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Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Democrats Are Actually Running the House

Jesse Berney
SenDemsThe 114th Congress is off to a roaring start. The Senate and House have sent just two newsworthy bills to the president’s desk: approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and a one-week funding bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security running.
The pipeline bill was a symbolic measure; the president made good on his threat to veto it, and Congress doesn’t have the votes to override it.
That means one significant bill has passed into law so far, and all it did was keep DHS’ doors open for seven days while Congress tries to figure out what to do next.
And that bill only passed because Democrats voted for it.
John Boehner has virtually no control over his caucus. It’s easy enough to marshall Republican votes to pass symbolic conservative nonsense that will never make it into law. If you need a vote to repeal Obamacare, he’s your guy.
But when you need a bill to keep the government running, time and again Boehner has crossed the aisle, hat in hand, to ask Democrats to get the job done.
This is what happens when your caucus is populated with politicians beholden to (and terrified of) the most extreme elements of your party. When your second-in-command loses his primary race to a Tea Party challenger, you can bet the rest of the Republicans won’t see loyalty to you as their top concern.
What this means is that the most powerful person in the House is no longer John Boehner. It’s Nancy Pelosi, who has no trouble whipping up the votes she needs when Boehner needs an extra hand.
Congress just squeaked out a DHS funding extension last week, and it took Democratic votes to do it. We’re going to see this pattern repeated over and over in this Congress.
The GOP will pass lots of bills without Democratic votes to be sure, but those bills will be dead the moment they leave the House. When it comes to the votes that keep the doors of the government open, it will be Democrats ultimately calling the shots.

OK, Who did it ...


Senate Democrats Block Boehner’s Last Chance At Escaping His Homeland Security Crisis

Harry Reid, Tim Kaine, Mazie Hirono, Elizabeth Warren, Angus King
Senate Democrats blocked the motion to negotiate with the House on the Homeland Security funding bill that means that John Boehner is both out of options and quickly running out of time on his Homeland Security crisis.
The final vote 47-43. Republicans were 13 votes short of the number needed to move forward.
Before the vote Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told House Republicans that Democrats weren’t going to take part in Boehner’s charade:
Senate Democrats do not support going to conference because it will be counterproductive. Republicans have no intention of using a conference to craft legislation that will pass both Houses of Congress and prevent a shutdown of Homeland Security. House Republicans want to take a bill that they negotiated, a bill that was written by House and Senate Republicans and Democrats – a bipartisan, bicameral bill – and turn it into something that cannot pass.

Senate Democrats will not be a party to yet another Republican charade that will inevitably shut down the Department of Homeland Security and put our nation at risk. The Senate should reaffirm our bipartisan vote last Friday for a clean bill to prevent a shutdown. We had 68 votes and we can do it again. We should do it again.
Despite Boehner and the House Republican leadership’s claims that no deal has been made, House Democrats are telling their members that they will be voting on a clean funding bill for Homeland Security this week. Democrats have the option of using an obscure House rule to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, but it is more likely that Speaker Boehner is going to cave.
Even if Boehner doesn’t put the bill on the floor himself, it is clear that an agreement has been reached between House Democrats and Republicans. Speaker Boehner is running out of escape routes. Boehner doesn’t want to shut down Homeland Security, but the clock is ticking, and Democrats aren’t going to budge.

