Daily Archive: 07/02/2014

Jul 02 2014

NY High Court Rules Towns Can Ban Fracking

New York State has had a moratorium on hydrolic fracturing (fracking) since 2008. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that he won’t make a decision on lifting the temporary ban until the state’s Health Department finishes its study that was started in 2012. Some up state towns, concerned about the outcome of that study and the possibility that corporate friendly Gov. Cuomo would lift the ban, passed zoning ordinances banning fracking. This week New York State’s highest court upheld those ordinances:

The New York Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of a lower court that local governments have the authority to decide how land is used, which includes deciding whether or not fracking and drilling should be allowed on that land. The Court of Appeals heard arguments on two cases challenging local bans on fracking in June. The plaintiffs in those lawsuits argued that New York’s oil, gas and mining law takes precedence over local zoning laws, but in rulings both by a lower court and now the Court of Appeals, that claim was overturned.

Two New York towns – Middlefield and Dryden – that previously banned fracking were the focus of the lawsuits, but the ruling means that now other municipalities in New York can pass laws that ban fracking and drilling. So far, activists say, 170 towns and cities in New York have passed fracking bans or moratoria. [..]

The battle over the two towns’ fracking bans began in 2011, when an oil-and-gas company first challenged Dreyden’s ban on fracking. Not long after, landowner Cooperstown Holstein Corp challenged Middlefield’s ban.

The New York State Assembly had voted to extend the ban for another 3 years but the Republican controlled Senate adjourned without taking up the bill.

Municipalities around the country are taking up similar bans over concerns about contamination of vital water supplies and ground contamination by the chemicals used to release the oil and natural gases. This ruling could have an impact on those ordinances, as well:

Municipal bans are a growing phenomenon nationwide as localities target hydraulic fracturing, in which water and chemicals are pumped underground to break shale rock and release the oil and natural gas inside. Such cities and towns are often in conflict with state governments that want the revenue and the employment associated with the drilling technique that’s spurred an American oil and natural gas boom.

The battle is especially fierce in Colorado, where the governor and oil and gas companies have filed lawsuits seeking to overturn bans passed by local voters.

Pennsylvania tried to prevent its local governments from prohibiting fracking, but it lost in court. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering whether cities and towns have the right to ban the practice.

Attorneys from the environmental law firm Earthjustice helped the town of Dryden with the New York case, and they said Monday’s ruling “has sent a firm message to the oil and gas industry.”

New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau said the ruling would pose a problem for natural gas development in her state.

In it’s 5 – 2 ruling, the court stated that its ruling was not about whether fracking was safe or not, but about the balance of power between state and local government.

This is a win for New Yorkers and the environment.

Jul 02 2014

50 Years After Freedom Summer

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer, also known as the Mississippi Project, a campaign to register as many African-American voters as possible, especially in the state of Mississippi. That campaign was marked with violence by the locals directed against the outsiders. During the course of the 12 week campaign:

  • four civil rights workers were killed (one in a head-on collision)
  • at least three Mississippi blacks were murdered because of their support for the civil rights movement
  • our people were critically wounded
  • 80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten
  • 1,062 people were arrested (out-of-state volunteers and locals)
  • 37 churches were bombed or burned
  • 30 Black homes or businesses were bombed or burned

The worst of the violence was the murder of three young civil rights workers, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, by members of the Klu Klux Klan.

When the men went missing, SNCC and COFO workers began phoning the FBI asking for an investigation. FBI agents refused, saying it was a local matter. Finally, after some 36 hours, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered an investigation. FBI agents began swarming around Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney had been arrested. For the next seven weeks, FBI agents and sailors from a nearby naval airbase searched for the bodies, wading into swamps, and hacking through underbrush. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover went to Mississippi on July 10 to open the first FBI branch office there.

Throughout the search, Mississippi newspapers and word of mouth perpetuated the common belief that the disappearance was “a hoax” designed to draw publicity. The search of rivers and swamps turned up the bodies of eight other black men. Herbert Oarsby, a 14-year old youth, was found wearing a CORE T-shirt. Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore had been expelled from Alcorn A&M for participating in civil rights protests. The other five men were never identified. On August 4, 1964, the bodies of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman were found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Now five decades later, there is a concerted effort by the right wing, most white Republican, faction to end all that was achieved for equality that summer. At Esquire’s Politics Blog, Charles Pierce summarized why now more than ever we must get out the vote:

Over the weekend, I watched the PBS documentary on Freedom Summer, the effort 50 years ago to register African Americans to vote in the state of Mississippi, the effort that cost so many people so dearly, especially the families of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner, who were beaten and shot to death, and buried in a dam, because the state of Mississippi had local police forces shot through with the Ku Klux Klan.  Now, five decades later, with a Republican House far gone into nihilistic vandalism, and with the Senate hanging in the balance, and a Supreme Court one septuagenarian’s heartbeat away from a return to the golden days of the last Gilded Age, and a Democratic president in the White House on whom those responsible for the previous three phenomena have painted a bullseye, we keep hearing about how hard it is going to be for the Democratic party to turn out its voters this fall to take advantage of the opportunities for which Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner gave their lives, and did so in my lifetime, not in a distant antebellum episode in some backwater.

