Daily Archive: 11/18/2014

Nov 18 2014

Fighting Big Money in Politics

This past election saw the lowest voter turn out in 70 years, This happened for a number of reasons, one of which was uninspiring candidates who offered little to no policy agenda, voter fatigue (boredom?) and new voter ID laws that suppressed voters. Another factor that may have effected turn out was the $4 billion that was spent on this campaign flooding the airways with uninspired advertising that turned people off and the lack of an unbiased, independent media. Many candidates couldn’t get their message to the voters because they didn’t have the money for campaign ads and the corporate owned media, with its own agenda, favored certain candidates.

This week Bill Moyers spoke with two academics who got involved this election attempting to spark public interest without the big money. They related their experiences and the lessons they learned about the state of the American democracy.

Lawrence Lessig, who teaches law at Harvard, is a well-known Internet activist and campaign finance reform advocate. This election cycle, he started a crowd-funded SuperPAC aimed at reducing the influence of money in politics. Lessig tells Bill: “Our democracy is flat lined. Because when you can show clearly there’s no relationship between what the average voter cares about, only if it happens to coincide with what the economic elite care about, you’ve shown that we don’t have a democracy anymore.”

Zephyr Teachout, a professor of constitutional and property law at Fordham Law School, ran against New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. She received more than a third of the vote and carried 30 of the state’s 62 counties, surprising everyone – including Cuomo. “When you talk about the corruption in Congress, people are talking about the same thing that Madison was talking about. This sense that our public servants are just serving themselves,” Teachout tells Bill.

Nov 18 2014

The Tar Sands White Elephant

A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam, now Thailand, were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered without use or value.

So it appears that Mary Landrieu will get her Senate vote on Keystone XL as a sop to her doomed candidacy.  It may even be that she can round up enough Quisling Democrats to reach the artificial 60 vote filibuster limit.

Well, it doesn’t matter.

Nor do the supposed “trump cards” of Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, or Energy East which are facing regulatory difficulties just as severe as Keystone XL even though they’re entirely Canadian and have the full backing of Stephen Harper, Conservative PM of Canada.  This is because the territorial governments of British Columbia (Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain) and Quebec (Energy East) are not exactly on board nor are the First Nations who have treaties the government of Canada is a little more bound to respect than our own with our native population.

Blocked on the Keystone XL, the Oil-Sands Industry Looks East

Christina Nunez, National Geographic

Published October 24, 2014

Energy East has only the Canadian regulatory system to contend with. That’s plenty, as executives at Enbridge and Kinder Morgan might attest.

Enbridge’s 525,000-barrels-a-day Northern Gateway proposal, which would run west to the Pacific, has received approval from the Canadian government, but with a huge caveat: The Toronto-based company must meet more than 200 regulatory conditions before it can begin construction. That, along with strong opposition to the project at its terminus in British Columbia, has led to speculation that the pipeline will never be built.

Houston-based Kinder Morgan has proposed expanding its existing Trans Mountain pipeline between Alberta and the British Columbia coast, which would boost capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day-a project that’s also under attack. Like Northern Gateway, it has faced formidable opposition from First Nations, and in British Columbia they have the right to reject any project running through their territory.

Community activism on Energy East is to be expected, but TransCanada has also had to contend with other business interests. Natural gas distributors, for example, have complained that the project, by converting a natural gas pipeline to oil, will force them to bear the costs of replacing it.

“This is a fool’s bargain,” said Sophie Brochu, president and CEO of Montreal-based gas distributor Gaz Métro, in a speech this week. “They want to remove a vital pipeline that is already largely amortized and replace it with a smaller pipeline at a higher cost. No thanks.”

Assuming it can resolve the commercial sticking points, TransCanada will then need to secure federal approval for Energy East, a process that could take up to 15 months. And then it must meet any conditions set by the federal government and by provincial governments along the proposed route of the pipeline-the same step that has cast doubt on Northern Gateway’s prospects.

A temporary court injunction has already delayed initial work on a marine terminal for Energy East at Cacouna, Quebec, because of fears that construction would disrupt a key calving area for beluga whales. Environmental groups have raised a host of other concerns-including the role the pipeline would play in expanding the use of emissions-intensive oil sands.