Boehner Caves And Plans To Allow Clean Funding Bill For Homeland Security

boehner-thumbs-up-485x311At around 11 A.M. Eastern Time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he would allow for a clean funding bill for Homeland Security on Tuesday. The embattled House Speaker said that the Senate’s Department of Homeland Security funding bill would be brought to the House Floor on Tuesday.
The contest over funding Homeland Security has become an epic fail for the House Speaker. He acknowledged that Democrats had won the fight, and took a jab at Senate Republicans, stating: 
Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell folded last week, knowing that the Senate lacked the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.
Boehner suffered considerable embarrassment on Friday when he couldn’t even marshal through a mere three week funding bill. He needed Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to bail him out, by supporting a one-week extension for Homeland Security.
Friday’s failure signaled Boehner’s inability to control the House GOP Caucus. Despite holding Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, McConnell and Boehner have proven impotent to govern, after their victories in the 2014 election.
Boehner’s capitulation sets up a potentially dramatic floor vote on Tuesday, which will decide the fate of Homeland Security funding. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who helped orchestrate passage of the one-week stopgap measure on Friday, applauded Boehner’s decision. Pelosi remarked:
Today, we have an opportunity, in a bipartisan way, to strengthen the homeland security of our nation. …We shouldn’t wait another day to remove all doubt to our enemies, to American families and to the affected workers that we will fully fund the Department of Homeland Security.
By staying unified and demanding a “clean funding” bill for Homeland Security, House and Senate Democrats stood firm in protecting Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. Congressional Republicans were outsmarted and outmaneuvered at every turn. John Boehner lost control of his caucus and was unable to undermine Obama’s executive action.
Boehner is an ineffective leader and not a very skillful parliamentarian. His actions on Tuesday are likely to further enrage the growing nihilistic right-wing in the Republican Party. How long he will survive as House Speaker remains to be seen. However, what is clear, is that Boehner has recognized that he is powerless to override the President of the United States. So on Tuesday, the humiliated House Speaker was forced to cave in and yield to allowing a clean funding bill for Homeland Security.

Obama and Democrats Crush Boehner As House Passes Clean Homeland Security Bill

Barack Obama,  John Boehner
John Boehner was handed a devastating defeat by being forced by Democrats to give President Obama exactly what he wanted. The House passed a clean bill to fund Homeland Security for the rest of the year.
The final vote was 257-167. Seventy-four Republicans voted for the motion, and no Democrats voted against it.
Before the vote, Boehner tried to put a happy face on his crushing defeat. According to Politico, Boehner said, “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this President. I believe this decision – considering where we are – is the right one for this team and the right one for this country. The good news is that the president’s executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight.”
Those who follow politics have seen this script play out many times before. House Republicans took the country to the brink of crisis. Boehner and company promise that they won’t yield, but in the end, the Speaker ends up giving President Obama and the Democrats exactly what they wanted.
If Speaker Boehner was trying to bury his latest cave underneath Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today, it didn’t work. House Republicans are the perpetual dogs who are always chasing their tails. The pointless wheel spinning in the House is why the so little legislation gets passed that has the potential to become law. Boehner’s House is so busy pandering and making ideological statements through symbolic votes that they are left with no time to and little interest in governing.
Voters, in mostly red states, gave Republicans control of Congress. What they have seen is the continuation of the same behavior that the Republicans blamed on Harry Reid when Democrats controlled the Senate. It has become painfully obvious even to those in the mainstream press who shy away from criticizing Republicans that the new GOP congressional majority is a dysfunctional embarrassment.
President Obama and the Democrats got exactly what they wanted. Homeland Security has been funded for the rest of the year, and the president’s immigration executive orders remain legislatively untouched.
Democrats are a strong and united party, and it is clear that it is President Obama and liberal Democrats who are firmly setting the agenda for the floundering Republican majority that is being haplessly led by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

Meanwhile ...


Boehner Stunt Backfires As NBC, CBS and ABC Don’t Televise Netanyahu Speech To Congress

netanyahu address to congressJohn Boehner and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conspiracy to humiliate President Obama and dominate the news backfired as the U.S. broadcast networks ignored the speech and refused to televise it live.
Netanyahu’s speech has contained nothing new that the American people haven’t heard from neo-cons for decades. Netanyahu broke out various scare tactics with the purpose of frightening the American people into opposing President Obama’s negotiations with Iran on a nuclear deal.
Republicans were hoping that they could divide Democrats and garner massive mainstream media attention by inviting Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, but Boehner’s handling of the invitation has proven to be wildly unpopular with the American people. Television networks were also scared off by liberal and progressive Democrats who refused to attend the speech.
Speaker Boehner tried to use a traditionally bipartisan platform to pull off a partisan political stunt, and for once the mainstream media didn’t play along. Boehner’s big gambit to assert his power failed, and Netanyahu delivered a stump speech for the voters back in Israel.
The Netanyahu speech was supposed to be a game changer for Republicans that would halt President Obama’s growing political momentum. Instead, Netanyahu was forced to cave to the political pressure generated by Boehner’s handling of the invitation by praising President Obama for being such a staunch supporter of Israel.
To put it mildly, that was not what Speaker Boehner had in mind.
The Netanyahu speech has been a debacle for Republicans. After Democrats had done a great job of exposing the speech as a partisan stunt, the U.S. broadcast networks didn’t give up airtime to carry it live.
In other words, another day means another failure for John Boehner.

