Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Elect this!

Updated I haven't been around much lately, I know, but I had to drop by to celebrate some of the good news that came out of Tuesday's elections. I particularly wanted to do it because I'm a lot more used to being on the losing end of things so this really did cheer me up some.

First, though, a bit of good news on a different front:

You likely have heard about the Keystone XL project, the plan to build a pipeline across the plains states in order to transport tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to a refinery in Texas. You also likely know that tar sands are about the dirtiest, most environmentally-destructive ways of getting oil that there is and that the project is opposed both by environmentalists and by people living in the region to be affected.

Well, three things have happened recently on that front:

First, TransCanada, the company behind the project has been forced to admit that its projections of the number of jobs that would be created were seriously inflated and even misleading: It develops that the "jobs" were measured in "person-years" - so that if, for example, one of the construction jobs lasted two years, the company counted it as two jobs. The predicted jobs have shrunk to less than half the original number. What's more, according to an independent study, the project may destroy as many jobs as it creates.

Second, it turns out that a consulting company involved in the environmental review of the project listed TransCanada as a "major client" - and a lobbyist for TransCanada worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. The questions raised are serious enough the that the State Dept to say it will have to re-examine the procedures it followed in handling consultations because of the possibility of wrongdoing.

And third, on this past Sunday some 12,000 people formed a human chain around the White House, calling on Barack Obama to refuse to approve the project, backed up by another thousand or more people at support actions around the country. The thing to remember in this regard is that this is totally an executive branch decision; Congress is not involved. So if PHC* capitulates to the oil industry, he gets the blame; if he stands up to it and blocks the pipeline, he gets the praise.

The target date for a decision is December 31 but it may not be met.

Okay, on to the elections.

The first piece of good news was, I'm tempted to say of course, the rejection of Proposition 2 in Ohio. Had it passed, it would have confirmed the notorious SB5, the bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public employees that former FauxNews host and all around right-wing flake Gov. John Kasich pushed through the conservative-dominated legislature in the spring. With the failure of Prop2, the union-busting bill goes poof.

While the result itself was not a surprise, the margin of victory - a whopping 22 percentage points - exceeded expectations and was a wonderful thing to see.

On the other hand, the second good news was a surprise. A ballot measure in Mississippi proposed to amend the state constitution to declare that "personhood" began at the moment of conception. So it's not even a fetus that's being called a "person," not even an embryo, but a zygote, a single fertilized egg cell.

This insane notion would not only ban all abortions for any reason (which was of course the point), it would also ban some methods of birth control, make in vitrio fertilizations for practical purposes impossible, halt all stem cell research in the state, and even would have made having miscarriage into manslaughter - because the woman would have, after all, caused the death of a "person," with the only question being if it was voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Because several other states and Congress have similar proposals percolating, the vote was watched rather attentively, especially since polls indicated it was too close to call.

But when the votes were counted, I am delighted to say, opponents of the measure won going away: Nearly 60% of the electorate said that even if they are opposed to abortion rights, this just goes way too far.

The third good news comes from Arizona. You may not remember the name Russell Pearce, but you should: As president of the state senate of Arizona, he was the author of that state's notorious anti-immigrant "papers please" law. Unexpectedly, he found himself facing a recall election. Even more unexpectedly, he lost. He has been booted from office, kicked out on his bigoted can, and kicked out by a man who compared that law to something from Alabama in the days of Jim Crow.

Finally, knowing no good news can go unsullied, there was a sort of split decision on the issue of voter suppression, the various moves by the right wing to make it harder for people, especially the poor, the elderly, and people of color, to vote.

On the down side, Mississippians approved an amendment that would require voters to display a state-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Such IDs are something that many residents do not have and a good number of those would find it a financial burden to obtain the documentation needed to get the ID. Which is, you surely realize, the whole point.

On the up side, the race for secretary of state in Kentucky turned to a fair extent on the proposal by one of the two candidates to require a photo ID to vote. He lost by over 20 points. And in Maine, voters overturned a new law that had put an end to the state's decades-old practice of same-day registration, i.e., being able to register and then vote on election day - and did it by a healthy margin despite the best efforts of Maine GOPpers to employ homophobia as a campaign tactic.

So not a perfect day - what day ever is - but still, enough good news to brighten a few mornings. And notice I didn't have to bring up a single "The Democrat won! The Democrat won!" example in order to do it.

Updated with the news that the State Department has announced that it is going to be considering alternative routes for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project that avoid a very environmentally-sensitive area in Nebraska. The result of this new review - which is expected to take over a year - is that the decision has been pushed back to beyond the 2012 elections.

A representative of the State Dept. said the White House has nothing to do with the decision, which is not only quite hard to swallow, it's also hard to reconcile with the fact that Obama was quoted as saying the decision came because "a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, [so] we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed" - which seems an odd thing for him to say if he really had no part in the decision.

Anyway, the question then becomes what happens in 2013 (assuming O. gets reelected, which considering the quality of the field the GOPpers are dealing out, seems a reasonably safe prediction). At that point, Obama could say "Hey, I can't run again - I don't need you anymore," but the question is to who would he say it: his high-roller donors in the oil business or the pro-environment part of his political base. History says it would be the latter, since he's been ignoring and even dissing his supposed base for some time now.

However, the other thing history says is that the longer a project like this is dragged out, the less likely it is to come to fruition, that opposition tends to build over time and if the plan is not pushed through quickly before that opposition can form and start to grow, the plan is in jeopardy as both the political cost to government officials and the financial cost to the developers continues to grow.

So while this is clearly short of what should have happened - an outright rejection of the pipeline - I still call it a victory. Not a final victory, but a victory nonetheless.

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');