2010 - %3, June

Anti-Choicers Target Blacks in Georgia

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 5:35 PM EDT

Emblazoned with slogans like "Black & Unwanted" and "Black Children Are An Endangered Species," a second wave of anti-abortion billboards aimed at black women hit the Georgia cities of Macon, Savannah, and Augusta on Friday.

The 60-ad campaign, which first launched in February but was removed by pro-choicers, is part of a growing rumor (pushed by activist groups) that abortion clinics target black communities with the sinister aim of eradicating black people. Members of this race-based branch of the anti-abortion movement cite Margaret Sanger’s eugenics ties, the seemingly large number of Planned Parenthood clinics in minority communities, and the fact that black women have more abortions than other racial groups as evidence that racist intent underlies the pro-abortion movement. Ryan Bomberger, a representative from the Radiance Foundation, one of the billboards' co-sponsors, told Mother Jones that "for the most part, most people make decisions about abortions based on false rhetoric. Part of that is that no one wants these [black] children."

If unwanted children are really the problem, adoption and parenting are mentioned on Planned Parenthood's site, but curiously not on the billboards. Plus, in 2008 there were 9% fewer black children awaiting adoption than white children. As for Planned Parenthood targeting black communities, according to spokesperson Diane Quest about six percent of the organization's health centers are located in zip codes that have a black population of more than fifty percent. Quest told me that race does not factor in to Planned Parenthood locations, but a lack of affordable reproductive, family planning, and health services in an area does.

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"Mexicano Mask": Racist Gringos Fire Back

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 5:30 PM EDT

Well, huh. It appears the culture war over immigration has spawned a new journalistic beat: The culture war over race-based masks.

Regular MoJo readers will recall the controversy that broke out last month over Florida-based Zubi Advertising's "Gringo Mask," which was intended as a playful, not-for-profit show of solidarity with brown people who are likely to be targeted for arrest under Arizona's "Papers, Please" law, SB 1070. Zubi backpedaled on the promotion when it was inundated with angry calls from gringos; apparently, anti-immigration forces feared the racial underclass was getting too, um, uppity.

But Zubi's comeuppance wasn't denouement enough for some self-styled conservatives, like the dudes who run a website called "I Hate the Media" (and if they think they're getting gratuitous link love, they're dreaming). They took time out from their busy schedule of breast-beating over "Sestakgate" just long enough to Photoshop themselves a "Mexicano Mask." And if you thought the Gringo Mask was offensive, you ain't seen nothing yet. Here, in their own words:

Last week a Florida advertising agency created Gringo Masks designed to help illegal aliens pass as legal American residents.

Now IHateTheMedia.com has created Mexicano Masks™ designed to help legal American residents leach off the welfare system, overwhelm our public schools, overrun emergency rooms, crowd our criminal justice system, swamp our jails, and work without paying taxes. After all, who wants to look like an oppressive, racist gringo when there are so many reasons not to?...

"The spirit in which we conceived Mexicano Masks™," the spokesperson continued, "is definitely to offend people. The time for dialogue is long gone."...

NOTE: Neither rubber band nor green card is included.

Well, they're clearly right about one thing: It's hard to start a dialogue with someone who thinks brown people sit at home thinking up new ways to "swamp our jails." That's more the M.O. of Arizona legislators.

Also, guys, it's "leech," not "leach." You must have been overwhelmed by immigrants during the English lessons in your public schools, eh?

Obama Admin. Approves New Drilling as Gulf Disaster Continues

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 5:22 PM EDT

When the Obama administration announced last week that it was extending the temporary moratorium on offshore drilling for another six months, it had no intention of including shallow-water drilling in that time-out. Following through, the administration approved a new permit for drilling just off the coast of Louisiana on Wednesday. Because, you know, what could go wrong?

The Associated Press reports:

The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean's surface. It's south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.

The permit was issued Wednesday morning, according to MMS records. The approval makes clear that the administration, despite touting the need for caution in last week's announcement, has no plans to limit shallow-water drilling, which is defined as drilling in waters of less than 500 feet.

An Interior spokesman told the AP that they believe that this drilling is safe. "The interim safety measures, as long as they're completely adhered to, we feel that's enough for the shallow-water drilling to proceed under closer scrutiny and stepped-up inspections," said spokesman Frank Quimby.

That shallow-water drilling is less dangerous than drilling in the deeper waters is questionable, at best. It might be easier to stop a blowout when it's not a mile below the surface, as the Deepwater Horizon is, but shallow water spills can stil be quite disasterous. Indeed, the worst drilling disaster in the Gulf to date, the blowout of the Ixtoc 1 well off the coast of Mexico in June 1979, occurred in shallow seas, under just 160 feet of water. That disaster dumped 138 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and lasted 9 months.

