Yesterday, my friend Megan admitted she was racist. Today, I'm admitting I am, too. We both took Harvard's implicit association test on racial preferences, and we both got the same result.

IAT: IAT

Interesting and disturbing, isn't it? 

So what's the big deal with race these days, anyway? First Sonia Sotomayor was racist. Then there was the whole Henry Louis Gates ordeal, where Gates was racist, the cop who arrested him was racist and the neighbor who called the cops was racist too. Then Fox News' Glenn Beck lost more than half his advertising dollars after he called Obama a racist.

And now the same insult has resurfaced in the health care debate. Earlier this week Tea Party leader appeared on CNN and called Obama a "racist-in-chief." Jimmy Carter's now calling Joe Wilson's outburst and similar personal attacks on Obama racist, and—check this out—even your baby is racist, according to Newsweek's cover story this week.

The right-wingers over at the American Conservative Union conference in DC today must really be frothing after a full day of fiery political speechifying. We wish we could give you better color commentary, but ACU has banned the media (unless we're willing to fork over $400.) But fortunately, ACU is Twittering, so we do know that the Wall Street Journal's John Fund just warned the crowd that if Democrats lose health care, they will "ram universal voter registration through Congress." The horror! God forbid everyone in this country actually registered to vote. Other choice quotes from Fund:

On health care: "I think we have a chance of taking it down from an 800 pound gorilla to a 99 pound weakling."

On the ACORN scandal: "ACORN is the soft under belly of the Liberal Left Machine."

And this doozy: Fund estimates that more than 400,000 people attended Saturday's 9/12 anti-government march in DC. (Most reliable estimates put the number at more like 75,000.)

Fund was preceded by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who said sagely:  "The constant in climate change is that it is changing." He apparently called for more science, less hype on global warming.

And it wouldn't be a conservative conference without South Carolina Rep. Jim DeMint (R), who told attendees: "Our goal is to save freedom in America." Thanks, Jim.

You can follow the bromides here.

Cool Cats

Atrios comments on George Bush's use of language:

While I don't think Bush referring to Obama as "this cat" is really racist, in the sense of suggesting some sort of animosity towards people of color, but I think there's a reasonable chance that race played a part, in the sense that Bush would've been much less likely to refer to a white guy with that term.

But from the same article, here was Bush on another occasion:

The president asked his secretary, Karen, to bring him the Rose Garden remarks he’d just delivered that day....When he finally got them, he put his half-glasses on and looked at them. “See, this was fine today,” he said. “But we got to make this understandable for the average cat.” He proposed an outline for another speech that talked about the situation our economy was in, how we’d gotten here, and how the administration’s plan was a solution.

I think Bush just has an odd attachment to calling people "cats."  Surely some other former White House staffers could enlighten us about this, though.

GOP leader Michael Steele claims to be shocked, shocked by former President Jimmy Carter's statement that racism may play a role in some of the extreme and personal attacks on President Barack Obama.

Steele thrashed Democrats for "injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families..."

You know those Dems. They'll probably find some crazy 'racial' subtext to Rush Limabaugh complaining that "in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.'"

A snag in California's effort to close 100 state parks, mandated under its hard-fought budget deal,  shows why the Golden State has become the State of Unintended Consequences

Neighborhood watch-style groups will have to do the work of rangers to prevent illegal activity in closed state parks unless voters approve a vehicle license fee or some other method is found to save the beleaguered park system, officials and park supporters said Tuesday.

Good luck with that.

As I reported in Mother Jones' July/August issue, a third of California's national parks and all of its national forests have already been colonized by aggressive pot farmers. Where hippies once grew just enough weed to peace out, traffickers now now cultivate more than 100,000 plants at a time on 30-acre terraces irrigated by plastic pipe, laced with illegal pesticides, and guarded by MAC-10s and Uzis.

There's no way that some mace-packing Guardian Angels are going to keep these guys out of shuttered and empty state parks, especially not vast areas like Mount Tam north of San Francisco, and Coe Ranch near San Jose, both of which are on the chopping block. Without rangers and day hikers, they'll be a narcotrafficante's dream.

"We are involved in a process we didn't understand was as complicated as it is," park system spokesman Roy Stearns told the San Francisco Chronicle. Well said, brother. It's what I like to think of as living in California.

