I wonder when it will be as unthinkable for businesses to cause greater harm to the environment as it seems to be to tax them. It's uncontroversial at this point that injecting the wastewater that's a byproduct of fracking is likely to trigger any surrounding underground faults and cause an earthquake:
The injection of wastewater from natural gas drilling into a disposal well probably caused a dozen earthquakes in Ohio, state officials said Friday, prompting new regulations to deal with the issue.
The findings about the probable cause of the earthquakes, which occurred in the Youngstown area between March and late December 2011, are certain to intensify an increasingly bitter debate about the safety of hydraulic fracturing within states that sit atop natural gas deposits.
Hydraulic fracturing injects sand and water laced with chemicals into the earth at high pressure to break apart shale rock formations and free natural gas trapped inside. The process, also known as fracking, creates wastewater that must be disposed of, often by injecting it into a disposal well, as companies did in Northeast Ohio.
"After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced," state officials stated. "Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault."
Ohio's Department of Natural Resources issued new regulations for transporting and disposing of brine wastewater, a fracking byproduct, making for the nation's toughest disposal regulations, state officials said.
Sunday, the Washington Post ran a piece from the Pete Peterson funded Fiscal Times warning about the "debt bomb" from student loan debt. (The Post did not identify Pete Peterson as the funding source for the Fiscal Times.)The piece manages to get just[...]
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Openly lesbian Michigan high school student Katy Butler has collected close to 300,000 signatures on her Change.org petition challenging the MPAA’s “R” rating for the new documentary Bully. She now has the support of Ellen DeGeneres, who discussed the controversy on her show last week. In an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts today, Butler articulated how important it is that young people have the opportunity to see Bully, because the offensive language heard in the film is what bullies use in school every day:
BUTLER: I think we can definitely win. I think taking out the language in this movie is just taking away from the message. I mean, the message is so strong, and the language in this movie is the language that kids hear every day and the language that kids are bullied with. If we go in and take it out, it’s definitely taking away from that. No one goes into schools and edits out the language that kids hear in schools. It just doesn’t happen.
This eerily warm winter might soon get creepy. Awakened from hibernation underground, in rotting wood and the cracks of your house, bugs are on the rise. Ants, termites, mosquitoes, ladybugs and ticks are up early and looking for breakfast. Orkin, the pest control company, recently said its agents nationwide are reporting a 30 percent increase in calls to treat ant infestations compared with this time last year. Termite swarms do not normally show up until the end of March, but Orkin received 85 termite-control calls in February. An Orkin branch in Montgomery County, which serves the District, has already responded to mosquito sightings this year. And the National Pest Management Association, based in Fairfax, issued an early warning of ticks, possibly carrying Lyme disease, lurking in back yards.
Some insects, like honeybees that rely on nectar-filled flowers, are expected to suffer from consequences of the hot, dry winter.
Scientists have long warned that global warming would increase the spread of insect-borne disease as winters grow shorter and the planet becomes hotter and wetter.
On the day of Mitt Romney’s 65th birthday — officially making him eligible for Medicare — his campaign has released five questions about Medicare for President Obama, ranging from why the president is “ending medicare as we know it” to why he’s “creating an unaccountable board to ration care.”
The only problem? None of the issues Romney’s questions point out are true. Here’s why:
QUESTION: Why Is President Obama Ending Medicare As We Know It By Allowing It To Go Bankrupt In Less Than 15 Years?
FACT: Medicare is not going bankrupt. The Congressional Budget Office reports that one portion — Medicare Part A or hospital insurance — will become “insolvent.” As Igor Volsky has reported, “Dedicated revenues will not be sufficient to pay all of its bills and the hospital fund will meet about 90 percent of its commitments, rather than the full 100 percent. In the succeeding years that shortfall will slowly widen and then contract, so that in 2085, Medicare could pay out 88 percent of its obligations.” By lowering annual payment updates to providers, savings from the Affordable Care Act will extend the life of the trust fund by nine years.
QUESTION: Why Is President Obama Ending Medicare As We Know It By Funding Obamacare Through $500 Billion In Medicare Cuts For Today?s Seniors?
FACT: The health law does not cut Medicare’s current budget. As ThinkProgress has previously explained, it slows the growth in the program by removing $500 billion from future spending over the next 10 years — not cutting from current senior’s benefits. The cuts help stabilize Medicare by eliminating overpayments and slowly phasing in payment adjustments that encourage greater efficiency. As a result, the law extends the life of the Medicare trust fund by nine years and allows seniors to retain all of their guaranteed Medicare benefits.
QUESTION: Why Is President Obama Ending Medicare As We Know It By Creating An Unaccountable Board To Ration Care For Today?s Seniors?
