Sunday, July 31, 2011
JP Morgan Tells Investors Why Middle Class Americans Are Screwed
By Ray Medeiros
How many working class Republicans do you know? How many blindly vote against their own economic interest? It is not their fault, they have just been duped into believing the conservative mantra that the government is stealing their money, when in actuality it is the wealthy who are stealing their money.
Let’s take welfare for example, according to a report by USA Today, in 2010 4.4 million people were on welfare. In a country of 330 million people that equals to a little over 1% of the population. Many people do not know this statistic because the corporate media wants to sensationalize news and this statistic will not get the blood boiling. Now there are also 50 million people on Medicaid, this is also welfare, just not the “check” poor people use to buy clothing, gas and pay for their electric bills. The reason why there are so many people on Medicaid is simply because businesses are not providing health insurance to their employees or if they are, the cost to the employee is too much because their checks are so small.
So your Republican friends are not happy and they have been told that if we reduce taxes on the “job creators” those tax savings will trickle down to them in the form of better wages or benefits. Your republican friends are getting squeezed, financially all the while the wealthiest in America are having their taxes cut and earning more.
Each and every time the federal government reduces taxes on the wealthiest in this country, that translates to lower state aid from the federal government. The states increase sales tax then push the burden onto the local towns and cities by cutting local aid from the state capitols that help fund schools, build roads etc. This then translates to reduced police, firemen, teachers, parks and senior centers, and/or higher property taxes on the small business owners and middle class homeowners.
In a recent report in a JP Morgan memo to their investors from Michael Cembalest, the chief investment officer he says, “US labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and US GDP.” Cembalest continues to explain why corporate profits are so strong while the rest of the working class are feeling the pinch, “reductions in wages and benefits explain the majority of the net improvement in margins.” 75% of the increase in profit margins directly correlate with the reduction in workers’ wages.
Why are your Republican friends aggravated? They aren’t getting paid their fair share of the national GDP and economic growth and they are paying an increased burden of the taxation in this country. Think about this, as you work harder for a company and productivity increases, you’re not seeing your share of the profits you helped the company earn.
If you remember the report earlier this year that 50% of American do not pay taxes?
Well that turns out to be first and foremost a cherry picked piece of data. That is directly from 2009, when more people were unemployed, President Obama’s tax cuts for working families etc. In any other year that number hovers around 35%.
So the next time you have a discussion with a working class Republican, ask them when is the last time they heard their candidate(s) ever mentioned American wages being on the decline.
Then you tell them that it is the GOP that fights against raising the minimum wage and organized labor and ultimately fights against your economic interests. The Republican tell us that raising the minimum wage will cause an increase in prices. Sure this could happen, unless you don’t believe in competition in the free market.
What happens if company (A) doesn’t pass on the extra wages onto the consumer, takes a smaller profit to keep prices low, while their competitors pass on the wage increase to keep profits high? The consumer will go to company (A) and actually increase his profits due to increase consumer demand.
All Republicans say is reduce taxes as if that has translated to increasing the economic status of working Americans, it hasn’t as JP Morgan has explained to us and their investors.
What middle class workers need more than anything is an increased share of the economic growth.
The best way to rectify our middle class situation is to increase unions in the private sector.
Unions in the past forced working class wages up for everyone, even for the non union workers. The reason is competition. Non union employers would increase their own wages to compete with union shops in order to keep their employees happy and ultimately keep the union out.
Today, there is no longer a reason to increase non union wages, simply because organized labor has lost its market share and there is no longer that threat of unions organizing around you, forcing wages to increase.
There is absolutely NO REASON why anyone who is a small business owner or a middle class worker to vote Republican. It is their policies that have squashed the middle class and protected the wealthy who have consistently hoarded all the increases in our economy.
It is these very wealthy people who have benefited from YOU working harder,longer hours, spending less and less time with friends and family only for them to receive all the gains.
If you want to be mad, BE MAD, you have every right to be, you’ve been screwed! But direct your anger in the right direction, don’t protest teachers and firefighters because they make a couple more dollars than you.
Working class Americans deserve a bigger piece of the pie, rather than having that pie being eaten by the few at the top while tossing you the crumbs from their chins.
Progressives just want fairness, we believe in shared prosperity, we believe that if you contribute to the success of a company, you deserve a healthy portion of the profits.
Stop pointing fingers at other working class people, because as Jay Gould a railroad businessman and financier said in the late 1800s, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” Let’s not let this happen, because although we are not literally killing each other, we are killing each other’s economic interests. Fighting to lower a fireman’s salary because people have told you , that YOU haven’t received a raise is ridiculous. It’s time for those of you that complain about YOUR working class salary to buck up and demand more for your hard work. YOU EARNED IT!
Friday, July 22, 2011
It's hard to believe, but it’s been 30 years since Massachusetts passed its groundbreaking bottle bill – the law that made it mandatory to put a 5-cent deposit on soda cans and bottles of beer. But that was before the prevalence of bottled water and other new market beverages – in fact, the deposit law now only covers about 40 percent of beverage containers. Some lawmakers want to change that by extending the 5-cent deposit to virtually all beverages including water bottles, wine and hard liquor – it’s an idea being met with resistance in some quarters and here to unpack the issue are Christopher Flynn of the Massachusetts Food Association and Janet Domenitz of MassPIRG.
80% of deposit bottles are currently recycled.
In case you missed it, this is MoveOn's ad:
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Fukushima-type disaster inevitable in U.S.?
(CBS News) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was to meet Tuesday to discuss sweeping new safety recommendations, after having just finished inspecting all 104 U.S. nuclear plants in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster.