Needless to say, offshore drilling critics aren't happy about the new permit. "Opening new drilling in the Gulf is asking for trouble," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "Where there is drilling, there are spills."

Should Obama Send in the Troops to Handle the BP Disaster?

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 5:13 PM EDT

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday called on President Obama to send in the troops on the Gulf oil spill. Nelson had suggested as much to reporters in the Capitol last week. Now that the top-kill effort failed (and the newest plan hit a snag Wednesday morning), Nelson says he wants Obama to put some military force behind the effort.

"While the Coast Guard, under the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Guard both are involved, it is my belief that the broader assets and command and control capability of the Department of Defense could better translate your directives into prompt, effective action," Nelson wrote to Obama.

Nelson didn't outline exactly what he thinks the military should do, just that he believes their presence would provide assurance that the federal government is handling the situation.

"I believe such an approach would help protect people's livelihoods, as well as our coastlines, wetlands, and fisheries from the damages of this oil spill. Certainly no one thinks the problem in the Gulf is going to be solved in a few days," he continued. "But Americans need to feel that their government is taking an all hands on deck response."

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Bobby Jindal: Oil Spill Hero or BP's BFF?

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 4:27 PM EDT

In the ongoing fight against the Gulf's oil gush, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has emerged as the media's unlikely man of the moment. Politico notes that the Republican governor has "flung himself into the crisis, enduring dawn to dusk hearings on the fine points of the spill." According to The New Republic, Jindal has "quickly mastered the details of the issue" and "displayed the kind of smarts and ideological flexibility that we should applaud in our leaders, no matter the party."

Of course, Jindal hasn't limited himself to mopping things up; he's also doing more than anyone else in the GOP to tar the White House's disaster response. He claims that the federal government lacked a detailed response plan, still hasn't filled a request that he made in early May for more boom to contain the oil slick, and is pointlessly preventing him from building barrier islands that he says would protect the state's marshes (a line of attack echoed by none other than Sarah Palin). After meeting with Obama on Friday, Jindal told Fox News that "we don't understand why our federal government would be making excuses for BP."

Jindal's outrage is understandable and even admirable in the sense that he's not afraid to sound like an environmentalist. But the media's panegyrics have ignored Jindal's own weak response to the oil spill and his outsized role in promoting the kind of regulatory cutbacks and dangerous offshore drilling policies that are now wrecking Louisiana's economy.

In February, 2006, while serving as a member of the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives, Jindal introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act. Passed by the House a few months later, the bill would have opened up the entire US coast to offshore oil drilling. States could override the law and ban rigs in their territorial waters, yet the law would let them share lease royalties with the federal government--a strong incentive to drill. Adjacent states would have little say in the matter (clearly a problem, given that BP's spill has marred several states' coastlines). On the risks of deepwater drilling, the text of Jindal's bill is comically pollyannaish:

(4) it is not reasonably foreseeable that . . . development and production of an oil discovery located more than 50 miles seaward of the coastline will adversely affect resources near the coastline;

(BP's Deepwater Horizon rig is located 50 miles from the coast, and of course would have devastated the Gulf even if it was further out to sea).

Palin Blames BP Spill on "Extreme Enviros"

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 3:36 PM EDT

Sarah Palin has posted a new screed on Facebook bashing environmentalists for being the cause of the Gulf oil spill. No, really:

This is a message to extreme "environmentalists" who hypocritically protest domestic energy production offshore and onshore. There is nothing "clean and green" about your efforts. Look, here’s the deal: when you lock up our land, you outsource jobs and opportunity away from America and into foreign countries that are making us beholden to them. Some of these countries don’t like America. Some of these countries don’t care for planet earth like we do – as evidenced by our stricter environmental standards.
With your nonsensical efforts to lock up safer drilling areas, all you’re doing is outsourcing energy development, which makes us more controlled by foreign countries, less safe, and less prosperous on a dirtier planet. Your hypocrisy is showing. You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.
Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country’s energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas. It’s catching up with you. The tragic, unprecedented deep water Gulf oil spill proves it.

Yes, that's it. The enviros forced BP to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, because they blocked drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge instead, which would somehow be less dangerous. (Not that it's remote, frozen, and environmentally sensitive or anything.) I wish she were alone; but alas, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski also pushed this idea in a recent hearing on the spill.

