Thursday, March 3, 2011

Last Call

In a move that should surprise precisely zero observers who have been paying attention, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin is joining the GOP's war on the EPA.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a vocal critic of the Environmental Protection Agency, has signed on as a co-sponsor of Republican legislation to permanently block the agency's climate rules.

The addition of Manchin, who is up for reelection in 2012, as a co-sponsor means that the authors of the bill have been able to get at least some Democratic support in both the House and the Senate. Forty-three Senate Republicans sponsored the bill.

The Hill reported earlier Thursday that three House Democrats signed on to the legislation. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have are both original co-sponsors. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) also signed on to the legislation.

It's a no-brainer for coal country's Manchin, who knows full well that should this somehow pass the Senate, it will run directly into President Obama's veto pen.  He loses nothing by doing this, and keeps his Ben Nelson/Evan Bayh cred heading into 2012.  More importantly he does the heavy lifting so fellow Sen. Jay Rockefeller doesn't have to (although Rockefeller may still be a reliable vote for Manchin's bill.)

Practical upshot is Manchin gains more than he loses by making a point of co-sponsoring this legislation.  Republicans get to fake playing the "bipartisan support" card too.  Manchin made it clear from the outset that he wasn't going to support EPA action of any type on the coal industry, and if anything he's playing exactly to type.

Having said that, Harry Reid really ought to make Manchin pay a price for this.  Voting for the bill is one thing.  Co-sponsoring it is another.

Give Until It Hurts

Remember when Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal ran on ethics? Neither does Bobby Jindal.

WASHINGTON — Louisiana’s biggest corporate players, many with long agendas before the state government, are restricted in making campaign contributions to Gov. Bobby Jindal. But they can give whatever they like to the foundation set up by his wife months after he took office.

AT&T, which needed Mr. Jindal, a Republican, to sign off on legislation allowing the company to sell cable television services without having to negotiate with individual parishes, has pledged at least $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children.

Marathon Oil, which last year won approval from the Jindal administration to increase the amount of oil it can refine at its Louisiana plant, also committed to a $250,000 donation. And the military contractor Northrop Grumman, which got state officials to help set up an airplane maintenance facility at a former Air Force base, promised $10,000 to the charity.

The foundation has collected nearly $1 million in previously unreported pledges from major oil companies, insurers and other corporations in Louisiana with high-stakes regulatory issues, according to a review by The New York Times.

It is among the newest of charities set up by elected officials, including members of Congress, or their families that are mutually beneficial: companies seeking to influence politicians or curry favor can donate unrestricted amounts of money, while the officials benefit from the good will associated with charitable work financed by businesses.

Mr. Jindal has made tightening Louisiana’s ethics rules a centerpiece of his administration and has promised to crack down on the influence of special interests. But Anne Rolfes, founding director of an environmental group called the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said the donations to Mrs. Jindal’s charity compromise the governor’s pledge.

“It may be a good cause, but it creates the appearance he is being bribed,” Ms. Rolfes said. “And if you are truly committed to ethical behavior, you just need to stay away from it all together.”

Oh I'm sure Jindal and his wife are far from alone, and I'm sure there are Democrats with similar setups. But remember, the Supreme Court says corporate payola like this is protected free speech. That's how the game works now, unlimited donations to let the Governor know they are "good corporate citizens" and the charities in turn get good press for their works.

I'm sure it's complete and utter coincidence that these companies are benefiting from their donations.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Sully notes this section of the Republican bill to wreck public unions in Ohio:

Sec. 3101.01 of S.B. 5: ... A marriage may only be entered into by one man and one woman. Any marriage between persons of the same sex is against the strong public policy of this state. Any marriage between persons of the same sex shall have no legal force or effect in this state and, if attempted to be entered into in this state, is void ab initio and shall not be recognized by this state. The recognition or extension by the state of the specific statutory benefits of a legal marriage to non-marital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is against the strong public policy of this state. Any public act, record or judicial proceeding of this state, as defined in section 9.82 of the Revised Code, that extends the specific statutory benefits of legal marriage to non-marital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is void.

It exists solely to nullify any legal protections for civil unions or same-sex relationships that may have been gained through collective bargaining for public employees. In other words, LGBT public employees under this bill would have no partner benefits whatsoever in Ohio, all voided by this legislation.  Nor would they have to right to even have them on the table under collective bargaining discussions.  Gone.  Period.

But of course it's necessary to balance the budget, because shut up that's why TEA PARTY MEANS FREEDOM!

