Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New York State: Setting the Example and Getting It Done — As Usual

New York State Exceeds Obama-care Enrollments 

by 60 Percent and Premiums Halved

The story from here (NY Times).  It's a real success story. (Who's that over there? Oh, that's most of our elected state Republicans cringing in the corner licking their wounds).  

The highlights

In contrast with the early stumbles in most of the country, New York State, almost from the start, has provided a textbook lesson in how to make the Affordable Care Act work. But it has done so by making some tough decisions. 

New York State has signed up more than 900,000 people for commercial or government plans, lured 16 insurance companies onto its exchange, provided subsidies for most customers and reduced premiums across the board

Monday, April 14, 2014

GOP Women Weasels: Caught RED-Handed and Apparently Shameless

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
(caught in a huge lie and on tape vs. their voting record)

Watch this segment and whether you agree or disagree with Sharpton's approach, it's pretty hard to ignore the facts presented especially about the two GOP Reps. pictured above ... in their own words.

I guess they don't believe in the truth, honestly, or tale of the tape as it were.

I'll leave it at that - let the facts speak for themselves.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Budget, Debt, Deficit: How We Got Here — Now, How Do We Move Forward

National Eye Exam Chart
(focus on the black lines: top and bottom)

This post picks up where the post below leaves off - the recently passed Ryan-GOP House budget. It is always wise to look back at the causes and reasons for why we are in this very slow recovery - yes, moving slowly out and projections as seen above were not pretty with current policies as of 2011-2012 (but still moving forward slowly). However, the GOP plans for keeping the House and winning the Senate this election cycle coupled with their budget dreams would take us not only off the chart but over the proverbial cliff and that is not hyperbole, either. Let's explore the GOP's plans.

An excellent analysis is here from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), in part:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget cuts $3.3 trillion over ten years (2015-2024) from programs that serve people of limited means

Not much has changed on this front from Chairman Ryan’s budget plan of a year ago, or the year before that.  Then, too, Chairman Ryan proposed very deep cuts, the bulk of which were in programs that serve low- and moderate-income Americans.

The deficit reduction plan that Fiscal Commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson issued in late 2010 established as a basic principle that deficit reduction should not increase poverty or widen inequality

The Ryan plan charts a radically different course, imposing its most severe cuts on people on the lower rungs of the income ladder.

The Ryan budget proposes $4.8 trillion in non-defense budget cuts through 2024:  $900 billion from non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs and $3.9 trillion from entitlements and other mandatory programs.  These cuts are in addition to the discretionary and entitlement cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act’s (BCA) budget caps and sequestration.

Cuts in low-income discretionary and entitlement programs likely account for at least $3.3 trillion (69%) of the $4.8 trillion in non-defense cuts, and probably more than that. 

As the box below explains, our assumptions regarding the size of the low-income cuts are quite conservative.  The $3.3 trillion figure includes: story continues at the link:

Mr. Ryan explains his plan here at the House budget committee site with this fancy title: 

The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America's Promise

“The current path - which the President's irresponsible budget commits us to - will result in a debt-fueled economic crisis, the shredding of the safety net, and a diminished future. Americans deserve better than empty promises from a government going broke. The budget advanced by the House Budget Committee ensures real security through real reform.” (emphasis is mine)

Wow - reading that statement from Mr. Ryan makes me want to sign on to this budget, which I might add passed the all-GOP House by one single vote with 12 Republicans voting “No” with all the Democrats. So, it's pretty weak right out of shoot #1, I'd say, kinda like this, Mr. Ryan and no, America's dream is not what you profess to promise - far from it.

Chairman Ryan on "Facing the Facts" Out of Shoot Number One

I'll leave this post with that image ... and just think, the GOP wants total control of government in November. I hope Americans are paying close attention. I suspect they are.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

GOP House Passes Ryan Budget by One Vote: Cold, Callous, and Cruel

GOPers Drag Ryan's Budget Across the Finish Line 

The BDA*
(Budget Damage Assessment)
(* Military Term: Bomb Damage Assessment)

This post is actually an update the post below, now posted since the the bill passed the all-GOP controlled House by one single vote. Note: 12 GOPers voted “No” along with every single Democrat.

About that Corporate income tax rate reduction — it was done and the GOP didn't even bother to close a single tax loophole ... go figure. Trickle down will surely be trickle up (in their coffers for November).

