Another extreme drought hits the Amazon, raising climate change concerns – With exclusive commentary by forest scientist Simon Lewis

November 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Drought in the Amazon (1 month assesment period, through 16  October 2010).  Source: University College London,

We know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event.

That’s from an email to CP by forest scientist Simon Lewis, a leading expert on the Amazon (see Scientists: “There are multiple, consistent lines of evidence from ground-based studies published in the peer-reviewed literature that Amazon forests are, indeed, very susceptible to drought stress”).

The figure above is from the University College London Global Drought Monitor via a post by WWF’s Nick Sundt, that I am reposting below.  It represents a 1-month assessment period, through 16 October 2010.

Amazon drought, BrazilBut first, here’s a excerpt from an article (with a video) by the Global Post that Lewis recommends, “Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon: Droughts are growing more severe. Has the world’s largest rain forest reached its tipping point?”  In the photo, “Brazilians cross the muddy bottom of the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon River, in the city of Manaus, Oct. 26, 2010.”

The world’s largest rain forest was dangerously dry, and may well be drying out.

October marked the end of one of the worst Amazon droughts on record — a period of tinder-dry forests, dusty cropland and rivers falling to unprecedented lows. Streams are the highways of the deep jungle and they’re also graveyards for dead trees, usually hidden safely under fathoms of navigable water.

But not this year, and the drought’s significance extends far beyond impeded boats.

While the region has seen dry spells before, locals and experts say droughts have grown more frequent and severe. Scientists say there’s mounting evidence the Amazon’s shifting weather may be caused by global climate change.

The world’s largest rain forest has long been a bulwark of hope for a planet troubled by climate change. Covering an area the size of the continental United States, the Amazon holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water and generates a fifth of its oxygen. With the planet’s climate increasingly threatened by surging carbon emissions, the Amazon has been one of the few forces keeping them in check. But the latest scientific evidence suggests the forest may be unable to shield us from a hotter world.

“Every ecosystem has some point beyond which it can’t go,” said Oliver Phillips, a tropical ecology professor at the University of Leeds who has spent decades studying how forests react to changing weather. “The concern now is that parts of the Amazon may be approaching that threshold.”

Phillips led a team of dozens of researchers who studied the damage caused by a severe 2005 drought to trees and undergrowth at more than 100 sites across the Amazon. His findings, published in the journal Science, are troubling.

Through photosynthesis, the rain forest absorbs 2 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide each year. But the 2005 drought caused a massive die-off of trees and inverted the process. Like a vacuum cleaner expelling its dust, the Amazon released 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2005. All told, the drought caused an extra 5 billion tons of heat-trapping gases to end up in the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Europe and Japan.

It still remains to be seen whether the rain forest’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases has been permanently harmed. “We can’t say for sure — it could be happening now,” Phillips said. “Often you don’t know you’ve passed a turning point until you’ve already passed it.”

Phillips said he’s worried about yet another drought following so closely after the last. Along the edge of the forest in Peru and Bolivia, there were more fires this year than any year on record, he said, along with reports of substantial damage to plants in the normally wet northwestern Amazon.

“The humid tropical forests have evolved at pretty high temperatures but there’s a temperature at which you don’t see them on the planet,” said Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “And some tropical forests in the world now are starting to be exposed to temperatures they’ve never experienced.”

(Courtesy Greg Asner.)

Asner recently completed a study of world rain forests showing just how extensive the damage could be. He took 16 leading models for predicting the next century of climate change and essentially created a map — showing hotspots where they all agreed rising greenhouse gases would substantially change the forest.

He found that higher temperatures and shifts in rainfall could leave as much as 37 percent of the Amazon so radically altered that the plants and animals living there now would be forced to adapt, move or die. When other man-made factors like logging are taken into account, the portion of affected forest could be as high as 81 percent.

Asner said melting polar ice sheets aren’t the only climate change sentinels out there. The world’s largest rain forest — drained, drying, sometimes burning — is on the front lines, too, and just as threatened.

“I hate to pit myself against the polar bears,” he said. “But we’re talking about the Amazon, the majority of the biodiversity on the planet is in the humid tropical forests.”

Locals call the Amazon’s annual dry spells “the burning season,” named for the forest fires landholders regularly set to make room for crops and cows. In past decades, fires kindled on the jungle’s edges burned themselves out once they advanced a few yards into permanently damp virgin forest.

But that changed with the 2005 drought, said Foster Brown, an environmental scientist at the federal university in the Brazilian state of Acre….

“The ecosystems here have become so dry that instead of a being a barrier to fire, the forest became kindling,” he said. “We’ve changed from a situation where a relatively small part of the region would be susceptible to fire to the entire region being susceptible to fire.”

Burned forests aren’t the only evidence of drought. This year, one of the Amazon River’s biggest tributaries, the Rio Negro, dropped 13 feet below its dry-season average — to the lowest level on record. Channels in some areas have become little more than winding belts of mud — leaving boats stranded and remote communities cut off from supplies….

“Everything has changed. We don’t know when we can plant. We plant and then the sun kills everything,” Mariazinha said. “If it continues like this, we expect a tragedy.”

And the point she pressed upon her visitors was, perhaps they should be worried, too.

“I ask you,” she said, “as someone who lives in the outside world who knows the tragedy that’s happening there — is there anything we can do?”

Here is what Lewis has to say about the drought:

We need to be a little cautious when looking at these unpublished results as we don’t know the exact details of the techniques used to generate the maps. But, we know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event, was anomalous as did not occur in a El Nino year, hit South-Western Amazonia hardest (a different pattern to El Nino related droughts), and was associated with high Atlantic sea surface temperatures (not Pacific sea surface temperatures as in El Nino years). Now in 2010, we again have a severe drought, again hitting South-Western Amazonia hard. Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and the north-west movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone seem ripe for careful study to improve our understanding of the 2010 drought.

The good news for the Amazon is that deforestation rates have been radically reduced since 2005, so in that sense the Amazon is doing well. The bad news is these droughts kill trees and promote fires, which are very damaging to forests and leaves them more vulnerable to fire in the future, potentially leading to a drought-fire-carbon emissions feedback and widespread forest collapse.  Most concerning of all is that while two unusual droughts clearly don’t make a trend, they are consistent with some model projections made well before 2005: that higher sea surface temperatures increase drought frequency and intensity, leading later this century to substantial Amazon forest die-back.

We ought to remember that every ecosystem has it limits, a point of where they radically change. The open question is whether such a point is being reached in some parts of the Amazon. While little is expected of the climate change talks in Cancun next week, the stakes, in terms of the fate of the Amazon are much higher than they were a year ago in Copenhagen.

And here is an excerpt from a World Wildlife Foundation post by Nick Sundt.

The Amazon region is experiencing the third extreme drought in a dozen years — and it may turn out to be the worst on record. The droughts coupled with recent research findings, suggest that rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will rapidly increase the frequency and severity of droughts in the region. The implications for people, biodiversity and climate are ominous.

As the map below shows, most of the Amazon region was afflicted by drought in mid-October 2010, with large areas in the north and west experiencing exceptional drought – beyond extreme.  Drought conditions, which now are improving, have been concentrated in Brazil, but extend into parts of neighboring countries including large areas of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia.

According to the classification system used by the University College London (UCL) Global Drought Monitor, exceptional droughts normally should not occur more than a couple of times  in a century. Typical impacts include “exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies.” According to UCL,  nearly 8.7 million people live in the locations shown above (which include smaller areas outside the Amazon) that are experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

The drought results from a combination of above normal temperatures over much of the region combined with low precipitation.  As the figure below illustrates, most of the Amazon region received less than 75% of normal rainfall between 1 July and 30 September.  Large areas have received far less precipitation, in many cases less than 25% of normal.

Brazil, Percent of Normal Precipitation, 1 July - 30 September  2010.  Source: NOAA.

