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Wrong move on Keystone XL

A picture of the current Keystone pipeline

On Wednesday, President Obama made the decision to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  The 2,000 mile project would bring oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in the Gulf coast.  Supporters of the project argue that this project could be one big step of putting more Americans back to work.  TransCanada, which had been proposing to build the pipeline extension cites these statistics in support of the project:

  • 13,000 direct jobs would be created(pipe-fitters, welders,electricians, and other trades).
  • 7,000 manufacturing jobs will be created .
  • Local retail and service businesses near the pipeline will see an increase of 118,000 jobs because of increased business for goods and services.
  • Would increases capacity of pumping oil to 1.1 million barrels per day.

Many have also stated that acquiring oil from our North American neighbors instead of some countries in the Middle East that despise us makes lots of sense.  It seems though, that the opposition to building Keystone XL is just as passionate as the support.

Scores of environmentalist groups, and citizens living in states that may be affected have united in opposition to the pipeline. Reasoning for their opposition includes:

  • Increased green house gases and gas emissions will contribute to global warming and other environmental issues
  • The risk of contaminating the Ogalla Aquifier if the pipe breaks is of serious concern.  This aquifer spans, and provides clean drinking water for 2 million people, as well as supporting $20 billion in agriculture

Tim Parker of Investopedia pointed out some of the arguments people against the pipeline have made:

Critics of the pipeline have two main problems with the project. First, The National Wildlife Foundation published a report that claimed that the pipeline will run through or near water tables, wildlife refuges, aquifers, fisheries and crop land. Any breach in the pipeline could cause a catastrophic spill that would ruin the local habitat and endanger citizens if the water table is compromised.

Second, the NWF claims that TransCanada doesn’t have a good track record of safety. In one report, they list 12 TransCanada spills in 12 months, including a 21,000 gallon oil spill, and it’s not only TransCanada. From 1990 to 2005 there were more than 4,700 oil spills according to the same report.

To TransCanada’s credit, they have made some significant compromises with all parties concerned.  They finally agreed to even re-route the part of the pipeline that was to go through the Sandhills of Nebraska.  This allayed many of the concerns of many of the citizens of Nebraska, but the opposition continued by others.

A protest organized by people who oppose the Keystone XL project

The risk, proponents say, is that TransCanada may just end up attempting to just build a pipeline within Canada to the coast.  They would then just ship the oil to China.  Noted oilman T.Boone Pickens said as much when asked about his comments on the Obama Administrations decision.  TransCanada has invested quite alot in this project, and has the most to lose if the plan never comes to fruition.  Bloomberg Business Weekly’s Brad Olson sums up the challenges facing TransCanada now that the pipeline project has been rejected:

The price of gas has dropped 44 percent in the past 12 months as producers used hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to tap oil and gas locked in shale rock formations across the country. Interest meanwhile has waned in expansions of nuclear power plants, in which TransCanada has invested, after reactors in Fukushima melted down after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Limited Growth

As a new application awaits approval, TransCanada will face limited growth prospects from the few projects it has pursued alongside the Keystone XL in nuclear power and renewable energy, said BMO’s Kirst.

The Obama Administration should have approved the Keystone XL project.  I do understand that Republicans put him in a tough spot by including a provision in the payroll tax cut bill that forced him to fast track a decision on the project by February 21st.  As expected, the President rejected the project on the grounds that a deadline so soon did not give his administration adequate time to vet the project.  He was very direct in why he had to make this decision, saying that, “The rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,”.

I feel that even with these arguments for why the decision was made,I feel a huge mistake has been made in this case.  Safety should be priority number 1, especially after the gulf coast oil spill disaster.  Safety concerns have been adequately addressed…so much so that the state of Nebraska has compromised and found a solution most of their citizens will be comfortable with it.  From a political perspective, I also understand that he was under immense political pressure from his left flank(environmentalists). They have legitimate concerns, and also big pockets to assist in fundraising for the general election.  He could have bucked them on this one decision though, because many unions were actually in support of the bill as a way to put many of their unemployed members to work.  They would have given him a bit of political cover on this decision.

Lastly, from  jobs perspective, this was a poor decision.  I’m sure we could argue back and forth about whether the “13,000 jobs created” number is accurate.  You could also argue that many activists dispute jobs created numbers with a wide array of individuals seeking to develop property or relocate businesses just about anywhere.  At the end of the day, a job is a job.  There are over four million Americans who have been unemployed for over a year.  These individuals are looking for work not later, but now!