A short segment explains this a bit more here ... enjoy:

I wonder: Are there no low-income folks in Paul Ryan's district? Apparently not enough to vote him out of office. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Paul "Marathon" Ryan Budget: Snapshot of the Road to Hell

Whack the Needy (The 47% Greedy Takers)
(Return to the "Givers")

The headlines from here (Washington Post): 

Everything you need to know about the Ryan budget

And this very good segment from the ED SHOW (msnbc):

I wonder: Are there no needy people in Ryan's district back in Wisconsin? I guess not, or at least probably not those likely to vote to keep him in office (Hint: hard working low-income families registered as DEMS, I'd surmise). Sure seems that.

This budget redefines harsh on with a sugar rush. The GOP House votes on his proposed budget (April 11, 2014) - check back for update then, and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline: Strong-Arm Tactics to Gain Land Rights

Fighting for Landowner Rights and Not for TransCanada Profits

Big Decision Soon, Mr. President
(Make the Right Choice - for the People, not for Oil)

Keystone XL Pipeline: Dagger Through the Heart of America 

Update (April 5, 2014) from here (Think Progress.org): Something that only Al Capone would love: A mob-like shakedown as it were:

TransCanada has doubled down on Nebraska landowners refusing to sign over their land to Keystone XL, warning them that if they don’t accept the current offers by May 14, future offers will be far less lucrative.

The deadline comes months after TransCanada upped its cash offers to Nebraska residents by as much as 700 percent to try to persuade them to allow their land to be used for the pipeline’s route.

For example, in January, the company offered one family $61,977.84 to allow the pipeline to run through their farmland, a huge increase from the $8,900 the company offered them in 2012.

The company has offered landowners as much as $250,000 to turn over their land, with some easements including crop damage and land-use compensation. Now, however, the company says it will not be making any further increases to the easement offers.

“No matter what we do, some people are going to criticize us, but these offers are not going up,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in this article.

An ugly situation is getting uglier ... the question is why? Oh, yeah, greedy profits, as if we didn't know.

Stay tuned - this story and this Blog are both growing ... coming to a head, I suspect soon, but in whose favor? That is the billion-dollar question.

Updated (March 13, 2014): This segment is from the ED SHOW on MSNBC. Worth watching, especially the unfounded challenge to a renowned scientist like Dr. James Hansen from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Updated (February 18, 2014): From one family in Alberta, Canada. Their story, in part:

Quote from Alain Labrecque: “You have to understand, I have worked for oil sands, I was a contractor … I’ve never been negative toward oil. Never thought this would happen.”

Though Mr. Labrecque once thought having the tanks on his property would be a blessing, he now describes them as a curse. After experiencing an unusual kind of sickness — fainting, weight loss, gray skin, strange growths — that he believes was caused by the tanks’ unregulated emissions, he and his family were eventually forced to move to British Columbia.

They have pegged Baytex Energy, the owner of the tanks, as their enemy. Baytex has produced studies claiming innocence, but has also offered to buy the Labrecques’ land in exchange for their silence. So, taking their doctor’s own advice, the family decided to move, and fight the battle for their home from afar.

Their doctor told them in blunt terms: “You are just a small, little bolt in this huge robot, and you don’t matter. Move.”

My best advice to President Obama during this tough decision process: Sir, read their story. Surely there are other families out there just like the Labrecque's - even along the Kalamazoo River in Upper Michigan ... the bottom line as they say, this is a bad deal and a very bad idea whose time should not come to the U.S. any longer - ever. Thank you, Mr. President."  

Great Clip Follows as Update of Previous Updates (February 3, 2014):

The State Department Report (referenced below) is part of the decision process. These are hardcore facts and not from a lopsided or narrow view. They are real:

The Canadian Oil Sands Crude is thick and sticky like peanut butter and there’s lots of it. Many simply call it “dirty oil” but crude is never clean. It is derived from Canada’s tar sands and it in fact does produce more greenhouse gas than conventional forms of gasoline and heating oil.

It is called “oil sands” by petroleum executives and “bitumen” by geologists. It is the crude that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline on its way from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries.

FYI: A gallon of fuel produced from tar sands bitumen releases 8 to 37 percent more carbon than conventionally produced fuel, according to a study by the Pembina Institute.

The industry and the Alberta government say oil sands producers release 6 percent more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is partly because it takes more energy to extract and refine it compared with lighter forms of crude.

And, now what I call a kick in our collective teeth: This is Canada’s position on the crude oil sands vs. Greenhouse Gases/Air Pollution/and the Impact for Humans. It is straight forward and blunt:Although per barrel greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the oil sands continue to decrease, overall emissions are growing as production increases to meet a growing global demand for energy.” 

Thus, I conclude: Since world demand for more oil, even this type and regardless for the cost per barrel in new and larger developing countries (i.e., China and India), we need to produce all we can from the Oil Sands to meet that demand regardless of the air pollution and perhaps irreversible damage? 

