Originally posted at Voices on the Square, a new blog in the sphere featuring News, Information, and Fun!
Welcome to You’re Doing It Wrong!, a weekly column taking the Powers That Be (PTB), especially the media and talking heads, to task for poor information and poor framing.
This week I’m building on the narrative from last week on the state of journalism in this country. I’m doing it because last Sunday I finally had the time to watch all the episodes that I had DVRd of the new show The Newsroom, and I’m giddy about it.
It’s a show that is about a fictional newsroom at a cable network. Granted it’s a drama, so its characters are going to have their share of personal story lines, but when it comes to showcasing the news and a newsroom, what goes on and more importantly what should be going on – this show gets as close to right as I’ve seen anything get.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive Jamie Dimon reshuffled managers just below him, signalling that the biggest U.S. bank is preparing for life after its famed boss.
The management moves will mean a number of senior positions are jointly held by two executives. Analysts said the shared responsibility is a response to the trading losses that came from the bank’s chief investment office.
This is at least the third management shakeup in three years for the bank, which has long faced questions about who would lead it after Mr. Dimon, 56, steps down. In a June 2011 shakeup, reporting lines were streamlined.
Maybe not so much.
Mr. Dimon has said he likes to move promising executives around to give them experience in different parts of the bank, a management philosophy popularized by General Electric Co. The moves were being lined up earlier this year, but were delayed when multibillion-dollar losses surfaced in a portfolio of credit derivatives, bank spokesman Joseph Evangelisti said.
Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from otherwise inaccessible underground sources, such as the Marcellus Shale Formation which extends under much of the Appalachian Basin. The process involves millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals pumped underground, under high pressure, to break apart the rock and release the gas. Scientists are worried that the chemicals used in fracturing may pose a threat either underground or when waste fluids are handled and sometimes spilled on the surface. Needless to say it is a hot political topic, nationally and locally, that has generated law suits, studies and a lot of propaganda from oil companies, the news media and the government
On Tuesday the town of Hiram held a public meeting with representatives of the company Mountaineer Keystone (MK). MK, a subsidiary of First Reserve Corporation, is set to begin fracking operations in Hiram next month. The company is a bit of an enigma; for one, it does not appear to have a web site, just a generic landing page at First Reserve. Also, according to Business Week it was founded in 2010 and lists no Key Executives. So who exactly the public was meeting with was something of a mystery. [..]
The town counsel began by taking some questions, and residents tried to probe for different ways to slow down this runaway train. Ohio has home rule nominally enshrined in its Constitution, but the Small Government Conservatives in Columbus have happily chipped away at it whenever it has threatened (as in this case) to result in a messy outburst of local control.
Residents asked some creative questions, though. One asked about being annexed by a larger neighboring municipality in order to get a greater degree of local control. [..]
Another resident asked (start of clip) why a noise ordinance couldn’t be enforced. The trustee responded that the township didn’t have the manpower to enforce it, and after a little back-and-forth she says: How about volunteer police officers? [..]
The unresponsiveness of the officials brought to mind a concept I first encountered in Dana Nelson’s Bad For Democracy (p. 177): plebiscetary democracy. As Barney Frank described it relative to the Bush years, this is a system “wherein a leader is elected but once elected has almost all of the power” (Cf. Bush’s accountability moment).
These officials continually defer all proposals to the state level. Try getting the industry-friendly government in Columbus to do something about it, they say – which is really just a polite way of saying shut up and go away. By and large local officials bristle at any kind of pressure to act on this issue. There was an accountability moment a couple years ago, is the implication. You had your chance, now buzz off. See you next election day.
Some citizens, though, believe accountability moments happen at more frequent intervals.
A Pennsylvania court on Thursday struck down a provision of a state law that forbade municipalities to limit where natural gas drilling can take place within their boundaries.
The law, known as Act 13 and approved in February, required that drilling be allowed in all zoning districts, even residential areas, although with certain buffers. The law had been sought by drillers who have been fracking in the Marcellus Shale and wanted uniformity in rules on where they could drill.
But an appellate court found such a requirement unconstitutional, saying it allowed “incompatible uses in zoning districts,” failed to protect the interests of neighboring property owners and altered the character of neighborhoods.
