Archive for National
(Bloomberg) — The Obama administration proposed opening to offshore drilling an area from Virginia to Georgia in a policy shift sought by energy companies but opposed by environmentalists worried about resorts such as the Outer Banks or Myrtle Beach.
The offshore plan for 2017-2022 marks the second time President Barack Obama has recommended unlocking areas in the U.S. Atlantic for oil drilling, and it drew a swift retort from allies who say the payoff doesn’t justify the risk of a spill along the populated coast. The agency said Atlantic leases won’t be auctioned for at least six years and drilling wouldn’t start for several more years.
Well, that’s a relief. Plus, you know, with the Gulf Stream and all, a massive oil spill 50 miles offshore of the Outer Banks might never reach Cape Hatteras.
Heads up, Nantucket.
The proposal is still preliminary, officials suggested:
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters the proposal was a “balanced” approach, but she stressed that it was only a draft.
“It is not final, we’re in the early stages of what is a multi-year process,” Jewell said, cautioning that some regions listed in it “may be narrowed or taken out entirely.”
That caveat and the timing make the announcement a mite suspect. Days ago, the Obama administration had Alaska livid over its request “to designate parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a wilderness area” off-limits to oil drilling. The request left Sen. Lisa Murkowski fuming. Something about decisions on federal land made Outside being a violation of state sovereignty. Other Alaska legislators were similarly put out:
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker was “outraged” at the timing of the announcement, which comes amid low oil prices and declining production “despite having more than 40 billion barrels of untapped resources, mostly in federal areas where oil and gas activity is blocked or restricted,” the joint statement said.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, called the plan “callously planned and politically motivated” in the same statement.
On the heels of the Alaska announcement, the Atlantic drilling proposal is generating predictable howls from East Coast environmentalists:
“This proposal sells out the southeast fisheries, tourism, and coastal way of life,” says Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is an area that has never been drilled for oil production. These are places and communities that rely on natural resources like clean air and clean water for the quality of life and the lifestyle that they know.”
The White House surely knew its twin decisions would raise firestorms from both the left and right.
A head fake in advance of a Keystone pipeline veto? Or a sop?
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
The voter fraud frauds are at it again:
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a Nebraska voter identification bill packed a public hearing Friday for a fierce debate over the measure.
The Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard heated arguments on a bill by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill. The legislation would require voters to show a driver’s license or state identification card at a polling place. Fifteen other states have such a law.
Doug Kagan of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom testified in support of the measure, saying it protects the sanctity of the system and compared voter ID laws to a vaccination preventing polio.
Because America’s Most Sanctimonious don’t want their elections tainted by diseased Others — infected with too much poor, too much melanin, or too much not-one-of-us.
… they emphasized the need for getting dead and inactive voters off the rolls because of the possibility of widespread voter fraud — or was it a widespread possibility? — for which they never seem to produce evidence. Basically, T-partiers are convinced that if they lose an election it must be because their opponents cheated. What else could it be? Zombies? Bigfoot?!
Much of the day focused on dead and inactive voters who remain on the rolls (by law) too long for the T-party’s liking. So they employ crowd-sourced data-matching to get voters removed. Two women described perusing the MLS listings for homes for sale and foreclosures. Then they drive by, taking geocoded photos of the properties and any empty houses they find to prove to the local Board of Elections that people registered there no longer live there. They scour the daily obituaries for the freshly dead, then take the notices down to the local Board of Elections and try to have them removed from the voter rolls.
Of course, Board of Elections professionals could do all this with enough manpower and enough money from enough taxes … oh, right.
Not once in seven hours, I told my new friend, did anyone suggest expanding the franchise or registering new voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote. It was utterly defensive, aimed at keeping the imagined, invisible hoards of THEM from casting ballots.
Her eyes grew wide in shock as she said, “That’s so sad.”
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
If nothing else, Sarah Palin’s “bizarro” speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend warmed up the crowd for the real cowboys.
Sarah Palin is now the rodeo clown sent out to get the crowd riled and make the real cowboys look better in comparison.
— Bob Schooley (@Rschooley) January 24, 2015
But even as Republican presidential wannabes tried to out-right each other in Iowa, the people who count most in this country — those with the most to count — held their annual donors’ summit at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Rancho Mirage, CA. John Nichols, writing for The Nation:
“Americans used to think Iowa and New Hampshire held the first caucus and primary in the nation every four years. Not anymore,” explains Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “Now the ‘Koch brothers primary’ goes first to determine who wins the blessing and financial backing of the billionaire class. This is truly sad and shows us how far Citizens United has gone to undermine American democracy.”
Sanders was referencing the five-year-old US Supreme Court ruling that struck down barriers to corporate spending to buy elections—one of a series of decisions that have dramatically increased the influence of not just of corporations but of billionaires like the Koch brothers.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida chose not to attend the Iowa event, instead reserving their time for supplication at the Koch brothers’ event, along with another unofficial 2016 presidential contender, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:
An hourlong panel discussion featuring U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida will take place at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. [PST, presumably]
ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl will moderate it, and the network will livestream part of it.
Update: More detail on bustgate.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
The State of the Union address last night did not disappoint as entertainment (although the president’s pitch for “middle-class economics” didn’t exactly sing to me). President Obama was surprisingly buoyant for a leader whose party got hammered in the fall elections and now occupies less of the House chambers than in a generation. (Transcript here.)
