Monday, May 31, 2010

Robert Reich: "Why Obama Should Put BP Under Temporary Receivership"

Robert Reich:
It’s time for the federal government to put BP under temporary receivership, which gives the government authority to take over BP’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico until the gusher is stopped. This is the only way the public know what’s going on, be confident enough resources are being put to stopping the gusher, ensure BP’s strategy is correct, know the government has enough clout to force BP to use a different one if necessary, and be sure the President is ultimately in charge.

If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP’s north American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.

The Obama administration keeps saying BP is in charge because BP has the equipment and expertise necessary to do what’s necessary. But under temporary receivership, BP would continue to have the equipment and expertise. The only difference: the firm would unambiguously be working in the public’s interest. As it is now, BP continues to be responsible primarily to its shareholders, not to the American public. As a result, the public continues to worry that a private for-profit corporation is responsible for stopping a public tragedy.

Five reasons for taking such action...(scroll down)

Memorial Day and "A Trillion Dollar Turning Point?"

John Conyers:
As of 10:06 a.m., Sunday, May 30th, the United States will have spent $1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we approach this milestone, Americans of all political stripes should take a moment to consider what war spending on this scale means, not just in dollars spent, but in terms of opportunities lost to strengthen, invest in, and improve our country. While each of us intrinsically knows that wars have consequences, we are rarely presented with such a stark example of how the choice to pursue war at the expense of priorities at home impacts each of us.

What could we have purchased with this $1 trillion? Today, we might be enjoying the fruits of a green economy, spurred by New Deal-like investments in wind and solar. Perhaps we would have created a single-payer health care system and used this $1 trillion to provide health security to every man, woman, and child in the United States for an entire year. Or, we might have made the smart investments in our domestic law enforcement capabilities and homeland security apparatus to provide true protection from Al Qaeda and others who would wish us harm. Sadly, we'll never know, because our political leadership never explored alternative means of achieving peace, such as emphasizing rigorous regional diplomacy, and instead overextended our military forces abroad. MORE...

"How Much Oil Has Leaked Into the Gulf of Mexico? " (with video)

PBS (News Hour) with widget:
Nobody knows for certain how much oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico since last month's oil rig explosion. What we do have are estimates -- from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from outside experts, from British Petroleum -- of how fast crude is flowing out of two remaining leaks (a third was plugged Wednesday). MORE...
Howie P.S.: More from News Hour pundits Shields and Brooks on "President Obama's Response to Oil Leak," video (11:09). Long story short from Brooks, "sh$t happens" and from Shields, a "Waterloo" moment?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ralph Nader @ Evergeen State College on Health Care in the Corporatized USA (video)

TVW, video (82:00):
Consumer advocate and presidential candidate Ralph Nader speaks on the issue of health care on the campus of The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

I-1068 @ Seattle Folklife: "Volunteer footage from Saturday" (video)

Sensible Washington, with video.

Howie P.S.: Meet six volunteer signature gatherers (video).

"BP Agrees To Pay $69,200 Safety Fine For WA Refinery"

"The Deepwater Horizon rig last month.""
BP PLC (BP) agreed to pay a $69,200 fine for safety violations found at its Cherry Point refinery in Washington, the state's labor department said Friday.

The 225,000-barrel-a-day plant located near Blaine, Wash., received citations on May 5 for 13 serious safety violations for insufficient process-safety management issues following state inspections. BP also had the option to appeal the citations or request a meeting to discuss them.

Such safety violations are commonly found across the U.S. refining industry, which is the most frequent source of accidents or explosions related to chemical hazards.

"While it is good that BP has decided to correct the hazards without an appeal, we are disturbed that more than 10 years after the explosion that killed six workers at the Equilon refinery, our inspectors are still finding significant safety violations every time we inspect one of the refineries in the state of Washington," said Michael Silverstein, assistant director for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries' Division of Occupational Safety and Health. MORE...
Howie P.S.: More light reading for your holiday weekend: "Documents Show Early Worries About Safety of Rig" (NY Times). In the Wall Street Journal: "Frustration, Fury Greet Obama in Gulf." From the AP:
A Washington-based research group says two BP refineries in the U.S. account for 97 percent of "egregious willful" violations given by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab says BP has a "systemic safety problem." He told The Associated Press BP has not adequately addressed the issues, despite being fined more than $87 million.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prosecute BP, Protect the Environment, Develop Green Energy

"Ex-EPA Officials: Why Isn't BP Under Criminal Investigation?" (Jason Leopold-truthout):
Why hasn't the government launched a criminal investigation into BP?

That's the question several former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials have been asking in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig last month that killed 11 employees and ruptured a newly drilled well 5,000 feet below the surface and has spewed tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf if Mexico, which now stands as the largest spill in US history.

Like previous BP-related disasters in Alaska and Texas, evidence has emerged that appears to show BP knowingly cut corners on maintenance and safety on Deepwater Horizon's operations, which, according to blogger bmaz, who writes about legal issues at Emptywheel, could amount to criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. Additionally, because people were killed, BP and company officials could also face prosecution for negligent and reckless homicide.

Scott West, the former special agent-in-charge at the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, who spent more than a year probing allegations that BP committed crimes in connection with a massive oil spill on Alaska's North Slope in 2006, said the company's prior felony and misdemeanor convictions should have immediately "raised red flags" and resulted in a federal criminal investigation. MORE...

Gallup Poll: "Americans Shift From Pro-Energy To Pro-Environment During Gulf Spill" (TPM):
When it comes to making environmental policy in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf, Americans appear ready to embrace that old political adage, "let no crisis go to waste."

