Daily Archive: 10/11/2011

Oct 11 2011

Fungible

The big lie about the Keystone XL pipeline (outside of the corruption and devastating impact on the environment) is that it will create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign (read angry middle eastern brown people) oil.

The facts are that far from the pitiful 20,000 jobs promised independent economists estimate a mere 6,000 and that instead of lowering energy prices in the U.S., most of the Tar Sand output is destined for shipment to China and other developing countries.

Of the 5 oil giants involved in the project, 5 are not based in the U.S. and the 6th, Valero, is primarily an exporting firm.

Say No to the Keystone XL

The Editors of The New York Times

Published: October 2, 2011

(T)he State Department appears to be more persuaded by proponents who claim that the pipeline will help reduce America’s dependence on oil from politically troubled sources in the Middle East. We are skeptical about that, too.

What pipeline advocates – including big-oil lobbyists and House Republicans who have tried to force an early, favorable decision – fail to mention is that much of the tar sands oil that would be refined on the Gulf Coast is destined for export. Six companies have already contracted for three-quarters of the oil. Five are foreign, and the business model of the one American company – Valero – is geared toward export.



We have considerable sympathy for one argument: that construction of the pipeline would bring jobs at a time of great economic uncertainty. TransCanada has said the 2,000-mile line would create 20,000 jobs in the United States. The State Department concludes that the real number may be closer to 6,000 jobs.

Environment, Size of U.S. Oil Exports Part of Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

By Lyudmila Tsubiks, infoZine

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Much of the fuel refined from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks, a new report says.

The oil will be refined into diesel and exported, Lorne Stockman, research director of Oil Change International, said. His group opposes the pipeline.

According to the report, the crude will be delivered from Hardisty, Alberta, by the 1,980-mile, 36-inch diameter Keystone XL pipeline to refiners in Texas that are focused on exports.

“Europe has a diesel deficit, Latin America has a petroleum product deficit generally and we are increasing exporting our surplus to these countries,” Stockman said.

The key quality here is Fungibility

Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution, such as crude oil, wheat, precious metals or currencies. For example, if someone lends another person a $10 bill, it does not matter if they are given back the same $10 bill or a different one, since currency is fungible; if someone lends another person their car, however, they would not expect to be given back a different car, even of the same make and model, as cars are not fungible.

And this applies to all the ‘Drill baby, drill’ arguments.  U.S. demand for energy has plummeted because our economy sucks and so much of our production is being sold offshore.

Dominion seeks exports of Marcellus Shale gas

Associated Press

OCTOBER 9, 2011, 5:27 P.M. ET

HARRISBURG, Pa. – An energy company is seeking federal approval to allow exports of liquefied natural gas from the booming Appalachian drilling industry, saying that the nation’s natural gas supply is outpacing demand.

Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources Inc. announced last week that it has applied to the Department of Energy to allow 1 billion cubic feet per day to be exported through a terminal it owns in Maryland. The application, filed Sept. 1, seeks permission for the exports of liquefied natural gas to any country with which the United States does not prohibit trade, the company said.



“It is in our nation’s best interests to develop our natural resources responsibly and reliably,” Farrell said. “In the process, we will be able to improve the nation’s balance of trade.”

So basically we’re being asked to ruin our environment, kill ourselves with pollution, and give away our natural resources so that greedy energy companies can steal more of our money.

Oct 11 2011

The Endless Recession For Most Americans

For most Americans the recession never ended as was shown in a study (pdf) done by two former Census Bureau officials, Gordon W. Green Jr. and John F. Coder and explained in the New York Times article by Robert Pear. The household income has continued to drop over the last two years even though the Village has declared that the recession ended in June, 2009.

Between June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and June 2011, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent, to $49,909, according to a study by two former Census Bureau officials. During the recession – from December 2007 to June 2009 – household income fell 3.2 percent.

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The full 9.8 percent drop in income from the start of the recession to this June – the most recent month in the study – appears to be the largest in several decades, according to other Census Bureau data. Gordon W. Green Jr., who wrote the report with John F. Coder, called the decline “a significant reduction in the American standard of living.”

