Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Keystone XL Pipeline

Protestors have taken to the streets to oppose the construction of a new oil pipeline.  The pipeline carrying cheap oil would run over one of the largest aquifers and biggest sources of clean water in our continent, Environmentalist Bill McKibben explained on KPBS NewsHour.

On July 26, 2011, a bill passed in the House of Representatives to construct the 2,000 mile-long pipeline to run from Alberta, Canada, through the US Gulf Coast, to Texas.  The pipeline would deliver 900,000 barrels of raw Tar Sands crude oil per day.  Most Democrats voted no on the bill. 

Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson spoke in opposition to the bill and referred to the pipeline as the "Koch brothers Keystone XL pipeline."  He offered an Amendment to the bill - which did not pass though most Democrats voted for it.  The Amendment was endorsed by the National Resource Defense Council and would have required that a study be conducted on the potential new health risks associated with the new pipeline.  The type of oil to be transfered, Tar Sands crude oil, is more toxic and acidic than other crude oils.  This oil-type goes through a complex process before it becomes the gasoline running through your vehicle - payed for by you at the pump.  The complex process that the oil goes through would produce more emissions than other types of crude and would be worse for air quality.  If you live in a construction area, air quality will be even worse.  

US gas prices will also increase, says Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and especially for those whose air quality will be the most affected.  He cites TransCanada and the consultants TransCanada hired on this.  TransCanada is the company in favor of building the pipeline.  If Kucinich's Amendment had passed with Republicans (most Democrats voted for it), it would have required an investigation into the pipeline's effects on gas prices for Americans, along with an investigation to determine whether the pipline is an attempt to manipulate the oil markets.    

While Republicans claim that the XL pipeline will help decrease oil prices, documentation in TransCanada's application to the Canadian government stated that America's fuel bill would be able to rise 4 billion dollars per year by limiting crude from one place and moving it to another.  The pipeline would move the crude from the Midwest to Gulf Coast refineries.  Though the information on the increase was provided to the Canadian government it was excluded in the application for a US permit.  

Economist Philip Verleger says that there is an oversupply in the Midwest, which results in lower prices for Canadian crude oil and moving it would raise prices across the US by 10 to 20 cents per gallon.  With double the increase in 15 states (OH, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OK, SD, TN, and WI).  

The company Canada hired to evaluate the Keystone XL pipeline has stated that Midwest crude oil prices will increase by $6.55 per barrel and $3.00 per barrel across the US,  costing Americans 3.9 billion dollars every year.  The prices of other products would also rise.

Republican Rep. Less Terry says that two American companies are expanding to be able to expect the crude oil and that we'll have a reliable .7 to 1.3 million barrels per day, which will eliminate uncertainty and lower prices at the pump.  He explains that a price increase would be due to a new reliability, which would raise the value.  

Time: 2:35:15 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Foreign Lobbying for the Grand Canyon's Uranium and the Effects on Clean Water

On July 25, 2011 Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter rose in the House of Representatives to speak against a Republican bill that would enable two foreign entities to mine for uranium around the Grand Canyon: Russia (for its state atomic energy corporation) and South Korea (for its state-owned utility).  Mining for uranium in the area would have harmful effects to the water quality of 26 million people.  Slaughter explains, their bill is specifically designed to benefit lobbyists and special interests.  The lobbyists' beneficiaries need not be forgotten.  If passed, it would be an "auctioning off" of a national treasury - plus collateral damage.

The same Republican bill cuts programs for clean air and water by 40% and it would prohibit the addition of new animals to the endangered species list, yet allow species' to be removed from the list.

In the past private companies have contaminated the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes are 20% of the worlds fresh drinking water.  The bill would not allow the use of any funding to restore the lakes.  As with the landfill dumping in San Diego, many private companies are reckless and the bill to clean up a mess is usually left for the state to pay, an additional cost to the tax-payer - additional to the tax-payers' money appropriated to the private contract.  

Slaughter points out that the bill also affects the arts; the National Endowment for the Arts would lose 20% of its funding and the measure would likely put people out of work since money will be limited for workers' pay. The previous funding of 167.5 million dollars for non-profit art organizations has generated 166.2 billion dollars, supported 5.7 million jobs, and has put back more money into the treasury than taken out, 16.6 billion has been put back in tax revenue, Slaughter explains.   

Grand Canyon
Republican Rep. Rob Bishop says that the land in AZ was intended for mining purposes and that the mined goods will be shipped and processed somewhere else so not to worry about pollutants.  It's just fine to ship away jobs as long as it makes others sick ladies and gentlemen.  Slaughter says, the Colorado River is already endangered by uranium mines. "Adding more uranium to the water does not make sense."  Slaughter sites a NY Times article on Obama's moratorium extension, which prohibits any new uranium mining claims on one million acres around the Grand Canyon.  The article states, this extension will "protect...the drinking water for millions of people."