On "The Early Show," CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian spotlighted one of those facilities' post-Fukushima inspection reports.
Watts Bar, in Spring City, Tenn., is the last nuclear plant to be licensed in the U.S., and a textbook study of the pros and cons of nuclear power. It provides electricity to some 9 million people in seven states, yet is dogged with a long history of safety issues and whistle-blower lawsuits -- including six by a 71-year-old great-grandmother named Ann Harris.
If you walk through the front door of Harris's house in rural Tennessee, you'll meet one of the most unlikely and feared advocates of nuclear safety.
Harris said she "began as a clerk in instrumentation engineering at Watts Bar in construction on Unit 1. And I could barely spell 'nuclear' when I went to work."
What was the turning point in her work? "Basically," she replied, "the books are being cooked. People are saying things, they swear under oath it's been done, and it hadn't been done."
When Harris refused to sign a multimillion-dollar construction contract riddled with errors, she said, Tennessee Valley Authority executives told her that her career was over. Instead, it sparked a 28-year crusade devoted to preventing a nuclear accident.
Harris said, "You can see a Fukushima happening here in the U.S."
So it's not a matter of 'if,' it's a matter of -
"When," Harris finished the sentence.
CBS News has obtained a copy of a National Regulatory Commission (NRC) "Post Fukushima" Watts Bar report, dated May 2011. CBS News had two nuclear engineers look at the report. One gave Watts Bar a "D-" and called it "appalling." The other cited what he called more than 40 "disturbing findings" during a 40-hour inspection, including:
A lack of emergency responder training
Faulty control panels
Malfunctioning communications equipment
Issues with portable backup diesel generators
We asked David Lochbaum, a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists why the NRC isn't pounding on the door of Watts Bar, saying, "Look we need these problems fixed?"
"I think the fact that there hasn't been a major reactor accident in the United States for over three decades allows the industry and the NRC to become complacent," Lochbaum said.
Are they just gambling, taking one huge risk with people's lives with these reactors, particularly Watts Bar?
Lochbaum replied, "In some respects, it's the biggest poker game in the country. You're playing high-stakes poker with American lives."
But Bill McCollum, chief operating officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the government-owned electricity corporation, said of Lochbaum's conclusion, "I think that's absurd."
McCollum says the NRC's findings are far-outweighed by safeguards built into Watts Bar.
McCollum said, "We're certainly gonna take those seriously, correct those issues. And then, even beyond that, our own reviews of the events in Japan have shown us that we have opportunities to bring in additional backup equipment that will make our response even more robust."
Tucked into the foothills of Eastern Tennessee, Watts Bar took 23 years to build, at a cost of nearly $8 billion. It was shut down in the mid-1980s over an avalanche of safety issues. In 1986, one independent report alone documented 5,081 "concerns."
Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told CBS News, "The NRC treats every single allegation very seriously. It doesn't matter what the source. It doesn't matter what the subject. We look at it, we screen those allegations. We have done that for years. All the allegations that were provided over the years at Watts Bar have been addressed in one way or another. If we had doubts about the ability of TVA to operate the Watts Bar plant safely, we would not allow that plant to operate."
So he'd shut it down?
Hannah replied, "Absolutely."
To that end, TVA executives gave CBS News an extensive tour of Watts Bar's reactor and its twin, Watts Bar 2, scheduled to go online next fall.
They showed us diesel-powered generators -- one of four critical back-up systems to keep water flowing to the reactor, preventing a meltdown. They also showed CBS News the main control room, said to be able to shut down the reactor in less than three seconds.
You'll have to pardon Ann Harris if she's heard it all before. She's won a record six whistle-blower lawsuits against Watts Bar over issues like millions of feet of faulty electrical cable, and says she's paid a price for speaking out.
There have certainly been attempts at intimidation, recrimination and really, threats on your life?
Harris responded, "Yes. They ran me off the road. They wired my car for firebombing. They dropped the universal joint out of my car."
Harris left the TVA in 1997, but she's still taking late-night calls from whistle-blowers, still driven to hold the TVA and NRC accountable, standing square in the cross-hairs of the nuclear power debate.
In Part Two of our report, we'll take a close look at the very personal impact of a culture war at Watts Bar.
If you haven't been, you might be interested in protecting it for your future trip.
Help Protect the Grand Canyon From Uranium Mining
TAKE ACTION -- FILL OUT THE FORM ON THE LINK
Congress is poised to gut protections on 1 million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon -- if we don’t take action right now to ban uranium mining in this national park.
The Grand Canyon is ground zero for a new uranium-mining boom. New mining would industrialize iconic wildlands and threaten irretrievable pollution of aquifers and the biologically rich springs and creeks they feed -- springs that harbor up to 500 times more species than adjacent lands.
In June, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited Grand Canyon, announcing that he favors enacting a 20-year ban on new mining across Grand Canyon National Park's 1-million-acre watershed.
Days later, a bill was introduced in Congress that would strip the Obama administration's authority to enact those protections -- sacrificing the Grand Canyon’s magnificent lands for more destructive uranium mining. The House of Representatives votes on that bill in late July or early August.
Please use the form below to send your U.S. representative a letter urging them to oppose provisions blocking Grand Canyon's needed protections.
Please take action by August 15, 2011.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
It seems Republican want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and our veterans.
This is particularly egregious:
Reject Attack on Commissaries
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has approved a modified version of S. 277, which would eliminate funding for military commissaries to pay for VA health care for veterans who drank contaminated water while stationed at Camp Lejeune NC during years before 1988.