In a press release on 22 Oct (Seca pode bater recorde na Amazônia / Drought may hit record in the Amazon), Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia or IPAM) said:

“The drought of 2010 still hasn’t ended in the Amazon and could surpass that of 2005 as the region’s worst during the past four decades. In the Western Amazon, the Solimões River reached its lowest level in recorded history. In Manaus, the level of the Rio Negro (Black River) is approaching that of 1963 – the lowest in a century. Even if this doesn’t occur, the forest will have already experienced three extreme dry spells in just 12 years, two of which occurred during the past five years: 1998, 2005 and 2010. And this is not including the drought of 2007, which affected only the Southeastern Amazon and left 10 thousand sq. km. of forest scorched in the region…`The Amazon that had wet seasons so well-defined that you could set your calendar to them – that Amazon is gone,‘ says ecologist Daniel Nepstad of IPAM…”

Among the consequences of the drought are extremely low flows on many of the region’s rivers.  On 24 October 2010, the Rio Negro, a major tributary of the Amazon, reached an all time low of 13.63 m at Manaus, edging out 1963 when water levels reached 13.64 m (Monitoramento Hidrologico: 2010, Boletim no 33 – 29/10/2010, by the Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais or CPRM).  In contrast, just last year, the river saw an all time record high of 29.77 m as the region experienced devastating floods. (Relatorio da Cheia 2009 [PDF] [2010], by CPRM).  See photos of the flood [PDF]. Records for the Rio Negro extend back 107 years.  See also Flooding Near Manaus, Brazil, NASA Earth Observatory, 19 August 2010.

Writing for the New York Times upon his return from Iquitos, Peru, Nigel Pitman reports that “people were deeply upset by the lack of rain.”  He explains: ”Long dry spells like these in Amazonia wither crops and worsen air pollution and cut off whole towns from the rest of the world, when the arm of the river they’re on turns to mud. They also destroy forests” (Drought in the Amazon, Up Close and Personal, 12 November 2010).  Satellite imagery on 19 August showed a pall of smoke concentrated over Bolivia  (see Fires in South America, NASA Earth Observatory, 8 September 2010), where drought conditions allowed fires to burn out of control, prompting the Bolivian government in mid-August to declare a state of emergency.

Dr Richard Bodmer of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (University of Kent) and the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported on the impacts the drought is having on the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon.  Among the species affected:  the pink river dolphin (see photo below).  “The conditions have resulted in fewer dolphins observed throughout the Samiria River,” says Dr.  Bodmer.  “Overall, pink river dolphin numbers have decreased by 47 per cent and the grey river dolphin by 49 per cent compared with previous years’ population estimates. The dolphins have been forced to leave their habitats in the Samiria River and find refuge in the larger channels of the Amazon.” See Amazon drought results in dramatic fall in pink river dolphin populations (press release from Earthwatch).

Pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)  in the Rio Negro, Brazil.  © Claudio Marigo / WWF.

For an outstanding series of photographs documenting the impacts of the drought, see Estiagem na Amazônia posted by Último Segundo (22 November 2010).  See also the Reuters video (6 Nov 2010) below for discussion of some of the major consequences of the drought.

Above: Brazil Looks to Ease Amazon Drought, Reuters Video, 6 November 2010.

The 2005 Drought

Just 5 years ago — in 2005 — the Amazon experienced an extreme drought that prompted the government of Brazil to declare a state of emergency in most of the region. In The Drought of Amazonia in 2005 (by José A. Marengo, Carlos A. Nobre, Javier Tomasella in the Journal of Climate, February 2008), researchers said:

“In 2005, large sections of southwestern Amazonia experienced one of the most intense droughts of the last hundred years. The drought severely affected human population along the main channel of the Amazon River and its western and southwestern tributaries, the Solimões (also known as the Amazon River in the other Amazon countries) and the Madeira Rivers, respectively. The river levels fell to historic low levels and navigation along these rivers had to be suspended. The drought did not affect central or eastern Amazonia, a pattern different from the El Niño–related droughts in 1926, 1983, and 1998.”

The 2005 drought in the Amazon also was notable for its impacts on the global carbon cycle.  Though the exact magnitude of the impacts are a matter of debate within the science community (see Amazon drought raises research doubtsNature News, 20 July 2010), there is evidence that the drought along with elevated air temperatures sharply reduced net primary production (NPP) in the Amazon. NPP is a measure of the amount of atmospheric carbon plants pull from the atmosphere and incorporate into biomass.  Where NPP is reduced, less carbon is fixed by plants and more is left in the atmosphere to disrupt climate.

In Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 Through 2009 (Science, 20 August 2010) researchers using satellite data found that global NPP dropped precipitously in 2005 to its lowest level of the decade.  The largest contributor to the drop was a decline of NPP in the Amazon rainforest that they attributed largely to elevated temperatures and the severe drought.

Similarly, scientists using records from long-term monitoring plots in the Amazon reported in Science a year earlier (6 March 2009) in Drought Sensitivity of the Amazon Rainforest that the drought had a large impact on carbon flows. They note that the Amazon’s old growth forests process 18 Petagrams (or Gigatons) of carbon each year — more than twice the amount emitted annually by burning fossil fuels (1 Petagram = 1015 grams = 1 billion metric tonnes = 1 Gigaton). “Relatively small changes in Amazon forest dynamics therefore have the potential to substantially affect the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and thus the rate of climate change itself,” they said.

They estimated that the drought reduced the biomass carbon balance by 1.2 to 1.6 Gigatons of carbon.  “The exceptional growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2005, the third greatest in the global record, may have been partially caused by the Amazon drought effects documented here,” they add. “Amazon forests therefore appear vulnerable to increasing moisture stress, with the potential for large carbon losses to exert feedback on climate change.”

The scale of such drought-induced changes in the Amazon’s carbon budget can be contrasted with the magnitude of Brazil’s carbon emissions from other sources, and with global carbon emissions from fossil fuels.   The Brazilian government estimates that in 2005, carbon emissions from land-use and landcover changes (including deforestation) were 1.3 gigatons of carbon and accounted for 77% of Brazil’s carbon emissions from all sources in 2005  (Segunda Comunicação Nacional do Brasil à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima [PDF], Coordenação-Geral de Mudanças Globais do Clima, Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Brasília, 2010).

That is at the low-end of the range of 1.2-1.6 gigatons of carbon that may have shifted to the atmosphere in 2005 as a result of the Amazon drought.  In other words, 2005 carbon emissions associated with the drought may have equaled or  exceeded those from deforestation in Brazil that year. Furthermore, at the global level, the range of emissions that may have resulted from the 2005 drought is equivalent to roughly 16-22% of annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use in 2005 (about 7.4 gigatons of carbon).

The 2010 Drought

Just as the 2005 drought was preceded by an El Niño (from Apr-May-June 2002 through Feb-Mar-Apr 2003), the 2010 drought was preceded by an El Niño (May-June-July 2009 through March-April-May 2010).  Consequently, the Amazon experienced well below normal precipitation during the rainy season that normally stretches roughly from September-November through March-May.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in The South American Monsoon System Summary, July 2009-June 2010 [Powerpoint] that precipitation from July 2009 through June 2010 was well below normal over the Amazon basin, consistent with the expected impacts of an El Niño.  Furthermore, precipitation was much lower than during the 2002-2003 rainy season associated with the 2002-2003 El Niño that set the stage for the 2005 drought.

Similarly, as in 2005, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical North Atlantic ocean in 2010 were elevated during the dry season (normally April-September). The maps below show the global temperature anomalies for September 2005 and September 2010 (around the usual end of the dry season) and show that SSTs in the north tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean in both years show a similar pattern.  Likewise, the surface temperatures over the Amazon during both years were elevated — though were substantially higher in 2010.

September 2005 surface temperature anomalies.  Source: NASA

Global Surface Temperature Anomalies, September 2010. Source:  NASA.

The Monthly Tropical North Atlantic Index (TNA) (a measure of the average monthly SST anomaly in the region) has been at record high levels (and above the values for 2005) for every month of 2010 through September. The TNA for October was second only to that of 2003. The separate Caribbean SST Index (CAR) has not been at record levels for most months, but has been anomalously high and for most months has been above 2005 levels.

