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Posts Tagged ‘offshore drilling’



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.

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.

Shady Sam’s Sham Oil Stance Meets Mariachi Meg

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Sam Blakeslee, the San Luis oilman Californians just can’t trust, is trying to steal a victory in a state senate special election next week by posing as a moderate Republican environmentalist who loves sea otters even more than snowy plovers.

The blunt truth of the matter, however, may be found in 1) the lavish oil industry contributions shoveled into committees that have forked out more than $1 million to back Blakeslee’s play in the 15th State Senate district and 2)  the photograph posted at the top of this story, which shows exactly where the San Luis Obispo GOP assemblyman stood on offshore oil drilling in California – before that whole Gulf of Mexico thing made it really, really unfashionable.

The ex-Republican assembly leader is locked in a fierce battle with former Democratic assemblyman John Laird for the seat representing a vast, coastal district that was held until recently by Lite Governor Abel Maldonado. It’s up for grabs in a special next Tuesday that Governor Schwarzmuscle carefully scheduled to benefit Blakeslee.

Laird just now is getting his brains beat in on TV, as BP, Chevron and other oil companies have rushed to finance pro-Blakeslee independent expenditure committees that are paying for a barrage of ads portraying the Democrat as a crazed socialist considerably to the left of Hugo Chavez.

As we predicted a year ago hardliner Blakeslee now is falsely positioning himself as a pro-green centrist, in an effort to capture a majority vote in the June 22 primary, which would make a scheduled August run-off unnecessary.

“I have been an environmental Republican throughout my service,” Blakeslee told Paul Rogers of the Mercury News. “I’ve never wavered on my protection of the coast.”

Excuse us while we build a tower big enough to hold our laughter.

In claiming he’s against offshore oil, Blakeslee tries to hide behind the skirts of a group of Santa Barbara environmentalists, who pitched the controversial Tranquillon Ridge offshore project, just off the coast of the southern end of the 15th SD, as a way to trade new drilling now for less in the future (for those who’ve been hanging out on Uranus for the last year, our primer on T-Ridge is here).

In truth, Blakeslee’s history on the issue is strongly at odds with the greens who originally co-sponsored the plan with the Houston-based oil company PXP; his record shows a drill-baby-drill determination to ram through the offshore project via a series of backdoor legislative schemes intended to overrun the opposition of the State Lands Commission, which rejected T-Ridge and which, oh yeah, for decades happens to have had sole jurisdiction over state oil leases.

After the lands commission turned down the project in 2009 – saying its promise to end future drilling was unenforceable because the power to do so ultimately resided with the scandal-ridden federal Minerals  Management Service, Blakeslee plotted with fellow knuckledragger assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Orange County to end run the commission, a move that the enviros who originally backed the proposal categorically opposed.

First, the dynamic duo tried to pass AB23*, a DeVore bill that was gutted in the Senate and amended to approve PXP’s T-Ridge project by creating a special exemption and removing it from the jurisdiction of the lands commission.

On July 24, 2009, the measure was heatedly debated in the Assembly and defeated with only 30 of the house’s 80 members supporting the drilling plan.

Within hours, however, the official record of that vote was expunged, in what appeared to be a Blakeslee maneuver to remove his fingerprints from the pro-drilling bill. Despite the insistence of Blakeslee flacks  that he had nothing to do with erasing the vote, the reliable Anthony York of Capitol Weekly shortly after the deal went down cited sources who traced the move to the then-Republican Assembly leader.

For those still pondering the mystery of that expunged vote, Calbuzz is pleased to provide an historic photo of it, which clearly shows Blakeslee among the small minority of those who backed the special interest legislation to expand drilling off the coast.

Two months later, Blakeslee was back at it, this time gutting one of his own bills in an effort have his way on behalf of the oil industry, which would have liked nothing more than to use T-Ridge as a foot in the door to overcome California’s four decade opposition to any new leases authorizing more drilling in state water.