“It is unclear what the Quebec government will do, but it appears there’s significant public opposition,” said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposes the pipeline. By setting tough conditions for Energy East, Quebec might have the power to delay it or, for example, to scuttle one of the planned marine terminals.

Once again, the familiar battle lines have been drawn. “I cannot tell you how often I read, when I started working on Keystone XL, ‘This is a done deal. It’s gonna happen,'” said Droitsch. “And of course that’s not the case.”

Now Trans-Canada (the pipeline developers) think they can dispose of this potential ugliness with a little messaging campaign-

P.R. Firm Urges TransCanada to Target Opponents of Its Energy East Pipeline

By IAN AUSTEN, The New York Times

NOV. 17, 2014

The advice from a top American public relations firm was simple: A Canadian pipeline company should take aim at its opposition.

In detailed proposals submitted in May and August, the public relations firm Edelman outlined a plan to investigate groups that had opposed Energy East, a pipeline in development by TransCanada. Edelman urged TransCanada to develop its own sympathetic supporters and spread any unflattering findings about the opposition.

“We cannot allow opponents to have a free pass,” Edelman advised TransCanada, according to five documents that were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group. “To make an informed decision on this project, Canadians need to have a true picture of the motivations not only of the project proponents, but of its opponents as well.”

In its proposal, Edelman proposed “a perpetual campaign to protect and enhance the value of the Energy East Pipeline and to help inoculate TransCanada from potential attacks in any arena,” according to the documents. The language, at times, invoked a military battle, one that would “add layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources.”

If TransCanada or Edelman did investigate, Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, said they probably would come up with little fodder.

“I’m a grandmother,” she said. “To me it’s a sign of desperation,” she added. “It’s basically all wrong, and it takes away from the public debate we should be having.”

Like Ms. Barlow, Ben Powless, the antipipeline campaigner at Ecology Ottawa, said he was somewhat surprised that Edelman, the largest independent public relations firm based on revenues, would be concerned about his small group’s influence. Ecology Ottawa has about nine paid employees and mainly relies on volunteers who tend to be students and retirees.

“To me, it’s a smear campaign really trying to shut down the voices of local people who have legitimate concerns,” Mr. Powless said.

Mr. Millar said that TransCanada mainly hired Edelman to help in Quebec, because it has few French speaking employees from the province. The documents indicate that Edelman’s efforts for TransCanada are being led by Mike Krempasky, the co-founder of the conservative blog RedState.com who joined Edelman in 2005. In the past, Mr. Krempasky has recruited bloggers and online commenters to post favorable comments about Walmart’s business and labor practices.

You know, I’ve actually chatted (on line) with Mr. Krempasky and surprisingly enough I’m still a member in good standing at Red State (as opposed to some supposedly “progressive” Democratic blogs I could name) and I never had to toe the Party Line or kiss his ass to do it.

Revealed: Keystone company’s PR blitz to safeguard its backup plan

by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Tuesday 18 November 2014 00.01 EST

Strategy documents drafted by the public relations giant Edelman for TransCanada Corporation – which is behind both Keystone and the proposed alternative – offer a rare inside glimpse of the extensive public relations, lobbying, and online and on-the-ground efforts undertaken for pipeline projects. The plans call, among other things, for mobilising 35,000 supporters.

In the five strategy documents, made available to the Guardian by the campaign group Greenpeace, representatives from Edelman’s offices in Calgary propose an exhaustive strategy to push through the Energy East project including mobilisation of third-party supporters and opposition research against pipeline opponents.

In the wake of the Keystone XL opposition and a pipeline spill in 2010 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, oil industry projects now face “permanent, persuasive, nimble and well-funded opposition groups”, in Edelman’s words.

In the wake of the Keystone XL opposition and a pipeline spill in 2010 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, oil industry projects now face “permanent, persuasive, nimble and well-funded opposition groups”, in Edelman’s words.

But the documents say the oil industry and public relations firms have developed an effective strategy to beat back those opponents through online organising.

Industry mobilised a million activists and generated more than 500,000 pro-Keystone comments during the public comment period, one of the documents says.

“It’s not just associations or advocacy groups building these programs in support of the industry. Companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and Halliburton (and many more) have all made key investments in building permanent advocacy assets and programs to support their lobbying, outreach and policy efforts,” the documents say. “TransCanada will be in good company.”

