Archive for category Democracy
Stories like this give me hope. Whenever people can fight the oil guys with a funny joke we all come out ahead. Jokes about green jobs wouldn’t fly, and besides, if green energy got the kind of subsidies as big oil, we could train the oil workers to make future energy resources that would protect their children.
Let’s face it; even the – sort of – big oil guy’s children will benefit from clear air, water, and fire-free faucets.
Did somebody from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service division actually say:
“Any time anybody uses Smokey’s image for anything other than wildfire prevention,” said Helene Cleveland, fire prevention program manager for the Forest Service, “it confuses the public. What we’re trying to do is keep Smokey on message.” Cleveland added that the 1952 Smokey the Bear Act takes the character out of the public domain and “any change in that would have to go through Congress.”
Since I was BORN in 1952, I can’t remember the “Smokey the Bear Act”, but I’ll just bet you that Helene Cleveland got a little call from the now-oily “Ad Council” to make that statement, but, then again, we’re now living in the 21st century.
Also, since I was born in 1952, I can remember the great ad the “Ad Council” made which featured an American Indian shedding tears over what consumerism had already done to his land. That was before the ridiculous “this is your brain on drugs” ad came out.
What happened, “Ad Council”?
The Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted today’s hearing on Gina McCarthy, President Obama‘s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lacking the votes to defeat approval of McCarthy’s nomination, they decided to deprive the committee of a quorum. Apparently Republicans are worried that the EPA might enforce the Clean Air Act, thus helping to reduce the effects of climate change.
Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was not happy.
“Their opposition, even to allowing us to vote, shows how outside the mainstream they are, it shows how obstructionist they are,” the senator continued. “It shows how their pledge to do better with women voters is false. How could you have a more qualified woman than Gina McCarthy? This is outrageous.”
“They’re fringe, they’re out of the mainstream,” she reiterated — and trying to impose their “pro-pollution stance” on the Obama administration. Boxer further noted that they’d be examining their parliamentary options, which would include potentially changing committee rules.
To the opposition, Boxer offered some advice: Take a page out of the mainstream Republicans’ playbook and “get out of the fringe lane.”
McCarthy has already answered over 1,000 written questions from GOP committee members, more than any other Obama nominee.
This is how the tail wags the dog in the U.S. Senate. Nice work, GOP
UPDATE: An instrument near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii has recorded a long-awaited climate milestone: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there has exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 55 years of measurement—and probably more than 3 million years of Earth history.
350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments consider to be the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.
Map of former USA from NBC’s “Revolution”
The most recent national survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that attitudes regarding the perceived likelihood of an armed revolution to protect liberties are influencing the debate over gun safety legislation.
Supporters and opponents of gun control have very different fundamental beliefs about the role of guns in American society. Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.
Only 38 percent of Americans who believe a revolution might be necessary support additional gun control legislation, compared with 62 percent of those who don’t think an armed revolt will be needed. “The differences in views of gun legislation are really a function of differences in what people believe guns are for,” said Cassino. “If you truly believe an armed revolution is possible in the near future, you need weapons and you’re going to be wary about government efforts to take them away.”
This is one poll that I hope is wrong. Almost a third of Americans believe a bloody revolution is coming soon to our country? Nearly half of Republicans believe it?
Tucson shooting survivor Patricia Maisch spoke for 90 percent of Americans today. After the Republicans stopped a weak firearm background check bill with a silent filibuster that required a 60-vote super-majority, she called out “Shame on you!” from the Senate gallery. The bill failed despite the support of 54 senators. Only four Republicans voted to break the filibuster (Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee voted to kill the bill).
President Obama commented on the absurdity of this vote:
I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks. And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that. That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.
As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights. All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.
Broadcast and cable networks interrupted regular programming to bring viewers Obama’s remarks, except for the Faux News Channel.
Four Democratic senators voted against the baby-step background check bill, but the filibuster was 100 percent Republican – so they get the blame. Must be used to wearing the black hats by now, anyway.
Gabrielle Giffords: A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear…
UPDATE: Gun Violence Victims Detained, Put Through Background Check For Yelling ‘Shame On You’ At Senators. Imagine that, a background check.
Is it just me, or does it seem that nobody is watching out for us?
Alan Grayson, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are.
Does it seem like this babe is telling the truth?
Once again, President Obama is pressing for a “Grand Bargain” that basically gives the right-wing Republican Party everything they have been asking for. The President wants to implement cuts to Social Security and Medicare, coupled with across-the-board discretionary spending reductions (aka austerity budgeting), and tax reform. You may recall that Willard (“Mitt”) Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, talked constantly about a plan to eliminate tax deductions during the 2012 election campaign.
So, basically, Obama is telling the right-wing “Here’s something you want, and something else you want, and I’m not going to ask for anything that progressives want.” And the GOP answer so far is a big fat NO. They would rather take the blame for a partial government shutdown. Does this make sense?