It’s instructive that when Laird kicked off the 15th SD special election campaign by whacking Blakeslee on offshore drilling,  the Republican a) began trying to finesse the issue by touting his purported environmental credentials and b) changed the subject, unloading a barrage of ads assailing Laird as a menace to society on fiscal issues.

Among other crimes, it seems, Laird accepted pay raises that, um, Blakeslee also took (Jon Coupal, the doctrinaire Howard Jarvis acolyte who’s plugging Blakeslee in the IE ads, might want to check out some of Sam’s squishier statements on tax increases here and here).

Then again, if Shady Sam is willing to masquerade his environmental record to get elected, why should anyone be surprised that he’d gussy  himself up on other issues as well?

eMeg proves she has no shame: Guess who’s nowhere to be found on Meg Whitman’s new website Latinos for Meg or in her new Spanish language TV commercials? Former Gov. Pete Wilson, her campaign chairman and iconic diablo among Hispanics in California.

Gone is the “tough-as-nails” Meg Whitman who sternly warned “No amnesty. No exceptions” as she vowed to send the National Guard to the border, crack down on sanctuary cities and generally lower the boom on illegal immigrants.

As Calbuzz predicted a couple of weeks ago: Whitman, now desperate to capture Latino voters she didn’t give a rat’s ass about in the Republican primary, suddenly is all about jobs and opportunity, sunshine and inclusiveness. Oh puhleeeese. What a fraud.

The only uncertainty, as we noted before: “…we don’t know whether, by spending untold sums on campaign propaganda, Whitman will be able to obliterate the collective memory voters might otherwise have of her lurch to the right.”

Oh, and Meg dropped another $20 million into her war chest this week, bringing her personal “investment” to $91 million.

Now, Mariachi Meg is emphasizing that she was never for Proposition 187 (although its chief advocate is her campaign chairman) and she opposes Arizona’s check-their-status law. Maybe – after spending serious money to make the point that she opposes amnesty – she’ll go back to arguing for a guest worker program where people “stand at the back of the line and pay a fine.”

So far no one is up on TV countering Whitman’s hypocritical drive to round up Latino voters. But the Democratic Governor’s Association did create a 90-second video in Spanish called “Send Pete Packing.”

As Tenoch Flores, on behalf of the California Democratic Party,  argued:

“Apparently Meg Whitman forgot that we live in the age of ‘the internets’ – ironic for someone who touts her eBay experience. She sincerely believes a Spanish language advertising buy is going to gloss over the fact that together with her mentor Pete Wilson, and her rival Steve Poizner, she engaged in the greatest Republican Party anti-immigrant hate-fest this side of the California-Arizona border.”

The CDP also reprised Meg’s “Tough as Nails” radio ad and even offered up a Spanish translation. Said Flores:

“Latino voters in California haven’t forgotten about Pete Wilson’s anti-immigrant crusade, and that was over ten years ago. They certainly won’t forget that Whitman used them as foil to get herself through the GOP primary less than a month ago.”

Unless Whitman’s beyond standard quantum limit spending can wipe away all memory.

* In an earlier version of this post we had a typo that labeled AB23 as AB32 — a super mix-up since AB32 is the famous climate-change bill.

Big Oil’s Hazardous Landscape on AB 32 Repeal

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

By Warner Chabot
Special to Calbuzz

When Texas oil refiners Valero and Tesoro were contemplating whether to buy their way onto the California ballot last winter, they envisioned a ripe environment for their proposition to repeal the state’s clean energy and air standards: skyrocketing unemployment rates, a Tea Party-inspired anti-regulation backlash, and increased skepticism about the science of global warming fueled by the rants of right-wing talking heads Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Sure, the state’s landmark climate law (AB 32) was popular – with 66 percent approval in a PPIC poll and 58 percent in the Field Poll. Yes, Attorney General Jerry Brown had saddled the initiative with a deadly accurate but inconvenient title and summary (“Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions”). And, of course, the then-cheerleaders for the ballot initiative weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer: gadfly Ted Costa (who has since announced his opposition to the measure after being pushed aside) and first-term Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue.