The zinger of the night came when Obama remarked, “I have no more campaigns to run,” and scattered Republicans applauded. The president grinned and shot back, “I know, because I won both of them.”
And maybe that’s Obama’s secret. Freedom’s just another thing…, you know. With his recent in-your-face executive actions, he looks like a leader and the country is responding. His approval ratings hit 50 percent for the first time since the spring of 2013.
Joan Walsh described the speech as “an epic combination of sweet-talking and trash-talking, cajoling and trolling.” Speaker John Boehner, looking darker than ever, sat through the speech, looking sickly. Walsh:
The T-party will again provide its own response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, Rachel Maddow reports. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa will give the official Republican response. She may be about the only member of the Senate to the right of Sen. Ted Cruz, Maddow observed. Just not right enough.
The T-party response will come from the same smirking freshman congressman, Rep. Curt Clawson of Florida, who, in a subcommittee hearing last July, mistook two senior American officials from the State Department and from Commerce for Indian nationals. Guess why:
“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” the freshman congressman said. “Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so.”
“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he added. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”
“I think your question is to the Indian government,” Nisha Biswal said. “We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S.” Working for the State Department, Biswal is a diplomat. Can you tell?
Clawson won his seat in a special election to replace Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned after a conviction for cocaine possession.
If we’re in luck, Clawson will display the same smug, false confidence again. As Maddow said, tonight’s SOTU should be fun.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
An acquaintance asked Saturday what happens if the Supreme Court rules this summer to lift gay marriage bans across the country. It seems unlikely the Roberts court will overturn rulings in 36 states, he said. He worried that, since so many of the shifts on gay marriage across the country originated in the courts, that the right will not simply use the decision to energize their base in 2016, but to further colonize and control the courts. In fact that has already been occurring, according to Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies:
Today, special interests are spending record amounts of money on court elections in the 38 states that elect justices to the bench. As a Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies report showed, more than $3 million poured into races for North Carolina’s higher courts in 2014, the first election since state lawmakers — with the help of millionaire donor and political operative Art Pope — eliminated North Carolina’s judicial public financing program.
The controversy over Big Money’s attempted takeover of the courts is now coming to a head. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing Williams-Yulee vs. The Florida Bar, a case involving a challenge to Florida’s law barring judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.
Besides suffering Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the decade saw (IIRC) parents bringing the kiddies to the mall on Saturday to be photographed and fingerprinted. Maybe bringing dental impressions to help identify their bodies. We called these “child safe” programs. In the 1950s, it was commies hiding in the woodpile. By the 1980s, it was child abducters hiding behind every tree. Heaven forfend that little Johnny or Janie should walk or ride a bike to school or to the playground without a hypervigilant parent for a bodyguard. Well, somebody is finally trying to beak the spell:
On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.
Funny, it’s usually bad news they hold until Friday. From the WaPo:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.
Digby’s right. This is a BFD:
This program was a huge incentive to what can only be called outright theft of private property by police authorities. It’s actually hard to believe they got away with it for so long. But interestingly, the alleged anti-federal right (along with the pro-police center) had no problem with it. They get very angry about any kind of taxes on rich people but had no problem with police targeting innocent people and just taking everything they own to fund their own activities. Odd that.
Amazing, the freedom politicians feel to take gutsy stands when they’ve got nothing left to lose. There’s a song about that right? I’m looking at you North Carolina Democrats.
The U.S. press dutifully spent the last two days focused on why the White House did not send any high-level officials to join other world leaders at this weekend’s Charlie Hebdo photo-op in Paris. Meanwhile, few registered that 2,000 people died in Nigeria over the weekend at the hands of Boko Haram. Twenty died and many more were injured when a maybe ten year-old suicide bomber attacked a Nigerian market. Matt Schiavenza of the Atlantic notes that the story appeared on page A8 of Saturday’s New York Times. The massacre of civilians made page A6. Schiavenza explains why:
The main difference between France and Nigeria isn’t that the public and the media care about one and not the other. It is, rather, that one country has an effective government and the other does not. The French may not be too fond of President Francois Hollande—his approval ratings last November had plunged to 12 percent—but he responded to his country’s twin terror attacks with decisiveness. Not so Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan. Since assuming the presidency in 2010, Jonathan has done little to contain Boko Haram. The group emerged in 2002 and has consolidated control over an area larger than West Virginia. And it’s gaining ground. Perversely, the seemingly routine nature of Nigeria’s violence may have diminished the perception of its newsworthiness.
Jonathan’s failure to confront Boko Haram, of course, is nothing new. Nigeria has long been cursed with a corrupt, ineffective government, one perennially unable to translate the country’s vast oil wealth into broad-based prosperity. During his campaign for re-election—Nigerians go to the polls on February 14—Jonathan has vowed to tackle his country’s problem with graft. …
You know, one way to read that is, Goodluck Jonathan means to tackle his country’s lack of broad-based prosperity with more graft—just as the corrupt, ineffective government the U.S. is cursed with has taught him by example. With the Republican congress and GOP-controlled state legislatures misleading the way, we’ll all be saying “Je suis Nigeria” in no time.
The upside? Maybe the world press will start ignoring our mass killings.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo. h/t Josh Holland)