According to a new poll from Gallup out this afternoon, "preferences for prioritizing between environmental protection and energy production have shifted from a somewhat pro-energy stance to an even stronger pro-environment stance" during the period of the oil spill.

In the new poll, 55% of respondents say "protection of the environment" should be given priority over energy production. Thirty-nine percent say the opposite. Back in March, the split went the other way -- 50% prioritized energy production while 43% said environmental protection should come first.

The shift is good news for progressives, who of late have called on Democrats to use rising public wariness toward offshore oil drilling to push conservation-focused energy legislation through Congress. MORE...

"Hitler Was Not Gay!" Dan Savage on Countdown (video)

MoxNewsDotCom, video (07:22).

H/t to Darryl.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Report: "I-1068 at NW Folklife" (video)

sensiblewashington, video (01:09):
I-1068 volunteers stole the show at NW Folklife -- we had dozens of people out getting signatures for sensible marijuana reform in Washington state.


Houma Today:
A thick, 22-mile plume of oil discovered by researchers off the BP spill site was nearing an underwater canyon, where it could poison the foodchain for sealife in the waters off Florida.

The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science's Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume reported since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The plume is more than 6 miles wide and its presence was reported Thursday. MORE...

"Senate rejects exit timetable for Afghanistan"--Cantwell and Murray Voted "YEA"

The Senate rejected a proposal on Thursday to require President Barack Obama to submit a timetable for pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, despite unease among some members of his own party over the nine-year-old war.

The 80-18 vote nixed a bid by liberal Democrat Russ Feingold for a detailed troop timetable, which he argued would avoid future "emergency" war spending bills such as the $33 billion one now before the Senate.

Most members of the Democratic-majority Senate proved unwilling to dictate to the president, with a buildup of 30,000 additional troops still underway that Obama ordered to Afghanistan and a new military push in the Kandahar area.

Adopting Feingold's plan would "reinforce the fear ... that the United States will abandon the region," Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, said.

Levin said this was unwise as the Taliban is "doing everything it can" to convince Afghans that U.S., NATO and Afghan forces cannot protect them.

But several senators in Democratic leadership positions did back Feingold's call for an exit strategy. Supporters included Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin and senators Patty Murray, Byron Dorgan and Chuck Schumer.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, opposed the proposal. Reid, who is in a tight race for re-election in a western state, said this week that "I've felt no impatience about Afghanistan in my caucus." MORE...
Howie P.S.: I spoke to Maria Cantwell's DC office this morning and was assured she voted YEA, as well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Obama Needs To Stop Deferring To Foreign Oil Giant BP And Start Calling The Shots"

The Wonk Room (Think Progress):

Obama call shots

The catastrophic explosion of the Deepwater Horizon exploratory rig off the coast of Louisiana one month ago cost eleven lives and now threatens the entire Gulf of Mexico with ecological devastation. BP, the foreign oil giant responsible for the disaster, has claimed it was unforeseeable and inconceivable, despite an industry history of similar accidents and years of warnings.

There are obvious limits to how much control the federal government can exert over the frantic and so far hapless effort to stem the catastrophic oil eruption that threatens the entire Gulf of Mexico with ecological devastation. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has recognized the sobering reality the government does not have the equipment or technical expertise to simply shove aside BP and its industry partners:

This administration has done everything we can possibly do to make sure that we push BP to stop the spill and to contain the impact. We have also been very clear that there are areas where BP and the private sector are the ones who must continue to lead the efforts with government oversight, such as the deployment of private sector technology 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface to kill the well.

But if government has little choice but to keep the perpetrator on the job at the immediate crime scene, it does have a choice when it comes to operations beyond the urgent task of quelling the erupting well. In addition to the efforts to stop the leaks, BP now controls claims processing, environmental contractors on land and sea, volunteer assistance, access to the disaster site, and data collection.

Federal and state governments in the gulf must take greater charge of containing the ecological impacts and coordinating the response, as the President has full authority to do. This requires a greater mobilization than exists today, and Washington needs to send the message that it is in full command of the disaster response with the following actions: MORE...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Gulf oil spill live feed" and Carville goes off on Obama again (with video)

The Washington Pust links to BP's camera and offers these tips for viewing:
Breaking News Live Video Editor's Note: You may receive an error message or color bars and a tone in between live feeds. Due to the nature of live events, you may need to reload this page, press the play button to start the video feed or wait a few moments until the video begins.

Howie P.S.: You can also click on the "live feed" screen to be directed to the camera link. James Carville goes off, again, on Obama's lack of response this morning on GMA, with video (05:14).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mike Papantonio: "Gulf Leak Can't Be Stopped" (with video)

Heather (Crooks and Liars) with video (04:49):
Chris Matthews talked to Mike Papantonio about the rhetoric coming from the administration and BP on whether this volcano of oil gushing into the Gulf is going to actually be able to stopped or not and Pap is not so optimistic.

I'm so disgusted by this I'm beyond words. Why they didn't let Louisiana start putting up the berms to keep this oil out two weeks ago is beyond me and these dispersants they're allowing to be used are doing nothing but helping BP cover up how bad the oil spill is along with poisoning the waters of the Gulf.

The Obama administration has dropped the ball on this one and that's putting it mildly. All I've seen from BP is them trying to minimize how much oil is coming to the surface so no one knows how bad the leak is with these dispersants and thus minimizing how badly they might be sued and worrying about how much oil they can still pull from the reserve. MORE...

