Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Call

Hey, good to see the Dems finally notice Tuesday's BP announcement that they were writing off the costs of the oil spill and sticking all of us with the bill.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee Thursday, requesting a series of hearings on the matter and calling BP's plans to take a tax write-off "unacceptable."

On Tuesday, BP said it took a $32 billion charge in the second quarter for clean-up costs, resulting in tax savings of about $10 billion.

That's half the value of the $20 billion fund that BP set up to aid Gulf coast victims, Nelson pointed out.

BP announced the charge along with its second quarter earnings, saying the cleanup costs were the main reason for its $17 billion loss during the quarter.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo, in an email to CNN, said the company is following U.S. tax code in taking the charge. 
But gosh, corporate taxes are so terrible and horrible.   You know, unless you can can dump a couple hundred tons of Corexit in the Gulf, call it a day, and then write it all off as an expense courtesy of the US taxpayer.  Glad to see the Democrats might be willing to do something about it.

Shout It From The Mountaintop (Removal)

If any of my fellow Kentuckians are still confused over this whole "Whaddya mean Rand Paul is just another big business Republican?" thing as the Randy One stands to reap quite a bit of campaign money from Kentucky Big Coal interests this year then maybe this will help clear the polluted air.
Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it."
Yep.  Rand Paul.  Enhancing the Bluegrass State, one big, toxic environmental disaster at a time. I'm sure people are lining up to build on that "enhanced" land.  The Details magazine article concludes with this:
"Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?" Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. "The bottom line is I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs. I know that doesn't sound..." Here he stumbles, trying to parse his words properly but only presaging his campaign misstep. "I want to be compassionate," he concludes, "and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"
Clearly ol' Rand here has never been in a situation where the entire town is beholden to one industry or one company.  When the only people in the county hiring at a living wage is a coal mining outfit, when the only way to feed your family is to put on a helmet and brave the blackness, and put your life at risk, don't have much of a choice.  You play by their rules or you don't play at all.

I grew up in a plant town in western NC.  Furniture and textiles country mostly, back in the dot-com era it was fiber optics.  It wasn't anywhere near the danger of working in a coal mine, those people are hardcore heroes.  But the big plants and the big factories, they made the rules, and you played by them, because you needed a job. I worked at one of the plants for a while and was grateful for the job, I had bills to pay.  No unions where I grew up, either.  Union was a dirty word and still is.  The folks at the big GE plant found that out the hard way in the 90's when the transformer plant was shut down and the jobs moved to Mexico.

People still got hurt on occasion at the furniture or fiber optics plants.  People still showed up to apply for jobs because that's where the money was.  Still is.  You play by their rules or you don't play at all.

But Rand Paul is  fine going to Washington and telling the rest of America that accidents are "acceptable" because the free market will punish companies that fail safety protocols, and that it's great to level mountaintops because it makes Kentucky "enhanced".  I'll tell you what, exactly what punishment has the free market leveled against Massey Energy for the Big Branch Mine disaster?  Last I checked today, Massey wants to go back into the mine and work the sections where those miners died because time (and coal) is money, despite the fact the investigation isn't over yet as to the causes of the explosion.

And Rand Paul is perfectly okay with that.  He wants to be compassionate, after all...but accidents happen, and there's money to be made.  Somehow, I just don't imagine him to be losing very much sleep over something like that.

After all, he's just another big business Republican.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If you only get your news from FOX...
A Fox News poll released Thursday finds that if Americans were heading to the voting booth today, they would back the Republican candidate in their district over the Democrat by 47-36 percent. Two weeks ago the Republicans had a slimmer 4-point advantage (41-37 percent).
...then yes, Orange Julius's claim that the Republicans will pick up 100 seats in the House is not only reasonable but factual, and when it doesn't happen (because the reality is that the generic ballot is much, much closer) then "Democrats rigged the election to keep Congress" will be the latest way to de-legitimize Obama and the Dems.

