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Nebraskans Headed to White House to Protest Tar Sands/Keystone XL Pipeline

7:59 pm in Energy by Scarecrow

Video of citizens from Nebraska and other states driving to Washington D.C. to sit in front of the White House to protest the Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline.

NBC’s Clueless Chuck Todd et al: GOP Prez Candidates More Important Than Anything

1:46 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Caution - The Clueless Will Be Impaled

The Clueless Will Be Impaled by Wheezy Jefferson


An NBC reporting team led by White House Correspondent Chuck Todd tell us they don’t have a clue about what matters to the American people or the state of the nation. In today’s First Read, Todd et al breathlessly proclaim the following (my bold):

Over the next 10 months, the race for the Republican nomination will become the chief political story in America, and that will affect the contours of the general election. We even started seeing it yesterday, with Palin, Pawlenty, and Bachmann taking center stage.

They then explain that Obama has had the whole stage to himself, but now the country will become fixated on the race for the Tea-GOP nomination, because when Palin et ilk take “center stage,” they “become the chief political story in America.”

Good grief.

So, those of you who are concerned that the economy and job creation are stalled with 14-25 million people out of work or underemployed can put that aside, because we’ll all want to focus on what Sarah, Tim and Michele said today. Please don’t worry about whether the Tea-GOP Congress will screw up US credit, restart a recession. And don’t fret they want to punish seniors and cover their own craziness by convincing Joe Biden to slash Medicare and Medicaid over the wishes of 80 percent of the nation.

And forget that the rule of law has collapsed for the ruling class, the richest 1 percent of whom have managed to capture a staggering share of the nation’s wealth while the vast majority of Americans are facing declining wages, wealth and economic security. Where is Giuliani today?

Chuck Todd thinks we need to know whether Sarah is riding her hog or a bus, whether Michele can find Canada on a map or Tim has found the group of Chinese investors to whom he’ll provide a personal guarantee of paying their bond interest first. Let’s not forget to ask Mitt to distinguish again between state versus federal insurance mandates. And of course, no day should go by without checking to see if 5% Newt has managed to say something even more ridiculous or deceitful than the day before. Because that portion of America that likes a circus and cares about this astonishing group of clowns is hanging on their every word.

But back in the reality-based world . . .

I’ll make this simple, Chuck: The most important political story in America is that its government — distressingly like those under assault in a dozen nations across the globe — has become almost entirely unresponsive to the nation’s needs and its citizens’ concerns. It’s become profoundly corrupt, representing only the needs of the richest of the rich and the interests of corporate oligarchs, and uncaring about everyone else. And there’s virtually no check on this accelerating decline in governmental accountability.

Read the rest of this entry →

Power Shift 2011: 5000 Young Enviros March on White House, Chamber, Hill

12:46 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Over the weekend, some 10,000 environmental activist youth came to Washington D.C. to attend Power Shift 2011. The conference was designed to teach people already committed to saving the planet how to organize their communities to address climate change and confront corporate polluters. They’re also getting experience in how to remind Washington that America’s youth are not, as activitist Van Jones described Congress, “stuck on stupid.”

There are good summaries with pictures from A. Siegel here, and others here, here, and here.

After two days of training, a meeting with Obama, and speeches from Al Gore and EPA’s Director Lisa Jackson, etc, the group heard Saturday night from’s Bill McKibben (see video).

McKibben was also on a panel that included Lt. Dan Choi and FDL’s Jane Hamsher, with a focus on how progressive activists must confront, provoke, and embarrass the nation’s leaders into paying attention. As you might expect, environmental advocates are having the same conversation as the rest of us about the, uh, “Obama problem.”
Read the rest of this entry →

Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow Falls Asleep, Becomes Climate Denier Pod Person

9:33 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

There are many ways to test whether your Senator has become a mindless pod person, but one of the surest litmus tests is whether he/she supports restricting the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and trying to limit global greenhouse gases. I regret to inform the people of Michigan that Debbie Stabenow and several of her “Democrat” colleagues, are now climate denying pod persons.

