Whatever amount of passion and declamation might be employed by the Party of Order against the minority from the tribune of the National Assembly, its speech remained as monosyllabic as that of the Christians, whose words were to be: Yea, yea; nay, nay! As monosyllabic on the platform as in the press. Flat as a riddle whose answer is known in advance. Whether it was a question of the right of petition or the tax on wine, freedom of the press or free trade, the clubs or the municipal charter, protection of personal liberty or regulation of the state budget, the watchword constantly recurs, the theme remains always the same, the verdict is ever ready and invariably reads: “Socialism!” Even bourgeois liberalism is declared socialistic, bourgeois enlightenment socialistic, bourgeois financial reform socialistic. It was socialistic to build a railway where a canal already existed, and it was socialistic to defend oneself with a cane when one was attacked with a rapier.
But while unconventional natural gas might be an energy and climate game changer (over the near term) if it can be developed in an environmentally responsible fashion, the NYT piece itself may be a game changer.
Over the past nine months, The Times reviewed more than 30,000 pages of documents obtained through open records requests of state and federal agencies and by visiting various regional offices that oversee drilling in Pennsylvania. Some of the documents were leaked by state or federal officials.
You can find “the most significant documents … with annotations from The Times” by clicking here.
Considering how low the combined population of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is, these smaller outposts of Angophone civilization are dominating the ranks to an impressive degree. I’ve been to Helsinki in December, and while I personally found it quite appealing the “livability” of anyplace that far north is going to substantially hinge on your willingness to see very little daylight for months at a time.
In the sort-of three party system in use in the UK, it’s become quite rare for an MP to actually secure the majority of the vote in a constituency. Under alternative vote (often discussed in the US as “instant runoff voting”) people rank candidates in order when nobody gets a majority, you take the candidate who finished last, strike his name, and then redistribute his votes to his supporters’ second-place choices. Then you keep on trucking along until someone has a majority. The core supporters of AV have been Liberal Democrats (who are badly disadvantaged by the status quo voting system) but the Lib Dems have managed to alienate tons of people by joining David Cameron’s coalition, which, somewhat ironically, they had to do in order to get the AV referendum done.
Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama took up the fight against childhood obesity as her signature cause with the “Let’s Move” campaign aimed at “solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.”
However, some conservatives have a different take on what the First Lady is trying to accomplish. Sarah Palin slammed the campaign as yet another instance of “the government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician’s wife priorities.” Rush Limbaugh blasted Mrs. Obama for promoting healthy eating despite the fact that she doesn’t “project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you.” Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) have jumped on board as well. Mrs. Obama has even been blamed for an increase in pedestrian deaths.
However, today on Fox News Sunday, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) came to the First Lady’s defense:
What Michelle Obama is proposing is not that the government should tells you that you can’t eat dessert. What Michelle Obama has proposed is that we recognize that we have a serious obesity crisis — which we do.
Seventy-five percent of military eligible kids going into the army can’t qualify for the physical because they are either overweight or obese and can’t meet the minimum army standards. That’s serious. This is no longer a health issue, an economic issue, it’s becoming an issue of national security.
Yet, Huckabee still wanted to “be clear” that he wasn’t saying that “Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh” are “all wrong” — even though that is precisely what he implied. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) also defended the First Lady’s campaign today, stating that the criticism of Michelle Obama that is coming from the right is “unnecessary.” “I think it’s a really good goal to encourage kids to eat better…I think the First Lady is speaking out well,” said Christie.
On Sunday, the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will decide which documentary deserves this year’s Oscar for best documentary. Contending for the award, among hard-hitting takes on the financial crisis and the Afghanistan war, is Josh Fox’s Gasland, a story of the potentially devastating consequences of the recent explosion of natural gas drilling in the United States. As the industry has developed new drilling technologies that included advanced hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — available reserves of natural gas in the United States have skyrocketed. If this drilling, from Pennsylvania to the Rockies, were safe, then natural gas could be a “clean” alternative to carbon-intense coal, and a “safe” alternative to imported petroleum. A major expansion of natural gas infrastructure has been embraced by everyone from T. Boone Pickens and Halliburton to President Obama. However, as Gasland exposes, fracking is being done without sufficient regulation and with scary results:
The natural gas industry has launched a full-scale PR campaign against the film and efforts to regulate fracking, setting up the front group Energy in Depth to attack the film and the congressional FRAC Act.
For comprehensive reviews of the documentary, the industry responses, and the underlying facts, read these critical reports from DeSmogBlog and GreenWire, both of which find that natural gas drilling is contaminating groundwater and communities with secret chemical stews. About the only point of real contention is that the contamination often comes from shoddy wells rather than the fracking process itself.
