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Archive for June, 2011

Banks convince Fed to raise swipe fee limit

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 30th, 2011 4:35 am by HL

Banks convince Fed to raise swipe fee limit

The Federal Reserve raised its limit Wednesday on how much merchants must pay to banks each time a debit card is swiped, an eleventh-hour reprieve for the financial industry after a massive lobbying campaign.

The so-called swipe fee, or interchange, will increase from a maximum of 12 cents proposed by the Fed last year to a base charge of 21 cents. Banks can also collect .05 percent of the amount of the transaction to recoup losses from fraud. In addition, the Fed will consider allowing them to receive another cent for each transaction if they take steps to prevent fraud. The new rules will take effect Oct. 1.

Read full article >>

Stephen Colbert set to testify to FEC on forming his own super PAC

The Federal Election Commission does serious issues. It does complex debates over mind-numbing campaign laws. It does not do funny.

But now the agency finds itself the target of a very public joke by television comedian and provocateur Stephen Colbert, who is set to testify Thursday on his tongue-in-cheek bid to form an eponymous “super PAC” for the 2012 election season.

The host of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central has spent months riffing on the notion of a political committee dedicated to his enrichment, part of a broad satire poking fun at court rulings allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. He wants permission to let his network’s parent company, Viacom, help him in the effort.

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Regulators say mine skirted safety rules

BEAVER, W.Va. — The owner of the West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 29 men last year kept two sets of books on safety conditions, an accurate one for itself and a sanitized one for the government, federal regulators said Wednesday.

Managers at Massey Energy pressured workers at the Upper Big Branch mine to omit safety problems from the official set of reports, said Mine Safety and Health Administration official Kevin Stricklin. Workers told investigators that the company wanted to avoid scrutiny from inspectors and keep coal production running smoothly.

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Senate votes to streamline confirmation process

The Senate Wednesday voted 79-20 to approve legislation to streamline its confirmation process by reducing the number of positions requiring full Senate confirmation and requiring fewer nominees to go through a full confirmation procedure.

The action, which removes 169 of the total 1,416 jobs now requiring Senate approval, had been something of a foregone conclusion since a bipartisan group of senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) signed on in January.

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Polls Are Meaningless Right Now

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 30th, 2011 4:31 am by HL

Polls Are Meaningless Right Now
Jay Cost, Weekly Standard
The Des Moines Register poll of Republicans caused quite a stir this week. The congresswoman from Minnesota could not have asked for a better piece of news to correspond with her official announcement: It showed Michele Bachmann down just one point to Mitt Romney in Iowa. Meanwhile, Tim Pawlenty had to suffer through idle questions about whether or not he was a “first tier” candidate.But just how seriously should we take that poll, and others like it? I say, not very seriously at all.

Is There a Religious Test for President?
Jeff Greenfield, Politico
It's unsettling news: One in five voters would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president, according to a new Gallup Poll.Doesn't the Constitution say, in Article VI, "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"?

What the GOP Field Should Know About Perry
William McKenzie, Sac Bee
Let's assume Rick Perry runs for president. Once a high-profile leader says he doesn't want the job but then starts talking about it and giving speeches around the country as the election heats up, you can bet he's running.Here, then, are a few things his GOP opponents need to know about Texas' governor:

Cantor’s Point: Debt Talks

Parents Are the Best Filters For Kids


Much rather have a Dutch Letter

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:31 am by HL

Much rather have a Dutch Letter
I wonder if Sarah Palin made it through the second reel of her documentary or if she resigned from the theater?

Dutch Letters in Jaarrsma Bakery Pella, Iowa from Doramon at flickr.com

When last Sarah Palin deigned to visit the lower 48 she had resigned from her bus tour halfway through. Which was only fitting. But the excuse we heard was jury duty, I guess she got out of it for cause — a profound lack of understanding of the law (or jury duty) — because she’s back just two days later.

And even worse for me, she’s near.

Sarah Palin’s going to Iowa.

The production and publicity firms behind the new documentary about Palin released a statement today confirming the former Alaska governor and her husband will attend the Tuesday premiere of “The Undefeated” in Pella, Iowa.

The film will be shown at the Pella Opera House at 5 p.m. central time and a “traditional Iowa cookout” will follow.

It is an amusing title for the person on the losing end of the last Presidential election where she was quite “defeated”, especially since right now she’d lose badly in Iowa to the “Uncommitted” Michele Bachmann.

Late Late Night FDL: Bad Girl
Carolyn WonderlandBad Girl.

Carolyn WonderlandBad Girl.

What’s on your mind?


John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:31 am by HL

John Dean Knows How to Get Rid of Clarence Thomas
For good reason, there has been serious hand-wringing over what to do about the ethical lapses of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. There is clear precedent for how to deal with the justice. Thomas could be forced off the bench.