As Think Progress and various environmental organizations are reporting, the EPA’s power to enforce the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other enviornmental laws, particularly regulations of climate change gases, has become one of the Tea-GOP’s favorite targets. And for faux Democrats like Senator Manchin, who campaigned by firing a bullet through a non-existent CO2 cap ‘n trade bill, it’s a literal target. World’s greatest deliberative body?

So the environmental community, which should include all sentient human beings plus polar bears and other critters, is now alarmed by an AP report suggesting the White House may be willing to accept anti-EPA “riders” to the budget bill. That’s the bill the leaderless Democrats and unprincipled White House are negotiating with only slightly less crazy than Tea-GOP Leader Boehner on how much to undermine the US economy and harm poor people, kids, women, science, education, emergency preparedness and the overall public welfare.

To understand this, think of this process as the US equivalent to the devastating Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe, in which a nation is having to choose between really bad options and godawful ones. Except in the US, the dilemma is self inflicted by stupidity and corrupt corporate capture, and all the decent options have been foolishly or maliciously taken off the table.

In this insane process, every faux Democrat is rushing to demonstrate that they too don’t believe it’s important to protect clean air and clean water or confront global climate change, and so stripping away EPA powers is an easy way to show that, by golly, you’re an unthinking, careless pod person too.

From Think Progress, here’s what Debbie Stabenow and fellow pod people would do:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced amendment 215, the EPA Stationary Source Regulations Suspension Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). The amendment calls for:

– A two-year suspension of stationary source regulations of carbon dioxide and methane.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has introduced amendment 236, which has three elements:

– Forbidding regulation of greenhouse gases from a emitter that doesn’t also produce other regulated air pollution

– Codification of the EPA tailoring rule that establishes a 75,000 ton CO2e/year threshold for regulation

– Excluding regulation of biofuel greenhouse emissions related to land-use changes, or of any greenhouse emissions from other agricultural activities

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has introduced amendment 265, which has four elements:

– A two-year suspension of stationary source greenhouse gas regulations

– Preventing any future California waiver for tailpipe greenhouse emissions

– Excluding regulation of biofuel greenhouse emissions related to land-use changes, or of any greenhouse emissions from other agricultural activities

– Allocating $5 billion to the Advanced Energy Project tax credit

Folks, these are pod people, every one of them. Do you know whether your Senator has fallen asleep? Better check. Initial votes may occur today.

Other reactions:

The White House put out a disclaimer to Politico which reads like “we really like the public option.”

“As the administration has made clear, the funding bill should not be used to further unrelated policy agendas, and we remain opposed to riders that do that, including as it relates to the environment,” a White House spokesman told POLITICO in an email.

NRDC “NRDC urges the president to make clear, unequivocally, that he would not accept any riders. Period. That means no amendments designed to hamper the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to issue updates that protect and safeguard our health while fighting pollution. . . .”

National Wildlife Federation:

“Our nation’s bedrock environmental laws are under attack by oil companies. People from across America are speaking out against the polluter attacks on the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, but where is President Obama?

President Obama needs to stand with the American people against big polluters who put toxins in the air we breathe and the water we drink. We won’t have a clean energy future if he bows to polluters’ dirty air agenda.

Mr. President, for the sake of our children, don’t let Big Oil hijack the budget debate, and don’t rollback the Clean Air Act to put a Band-Aid on a broken budget process.

League of Conservation Voters:

. . . But corporate polluters and their congressional allies are demanding that the spending bill also include provisions that strip the EPA of its authority to limit carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid need to know that we absolutely will oppose any spending bill that includes a backdoor attempt to block, weaken or delay the EPA’s ability to protect public health under the Clean Air Act.

Fred Krupp, EDF: “At EDF, our position is that children’s health should not be a bargaining chip.”

Classic: Former EPA Director, William Ruckleshaus replies to a Wall Street Journal editorial implying he’s dead, noting the announcement is premature:

The continuation of my breathing at this late date may be due to the protections afforded by the 1970 Clean Air Act and the EPA’s diligence in enforcing the act’s mandates.