We must all keep in mind that President Obama said that he would not completely scrap the project, but that he would make a decision on new applications after the election.  He will come to his senses in January of 2013, and the project will begin.  That is my prediction.

South Carolina debate analysis: Winners and Losers

The South Carolina debate on Monday was very interesting to say the least.  Newt Gingrich was by far the best debater, and solidified his standing as the most viable alternative to Mitt Romney.

Flip Flopping

Mitt Romney was asked a question from someone on Twitter about why they should support him if he has had so many changing positions on some of the most important issues of the day.  Despite the fact that Romney’s position while running for the Senate in Massachusetts was that a woman should have the right to choose, he stated that he was a “Pro-life governor”.  He then proceeded to shift the subject to attacks on President Obama.  He stated that the President “wants us to be an entitlement society, and one that is similar to a European society and welfare state”.  The fact that Romney didn’t adequately answer a question about his flip flops only ensures that it will continue to be a drag on his campaign and his candidacy. Many Americans are rightly concerned with an individual who seems to have no core, and who changes positions as it suits him.

Voting Laws

The issue of South Carolina voting laws came up during the debate as well.  Rick Perry had the most boisterous response to the question.  He described the fight that states like South Carolina and Texas are having with the federal government as a war.  He claims that states are under “assault” from the federal government.  He also attacked the NLRB controversy that has been playing out in South Carolina. The NLRB filed a labor complaint against Boeing Inc, after they decided to move part of its production operation from Washington to “right to work” South Carolina.

Releasing tax returns

One issue that has been dogging Romney is the fact that he has yet to release his tax returns.  Gingrich and Perry have both urged Romney to release his tax returns, but he has yet to do so. When asked a question by one of the moderators about releasing his tax returns, his answer left much to be desired.  His awkward response to that question is shown in the link below:

http://embed.crooksandliars.com/v/MjMwOTAtNTM2ODQ?color=C93033

Immigration

I found it interesting that when asked what he would do specifically to appeal/get Hispanic Americans vote, Romney spoke in general terms.  He made sure to say “Hispanics, and all Americans”.  I think that he didn’t give a specific answer for a specific question because he doesn’t have one.  Now that he has chosen to embrace a hard line view on immigration, his appeal to Hispanics is fading fast, and he knows it.

Romney stated that he wanted to follow the rule of law as it currently relates to immigration policy. He stressed the fact that he “loves legal immigration”, but would not approve of any illegal immigration.  He mostly stuck to the “protect our borders, and think nothing of individuals already in the county” view that many on the far right have.

Race

The debate really took a dramatic turn when some of the questions brought up race.  Rick Santorum advocated marriage counseling and abstinence classes being inserted back in schools. His view was that this would stem the tide of single mothers, poverty, and other issues impacting the African American community.

The debate really got interesting when Juan Williams began his questioning of Newt Gingrich on some of the inflammatory statements he has made in the last few weeks.  Gingrich repeated his often criticized term “The food stamp President”.  Gingrich knows that this kind of sly and discreet racial politics will play very well in a state like South Carolina.  He drew wild applause from the audience with a few of his responses to Williams:

Foreign Policy

Ron Paul normally gets either applauded or soundly booed by audiences when he discusses this topic at debates.  I can say  with 100% percent honesty that the latter occurred. When Paul suggested that America shouldn’t do things in other countries that we wouldn’t want done here, he sparked round displeasure from the crowd.  Paul also expressed support and  confidence in civilian courts prosecuting terrorists.   He felt that our judicial system has been doing a great job of prosecuting terrorists such as those in Al Qaeda.  He commented that 162 of the 260 individuals in Al Qaeda have been convicted and sent to prison.

Housing

Rick Perry went completely off topic when asked a question about what policies he would propose to fix the housing market and assist many struggling homeowners.  He began to discuss the flat tax, ending regulation, lowering taxes, and getting people working.  It is a strategy often used by Perry to mask the fact that he’s utterly clueless when tasked with explaining his position on policy.  This only hurts him further, giving the specific impression that he has no ideas or solutions for many of the pressing policy issues that a President would face.

Takeaway

I think that Newt Gingrich was the clear winner of the debate. He was very strong and assertive in his responses to all of the questions posed to him at the debate.  He was specific when he needed to be, while at the same time throwing some red meat to the crowd.  Mitt Romney’s performance was average at best, but it more than likely won’t hurt him enough to allow a Gingrich surprise victory on Saturday in South Carolina.

