Thursday Morning ReadsPosted: December 2, 2010
In an interesting on-and-off again policy, the Obama administration announced an offshore drilling ban. This has heads spinning down here in the Gulf.
“We are adjusting our strategy in areas where there are no active leases,” Salazar told reporters in a phone call, adding that the administration has decided “not expand to new areas at this time” and instead “focus and expand our critical resources on areas that are currently active” when it comes to oil and gas drilling.
In March–less than a month before the BP oil spill–Obama and Salazar said they would open up the eastern Gulf and parts of the Atlantic, including off the coast of Virginia, to offshore oil and gas exploration. On both of those new areas, the administration said it would start scoping to see if oil and gas drilling would be suitable. The eastern Gulf remains closed to drilling under a congressional moratorium, but the White House indicated it would press to lift the moratorium if necessary.
Wednesday’s announcement is sure to please environmentalists while angering oil and gas companies as well as some lawmakers from both parties who have pressed for continued offshore energy exploration in the wake of massive Gulf of Mexico spill.
While the Democratic administration pleases environmentalists with the ban, Agent Orange probably has them unhappy with this move.
Created in 2007 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to draw attention to the causes and effects of climate change, the committee didn’t have much of a chance to survive the upcoming Republican takeover. Wednesday, the axe fell.
“We have pledged to save taxpayers’ money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “The Select Committee on Global Warming – which was created to provide a political forum to promote Washington Democrats’ job-killing national energy tax – was a clear example, and it will not continue in the 112th Congress.”
With the end in sight, Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) organized what was billed as an “all-star” cast of witnesses to testify Wednesday on the dangers posed by climate change.
If you’d like to see what the government considers ‘no oil left’ in the Gulf, here’s a good place to start. The blog The Gulf Oil Project, has some brand new photos up today. I see oil; lots of it.
The longtime residents of Perdido Beach are angry and frustrated; others just bury their heads in the sand and pray BP will go away. In Gulf shore sands stretching from Louisiana to Florida amphipods are hopping mad, isopods are flatly frustrated and mobile-home dragging hermit crabs are conspicuously absent this winter. They are just a few of the local folks that share theses beaches; make it what it is, and have become collateral damage in the war in the Gulf.
The normally tranquil beaches of the Gulf barrier islands are the kind of idyllic place where northerners flock by the thousands in winter. They have been coming here for generations – Sanderlings and Sandpipers from the Arctic, Turnstones from Maine, Plovers from Hudson Bay, Willets from the central grasslands – all have seen there seasonal beaches turned into a battle field; a mechanical minefield for those that work the tide-line for their very lives.
Robert Fisk looks at the diplomatic cables and into U.S. attitudes towards the Middle East in this provocative piece in The Independent.
It’s not that US diplomats don’t understand the Middle East; it’s just that they’ve lost all sight of injustice. Vast amounts of diplomatic literature prove that the mainstay of Washington’s Middle East policy is alignment with Israel, that its principal aim is to encourage the Arabs to join the American-Israeli alliance against Iran, that the compass point of US policy over years and years is the need to tame/bully/crush/oppress/ ultimately destroy the power of Iran.
There is virtually no talk (so far, at least) of illegal Jewish colonial settlements on the West Bank, of Israeli “outposts”, of extremist Israeli “settlers” whose homes now smallpox the occupied Palestinian West Bank – of the vast illegal system of land theft which lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian war. And incredibly, all kinds of worthy US diplomats grovel and kneel before Israel’s demands – many of them apparently fervent supporters of Israel – as Mossad bosses and Israel military intelligence agents read their wish-list to their benefactors.
He goes through a lot of the best cables from the region so you don’t have to. There’s some other news from the middle east. The first of a group of soldiers accused of killing of Afghans–for sport–has been sentenced. I’m kind’ve speechless here on the sentence but, maybe I’m missing something.
The first soldier to face a court martial in connection with alleged sport killings of Afghan citizens pleaded guilty to four of five charges against him Wednesday and was sentenced to nine months in military confinement.