For both the TNA and the CAR indices, the long term trend is upward.  See for example the long-term trend for the Tropical North Atlantic Index for the month of September below.

Above: The North Tropical Atlantic SST Index for the Month of September, 1951-2010. SST anomalies (relative to 1951-2000) averaged over the region of the tropical Atlantic between Africa and the Caribbean (the region is indicated by NTA on this map) for the month of September from 1951 through 2010.

As in 2005, these high SSTs in the Tropical North Atlantic are resulting in one of the worst coral bleaching episodes on record in the Caribbean, as well as energizing one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.  See our recent posting, Sea Surface Temperatures in Tropical North Atlantic Rise to Record Levels in 2010, With Impacts from the Amazon to Canada (16 November 2010).

Are the high SSTs — as in 2005 — also associated with the Amazon drought conditions during the 2010 dry season?  The answer is most likely “yes,” but the nature of the connection and the role of other factors (such as the 2009-2010 El Niño in the tropical Pacific) will have to await the published research results of scientists.  Similarly, we will not know the impacts of the 2010 drought on the cycling of carbon to and from the Amazon until scientific assessments are conducted and research results are published.

The Climate Change Connection

What connection might these droughts have to rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere and what might we expect during the course of this century as GHG  concentrations continue to rise?

The connections between rising GHG concentrations on the  El Niños is a matter of scientific interest and debate.  El Niño-Southern Oscillation patterns in the tropical Pacific appear to be changing and some research suggests the changes may be related to climate change (see El Niño in a changing climate, Nature, 24 September 2010).  However, the science is very much unsettled, so we cannot say anything definitive about the relationship between rising GHGs and the El Niños that preceeded the 2005 and 2010 droughts.

In the case of rising SSTs in the tropical Atlantic — another major contributor to the 2005 drought and likely to the 2010 drought  –  the connection to rising GHG concentrations is better understood, though there is uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the impact relative to other variables.

When asked about the degree to which rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere were contributing to the trend of rising  sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean, Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said at a Congressional briefing on 30 June 2010 that the temperatures could not be explained without accounting for rising GHG concentrations.  He said that while some researchers thought the rising GHG levels might account for 60-80% of the temperature anomaly, he estimated that about half was due to rising GHGs.

This is consistent with research results published in Geophysical Research Letters on 29 April 2010.  In Is the basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic Ocean related to atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming?, Chunzai Wang and Shenfu Dong of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, conclude that “both global warming and AMO [Atlantic multidecadal oscillation] variability make a contribution to the recent basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic and their relative contribution is approximately equal.”

If the rise in SSTs in the tropical north Atlantic are being driven in part by rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, and if those SSTs are implicated in the Amazon drought of 2005 and potentially in the drought of 2010, then rising GHG concentrations are among the factors likely contributing to those droughts. However, researchers have not at this point definitively attributed either drought to rising atmospheric GHG concentrations.

More importantly rising atmospheric concentrations of GHGs in the future will continue to affect tropical sea surface temperatures in both the Pacific and the Atlantic,  and research indicates that this — in combination with rising air temperatures over the Amazon – will increasingly dry out the Amazon. In Amazon Basin climate under global warming: the role of the sea surface temperature (Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, 27 May 2008), researchers analyze these connections.

Using a model from the UK’s Hadley Centre, they focused on a period centered around the year 2050.  The analysis suggests that SST anomalies in both the tropical Atlantic and Pacific would combine to reduce Amazon Basin rainfall, “leading to a perennial soil moisture reduction and an associated 30% reduction in annual Amazon Basin net primary productivity (NPP). A further 23% NPP reduction occurs in response to a 3.5°C warmer air temperature associated with a global mean SST warming.”

In Drought under global warming: a review (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 19 Oct 2010) Dr Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 assessment “project increased aridity in the 21st century, with a striking pattern that suggests continued drying” over many land areas including “most of Americas.”  While acknowledging the uncertainties, he says that the model results appear “to be a robust response to increased GHGs.”  He adds: “This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling [the model results]…a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades” in Brazil and many other land areas.

Approaching — or passing — a Tipping Point

The possibility of increasingly arid conditions along with more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon — and the regional and global implications — is a matter of growing and grave concern.  In a report to WWF, The Amazon’s Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire in the Greenhouse [2.49 MB pdf] (Dec 2007, WWF), IPAM’s Daniel Nepstad concludes:

Synergistic trends in Amazon economies, vegetation, and climate could lead to the replacement or damaging of more than half of the closed-canopy forests of the Amazon Basin over the next 15 to 25 years, undoing many of the successes currently in progress to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Counteracting these trends are emerging changes in landholder behaviour, recent successes in establishing large blocks of protected areas in active agricultural frontiers, important market trends favouring forest stewardship, and a possible new international mechanism for compensating tropical nations for their progress in forest conservation, that could reduce the likelihood of a large-scale dieback of the Amazon forest complex. In the long term, however, the avoidance of this scenario may depend upon worldwide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are large enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than a degree or two.”

More recently (in late 2009 and before the 2010 drought), in Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector [PDF], WWF identified the prospect of more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon and the related rainforest dieback as being among the ”tipping points” that could be passed in coming decades, with ”significant impacts within the first half of this century.”

Given the current drought in the Amazon, the report’s discussion of the 2005 Amazon drought should raise some eyebrows:

“…until more recently, 2005-like droughts may have had a frequency of between 1-in-40 and 1-in-100-years. Recent work, however, suggests that, with the now elevated concentration of GHGs  [greenhouse gases] (currently ~430 ppmv CO2e [parts per million, volume, of carbon dioxide equivalent],compared with 280 ppmv CO2e pre-industrial), the return period is of the order of 1-in-20-years and this is likely to increase to 1-in-2 and above by between 2025 and 2050 if stabilization at 450 to 550 ppmv CO2e is achieved (with a higher probability if it is not).”

Given that the 2010 drought is comparable to the 2005 drought — and that they are only five years apart, we already may be closer to a return period of 1-in-2 years than the research suggested.

About the implications of an increase in the frequency of 2005-like droughts, the report says:

“The 2005 drought impacts were relatively severe. However, the social, environmental and economic consequences of such a significant increase in the frequency of 2005-like events are far more than the sum of 2005 impacts x drought frequency. What is currently termed ‘drought’, with such a significant increase in frequency, becomes the norm implying a potentially radical change in hydrological systems in affected regions, with knock-on effects for people, environment, and economy.”

For an excellent discussion of the 2005 and 2010 droughts, climate change and the implications for the Amazon, see the video below from GlobalPost, Rumble in the Jungle: Is the Amazon Losing the Fight Against Climate Change? by Erik German and Solana Pyne.  See also their online article, Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon (GlobalPost, 3 November 2010).

– Nick Sundt

Climate Progress

Christie considers extreme measures

November 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

All politicians should have such problems

“Short of suicide, I don’t really know what I’d have to do to convince you people that I’m not running."

Add to Twitter
Add to Facebook
Email this Article
Add to digg
Add to
Add to Google
Add to StumbleUpon

Ben Smith’s Blog

Robin Roberts Grills Carly Fiorina on ‘Too Extreme’ Sarah Palin

October 29, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Apparently one of the most pressing issues in the California senatorial race is whether or not Sarah Palin is "too extreme." Good Morning America's Robin Roberts on Friday pressed Carly Fiorina twice on that issue, insisting on knowing why the former Alaska governor hasn't been campaigning for the Republican.

She demanded, "We know that Sarah Palin has visited California recently, but she was not campaigning for you. Why not Sarah Palin? Is she too extreme for you?" The co-host followed-up: "Down in Florida, Charlie Crist had an ad campaign saying Sarah Palin is just too extreme for some Republicans."

