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Supreme Court hears oral arguments in case that could sharply weaken civil rights laws

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:52
The Courtroom of the Supreme Court The Supreme Court may be on the cusp of another dramatic weakening of civil rights laws:
The question before the court is whether the Fair Housing Act of 1968, intended to fight pervasive residential segregation, bans practices that unintentionally discriminate against minorities. For decades, the law has been used not only to fight intentional discrimination but any other practices that have a "disparate impact" on racial and other minority groups. [...]

But now, the case Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., represents the third time in as many years that the Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of how broadly, or not, the Fair Housing Act rules can be applied. Less than four years ago, the court agreed to hear a case out of Minnesota on disparate-impact claims; the following year it agreed to take up a New Jersey case on the same issue. Both cases were resolved before oral arguments, in part because civil rights advocates were afraid of what the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts might decide.

"There’s no disagreement among the lower courts, it’s always been the law since the late '60s that you could have disparate impact," says Deepak Gupta, a Washington lawyer who filed an amicus brief on behalf of current and former members of Congress urging the court to uphold the broad interpretation of the housing law. The court's taking up the issue repeatedly, Gupta says, signals that "at least some of the justices are very interested in changing the law in this area."

One of those justices appears to be Chief Justice John Roberts himself, whose questioning in oral arguments today demonstrated skepticism toward the last forty years of established law. Hope for retaining the notion that housing discrimination can still be discrimination even if it is not explicit and intentional may lie, ironically, with Antonin Scalia. His theoretical devotion to deferring to agency interpretations of laws when possible may come into play; oral arguments today gave no clear signs that he had made up his mind.
Scalia told [Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller] that looking at the "grand goals" of Congress in 1968 to eliminate segregated housing, it seemed possible that lawmakers thought disparate impact cases were acceptable. But later, Scalia told Michael Daniel, lawyer for the Texas housing group, that "racial disparity is not racial discrimination."

"The fact that the NFL is largely black players is not discrimination," Scalia said.

So we'll see. Gutting the legal notion of discrimination via "disparate impact" would have broad civil rights implications, if the court went that far. Given that Roberts himself appears to be openly contemplating such a change, there's reason to be nervous.

Steve King calls Dreamer guest of First Lady at SOTU 'a deportable'

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:51
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa Iowa Congressman Steve King issued the opening salvo for his clown car conservative summit this weekend, calling a Dream activist and guest of First Lady Michelle Obama "a deportable" in a tweet before the State of the Union address.
#Obama perverts "prosecutorial discretion" by inviting a deportable to sit in place of honor at #SOTU w/1st Lady. I should sit with Alito.
@SteveKingIA The guest was likely Ana Zamora, a student at Northwood University in Texas who was granted temporary deportation relief and work authorization through President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012.

The tweet, which inflamed Dream activists, sets the tone for the contingent of 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls who will descend on the Iowa Freedom Summit this weekend with the intent of making a name for themselves. In that respect, Rep. King is certainly leading the way. Hopefully, none of those candidates aspire to be anything more than a congressman who was reduced to seething about his seat at the State of the Union.

Here's Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream:

“Combined with the GOP’s voting record, [King's] comments also undermine any efforts Republicans will make to reach out to Latino and immigrant communities.” King has been driving the GOP's immigration policy and along with it, he's steering the party's 2016 hopes right into the ground.

Maine boots thousands off of food stamps for not having jobs that don't exist

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:38
Governor Paul R. LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) More than 6,000 people in Maine are getting more than usually screwed by the hole-riddled U.S. safety net and their state's evil buffoon of a governor:
Gov. Paul LePage (R) decided last year to prematurely reinstate tougher eligibility rules requiring food stamps recipients to work. The state agency that maintains SNAP in Maine launched the change in October, and reports that 6,500 of the state’s roughly 215,000 SNAP beneficiaries had been booted from the program as of the end of 2014, WGME’s investigation found.

