Rep. Joe Barton, Immigration and Movie Tix.

Congressmen Becerra of California and Barton of Texas spoke with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux about immigration reform on The Situation Room.  Barton favors strong border enforcement.  His notion of the issue is black and white – that there’s legal and illegal immigration.  He said that the positions between the two parties are “almost irreconcilable”.   And yet Barton seems to be in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.  He’d like to see an expanded guest worker program for the undocumented who are in the country.  He recognizes that the problem of 11 million undocumented people in the country requires a political solution.  But in a moment of doubt, he seemed to back off the idea of working toward a bipartisan solution when he made what I thought was a bizarre analogy:

“…I took my family to the movies yesterday.  We paid $6 or $7 a piece to go into the movie.  We didn’t just walk up to the ticket window and say we’re here, we’re good people, let us into the movie for free.”

(By the way, $6 for a movie ticket is a heck of a bargain – must be the special congressional discount).

First of all, people are not risking their lives to cross the border to get a shot at a free movie.  Folks are coming here to work to support their families.  If they are lucky, they’ll find work at $6 or $7 an hour.  They come because there is a demand for their labor and as Congressman Becerra points out, they can make in an hour what they can make in a day back in their countries.

Malveaux asked whether the Republicans even need the Latino vote to which Barton replied that they did – that Latinos are the “cornerstone of our base”.  He said that Latinos are conservative, family-oriented and have a strong work ethic.  Latinos, the cornerstone of the conservative Republican base? Really? Were Latinos in Texas against the Dream Act? Apparently so because Representative Barton voted against it, and I can’t imagine that he would go against his Latino base.   Now I could understand if he were a politician from Miami where the conservative Cuban-American base has some influence.  But Barton lives in a border state.  I’d rather imagine his base to be those who believe immigrants are a drain on the economy and should all be deported. If Latinos are the cornerstone of his base, he must be referring to a tiny stone.

What a minute, Joe Barton.  Wasn’t he the guy who apologized to BP for being asked by the Obama administration to establish a 20 billion fund to compensate the victims of the BP oil spill disaster?  As a recipient of over 1 million from the oil and gas industry, it wouldn’t surprise me if big oil formed the bedrock of Barton’s base.

Clean Energy? Obama’s Carnegie Mellon Talk

In a speech at Carnegie Mellon University, President Obama warned of the dangers of our oil addiction and made the case for clean energy, but he did so without mentioning some of the cleanest and safest energy of all, renewable solar and wind power.  Instead of condemning offshore drilling all together, he suggested that it should continue to be part of the equation at least temporarily as we shift to safer, cleaner energy.  But shift to what?  According to Obama, “it means tapping into our natural gas reserves” .  I’m a little suspicious of the word tap.  Sounds like more drilling to me.  Isn’t natural gas a fossil fuel? Aren’t we addicted to fossil fuels?  It’s like taking methadone to kick heroin or oxycontin to treat pain, both “remedies” are highly addictive.  And what happens when the tap runs dry.  Unless we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels considerably, the nation is in for a serious case of the DTs.

The other “clean” energy the President mentioned is nuclear.  If an offshore drilling rig can blowup due to human error, what about a nuclear power plant.  Remember Chernoybl and Three-Mile Island?  Pretty messy. I have this image of Homer Simpson at the controls.  Not only is nuclear power a potentially dangerous pursuit, it’s an expensive one.  Plants cost billions to build and very few, perhaps fewer than 2% have ever been built on time and on budget.

I agreed with some of his plans, such as “putting a price on carbon pollution” and requiring cars and trucks to be more energy efficient.  He didn’t say how efficient, but I say bring the standard up to 55 mpg.  Nor did he say anything about a speed limit.  I’d say bring it down to 55 mph, and save some lives in the process.  He mentioned investing in technology to help the U.S. be a lead player in hybrid battery production, which is not a bad idea, but let’s sell some electric cars too – it’s time to get the “Government Motors” Chevy Volt on the road.

In the wake of the BP oil disaster which may have irreparably damaged the Gulf Coast economy and environment , I expected the President to make a better case for clean, safe and renewable energy.  I also expected that he would blast big oil and demand a moratorium on deep offshore drilling and somehow link clean energy to clean up.  Let’s replace “drill baby drill’ with “clean baby clean” or “clean up baby clean” or “clean baby green”…or something.