Jonathan Chait tries to explain:
President Obama is offering up something — hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security and Medicare — that Republicans say they want and which (because of their unpopularity) they have proven unable to obtain even when they have had full control of government. They are instead undertaking a public showdown against a figure who is vastly more popular and trusted, who possesses a better platform to communicate his message, and whose message itself — spread the pain among rich and middle class alike, don’t cut retirement programs more deeply than needed in order to protect tax loopholes for the rich — commands overwhelmingly higher public support.
I think the Republican Party’s behavior can be at least partly explained, though not necessarily rationalized. The main thing that’s going on is that, in the face of cross-pressures, the party’s anti-tax wing has once again asserted its supremacy.
…Part of the confusion is that Republicans have been saying for months that they really just want to stop tax rates from raising. They’re happy — nay, eager — to make the rich pay more taxes by reducing their tax deductions. Certain conservative economists believe this as well. Since Obama is offering to increase revenue in exactly this way, his plan might seem inoffensive to Republicans.
…The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period.
Robert Reich offers a better strategy for President Obama: Clear up all the confusion by taking on the Republicans’ big lies directly.
The first big lie is austerity economics — the claim that the budget deficit is the nation’s biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.
Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession — which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.
The second big lie is trickle-down economics — the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they’re the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.
Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.
The Obama administration doesn’t have to play this crazy game of offering right-wing Republicans everything they say they want, knowing that they will refuse to take it. What they ought to be doing is explaining to the public that the right-wing is wrong, that they are lying.
Republicans have run on big across-the-board spending cuts for literally decades.
…But here we are. For the first time I think in our history we are about to go over the precipice of genuine across-the-board spending cuts. And Republicans are completely freaking out. There’s no other way to describe it.
I’ve highlighted the idea that US politics are driven as much by historical cultural forces as by contemporary ones. Colin Woodward’s eleven nations thesis argues that the US is divided into 11 distinct cultural areas which align themselves in a series of shifting alliances and thus shift and move national political power. Certain longstanding alliances (Yankeedom, the Left Coast and the Midlands on the one hand and the Deep South, Tidewater and Greater Appalachia endured for decades). Woodward summed up his thesis:
The Tea Party agenda may hold sway over large parts of the South and interior West, and with the economy and the president in such a weakened state a Tea Party favorite like Rick Perry could conceivably win the White House. But the movement has no hope of truly dominating the country. Our underlying and deeply fractured political geography guarantees that it will never marshal congressional majorities; indeed, it almost guarantees that the movement will be marginalized, its power and influence on the wane and, over large swaths of the nation, all but extinguished.
Woodard’s argument is that South is not a unified region – it consists of multiple cultural areas that have a long standing tradition of allegiance – Michael Lind’s Chesapeake Bay area is part of the Tidewater region
Tidewater has always been fundamentally conservative, with a high value placed on respect for authority and tradition, and very little on equality or public participation in politics.
Tidewater is a nation in decline as the Midlands have taken over sizable portions of Tidewater (think of Northern Virginia for a good example). Read the rest of this entry »
An estimated 40,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. on Sunday for the Forward on Climate Rally on the National Mall. The rally preceded a march to the White House to urge President Barack Obama to take action against climate change and reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
350.org founder Bill McKibben said at the rally, according to a statement, “For 25 years our government has basically ignored the climate crisis: now people in large numbers are finally demanding they get to work.” He added, “We shouldn’t have to be here — science should have decided our course long ago. But it takes a movement to stand up to all that money.”
Smoke and flames are seen over homes as the Dump Fire burns near Saratoga Springs on Friday, June 22, 2012. JIM MCAULEY/Daily Herald
Last June 21, target shooters ignited a wildfire near Saratoga Springs that burned 5,507 acres and cost $2.1 million to fight, and resulted in the evacuation of 9,000 residents from their homes. More than 20 Utah wildfires are started by irresponsible target shooters every year.
Why is target shooting causing wildfires? Don’t firearms enthusiasts go to firing ranges where safety precautions are the first priority? Well… regular firing ranges don’t let you shoot an AR-15 at an exploding star target (video), a Tannerite target, or use tracer or incendiary rounds.
Although Utah is one of the most heavily-armed states in the nation, our state government cannot regulate target shooting. Not even in an emergency, such as last year.
Utah code 76-10-500, passed in 1999, states: “Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation, or rule pertaining to firearms.” A 2004 law contains similar phrasing.
It seemed like a simple fix for Utah State Senator Margaret Dayton (R-Orem), and State Rep. Curt Oda (R-Clearfield) to introduce SB120, a bill to allow the state forester to restrict target shooting when it would create a high risk of wildfires. It sailed through committee, and Dayton said she has the votes to pass it. But then the gun nuts went ballistic. As the Senate started to debate the measure Friday, Dayton pulled it and told senators that she may not bring it up again.
Once again, it appears that a common-sense measure with majority support cannot withstand the fury of the gun fanatics. Most likely, our state will remain powerless to stop preventable wildfire emergencies caused by yahoos with assault rifles.