A Maine official portrayed the decision as “complying with federal requirements” in an interview with the station, but the federal government offered to waive those requirements for Maine and 36 other states back in May. In those 37 states, economic conditions are so bad that the federal government invited state officials to suspend the work requirement that usually applies to able-bodied adults without dependents who want SNAP benefits. When the economy is healthy and jobs are plentiful, a person with no disability and no one to look after must demonstrate that they are working or in job training at least 20 hours a week in order to get food stamps for more than 90 days in any three-year period. If economic conditions are dire, though, federal officials allow state administrators to waive the work rules for SNAP.

Maine could have those work rules waived, but LePage doesn't want that. So even though there are not enough jobs to go around, adults without children and without jobs can go starve, basically.

Is Rep. Aaron Schock training for a 'most lies about the minimum wage' competition?

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:10
So much rage. After the State of the Union, "hunky but vapid Illinois Congressmeat Aaron Schock" went on MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow immediately brought up something he'd tweeted during the SOTU: That "Obama claimed you can't raise a family on $7.25 hr. NEWS FLASH: you can't do it on $10.10 hr either." This is not, of course, Schock arguing that the minimum wage should be higher than $10.10 an hour, it's Schock arguing that there's really no point to the minimum wage, so why bother? Along the way, he trotted out some zombie lies in an advanced state of decomposition.

"Artificially raising the cost of labor," Schock said, "whether it's from $7.25 to $10 an hour to $15 an hour, is not the way to raise people out of poverty and give them a living wage." That's right next door to opposing the very existence of the minimum wage—not to mention insulting every minimum wage worker who he is suggesting benefit from an "artificially raised" wage. Then he just kept talking:

I'm somebody who started out my career on minimum wage and slowly worked my way up the economic ladder. "Slowly worked my way up the economic ladder"? Dude, you're 33 and you've been a member of Congress earning more than $150,000 a year for six years. Before that, it's true that you were earning a lot less—as an Illinois state representative since the age of 23. But I'm guessing that the Illinois state rep salary was still a lot more than most people that age were earning (it's currently nearly $68,000 a year).
The fact of the matter is that the minimum wage has always been that in our country, it's been the starting wage ... Tell that to the many, many fast food and retail workers who've gotten raises just 25 or 40 cents above the minimum wage over years in the same workplace. Okay, the minimum wage was a starting wage in the narrowest sense, but a raise to $10.10 would still make a huge difference in their lives. Even though they are not "starting."
... and the good thing is that most people on the minimum wage are significantly younger than me. Lie. This is a lie. In fact:
Their average age is 35, and 88 percent are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40. "Half are older than 30," which means that "most" minimum wage workers are not younger than a 33 year old, however smarmily dishonest he may be.

Schock is right about one thing: $10.10 an hour is not enough, which is why fast food workers have been fighting for $15. But it's a big improvement over $7.25, an amount on which people are struggling to support families, and all of Schock's glib BS is just intended to cover over the fact that he does not want to help these people. He and the Republican Party do not want to ensure that work pays enough to live on.

David Brooks dog whistles that Obama's State of the Union snap was 'basketball court trash talk'

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:07

If you haven't seen this awesome clip from Tuesday night's State of the Union address by now, just go and watch:

It's short, but here's the even shorter version: Republicans jeer Obama, and Obama smacks 'em right back a thousand times harder with a hilarious snap that even he couldn't help chuckling at.

So what was conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks' reaction? Why, it was the president who engaged in unsportsmanlike behavior:

BROOKS: And for all the talk at the end about the Philadelphia speech, the revealing moment when the Republicans applauded when he said he wasn't going to run again and he said—I forget the exact words—but like I beat you guys twice.


DAVID BROOKS: That was basketball court trash talk and that's also who he is. So the bipartisanship that's part of him but the trash talk, that's also part.