Bear and Tiger to the BP rescue

BP has a new plan for plugging the oil fountains – dropping a load of junk down the riser.  Junk – like tires and golf balls.  I suggest BP hire a golfer – Tiger Woods maybe or Jack Nickolaus to recommend the optimal golf ball to drop – Titlelist, Nike, Callaway, Top Flite – you know it might make a difference.  If Tiger can plug the leak with the proper ball, he could help to rehabilitate his image and that of BP.   And those tires.  Look, I have four Michelin Harmony tires I’d donate to the cause.  And my daughter’s Honda Fit has a leaking Dunlop.  Drop that down on the leak.  Hey, a leak on a leak – might just work.

Look, BP is trying everything they can to cap that pipe, so why not just drop down a bunch of divers in those Jules Verne diving suits – have Bear Grylls lead the way;  he’s a superhuman Brit with elite Special Forces training. If Bear and Tiger can’t save the day, there may be no hope until those relief wells are drilled.

Blame is the Name of the Game

I was reading this news item on the way in to work this morning.  One Dr. Wakefield, no not the Dr. of the knuckleball, but a gastroenterologist (funny, my spellchecker wanted me to write numerologist) anyway, Britain took away his medical license for reckless behavior for offering children money for blood samples as part of his research to show a link between childhood vaccinations and autism.  The peer-reviewed study which claimed the link was published in the Lancet in 1998 and prompted many parents in the UK and the USA not to have their kids vaccinated.  The study has since been discredited yet vaccination rates are not nearly as high as they once were and not nearly high enough now to prevent outbreaks of measles once nearly eradicated.  Thanks a lot Dr. Knucklehead.

And guess where he has relocated?  Yes, here – Austin, Texas to be exact.  I found it ironic the similarity between Austin and Autism.  This story is just weird and now feeds into the tea party hysteria about government plots.  In this case the plot is to protect the drug companies that make the vaccines.  There is something odd about the logic.  Companies are never directly blamed for anything.  The companies are good, it’s the government protection that’s bad.  Do the tea parties insist big business pay a fair share of taxes?  They’d say no, because big bidness would pass on the cost to the consumer.  I say, take a stand, demand companies pay and refuse to pay the passed on costs.  I ain’t payin 4.50 at the pump.  I’m not.  And of course BP is not really responsible at all for the oil spill right?  Obama could have stopped the leak on the first day if he had wanted to, right –  or so the argument goes.  And the next kid who dies from measles because his parents didn’t have him vaccinated, blame it on Obama.  And the next outbreak of measles, that’s right, Obama.  And the next autistic kid, Obama.  And the next tornado in Texas, Kansas or Oklahoma, Obama (even the name is similar) and when you miss a free throw, Obama.  Your team’s error in the field, Obama.  Blame is the name of the game.  Tea anyone?

That Oil Spill, What A Mess

What a god awful mess out in the Gulf Coast thanks to the good folks over at British Petroleum affectionately known as BP. I can’t believe they still haven’t capped the oil spewing from the hole on the ocean floor.  200,000 gallons of the stuff a day.  BP seems less worried about cleaning up than capturing and cleaning the oil for future use.  They do that.  Suppose to be a fairly straightforward purification process.  They will profit from this mess yet, even as the spill wrecks the fragile coastal environment and the tourism and fishing industries of the Gulf Coast.

That the Obama administration has yet to denounce drilling as an unsafe, and unwise practice is completely baffling to me.  It comes as no surprise however that the Republicans and some Democrats too – Senator  Mary Laundrieu for example, whose top legislative priorities are energy security and coastal issues –  have tried to minimize the catastrophe to protect the oil industry.  Well, we should be securing clean energy policies, not risky policies that dirty and destroy our fragile coastal areas and vital industries.

If there is any silver lining in the massive environmental disaster it would be that dead jellyfish have started to wash up on shore.  I’m serious.  Those destructive creatures have multiplied to the point that their numbers are simply out of control, as they reek untold damage to fisheries, and the tourist industry.  They sting.  Do they ever, and some stings are deadly.   The only other possible good thing that could come from the disaster is that our political leaders could wake up and realize that “drill baby drill”  is suicidal.  I agree with Bill Maher who said, and I’m paraphrasing, that we are our own worst enemy.

BP.  Get it together.  Cleanup.  Pay Up.  And get out.  No more drilling for oil anywhere.  Time to move on to clean, renewable energy – and not coal.  There’s no such thing as clean coal and it’s not renewable.  Think about it.  Wind, electric, solar, bio-fuels, and leg power.  That’s all we need.  Okay, a little nuclear sprinkled here and there with a smattering of geothermal exploration and hydroelectric tinkering.  Let’s also run some stuff on recycled vegetable oil for good measure.  Depending less on foreign and our own oil is the key to a safe and sane energy policy.