The only good news about toxins, like radiation or acid rain, even massive oil slicks, is they're observable, open to measurement and at times reparation. Nothing trumps the Beck-Palin-Limbaugh anti-science, anti-compassion mayhem like looming mass poisonings from spreading plumes.
Enough pain defeats deniability. And there will be pain. In backward America, the irrefutable evidence that "proves" climate change won't be scientific but human catastrophes too great to "refudiate."
Because industrial crimes are "point sources" of pollution they are in part constrained by place -- whether glowing reactors, oil explosions or mining implosions -- with identifiable starting points, though less so finales. Today's focus -- political poisons in the public square -- may have a beginning but, like our wars, no apparent ending. Fringe toxins are "non-point source," often oozing from underground rocks, thus spreading thought contamination hard to refute or deflect for years. When did the president first know he was Kenyan born? Which Democrat came up with "death panels," and why don't we daily glorify American exceptionalism?
Fundamentalism buoyed by big money not only keeps America from regaining world leadership (except with brute force), but blocks taking seriously, let alone resolving species-wide threats -- climate, economic, energy, geopolitical, environmental, or overpopulation. With explicit and implicit sources, the radioactive fringe replicates air-borne pollutants of the mind, as one friend nailed it, with its plume of "vituperation, meanness, pettiness, and sheer mendacity."
At least the worst environmental blows deliver flashing signals only the most foolish in government and business will (alas) ignore. Someday we may actually scrutinize local, untested reactors, dodgy deep drillers, or the few polluters inept enough to make nasty headlines. Even deepwater Gulf oil permits stopped -- for months -- before BP got another shot at our Gulf treasures.
But what teaching moments, what shots across the bow, answer to the extremist flood that saturates American democracy, law, and justice? Where are the five rational Republicans willing to skewer the leadership-killing toxin of Birther intransigence? If this president is impugned as illegitimate (absent a fraudulent election, like 2000), what subsequent winner won't be tainted -- and then what restraint on folly is there? Cousins to illegitimacy are deranged defiance, nullification and secession for if no president, or government, is legitimate, why should anyone in authority be heeded? That way lies a generation of irreconcilable schisms and no confidence in majority rule or fair elections, already sabotaged by the Citizens United blunder. That is the beginning of the end.