Haley Barbour, Oil Expert

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There have been many stupid stories in the past weeks about the Gulf oil spill. But this one might just take the cake: “Mississippi leaders: Spill’s environmental impact overhyped.”

It’s hard to know where to begin on this one. Perhaps the most important question: When did Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour become an expert on oil toxicity?

Barbour, DMR Director Bill Walker, DEQ Director Trudy Fisher and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant have all described the oil and tar that has made its way to Mississippi waters and shores as “nontoxic.” Barbour said the “first cuts,” or volatile chemicals in the crude such as benzene, evaporate quickly near the well site and that the oil that makes it further into the Gulf is “emulsified and weathered.”

Wait, it gets more comical: Oil is just like toothpaste, according to Barbour:

Barbour has also said the risk to wildlife from oiling is not as bad as some have been saying.

“Once it gets to this stage, it’s not poisonous,” Barbour said. “But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn’t breathe.”

I wonder if it’s Barbour’s years as a big-time lobbyist for interests like tobacco and big oil that qualify him to render these informed opinions. In fact, Barbour’s time lobbying for dirty energy interests appears to be his only qualification for talking about the subject.

At least the others quoted in the article are nominally better prepared to comment on the science. But that doesn’t make them any less wrong. Contrary to what they state in the piece, oil is toxic, it’s not just “CO2 and water” as one state official implies, and evidence has shown that it is getting into the food chain. But maybe reality is different in Mississippi.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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