Jon Huntsman bows out of the presidential race

Republican candidate Jon Huntsman stepped aside today in his quest for the Republican Presidential nomination.  He plans on endorsing front runner Mitt Romney at an event in Myrtle Beach,SC tomorrow.  This is an end to a campaign that started with so much promise. His kickoff was set against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  It was reminiscent of the way that Ronald Reagan began his campaign in 1980.  Huntsman had a solid conservative, pro-growth record as Governor of Utah, which appealed to the right wing of the Republican Party.  He also served as the Ambassador to China under the current Obama administration, and had some moderate stances on energy and some other issues.  This was supposed to also help him in appealing to moderate Republicans and Independents.  The Washington Post even piled on the initial Huntsman bandwagon(as did I)….stating that Huntsman was, “the biggest wild card in the 2012 field, and one who could either surge or go belly up”.  We now see that the later occurred, and the Huntsman campaign is no more.

How will the exit of Jon Huntsman from the race affect the overall outcome? The former Governor of Utah was only polling at around 5% in South Carolina, so whomever picks up his supporters will get a modest bump at best.  I feel that most of his supporters will grudgingly do as their former candidate is expecting to do…which is to support Romney.   The departure of Jon Huntsman may be the beginning of an attempt by some in the party to coalesce around Romney, and end the primary as soon as possible.  A recent Insider Advantage SC primary poll has Romney up 32%, with Gingrich in second place at 21%.  Whats interesting is that Ron Paul is polling at 14%, with Rick Santorum slightly behind with 13%.  Republican voters who are supporting a Paul or Santorum are still not comfortable with the prospect of a Mitt Romney candidacy.  It is a possibility that if those two candidates exit the race as Huntsman has, that they might throw their support for Newt Gingrich.  If this were to occur, this would push the former Speaker of the House to 48%, and a possible victory in South Carolina.  This scenario is a reach, if only because of the fact that both Paul and Santorum will stay in the race, at least through the SC primary.  If they drop out soon after, this could give the Gingrich campaign an added boost as he moves on to other primary contests.  With two more candidates out of the race along with consolidating that support, Gingrich could portray himself as the true alternative to Mitt Romney.

It is not at all uncommon for a candidate who drops out of the race to endorse the front runner.  I would only say that it’s quite interesting in this case, given the way that Huntsman bashed Romney up to this point.  When speaking on Romney’s time as Governor of Massachusetts, he said that Romney, “Didn’t deliver any big bold economic proposals”.  When asked about Romney’s habit of flip flopping on issues, he stated that Romney was “a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day,” who “has been missing in action in terms of showing any kind of leadership”.  Below are a few clips and ads in which Jon Huntsman unloads on Mitt Romey:

I may be a Democrat, but Jon Huntsman came off to me as a reasonable conservative.  He seemed to be an individual with a solid conservative record, but one that refused to venture too far to the right, and pander to extremists and ideologues.  He also was a breath of fresh air at the Republican debates, and always seemed to have a great grasp on economic and foreign policy issues.  At the end of the day, he wasn’t conservative enough for the Republican electorate.  They may regret not supporting him in the end.

Aside

Romney the Robot

Image

When I think of Mitt Romney, a robot comes to mind. A robot can be programmed to do whatever you ask, though the threat of malfunction is always a possibility.  Mitt Romney was programmed initially to have significant moderate stances on issues such as healthcare, abortion, and many others while serving as Governor of Massachusetts.  The citizens of Massachusetts were his initial owners, and programmed him this way.  A moderate Republican is the only acceptable Republican in a state like Massachusetts. It worked then, because someone of no convictions or stances at all suited the liberal state of Massachusetts.

Mitt Romney has a new owner now, better known as the Teaparty. Ever since their huge victory in the 2012 middterm elections, the tilt of the GOP has taken a rightward turn. I’ll give them credit where it is due, regarding picking up 63 House seats. That was the largest seat change since 1948. The Teaparty has now programmed Romney to be a “strong Conservative with convictions” all of a sudden. This only fools people who have not studied his record, though.

In 1994, he supported Roe v.Wade, but now suddenly is a pro-life Republican. He supported national healthcare in 2008, and created a healthcare plan while Governor of Massachusetts that is very similar to the Affordable Care Act.  Now he is adamantly against President Obama’s healthcare plan, along with the mandates in it(even though mandates existed in the plan he passed).  Romney is a robot though, and is only acting in a manner that his current owners approve of.