Everything the network does paves the way for Yet Another Poutrage.  And yet Obama, Democrats, and liberals for that matter continue to treat them as a legitimate, unbiased, factual news organization.

Conway Plays For The "Middle"

Greg Sargent is apparently surprised that Jack Conway won't commit to Harry Reid as Majority Leader.
Wow. Do Dems really think Harry Reid is this radioactive all the way over in Kentucky?
Jack Conway, the Dems' Senate candidate in that state, pointedly refused to say he'd vote for Reid as majority leader, and also cast doubt on whether Reid will win reelection, according to a local news report:
Conway stopped far short of endorsing Reid as leader, and suggested that Reid may well lose his reelection bid for Senate.
"I don't know. We don't know the outcome of that race in Nevada. I don't know the outcome of a lot of these races and that kind of falls in the category of 'measuring the drapes.'"
"What I will do is I will go up there and cast my ballot for someone that I respect, someone that I think will be a good leader, and someone who will always listen to me when it comes to representing the interests of Kentucky."
Conway's opponent, Rand Paul, has been baiting Conway on this issue, trying to get him to say whether he would vote for Reid, apparently on the theory that this is a liability, because Reid has done more than any other Dem to advance the Obama agenda.
OK Greg, first of all this race is basically between two people here, a moderate Republican...and the other guy is Rand Paul, who is mostly insane. Jack Conway is playing the middle of the road right of center position because Rand Paul has ceded that entire ground to him on account he's basically Andrew Ryan from Bioshock and Conway's very comfortable hedging his bets here.

Second, since Conway's brilliant plan is to tell Kentucky Democrats they can go screw themselves or get Rand Paul as a Senator, Conway sees no reason to try to do anything for the base here in the Bluegrass State and feels like he safely play to the swing voters who may have second thoughts about John Galt Mark II over there.

Harry Reid isn't toxic, Greg.  It's completely a matter of Rand Paul being that crazy, and the fact that Jack Conway knows that he can go as far right as he wants and KY Dems will still vote for him just to avoid the horrors of six years of the Son of Ron.

Long story short, the very realistic threat of Rand Paul winning means Jack Conway can play as far down the right hand path as he wants.

Once Again The GOP Plan Is To Destroy The Economy

And they are hoping you will reward them with control of Congress this fall as a direct result.  I've been talking about the nihilistic Republican agenda for quite some time now, but Bob Cesca does an excellent job of recapping the plan over at HuffPo.
According to Republicans and their conservadem enablers, we have to cut the deficit and pay for every program Congress passes or else we're all doomed. We're stealing from our children, they say. This has manifested itself in Republican filibusters of both unemployment benefits ($34 billion) and a new jobs bill ($33 billion over ten years). A Republican filibuster killed the jobs bill, and, after many failed cloture votes, the filibuster of the unemployment benefits was finally defeated and the Senate Democrats passed the extensions.
Throughout the past year and a half, it's been the same story. Any effort made by the Democrats to stimulate the economy has been filibustered by the Republicans. They say it's because of the deficit and debt.

And yet they want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which would add $678 billion dollars to the deficit -- and that's just the cost of the tax cuts going to the top two percent of earners. In other words, the Republicans want to spend $678 billion in further giveaways for the wealthiest two percent, and they don't care whether it increases the deficit.

By the way, the Republicans also recently voted against and defeated an amendment to strip Big Oil of its $35 billion in subsidies. Just thought I'd pass that along. Put another way, $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy? No problem. Deficit-shmeficit! But $34 billion in unemployment benefits for an out-of-work middle class at a time when companies aren't hiring (say nothing of the aforementioned bullet-points)? Evil! Instead, the Republicans want to give $35 billion to Big Oil in the form of corporate welfare during the worst oil spill in American history while telling unemployed middle class families to piss off.

Do we have a clear picture in terms of who and what the Republicans care about? 
But what about the Republican party's favorite group to champion, the small business owner?  Certainly the GOP loves those guys.  Well if you thought Republicans cared about small businesses, they don't give a damn either.
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a $30-billion plan to help community banks boost lending to small businesses, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's election-year battle to reduce unemployment.

