Quantcast

Posts Tagged ‘Deepwater Horizon’



Maddaus on CD 36: Liberal vs Liberal vs Ultra-Liberal

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

As Secretary of State Debra Bowen jumped into the race for the 36th Congressional District race and L.A. city council member Janice Hahn added Sen. Dianne Feinstein to her long list of establishment endorsers, we heard from political writer Gene Maddaus, who took issue with some key elements of the Calbuzz early line, published last week.

Maddaus, who covers politics for the LA Weekly, is all over the campaign to succeed the departing Rep. Jane Harman day-to-day. Among his other lead-the-pack coverage – here, here and here – he broke the news of Bowen’s entry Tuesday. Here’s his take on our take of the race.

Gene Maddaus
Special to Calbuzz

1. Janice Hahn is no moderate. Along with Jose Huizar and Richard Alarcon, she is one of the three most liberal members of the (quite liberal) LA City Council. She opposed gang injunctions. She backed a $30 million tax to pay for more gang intervention workers. She is among the most likely to defend city jobs as an end in themselves. She would be a moderate in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, but not here.

2. The race isn’t so much about moderate vs. liberal — because Bowen and Hahn are both very liberal — as it is about a beer-track Democrat (Hahn) versus a wine-track Democrat (Bowen).

Bowen’s base is pro-choice, pro-consumer/trial lawyer, and pro-environment. Hahn’s base is labor labor labor, plus African-Americans. (That’s thanks to residual affection for Kenny Hahn, though, unfortunately for her, there aren’t many black voters in the 36th.)

If either of them is a moderate, it’s Bowen. She was a Republican in her misspent youth, and she had a reputation in the Assembly for bucking the party leadership. (Though that was probably out of necessity, since she represented a 50/50 district and the leadership was Willie Brown.)

3. The L.A. County Fed will back Hahn, and their support can be determinative in a low-turnout primary. UNITE HERE Local 11 (Maria-Elena’s old shop) endorsed Hahn last week, so the Fed can’t be far behind. Their turnout operation is justly feared/admired and union density is high in the Harbor area. Bowen’s hope would be that she can turn out wine-track Dems in the beach cities, where the Fed is less potent (ask Nick Karno in the 53rd AD) and that she can persuade independents and Republicans to back her in order to stop Hahn.

4. If anything, the jungle primary helps Bowen. Without it, Winograd and Bowen split the Westside liberal vote while Hahn has the Harbor/labor vote to herself. In the runoff, Hahn faces a token Republican. Advantage: Hahn. But with the jungle primary, Winograd gets kicked out after Round 1 and the Westside liberal vote consolidates behind Bowen. Advantage: Bowen. (Unless, of course, a Republican makes it through the runoff).

5. Both Hahn and Bowen are to the left of Harman, so now Winograd has to go even further left to maintain her brand. (Winograd’s questions for Bowen include: Will you visit Bradley Manning [the Wikileaks leaker] in solitary confinement?) A lot of that Winograd vote is anti-Harman. Not sure how seriously the electorate will take her this time around.

6. Harman said she’s resigning so the election can be consolidated with the special statewide vote on taxes. There’s a chance that this won’t cost the state any money, if a candidate gets 50% of the vote. If not, the runoff would be in August, when turnout is at its lowest and a good turnout operation is most important.

Harman also said that the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she’ll be taking over as executive director, approached her after the November election, because they didn’t like their first round of candidates to replace Lee Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman who’s retiring from the think tank.

The oil rig that wouldn’t die: Overlooked in much of the budget coverage that followed Kevin Yamamura’s scoop on the Legislative Analyst’s worst-case scenario report is the sudden resurfacing of the hugely contentious Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project.

Less than a year after ex-Governor Schwarzmuscle folded his long-sought effort to win approval of the Santa Barbara County coastal project, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, analyst Mac Taylor tucked it into the new report his office prepared, which offers a detailed look at the kinds of cuts and other moves lawmakers would have to make if Governor Krusty doesn’t get his way on extending $12 billion in temporary tax hikes.