Barbara Boxer has not appeared on GMA during the 2010 campaign season, so there's been no opportunity for the show's host to grill the Senator on supporters such as director Rob Reiner, who recently compared the Tea Party to Nazis.

read more – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

TRENDING: ‘Extreme’ debate in Pennsylvania

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

(CNN) – “Extreme” was the word of the night as the two Pennsylvania Senate candidates debated for the first time on Wednesday.

Democrat Rep. Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey, a former Congressman, seldom agreed on the issues during the hour-long debate, but both came to the podium armed with remarkably similar messages.

Throughout the debate, both sought to paint the other as belonging to the extreme wing of their respective parties.

“It’s very clear – the person who is the extreme candidate that is so far out of touch with Pennsylvania is Joe Sestak,” Toomey said.

“Look at this agenda. Not only did he vote for every item on that agenda…he voted for all of the bailouts and then introduced his out bill to create a new bailout.”

Sestak, meanwhile, sought to align Toomey with conservative Republican leaders such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; Sestak also frequently referenced the “Bush/Toomey era,” as he attempted to tie Toomey to the former President’s policies.

As the candidates debated their positions on abortion, Sestak said, “Palin, Toomey, O’Donnell, they all would like to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Toomey, for his part sought to downplay his ties to Palin, who endorsed the Republican on Tuesday. When asked what role she played in the race, and whether he felt Palin was qualified to be president, Toomey avoided giving a direct answer.

“I’m very grateful for the support that I have from people from all over the political spectrum…. I welcome all allies in this effort to get a government that’s our of control, under control, so we can get the prosperity we deserve,” he offered.

Recent polls show Sestak rapidly closing in on Toomey, who had until recently enjoyed a comfortable lead in the race to replace Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak defeated the party switching Senator in the Democratic primary earlier this year.

CNN Political Ticker

Sestak, Toomey Battle Over Who Is More Extreme

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

PHILADELPHIA – Who do you support: Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell, or Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi?

That was the choice Pennsylvania Senate candidates Pat Toomey (R) and Joe Sestak (D) left voters with Wednesday night at the National Constitution Center during their first debate of the general election, a contest marked by both men’s unrelenting efforts to characterize his opponent as out-of-touch extremists.

For Toomey, this strategy meant tying Sestak to his support of every major Democratic initiative of the last two years, including financial and auto bailouts, the economic stimulus and the health care reform — measures Toomey said have crippled the country’s economy.

“He voted for every item on that agenda, and his only criticism is they didn’t go far enough,” said Toomey, who, unlike many of his TV ads, decided to forgo mentioning the President and Speaker of the House directly and instead referenced the “extreme Democratic agenda.”

Discontent with the Democratic Party’s agenda has been felt as strongly in normally left-leaning Pennsylvania as it has in many states, with the political climate endangering as many as eight of the party’s incumbent congressmen.

Sestak countered by linking Toomey to Palin and O’Donnell, the Delaware Republican Senate nominee who has particular resonance in the Keystone State because Delaware is within the Philadelphia media market. He cited both by name while criticizing Toomey for his stance against abortion-rights, an issue that could hurt the former Republican congressman in the state’s moderate, vote-rich southeast region.

“Palin, Toomey, O’Donnell — they all of them want to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Sestak said. “I believe those life decisions of a family should be made within a family. I don’t think government should intervene.”

Hotline On Call

Extreme Girls: All the president’s radical women

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

My column today is a rejoinder to Maureen Dowd’s plaintive wail about Republican Mean Girls in the NY Times on Sunday. I’ll take a GOP mama grizzly who wants government to leave you alone over a Democrat bully bureaucrat any day. As yesterday’s failed attacks on Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, and Sharron Angle showed, the ladies of the Right have the harridans of the Left in a frenzy. If you’re catching flak, you’re over the target.


Extreme Girls: All the president’s radical women
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2010

We are in the era of Democratic Extreme Girls — Big Nanny handmaidens who demand control of your children, your health care, your energy use, your pocketbook and your news. And that’s just for starters. If you think President Obama will move to the center after the midterms, think again.

Liberal bloggers are buzzing about the possibility that environmental czar Carol Browner could be appointed White House chief of staff next year. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder floated the trial balloon this week, arguing that despite zero national security experience, Browner “has more than enough experience dealing with Congress, with the rest of the government, and is a subject matter expert on the subject that will occupy a considerable amount of the president’s attention in the next two years.”

Browner is the neon green bureaucrat who sits on the board of the George Soros-funded, anti-business Center for American Progress and was listed by the Socialist International umbrella group as a member of the “Commission for a Sustainable World Society” until her czar appointment was announced in 2009. A ruthless, power-grabbing regulator since her days in the Clinton administration, Browner has spearheaded the Environmental Protection Agency’s war on carbon, with EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson serving as her front-woman. Their anti-carbon agenda’s job-killing effects are so alarming that several House Democrats have signed on to legislation curtailing the draconian greenhouse gas emissions rules.

You want to talk about “mean”? Browner has plenty of “experience” bullying American business executives. She infamously told auto industry execs last year “to put nothing in writing, ever” regarding secret negotiations she orchestrated on a deal to increase federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. She is salivating at the prospect of ramming through the massive, increasingly unpopular cap-and-tax plan in the lame-duck session. And more recently, she gained hands-on experience telling falsehoods to the American public about the BP oil spill. The independent presidential commission on the disaster criticized her earlier this month for repeatedly misrepresenting the findings of a federal analysis, which she claimed showed that “more than three-quarters of the oil is gone.”

The oil spill panel also singled out fellow environmental extremist Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Obama’s head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a former high-ranking official at the left-wing Environmental Defense Fund, for misleading the public and “contributing to the perception that the government’s findings were more exact than they actually were.” When she isn’t spreading information, she’s overseeing policies that mom-and-pop fishermen believe will lead to drastic reductions of commercial fishing fleets and recreational fishing activity in favor of centralized control.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, chief inquisitor Kathleen Sebelius rules the roost — threatening private companies and insurers who increase rates to cope with Obamacare coverage mandates and lashing out at newspapers who dare report on the costly consequences of the federal law.

Among his inner circle, Obama has leaned on senior adviser and Chicago consigliere Valerie Jarrett, the woman who bragged about being “delighted to be able to recruit” disgraced Marxist green jobs czar Van Jones; Anita Dunn, the former communications director who touted Chairman Mao as her favorite philosopher and was the mastermind behind Team O’s war on Fox News; and, of course, the Big Nanny-in-Chief herself, Michelle Obama, who’s using her bully pulpit to pressure restaurants and schools to change their menus and to lobby Congress to redistribute $ 8 billion away from the federal food stamp program for her public employee union pay-off disguised as a child nutrition bill.

While liberal New York Times harridan Maureen Dowd gins up fear about Republican “Mean Girls,” it’s the left-wing women pretending to be our benevolent caretakers who pose the greater threats to our families and freedom.

Michelle Malkin

A Rogues Gallery of the Most Extreme House Members and Candidates

October 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Must-read independent and centrist writer and CNN analyst John Avlon has put together a gallery of the most extreme house members and candidates. Here’s part of his intro:

Ah, Congress: where demagogues enter our democracy if they decide not to pursue careers in media or religion.

This week, the Wingnut Index, our attempt to use semi-scientific process to measure extremism and hyper-partisanship, turns sights on the target-rich environment that is the House of Representatives and the folks who are fighting to get there. Last week, we measured the Senate races—the cooling saucer to the hot cup of the House, as the enduring metaphor (before the Tea Party made it ironic) explains. And true to form, the sheer volume of Wingnuttery in House races this year outpaces the considerable craziness in Senate campaigns. To that extent, we’ve set aside 25 slots to rank the biggest Wingnuts running for the House this year.

As with last week, we’ve reached for binary criteria whenever possible in the areas measured, such as whether the candidate subscribes to the conspiracy theories of being a birther or a 9/11 truther, whether they have compared their political opponents to either Nazis or communists, or engaged in either Bush Derangement Syndrome or Obama Derangement Syndrome.