William D. Ruckelshaus

NN10: Van Jones on Hope, Despair, Change, and the Orcs

12:45 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Van Jones speaking at Netroots Nation 10. There’s a few minutes intro by Howard Dean, followed by Jones’ speech. This runs about an hour, including Jones’ interview with Ari Melber.

Thanks to the folks at Get Energy Smart NOW! for the video.

Blanche Lincoln Supports Murkowski’s Anti-Enviro, Climate Change Denial Effort Obama Says He’d Veto

10:29 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

If we’d only had another $10 million to spend defeating the corporatist hacks who want to emasculate the government’s efforts to protect us from corporate pollution. Then the White House would not have to fight so hard to defeat or threaten to veto a Senate effort supported by the polluters and their bought candidates. Cowardly White House official, meet Blanche Lincoln.

The Senate today is debating a resolution sponsored by Senator Murkowski (R. Alaska) and the oil/coal industries that would overturn a Supreme Court decision giving the EPA the authority to regulate climate-changing greenhouse gases. Using that authority, the EPA proposes to adopt regulations limiting carbon-based emissions that cause climate change.

Carbon-based industries can’t allow EPA to even threaten to exercise that authority, because that would create pressure for Congress to come up with a better way to deal with global climate change and pass a decent alternative energy/efficient bill — which, uh, has yet to be proposed. And that would make Lindsey Graham whine how unfair it all is when he can’t be a player in shielding the polluting industries while pretending to be (oxymoron alert:)a responsible Republican.

So the entire carbon-based industry, including all the largest oil/gas and coal entities, are pouring money into Congress in support of Murkowski’s resolution. And she’s getting lots of help from Republicans and the worst corporate shills in the Senate — like Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln.

Murkowski has 41 co-sponsors, including three Democrats: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. But even if she wins the votes of the three Republicans who are not already co-sponsoring the bill — Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts — Murkowski would need the support of at least seven more Democrats or independents.

The White House has promised a veto if the Murkowski-Lincoln resolution passes.

David Dayen’s last count suggests the resolution will likely fail, but it shouldn’t even be close. And it just creates a climate in which industry shills feel they have to offer a "compromise" that shackles the EPA with a two-year delay.

It never seems to dawn on the self-proclaimed political geniuses in the Obama White House that when they actually try to do something right, it’s the corporate shills they protect and promote that oppose a worthwhile agenda. Strange, that.

John Chandley

Update, 4:20 p.m. Eastern
: Murkowski resolution fails, 47-53. All Republicans voted yes, as did Democrats Lincoln, Landrieu, Rockefeller, Bayh, Pryor, and Ben Nelson. Dave Roberts does the post mortem on the stupidity of 47 Senators voting to deny science.


FDL News/David Dayen, Senate Wastes Hours on Resolution that Can’t Pass
TP/Wonk Room, The Murkowski Resolution Is a Political Assault on Science
HuffPost, Lisa Jackson: The Murkowske Resolution, A Step Backwards
Credo’s Michael Kieschnick, Senate Almost Votes to Join Flat Earth Society

From Drill Baby to Spill Baby to Burn, Baby, Burn: America’s Bankrupt Energy Policy

11:01 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

During the 2008 elections we were inundated with industry-inspired chants of "Drill now, drill everywhere, but drill, baby drill." Both Presidental candidates essentially embraced this.

At the time, we were repeatedly assured by the oil/gas industry and their supply-side apologists in both parties that modern off-shore drilling technology was safe, that environmental safeguards are/would be scrupulously observed, and that off-shore oil spills hardly ever happened or could be easily contained. None of that was true.

Today, the growing oil spill gushing through the non-functioning "safety value" at the destroyed oil platform has spread to an area up to 45 miles long and as wide as 25 miles across [Update: now more like 100 miles and growing]. It’s threatening to hit beaches and wildlife sanctuaries as early as tomorrow.