MOAA supports care for the Camp Lejeune victims, but not by ending funding for military commissaries.
Please use the message below to urge your senators against cutting off commissary funds.
It has been said the the budget is a 'moral' document that represents our values as a nation.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
It would seem that the Republican Party is moving from being merely the "Party of No" to the "Party of Environmental Destruction."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says it all --
An Assault on Democracy
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Reader Supported News
Like the 104th Congress when Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, the House today is swinging a sledgehammer at a cornerstone of contemporary American democracy and undermining the most extraordinary body of environmental law in the world.
Chief among the attacks is HR 2018, known as the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011." The bill, currently working its way through the House, hogties the federal government's role in administering the federal Clean Water Act and gives states a veto power over a host of critical water-quality decisions that the Clean Water Act currently authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to make. This approach will foster a 1950s-style race-to-the-bottom as shortsighted and self-interested state politicians dismantle their clean water laws in order to recruit filthy polluters.
Corporate polluters - through massive campaign donations and relentless fear-mongering - can easily dominate the state political landscapes. Their indentured servants in Congress - many flying the Tea Party banner - are working to disrupt the existing balance between state control and federal oversight in our environmental laws by returning us to the days of limited federal supervision - a time when local government was on the side of polluters in a partnership that was stealing people's livelihoods, their recreation, their health, safety, property values and their childhoods.
The original drafters of the Clean Water Act were keenly aware of the problems inherent in leaving all responsibility to the states. Prior to 1972, that scheme had ignited rivers and firestorms and left Lake Erie declared dead. We saw the results first-hand here on the Hudson River in the 1960s - where hundreds of fishermen lost their jobs because their beloved waterways had become too polluted to allow anyone to safely eat the fish. The Clean Water Act, enacted shortly thereafter, created a beautifully simple yet powerfully effective tool to help address these problems: a federal safety net for water quality that guarantees a minimum level of protection to all Americans, no matter where you live. And for nearly 40 years this approach has been working.
Indeed, the Clean Water Act is one of our most important environmental laws, and it is a model - both in the US and abroad - for achieving a sensible balance between state officials' familiarity with local conditions and the important role the federal government plays in protecting all citizens from a race-to-the-bottom by polluters and politicians intent on short-term gain at the expense of local communities and long-term prosperity.
Having this shared authority is essential because state agencies face intense pressure to ignore the Clean Water Act in favor of the most powerful corporate interests. It is no coincidence that many of the bill's sponsors are from states where the EPA has used its authority under the Act in recent years to make sure minimum levels of protection are achieved, such as West Virginia and Florida.
Unfortunately, HR 2018 rewards states for their past failures and rolls back the clock nationally by promoting an agenda that benefits only those who seek to pollute our waterways - not the communities that depend on them.
Representative Tim Bishop of New York, to his credit, offered an amendment in committee that would have protected water bodies that serve as drinking water supplies, flooding buffers, recreation destinations and habitat for fish and game prized by anglers and hunters from these sweeping rollbacks. But sponsors of the bill would have none of it - further revealing their disinterest in the protection of the American public from the threats of water pollution.
Poll after poll shows the public's support for clean water. The American people didn't stand for these congressional attacks to our environmental laws in the mid-1990s. And we must not stand for them today.
Radiation probe finds risks at Ohio nuclear plant
By MEGHAN BARR - Associated Press
Four workers at Perry Nuclear Power plant exposed to higher radiation levels than normal
Nuclear plant workers in Ohio violated several safety regulations and had to avoid a 6-foot-deep hole in the floor when increased radiation levels forced them to flee their work area in April, federal regulatory officials said in a preliminary report.
Four workers at the Perry Nuclear Power plant on the shores of Lake Erie were exposed to higher radiation levels than normal on April 22 while they were attempting to remove a monitor that measures nuclear reactions. Plant officials failed to appropriately evaluate the radiological hazards associated with the removal process, which is a violation of regulations, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in an inspection report released Thursday.
The NRC said the plant failed to provide sufficient instructions to the workers, who were contractors brought in to help the plant shut down to refuel. The workers also failed to follow procedure, according to the report. Doesn't this make you feel safe?
Saturday, July 9, 2011
We've enjoyed the cost savings in energy reduction and appreciate that the prices have decreased and selection is more varied.
LEDs are promising. Manufacturers are enlarging selections, working to improve performance and prices will gradually decline.
Yet, the Republicans are employing the LIGHT BULB as the ultimate sinister plot!
To that I must say "Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! My electric bill is less than yours!"
Who are the fools believing this rubbish? Who doesn't want to save money? The Republicans? Who's the dim bulb?
Energy chief defends light bulb standards
By Andrew Restuccia
Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Friday defended a series of light bulb efficiency standards that are coming under attack from House Republicans.
The standards, Chu said on a conference call, do not ban traditional incandescent bulbs, as many Republicans have alleged. Instead, they require that the bulbs become more energy efficient.
“I want to take this opportunity to dispel a myth,” Chu said. “These standards do not ban incandescent bulbs.”
The standards, which were passed as part of a landmark 2007 energy law, require that incandescent bulbs be 30 percent more energy efficient beginning in 2012.
“You’re still going to be able to buy halogen incandescent bulbs,” Chu said. “They’ll look exactly like the ones you’re used to. They can dim. They cut out instantly. They look and feel the same. The only difference is they will help American consumers save money.”
Chu’s comments come just days before the House is set to vote on a Republican-backed proposal to repeal the light bulb efficiency standards. The vote is slated for Monday.
The standards, Republicans argue, will force consumers to buy more expensive LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs. LEDs and CFLs are significantly more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.
