02/20/2014 archive

Melting! Melting!

Green groups tell Obama Keystone won’t be forgiven

By Laura Barron-Lopez and Justin Sink, The Hill

February 19, 2014, 06:00 am

“There is not a blanket of regulations big enough to cover the pipeline elephant in the room,” said Jamie Henn of the green group 350.org. “There is nothing the administration could do to negate the impact the pipeline would have on the climate.”

If Obama approves Keystone, it will provoke a “vehement reaction” from environmental groups, said David Goldston, director of governmental affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“People have speculated that a push in climate policies could be some kind of trade-off but for the environmental community there is no such trade-off on Keystone XL,” Goldston said. “I don’t think that’s a strategy that would work in terms of the environmental movement either substantively or politically.”

Legal setback for Keystone pipeline


2/19/14 4:58 PM EST Updated: 2/20/14 12:03 PM EST

In response to a suit brought by three landowners, the Lancaster County District Court granted the request for declaratory judgment and declared the state law, LB 1161 “unconstitutional and void” for usurping the authority to approve the pipeline from its utility regulator, the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and instead vesting it with the governor.

The court also found that because Gov. Heineman’s authority to approve the pipeline route was based on an unconstitutional statute, his approval of a revised route “must be declared null and void.”

Domina said that for his clients, the decision means that TransCanada cannot build a pipeline over their land using eminent domain. But for TransCanada, the decision means that not only is its current route nullified, but that Nebraska law has no avenue for it to seek approval of the route.

“Citizens won today,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska in a statement. “We beat a corrupt bill that Gov. Heinemann and the Nebraska Legislature passed in order to pave the way for foreign corporation to run roughshod over American landowners. … TransCanada learned a hard lesson today, never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water.”

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: The Clear Benefits of a Higher Wage

Republicans sputtered with outrage when the Congressional Budget Office said that immigration reform (pdf) would lower the deficit, strengthen Social Security and speed up economic growth. They called for the office to be abolished when it dared to point out that tax cuts raise the deficit or when it highlighted the benefits of health care reform. But now that the budget office has predicted (and exaggerated) the possibility that an increase in the minimum wage might result in a loss of jobs, Republicans think it’s gospel. [..]

What Republicans fail to mention is that Tuesday’s report from the budget office (pdf), a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, as President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed. [..]

Those benefits to millions of low-wage workers overwhelmingly outweigh the questionable possibility of job losses. Lawmakers who focus only on the potential downside of an enormously beneficial policy change are the same ones who never wanted to do it in the first place.

Dean Baker: True Free Market Proponents Should Support Private-Public Competition

The debate is often presented as between people who like the government and people who like the market. It isn’t

One of the initiatives President Obama announced in his State of the Union Address was the “MyRA,” an IRA that workers could sign up for at their workplace. The MyRA would be invested in government bonds and provide a modest guaranteed rate of return.

The MyRA has several useful features. It’s simple, it has low administrative costs, workers can have money deducted directly from their paychecks, and it has no risk. It also has the great advantage that President Obama can make MyRAs available to workers without seeking congressional approval.

However there was one very notable downside to the MyRA. Workers could not accumulate more than $15,000 in these accounts, at which point they would be required to fold their MyRA into an IRA run by the financial industry. People who commented on this requirement all assumed that this was a sop to the industry.

When the accounts are small, the industry wouldn’t make any money on them anyhow. Once they get to be a decent size the government will require savers to park their money with a bank or brokerage house. This is nothing but good news for the industry.

Rand Paul: The NSA is still violating our rights, despite what James Clapper says

Clapper thinks if the NSA had informed us they were monitoring every American, that would somehow make it OK. It doesn’t

Director of Intelligence James Clapper now says the National Security Agency (NSA) should have been more open about the fact that they were spying on all Americans.

I’m glad he said this. But there is no excuse for lying in the first place. [..]

The United States needs intelligence gathering, the ability to obtain and keep secrets, spying on foreign powers and genuine threats and all the other tools nations use to protect their security. No one is disputing this.

But Clapper is being somewhat disingenuous here. Part of the reason our government does some things behind Americans’ backs is not for security, but because certain activities, if known, would outrage the public.

Spying on every American certainly falls into this category. I also believe it is blatantly unconstitutional, and bringing these activities to light would immediately spark debates the NSA would rather not hear.

Charles M. Blow: The Bias Against Black Bodies

The Michael Dunn case has caused us to look once again at the American culture and criminal justice system, and many don’t like what they see.

But we shouldn’t look at this case narrowly and see its particular circumstances as the epitome of the problem. They are not. The scope of the problem is far more expansive, ingrained and elusive.

This is simply one more example of the bias against – and in fact violence, both psychological and physical, against – the black body, particularly black men, that extends across society and across their lifetimes. And this violence is both interracial and intra-racial.

Richard (RJ) ESkow: Five Years After the Stimulus, Reality Itself Is Under Attack

It’s been five years since the passage of President Obama’s stimulus bill (officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). Its successes are well documented: an increase in the GDP of between 2 and 3 percent from late 2009 through mid-2011; six million “job years” created, which comes to 1.6 million additional people on the job each year through 2012; 44 months of uninterrupted job growth; and the reversal of an economy which was plunging into free-fall.

So why did only 37 percent of Americans support the Act three years later? Why has our political discourse become a political Theater of the Absurd in which the preternaturally uninformed Marco Rubio can proclaim, without perceptible embarrassment, that the stimulus “clearly failed”? Fox News even asked whether “the stimulus caused the recession,” despite the fact that the recession happened first.

Conservatism: a delusional force so powerful it can bend the space-time continuum.

