The Widdershins

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Happy Friday, Widdershins.

We have just survived Week One of Total Republican Congressional Domination.  Newly minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flushed with the mojo of his party’s success with the economic recovery that it had little or naught to do with, now simply cannot wait for the Prez to get with the program so that they can get things cleaned up even further.

McConnell states that “step one” is to convince the American public that Washington can work again, and this means fixing the Senate.  He plans to use legislation approving the Keystone Pipeline as the beginning of his Grand Old Plan to get things moving and make us whole again.  Per the Christian Science Monitor,

The Kentuckian says he wants to use a bipartisan bill that approves the Keystone pipeline to prove that the Senate can return to being a chamber of open debate – one in which both parties have an opportunity to offer amendments; where committees, rather than party leadership, craft legislation; and where priorities are hammered out through the regular budgeting process, all while avoiding a government shutdown.

The ultimate goal is to restore the Senate to its “high purpose,” as Senator McConnell put it, where Republicans and Democrats can work through the big – and more likely, the small – issues of the day.

Ah, yes.  The “high purpose” of the Senate, where a band of brethren and sistren spar politely but firmly, yet never forgetting the comity expected of gentle ladies and gentle men.   Am I missing something here?  Can this really be the same Mitch McConnell that brought the work of the Republic to a screeching halt for the past six years?  Indeed it is, but here’s the difference:  He seems to honestly think that all of the Dems have forgotten everything that he did to make their lives miserable, and he has reached way back into his early political career when he was able to build coalitions with some Kentucky Blue Dogs in hopes of serving up a model for success.  Ah, yes.  Back in the day when McConnell was a moderate pro-choice Republican who promised (but welched) union rights he might have stood a shot.

I have no doubt that McConnell could maybe  – just maybe- pull off a veto-proof bill if he had a Senate full of Blue Dogs, but he does not.  Both his message and his tone have veered sharply to the right since the good ol’ days, so Democratic alliances of any stripe promise to be precious and few.  He has therefore graciously permitted debate and amendments, but there is mumbling amongst the Democratic ranks.  Members state that there have already been procedural violations, and so the amendments spin on. To this end,  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is my new hero.  He attached the following amendment to the Keystone Bill, and is forcing a vote on the entire package:

 “It is the sense of Congress that Congress is in agreement with the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community that—

(1) climate change is real;

(2) climate change is caused by human activities;

(3) climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world;

(4) a brief window of opportunity exists before the United States and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm; and

(5) it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy as rapidly as possible.”

So, if you vote to pass KP, you state unequivocally that climate change is real.  Talk about a shale rock and a hard place, huh?  Kudos, Bernie!  Time to link arms with the Repubs and try for a little harmonious engagement, or maybe just a little harmony.

This is an open thread.  As for myself, I will dream – and dream big – that the 2016 election sets this mess to rights.  It’s only two more years – WTH!

 

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Happy Friday, Widdershins.  The long and difficult week is over.  The Vandals have invaded Washington City, and immediately began laying waste to civilization as we know it.  I won’t rehash the details so eloquently reported by Prolix in his Tuesday post, as my one and only Economics class was a required one back in 1967.  In fact, I would go so far as to quote Thomas Carlysle in regard to my economics acumen:  “Teach the words ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ to a parrot, and you have an economist.”  Yep.  I’m right there with the parrot in the comprehension department.  I know the words, and I know what they mean.  As to the rest, I am guessing.

I can, however, guess that Rep. Paul Ryan’s dynamic accounting methodology has its roots in the Reagan Administration’s voodoo economics, which tripled the national debt.  I can also guess that there are a blue million committees and even more subcommittees that are germinating in those dark corridors as we speak, and that every one of them is exploring some method to ascertain that the 99% find some other way to make the 1% more comfortable.  I can guess that Mitch McConnell’s bloviating claim that the economy is improving because we all knew that the Republicans were taking over is solid gold bull-puckey.  Even the Daily Caller is amused.  To wit:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell credited the new Republican Congress with recent economic improvements in a statement Wednesday outlining the Senate’s legislative priorities.

“After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope,” McConnell said. “The uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration’s long tenure in Washington: The expectation of a new Republican Congress.”