The 2007 light bulb efficiency standards were approved by Congress with bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush. But Republicans have targeted the standards in recent months as an example of government overreach.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced legislation earlier this week to repeal the standards. The bill won the support of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who previously supported the light bulb efficiency standards. Upton had come under intense scrutiny from conservatives for supporting the standards.
But former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) came to the defense of the standards Friday on the conference call with Chu.
Warner argued that repealing parts of the 2007 energy law would set a bad precedent.
“If we begin now to block sections here and there, we’re going to lose momentum,” he said. “We’ll be dropping backwards in America’s need to become more energy efficient.”
Repealing the standards could spook investors who require policy certainty, Warner said.
“It’ll be a signal that we are not taking seriously our overall energy problem,” he said. “This is highly symbolic because every single American – today, tomorrow and next week – are going to be relying on the light bulb.”
The "Experts" tell us that 50% of the energy used is the U.S. is wasted - simply wasted. (Isn't it time to move in that direction?)
By trimming that 'waste,' resource wars would be eliminated and our dependence on foreign oil would be reduced.
We have better things to focus on than a Republican re-run.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Reactor has been shut down since leak was discovered July 2 2011
North Carolina State University says a small [?!?] leak in its nuclear research reactor is not a public health threat. The reactor is housed in the Burlington Nuclear Engineering Laboratory. N.C. State physicist Gerry Wicks says the reactor is leaking about 10 gallons of water per hour.
Leaking where? Leaking what?
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Yet we can afford to continue to feed the war machine and to fight resource wars.
Our priorities are skewed.
KBR wins new CENTCOM contract
HOUSTON, July 5 (UPI) -- Texas company KBR will support construction project in 20 countries under a new contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The countries are all in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility and include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
The multiple award task order contract has an overall value of $3.8 billion, with a period of performance at two base years, with one-year options available for the following three years.
Under a previous CENTCOM MATOC program, KBR executed $620 million worth of projects across 32 separate task orders.
Please add your name to the MassPirg petition and let's get an Expanded Bottle Bill in place.
On July 20, Beacon Hill will finally hold a hearing on updating the Bottle Bill.
At that hearing, I plan to demonstrate overwhelming support for increasing recycling by 1 billion bottles per year — the kind of support that will, after 14 years of waiting, convince state lawmakers to pass the Updated Bottle Bill.
I want to hand-deliver 10,000 signatures at the hearing, but to get there, I need your help. Can you help us reach 10,000 by adding your name?
We'll email your comment to your state representative, and I will also print it out (on recycled paper of course) and bring it with me to the July 20 hearing.
Each year, enough bottles to fill Fenway Park to the Monster seats end up as litter or trash that we could recycle if we expanded the Bottle Bill to include bottled water, sports drinks, iced teas and other new types of beverages not currently covered.
It's vitally important at this hearing to show the broad public support the Updated Bottle Bill has.
Add your name in favor of recycling another 1 billion bottles per year.
Thanks for all your support,
Janet S. Domenitz
MASSPIRG Executive Director
P.S. It’s a public hearing, and we’d love to see you there. Email me if you’d like to attend.
Below are just a small sampling of recent articles and it would seem we need to consider the consequences of our energy source and its environmental implications, just as with the environmental destruction caused by mountaintop removal.
As Robert Kennedy, Jr. said of Mountaintop Removal: The Fight over Coal Mining is a “Fight About Democracy.”
Do Big Corporations have a right to destroy environments, sicken communities and contaminate drinking water?
To Frack or Not to Frack?
— By Kate Sheppard
It's been a busy week for anyone following the national debates over hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the controversial method used to cut into shale rock to extract natural gas. In New Jersey, a strong bipartisan majority in both chambers of the legislature approved a bill banning fracking in the state as its neighbor to the north, New York, appeared ready to end its moratorium on the practice.
Geothermal: The Safe Way to Use the Energy Beneath Our Feet
By Jordann Kaye
As the debate about hydro-fracking (also known as hydraulic fracturing) continues to rage in states like New York and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, it may be time to shine the spotlight on a less controversial way to harvest a natural resource from the ground -- geothermal heat pumps.
Insiders Warn “Shale Plays are Just Giant Ponzi Schemes” in Bombshell-Laden NY Times Piece on Natural Gas, Fracking
By Joe Romm
Tell T. Boone the Pickens Plan Must Put People Over Profits
The Fracking Fuss
What it's about—and why you should care
From The Progress Report:
The natural gas industry has developed the coloring book “Talisman Terry’s Energy Adventure,” starring the “friendly fracosaurus,” a smiling dinosaur who glosses over environmental concerns and promotes the message that fracking is smart.
Mark Ruffalo wants you to stand up to hydrofracking
NY fracking ban continues for at least another year
Pro-fracking ad accidentally reveals dangers of fracking
by Christopher Mims
Fracking Disclosure Pursued on Different Fronts
Fracking with our food: how gas drilling affects farming
Oil Company Investors Seeking the Big Two to Come Clean About Hydraulic Fracturing
Posted by FREDERICA CADE
The most danceable fracking explainer you’ll see today
by Jess Zimmerman
Tell President Obama: Keep Our Drinking Water Safe
Drinking water in thousands of homes 'contaminated with harmful levels of methane'
By Daily Mail Reporter
Pennsylvania Fracking Spill: Natural Gas Well Blowout Spills Thousands Of Gallons Of Drilling Fluid (VIDEO)
Major fracking spill happening now in Pennsylvania
Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way
The Dark Side of the Boom
Study: Dangerous Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Fracking
A congressional probe has found oil and gas corporations involved in the drilling practice of hydrofracking injected hundreds of millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals into wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009. The chemicals were used in the fluids used to open up deposits of natural gas deep below ground. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee also found that companies used at least 650 products that are known or possible human carcinogens, or are hazardous air pollutants.
