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Pierce writes: "The Keystone XL pipeline must be built only so that the people who oppose it are defeated. The Keystone XL pipeline must be built because it is no longer a construction project, it is an article of the conservative faith."

Now we get to see just how crazy they are. (photo: Getty Images)
Now we get to see just how crazy they are. (photo: Getty Images)

The GOP Must Be Crazy

By Charles Peirce, Esquire

19 November 14


ur old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline, the continent-spanning death-funnel that would bring the world's dirtiest fossil fuel down through the most arable farmland in the hemisphere and to the refineries along the Gulf Coast, and thence to the world, has revealed in itself an incredible capacity to make people act stupidly. It has moved beyond being a public policy issue among the ascendant Republican party, and within the movement conservatism which is that party's only remaining animating force. It has moved beyond being a financial windfall for the plutocrats whose money has been rendered the lifeblood of our politics, on both sides, but especially among the Republicans, who share a few more of the plutocracy's ultimate goals than do the Democrats. Among the Republicans, and among their most fervent political zealots, the pipeline has become an ideological fetish object, something to which fealty must be paid, a measure of loyalty and devotion to every other part of the political faith, a lasting symbol of triumph over the other side, like the steles erected in Mesopotamia or the pyramids. Its essential utility, its negligible economic impact, the environmental peril presented by the toxic goo it will carry through the fragile breadbasket of the country, the demonstrable bad-faith and neglect of the foreign corporation that will benefit from it, the blatant disregard of all potential (and, I would argue, inevitable) catastrophes inherent in the project -- all of these are beside the point. The Keystone XL pipeline must be built because it is the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline must be built only so that the people who oppose it are defeated. The Keystone XL pipeline must be built because it is no longer a construction project, it is an article of the conservative faith.

(As to the Democratic supporters of the project, their motives are of a more purely self-centered variety. Mary Landrieu wants to keep her job, or set herself up for a fat new one at some lobbying firm. Heidi Heitkamp is an oil sheikh, and Joe Manchin wants to demonstrate to the entire extraction industry that he's on board and open for business. As for the president, if he really believes that folding on this will buy him goodwill somewhere else, as the story in the New York Times implies he does, he'll just never, ever learn, will he?)

I first heard of the Keystone XL pipeline not long after I opened this shebeen along the docks of Blogistan. I went to cover the incredibly useless Florida Presidential Straw Poll in the autumn of 2011. At that gathering of the faithful, every one of the speakers talked about the necessity of building the pipeline. (It was also at this event that I first became aware of another conservative signifier -- Agenda 21, the secret UN plan to steal all our golfs.) Most of them cited economic benefits that long since have been debunked. But all of them cited the pipeline as a demonstration of our national resolve to defeat tree-hugging hippie environmentalists. All modern conservative politics blow away on the wind without some Other at which to direct their dark energy. But this was something different. This wasn't fervor animating an idea. This was devotion to an actual object -- a sludge-bearing Arc de Triomphe to demonstrate the inalienable right of some Americans to despoil America without serious consequence.

Even today, every practical argument in favor of the pipeline has been rendered threadbare. Poor David Brooks makes a try in The New York Times today, attempting to hilarious effect to cast the opponents of the pipeline as the true Luddites in the drama.

Usually presidents at the end of their terms get less partisan, not more. But with his implied veto threat of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, President Obama seems intent on showing that Democrats, too, can put partisanship above science. Keystone XL has been studied to the point of exhaustion, and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it's a modest-but-good idea. The latest State Department study found that it would not significantly worsen the environment. The oil's going to come out anyway, and it's greener to transport it by pipeline than by train. The economic impact isn't huge, but at least there'd be a $5.3 billion infrastructure project.