To slow (not prevent) this now out of control environmental catastrophe from spreading, the crews trying to limit the damage will attempt to tow a tiny portion of the surface oil further away from the coast lines and set it ablaze in the hope that maybe 50 percent of that small portion will burn up, causing less damage in the air then on the ocean surface, but leaving a gunk that, they claim, they can just "pick up" unless it sinks to the bottom.

The choices have now become grim. From the New York Times coverage [and see related maps and picture]:

A Coast Guard spokesman said on Wednesday that crews would begin with an initial burn in a confined area of the spill to determine the density of the oil.

According to a statement released by the group of industry and government officials supervising the burn, the oil will be consolidated “into a fire resistant boom approximately 500 feet long; this oil will then be towed to a more remote area, where it will be ignited and burned in a controlled manner.”

From there, officials will conduct “small, controlled burns of several thousand gallons of oil lasting approximately one hour each.”

So the plan is to cordon off and burn ponds 500 feet long as the way to attack a spill covering 45 miles by 25 miles and growing every day?

Recall that the safety valve at the well head, which was supposed to be able to shut off the flow through the pipe broken off from the destroyed platform has failed. Apparently, either the valves don’t work at 5000 feet under water — did anyone test it? — or the explosion and break damaged it, raising the question whether anyone ever thought of this possibility.

Remember this when the industry tries to tell us, as they inevitably will, that they have adequate safeguards in place against the potential for remote but still predictable catastrophic scenarios.

The alternatives, to drill additional nearby wells and shoot concrete into the same pool to clog it up, or to capture the oil with a huge bubble over the leaking pipe, are still months away at best and have never been attempted at these depths. Did anyone consider the fact that fallback measures might not work at these depths, or might not be implemented for months and thus allow massive spills to continue, to potentially destroy a vast region before being implemented, when they evaluated the adequacy of safety measures?

Failing to think through the consequences of what could go wrong under predictable scenarios lies at the heart of America’s morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt energy policies.

The only reason the fatal mine disaster in West Virginia has been pushed off the front pages, or we’re not focusing on the destruction of whole mountains and their watersheds and the health of communities nearby is because the oil platform catastrophe story, along with Lloyd Blankfein, filibusters and Greece, equally egregious symbols of unfettered markets and greed, replaced it.

But even before that, there were several related stories in recent months about the nuclear power industry. In one story, the President announced how building additional nukes would help us solve global climate change and promote energy independence. To further that, the government would provide billions in subsidies, in addition to the decades-old subsidies that insured nuclear operators from lawsuits over the consequences of nuclear accidents that, we were told, could never happen, until they did.

But about the same time, the nation’s nuclear plant owners were petitioning the Department of Energy to discontinue the requirement that they contribute millions each year to a fund to pay for the handling and disposal of spent fuel nuclear waste from existing plants. Their argument was simple: since the US Government has given up on Yucca Mountain and has conceded that it doesn’t have a proven, workable technology for disposing of toxic nuclear waste, or even a preferred site for where to put it, there’s no sense in contributing to the fund until the US gets its act together.

Excuse me, but the California Energy Commission studied the issue in depth, 30 years ago, and concluded that the DoE and NRC didn’t have a clue how to solve this problem. Thirty years later, we now know little more, except what doesn’t work.

The third nuclear story was the near accident in Chile, where nuclear waste materials were being removed from their original site, packed in supposedly safe containers to be shipped to the US for temporary safe storage. Luckily, the process of removing the toxic waste into the shipping container had just been completed days before the Chilean earthquake, so Chile dodged that bullet and it was still "safe." But the quake had damaged the original shipping port, so the container had to be secretly hauled over an alternative, unplanned route and shipped from a port not fully equipped to handle very large/heavy containers that you’re not supposed to drop, ever. As Rachel Maddow reported at the time, they literally almost dropped the container while loading it.