And what was the Republican mockery of Obama? Polite banter under the auspices of Marquess of Queensberry rules? Try a little harder, dude. "Basketball court trash talk" is code that's even more obvious than the kind you can crack with a decoder ring from a box of Kix.

France continues to mock Fox News for 'no-go zone' conspiracy theories

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 14:07
John and Mike from Fox News - Eric et Quentin du 16/01 I'd say the French news/comedy show Le Petit Journal has Fox News pretty much pegged, as seen this time around with on-the-scene reporting by their own "Fox News" reporters on the various threats in Paris, "the most dangerous city in the universe." The blond wig is a nice touch.

If you recall, the entire existence of The Colbert Report was as a parody of Fox News shows, and in fact one Fox News show in particular. Saturday Night Live has taken quite a few stabs at the genre, and The Daily Show typically owes a good chunk of each day's materials to the network's antics. If just one Fox show, Fox & Friends, ended tomorrow, the world's satirists would be in mourning for a month.

But as Le Petit Journal reminds us, mocking the bungling awfulness of Fox News really should be a universal endeavor. This is one of those things in the world that all nations ought to be able to get behind: No matter where you are, or what language you speak, we can all come together to agree that Fox News is well, just terrible.

Republicans 'frustrated' because State of the Union didn't bend to Republican ideas

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 13:35
Jeb Bush 'That's why when my dad lost re-election, the Bush family quietly went away, never to be heard from again.' It appears Republicans are not happy with last night's State of the Union address; the president, you see, was very divisive and did not recognize that Republicans winning recent elections—not the presidential election, mind you, but other elections—means that he is now supposed to do whatever Republicans want.
“More intent on winning elections than on winning progress, he ignores the fact that the country has elected a Congress that favors smaller government and lower taxes,” Mitt Romney, the failed 2012 Republican nominee, who is moving toward another run, wrote on Facebook. And yet Barack Obama is sitting in the White House, and you're writing your responses on Facebook. We've gotten to the point where even the losers of elections claim they've been given a mandate.

Please read below the fold for more on the response of the Republicans.

The CIA found that the CIA lied about torture, and now Republicans want them to take it back

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 13:33
U.S. Senator Richard Burr speaks during the National Rifle Association's 139th annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina May 14, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR2DVZ2 Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) When Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) Intelligence Committee tried to do its job in investigating the Bush administration's torture regime and the CIA's place in it, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta ordered an internal review to determine just what the agency was going to be turning over to the committee. That review found that agency officials had repeatedly overstated the value of information they got through torture. The review found, according to people who are familiar with it (it is still classified) that agency officials repeatedly claimed that the source of most of the information they got to thwart terrorist actions and track Al Qaeda came from one detainee—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—when they had actually gained the intelligence through a number of sources. This Panetta Review was provided to the Intelligence Committee, and Feinstein in turn provided it to departments and agencies within the executive branch and to other committee members.

The new committee chair, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) wants to take a big eraser to all that.

Mr. Burr sent a letter last week to the White House saying that his Democratic predecessor, Senator Dianne Feinstein, should never have transmitted the entire 6,700-page report to numerous departments and agencies within the executive branch—and requested that all copies of the report be “returned immediately,” according to people who have seen the letter. […]

According to a briefing that the C.I.A. inspector general, David B. Buckley, gave to the congressional staff members in December, a C.I.A. employee who had worked on the Panetta Review complained in 2010 that the agency had never corrected public statements about what was or was not obtained from torture sessions. […]

Mr. Burr’s unusual letter to Mr. Obama might have been written with an eye toward future Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. Congress is not subject to such requests, and any success he has in getting the Obama administration to return all copies of the Senate report to the Intelligence Committee could hinder attempts to someday have the report declassified and released publicly.