The economy grew 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014, and unemployment is relatively low at 5.8 percent. President Obama boasted of 57 straight months of job growth in December, and 10.9 million new private sector jobs.

So there you have it – two days into the new (not necessarily) improved Congress, all is well because “we” are here, and all the gains of the past year are because “we” are here.   “Supply and demand” – you’ve got it.   Jon Stewart has a slightly different take, and suggests that rubbing Mitch McConnell’s shell will produce five years of business growth.  Either way, it’s supply and demand:  the difference is perspective.

Best of all is the decision to tinker with the funding for DHS because the Republicans are in a snit about the President’s immigration plan.  How perfect will it be to defund the department charged with protecting our borders as retaliation?  Will we get to see those cantaloupe-calved Mexicans scurrying across the Rio Grande, or are they limited to the darkest portions of Louie Gomert’s dreams?  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, I have a suggestion to make, a wee modest proposal of sorts.  If the Repubs won’t fund something, let’s Crowdsource it.  The White House/Democratic caucus can put up a Crowdsourcing page for Border Patrol salaries, and I’ll bet the Right Wing will pony up.  Put up another for food stamps for the elderly, and invite the church groups to pitch it.  Need money for education?  Not a problem – all those people who scream about better schools will have the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, and perhaps a number of the foundations pledged to same might well help.  If you can’t get over the wall, trying walking around it.

In the meantime, Congress will then be freed up for the really important stuff, like investigating Benghazi and defunding Acorn.  And bailing out Steve Scalise – you know, the really, really important stuff.   Like working on their tans, and golf, and…….

This is an open thread.

disappearing dems in south

With the loss last Saturday by Mary Landrieu, D-La, to Bill Cassidy in the Senate race in Louisiana, indeed it could be she who turns out the lights.  Landrieu was also the last woman from Louisiana to hold a national office. from that portion of the Old South referred to as the Calhoun-Davis Belt.  That reference being to John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis.  There is still Bill Nelson of Florida but Florida is an odd duck:  Democratic/liberal on the Atlantic side and Republican/conservative in the panhandle and the Gulf of Mexico side.  So what exactly should the National Democratic Party do about the once “solid South”?

As Nate Cohn reflects in his article on the Landrieu loss:

The timing of the demise of the Southern Democrat is not coincidental. It reflects a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. Old loyalties to the Democratic Party have died along with the generation of white Southerners who came of age during the era of the Solid South, before Brown v. Board of Education, before the Civil Rights Act.

Yet it also reflects the very specific conditions of 2014. Today’s national Democratic Party is as unpopular in the South today as it has ever been, in no small part because the party has embraced a more secular agenda that is not popular in the region.

“It’s a completely different party than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” said Merle Black, a professor of political science at Emory University. “When the Democratic Party and its candidates become more liberal on culture and religion, that’s not a party that’s advocating what these whites value or think.”

And as Guy Molyneux said in the Times article:

The dramatic decline of the Southern Democrats represents the culmination of a half-century of political realignment along racial and cultural lines. “Some of it is about Obama; most of it is about the longer-term realignment of white voter preferences…’.  The shift has contributed to the polarization of national politics by replacing conservative Democrats, who often voted across party lines, with conservative Republicans who do not.  [Italics mine]

Southern Democrats were not the liberals of the party but leaned more to the conservative/moderate side of the party.  There were no Kennedys in Dixieland.  As this piece in The Economist said:

White Southern Democrats were largely conservative before, and the Democratic domination of Congress in the second half of the 20th century rested on an uneasy coalition between men such as James Eastland, a senator from Mississippi who insisted three years after Brown v Board of Education banned segregation that “the vast majority of Negroes want their own schools, their own hospitals, their own churches, their own restaurants”, and northern urban liberals such as Ted Kennedy. Strom Thurmond, Richard Shelby and Phil Gramm—Southern Republican stalwarts all—were first elected as Democrats, and of the 37 Democrats who voted against the health-care bill in March, 16 were Southern whites. [Note:  this Economist article is from 2010]

So really, what should be done by the National Democratic Party about the South?  Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast says it’s time to “dump Dixie”.  He compared Mary Landrieu trying to get those 60 votes for the pipeline to this:

It was like witnessing the last two weeks of the life of a blind and toothless dog you knew the vet was just itching to destroy. I know that sounds mean about her, but I don’t intend it that way. She did what she could and had, as far as I know, an honorable career. I do, however, intend it to sound mean about the reactionary, prejudice-infested place she comes from. A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

He’s not really too fond of us, or rather where we live:

Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

I thank Mr. Tomasky for saying we are such nice people.  We try…we really do!  And as far as our “nuclear waste site” we don’t really want it that way.  It’s just that we’ve had oligarchs controlling everything who range from Huey Long on the left to our current little dictator lil booby.  Mr. “T” is willing to dump all of the old south except possibly for Florida and Virginia because of…electoral votes.

They (the Dems) need Florida, arguably, at least in Electoral College terms. Although they don’t even really quite need it—what happened in 2012 was representative: Barack Obama didn’t need Florida, but its 29 electoral votes provided a nice layer of icing on the cake, bumping him up to a gaudy 332 EVs, and besides, it’s nice to be able to say you won such a big state. But Florida is kind of an outlier, because culturally, only the northern half of Florida is Dixie. Ditto Virginia, but in reverse; culturally, northern Virginia is Yankee land (but with gun shops).

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Debby Bartlett (R-June Cleaver), President of the Montana Senate

Good Monday, Widdershins. I hope you all enjoyed the weekend.

You know how some Republican legislatures have a tendency to focus on issues that we might think are, shall we say, less than urgent? Well, thank goodness there’s Montana to set the proper example for all of those wastrels of the public’s time and money.

Prior to the convening of Montana’s 64th Legislative Session, the Republican leadership has issued a new dress code for legislators and floor visitors alike, banning too low necklines and too high hemlines for women.

As noted by the Cowgirl Blog, the new dress code — printed in all-caps — states the members of the legislature are required to “dress in formal business attire,” and “comport themselves in a manner that respects the legislative institution and that includes the formality of dress expected in the chamber.”

(snip)

For women, “a suit or dress slacks, skirt, jacket, and dress blouse or suit-like dress” are appropriate. However, “flip-flops, tennis shoes, and open-toed sandals” are not allowed.

Additionally women are warned to be “sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines.”

I wonder how this “sensitivity” is to be enforced? Are the Republican legislators to walk the floor of the State House with rulers to measure the amount of cleavage or leg displayed? I hope the fainting couch is available for those “men” and “women” whose delicacy is offended!

What is really strange about this is that the rules apply to “floor visitors” as well, which means that anyone who comes to the Lege (an intern, a reporter, a lobbyist, etc.) must obey these rules, or else face the wrath of the White and Uptight! As we all know, nothing is more terrifying than a Tea Partier in full moral froth…and in Montana, they might be be carrying concealed (although this would be illegal, thank goodness).

On Twitter, folks are having quite a bit of fun with attempting to imagine what attire would pass these strict rules. This is my personal favorite – from NARAL Pro-Choice MT:

Over at Cowgirl Blog, where this story broke, it is noted that immodest and inappropriate clothing like leggings, cardigans and jersey (the fabric) are banned. (Seriously.) Since jersey can appear like silk or polyester, I wonder how those nasty old Goopers are going to figure out what portions of each woman’s outfit are made of the now-illegal material? Maybe they will invest in one of these!

All I can say is, it’s amazing how the GOP continues to focus on what’s important whenever they’re in power. I sure hope the good people of Montana are satisfied with this out-of-the-gate blooper from their elected Republican representatives.

Perhaps they should turn off their teevees before they open their sexist mouths again.

This is an open thread.

From the screaming and fuaxrage from the Republicans in Congress, you would think that President Obama had personally legalized every illegal immigrant in the country with an autocratic sweep of the executive pen. But as usual, he didn’t do anything so definite. He merely lifted the threat of deportation from about 4.4 million, temporarily.

Obama announced on Thursday he was easing the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. His measures include allowing some 4.4 million people who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and who have been in the country for five years to remain in the country temporarily, with the right to work.