Don’t forget though, that the threat of a malfunction is always a possibility with a robot. I predict that once Romney gets the nomination, he will run with the quickness back to the middle.  A Romney Administration would act in the same manner as was the custom when he ran the state of Massachusetts.  When he came to office in Massachusetts Democrats controlled 85% of the seats in the state legislature.  Only a very moderate Republican can operate successfully in that environment, and Romney was one of them.  I’m sorry to break it to the Teaparty, but moderation and Mitt Romney go hand in hand. Always have been, and always will be.  This robot is sure to malfunction….just watch.

My two cents on the New Hampshire Primary

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A typical frenzy of supporters and reporters in New Hampshire.

   The results of the New Hampshire Primary were predicable…if but for a few surprises.  Romney ran away with a victory tonight, taking 39.3% of all votes.  Ron Paul was next with 22.9%, finishing up with former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman in 3rd with a respectable 16.9%.

    In my opinion, a Romney win is slowly helping to paint a picture of what a majority of Republican voters are feeling right now.  They are concerned with who can defeat the President above all at the end of the day.  They have their doubts about some of Romney’s past stances and his overall conviction(as most of us do).  They understand that the other candidates will not suffice, and President Obama will wipe the floor with them.  The President would coast to victory if he was forced to compete against the likes of a Rick Perry, or Rick Santorum.  Both the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses put to bed the assertion that the Tea Party is some how significant in its influence on this presidential contest in particular.

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Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney celebrates his victory.

       This may be a a stretch, but I see yet another opening for Jon Huntsman.  He placed a respectable 3rd, though it took almost a singular focus on the state.If Huntsman can outlast Gingrich and Santorum, he could possibly pick up their supporters.  This would then create an opportunity to forge a unified coalition with the strength to battle Romney to the finish. I still the think that Romney will take it in the end, but I predict a longer primary slog than the front runners campaign is expecting.

The polls dont lie Scotty

I’m quite sure many of you all have been following the drama going on in Wisconsin of all places. All of the uproar is a result of legislation being pushed by Republican Governor Scott Walker that would pretty much eliminate the right of public employees unions to collectively bargain. This has called many to stage massive protests in Wisconsins state capitol. On top of that, the Democratic senators have fled the state into Illinois to avoid giving the Republican majority quorum to pass the bill.

Governor Walker has been publicly supported by the Republican establishment and fellow governors. He seems unwilling to compromise at this point, which I think is a grave mistake. The unions have already agreed to pay more for their healthcare, and other needed cuts because of the tough times, but are holding the line on collective bargaining, as they should. Its nice to see that a majority of the American people agree.

The latest NY Times/CBS News poll showed that 60% opposed weakening collective bargaining rights for public employees unions. Also, 61%(over half of them GOP voters )stated, “that salaries and benefits of most public workers were “about right” or “too low” for the work they do”. On top of that, Wisconsin voters may be having buyers remorse. Nitasha Tiku of nymag.com noted as much in a poll she cited:

But that’s not the only recent poll that could spell bad news for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. If there were a hypothetical do-over of the state’s gubernatorial election, 52 percent of respondents in a PPP poll out yesterday said they would vote for Democrat Tom Barrett, the man Walker defeated, while only 42 percent said they would reelect Walker. That’s an flip-flop from what actually happened in the non-hypothetical elections, when Walker picked up 52 percent of the votes to Barrett’s 47 percent.

Governor Walker…..and other Republicans who think an aggressive, iron fisted strategy towards unions will work are mistaken. I think we all can agree as Americans that the deficit must be reduced, and everyone must sacrifice,including unions. But there is a difference between cuts and trying to eliminate unions completely. As you have seen, Democrats and union members are not afraid to protest and put up a fight. And you also see that Governor Walkers own citizens are turning on him…if only on this issue. Wake up Scotty.

Sprint rolls out new phone: Kyocera Echo

The new Kyocera Echo

Today, Sprint will be unveiling one of their newest phones, the Kyocera Echo. This is a dual screen Android 2.2 phone, and will have the ability to run an app on each screen at the same time. Greg Kamparak from mobilecrunch.com also has noted some additional features of the phone:

– Dual 3.5″ Screens, each one running at 480×800
– Kyocera’s utilizing a titanium hinge they designed in house here; it can be used as a standard candy bar phone, or unfolded into a clamshell, DS-like handset.
– It’s packing a 1GHZ Snapdragon CPU
– Android 2.2
– No Sprint 4G here, folks. It’s 3G only.

It is slated to land in stores around the spring, and is estimated to be about $189 with a two year contract.

