A good part of the reason I started blogging was because I went to a history conference at a UT branch up between Dallas and Fort Worth and found that, contrary to belief, many well known academic historians have found community history projects to be invaluable because of their focus and details. Photos rated high. Photos with details rate high. Interviews with participants in events rated high. Interviews with older people rated high if you cover their experience and perspective.
- Prairie Weather

“Protest works. Just look at the proof”

The last place you will hear about the new American labor movement is in big American outlets.

Via lambert, via susie. See them, their blogrolls, Twitter hash tag #1u and just about any other outlet where citizens can get the word out.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)

The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Via.

Free MP3 sites

Be your own program director. Venture off the beaten path. Live a little.

2dopeboyz: Hip hop. (RSS)

3hive: Sharing the sharing. Free and legal MP3s from over 600 underground and undiscovered artists — new ones added daily. (RSS)

Amazon MP3 Download - Frequency: Weekly. Get the latest on Amazon MP3 music downloads - new releases, freshly ripped hits, and special deals.

Arjan writes - arjanwrites music blog. (RSS)

Audio Drums - A blog for rare, possibly overlooked, maybe forgotten gems of music with a slight emphasis on electronic and indie genres. (RSS)

Common Folk Music - A blog about music, not just folk music, but all music ranging from indie to alt-country to bluegrass, because music is for the “Common Folk”. (RSS)

Direct Current New Music - Adult pop, rock, singer/songwriters, folk, Americana, alt-country, adult alternative, soul, world music, crossover jazz and simply those artists that make us go “hmmm.”(RSS)

Discobelle.net (RSS)

FensePost - FensePost is an indie music blog based in the fertile lands between Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC. (RSS)

Fiddlefreak Folk Music Blog - Folk, bluegrass, Celtic, and other music of the people. (RSS)

Gorilla Vs Bear (RSS)

Hillydilly: Simply Good Music. (RSS)

I Rock Cleveland: Indie Rock, College Rock, Alt Rock, Modern Rock, Cleveland Rock, and Rock. (RSS)

KEXP Song of the Day: KEXP 90.3 FM - where the music matters (RSS)

Line Of Best Fit - TLOBF.COM | Music Reviews, News, Interviews & Downloads (RSS)

Minnesota Public Radio Song of the Day: Music lovers from 89.3 The Current share songs with you each weekday. (RSS)

Muruch (RSS)

Music Like Dirt: Music in all its many forms, mp3’s, live reviews and photography. (RSS)

My Old Kentucky Blog - a music blog that parties with unicorns. (RSS)

Nah Right. (RSS)

ninebullets.net. (RSS)

Rollo & Grady: Los Angeles Music Blog, LA Music Blog (RSS)

Said the Gramophone: a music weblog (RSS)


Sounds Better With Reverb (RSS)

Stereogum: All the MP3s on Stereogum.com (RSS)

their bated breath (RSS)

Women of Hip Hop (RSS)

Mourn ya till I join ya

The Wheel’s Still In Spin: Focusing on new music releases and reviews of individual albums as original, fictional short stories (RSS)

A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz - This site is just a way for me to have a little fun and share a little music. I’ll highlight some of my favorite artists that I play on the radio and try to expound upon their music in ways I can’t always do on the air. (RSS)

Aminal Sound

Audiofile: Music Blog, Music Articles - Salon.com

Crossfade: The CNET music blog

GarageBand.com Folk top tracks (RSS)

GarageBand.com Hip Hop top tracks (RSS)

Flawless Hustle: Urban culture blog featuring artist interviews, music reviews, legal music downloads, street art, graffiti and more! (RSS)



The Jon Swift principle: “I will add anyone to my blogroll who adds me to theirs.” Email or leave a comment to let me know.


The Hunting of the Snark

Sites participating in blogroll amnesty day

Jon Swift aka Al Weisel, may he rest in peace. Co-originator of Blogroll Amnesty Day

skippy the bush kangaroo (Co-originator of Blogroll Amnesty Day) (2012)

Vagabond Scholar (2012)
Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety. Keeper of the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup (The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)

Notes From Underground (2012)

Redeye’s Front Page (2012)

Wisdom of the West (2012)

Zen Comix (2012)

pygalgia (2012)

Mikeb302000 (2012)

The Agonist (2012)

Brilliant At Breakfast (2012)

Bacon and Eggs (2012)

Phoniness, calculation, and palatable hypocrisy

The community at Corrente is now well into its second week of batting around thoughts on recent/upcoming presidential elections, so perhaps inevitably the Ralph Nader/Al Gore situation came up.