The CIA emphatically does not want the nation to know precisely what and how much it was lied to about torture, and now, under torture apologist John Brennan, has distanced itself from the report and has refused to release it publicly. Burr is trying to assist in that by taking the copies of the report away from anyone who might have seen it, and after-the-fact coverup that at best makes Burr look foolish and at worst absolutely craven. But as one commenter, Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists project on government secrecy, says "if Senator Burr thinks he can erase the report from the historical record, he is likely to be mistaken." This stain is permanent, and no amount of backtracking will alter that.

Republicans prep for vote to restrict women's personal freedoms with new abortion ban

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 13:12
Marsha Blackburn with Eric Cantor and Cynthia Lummis in Washington discussing the legislative agenda ahead of the State of the Union Address Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), sponsor of a bill to ban abortions On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the GOP-led House of Representatives Thursday will return to the people's work of restricting the rights of women and compromising their health care by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Sure, it's blatantly unconstitutional and health experts say it would endanger the health of women, but it's a top priority for the American people. Oh wait, sorry, pollsters don't even put abortion on the priority list of questions because it doesn't register high enough with voters. Nonetheless, Republicans are anxious to focus on restricting people's personal freedoms rather than on expanding their opportunities.

The White House has already issued a veto threat on this bill, which the GOP calls the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." It's a total misnomer since the American Medical Association has found exactly the opposite—that fetuses do not have the capacity to feel pain until "around 29 to 30 weeks' gestational age."

As the White House noted:

Not only is the basis for H.R. 36 scientifically disputed, the bill disregards women's health and rights, the role doctors play in their patients' health care decisions, and the Constitution. Also, there's essentially no exemption for rape victims since only around 30 percent of victims report being attacked to authorities.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would exempt rape victims from the abortion restrictions, but only if they report the attack to police — a clause multiple GOP staffers said could further discourage victims of sexual assault from seeking medical help. Though the bill is likely to pass the House easily, two Republican congresswomen have voiced opposition in recent weeks: Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN). Ellmers has said the bill "demonstrates a complete disregard for the women who experience sexual assault." A voice of reason emerges.

She has also warned leadership that it won't send a good message to voting blocs the GOP desperately needs to win over.

"The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn't be on an issue where we know that millennials—social issues just aren't as important [to them]."

RNC chair: It's Obama's fault we didn't talk about immigration in our SOTU response

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:48
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus can't really explain why the official Republican response to the State of the Union and the official Republican Spanish response had such different messages on immigration. But boy, can he babble.

Asked about the mismatched messages, Priebus first tried to pretend these were just the SOTU responses of individual Republicans:

I don't know, I mean, I think, look, I did in actuality yesterday too so that we sent it out to all the affiliates that, you know, if you can take clips. I think that in today's political world, you're going to have—and I think if you look on the Democrat side, you're going to see almost every senator, every congressman send out a press release with their response. I don't think it's that strange to have multiple people giving multiple responses. But why not mention immigration directly in the official English-language response? This is a case where the Republicans had two official responses, and the Spanish-language one mentioned immigration and the English-language one sort of dog-whistled for the base without addressing it directly. Why not talk about immigration in English?
Um, because I think that the president's kind of screwed things up in regard to immigration reform, by overreaching, by taking his executive action, and I think he, by his own ...

Q: Wouldn't that be why you bring it up in the response?

Priebus: Well, I mean, you know what, I think we've been talking about this executive amnesty action that the president's taken illegally for a long time, and I think until that gets resolved, I think it's very difficult to go back and conduct any other kind of immigration reform. Look, I'm not the policy guy ...

Republicans can't talk about immigration reform until Obama's executive action "gets resolved," or rather blocked, defunded, repealed, killed. But defunding said executive action is a major Republican priority right now. It's just that they refused to talk about that given a national platform to do so.

Yeah, it makes absolutely no sense. But Reince got in a few of his key phrases and he blamed Obama, so he probably doesn't count it as much of a loss as the average person watching him blather would.