John Boehner, whose spray tan must have temporarily erased his memory of all the times Bush used and abused his executive authority, claims Obama is “acting like an emperor.” For once, the President has a somewhat feisty response: “Then pass a bill.” But hahaha, that’s just what those evil Democrats WANT Republicans to do. They are too smart to fall for that! Shutting down the government, instead of addressing the important issues facing America with wimpy actions like writing and passing legislation, is clearly why they have been put in office.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said on “Fox News Sunday” his party should use spending bills to withhold funds to implement the order. That could force Obama to veto vital funding bills, sparking a government shutdown similar to the one last year.

Cruz, who led that shutdown fight in an effort to block funds for the Obamacare health plan, said the big Republican gains in the midterm elections showed the shutdown was not a political blunder. Republicans will control the Senate and have a bigger House majority in the new Congress that begins in January.

It’s going to be a rather entertaining couple of years.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! This is an open thread.

circular firing squad

Ladies and gents, the fun is just beginning and the new Congress hasn’t even been sworn in yet.  Yesterday we saw a vote fail on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  It was one vote shy of the required 60 and even that would not have been enough to override a Presidential veto.  I heard talk that Landrieu may try to get one more vote on it.  She’s not in a position to do a lot of arm-twisting because the odds are against her getting reelected.  That’s a shame because she has been a good Senator for Louisiana.  She was able to get billions in assistance for the state and SE La when the Federal levees failed and was even helpful in getting some of the FEMA loans to local governments forgiven.  Well that’s neither here nor there.  When I receive my absentee ballot I will vote for Landrieu and hope for the best.

But on to the fun in the title.  From an article in Tiger Beat On the Potomac I read that the Dems are going to be ready to fight and stand on the issues they hold dearly, like climate change.

Liberal Senate Democrats united to block the controversial project, even though their imperiled Democratic colleague Mary Landrieu of Louisiana begged them not to at a Democratic Caucus lunch on Tuesday afternoon.

It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.
Jeff Merkley of Oregon said: “I will use whatever tools I have as a senator to protect the environment,”

 
Sheldon Whitehouse a Senator from Rhode Island added:
“They actually want to tear down environmental protection and regulation in every public comment that I’ve heard a Republican make. Clearly, there’s a challenge coming. And we have to be prepared to meet that challenge,” Whitehouse said. “With respect to climate, you can’t just go back and fix it and make it right with whoever was hurt by some stupid policy.”
I’m not sure where the good Senator has been because going back to the time when Obama was first elected, we knew what the Republican actions and responses to the President and his agenda would be, because the then Senate Minority Leader told us.  So the good Senator should not expect the Majority Republicans in the Senate to stand idly by while some Democrats try to thwart their plans.  The Republicans do not play nicely and I expect we’ll see some bodies figuratively strewn around the Senate floor.  And I meant what I wrote when I wrote  “some Democrats” because the Dems in then Senate won’t be in lockstep with their leadership.  As the article says “the early battle lines appear increasingly drawn around environmental policy, where Democratic centrists may defect from leadership in next year’s Senate and help Republicans pass legislation strongly opposed by liberal senators.”

And speaking of the pipeline and the oil from the Canadian tar pits, do the environmental Democrats

right click me to open in a new window

think that if they block the pipeline going to Texas that this will stop the use and refining of tar sands oils?  It won’t.  Either TransCanada will ship by rail to the refineries in the Gulf or they will use existing rail lines in Canada and ship to that country’s East Coast.

And we already know what has happened previously when trains were transporting oil in Canada. That was pretty disastrous.
 
Then the other thing the Canadians can do with their tar oil is to transport it west to British Columbia and they have a plan for that too.

Right click me to open in a new tab.

So you see, no matter if we stop the pipeline coming into the states, as long as it is economically feasible, this oil from the tar sands of Alberta is going to be refined.  And this isn’t something I am for.  It is a dirty, nasty operation to get the oil from the sands and then this is an extremely heavy crude oil and it takes a lot of energy to process and refine it.
 
