Texas Oil Tycoon Nelson Bunker Hunt Dies Nelson Bunker Hunt, the down-home Texas oil tycoon who owned a thousand race horses, drove an old Cadillac and once tried to corner the world’s silver market only to lose most of his fortune when the price collapsed, died on Tuesday in Dallas. He was 88. “A billion dollars ain’t what it used to be,” he said in 1980 after silver stakes he amassed with two brothers, Herbert and Lamar, fell to $10.80 from $50.35 an ounce. In barely two months, their holdings and contracts for purchases — corralling a third to half the world’s deliverable silver — had plunged from a $7 billion value in January to a $1.7 billion loss in March.
If Chuck Todd’s plans for the new Meet the Press are successful, within a year the show will balance the need to explain the inner workings of Washington to viewers with elevating public concerns that are not getting enough attention in the political sphere.
In the second part of a three-part interview series with Media Matters, Todd lays out his goals for Meet the Press, the struggle for guest diversity on Sunday political shows, and the current state of the media landscape.
Responding to a frequent progressive critique of the Sunday shows – that they are obsessed with gaffes and spin and not actual issues – Todd expressed hope that his show would pull off a “balancing act.”
“On one hand, we’re trying to explain and interpret what Washington is up to for the public,” Todd said. “But at the same time, trying to bring the public’s concerns and the public’s issues and the things that they seem to be worried about to Washington’s doorstep.”
Asked whether Meet the Press should discuss issues like climate change that are generally under-covered or merely reflect the current discussion in Washington, Todd explained that it’s difficult to find time to cover every deserving story, especially when breaking news events like the Ebola outbreak eat into the schedule.
Media Matters has repeatedly highlighted the lack of diversity on the Sunday morning political shows, including on Meet the Press. In 2013, when the show was hosted by David Gregory, a full 62 percent of the guests were white men.
Todd said that it’s probably too early to judge his own efforts with regards to diversity but said it is “a front-burner issue for us, not a back-burner issue.”
While Todd said he had so far sought to make his weekly roundtables diverse, he warned of challenges in providing a balanced slate of interview subjects.
Todd highlighted how, for instance, “90 percent of the generals and the military experts out there” are white men. “Some of this stuff is out of your control. At the end of the day, you want to put the best people on. You want to put the best, smartest people on,” Todd said. “I’d like to think we’re doing a better job at making sure that we’re reflecting America.”
He also pointed to the need for geographical diversity among guests in order to avoid “socioeconomic groupthink,” as well as providing diverse ideological voices within both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Todd criticized Fox News’ use of straight news reporters to balance conservative commentators on their roundtable panels, saying that it demonstrates the network has an “agenda,” adding that Meet the Press doesn’t “believe in that.” Todd also criticized Fox News for “trying to make everything about media bias.”
Despite his criticism of the conservative network, Todd offered that “too many citizens are only getting news from one place and not understanding the other side.”
The first part of Todd’s interview with Media Matters focused on the media’s coverage of scandals and crises. The third and final installment will focus on media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 presidential run.
Relevant transcript from Todd’s Media Matters interview will be published with each part.
Canada Can Be Tough on Immigration Froma Harrop, RealClearPolitics Two years ago, Jeffrey Niehaus was a popular teacher at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. An American, Niehaus had applied for permanent residency in Canada. But Canada turned him down. The reason? The psychology professor’s 4-year-old son, Kurt, had autism. Treating autism would have been too costly for the government’s health care system. Americans often think of Canada as a softy nation. But though Canada may be the land of government’s picking up your medical bills, it’s also the land of rules that must be followed. When it comes to immigration, Canada doesn’t mess…
Colorado Senate Race a Petri Dish for Both Parties Caitlin Huey-Burns, RealClearPolitics There is perhaps no other state this election cycle that better reflects the lessons learned by both parties over the past four years than Colorado. In 2010, Republicans discovered the hard way that a bad candidate who says impolitic things can squander a winnable Senate race in even the most favorable of climates. And Democrats learned they could overcome discouraging odds with a playbook centered on the women’s vote (highlighting abortion and contraception) and spotlighting an “extremist” opponent. The Democrat, Michael Bennet, went on to defeat Republican Ken Buck by one…
Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Mark Warner vs. Ed Gillespie vs. Robert Sarvis Senate race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That’s what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America’s elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.