The statement from the source in this statement is stark. It appears to me to be irrelevant to anything the latest State Department will say since the statement comes from the proverbial horse’s mouth as it were (the Canadians who turn out that crude). 

The original story: Approving this hotly debated pipeline would send America down the wrong path. The science tells us now is the time that we should be throwing everything we have into creating a clean 21st century energy economy, not doubling down on the dirty energy that is imperiling our planet.

Basis for this addendum: The State Department released its final supplemental environmental impact statement on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Critics and supporters of the pipeline alike have awaited the report, ever since President Obama last year singled out carbon pollution as a parameter in Keystone’s national interest calculation. The newly-released report admits to the obvious: that “the total direct and indirect emissions” of the project “would contribute to cumulative global GHG emissions.” But in its final analysis, it says the proposed pipeline is “unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas,” and does not look at the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the tar sands oil that would flow through it.  According to this update, there are seven important facts that the state department’s survey left out – they are listed in the article (as seen here). 

Original update (January 31, 2014): Reference the map in the story wonder like I did: "Why not ship the nasty sands crude oil to the Canadian west coast instead of to Texas right through the heart of America?"  Oh, I see, the refineries are in Texas and not Canada and prepared to refine the nasty tar sands crude and ship it off to China or India, right (*for huge profits). So, spill and pollute for us and give others a as?  Perhaps.

This story comes from here.

The headlines is startling - highlights: The State Department March report concluded that the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline would have only a minimal impact on carbon emissions, because the oil sands in Alberta will be developed anyway. Several people briefed on the findings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said they expect the final report will track that conclusion.

As I said, so okay to pollute and spill more on us and what, then don't worry? Sayeth the rich and about to get richer greedy crowd? We are about to find out... how will any damage ever be corrected? Let’s read more there and find out. Then ask the people around the previous spill areas shall we? Nope can’t do that – it’s just misplaced hype. Well, alrighty then. 

Update (January 24, 2014): The headlines and story from Alternet.org is not pretty, except pretty ugly: “Radioactive Waste Dumped by Oil Companies is Seeping Out of the Ground in North Dakota...”

This story underscores why the Keystone XL pipeline and other brother and sister deals (see story next below) are slimy deals (no pun intended). Cite this introduction:

“After oil companies and state executives in North Dakota hid the news from the public that nearly 300 oil spills occurred between 2011 and 2013, radioactive toxic sludge is brimming back up to the surface, bubbling forth from the ground and mixing with fresh water across the state.” 

Update (January 20, 2014) headlines from MSNBC:  "Pipeline being expanded Keystone XL-style hit with oil spill..."

Key Points:

1.  A leak in one of the pump stations along Enbridge Energy’s Line 67 pipeline caused about 125 barrels to spray across a rural area of Saskatchewan, Canada, the company reported on Saturday (January 18, 2014).
2.  Company's Statement in part: “There is no impact to the public, wildlife or waterway. Enbridge first responders with clean-up and response equipment are on-site, and expect the cleanup to be completed this weekend.”
3.  Line 67 pipeline currently transports 450,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to Wisconsin, but Enbridge is currently working to nearly double its capacity, bringing its total daily load to around 800,000 barrels per day. That would bring Line 67 into nearly the same category as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which could move as much as 830,000 barrels per day if constructed according to plan.
4.  While Saturday’s incident appears relatively minor, that hasn’t always been the case with Enbridge Energy’s oil spills. In 2010, one of the company’s pipelines dumped about one million gallons of crude oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes it the largest inland oil spill in American history, and Enbridge is still working to clean up the mess. In fact, the company recently missed its deadline to finish dredging the river.
5.  A spill that large may be an outlier, but environmental activists insist that accidents in general are the norm for Enbridge. In a 2012 blog post opposing the Line 67 expansion, Sierra Club accused the company of having “a notoriously poor spill and safety record.” The author of the blog post cited a report [.pdf] from Canada’s progressive Polaris Institute, claiming that the company had accidentally spilled approximately 161,475 barrels of oil between 1999 and 2010.

Continue the story at link above. I have said for a very long time that the Keystone XL pipeline through the heart of America is really bad idea, and now, so is its cousin, Line 67...

Original Material Follows from Here: The headlines of this major update are startling:

People Who Live Downwind of Alberta’s Oil and Tar Sands Operations are Getting Blood Cancer

A new study has found that levels of air pollution downwind of the largest tar sands, oil and gas producing region in Canada rival levels found in the world’s most polluted cities. And that pollution isn’t just dirtying the air — it also could be tied increased incidence of blood cancers in men that live in the area.”

Need any more reasons to show why not approving this pipeline through the heartland of America is the right reason? This might be the very best.