The former half-term governor is also using Twitter to get her message out: "Extreme Greenies:see now why we push"drill,baby,drill"of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?"

Perhaps it's just me, but I remember that slogan being much shorter:

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BP ≠ "Baby Pelicans"

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 2:59 PM EDT

Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Yesterday Captain Dave Marino (below, left) took cinematographer Larry Curtis and me out to see the birds breeding on the little islands in the oil spill zone of the Mississippi River Delta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo by Lawrence Curtis)

The brown pelicans, white pelicans, great egrets, snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills, white ibis, ospreys, laughing gulls, and various terns and assorted shorebirds are working overtime right now to feed their hatchlings. It's an ancient rite of spring on the water down here in southernmost Louisiana.

Reforming the Senate

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 2:56 PM EDT

Jonathan Bernstein writes about the growing abuse of the filibuster and then quotes CAP's John Lilly saying that rank-and-file senators will never be willing to give it up:

Lilly thinks the only hope is public outcry, but while I do think it might help a bit, I think it's mostly a pipe dream. The real hope is that senators find the collective frustrations of the current system an even bigger problem than the individual advantages it gives them — and finding a set of reforms that will on balance reduce the frustrations without cutting too deep into individual influence.

I'm with Jonathan on this. There are two almost insurmountable problems here. The first is that the American public is simply never going to get excited about internal Senate procedures. It's true that movement conservatives have shown an impressive ability to work their troops into a frenzy over some pretty peculiar things (repealing the 17th amendment, anyone?), but their more recondite issues still rarely manage to catch fire with more than a small fraction of the public. And that's best case. There are hot buttons that can be turned into mass movements, but dissatisfaction with Senate rules isn't one of them.

Second, even if, against all odds, you managed to get the public riled up over this, it's always going to be intensely partisan. The party out of power will always view the Senate rules as their last bulwark against incipient tyranny, and as long as this remains a partisan issue it has no chance of changing based on public outcry.

No, there's only one way that the filibuster or any of the Senate's other non-majoritarian rules will be changed: if Joe Biden and 51 Democrats decide to change them in January 2011. When the Senate reconvenes, Biden (and, implicitly, his boss) have to agree to make the required parliamentary rulings, the same way Nelson Rockefeller did in 1975, and a majority of the Senate would have to support him. In particular, Biden would have to rule that each new Senate draws up its own rules, and 51 Democrats would then have to approve changes to the existing rules. And since Democrats are likely to have a fairly thin majority next year, this means that practically the entire Democratic caucus would have to support change.

Is this feasible? It's hard to say since Obama hasn't said anything one way or the other about it. But even if he's willing, my guess is that there isn't enough support to change the filibuster rule. However, I wonder if there would be support for at least modifying the rules on holds and appointments? The abuse of holds and the obstruction of Obama's executive branch nominees has been brazen enough that there might be enough support to rein them in. But I'm not even sure of that.

BP Signs Face Defacement

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 2:16 PM EDT

Seems at least one New Yorker felt the sign at this Houston Street gas station needed an update. If only they could have added images of dead wildlife too. To see more ways BP's logo could be revised, check out our slideshow here.

BP Bars Photos of Dead Wildlife as Bodies Pile Up

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 1:00 PM EDT

BP is apparently barring cleanup workers from sharing photos of dead animals that have washed ashore. But whether we're seeing them or not, the bodies are starting to add up.

Late last week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other responders issued a tally of the animals collected as of Friday in oil-impacted regions of Alabama, Florida , Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—dead and alive. Those stats are shocking: 444 dead birds, 222 dead sea turtles, and 24 mammals (including dolphins). I sent a request to the Unified Command office last week asking for data on wildlife collected over a normal time period, pre-oil-disaster, for comparison. I haven't received a reply.

National Wildlife Federation senior scientist Doug Inkley has compiled some of the data on dolphins and sea turtles found stranded so far—meaning both dead and living animals that have clearly been harmed by their exposure to oil. He reports that the 244 sea turtles they found stranded by the spill is between six to nine times the average rate. The 29 stranded dolphins are between two and six times the normal rate for the region. The number of dead and dying critters, Inkley says, is "certainly higher" than usual.

But even these staggering totals might not be anywhere near the real figures. For starters, they don't include the dead animals who may never be counted. Following the Exxon Valdez spill, scientists noted that many carcasses sunk and were never found, meaning the estimated deaths were probably far too low.

Update: A guide to the endangered animals with the greatest risk of getting oiled; photos of birds trying to breed in the spill zone; the dead wildlife we'll never know about.