We’ve used The Daily Beast’s Election Oracle software to track which candidates have the term “wingnut” attached to them the most in digital grassroots debate. Special-interests driven voting records were taken into account when possible—for example, candidates who received a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council or a 100 percent rating from what could be considered their opposite interest group on the left, the AFS ratings by the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees. Another criteria is the number of appearances on Web aggregator, which tracks absurd, hypocritical, or unintentionally hilarious statements from candidates on both the right and left.

For the House edition, we’ve also added some new criteria—corruption, and playing the race card (on either side of the equation). As with last week, challengers sit at a slight disadvantage in the scorekeeping due to their lack of a legislative record, though now-infamous Wingnut campaigns such as that conducted by the Nazi re-enactor Rick Iott are included. (In all, five challengers made the cut.)

Likewise, while Democrats make up one-third of the final list, conservatives have the clear representative edge. For example, while there are 17 Republican congressional candidates who are associated with “birther” claims, there is only one “truther” in Congress now that Cynthia McKinney is gone—and that’s Dennis Kucinich. (Ron Paul is supported by many truthers, but doesn’t support claims that 9/11 was an inside job himself.)

That’s just part of the intro, not the whole segment and not the gallery.

CLICK HERE to read about more nuts (from a centrist and moderate viewpoint) than you’ll find in an Almond Joy.

Photo via The Daily Beast

The Moderate Voice

Peter Thiel: Libertarianism Taken To Its Logical Extreme

October 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Jacob Weisberg may not believe that (I do) but he calls Thiel out on this:

The Thiel Fellowship will pay would-be entrepreneurs under 20 $ 100,000 in cash to drop out of school. In announcing the program, Thiel made clear his contempt for American universities which, like governments, he believes, cost more than they’re worth and hinder what really matters in life, namely starting tech companies. His scholarships are meant as an escape hatch from these insufficiently capitalist institutions of higher learning.

Where to start with this nasty idea? A basic feature of the venture capitalist’s worldview is its narcissism, and with that comes the desire to clone oneself—perhaps literally in Thiel’s case. Thus Thiel fellows will have the opportunity to emulate their sponsor by halting their intellectual development around the onset of adulthood, maintaining a narrow-minded focus on getting rich as young as possible, and thereby avoid the siren lure of helping others or contributing to the advances in basic science that have made the great tech fortunes possible. Thiel’s program is premised on the idea that America suffers from a deficiency of entrepreneurship. In fact, we may be on the verge of the opposite, a world in which too many weak ideas find funding and every kid dreams of being the next Mark Zuckerberg. This threatens to turn the risk-taking startup model into a white boy’s version of the NBA, diverting a generation of young people from the love of knowledge for its own sake and respect for middle-class values.

It’s also another expression of our abandonment of the ideal of a public education system. Thiel doesn’t call it “dropping out of school;” he calls it “stopping out of school.” He first discussed the idea at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in September (CrunchBase Thiel profile; Techmeme discussion).

At Disrupt he framed it as a solution to crippling student debt. In a WSJ interview last weekend — its headline says it all, Technology = Salvation – he compared a college education to a subprime mortgage:

“University administrators are the equivalent of subprime mortgage brokers,” he says, “selling you a story that you should go into debt massively, that it’s not a consumption decision, it’s an investment decision. Actually, no, it’s a bad consumption decision. Most colleges are four-year parties.”

Weisberg also points to a personal statement from Thiel, The Education of a Libertarian, produced last year for the CATO Foundation. In it Thiel explains that he “no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

The Moderate Voice

Voters See Democrats As More Extreme Than Republicans

October 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In a sign that the Democratic Party’s talking points against the GOP and the Tea Party movement are not resonating with the public, a new poll shows that voters are more likely to view the Democratic Party as extremist than the Republican Party:

Likely voters in battleground districts see extremists as having a more dominant influence over the Democratic Party than they do over the GOP.

This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.


The polling firm Penn, Schoen and Berland conducted the survey, contacting 4,047 likely voters by phone between Oct. 2 and Oct. 7. The margin of error for this sample is 1.5 percent.

More than one in every five Democrats (22 percent) in The Hill’s survey said their party was more dominated than the GOP by extreme views. The equivalent figure among Republicans is 11 percent.

Results for independent voters reflected the larger sample. Forty-three percent of likely independent voters said the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, compared to 37 percent who thought the GOP had fallen under the sway of extreme views.

The figures by party do come with one caveat: Because the voter sampling size is smaller, the margin of error by party is 4.5 percent.

This comes despite months of rhetoric from the White House on down hammering away at the idea that Republicans were nominating candidates who were out of step with the mainstream. Instead, this poll seems to be saying that it’s the Democratic Party that is perceived as being out of step:

“All the press coverage has been about how these Tea Party candidates are fringe ideologues, and there have been high-profile examples of them proving the point,” he added. “Yet, still at this moment, you have independents saying, ‘I think the Democrats are a little more extreme than the Republicans.’ ”

O’Donnell’s past denunciation of masturbation and the admission that she “dabbled into witchcraft” have dominated media coverage of her campaign.

At a July fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), President Obama called out Angle as extreme for wanting to phase out and privatize Social Security and Medicare and eliminate federal investment in education.

But polling data from congressional districts in Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington state, West Virginia and Wisconsin show that Democratic leaders are having trouble convincing voters that the GOP is more extreme.

Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota and longtime observer of the national political scene, said he was surprised by the data.

“I thought the publicity around the Tea Party phenomenon would have given a different result,” he said.

“It is a reflection that the faces of leadership of the Democrats in government are seen as very liberal faces: Reid, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [Calif.] and Obama,” he said. “The leading faces of the Republican Party aren’t that well-known.”

Democratic Party strategists have tried to change that dynamic, working to raise the profile of House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who would be in line to replace Pelosi as Speaker in the event of a GOP victory in the House.

But that effort has shown limited success.

If nothing else, this would seem to indicate that voter disdain with the incumbent party has extended so far as to apparently ignore their spin about the opposition. It’s also, of course, a reflection of the fact that the United States is, at heart, a center-right country and that the Obama Administration’s biggest miscalculation has been the degree it has tried to move the nation to the left at the same time that the economy continues to languish. Granted, Republicans would probably be suffering a similar fate in November if they were in power right now, but the extent to which the turn against the Democratic Party represents a backlash for ideological over-reaching cannot be discounted.

It is nonetheless remarkable that, notwithstanding the plethora of odd or at least unconventional candidates that the GOP has nominated this year, that it’s the Democratic Party that’s deemed by voters as being more extreme. That doesn’t bode well for their fortunes on Election Day.

Outside the Beltway

How Is It ‘News’ for Time to Hype ‘Extreme Militias’ In the Last Weeks of a Campaign?

October 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Time magazine’s news judgment is truly puzzling. With just weeks to go before a crucial midterm election, their cover story package is ten pages stuffed with “The Secret World of Extreme Militias.” Voters are poised to sweep a pile of Democrats out of office from coast to coast, and they’re camped in Zanesville, Ohio with a right-wing militia that claims 300 members as the nation’s number one news story? (Katie Couric tweeted on Wednesday that she was eagerly reading it.)

Time editor Richard Stengel announced they gave new hire Barton Gellman six months in the field chasing the whisper of a possibility that some new Timothy McVeigh might emerge and vindicate this bizarre investment of effort. Just weeks after they asked on the cover if America was Islamophobic, it’s clear that once again, Obama’s sinking popularity reveals an ugly America that can’t accept the gift they elected.

While Gellman opened with the usual hackneyed portrait of a Midwestern militia on wacky military exercises against an undefined enemy, it’s clear that their deep anxiety over Obama is the main thread. A militia resurgence “now is widely seen among government and academic experts as a reaction to the tectonic shifts in American politics that allowed a black man with a foreign-sounding name and a Muslim-born father to reach the White House.”

If this all sounds like rehashed talking points from the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, you would be correct. “Obama’s ascendancy unhinged the radical right, offering a unified target to competing camps of racial, nativist, and religious animus,” Gellman insisted. There were “at least four alleged assassination plots between June and December” of 2007.