But initiative strategist Mark Carpenter, a former tobacco lobbyist who fought California’s indoor smoking laws, apparently convinced the companies that those obstacles could be overcome by the deep pockets of Big Oil. After all, the $50 million or so it would take to win the campaign was chump change for an oil company that had just upped its CEO’s salary to $10.9 million, a 64 percent increase from the prior year.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot.

In late April, some 1.7 million gallons of oil began gushing from a British Petroleum well in the Gulf of Mexico each day. Horrified Californians continue to be exposed daily to images of brown pelicans soaked in black oil, tar balls washing up on beaches, and devastated local economies.

That’s not exactly good PR for a ballot measure being bankrolled with $2 million from oil companies, including California offshore driller Venoco Inc. Cases in point: the immediate sharp decline in support for offshore oil drilling in California, according to a Los Angeles Times/USC poll and the defeat of a local measure to allow Venoco to begin slant drilling into the Santa Barbara channel.

Or look to the state Senate District 15 special election, as environmental champion and drilling opponent John Laird points out Assemblyman (and former Exxon employee) Sam Blakeslee’s support of the controversial Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project.

Being associated with oil companies is political death this year.

On top of that, voters are beginning to focus on the economic downside of America’s addiction to oil. That is driving a renewed push in the nation’s capital for federal action to support a clean energy economy.

So it was no surprise then that President Obama bee-lined to California, the nation’s leader in renewable energy development, when he wanted to connect the dots between investment in clean energy and the oil spill. He put a bright national spotlight on AB 32’s renewable energy requirements, the driving force behind more than 500,000 clean tech jobs and $9 billion in solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects being built in California.

If the oil spill wasn’t bad enough for Valero’s fortunes, last week’s primary election results might be even more problematic. Two special interest propositions were dismissed by voters despite record-shattering spending by their corporate sponsors.

That will throw a wrench in Carpenter’s calculus for winning, which includes spending up to $50 million branding the oil company measure as a “jobs initiative.”

Voters and the media already are seeing through that fog, noting that it is a deceptive measure that has little to do with employment and everything to do with allowing the company to bypass pollution laws.

And no one is buying that the ballot measure is just a “temporary” suspension of the law either – particularly when the once-in-a-blue-moon economic conditions it specifies (banning implementation of the law unless the statewide unemployment rate exceeds 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters) have occurred just three times in the past 30 years.

It’s just that kind of deception that doomed Props 16 and 17.

The Valero initiative could well be strike three for special interest ballot measures, particularly because its high-profile CEO makes Enron’s Ken Lay and BP’s Tony Haywood look like church mice.

Valero chief exec Bill Kleese – recently named to MSNBC’s “Mad Money” Hall of Shame – dismisses climate change legislation as “alarmist.” He’s taken a lead role as chief attack dog in battling clean energy policy at the national scale as Chairman of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. He also is the brains behind the AstroTurf “Voices for Energy” effort supporting Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort to strip EPA of its right to regulate greenhouse gases. (That measure failed in the U.S. Senate last week.).

Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic candidates alike are distancing themselves from the Big Oil initiative.

Meg Whitman, not wanting to give Jerry Brown further ammunition in the gubernatorial campaign, has refused to endorse it (as has Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado). Whitman’s distancing herself from the ballot measure comes despite her call for a one-year moratorium on AB 32. She’s declined to embrace an oil company-backed proposal unpopular among her Silicon Valley supporters, as well as suburban decline-to-state voters she views as key to victory in November.

Candidate Brown has come out strongly against the measure. Running against Big Oil, corporate special interest measures, and fat cat CEOs are all key components in the Brown playbook, and opposing the Dirty Energy Initiative fits nicely into that narrative.

It looks as if Big Oil picked the wrong time and the wrong place for this fight.

Warner Chabot is CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters

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.