The two men charged with starting Saratoga Springs’ Dump Fire in June have pleaded no contest to reduced charges.
Idaho resident Kenneth Nielsen, 37, and Jeffrey Conant, 42, of Washington state, were originally charged in 4th District Court with reckless burning, a class A misdemeanor, and using prohibited targets, a class B misdemeanor.
… the pleas were part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop the reckless burning charges, and won’t request jail time at sentencing.
The two men each agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution.
Charging documents state that Nielsen and Conant were target shooting near Saratoga Springs at 11:30 a.m. on June 21, when an explosive target ignited dry weeds and spread to burn the mountainside, court documents state.
Fire investigators discovered packaging linked to an explosive target the men used during their shooting session. A fingerprint on the packaging was traced to Nielsen, court documents state.
Today’s Senate committee hearing on gun safety began with a surprise appearance by Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), grievously wounded during an assassination attempt two years ago that left six others dead.
“Thank you for inviting me here today,” she said. “This is an important conversation for our children, for our community, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important.”
She continued: “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”
But later in the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) bragged about having an AR-15 at home.
“You could find yourself in this country in a lawless environment from a natural disaster or a riot,” he said… The Republican senator added that he would carry his assault rifle around his neighborhood in the event of “a law and order breakdown.”
And then it got weirder.
One of the witnesses at the hearing, Daily Caller writer Gayle Trotter, head of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, argued that limiting magazine capacity would particularly affect women, who she claimed believe the AR-15 to be their “weapon of choice.”
“An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon, and the peace of mind that a woman has as she’s facing three, four, five violent attackers, intruders in her home, with her children screaming in the background, the peace of mind that she has knowing that she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened, violent criminals,” she said.
I’m almost 60 years old. I never had even one “hardened, violent criminal” attack me at home. Not one time. Do these people know how crazy they sound to most Americans?
Gun advocate tells Senate: AR-15 is the ‘weapon of choice’ for women with crying babies
Lindsey Graham: GOP-Forced Budget Cuts Will Mean Fewer Cops, So People Need To Arm Themselves
Senator Catches NRA Head In Epic Flip Flop
The fact of the matter is that more guns put women in danger. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has found that states with more guns have more female violent deaths. Their research also found that batterers who owned guns liked to use them to scare and control their victims, and would often use the gun to threaten the victim, threaten her pets or loved ones, clean them menacingly during arguments, or even fire them to scare her.
Trotter’s organization, the Independent Women’s Forum, opposes legislation aimed at curbing domestic violence including the Violence Against Women Act.
Read the rest of this entry »
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)
I am still wondering why the Democrats didn’t rewrite the Senate rules in 2009 or 2011. But now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants to end what amounts to a Republican minority veto power via the “silent filibuster” or the “60-vote rule” that isn’t really a rule. Under our Constitution, all it takes is a 51-vote majority to change the rulebook, and Reid says he has the votes.
“I hope that within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we’re going to move forward on what I think needs to be done,” Reid told reporters. “The caucus will support me on that,” he added.
There is a package of reforms on the table that will make the Senate able to legislate again. Those reforms are:
- Eliminate the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed;
- Require that those wishing to block legislation or nominations take the floor and actually filibuster— i.e., mandating “talking filibusters”;
- Assert that 41 Senators must affirmatively vote to continue debate rather than forcing 60 Senators to vote to end debate; and,
- Streamline the nomination process so that nominees will get a yes or no vote on the Senate floor, including a reduction of the required 30 hours of post cloture debate on a nominee to 2 hours.
In the last Congress, only 3 percent of the bills introduced in the Senate made it to final passage. This was the most dysfunctional Senate anyone can remember.
UPDATE: No talking filibuster, no 41-vote rule. To say Harry Reid and the Dems folded like a cheap suit is an insult to cheap suits.
Minority rules: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to control the Senate after so-called Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees to a deal that does almost nothing to restrain the abuse of the filibuster.
UPDATE: HuffPo nails it with their headline (see continuation)
Read the rest of this entry »
Sunrise this morning at the U.S. Capitol (UPI photo)
I’m enjoying the all-day MSNBC coverage of President Obama’s second inauguration, unlike Mitt Romney who says he won’t be watching today.
So far, it has been a refreshing does of patriotism, from the emotional Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” to the President’s call for equality for “our gay brothers and sisters.” And he promised, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
I think the President’s intentions are good, even though I often disagree with his decisions. I think he wants to do his best for the voters who entrusted him with the office for another four years. From today’s reporting:
Departing the West Front of the U.S. Capitol after delivering his second inaugural address on Monday, President Obama wanted to take one last glance of the hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to celebrate his second term. After all, it would be his last.
“I want to take a look one more time,” Obama said, lingering for a few short moments to savor the view as the crowd shuffled past him. “I’ll never see this again.”
I don’t think he was referring to Justice Scalia’s Renaissance-style hat.