Tempers ran high as Democratic leaders failed to muster the 60 votes needed to advance the measure to passage. Republicans were upset that Democrats shut them out from offering a number of amendments to the package, that also includes about $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses.
Yep.  Republicans are so intent now on destroying the economy and blocking any attempts to help regular Americans that they are now totally committed to ripping the economy apart in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy and to see the rest of us burn and blame Obama for it.  Mustering $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses, TOO MUCH DEFICIT.  $637 billion in tax cuts for the rich?  Those don't count!

Do we finally understand the concept of Republican nihilism?  Do we finally get that the Republicans don't give a damn about anything other than winning and distributing wealth upwards?

Do we finally get that the GOP is dedicated to destroying the middle class for political power?

Hypocrisy Is Bigger In Texas, Too

Kay at Balloon Juice flags up this NY Times story on Texas politicians vowing to stop health care reform on one hand and repeal the additional money because of deficit and supremacy concerns...and taking that additional money now with the other hand while the legal battle drags out.
There are more uninsured residents of Texas — 6.1 million and counting — than there are people in 33 states. The state’s elected officials might be expected, therefore, to cheer a federal health care law that is likely to deliver billions of dollars from Washington to Austin and cover millions of low-income Texans.

Instead, the Republican political leadership has greeted the law and its anticipated costs with open hostility, leaving policy makers to move forward with a complex set of changes even as the governor, attorney general and ranking legislators rage against it. The same awkward dichotomy exists in many of the 21 states that are challenging the health reform act’s constitutionality, but are nonetheless required to follow it while their lawsuits meander through the courts.

In Austin, legislative hearings and agency planning sessions proceed despite Gov. Rick Perry’s vow to fight “on every front available” against a law that he characterizes as “socialism on American soil.” Bureaucrats apply for federal grants and collaborate with the Obama administration at the same time that Attorney General Greg Abbott strategizes to eviscerate the law in court. 
So Texas is busy reaping the benefits of being a large red state under the horrors of socialism.  Funny how that works out.  As Kay points out:
Health care reform going to the states is a good opportunity for Democrats to start countering Republican’s abstract theories on state’s rights by telling the truth: that this relationship is long-standing and mutually beneficial, every politician at the state level knows it, and that’s the real reason it isn’t going away. 
Especially benefiting from all this are southern and western red states.  "Obama's Socialism" here means that ten states are currently getting $1.50 or more in tax dollars from the feds for each dollar residents pay in taxes, and 2, Mississippi and New Mexico, get more than $2 from the feds for ever buck they put in the pot.  Texas was getting 94 cents on the dollar, and under health care reform they're getting even more now, enough to put them into positive territory.

If Texans understood that under Obama their state gets more money now than they would pay in those horrible federal taxes, some of them might stop complaining about Obama so of course Texas Republicans are trying to hide the fact that Obama's being good to the Lone Star State.  As a matter of fact, a whole hell of a lot of red states are getting sweetheart deals.

It's the blue states getting screwed on taxes.  New Jersey?  They get 61 cents back for every dollar they put in.  Chris Christie actually has something to complain about, as does Arnold and California's 78 cents on the dollar.  You'd better believe those states are taking the federal money.

Texas?  They're actually doing pretty well.

And Lo, A Column Of Fire Appeared Over Wingnuttia

And the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments began in earnest.
Ousted Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod said Thursday that she will sue a conservative blogger who posted a partial video clip of a speech she gave, saying the clip distorted the context of her remarks.

A furor erupted over the blogger's posting of portions of a speech Sherrod gave in which she told of giving short shrift attention 24 years ago to the pleas for financial aid by a poor white farmer.

Sherrod is black, and the operator of the website posted a portion of her speech. The blogger, Andrew Breitbart, said he did so to illustrate racism within the NAACP, which earlier accused the tea party of having racist elements.