FACT: The proposal is statutorily prohibited from rationing benefits or increasing co-pays and will go into effect unless Congress acts to alter the proposal or discontinue automatic implementation. And the board will be composed of doctors, economists, and consumer representatives who will be confirmed by the Senate and will be tasked with designing a savings plan if health care spending increases beyond a certain threshold.
QUESTION: Why Is President Obama Ending Medicare As We Know It By Destroying Medicare Advantage For Today?s Seniors?
FACT: Far from destroying Medicare Advantage, the choices available through the program are “stronger than ever,” the White House reported in February. Nancy-Ann DeParle, White House deputy chief of staff for domestic policy, explained that premiums for Medicare Advantage are lower and enrollment has been higher since the Affordable Care Act made the changes to Medicare Advantage, which Republicans derided. “As reported last year, 99.7 percent of people with Medicare still have access to Medicare Advantage plans,” DeParle said.
QUESTION: Why Is President Obama Ending Medicare As We Know It By Ending Access To Care For Today?s Seniors?
FACT: As has been explained, the Afforable Care Act does not cut current benefits, is not disappearing, and has actually expanded options for seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage. And many presidents have made changes to Medicare since 1965, including Republican idol Ronald Reagan, without ending care for seniors or destroying Medicare. Reagan even instituted a series of reforms that are strikingly similar to some of the payment changes included in the Affordable Care Act (policies Romney now refers to as cuts or price controls).
Wall Street Journal: “U.S. gasoline prices, like prices throughout the advanced economies, are determined by global market forces. It is hard to see how Mr. Obama’s policies can be blamed.”
Cato Institute: “Is President Obama responsible for spiraling price of gasoline? Republicans say yes, but the facts say no.”
How obvious is it that oil prices, set on a world market, are all but impervious to government policies? So obvious that even Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ and the Koch-fueled Cato Institute feel compelled to make the case.
The WSJ was responding to Newt Gingrich’s claim, “The price of gasoline when Barack Obama became president was $1.89. All of this gigantic increase came from his policies.” In its debunking of “Gingrich’s Gaseous Argument,” The Journal offers an especially telling statistic:
Mr. Gingrich ignores the basic fact about U.S. gas prices: They are largely fixed by the price of crude oil, which is determined by global supply and demand.
When Mr. Obama was inaugurated, demand was weak due to the recession. But now it’s stronger, and thus the price is higher.
What’s more, producing a lot of oil doesn’t lower the price of gasoline in your country. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Germans over the past three years have paid an average of $2.64 a gallon (excluding taxes), while Americans paid $2.69, even though the U.S. produced 5.4 million barrels of oil per day while Germany produced just 28,000.
In an essay that appeared in U.S. News & World Report earlier this month, “It’s Not Obama’s Fault That Crude Oil Prices Have Increased,” Cato scholars lay out their case:
Why have gasoline prices increased since the start of the year? The simplest explanation is that the price of crude oil has increased. Specifically, the spot price for Brent (North Sea) crude has increased $16 a barrel since January. Given that there are 42 gallons to a barrel, that works out to a 38 cent increase in the price of a gallon of oil. Spot prices for gasoline trade in New York have increased about 41 cents per gallon over the same time frame. So there you go.
Why is the price of North Sea oil relevant to the price of gasoline in the United States? Well, we import gasoline refined in Europe from North Sea crude. Even though these imports constitute less than 10 percent of U.S. gasoline consumption, they are necessary to satisfy domestic demand and their price sets the market price for all gasoline regardless of whether other cheaper crude sources are used to refine most of our gasoline.
Why is the price of North Sea crude rising? One possibility is that supply is down. North Sea (British) production has been decreasing for some time. During the first quarter of 2007, it was 1.7 million barrels a day, or mbd. By the end of 2011, it was down to 1.1 mbd. Norwegian crude oil production has likewise decreased from 2.7 mbd in the first quarter of 2007 to 2.1 mbd at the end of 2011. And global demand is bidding up the price of crude oil from the North Sea and elsewhere.
Ironically, during the same time period, U.S. crude oil production has marched upward for the first time since 1971. Since the start of 2007, U.S. production has increased by 2.1 mbd. Sure, more domestic oil creates the possibility of fewer refined imports tied to the price of Brent crude, but given that the price of Brent sets the price for crude generally, the result would be more profit for domestic crude producers rather than significantly lower gasoline prices for Americans (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
So despite the popular perception of President Obama as anti-oil, domestic oil production is increasing for the first time since the Johnson administration…. Unfortunately, presidents get blamed for world market changes that occur during their time in office … but generally, they do not cause them.
The Cato Institute, originally the Charles Koch Foundation, is in the process of being officially taken back by the Kochs, who I expect may take issue with Cato’s rare broken-clock sensibility on issues like this one.
