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May 252011
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I know it sounds like a trick question, but it’s a relevant one.  We’ve all heard the jokes that aren’t funny (because they hit too close to home) about the Dems being in the proverbial circular firing squad, or having the knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  The reason just might be the other age old adage, that trying to get Democrats on the same page is akin to herding cats…. impossible.

I read a thought-provoking piece last week on DailyKos by activist/strategist Robert Cruickshank, provocatively titled “Why aren’t progressives as good at politics as Republicans?”  He said that the GOP is better at building and making coalitions work… which is one way to look at it.

The glass-half-empty party of me is just waiting to see how the Dems will fuck up the current momentum that’s been boosted by getting bin Laden, the GOP shooting themselves in the collective foot by backing the killing of Medicare and the win of a bright red Congressional seat in NY’s 26th district last night.

While the left is on the right side of history, the right has the money and media ownership behind it.  It’s a tough battle, but one worth being fought.

Robert Cruickshank joined me on the show this morning for a very lively discussion about all of those things.  Listen by clicking the player at the top of the post… or just subscribe to the podcast (for free) via iTunes or Stitcher.

After a news update from Ellen Ratner at the Talk Radio News Service, we headed up north…

Jeanne Devon (AKMuckraker) is the woman behind The Mudflats.  She is also a co-author with Frank Bailey and Ken Morris of the new Palin tell-all, just out today, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years.  Jeanne joined me for the last half-hour of today’s show to talk about the former half-term governor of Alaksa, and the circus surrounding her.

A few other tidbits from today’s show and today’s news:

Florida now has the distinction of having the least popular governor in the country.  In the latest Quinnipiac poll released this morning, Rick Scott earned that distinction with  a 57-29% approval rating.  Unfortunately, we’re stuck with him for 3 1/2 more years, as Florida has no recall provisions.

Elizabeth Warren is a hero, and Patrick McHenry should be run out of Congress on a rail.  See what happened yesterday when the sorry excuse for a congressman called her a liar…

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

 

And finally, our thoughts, best wishes (and prayers, if you believe in that) are with the people of Joplin, MO, Oklahoma, Alabama and everywhere else that people are suffering due to the extreme weather events that seem to be plaguing the world on a more and more frequent basis. This morning, I started the show by reading an op ed penned by 350.org founder Bill McKibben that ran over the weekend in the Washington Post – “A Link Between Climate Change and Joplin Tornadoes? Never!“  Read it, and share it liberally please:

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.

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