By John Dean

For good reason, there has been serious hand-wringing over what to do about the ethical lapses of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. There is clear precedent for how to deal with the justice. Thomas could be forced off the bench.


Related Entries



Michele Bachmann’s 2012 Tour Goes To The Dogs

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:31 am by HL

Michele Bachmann’s 2012 Tour Goes To The Dogs
RAYMOND, N.H. — In her new White House bid, Republican Michele Bachmann has gone to the dogs. And cats. And birds. The Minnesota congresswoman argued…

Robert Scheer: Yes to Violence, No to Sex
This American life of ours has long been pro-violence and anti-sex, unless the two can be merged so that violence is the dominant theme. The…

Poll Brings Palin Bad News
Sorry, Sarah. A new poll shows President Obama beating Mama Grizzly in her homestate. When asked if they preferred Obama or Palin, 42% of responders…

California Lawmakers Pass Budget
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Democrats and Republicans both found something to dislike in California’s newest spending plan, which passed with only Democratic votes after months of…


Wall Street Journal Spins Fracking Study To Downplay Risks

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:31 am by HL

Wall Street Journal Spins Fracking Study To Downplay Risks

A Wall Street Journal editorial obscured the fact that a Duke University study strongly suggested methane from a natural gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminated water supplies.

WSJ Dismisses Duke University Findings On Methane Contamination

WSJ Suggested There Is No Evidence The High Methane Concentration Was From Fracking Operations. The editorial said of the Duke study: “They had no baseline data and thus no way of knowing if methane concentrations were high prior to drilling”:

A second charge, based on a Duke University study, claims that fracking has polluted drinking water with methane gas. Methane is naturally occurring and isn’t by itself harmful in drinking water, though it can explode at high concentrations. Duke authors Rob Jackson and Avner Vengosh have written that their research shows “the average methane concentration to be 17 times higher in water wells located within a kilometer of active drilling sites.”

They failed to note that researchers sampled a mere 68 wells across Pennsylvania and New York–where more than 20,000 water wells are drilled annually. They had no baseline data and thus no way of knowing if methane concentrations were high prior to drilling. They also acknowledged that methane was detected in 85% of the wells they tested, regardless of drilling operations, and that they’d found no trace of fracking fluids in any wells. [Wall Street Journal, 6/25/11]

In Fact, Duke Geochemical Analysis Strongly Suggested The Wells Are Source Of Water Contamination. The Journal editorial failed to mention that “that the type of gas detected at high levels in the water was the same type of gas that energy companies were extracting from thousands of feet underground,” as reported by ProPublica:

They found that levels of flammable methane gas in drinking water wells increased to dangerous levels when those water supplies were close to natural gas wells. They also found that the type of gas detected at high levels in the water was the same type of gas that energy companies were extracting from thousands of feet underground, strongly implying that the gas may be seeping underground through natural or manmade faults and fractures, or coming from cracks in the well structure itself.

[…]

To determine where the methane in the wells they tested came from, the researchers ran it through a molecular fingerprinting process called an isotopic analysis. Water samples furthest from gas drilling showed traces of biogenic methane–a type of methane that can naturally appear in water from biological decay. But samples taken closer to drilling had high concentrations of thermogenic methane, which comes from the same hydrocarbon layers where gas drilling is targeted. That–plus the proximity to the gas wells–told the researchers that the contamination was linked to the drilling processes.

In addition to the methane, other types of gases were also detected, providing further evidence that the gas originated with the hydrocarbon deposits miles beneath the earth and that it was unique to the active gas drilling areas. Ethane, another component of natural gas, and other hydrocarbons were detected in 81 percent of water wells near active gas drilling but in only 9 percent of water wells further away. Propane and butane were also detected in some drilling area wells.[ProPublica, 5/9/11]

  • Duke Study: Composition Of Methane Near Active Wells Is Consistent With Deep Methane Sources. From the study itself:

These δ13C-CH4 data, coupled with the ratios of methane-to-higher-chain hydrocarbons, and δ2H-CH4 values, are consistent with deeper thermogenic methane sources such as the Marcellus and Utica shales at the active sites and matched gas geochemistry from gas wells nearby. In contrast, lower-concentration samples from shallow groundwater at nonactive sites had isotopic signatures reflecting a more biogenic or mixed biogenic/ thermogenic methane source.