UW's Washington Poll on Marijuana Law Reform (I-1068): 52% YES

YES 52%
NO 35%

-from page 13 (scroll down).

Fmr. EPA Investigator Scott West: US Has Told BP "It Can Do Whatever It Wants and Won’t Be Held Accountable" (with video) with video and transcript from Democracy Now!---Pt 1 (09:17) and Pt. 2 (08:47):
To talk more about BP, we’re joined by a former top investigator at the Environmental Protection Agency. Up until his retirement in 2008, Scott West was a special agent in charge for the Criminal Investigation Division at the EPA.

In 2006, Scott West led an investigation of BP following a major oil pipeline leak in Alaska’s North Slope that spilled 250,000 gallons of oil on the Alaskan tundra. Before West finished his investigation, the Bush Justice Department reached a settlement with BP, and the oil company agreed to pay $20 million. At the same time, BP managed to avoid prosecution for the Texas City refinery explosion that killed fifteen workers by paying a $50 million settlement.

Scott West joins us from Seattle, where he now works for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Thank you very much for joining us, Scott West. Lay out that previous investigation that was shut down by the Bush Justice Department that you did. MORE...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sensible Washington: "Update On Seized I-1068 Petitions"

Philip Dawdy (Sensible Washington):
I wanted to give you all an update on the status of the signed I-1068 petitions which were seized by federally-funded WestNET personnel in a raid of the North End 420 Club in Tacoma two weeks ago. The 420 Club is operating as a medical marijuana dispensary.

Two of the seized petitions will be returned to us promptly, according to a WestNET detective I spoke with earlier this morning. They will be picked up by our Bremerton coordinator from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office evidence room, likely before the end of today.

These two petitions have been photocopied and I have asked WestNET to destroy those photocopies. They tell me they cannot without an agreement between the prosecution and defense because, well, that’s the way these things work. We will be working to make that agreement happen, but it will take some time. My sense of things, from talking with the WestNET detective, is that no one on the law enforcement side will oppose the destruction of those photocopies.

Why were they seized as evidence in the place? The WestNET detective I spoke with said their search warrant authorized them to take any kind of list or ledger they encountered during their search. That’s their explanation. I simply wish the officers who conducted the raid would’ve used a bit more discretion when they were grabbing lists and ledgers because I-1068 petitions are clearly marked as an initiative to the people and even have formal language directed to Secretary of State Sam Reed. Not exactly evidence of criminal activity.

The remaining problem is that the 420 Club people insist that there were 10 signed petitions seized in the raid and WestNET tells me they only have two and that they have gone through their evidence boxes from the raid and there are no other copies of the petition. So we’ve got a discrepancy here that I cannot account for. Neither can WestNET or the 420 Club. My hope is that these missing eight petitions will turn up later somewhere in the chain of evidence and be returned to us before July 2, our deadline to submit signed petitions to the Secretary of State.

My fingers are officially crossed both for the missing petitions and for the 420 Club people as they begin to defend themselves against charges all because our state’s medical marijuana law is vague–even the WestNET detective agrees with me on this–and offers slim protection to people providing physician-authorized medicine to legitimate patients.

The 420 Club raid is another example of why it is imperative to get I-1068 on the ballot, so if you haven’t signed the initiative please do so. If you’d like to volunteer to help gather signatures, please fill out our volunteer form right here and we’ll be in touch promptly. We only have until the end of June to get this done, so let’s all get this done.

Howie P.S.: Meanwhile,
Philip is "battling Live Nation, the people who operate the Gorge, for access for our volunteers at the Sasquatch Festival. They are denying us access and I am so mad I cannot see straight. Only about 99.9 percent of their audience and performers approve of our cause, so why the denial is beyond me."

Firedoglake on WA I-1068: "Feds seize 200 legalization petition signatures‏"

Jane Hamsher (Firedoglake):
A federally funded drug task force seized as evidence up to 200 petition signatures for marijuana legalization in Washington State in a series of early-morning raids this week. Seizing the petition signatures is bad enough. What's worse is what the task force did on its raids of a legal marijuana dispensary and its owner's home.

Drug agents handcuffed a 14-year-old boy and pointed a gun at his head. Then they took $80 from a 9-year-old girl's Minnie Mouse wallet that she earned for straight A's on her report card.

Now the drug agents - funded by the US Department of Justice - say they can only find two pages of the petition. But they had time to make photocopies of the petition, keeping the names and addresses of residents who signed.

We started our own petition demanding the release of the seized signatures that we'll deliver to the task force headquarters next week.

Sign our petition to demand the federally funded drug task force release all 200 petition signatures and destroy any other copies.

Ironically, it's this kind of reckless waste of time and money that makes marijuana legalization a safer, smarter alternative than the failed war on drugs.

Sensible Washington is the group whose marijuana legalization petitions were seized by the federally funded agents. The group is well on its way to let Washington State residents vote on legalization on the November ballot, but this raid can put it in jeopardy.

The intended effect of this raid is to put a chill on other citizens from signing the petition, who will fear having their names and addresses exposed to a drug task force. It's intimidation, pure and simple. And your tax dollars are paying for it.

That's why it's important we speak out about this gross violation of first amendment rights. We need to make sure that not only is every petition signature returned, but any other copies must be destroyed.

Demand the drug agents give back all of the seized petition signatures and destroy any copies they made. Sign our petition here:

The only thing these petition signatures are evidence of is an exercise in democracy. Thanks for standing with us,

Jane Hamsher

Chuck Todd Grills Axelrod on Obama and the BP Spill (video)

MSNBC, video (08:41).

