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Good afternoon, Daily Kos, readers. This is your afternoon open thread to discuss all things Hill-related. Use this thread to praise or bash Congresscritters, share a juicy tip, ask questions, offer critiques and suggestions, or post your manifesto.

This is an open source project, so feel free to add your own insights. Here's the news I found lurking around the Internets...

Drill, baby, drill

Remember how we all mocked the Republicans in 2008 when they urged us to "drill, baby, drill?" Remember how we all said that it would be an ecological disaster in the making? Remember how we said the meager returns were not worth the investment and environmental degradation?

Well it looks like Shadow President John McCain might get his way on this one.

Obama clears way for offshore drilling for oil and gas, including off Va. coast

President Obama announced Wednesday that his administration will approve significant oil and gas exploration off America's coasts, including a possible sale two years from now of leases off the Virginia shore.

The move ends a long-standing moratorium on oil and gas drilling along much of the East Coast, from Delaware to central Florida.

In a speech on energy security, Obama said he was steering a course between staunch opposition to any new offshore drilling and advocacy of opening all U.S. waters to energy exploration without restriction.

The story also includes a nod to the military's efforts to increase their use of alternative fuels.

Predictably, this is not going over well with Congressional Democrats, who seem to be lining up on geographic rather than ideological lines, as the Framers of the Constitution intended.

Obama’s drilling proposal sparks battle among Senate Dems

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), one of the leading Senate opponents of offshore drilling, has blasted Obama’s plan.

But Virginia Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner are on board, urging Obama to move quickly to open mid-Atlantic shores for oil and gas exploration.

"Drilling off the Virginia coast would endanger many of New Jersey’s beaches and vibrant coastal economies," Lautenberg said in a statement.

Lautenberg dubbed the strategy, "kill, baby, kill." It's probably not the best phrase -- no actual babies seem to be harmed -- but it gets the point across.

As for the Republicans, the administration is "not going far enough," in destroying the environment to extract the admittedly much needed oil that will further pollute the air. Heeere's Johnny:

Boehner quick to rebuke Obama offshore drilling plan

President Barack Obama's plan to allow expanded offshore oil and gas exploration won rebuke from the top House Republican on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed the president's plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration.

Obama's decision "continues to defy the will of the American people," Boehner said in a statement, pointing to the president's decision to open Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters, while leaving Pacific and many Alaskan waters largely closed to exploration.

The legislative background goes like this. In 2008, it turns out George W. Bush was still somewhat relevant. He lifted a long-standing off shore drilling ban that was originally imposed by the Executive Branch. However, Bush was not in office long enough to start offering leases and I would assume that would have happened pretty early on in a McCain Administration. President Obama and Secretary Salazar took a middle of the road approach in announcing their decision by only opening some areas to drilling.

It turns out that this has been in the pipeline (forgive the pun) for sometime. Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee want to start raping the environment now, damn it, not in 2012.

Offshore Drilling Ban Lifted Last Year, But Salazar Says Administration May Not Open Any New Areas To Drilling Until 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sep 17, 2009 - House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) issued the following statement today regarding reports that the Obama Administration may not complete a new Outer Continental Shelf lease plan until 2012:

"Yesterday, during Secretary Salazar’s testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee, Republicans repeatedly asked him for specific details on his Department’s upcoming decision regarding the 2010-2015 Outer Continental Shelf lease plan. Time and time again, Secretary Salazar refused to provide any candid information about the Administration’s plans.

"But 24 hours later, Secretary Salazar told reporters that it’s possible the Administration may not complete a new plan until 2012. This means that a six month public comment period will soon become a three year ban on offshore drilling. This is unacceptable and irresponsible energy policy. It will cost American jobs, hurt our economy and increase our dependence on foreign oil. It’s also hypocritical in light of President Obama’s statement that ‘if we’ve got some (oil and gas) here in the United States that we can use, we should find it.’