The T-Ridge project called for a new state oil lease – which would be the first since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill – authorizing the PXP oil company to drill into state waters from its existing Platform Irene facilities in federal water, more than three miles offshore from Vandenberg Air Force base.

Among a whole batch of bitter political conflicts, the proposal caused a civil war within the green community in Santa Barbara, where the environmental movement began; some, led by the Environmental Defense Center, backed the lease as part of a negotiated package they said would end future drilling in federal waters from Irene and three other platforms. Others, notably former S.B. Democratic Assemblyman Pedro Nava, said it would set a dangerous precedent that could open California’s coast to more drilling.

For Brown, the project, one of the few  budget moves in Taylor’s report that would generate new revenue, would represent a special quandary. A longtime foe of offshore drilling, Gandalf would be under pressure to back the plan, estimated to bring $100 million a year into the treasury, because of his call for shared sacrifice across the political spectrum.

“Friggin’ cats only have 9 lives,” Nava, who led the opposition to the plan in the Legislature, told Calbuzz. “This feels like at least a dozen.”

ICYMI: There’s a do-gooder move afoot to take down various video posts of the truly bizarre clip of CBS LA correspondent Serene Branson’s live report from the Grammys the other night, amid still unanswered medical questions about whether she had some kind of neurological malfunction on the air. Before it’s gone for ever, you can judge for yourself.

PPIC: Voters Oppose Offshore Oil & AB 32 Rollback

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

By large margins, California’s likely voters oppose expanded offshore oil drilling and believe that enforcement of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law will create more jobs – not kill them – a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows.

Public attitudes are polarized between Democrats and Republicans on the two high-profile environmental issues but, significantly, the crucial swing blocs of independent and moderate voters both oppose the GOP position by 2-to-1.

With tight races both for governor – where PPIC shows Jerry Brown ahead of Meg Whitman 37-to-34% with 23 % undecided -  and for U.S. Senator – where Barbara Boxer leads Carly Fiorina 39-to-34%, with 22% undecided – the poll points to key political opportunities for the front-running Democrats to differentiate themselves from their Republican rivals.

Given the registration advantage of Democrats in statewide elections, PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare told Calbuzz, the poll’s findings on the views of independents, particularly on the jobs vs. greenhouse gas regulation debate, are “hugely significant.”

“The ‘more jobs versus fewer jobs’ debate will be a center of discussion this fall with the effort to suspend AB 32,” Baldassare said. “It poses a real challenge for Republicans to explain why they believe differently” than most voters.

Climate change and jobs: As a political matter, the findings on AB 32 — California’s landmark legislation to regulate emissions — offer the clearest look yet at the state political landscape surrounding the issue of climate change, at a time when debate on the matter is growing more vocal.

Conservative Republicans, joined by several large coal and oil companies, have qualified Proposition 23 for the November ballot. The initiative would suspend enforcement of AB 32 unless and until unemployment fell to 5.5 percent in the state; AB 32 requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

With the state unemployment rate now at 12.5 percent, supporters of the measure argue that the greenhouse gas law is an environmental “job killer” that California cannot economically afford. But the recession has had little effect on changing the public’s favorable opinion about AB 32, according to the poll, which shows likely voters:

1-Favor AB 32 overall by 61-to-28 percent; while Democrats support it 80-10 and Republicans oppose it 49-39, independents support the law 73-16%.

2-Think California should make its own policies, separate from the federal government, by 56-38%, with Democrats backing that position 63-to-30% and independents by 60-to-30%, as Republicans say California should not have its own climate change policy, 50-43%.

3-Believe that global warming is a very or somewhat serious threat to the economy and quality of life in the state by 63-to-35%; Democrats perceive it as a serious problem, 86-12% while Republicans do not find it so, 55-41% and independents express serious concern 77-to-22%.

For the 2010 campaigns, however, the most important numbers on the climate change issue show that likely voters, for now at least, are rejecting the central argument of the conservatives and industry groups spearheading the Prop. 23 effort, namely that tough greenhouse gas emissions regulation is a “job killer” making the recession worse.