The less interesting part of that to me is the electoral calculation. Democrats like to say Nader cost Gore the election, but that’s only true if Gore was a passive figure being acted upon. If he thought Nader was costing him votes, then he could have moved to the left to recapture them. If he thought that would have cost him more votes at the other end, then he could have moved to the right. And lets face it, the universe of poachable votes from Bush was orders of magnitude larger than the universe of losable voters to Nader.

That kind of calculation, though, is not as important as the fact that Gore was phony. Now, I grant up front that phoniness is ambiguous, and what comes off as phony to me might seem genuine to you. There is a certain kind of phoniness that can be quantified though. Namely, when words are wildly at odds with actions. Gore’s acceptance speech at the Democratic convention gives a great illustration of that.

It’s the most irritating political speech I’ve ever witnessed. I was incredibly put off after watching it, and it made me less inclined to vote for him, not more. The phoniness had less to do with the staged kiss with Tipper (though see below) than the vaguely populist rhetoric so plainly at odds with Clinton administration policies:

Big tobacco, big oil, the big polluters, the pharmaceutical companies, the HMO’s. Sometimes you have to be willing to stand up and say no - so families can have a better life.


I know one thing about the job of the President. It is the only job in the Constitution that is charged with the responsibility of fighting for all the people. Not just the people of one state, or one district; not just the wealthy or the powerful — all the people. Especially those who need a voice; those who need a champion; those who need to be lifted up, so they are never left behind.


So I say to you tonight: if you entrust me with the Presidency, I will fight for you.
I remember being genuinely angry as I heard that: Who are these big polluters, Al? Name three. Are they the same ones given carte blanche by NAFTA? Did gutting the safety net give families a better life? Were the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act examples of fighting for all the people? By the time he got to “I will fight for you” I wanted to throw up.

Now, I’m somewhat sympathetic to the “good soldier” argument, the idea that the vice president has to largely be on board with the president’s agenda. But a VP running for president needs either to emphasize differences with the president, or endorse the president’s approach and run on continuity.

Gore had that chance, and as his Tipper kiss perfectly symbolized, he chose to draw a contrast on matters of private sexual propriety - not policy. On the issues that mattered, Gore was a complete phony. It wasn’t that he came across as stiff or awkward, but that his rhetoric and actions simply couldn’t be reconciled. Is it any wonder why at that moment - in the full flower of DLC-endorsed neoliberal economic policy, and before the ascent of the neocon right - Nader’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” critique found an audience?

Open ended rhetoric is, to me, a key indicator of phoniness. If you believe in something strongly enough you’ll be very specific about it. That may be why the appeal of John Edwards escaped me. (Alexa put it well: Edwards “for some reason truly made my skin crawl, although I couldn’t pinpoint ‘why.’”) For all the praise he got for raising inequality with his “two Americas” narrative, he never offered the kind of detail that might have made it compelling. I felt the same way about his “somewhere in America there’s a little girl going to bed hungry” line as I did Gore’s promise to fight for me: How about some details?

The frustrating thing about Edwards is that he appeared to grasp as much - at least sometimes. In his 2004 debate with Dick Cheney he showed just how powerful specificity could be. Cheney made some generalized criticism of trial lawyers and called for caps on damages. Edwards absolutely buried him:

But we don’t believe that we should take away the right of people like Valerie Lakey, who was the young girl who I represented, five years old, severely injured for life, on a defective swimming pool drain cover.

It turns out the company knew of 12 other children who had either been killed or severely injured by the same problem. They hid it. They didn’t tell anybody. They could have fixed it with a 2-cent screw. That’s wrong.

John Kerry and I are always going to stand with the Valerie Lakeys of the world, and not with the insurance companies.
It was one of his most genuine moments on the national stage, because he basically said: Here is what I’ve done, here is why I did it, this represents the kind of values and priorities I’ll bring to the office. And he was very specific; he named names. It was an incredibly compelling argument. He never really made it a staple of his campaign style, though, either then or later. He fell back on pabulum.