Democratic Report: Carcinogens Injected Into Wells During Fracking
Study: Gas from ‘fracking’ worse than coal on climate
By Ben Geman
Fracking concern in South Africa?
From: Ruona Agbroko, Reuters, JOHANNESBURG
Blowout at natural gas well releases drilling fluids to environment
Fracking Ground Water
From: Andy Soos, ENN
Pennsylvania Limits Authority of Oil and Gas Inspectors
by Abrahm Lustgarten
Leaked EPA Documents Expose Decades-Old Effort to Hide Dangers of Natural Gas Extraction
Looking out the windows and witnessing the evidence seems to be enough.
It seems the only ones fooled are politicians, maybe the same ones who have accepted generous contributions from Dirty Energy: Oil & Gas and Coal
68 percent of Americans support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year, including 58 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats.
Americans want action on climate change and clean energy
By Neil Shader
It is a wild time for planet earth right now – evidence of climate change is being seen across the United States, from the parched and flaming forests in the southwest to the floods in the Midwest from melting snowpack and heavy spring rains, to the roller coaster temperatures that are plaguing the east coast.
While not all of these events can be directly tied to climate change – in some cases, possibly not even indirectly – they are all omens of what living with climate change will be like.
And while climate change denialism is in vogue among some political circles – so much so that a Republican presidential candidate admitting to believing in it (and believing that humans were partially responsible) makes the front page news – the rest of America is realizing that climate change is here, and it’s problem.
A new study from Yale shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans – 71% - believe that global warming should be a “high priority for the President and Congress.” A nearly unanimous majority – 91% – want developing clean energy to also be a top priority.
In addition to being wildly popular with the American people, both acting on climate change and developing clean, renewable energy are also incredible sources of jobs. Preparing our lands and waters to the unavoidable effects of climate change is one of the best ways to create jobs in America – more than coal and oil combined.
Renewable energy is no slouch either – with more Americans employed by the solar industry than in the steel industry, showing that not only is there already a foothold for clean energy, but also that there is room to grow.
Americans want action on climate change and on clean energy, and our economy needs it. Now it’s time for Congress to take notice.
Read the report
Monday, July 4, 2011
"Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit - watch - listen. The thinking is done for you." Roger Ailes (president of Fox News Channel) while working for the Nixon administration
By Associated Press
Exxon claims spill damage limited, Governor doubtful.
Authorities struggled Sunday to gauge the environmental and crop damage from tens of thousands of gallons of oil that spilled into the legendary Yellowstone River, as Montana's governor criticized Exxon Mobil for downplaying the possible scope of the disaster.
A break in a company pipeline near Laurel fouled miles of riverbank and forced municipalities and irrigation districts to close intakes across eastern Montana.
Exxon Mobil brought in more cleanup workers to mop up crude at three sites along the flooded river that were coated with thick globs of crude. Yet there was no clear word on how far the damage extended along a scenic river famous for its fishing and vital to farmers who depend on its water for their crops.
The uncertainty frustrated riverfront property owners such as Linda Corbin, who worried that severe damage would be revealed as the flooding Yellowstone recedes in coming weeks. The stench of spilled crude was obvious in Corbin's backyard - a reminder of the potential problems lurking beneath the surface of the nearby river.
"The smell has been enough to gag a maggot," said Corbin, 64. "I just hope it doesn't come too far because I'm on a well, and I won't appreciate having to shower in Exxon oil."
Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Sonya Pennock said its staff had spotted oil at least 40 miles downstream. There were other reports of oil as far as 100 miles away, near the town of Hysham.
Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. president Gary Pruessing said flyovers had shown most of the damage was limited to a 10-mile stretch of river. One of the company's main cleanup sites was about 20 miles downstream of the break.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer dismissed Pruessing's claim as premature. The Democratic governor said Exxon Mobil needed to get more personnel to inspect the situation close-up. He also slammed Pruessing's statement to reporters that no injured wildlife had been found.
"For somebody to say at this early stage that there's no damage to wildlife, that's pretty silly," Schweitzer said. "The Yellowstone River is important to us. We've got to have a physical inspection of that river in small boats - and soon."
Locial media have carried photos of apparently oiled pelicans and turtles. Pennock said she can't confirm any damage to wildlife or fish kills, but investigators were checking and she expected to know more Monday.
About 120 Exxon workers arrived at the site on Sunday. The company estimated that up to 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, spilled Saturday before the flow from the damaged pipeline was stopped. An EPA representative said only a small fraction of the spilled oil was likely to be recovered.
State officials earlier reported a 25-mile long slick headed downstream toward the Yellowstone's confluence with the Missouri River, just across the Montana border in North Dakota. Authorities had no further reports on that slick, and Pruessing said the oil appeared to be evaporating and dissipating as the Yellowstone carries it downstream.
Pruessing also said that the 12-inch pipeline had been temporarily shut down in May because of concerns over the rising waters on the Yellowstone. He said the company decided to restart the line after examining its safety record and deciding the risk was low.
The US Department of Transportation, which oversees pipelines, last year issued a warning letter to Exxon Mobil that cited seven safety violations along the ruptured Silvertip pipeline. Two of the warnings faulted the company for its emergency response and pipeline corrosion training.
Transportation department spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said the company has since responded to the warnings and the case was closed.