In fact, a large plurality of likely voters believe that state global warming legislation will increase employment. While PPIC did not poll the ballot language of AB Prop. 23, because the final version was not available when they were in the field, researchers did ask about the jobs argument:

Do you think that California doing things to reduce global warming in the future would cause there to be more jobs for people around the state, would cause there to be fewer jobs, or wouldn’t affect the number of jobs for people around the state?

The result: By 43-28, likely voters said it would mean more jobs, not fewer; Democrats took that stance 57-14%, while Republicans said it would mean fewer jobs, 43-to-24%.

Swing voters agreed with the Democrats: Independents said global warming measures would mean more jobs rather than fewer, 50-to-25%, while moderates agreed, 49-to-20%.

Offshore oil drilling: In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon calamity in the Gulf of Mexico, the poll showed a dramatic swing in attitudes about offshore oil drilling in California.

After many years in which state voters strongly opposed expanded drilling off the coast, sentiment began to swing in favor two years ago, when gas prices spiked.

In 2009,  when asked their view about more drilling off the coast “to address the country’s energy needs and reduce dependence on foreign oil,” likely voters favored drilling 55-to-41%. But in the new survey, likely voters oppose drilling 59-to-37%, a huge swing of 36 points.

“After consistently opposing more offshore oil drilling, residents began to waver as gas prices increased,” Baldassare said. “But events in the Gulf appear to have renewed opposition to more drilling here.”

What it all means: As a practical matter, the PPIC poll represents especially bad news for GOP Senate candidate Fiorina.

She has positioned herself on the far right on a host of issues, including her call for expanded drilling off the coast of California, and her support for Proposition 23, coupled with her mocking of Boxer’s oft-expressed concern about climate change (Fiorina calls it a fixation on the weather) and her questioning of the science of global warming.

With 41% of likely voters saying the candidates’ views on the environment are very important, compared to 21% who say they are not too important, Boxer leads Fiorina overall, 39-to-34%. Each candidate has very strong backing from her own party but Boxer leads among independents 35-29%.

In the governor’s race, Whitman has switched her position on offshore drilling several times and, most recently, opposes it, while Brown consistently has been against.

In courting right-wing voters in the GOP primary, Whitman said she would suspend AB 32 for at least one year, while Brown has been adamantly against relaxing it.

It’s significant that Whitman has not yet taken a position on Prop. 23 and, given her flip flops and flexibility on other issues, it would not surprising to see her come out against it yet. Our guess: she’ll say she’s got a better plan and Prop. 23 goes too far. This, of course, would raise new questions about her opportunism and commitment on the issue by both sides of the debate.

The PPIC findings are based on telephone (landline and cell) surveys of 2,502 Californians, conducted July 6-20, in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. The margin of error for the sub-sample of 1,321 likely voters is plus or minus 2.7 percent.

You can access the complete poll here.

Press Clips: Lights! Action! Camera! Bribery! News?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We don’t know if Michael Luo of the New York Times was just idly rooting around in Meg Whitman’s 19-page FPPC Form 700 financial disclosure when he just happened to stumble across an investment of more than $1 million in “Tools Down! Productions” and knew “ah ha!”  – that’s political consultant Mike Murphy’s Hollywood production company.

Or maybe somebody who doesn’t like Whitman and/or Murphy decided to point Luo in the right direction or slipped him the paperwork. Either way, it’s a good story and since we have a pdf of the actual document in hand (you can’t get it online), we know it’s true:

Right there on page 9, “Tools Down! Productions, Inc c/o Aaron Zimmer, Singer Burke & Co., 6345 Balboa Blvd, Building 4, Suite 375, Encino, CA 91316” a ”Partnership Stock” investment in “Entertainment Production” valued “Over $1,000,000.”

That’s MORE than $1 million, Calbuzzers. Sandwiched between investments in  Magellan Midstream Holdings LP and Abaca Technology Corp. just where you’d expect to find it.

Although some in the news media have been quick to kiss this deal off as totally legal and out of reach of scandal, there remains one question that we probably will never get a real answer to: Was this, on Whitman’s part, a political expenditure disguised as a business investment?