But at least, unlike Gore, it didn’t seem like he would actively pursue policies that would increase inequality. If he wasn’t proposing anything substantive, at least he seemed willing to drift along if that’s where the prevailing winds blew.

That’s why one of the jobs for a voter is to decide on acceptable forms of insincerity. There’s a difference between someone who supports policies he has been actively working against and someone who supports policies he would accede to should they pass. Feeling warm and genuine kinship with a candidate is not likely to happen very often; better to figure out the kinds of hypocrisy one can live with.

Laying down markers for 2016

Over the past week there has been a spirited discussion of the 2008 Democratic primary at Corrente. One point of contention in the comments has been the way principles were invoked in the heat of the process. For instance, caucuses were heavily criticized as being too prone to fraud. I think caucuses are useful in theory because they help measure the intensity of a candidate’s support, not just breadth of it. That’s important in a general election because a motivated base is crucial to an effective get-out-the-vote effort.

In practice, though, the caucus system is unworkable because it has no transparency and no auditing. Partisans gather in a gymnasium and only the people gathered know what’s going on. Rules can be bent or broken, outright fraud can occur, and in the aftermath there are just charges or countercharges.

The party has little interest in investigating because once the nomination is clinched only bad things could come of it: De-legitimizing the nominee or further inflaming the losing side. Barring radical changes like extensive live streaming (web cams for everyone!) during the process, and an independent audit afterwards, caucus results in any close contest will be viewed with deep skepticism.

Another example of principles being hurriedly invoked has to do with the convention calendar. State parties eager to increase the relevance of their vote have frequently moved their election dates in defiance of the national party. The national party threatens sanctions, usually in the form of disallowing the delegates, and in a tight race the winner of those states will have a powerful incentive to invoke the sanctity of the vote and the specter of disenfranchisement to argue for counting the delegates.

Making these points when the stakes are so high carries more than a whiff of self-interest. It’s much more persuasive if one can point to such positions prior to the horse race. So even though we are over two and a half years from the next presidential election, right now is an especially good time to articulate some principles. Once candidates start to declare, it becomes much harder to raise them without having it perceived as being for someone’s benefit.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on how I’d like to see the nominating process conducted/analyzed. Whether one intends to participate in the process or not (the comments at Corrente suggest quite a few people were sufficiently alienated by 2008 to swear off further involvement), primary season will be big news; it will be helpful to have a decent frame if only for jaded observation.

  • Caucus results should be lightly regarded for the reasons above.

  • State parties should have to live with sanctions from the national party for changing election dates. Disenfranchisemet because of that is the responsibility of the state party, not the national one. The national one, in its wisdom, sets the calendar how it likes. State parties should be expected to abide by that or suffer the consequences.

  • Debates should be open to any candidate that is actively campaigning, has field offices in upcoming (say six weeks) election states and is polling above the margin of error in at least half of the major polls. (A candidate’s internal polling results shouldn’t be used.)

  • A candidate’s position on an issue should be qualified by the nature of that position. For instance, most Democratic candidates will probably pay lip service to single payer. But there is a world of difference between “sure, I’d love for us to have it” and “this is my top domestic priority, a vote for me is a vote for single payer, and I will rally a citizen occupation of Washington starting the first day Congress is in session to make that happen.”

  • A candidate’s position should also be qualified by the ability of the candidate to make the change happen. Presidents have great latitude in executive areas like judicial nominations and federal agency rule making, less so in legislation. A Democrat who promises liberal utopia based on getting a raft of legislation through Congress - especially the House - is probably blowing smoke. That said, reality is malleable. We are told by our political betters that single payer is unrealistic, but a campaign like the one described above could make it suddenly become realistic.

  • Finally, we need a policy platform to grade candidates against. I’d humbly recommend a project I’ve contributed to as an example. Over the past few months the community at Corrente has been working on a 12 point platform, and I think it’s quite good. Here is an earlier version with a good breakdown of its different components, and here is the latest iteration. It’s been formulated outside of election season with the goal of creating a durable and just set of policies. I think it’s a fine yardstick to measure candidates against. I’m sure some will find it lacking, but the point is to have something to evaluate candidates against.

Those are my markers. What are yours?

Like the McCarthy era, except for everything

I thought I was done writing about Jonathan Chait’s efforts to stupid up America’s conversation on race last week, but clearly I underestimated the man. Over the weekend his publication went live with a long piece on the subject, and on his blog he continued to type words at critics.