The economic bailout was supposed to save the little guy. But as big bank wallets have fattened, America's facing a jobless recovery.

What's wrong with this picture?

Watch cartoonist Mark Fiore's take on the situation after the jump:

Yesterday former President Jimmy Carter noted that much of the opposition to Obama's health care plan was “based on racism” and that there was “an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.” Carter was only saying what everyone knows. Any journalist who covered the Democratic presidential primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania could not possibly have missed the naked hatred of the man among some voters, based on the fact Obama is black. Similar sentiments were in the air in western Maryland during a recent town meeting on health care—Western Maryland has a history of being not just right-wing territory, but Klan territory.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. America has not crossed any divide. And the racist attacks on Obama won’t end with health care. They’ll just roll on into other issues on his agenda.

Read more by James Ridgeway on Unsilent Generation. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Water in the Burbs

The city of Palmdale is running out of water, and as a result prices are going up.  Way up:

“My bill went from $12.80 to $185,” [Tracey] Summerford, a Neighborhood Watch captain, told the water board.

“My water bill went from $139 to $468,” [Mary] Sanchez said at that meeting. Since then Sanchez received another monthly bill, one for $324. Together that meant she owed the water district $792, plus a prior balance that brought her total to $924. “That’s my two car payments,” said Sanchez, who moved into her home in November....I feel discouraged. I feel like we should have stayed in Santa Clarita and lived in our apartment.”

Water blogger OTPR thinks she's just seen Armageddon for the burbs:

There it is.  There’s the end.  This is the turning point I’ve been waiting for.  With water costs this high, she’d rather be in a city apartment.  I’ve been wondering for years what would herd people in from the exurbs.  It struck me as a race between costs of water and costs of firefighting.  For a while, the cost of gas and the commute was coming on strong, but that horse fizzled.  Now we need people to know this before they lock themselves into houses.  Ms. Sanchez, don’t become a water district activist!  Spend your energy telling your friends not to do what you did!   Tell them the house and lawn isn’t worth it.  You can still save them.  That’s what we need.

This is sort of California-centric, since water isn't necessarily a suburban problem everywhere.  Schaumburg still has plenty of water from Lake Michigan, I assume.  Still, it is kind of breathtaking.

On the other hand, plenty of people who live in the Valley have $500/month electric bills in the summer from running their air conditioners, and they move/stay there regardless.  So maybe all that happens here is that people grumble for a bit and then get used to high water bills, just like they've gotten used to high air conditioning bills.

In fact, considering that Palmdale has high water bills and high air conditioning bills and high summer fire hazards AND sits right smack on top of a major fault line — well, the fact that people still live there at all probably means that people are willing to live just about anywhere no matter what it costs.  Maybe a $200 water bill is just another pinprick.

The lyrics are by Nick Hornby, apparently.

The World Bank is spending billions of dollars to help construct coal-fired power plants in the developing world, using a fund that is supposed to help wean the world from carbon-spewing fossil fuels, the Times of London reported today.

The United States donated $2 billion over three years to a fund that would "begin the important work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the developing world," US Treasury official David McCormick said in a press release last September. "The United States is firmly committed to the Clean Technology Fund and its mission to help developing countries make transformational investments in clean technology that will be necessary to move them onto cleaner development paths."

It turns out those "transformational" investments include coal plants in South Africa, Botswana, and other developing countries. One loan of $850 million will help erect a coal plant in Gujarat, India that will emit 26.7 million tons of CO2 each year for the next 50 years, making it one of the biggest new sources of greenhouse gasses on Earth.

"There are a lot of poor countries which have coal reserves and for them it's the only option," Marianne Fay, the bank's chief economist for sustainable development, told the Times. "The [bank's] policy is to continue funding coal to the extent there is no alternative."

But is there really no alternative to building a coal plant in Gujarat, one of the most industrialized states in India? A search of carbon offset projects funded through the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism turns up 12 alternative energy projects in Gujarat, including numerous wind projects and a 219 MW LNG natural gas plant. And don't forget the high-profile pact India signed with the US to construct of 18 to 20 nuclear plants. Moreover, South Africa has two nuclear plants and recently opened a natural gas pipeline from Mozambique.

The Times piece gave few details on how "clean" the coal plants will be compared to others in the developing world. But clearly the bank has a lot of explaining to do given its longstanding reputation for funding environmental disasters.