Still, let’s enjoy the rare agreement between CATO, the WSJ, and the Center for American Progress:
“More Drilling Won?t Lower Gas Prices“: Soaring Domestic Production Has Failed to Ease Pain at the Pump
ThinkProgress has obtained an internal memo from Premiere Radio Networks listing 96 national companies that have “specifically asked” their advertisments not be played during the Rush Limbaugh Show. Premiere is the distributor of Limbaugh’s program. The advertisers have also requested to be excluded from other right-wing hosts including Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. According to the memo, the listed companies’ advertisements should be excluded from these programs because they have been “deemed to be offensive.”
The existance of the memo was first reported over the weekend by Radio-info.com, an industry newsletter. Radio-info did not publish the full list of companies. The memo was posted website of the Traffic Directors Guild of America, an association of professionals who distribute paid advertisements to radio stations. The memo was quickly deleted but ThinkProgress obtained a copy from a Google snapshot of the site taken on March 9.
Previously, ThinkProgress has reported that 50 companies requested their advertising be pulled from the Rush Limbaugh show following his sexist attacks on Sandra Fluke. The publication of the memo adds an additional 91 companies to the list of companies that have dropped Limbaugh:
21st Century Insurance ? Hotels.com ? Rite Aid ? Ace Hardware ? Honda ? Robitussin ? Acura ? IBM ? Sam Adams ? Advance Auto Parts ? Icy Hot ? Sam?s Club ? Advil (All products) ? Intuit/Small Business ? Schiff ? Digestive Advantage ? Alacer/Emergen-C ? Schiff ? Mega Red ? Allegra (all products) ? Johnson & Johnson (All Brands) ? Schiff ? Move Free ? Kohl?s ? Schiff ? Sustenex ? Ally Bank ? La Quinta ? Scotts Miracle-Gro (all products) ? American Express ? Lifetime ? Autozone ? Little Caesars ? Sony ? Boston Beer ? Lowe?s ? State Farm ? British Petroleum ? Luxottica ? Staples ? Bullfrog Sunblock ? Macy?s ? Sterling/Kay Jared Jewelers ? Caltrate ? MasterCard ? Subway ? Centrum ? McDonalds ? Takeda Uloric ? Chapstick ? Midas ? The Home Depot ? Clorox (Pinesol/Homecare) ? Napa Auto Parts ? ThermaCare ? Cortizone ? National Realtor ? Toyota ? DeVry ? NBC-TV ? Discover Card ? Office Depot ? Twinings of London ? Domino?s Pizza ? Office Max ? Tyson/Wright Brand Bacon ? Exxon/Exxon Mobil ? One Main Financial ? Unisom ? Farmers Insurance ? United Healthcare ? Ford ? Orkin ? U.S. Army ? Outback ? U. S. Postal Service ? General Motors (All products -GM Certified Service ? Chevy ? Onstar ? Cadillac ? etc) ? Preparation H ? Visa ? Gold Bond (all products ? ProNutrients (all products) ? Walgreens ? Grainger ? Progressive Insurance ? Wal-Mart ? Green Mountain Coffee ? Prudential ? Wells Fargo ? Hallmark ? Radio Shack ? Wrigley ? H&R Block ? Rent-A-Center ? Yahoo!
You can view a copy of the memo below:
The U.S. Department of Justice blocked Texas’ new voter ID law Monday, noting that the measure would unduly disenfranchise Hispanic voters.
Texas passed an election law overhaul last May which included a requirement that voters present a certain form of government-issued photo ID or be turned away from the polls. Neither Student IDs nor Social Security or Medicaid cards, and no exceptions are allowed for the poor or elderly. Unlike some states which ask for photo ID but have recourse such as a provisional ballot for voters who lack an acceptable ID, the Texas law simply turned away these folks. As a result, thousands of Texans stood to be disenfranchised, including a longtime Texas voter ThinkProgress interviewed named Jessica Cohen who had her personal papers stolen and could not afford the fee to pay Missouri officials for a replacement, all in order to get an acceptable voter ID.
Fortunately, Texas is one of nine states with a history of discrimination that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act before they can take effect. The burden of proof is one these states to show that any new laws will not have an adverse impact on minorities.
That preclearance was denied today in a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez because the law would have unduly discriminated against Hispanic voters. For instance, nearly one-third of counties in Texas lack driver’s license offices, and in these counties, 10 percent of Hispanics lack a license, double the rate of non-Hispanics. Across the state, Perez notes, “Hispanic voters represent only 21.8 percent of the registered voters in the state, Hispanic voters represent fully 29.0 percent of the registered voters without such identification.”