Abortion doctor who killed live babies with scissors charged in Philadelphia

Dr. Kermit Gosnell

Dr. Kermit Gosnell was charged with murder and other offenses in connection with late term abortions that he has performed. Gosnell operated the Womens Medical Society for over 30 years, and performed illegal late term abortions for minorities, immigrants, and poor women. He is accused of delivering 7 babies alive…then severing their spinal chords with scissors.

One of the more troubling aspects of this story is how the government health officials in Pennsylvania allowed a man like this to operate for so long, and failed miserably in their oversight responsibilities. Jamilah Lemieux of Clutch Magazine also touched on this same point:

In a press conference this Wednesday, Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams stated that both the Department of Health and Department of State hold some responsibility for allowing the clinic to operate for so many years, despite being notified that two women had died during abortion procedures and having received numerous reports of dangerous practices. “What the [grand] jury found most troubling is that neither of those agencies took the time to investigate, to observe, to view, to go to the clinic itself since 1993,” Williams said in his statement.

On top of this all, it has also been noted that Dr. Gosnells wife Pearl(who has no license at all) also performed late term abortions, as well as other staff…including a teenage girl.

When the authorities investigated, they discovered an environment that was reminiscent of something you would see in a horror movie, according to Lemieux:

Investigators at the now closed abortion clinic found bags and bottles containing aborted fetuses in various parts of the building, as well as a shelf of jars holding the severed feet of babies. Equipment and furniture were “blood-stained, dusty and broken”, according to the CNN report.

I hope that Dr. Gosnell and others involved in this are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Rick Santorum On Obama, Abortion: “Almost Remarkable For A Black Man’ To Say We Can Decide Who’s A Person”

I tell you folks, I don’t make this stuff up, I only report it. Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum was recently on CSN News to discuss the topic of abortion, and President Obama’s views on the subject. We all know that Santorum is a very vocal pro-lifer, which I have no problem with. I can even understand why he might disagree with the stance that President Obama and others have taken on abortion.

He loses me when he decides to bring race into the equation to use in the context of the conversation that he is having. Santorum cannot understand why President Obama will not answer whether a “human life” is protected by the Constitution at the moment of conception. I can even understand his frustrations…but then he says this:

The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no. Well if that person — human life is not a person, then — I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘we’re going to decide who are people and who are not people

Below is the clip of this moron in action:

I cannot understand why the race of President Obama has anything to do with his views on abortion. Is Santorum implying that there is some truth to the racist and stereotypical thinking that stated that African Americans were less than human? Does he believe that it is not the black mans place to even have an opinion on when human life begins or ends? This type of talk doesn’t surprise me at all…especially coming from a guy like Santorum. I guess its at least good that he is open, upfront, and honest about his racist beliefs. I have more respect for a racist who at least makes his views known, instead of concealing them.

I wont sit here and equate all Republicans with the views of Santorum, but lets be honest….more Republicans than Rick Santorum subscribe to this thinking, but they keep it to themselves and would never state it publicly. Good luck with Republicans and recruitment of minorities…make them feeel right at home, why don’t you.

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Democrats and Republicans….at a glance

One of my fraternity brothers asked me to present a comparison fo Democrats and Republicans. Below is a pretty good break down of how the partys differ on the issues. This is brought to you by ironduke of worldaffairs.com:

Fiscal:
Republicans favor lower taxes and a smaller government.

Democrats favor higher taxes to pay for social programs to ensure economic equality.

Economic:
Republicans are pro-business and are economic liberals. They favor free trade and free markets, are against tariffs and believe that employers should be able to freely set wages.

Democrats are pro-labor and conservative with regards to trade. They favor tariffs to protect domestic labor from competition overseas, support workers right to unionize, strike, and collectively bargain for wages.

Foreign and Defense Policy:
Republicans favor foreign and defense policies that is made largely independent from foreign pressures and influences.

Democrats favor give and take with foreign countries when making foreign and defense policy, favor humanitarian intervention, etc.

Moral Issues and Crime:
There is a large morally conservative wing of the Republican party, which is a relatively recent addition after Nixon’s Southern strategy of the 1960s and 70s. Anti-abortion, favors punishment over rehabilitation, supports the death penalty, faith-based initiatives, legislate morality with regards to media violence, pornography, etc.

Most Democrats are socially liberal, tend to be less religious, are pro-abortion, favor rehabilitation over punishment in criminal matters, against the death penalty, etc

This is just a simple breakdown, and some may not agree with all the comparisons, but for the most part it is pretty accurate.