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Redding Fire Dept August 2014

"He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes."

 --Varys, regarding Littlefinger, in Game of Thrones

He might well have been describing the modern Republican Party. Overlooked among the chaos of last week's border bill fiasco: Republicans rejected aid to fight climate-fueled wildfires, and the social contract frays a bit more.

Tuesday, the House denied President Obama's request for wildfire funding, contained within the border bill, entirely. Obama requested $659 million to deal with an unusually strong wildfire season with an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion. The House's allocation in response: zero. The Hill quotes Hal Rogers: “Although on wildfires, the agencies have a big pile of money already,” Rogers said. “I don’t think there’s an urgency on the money part.”

Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked wildfire aid again, both in the border bill and in a separate standalone bill. President Obama requested $615 million to help fight Western wildfires. Senator John Cornyn R-TX) objected, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) demanded cuts elsewhere, stating that "I also want to make sure our children have a future," and that was the end of that.

The House did manage to find $35 million to beef up border patrols, because what's more scary: refugee children wanting a better life in America or thousands upon thousands of acres burning to a crisp in the tinderbox of drought-stricken California?

And so Congress heads into a scorching hot August recess having done nothing about wildfires ravaging near districts of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and other Western members of the House Appropriations Committee. Yes, the same Kevin McCarthy who bashes Obama's climate agenda while ignoring California's drought.  

Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown declares a state of emergency as more than a dozen major wildfires burn - activity comparable to a normal September.

What's going on here? Is the modern Republican Party now driven by anarchy, the real-life Joker who just wants to watch the world burn? Does raw ambition blind it to the consequences of action - the modern Littlefinger who'd be king of the ashes?

It's easy to snark on the anarchy aspect - I've been using #GOPWantsToWatchTheWorldBurn on twitter - but we're seeing the beginning of a deeper shift. Firefighting should be one of the most basic functions of government, a paradigm example of why citizens organize and tax themselves. Gauis Publius at Americablog writes that the climate crisis will break the social contract: "Nothing like a squabble over scarcity (pretend or otherwise) to tear a society literally apart."

The White House has, quite correctly, connected the dots between the drought-scarred, overheating West and its wildfires. More broadly, Democrats in leadership positions are beginning to make the economic case for action on climate change; Sen. Patty Murray is distributing talking points to her colleagues emphasizing the costs of inaction on disaster relief, among other things. The economic pitch on climate change is simple: spend some now or spend a lot later, with the implied message that the fiscally prudent party prefers choice (a).

Yet protection of the fossil fuel industry is deeply embedded within Republican DNA.

Fossil-fuel-captured Republicans are beating both fiscally conservative Republicans and the social contract. They've gotten fairly good at denying that some effects of climate change are already happening - for example, sea level rise in North Carolina has been legislated out of existence. Admitting that this is a bad year for wildfire would be a tacit admission that they and their donors Exxon and Peabody Coal have lit the match of California. This budget skirmish is the beginning of an ugly spectacle in which Republicans will refuse to spend money on climate change adaptation, even if it means abandoning the social contract of basic government services. So they've skipped town, telling each other that it's all right because the agencies are just "sitting on a big pile of money."

Rather than acknowledge that climate change is worsening Western wildfires and that a core government function is fighting fires, Republicans are telling the West to burn during the August recess so that they can be kings of the ashes in September.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Watching the world burn both metaphorically and (15+ / 0-)

    and literally.

    "I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity." Nadezhda Mandelstam

    by LaFeminista on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 11:43:49 AM PDT

    •  Privatized fire-fighting in the ancient world (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, chimene

      My late guru, Michael Harrington, used to tell the story of the private fire fighting company owned by a wealthy potentate (I no longer remember whether it was Croesus or Crassus).

      When someone's house caught fire, the private fire fighters would rush over with their equipment, and offer to buy the house at literally a fire-sale price.  If the homeowner agreed, they would put out the fire and take possession.  If the homeowner refused, like today's GOP, they would let it burn.