Sure it looks like Whitman, um, bribed Murphy to either stay away from Steve Poizner’s campaign or sign on to hers. But Murphy’s a private citizen. He can – and does – sell his services to the highest bidder. More power to him.

Whitman, on the other hand, has to follow certain rules. She can’t (ethically or legally) pay a retainer or a fee to a political consultant out of her private funds and not count that as a political expenditure made in pursuit of the office she’s seeking.

We don’t know what you might call the actual facts that could shine a light on that issue. We don’t even know how much the total “investment” was. Was it more or less, for example than the “More than $1,000,000” eMeg listed in two different Goldman Sachs Distressed Opportunities Funds?

Of course, not knowing all the facts has little effect on handlers for Whitman’s opponent, Jerry Brown. “By all accounts it was a political payoff masquerading as a so-called legitimate business investment,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer after we goaded him.

“Murphy should disclose his other investors and whether the payment was reported on his income taxes . . .  It’s possible she paid it from one of her Cayman Island accounts,” Glazer added.

Murph’s only on-the-record comment to us was, “I’m absolutely not commenting on this.”

Oil spill, what oil spill? It was Hall of Fame blogger and erstwhile Senate candidate Mickey Kaus who coined the term “Feiler Faster Thesis” to describe the way that online age politics is changing as people learn to process information ever-faster, to keep up with the speed at which information now moves. Kaus in 2000 propounded the thesis based on an idea from writer Bruce Feiler to argue that the whole notion of “momentum” in campaigns is woefully out of date.

The news cycle is much faster these days, thanks to 24-hour cable, the Web, a metastasized pundit caste constantly searching for new angles, etc. As a result, politics is able to move much faster, too, as our democracy learns to process more information in a shorter period and to process it comfortably at this faster pace. Charges and countercharges fly faster, candidates’ fortunes rise and fall faster, etc.

A few years later, he boiled it down further:

The FFT, remember, doesn’t say that information moves with breathtaking speed these days. (Everyone knows that!) The FFT says that people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed. [emphasis in the original]

The FFT came to mind Friday, when we read a report from the Washpost’s hypercaffeineated Chris Cillizza noting that the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which preoccupied TV and cable news for weeks, is quickly fading as an issue, even as the company and government continue frantic efforts to contain and cleanup the millions of gallons of oil erupting from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked to name the most important problem facing the country, just seven percent of respondents in the July Gallup poll said “natural disaster response/relief” — a major drop off from the 18 percent who said the same in June. (In Gallup’s May poll, just one percent named “natural disaster response” as the most important problem in the country.)

“Americans’ reduced likelihood to see the spill as the top problem could reflect the reality that the spill is no longer ‘new’ news or perhaps that Americans are becoming more confident that they spill will be fixed,” wrote Gallup poll director Frank Newport in a memo detailing the results.

Given their current sorry state, any Democrats desperate for any shred of good news may look to the FFT for hope that fast-moving, and so far unforeseen, events might yet alter the political landscape before they have to face cranky voters.

As dismal as things look for the Dems, amid the current conventional wisdom forecasting a wipe-out and possible loss of the House, cooler head prognosticators and pundits, like NBC political director Chuck Todd, don’t see how the numbers work for the Republicans to take over control.

P.S. After leaving Slate for his quixotic challenge to Barbara Boxer, Kaus has been writing on his campaign site, but says he’s mulling several, no doubt lucrative, alternatives (better get in line!) for where his blog lands next.

But what about the little guy: As eMeg dithers about which of the countless proposals she should accept to debate Jerry Brown, both of them  should summon the courage to show up at a big August event in Ventura County where they can talk to hundreds of real people from around California who are living and working on the front lines of the recession. Timm Herdt of the VenCo Star reports that:

Organizers intend to call it a “shared prosperity forum,” but the precise name they have in mind is a little longer: The 2010 California Shared Prosperity Gubernatorial Candidates Forum.

Whether they can actually call it all that, of course, depends on the two major party candidates for governor, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. If one or both accepts, the governor’s forum is on. If not, well, there’s a Plan B….