Lawyers for the seven municipalities that sued over the state law said the court had reinstated their power to carry out basic zoning.
“It will allow local governments to continue to play a meaningful role in protecting property rights, residents and water supplies,” said Jordan B. Yeager, a lawyer who represented the township of Nockamixon and the Borough of Yardley, both in Bucks County.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of the great state of New York, I’d like you to meet Josh Fox. As you may know, Josh, who is 39, wrote and directed a film called Gasland, which I’m sure is at the top of your Netflix queue. In 2010, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary and helped bring the world’s attention to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. To put it another way, Josh is the guy who is largely responsible for the political minefield that you now find yourself tip-toeing through as you consider whether or not to lift the moratorium on fracking in New York State. [..]
Last week, someone in your administration – I won’t try to guess who! – leaked details of your administration’s plan to allow fracking to the New York Times. I’ll give you this: You didn’t allow Chesapeake and the other gas industry thugs to roll you entirely; among other things, the plan limits fracking to five counties in the southern tier of the state and places restrictions on drilling near drinking water supplies. Obviously, you’re trying to appear rational and pragmatic about all this, talking about following “the science” while balancing economic development with environmental and public health concerns.
Well, guess what? When it comes to fracking, there isn’t much “science” to follow yet – there’s mostly just industry-funded propoganda. Not only that, but there are a whole lot of people in your state who don’t want you to balance anything. They’ve seen what has happened in Pennsylvania where the gas companies have run wild and they fear that once the drillers get their bits into the ground in New York, it’s a mad rush to ruin.
Elaine K. Hill, a doctoral candidate in Cornell University’s department of applied economics and management, found evidence that fracking is associated with the frequency of low birth weight babies. The findings of her study (pdf) implied that for mothers living close to a fracking site, the probability of a low birth weight baby increased by 25 percent.
While this might be important information for government officials and the general public to have when considering restrictions on fracking, New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin is outraged that an unpublished study is being widely circulated and could impact public policy. From his blogpost, it sounds like Revkin gave Hill a really serious grilling about the ethics of allowing her unpublished study to influence debate on a major national issue. [..]
Hill has uncovered an important finding. If there is some fundamental error in her methodology then the more senior people in the field who are condemning her, should be able to quickly identify it. Revkin found people with plenty of bad things to say about Hill, but he was apparently unable to find anyone with fundamental questions about her methodology or who could suggest an alternative explanation for her findings.
Given the importance of these findings, it would have been irresponsible for Hill not to make them public. It’s unfortunate she has to deal with people who are more concerned about credentials than science.
On Saturday, June 2, 2012, I hosted a screening of Josh Fox’s documentary film, Gasland, at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York. After the film, I moderated a panel that included Fox, Kate Hudson from Waterkeeper Alliance, ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber and Cornell University engineering professor Dr. Anthony Ingraffea. The event was co-sponsored by a consortium of anti-fracking groups in Central New York and beyond, such as World Grain Organization, Frack Action and Shale Shock, to name only a few. Supporters of hydraulic fracturing in the natural gas industry were invited to attend and provided with an opportunity to participate. All of those declined, as did all local, state and federal officials that were contacted. [..]
Issues of hidden costs to tax-payers for infrastructure that will ultimately line the pockets of very few in the Southern Tier of New York State while potentially causing catastrophic contamination of billions of gallons of fresh water aside, it was Kate Hudson who raised what I view as the most chilling point during the proceedings: that fracking and all of its inherent risks will accomplish little, if anything, to lower the cost of energy here at home. The Great Fracking Race will only bring more natural gas to market which will be piped to U.S. coasts and sold overseas. This will make some small cadre of gas executives and their investors very rich, while possibly leaving behind incalculable amounts of environmental damage and a price tag for the American taxpayer, at a time of fiscal austerity, that is truly unimaginable.
“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.
For years, allegedly serious people have been issuing dire warnings about the consequences of large budget deficits – deficits that are overwhelmingly the result of our ongoing economic crisis. In May 2009, Niall Ferguson of Harvard declared that the “tidal wave of debt issuance” would cause U.S. interest rates to soar. In March 2011, Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of President Obama’s ill-fated deficit commission, warned that unless action was taken on the deficit soon, “the markets will devastate us,” probably within two years. And so on.