I no sooner introduced the issue of fracking into this site than new info pops up and this is a very serious revelation. 

“Fracking” (the commonly used term for hydraulic fracturing, which is the fracturing of rock deep underground by a pressurized liquid for the purpose of extracting natural gas) as part of this comprehensive record for both issues at this one page site as much as possible to track and update both issues.

A critically key question about fracking from this article: Is fracking dangerous for your health? 

Preliminary results from a new report suggest that flammable water isn’t the only thing the watch out for when living near natural gas operations.

Anyone who has seen Gasland 1 or 2 or the disturbing YouTube videos is familiar with homeowners near natural gas wells lighting their tap water on fire, just to watch it burn. But besides high levels of methane in drinking water, which industry claim were there already, does fracking pose a serious threat to human health?

The answer is, we don’t yet conclusively know the if, the how, or to what extent.

Both Gasland documentaries are full of interviews with residents, particularly in Pennsylvania, who suffer from a swath of ailments ranging from the unpleasant — nose bleeds, rashes, headaches, to the downright frightening — difficulty breathing, dizziness, chronic pain.

Fracking isn’t new at this point, but the rapid expansion of wells is still fresh, and long-term health studies just aren’t available yet. Read more at the link above.

An updated story is here — the highlights:

The natural gas boom has led to an “unprecedented industrialization” of many American backyards, an analysis from the Wall Street Journal has found.

The WSJ looked at census and natural gas well data from more than 700 counties in 11 major natural-gas producing states, and found that at least 15.3 million Americans have a natural gas well within one mile of their home that has been drilled since 2000. That’s more than the population of Michigan or New York.

The boom has left some towns inundated with natural gas operations. In suburban Johnson County, Texas, 99.5 percent of the area’s 150,000 residents now live within a mile of the county’s 3,900 wells — in 2000, there were fewer than 20 oil and gas wells.

Original Story and Updates Follow from Here (August 10, 2013): Highlights from this source which shows how the public is snowed about the Keystone XL pipeline ... 

On Thursday, an industry research firm announced a new study predicting that construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have “no material impact” greenhouse gas emissions. 

But while proponents and media outlets quickly reported on this "independent study," the for-profit energy research firm behind the report is anything but independent.

Story continues at the link ...

Updated (July 29, 2013): Background on Oil sands, Tar sands or, more technically correct: 

Bituminous sands. This oil comes from loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, and water that is saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically called bitumen (or colloquially "tar" that is due to its appearance, odor and color to tar). 

The above photo and the main article comes from Think Progress here. This is the key part to consider as the U.S. ponders any extension of the Keystone XL Pipeline (more on this is below on this page): The first leak was reported on May 20, with three others following in the weeks after — making it at least 10 weeks that oil has been flowing unabated. 

I have said for a very long time that the Keystone XL pipeline through the heart of America or anywhere in the country for that matter, and my view is strictly based on its record and evidence of a lousy deal, that it is a very bad idea. We should pass on it. This article reinforces that premise. 

Update (July 21, 2013): It can't hurt to look back and review some facts and predictions (seen here) as we now know them. Then you be the judge and then speak out as your moral compass tells you.

Along the way, trust the science reports, which say in part:  "This year (2013), the Canadian tar-sands industry announced new plans to triple production by 2030. A new analysis by the Pembina Institute, titled: "Forecasting the impacts of oil sands expansion," reveals that this rapid expansion of Alberta's tar-sands operations will raise overall carbon pollution by 250 percent due to the intensive greenhouse-gas emissions associated with tar-sands operations." Are you ready for that? Gosh darn science, right, which we know most Republicans do not trust, whether on this issue, or about our bodies (especially a woman's health care needs and their bodies) ..."  

"In early 2011, NRDC raised concerns that an influx of tar sands on the U.S. pipeline network posed greater risks to pipeline integrity, challenges for leak detection systems and significantly increased impacts to sensitive water resources when spilled. Observing a lack of due diligence by industry as it flooded the aging U.S. pipeline system with thick, heavy diluted bitumen tar sands and proposed a major expansion of tar sands transport on new pipelines like Keystone XL, NRDC called on government regulators to identify risks associated with tar sands pipelines and develop safety regulations to address those risks." 

"Since then, information has continued to pile up confirming many of the concerns raised by NRDC – information showing that pipelines moving tar sands are more likely to leak, that leak detection systems are unlikely to detect tar sands spills when they happen, that tar sands spills are significantly more damaging than conventional spills, and that conventional spills response measures are inadequate for containing and cleaning tar sands spills. However, despite the mounting evidence for concern, the tar sands pipeline industry continues to press ahead with their reckless expansion plans while investing in a campaign to avoid due diligence or improved safety standards for tar sands pipelines."