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In their new study, Mr. Green and Mr. Coder found that income dropped more, in percentage terms, for some groups already making less, a factor that they say may have contributed to rising income inequality.

From June 2007 to June of this year, they said, median annual household income declined by 7.8 percent for non-Hispanic whites, to $56,320, and by 6.8 percent for Hispanics, to $39,901. For blacks, household income declined 9.2 percent, to $31,784.

The study also looks at unemployment, types of jobs, wages, age and education factors in the decline.

Chart of the Day: Median Income Edition

Photobucket

Click on image to enlarge

The red line, here, is median real household income, as gleaned from the CPS, indexed to January 2000=100. It’s now at 89.4, which means that real incomes are more than 10% lower today than they were over a decade ago.

More striking still is the huge erosion in incomes over the course of the supposed “recovery” – the most recent two years, since the Great Recession ended. From January 2000 through the end of the recession, household incomes fluctuated, but basically stayed in a band within 2 percentage points either side of the 98 level. Once it had fallen to 96 when the recession ended, it would have been reasonable to assume some mean reversion at that point – that with the recovery it would fight its way back up towards 98 or even 100.

Instead, it fell off a cliff, and is now below 90.

In dollar terms, median household income is now $49,909, down $3,609 – or 6.7% – in the two years since the recession ended. It was as high as $55,309 in December 2007, when the recession began.

Anyone still wondering what is motivating Occupy Wall Street at this point need only to look at this study by Green and Croder.

Oct 11 2011

The Definition Of Corruption

So, have you heard the one about how TransCanada (the Keystone XL people) recommended and paid for their own consultants to do the environmental impact report for Hillary Clinton’s State Department?

Pipeline Review Is Faced With Question of Conflict

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL and DAN FROSCH, The New York Times

Published: October 7, 2011

The State Department assigned an important environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to a company with financial ties to the pipeline operator, flouting the intent of a federal law meant to ensure an impartial environmental analysis of major projects.

The department allowed TransCanada, the company seeking permission to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from the oil sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas, to solicit and screen bids for the environmental study. At TransCanada’s recommendation, the department hired Cardno Entrix, an environmental contractor based in Houston, even though it had previously worked on projects with TransCanada and describes the pipeline company as a “major client” in its marketing materials.



Environmental groups say the study underplays both the emissions impact of the new pipeline and the danger posed by a spill of crude from oil sands, called diluted bitumen, a hard-to-remediate mixture. An accident at a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy in July 2010 dumped 843,000 gallons of such oil near Marshall, Mich.

A 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River remains closed and cleanup has proved extremely difficult, running over budget and past deadlines set by the E.P.A. Estimates of cleanup costs have run well over $500 million. The E.P.A.’s regional administrator said her office had never seen a river system affected by so much submerged oil.

But the impact report for the Keystone XL project says that “response to a spill from the proposed pipeline would not require unique clean up procedures.”

The Enbridge spill is only mentioned briefly in addendums. And Cardno Entrix would have been aware of the challenges in Michigan: it was hired by Enbridge to assess the damage to natural resources caused by the spill.

State Department Admits Its ‘Independent’ Tar Sands Pipeline Review Was Paid For By TransCanada

By Brad Johnson, Think Progress

Oct 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm

The State Department has admitted their environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was conducted by a contractor paid for by the pipeline company itself, a potentially illegal conflict of interest first reported by ThinkProgress Green. The Canadian tar sands company TransCanada has applied to construct a major pipeline through the United States to pump tar sands crude to Texas refineries for the international oil market, and is awaiting approval by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. The State Department’s approval hinges upon a positive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), required by the National Environmental Policy Act to assess whether the pipeline is in the national interest.

A State Department official has admitted to the New York Times that the EIS was conducted by a company chosen and paid by TransCanada itself, flouting NEPA’s conflict-of-interest rules.



