankind now consumes as much water as would keep forty waterfalls the size of Niagara Falls running non-stop - every day, all day long, year after year. Each year we use between a third and a half of of the planet's accessible freshwater runoff from rainfall and glaciers. Since this water is distributed unequally around the planet, many densely populated and water-scarce regions use virtually 100 percent of their available water. We have constructed more than forty-two thousand large dams, which, combined with smaller impoundments and other water technologies, now regulate nearly two-thirds of all the planet's rivers. An area the size of France is submerged under artificial reservoirs. Some rivers, such as the Colorado, Nile, and Yellow, are so heavily exploited that little of their water reaches the sea, ruining the rich ecosystems and fisheries that their estuaries once supported. As a result of both pollution and overuse of our rivers and lakes, about 40 percent of the world's population now lacks sufficient water for basic sanitation and hygiene, and nearly one out of every five people has not enough to drink. If we extrapolate current trends, by 2025 about 3 billion people - or more than a third of the world's population - will live in countries with water stress or chronic water scarcity, a seven-fold increase since 1997." (p. 143-144)
Yikes! Check out Ship's blog, it's very interesting, and we're going to hear more about this problem.
President Obama's strategy of letting the various forces in the Congress fight out their differences and arrive at a health care bill he can sign onto is beginning to look like a failure. His dogged insistence on "bipartisanship", and his unwillingness to come out in favor of a strong bill that his allies can count on his support to defend is ceding the ground to the insurance industry and its Republican (and all too often, Democratic) shills in Congress.
And today we see confirmation of the rumors that both parties have been denying for a week, that the White House cut a deal with the pharmaceutical industry to secure its neutrality in the health care fight, effectively giving away the store in advance of the legislation by preventing the negotiation over drug prices that any reform with even a reasonable chance of controlling costs must enable.
In this respect, his stewardship of the health care fight is beginning to look like the deals he cut with the thieves on Wall Street and in the big banks to right the nation's capsized economic ship, deals that have left those executives sitting pretty while the taxpayer gets to foot a staggering bill for their greed and incompetence and the broader economy is still teetering on the brink of depression.
Add this to the continuing disappointment that Obama's supporters have suffered over his lack of clarity about a host of civil rights issues, from closing Guantanamo and stopping unconstitutional surveillance of Americans to ending "don't ask, don't tell", and you have a picture that looks increasingly ugly for those progressives who turned out in droves to provide the help Obama needed to get elected, and also to provide the supermajorities that Democrats enjoy on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
Drew Westen has a post up on Huffington Post about the air that's escaping from Obama's balloon, and speculating about whether that deflation is due to a too-clever-by-half attempt to let his opponents shadow-box themselves into exhaustion, a far less progressive set of beliefs than his progressive supporters originally thought, or a simple lack of spine.
The last line in that piece sums it (and the sense of disappointment that animates it) up very nicely:
The American people did not vote for "bipartisan" solutions that split
the difference between the failed ideology of the last eight years,
which continues to cost thousands of people their jobs and homes every
day, and the change the President and the super-majorities they elected
in both houses of Congress promised.
Back from Africa, but still trying to cope with the volume of photos shot over there. Doing so reminded me of my trip to California to do an all-too-brief tutorial with legendary wildlife photographer Moose Peterson. Moose gave me several tips that proved useful during the trip, but probably the most succinct was "nobody wants to see the back of an animal". Not always true, but near enough.
Lots of photos of "the big five" and other impressive creatures to follow, but here's a photo of a rock dassie (or hyrax), which looks like it must be a relative of the yellow-bellied marmots I spent the afternoon photographing in California's Tioga Pass under Moose's tutelage, but is not. (It is, according to many scientists, the elephant's closest relative, despite being only about 18 inches long.)
And here's Moose's blog entry of the marmot shoot. There's video, and (unsurprisingly) a still that's better than mine were. The same is true of the previous blog posts about the gulls and the swallows we shot earlier at Mono Lake.