I keep updating this and experts more educated and advanced than I am keep reporting yet the damage keeps piling up. So, the single most-important question I pose is: "Why the U.S. and why now?" 

If not across the U.S. will it continue to expand? If it does, will it matter? It is for sure the Canadians don't want it in their backyard. I wonder why not? 

The rest of this series follows:

Update (June 24, 3013): The headlines pretty much says it all - or does it? From NBC News Science (here): Natural gas found in drinking water near fracked wells (see stories above - new series). 

Not as pretty headlines is it? A closer look at the story dealing with fracking put into some sort of perspective: Design of the perspective is from here (FracFocus.org)

Notes from the story:  "Elevated levels of methane and other stray gases have been found in drinking water near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania's gas-rich Marcellus shale region, according to new research. In the case of methane, concentrations were six times higher in some drinking water found within one kilometer of drilling operations.  "The bottom line is strong evidence for gas leaking into drinking water in some cases," Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told NBC News. "We think the likeliest explanation is leaky wells." 

More here Supporting Information (.pdf)

Find a well (fracking) near you from here (search by State and County).

Let's face, we need a whole lot more data on this subject as well as the Keystone XL pipeline ... quite frankly, there are more questions and unknown's than answers. The public needs answers. This is very critical stuff. 

Update (May 6, 2013): Update here from Huffington Post, and a stark reminder just how really bad this pipeline is as proposed to go through the heart of America. Noteworthy from the article is:

Alberta's oil sands, generally known as tar sands to opponents of Keystone, contain a crude that is thicker, heavier and harder to refine than the conventional variety. But as the world's stocks of accessible, lighter crude dwindle, the oil industry is expanding development of this "bottom-of-the-barrel material" -- a process that poses its own health concerns. More in the article and in the below links. It is worthwhile to keep repeating the dangers of this pipeline extension and once in place with the hazards just waiting to happen, it would be too late. That should concern us all.

Update (April 27, 2013): The source for this update is this story from NBC News.

My notes and concerns from this story in part are noted in RED below:

Oil there is not the liquid black gold you think of in Texas or Oklahoma or the Gulf of Mexico. It is a tar-like substance called bitumen. It is excavated by mining or steam assisted drilling, where it is literally melted a quarter mile beneath the earth.

1. This oil is so heavy it must be upgraded or diluted before it can transported.

At Shell's Jackpine Mine in the oil sands, the company digs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Twenty-eight trucks burning 45 gallons of diesel fuel an hour transport the goods once lifted from the ground.

2. The whole operation is a carbon intensive process sending more global warming gases into the atmosphere.  

How much depends on your point of view. 

3. The oil industry downplays the impact.

Opponents claim it is up to 37 percent more carbon intensive to produce a barrel of crude from oil sands.

The State Department, in its review of Keystone, says: 

4. The oil from this area produces 17 percent more greenhouse gasses than conventional crude

Those emissions are the heart of the environmental debate in Alberta, and a big reason why opponents call this "dirty oil."

My concern is that our government will "cave" to business (gas/oil/energy) interests over the health and welfare of those the dangers would impact, and indeed have already impacted (see the posts below that underscore this point).

I ask again, why can't they build it in Canada and ship it to their West coast for refinement and transport to China and India and elsewhere (for those huge profits) and not through the heartland of America? Simple: those Canadians do not want it -- I wonder why not?

Update (April 2, 2013) from NBC (Chris Hayes show All In): For anyone concerned about our health and safety, this segment ought to get and keep your attention.

Update (March 31, 2012):  The hits just keep on comin' from ThinkProgress.org:

More irony.  One week after the Senate (see below) held that symbolic vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. had two different oil spills involving that Canadian tar sands crude oil.

(1) An ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured leaking approximately 10,000 barrels of tar sands crude in an Arkansas town. As a result, 22 homes have been evacuated as officials clean up of the world’s dirtiest oil.

(2) Exxon also had to shut the Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Pakota, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, after the leak was discovered.

NOTE: The Keystone XL pipeline would carry almost nine times the barrels of oil as the Pegasus pipeline.
Yet, we still hard heads who want this pipeline and I seriously wonder why?

Update (March 23, 2013) - from the U.S. Senate here from Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate easily passed on Friday a symbolic measure approving the Canada to Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline, a move backers said showed strong support for a bill that would give Congress power to green light the project later in the year.  The amendment to the budget plan, sponsored by Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, passed 62 to 37

It was symbolic because the budget is a blueprint that will not become law. But the measure was selected out of hundreds of others for a vote and was approved by a strong majority in the 100-seat chamber led by Democrats.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters earlier this month that the approval process for pipelines crossing international borders belongs with the State Department. Symbolic vote???  Just what we need in this stalemated, gridlocked, do-nothing Congress, more "symbolism." Yepper, that's the ticket. What a pathetic bunch we have in office that dares call them on the job for, as the GOP loves to say: "For the American people." Give me a break. This is sickening. More this issue follows this update. Enjoy while you can.