Actually, science says that the stuff that the pipeline will carry is best left in the ground. Journalism says that the State Department report was put together by a firm with close business ties to TransCanada, the Canadian corporation that is the only entity in the world that actually will profit from the project. And, when I first heard about the project, at that 2011 tent revival down in Florida, there was talk of thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs and gas prices down into the double-digits again. Now, thanks to the delay, and to the laudable agitation by the likes of Bill McKibben and the Bold Nebraska crew, even TransCanada admits that it's the permanent jobs that will total in the double digits, and Brooks can only meep about an economic impact that "isn't huge," and that the pipeline is merely a "modest-to-good" idea.

The economic impact isn't huge, but at least there'd be a $5.3 billion infrastructure project.

Yeah, we can't get a highway bill passed, and our bridges are falling down, and the entire rest of the world is leaving us behind on high-speed rail, but we should put in a pipeline as an "infrastructure project," and that's not even to mention the well-paying clean-up jobs that will appear as soon as the thing leaks and poisons the Ogallala Aquifer. But Brooks's muted assessment of the pipeline's benefits are not his real reason why it should be built. According to him, the pipeline should be built as a demonstration that the president "gets" the message sent a couple of weeks ago by 52 percent of the 38 percent of eligible voters who bothered to get off the couch. The pipeline should be built as a symbol of a new commitment to "governing." It should be built as the ultimate hippie punch. It should be built simply because Throw the bone into the air, David. Maybe it will turn into a spaceship. your social media marketing partner


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+105 # davidr 2014-11-19 13:46
The secret of the right, not just on Keystone, but on everything, is to reject empiricism. That's their essential stance on the environment, but also on the Laffer curve, war & peace, voter fraud, women's health, the 2nd Amendment, corporate personhood — everything.

Implicit in every position they take on every subject is, "You can't prove that. Your arguments are unworthy of rebuttal on the facts, because there are no facts. There are only sides."

Here is an essential dilemma for Progressives — how to make POLICY based on facts and ARGUMENTS based on sides.

In this regard, Democrats should replay Elizabeth Warren's speeches each night at bedtime. And they should also observe the most basic rule of social progress: it is the outcome of a side, not a singular hero, not a faction, but a movement large enough that it cannot be unanimous and so large that it cannot be long stymied.
+69 # LeeBlack 2014-11-19 14:13
I think their view is "What can make me money NOW?"

You didn't mention the big denial of 'man made climate change'. I'm sure the current cold spell will bolster their belief, instead of looking at it as the reality of weather pattern changes.

How much of the denial of empirical observation a parallel of religious belief? Another area of empirical ignorance.
+18 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-11-19 16:46
Bill Maher:"America is a teen age society." What kind of logic can we expect? Wayne Dyer, "when would you ever take advice from a teenager?"
-36 # MidwesTom 2014-11-19 14:18
Expect the XL to be built, but with smaller than originally planned pipe; because upgrades to two alternative pipelines coming on line before the end of the year will increase existing capacity,; and the long delay in X:L has allowed the railroads time to install much larger loading/unloadi ng facilities thereby becoming more competitive with pipelines, plus they are now moving more and more crude to locations that probably will not be connected to the XL line. RR will continue big time, unless we have several more large wrecks.
+16 # sschnapp 2014-11-19 15:15
Quoting MidwesTom:
unless we have several more large wrecks.
. Will never happen. "This ship is unsinkable."
+18 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-11-19 16:49
MidwestTom. "Thanks" (?) for the information.Yet , are you not a supplier of chemicals to the fracking industry?
+83 # Barebonesart 2014-11-19 14:50
No one, to my knowledge has mentioned the fact that we have two treaties with the Sioux nation which will have to be obliterated, or at least totally ignored, for the pipeline to be built. (It goes directly through their land in SD and they are adamantly against it.)
+26 # sschnapp 2014-11-19 15:13
Seriously, Barebones, ignore a treaty with Indians?
+7 # A_Har 2014-11-21 00:00
"You can trust your government. Just ask an Indian...."
+35 # reiverpacific 2014-11-19 16:29
Quoting Barebonesart:
No one, to my knowledge has mentioned the fact that we have two treaties with the Sioux nation which will have to be obliterated, or at least totally ignored, for the pipeline to be built. (It goes directly through their land in SD and they are adamantly against it.)

