Monday, December 8, 2014

Last Call For Paying Pelosi's Price

The raging incompetence of John Boehner as Speaker of the House means that even with the largest Republican majority in 70 years incoming and a 234-201 margin now, he still can't get 218 votes to pass the GOP's own bills.  And it means he'll have to deal with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats if he wants to avoid yet another government shutdown.

The government is on the precipice of a shutdown, and if Republicans can’t get to 218 votes on their side of the aisle, Pelosi will get to call in the cavalry once again. 
It would be the second time in a matter of weeks that she’s gotten to flex her muscle: She successfully squelched a pre-Thanksgiving deal on a tax extenders package negotiated exclusively by Senate Democrats and House Republicans — a deal that would have been a nonstarter for her caucus and President Barack Obama.

“The minute we got wind of what [it] would be and that it had a path, before it gained any respectability, I called our members and said, ‘This is what I think is happening … but I have to know that I can say to the president that this will sustain a veto,’” Pelosi recalled. 
With Obama still in the White House, Pelosi remains a player, as her impact on the tax extenders package showed. But how much leverage she retains in the 114th could come down to how she fits into the Republican-controlled Congress over the next two years. 
I don’t think anyone is irrelevant. We have leverage if they don’t have the votes,” she said. “They have leverage because they know we will be responsible. And that allows them to be irresponsible to a certain extent.” 

Pelosi plays the long game better that Boehner ever could.  And that includes 2016 and beyond.

And 2016? Well, that’s a whole new ballgame. By then, the country could see its first female president, said the nation’s first female speaker. 
Let me say this about Hillary [Rodham] Clinton: When she runs, she will win. And when she wins, she’ll go to the White House as one of the most prepared people in modern history to go there,” Pelosi said, stopping just short of an endorsement that would be significant for Clinton, the former first lady and ex-secretary of State.

That's got to hurt ol Orange Julius to know he's not even leader of 80% of his own party.

Seeing The World In Black And White

More polling on race, police brutality, and the stark differences between the white and black experiences in America, this time from Bloomberg News.

President Barack Obama had hoped his historic election would ease race relations, yet a majority of Americans, 53 percent, say the interactions between the white and black communities have deteriorated since he took office, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll. Those divisions are laid bare in the split reactions to the decisions by two grand juries not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

Yes, we're sorry America's first black president has caused the racism you thought was a "barbaric relic of America's past", both overt and covert, to become more public.

Perhaps there is a silver lining, actually.  It means that people are more aware of racism in general over the last six years and aren't pretending that it doesn't exist anymore.  That's making a lot of people rather uncomfortable with America the Beautiful.  Here's a hint, guys: race relations in America have been like this for decades.  A black president just made you notice.

But that awareness only extends so far.

Both times, protesters responded with outrage and politicians called for federal investigations. Yet Americans don’t think of the cases as a matched set of injustices, the poll found. A majority agreed with the Ferguson decision, while most objected to the conclusion in the Staten Island death, which was captured on video. The divergent opinions—52 percent agreed on Ferguson compared with 25 percent who approved of the Staten Island outcome—add to an ongoing discussion that was inflamed when Officer Daniel Pantaleo was seen in the July video putting what appeared to be a chokehold on Eric Garner, a 43-year-old man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” and died of a heart attack in what a medical examiner ruled a homicide. The grand jury decision not to charge Pantaleo came just 12 days after a similar panel in Ferguson declined to charge Officer Darren Wilson, who in August shot to death 18-year-old Michael Brown. That altercation was not captured on video, and the prosecutor presented evidence of a physical confrontation between the two men before the fatal shots were fired. 
To Dania Wilson, 49, a Northern Virginia white woman, the cases shouldn’t be lumped together. “I think sometimes the media likes to put upon people a theme that’s political in nature,” she said in an interview.

In other words, white America sees the Garner case as an aberration rather than part of a systemic series of abuses of power and civil rights by police.  To white America, the Rodney King riots were more than 20 years ago and now Obama is president.  Why would African-Americans possibly be out in the streets protesting? How could we possibly still be upset after all these advances that prove racism is dead and gone, as Chief Justice Roberts reminded us when rolling back the outdated Voting Rights Act?

I am going to trust our grand juries until there’s proof that they’re not being honest,” said Dale Griessel, 80, a white retiree in Columbia, Mo., who agrees with both jury decisions. “None of us has seen the forensic evidence. They have.”

Delarno Wilson, 28, a black Georgia resident who objects to both jury outcomes, said he wasn’t surprised that there is division based on race. “Your background is what makes you,” he said. “If you don’t understand the struggle that a person went through, you never truly get it.” Wilson is in the U.S. Coast Guard and said many of his assignments are in overwhelmingly white towns. “I constantly have to worry about how to relate to people. That’s something white people don’t have to think about.”

But...America.  How can it still be different for black America with Obama as president?

Hell of a lot of answers to that question, it seems.

Environmental Power Plays

Reminder: America's energy giants are among the most profitable companies on earth, and they have billions to buy state legislatures in order to destroy environmental regulations.  But these energy companies also have state attorneys general in their pockets, and they are leading the charge in constantly suing the EPA with the goal of having the Supreme Court chip away until nobody is left protecting the environment.

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

So yes, big energy is buying state attorneys general too.  Multiple states suing the government in multiple circuit court jurisdictions is the fastest way to get these cases before SCOTUS.  They just need one ruling in their favor that finds that the EPA has overstepped its authority, and the game (and our environmental health) is over.

The case on EPA mercury regulations under the Clean Air Act, which the Supreme Court will hear soon and issue a ruling on in June, could very well be the one Big Energy is looking for.


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