It’s worse than Scott Walker and Ted Cruz: Secrets of conservatives’ decades-long war on truth

The wingnuts know that facts and reason have a liberal bent. 
That's why their decades-long strategy is to lie
by Heather Cox Richardson
It's worse than Scott Walker and Ted Cruz: Secrets of conservatives' decades-long war on truth
Deep on page 546 of his 1,839-page budget, Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker tucked in a crucial idea. He proposed to strip a principle from the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin, a school that attracts students from all over the nation and from 131 foreign countries. From the core philosophy that has driven the university since the turn of the last century Walker wanted to hack out the words: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.” Rather than serving the people of the state by developing intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, expertise, and “a sense of purpose,” Walker prefers that the state university simply “meet the state’s workforce needs.” In the face of scathing criticism, the governor backtracked and, despite a trail of emails that led to his office, tried to claim the new language was a “drafting error.”
But Walker’s attempt to replace the search for truth with workforce training was no error. Since the earliest days of Movement Conservatism in the 1950s, its leaders have understood that the movement’s success depends on destroying Americans’ faith in the academic search for truth. For two generations, Movement Conservatives have subverted American politics, with increasing success, by explicitly rejecting the principle of open debate based in reasoned argument. They have refused to engage with facts and instead simply demonized anyone who disagrees with their ideology. This is an astonishing position. It is an attack on the Enlightenment principles that gave rise to Western civilization.
Make no mistake: the attack is deliberate.
The Enlightenment blossomed in the wake of the religiously-inspired Thirty Years War of the seventeenth century, when thinkers horrified by the war’s carnage set out to break the fetters of superstition and tradition that had prompted the strife. Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Jefferson and other thinkers advanced the idea that if people could listen to reasoned arguments, weigh them against evidence and choose the soundest ones, progress would follow. The Enlightenment revolutionized science, culture and politics, and gave rise to the modern world.
Enlightenment ideals prompted America’s founding and reigned for generations as Americans searched for the best ways to manage the economy, changing demographics and international conflict. But in the 1950s, the idea of progress through reason presented a problem for wealthy businessmen. They hated New Deal legislation because it regulated business and protected workers. The boom years of the 1920s had been good ones for them, and they believed that the continued success of their enterprises depended on their complete control over their businesses and the workers they employed. They believed that government meddling in their affairs would disrupt natural economic laws. And with their downfall would come the downfall of the entire American economy, and with it, the nation.
But the problem was that the New Deal was extraordinarily popular. After an economic free-for-all of the 1920s that had pitched the nation into the Great Depression, Americans embraced the government regulation that reined in shady business dealings and protected workers. How could businessmen make inroads against such a popular program?
In 1951, a young William F. Buckley, Jr. articulated a strategy for opposing the consensus that supported New Deal policies. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom’” was a sophomoric diatribe by the Catholic son of a wealthy oil magnate, published by the small right-wing Henry Regnery Press. In it, Buckley rejected the principles that had enabled social progress for centuries and laid out a mind-boggling premise: The Enlightenment, the intellectual basis of Western Civilization, was wrong.
Rational argument supported by facts did not lead to sound societal decisions, Buckley claimed; it led people astray. Christianity and an economy based on untrammeled individualism were truths that should not be questioned. Impartial debate based in empirical facts was dangerous because it led people toward secularism and collectivism—both bad by definition, according to Buckley. Instead of engaging in rational argument, Buckley insisted, thinkers must stand firm on what he called a new “value orthodoxy” that indoctrinated people to understand that Christianity and economic individualism were absolute truths. Maintaining that faith in reasoned debate was a worse “superstition” than the Enlightenment had set out to replace, Buckley launched an intellectual war to replace the principle of academic inquiry with a Christian and individualist ideology.
Buckley’s radical idea didn’t go far at first, but Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy provided a new rhetorical tool to advance the Yalie’s intellectual premise. In the early 1950s, McCarthy revealed the power of the outrageous lie. He sought to gain power by claiming to defend Christianity and individualism from the secret plots of the godless Communists in the American government. Since he had no evidence to support his crusade, he replaced substantiated arguments with outrageous accusations designed to grab headlines and rile voters. There were 205 Communists in the State Department, he trumpeted, or maybe there were 57 “card carrying Communists” there: after newspapers reported his attacks, McCarthy quickly moved on to new accusations. By the time fact-checkers condemned his statements, new headlines made the corrections old news. McCarthy’s hit-and-run smears suggested that a compelling lie could convince voters so long as it fit a larger narrative of good and evil.