Original post follows this and other updates (March 21, 2013): This critical update comes from Mother Jones here, in part follows:

My question: What is really behind the movement to build this pipeline? So, consider my answer: Big oil money and political bullshitting of the public. 

From the article: Late on a Friday afternoon in early March, the State Department released a 2,000-page draft report downplaying the environmental risks of the northern portion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in Texas, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  However (and now the punch line) when it released the report, State hid an important fact from the public: Experts who helped draft the report had previously worked for TransCanada, the company looking to build the Keystone pipeline, and other energy companies poised to benefit from Keystone's construction. 

State released documents in conjunction with the Keystone report in which these experts' work histories were redacted so that anyone reading the documents wouldn't know who'd previously hired them. Yet unredacted versions of these documents obtained by Mother Jones confirm that three experts working for an outside contractor had done consulting work for TransCanada and other oil companies with a stake in the Keystone's approval.

When the Keystone report — officially known as a "draft supplemental environmental impact statement" — was released, environmental activists ripped it as shoddy and misleading. Russ Girling, TransCanada's CEO, cheered the report as "an important step" toward receiving President Barack Obama's final stamp of approval for the pipeline.

Outside contractors (managed by the State Department) wrote the Keystone report, which neither endorsed nor rejected the Keystone pipeline. The contractor that produced the bulk of the report was Environmental Resources Management (ERM), an international consulting firm. On the day the State Department published the Keystone impact report, the agency also released a cache of documents that ERM submitted in 2012 to win the contract to produce the Keystone environmental report. That cache included a 55-page filing in which ERM stated it had no conflicts of interests writing the Keystone report.
But there was something strange about ERM's conflict-of-interest filing: The bios for the ERM's experts were redacted.

Apparently there are elements in the system who want this pipeline no matter the outcome. The public must resist with every fiber ... stay informed and up to date. I will do my best in that regard.

Update (January 23, 2013) from The Nation here: Addressing climate change was — quite remarkably — the most prominent policy vow President Obama made during his second inauguration (January 21, 2013).  In part, the President said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. "The Obama administration’s resolve on this issue will be tested quickly when the Keystone XL pipeline comes up for review once again. Mr. Obama denied approval for the project in January 2012 over concerns it would damage Nebraska’s Ogalalla Aquifer (see next entry below), but he also allowed TransCanada to reapply for a permit with a different route, which it has since done. A re-review of the project from the State Department may now be coming within the next few weeks. 

The story from here: Residents of the Great Plains (see states listed below and that could be impacted) over the last year or so have experienced storms reminiscent of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Experts say the new storms have been brought on by a combination of historic drought, a dwindling Ogallala Aquifer underground water supply (refer to (3) below in original posting), climate change and government farm programs.  Nearly 62 percent of the United States was gripped by drought, as of December 25, and "exceptional" drought enveloped parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Update: For the "we have to have the Keystone XL pipeline now" crowd. 

•  That oil is the so-called "tar sands" type - the kind piped from Canada.
•  Very corrosive oil.
•  Heavy crude that mostly sinks to the bottom rather than float on the surface (thus cleanup is nearly impossible).
•  Current cost over $800 million. Has taken two years (oil company had promised it would take a couple of months).
•  To date, 843,000 gallons spilled from those 20,000 plus barrels. 

From the final investigation:  The NTSB said Enbridge (Calgary-based Enbridge pipeline company) had noticed cracks as early as 2005 but had failed to repair them. 

"This accident is a wake-up call to the industry, the regulator, and the public," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in her statement. "Enbridge knew for years that this section of the pipeline was vulnerable yet they didn’t act on that information.” She added that “for the regulator to delegate too much authority to the regulated to assess their own system risks and correct them is tantamount to the fox guarding the hen house." 

The GOP now led by the Koch brothers (big energy hogs) and Mitt Romney want more of this "energy independence."  

Original, Original Starts Here: I have been posting about this subject for awhile ... this piece reinforces five reasons why this pipeline is a very bad deal for us, in part here from the article: "The top five [commonsense] reasons to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline" (again, the emphases are mine). 