His responses first to Ta-Nehisi Coates and then Jamelle Bouie studiously avoid addressing their very pointed and direct criticism by basically saying, I’m not interested in that. He accused Coates of an “aggressive misreading” and dismisses Bouie’s argument as “I wish you had written your article on a different topic.”

I won’t go over Coates’ pieces again, but let’s look at two points from Bouie’s article. Near the start of his piece Chait writes: “If you set out to write a classic history of the Obama era, once you had described the historically significant fact of Obama’s election, race would almost disappear from the narrative.”

Bouie writes in his response:

If I were outlining a racial history of the Obama administration, it would begin with policy: A housing collapse that destroyed black Americans’ wealth; a health care law attacked as “reparations” and crippled by a neo-Calhounite doctrine of “state sovereignty”; a broad assault on voting rights and access to the polls, concentrated in the states of the former Confederacy. Indeed, it would focus on the deep irony of the Obama era: That the first black president has presided over a declining status quo for many black Americans.

It doesn’t seem to me Bouie wishes Chait had written on a different topic. Yet Chait just ignores it and says Bouie simply doesn’t understand Chait’s writing (which is not at all condescending).

Here’s a second quote from Chait’s article, in looking at the political evolution of the right from overt racial appeals to more subtle ones: “Whatever Lee Atwater said, or meant to say, advocating tax cuts is not in any meaningful sense racist.”

Again, Bouie responds on point:

Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of “racism” to note that particular policies - say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act - have a disparate impact. That’s just reality. And it’s not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. But again, for as much as this is interesting as a matter of political combat, it’s less important to telling the story of race in the Obama years than, for instance, the tremendous retrenchment of racial inequality during our five years of recession, recovery, and austerity.
Agree with Bouie or not, this isn’t him wishing Chait had written something different. It’s a direct response that would seem to demand a substantive answer. He’s still waiting. (And incidentally, it’s a bit strange that a political analyst of Chait’s standing is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of disparate impact.)

Maybe it’s for the best that Chait just skates past uncomfortable areas, because boy howdy does he go overboard in his comfort zone. In his magazine piece he raises the specter of Tail Gunner Joe: “The racial debate of the Obama years emits some of the poisonous waft of the debates over communism during the McCarthy years.” He elaborated on it again in his blog post:

The most problematic part of Kilgore’s argument is his recurrent phrase “objectively racist.” It consciously or unconsciously harkens back to a chilling Cold War-era line used by conservatives, who described their domestic opponents as “objectively pro-Communist.”

It’s hard to believe that Chait has such a miserably inadequate knowledge of the McCarthy era. Let’s compare and contrast it with the current debate on race, shall we?

COMPARE: In both cases people said mean things.

CONTRAST: Unlike the McCarthy era, this era does not have racism reviews for federal employees, under which they can be fired if there is reasonable doubt as to their level of racial animus. Unlike the McCarthy era, those who (will not) lose their jobs due to harboring racial animus do not have their future employment prospects permanently ruined. (If anything, the combination of wingnut welfare sinecures and fanatical rallying to martyrs for the cause make it more likely to prosper from such an event.)

Unlike the McCarthy era, the Justice Department does not have a Racist Activities Control Board that keeps tabs on those suspected of racism. There is not a maniacal FBI director obsessively tracking racists. There is not a House Committee on Racist Activities. There is not a blacklist (HAR!). There is not a Racist Registration Act or equivalent to the Smith Act.

There was a lot more than debates over communism going on during the McCarthy years, and for Chait to repeatedly invoke that era (no weaselspeak about only mentioning “debates,” thanks) in reference to the race debate is absurd.

Also, do you know what is interesting? He invokes the ominous use of the word “objectively,” but he reaches all the way back to the 50s to find it used for vilification. It’s been used that way more recently, though. In fact, it has been used that way since Chait became a political commentator, so there’s a chance he isn’t mortifyingly ignorant on that subject.

Back when we were getting our war on in Iraq, antiwar activists had it pretty rough. Andrew Sullivan famously called the BBC “objectively pro-Saddam,” for not being sufficiently pro-war. The insult was repeatedly hurled at those who didn’t cheer hard enough. Those who didn’t get with the program faced consequences. If one wanted to examine the politically charged environment around “objectively,” the Iraq war would seem to be a much better choice.