[…]

Overall, the combined gas and formation-water results indicate that thermogenic gas from thermally mature organic matter of Middle Devonian and older depositional ages is the most likely source of the high methane concentrations observed in the shallow water wells from active extraction sites. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 4/14/11]

WSJ Falsely Suggested Duke Researchers Concealed Sample Size. Contrary to the Journal’s claim that Duke authors Rob Jackson and Avner Vengosh “failed to note” that they “sampled a mere 68 wells,” the op-ed from which the Journal quotes clearly states, “Our team examined 68 private groundwater wells in Pennsylvania and New York”:

Our team examined 68 private groundwater wells in Pennsylvania and New York. We found the average methane concentration to be 17 times higher in water wells located within a kilometer of active drilling sites. Some concentrations were dangerously high. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/10/11]

WSJ Fudges Facts On Fracking Exemption

WSJ Attempted To Rebut Fact That Fracking Was “‘Exempted’ In 2005 From The Federal Safe Water Drinking Act.” From the editorial:

Environmentalists claim fracking was “exempted” in 2005 from the federal Safe Water Drinking Act [sic], thanks to industry lobbying. In truth, all U.S. companies must abide by federal water laws, and what the greens are really saying is that fracking should be singled out for special and unprecedented EPA oversight. [Wall Street Journal, 6/25/11]

Greenwire: 2005 Law “Specifically Excluded Fracturing.” From a February 24 Greenwire report:

Industry has contended that the bill does not “exempt” hydraulic fracturing from the law, because EPA had not previously regulated fracturing under SDWA (Safe Drinking Water Act). But the 2005 bill specifically excluded fracturing stating that the regulation “excludes … underground injection of fluids … pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations.”

Also, EPA complied with a 1997 appeals court order instructing it to require that Alabama regulate fracturing under SDWA. The 2005 legislation ended that requirement for EPA and prevented the precedent from being used elsewhere. However, outside Alabama, EPA had imposed no restrictions on fracturing under SDWA before the exemption in the 2005 bill.

The energy bill, called the Energy Policy Act of 2005, originated from a 2001 White House energy plan, developed by a task force led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who headed Halliburton at the time of the Alabama ruling. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2004 that Cheney’s office was involved in discussions about how fracturing should be portrayed in the 2001 report and that it resisted EPA’s attempts to include concerns about its effects on the environment. [Greenwire, 2/24/11]

  • 2005 Law: Term “Underground Injection” Excludes Fluids “Pursuant To Hydraulic Fracturing Operations.” From the 2005 Energy Policy Act:
 
SEC. 322. HYDRAULIC FRACTURING.

Paragraph (1) of section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended to read as follows:

            “(1) Underground injection.–The term `underground injection’–

                    “(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and

                    “(B) excludes–

                          “(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and

                          “(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.” [Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 322]

Bush EPA Official Said The Exemption Should Be Reexamined. From a May 20 Greenwire report:

The U.S. EPA official who oversaw the George W. Bush administration’s 2004 study of hydraulic fracturing says its conclusions about safety have been exaggerated for years.

The study found that in certain circumstances, fracturing presented “little or no threat” to drinking water. But Ben Grumbles, who ran EPA’s Office of Water, says the study didn’t deem all “fracking” to be safe, and it didn’t justify exempting all forms of it from drinking water protections.

“EPA, however never intended for the report to be interpreted as a perpetual clean bill of health for fracking or to justify a broad statutory exemption from any future regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Grumbles wrote in an article (pdf) this week for the nonprofit he now runs, the Clean Water America Alliance.

The former assistant EPA administrator also says that after five years and a nationwide surge in drilling, it might be time to take another look at the exemption, which was included in a 2005 energy bill.

“A lot has happened since 2005 and, in my view, it makes sense to review the Safe Drinking Water Act landscape as well as the relevance of Clean Water Act programs,” he said. [Greenwire, 5/20/11]


Ethics Group Says Richardson Made Staffers Cross Line Into Political Work

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:31 am by HL

Ethics Group Says Richardson Made Staffers Cross Line Into Political Work
A ethics watchdog is asking the FBI to investigate whether Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA) was misusing her congressional staffers to by forcing them to work at campaign events and run personal errands, a violation of federal law.


After ‘Don’t Ask’ Survey Leak, ‘Concerned Source’ Slips IG Report To Anti-Gay Group
Somebody at the Pentagon wasn’t happy that a report that boosted the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was leaked, so they did a leak of their own.

Federal Judge Rules Indiana Can’t Block Planned Parenthood Funding
A federal judge has granted Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction against an Indiana law that stripped it of all federal funding in the state.



Proof a Corrupt Congress and Lower Corporate Taxes Will Not Create Jobs

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:30 am by HL

Proof a Corrupt Congress and Lower Corporate Taxes Will Not Create Jobs


Obama Still Beats All Republicans

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:29 am by HL

Obama Still Beats All Republicans
A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds just 36% of registered voters say they’d definitely vote for President Obama next year — but he still tops all Republican challengers in one-on-one match ups.

Mitt Romney comes closest, but trails Obama by four points, 46% to 42%.

Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “Republican candidates have not at this point developed credibility with voters.”

Obama to Hold News Conference
President Obama will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. from the White House.

He’s expected to take questions on the congressional debt-ceiling negotiations, the economy, and the wars in Libya and Afghanistan. There will also almost certainly be questions about his re-election campaign.

Cuomo Riding Sky High Approval
A new Quinnipiac poll finds New Yorkers overwhelmingly approve of the job Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing, 64% to 19%.

Cuomo’s approval rate is 53% to 26% among Republicans, 75% to 13% among Democrats, and 61% to 19% among independent voters.

Said pollster Maurice Carroll: “It’s up, up and away for super-Andrew after the close of the legislative session… Cuomo has the same economic problems as governors in other states polled by Quinnipiac University, but somehow he outscores them all.”


Supreme Court Term In Review Part IV: The Data

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 29th, 2011 4:29 am by HL

Supreme Court Term In Review Part IV: The Data
The numbers are now in on the just-completed Supreme Court term, and the Roberts Court remains the most pro-corporate Supreme Court in recent memory. Despite a slight downtick in corporate America’s win rate from the previous term, the Chamber of Commerce continues to perform better under Chief Justice Roberts than it did under either of […]

The numbers are now in on the just-completed Supreme Court term, and the Roberts Court remains the most pro-corporate Supreme Court in recent memory. Despite a slight downtick in corporate America’s win rate from the previous term, the Chamber of Commerce continues to perform better under Chief Justice Roberts than it did under either of his two conservative predecessors:

The Supreme Court’s October 2009 Term, featuring the Court’s blockbuster ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and producing an overall 81% success rate (13 wins in 16 cases) for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, focused a national spotlight on the business rulings of the Roberts Court. The Court’s just-concluded October 2010 Term featured even more cases of considerable importance to business interests and may ultimately prove just as momentous. While the Chamber’s success rate dipped to 57% (12 wins in 21 cases), the Chamber prevailed in the term’s biggest cases and all but one of the cases split the Court along ideological lines. Overall, the Chamber has prevailed in 65% of its cases before the Roberts Court, a figure that is still significantly higher than the Chamber’s success rate of 56% in our study of the Rehnquist Court, and dramatically higher than its success rate in our study of the Burger Court, when the Chamber only won 43% of its cases.

Corporate America’s big wins this term include another big victory for corporate money in elections, a license to lie for Wall Street, two decisions effectively eliminating access to class action suits for millions of Americans, lawsuit immunity for generic drug manufacturers, and a green light for health data mining by drug companies.

Cisco Asks For New Tax Break After Dodging $7 Billion In Taxes
Several multinational corporations have been waging a lobbying campaign in an attempt to sucker Congress into approving whats known as a tax repatriation holiday. This holiday would allow corporations that have stashed money offshore to bring it back to the U.S. at a dramatically lower rate. (Usually, companies repatriating money pay the statutory 35 percent […]

Several multinational corporations have been waging a lobbying campaign in an attempt to sucker Congress into approving whats known as a tax repatriation holiday. This holiday would allow corporations that have stashed money offshore to bring it back to the U.S. at a dramatically lower rate. (Usually, companies repatriating money pay the statutory 35 percent corporate income tax rate.)

As we documented, several of the companies lobbying for this tax break already pay exceedingly low taxes. One of them — mega-manufacturer Boeing — hasn’t paid any federal income tax in three years. Google, which is also part of the lobbying binge, paid just 2.4 percent in taxes last year thanks to extensive use of offshore tax havens and loopholes. And as Bloomberg noted today, Cisco wants a huge tax break on repatriated earnings despite dodging $7 billion in taxes over the last five years:

Cisco Systems Inc. has cut its income taxes by $7 billion since 2005 by booking roughly half its worldwide profits at a subsidiary at the foot of the Swiss Alps that employs about 100 people.

Now Cisco, the largest maker of networking equipment, wants to save even more — by asking Congress to waive most federal taxes due when multinationals bring such offshore earnings home. Chief Executive Officer John T. Chambers has led the charge for the tax holiday, which would be the second since 2004.

The companies pushing for a repatriation holiday — and the congressional Republicans supporting them, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — claim the tax break will spur the companies into investing domestically and creating jobs. But Congress tried an identical ploy in 2004, to the exact opposite effect.

The companies that benefited the most wound up cutting jobs, and corporations pushed even more money and investment overseas, in the hopes that another tax holiday would be granted before too long. And 92 percent of the money that the companies brought back went to enriching shareholders and executives, not job creation. Kristen Forbes, who was on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers when the last repatriation holiday was approved, said the holiday “didn’t accomplish the stated goals of bringing jobs and investment to the US.’’ But tax dodging corporations want another one approved anyway, promising that this time things will be different.