Sherrod made the announcement in San Diego at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention.
Actions?  Meet consequences.  When I find out where to donate a couple of bucks to Shirley's legal cause, I'll let you know.  Smile, Andy. 

(Via Oliver Willis.)

 Also, more at HuffPo.
"She said she doesn't want an apology from Breitbart for posting the video that took her comments out of context, but told a crowd at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention that she would "definitely sue."
She's going to need help and support, because she just became Public Enemy #1 to Wingnuttia, and this is going to get absolutely brutal very, very soon.

The Return Of President Odubya

Obama's real, lasting failing has been on civil liberties post-Bush, and the administration is at it again, this time on eliminating probable cause on email and electronic communication in the name of "stopping terrorism".   WaPo's Ellen Nakishima:
The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL." 
Right, so the FBI may not be able to read your email or your web pages, but they can at any time declare you a "person of interest" and find our who you are sending emails to and which web pages you've been to, and force your ISP to give them that info, if the Obama administration has their way, all with the added benefit of bypassing any judicial oversight.

That seems like a great idea that will never, ever be abused at all, right?

Obama has repeatedly dropped the ball on civil liberties in a post-9/11 world, at every opportunity expanding on Bush's many power grabs and overreaches.  it's not like Hillary Clinton or John McCain would have been any better, either...but it's depressing as hell to see Obama go down this same path without blinking.

Immigration Nation Peturbation Compilation

Or "this CNN poll on immigrants makes a lot of sense and none at all at the same time" as Dibgy points out.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey, the vast majority believe that most immigrants are basically good, honest people who are hard-working. However, nearly seven in ten say that immigrants are a burden on the taxpayer, 62 percent think they add to the crime problem, and 59 percent believe they take jobs away from Americans.
The poll, released Wednesday, asks about all people who have immigrated from other countries in the past ten years, and not just about illegal immigrants in the U.S.
"The results may explain why most Americans think that the policies that made the U.S. a 'melting pot' strengthened the country a century ago but do not make the country stronger today," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Apparently immigrants are like members of Congress:  the ones you know personally are great, hardworking people who are very friendly.  It's the ones you don't know personally who are all criminal, job-swiping parasites.  Digby explains the dissonance:
I don't know exactly why CNN thought this was worth doing, but if their polling is correct, it's apparent that "most Americans" are a bunch of nativist jerks. Perhaps that's true. It's certainly always been the case that Americans have always tried to pull the ladder up behind them, whether it was the English settlers to the Germans, then the Germans to the Italians and the Slavs or everybody to the Chinese and other Asians. As for Latinos, well, they have always been here and we just use them as scapegoats whenever we feel like kicking somebody. Apparently, that would be now. 
When all the Republicans have in 2010 is a deck of scary race cards, every hand looks like El Tri over a pair of welfare queens.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 11k to 457k, continuing claims up 81k to 4.57 million.

The July numbers out at the end of next week aren't going to be good.

And The Walkback Begins

Let it be recorded that the Village walk-back of the Deepwater Horizon disaster being anything but a disaster, just a mild inconvenience, after the capping of the well earlier this month began with Time's Michael Grunwald (complete with Rush was right nonsense).
President Obama has called the BP oil spill "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced," and so has just about everyone else. Green groups are sounding alarms about the "Catastrophe Along the Gulf Coast," while CBS, Fox and MSNBC slap "Disaster in the Gulf" chryons on all their spill-related news. Even BP fall guy Tony Hayward, after some early happy talk, admitted the spill was an "environmental catastrophe." The obnoxious anti-environmentalist Rush Limbaugh has been a rare voice arguing that the spill — he calls it "the leak" — is anything less than an ecological calamity, scoffing at the avalanche of end-is-nigh eco-hype.