The company was also cited for "probable violations" in a letter in February. The problems included inadequate pipeline markers in a housing development near Laurel, a section of pipeline over a ditch covered with debris, vegetation in housing area covering a portion of line that prevented aerial inspections, and a line over a canal not properly protected against corrosion. The company responded in a March letter that it had corrected all of the problems, most of them within a few weeks of being notified.
The company and government officials have speculated that high waters in recent weeks may have scoured the river bottom and exposed the pipeline to debris that could have damaged the pipe. Eastern Montana received record rainfall in the last month and also has a huge snowpack in the mountains that is melting, which has resulted in widespread flooding.
"We are very curious about what may have happened at the bottom of the river. We don't have that yet," Pruessing said.
Crews were putting absorbent material along short stretches of the river in Billings and near Laurel, but no attempts were made at capturing oil farther out. In some areas, oil flowed underneath booms.
EPA on-scene coordinator Steve Way said fast flows along the flooding river were spreading the oil over a large area, making it harder to capture. But Way said that also could reduce damage to wildlife and cropland along the river.
Property owners said they could not wait long for Exxon to clean up, particularly in agricultural areas where crops and grazing pastures were at risk. The Yellowstone River also is popular among fishermen, though areas further upriver from the spill are more heavily trafficked.
Billings-area goat rancher Alexis Bonogofsky said the flooding Yellowstone brought the oil into her summer pastures - pollution that she was afraid would kill the grass needed to feed her animals.
"My place is covered with oil," she said. "I would like a list that says: `This is what's in crude oil.'"
The 20-year-old pipeline was last inspected in 2009 using a robotic device that travels through the line looking for corrosion, dents or other problems, Pruessing said. Tests to determine the pipeline's depth were taken in December, and at the time, the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed, he said.
"It was completely in line with all regulatory requirements," he said.
Workers first became aware of a problem with the pipeline when pressure readings dropped early Saturday. Pruessing said workers began shutting down the line within six minutes, although company officials declined to say how long that process took.
The spill was small compared to other oil-related disasters, such as the 11 million gallons leaked by the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. But officials said the pristine nature of the Yellowstone, along with its turbulent waters and riverside communities, complicated their cleanup efforts and attempts to assess the damage.
CHART: States That Cut The Most Spending Have Lost The Most Jobs
There’s a new cult of economic thought sweeping the nation — or at least many Republican (and even some Democratic) political circles. Its adherents cling to the erroneous belief that sharp government spending cuts will revitalize economic growth and create much needed new jobs
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) is an ardent follower of this Cut-Grow cult, as are a number of high profile governors. For instance, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) declared, “We’re going to have to reduce spending…to create a platform for economic growth.” When Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) delivered his budget to the state Legislature he argued, “We must continue to cut government spending” to create jobs and prosperity for New Jersey families. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) vowed his budget “lays [the] foundation to create jobs.”
Now these Republicans want the American public to drink a giant glass of their Cut-Grow Kool-Aid. But the data actually show the opposite of their claims to be true: steep spending cuts are hampering economic recovery in some states, while other states that resisted cuts or increased spending are now seeing declining unemployment rates, faster private-sector job creation, and stronger economic growth.
Relative to national economic trends, states that increased spending enjoyed on average:
•0.2 percentage point decrease in the unemployment rate
•1.4 percent increase in private employment
•0.5 percent real economic growth since the start of the recession
In contrast, states that cut spending saw on average
•1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate
•2.1 percent loss of private employment
•2.9 percent real economic contraction relative to the national economic trend
Illegal campaign contributions spotlight Koch subsidiary's complicated national identity
As Americans prepared to celebrate their independence from a foreign power, the Federal Election Commission reached a settlement in an case involving a foreign corporation making thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to state-level political candidates over a four-year period.
Last week the FEC announced the agreement with Invista S.à.r.l., a Luxembourg-registered subsidiary of Kansas-based Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States and a powerful force in U.S. politics through its billionaire owners, conservative benefactors Charles and David Koch. Invista, which Koch Industries bought from DuPont in 2004 for $4.4 billion, is the world's largest manufacturer of high-tech textiles including Lycra fabric and Stainmaster carpeting.
Because the campaign contributions came from the Invista S.à.r.l. entity, as opposed to a U.S.-registered Invista entity, they violated U.S. law banning foreign corporations from contributing to non-federal elections. The company self-reported the violations to the FEC last December.
The FEC found it plausible that high-level Invista personnel weren't aware that the company was foreign-registered, raising questions about the purpose of that registration.
But first, some background on the FEC case: Last December, Invista informed the agency that it had made 12 illegal donations to state campaigns totaling $26,800 between 2005 and 2009. The majority of the illegal contributions were made to candidates in Virginia, where Invista has textile manufacturing plants in Waynesboro and Martinsville. The company also has operations in other states along the eastern seaboard from New York to Georgia as well as in Tennessee and Texas.
The single biggest recipient of the illegal Invista contributions was the Democratic Governors Association, which received $15,000. The second-biggest recipient was the Virginia Manufacturers Association Political Action Committee, taking in $5,000.
Among individual candidates, the single biggest recipient was Phill Kline, the former Republican attorney general of Kansas, who accepted $2,000 from Invista. He was followed by Deborah Hudson, a Republican state representative in Delaware.
The other three recipients were all state lawmakers from Virginia: Delegate Steve Landes, a Republican who represents the 25th District in the Blue Ridge Mountains ($1,500); Sen. Emmett Hanger, a Republican who represents the 24th District in the Shenandoah Valley ($1,000); and Delegate Chris Saxman, a Republican who served the Staunton, Va. area from 2002 until his retirement last year ($500).
