Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Last Call

Obama marked a Cinco de Mayo event at the White House today with a strong speech for immigration reform.  Looks like the Village reports of Obama killing immigration reform are quite incorrect.
President Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to begin work on immigration reform this year.
In remarks at a Cinco de Mayo event at the White House, Obama said the controversial immigration law passed in Arizona showed why the federal government needs to take action.

The Arizona law, he said, would turn legal immigrants and citizens into "subjects of suspicion and abuse."

"You can't start singling out people beacuse of who they look like or how they talk or how they dress," he said.

Instead, Obama called on Congress to enact "common sense, comprehensive immigration reform" that would focus on securing the border and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me," Obama said.
Gosh, that doesn't sound like a President looking to dodge the issue.  Remember the AP's report last Friday that immigration was dead?
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. 
Umm, that was what, a whole 5 days ago?   Gee, you'd almost think the Village was full of crap or something...

Obey Seein' Ya

What person would give up being chair of the mega-powerful House Appropriations Committee?

Democratic Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, apparently.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, a senior member of the congressional Democratic leadership, announced Wednesday that he is not seeking re-election this November.

Obey, 71, represents Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District. He was the youngest member of Congress when he was elected to his first of 21 terms in 1969.

He is the fourth-longest-serving House member, serving behind Democratic Reps. John Dingell and John Conyers, both of Michigan, and Florida Republican Rep. Bill Young.

"I think that along the way I've made a difference in the district and the state that I represent, and for the country. But there is a time to stay and a time to go, and this is my time to go," Obey said in announcing his decision.

"Frankly, I hate to do it. There is so much that needs to be done. But even more frankly, I am bone tired," he said.
After 42 years of Congress, I'd be looking for the exits, too.  (Hell, I'd be looking for the exits after 42 minutes.)  But the bigger problem is that this is a huge, huge retirement for the Dems in a year where they stand to suffer notable losses...perhaps significant ones if the turnout numbers in yesterday's battleground primaries in Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina are any indication of the national picture in November.
Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in '06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced serious primary opponents.

Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters -- or 18% of all registered Dem voters -- who turned out in '04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term.

And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in '02 and the 304K who turned out in '06.

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr's uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in '04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from '06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in '06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.
This is bad, bad news, folks.  Dems need to get on the ball.  Perhaps passing legislation that motivates progressives will help keep them in power.  That's why Obey's retirement is such a red flag: if the Democrat in charge of House Appropriations doesn't care about keeping his job after 42 years, the Dems could be in real, real trouble this fall.

[UPDATE] On the other hand, BooMan's not nearly as worried by all this.  He is right, a lot can happen in 6 months.

The Super Bowl Of Spin

The Deepwater Horizon disaster is rapidly turning into a massive event, and TPM's Christina Bellantoni gives you a scorecard of the real players that will determine what happens from here:  the public relations firms involved.  This is the Super Bowl of Corporate Spin, folks.  Possibly hundreds of billions of dollars are a stake here...or far more.  It's time to check the numbers on the jerseys, and here's who to watch:
Among the best-known BP reps in Washington is Tony Podesta, brother to former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. Tony's The Podesta Group lobbies on behalf of BP. We asked their role in the oil spill and they referred all calls back to BP. But we know Podesta has the ear of the White House and of his brother's liberal and influential Center for American Progress.

Also on board is Washington communications consultant Michele Davis of Brunswick Group LLP. BP officials in London referred our calls to her but she hasn't yet gotten back to us. Davis, a former top aide for Hank Paulson's Treasury Department under President George W. Bush, recently spoke with TPM for a story about the 2008 bailout.

Roll Call reported that Brunswick was brought on to help with communications strategy, and director Su-Lin Nichols told the paper: "Tony Hayward has been clear with his entire executive team that BP's focus is stopping the flow of oil, mitigating the impact and keeping the public informed."

Transocean, which owned the rig, declined to comment on which firms it has hired to manage the PR crisis.

Rhonda Barnat of the Abernathy MacGregor Group represents Cameron, the firm which made the blowout preventive device that failed after the explosion. When asked if she was hired specifically for the incident, Barnat told TPM she is "helping" Cameron.

According to her bio, Barnat is trained to provide counsel "to senior management in highly complex and sensitive crises."

Also on deck helping is the American Petroleum Institute, where top lobbyists are working with reporters and writing blogs to frame the incident as an aberration in a safe industry. A spokesman told me today there were no ads on television related to the oil spill - yet. The group is using Twitter and Facebook and a fancy Web site to tell the industry's version of what went wrong. As a side note, API last November hired as executive vice president of government affairs Martin Durbin, Sen. Dick Durbin's nephew.