Howie P.S.:
Meanwhile, Jefferson Parish (LA) "officials commandeer BP's hired boats in Grand Isle."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

WA I-1068: We "have now done more with less than any other organization in initiative history"

Photo by Hannah Winters

Sensible Washington:
We as a campaign have now done more with less than any other organization in initiative history, and this is your achievement. We continue to try to raise money for the campaign and are hoping for help as we have been contacted recently by a couple of coalitions that may help us. I had hoped to be able to augment our volunteeer effort with some help from paid signature gatherers and to be able to offer anyone currently with the campaign the option of working with the paid group. This has not happened and we cannot count on it happening. We must continue on with or without hope of help.

I believe that the campaign currently has 100,000 signatures or so. We need to get everything coming in on a continuous basis now so we can get accurate running counts so we really know what we have to do. Right now, I think we have about 220,000 signatures to go to hit our overall goal of 320,000. If we get help, great, then maybe we get to 420,000!

We have to go go go with a maximum effort and push or all we have already done will be wasted. We must get this on the ballot! There is no other way. If you believe in polls I will tell you something else: those same donors ran one, and it shows us winning if we can get I-1068 on the ballot! Let’s do it. Let’s go crazy and show em’ how its done! MORE...

Updated: Crude awakening---"Mr. President: Now Is the Time For Clean Energy" (with video)

Update: Peter Daou:"The Great Shame: America's Pathetic Response to the Gulf Catastrophe."

Robert Redford, with video (00:30):
I am glad that President Obama announced that he would appoint an independent commission to look at the causes of the blow out and determine what we must do to prevent this from ever happening again. This is an important first step in addressing the national tragedy and coming up with real solutions to prevent future drilling disasters.

But it is not enough.

Right now, the Senate has legislation on the table that would help move us in a new direction and put America back in control of its energy future. The American Power Act, drafted by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, is not perfect-- but it is a significant step toward cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, limiting carbon pollution, and encouraging businesses to shift to clean energy sources.

Unfortunately, the full Senate continues to stall -- weighed down by too much infighting and too many special interests. That's why we need the president to assert his voice and leadership by letting the Senate -- and the American people -- know that he is serious about getting clean energy and climate legislation passed this year.

Americans want action (PDF). It is time for President Obama to use the power of his office to make sure we clean up this mess, and get America on a path to cleaner, safer energy. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Until we approach this with the resources and focus we put into the "Man on the Moon" project or any of our various "wars" (military or not)---it'll be just more talk, smoke and mirrors. Or to put it another way: "THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Carville on Obama's Oil Spill Response: 'LACKADAISICAL AND NAIVE'

Laura Bassett (HuffPo):
Democratic strategist James Carville and MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, two reliable supporters of President Barack Obama, have issued withering critiques of the administration's handling of the Gulf oil spill.

Carville, the famously outspoken Louisianian who was a chief political aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday that the administration's response to the spill has been "lackadaisical" and that Obama was "naive" to trust BP to manage the massive clean-up effort.

"I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here," he said. "They're naive! BP is trying to save money, save everything they can... They won't tell us anything, and oddly enough, the government seems to be going along with it! Somebody has got to, like shake them and say, 'These people don't wish you well! They're going to take you down!'"

Carville also accused the White House of going along with what he called the "let BP handle it" strategy. MORE...

"Questions about Sen. Maria Cantwell" (with video)

AMERICAblog, with video (03:25):
So Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) was willing to filibuster the FinReg bill (along with Russ Feingold) to make sure all derivatives were traded through a clearinghouse, but at the same time she wants to protect the stunning tax give-away to some of the highest income earners in the country. MORE...

Friday, May 21, 2010

mcjoan (Daily Kos): "Cantwell, Kerry protecting tax breaks for wealthy at expense of unemployed"

mcjoan (Daily Kos):
Maria Cantwell was a bit of a hero yesterday for making the Senate continue to work on Wall Street reform, but news that she is fighting efforts to close a tax loophole that benefits money managers--a necessary revenue raiser for the upcoming unemployment extension and jobs bill--brings her right back down to regular politician status.

She's not alone, John Kerry and Patty Murray have joined her. Here's the deal...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cantwell votes "No" as "Senate Passes Financial Reform Bill, 59-39"

Cantwell echoed Feingold's concerns in a separate statement after the vote:

"While this bill takes much needed steps to help prevent a crisis of this magnitude from ever happening again, it fails to close the very same loopholes in derivatives trading that led to the biggest economic implosion since the Great Depression," Senator Cantwell said. "Throughout this debate I have fought hard against efforts to weaken this legislation as well as to pass language to strengthen it further. But the fact of the matter is, without key reforms in derivatives trading, this bill does not safeguard America's economy from a repeat of this crisis.

It sets up a process for responding the next time we have a financial crisis, but it doesn't prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again. We have to stop these kinds of dangerous activities. We need stronger bans on banks gambling with depositors' money. We need bright lines - like Glass-Steagall - that separate risky activities from the traditional banking system. We need to refocus our financial system away from synthetic bets and get more capital into the hands of job creators and Main Street businesses. There are good, strong provisions in this bill, and I'm proud of the work we did to get them in there, but I fear that without closing the loopholes primarily responsible for this economic meltdown, we are missing the entire heart of the matter." MORE....