Of course, doing so would invite people to recall that Chait wrote the seminal prewar call to arms for liberals to support the war. Then when it turned into a disaster he wrote a dyspeptic “you hippies may have been right on this one but I will be vindicated in the long run!” column, and then, eventually, a churlish non-apology. (This arc of commentary is a reason to hope he never has a change of heart on race.)

In addition to non-responsive responses and ludicrous analogies he makes other odd choices, such as soliciting the opinion of Jonah Goldberg - author of Liberal Fascism - about the dangers of cavalier use of inflammatory language. Add it all up and it seems pretty clear Chait isn’t interested in dialog or encountering contrary facts. It looks instead like he is claiming to be sympathetic on the topic but writing from an indifferent-to-hostile perspective. In other words, trolling. Perhaps that is how his fututre contributions to the subject ought to be viewed.

In any event, it seems he’s eager to be done with all this race talk as he concludes the magazine piece: “The passing from the scene of the nation’s first black president in three years, and the near-certain election of its 44th nonblack one, will likely ease the mutual suspicion.” Bouie pointed out some very specific policy issues that would survive Obama’s presidency, but never mind. Chait is not interested in racism, as Michael Kranz quipped, but “racism” - endless theorizing on what racism means for white liberals and conservatives. And unlike the community Bouie wrote about, Chait can check out of his side of that, without consequences, whenever it suits him. It’s a nice luxury to have.

Coates, Chait and the Iraq war understanding of gratitude

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait have had a fascinating exchange on race over the last couple of weeks. Chait has been arguing from a perspective of culture. Coates, while spending time on culture, has also tried to get Chait to see the connection between culture and the lived history of the African American community. And Chait repeatedly fails to even acknowledge that (large) part of Coates’ thesis.

Coates refers to the “jaunty and uplifting narrative” that Chait believes in: “One can believe in the continued existence of racism and still think that the scale of the evil has fallen enormously since the 19th century.” He has been arguing, with increasing truculence, that the story of blacks in America is one of “steady progress.” It seems to confound him that Coates does not see it the same way. But there’s no reason for Chait to be confused. Coates has laid out exactly why he feels that way, yet Chait seems literally incapable of processing the information.

For instance, on the subject of slavery, Chait has a very simplistic understanding. We “progressed from chattel slavery to emancipation” and that’s about all there is to the story. Coates responded: yes - but look at how it happened.

Our greatest president, assessing the contribution of black soldiers in 1864, understood this:
We can not spare the hundred and forty or fifty thousand now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers. This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force which may be measured and estimated as horse-power and steam-power are measured and estimated. Keep it and you can save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it.
The United States of America did not save black people; black people saved the United States of America. With that task complete, our “ally” proceeded to repay its debt to its black citizens by pretending they did not exist.

Lincoln was very clear elsewhere as well: Preserving the union was his main purpose for the Civil War, and he only changed his mind on emancipation as circumstances dictated. Here’s what the Civil War was not, at least not until it was well underway: The North feeling the great evil of slavery created a moral urgency that the country, in fidelity to the soaring ideals of its founding documents, must act on immediately. Even when the issue was added to the cause, it wasn’t for those reasons. Lincoln just needed the bodies. (He did make the moral case as well though.) Chait sees it as, 1860 - slavery legal. 1865 - slavery abolished. Progress! He can’t seem to understand how Coates could see it differently.

Over and over, Coates tries to show how those who claim to be allies to the African American community have acted in ways more suggestive of political expediency than altruism. Yet instead of grappling with that, Chait just writes it off as a newfound pessimism in Coates. Of course, if that is the problem then Chait doesn’t have to engage what I suspect is an uncomfortable proposition for him: “The notion that black America’s long bloody journey was accomplished through frequent alliance with the United States is an assailant’s-eye view of history.” No, Ta-Nehisi is just feeling blue lately.

Coates has a more historically grounded view of what Chait calls progress. He looks at events not just as data points, but in the context of which they happened. Progress, such as it is, has often happened at a much slower pace and with a more brutal price because nominal allies were absent - or antagonistic. Chait seems to prefer a history with such episodes airbrushed out. Tressie McMillan Cottom characterized it thus: “Black anger about white violence, white racism, and the veneer of white civility is acceptable to white liberals only when it is in service to their role as caretaker.”