Staff Sgt. Robert G. Stevens was also reduced in rank to private — the lowest grade in the Army — and ordered to forfeit all pay and allowances during his imprisonment.
The investigating officer, Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks, accepted Stevens’ plea and imposed sentence Wednesday night.
Stevens had asked the court to allow him to stay in the Army; the prosecution had asked for a dishonorable discharge.
Stevens is one of seven soldiers “facing charges of serious misconduct while deployed in Afghanistan,” the Army said in a statement.
The Catfood Commission report has got seven vote of confidence now. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and retiring ranking Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) said they would back the proposal. Getting it any where still appears to be a long shot, but they are trying.
To appeal to Democrats on the commission, the chairmen eliminated a provision that converted the federal share of Medicaid payments to a block grant. This would have prevented federal spending from increasing alongside rising Medicaid costs.
The new proposal also does more to spur on the short-term economic recovery by proposing $22 billion less in domestic spending cuts in 2013.
In a nod to Republicans, the chairmen proposed a temporary payroll tax holiday.
But the chairmen also retained a number of politically unpalatable provisions, including the proposed elimination of popular tax provisions like the mortgage interest tax break. They also kept a proposal to reduce Social Security benefits by gradually raising the retirement age to 68 by 2050 and to 69 by 2075.
The WSJ reports that the Bush Tax Cuts will likely be extended temporarily. There’s a lot of cyber ink being written on this topic. It appears to be the Republican Rubicon.
…conversations, described as preliminary, have taken place over the past few weeks. They have considered short-term extensions of a number of business and individual tax provisions that are expired or expiring, such as a popular research credit and middle-class protection from the alternative minimum tax. A likely outcome includes a one- to three-year extension of the Bush-era income tax rates and a two-year extension of the business provisions, according to aides. The package could include Democratic priorities such as extension of tax breaks that benefit the working poor, as well as further extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
An agreement on temporary extension of all the current rates and breaks would represent a breakthrough after months of partisan infighting. It would signal lawmakers’ intent to avoid the public outrage that could result if the two sides failed to reach a tax deal this month. Many retailers and economists worry that the tax increase could tamp down household spending and further weaken employment and the fragile recovery.
Underscoring that risk, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Douglas Shulman, sent a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday, warning that postponing extension of some breaks, such as a measure to diminish the bite of the alternative minimum tax, could be “extremely detrimental” and risk significantly delaying refunds.
The CSM reports that any extension of unemployment benefits will be held hostage until the Republican give rich people their tax cuts.
Efforts in the Senate to extend the unemployment benefits were trapped in a procedural wrangle and never allowed on the floor for consideration. It fell to Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts to object on behalf of the Republican Party to one proposed measure that required unanimous consent to move to the floor.
“We are in the midst of a historic economic crisis. I realize that,” he said. But to avoid ”burdening future generations,” the $56.4 billion measure must be offset with cuts elsewhere, he said. Senator Brown proposed tapping unspent federal dollars in other programs, such as the 2009 Obama stimulus plan.
Senator Reed objected, noting that the Republican plan to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts gives the wealthiest Americans a $700 billion tax cut that is also not offset – and, unlike the employment benefit, would not expire.
I can’t put the video here, but I can link to it. The Economist interviewed my economist hero Joseph Stiglitz over a hot cuppa. Stiglitz says were a ‘long way’ from back to normal and has concerns that we may have a very inadequate new normal. He doesn’t think unemployment will come down any time soon. He sees 5-10 years of a “Japanese-style malaise” especially because of austerity cuts being suggested by policy makers. He labels this “fiscal madness”. Stiglitz also says that “banks are undermining the rule of law in America” and that “bad mortgages still fester”. You’ll notice he’s not blaming the FED because that’s a red herring.
As you may know, I’m not much for TV. But, I may try to watch ‘The Kennedy Detail’ series starting on the Discovery Channel. The program features interviews with JFK and Jackie Kennedy’s secret service detail. It’s based on the book by Gerald Blaine.
Well, that’s enough from me this morning.