“We call it somewhat of a perfect storm,” a high-ranking FBI official who declined to speak on the record because of the political sensitivities of the subject.

That’s a fascinating snippet. This whole cover story has political sensitivities – to scare readers into fearing an emerging (or possibly just endlessly bungling) “threat” from militias. The greatest sensitivities in this story are Time’s deep and abiding love and concern for Obama. Gellman and Time are upset that anyone would criticize the government finding a huge threat of “right-wing extremism,” somehow larger than the Islamic radical threat:

Federal law-enforcement agencies want no part of a conversation about angry antigovernment extremists and refused in virtually every case to speak on the record. A few injudicious passages from career analysts at the DHS in an April 2009 report titled "Rightwing Extremism" — which could be misread to suggest danger from ordinary antigovernment opinions or military veterans in general — brought a ferocious backlash. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano distanced herself from the report and forbade further public discussion of the subject. Shortly afterward, the National Security Council staff canceled plans for a working-group meeting on the surge of violent threats against members of Congress.

Yet the months that followed brought fresh support for the study’s central finding, that rising "rightwing radicalization and recruitment" raised the risk that lone wolves would emerge from within the groups to commit "violent acts targeting government facilities, law-enforcement officers, banks and infrastructure sectors."

Gellman insists he has sparking new scoops: that Holocaust Museum shooter James Van Brunn really wanted to shoot Obama adviser David Axelrod; and that a New York man was attempting to build a “dirty bomb” and had “declared an ambition to kill the president-elect.” But the whole project feels like a rerun from the Clinton years and sounds like it was started when federal agencies arrested Michigan’s Hutaree militia in March, and it hasn’t had much of a rationale ever since. – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

George Stephanopoulos Highlights Tea Party Candidates ‘Called Too Extreme,’ Touts Attacks on Rubio

October 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

On Wednesday, Good Morning America co-anchor George Stephanopoulos hosted the Florida Senate debate and on Thursday morning highlighted the attacks against Republican Marco Rubio.

Discussing the Tea Party overall, Stephanopoulos dismissed, "Both [Joe] Miller and [Christine] O’Donnell have been called too extreme by their opponents. The same case made here against Rubio."

Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to Bill Clinton, replayed attacks from the debate both from Democrat Kendrick Meek and independent Charlie Crist.

Crist derided Rubio: "Wanting to punish women. Wanting to punish seniors by raising the age of eligibility. You haven’t been drinking the kool aid, my friend, you’ve been drinking too much tea."

Stephanopoulos then played a clip of Meek complaining, "[Rubio] doesn’t carry the values that this state needs in the United States Senate to put people back to work." Only a snippet of Rubio was seen during the segment.

The host also predicted a downside to GOP gains: "…If Republicans, as we expect, pick up seats in the House and Senate, maybe even take control, that’s a recipe for more gridlock." Analyst Matt Dowd agreed, "I don’t think this tea kettle is going to be totally vented in this election cycle because a number of the Tea Party candidates will probably not win."

Oddly, Stephanopoulos on Tuesday pushed the idea that the Tea Party could be "losing traction." On Thursday, he admitted, "In some key races, the Tea Party tidal wave is still gaining strength."

A transcript of the October 7 segment can be found below:

7AM tease

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Tea Party time. Christine O’Donnell slips far behind in new polls. Sarah Palin to the rescue. But, down here in Florida, the Tea Party favorite riding high after last night’s rollicking debate.


ROBIN ROBERTS: Let’s get back to George, now, in Orlando. George?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Robin. Thanks. There are just 26 days to go until the midterm elections. We’re starting a serious debate right now. And last night, the prime time debate here in Florida. The Florida Senate debate. And it was hard-charging and hard-hitting, right from the start. And crystallized a lot of the political conversation taking place all throughout the country right now. The blows were coming from all directions. Right, left and center. In some key races, the Tea Party tidal wave is still gaining strength. A new poll in Nevada shows Sharron Angle now two points ahead of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And in Florida, Marco Rubio, who was the first to harness that Tea Party energy months ago, has a big lead, which has made him the top target from independent Charlie Crist, on Social Security.

CRIST AD: Rubio wants to raise the Social Security retirement age.

CHARLIE CRIST: He talked about raising the age of eligibility. Said it was on the table.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I just want a yes or no answer. Is it still on the table?

MARCO RUBIO: It is not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The debate I moderated last night got rocking from the start and Rubio stuck to the Tea Party themes that have put him ahead.

RUBIO: Our debt problem going forward is because Washington can’t control spending. If you like Obama Care, if you like the stimulus plan, you can vote for Charlie Crist or Kendrick Meek.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That message is clicking for Rubio here in Florida. But, other Tea Party candidates are having a tougher time. A new poll in Delaware shows Christine O’Donnell trailing her Democratic opponent by double-digits. And in Alaska, the Tea Party’s Joe Miller is locked in an E-mail debate with Sarah Palin’s husband, about whether Palin is qualified to be president. Todd doesn’t think that Miller has been effusive enough. But, Sarah weighed in last night.

SARAH PALIN: Yeah, a diversion like that, trying to make me a part of the narrative there in Joe Miller’s campaign. Joe Miller is the right person to help lead Alaska.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Both Miller and O’Donnell have been called too extreme by their opponents. The same case made here against Rubio.

CRIST: I mean, wanting to punish teachers. Wanting to punish women. Wanting to punish seniors by raising the age of eligibility. You haven’t been drinking the kool aid, my friend, you’ve been drinking too much tea.

KENDRICK MEEK: He doesn’t carry the values that this state needs in the United States Senate to put people back to work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay and joining us now is our political contributor, Matthew Dowd. Also columnist for National Journal. You were here watching last night. And we were talking about the debate. The first thing you said was this is a microcosm of what’s happening in the country.

MATT DOWD: Yeah. If you watch the debate, it’s very interesting. You have Marco Rubio, on the attack on Washington. Trying to make Crist and Meek the, sort of, Representative of Washington. He went on attack on Obama. Said it was the Republican message of anti-Washington.


DOWD: Big-time, on spending. You had Meek making the very, very energetic defense of what they did in Washington, what the Democrats did. And, so, to me, it’s the passion on both of those sides. It ended up putting Crist in the middle, a little in the soft and squishy middle because the passion exists on both sides, with what it is in the rest of the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you think that Rubio was a favorite of the Tea Party from the beginning, has really mastered that anti-Washington message. And that’s where a lot of the country is right now.

DOWD: Yeah. Absolutely. I think he came out. He’s slightly ahead in this race. I think he did himself well. He probably solidified the Republicans even more last night. But, he has the disciplined message, which basically is if you like what’s going on in Washington, don’t vote for me. Vote for them. It represents it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, as we said in the piece, we’re seeing mixed results from the Tea Party candidates now across the country. Sharron Angle out in Nevada has pulled a little bit ahead of Harry Reid. Christine O’Donnell way down in Delaware. Rubio doing, doing pretty well here. Rand Paul probably going to be doing okay in Kentucky. But, it’s not going to be a clean sweep for the Tea Party on election day, which could create- which means probably means frustration driving that won’t go away after Election Day.

DOWD: Yeah. I don’t think this tea kettle is going to be totally vented in this election cycle because a number of the Tea Party candidates will probably not win. And the Republicans will probably not be able to do, if they do win, a lot. And, so, I think what’s going to happen, is after November, the anger and frustration that exists out there is only going to grow as we go into the next cycle of elections.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, in part, because If Republicans, as we expect, pick up seats in the House and Senate, maybe even take control, that’s a recipe for more gridlock.

DOWD: Yeah. I think absolutely what’s going to happen after this November, is little is going to get done in Washington. And people are going to be more frustrated going into the presidential election in 2012.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the things we’ve seen across the country, which you really feel here as you turn on your television, is campaign spending. Likely to see $ 3 billion spent in this election cycle. A lot of it by groups where you don’t know where the money is coming from. And it’s all across the air waves here.