In the same year that McCarthy self-destructed in front of a national TV audience during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Buckley and his brother-in-law L. Brent Bozell turned Buckley’s ideological stand against academic inquiry into just such a narrative. In their telling, a few brave men were standing against an evil majority trying to destroy America. Their “McCarthy and His Enemies” (1954) conflated Soviet-style communism with the popular New Deal consensus. They claimed that Liberals—a name they capitalized to suggest an organized political group—were forcing communism on America. Opposing this cabal were “Conservatives,” who stood for God and individualism. Until they converted it into a capitalized label, conservatism was understood to be a political philosophy that embraced popular programs that had been proven to work–like the New Deal— and rejected radical political experiments based on ideology. Movement Conservatives coopted the word “conservative” to do exactly what traditional conservatives opposed: advance a radical program. “Movement” Conservatives rejected the American consensus. They wanted to purge the country of the Liberals who made up the majority and create a new “orthodoxy” based on the ideology of strict Christianity and individualism.
To press this radical political program, Buckley launched the National Review in 1955, announcing that government activism “must be fought relentlessly.” He railed against President Dwight Eisenhower, who had modified the New Deal consensus into his own “Middle Way.” Eisenhower’s policies just proved that a dangerous cabal controlled both parties under “such fatuous slogans as ‘national unity,’ ‘middle-of-the-road,’ ‘progressivism,’ and ‘bipartisanship.’” Such moderation was socialism, he insisted, and, although the American economy was booming, he insisted that the American consensus was destroying both economic growth and liberty. With the election of JFK, the National Review harped so furiously on the communism snaking into American society at his direction that, after Kennedy’s assassination, even the Republican Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren begged Movement Conservatives to stop their hateful rhetoric. Once again, Buckley spun language around, insisting that the troublemakers were the Liberals who were engaged in an “orgy of lynch excitement against the American Right.”
In 1960, a new voice added anti-intellectual populism to Buckley’s rhetoric. Political operative Phyllis Schlafly wrote “A Choice Not an Echo” to support Barry Goldwater’s quest for the presidential nomination. In her world, correct political decisions were simple: The nation was engaged in a great struggle between good and evil, and educated Eastern Elites who insisted on weighing the realities of a complicated world had enlisted on the wrong side. Elites complained that Goldwater “had one-sentence solutions” for complicated problems, she wrote, but simple solutions were the answer. Communism was bad, so anyone advocating government activism was evil. Elites arguing for government action were parasites. All they really wanted was money from government contracts, paid for by hardworking regular Americans.
This Manichean worldview led Barry Goldwater’s candidacy to grief in 1964 as voters recoiled from its aggressive irresponsibility, but with Ronald Reagan the Movement Conservative program gained the one new piece it needed to sell its ideology: a warm narrative. Reagan pushed Christianity and individualism with both lies and anti-intellectualism, but he did so with folksy stories and charm. He described a world of hardworking individuals threatened by “a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol,” and pushed policies that dramatically rolled back New Deal reforms. When opponents noted that his stories had little basis in fact and that his policies didn’t work as he claimed, he accused them of being haters and rallied supporters against the “Liberal media.” Journalists and opposing politicians first laughed but then looked on aghast as voters backed his warm fantasies over fact-based policy.
By the time of the George W. Bush administration, Movement Conservatives had constructed a post-modern political world where reality mattered far less than the popular story of Conservatives standing firm against the “Liberal agenda” of godlessness and communism. As a member of the Bush administration famously noted to journalist Ron Suskind, “the reality-based” view of the world was obsolete. It was no longer viable to believe that people could find solutions to societal problems by studying reality. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” this senior advisor to the president told Suskind. “We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Buckley’s intellectual stand had won. Facts and argument had given way to an ideology premised on Christianity and the idea of economic individualism. As Movement Conservatives took over the Republican Party, that ideology worked its way deep into our political system. It has given us, for example, a senator claiming words he spoke on the Senate floor were “not intended to be a factual statement.” It has given us “dynamic scoring,” a rule changing the way the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the economic impact of tax cuts, to reinforce the idea that cuts fuel economic growth despite the visibly disastrous effects of recent tax cuts on states such as Kansas. And it has given us attempts in Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado to discard the A.P. U.S. History framework and dictate that students learn instead the Movement Conservatives’ skewed version of the nation’s history. Politicians have always spun information to advance their own policies. The practice infuriates partisans but it reflects the Enlightenment idea of progress through reasoned argument. Movement Conservatives’ insistence on their own version of reality, in defiance of facts, is something different altogether.
When Governor Walker replaced “the search for truth” with “meet the state’s workforce needs” in the charge to the University of Wisconsin, he did not make an error. He was articulating the principle that has driven Movement Conservatives since their earliest days: Facts and arguments can only lead Americans toward a government that regulates business and supports working Americans, and they must be squelched. The search for truth must be replaced by an ideology that preserves Christianity and big-business individualism. Religion and freedom for mega-business, Movement Conservatives insist, is what America is all about.