You tell me ONE treaty that has been kept with ANY of the original stewards of this once beautiful continent.
And check out what Maȟpíya Lúta (Chief Red Cloud), Lakota famously said about it.
And "This nation is like a spring freshet; it overruns its banks and destroys all who are in its path." Tatanka Leyoté (Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa.
D'you think that these two suited plunderers and hypocrites in the photo and their "supporters", owned and dictated to by the extractive industries, give a baboon's red bum about treaties any more than their plundering forebears did?
+19 # jsluka 2014-11-19 18:29
Even more famously, Mahpiya Luta said "They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it." Republicans will certainly "take the land" from the Lakota again, and again and again. Armed resistance is the only thing that might derail this. Perhaps the Lakota will consider following the example of the Mohawk armed resistance at Oka (Canada) in 1990? (See: "Oka crisis")
+4 # bckrd1 2014-11-20 19:41
No they will tell us they are listening to the American people (now) and will ram it through anyway.
+32 # sschnapp 2014-11-19 15:12
Gotta love Pierce's final sentence: "Throw the bone into the air, David. Maybe it will turn into a spaceship." -- Brilliant, but then I'm old; I actually watched 2001 A Space Odyssey in a movie theater.
+41 # HowardMH 2014-11-19 15:20
Forest said, “Stupid is as stupid does”. There is a whole lot of stupid out there and it appears to be growing in DC and everywhere else at an expediential pace lately. I just wish all of congress had to attend this professor’s class at least once.


This is the best example for paying attention that I have ever heard.

First-year students at the Purdue Vet School were attending their first
anatomy class with a real dead cow. They all gathered around the surgery
table with the body covered with a white sheet.
The professor started the class by telling them, "In Veterinary
medicine it is necessary to have
two important qualities as a doctor. The
first is that you not be disgusted by anything involving the animal's body."
For an example, the professor pulled back the sheet, stuck his finger in the
butt of the cow, withdrew it, and stuck his finger in his mouth. "Go ahead
and do the same thing," he told his students.
The students freaked out, hesitated for several minutes, but eventually
took turns sticking a finger in the butt of the dead cow and sucking on it.

When everyone finished, the Professor looked at them and said, "The second
most important quality is observation. I stuck in my middle finger and
sucked on my index finger. Now learn to pay attention. Life's tough but it's
even tougher if you're stupid."
+20 # Donna430 2014-11-19 17:13
Howard - That is the BEST laugh I have had in a long time, even though it is sadly very true!
+27 # fredboy 2014-11-19 15:22
Never had any doubt.

They remind me of the New York and New Jersey creeps I've met who retired to SW Florida.

When we try to encourage best practices to help us clean our coastal waters, these creeps oppose us. Amazing! Then I realized--they have no idea what clean, clear water is. Think about it: Many of these people are from filthy water states. Boehner is from a state where a river was so filthy it caught on fire!
+34 # Buddha 2014-11-19 15:23
The funniest part of it is that the states who are bearing the greatest environmental risk right now of the current Keystone XL pipeline and will be for the extension, will be the ones most hit with higher gas prices as this sludge skips their current local MidEast refineries and goes instead to refineries better placed on the Gulf Coast for easier transport of the gasoline off-shore. But you can't get these rubes to see that, PT Barnum was right, one IS born every minute...and becomes a GOP voter...
+21 # ericlipps 2014-11-19 18:29
"The oil's going to come out anyway," opines David Brooks. In other words, screw the people of the U.S. and Canada who don't want it to; their opinions don't matter.

Right there in those few words is conservatism laid are: we're going to do as we please, and make big money at it, and if you peasants don't like it, tough.
+6 # m... 2014-11-19 20:20
My mind is filled with images of Mr.Turtle, Republocrats and Deminucrats.
Filled like an SNL skit… One satirizing these 'leaders' using the movie, 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes' as the foundation vehicle for conveying the pervasive political nuttiness.