(1)  Tar sands are “game over” for the climate. Canada’s tar sands, which Keystone XL would carry, could contain double the carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in history — and green lighting the pipeline that would carry them to the global market would be disastrous for climate change.
(2)  The supposed benefits of the tar sands pipeline have been over hyped. While supporters once said that the pipeline would bring gas prices down, experts agreeJobs numbers, too, have been wildly inflated; TransCanada gave U.S. officials a job number that was 67 times higher than the number they used in Canada. While every U.S. job is important, the estimates on this project have ranged from 50 permanent jobs, to 2,500 temporary jobs, to TransCanada’s claim of 20,000 jobs. Even unions agree that clean energy jobs outweigh this potential for temporary dirty oil jobs. 
(3)  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline puts our country’s natural resources at risk. The pipeline route passes through Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, which is the country’s largest source of freshwater. The Aquifer provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of Americans throughout the country. Even a single spill could have disastrous consequences for generations to come — and a University of Nebraska at Lincoln analysis of the pipeline finds that it could have 91 major spills in 50 years. 
(4)  On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Americans voted against dirty energy and against Big Oil. Big Oil bet big on the election — and lost big. Big Oil-backed groups spent over $270 million on television ads in the last two months of the cycle alone, and have little to show for it. A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll found that 64 percent of voters say they have a favorable impression of renewable energy. In a Zogby poll released today, only 12 percent of respondents said that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was a “priority.” Meanwhile, 48 percent identified renewable energy as a priority. 
(5)  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline compromises our energy security. The tar sands oil that will pass through the pipeline is intended for the international market, making Keystone XL a pipeline that goes through the U.S. — not to the U.S. Furthermore, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline continues to feed our dangerous addiction to oil that compromises national security and places American troops in harm’s way. 

A very key point:  Canada’s pro-industry energy regulator — the National Energy Board — just announced a sweeping audit of TransCanada’s Canadian operations. This is the latest in a long series of accidents, shutdowns and pipeline safety infractions that have hounded the Canadian pipeline operator TransCanada.  

Earlier this month, TransCanada was forced to shut its leak prone Keystone I tar sands pipeline down for four days after finding an “anomaly” — a technical term for cracks, corrosion or other defects in a pipeline which may lead to a rupture. These incidents are not unique; TransCanada has a sordid history as a pipeline operator.  Just ask the folks in Upper Michigan along the Kalamazoo River regarding a record spill there.  

As I've said all along from my research and actual events, this is still a very bad idea. 

Stay tuned - this issue is by no means a "done deal." It gets worse with each passing date and post as all these posts reflect - come back and update your own knowledge. Then help take action to stop this madness.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Justice May Be Blind: Just Not Color Blind — Case in Point

A lot of Green Buys a lot Justice...

Image of America Today

This story caught my eye and I felt just the woman in the picture. What about you? Highlights in my own words: I want hear anyone with a straight face reconcile, or even try to reconcile, these two stories:

Case #1: In 2009, Robert H. Richard IV, an unemployed heir to the DuPont family fortune, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree räpë of his three-year-old daughter. The judge spared him any justifiable sentence, instead putting him on probation, saying in part: “...he is a one-percent person, and thus he would not fare well in prison.” The details of that case just came to light.

I call this a WTF moment.

Case #2: Shanesha Taylor, age 35, African-American mother of two and unemployed. She was charged with felony child abuse in Scottsdale, AZ for leaving her two small children alone in a car for a little over an hour while she went for a job interview. She was taken immediately to jail, where she was held for a week. At the same time, her two children were put in the custody of Child Protective Services, where they still remain. Yes, two small children unattended in a car is ill-advised and not proper. However, under the circumstances that Ms. Taylor did that may simply be slightly written off as poor judgment and possibly the only one she had at the time.

But compared to the rich guy raping his 3-year old daughter? Let me hear the rationale. 

Words cannot even come close to expressing my outrage and I hope yours, too. So, now what? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ACA Hits 7 Million: GOP in Deep Denial With Life-Threatening Fever

GOP Temperature Rises 
(Just As ACA Numbers Rise)

GOP Scare Tactics Failed with Social Security
(Later Failed With Medicare, Too)

Boy, oh boy — does that sound familiar even today??? (A short look back in recent history):

'nough said...