The Terrifying Future Of Republican America Revealed In 27 Photos

by Elisabeth Parker  Two countries have major pollution issues, but — thanks to the Republicans — only one has any interest in doing anything about it. And it’s not us.
Pollution in China’s a serious problem, and we Americans sure love feeling superior to them. There’s just one problem: We’re not. The wealthy plutocrats who run this country aren’t just exporting America’s jobs to China, they’re also exporting our pollution. No minimum wage, safety or environmental regulations? A win-win. Plus, our Captains of Industry get to export their filthy oil and coal to China, too.
But wait… Not so fast. First, outsourcing our pollution to China is coming back to bite us in the butt. 29 percent of San Francisco’s particulate air pollution comes from China, according to ZME Science. Second, the Chinese government has begun taking major steps to address pollution in China. Sure, they’ve got a long way to go. But at least they’re moving forward. Here in America, we’re moving backwards.
Here’s what our future looks like.
LA Smog 1968 and Cuyahoga River fire 1969
Photo 1: Smog in Los Angeles, CA in 1968 (Herald-Examiner Collection photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Public Library via KCET). Photo 2: Cuyahoga River on fire, 1969 (Ohio History Central).
Remember this? These two photos shed some perspective on pollution in China. 50 years ago, the U.S. was just as bad. The photo on the left shows the high level of smog in Los Angeles, CA in 1968 (it’s still awful, but nothing like it was back then). The photo on the right shows Ohio’s Cuyahoga River in 1969, which was so polluted it caught on fire.
Americans were so horrified, lawmakers took action almost right away. First, we created the Environmental Protection Agency and strengthened the 1963 Clean Air Act in 1970. Then, we passed the Clean Water Act in 1972. That’s back when we used to get stuff done. Can you imagine John Boehner’s and Mitch McConnell’s Congress  moving that fast? Or doing anything to ensure that we all have access to clean air and clean water?
Hell, no. The GOP don’t need no stinkin’ Mother Nature. Apparently, their wealthy paymasters have found some other source of clean air and water. Kochs and company have put tons of money into bogus “studies” and “news” reporting so we’ll think solid climate science is up for debate. They’ve gotten us to think clean air and water is “bad for business,” that solar and wind power can’t work, that fossil fuels are clean and safe, and that it’s perfectly fine for us to drive huge monster trucks and SUVs.
Pollution used to be the price we paid for a rich economy, but it doesn’t have to be that way any more. We can embrace cleaner technologies and help our neighbors and trading partners do the same. We can force the heads of destructive companies to comply with clean air and water standards here and abroad by banning goods that don’t meet these standards.
Or, we can keep letting these companies do whatever the hell they want and keep voting for Republicans. In which case, we can all look forward to a future that looks like the photos below.
It’s morning in Republican America.
For those of you who are too young to remember, cities in the US looked an awful lot like the following photos from China. And if we let Republicans take down the EPA and roll back the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, this is what we’ll see in the near future.