      There's no such thing as a free market!

      by Albanius on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:41:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Because obviously... (4+ / 0-)

    Passing a Steve King/Michele Bachmann "DEPORT 'EM ALL!!!" #tcot wet dream is far more important than doing something about all that Western land on fire.

  •  I'm somewhat sympathetic, for different reasons (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, happymisanthropy, chimene

    My personal sense is that there are areas of the country (and the world) that humans have moved into, that really should not be habitable for us due to the risk of wildfires, floods, or other disasters. I know the current policy is to fight all wildfires that threaten homes or other built structures -- but many of those should not have been built in the first place, as they disrupt delicate ecosystems and wildlife habitat.

    So allowing those areas to burn, and then not allowing rebuilding there (taking the land by eminent domain, probably, for wildlife preserves), could be the best long-term policy. And in the long run, we probably can't afford to compensate every current "owner" (occupant) of property that will become uninhabitable.

    The other option is to tell all the gun-toting states rights folks that sorry, this is a state responsibility, not a federal one.

    •  A policy of allowing uncontained and unabated (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RLMiller, grover, cany

      forest combustion in wildfires increases greenhouse gas emissions over a policy of containment and suppression, thus preserving forest biomass for carbon sequestration rather than oxidation to CO2.

    •  I have lived in my home which lies within the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      congressional boundary of the Cleveland National Forest for 30 years, in the same area for 40. My home, built 30 years after Teddy signed the forest into being, was built on privately held land back in 1939.

      PRIOR to that, the downtown cities absolutely devastated the conifer forest here to build city homes and businesses in Santa Ana, Orange and Anaheim. THAT happened in the 1800s. Fire--arson 99% of the time--comes along and further destroys it or prevents it from returning. Farmers in the 1800s and miners destroyed plenty.

      Almost all of my adult life I have lived here working to save, preserve and rehab important areas as have others.

      I moved into an EXISTING old house so I wouldn't have to contribute to more land being savaged. I have moved the foundation of my house twice (and will have to do it again) to save a giant live oak.

      I get really sick and tired of your attitude that those that live in hurricane, flooding or tornado areas don't have to move but I and others in fire areas do. You don't seem to understand the west at all and I seriously doubt you understand fire. Part of the reason we fight it is because fire frequency is so high now that the habitat CANNOT recover.

      The only hawk I like is the kind that has feathers. My birding blogs: and

      by cany on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 05:41:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The initials GOP (4+ / 0-)

    stand for Greed Oil and Power.  That needs to be hung around the neck of the party of the Regressive Reactionaries.  They are not  "conservatives" because they aren't really conserving anything. Burn it all down if it means profit for their cronies that bought their seats in Congress.

  •  "....and the social contract frays a bit more." (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, grover, Albanius, Eric Nelson

    We're getting close to cutting the word "United" from the "States of America"  and changing it to The Divided and Contested Corporate States of America.

    The DNA of our democracy is unraveling.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 12:22:11 PM PDT

  •  They WANT California to burn. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, grover, Bronx59

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 12:32:16 PM PDT

  •  We drove down CA Highway 97 on Friday (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, Simplify

    While returning home from a few days in Crater Lake, Oregon.

    In Oregon, and presumably in bordering California, there were dozens of lightning strikes last Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.

    I don't know how many of these started fires, but I assume many of them did.

    On the way home, we were awestruck in observing the Little Deer Fire just a few miles off the highway.

    Continuing home, the skies were filled with smoke from other fires.

    Most of the fires now burning would be located in the proposed new state of Jefferson, if some fools get their way. Jefferson, where proud anti-government "patriots" don't want to pay the taxes that would be needed to fight such fires. Wonder how that'll work out for them?

    Any group with the word "Patriot" in its name, probably isn't.

    by Senor Unoball on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 12:55:23 PM PDT

  •  Screw it. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, Visceral, tobendaro, cany

    Tornadoes, hurricanes, Nor'Easters, Midwestern floods?

