Friday, April 30, 2010

A Miner Problem For Massey

Hey folks, this weekend while the pictures of devastated coastline, decimated coastal communities and dead wildlife pour in from the Gulf, let's keep in mind that Deepwater Horizon's oil rig wasn't the only deadly energy company disaster borne of negligence just in the last month.
Massey Energy Co is under criminal investigation by the FBI after the deadly mine explosion in West Virginia, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said on Friday, news that sent the company's stock plummeting.

The FBI is probing the company and the circumstances surrounding the explosion which killed 29 miners, including for potential negligence, the officials said, declining further identification.

The miners died at the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, on April 5, in the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1970.
April has been a very, very bad month for energy companies.  But never forget it's been far, far worse for the families of the people who were killed in these two accidents, people who risked their lives going into potentially lethal situations in order to obtain energy for us to use, and for these companies to profit handsomely off of.

Ask yourself if companies like BP and Massey could afford to increase safety precautions to prevent deadly accidents in the future.  The FBI is at least starting to ask questions.

Oh, and should the wellhead rupture in the gulf, that 200,000 a gallon per day oil spill could become two million gallons of oil a day.  Should THAT happen, it's an Exxon Valdez-level disaster.  Every five and a half days.

Moose Lady still says "Drill baby drill!" and wonders what the big deal is...

Your Papers, Please, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Part 8

Wonk Room's Andrea Nill drops something on a bombshell: an email from one the the legal eagles behind Arizona's immigration law that strongly suggests the entire point of the law is to build a legal framework that effectively allows racial profiling of Latinos.
Yesterday, Arizona lawmakers made a handful of changes to the immigration bill Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) recently signed into effect that appear to be in response to many of the criticisms aimed at the bill. One of those changes replaces the phrase “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention or arrest” to “apparently clarify that officers don’t need to question a victim or witness about their legal status.” However, the legislature also implemented a third change that some call “frightening.” As part of the amended bill, a police officer responding to city ordinance violations would also be required to determine the immigration status of an individual they have reasonable suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant. 
Now keep in mind, this law was considered "carefully crafted" and "legal from the get go".  The reality is that Arizona's legislature quietly amended the law because it was legally shaky the whole time.  It was a lie...otherwise, why the need to amend it just days after passing it?

So who's the genius behind this?  His name is Kris Kobach.  Remember the name.
(More after the jump...)

Orange Julius Lays Down A Hell Of A Marker

John Boehner is feeling quite confident these days.  Measuring the drapes in Nancy Pelosi's office is one thing.  Measuring the Democratic party for a political funeral is quite another.
Boehner said he believes there is no seat that the GOP cannot win during this election cycle, judging by Sen. Scott Brown's (R) improbable win in January's special election in Massachusetts.

Reflecting Republican optimism that they can win back control of the House this fall, Boehner said 2010 has the widest playing field for Republicans in a while.

"Let me remind you that Scott Brown won the Ted Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts," Boehner said during an appearance on National Public Radio. "If Scott Brown can win in America, there isn't a seat in America that Republicans can't win."

When pressed for a number, Boehner said he believed the GOP could win as many as 100 seats in this fall's elections."At least 100 seats," Boehner said when asked how wide the playing field for districts is. "I do," the top House Republican answered when asked if he thinks there are 100 seats in the U.S. "that could change hands."
That's a hell of a high bar to put up.  The loss of a hundred seats would represent not just a GOP victory, but the effective and total collapse of the Democrats as a political force in the country.  It would make 1994 look like a cake walk.

It also makes Orange Julius there look like he's higher than a kite on Mount Everest.  A hundred seats in the House, John?  Really?  Even worst case scenario (the dreaded Rasmussen Reality) the Dems lose what they did in 1994, 50 and some change.  But one hundred?

Look, as much as the Dems may have screwed up, I just don't see how the GOP fundamentally changes the reality of space and time in order to gain 100 seats in the House after the drubbing they've gotten in 2006 and again in 2008.  I think the GOP taking back the House is a majorly outside shot, I'm sticking with maybe 30 in the House and 6 in the Senate.

Even if my worst fears about the Dems' goofy national ID card crap come true, that's still 50-ish seats they lose.  Remember, confident, cocky, sloppy, dead.  Orange Julius is biting off way more than he can chew here.  The fundamental problems of the GOP still remain.  The voters aren't that unhappy with the Dems, and they certainly don't trust the Republicans more than they do Obama on many of the issues.

As much as you can count on the Dems finding a way to screw things up, you can count even more on the GOP being an arrogant bunch of assclowns that start believing their own echo chamber delusions of grandeur.