“This approach strives to neutralize risk before it is leveled, respond directly to issues or attacks as they arise, and apply pressure – intelligently – on opponents, as appropriate,” the documents say.

The documents say Edelman and TransCanada should “work with third parties to pressure Energy East opponents”.

They advise: “Add layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources,” and warn: “We cannot allow our opponents to have a free pass. They will use every piece of information they can find to attack TransCanada and this project.”

Recruiting allies to deliver the pro-pipeline message is critical, Edelman says in the documents. “Third-party voices must also be identified, recruited and heard to build an echo chamber of aligned voices.”

Edelman also offers “detailed background research on key opposition groups” such as Council of Canadians, Equiterre, the David Suzuki Foundation, Avaaz and Ecology Ottawa.

The campaign group Avaaz, one of the potential targets of the opposition research, called on Edelman to sever its connections with the campaign.

“Edelman’s cynical plan to smear citizens groups shows how low fossil fuel companies will stoop to protect their profits in the face of rising seas, melting ice caps and millions calling for climate action,” Alex Wilks, a campaign director in New York, wrote in an email. “Edelman must cancel its TransCanada contract and stop promoting one of the world’s dirtiest oil pipelines.”

The Council of Canadians, another targeted group, said the ambitious scale of the PR pitch suggested TransCanada was concerned about growing opposition to the project. “What this speaks to is that they are losing,” said Andrea Harden-Donaghue, climate campaigner for the council. “What these documents reveal is that they are bringing Tea Party activists into the equation in Canada combined with a heavyhanded advertising campaign. They are clearly spending a lot of time and thought on our efforts. I’d rather see them address the concerns that we are raising.”

Now we already know that the “tens of thousands” of jobs that Keystone XL will supposedly create is actually more like “tens”, and that the heavy tar sands crude is unmarketable in the U.S. and intended only for export which means that it will do nothing at all to improve domestic energy production or reduce prices, and we also know that the firms which produced the reports showing negligible environmental impact were operating from faulty assumptions and had corrupt conflicts of interest, AND that after 2 years they still don’t have a map of the proposed route through Nebraska which will not approve the project without one.

But none of that is why Keystone XL is going to fail.

This is why-

Economics no longer make Keystone pipeline viable

Tim Mullaney, CNBC

Thursday, 13 Nov 2014 10:32 AM ET

Since June, crude oil has declined by 28 percent, pushing the price that oil from new wells in Canada may command below what the expected cost will be to produce it.

The so-called “heavy oil” extracted from sand in Alberta, which the proposed pipeline would carry to Nebraska, en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, will cost between $85 and $110 to produce, depending on which drilling technology is used, according to a report in July by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a nonprofit whose work is often cited by Keystone proponents. West Texas Intermediate crude oil traded today at $76.67.

Oil sands are among the most expensive sources of oil, costing an average of $75 to $80 a barrel to produce, Norwegian energy-consulting firm Rystad Energy said in June.

“I would think that in order for new drilling projects to be capitalized and economical, the price of oil would need to be around $85 to $90,” Moody’s Analytics energy economist Chris Lafakis said.

The situation is broadly similar to that faced by an earlier proposal to build a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska to the Midwest, Lafakis said. After being approved by then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2007, the pipeline was never built, because newly discovered supplies of gas in the Lower 48 states pushed gas prices down by about two-thirds.

“If oil were to stay as cheap as it is right now, you might very well get that Palin pipeline scenario,” Lafakis said.

West Texas Intermediate prices will fall to $70 a barrel by the second quarter of 2015, Goldman Sachs forecast last month. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted Wednesday that the benchmark price of U.S. crude oil will average $77.75 a barrel next year. That’s down from a previous forecast of close to $95.

Demand has been running slightly lower than expected in 2014, which will persist into early next year, the International Energy Agency said, blaming reduced expectations for global economic growth. Supply has risen by more than 900,000 barrels a day in September alone and nearly 3 million barrels a day in the last year, about three times as much as the expected improvement in demand.

In addition to surging production in the U.S., which has boosted oil output by more than 60 percent since 2008, the IEA said OPEC crude oil output is rising as production in Libya and Iraq recovers from political disruption.