Here’s the kicker. Chait praises himself as being concerned only with “the task of designing incrementally more just and effective policies in an unjust world.” Among those “successful anti-poverty initiatives” he numbers KIPP schools. Yet charter schools are just the latest in a long standing project to privatize schools - for profit if at all possible. Across the country - in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Newark and other cities - the charter movement, funded by wealthy interests, is energetically working to destroy public schools, break teacher’s unions, and replace long-term local workers with short-term temporary ones. Caretaker zeal included.

This is an example of a just and effective policy? Teaming up with wealthy neoliberals to attack one of the most important institutions in black American life? Is he unaware how unpopular the privatization project has become, or does he just think those who oppose it don’t know what’s good for them? His selecting such a contentious issue to hold up as the kind of poverty-remediating program he favors only serves to justify Coates’ and others’ skepticism. Maybe they could be excused for thinking they’d be better off without his brand of urban renewal.

Events like school closings and wholesale disenfranchisement are actual things that are happening right now, and will have a profound and negative effect on the quality of life in those communities. Instead of looking at real events, Chait invokes culture - an empty vessel into which he can pour all his predispositions. Perhaps systemic racism deserves more attention than appeals to an amorphous culture. And maybe it would be good to examine those issues in some depth rather than blandly grade today against a curve of horrific brutality. However much worse things were in the past, things are still pretty bad right now.

The whole debate has been characterized by Coates pointing out historical and contemporary examples of dubious assistance from the improvers, and Chait not noticing. From Chait’s lofty perch he just sees the arc bending beautifully towards justice. Hey, at least you’re not slaves any more (you’re welcome). Meanwhile, Coates is saying: boy it sure could have bent more there and there and there; with allies like that who needs foes? Chait can only respond by complaining that Coates has turned into a real downer - and to sound more and more like George Bush did towards Iraqis: How can you not be grateful after all we’ve done?

John Podesta's heroic battle against straw men and the politically marginalized

Last week several environmental groups called on the president to not speed up permitting for liquefied natural gas exports. In response White House adviser John Podesta met with reporters and forcefully rebutted arguments they had not made.

“If you oppose all fossil fuels and you want to turn that switch off tomorrow, that is a completely impractical way of moving toward a clean-energy future” he thundered, answering a charge articulated by no one. “With all due respect to my friends in the environmental community,” he continued against his fictional adversary, “if they expect us to turn off the lights and go home, that’s sort of an impractical suggestion.” It was an admirable performance, a rare and special display of the kind of soaring creativity not normally encountered outside of a child’s imagination.

In point of fact, the groups were simply arguing against the latest excuse to ramp up fracking - and they can’t do much more than appeal to conscience. They certainly aren’t in a position to launch primary challenges or force other unpleasant consequences on Democrats. Meanwhile the fossil fuel industry - which, granted, doesn’t wield the fearsome clout inside the Beltway that, say, Friends of the Earth does - has managed to scrape together some meager resources to try to get its message out.

Since the Obama administration is a huge fracking cheerleader - Podesta reiterated that support - I can understand why activism against it is a sore spot. He also was careful to point out that the administration is finalizing plans to reduce methane emissions from fracking. Details to follow, um, later. Meanwhile, the existing dirty practices continue.

Presumably the EPA will be in charge of regulating methane, which doesn’t inspire much confidence considering that the EPA is currently being sued for failing to regulate methane. Podesta’s spiel boils down to a vague promise that eventually a captured agency will do something. In addition, we are to trust that - against all recent experience - the industry won’t dilute to meaninglessness any worthwhile proposal that somehow miraculously emerges.

Since this was a Politico story no pushback like that greeted Podesta, of course. He pretty much got the stenography treatment: An official said something and whether or not it has merit, it’s newsworthy. In a similar vein the article links to a piece with a headline trumpeting popular support of Keystone XL “(Also on POLITICO: Poll: 65 percent back Keystone),” support based largely and falsely on expected job creation. The fact that only 35 permanent full time jobs will be created by Keystone doesn’t reflect on the validity of the poll though. People said they liked it, with or without accurate information, so the result must be reported. Journalism, friends.

As you might expect, a dumb comment from a White House official turned into amplified stupid elsewhere. One might expect an analyst to analyze that distinction in the poll, or a reporter to report on the contrast between peoples’ urgent concerns about jobs and the anemic results unconventional extraction has delivered. An enterprising journalist might even look into why unconventional extraction has become such a big thing.