And last, I wish the environmentalist Senators would get a little worked up about all the coal that is being transported by barge down the Mississippi to Plaquemines Parish to then be loaded onto ocean going vessels, taken to other countries and used there.  We may not be burning that coal here but since they are getting read to build the third transport facility in Plaquemines, they sure must be burning that stuff somewhere.  Imagine:  people in parts of southeast Louisiana are getting to experience the joys of having coal dust cover their cars, their houses and other properties.   Some links:
 
Okay Widdershins this is a completely open thread.  Comment as you wish about whatever you wish.  Sorry about the text color changing from gray to black and stuff.  Don’t know what happened and was too pooped to try to figure it out.  My bad.

20130217-msm-keystone281Good Monday, all. As you know, I have been following the developments regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline for several years now. The activists opposing it have been extremely successful so far. However, at some point the political party you elect to stand up for you, has to actually do so. Since the Democrats have allowed themselves to be convinced that this environmentally destructive idea is a good one (oil and gas donations seem to be a big part of the reason why), I am very sorry to say that, despite many years and tens of millions of dollars in opposition, Keystone XL may end up going through after all.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday will hold a vote to force President Barack Obama’s hand on the Keystone XL, the controversial pipeline that would carry crude oil from the Canadian tar sands.

This move has baffled environmental activists, who have spent six years campaigning against the pipeline and sunk $85 million into defending Senate control. It’s also baffled Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, who called it “crazy,” and the American Prospect’s Paul Waldman, who described it as a “politically idiotic” move. (My choice of phrase was “insanely dumb.”)

Senate Democrats are holding this vote now in part to boost Senator Mary Landrieu’s prospects in her December runoff, which she’s likely to lose. They are also holding it because they know, with certainty, that Republicans will make this their first priority when they take over the Senate in January…

By the New Republic’s count, the Senate has 58 votes in favor of building the pipeline. This is not a veto-proof majority, so if Obama vetoes the bill, it dies…that is, until the Senate changes control in January. After that, the bill may well have the 67 votes it needs to override it.

Knowing that the bill could go through regardless, I could see Obama vetoing the bill pro forma. As we know, his record is awful on environmental matters, having made only token efforts to address the ever-more-urgent issue of global climate change. The agreement that was reached last week with China was nothing to get excited about, according to Megan McArdle of Bloomberg.

As I understand the deal, the U.S. pledges to get its carbon emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China agrees to peaking carbon emissions in 2030.  All of which sounds very fine, except for the “Yes, buts”:

  • At least some forecasts already show China’s emissions peaking in 2030. As China’s economy matures, and its population stops growing, its rate of emissions growth will naturally slow. Getting China to agree to something that was maybe going to happen anyway does not seem like a varsity-level diplomatic achievement

  • America has already achieved half its target thanks to natural gas fracking and the aging-out of older cars and coal plants. So right away, this target seems less ambitious than advertised.

Yup, that sounds like the Obama we all know far too well. And unfortunately, reducing emissions is a cover for environmentally damaging policies like allowing fracking. A MEANINGFUL agreement would require Americans to go to renewable energy by 2030, at whatever pace non-partisan scientists and policymakers agree is possible. What I wouldn’t give for us to still be a country where this kind of political change is the norm!

My point here is that Obama and Congress won’t stop the XL Pipeline. The only hope for environmental intelligence to win this battle lies with the state of Nebraska.

The state—and the pipeline project—suffered a significant blow last February, when a district court judge voided the state’s 2012 pipeline law. In her decision, Judge Stephanie Stacy of the Lancaster County District Court said the law had unconstitutionally abrogated the power of state regulators to review the route, putting too much power in the governor’s hands.

That court victory by the pipeline’s opponents left TransCanada without a legally approved route for the KXL through Nebraska. With the route in legal limbo, the State Department opted to postpone indefinitely its long-awaited recommendation on whether the KXL is in the national interest and should get a presidential permit to proceed.

Although President Obama has declared that his decision will depend largely on whether the pipeline would worsen global warming, the federal government could scarcely approve a proposed pipeline whose route had been rejected by one of the states it must cross.

If the pipeline is blocked, then, it will be not because of political activism, but because rich people in Nebraska want to protect their private property. How typical in our New Reaganite Reality, where money is speech, corporations are people, and politicians are too bought-off to do what needs to be done to save our planet. Don’t they realize that they have to live here, too?


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