Jim Willlis: Stand Your Ground Has No Moral Ground

Some laws are grey, but this one seems to be increasingly black and white. The Stand Your Ground law in Florida — and now 24 other states, including many in the South — was a major factor in jury deliberations for both the Trayvon Martin killing and now, the case of Michael Dunn, who killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting an unarmed African-American teenager. The jury in the Dunn case failed to reach a consensus on the murder charge and the judge ruled a mistrial.

Both the Dunn and Zimmerman trials have highlighted a major theological problem with Stand Your Ground laws. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul describes the role of government as a positive one — meant to protect the poor and to promote the common good. The Stand Your Ground laws are based on fear — fear that is often rooted in racism. Rather than promoting a vision of the common good and what our life together should look like, it justifies taking life and codifies fear.

On This Day In History February 20

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.

February 20 is the 51st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 314 days remaining until the end of the year (315 in leap years).

On this day in 1792, President George Washington signs legislation renewing the United States Post Office as a cabinet department led by the postmaster general, guaranteeing inexpensive delivery of all newspapers, stipulating the right to privacy and granting Congress the ability to expand postal service to new areas of the nation.


William Goddard, a Patriot printer frustrated that the royal postal service was unable to reliably deliver his Pennsylvania Chronicle to its readers or deliver critical news for the paper to Goddard, laid out a plan for the “Constitutional Post” before the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act on the plan until after the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Benjamin Franklin promoted Goddard’s plan and served as the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress beginning on July 26, 1775, nearly one year before the Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Franklin’s son-in-law, Richard Bache, took over the position on November 7, 1776, when Franklin became an American emissary to France.

Franklin had already made a significant contribution to the postal service in the colonies while serving as the postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737 and as joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774, when he was fired for opening and publishing Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson‘s correspondence. While postmaster, Franklin streamlined postal delivery with properly surveyed and marked routes from Maine to Florida (the origins of Route 1), instituted overnight postal travel between the critical cities of New York and Philadelphia and created a standardized rate chart based upon weight and distance. [3]

Samuel Osgood held the postmaster general’s position in New York City from 1789, when the U.S. Constitution came into effect, until the government moved to Philadelphia in 1791. Timothy Pickering took over and, about a year later, the Postal Service Act gave his post greater legislative legitimacy and more effective organization. Pickering continued in the position until 1795, when he briefly served as secretary of war, before becoming the third U.S. secretary of state. The postmaster general’s position was considered a plum patronage post for political allies of the president until the Postal Service was transformed into a corporation run by a board of governors in 1971 following passage of the Postal Reorganization Act.

Boston Symphony Orchestra/West Side Story (HD film) Concert at Symphony Hall, Boston, MA

Hi, everybody!

I’m here to say that I attended all three of the performances of the recent Boston Symphony Orchestra/West Side Story (HD film) concert, and the performances were absolutely fabulous! Since I’d always wanted to see the film West Side Story on Valentine’s Day, I finally got my wish! (The BSO/West Side Story concert performances took place on 2/14/-2/15, at 8:00 p. m., and on Sunday, 2/16, at 3:00 p. m. Friday and Sunday, the weather was okay, but on Saturday night, I braved the Boston area snowstorm, trekked over to the MBTA subway stop nearest to where I live, and took public transportation to the meeting place of 14 other people. We all took a bus over to Symphony Hall together, and had a wonderful evening out, and one couple who’d come with us was kind enough to drive me home afterwards.

On Sunday afternoon (yesterday), I took an absolutely packed MBTA (Mass. Bay Transit Authority) train to the Symphony stop, near Boston Symphony Hall, and met my friends there. We had a fun-packed afternoon, and we went our own separate ways. Even more heartening, one of the two women who attended yesterday afternoon’s performance of the BSO/West Side Story concert called me up this morning specially to thank me for having invited them to come along to the concert with me, and I told her that I was glad that they were both able to make it and come with me, and that it had been a wonderful afternoon.

West Side Story is a fantastic movie to begin with, but having a famous live orchestra play a live rendition of an already-brilliant musical score, while the singing and dialogues in the film were kept intact, brought this great, golden oldie but keeper of a classic film to a whole new level. Through great creativeness via modern technology, a great feat was accomplished; melding a live orchestral rendition to Bernstein’s musical score with the singing and dialogue of a beautifully dynamic movie.

Since I had seats that had me and my friends/classmates looking directly at the center of the stage, I was able to watch the movie while eyeing the orchestra players and the conductor at the same time. The conductor was especially interesting to watch; he seemed totally into what he was conducting, and to enjoy himself, nonetheless. Although looking at it from the back of the orchestral tier of Symphony Hall gave a good viewing, sitting on a balcony of Symphony Hall, especially with a movie such as West Side Story, which, imho, is better viewed from the balcony of any movie theatre, to begin with, presented a view where one could look slightly downward, thus getting a better view of the stage and to not have people’s heads directly in the viewer’s way, enabling the viewer to really take in both the movie and the live orchestra at the same time. (Btw, the film was a HD digitally-restored, cleaned up, remastered and reprinted version of the film West Side Story, so it was even more beautiful!)

The orchestra added its own perks to an already-great and brilliant musical score, and all of the characters seemed to be brought even further up into the heavens, if one gets the drift. Had the screen been at least 2 or 3 feet longer on each end, however, it would’ve added more to an already great restoration of a great movie, and to the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s live rendition of this great movie musical score. It was well worth braving unpredictable public transportation, not to mention the stormy weather on Saturday night, in order to get there. All three performances were pretty much sold out, with the exception of a small minority of people who’d probably bought tickets and couldn’t make it, for whatever reason.

This was an even better performance than at Tanglewood, and it was well worth going to.


1961 film, leonard bernstein