Racism is not dead in America. It is very much alive. In a detailed article at Huffington Post, Braden Goyette and and Alissa Scheller prove that racism is a live and well and we, as Americans, are a long way from being post racial.

In his 2007 majority opinion limiting the use race to desegregate schools, Chief Justice John Roberts said “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”  Seven years later, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent taking Roberts to the woodshed over the court’s upholding the affirmative action ban (pdf) adopted by Michigan’s voters. Calling Robers “out of touch with reality, she read her dissent aloud:

In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter.

We need to push all our representatives in local city and town councils, state legislatures and Congress to remember what so many gave their blood, sweat, tears and lives to win, Freedom for All.

Jul 02 2014

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”.

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Alexis Goldberg: Why is Washington still protecting the secret political power of corporations?

Regulators at the SEC could illuminate the future of campaign donations. But they aren’t interested in disclosing the truth – even though voters are

In post-Citizens United America, there is growing concern that the ability for corporations to anonymously funnel money into politics – with no need to disclose these donations to voters, election officials or their own shareholders – will corrupt the political process. Democrats have previously tried and failed to pass the Disclose Act, which would require greater disclosure of donors – but with a divided Congress, many in Washington see bringing meaningful transparency to campaign finance an utterly impossible task.

Still, there is another way to achieve the disclosure of corporate political donations that doesn’t require Congress at all: the administration could simply propose new regulations under its existing authority. Unfortunately, despite having a Democratic chair – Mary Jo White – the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could mandate such disclosures, is either too intimidated (or too captured) to act. [..]

House Republicans, of course, have stepped in, which gives the agency a convenient excuse for their inaction. [..]

Last May, Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee warned White not to pursue the political disclosure rule. During the hearing, Rep Scott Garrett (R-NJ) went so far as to ask her to formally commit to removing the political disclosure rule from their regulatory agenda.

It would appear White – despite claims she is “apolitical” – heard him loud and clear. No proposed rule materialized, and seven months after Rep Scott Garrett requested it, the rule was removed from the agency’s 2014 agenda. [..]

White’s decision to keep political disclosure rule off the 2014 agenda isn’t a matter of a too-full regulatory plate, Republican appropriations tricks or a lack of popular support. It is a problem of political will.

Ana Marie Cox: The GOP wants the ladies to love them (just not enough to need birth control)

Don Draper’s psyche is nothing to base a political strategy on

So, the announcement that Republicans had formed yet another political action committee targeting female voters – a lady-centric Super Pac named the Unlocking Potential Project – came just as America was digesting the supreme court’s decision to allow certain corporations to deny women birth control coverage based on religious objections. Did Republicans think this was genius counter-programming, or what?

Forget the obvious irony that limiting access to birth control is the definition of denying women their full potential: could launching a women’s outreach program the day we’re reminded of just where the GOP stands on women’s issues – on top of them, stomping down, mostly – ever be genius, or is it just run-of-the-mill tone-deafness? [..]

That reproductive rights are an economic issue is a stubborn truth that will keep the GOP stumbling for as long as they choose to ignore it.

I’ll give you one hint about the problem with believing that your female compatriots are either lusty libertarian-leaning pixies or Xanax-seeking helpmeets: it starts with “virgin” ends with “complex” and has a “whore” in the middle.

Don Draper’s psyche is not anything upon which to base a political strategy – and if you require Pac upon strategic plan upon public statement to affirmatively appeal to women, you’re confirming the fact that your policies alone no longer do. Maybe work on that.

Samantha Winslow: Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Home Care Workers

Unions were bracing for the worst: a Supreme Court decision that could have created a national “right to work” policy for the entire public sector.

That didn’t happen. The court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn this morning was narrower.

But it will still be a hard hit on the unions that have staked their futures on unionizing the rapidly growing home care sector, notably AFSCME and the Service Employees (SEIU).

Home care workers care for elderly and disabled patients. Some are placed through state agencies, while others care for their own relatives. Either way, getting the care at home keeps people out of nursing homes and other costly institutions.

The ruling creates a new gray area, finding that Illinois’s 26,000 home care workers are not fully public sector. The court designated them “quasi-public employees” and ruled that unions cannot force them to pay dues or an agency fee.

Their logic is that home care workers are dually employed-by their clients and by the state, through Medicaid funds. While the client has the ability to hire and fire home care workers, the state determines their pay, benefits, and other aspects of their work.

