Friday, March 23, 2012

The Stumbling and Bumbling Senate

On Wednesday March 23, the Senate held a Finance committee hearing regarding the economic effects of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, instead of the hearing being remembered for an intellectual conversation between well-informed Senators and expert witnesses, the hearing was instead marred by blunders of a wide variety.

Senator Olympia Snowe, in one of the more heated moments of the hearing, seemed to suggest that the United States had gone to war for oil, a claim which many opponents of the Iraq War have levied many times.  Ms. Snowe seemed to realize her mistake and rushed through her controversial statement.

"I did not intend to imply that the United States engage in foreign wars for oil, but simply that other countries around the world are willing to fight for that resource.  I was merely trying to imply that the United States should fight with its economic policies to compete in the growing world oil market," said Senator Olympia Snowe.

Senator Orrin Hatch was next to make a mistake, as he, in an attempt to quote Mr. Carney, instead quoted the fox news story he had taken the quote from instead.

"I unintentionally read a portion of a fox news story, instead of Mr. Carney's direct quote.  Although, I misspoke on the statement, my point remains; cleaner tomorrows was unqualified for the job," said Senator Orrin Hatch.

The final and probably worst of all of the errors came when the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus, stated the unemployment rate was 9.6%.  The unemployment rate is in fact 8.3%. How can the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee not know the rate of unemployment in the United States? Either this misstatement exposes an intentional attempt by Senator Baucus to sway voters against President Obama or it exposes a lack on preparation on the part of Senator Baucus in the field of the committee he chairs.  Either way, something deeply disturbing is happening in the Baucus camp.

Opinion: Supreme Court out of control?

What is happening to the Supreme Court?

Normally, I'm a huge fan of the court, but today I'm wondering if some of the justices are taking the label "highest court in the land" a little too seriously.

Last thursday, Justice Anthony, in a totally unfounded move, appeared on a CNN television show.  While I do work for CNN and the interview was admittedly an important interview, it was totally irresponsible and idiotic for Mr. Kennedy to appear on the show.

Mr. Kennedy is not just an individual; when he makes public appearances he represents the Supreme Court  and by appearing on a television talk show degrades the respect of the court and the standing of their decisions in the eyes of the American people.

The most shocking part of the interview came when Mr. Kennedy fairly clearly implied he would vote in the same manner in which he voted in the case Grutter v. Bollinger.  A justice's vote is of the most sacred quality; the power of that vote to shape life in the United States is such that it takes hours of serious argument and deliberation to decide.  The idea that a justice can just look at two cases, decide they're similar enough, and then have his vote decided is troubling to say the least.

To make the matter worse, most experts agree that Justice Kennedy's vote is the swing vote in this case, almost rendering the upcoming supreme court case pointless.  Now, in the minds of American citizens around the country, Justice Kennedy's interviews has sullied the credibility of the supreme courts eventual decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts appears to have taken notice of Mr. Kennedy's blunder in an internal email sent to all of the Justices.  This reporter received the email as a result of an anonymous source.  Below is an exact copy of the email

Hello fellow Justices,
I have been receiving many questions and lots of bombardment from the media lately. I have also heard that other Justices are being questioned.
As we all agreed, we are not responding to the media before the trial. If we all feel it is necessary to release a statement, I will release a statement that everyone approves.

Below is one of the emails I sent in response to a reporter. I think it is a good template that you can use if you want.

Thank you so much for complying,
Chief Justice Roberts

We have decided not to speak to the media before the hearing of Fisher v UT Austin this Thursday.

Thank you,
Justice _________

Chief Justice Roberts Refused to take part in this story.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Supreme Court hearing today over Fisher v. UT case

Chief Justice Roberts, Drawn by Jessica Sohn
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States met to hear arguments for the affirmative action case Fisher v. UT Austin. With the exception of Justice Kagan, who recused herself, the eight justices sat to question Lisa Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity, who argued against affirmative action, and Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of the Texas State government, who argued for it. 

The justices on both sides of the case were able to get their points across through the questioning on constitutionality, precedent, and the principles of affirmative action in general. 
Witnesses Lisa Chavez and Greg Abbott, drawn by Jessica Sohn

Justice Kennedy, the apparent swing voter in the case, was careful not to make his position too clear through his questions, and his vote is still ambiguous to the public.

The Supreme Court will release its decision on the case soon, determining the fate of affirmative action for the entire country. #

Memorable quotes from the SIM

For those who have been following the keystone pipeline, here are a few memorable quotes from the process. 

