These Are The People In Your Neighborhood

Went to an after-work rally in Toledo last night to oppose the anti-union bill that is moving through the Ohio legislature. There was a steady cold rain and the turnout was still quite good. The gathering was near the intersection of two busy roads, and we got lots and lots of support from rush hour drivers, blowing their horns and waving.

Having attended many lefty-liberal-political rallies over the years, I have to say the composition of this crowd was really interesting. I cannot recall standing next to a group of off-duty policeman holding signs while the hippie at the podium plays the harmonica before. Former Fox News personality turned very unpopular governor John Kasich has certainly brought people together.

The other thing that occurred to me, standing there listening to the fireman with the bullhorn, was that a lot of the workers attending the rally appeared in the coloring book I got in kindergarten. “Your Community”, I think it was called. I don’t know if you got one of those at public school, but I think you know what I mean. There’s the brick schoolhouse, the teacher, the school bus driver and the crossing guard in the foreground, with the police officer waving the fireman in the fire truck through the 4-way stop in the background. That’s what came to my mind.

This is what comes to radical Republican and morality expert Rick Santorum’s mind when he views the same crowd, apparently:

“Just call them what they are. Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools”.

Just insane, that these people and places are now portrayed as sinister and scary. I don’t care how many times paid conservative mouthpieces repeat this utter nonsense, when you’re standing next to these completely ordinary but all-of-a-sudden reviled public workers, the carefully orchestrated national campaign against public workers seems bizarre.

Anyway, here’s a coupla links if you’re in Ohio and want to see for yourself. I’ll be at one of the Saturday morning rallies.

Here We Are, Again

This came up during the debate on climate change legislation, and I haven’t seen it addressed. That I haven’t seen it addressed doesn’t mean much: I don’t follow environmental issues. I do know how debates degenerate, however, and how nuance gets lost, and I sometimes pal around with environmentalists.

Ten moderate Senate Democrats from states dependent on coal and manufacturing sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday saying they would not support any climate change bill that did not protect American industries from competition from countries that did not impose similar restraints on climate-altering gases.

The letter warned that strong actions to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases would add to the cost of goods like steel, cement, paper and aluminum. Unless other countries adopt similar emission limits, the senators warned, jobs will migrate overseas and foreign manufacturers will have a decided cost advantage.
The 10 senators were Evan Bayh of Indiana; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Robert C. Byrd and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia; Bob Casey and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania; Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; Al Franken of Minnesota; and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

As I understand it, the midwestern liberals, Levin, Stabenow, Brown, Franken and Feingold had three concerns: manufacturing, agriculture and home heating costs.

Climate change legislation, of course, failed, so now the focus shifts to the E.P.A.:

But there is a Plan B. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases like CO2 could be considered pollutants and gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to regulate them under the Clean Air Act. Although that authority went unused in the waning days of former President George W. Bush’s Administration, the Obama EPA has spent much of the past year preparing the groundwork for regulation. In the absence of a climate bill, the EPA has the power — and is legally mandated by the Supreme Court — to step in and address carbon emissions.

And….. Senator Brown has the same problem he had in 2009:

The coal industry and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, don’t agree on much. But both are trying in their own ways to stop President Barack Obama’s administration from imposing rules this year on new or upgraded power plants and large factories that use coal because, both say, the rules would hurt Ohio manufacturers and consumers.

The political context cannot be ignored, say players in this debate, because Brown would be hammered with TV and radio commercials if he favored environmental rules that critics say will drive up energy prices and lead to job losses. But they also say they believe Brown’s interest in stalling immediate regulation is based on a genuine concern for manufacturers and jobs in a state that relies heavily on coal for its electricity.

Sherrod Brown (who is my Senator) is a liberal populist. He was a liberal populist in the House before it was fashionable, and he’s a liberal populist in the Senate. He has a consistent liberal voting record, and has probably earned the benefit of the doubt. I think he has a valid argument. Before we set this up as Sherrod Brown and the polluters versus the EPA and the Clean Air Act, can we discuss the concerns of Brown, Franken, Stabenow, etc. within the context of EPA regulation of greenhouse gases?

Republicans and conservatives have decided not to engage at all in any practical or serious way on this issue, as on all other issues, so just put them in the “no solutions” column. Fine. What about Democrats and liberals? Do we have a real problem here?

A Real Predicament

In local news:

West Virginia is at least $1 million short of the funds its regulators need to oversee drilling in the booming Marcellus shale natural gas field, the state’s environmental chief told lawmakers Tuesday.

Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman asked the House Finance Committee to consider the hefty permit fee hikes his department seeks this session.