Marking this one down to revisit in November...

And The Dems Just Lost The Battle On Immigration

I honestly don't know how the Democrats can be this friggin' stupid, but there you go.
A plan by Senate Democratic leaders to reform the nation’s immigration laws ran into strong opposition from civil liberties defenders before lawmakers even unveiled it Thursday.

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.
Congrats, guys.  You actually managed to find a way to make Arizona's immigration nightmare look like a reasonable and controlled idea next to a NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION CARD PROGRAM.  Are you serious?  Fingerprint every American worker?  Really?

You know what?  You guys just lost the immigration battle and just fed the Teabagger outrage machine for years.  You blew it.  Completely.  And this time, the Teabaggers are right.  A national ID card is exactly the kind of stupidity that's going to cost the Dems dearly in 2010.  They're going to rage on this for months, if not years.  You managed to validate every paranoid fantasy the tinfoil hats have about the Democrats in one fell swoop.

Holy crap.  This is insane.  What were you guys thinking?  This is far, far worse than Arizona's law.  Ezra Klein thinks it's a game changer, but for the wrong reasons.
The oddity of this strategy, of course, is that anti-immigration sentiments run highest among the same communities that are most opposed to national ID cards. Now, it's also the case that if you're going to support citizenship searches for people with Hispanic-looking shoes, it's a bit odd to worry about an ID card to verify employment. But even so, without Republicans on the bill to give this strategy cover, it'll be interesting to see whether the anti-immigrant right embraces the ID card as a way of staunching the flow of illegal immigrants or assails Democrats for trying to create a biometric police state.
That thud you just head was my forehead hitting the desk.  Gee Ezra, you think the GOP might use the latter there?  Gosh, I sure as hell do.  It's a game changer alright.  Jesus.

Guest Starring Yours Truly

Filling in for Steve M again for a couple days at No More Mister Nice Blog.  Do check out the place when Steve and Aimai are in too, lord knows I ping Steve's stuff enough here. NMMNB has been running for 8 years now and it's still some of the best blogging commentary on the net.  It should be on your shortlist of places to go each morning.

Your Papers, Please, Phoenix and Flagstaff, Part 7

The argument that Arizona's immigration law is constitutional is that the law forbids officers from stopping people based on race alone, and that doing so is against the law itself.

Somebody might want to tell Sheriff Joe Arpaio that.  Steven D at Booman Tribune:
In Maricopa County, masked deputies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio are conducting massive sweeps of the streets in search of illegal aliens. That's right, the tactics of used by members of death squads in Latin America and in Iraq, are being employed to terrorize Hispanic-Americans who happen to live or pass through Sheriff Joe's jurisdiction for the crime of not looking white enough:

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not waiting for the controversial law SB 1070 to take affect and so, he continues with police neighborhood sweeps under the guise of crime sweeps. This time, he will be carrying out his 15th sweep with over 150 deputies and Posse volunteers. No doubt, Arizona has become a police state where entire neighborhoods are corralled and its inhabitants are subject to police intrusion and arrest.
Here's more from a recommended diary at Daily Kos which describes the actions of Sheriff Joe and his posse in further detail:

William Crum Green Congressional candidate in Arizona spotted men dressed in black with their faces covered. Driving black unmarked vehicles as some other vehicles were being towed away. They stopped a hispanic male driving a white pick up truck, after 22 min a second car pulled up (four officers), two min after that another car now 5 officers on the one male and they just put the cuffs on him. [...] Source tells me that Arpaio gave post-sweep interview in which he stated that one reasonable suspicion is "if they speak Spanish."
This is the type of action one sees in police states, in right wing dictatorships, in the mythical nation of Oceania of George Orwell's 1984. However, in those countries ordinary citizens had no guns, no weapons with which to oppose the tyrannical regimes oppressing them. That is not the case in Arizona
The rest of Steven D's case as to why and how Latinos in Arizona are eventually going to actually do what the Tea Party loudmouths have only been talking about up until now, that is take up arms against a fascist police state, is frightening.  Absolutely read it.

Arpaio knows exactly what he's doing however.  He's trying to make the case that an armed, military response on our borders is needed -- and that an armed military response inside the United States is needed as well -- to purge undesirables from America.  Best way to do that?  Foment a riot by sweeping through and making mass arrests.

Somebody's going to eventually fight back.  Joe Arpaio is counting on it.  And I'm betting a whole lot of other wingers are too.  Unlike their Teabagger fantasies, Arpaio and his jackbooted goon squad really are coming to round up people.  So when the lid finally blows on this little steam boiler, it's going to become a national catastrophe that will draw a brutal armed response in turn.