Alberta Tar Sands are an economic dead end as the Nazi’s found out with their “synthetic crude” (basically the same thing) in the desperate days at the close of World War II.  Their excuse was that they couldn’t get any other oil.  Canada has no excuse, they’re just greedy bastards with a White Elephant.

Nov 18 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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Trevor Timm: If you thought the Isis war couldn’t get any worse, just wait for more of the CIA

Even America’s top spies know that arming rebels is ‘doomed to failure’ – but that can’t stop Obama’s gun-running operation

As the war against the Islamic State in Syria has fallen into even more chaospartially due to the United States government’s increasing involvement there – the White House’s bright new idea seems to be to ramping up the involvement of the intelligence agency that is notorious for making bad situations worse. As the Washington Post reported late Friday, “The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases.”

Put aside for a minute that the Central Intelligence Agency has been secretly arming Syrian rebels with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons since at least 2012 – and with almost nothing to show for it. Somehow the Post neglected to cite a front-page New York Times article from just one month ago alerting the public to the existence of a still-classified internal CIA study admitting that arming rebels with weapons has rarely – if ever – worked: [..]

The Times cited the most well-known of CIA failures, including the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of the Nicaraguan contra rebels that led to the disastrous Iran-Contra scandal. Even the agency’s most successful mission – slowly bleeding out the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s by arming the mujahideen – paved the way for the worst terrorist attack on the US in its history.

Dean Baker: The Problem of ‘Stupid’ in Economics

M.I.T. Professor Jonathan Gruber has inadvertently become a YouTube celebrity as a result of a video of him referring to the public as “stupid.” The immediate point of reference was the complexity of the design of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Gruber was describing as being necessary politically in order to deceive the public. With the right-wing now in a state of near frenzy after the Republican election victories, the Gruber comment was fresh meat in their attack on the ACA.

Apart from merits of the ACA, there is something grating about seeing a prominent economist refer to the American public as “stupid.” After all, the country and the world have suffered enormously over the last seven years because the leading lights of the economic profession were almost completely oblivious to the largest asset bubble in the history of the world. [..]

There is some truth to Gruber’s comment in that most people are ill-informed about major public policy issues, including health insurance. This is in large part due to the fact that, unlike Gruber, most people have day jobs. They put in their shift at work and then often have child care and other family responsibilities. Most of them probably don’t have much time to read the Congressional Budget Office’s latest report on the health care system.

But even worse, when people do take the time to get informed, the media let them down badly. Stories even in the best of outlets, like the New York Times and National Public Radio, often present information in ways that are misleading and often meaningless to nearly all readers.

Les Leopold: We Are the Most Unequal Society in the Developed World… And We Don’t Know It

The American people have spoken. But what did we really say about inequality?

At first glance, it seems that extreme inequality mattered little to the majority of voters who put pro-business candidates into office. After all, the Republicans, along with far too many Democrats, are certain to cater to their Wall Street/CEO donors. Do Americans really want an ever rising gap between the super-rich and the rest of us? [..]

Americans are virtually blind to the growing gap between CEO pay and the pay of the average worker. As the chart below shows that gap has increased dramatically. In 1965, for every dollar earned by the average worker, CEOs earned 20 dollars. By 2012, that gap mushroomed to 354 to one.

Zoë Carpenter: Senate Democrats Are About to Do Something Truly Stupid

In a cockeyed attempt to save one of their own, Senate Democrats are poised to do something truly stupid. Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, after failing to win enough votes to avoid a runoff in her Senate race, is centering her prolonged bid for re-election on a bill to fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats have long blocked such legislation in the Senate, but all of a sudden they’ve decided to bring it up for a vote, likely before Thanksgiving.

The decision is both hypocritical and irrational. Landrieu’s victory or loss will not alter the balance of the Senate. More importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that passing a pro-KXL bill will improve Landrieu’s chances in the runoff, where she faces Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican who is just as pro-Keystone as she is. (He sponsored the House version of Landrieu’s bill, and the lower chamber is scheduled to vote Friday.) Landrieu’s entire re-election campaign centered on her being big oil’s best friend; voters know that already, and it wasn’t enough.

Joe Conason: Immigration, Impeachment and Insanity on the Republican Right

Obstructing, denouncing and demonizing Barack Obama are so central to the existence of the Republican Party today that its leaders simply ignore the real purposes of the president’s proposed immigration orders. So someone should point out that his imminent decision will advance priorities to which the Republican right offers routine lip service: promoting family values, assisting law enforcement, ensuring efficient government and guarding national security.