Stuff happens; really bad stuff happens. And it can happen at the worst moments with the most dangerous materials. And yet Congress and successive Administrations continue to develop and defend energy policies under the delusion that they’ve thought it through, and the deception that they’ve taken the right precautions and adequately warned the public about the real choices we’re making. But with the mainline energy choices on which the US is still dangerously dependent, we could do with lot more humility and a ton more honesty.

Meanwhile, we have to listen to narcissistic spoiled brats like Lindsey Graham tell us that he won’t do his job unless he gets enough attention. But the only goals Graham has ever had in the climate change/energy legislation is to make sure the nation continues to stay wedded to morally bankrupt energy choices.

Seminal/Seymour Friendly, Update on status and media coverage
Think Progress/Brad Johnson, Government investigates oil spill
GetEnergySmart Now!/ Fossil Fuel Investigations Overwhelming Government?
Charlie Crist to join "Not as crazy as Republicans" party; reconsiders off-shore drilling
HuffPo via Wasson They’re still blowing up our mountains . . .
Grist/Dave Roberts: On Graham Reid dance


Serious Pundits: Everything’s Okay at the Obama White House . . . Except We’re Losing

9:32 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

After a spate of "it isn’t I, Lord" leaks to the media on what’s happening in the Obama White House, the Dean of the Beltway media has called a halt to such unseemly musings, and so serious people have now retaken charge of the discussion.

It is reassuring to learn that the President is both listening to serious policy advisers while taking advantage of experienced, successful political advisers to get those policies enacted. So they must be succeeding, right?

It remains for the rest of us only to wonder within the now narrowed field of inquiry how to account for the fact that the Obama Presidency is seriously failing by both policy and political measures. If they’re so good at this, how did the President’s Party come to face the possible loss of one or even both houses of Congress?

How exactly have they managed to alienate intelligent and responsible leaders and experts on the environment, energy, climate change, health reform, financial reform, labor, immigration reform, civil liberties/rule of law advocates, and other core elements of their own base? It’s not like they did that by holding on to independents, who now oppose them only slightly less than the Republicans do, even though they still haven’t done much of what they were sent to do (or accused of doing).

We’ve already seen the Administration’s energy/climate change initiative so watered down in the House that it caused deep splits in the alternative energy/environmental community. Those who pleaded for pragmatic patience on the House Bill are now tearing their hair out watching the Senate become a bastion of delay and denialism, with little effective push back from the Administration.

That mirrors the debate on health care reform, where more hopeful reforms were either forbidden topics or promises to be broken and bargained away — and yet what did we get in return beyond a deal for PhRMA-paid ads? Many hopes have been dashed and once-united reformers are left to argue with each other over whether what’s left is worth risking political blood and treasure.

We’re now watching the same thing happen to financial reform. A watered down but still worthwhile House bill languishes in the dysfunctional Senate, along with 290 other House-passed bills.

Meanwhile, Senator Dodd careens from absurd compromise to absurd compromise searching for some way to mollify the rapacious, unrepentant bankers and even one Republican Senator, to no avail. It seems we can’t even have an independent Consumer Financial Protection agency or even a viable consumer-protective division within any existing agency that didn’t already fail dismally, as the Fed and Treasury did, to protect consumers.

And just like the real reform champions on climate change and health care, Paul Krugman is about to give up on Obama and Congress on their financial reform efforts. What passes may be worse than nothing, he fears. Welcome to our dilemma, Professor. We suggest you wear the flak jacket.

So I remain puzzled by the Beltway wisdom that in the Obama White House, whatever you may think about its political vs policy debates, we shouldn’t worry too much.

The country’s political discourse is coming apart at the seams, and as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been documenting night after night, the level of blatant lying, distortion and hypocrisy has no limits. In the extreme, the lies are coupled with increasing approval of anti-government violence.

Yet the nation’s problems aren’t going away; they’re getting worse. Something needs to change, and if that doesn’t include the advisers/leadership in the White House, then how else do the serious ones think we break out of this?