So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Mark Warner, Ed Gillespie and Robert Sarvis, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you’d like to dig deeper.
———- Budget: Did you support raising the Federal debt ceiling with no strings attached? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Unknown
Budget: Do you support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Yes
Campaign Finance: Do you support the DISCLOSE Act, which would require key funders of political ads to put their names on those ads? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Unknown
Campaign Finance: Do you support the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations and unions? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Yes
Economy: Do you support raising the minimum wage? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: No
Economy: Do you support extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks? Warner: Yes Gillespie: Unknown Sarvis: No
Economy: Do you support the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sought to increase regulation of Wall Street corporations and other financial institutions? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Unknown
Economy: Do you support federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: No
Education: Do you support refinancing of student loans at lower rates, paid for by increasing taxes on income over a million dollars? Warner: Yes Gillespie: Unknown Sarvis: Unknown
Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Yes
Environment: Do you support government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Yes
Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy? Warner: Yes Gillespie: Unknown. Has lobbied against increased auto mileage standards Sarvis: No
Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Yes
Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: No
Healthcare: Do you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Yes
Healthcare: Did you support shutting down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare in 2013? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: No
Immigration: Do you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally to achieve legal status if they’ve graduated from high school, have a clean legal record, and attend college or serve in the military? Warner: Yes Gillespie: Unknown Sarvis: No
Immigration: Do you support the comprehensive immigration plan passed by the Senate in 2013, which includes a pathway to citizenship and increased funding for border security? Warner: Yes Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Unknown
Iraq: Should the US recommit troops to Iraq to combat the rise in insurgency? Warner: Unknown. Wants to “keep all options on the table.” Gillespie: Unknown Sarvis: No
Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana? Warner: Unknown, though says his views have changed Gillespie: Unknown Sarvis: Supports decriminalization
Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: No
Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Unknown
Social Issues: Should Planned Parenthood receive public funds for non-abortion health services? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: Unknown
Social Security: Do you support partial privatization of Social Security? Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Unknown
Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose “any and all tax increases” meant to generate additional revenue.) Warner: No Gillespie: Yes Sarvis: Yes
Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services? Warner: Yes Gillespie: No Sarvis: No
Residents protest coal exports at a meeting of the Gretna, Louisiana city council.
CREDIT: Jeffrey Dubinsky/Andrew Breiner
With the battle over coal exports now in a lull in the Pacific Northwest, where four of six proposed shipping terminals have fallen by the wayside, the front line in the fight has shifted to an unlikely locale. Louisiana, a state where politicians and their constituents have long welcomed fossil fuel development, activists, citizens and local governments are now fighting a proposed export facility about 45 minutes south of New Orleans.
Armstrong Coal’s proposed RAM Terminal would ship an estimated eight million tons of coal a year from mines in Colorado, Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, and Illinois.
Opponents fear the facility, located next to a critically needed coastal restoration project, would bring coal dust and disrupt traffic in a rural community, along with contaminating sediments needed to rebuild wetlands in a state where its coastal lands vital to hurricane protection are rapidly disappearing.
Bryan Ernst, 63, built his retirement home a few miles downriver from where the RAM Terminal would be built. He already has to cope with impacts from the existing International Marine Terminals, which has just completed a big expansion of its coal export capacity.
“My biggest concern, besides the aggravation, is health,” Ernst said. “Every time we have an east wind, we have dust coming over my property and you’re breathing that stuff. You can feel it on your skin, a coating like powder.” If the RAM terminal is built, Ernst said, “we’re going to be getting it from the north and the east.”
To the north in Gretna, just outside New Orleans, retired schoolteacher and school librarian Gayle Bertucci worries about the increase in train traffic right in front of her home, and the possible health impacts from coal dust, if the RAM Terminal is built. Bertucci says while many in her community are “apathetic” about the planned terminal, she thinks a broader coalition can be built around the possible impacts on coastal restoration.