Monday, March 31, 2014

GOP Crying Towel: ACA (Obama-care) Numbers Until 2017 (boo-

Reacting to New Obama-care Numbers
(See below)

Now Covered

Bright Future Ahead
(GOP wants to repeal)

Good segment from the NOW show with Alex Wagner (on MSNBC) (about 15 minutes):

The headlines, enough to cause any GOPer to shed an Ocean full of tears: 

9.5 million uninsured now covered

Help spread the word — it is good news.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GOP Blasts Obama's ACA Exemptions & Extensions While Ignoring Bush's

People's Informed View 

GOP Informed Results

Very excellent review and discussion of the facts (about 11 minutes):

Blast Mr. Obama for helping people, even beyond deadlines, but give Dubya a pass — how GOPer of them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Birth Control, Woman's Choice, Obama-care, Church-State: Front and Center

Family-owned, for-profit Business at Center of USSC Pending Decision
Some Nuns Stand Against Anti-Birth Control Crowd

Overall: The Center of the Argument

Major Update (March 25, 2014): This account of the pending Supreme Court case comes from NPR, in part:

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard the arguments in the latest challenge to the Obama health care overhaul (the ACA/Obama-care).

This time the issue is whether for-profit corporations who cite religious objections may refuse to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to their employees.

It is a case that touches a lot of hot-button issues. In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers to provide basic preventive care for employees. That turned out to include all 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Under the law, religious nonprofits were exempted from this requirement, but for-profit corporations were not.

The lead plaintiff in this case is Hobby Lobby Inc., a chain of 500 arts and crafts stores with 13,000 employees. The owners are conservative Christians who object to certain methods of birth control — IUDs and morning-after pills — because they can interfere with the creation of life once an egg is fertilized.

They have said: “We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by ... and so we cannot be a part of taking life.” So explained Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

Added by CEO and founder, David Green: “It's our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience.”

As for me, I believe that the basic point is in this statement (also seen below) of this case: “It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.” I also would add that for many reasons today we are starting to see the phrase: “It's my religion or that law is against my religion” as a reason (or excuse) to just ignore a law, or worse, to discriminate like we saw attempted in the recently-vetoed law in Arizona. What is next?

Another 5-4 ruling right now could open the field wide open for all sorts of misguided mischief actually designed to kill the ACA anyway possible... how about someone just saying: “I hate this damn law and I ain’t gonna obey it – I aint’ never gonna get sick or need it. If I do, I’ll pay cash. That is my right to do that and besides, I not trust no darn Federal law of any kind no how.” 

Um ... far fetched? Not really.

Story from here: This whole issue is getting really crazy. The issue or now becoming an iron-clad GOP/right wing belief: “... that you can do anything you want or choose if you simply cite your religious right to for example: discriminate against anyone for any reason; not to allow birth control in health care plans, or maybe even just shoot someone, anyone you choose” again, as long as you say it's my religious belief to do that. 

As explained below in more detail, the Supreme Court is hearing two landmark cases about the validity of a rule under Obama-care that mandates that employer health care plans must cover emergency contraceptives for female employees without co-pays. These two cases carry potentially far-reaching implications for Obama-care in this regard. Possibly hampering:

(1) access to birth control, (2) also redefines or defines the concept of corporate person-hood, and (3) shows what the limits are to the extent to which religious liberty can exempt entities from laws they object to if they cite a religious reason.

I conclude that we are in a fleet of leaky insanity boats heading for the funny farm. If this court (possibly again by a 5-4 ruling) allows this to happen, then it surely speaks very poorly about who we are as a people — indeed as a society that acts rationally.

The Original Post Starts from Here: Great rationale by the Nuns in this story and I say good for them. This case will be heard by the USSC next week.

My reading on this is noted below (emphasis in red):

But, first the background: In January, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in Colorado operated by an order of nuns filed an emergency petition before the Supreme Court claiming that the middle ground the Obama administration had crafted for religiously-affiliated non-profits – i.e., signing a form for a third party administrator to cover contraception violated their religious freedom. 

Attorneys for the Little Sisters said at the time that the Obama administration was “... trying to bully the Nuns into violating their religious beliefs.” 

Now here were are today, but with a different slant: A separate group of Nuns is taking the opposite view. They are defending birth control coverage in the ACA (Obama-care) in their online petition. The head of the National Coalition of American Nuns, Donna Quinn, told Religion Dispatches about that this way: 

“It isn’t faith and freedom when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.” 

I totally agree with the rationale. I hope they prevail and win their case. They should. However, with this right-leaning court with their record of many 5-4 rulings, who knows what the outcome will be. In the meantime ponder this comparison on the topic of absolute religious rights and freedoms with this example: 

This case will allow employees to refuse birth control coverage in their employee health care plans if they cite their religious views against birth control. 

We saw only a few months ago that kind of argument fell flat in Arizona. That failed law would have allowed legal discrimination for religious reasons. 

Ponder this: “Yes, that SOB deserved to die. God gave me the absolute right to own and carry a gun. And, yes, I took him out because it is religious right to do so. Praise the Lord.”  

Sound bizarre or far fetched? Only if one is not paying close attention to the roots of the arguments: anti-everything Obama.