Yesterday Republicans voted against American jobs, today against science

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:29
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell turns to Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX after speaking to reporters after the Republican party policy luncheon in the Capitol in Washington September 16, 2014.  At left is Sen. John Barasso, R-WY. The U.S. House of Represe Senate Republicans are real profiles in courage. Tuesday, Senate Republicans voted down Democratic amendments calling for the Keystone XL pipeline to be built with American-made steel and for the oil it transports to be kept in the United States, not exported. Wednesday, they're expected to vote down two separate amendments affirming that climate change is real:
Sen. Brian Schatz’s (D-Hawaii) short amendment states that “climate change is real; and human activity significantly contributes to” it, and the second, from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), says that climate change is “real and not a hoax.” Republicans are trying to protect themselves from negative consequences on these amendments through procedural maneuvering—rather than voting yes or no on the substance of the amendments, they're voting to table them, blocking them from getting a vote on the substance. But a vote to kill an amendment calling for American materials to be used on what you're calling a jobs bill is still a vote against the use of American materials. A vote to kill an amendment saying that climate change is not a hoax is still a vote against the Senate recognizing that climate change is real. "I didn't vote against American-made materials, I voted against holding a vote on whether the materials should be American-made" isn't going to trick voters into not realizing you were opposed to the American-made materials.

That's Senate Republicans for you: They don't want to create additional jobs or admit that climate change is real, but they're not quite brave enough to just be honest about what they're doing when they vote those things down.

1:59 PM PT: This is special. The Whitehouse amendment saying that "climate change is real and not a hoax" passed 98 to one—after climate denier Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma co-sponsored it, saying that climate change is real but "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they can change climate."

2:27 PM PT: And no surprise here, Schatz's amendment saying that climate change is not only real but caused by humans failed, with 50 votes in favor and 49 against.

Our media gurus do not approve of a strong President Obama

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:59
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden look toward the guests in the First Lady's box at the State of the Union address in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. Voters seemed to love President Obama's State of the Union address. Republican members of Congress did not. In fact, it was kind of amazing to see the breadth of things they were opposed to in the speech, if their refusal to applaud was an indication. Like an improving economy, a soaring stock market, people getting health insurance, veterans getting health care, diseases being eradicated … they hated it all.

Maybe their hatred was less the content than the tone. Judging by the traditional media's reaction, that's probably closer to it since we know what frame the traditional media is going to be using. They found him "cocky," and even worse "boastful, confident and even cocky" despite the "electoral pounding in the midterm election less than three months ago or his year of slouching approval ratings." Maybe it was how he "brashly wagged his finger at his critics."

What's he doing, acting like he's a president who won two decisive elections, with policy successes, an improving economy, and public opinion on his side?

The best part of the State of the Union, in less than 30 seconds

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:46

Just watch this—over and over and over:

Obama: I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda ...

[Weak Republican applause]

Obama: I know, 'cause I won both of 'em.

[Democrats go nuts]

Obama: Yeaahhhh!

That last "yeaahhhh" just slays me. You tell 'em, Mr. President!

Republicans doctor State of the Union address by cutting out inconvenient climate change section

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:17
Republicans have posted what they're calling an "enhanced webcast" of the State of the Union "holding President Obama accountable in real-time." But one of the enhancements, from a Republican point of view, is a subtraction. Not a minor subtraction, either. At 42 minutes and 44 seconds into the video, Obama begins talking about climate change. At 43 minutes and 25 seconds, there's an extremely unsubtle cut. It goes a little something like this:
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does—14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I've heard some folks try to—[digital record-scratch equivalent]—er around the globe. What could possibly be missing there? Just this:
I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what—I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. Aww, does it hurt the Republicans' fee-fees to have the president point out that "I'm not a scientist" is a transparently stupid dodge? Does it puncture the "I'm not a scientist" dodge to have the president point out that you don't have to be a scientist to listen to what scientists are saying? Apparently so. And apparently Republicans don't even want their audience hearing that this is what scientists say. So really, it's "an enhanced webcast holding President Obama accountable in real-time except when we can't even come up with a flimsy partisan counter to what he's saying."