"N.J.!" -Ryan page
"this water tastes good. I hope there's no oil in it" -Ike
"actions speak louder than words" -nick li
"the river was on fire" -Simon zeidner

Senator Harry Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell offer two perspectives on the Keystone Pipeline controversy

Reid and McConnell are civilized towards each other at todays Supreme Court Hearing
By: Emily Chassman and Naomi Bernstein

As many have commented that the Keystone Pipeline controversy has disintegrated into a political game, CNN offers two political perspectives from Republican Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, and Democratic Senator Harry Reid from Nevada.

Senator Harry Ried

"I was very displeased with the conduction of the Senatorial Meeting this afternoon.  While Senator Baucus is a close friend and I value his opinions on all matters, he conducted the hearing with disdain and disrespect towards not only the panelists, but also his fellow Senators.  I know he supports the Obama administration and it is just a shame that such beliefs were not displayed before the people today.  I still value his opinions, trust him with my life, and cherish our relationship, I just feel as though Senator Sanders and Senator Nelson should have been treated with greater respect.  In regards to the Keystone Pipeline XL, many valued points were made for both sides, but after seeing all the information before me I stand by my stance.  The dangers of this Pipeline far outweigh the benefits.  The necessary safety precautions must be met in order for this permit to pass through the Senate and White House.  It is our duty to keep the American people safe.  The American people have begun to ween themselves from fossil fuels, and the building of this pipeline is a step in the wrong direction.  There are many alternatives, and our focus should turn to these.  In conclusion, my view is clear, and was proven today at the hearing, necessary safety measures and modifications must be made to this permit in order for the Keystone Pipeline to be built and inhabit the people's states." 

Senator Mitch McConnell
"I believe the Senate hearing went very well on all accounts. I believe Senator Baucus did an exceptional job of giving time to not only his fellow democratic senators but also the republican senators on the finance committee. I am in favor of the building of the pipeline and during the hearing today all those in favor of building the pipeline did an exceptional job in questioning the witnesses that came before the Senate in order to advance our shared bi-partisan goal of creating this pipeline. My fellow Senators and I are going to continue our efforts to create the pipeline and strive to present President Obama with a bill to either veto or sign." #

Butting Heads at the Senate hearing on the Keystone XL Pipeline

March 21, 2012- Yesterday at the Senate hearing for the Keystone XL Pipeline, tensions were high between Democratic Senator Max Baucus from Montana and Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

Senator Baucus is Chairman of the Finance Committee and Senator Sanders is a majority member on the committee.

Even though these two Senators are a part of the same party they did not seem to get along at the hearing yesterday. There even seemed to be a strong dislike between the two.

Senator Baucus started the hearing by inviting Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu up for questioning. He first gave Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota the floor to question the two Secretaries.

Senator Bill Nelson from Florida took the floor afterwards. All the while, Senator Sanders tried to get a word in but Senator Baucus kept telling the Senator it was not his turn.

Towards the end of the interviewing session, Senator Sanders tried to ask a question about renewable energy. Chairman Baucus shut the question down by telling Senator Sanders, "We are done here" and hit the gavel so hard that he broke it.

This action was concerning to the crowd and the other Senators. Senator Bill Nelson commented that "Senator Baucus spent more time controling the hearing than focusing on the situation at hand".

Senator Bernie Sanders told CNN, "Yesterday at the hearing, I felt that my fellow Sentor Max Baucus treated me very disrespectfully...The Keystone Pipeline is dangerous for not only our nation, but also for the rest of the planet. His cutting me off because I have a different opinion was uncalled for. I hope that in future hearings he will give me adequate time to speak and will respect what I have to say. "

Baucus took his control of the Finance Committee more seriously than the situation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and ended up disrespecting other members on the committee that are also in his same party.

Morning Update: Carney Clarifies Goals of the Obama Administration

Today in a press briefing, Jay Carney attempted to clear up a misquote from Senator Oran Hatch given in yesterday's hearing. "This administration fully supports cleaner tomorrows," said Carney. After some research by the Obama Administration, Carney stated that the Keystone XL expansion would have no effect on gas prices "at the pump."

"We have found no statistical correlation to the amount of oil drilled out of the ground in the U.S. to the price of gasoline." According to Carney, the study utilized thirty-six years of historical data.

"The main priority of this administration is creating jobs in a time when many Americans are trying to get back to work." Carney declined to comment on a question regarding the changing of the Jones Act, which would prevent the transport of the Keystone oil, refined in Texas, to ports on the east coast.

By Max Clark and Matthew Brincko