Now, however, a special investigation by the New York Times reveals that the real fault of Gasland may be that it fails to explore enough of the threat of fracking:
With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.
While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.
The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.
Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.
The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.
But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.
In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.
“This has experts worried,” Times reporter Ian Urbina concludes with fine understatement.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, responds:
These disturbing revelations raise the prospect that natural gas production has turned our rivers and streams into this generation’s “Love Canals.” The natural gas industry has repeatedly claimed that fracking can be done safely. We now know we need a full investigation into exactly how fracking is done and what it does to our drinking water and our environment. Americans should not have to consume radioactive materials from their drinking water as a byproduct of natural gas production.
Congress must take action to untie the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing it to assert proper oversight of the full life-cycle of the hydraulic fracturing process by repealing the egregious exemptions that this industry enjoys from our nation’s most important environmental safeguards. I will be introducing legislation in the near future to do just that.
Once in the United States, Canadian and Mexican cattle have to be treated just like native-born cows — they can’t be labeled differently to consumers or otherwise discriminated against. Canadian and Mexican people have no such luck. For example, Canadian Kiefer Sutherland, star of the hit TV show 24, couldn’t apply for the government job he pretends to have on TV, despite his character’s role as a forceful practitioner of truth, justice, and the American way.
One element of this bovine bias is that cows get immediate access to the U.S. welfare system. In 2009, 9 million dairy cows living in the United States received $1.35 billion in subsidies, regardless of their country of origin. That’s about $20,000 a year per bovine household (or herd, which averages around 133 cows). Meanwhile, annual payments for the average human household on welfare are only around $16,800 — and, of course, around four-fifths of legal immigrants aren’t on any type of welfare at all, while illegal and nonpermanent human residents aren’t even eligible. If you want to see a real welfare queen, check out a dairy cow.
By the standards of the rich world the United States is an outlier in terms of having better policies toward both immigration and farm subsidies than does Europe or (especially) Japan, but there’s still tons of room for improvement here.
As the threat of a government shutdown looms over the nation, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have repeatedly and forcefully denied that rank-and-file Republicans are calling for a closure. (ThinkProgress has documented at least 10 House GOPers who have defied the leadership’s wishes and come out in support of a potential closure.)
Now, despite Boehner and Cantor’s insistence that no Republicans want a government shutdown to be on the table, prospective GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is pitching his tent in the shutdown camp. ThinkProgress caught up with Pawlenty following his speech this weekend at the Tea Party Patriots Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Pawlenty declared that shutting down the federal government is “an option I think Republicans have to consider.”
The former Minnesota governor went further in the interview with ThinkProgress, declaring that the current shutdown showdown was a “line-in-the-sand moment,” the likes of which “are what we need.” Pawlenty called for a shutdown lasting a month or longer — “a dramatic month,” as he termed it — in order to force Congress to make tough decisions:
KEYES: Governor, you said one of your biggest regrets as governor was not allowing the shutdown in Minnesota to last longer. Would you have that same advice for Republicans in Congress as they face a potential shutdown?
PAWLENTY: I know these shutdowns always seem like they loom large, but in Minnesota, six months after, a year after, people looked back on it and could say, “it really didn’t have that big of a traumatic or dramatic negative impact on the state.”
KEYES: And that’s how you think it would be at a federal level?
PAWLENTY: These are hard to predict so we don’t know for sure, but a week-long or month-long or whatever it would turn out to be disruption isn’t the main point. The main point is we have a country that’s in deep trouble. We’ve got to get back to certain principles and responsibilities and starting with getting the budget balanced and if it takes a dramatic moment or a dramatic week or a dramatic month, those kinds of line-in-the-sand moments are what we need to get politicians back up against the wall and have them make the tough decisions. They all talk about making the tough decisions and never do.
KEYES: So you would support a shutdown if it comes down to it?
PAWLENTY: If it came down to it and it was between that and not getting the budget headed in the right direction, that’s an option I think Republicans have to consider.
A “dramatic month” with a federal government shutdown would include (but not be limited to) dramatic cuts to veterans services, law enforcement, and Social Security claims processing, according to CNN.
Recent refugees, scholars of North Korea and South Korean government officials see no signs that the economic hardships are pointing toward political instability. They see no existential threat to Kim Jong-il and his government, whether through civil unrest, political factionalism or a military revolt.
Humanitarian and ethical issues aside, you’d think a person would prefer to be the dictator of a China-style country with rapid economic growth than a North Korea-style one with mass impoverishment. Apparently PRC officials have tried to make this point in Pyongyang, but nothing much is happening.