Democrats don't have a choice but to work out a national reform law and soon.

Mixed Messages On Immigration

Depending on your point of view, immigration reform is either full steam ahead or completely dead in 2010.  Yesterday congressional Dems released an outline on a plan called REPAIR:
Seeking to woo Republicans, the 26-page framework, which has not yet been written into a formal bill, emphasizes first taking steps to limit illegal immigration before offering new rights for those here illegally. But the REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform) proposal, as Democrats dubbed it, also would create a pathway to legal status for an estimated 10.8 million people who are already in the country illegally, an idea opposed by many conservatives.

Under the proposal, illegal immigrants currently in the United States would be eligible for legal status in eight years, as long as they learned English, had not committed a crime and paid their taxes. The federal government would increase funding for border security and require all American workers get a new version of their Social Security card that would include a biometric identifier to protect against the creation of counterfeits. 
Hey look, it's the REAL ID act again.  Interesting.  Republicans thought that was a great idea back when Bush was President.  Undoubtedly now that Obama's in charge they'll call it fascist.  That's a post for another time, however.  Today, the AP's Suzanne Gamboa is saying that immigration reform is dead, and Obama is the one killing it.
Immigration reform has become the first of President Barack Obama's major priorities dropped from the agenda of an election-year Congress facing voter disillusionment. Sounding the death knell was Obama himself.

The president noted that lawmakers may lack the "appetite" to take on immigration while many of them are up for re-election and while another big legislative issue — climate change — is already on their plate.

"I don't want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn't solve the problem," Obama told reporters Wednesday night aboard Air Force One.

Immigration reform was an issue Obama promised Latino groups that he would take up in his first year in office. But several hard realities — a tanked economy, a crowded agenda, election-year politics and lack of political will — led to so much foot-dragging in Congress that, ultimately, Obama decided to set the issue aside.
Set it aside?  Did Gamboa not read any of the news out of Congress on immigration yesterday?  Obama was saying that Congress may not have the guts to take this on, but apparently he was wrong.  Congress does seem eager indeed to tackle this.  They wouldn't have responded to his Wednesday night interview with yesterday's plan otherwise.

It's not a death knell.  The people saying that there's no chance of passing this are Republicans, not Democrats.  Gamboa's story is classic Village mendaciousness.

Oil's Well That Doesn't End Well For This Oil Well, Part 2

As The Blob Visible From Space heads for the Missisippi delta, lawmakers in another state with fragile coastal structures (North Carolina's famous Outer Banks) are blithely saying how unfortunate things are in the Gulf, but of course a disaster like that could never happen here.  State Senate leader Mark Basnight seems to think the Old North State has no choice:
Basnight, a Democrat, has softened his "never" stance on offshore drilling slightly in recent years, and said the spill hadn't changed his position: that there should be drilling only if energy companies sign ironclad agreements to not only pay for cleaning up any spills but to compensate coastal residents for any resulting loss in income.

Shrimpers and fishermen in Louisiana have already filed a lawsuit, claiming the spill there, which is growing by 5,000 barrels a day and now covers an area 600 miles around, will destroy their industry.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue was once opposed to drilling, but in recent months has said that it appears inevitable. She said that if North Carolina must endure the risks, it should be compensated. She was in Europe on a trade mission and vacation Thursday, but spokesman Tim Crowley said the Louisiana spill underlined the wisdom of creating a group of experts.

"It emphasizes the importance of making sure that any drilling off our coast would be safe, which is why the governor put together an advisory panel of experts to review these issues and make recommendations," Crowley said.
Sure.  Ironclad guarantees to clean up and compensate.  I'm sure NC Republicans will go for that.  Perhaps Gov. Perdue's panel of experts can come up with a way to make sure those blowout preventers that are supposed to stop something like this from ever happening don't fail spectacularly, too.  And hey, should this ever happen in the furture, I'm sure energy companies like BP won't go to court anyway to protest ever spending a dime on the cleanup, even with those "ironclad" guarantees.

It seems to me the only way to enforce that ironclad guarantee is not to drill in the first place.  The situation in the Gulf is basically a near-worst case scenario, bordering on becoming a worst case scenario that could spew millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf for weeks.

Just some quick calculations show that the current rate, this wellhead is belching roughly 2 and a third gallons of oil into the Gulf per second.  The wellhead could tear and the flow rate could increase depending on the pressures down there, if debris settles or twists or breaks, who knows.  At this rate we'll surpass Exxon Valdez in about seven weeks.