"Seattle Speaks: Marijuana Policy" (video)

Seattle Channel, video (89:52):
Should marijuana be legalized in our state? Medical marijuana has been allowed for years but now the debate is changing. Join host C.R. Douglas as he moderates a live interactive community conversation about this controversial topic. With a group of panelists and a passionate audience, hear their stories and weigh in with your thoughts. Both live and online audience members can take a poll to gauge what people think about the possibility of legalizing pot.
Howie P.S.: Meanwhile, the War on Drugs continues.

"Democrats want criminal inquiry into BP"

Jake Sherman (Politico):
Eight Democratic senators asked the Obama administration Tuesday to open a criminal investigation into BP for allegedly making false statements to authorities about the ability to stop a massive oil spill.

Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee are taking aim at a BP statement in a Feb. 23, 2009, document submitted to the Minerals Management Service, in which the oil company claimed that “in the event of an unanticipated blowout resulting in an oil spill, it is unlikely to have an impact based on the industrywide standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses.”

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Democratic senators contrast the 2009 statement with BP’s May 10, 2010, press release, in which the company claims “uncertainties” with the methods used to stop the oil leak because “they have not been tested in these conditions before.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the EPW committee, is hosting Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Nancy Helen Sutley, chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, at a hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Boxer is joined in sending the letter to Holder by Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Tom Carper (Del.). Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders also signed the letter.
Howie P.S.: Feel better yet?

WA: "Bill Gates’s Dad Says the Rich ‘Aren’t Paying Enough’ in Taxes"--"Initiative 1098: Signature drive begins"

"Bill Gates’s Dad Says the Rich ‘Aren’t Paying Enough’ in Taxes" (Bloomberg):
Bill Gates’ father wants the Microsoft Corp. co-founder to pay more in income taxes.

Bill Gates Sr., a retired Washington state lawyer, supports a proposed ballot initiative that would require the state’s highest earners including himself and his son to pay an income tax. Washington now collects no personal income taxes.

“Poor people and middle-income people are paying too much to support the state and rich people aren’t paying enough,” Gates Sr. said in an interview yesterday in Seattle. “That’s the starting point for me.” MORE...
"Initiative 1098: Signature drive begins" (Joel
A state income tax has for years been the "third rail" of Washington politics, but a broad activist coalition on Wednesday night launched a signature drive to put Initiative 1098 onto the November ballot.

It would be the first time a tax reform measure, including an income tax, has been put to a public vote in nearly 40 years.

"It's been around the block several times," said former Seattle City Councilwoman Phyllis Lamphere, who held office in the early 1970s when popular Republican Gov. Dan Evans tried to reform the state tax system. Voters handed Evans his head, and then a year later re-elected him.

Even though unemployment was down in figures released Tuesday, the state is still hurting. Painful cuts have hit education and government services, and Washington is burdened with what Bill Gates Sr. told supporters is "the 50th -- the last -- state in terms of the regressivity (sic) of its tax system. MORE...
"Memo to Tim Eyman: Ballot title changes to I-1098 don't hurt the measure's chances" (Andrew-NPI Advocate):
Over at The Olympian's Politics blog, reporter Brad Shannon has a recap of yesterday's happenings in Thurston County Superior Court, where Judge Richard Hicks ruled on the final ballot title language for Initiative 1098, the new version of the high-earners income tax proposal championed by William Gates Sr. MORE...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cantwell and Feingold Block Bank Reform: "WE NEED TO MAKE IT BETTER"

Arthur Delaney and Ryan Grim (HuffPo):
There were some unusually Johnsonian moments of wrangling on the floor during the nearly hour-long vote. Reid pressed his case hard on Snowe, the lone holdout vote present, with Bob Corker and Mitch McConnell at her side. After finding Brown, he put his arm around him and shook his head, then found Cantwell seated alone at the opposite end of the floor. He and New York's Chuck Schumer encircled her, Reid leaning over her with his right arm on the back of her chair and Schumer leaning in with his left hand on her desk. Cantwell stared straight ahead, not looking at the men even as she spoke. Schumer called in Chris Dodd, who was unable to sway her. Feingold hadn't stuck around. Cantwell, according to a spokesman, wanted a guarantee on an amendment that would fix a gaping hole in the derivatives section of the bill, which requires the trades to be cleared, but applies no penalty to trades that aren't, making Blanche Lincoln's reform package little better than a list of suggestions.MORE...

CBS News: "Coast Guard Under 'BP's Rules'" (video)

CBS News, video (01:05):
Kelly Cobiella reports that a CBS News team was threatened with arrest by Coast Guard officials in the Gulf of Mexico who said they were acting under the authority of British Petroleum.

"Howard Dean Tells TPMDC: 'Big Night' For Progressives"

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in an interview that Tuesday's elections look like a "pretty big sweep" for progressives. "They are having a big night," he said.

"My belief is that progressive Dems are a lot more appealing to mainstream voters than tea party advocates," Dean told me in an interview just after Rep. Joe Sestak was declared the winner over Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary. MORE...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Tar balls found along shore in Key West"

Tar Balls found in Key West as reports grow that oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident has been captured in the Gulf Loop Current, destined for the ecologically sensitive Florida Keys. The balls will be investigated to determine their source.

Miami Herald:
The Coast Guard reported that 20 tar balls were found Monday night along the shore at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West. Samples are being sent to a laboratory for analysis.

As BP engineers continue to work on Tuesday to contain and eventually plug the deep sea oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists tracking the spread of oil disagreed on whether it had entered a powerful ocean current that could carry the crude as far east as Florida and potentially damage sensitive reefs in the Keys.