Even as late as March 8, the committee's Republicans were crying about no drilling leases until at least 2012. Today, they are again screaming that the "Obama Moratorium defies American people’s support for new offshore drilling."

Maybe this is the face of bi-partisanship: Create a policy that pretty much everyone thinks is pretty sucky.

For what it's worth, here is the press release from the Department of Interior, which oversees the federal government role in mineral exploration.


Global Warming bill

In somewhat related news, The Hill offers us a wrap up of the five hurdles that face Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman as they write a global warming/climate change bill.

The most interesting is this:

Offshore Drilling

Brune also pointed to another potential stumbling block: offshore drilling. "We will not be able to accept the dramatic giveaway that offshore oil drilling represents," he said.

But expanding offshore drilling opportunities to lower dependence on foreign oil is one of the main reasons Sen. Graham is helping to craft a bill. The legislation is expected to have an opt-in, opt-out mechanism. State legislatures closer to shores will have to affirm they want drilling off their coasts.

The Administration has essentially removed that issue from the deliberative process unless Graham decides to push for even more drilling. On the other hand, Think Progress has a story speculating that, unsurprisingly, this move will probably not win any GOP votes. So much for that.


Hutchison to stay in the Senate

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas has decided to keep her job in Washington after losing her bid to move into the governor's mansion in Austin.

Hutchison's decision to stay put scrambles other Texas politicians' plans

SAN ANTONIO  – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's announcement this morning that she's staying in the U.S. Senate  scrambles the playing field for more than a half-dozen Texas politicians who had been angling to replace her.

Some, including former Secretary of State Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, immediately charged ahead with plans to run in 2012, when Hutchison’s seat is next on the ballot.


Today, she said she changed her mind about resigning because the country needs her to stand against the liberal agenda of President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress.

It's probably for the best. Austin is full of people who think that hopey, changey thing is working out just fine, thank you very much.


Get well

Two members of Congress are dealing with health problems right now.

Congressman John Spratt: 'in early stages of Parkinson's disease'

U.S. Rep. John Spratt said today he is suffering from Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.

Spratt, a Democrat from York, disclosed his condition in announcing that he will seek a 15th term representing the 5th Congressional District.

"My doctor tells me that I am in the early stages of Parkinson¹s disease, but the symptoms are mild and the progression is slow," Spratt, 67, said in a statement. "The chief symptom is an occasional tremor in my right hand, which responds to medication and is mostly a nuisance. The other symptom is in my posture, which is bent a bit, but I hope to correct it with exercise."

Senator Isakson Returns to Hospital

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia who was ill last week and missed the reconciliation vote on health care, has returned to the hospital after doctors found he had an irregular heartbeat.

Senator Isakson, 65, was hospitalized for four days last week with a bacterial infection, making him the only Republican to not cast a vote last week when the Senate took up reconciliation. Doctors sent him home on Thursday with orders that he rest and return for regular checkups, said Joan Kirchner, a spokeswoman for the senator.


Amend the Constitution

The Constitution has only been amended 27 times. The Framers intended for it to be hard, but not impossible to change the basic law of the land. Some times the Amendments came in spurts like the Bill of Rights (ten amendments all at once), the Civil War amendments (three in the four years after the war) and the Progressive Era amendments (six between 1909 and 1933 including prohibition and its repeal). In fact, only one amendment has passed in this writer's lifetime.

In light of the Citizens United ruling, it may be time for another amendment. From The Nation's John Nichols:

Tell Congress to Get Serious About Corporate Campaign Abuse

Members of the House and Senate are on their annual spring break. And, this being an election year, the vast majority of them are heading home to their districts to "listen" to the voters.

This year, they'll get an earful -- from constituents who may still be debating about the scope and character of health-care reform but who (according to every poll) are remarkably united in their support of job-creation projects and a "bust-the-banksters" approach to financial services reform.

Members of Congress who claim to be serious about any of these important issues need to be asked a question: "Have you signed on as a co-sponor of legislation that would amend to the U.S. Constitution in order to assure that corporations do not control our elections and our policy making?"