DOWD: Absolutely. The economy that’s suffering, the people doing well are the media consultants because there’s ad after ad after ad. You watched last night in Orlando and it’s just every place you go, is a negative ad about somebody on the ballot. At some point, there’s so many ads that washes over the voters. And I think things like last night’s debate I think have a much bigger impact on voters than the ads do because there’s so many in so many different places. But, a lot of money’s getting spent. – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Do GOPers Taking Campaign Funds From DeMint Agree With His Extreme Views On Unmarried Women, Gays?

October 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

jim-demintSen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, has made a name for himself by supporting tea party insurgents against establishment Republican candidates in this year’s hotly-contested primaries. For instance, he supported Rand Paul over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) preferred candidate and endorsed Joe Miller over his own Senate colleague Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called this behavior “a new and shocking development.” Some new and revealing comments DeMint made over the weekend are likely to cause even more division among Republicans, while also providing yet further evidence of the tea party’s hostile takeover of the GOP.

Speaking to the “Greater Freedom Rally” on Saturday at a church in Spartanburg, SC, DeMint actually advocated for fewer basic freedoms for gays and unmarried women. According the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, DeMint “said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom.” These comments come just days after DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) successfully blocked approval of a National Women’s History Museum, on the grounds that it unnecessarily duplicated existing local museums honoring quilters and cowgirls, and other sites such as a lilac garden in Washington state.

While DeMint’s extreme statements and tea party endorsements have grabbed headlines, less well-known is the fact that two political action committees controlled by DeMint — MINT PAC and the Senate Conservatives Fund — are spending millions of dollars to elect GOP candidates from coast-to-coast. According to and a ThinkProgress review of the most independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, DeMint’s PACs have lavished nearly $ 2 million on fifteen GOP candidates whose success or failure at the ballot box will determine which party controls the Senate in the 112th Congress. The beneficiaries of his largesse include:

– Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio: $ 406,250

– Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck, who famously implored GOP primary voters to choose him over his rival Jane Norton because he “[doesn]’t wear high heels”: $ 359,654

– Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, herself a former teacher: $ 337,903

– Utah Senate candidate Mike Lee: $ 251,945

– Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller: $ 180,067

– Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell: $ 130,326

– Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul: $ 79,421

– Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey: $ 68,796

– Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson: $ 51,858

– Washington Senate candidate Dino Rossi: $ 37,000

– South Dakota Senate candidate John Thune: $ 7,500

– North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Indiana’s Dan Coats have each received $ 5,000.

The Hill reported last Friday that DeMint plans to spend hundreds of thousands more on another round of television ads targeting his Democratic Senate colleagues Harry Reid (NV), Michael Bennet (CO), and Russ Feingold (WI) in order to further aid challengers Angle, Buck, and Johnson. One wonders whether these and other GOP candidates, including rumored 2012 hopeful Sen. John Thune (R-SD), will continue to accept money and support from their putative leader or whether they will disavow DeMint’s hateful and extreme attack on unmarried women and gays by returning his money and refusing any further support.

Think Progress

Who You Calling Extreme?

October 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In politics, there is an old adage that if they are not shooting at you, you are irrelevant.  If so, you may well be able to judge the relevancy of someone by the amount of fire they are drawing.  A year ago, the “Tea Party” was merely “astro-turf” in the eyes of those on the Left.  Today, they are more than extreme in the eyes of the Main Stream Media, the Democrats leadership and Left in general.   But is that really the case?

Before we answer the question, keep in the mind the intensity of the attacks facing the Tea Party participants today.  They are referred to as “earth-shatteringly stupid,”(Rolling Stone Oct. 14 edition)  “racist,” “hard-right,” and, of course, “extreme” – the latter of which will produce over 2.7 million Google hits.  It also was the recent subject of Obama’s characterization of “the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists.”

So how extreme are the Tea Party participants.  Let’s take a look.

Among the Tea Party Groups, one of the most prominent is the Tea Party Express.  I have attended a few of their rallies and found that they have championed the following slogans at one time or another on the side of their tour bus:

  • Stop Out of Control Spending!
  • No Government Run Healthcare!
  • Reduce the Size & Intrusiveness of Government!
  • End the Bailouts!
  • Stop Raising our Taxes!

Do those slogans represent extreme views?  Let’s see what a few people have to say about them.

On Out of Control Spending: “Ongoing deficits may severely and adversely affect expectations and confidence, which in turn can generate a self-reinforcing cycle among the underlying fiscal deficit, financial markets, and the real economy.”

On Government Run Healthcare: “What can we do about this? Well, you and I can do a great deal. We can write to our congressmen and our senators. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms. And at the moment, the key issue is, we do not want socialized medicine.”

On Reducing the Size and Intrusiveness of Government: In 2004, we had a Presidential candidate call the Patriot Act “an assault on our basic rights.”

On the Bail Out Bills: In 2008, one Senate candidate called the 2008 financial bailout bill a “sacrifice at the altar of financial mismanagement.”

On Stop Raising our Taxes:  “Nor should the argument seem strange that taxation may be so high as to defeat its object, and that, given sufficient time to gather the fruits, a reduction of taxation will run a better chance, than an increase, of balancing the budget.”

I suspect most Tea Partiers agree with some or all of those comments. The authors of those comments, however, in order: Democrat Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin on spending, Ronald Reagan on Healthcare, Presidential Candidate John Kerry on the Patriot Act, then Senate candidate now Senator Al Franken on the bailout and liberal lion economist John Maynard Keynes on taxes being too high.

It is always worthy, in any discussion – especially political – to put things in context.  The fact that all of those quotes came from either current or former Democrats – some rather liberal Democrats – should give you that context.

Today, an enormous number of voters, exceeding 30% by some counts, support the Tea Party Movement.  A majority of American voters want to repeal healthcare and cut taxes.  Almost by definition therefore, the foregoing proves that the mantra’s of the Tea Party movement, which have also included requests to respect the Constitution and having legislators read the bills on which they vote, cannot be considered extreme.

All of which leaves one conclusion, the demonization of the Tea Party is all that is left for a Democrat Party whose policies have failed and are out of touch with the American electorate.  Of course, on that point, John Kerry asserted recently that it is “out-of-touch” voters that are to blame for the Democrats woes.  It is just that type of extreme arrogance that the Founders were against and, when coupled with bad policies, will result in a changing of the guard this Fall.

Big Government

Monica Crowley Smacks Down Eleanor Clift Over GOP Being ‘Extreme’

October 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Conservative commentator Monica Crowley and Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift got into another heated debate on PBS’s "McLaughlin Group" this weekend.

This time, the perilously liberal Clift claimed policy proposals set forth in the Republican "Pledge to America" were "extreme."

"They should have just stood aside and let [the upcoming elections] be a referendum on the Democrats," claimed Clift.

"This election is a referendum on progressivism," countered Crowley. "What Eleanor refers to as extreme politics, as extreme policies in the Pledge, we are talking about cutting taxes, limiting government, cutting the deficit."

This angered Clift who screeched, "Don’t misquote me" (video follows with transcript and commentary): 

PAT BUCHANAN: This is not a pro-GOP election at all. Of course, that’s out at Madison, Wisconsin.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, HOST: What do you mean by that?

BUCHANAN: What I mean is people are voting against. They are coming out to vote against Obama…

MCLAUGHLIN: That’s the intensity factor.

BUCHANAN: …Pelosi and Reid and debts and deficits and unemployment. And this is why the Republicans made a terrible mistake. The party of no was winning, and so they come out here and say…


BUCHANAN: …"Look, here’s the things we are going to do." Put a target on their back. Interrupted their own momentum.

CLIFT: Right.

BUCHANAN: This is an anti-election.

CLIFT: They should have just stood aside and let it be a referendum on the Democrats.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

CLIFT: Instead, they put their extreme proposals out there.

Seems pretty clear, right?

Buchanan was making the case that the Republicans were sitting pretty and didn’t need to put anything in writing that Democrats could campaign against. Clift agreed claiming the proposals the GOP put out in were extreme.