On Monday night, the Coast Guard reported that 20 tar balls were found along the shore at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West. Samples of the tar balls -- found by park rangers and ranging in size from three to eight inches in diameter -- will be sent to a laboratory for analysis, according to the Coast Guard. MORE...

Nate Silver on "Mini-Super Tuesday" on DemocracyNow! (video)

Democracy Now! with video (14:35):
It’s Mini-Super Tuesday, the biggest primary day of the 2010 election cycle. All eyes are on three key Senate primaries: Democratic incumbent Arlen Specter vs. Congress member Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania; two-term Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln vs. Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter in Arkansas; and on the Republican side, Secretary of State Trey Grayson vs. political newcomer Rand Paul in Kentucky. We speak to leading pollster Nate Silver of the polling analyst site [includes rush transcript]

"Seattle Speaks: Marijuana Policy" (Get free tickets or watch live online)

Seattle Channel:
Seattle Speaks is a live, interactive show on Wed. May 19 at 7 p.m. Get free tickets or watch on cable channel 21 or online.

Washington State allows the use of medical marijuana, but should we go farther? Join the conversation with host C.R. Douglas as we discuss public safety concerns, cost issues and more surrounding the possibilities of regulating marijuana.

Upcoming Broadcast Times:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 7:00 p.m. (LIVE)
Thursday, May 20, 2010 3:30 a.m.
Thursday, May 20, 2010 2:00 p.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 6:30 a.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 11:00 a.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 3:00 p.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 3:30 a.m.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 23, 2010 2:30 a.m.
Sunday, May 23, 2010 9:00 a.m.
Sunday, May 23, 2010 4:00 p.m.

Alter: "Secrets From Inside the Obama War Room" (with video)

Jonathan Alter (Newsweek) with video (01:15):
The first of 10 "AFPAK" meetings came on Sept. 13, when the president gathered 16 advisers in the Situation Room in the basement of the White House. This was to be the most methodical national-security decision in a generation. Deputy national-security adviser Tom Donilon had commissioned research that backed up an astonishing historical truth: neither the Vietnam War nor the Iraq War featured any key meetings where all the issues and assumptions were discussed by policymakers. In both cases the United States was sucked into war inch by inch. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Alter presents a portrait of a "tough guy" president who stands up tall before his military advisers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Seattle Speaks: Marijuana Policy" (Get free tickets or watch live online)

Seattle Channel:
Seattle Speaks is a live, interactive show on Wed. May 19 at 7 p.m. Get free tickets or watch on cable channel 21 or online.

Washington State allows the use of medical marijuana, but should we go farther? Join the conversation with host C.R. Douglas as we discuss public safety concerns, cost issues and more surrounding the possibilities of regulating marijuana.

Upcoming Broadcast Times:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 7:00 p.m. (LIVE)
Thursday, May 20, 2010 3:30 a.m.
Thursday, May 20, 2010 2:00 p.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 6:30 a.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 11:00 a.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 3:00 p.m.
Friday, May 21, 2010 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 3:30 a.m.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 11:00 a.m.
Saturday, May 22, 2010 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 23, 2010 2:30 a.m.
Sunday, May 23, 2010 9:00 a.m.
Sunday, May 23, 2010 4:00 p.m.

FREE!! "Seattle Speaks: Marijuana"‏ (Updated)

UPDATE: You can watch the event LIVE ONLINE HERE.

Town Hall Seattle:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 7 – 9pm
Downstairs at Town Hall, enter on Seneca Street

For just over a decade, Washington State has allowed the use of medical marijuana, but some say we should go farther. How do you think we should regulate marijuana generally? Broadcast live and online at the Seattle Channel, this 90 minute interactive forum will lay out the history of marijuana policy locally and nationally, explore the potential revenues/costs associated with policy changes, discuss the potential for addiction, and the implications for our neighborhoods. Panelists will be drawn from across the spectrum of science, policy, enforcement and advocacy. C.R. Douglas will moderate the conversation “in the round”, to offer you a chance to share your opinions, and electronic polling during the event will gauge responses from both the live and online audiences.

Admission is free, but registration is required at

Take a Pre-Event Poll on Your Attitudes on Marijuana

Howie P.S.: "Sting, Soros, Montel And More: We Are The Drug Policy Alliance" (Ethan Nadelmann):
We are Americans who are embarrassed and disgusted that our nation leads the world in incarceration. And we are people from all around the world who wish that the U.S. - and other governments as well - would ground their drug policies in science, compassion, health and human rights. We are people who work tirelessly to advance the incremental drug policy reforms that can help people today and tomorrow, and we are the visionaries who never forget that our struggle is ultimately about changing the ways we deal with drugs in global society. That's why we are the Drug Policy Alliance.

"Right Wing Reacts With Rage To First Muslim American Miss USA: ‘An Odd Form Of Affirmative Action’"

Think Progress:
Last night, the Miss USA pageant crowned Miss Michigan Rima Fakih the 2010 Miss USA. Fakih, who hails from the large Arab American community in Dearborn, Michigan, is a Lebanese American and the first Muslim to ever win the crown. (Miss USA 1983 Julie Hayek was reportedly the first Arab American to get the title).