“Nobody cares if Gayle Bertucci has trains coming down the middle of her street,” she said, “but [Hurricane] Katrina was so traumatic, even for those of us who had no damage.”
International Marine Terminals coal export facility on the Mississippi River near Port Sulphur, Louisiana.
CREDIT: Gulf Restoration Network
Despite appeals from two local governmental bodies, the Jefferson Parish Council and the Gretna City Council, the Army Corps of Engineers on October 1 said it would not hold a public hearing on a required federal permit. A court challenge to a permit issued by the state Department of Natural Resources, however, is still pending.
“The industry has said the Gulf is their [coal export] plan B,” said Devin Martin, a Sierra Club organizer in Louisiana. Coal companies, he added, “are saying we have an unorganized populace and a corrupt political system they can take advantage of. We are here to show them that’s not true.”
The dispute in Plaquemines Parish, where two existing coal terminals and coal and petroleum coke debris have been found contaminating other coastal restoration projects, is part of a larger regional struggle against coal exports stretching from Texas to Alabama.
While a number of existing terminals in the region have recently expanded, including facilities in Convent, Devant, and Darrow, Louisiana, proposals for new terminals have not fared as well.
Three proposed terminals in Corpus Christi, Texas that would have had a combined capacity of about 25 million tons a year have been cancelled, another facility proposed for coal exports in Mobile, Alabama has been sold to the state and will be re-purposed for container shipments, and two new proposals in Louisiana appear to be on hold, according to a market report document prepared by T. Parker Host and obtained by opponents.
The key takeaway from all this activity: Big coal’s export lifeboat isn’t looking so seaworthy right now.
With a steady decline in coal’s share of the domestic electricity market, driven by a big shift to natural gas, the growth of wind and solar, and emerging federal limits on carbon pollution, U.S. coal producers have for the past few years been bravely talking up exports abroad as their salvation. To get their product to markets in Asia and Europe, they have supported plans to build or expand about a dozen and a half export terminals at U.S. ports.
But four of the six proposed terminals on the West Coast to serve Asian markets have foundered. And the remaining two, in Washington State, are only at the beginning stages of long environmental reviews and face strong political opposition from an energized public and leading political figures in the Pacific Northwest.
Perhaps more surprising is that proposals to enlarge export capacity in the Gulf Coast region are also running into heavy weather. There, as many as a half dozen plans have fallen by the wayside, and political opposition to others is building, even in fossil fuel friendly states like Texas and Louisiana.
At the same time, the price of what is known as seaborne thermal coal used in electricity production has plummeted, driven by a flood of exports from Australia and Indonesia, and there are signs of a dramatic slowdown in consumption of foreign coal in China, which just recently renewed an import tax on foreign coal. The September Newcastle spot price of export coal from Australia was just half what it was in 2011. And as analysts increasingly predict a grim future for coal, the stock prices of U.S. producers have plummeted.
Clark Williams-Derry, deputy director of Seattle think tank Sightline, concluded simply: “The market is dethroning king coal.”
The outlook for exports is detailed in analyses conducted by the federal Energy Information Administration. In its most recent quarterly report on October 8, the EIA noted that in the second quarter of this year, U.S. coal exports fell 11.4 percent from the first quarter and were 16.5 percent below the second quarter of 2013. In a separate report on October 7, the EIA projected that exports this year would fall about 19 percent below last year, to 96 million short tons.
The coal export bubble, driven by Chinese demand, “has almost completely deflated,” said Williams-Derry, attributing the development to China investing in making improvement to its own coal industry and transport capability, to a big jump in supply by Australia and Indonesia, and a decline in demand by China.
“The coal companies are telling analysts this is a temporary phenomenon and international prices will rebound,” said Ross Macfarlane of Climate Solutions, a clean energy nonprofit in the Pacific Northwest. “But the ones we’ve been reading are telling a very different story …You are seeing the markets for seaborne coal declining precipitously.
Private reports, prepared by a number of analysts and obtained by ThinkProgress, paint a grim picture for the future of coal exports. Investment banker Jeffries, for instance, said “we believe coal prices will never materially recover … We believe coal demand has more or less peaked in China.” Similarly, Citi concluded that “thermal coal is facing twin challenges of cyclically strong supply growth and a structural decline in demand growth.”