A spokesman for TransCanada, Terry Cunha, told the New York Times that his company had recommended contractors to the State Department based on “technical ability, experience, and appropriate personnel.” But he said the final contract for the environmental assessment “provides that Department of State directs Entrix. As a result, we don’t have a direct relationship with Entrix.”

Where Did the President’s Mojo Go?

By Bill McKibben, Tom Dispatch

9:31am, October 11, 2011

Four years ago at this time, the early adopters among us were just starting to get used to the regular flow of email from the Obama campaign. The missives were actually exciting to get, because they seemed less like appeals for money than a chance to join a movement.



What we completely missed was that Obama didn’t want us at his back — that the minute the campaign was over he would cut us adrift, jettison the movement that had brought him to power. Instead of using all those millions of people to force through ambitious health-care proposals or serious climate legislation or [fill in the blank yourself here], he governed as the opposite of a movement candidate.



As the months of his administration rolled into years, he only seemed to grow less interested in movements of any sort. Before long, people like Tom Donahue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, were topping the list of the most frequent visitors to the White House.  And that was before this winter when — after they’d been the biggest contributors to GOP congressional candidates — Obama went on bended knee to Chamber headquarters, apologizing that he hadn’t brought a fruitcake along as a gift. (What is it with this guy and food?  At any rate, he soon gave them a far better present, hiring former Chamber insider Bill Daley as his chief of staff.)

Now, his popularity tanking, Obama and his advisors talk about “tacking left” for the election. A nice thought, but maybe just a little late.

Increasingly, it seems to me, those of us who were ready to move with him four years ago are deciding to leave normal channels and find new forms of action. Here’s an example: by year’s end the president has said he will make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. The nation’s top climate scientists sent the administration a letter indicating that such a development would be disastrous for the climate.  NASA’s James Hansen, the government’s top climate researcher, said heavily tapping tar-sands oil, a particularly “dirty” form of fossil fuel, would mean “game over for the climate.” Ten of the president’s fellow recent Nobel Peace Prize laureates pointed out in a letter that blocking the prospective pipeline would offer him a real leadership moment, a “tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal, and gas.”

But every indication from this administration suggests that it is prepared to grant the necessary permission for a project that has the enthusiastic backing of the Chamber of Commerce, and in which the Koch Brothers have a “direct and substantial interest.”  And not just backing.  To use the words of a recent New York Times story, they are willing to “flout the intent of federal law” to get it done.  Check this out as well: the State Department, at the recommendation of Keystone XL pipeline builder TransCanada, hired a second company to carry out the environmental review.  That company already considered itself a “major client” of TransCanada.  This is simply corrupt, potentially the biggest scandal of the Obama years.  And here’s the thing: it’s a crime still in progress.  Watching the president do nothing to stop it is endlessly depressing.

Oct 11 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: When Industry Pollutes, We All Pay a Steep Price

Economics professors Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn and William Nordhaus have a new paper in the latest edition of the American Economic Review that should be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology. It won’t, of course, but let me lay out the case anyway.

In their paper, “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” what Muller, Mendelsohn and Nordhaus do is estimate the cost imposed on society by air pollution, and allocate it across industries. The costs being calculated, by the way, don’t include the long-run threat of climate change; they’re focused on measurable impacts of pollution on health and productivity, with the most important effects involving how pollutants – especially small particulates – affect human health, and use standard valuations on mortality and morbidity to turn these into dollars.

New York Times Editorial: Chipping Away at Gridlock

A small but significant blow for progress in the Senate was struck Thursday evening when Democrats voted to prohibit one of the many delaying tactics that keep the chamber tied up in pointless partisan arguments. It was a long way from desperately needed filibuster reform, but it showed that sufficiently frustrated senators can take action to prevent the Senate from being a total dead weight.

Unlike the House, the Senate has long safeguarded the rights of its minority party to prevent a simple majority from swiftly bulldozing bills into law. Any senator has the right to prolong debate on an issue, unless 60 senators vote to cut off a filibuster, a move known as cloture. Then there is a limit to the amendments that can be introduced.