...In their secret public disguise, Mr. Turtle and the Republocrats give a resolute, three piece, combover press conference on Capitol Steps bathed in a sea of glorious Flags.

The FUX microphone stands out above all the rest.

We listen in...

Its once again about all the Economic and Environmental benefits the 'Keystone of Happiness' will bring to all creatures great and small.
Its blissful. A Blue Bird sings.

Before wrapping it up, Mr. Turtle turns a sharp, familiar glance to some fidgeting, sidelined Deminucrats who seem undecided about 'something.'
They look left, then right, then discretely cow in deference to the Great Turtle.

Mr Turtle wraps up the long soundbite like a pro. With a slight, magical wave of his dismissive hand, he slowly trundles away with a legion of Republocrats in tow.
They head off in a limo convoy to a secret, well guarded mountain cave.

There, they don red robes and show worship to a Big Oil Pipe named 'B.O.P.'

The cave echoes with solemn prayer.

All Hail BOP. All Hail BOP.
BOP is POB Spelled Backwards.
All Hail BOP. All Hail BOP.


And so, with campaign coffers filled they return to Cash and Carry Governing.
+11 # lorenbliss 2014-11-19 23:14
Of course the pipeline will be approved -- and of course Obama will sign it into law. Why? Because Republicans -- whether out and JesuNazi proud like Mouse-face McConnell or closeted like Barack the Betrayer -- are the obedient servants of their capitalist masters.

And what is capitalism but a patriarchal a death cult, proven so by its murderous hatreds of Nature (the source of all life) and Woman (the source of all human life).

In the Vietnam era, the U.S. claimed, "We had to destroy the village to save it (from Communism)." Though today's USian Empire dast not say it aloud, now it is claiming, "We have to destroy the planet to save it (from environmentalis m.)"
+7 # politicfix 2014-11-20 08:33
There is just as much difference between Capital and Finance as there is between milk and a sponge. Finance is a vacuum that absorbs wealth through a fraudulent medium of exchange. It takes everything and gives nothing.
Capital is wealth and wealth is anything and everything made valuable by human effort. Capital is tangible that was given value by the planning efforts of the Capitalist and the muscular efforts of Labor. Finance gives absolutely no value at all to wealth, but absorbs it through a crooked system of tribute enforced by the collection of Interest on money and credit loans.
By being powerful enough to have laws made to suit himself the financier is able to make the Interest Collection Swindle lawful. Thanks to the artificial laws man is governed by.
Congress are but touts for the financiers. Corporations write the laws and have their touts spin them into being passed. Stop the big thief at the top and you automatically stop the little thieves at the bottom.
Does anyone ever ask themselves, in this advance world of technology, why is this country still operating with an antiquated financial system? The system works for the financiers and no one else. Change the financial system and everything would change.
-18 # arquebus 2014-11-20 08:24
We have a choice. We can build the pipeline to the Gulf and gain the benefit of the jobs, etc. that goes with it. Or, we can refuse and the Canadians will build the pipeline through BC to the Pacific. Either way the pipeline will be built...just a matter of who gets what jobs there are.
+13 # pbbrodie 2014-11-20 11:25
Not true at all.
Why do you insist on writing this same BS over and again?
The Canadian pipe line is being blocked even more than the one in the US. If it was so easy for them to build the pipe line through Canada, they would do it. Also, we are supposed to destroy the environment so we can fight over less than 50 permanent jobs? How stupid can you get?
+10 # bckrd1 2014-11-20 19:47
The people said no to it in Canada as should we. I have no interest in making the Kochs rich and off the hook for any damage that will come from this. They'll just buy the rest of this country with the money THEY will make with this. Why do you think they bought the politicians.
+7 # bckrd1 2014-11-20 19:43
David should just do Fox news now because that is his caliber now. I listened to him on PBS tonight and he was just another talking point hack.

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