The proposed amendment, sponsored by Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland reads:

Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

Section 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

The first cosponsor was John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Members handles constitutional amendments and is chaired by Jerrold Nadler, just FYI.


School lunches

President Obama wanted a lot of money to go toward school lunch programs. Senator Blanche Lincoln is still offering a lot, but less than half of what he wants.

Lincoln vs. Obama: School Lunches And The Budget Squeeze

When President Obama requested $10 billion more over 10 years for child nutrition initiatives, he may have expected pushback from Republican lawmakers. But it was a senator from his own party who slashed that number in half.

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., has proposed a $4.5 billion increase in funding for child nutrition programs, fully offset by reductions in Farm Bill programs.

Lincoln defended the amount after the committee cleared the bill last week. "I would hope that people don't forget that $4.5 billion is more than 10 times more than what we've done in the past. Let's don't sneeze at that," Lincoln said.

This is the program that offers free and reduced lunches to kids from poor families. Tragically, this is often the best meal they get in a day and anyone who remembers school lunches knows that the food is not exactly top shelf.

Now let's step into the way back machine and check out this story from January.

Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches

Before he agreed to cook for the Obama family in the White House, Chicago chef Sam Kass was already talking about changing the way American children eat.

During weekly Tuesday gatherings at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, Mr. Kass hosted "Rethinking Soup," which he described as "a communal event where we will eat delicious, healthy soup and have fresh, organic conversation about many of the urgent social, cultural, economic and environmental food issues that we should be addressing."

In May, over a meal of locally-produced beef and barley soup, Mr. Kass lamented the sorry state of the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost or free lunches to schoolchildren. He noted that what gets served up to kids is influenced by government agricultural subsidies. As a result, he says, meals served to students are low in vegetables and disproportionately high in fat, additives, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup.

On the other hand, let's remember that the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina compared school lunches to "feeding stray animals."

Now it would be unfair to paint all Republicans with such a broad brush, but let's keep an eye out for any Republicans who try to cut that $4.5 billion any further.


LL Cool J vs. Fox "News"

There was a time when I refused to bother with Twitter. Then I got addicted. I'm kicking that addiction, but recognizing its usefulness. Today's Most Important News of the Day™ would not be possible without the Microblogging service.

It seems Fox "News" was living up to its reputation for gently massaging "facts" to serve their own rightwing spin. The "Fair and Balanced" Network, which already offers us the likes of Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Mike Huckabee has landed that paragon of intelligence and centrism Sarah Palin. One of her first interviews was supposed to be an "interview" with LL Cool J. This was apparently news to him and he Tweeted yesterday:

Fox lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else & are misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palins Show. WOW    
about 17 hours ago   via    Retweeted by 100+ people  

Now that segment is out of the show.

Fox News Will Cut LL Cool J Interview From Palin Show

Fox News said on Wednesday that it would drop an interview with LL Cool J, the rapper and "NCIS: Los Angeles" star, from the debut episode of "Real American Stories," a new series hosted by Sarah Palin.


Fox News said that it conducted an interview with LL Cool J in its studios about 18 months ago for a program called "Real American Stories," and that this was the interview footage shown in its promotions for the show.

Via E! News, we get Fox's reaction and a little snark from one of the entertainment industry's main mouthpieces:

"Real American Stories features uplifting tales about overcoming adversity and we believe Mr. Smith’s interview fit that criteria," read a statement from the network. "However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be associated with a program that could serve as an inspiration to others, we are cutting his interview from the special and wish him the best with his fledgling acting career."

This to a guy who's been acting in movies since the mid-'80s (Halloween: H20, Deep Blue Sea, Charlie's Angels, etc.), and whose current CBS hit, NCIS: L.A., has ratings Fox News can only dream about?

I would discuss what Fox "News" inspires me to do, but kids might read this blog.

Originally posted to Casual Wednesday on Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 01:41 PM PDT.

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