President Jack Gerard is appearing frequently on television with the talking points that the nation still needs oil and natural gas and that there's been "unprecedented" industry response to help.

The most recent lobbying filing disclosure with the Senate for the first quarter of 2010 showed seven firms that did lobbying on behalf of BP. They are the Podesta Group, the Duberstein Group, DC Legislative & Regulatory Services, the Alpine Group, Thomas Advisors, Stuntz Davis and Staffier and Arnold and Porter.
Keep those names in mind folks:  Tony Podesta, Michele Davis,  Rhonda Barnat, and Jack Gerard.  They're the folks hired to get corporate America off the hook, and get you and I on it for cleaning up their mess and for dealing with the thousands of lost fishing and tourism jobs this will cause.

Pay close attention to Tony Podesta.  If John Podesta's brother is doing the heavy spin lifting for BP specifically, they have a straight line to the White House.  That means the normally dependable Think Progress may not be so dependable, but so far they have been brutal to BP.  We'll see how long that lasts.  Podesta is going to be a major player in this mess in the weeks and months to come, however.  These are the spin shops that will be trying to lessen or eliminate the liabilities of various companies in the rig disaster.

Forewarned is forearmed.  Anyone who gets off the hook this way only means the government and the taxpayer has to foot the bill.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

To anyone naive enough to still be acting surprised at Joe F'ckin Lieberman's upcoming bill that will allow the State Department to strip the U.S. citizenship of anyone suspected of belonging to a "foreign terrorist group", you do of course realize that President Obama has given the go ahead to assassinate U.S. citizens in foreign countries suspected of being with "foreign terrorist groups", right?

Anyone outraged over Lieberman and kvetching about the Democrats supporting this bill (and they will) really does need to pay attention to what the President is already doing on destroying civil liberties.  No offense.

The GOP Needs Alan Grayson As A Boogeyman

Which is why they are running morons like this clown against him.  From Greg Sargent's shiny new digs at the WaPo, meet Dan Fanelli.

In the spot, which ran over the weekend on a Fox affiliate in central Florida, Fanelli stands between a middle-aged white man and a younger, swarthy fellow. "Does this look like a terrorist?" he asks, gesturing towards the white. Then, pointing to the darker dude, he adds: "Or this?"

"It's time to stop this political correctness in the invasion of our privacy," Fanelli says, an apparent call for racial profiling in the searching of those deemed to be potential terrorists.

In an interview, I asked Fanelli if the message of the spot was that darker people are more likely to be terrorists. He said it wasn't, claiming that the ad's point was that people from countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakisan and Syria "require a higher level of security."

"You can be light and from those countries," he said, adding that the actor who played the terrorist in the commercial agreed with him.

Fanelli, who said he had piloted a flight bound for Washington on September 11th, when the city was attacked, added that Middle Easterners should want profiling for their own safety.
Yep, just like as an African-American, I would want all African-Americans pulled over and always searched at airports and at the workplace and at schools and government buildings constantly including myself so that I feel safe.  After all, one of us might be a criminal.  How wonderful for Fanelli to speak for the entire swarthy community!

I'm sure the additional hours that would add to my day of being humiliated and constantly assumed to be a lawbreaker because of my appearance is a small cost to pay for Fanelli feeling safe.

It's lke the GOP is trying to lose to Grayson or something.

Oil's Well That Doesn't End Well For This Oil Well, Part 5

Dana Milbank at the WaPo expands on the subject of my rant over the weekend at Steve M's place:  boy, red state Gulf Coast politicians suddenly want all the big, invasive monolithic government taxpayer help Washington can give them to deal with this very real threat to their economies.
All these limited-government guys expressed their belief that the British oil company would ultimately cover all the costs of the cleanup. "They're not too big to fail," Sessions said. "If they can't pay and they've given it everything they've got, then they should cease to exist." But if you believe that the federal government won't be on the hook for a major part of the costs, perhaps you'd like to buy a leaky oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

It may have taken an ecological disaster, but the gulf-state conservatives' newfound respect for the powers and purse of the federal government is a timely reminder for them. As conservatives in Washington complain about excessive federal spending, the ones who would suffer the most from spending cuts are their own constituents.