Executive director Marcos Vargas tells me that a broad range of groups from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, groups representing low-wage workers, immigrants and seniors, have agreed to attend. A number of those groups, such as the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles, are part of a statewide coalition called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

It is Vargas’ vision that the event could be a refreshing change from the sort of staged town-hall meetings that pass for dialogue between candidates and voters these days.

Refreshing indeed.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Roaring Virile Fire Disturbs Social Order.

Wannabe Gov eMeg: No Truth, No Consequences

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s shape shifting versions of exactly what happened when she angrily forced a subordinate out of a conference room at eBay in 2007 reflects an increasingly clear and familiar pattern in her bid for governor: she just can’t keep her stories straight.

Time and again, usually on the rare occasions when she ventures outside her costly campaign bubble, eMeg enmeshes herself in thickets of conflicting statements, contradictions and clarifications as she tries and fails to explain not only her position on policy issues but, more troubling, events in her personal history.

The latest example followed the New York Times June 14 disclosure that as eBay’s CEO, Whitman “forcefully pushed” out of an executive conference room communications staffer Young Mi Kim, with whose performance she was unhappy. eBay stockholders later paid for a secret legal settlement in the matter worth about $200,000, according to the story.

Responding to the report, Team Whitman described the incident as a commonplace workplace disagreement: “A verbal dispute in a high-pressure working environment isn’t out of the ordinary,” her press secretary said.

eMeg herself used virtually the same characterization during a radio interview a few days later which, as we reported , challenged the fundamental accuracy of the Times account.

But last week, when Whitman had one of her infrequent question and answer sessions with reporters at a campaign event, she changed her story: from a not “out of the ordinary” conflict, the episode became, in her own words, an “anomaly,” an outlier act at sharp odds with her normal demeanor and behavior. Moreover, after 10 days in which she and her handlers insisted it was a “verbal dispute,” eMeg admitted for the first time that she had “physically escorted” the employee out of the room.

As a practical matter, there’s a big difference between a cranky boss who raises her voice and one who manhandles a staff member, just as there is between a business executive for whom such behavior is typical and an anomaly: say about a $200,000 difference.

Still, as a political matter, eMeg’s multiple explanations for the Young Mi Kim episode might represent little more than a minor blip – except for the fact that it’s one of more than a half-dozen examples of the candidate providing shaded, even kaleidoscopic versions of the truth, which for Whitman at times seems less a factually-based fixed point than an amalgam of easily evolving explanations and excuses.

Routinely hidden behind the extraordinarily expensive marketing campaign that masks her private self and crafts her public image, Whitman to date has paid scant political price for this behavior. But the central meme being pushed by Democratic rival Jerry Brown – his authenticity vs. her artifice – seeks to define the campaign as largely being about trust.

In the effort to frame the contest, look for the Brown camp to point to  other examples of eMeg’s veracity-challenged statements and positions:

When did she vote and when did she know it? Whitman’s biggest stumble to date came during a two-week stretch last year when she tried to simply account for, let alone explain, her dismal record of not voting.

The lowlight came during her now-infamous embarrassing performance during a press conference at the Republican state convention  and, while the issue has since subsided, Whitman has still not provided satisfactory answers to some lingering questions about the matter.

When did she live here and when did she know it? In her very first campaign ad, Whitman broadcast a glaring factual error about what would seem to be a rather simple fact: how long she has lived in the state she plans now to govern. It wasn’t until the SacBee blew the whistle that her campaign hurriedly changed the text of the spot.

What’s in her ads and when did she know it? In the home stretch of her successful campaign for the Republican nomination, Whitman tried to soft peddle the cynical turn to the right she’d taken on the illegal immigration issue, brazenly and falsely insisting to a Politico reporter that she had never – never! – used an inflammatory image of the fence at the Mexico-U.S. border, when anyone with eyes knew she had.

The dust-up over the ad reflected a broader effort on Whitman’s part to talk out of both sides of her mouth on the immigration issue: she first used Prop. 187 sponsor Pete Wilson to provide cred for being tough in the primary (after she’d earlier voiced support for a path to citizenship for undocumented workers) then completed the triple somersault after the nomination was hers with new ads wooing Latinos by stating her purported opposition to Prop. 187.