Where does the GOP stand on immigration? Depends which of their SOTU responses you hear

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:19
Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, glamor portrait. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) Oh, those sneaky Republicans. The word "immigration" did not show up anywhere in the official Republican response to the State of the Union as delivered by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst. But Rep. Carlos Curbelo's official Republican Spanish response, the policy sections of which were otherwise largely a translation of Ernst's remarks, slipped it in there.

Without using the word "immigration," Ernst delivered a glancing blow that meshed perfectly with the recent Republican tantrums over President Obama's executive action to protect some immigrants from deportation. "We'll work to correct executive overreach," she said. It was a line perfectly gauged to let the Republican base know what she meant without seeming too extreme for other viewers.

By contrast, Curbelo's message was that "We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy. In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done." Gosh, that would be nice if that was true and the "permanent solutions" being proposed weren't mostly "build a fence." But whose speech better matches up with actual policies Republicans are pushing in in Congress?

Just a week ago, House Republicans passed a bill to "correct executive overreach" not just by defunding Obama's recent action on immigration but by defunding his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—in other words, the House voted to deport the Dreamers. They just called it "correcting executive overreach." Senate Republicans are a little less wild-eyed over this than the House, but that's largely because of the different political realities of the Senate.

Curbelo's approach is one shared by a handful of House and Senate Republicans, but it is light years away from being his party's agenda. And it's significant that this message went only to Spanish speakers. Republicans didn't shift their message on immigration. Rather, they tried to mislead Latinos about where they stand.

Cartoon: Slaying attention

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:50

President Obama's State of the Union a big hit with voters

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:49
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, as Vice President Joe Biden (L) applauds and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4M8CR Wake up, Speaker Boehner. There's some good stuff you might want to hear. A random sample of voters polled by CNN, both before and after President Obama's State of the Union address, give the president a virtual standing ovation.
Screen shot of CNN poll results on State of the Union. That's a total of 81 percent approval—51 percent very positive and 30 percent somewhat positive. The president also significantly shifted the needle on support for the policies he talked about Tuesday night. From January 16-19, CNN polled the group and found majority support for the president's policies; 57 percent thought those policies would move the country in the right
direction. That ballooned to 72 percent after they watched the speech.

Some prominent Republicans were not so impressed.

"With all due respect to him, he doesn’t set the agenda in the Senate," Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the new majority leader, told reporters at an afternoon news conference. […]

"We're going to try to do the things that we think will make America a better place," McConnell said.

And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sniffed, "Sadly, it doesn’t appear that President Obama gets it." Hmmmm…. The American public apparently has some ideas about that, and they seem to be on the president's side. McConnell and crew might want to consider that if they really want to hold the Senate in 2016.

These Democrats say Keystone will promote energy independence but vote against keeping its oil here

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:30
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) (L) holds a news conference with fellow committee members Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) (C) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington November 12, 2014. Bills to take approval of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline from Canada out of the hands of the Obama administration could be headed for votes in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Democrat Landrieu said she would propose debate later on Wednesday and a vote on Thursday on a bill floated in May to approve the project, which would deliver heavy Canadian oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. REUTERS/Gary Cameron    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT BUSINESS) - RTR4DXT6 Sen. Joe Manchin (center) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (right) Democratic Sen. Ed Markey had a good idea: Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline keep talking about how it'll improve America's energy security, so why not set that claim in stone? Markey proposed an amendment to the current Keystone legislation pending in the Senate that would require oil transported through the pipeline to remain in the United States. It only makes sense, right?