Libertarian Dystopia

Republican senators pledge help if court bars health law subsidies

But wait - they're long on talk and have no substance whatsoever 
Democrats hit GOP plan for replacing Obama health care lawThree leading Republican senators are promising to help millions of people who may lose federal health insurance subsidies if the Supreme Court invalidates a pillar of President Barack Obama's health care law.
But in a Washington Post opinion article posted online late Sunday, GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orrin Hatch of Utah provide no detail on how much assistance they would propose, its duration or how they would pay for it. Nor do they address how they would overcome GOP divisions or Democratic opposition to weakening the law.
The article appeared days before Wednesday's oral arguments in a case brought by conservatives and Republicans that could upend the functioning of the 2010 health care law by invalidating the subsidies that help millions afford required health coverage. A decision is expected in June.
The senators' article is the latest political salvo that seems aimed as much at the court's nine justices as at the public. Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said nullifying the subsidies would cause "massive damage to our health care system."
Congressional Republicans unanimously opposed the law's creation and have long worked on plans to weaken and replace it. They have not united behind a specific proposal.
In their column, the three senators acknowledge that if their side prevails in court, 6 million Americans could lose subsidies and many would no longer afford coverage. They call the case "an opportunity" to reshape the law and say they "have a plan to protect these people and create a bridge away from" the statute.
"First and most important, we would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period," they wrote.
Without saying how, they wrote that they would also give states more flexibility to create their own health insurance marketplaces. And they blame the health law for problems like forcing many Americans to surrender their previous insurance and doctors.
"People do not deserve further disruption from the law," they wrote.
Democrats say the law has forced insurers to cover more benefits and cite figures showing a dramatic reduction in the number of uninsured Americans.
Plaintiffs in the case say the Obama administration has unlawfully given federal tax credits to Americans who have bought health coverage from federal insurance marketplaces serving 37 states, which are mostly run by Republicans. They say the law as written only permits that aid in the 13 states running their own marketplaces.
Democrats say people in all states qualify for assistance.
Alexander chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, Hatch heads the Senate Finance Committee and Barrasso is in the Senate Republican leadership.