One common failure on both policy and political fronts seems to be the inability to acknowledge and respond to the fact that the corporate and ideological opponents of genuine reform are both looting the public and waging war. They’re waging class war on everyone and any proposal that remotely suggests reining in unbridled corporate power and the redistribution of wealth upwards, whether it’s by Wall Street investors/banks, the energy industry or the health industry or bigAg or . . .

And Republicans and their media organs at Fox support this by waging the rhetorical equivalent of pre-civil war.

When you’re at war, it’s not enough to have decent policies and experienced political advisers — and the White House has been too limiting in both to deserve accolades in either department. You need to fight back.

Dick Cheney is right about one key point. You have to fight back as though the enemy is trying to destroy you and everything you claim to believe in, because they are.

Beyond that, it might also help if the Administration understood it’s its job to hold people accountable when they break the law or loot the country, because those are the same people who are waging war against us. And they’re still winning.

Update: Yves Smith dissects the Beltway message: it’s all about discrediting the left.

What Digby said
What Marcy said
What bmaz said
What Michael said
What Jane said
What Yves said
What Simon says here and here (and Joe Stiglitz, Dean Baker, Liz Warren, et al)

Welcome Back, Christy. Nothing Happened While You Were Gone

10:33 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Rose Bouquet (Marc Amos)FDL’s Christy returned from a well-deserved vacation and asked whether anything had happened. It’s my job to update her, so . . .

Looking back, it seems nothing changed this last week. It’s same old, same old.

According to David Brooks’ [Thursday] column and appearances on News Hour and This Week (confirmed by Clarence Page on CNN), Obama adopted the Bush II (2005-08) not so bad terror policies, which Condi "we didn’t torture, but if Bush does it, it must be legal" Rice had managed to salvage by slaying Dick Cheney, who’s ghost emerged to become rhetorical head of the crazy 21 percent still left in the Republican Party so that he could argue against being prosecuted for war crimes, which we should not pursue because it would upset the Washington Post.

Cheney opposed the Obama policies on Gitmo, detention and torture by arguing that they’ll lead to al Qaeda nuking Montana when they break out of the local jail, which had to lay off people during the economic recession that was not caused by anything done in the last Administration[s]. He has to oppose Obama’s policies because they were either the same as or different from the Bush II policies, which Rice imposed on Cheney but which Obama rejected in the campaign because he didn’t think we would vote for Bush III but which we now think look like Bush II, or is it Bush I?

Early in the week, some hippies — defined as anyone who still believes in the Constitition and the rule of law — went to the WH to be told by the President himself that, in his view, they are hippies. Read the rest of this entry →

House Committee Approves Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill

9:04 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Thursday night the House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted 33-25 to approve the Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill. The Bill, H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), is a major effort to deal with CO2 emissions, setting targets leading to an 80 percent reduction by 2050 and establishing a cap and trade mechanism by 2012.

The bill’s concepts were introduced in draft in late March and the bill formally introduced last Friday. Over the last four days of Committee markup, additional changes have been negotiated to obtain sufficient support among Democrats to gain Committee approval. Only one Republican voted in support, and four Dems voted against.

I’ve been following this but haven’t read the final Committee version; it’s available at the Committee web page. That site and Markey’s sub-Committee’s markup page track the history. I’ll revise as needed, but as of Wednesday, major provisions included:

Major US CO2 emitters must achieve overall national reductions by the following target dates

– A 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020
– A 42% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030
– An 80% [83%?] reduction from 2005 levels by 2050

Use Cap and Trade system to establish carbon price and allocate permits/allowances

EPA will design/run the auctions, which will begin by 2012. Initially, the Cap and Trade auctions will apply to only 15 percent of the total allowances needed to meet the targets (Obama campaigned on 100 percent). Auctions revenues will be allocated to low- and moderate-income families, via tax credits, direct payments or mechanism like "food stamps."

EPA will allocate 85 percent of the allowances “free” to various groups/causes.

It’s a long list, and was still being negotiated this week. But as of Wednesday, the key recipients were: Read the rest of this entry →