He sums up:
Thus, we conclude that the total number of registered voters who lack a driver?s license or personal identification card issued by DPS could range from 603,892 to 795,955. The disparity between the percentages of Hispanics and non-Hispanics who lack these forms of identification ranges from 46.5 to 120.0 percent. That is, according to the state?s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification. Even using the data most favorable to the state, Hispanics disproportionately lack either a driver?s license or a personal identification card issued by DPS, and that disparity is statistically significant.
The Department of Justice has shown an admirable amount of courage in protecting the voting rights of minorities against the recent onslaught of regressive state voting laws. Last year, they denied preclearance to South Carolina for a similar voter ID law that would have had a discriminatory effect on black voters.
Whenever assessing a stock's long-term growth potential, investors also need to focus on the hurdles the company must overcome before growth can take off. If you're talking about a major technological or regulatory change, for example, then an ample amount of ground work needs to be laid before the stars align.
For environmental services company Calgon Carbon (NYSE: CCC), that groundwork has been laid for the past four years, and the company should soon reap the benefits. Meanwhile, shareholders have yet to benefit. The stock has traded a few dollars north or south of $15 during the last four years, though a move up into the mid-$20s appears increasingly plausible.
Meanwhile, downside appears quite limited . . . → Read More: This Stock Could DOUBLE, Thanks to 2 Little-Known Regulatory Changes
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If Bill Clinton was the first black president, as Toni Morrison famously observed, then could Barack Obama be the first Jewish president? That's the interesting case Jeffrey Goldberg makes at The Atlantic. Goldberg tells how he gave Obama a copy of a new Haggadah he contributed to:
When I handed him the Haggadah, President Obama, who famously stages his own seders at the White House, (which is a very nice philo-Semitic thing to do, IMHO) spent a moment leafing through it and making approving noises. Then he said (as I told the Times): "Does this mean we can't use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?"
George W. Bush was, in his own way, a philo-Semite, but he never would have made such an M.O.T. kind of joke (see the end of this post if you're not sure what M.O.T. means). Once again, Barack Obama was riffing off the cosmic joke that he is somehow anti-Semitic, when in fact, as many people understand, he is the most Jewish president we've ever had (except for Rutherford B. Hayes). No president, not even Bill Clinton, has traveled so widely in Jewish circles, been taught by so many Jewish law professors, and had so many Jewish mentors, colleagues, and friends, and advisers as Barack Obama (though it is true that every so often he appoints a gentile to serve as White House chief of staff). And so no President, I'm guessing, would know that the Maxwell House Haggadah -- the flimsy, wine-stained, rote, anti-intellectual Haggadah you get when you buy a can of coffee at Shoprite) -- is the target, alternatively, of great derision and veneration among American Jews (at least, I'm told there are people who venerate it).
Most conservatives wouldn't go as far as to accuse Obama of being an anti-Semite, but they certainly believe he's anti-Israel. Which is insane, of course, but what I've always found so striking about this question is how sidelined Jews themselves have become in today's discussions of Israel. That isn't to say there aren't particular Jews who are plenty involved, but the American Jewish community as it actually exists in America?mostly politically liberal, living its Judaism more as a culture than as a religion, troubled by the policies of the Israeli government in multiple areas?is increasingly estranged from the discussion, as more and more of that discussion is dominated by people like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. It's the world of post-Jewish Zionism, where Israel's most vehement advocates are people who see it mostly as a tool to use in a holy war between Christianity and Islam. As someone who grew up in a household where liberal Zionism was the primary expression of Jewish identity, I can't begin to describe how alienating it is to watch people like Palin waving Israeli flags around. And I'm pretty sure there are lots of other Jews who feel the same way.
Politicians spend much of their time trying to convince voters that they share a cultural understanding and affinity with voters?that they're "one of us," or at least that they get us, whether "us" is people of a particular religion, a particular social class, or a particular region. Their less successful attempts, like Mitt Romney saying "y'all" and proclaiming his newfound affection for grits, are widely noted and mocked. George W. Bush tried with the Jews?as he said, in my favorite Bush quote of all time, "I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." But here's a case where Obama really does have an ease with, and an understanding of, a particular group. Yet he doesn't get a lot of credit for it.
Or maybe he does. Polls of Jews don't happen that often, because there are so few of them and that makes getting a sample of reasonable size time-consuming and expensive. But in 2008, Obama won 77 percent of the Jewish vote according to exit polls, about what other Democrats have gotten in recent years. For all the bleating from the American Likudniks (and yeah, I'll keep calling them that as long as they keep pretending that the only way to "support Israel" is to support the vision of the right-wing faction in Israeli politics) that Obama is anti-Israel, I don't think most Jews are going to buy it. Between now and November I'm sure we'll see more articles like this one ("Has Obama Lost the Jewish Vote?"), after which he'll get right around the same proportion of votes from Jews as he did four years ago.