Goldman Sachs — The two faces of eMeg: Whitman’s close financial, personal and political connections to the scandal-tainted investment bank Goldman Sachs have been the focus of much dissembling.

Among a series of misleading statements, she repeatedly claimed that she left the Goldman Sachs board – or “fired them,” as she likes to say – because she “didn’t like the culture (and) the management”; in fact, she quit the board the very day the SEC announced a settlement with banks outlawing the conflict of interest practice of stock spinning, from which eMeg reaped rich profits.

Waiting for Godot – and eMeg’s tax returns: Whitman, whose $1 billion personal wealth includes reams of complex investments, including offshore funds, has given a moving target series of statements about when, if and how she would release her personal tax returns.

At the GOP state convention in March, she said she would release 25 years worth, a position she changed a few days later when she said she would only release summaries; not long after that, she said she would only release hers when Brown released his, but after Brown promised to do so in a proposed agreement put forth by the Mercury News, eMeg has produced nothing but excuses for not doing the same.

Drill, baby, drill – or not: As with other matters, Whitman has serially switched her position on drilling for oil off the coast of California. When she stumped for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, she backed his call for more drilling because advanced technology allegedly made it safe, a stance she repeated in the early months of her campaign for governor; after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, she told Calbuzz she had changed her mind and now opposes offshore drilling, then insisted to other reporters that she has always opposed the policy.

It doesn’t matter what you say about the other guys: Whitman has consistently misrepresented the records of her opponents on spending and tax issues.

During the primary, she frequently accused Poizner of sharply increasing spending at the Department of Insurance, even after the Bee debunked it after examining the claim in depth and detail; in her race against Brown, she routinely accuses him of supporting higher taxes, a charge for which she has produced no evidence, while also accusing Brown of massive tax increases during his first term as governor, a charge shot down by Joe Mathews, among others.

Perhaps the most graphic and revealing incident about Whitman’s relationship to the truth came on March 10, when she staged a Potemkin “Town Hall” meeting which was purportedly an open and public exchange with interested voters, but was in fact a phony set-up featuring planted questions, a pre-screened audience, the exclusion of video cameras and several participants re-asking questions so the candidate could revise her answers, a shameful spectacle that a Poizner press aide accurately described at the time as “the actions of an out-of-touch billionaire trying to buy the election and fool voters.”

As Calbuzz used to say back in the day when we covered races for the Roman Senate:  caveat emptor.

Memorial Day: Mystery, Militarism, Meg’s Mendacity

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Remind me again why we’re firing up the barbie? With best Memorial Day wishes, our Dustbin of History Department’s Division of  Holiday Research unearths this entry from the May 25, 2009 edition:

Limbering up for some rigorous holiday chillin’, Calbuzz made a quick online check to find the origin of Memorial Day, figuring we’d just casually…drop it in…to the barbecue conversation; as with most things political, however, the answer came neither quickly nor clearly, as it turns out bragging rights are in dispute and break down along red state-blue state lines.

The holiday formerly known as Decoration Day was started by freed slaves in celebration of Union soldiers who died in prison camps, according to Newsweek, but a Purdue history professor in a new book traces it to Southern ladies honoring Confederate troops. The official, establishment version, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has it both ways, stating that Yankees and Rebs alike got flowers on their graves at Decoration Day I in 1868. Maybe we won’t mention it after all.

Not sure how the NYT missed this one: Mega-kudos to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who appears to be one of the few politicians in America to use Memorial Day as an opportunity to think seriously about the costs and benefits of our current military policy.

Beyond the 5,000 lives of American service members that have been lost in Iraq – seven years after W. strutted across that carrier deck – and Afghanistan – launched Oct. 7, 2001 -Schakowsky reports that, as of Sunday, the nation has spent $1 trillion – (twelve zeros cq) – on the two conflicts:

This month, we mark the seventh anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq, yet five American soldiers have been killed there in May alone. Iraqis went to the polls nearly three months ago, but the political system remains so fractured that no party has been able to piece together a coalition. There are some indications that sectarian violence is again on the rise.