Outlining the budget his office has requested for the upcoming fiscal year, Huffman explained that Marcellus drillers now pay the same $650 as their shallow-well counterparts. But the cost of regulating each type of well differ considerably, Huffman said.

Tapping the vast, mile-deep shale field requires an unconventional horizontal drilling method. To extract gas, operators must fracture the rock with a high-pressure, high-volume mix of water, chemicals and sand.

Huffman said DEP’s Oil and Gas office issued permits for 1,500 wells last year. While down from the 3,200 permits granted in 2007 and 2008, the number of horizontal wells increased during that time, he said.

“Our revenues dropped by over $1 million. We’re actually in an underfunded, understaffed situation as it exists today,” he told the committee. “We’re in a predicament, to say the least, in the Office of Oil and Gas.”

DEP has proposed increasing the fee to $10,000, in legislation introduced Monday. Huffman said the resulting revenues would fund the additional inspectors needed, while also covering costs of other regulatory provisions in that bill.

But industry groups have objected to the fee hike, and to other rules sought in the pending bill. Delegate Larry Border, R-Wood, asked why Huffman did not propose the fee increase in a separate bill.

These guys are going to make billions of dollars, and no doubt leave an environmental disaster in their wake, but god forbid they pony up a pittance in tax dollars to make sure they aren’t poisoning the watershed or blowing up neighborhoods. The invisible hand wouldn’t have it any other way- they like the regulators underfunded and understaffed. It’s much better that way, because then when shit blows up they can say “HOOCOODANODE!” and blame the regulators.

The move the Corporation is correct- the corporate citizen is a sociopath. If you keep reading the piece beyond what I linked, you will note that there is also work in progress to force homeowners who do not want drilling on their property to give up the rights to the gas underneath them, so the drillers can drink their milkshake from a neighbor’s yard. Ain’t the free market grand?

Two Losers

I wasn’t able to follow the lame duck session closely, because the weeks prior to the holidays in this office are ordinarily filled with crisis and drama and last-minute filings, plus, I had to decorate two Christmas trees and talk a lot about possibly baking cookies.

I was catching up, and read this on START:

Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who led the floor fight for the treaty, said the vote will move the world away from the risk of nuclear disaster. “The winners are not defined by party or ideology,” he said. “The winners are the American people, who are safer with fewer Russian missiles aimed at them.”

Which got me thinking about John McCain and John Kerry, and how the two men were and are portrayed, and how things have turned out, in real life.

McCain and Kerry have quite a bit in common. Both long-term Senators, both lifetime “government employees”, both veterans, hell, they both married wealthy women (the second time around), so there’s some similarity even in their personal lives.

They’re also members of a very exclusive club. They both lost Presidential elections.

And that’s where the similarities end.

After John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, he returned to the Senate and simply did his job there, and he’s continued to do his job there.

Kerry lost, big, on climate change this year and he still rallied and led on START, rather than booking time on cable shows to bitch.

Kerry didn’t subject the country to two years of bitter griping, temper tantrums and petulant demands. Kerry didn’t pursue purely personal vendettas against whole groups of voters who (allegedly) “betrayed” him. Kerry didn’t flip-flop on each and every policy position he has ever held. He voted and votes the same way he always did. John McCain, remarkably, considering what we were told about him, has done all those awful things since his loss in 2008.

In the 2004 Presidential election, political media and pundits portrayed John Kerry as an elitist, foppish, slightly silly “flip-flopper” who lacked character and core convictions. The same political media and pundits lovingly and carefully nurtured the fairy tale that John McCain is a rock-ribbed, Country First, straight-shooter. Events since tell a radically different story.

How can this be? Wasn’t this script supposed to run the other way? Could they have been more wrong?

Every Day is a Bad Day

Bill Gates:

Energy innovation is not a nationalistic game. If tomorrow some other country invented cheap energy with no CO2 output, would that be a bad day or a good day? For anybody who’s reasonable, that would be, like, the best day ever. If all you care about is America’s relative position, every day since the end of World War II has really been bad for you. So when somebody says to me, “Oh, the Chinese are helping to lower the cost of it, or creating something that emits less CO2,” I say, “Great.” The Chinese are also working on new drugs. When your children get sick, they might be able to take those drugs. [emphasis mine]

I always assumed Gates wasn’t a Real American, and his denial of our true, exceptional position as Number One country forever and ever, Amen, thank you Jesus, is just another example.

That whole interview is worth reading. Gates doesn’t have any special insight into climate change or energy policy, but he clearly and unemotionally articulates a set of facts about energy and climate change that would cause the average conservative to have an apoplectic fit. I was struck reading it how much of conservative politics are based on denial and its kissing cousin, exceptionalism.