An analysis of data from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation by Washington Post database specialist Dan Keating found that people in states that voted Republican were by far the biggest beneficiaries of federal spending. In states that voted strongly Republican, people received an average of $1.50 back from the federal government for every dollar they paid in federal taxes. In moderately Republican states, the amount was $1.19. In moderately Democratic states, people received on average of 99 cents in federal funds for each dollar they paid in taxes. In strongly Democratic states, people got back just 86 cents on the tax dollar.

If Sessions and Shelby succeed in shrinking government, their constituents in Alabama will be some of the biggest losers: They get $1.66 in federal benefits for every $1 they pay in taxes. If Louisiana's Vitter succeeds in shrinking government, his constituents will lose some of the $1.78 in federal benefits they receive for every dollar in taxes they pay. In Mississippi, it's $2.02. 
The ironic thing is it not only took this disaster to remind not only Gulf Coast governors and senators that the federal government has a very real place in protecting America from negligence of companies like BP, but that it also was necessary to remind Village insiders like Milbank that the federal government is actually run by competent people who want to help Americans as well.

The fact that it's red states collecting federal taxpayer money from blue states should have been the absolute first response by the Village to the Tea Party idiocy, dismissing them wholesale.  instead, folks like Milbank gave in to the romantic view of these "brave patriots" standing up to a "tyrant usurper".  Hey, it sells copy.  Newspapers aren't in the fact business, they're in the news business.  There's a difference and it's a pretty damn big one.

Still, that's a start for Milbank and the Village.  They are going to be key to putting this idiocy to bed.  Unfortunately the Village itself seems to be equally eager to pin the blame for this on Obama as well.  That's going to be a real problem down the road, as I fear this disaster is going to be with us for months and the effects for years.

(On a personal note, I want to thank Steve for letting me play over in his backyard this weekend again.)

Paying The Oil Bill

TPM's Brian Beutler argues that the Deepwater Horizon disaster may have scuttled the Democrats' energy and climate bill.
In the peculiar world of the United States Senate, the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe has actually intensified existing divisions, drawing offshore drilling foes into growing conflict with oil patch Democrats and industry friendly members, who continue to support exploration, and incentives, for new drilling.

With oil still gushing from the well at a calamitous pace, a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, furious Senators threatened Tuesday to block any climate and energy bill that would lead to more drilling off the U.S. coast.

"If I have to do a filibuster...I will do so," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) told reporters Tuesday.

And so he may.

Nelson is perhaps the most outspoken of a group of anti-drilling Democrats, that also includes New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. They were none-too-pleased when President Obama greenlighted oil exploration--and, potentially, full scale drilling--along vast swaths of the Outer Continental Shelf in order to shore up support from pro-drilling Democrats. But the BP spill drove them into full revolt.

That wouldn't be a problem at all if other senators, and industry players, viewed the Gulf catastrophe as oil's Waterloo. But if anything, the opposite has happened. The bill's authors see offshore drilling as one of the keys to bringing oil-patch Democrats and Republicans into the fold on climate and energy legislation--and they are unwilling to allow the industry coalition they put together to be fractured by the backlash. At the same time pro-drilling senators have seemingly doubled down.
While I do admit that the disaster is going to make passing any sort of energy bill more difficult, I think in the end what does pass will be better for it.  The oil industry is going to be the big, big loser here.  The pubic will demand that on both sides.  I think even more than financial regulation, offshore drilling regulation will become a huge issue in November when the full extent of the damage is apparent to horrified voters.

Nelson, Lautenberg and Menendez are ahead of the curve.  It's Joe F'ckin Lieberman and his buddies who are on the wrong side of this one.

The problem of course is time.  If there is anything remotely close to a silver lining in this world-class catastrophe, it's the speed of it unfolding will kick even the Senate's collective ass into gear.

Greek Fire, Part 16

I do sometimes hate being right.  I've been warning about problems in the Eurozone through the Greek Fire series now for over two months.  It's looking more and more like the worst case scenario is imminent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of the IMF warned of financial contagion on Wednesday unless a euro zone debt crisis is stopped in Greece, while investors fled to the safe havens of the dollar and gold.

Greek public and private sector workers shut down airports, tourist sites and public services in a general strike against harsher austerity, accepted by the government as the price for a 110 billion euro ($146.5 billion) EU/IMF bailout on Sunday.

Merkel told parliament Europe's fate was at stake in the most serious crisis in the single currency's 11-year lifetime, and other euro zone countries could suffer the same fate as Greece unless the international rescue succeeds.

Anxiety over a widening of the euro zone debt crisis sent stocks tumbling worldwide, and the euro to a new one-year low.