Well, Rush has a point. The Deepwater explosion was an awful tragedy for the 11 workers who died on the rig, and it's no leak; it's the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It's also inflicting serious economic and psychological damage on coastal communities that depend on tourism, fishing and drilling. But so far — while it's important to acknowledge that the long-term potential danger is simply unknowable for an underwater event that took place just three months ago — it does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage. "The impacts have been much, much less than everyone feared," says geochemist Jacqueline Michel, a federal contractor who is coordinating shoreline assessments in Louisiana. 
We don't know the extent of the long-term there's no long term-damage.   Same sentence, even.  Also Rush has a point!

And so it begins, folks.  The new avenue for attacking Barack Obama just mere weeks after yelling "OBAMA'S KATRINA FAILURE" and "INCOMPETENT DO-NOTHING FEDS" will now "Obama overdid it!  Environmental fearmongering!  Drill more now!"

That's right:  Expect Obama to now be attacked all over again for doing too much to save the Gulf.

In a way, I expect this story to follow the general arc of Obama's presidency:  we have a massive problem on our hands, Obama coordinates a response and shows leadership, he gets attacked early for not doing enough anyway, the problem is dismissed and then he gets pilloried in the press for spending too much to fix the problem when doing nothing of course would have led to disaster.

I got a ten spot today on Rush saying we shouldn't have lifted a finger or a single taxpayer dollar to do anything in the Gulf, and that nature anf BP would have solved the problem anyway.  I'm sure Eric Boehlert's crew will have that story up when it happens.

But mark the occasion:  the Village pushback on those Dirty F'ckin' Hippies for "overplaying the fear card" on the Deepwater Horizon disaster begins now.

[UPDATE]  As Bob Cesca reminds us, the millions of gallons of oil is still there.

The Iowa GOP Is Being Helpful

In the heartland, Iowa Republicans know what middle-class Americans are going through and have a detailed plan to help them recover from these trying social, military, and economic issues that we're all going through together.

Just kidding.  The Iowa GOP is just as batshit crazy with the Obama Derangement Syndrome as the rest of them and their new freebase crazy drug of choice is ratifying the so-called "original 13th Amendment" from 1810.
Adopted in December 1865, the current 13th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” in the United States or any place under its jurisdiction. The Iowa GOP is not trying to overturn this amendment to reinstate slavery. Instead, it wants to reintroduce the “original 13th Amendmentfirst offered by senator Phillip Reed of Maryland in 1810. The amendment states that “if any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honor” from a “foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen” and “shall be incapable of holding any office of trust.” In receiving only 12 out of the 13 votes needed for ratification, the amendment was never adopted.

Traditional supporters of the idea are known as “Thirteenthers,” who seek to prevent those with the title of “esquire,” such as lawyers and bankers, from participating in government. But according to its spokeswoman, Danielle Plogmann, the Iowa GOP supports it as an attack on President Obama’s Nobel Prize win:
There are, of course, other implications of Thirteenthism, such as ensuring that the United States never again suffers the humiliation of having a president win the Nobel Peace Prize. That was just what the Iowa Republicans had in mind, according to Plogmann, who wrote in an e-mail that the plank “was meant to make a statement about the delegates’ opinion about Mr. Obama receiving the prize.” (Presumably they didn’t mind if, in the process, they were also making a statement about any American scientist or writer unlucky enough to win a Nobel.) Unfortunately for them, the Department of Justice looked into whether Obama needed Congressional approval to accept the Nobel under the existing emoluments clause, and based on the meaning of “foreign state” (which would not cover the Nobel Prize Committee) concluded that he did not.

That legal distinction doesn't matter, the whole point of the movement is to try to find any excuse to pile on Obama and attack him as the Foreign Other Usurper who must be expelled by Real Americans from the White House by waving the word "constitution" around and trying to justify their irrational and undying hatred for President Obama.

Seriously, Iowa GOP?  This is what you think the people of Iowa need to be spending their time and energy on as Republicans?  Not jobs, not the economy, not the environment, not have to go push some idiotic historical asterisk to try to de-legitimize and demonize the President?

Gotta love those Republican solutions to America's problems.


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