E. J. Dionne: Elizabeth Warren: Refuting Straw Liberals

Washington – It’s not often that a sound bite from a Democratic candidate gets so under the skin of my distinguished colleague George F. Will that he feels moved to quote it in full and then devote an entire column to refuting it. This is instructive.

The declaration heard ’round the Internet world came from Elizabeth Warren, the consumer champion running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Warren argued that “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own,” that thriving entrepreneurs move their goods “on the roads the rest of us paid for” and hire workers “the rest of us paid to educate.” Police and firefighters, also paid for by “the rest of us,” protect the factory owner’s property. As a result, our “underlying social contract” requires this hardworking but fortunate soul to “take a hunk” of his profits “and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Eugene Robinson: Occupy the Moment

Washington – Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.

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We have no shortage of politicians in this country. What we need is more passion and energy in the service of justice. We need to be forced to answer questions that sound simplistic or naive — questions about ethics and values. Detailed policy positions can wait.

At some point, these protest encampments will disappear — and, since the nation and the world will not have changed, they’ll be judged a failure. But I’ve got a hunch that this likely judgment will be wrong. I think the seed of progressive activism in the Occupy protests may grow into something very big indeed.

Agnès Catherine Poirier: Can Marine Le Pen Win in France?

The handshake is firm, the eye contact direct, the voice deep and strong; there is no doubt she is her father’s daughter. Marine Le Pen also shares with papa Jean-Marie-the longtime leader of France’s extreme-right National Front, who retired last December at 82-the physicality of a menhir, those monumental stone megaliths one finds in Brittany and Cornwall. The blue-eyed blonde is as tall as she is large; she is une force de la nature.

Ben Adler: Another Racial Misstep for Perry?

After the Washington Post revealed that Rick Perry’s family hunting property had a racist name you would think the Perry campaign would be on their best behavior where racial politics are concerned. You’d be wrong.

On Friday Rick Perry’s wife Anita will visit Bob Jones University, the Christian college school in Greenville, South Carolina to have lunch with students and faculty. BJU has an unpleasant recent history regarding race. It did not admit any black students until 1971, and it did not admit unmarried black students until 1975. Fearing that it would lose its tax-exempt status due its racist policies, in 1975 BJU admitted unmarried black students. But it simultaneously adopted rules banning inter-racial dating.

Oct 11 2011

Occupy Wall St. Livestream: Day 25

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com

OccupyWallStreet

The resistance continues at Liberty Square, with free pizza 😉

How magnanimous of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “allow the Wall Street protesters to stay indefinitely. Making the statement at the Columbus Day parade, Bloomberg also proclaimed that:

“This is the place where you can protest,” Bloomberg said last week, calling New York the “most tolerant, open city in the world.”

Is that so. Mike? How about your out of control police white shirts that indiscriminately pepper spray lawful protesters and lead them on to the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge only to set them up for arrest? Are you going to pay back the tax payers of NYC for the cost of defending the lawsuits that will generate? Not to mention the pay out when the city is found libel for police brutality and entrapment.

As for “letting the protesters stay”, reality is that the mayor has no power to make them leave. The Zucotti park is what is known as a privately owned public space and there are over five hundred such spaces in NYC, including Tompkins Square Park, that are part of a program to encourage private developers to provide indoor and outdoor public spaces. Under the agreement these spaces are open to the public 24/7 and neither the police or the owners have the right or remove anyone so long as they abide by the law and the reasonable rules established by the private owners.

Tough, ain’t it, Mike, you aren’t a dictator.

“I don’t know how to fix this but I know it’s wrong.” ~ Unknown Author

Occupy Wall Street: Ben & Jerry’s flavour of the month

The ice cream brand has issued a statement supporting the Wall Street protests. So what flavour should that solidarity come in?

The board of directors of well-known ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has issued a statement, “We stand with you”, in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement:

   “As a board and as a company we have actively been involved with these issues for years but your efforts have put them out front in a way we have not been able to do. We have provided support to citizens’ efforts to rein in corporate money in politics, we pay a livable wage to our employees, we directly support family farms and we are working to source fairly traded ingredients for all our products. But we realize that Occupy Wall Street is calling for systemic change. We support this call to action and are honored to join you in this call to take back our nation and democracy.”