According to the FEC filing, all of the recipients have returned Invista's contributions except for the Democratic Governors Association. The chair of that group is Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland and the vice chair is Gov. Bev Perdue of North Carolina, where Invista has operations in Kinston, Wilmington and Charlotte.
As part of its settlement with the FEC, Invista will pay a civil penalty of $4,700.
'Where one is well off, there is his country'
That Invista was registered in a foreign country was apparently not known among even top-level employees making decisions about the company's political strategy.
There was "a general lack of knowledge among company personnel of ... the nature of INVISTA'S legal structure," according the FEC filing. "[I]t was not unreasonable for personnel to think INVISTA was a U.S. company, as it is owned by Koch, its bank is domestic, its senior leaders are U.S. citizens, its assets are principally in the United States, it was created to operate U.S. facilities, and its employees are overwhelmingly U.S. citizens."
Invista certainly has a complicated ownership structure: While its physical headquarters are in Kansas, the company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Invista B.V., which is based in the Netherlands. Invista B.V., in turn, is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, which is also headquartered in Kansas. Invista's Luxembourg operations are little more than a shell -- "limited to a single administrative office and one Luxembourger director," as the FEC notes.
So why would Invista be registered in Luxembourg? The FEC filing does not say. However, Luxembourg has long had a reputation as a tax haven -- so much so that in April 2009 the G20, a group of finance ministers and central bank directors from 20 major economies, added the Grand Duchy to its "grey list" of nations with questionable banking practices. Luxembourg has since been removed from that list after agreeing to revise its banking laws to better enable authorities to track tax evaders.
But Luxembourg still has a reputation for banking secrecy. Consider this review of the country's banking system by the PTClub, an online business that helps customers set up secret banking services like offshore mail drops and anonymous ATM cards:
In [Luxembourg] banking secrecy is part of the national culture more than anywhere else we know. As a small, rich country it has avoided the socialist problems of Switzerland where some politicians want to abolish bank secrecy. And while the Swiss apply a 35% withholding tax, investments in Luxembourg are tax free for non residents. And where else but in our beloved Luxembourg can you find the biggest banks disguising their plastic cards as guides to global time zones, or providing paper shredders for client use in branches?
The PTClub's motto is, "Where one is well off, there is his country." Apparently Koch's Invista takes a similar view.
Another legal action targets scofflaw Kentucky coal companies
A coalition of environmental watchdog groups has put two Kentucky coal companies on notice -- for the second time in less than a year -- that they could face lawsuits over their failure to comply with clean water laws.
Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance sent notice-to-sue letters yesterday to International Coal Group (ICG) and Frasure Creek Mining. The letters charge the companies' operations in eastern Kentucky with exceeding pollution discharge limits in their Clean Water Act permits more than 4,000 times in the first quarter of this year alone.
"The sheer number of very serious pollution violations we found in the first three months of 2011 is astounding," says Donna Lisenby, Appalachian Voices' director of water programs. "It shows a systemic and pervasive pattern of ongoing water pollution problems with no meaningful enforcement by Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet officials, who continue to sit idly by and let coal companies get away with thousands of violations."
The companies are among the state's biggest operators of mountaintop removal mines. West Virginia-based ICG was acquired earlier this month by Arch Coal of St. Louis, one of the world's biggest coal companies. Frasure Creek is a subsidiary of West Virginia's Trinity Coal, which was purchased last year by India's Essar Group.
Bruce Scott, Kentucky's chief of environmental protection, told CNHI News Service that the cabinet was aware of the violations because the two companies "verbally reported" them. He said a review of the discharge monitoring reports confirmed the companies were out of compliance. Frasure Creek was issued a notice of violation earlier this month, while ICG's notice of violation is forthcoming, Scott said.
However, Lisenby points out that a notice of violation is not the same thing as an enforcement action. She likens it to a speeding driver being stopped by a police officer and, instead of being given a ticket and fine, handed a piece of paper stating that the speeding occurred and asking why.
Last October, the same coalition of watchdogs notified ICG and Frasure Creek of their intent to sue over more than 20,000 alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. The majority of those violations involved the companies filing pollution discharge monitoring reports with state regulators that showed exactly the same effluent data over time, suggesting that the reports were fraudulent.
But right before the 60-day response period expired, Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet announced a settlement that fined the companies a total of just $660,000 -- less than 1 percent of the maximum fine that could be imposed under federal law. Kentucky regulators acknowledged only 2,765 violations of the law by the companies, saying the rest of the alleged violations represented mere "transcription errors." The watchdogs intervened in that settlement, and that litigation continues.
State officials claimed the settlement would lead the companies to fix the ongoing problems -- but environmental advocates say yesterday's filings suggest otherwise.
"These new violations show two things," says Scott Edwards of Waterkeeper Alliance. "First, it exposes the cabinet's deal with the coal companies for the ineffective, choreographed sham we always knew it was, and second, it shows that it is almost certain that all those 'transcription errors' the cabinet relied on to soft-pedal its settlement approach were really pollution discharge violations disguised as reporting errors."
Using the companies' own self-reported data, the watchdog groups found more than 1,400 pollution-limit violations by ICG and more than 2,800 violations by Frasure Creek from January through March. Among the pollutants reportedly being discharged in excessive amounts is manganese, an element that's been linked to central nervous system toxicity and intellectual impairment in school-age children.
The findings come amid heightened concern over the impact that mountaintop removal coal mining is having on public health in Appalachia. A study by researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University published earlier this month found significantly higher rates of birth defects -- including central nervous system problems -- in communities near mountaintop removal operations compared to non-mining areas in the region.