Much of the argument for immigration reform-and, in particular, the president’s proposed executive orders-revolves around the imperative of compassion for immigrant families. That is a powerful claim-or should be, at least, for the self-styled Christians of the Republican right. If they aren’t moved by empathy for struggling, aspiring, hardworking people, however, then maybe they should consider the practicalities.

America is not going to deport millions upon millions of Latino immigrants and their families to satisfy tea party prejudices, even if that were possible. Attempting to do so would be a gigantic waste of taxpayers’ money, an unwelcome burden on thousands of major employers and an inhumane disgrace with international consequences, none of them good. It might or might not be “legal,” but it would surely be stupid.

Dave Zirin: New NBA Union Chief Michele Roberts Slams the League’s Old Labor Practices

The labor movement slogans that have guided generations include “an injury to one is an injury to all” and “solidarity forever.” But my favorite-because it speaks most directly to strategy-is, “The best way to avoid a strike is to prepare for one.” In other words, bosses will only back down and blink if they survey your side and think that they can lose.

That is why anyone who cares about the rights of labor on the highest possible public platform has to be inspired by the recent comments of new NBA Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts. In an interview with Pablo Torre of ESPN the Magazine, Roberts took a step back from the decades of established labor practices that have governed sports and basically said, “This is bullshit.” [..]

Make no mistake what this is about. The league is about to be engorged by television revenue, $24 billion over six years, as live sports has become the tent pole of commercial television in our live streaming and DVR’d universe. Roberts is sending a shot across the bow that the owners will not be the primary beneficiaries of this broadcast bonanza and they will no longer, as she put it, “control the narrative.”

Nov 18 2014

The Breakfast Club (It’s All Been a Pack of Lies)

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. 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.

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This Day in History

Cult leader Jim Jones and hundreds of followers die in mass murder-suicide in South America; Massachusetts high court rules gay couples can marry; Disney’s ‘Steamboat Willie’ premieres in New York.

Breakfast Tunes

Nov 18 2014

On This Day In History November 18

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.

November 18 is the 322nd day of the year (323rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 43 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1883, the Railraods create the first time zones At exactly noon on this day, American and Canadian railroads begin using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. The bold move was emblematic of the power shared by the railroad companies.

The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone.

Timekeeping on the American railroads in the mid 19th century was somewhat confused. Each railroad used its own standard time, usually based on the local time of its headquarters or most important terminus, and the railroad’s train schedules were published using its own time. Some major railroad junctions served by several different railroads had a separate clock for each railroad, each showing a different time; the main station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example, kept six different times.

Charles F. Dowd proposed a system of one-hour standard time zones for American railroads about 1863, although he published nothing on the matter at that time and did not consult railroad officials until 1869. In 1870, he proposed four ideal time zones (having north-south borders), the first centered on Washington, D.C., but by 1872 the first was centered 75 W of Greenwich, with geographic borders (for example, sections of the Appalachian Mountains). Dowd’s system was never accepted by American railroads. Instead, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented a version proposed by William F. Allen, the editor of the Traveler’s Official Railway Guide. The borders of its time zones ran through railroad stations, often in major cities. For example, the border between its Eastern and Central time zones ran through Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Charleston. It was inaugurated on Sunday, November 18, 1883, also called “The Day of Two Noons”, when each railroad station clock was reset as standard-time noon was reached within each time zone. The zones were named Intercolonial, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Within one year, 85% of all cities with populations over 10,000, about 200 cities, were using standard time. A notable exception was Detroit (which is about half-way between the meridians of eastern time and central time), which kept local time until 1900, then tried Central Standard Time, local mean time, and Eastern Standard Time before a May 1915 ordinance settled on EST and was ratified by popular vote in August 1916. The confusion of times came to an end when Standard zone time was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress on March 19, 1918, in the Standard Time Act.

Nov 18 2014

TDS/TCR (Citizenfour)


The Daily Show with John Oliver

Dancing with Death

Emily Bazelon

The real news, all of John’s Rosewater interviews, Jason Jones’ Behind the Veil reports, and this week’s guests below.