Naomi Klein on why Occupy Wall Street is different.

Occupy Wall Street… mansions

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Occupy Wall Street is on the move … uptown.

Why uptown? Because that’s where the rich folks live!

Organizers are planning a march on Tuesday that will visit the homes of JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) CEO Jamie Dimon, billionaire David Koch, hedge fund honcho John Paulson, Howard Milstein, and News Corp (NWSA, Fortune 500) CEO Rupert Murdoch.

The millionaires and billionaires are being targeted for what event organizers called a “willingness to hoard wealth at the expense of the 99%.”

Oct 11 2011

On This Day In History October 11

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 11 is the 284th day of the year (285th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 81 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1982, The Mary Rose, a Tudor carrack which sank on July 19 1545, is salvaged from the sea bed of the Solent, off Portsmouth.

The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule.

The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.

The Mary Rose had no known career as a merchant vessel. She was one of the largest ships in the English navy throughout more than three decades of intermittent war and was one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built sailing warship. She was armed with new types of heavy guns that could fire through the recently invented gun-ports. After being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she was also one of the earliest ships that could fire a broadside, although the line of battle tactics that employed it had not yet been developed. Several theories have sought to explain the demise of the Mary Rose, based on historical records, knowledge of 16th-century shipbuilding and modern experiments. However, the precise cause of her sinking is still unclear, because of conflicting testimonies and a lack of conclusive physical evidence.

Oct 11 2011

The Next Round Of Insanity

And it isn’t the first time.

Dexia gets new bailout with €4bn Belgian deal

The Franco-Belgian bank Dexia has become the first casualty of the 2011 banking crisis, with its Belgian arm being bought by the government and Belgium, France and Luxembourg providing a €90bn (£78bn) guarantee for its financing.

The bank, which specialises in local government financing and provides backing for more than 40 private finance initiative projects in the UK, ran into difficulties after its €3.4bn of exposure to Greece sparked concerns about its ability to absorb losses on the positions.

Other banks no longer wanted to lend it enough money to keep operating and it is expected to be the first of many to need bailing out during the renewed crisis in the sector. Alastair Ryan, analyst at UBS, reckoned eurozone governments could end up owning 40% of the sector if €200bn is needed to prop up banks – as estimated by the International Monetary Fund. Austrian bank Erste yesterday warned it would make a loss because of the eurozone crisis.

The embattled board of Dexia, which in 2008 received €6bn of assistance from France and Belgium, met on Sunday before it was announced on Monday that Belgium would pay €4bn for the operations in its country. Dexia shares resumed trading after last week’s suspension and fell almost 5%.

What Atrios said:

The CEO only earned a couple of million euros in each of the past couple of years. Worth every penny!

Repeating the same failed policies over and over expecting different results = Insanity

Oct 11 2011

2011 NLCS- Cardinals at Brewers Game 2

There is no denying the 6th inning was kind of a melt down (though I was able to stay awake until the 8th).  From now on they’re going to close the roofs no matter how nice the weather to avoid home field wind tunnel effects.

Maybe they’ll let you pitch inside too.

And that’s the beauty part of the Senior League game.  Pitcher bops one of yours, you bop the pitcher, there’s a bench clearing brawl at the mound, Managers get ejected and have to make their calls watching TV in their office.

You know, like hockey except for the razor sharp skates and sticks.

I’d repeat all my underdog rooting pablum from this afternoon except I’d even bore myself, though I will add that the Cardinals have won 5 of the previous 9 Series in which they’ve fallen behind 1 – 0.

Facing each other tonight are Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum.  Marcum had a disasterous start for the Brewers in Game 3 of the series against the Diamondbacks, but he was playing away.  Jackson had a bad outing against the Brewers at the beginning of August but has beat them twice since.  Marcum throws grounders and the Brew Crew’s defense is suspect.  Some of the more breathless pundits are comparing Braun and Fielder to Ruth and Gehrig.

We shall see.