As far as demand for U.S. coal overseas is concerned, investment research firm Morningstar said, “we believe China has reached two inflection points — one economic and one political — that lead to a decidedly different outcome: no growth at all.”
Goldman Sachs elaborated on that point by noting, “with Chinese demand for imported coal past its peak, and barring any major policy changes, we expect the seaborne market to grow at an average annual rate of [approximately] .2 percent over our forecast period to 2018. In our view, this will not be sufficient to tighten the market and lift prices above the level of marginal production cost.”
Thus, it’s little wonder that major producers are seeing precipitous declines in their stock prices. Arch Coal is trading around $2.00 per share, down from above $30 in 2011. Peabody is trading at less than around $11; it was above $50 in 2011. Alpha Natural Resources is trading around $1.60; it was above $60 in 2011. And Cloud Peak Energy, is trading around $11, down by about 50 percent since April.
In Louisiana, meanwhile, a state where former Senator John Breaux once famously said “my vote can’t be bought but it can be rented,” the environmentalist sector is feeling it may be getting some traction with the public.
“We have been tremendously successful in mobilizing people given the attitudes and stereotypes about what Louisiana people care about,” said the Sierra Club’s Devin Martin. “The stereotype is that folks in Louisiana don’t care about the environment because energy industry is so big. There is a sliver of truth to that, especially with oil and gas.”
“But,” Devin continued, “there are several things that have happened. The BP oil spill woke people up. Hurricane Katrina woke people up to the fact that coastal restoration is not just about pelicans. It’s about saving our butts. We need a healthy coast to protect us from hurricanes. That is now part of everyday conversations in Louisiana.”
Looking to the World Health Organization (WHO) for cues on how to combat the global health threat posed by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa amounts to “political correctness,” according to one GOP senator who is accusing President Obama of not doing enough to safeguard Americans from the virus. The comments ignore the fact that the real health crisis is unfolding abroad, not within U.S. borders.
“The President has said, ‘Well I’ll follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization.’ That’s what he said and you know the Word Health Organization is run by the United Nations, not the United States. It is much more of a political organization. And the President is trying to be politically correct,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) argued on a conference call hosted by the Iowa Republican Party on Wednesday.
Barrasso also suggested that, by depending on advice from WHO officials, Obama isn’t working to “protect and defend” the U.S. from Ebola. “The president of the United States, Members of Congress take an oath of office to protect and defend this country, the Constitution, and yet we don’t see that coming from the President who wants to depend on whatever the World Health Organization has to say,” he said.
WHO is a specialized agency within the UN that has focused on issues of international health since the 1940s. One of its major missions is disaster relief and responding to widespread public health emergencies. While some experts argue that WHO’s response to the Ebola epidemic has been hampered by recent budget cuts and staff reductions, there aren’t any doubts that the agency’s guidelines for containing the virus are sound.
When it comes to Ebola, it’s impossible to separate the WHO’s work from the imperative to protect Americans here at home. Health experts agree that the best way to prevent more Ebola cases within the U.S. border is by stopping the outbreak at its source in the three Western African nations where it has become a serious crisis. Ebola has become such a big problem because the international community hasn’t invested enough in impoverished nations, whose weak health care infrastructures allow disease outbreaks to spiral out of control.
As Ebola has become a politicized issue here in the U.S., however, lawmakers like Barrasso have eschewed that logic in favor of painting the Obama administration as incompetent in the face of a crisis. They claim the White House is failing to implement policies to protect the American people, like banning travel from the affected Western African countries, even though the health experts working on the ground say that’s not the right approach.
The Hollywood Liberal started in 2004 at the height of the Bush Administration madness in America.
We were inspired by the late great Bartcop.com. The very first thing I did when the site started was to get arrested at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. My arrest at the start of a march from The World Trade Center was later ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. As of May 2014, we are still awaiting the final settlement and conclusion of the case. I posted daily on the blog up until the end of The Bush error, and the site is now run as a news aggretor. Feel free to browse the old postings, pictures, & comics (an HL favorite) It reveals the twisted history of the times. Thanks H.L.