Democrat Rep. Edward Markey rose to say that if the bill were to pass "our air will be smoggier, our climate will be hotter, our water will be more polluted, our public lands will become more dispoiled, simply put this legislation is so toxic, so toxic that you'd better handle it wearing a hazmat suit."  Further, it would increase the infant mortality rate, add more cases of asthma, and add more harm to children and adults from toxins like mercury.  It would involve the future of many environmental crimes.

The bill cuts to a total of 78%.  The bill also prohibits the EPA in all 50 states from improving environmental standards on vehicles, which would in effect delay or stop the development and manufacturing of electric vehicles.  Markey states it's, "Good for the auto and oil industry" bad for everyone. 

The mining would expose people in the area to radiation along with anyone visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. Republican Rep. Rob Bishop claims that if some of the uranium were to get into the water used for drinking and cooking it would not be higher than the limit. A number lower than the amount considered dangerous in AZ.  

A uranium report on what unhealthy amounts of uranium in drinking water can do to the health explains that there is an increased risk of cancer over time, and that small amounts of uranium are automatically ingested and are absorbed and carried through the bloodstream.  This increases a person's risk of kidney damage.  

It's tough when mainstream media outlets obtain so much of their environmental information from a group called the George C. Marshall Institute, which is funded by large companies in oil and tobacco.  The institute fosters the ideas of the uncertainty of climate change, uncertainty of health problems associated with second-hand smoke, acid rain, and many other strange delusions based in profit pseudoscience.   

Economic Summit, San Diego, August 2011
One of the worst sewage offenders is a company called Veolia. Veolia has water contracts all around the state of California.  The company has been working on getting a water contract in the city of San Diego.  "You don't want them cutting corners with your water," said a rep. with Food & Water Watch at the Economic Summit held in San Diego, by A Better San Diego on Aug. 27, 2011.  Workers for these private companies make decent wages, but the real profit lands in the pockets of those at the top, and that's tax-money.  The all-around private contract costs more to the tax-payer than if it were to remain pubic and without the tax-payer, there would be no private contract nor public water company.  In addition, if pipes break in the city with a private entity - among other additional costs - more tax-dollars would be spent to purchase more contracts to hire people to fix the pipes; the privatization of water would cost much more to the public than if water were to remain a public entity.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

"If Anyone Was Looking for the Free Speech Area It's Over There"

On August 26, 2011 in the San Diego area Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter held a job fair that began at 9:00 AM this morning on a community college campus.  The event was held on a Friday, the day of the week when few classes are held and few students are in school.  

A man wearing a suit and tie walking away from the event said disappointedly, "This was a big waste of time, there were a bunch of low-level entry jobs, nothing that I can use."  Another attendee said, "Many of the jobs are military jobs and that's not what I'm looking for." 

A group of people with MoveOn concerned with the country's current economic climate attended to ask Rep. Hunter some questions on cuts to the public sector and the strain it has put on money for jobs that either they or people they know have lost. 

The group was limited to a free speech area to the side of the event away from the host who they had the questions for and away from the media.  Someone propped up these signs designating for them this "free speech area."  The area in which individuals have free speech.    

Executive Order for Contract Disclosure

Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo: both parties "...should oppose any Amendment designed to keep the public less informed..."

On July 7, 2011, viewable in the CSPAN Video Library, Republican Rep. Tom Cole rose to speak in favor of his Amendment No. 4, which would circumvent an April presidential order that would require companies bidding on federal contracts to disclose federal campaign contributions. Cole stated, "Companies wouldn't be judged merely by the merits of their past performance, by their capability to do the job, but would also be obviously considered on the basis of who they gave money to or against."  Cole said that disclosure would hamper a company's right to donate to political parties and campaign candidates that they choose.  

Democrat Rep. Norman Dicks rose in opposition to the Republican Amendment, "Our system has been improved by having public disclosure of political contributions.  The more the public knows about where the money is coming from, the better off the citizenry is."  He described the Amendment as an attempt to prevent disclosure of government contracts and especially contributions given to third party entities. The Republicans say the disclosure could be used nefariously.  Dick notes, "[Republicans] argue that companies should not disclose more information because people in power could misuse that information to retaliate against them.  Using the oppositions logic all campaign disclosures would be bad."  He countered that there are current laws which require disclosure and the Republican logic would need apply there too. His side, the Democrats, worry companies could make contributions secretly and notes it's what they're trying to avoid.  "... we already know, the Boeings the Lockeeds, the General Dynamics... they all make contributions and they are all disclosed. What's wrong with disclosure?" Dicks urges a "No" vote on Coles Amendment.  Republican Cole rises again and states, "The intent here is to make sure that we never link political contributions with the awarding of government contracts." 

Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo rises and states that Cole's Amendment is an attempt to block disclosure, which is about "disinfectant" and "sunshine" to what's going on with contractors who do business with the Federal Government.  Eshoo reminds Republicans that the contracts are paid for with tax-payer dollars and asks that there be transparency and accountability for where their cash goes.  Anna says both parties "should oppose any amendment designed to keep the public less informed... We know who supports this amendment, the American League of Lobbyists."  Republicans had previously opposed contribution limits, stating they need disclosure instead.  Now that bills to promote disclosure are on the table, Republicans write Amendments to oppose them.  
Republican Rep. Tom Cole:
"The intent here is to make
sure that we never link political 
contributions with the
awarding of government contracts."

A verbal and recorded vote were taken. Republicans voted in favor of the Amendment to block disclosure.  Democrats voted against it in favor of disclosure.  With House Republicans outnumbering Democrats by 48 seats, Cole's Amendment to block the executive order for disclosure, that Democrats clearly oppose, passes in the House.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Credibility of Budget Plans

The Labor Party's shadow chancellor of the UK, Ed Balls' blog on August 6, 2011 read, “As I said in my LSE speech in June, deficit reduction plans are only credible if they have political agreement and they deliver on what they promise." Balls questioned whether the US Congress's plans can be delivered with confidence.  

Ed Balls, British Labor MP
Watching the debt fiasco on CSPAN, it was clear that Republicans were the party facilitating the doubt - to say the least. The S&P press release singled out Republicans directly as reason for the downgrade, "Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act."  S&P had counted on the Bush tax cuts to expire and gave the Republicans stance on revenue as reason for the downgrade, whereas nowhere does the release single out Democrats.  

Republican Rep.
Tom Graves (grave digger)
There were talks of shutting down the government.  Republican representative Tom Graves said, "Let's put government in a box and shrink the box over five years."  Democrat Representative Anna Eshoo posted a message in her facebook notes on April 8, 2011 that in the event of a shutdown of the federal government, she would keep her offices in California and Washington DC open and that her staff would remain on duty without pay.  

A June 30, 2011 Bloomberg article noted, "S&P would lower its sovereign top-level AAA ranking to D, the last rung on its scale if the U.S. can’t pay its debt..." and "...Moody’s Investors Service said it will probably reduce its ranking if the government fails to increase the debt limit, leading to a default."  All the while  presidential candidate Michele Bachmann passed through media outlets vowing that she would not raise the debt ceiling.  Of  course FOX News was on board with Senate and House republicans including Republican Representative Bachmann along the way, downplaying the consequences of a downgrade to the creditworthiness of the county's debt or a US default.  When later, S&P did end up downgrading the country's rating to a AA+, even though the ceiling was raised.

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann

Ed Balls alludes to the mirroring US budget plans of the British budget plans and how the Republicans have not learned lessons by observing the British austerity outcomes, "That is why I am fearful that Republican Congressional leaders have learned the wrong lesson from the British experience over the past twelve months." 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Only 37-42% Voted in the 2010-Midterm Election: A case of operant conditioning

Only 82.5 million people voted in the 2010-midterm election.  That is 82.5 million out of the approximate 220 million eligible voters (total population of 308 million in 2010).  So about 37-42% voted for this new general make-up of our current congress.  63% did not vote and much less voted in the 2010-primary election, roughly 10%.  Within the 37-42% and 10% the majority were republicans.  

To put this into perspective I'm going to use two channels in mainstream media.  FOX News may be nonsensical; however one thing they don't do is equate the two major parties, democrats and republicans as two sides of the same coin.  The republican FOX News media anchors don't do that, no no no.  MSNBC, with its republican president and its vast majority of anchors who are republican do quite regularly equate the two parties as being very much the same.  Why anchors would be republican and then rant about both parties being the same is not rocket science.  He or she's a republican and then when addressing a liberal audience, equates the two parties overtly and covertly so that the liberals feel like fools for having voted since the "parties are the same." 

Whether learned through mainstream media, or through echoed slogans manufactured on MSNBC and PR firms these ideas make there way around whether you watch the channel or not. They encourage people not to vote, and even encourage criticism of others for voting or asking others to remember to vote. It's not a difficult trick, it's a form of operant conditioning. Two gal friends go to a store, gal A is choosing between two dresses.  Gal B doesn't want her to buy the dress that's nicer than the one she herself has, then she'd be competition.  So Gal B tells her that one or the other looks better on her and flip-flops between the dresses coming to a conclusion that both dresses are just about the same in the end.  So Gal A wrestles with the two dresses and in the dress she once saw as beautiful she begins to find all its imperfections and puts them both down as she equates the dresses, with minor differences, and walks out of the store.  

Further, people are more likely to vote every four years not two.  Classically, growing up we're told that voting for president is every four years.  It generally sticks that "voting is every four years" and that that's what really matters especially with media coverage (other than CSPAN and some online sites) overwhelmingly on the president and not on what's actually happening with the House of Representatives and Senate

Baby in A Skinner Box