Well, I guess Mr. Bowles has a few months left. But a funny thing happened on the way to the predicted fiscal crisis: instead of soaring, U.S. borrowing costs have fallen to their lowest level in the nation’s history. And it’s not just America. At this point, every advanced country that borrows in its own currency is able to borrow very cheaply.
At a moment when the country needs resolve and fearlessness to reduce the affliction of gun violence that kills more than 80 people a day, both presidential candidates have kicked away the opportunity for leadership. On Wednesday, reacting to the mass murder in Colorado last week, Mitt Romney and President Obama paid lip service to the problem but ducked when the chance arose to stand up for their former principles.
That’s not terribly surprising in the case of Mitt Romney, who has built an entire campaign around an avoidance of specifics and a refusal to take unpopular positions. The governor who once showed mettle by banning assault weapons in Massachusetts told Brian Williams of NBC News that he now believes the country needs no new gun laws and no government action at all. [..]
In a way, President Obama’s remarks were even more disappointing because he fell far short of offering a solution even though he clearly demonstrated an understanding of the problem.
The United States recently announced that Canada and Mexico will join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)-a secretive U.S.-led multinational trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated with eight other countries in the Pacific Rim region.
On the other side of the Pacific, Japanese legislators are defecting in droves to try to stop the country’s entry into the negotiations. But the situation is much different in Canada and Mexico, which were admitted to the table with much fanfare during the G20 summit in June. The Japanese response is justifiable, and a recent statement of solidarity against the TPP by North American unions offers a good building block for resisting an agreement that for Mexicans and Canadians amounts to a neoliberal expansion of NAFTA on U.S. President Barack Obama’s terms.
With a voting public largely disgusted by the new freedom of corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, supporting a modest version of reform like the version of the DISCLOSE Act working its way through Congress would, in normal times, be an easy political win for Republicans.
But these are not normal times. For the second time this year Senate Democrats tried to advance a bill that would have forced disclosure of unlimited secret campaign spending and the second time Republican leaders blocked a vote on the DISCLOSE Act.
Republican lawmakers have a host of weapons at their disposal in the battle over women’s reproductive rights, but no weapon may have as much impact as unlimited campaign spending. How do we know that dark money is a key to a Republican anti-woman, anti-family agenda? Just look how hard they are fighting to protect it.
There have been two, maybe three, landmark heat waves in the history of man-made global warming. The first was in 1988. Then as now, the eastern two-thirds of the United States was broiling while relentless drought parched soil and withered crops across the Midwest. But in Washington, the underlying problem was being named for the first time. On June 23, NASA scientist James Hansen testified to the Senate that man-made global warming had begun. The New York Times reported his remarks on Page 1, and the rest of the media at home and abroad followed suit. By year’s end, “global warming” had become a common phrase in news bureaus, government ministries and living rooms around the world.
The second landmark heat wave occurred in 2003. It escaped many Americans’ notice because it took place in Europe, which suffered the hottest summer on record. By August, corpses were piling up outside morgues in Paris. Initial estimates suggested a death toll of 15,000. But a comprehensive study by the European Union later concluded that, in fact, there had been 71,449 excess deaths.
Why is this presidential campaign so centered on the middle class? What about the poor people? Their numbers are growing, but their fate hasn’t made it into the debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Of course, the Democratic candidate and his Republican opponent don’t have the same vision of where America should go. The president favors an activist government. He bet his political future on an Affordable Care Act that makes a big start toward assuring the availability of health care. Romney favors the crimped vision of the Republican economic leader Rep. Paul Ryan, and his plan to reduce taxes for the rich, eventually privatize Medicare and dismantle Medicaid for the poor.
But little, if anything, is said about the disastrous phenomenon of rising poverty, which, as Hope Yen of The Associated Press reported this week, is “on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century. … Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor.” Census figures that will be released in the fall, she wrote, are expected to show that poverty has exceeded the level it was at in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s launched his War on Poverty.