After all, what if the talk about “peak oil” turned out to be true and that we’ve picked all the low hanging fruit? What if the turn to fracking, tar sands, and so on reflect a new reality? One where continued use of fossil fuels will require ever greater investment? What if it turns out that we are now coming up against the law of diminishing returns, and have to decide just how much money we are willing to pay in order to maintain the status quo?

Here’s another possible angle: Podesta has trumpeted fracking as providing a bridge to a renewable energy dominated future. Yet the fossil fuel industry’s pals are busy wiring dynamite to that bridge’s foundation. Maybe all that talk about bridges is just a way to allay public fears about the ferocious consequences of human induced climate change. Maybe the subtext of all that bridge talk is: “Hey, let us go ahead with this next round of extraction and then we’ll clean up our act.” Maybe the absence of any actual bridge building by the people talking it up is worth a look.

Yes, Podesta’s comments offer many potentially compelling story lines: Pushing back on his bullshit rhetoric, examining the gap between jobs promised and jobs created, looking at the specter of having passed peak oil, following up on the chimerical promises of a clean energy future from those with dubious interest in it. Lots of interesting columns that someone with an outsized platform could check into, right? Daily Beast columnist Lloyd Green took stock of the possibilities and concluded: effete liberals.

He starts by citing the poll (vox populi!) and links its support to “job-craving America.” He doesn’t note the actual lack of jobs Keystone will provide.1 All that matters to him is the mistaken impression among the majority. He then claims Democrats “have a problem with the non-government employee middle class” (?) and that contemporary liberalism “sounds more like reactionary 19th century Toryism.”

In Green’s view, there’s a cadre of out of touch upper middle class progressives who oppose industrial development on aesthetic grounds, and embrace NIMBY-ism (Not in My Backyard) in order to preserve picturesque landscapes against unsightly signs of such activity. This is perhaps the most intellectually dishonest part of his article.

Green has a lofty, theoretical view of those opposed to doubling down on unconventional extraction. He refuses to acknowledge the concerns of those who have been (or might be) affected by the combination of aging infrastructure, lax to non-existent regulation and the malign neglect of political leaders. Places actually impacted, and the people forced to deal with the aftermath, do not appear to exist to him.

He could spend a week in West Virginia, bathe in and drink the water, talk to residents, and then tell us if they’re a bunch of NIMBYs. Or he could visit North Carolina and Virgina. Or he could come right here to Ohio. Who knows, he might even encounter some concerned citizens in the non-government employee middle class.

Spending time in some of the backyards in question might give him a different perspective on NIMBYs, were he interested in such a thing. He isn’t though. He’d rather talk about Martha’s Vineyard and wind farms in Nantucket - because it’s much more fun to goof on the Kennedy family than it is to get an up close and personal look at environmental hazard. (The likelihood of crying NIMBY is inversely proportional to one’s distance from a Superfund site.)

He winds up, funny enough, by criticizing Barack Obama for not delivering on his promise of green jobs, though he mysteriously neglects to mention the 600,000 fracking jobs the president promised a couple years ago. He gets in an obligatory wingnut reference to Solyndra, though in an admirable show of restraint he declines to link it to Benghazi. And because there will be an election in seven and a half months, the horse race must get its due: “die-hard gentry liberals” - presumably this year’s re-branded emoprog - will help throw support of the Senate to the Republicans with their constant griping.

That’s only true if all the people who stood in line in 2012, and don’t show up in November, are Downton Abbey liberals. I suspect the demographic breakdown is a little more diverse than that, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. As for Green’s implication that the environmental movement doesn’t know which side its bread is buttered on, I’ll just say this: There are a number of words that can describe someone overtly hostile to you on an issue of immediate and substantial importance; “friend” is not one of them.


1. The unconventional fossil fuel extraction industry has been notoriously weak in job creation. I know I’m repeating myself here, but fracking hasn’t led to job growth in Ohio. It has only led to modest bumps in industries serving the itinerant workers who fill most of the temporary jobs.

The failure to create jobs is a major flaw in the argument for these projects. Hammering away at that, and at the apparent ignorance or dishonesty of those peddling it, might be the kind of thing a friend would do. For the most part (with some highly important exceptions) it’s just been crickets from the Democrats.

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