In winning the title, Fakih defeated first runner-up Miss Oklahoma Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, who garnered headlines when she responded to a judge’s question about immigration policy by saying that she was “perfectly fine” with Arizona’s radical new immigration law. Just as they erupted over Carrie Prejean’s loss in the Miss USA contest 2009, the right is again alleging a liberal bias against Woolard. But many more right-wingers are enraged over Fakih’s crowning:

– Conservative radio host Debbie Schlussel blamed Fakih’s win on a supposed “politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate” in America and labeled her a “Lebanese Muslim Hezbollah supporter with relatives who are top terrorists.” [5/16/10]

– Right wing pundit and Fox contributor Michelle Malkin ranted that “Fakih’s cheerleaders are too busy tooting the identity politics horn to care what comes out of her mouth” and that “the Miss USA pageant didn’t want to risk the wrath of the open-borders mob.” [5/16/10]

– Conservative author Daniel Pipes, who was briefly appointed by former President George W. Bush to the U.S. Institute of Peace, opined that “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.” [5/16/10]

– Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson complained that Woolard’s “informed opinion” may have cost her the crown, and said that Fakih may have won because we live in a “PC society.” [5/17/10]

“This is the real face of Arab Americans, not the stereotypes you hear about,” said Fakih supporter and Arab American Zouheir Alawieh following her win. “We have culture. We have beauty. We have history, and today we made history. … She believed in her dreams.”

Update--Fakih attended a Catholic high school and told pageant judges that her family celebrates both the Christian and the Muslim faiths.

"Miss Michigan shows Arabs' diversity" (with video)

Detroit Free Press with video (03:31):
Draped in a Guess dress, Rima Fakih glided
across the lawn of her parents' home in Dearborn
on a Friday night to greet her guests.
"Ahlan!" she exclaimed to a cousin, using the
Arabic word for "hello."
"How are you?" she then asked a friend in
English, beaming.
The blending of cultures -- Arab and American
-- was evident at Fakih's farewell party two
weeks ago as she prepared to leave for Las
Vegas, where she is to compete Sunday in the
Miss USA beauty pageant. The Dearborn resident
with roots in Lebanon hopes to become the first
Miss USA who is Arab American. MORE...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Updated: 60 Minutes: "Deepwater Horizon's Blowout" (video)

UPDATE: Amy Davidson (The New Yorker) with video from the US Navy (01:17):
“I have to say though I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle,” President Obama said this morning. He was talking about the testimony of executives from BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, the companies behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (and not, say, about his own game of make-believe with Hamid Karzai). “The American people cannot have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn’t.” So what is he going to do about it? (Bold by Howie).

CBS News, video (14:23), Part 1:
Scott Pelley speaks to one of the survivors of the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast who was in a position to know what caused the disaster.
Part 2 (11:59):
Scott Pelley investigates the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11, causing the ongoing oil leak in the waters off of Louisiana. One survivor talks about his harrowing escape and what happened after he got off the burning rig.
Howie P.S.: Jason Leopold Tweets "Story on BP whistleblower/Atlantis FIRST REPORTED BY ME that 60 mins swiped 2nite w/o credit after contacting me."

"SNL Takes on Oil Companies" (video)

SNL (NBC), video (02:26).
Howie P.S.: It's not as funny as it is realistic.

"Is Obama Serious About Ending the War on Drugs?"

Coletta Youngers (AlterNet):
Obama has promised to do away with the war on drugs. So far, policy is lagging.---The rhetoric has changed. According to new U.S. "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske, who heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Obama administration doesn't use the term "drug war" because the government shouldn't be waging war against its own citizens. In March 2009, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke described the opium poppy eradication effort in Afghanistan as "the most wasteful and ineffective program that I have seen in 40 years." He bluntly stated that the U.S. government had wasted millions of dollars on a counterproductive program that generates political support for the Taliban and undermines nation-building efforts. And in his trip to Peru this past April, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela noted that the fundamental problem is not coca cultivation itself, but poverty and inequality.MORE...

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Afghan war costs now outpace Iraq's"

"President Obama made clear Wednesday that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan would remain long after troops are withdrawn, a process he hopes to begin in July 2."

USA Today:
The monthly cost of the war in Afghanistan, driven by troop increases and fighting on difficult terrain, has topped Iraq costs for the first time since 2003 and shows no sign of letting up.
Howie P.S.: More of the bad news (which has been anticipated by opponents of Obama's Afghan strategy),here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"OFA/DNC phonebanking against Sestak and for Specter"

For years, Specter was a Republican. Sestak is a real Democrat. Doesn't OFA have better things to do?

If Specter wins, and I really hope he doesn't, I wonder how all of these loyal Democrats are going to feel when Specter isn't worried about Democratic primary voters anymore. Arlen Specter worries about one person: Arlen Specter. He's as craven as politicians get. So, win or lose next week, Specter will dump Obama and the Democrats if that's in his best interest. Everyone knows Obama can't count on Specter to "continue working on his behalf." Because Specter works on behalf of Specter.
Howie P.S.: No like.

Media Matters: "Myths and falsehoods about Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination"

Media Matters delves deeply into the weeds on the Kagan nomination. This is an exercise for which I can't develop an appetite even though my good friend Ari Melber says
Let's learn more about her. She's not Sarah Palin and she's not an umpire. Here's hoping the White House will free Elena Kagan. Or that she frees herself.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Sen. Cantwell questions BP America Pres & Chair Lamar McKay - who pays for Gulf Oil Disaster? " (video)

firedoglake, video (03:54):
Sen. Cantwell questions BP America Pres & Chair Lamar McKay - who pays for Gulf Oil Disaster?
H/t to Darryl.

Kerlikowske: "New drug control strategy signals policy shift"

The new drug plan encourages health care professionals to ask patients questions about drug use even during routine treatment so that early intervention is possible. It also helps more states set up electronic databases to identify doctors who are over-prescribing addictive pain killers.