"These violations demonstrate an extraordinary level of malfeasance," says Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks. "When will someone go to jail for exposing our communities to these dangerous pollutants?"
The findings also come amid an effort by coal companies and other industrial interests to block the federal Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement authority, observes Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices. He points to examples of recent anti-EPA efforts including passage of a bill by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that would gut the agency's authority to enforce the Clean Water Act, calls from at least three Republican presidential candidates to abolish the EPA, and a bill introduced in the Senate last February to dismantle the agency. As Wasson writes at Grist:
In the midst of Big Coal's anti-regulatory crusade, however, Kentucky coal companies have given Americans another unmistakable reminder of exactly why it is that we really, really need an EPA -- and why a poll for the National Resources Defense Council shows that the agency enjoys the overwhelming support of Americans [PDF] from across the political spectrum.
The same watchdog groups behind yesterday's filing were also involved in a legal action earlier this year over thousands of alleged clean water violations by Nally and Hamilton Enterprises, another mining company with operations in eastern Kentucky.
Edwards says that the latest pollution violations uncovered by the watchdogs illustrate a broader problem with the coal mining industry: In its quest to maximize profits, the industry fails to take seriously the need to safeguard the health of communities -- and regulators are letting it get away with that.
"This industry controls government to a large extent," Edwards observes. "Until the people of this country stand up and say no more .... this is a problem that will continue on and on and on."
ICG and Frasure Creek now have 60 days to respond to the allegations. If the violations have not been addressed by then, the groups plan to pursue enforcement action, which can include filing a federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act.
(Photo of toxic runoff from a mountaintop removal mine site in eastern Kentucky from iLoveMountains.org.)
By Sue Sturgis
Check out campaign contributions from COAL
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Roger Ailes’ Secret Nixon-Era Blueprint for Fox News
Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a "fair and balanced" counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the "prejudices of network news" and deliver "pro-administration" stories to heartland television viewers.
The memo—called, simply enough, "A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News"— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes' work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. Through his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc., Ailes served as paid consultant to both presidents in the 1970s and 1990s, offering detailed and shrewd advice ranging from what ties to wear to how to keep the pressure up on Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the first Gulf War.
A friend sent this:
In case you missed it, Rolling Stone recently provided a fascinating look at Ailes and the Fox News organization. It's a long read, but I highly recommend it.
Fox News also hyped Sarah Palin’s lies about “death panels” and took the smear a step further, airing a report claiming that the Department of Veterans Affairs was using a “death book” to encourage soldiers to “hurry up and die.” (Missing from the report was any indication that the end-of-life counseling materials in question had been promoted by the Bush administration.) At the height of the health care debate, more than two-thirds of Fox News viewers were convinced Obamacare would lead to a “government takeover,” provide health care to illegal immigrants, pay for abortions and let the government decide when to pull the plug on grandma. As always, the Chairman’s enforcer made sure that producers down in the Fox News basement were toeing the party line. In October 2009, as Congress weighed adding a public option to the health care law, Sammon let everyone know how Ailes expected them to cover the story. “Let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option,’” he warned in an e-mail. “Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance’ ... whenever possible.” Sammon neglected to mention that the phrase he was pushing had been carefully crafted by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s largest lobbying organization, which had determined that the wording was “the most negative language to use when describing a ‘public plan.’”
The result of this concerted campaign of disinformation is a viewership that knows almost nothing about what’s going on in the world. According to recent polls, Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers. They are 12 percentage points more likely to believe the stimulus package caused job losses, 17 points more likely to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in America, 30 points more likely to say that scientists dispute global warming, and 31 points more likely to doubt President Obama’s citizenship. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland reveals, ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimization.
“What Nixon did – and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama – is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilizes it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”
What is particularly alarming is our willingness to surrender to ignorance, perhaps because of our deteriorating public education system.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
By Bill Gallo Jr./Today's Sunbeam
Plant remained in 'hot shutdown' mode Tuesday afternoon --Cause of pump failure under investigation (NJ) The Salem Unit 2 nuclear plant remained shut down this afternoon following a problem with a reactor coolant pump, according to a spokesman for the plant's operator. Salem 2 automatically went offline Sunday at 6:01 p.m. when the coolant pump tripped, said Joe Delmar, spokesman for PSEG Nuclear. When the pump shut down, the auxiliary pump system automatically started to provide water to cool the reactor.
Pump failure causes shutdown of NJ nuclear reactor
Internal emails seen by Guardian show PR campaign was launched to protect UK nuclear plans after tsunami in Japan
Internal emails seen by Guardian show PR campaign was launched to protect UK nuclear plans after tsunami in Japan 30 Jun 2011 British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and before the extent of the radiation leak was known.
Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.
"This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally," wrote one official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), whose name has been redacted. [In the US, the Casey Anthony murder trial accomplished the same goal: A virtual media blackout on the 3 nuclear melt-downs at Fukushima, save for ..........
Solar Could Save Money, Power Half of New York City's Peak Demand
By John Farrell
The City University of New York (CUNY) released a solar map of New York City last week, allowing building owners in the city to determine the amount of solar power their roof could host. The cumulative impact is enormous, with city rooftops capable of providing half the city's peak power, and 14% of its annual electricity consumption.
The city should immediately maximize solar power development to save millions in electricity costs.
At $3.50 per Watt installed, and with the federal 30% investment tax credit (ITC), solar power in New York City can provide electricity at 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a full 4 cents lower than the average residential electricity price (as reported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's PV Watts program).