Indeed, pro-Keystone Democrats have long argued the pipeline will promote American energy independence, including folks like North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp:

Today, we are one step closer toward approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. ... We have the opportunity to make sure it comes to the U.S., where it would boost domestic energy production by bringing in oil from our greatest trading partner and friend, and continue to move us toward North American energy security and independence—a goal we all want to achieve. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner:
I support construction of the Keystone pipeline. ... [I]t will allow the U.S. to increase its energy security. And West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin:
The Keystone XL pipeline would also allow us to move away from dependence on foreign oil produced by countries who are not our friends, and to move closer to our goal of achieving North American energy independence. Based on remarks like these, it's clear that lawmakers like these would be eager to make sure that any oil that flows across our country would stay in our country. Heitkamp even said we "have the opportunity to make sure" that Keystone oil comes right here. After all, if we're just a conduit so that Canadian oil can be exported around the world, how would Keystone help bolster American energy independence one whit?

That of course explains why this trio of Democrats all voted with the Republicans to defeat Markey's amendment on Tuesday.

Oh, wait, no it doesn't.

Conservative or "moderate" Democrats are gonna take some votes we don't like some of the time. That's a fact of life. But Markey's amendment is good, populist politics, which is why senators from red states like Jon Tester (Montana), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), and Claire McCaskill (Missouri) all supported it. If anything, it's the kind of legislation you'd be happy to see your opponent oppose, since you can easily frame a vote against the amendment as a vote against U.S. interests.

But now Manchin, Warner, and Heitkamp are not only on the wrong side of this issue, they also look like phonies. And no voter likes a phony.

Click here to send an email to your senator: Stop selling out to Big Oil.

Economics Daily Digest: State of the Union, Actual Policy Goals, Responses

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 08:37

By Rachel Goldfarb, originally published on Next New Deal

Click here to subscribe to Roosevelt First, our weekday morning email featuring the Daily Digest.

The Problem With Obama's Bold SOTU (MoJo)

David Corn thinks President Obama needs to advance a stronger narrative about the GOP's obstructionism preventing his policy agenda from becoming reality.

The president is the country's storyteller-in-chief. And despite his inspiring powers of oratory (see Campaign 2008) and his savvy understanding of the importance of values in political salesmanship (see Campaign 2012), Obama, as his aides concede, has not effectively sold the nation on his own accomplishments, and, simultaneously, he has failed to establish an overarching public plot line that explains the gridlock in Washington as the result of GOP obstructionists blocking him on important issues where public opinion is in his favor. With his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Obama had one last chance to take a swing at forging this narrative. Though he did adopt a muscular stance in presenting a forceful and vigorous vision—going on offense in the fourth quarter of his presidency, as his advisers have put it—the president let the Republicans off easy.

Follow below the fold for more.

Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 am ET!

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 08:31
Daily Kos Radio logo Joan McCarter will be on hand, even though the president is on his way to Boise!

Now that's dedication!

Also, scheduling. Thanks for agreeing to the afternoon start time, Mr. President!

We'll probably talk about your speech. And the one from the bread bag lady, too.

Listen LIVE at 9:00 ET, here: Click this Link to Listen on your iTunes, Winamp or Windows Media Player

Daily Kos Radio's Kagro in the Morning show podcasts are now available through iTunes.


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Did you happen to miss our last LIVE show? You can catch it here:

Greg Dworkin rounds up a long weekend's worth of stories. Dinesh D'Souza thinks he's MLK. A look back at the real man's work, his contemporary opposition, and today's tributes. SOTU previews from critics and others. Why the Gop still has no health care policy. Congressional Gop's "secret weapon" bypasses the filibuster, which used to be awesome at guaranteeing the Founders' intent, etc. Polling updates on the 2016 field, plus issues. Santorum Etch-a-Sketches his family's immigration history, and the microscopes turn to Jeb. And Billmon reads the electorate. Lauren Mayer's "Welcome Back, Mitter!" Politico's "The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership" entices Armando to call in on a range of gun-related issues, American Sniper and more. Another super-conservative caught doing pretty much everything she condemns.

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.