    The Pacific and Mountain States cooperate with each other on mutual fire aid (as well as other catastrophes like freezes).

    Many of us are donor states. We can keep our excess taxes. We can keep all the food we send across the nation. What we don't need, we'll sell abroad.

    We're wealthy states overall. We'll figure this out once we're not supporting deadbeat states.

    Don't call us when searise claims most of the south though. Don't call us when polar vortex makes it impossible to leave your homes, and electricity is down for weeks.

    And Kossacks who kind of agree with this should be ashamed. Your states have had (and will have) extreme weather and received assistance.  These fires are occurring and spreading at crazy speeds in communities that are  well over 100 years old (like Carlsbad, CA and Ellensburg, WA)  because of the drought.

    But that's ok. We're big. We'll be fine once we stop supporting you all.

    We'll take our neighbors who are also on on fire and we'll figure this out.

    And if not, well, historically, uncontrolled wildfires burn east.

    Good Luck with that.


    © grover

    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:11:09 PM PDT

    •  indep. CA would be world's 8th largest economy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RLMiller, cany

      We could totally do it.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:42:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I'd prefer not to cut lose our Pacific (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RLMiller, cany

        and Mountain West neighbors. We're all in this (burning) together.

        Truth be told, I love huckleberry ice cream. I don't want to jettison Montana and Idaho. Alaska, which is so western that it would never fit in with the others, can stay with us if they deport old what's-her-name.


        © grover

        So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

        by grover on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:57:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  big tents make it harder to solve problems (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grover, RLMiller

          Washington and Oregon aren't going to want to go with California because they know that CA would run everything.  WA and OR might not even want to be together in the same PNW-istan.  Idaho and Montana (and the eastern halves of WA and OR while we're at it) are a completely different world with nothing in common economically or culturally with the West Coast; having them on the same side of the line with us would only strengthen our own unavoidable conservatives ... unless you want to go with city-states, we're going to end up with plenty of beet red hinterland.  Same with Alaska.

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 02:06:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I dunno. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            We'll have to discuss and outline this further.

            I like the idea of the of the United Western States' monopoly on western ports.

            And the vast majority of tech.

            Plus all the excellent wine that N America creates (besides Canada's ice wines).

            There is also the little issue of water.

            Citizens of Eastern PNW, MT, WY* and CO affiliate more with us than they do with KY or OK. They'll see the logic of this.

            I don't see a need for a utopia of 100% liberal consensus. I just want a place where pragmatic and rational thought can prevail. A little dissent is good.

            *(Liz Cheney is a resident of VA. She will be denied a UWS passport)

            © grover

            So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

            by grover on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 02:22:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "a little dissent" is all they need (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              We can always trade for what we don't make.  What matters is self-determination. A large, assertive, and alienated RW minority, regardless of the reason we have it in our hypothetical country, is only going to make it harder for us to make that country into a reflection of ourselves rather than a divided and aimless compromise.

              We all might well have no choice but to buy and sell with each other, and joint initiatives in service of particular goals (water, electricity, etc.) are always an option, but that's a much easier row to hoe than arguing we all ought to live in the same house under the same set of rules.

              Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

              by Visceral on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 02:56:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  link to good article on fires/GOP (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, cany

    We produce more renewable energy than any other state - WA Gov. Jay Inslee

    by mrobinson on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:12:21 PM PDT

  •  186 wildfires burn, GOP refuses help (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, Tinfoil Hat
    After members of Congress left for their August recess, 186 wildfires burned across the U.S. on Monday, according to the Coordination Center. Droughts and erratic precipitation have turned forests into tinderboxes, and everything from campfires to lightning strikes have become their sparks.

    Seven firefighters have died so far this season, including Goodnature, the U.S. Forest Service says. And with blazes having erupted in California as early as January, this fire season is shaping up to be one of the longest ever.

    We produce more renewable energy than any other state - WA Gov. Jay Inslee

    by mrobinson on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 01:15:38 PM PDT

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