Shares in Spain and Portugal, seen as the next two targets for investors testing the European Union's will and ability to defend weak euro zone economies, fell for a second straight day.
And this morning we learn that Moody's is looking to review dropping Portgual's credit rating another couple of notches too.  The Greek Fire continues to burn through the Eurozone, leaving nothing but destruction it its wake.  Everyone's asking "Who's next?" to be consumed in the flames.

The reality is that the $146.5 billion in aid to Greece will not put out the fire, it will only spread the flames around further, like water on a kitchen fire.  The even more harsh reality is Spain and Portugal are most likely going to need bailouts of their own and very, very soon.  Nobody's going to have the money to pay for those bills...unless you think the US taxpayer is going to foot the bill through the IMF.

I don't.  We've got our own little problems to deal with.  The EU is bailing out Greece.

Who's going to bail out the EU?

Los Suns Rising

Good for Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, they're making a statement tonight in their Game 2 faceoff against the Spurs tonight, honoring Arizona's Latino community on Cinco de Mayo by wearing "Los Suns" on their jerseys, and it's something of a bipartisan effort:
Team owner Robert Sarver, a Republican, said the jerseys will “honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona and our nation.” Sarver also made clear in a statement that the selection of the Spanish-language jersey — which will coincide with Cinco de Mayo — is a political statement against Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law:
The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law. However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them.
Considering three of the game' stars are immigrants (Steve Nash is from Canada, and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili is from Argentina, and the Spurs' Tony Parker is French) that's a strong statement from the NBA.  Nash himself went a step further yesterday at the Cinco de Mayo announcement:
"I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the detriment to our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in," Nash said of the bill. "I think the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don't want to see and don't need to see in 2010."
It's good to see Nash do this, but it's outstanding to see Sarver, the owner, make this statement as well.

Viva Los Suns!

Ohio Election Results

As expected in the Democratic Senate primary, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher won handily over Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
Lee Fisher’s convincing win in Tuesday’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary sets up a confrontation this fall with former Republican congressman Rob Portman of Cincinnati that may play a huge role in this year’s struggle between the parties for control of Capitol Hill.

In Tuesday’s primary, the Democratic lieutenant governor, a fixture on the Ohio’s Democratic political scene for nearly 30 years, easily defeated rival Jennifer Brunner, Ohio secretary of state. Fisher had 55 percent to 45 percent for Brunner.

He congratulated Brunner for a “hard-fought, substantive campaign” and threw some broadsides at Portman, the GOP nominee who had no opposition in Tuesday’s primary.

Fisher’s win sets up a fall campaign that will put a Cleveland Democrat who has been committed to much of the Obama administration agenda against a former Cincinnati congressman and Bush White House official who has been harshly critical of the Obama administration’s spending and tax policies.
Ohio voters also overwhelmingly approved extending the state's Third Frontier green jobs program for another 4 years.
“If you asked me two days ago whether we would receive this much overwhelming support, I probably would not have bet on it,” said Matt Cox, campaign director for the pro-Issue 1 United for Ohio Jobs and Future campaign. “In this economy, with a lot of skepticism especially of government, we told a story of a program that is creating real jobs for real Ohioans.''

The measure was approved by 62 percent of the vote.

Issue 1, technically a constitutional amendment, gives the state another $700 million in bonds to extend Third Frontier from its current scheduled expiration date in 2012 until 2016.

Advocates and state officials say that the original $1.2 billion program has created at least 11,000 jobs, hundreds of new high-tech startup companies, helped spark new research at the state’s universities into high-tech, job-creating areas, and helped the state turn away from its traditional manufacturing focus.

The returns included large positive margins in mostly rural counties, which have not received much Third Frontier funding to date.

“We worked hard in the campaign to make a case in the rural counties, and even got the Ohio Farm Bureau to endorse the issue,” pro-Issue 1 campaign co-chair David Wilhelm said. “The renewable energy case is an important one for the rural part of our state.”
Considering the job losses in Ohio due to the recession,  I'm not surprised in the least.  Ohio's a working class state and always has been.  The people that did care enough to vote yesterday clearly agreed that Ohio needs new industries in 2010.

Personally I was cheering for Jennifer Brunner, but either way Rob Portman is going to be tough to beat with his overwhelming money advantage.  I just don't see how the Dems pull this one off.  Meanwhile in Indiana, Dan Coats won the GOP primary.

StupidiNews, Cinco de Mayo Edition

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