House Passes Bill that Prohibits Expert Scientific Advice to the EPA

Beverley Mitchellby Beverley Mitchell
EPA bills 2While everyone’s attention was focused on the Senate and the Keystone XL decision on Tuesday, some pretty shocking stuff was quietly going on in the House of Representatives. The GOP-dominated House passed a bill that effectively prevents scientists who are peer-reviewed experts in their field from providing advice — directly or indirectly — to the EPA, while at the same time allowing industry representatives with financial interests in fossil fuels to have their say. Perversely, all this is being done in the name of “transparency.”
EPA bills 1
Bill H.R. 1422, also known as the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, passed 229-191. It was sponsored by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT), pictured. The bill changes the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), which provides scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Among many other things, it states: “Board members may not participate in advisory activities that directly or indirectly involve review or evaluation of their own work.” This means that a scientist who had published a peer-reviewed paper on a particular topic would not be able to advise the EPA on the findings contained within that paper. That is, the very scientists who know the subject matter best would not be able to discuss it.
Related: Petition: Don’t Put a Climate Change Denier in Charge of U.S. Environmental Policy!
On Monday, the White House issued a statement indicating it would veto the bill if it passed, noting: “H.R. 1422 would negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.” Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) was more blunt, telling House Republicans on Tuesday: “I get it, you don’t like science. And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”
Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Andrew A. Rosenberg wrote a letter to House Representatives stating: “This [bill] effectively turns the idea of conflict of interest on its head, with the bizarre presumption that corporate experts with direct financial interests are not conflicted while academics who work on these issues are. Of course, a scientist with expertise on topics the Science Advisory Board addresses likely will have done peer-reviewed studies on that topic. That makes the scientist’s evaluation more valuable, not less.”
Two more bills relating to the EPA are set to go to the vote this week, bills that opponents argue are part of an “unrelenting partisan attack” on the EPA and that demonstrate more support for industrial polluters than the public health concerns of the American people.

The Only Physicist In Congress Finally Able To Join Science Committee, Vows To Explain Science To Colleagues

The Only Physicist In Congress Finally Able To Join Science Committee, Vows To Explain Science To Colleagues
An actual scientist joining the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology?

Things Idiots Do ...

Idaho Republican plans walkout during Hindu prayer at statehouse: 'They worship cows'

Jim Inhofe tosses a snowball

The travesty is detailed at ABC News:
Sen. Jim Inhofe, a devoted climate change denier, tossed a snowball at someone on the Senate floor today as he tried to debunk climate change. 
“In case we had forgotten because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair: You know what this is? It's a snowball and that just from outside here so it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonal,” he said. 
“So, Mr. President, catch this,” Inhofe, R-Okla., said on the Senate floor, tossing the snowball to someone off-screen as he tried to suppress a smile. 
We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record but now the script has flipped and I think it's important since we hear it over and over and over,” Inhofe, 80, said. “As we can see with the snowball out there, this is today. This is reality.” 
That degree of ignorance in a person who helps make the laws for this country is virtually incomprehensible to me.  I can't even comment without resorting to offensive expletives.

Things idiots say ...

Washington GOP state senator: 'Colored' people are 'more likely to commit crimes'

SC County GOP: If You've Had Pre-Marital Sex, You Can't Be A Republican

And you wonder why those with a functioning brain aren't republicans?
by Jillian Rayfield
Before you can join the Laurens County Republican Party in South Carolina and get on the primary ballot, they ask that you pledge that you've never ever had pre-marital sex -- and that you will never ever look at porn again.
Last Tuesday, the LCGOP unanimously adopted a resolution that would ask all candidates who want to get on the primary ballot to sign a pledge with 28 principles, because the party "does not want to associate with candidates who do not act and speak in a manner that is consistent with the SC Republican Party Platform."
Among the principles, according to Vic MacDonald & Larry Franklin of the Clinton Chronicle, is standard fare like opposition to abortion and upholding gun rights, as well as "a compassionate and moral approach to Teen Pregnancy" and "a high regard for United States Sovereignty."
But then they get even more specific. From the Chronicle:
    You must favor, and live up to, abstinence before marriage.
    You must be faithful to your spouse. Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender, and you are not allowed to favor any government action that would allow for civil unions of people of the same sex.
    You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.
It is unclear how they will precisely determine this (or regulate it), but an unidentified potential candidate for office in Laurens County told the Chronicle that candidates will be interviewed by a three-person subcommittee, who will then recommend to the full executive committee whether to allow the candidate on the ballot.
Bobby Smith, who chairs the Laurens County Republican Party, explained that "people feel the platform has not been adhered to. We want candidates to believe in and uphold the party's platform."