This Week's WTH

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - Authorities in Farmington say a man hired to clear an overgrown lot ran over a sleeping man with a mulching machine.
Farmington police say the man who was run over was sleeping under a tree Monday in a densely wooded vacant lot behind some businesses.

Epic fail for midday naps.

Epic Fail: Gmail Flushes Thousands Of Accounts

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Imagine opening up your e-mail and finding years of correspondence gone.  As many as 150,000 Gmail users have been confronting that scary scenario throughout the past day. Around 3:00 pm ET Sunday, Google began "investigating reports of an issue" with its popular e-mail service. Over the next few hours, it confirmed that a small fraction of Gmail users were experiencing disruptions.

At this time, it isn't known if Google will be able to restore the lost data.  Customers are carrying on, and it's understandable.  Years of correspondence, pictures, contacts and information lost.  It's also preventable.  It's one of the first basic truths of the digital world: you are ultimately responsible for your own backups.  Backups are free, inconvenient, time consuming and in every way obnoxious.  Without them you are utterly lost and at the whim of the people providing your service.  Even the best of the best are subject to glitches.  Gmail offers downloading of messages, so it is hard to make the argument that the customers are owed something for a malfunction of a free service.  One has to wonder if this was a glitch or an attack.  I'm also curious to see if Google will suffer the outcome or conveniently find a backup of user's private emails.  Either way, this is going to be interesting.

The Apple Of His Eye

Steve Jobs introduced the world to the Apple iPad 2 yesterday, and it looks like the Wizard of Ooohs and Ahhs is still pulling magic out of his hat.

After much speculation as to whether Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who is currently on medical leave from the company, would show up to Wednesday's Apple press conference, the man himself has appeared on stage.

"We've been working on this product for a while and I didn't want to miss today," he said, to a standing ovation from the gathered crowd. "Today we're here to talk about Apple's third post-PC blockbuster product," he said, according to Engadget's live blog. "That's how we think about these things. We started with the iPod, then we added the iPhone, and then the iPad. Every one has been a blockbuster."

The iPad 2 has nearly twice the processing power and a front and rear camera, and much like Jobs himself, it's a lot thinner than last year's model.  But the real kicker is the cheaper $499 price for the basic 16GB model, and suddenly all the talk of Apple having competition in the tablet market just dried up overnight.  The iPad 2 goes on sale a week from Friday.

Don't mess with Steve, man.

A. Weiner Is You On Clarence Thomas

Rep. Anthony Weiner is back, this time schooling FOX's Megyn Kelly on the subject of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Weiner adamantly believed that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from hearing a case on the constitutionality of healthcare reform due to the financial interests of his wife that give off the appearance of bias. When Kelly began to dispute whether that was legally necessary Weiner began to get agitated. 

And that's the usual Mediaite rightward spin, the reality is somewhat more interesting as Kelly simply ignores Weiner's points and continues on, Weiner decides he's not going to be run-over.

Do watch.  A. Weiner is you!

Obama, Race, And The Price Of Tea

The right is howling over excerpts from author Ken Walsh's book on African-Americans and the White House, particularly a passage involving President Obama and the Tea Party:

But Obama, in his most candid moments, acknowledged that race was still a problem. In May 2010, he told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent "Tea Party" movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn't helping them nearly enough, he said.

A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to "take back" their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn't dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a "subterranean agenda" in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.

His goal, he said, was to be as effective and empathetic a president as possible for all Americans. If he could accomplish that, it would advance racial progress for blacks more than anything else he could do.

Even suggesting what seems obvious to any Americans paying attention to the last three years in politics is causing HOW DARE HE fainting spells and heart attack kabuki across the right this morning.  Granted, Obama would be made out to have been a monster if he was black, brown, white, green, or purple, but the President's race is absolutely a factor, especially among the Birther crowd.

And the Republican party is embracing that wholeheartedly as evidenced by Mike Huckabee this week, serving up heaping piles of red meat to Republicans (and heaping piles of bullpucky to everyone else) saying the President "growing up in Kenya" gave him an "anti-colonial" and "anti-American" viewpoint.  It's not hard hearing the dog whistle of racial politics when they are being delivered with a megaphone.

And how quickly we've forgotten the overt racism while looking to justify the more subtle examples.  And of course, if you point that out, you're the racist.  Just as it was in 2009 and 2010, expect "the only racist here is Obama" to continue to be the centerpiece of the winger "argument" against him.


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