With this in mind, when Crowley got her chance a few minutes later, she took exception to this assertion:

MONICA CROWLEY: This election is a referendum on progressivism. Okay, progressivism has destroyed this economy…

MCLAUGHLIN: You mean liberalism.

CLIFT: No, no, no.

CROWLEY: …it’s taken it back…No, I’m talking about progressivism.

CLIFT: No, no, no, no, no.

CROWLEY: What Eleanor refers to as extreme politics, as extreme policies in the Pledge, we are talking about cutting taxes, limiting government, cutting the deficit.

MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, pick it up.

CLIFT: Don’t misquote me, please.

MCLAUGHLIN: Alright, finish your point.

CLIFT: Don’t misquote me. I was talking about extreme policies that Republican candidates are running on that the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill don’t want to be part of.

CROWLEY: Let me just button up my point then. Let me clarify. Let me just button up my point. The extreme policies that she’s referring to are limited government, lowering the tax burden, constitutional government, reducing the national debt and deficit. Not exactly radical.

Not at all radical – unless you’re a liberal media member like Eleanor Clift.

Nicely done, Monica. Brava! – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Lawrence O’Donnell Draws Parallel Between Extreme Militia Groups and Tea Party

October 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

What do Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a domestic terrorist who was developing a nuclear weapon, and Tea Party activists concerned about lavish government spending have in common? Nothing, unless you’re a newly-minted cable news anchor with a liberal agenda.

Interviewing a Time magazine writer who conducted an in-depth investigation into right-wing militias, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on the September 30 "Last Word" tried to draw a parallel between the reported resurgence of extreme militia groups and the rise of the Tea Party.

"The surge in recruits to what could be the training ground of our next Timothy McVeigh parallels the rise of the Tea Party and includes at least one man who had serious plans to kill the president by going nuclear," warned O’Donnell, before enlisting the help of Barton Gellman, author of "Locked and Loaded: The Secret World of Extreme Militias," to connect the dots.

After laying the groundwork with questions about Holocaust Museum killer James von Brunn and a man who was fashioning a dirty bomb to assassinate President Barack Obama before being killed in his sleep by his wife, O’Donnell peddled his offensive comparison: "Now, do you see any relationship in the parallel rise in time only – I’m only suggesting there’s a parallel in time – of the Tea Party and this tripling of the militias?" Just as prefacing an insult by giving someone all due respect does not absolve the critic of the uncouth statement that may follow, O’Donnell’s attempt to cover for himself does not excuse his highly objectionable insinuation.

Instead of receiving reflexive agreement for such a shrewd observation, O’Donnell was refuted by the Time editor-at-large: "It’s tricky because I do not want to give the impression that I’m associating the Tea Party with these militias. It almost doesn’t matter what the anti-government extremists believe. What matters is that they are arming and training and practicing and planning for bloodshed."

Apparently O’Donnell missed the part where Gellman dismissed the comparison between extreme militia members and Tea Party activists: "Theirs is not Tea Party anger, which aims at electoral change, even if it often speaks of war. In the world of armed extremists, war is not always a metaphor. Some of them speak with contempt about big talkers who ‘meet, eat and retreat.’"

After only one week on the air, O’Donnell has managed to malign Tea Party supporters as "narcissistic," interview a Rolling Stone "reporter" who insulted them as "incredibly stupid," and compare the conservative activists to the likes of McVeigh and von Brunn.

Classy, Lawrence.

A transcript of the segment can be found below:

Last Word
September 30, 2010

10:20 p.m. EDT

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Locked and loaded. Since Barack Obama became president, the number of heavily-armed anti-government militias has tripled. That’s right, tripled. The surge in recruits to what could be the training ground of our next Timothy McVeigh parallels the rise of the Tea Party and includes at least one man who had serious plans to kill the president by going nuclear. Joining me now is the author of Time magazine’s special investigation, "Locked and Loaded: The Secret World of Extreme Militias," Barton Gellman, Time magazine’s contributing editor at large. Tell us about the guy who was building – really seriously building a nuclear device that he hoped would take the president.

BARTON GELLMAN, Time magazine: Well, a dirty bomb, he hoped – a radiological dispersal device.

O’DONNELL: This is what we fear from al-Qaeda, that there will be some suitcase bomb, there will be some dirty bomb, so called, that will end up on the New York City subway. But we had a domestic terrorist who was working on it.

GELLMAN: Well, two things to say about this guy. One is he probably is the most serious –  came the nearest to being able to actually build a dirty bomb of any of the domestic threats we’ve ever heard about, certainly way more than Jose Padilla, the accused al-Qaeda dirty bomber. On the other hand, he wasn’t – he wasn’t ready yet. He wasn’t there. But it is by the happenstance that he was killed in his sleep by his wife that we found out about it at all.

O’DONNELL: And why was he killed in his sleep by his wife? So, there were things wrong with him as a husband as well as a citizen.

GELLMAN: There were issues. The judge – the judge found that she had suffered so greatly in terms of domestic abuse that he waived any prison sentence at all, even though she killed him in his sleep.

O’DONNELL: Lenient judges have their place in our judicial system. You write that the Holocaust Museum killer, James von Brunn, that he had written, was that on his Web site that he wrote this or?

GELLMAN: No, actually, more chillingly. When he went and killed the guard at the Holocaust Museum, he double-parked his car, got out, raised a rifle and shot the guy point-blank in the chest. In his double-parked car was his planning notebook. And in that notebook, you found evidence of the other targets he had in mind.

O’DONNELL: He had a note there saying "Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do." And he had other names on the card?

GELLMAN: He did have other names. One of them was David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser. And you don’t have to think that one life is more important than another to understand that it would have been a very different kind of event had an assassin killed one of the president’s, you know, inner circle members. And a thing that put a jolt through the Secret Service and Homeland Security and FBI was that this is a guy who demonstrated motive, means, intent to kill – actually did kill. And he had a plausible plan to get to David Axelrod.

O’DONNELL: Why didn’t he go after the president or Axelrod? Was the Holocaust Museum just easier? All you had to do was walk in?

GELLMAN: Actually, it’s not clear to me it that the Holocaust Museum was easier because, you know, having cased the place, he knew there were armed guards all over the place. That does not happen to have been the case at David Axelrod’s home and the address was listed. I think that Jews were whole central to this guy’s whole concept of evil in the world that he couldn’t resist.

O’DONNELL: Now, do you see any relationship in the parallel rise in time only – I’m only suggesting there’s a parallel in time – of the Tea Party and this tripling of the militias?

GELLMAN: It’s tricky because I do not want to give the impression that I’m associating the Tea Party with these militias. It almost doesn’t matter what the anti-government extremists believe. What matters is that they are arming and training and practicing and planning for bloodshed. In most cases, they consider it defensive. They’re expecting, you know, Obama to send troops to declare martial law, to seize their guns and round them up in concentration camps and so on. But they are training to kill opposition forces that look exactly like the ATF or the FBI or National Guard unit.

O’DONNELL: Now, having been with these people, is it your sense that the election of President Obama has provoked this increase in the militia, or at the same time the worst economy, you know, since the depression has provoked to this, or something else?

GELLMAN: Well, both. The FBI calls that a perfect storm. You had – you had – look, anytime you have the bottom drop out of the economy, it increases discontent greatly, and it sort of increases the voices of people who think that, for example, special interests are running the world to their own detriment, who were alienated from Washington. And many of the people in this sort of highly alienated, anti-government Right have hated every recent president. They hated the Bushes. But Obama also sort of jolted that movement because in one guy, you united – because of his race, because of what they imagined his religion was, because of what they imagined his, you know, his birthplace was – he united the bigotry of racists and religious bigots and nativists. And so, he was a perfect symbol for all of them.

O`DONNELL: Barton Gellman with the cover story of Time magazine this week, "Locked and Loaded," an amazing story. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

GELLMAN: Thank you, Lawrence. – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

Next Page »

  • Jennifer Taylor Bedding At
  • Nokia Inc.
  • Laptop ac adapters, keyboards, batteries, inverters, LCD screens at