"Putting treatment into the primary health care discussion is critical," Kerlikowske said in an interview.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointed to research showing that kids who reach their 21st birthday without developing an addiction are less likely to develop an addiction when they're older.

"The goal here is to prevent and treat substance abuse before it becomes life threatening," she said.

The policy shift comes in the wake of several other drug policy reforms since Obama took office. Obama signed a measure repealing a two-decade old ban on the use of federal money for needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV. His administration also said it won't target medical marijuana patients or caregivers as long as they comply with state laws and aren't fronts for drug traffickers.

Earlier this year, Obama called on Congress to eliminate the disparity in sentencing that punishes crack crimes more heavily than those involving powder cocaine.

Some drug reform advocates like the direction Obama is heading, but question whether the administration's focus on treatment and prevention programs is more rhetoric than reality at this point. They point to the national drug control budget proposal released earlier this year, for example, which continues to spend about twice as much money on enforcement as it does on programs to reduce demand.

"The improved rhetoric is not matched by any fundamental shift in the budget or the broader thrust of the drug policy," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors drug policy reform.

Nadelmann praised some of Obama's changes, but said he is disappointed with the continued focus on arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating large numbers of people.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Joe Bageant: "Lost on the Fearless Plain"

Joe Bageant:
The big problem at the moment though, for us as sentient beings, is:

What to do when I get out of bed each day? Give money to the Democrats? Move out of the country? Stay and fight the bastards?

Throwing money at frauds and fools doesn't work. Moving to Mexico or Canada takes money in a time when money and jobs are scarce everywhere. As for staying and fighting, really fighting, there is not one person reading this who is going to go strangle the sleazy fucks having martinis on Wall Street with their pet Senator. Nobody reading this is going to instill genuine physical fear, which is the only thing such lizards might respond to. We are left to work within the system, as per the hologram's directive. Their system. Ha! MORE

"Meet Elena Kagan" (video), video (03:22)

Seattle: "Panhandling legislation vetoed"

Timothy Harris (Real Change):
Last week, as nearly everyone by now knows, Seattle’s newest panhandling legislation was vetoed by Mayor Mike McGinn. Few believe that Licata, Harrell, Rassmussen, or O’Brien can be flipped to make a veto-proof 6-3 council majority. The ordinance, one of five points of a public safety plan offered by Tim Burgess, appears dead.

Most media coverage has been hostile to the to the point of hysteria. The Seattle Times published a vindictive, near-libelous editorial about the council vote. KING5 dishonestly counter-posed the veto and the mayor’s refusal to commit to 20 new cops on the news anchor’s preferred timeline. On KCTS Connects, a news analysis panel — with Republican strategist Chris Vance, long-time Democratic party strategist Kathy Allen, Joni Balter from the Seattle Times, and the PI’s Joel Connelly editorial board — engaged in something akin to Orwell’s 5-Minute Hate. They said the mayor had just lost mainstream Seattle with his “out of touch” leftism. Balter predicted that women voters would abandon in droves those who opposed this ordinance. She called O’Brien a puppet and McGinn “the ventriloquist.”

When the downtown interests lose a round, ugly spectacle ensues. If ever the need for independent media voices has been apparent, it is now.

The best thing that could happen now is for everyone concerned about Seattle safety — and this includes the mayor, all the councilmembers, Real Change, the ACLU, the NAACP and homeless advocates — to work on the real problems with which we are faced: gang activity, open-air drug dealing and the violence that follows, rising youth violence in the South End. More effective deployment of police is part of the solution. Increased mental health services, expanded treatment options and increased human services outreach would help a lot as well. We all agree on this.

The worst thing that could happen is that we quickly find ourselves back in the same place, pouring our energy into a divisive fight that misidentifies the problem and punishes those who have the least for an economy they don’t control.

Either way, we’ll be there, organizing to win. Please support Real Change’s Spring Fund Drive. Our success this year, our capacity to organize, our quality weekly reporting, all depend upon your reader support. Visit our website at, or send your gift to Real Change, 2129 Second Ave., Seattle, 98121. Thank you.

Democracy Now!: "Pioneering African American Actress, Singer and Civil Rights Activist Lena Horne, 92, Dies" (with audio and video)

Democracy Now! with audio and video (14:17):
Lena Horne enjoyed a six-decade singing career on stage, television and in film. She was the first black woman to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio. She helped break racial boundaries by acting alongside white entertainers, but she was segregated on screen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South.
In the 1950s, she was blacklisted in part because of her friendship with Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois. In 1963, Lena Horne took part in the March on Washington alongside Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry, that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation. We air a rare 1966 interview with Lena Horne from the Pacifica Radio Archives and speak to her biographer, James Gavin. [includes rush transcript]

"Senator Sanders Unfiltered: Real Financial Reform, Now!" (video)

UPDATE: Ben Smith reports on the "Bipartisanship of the fringe" that backed the "Audit the Fed" bill which just passed 96-0 in the Senate.

bravenewfilms, video (04:45):
"As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, this is what I said on the floor of the House in 1999 as I voted against the major bank deregulation bill: This legislation, in its current form, will do more harm than good. It will lead to fewer banks and financial service providers; increased charges and fees for individual consumers and small businesses; diminished credit for rural America; and taxpayer exposure to potential loses should a financial conglomerate fail. It will lead to more mega-mergers; a small number of corporations dominating the financial service industry; and further concentration of economic power in our country.

Frankly, it didn't take a PhD in finance to reach that conclusion. If you give unlimited license to Wall Street speculators, no one should be surprised when the result is greed on steroids."