TULSI GABBARD DOES A LITTLE PR FOR PACIFIC BIODIESEL
It’s always nice when we see our esteemed congressional representatives in Washington–who get to attend things like State Dinners with diplomats and meetings with the President–take time out of their busy schedules writing laws and things to throw a shout-out to some of the little people back in their home district. And this week, Tulsi Gabbard, the Democrat who represents Hawaii’s Second District, did exactly that in a June 24 Roll Call op-ed she co-authored with California Congressman Scott Peters.
The op-ed is pegged to recent moves by the House Armed Services Committee that would, in the authors’ views, hobble the U.S. military’s ability to purchase biofuel for its equipment. This, the congressional representatives feel, would harm both national security and local businesses.
“In Hawaii, for example, a company called Pacific Biodiesel provides full-time employment, benefits and retirement plans for 50 permanent employees,” the representatives wrote. “The company has created quality jobs for Hawaii construction and farm workers, truck drivers, and other administrative and technical experts. These jobs are supporting American families at a critical point in our nation’s fragile economic recovery.”
For Kahului-based Pacific Biodiesel, this is pretty big boost. For the last half-century, Roll Call has been known as THE paper that covers Capitol Hill in Washington. “As the leading provider of congressional news, legislative tracking and advocacy services, CQ Roll Call is the only media company that connects policy professionals and opinion leaders with the information and tools they need to understand and influence Congress,” states its website.
Pacific Biodiesel was the only private corporation singled out for praise in the op-ed. What’s more, Gabbard’s praise of the company comes at exactly the right time–on June 25, Pacific Business News reported that the Kahului-based firm is hoping to get a piece of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $98.6 million Advanced Biofuels Payment Program.
Of course, while Pacific Biodiesel is a big name on Maui in the alternative energy world (the company converts recycled kitchen grease into diesel fuel), in the grand scheme of biofuel they’re a small company. In fact, they’re so small that Kelly King, Pacific Biodiesel’s vice president, has so far only contributed $2,500 to Gabbard’s Tulsi For Hawaii election committee, according to campaign data compiled by the Federal Election Commission.
Keep in mind that according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Gabbard raised nearly $1.8 million during the 2012 election–slightly more than $1 million of which came from “large contributors.” To put King’s contributions in perspective, labor unions like the plumbers and pipefitters, ironworkers and seafarers gave vastly greater sums of money ($10,000 each, according to the CRP). In fact, the organic grocery chain Down to Earth gave more than Pacific Biodiesel ($10,950).
All of which makes Gabbard’s tip of her hat to Pacific Biodiesel in Roll Call all the more impressive.
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HAWAII DELEGATION SPLIT ON DRONES?
Speaking of news from Washington, so we’re all cool with the idea that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is using surveillance drones to spy on Americans without any real governing authority or statutes, right?
“It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident when you need the capability,” FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate on June 19, according to a Bloomberg News story filed the same day. “There are a number of issues related to drones that will need to be debated in the future. It’s still in its nascent stages, this debate.”
Hey, here’s a radical thought: let’s debate these things now, in public, before the powers at be start launching automated spy planes over American cities. And let’s not kid ourselves, either: we’d be hearing none of this if it wasn’t for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s going public with details about the extent to which our nation’s surveillance state is pointed at everyday Americans.
Now given Hawaii’s traditional role as one of the nation’s most liberal states, you’d think that our congressional leadership would be quick to denounce the FBI’s sketchy use of spy drones on Americans. Well, yes and no.
“This is a burgeoning concern for many of us,” Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told Mueller during the June 19 hearing, according to Bloomberg News. It’s not a particularly strong denunciation, but it does count as a break with the Obama Administration and will undoubtedly be stronger than anything said by, say, Colleen Hanabusa, the Democrat who represents Hawaii’s First District and really, really wants Democratic Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz’s job. Hanabusa, you see, is a member of something called the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus.
“The mission of the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus is to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety,” states the caucus website. “As members of this Caucus, we… Recognize the urgent need to rapidly develop and deploy more Unmanned Systems in support of ongoing civil, military, and law enforcement operations.”
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SCHATZ ON VOTING RIGHTS ACT CASE
There are a lot of things that suck about being a reporter these days (folding newspapers, tighter budgets, more work for less pay for those “lucky” enough to still have jobs, etc.) but one thing that most certainly does not suck is that the people at the highest levels of government (perhaps emboldened by our ever-shrinking media) are increasingly behaving in utterly shameless ways.
Which is why I wasn’t particularly shocked to see that just a few days after the Food Network booted Paula Deen from her particularly lucrative cable television contract over her recent and bizarre racist ramblings, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act, signed into law back in 1965 because too many southern states were keeping African-Americans from voting.
Our own U.S. Senator Brian Schatz was appropriately pissed off at the decision:
“Today, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a key element of the law that provides the formula for determining which state is covered by the law’s pre-clearance requirement,” Schatz said in June 25 press release sent out hours after the decision went public. “Pre-clearance of voting law changes is an essential tool for fighting discrimination across the country. It is a major setback for voting rights that the Court deemed Section 4 of the law unconstitutional. Congress must act quickly to make sure that the Voting Rights Act continues to stop discriminatory changes in voting laws before they are put in place.”
Congress must act quickly on an issue dealing with race? That would be something to see.