The only clear winner of the Iraq war is Iran. Their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, was taken out and fellow Shiites are in charge. Iran has been emboldened to the point of threatening the stability of the region and the world with its growing nuclear capability.

And then there’s Afghanistan, which, after nearly a decade of war, represents the longest continuous U.S. military engagement ever. Even the non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently declared the situation in Afghanistan as a “deteriorating security situation and no comprehensive political outcome yet in sight.” And the U.S. military just suffered its 1,000th casualty in Afghanistan on Friday.

So the real question is: What have we bought for $1 trillion? Are we safer? As our troops and treasure are still locked down in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists are training, recruiting and organizing in Somalia, Yemen and dozens of other places around the globe. While it appears that we have made significant progress in weakening Al Qaeda’s network, we have increasing concerns about homegrown terrorists.

Oil, oil everywhere: As long as we’re talking awful, intractable problems, no less a figure than Obama environment and energy adviser Carol Browner has now declared that the ongoing, day-to-day horror show of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is “probably the worst environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country.”

“Probably?” Really? “Probably?” Ya’ think?

On the day the offshore rig exploded and sank, we wrote that at the very least, the tragedy would doom efforts to expand offshore drilling in California’s state waters (citing the incident, Schwarzenegger gave up on his pet Tranquillon Ridge project not long after); not wanting to seem ghoulish at the time, we said it was too early then to assess the broader political implications.

It’s now clear that it is a true, catastrophic event that will have policy and political reverberations for decades to come; one thing that seems certain already is that it has inflicted serious, potentially fatal, damage to Obama’s presidency.

The White House communications operation, which already failed the president during the stimulus, health care and financial reform debates, has disgraced itself once again; combined with Obama’s too-cool-for-school personal style, the Administration’s utter failure to display a shred of forceful leadership in the crisis has not only put the lie to his claims of competence but once again undercut his promise to take back control of the government from corporate interests, leaving him to appear weak, hapless and way over his head, reminding us of nothing so much as Jimmy Carter’s impotent, failed performance during the Iran hostage crisis.

We want Hillary.

Whitman lies: Even as the L.A. Times poll has restored the mantle of inevitability to Meg Whitman’ quest for the Republican nomination for governor, it’s becoming clearer by the day that eMeg has but a passing acquaintance with the truth.

Having previously dissembled about her voting record, her residency in California, her cynical pandering on immigration, her ties to Goldman Sachs and the release of her tax returns, among other issues, Her Megness is now claiming with a straight face that she’s always opposed offshore oil drilling.

Aw, come on.

Calbuzz has asked Whitman face-to-face about offshore oil drilling twice, once on Sept. 1, 2009 and again on May 20, 2010, following the disaster in the Gulf, when she acknowledged she’d changed her position.

Here’s what she said the first time:

We have to say times have changed and we’ve got to look at this again…

I would say that when I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells – slant drilling and other things and I think we ought to look at this very carefully because there’s no question that the resources off the coast of California and other parts of the country can help us rescue our dependence on foreign oil.

Here’s what she said the second time:

Historically I was against offshore oil drilling, but I am the living example of someone who believes technology can enable you to do things you’d never dream you could do. So I wanted to look into slant drilling…and convene a group to say, you know, ‘is this possible to do with zero to minimal environmental risk?’

I will say what has happened in Louisiana I think has raised the bar on what, you know, technology is going to be able to have to do, and what we can assure ourselves of. Because, gosh, you look at what has happened in the Gulf, the economic devastation of the shrimpers, the fishermen. I mean you’re starting to see it now go on the north shore of the coast of Florida there, the hospitality industry is at risk.

So I think it has absolutely raised the bar in terms of what we would need to feel comfortable with to go forward. So right now, I’m a no on offshore oil drilling.

So, according to her own chronology, eMeg a) was “historically” against offshore drilling; b) changed her mind after she started running for governor because she “began to understand deeply the new technology that is available”; c) changed her mind again after Deepwater Horizon and is currently against coastal drilling.

For “right now,” anyway.