This is one oil rig capable of this. One.  Worst case scenario, one oil rig is capable of an Exxon Valdez level 11 million gallon spill in seven weeks.

There are several thousand oil rigs off Louisiana alone.

Worried yet?  I'm thinking when the pictures of Louisiana's destroyed coast and its price tag become painfully clear (and especially should this mess spread to other states too) I'm thinking "Drill baby drill" is done baby done.

Real shame the Obama administration bought it hook, line, and sinker like a bunch of idiots.  Better hope the Dems' record of improving oil rig safety will be better than their record so far of improving mine safety, too.

Energy companies after all are making a killing.

[UPDATE]  The Axeman says no new drilling until an investigation into this is complete.

We've Been Hit By A Smooth Criminal

Federal prosecutors have finally decided that with all this smoke everywhere, there's got to be some fire coming out of Goldman Sachs.
Federal prosecutors would face a higher bar in bringing a criminal case against Goldman, whose role in the mortgage market came under sharp scrutiny this week during a marathon hearing in the Senate. In contrast to civil cases, the burden of proof is higher in criminal ones, where prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The stakes are high for Goldman, but they are also high for the United States attorney’s office. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York lost a case last year filed against two hedge fund managers at Bear Stearns, whose collapse presaged the turmoil on Wall Street.

Prosecutors built much of that case around internal e-mail messages at Bear Stearns, much the way the S.E.C. and senators have pointed to e-mail at Goldman in which employees had disparaged investments that they were selling to their customers.

In the end, however, prosecutors were unable to prove to a jury any criminal wrongdoing by the Bear Stearns employees.

A spokesman for Goldman declined to say whether the bank knows about a criminal case, but he said “given the recent focus on the firm, we’re not surprised” to learn about a criminal inquiry. The spokesman said Goldman would cooperate with any investigators’ requests for information. 
It's nice to finally see somebody decide that what happened to our economy might have actually been a criminal act perpetrated by people who stood to gain a metric crapton of money by betting on the entire housing bubble detonating like a M-80 inside a paint can.

The argument I keep hearing (and the NY Times article continues along that thread) is that "Well, what they did was immoral and horrible and pretty bad and it wrecked the economy, but it wasn't illegal."  No offense, but doesn't that mean we need to change the law so that what happened is made illegal, so that people don't do this in the future?  That's the whole point of laws and punishment, in order to discourage people from breaking laws and causing untold havoc in society.

I'd call the loss of eight million jobs "untold havoc in society".  I'm not saying it's all Goldman's fault, but given all the overwhelming evidence against them of profiting from a disaster and the repeated disdain they have shown time and time again for anybody who wasn't a Goldman Sachs executive, I'd say the law needs to be amended before it happens again.

Unless people think it's a good idea to have another financial crisis on our hands.  Any business plan that includes "and then the American economy collapses into a near depression and then we make a fortune" should be illegal.

It Depends On What You Mean By "Illegal Immigrant"

John Cole brings up another excellent point:  a decade ago Republicans were ruthlessly attacking the Clinton administration's decision to send young Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba.  These days, Republicans like California's Duncan Hunter, Jr. want to deport American citizens for having illegal parents.
At a tea party rally in Ramona in San Diego County over the weekend, Hunter fielded a question about the issue.

“Would you support deportation of natural born American citizens that are the children of illegal aliens?” a man in the audience asked.

“I would have to, yes,” Hunter said.

He continued:

You can look and say, ‘You’re a mean guy. That’s a mean thing to do. That’s not a humanitarian thing to do.’ We simply cannot afford what we’re doing right now.

“We just can’t afford it anymore,” Hunter said. “That’s it. And we’re not being mean. We’re just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen. It’s within our souls.
Digby too picks up on this hypocrisy. 
The one group of Hispanics for whom the right wing has always wanted to leave the door completely open are Cubans. The fact that they have also been a very loyal Republican voting bloc is completely coincidental. As we all know, Republicans don't believe in pandering or playing partisan politics.
There's a reason why the Democrats are going ahead with their new immigration proposal called REPAIR:  it's going to absolutely trigger the worst, most vile, most racist impulses in the wingerverse and they are going to remind everybody why the American people threw them out of power in 2008.  While the GOP and their crackpot enablers sit around and scream SHAMNESTY at the top of their lungs and refuse to lift a finger towards a national solution, the Democrats will say "look, this is the Republican-based bipartisan 2006 DREAM Act with security improvements that the Republicans wanted" and the public will back them, not the GOP.

The Democrats really, really need to send Jan Brewer some flowers.


Related Posts with Thumbnails