This move could affect similarly organized and funded home care and childcare workers in other states too. There are 1.8 million home care workers in the U.S. already, and labor statistics forecast their ranks will pass 3 million by 2020.

Sandra Fulton: Beware the Dangers of Congress’ Latest Cybersecurity Bill

A new cybersecurity bill poses serious threats to our privacy, gives the government extraordinary powers to silence potential whistleblowers, and exempts these dangerous new powers from transparency laws.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (“CISA”) was scheduled to be marked up by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday but has been delayed until after next week’s congressional recess. The response to the proposed legislation from the privacy, civil liberties, tech, and open government communities was quick and unequivocal – this bill must not go through.

The bill would create a massive loophole in our existing privacy laws by allowing the government to ask companies for “voluntary” cooperation in sharing information, including the content of our communications, for cybersecurity purposes. But the definition they are using for the so-called “cybersecurity information” is so broad it could sweep up huge amounts of innocent Americans’ personal data.A new cybersecurity bill poses serious threats to our privacy, gives the government extraordinary powers to silence potential whistleblowers, and exempts these dangerous new powers from transparency laws.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (“CISA”) was scheduled to be marked up by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday but has been delayed until after next week’s congressional recess. The response to the proposed legislation from the privacy, civil liberties, tech, and open government communities was quick and unequivocal – this bill must not go through.

The bill would create a massive loophole in our existing privacy laws by allowing the government to ask companies for “voluntary” cooperation in sharing information, including the content of our communications, for cybersecurity purposes. But the definition they are using for the so-called “cybersecurity information” is so broad it could sweep up huge amounts of innocent Americans’ personal data.

Katrina vanden Huevel: Half a Century After Freedom Summer, It’s Time for America to ‘Earn Our Insurgencies’

Shortly after 11 pm on June 24, the media declared six-term Republican Senator Thad Cochran the winner of Mississippi’s hard-fought Republican runoff primary. The reason, the pundits quickly concluded, was unprecedented surge in black Democrats – some 13,000 or more – crossing over to support Cochran over his virulently anti-government Tea Party opponent, Chris McDaniel. “It should send a message,” retired school principal Ned Tolliver said. “It shows that we have the power to elect who we want to elect when the time is right.”

Around the time the polls closed, a very different view of Mississippi was playing out on PBS, in the form of a documentary called Freedom Summer. Grippingly recounting the 1964 effort that brought more than 700 college students-primarily white Northerners – to register black voters in Mississippi, the film is part of a flood of fiftieth anniversary commemorations, from conferences to children’s books. In grim and grainy black-and-white footage, interspersed with interviews from the heroic Americans who risked beatings and firebombings and even death, these tributes remind us of the long road to African-Americans having the power to elect who they want to elect and celebrate those who made it possible.

Michelle Chen: Wage Theft, Dangerous Conditions and Discrimination: Inside New York’s Food Industry

New Yorkers see food as an indulgence and a craft, amid a brimming urban cornucopia of artisanal honey farmers, craft breweries and bustling farmer’s markets. But good eating for this city is not just a lifestyle but a serious industry-one that’s often as hard on its workers as any fast food kitchen or factory farm. Processing plants and industrial bakeries churn out much of the city’s specialty food. And for workers, Gotham’s glamorous harvest belies a hidden rot.

According to a new report published by Brandworkers and the Urban Justice Center (disclosure: the author once interned and volunteered at UJC), the city’s food manufacturing workforce of 14,000 is an often neglected link in the food chain, tarnished by dangerous jobs, poverty wages and discrimination.

In a survey of the workforce, the vast majority immigrants and people of color, workers earned nearly $8 less than the industry average. About 40 percent of those surveyed reported being injured on the job-like in a fall or getting struck by equipment. Over half said they “had to work sick in the past year,” and most had never received workplace health and safety training.

Jul 02 2014

The Breakfast Club 7-2-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Jul 02 2014

On This Day In History July 2

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.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 182 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the midpoint of a common year. This is because there are 182 days before and 182 days after (median of the year) in common years, and 183 before and 182 after in leap years. The exact time in the middle of the year is at noon, or 12:00. In the UK and other countries that use “Summer Time” the actual exact time of the mid point in a common year is at (1.00 pm) 13:00 this is when 182 days and 12 hours have elapsed and there are 182 days and 12 hours remaining. This is due to Summer Time having advanced the time by one hour. It falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in common years.

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House.

In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The 10 years that followed saw great strides for the African-American civil rights movement, as non-violent demonstrations won thousands of supporters to the cause. Memorable landmarks in the struggle included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955–sparked by the refusal of Alabama resident Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a city bus to a white woman–and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech at a rally of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.