Posted by: JohnnyRook | November 21, 2008

Reaction to Lieberman and Waxman Shows Most Progressives Still Don’t Get It


If you need any further evidence of how far we still need to go in raising public awareness of the dangers of Climaticide, look no further than the progressive blogosphere’s level of interest this last week in the debate over whether Joe Lieberman should retain his Chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee versus it’s interest in the debate over whether Henry Waxman should replace John Dingell as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Allow me to state up front that I am no friend of Joe Lieberman whom I regard as a sleazy, dishonest, self-promoting, power-hungry traitor to the Democratic Party. On the policy front I think he’s a warmonger. I, like so many others, assumed that he would lose his committee chairmanship and was surprised to learn that Obama favored keeping him on. I can now say that I think I understand Obama’s reasoning (Lieberman, as I see it, no longer has any independent existence–he is a marionette at the end of Obama’s strings and if he fails to carry out Obama’s policies I have no doubt that those strings will be cut and he will be dispatched to the dustbin) although only time will show if this truly is a viable way to get the 60-vote majority that we wanted in the Senate. Obama clearly saw Lieberman as potentially useful. For the time being I am willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

While I understand that there was legitimate interest in the Lieberman story, I do think that the reaction was overblown. Frankly, I found it depressing how much more attention was given in the progressive blogosphere to the question of whether Joe Lieberman should have retained his Chairmanship than was given to Waxman’s fight to wrest the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship from Dingell. For days expressions of outrage dominated the conversation as post after post was cranked out on how retaining Lieberman was “a betrayal of the electorate.” As an example, a quick search of the Daily Kos web site (Stories and Diaries) for the last week reveals 430 posts which reference Lieberman while only 36 results are returned with references to Waxman.


Contrast the Lieberman situation with that of Waxman, where Obama also probably played a role in the final outcome. As the Washington Post explained regarding the vote to replace Dingell with Waxman:

Democrats also read the signals coming from the president-elect’s transition office, which this week announced the intention to name Philip Schiliro, a longtime aide to Mr. Waxman, as the White House director of Congressional relations.

I consider the replacement by Henry Waxman of Dingell (D-General Motors), who has for decades fought higher CAFE standards and served, essentially as a surrogate in DC for the Big Three Automakers, to be essential if we are to move rapidly to stop Climaticide and adopt a sustainable energy policy (not to mention make progress on universal health care). Waxman is a very effective legislator and he gets it when it comes to climate change. By contrast with Lieberman, there was no way to make Dingell useful. His cozy relationship with the Detroit automakers and his declining health made him an impediment to change in this vital area. Defenders of the status quo (amazing that there are any, isn’t it?) recognize the significance of Waxman’s victory.

Some in the industry quaked at the ascension of Mr. Waxman, whom they consider an “irrational environmental zealot,” in the words of David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

For your information David Cole is on record as having stated “… consensus might not exist relative to the reality of climate change…” which, of course, is a typical denialist/delayer talking point.


The fact is that is more important for Dingell to have obtained the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee than it was for Lieberman to lose the Homeland Security Chairmanship partly for the political reasons I have given above, but most importantly because Climaticide is a more important issue than any issue that Lieberman is going to deal with as chair of Homeland Security.

Now before you start calling for my head, please understand that I am NOT being dismissive about homeland security (although I despise the term which I think has fascist overtones–when did anyone in the United States speak of the United States as the “Homeland” before George W. Bush?), which I regard as one of a number of extremely important issues, including but not limited to, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, the economic crisis, the energy crisis, corruption and the role of corporations in government, restoring civil liberties, education, poverty, gay and lesbian rights, a host of other environmental problems, etc. But ALL of those problems occur within the context of Climaticide and any success that we have in solving them will be utterly nullified if we fail to stop global warming.

I am a cancer patient with a very poor prognosis, but that does not keep me from recognizing that enacting universal health care will ultimately be meaningless if C02 emissions continue to rise unchecked and we pass tipping points beyond which human civilization on any scale becomes impossible. Please do not misunderstand me. I am saying that the climate crisis is of primary importance NOT that we have to postpone dealing with these other problems until the climate crisis is solved.

We need to work on all these problems. In reality most of them are related to Climaticide and to each other. What I am saying is that a problem that if left unresolved will lead to, drought, flooding, famine, the spread of disease, the extinction of up to 2/3 of the worlds species, reduced agricultural production, the cutting off of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people, sea-level rise, the acidification of the oceans and collapse of the fishing industry, the desertification of 1/3 of the planet, the deaths of hundreds of millions and untold suffering for billions more who will become climate refugees (many of whom will be crossing our own borders in numbers that will make our current immigration problems look tiny by comparison) deserves to command far more of our attention than it currently does.

So, what is one to make of the fact that so much more attention has been paid to the Lieberman case than to the Waxman case? I can only conclude, that even in the progressive blogosphere most people still do not understand the significance of Climaticide. They do not to recognize how extreme and urgent are the measures that must be taken to combat it nor how severe the consequences will be if we fail, because the reality is that to stop Climaticide nothing short of a revolution in how we live is going to be necessary. (See Thomas Friedman’s Flat, Hot and Crowded to learn more about the magnitude of the changes required.)

But if educated, politically committed people don’t show much interest in global warming, how can we expect the “average person” who isn’t educated and interested in politics to do so? How can we expect those “average persons” to study and learn about global warming when on Daily Kos posts on the climate crisis get 20 comments while posts on Joe Lieberman or Sarah Palin get 500? How can we expect them to study and learn when the latest scientific research on how fast the climate is changing is never on the front page of Daily Kos unless it can be tied in with some politicians stupidity?

Here’s the plain, simple truth: at this point, Climaticide is Politics. We ignore that fact at our peril.



  1. Nothing like this has ever happened to humans before – and there is no history to guide us. People don’t know how to act.

    The future seems like a movie scenario that has not yet played out. And so we know how it is supposed to unfold, but psychologically we don’t really connect to the danger.

    This sure is a test for the species.

  2. Hello Johnny Rook
    I have come over from Daily Kos, I’m Photon Algae.

    I appreciated several of your points above.
    First, Homeland Security does have a “Fascistic” edge.

    Second, you’re right about the House Energy Committee. It requires leadership that can see a broad picture and not just the interests of a single industry/community.

    Third, that quote from David Cole is very interesting.
    “Consensus might not exist relative to the reality of climate change.”

    How does one oppose that kind of logical reasoning?
    Often in public debate today, I hear people take one or several empirical refutations of an argument, and parade it as a reason to reject what is currently the view of a consensus of scientists.

    Good scientists know that parts of any meteorological theory may need to be reformed, or even rejected. This is especially relevant for the science of climate change which analyzes the Earth in respect to very long periods of time. Some scientific conclusions will be based on very empirical results, but others will inevitably include some speculation (and some may even be influenced by religion and politics).

    However, that does not mean that one should entirely ignore a theory that is supported by many scientists.

    I’ll be returning to your blog, IRA in NYC

  3. Hi Ira,

    David Cole is wrong. There is no dispute among scientists about the reality of Climaticide. There are a few paid shills and professional contrarians but even they admit the earth is warming. The denialists have become delayers, who accept that global warming is real but want to wait to do anything about it.

    The science is against them and so are the laws of physics and chemistry. If you don’t already read Real Climate, may I suggest it to you as a good place to learn more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: