Friday, December 28, 2012

Last Call

Another potential cabinet mess is looming thanks to the GOP:  with Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson announcing that she's stepping down in January, getting her replacement confirmed will of course be completely impossible, as Senate Republicans are already signalling a serious fight.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a leading Capitol Hill critic of the EPA, fired an early warning shot on Thursday, suggesting that Jackson’s replacement should change the agency's direction.

“Although I take a skeptical view, this appointment would provide this administration an opportunity to change its regulatory course,” Inhofe said in a statement.While the heads of Obama’s energy and environmental team initially won Senate approval in 2009, nominees to a number of senior positions in more recent years have faced a bumpy road and procedural blockades.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who will replace Inhofe as the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Thursday that he wished Jackson the best. But he added that during her tenure, EPA has been “stifling” the economy.

“Moving forward I’ll be working with my colleagues in the Senate to make sure the new nominee is thoroughly vetted, puts sound scientific standards above political ideology and understands that EPA’s avalanche of regulations can crush the growth of American businesses,” he said in a statement.

It's going to be a long slog for whomever gets the nod, the smart money is on current deputy Robert Perciasepe, who the White House says will become acting chief in case nobody is confirmed by the time Jackson leaves, i.e. Republicans block any action on the nomination in committee, an absolute certainty.

Let's not forget in addition to real winners like Inhofe and Vitter, the Committee is infested with anti-science GOP dipsticks like Wyoming's John Barrasso, who has repeatedly tried to block the EPA from enforcing any air or water pollution rules at all, Idaho's Mike Crapo, who has tried to block EPA regulations on animal waste from big farm producers and meat factory farms, and Alabama's Jeff Sessions, who is "offended" by climate scientists actually practicing science.

So yeah, expect to see "acting EPA head" in the news for a long time.

Rocked By The Docks

Heads up:  our hard-working union labor brethren at the International Longshoremen's Association are approaching a big strike deadline this weekend if their contract expires, and corporate America is about to see just what kind of damage dockworkers can do to their just-in-time shipping models.

Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. have the most at stake among retailers facing a dockworkers’ strike, with possible port closings cutting off shipments right before the lucrative gardening season.

Home Depot, the biggest U.S. home-improvement chain, is making plans in case 15,000 workers at ports from Maine to Texas walk off the job, and Lowe’s said that it is monitoring the talks. About 45 percent of the commerce that flows in and out of the U.S. goes through East Coast ports, according to the National Retail Federation.

Retailers “would be hit far and wide from apparel to home goods to patio furniture to barbecues,” Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Washington. “It is a major concern. At this point, we don’t anticipate a settlement.”

The International Longshoremen’s Association has vowed to walk out if a deal isn’t reached before the Dec. 29 expiration of its contract with the U.S. Maritime Alliance, whose members include container-carrier companies. Talks broke down last week after nine months of negotiations. A strike would be the first at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports since 1977. 

That's a hell of a bottleneck, and a hell of a bargaining chip, and yet it's gotten to the point where most likely the docks will be shut down as of this weekend.  No doubt the workers here will be made into villains, as all workers are who dare to demand anything from CEOs making 400x what the average employee makes.

Funny, that.  Reuters is reporting there's a deal on the table to avert the strike this afternoon, but it looks like it's only a 30-day contract extension while negotiations continue.  We'll see.

Kentucky: Unbridled Racism

Casey County in central Kentucky is about 100 miles south of where I live, and I am once again reminded that if you get more than a few minutes outside of the cities around here, you get square into redneck hell.

Danny Hafley of Casey County, Ky. said this week that people are reading the mannequin in his front yard depicting President Barack Obama eating a watermelon completely wrong.

"The way I look at it, it's freedom of speech," Hafley told Lex 18 in a recent interview, going on to state that he had included the watermelon not in attempt to play to any racist stereotypes, but because the statue "might get hungry standing out here."

According to Hafley, the display is "popular" and a frequent draw for people passing by to stop and take pictures.

(Video above via Lex 18 reporter Adam Yosim)

Watermelon imagery has been utilized by anti-Obama efforts in the past, usually by those claiming there is no racist sentiment behind the choice.

But don't you dare call it racism, right.  I do get tired of saying that about all the racism around here, but there you are.  Freedom of speech is great and all, but it doesn't mean you're not a racist moron for exercising it in such a poor way.  Time to add Casey to the growing list of counties I won't visit here.

Boy I remember all those Bush mannequins eating watermelon, don't you?


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