Texas Republican Who’s Been Married Five Times Continues to Fight Against Marriage Equality

by Allen Clifton
At this point, the continued Republican opposition to same-sex marriage is just sad. I’ve said it plenty of times before, this battle is over – conservatives lost. It’s no longer a matter of if same-sex marriage will become legal in the United States, but when. Sure, Republicans still keep trying to fight these judicial rulings that continue to overturn bans on gay marriage in practically every state where these laws have been challenged, but they’re just delaying the inevitable.
But the rhetoric from many conservatives surrounding same-sex marriage is what often makes me laugh the most. This nonsense about “preserving the sanctity of marriage” or that somehow gay marriage will lead to some sort of “slippery slope.”
Though I think the one argument that most often just leaves me shaking my head is that somehow same-sex marriage will destroy the sanctity of marriage. As if divorce hasn’t been doing that for years.
My favorites are the hypocrites like Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh, two men who have a combined seven marriages between them who have the nerve to talk about “traditional marriage.”
But even they might not top the hypocrisy of Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R) who officially filed a complaint against the judge who allowed Texas’ first gay marriage citing a violation of statutory law.
“This judge deliberately violated statutory law and this is unacceptable,” Tinderholt said.
“This complaint and any action, which the legislature decides to take, is about ensuring that our judicial system respects the laws of our state and respects the separation of powers,” he continued. “Judge Wahlberg allowed his personal views to dictate his action and ignored state law to accomplish his desired outcome.”
You see, 41-year-old Tinderholt is on his fifth marriage. Yeah, it’s real obvious he has a deep respect for the sanctity of marriage, isn’t it?
Ultimately, Tinderholt’s complaint will be futile. First, he’s filed a complaint against the judge who performed the ceremony, not the judge who overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. So that in and of itself pretty much nullifies any complaint he has against this judge.
And even once you get past that stupidity, his argument is essentially based upon the premise that the legislature is the only one with the true power to end the ban on same-sex marriage in the state. Basically he’s arguing that the state can pass whatever unconstitutional laws that it wants, and our justice system has no power to stop them.
Except, that’s not how it works – at all. This is someone with absolutely no legal background whatsoever trying to tell judges what is or isn’t legal.
But there is a massive sense of irony in an individual who’s been married five times being one of the most vocal opponents to marriage equality in Texas.
I think it’s time teabagger favorite Tony Tinderholt takes a seat and lets the adults handle this. Because not only is it clear that he’s an absolute hypocrite on this issue, but legally he has absolutely no damn clue what it is he’s talking about.

North Carolina Legalizes Call Girls For Politicians

by Nathaniel Downes 
North Carolina’s State Ethics Committee has just opened up a major problem for their state — they just made it legal for lobbying firms to purchase prostitutes to service politicians. The Committee’s determination that sex had no value and that sex between a lobbyist and politician was nothing to report or in any way questionable means that a major loophole has opened up for lobbying firms. Now lobbying firms can hire people with the explicit goal to seduce and fornicate with politicians in order to garner favor.
In other terms, lobbying firms can hire people who can offer sexual services for politicians, and they don’t even need to register.
Now, before it is said that it is being misinterpreted, here is the actual letter from the Ethics Committee, titled “Sexual Favors or Sexual Acts as a Gift or ‘Thing of Value.'” In it, they declared that these relations have no monetary value, so do not need to be reported. In addition, they declared that if the person is not registered as a lobbyist, there was never any point of concern, even if the service was paid for by a third-party. In other words, lobbyists can hire people expressly for a politician to use in a carnal manner, even if the politician asks for or otherwise indicates their desire for such a service.
Even more disturbing are the long-term implications. Let us say a politician does partake, yet the person who paid for the night of temptation was a less than honest broker. A few hidden cameras, some veiled threat that did not cross the line into blackmail territory, a night of infidelity could put a politician into a less honorable group’s pocket without major cost, and all now rendered perfectly legal by the Ethics Committee of North Carolina.
Lobbying is a practice which needs to end for the good of the republic. When our founders agreed that the people have the right to redress grievances and to petition the government, that did not mean corporations or trade groups being granted superior access to the people themselves. Money is not speech, liberty is not anarchy — freedom for all, not just for the elite.
Needless to say it is Republican 'ethics' on display here
Not only do you have to pay them bribes, you have to provide 'recreational activities' as well.