Today’s report showed household consumption rose at a 1.5 percent from April through June, down from a 2.4 percent gain in the prior quarter. The median forecast in the Bloomberg survey called for a 1.3 percent advance. Purchases added 1.05 percentage points to growth.
Recent data signal consumers are reluctant to step up purchases. Retail sales fell in June for a third consecutive month, the longest period of declines since 2008. Same-store sales rose less than analysts’ estimates at retailers including Target Corp. (TGT) and Macy’s Inc. (M)
Slowing sales and currency fluctuations led Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company, to cut profit forecasts three times this year.
Consumers may remain cautious until hiring accelerates. Payroll gains averaged 75,000 in the second quarter, down from 226,000 in the prior three months and the weakest in almost two years. The unemployment rate, which held at 8.2 percent in June, has exceeded 8 percent for 41 straight months.
Cutbacks by government agencies continued to hinder growth as spending dropped at a 1.4 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the ninth decrease in the last 10 periods. The decline was led by a 2.1 percent fall at the state and local level that marked an 11th consecutive drop.
Business investment cooled last quarter reflecting stagnant spending on commercial construction projects. Corporate spending on equipment and software improved, climbing at a 7.2 percent pace, up from a 5.4 percent increase in the previous quarter.
A report yesterday showed the corporate spending outlook has dimmed. Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for future investment, fell at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the first decrease since the same period in 2009, when the U.S. was still in a recession, according to Commerce Department data.
Growth at or below 2 percent isn’t enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 8.2 percent last month. And most economists don’t expect growth to pick up much in the second half of the year. Europe’s financial crisis and a looming budget crisis in the U.S. are expected to slow business investment further.
“The main take away from today’s report, the specifics aside, is that the U.S. economy is barely growing,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at BTIG LLC. “Along with a reduction in the actual amount of money companies were able to make, it’s no wonder the unemployment rate cannot move lower.”
The U.S. economy has never been so sluggish this long into a recovery. The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009.
Until a few weeks ago, many economists had been predicting that growth would accelerate in the final six months of the year. They pointed to gains in manufacturing, home and auto sales and lower gas prices.
But threats to the U.S. economy have left consumers too anxious to spend freely. Jobs are tight. Pay isn’t keeping up with inflation. Retail sales fell in June for a third straight month. Manufacturing has weakened in most areas of the country.
Just over 5.69 million Spaniards ended the second quarter jobless, raising the unemployment rate to a record 24.6 percent, compared with 24.4 percent in the first quarter, according to the latest national employment statistics published Friday.
Youth unemployment rose to 53 percent in the second quarter, up 1.3 percentage points from the previous quarter and 7 percentage points from a year ago.
Some of Spain’s leading banks reported significant drops in earnings Friday, largely the result of having to set aside more money to cover loans that could default.
CaixaBank said its first-half profit fell 80 percent to €166 million as it provisioned another €3.735 billion against loans made to Spain’s collapsed property sector. Banco Popular reported a 42 percent decline in first-half profit, to €176.5 million, after provisioning €3.4 billion. On Thursday, Banco Santander, Spain’s biggest commercial bank, had also reported a sharp drop in profit as a result of higher provisioning.
The yield, or interest rate, on the 10-year Spanish sovereign bond was at 6.726 percent, down 0.10 percentage point. The Italian 10-year yield was at 5.938 percent, down 0.077 percentage point.
The House Judiciary Committee recommends that America’s 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, be impeached and removed from office. The impeachment proceedings resulted from a series of political scandals involving the Nixon administration that came to be collectively known as Watergate.
In May 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began formal impeachment hearings against Nixon. On July 27 of that year, the first article of impeachment against the president was passed. Two more articles, for abuse of power and contempt of Congress, were approved on July 29 and 30. On August 5, Nixon complied with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring that he provide transcripts of the missing tapes, and the new evidence clearly implicated him in a cover up of the Watergate break-in. On August 8, Nixon announced his resignation, becoming the first president in U.S. history to voluntarily leave office. After departing the White House on August 9, Nixon was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford, who, in a controversial move, pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, making it impossible for the former president to be prosecuted for any crimes he might have committed while in office. Only two other presidents in U.S. history have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.