[I'm on the road today, so this BradCast was taped yesterday, just prior to the indictment of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. For some quick thoughts on that, please see this article from last night. More when we return next week, no doubt. - BF]
President Obama says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is "the most progressive trade agreement the world has ever seen." Maybe. But if we can't see it, how can we know? Democrats (lots of them) say the trade pact is anything but progressive. So who's right? Who can tell when it's all being done in secrecy? We discuss on today's BradCast.
Then I'm joined by Miles Grant, Communications Director of the National Wildlife Federation and blogger at TheGreenMiles.com, to talk about his recent piece on the nation's "Roads to Nowhere" and whether voters really want more of them. We discuss why new, expanded roads don't solve traffic woes and why there's such a disconnect between politicians' billion-dollar new road projects and the public's desire to repair the ones we already have.
Plus: A recent IRS data hack holds lessons (again) for Internet Voting proponents; Seattle literally rejects Shell Oil's shit, and much more on today's BradCast!
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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: After years of denial, Oklahoma finally admits fracking causes earthquakes; Fines and accountability for oil spills, coal waste spills, and deadly natural gas explosions; PLUS: Environmentalists push back at new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote To Outlaw Fracking Bans As Earthquakes In The State Spike; Video: "Dear Future Generations: Sorry"; Common pesticides hurting health of wild bees; Congress passes bipartisan energy efficiency bill; TV meteorologists increasingly accept climate science; Bad news in lionfish invasion; After 30 years, EPA tightens air pollution standards; CEOs to world leaders: Get off your asses and fix climate change... PLUS: 'Pipelines Blow Up And People Die... and much, MUCH more! ...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Keystone XL pipeline clears Nebraska court hurdle, moves to US Senate; Canada's tar sands and Arctic oil must remain in the ground, study warns; Fracking country braces for oil bust; PLUS: Denmark breaks world record for wind energy generation... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): FBI allegedly entrapped 'eco-terrorist', withheld documents; NYC bans Styrofoam; GM doubles down on EVs with Chevy Bolt; Saudi prince: "never see $100 oil again"; Climate denier to oversee NASA; Good news for bats and white-nose syndrome; The Serengeti Strategy to silence, intimidate individual scientists... PLUS: The Saudis, Stones, and the End of the Age of Oil... and much, MUCH more! ...
Thanks to a bizarre provision of their state Constitution, the minority ruled today at the Nebraska Supreme Court.
In a split decision by the state Supremes on Friday, the court vacated a lower state court ruling that had found the approval process for a new, revised route for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to be in violation of the state constitution. Although a 4 to 3 majority of the court's jurists found the law in question to be unconstitutional, a state requirement that constitutionality be determined by a super-majority means that the lower court ruling is struck down. The state legislation allowing the revised route "must stand by default," according to the ruling [PDF].
The new decision clears the way for President Obama to offer final approval or rejection of the pipeline, which is set to ship dirty tar sands oil from Canada across the continental U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico for ultimate export overseas. The future for the pipeline, however, is still unclear.
The Nebraska Supreme Court did not approve the Keystone XL pipeline itself, but rather addressed whether an attempt to revise the pipeline's route to avoid an environmentally-sensitive region in Nebraska was legal under the state's constitution, Climate Progress reports.
Simply put, the Nebraska ruling narrowly focused on the question of process. Four of the seven state Supreme Court justices agreed with the lower court that state legislation allowing TransCanada, the foreign company behind the pipeline, the option to essentially select which state entity would approve its revised route, was unconstitutional.
But Nebraska's state constitution requires questions of constitutionality to be decided by a super-majority of 5 votes. Therefore, even though a 4 to 3 majority of the justices agreed with the lower court ruling that the approval process for the revised route was unconstitutional, the approval is nonetheless allowed to stand on what is, essentially, a legal technicality.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruling moves the fight back to Washington, DC, where Republicans (and some Democrats) have long pressured President Obama to approve the massive new pipeline, which critics regard as a serious threat to the environment, with impacts on groundwater supplies and global warming...
I've never been particularly impressed with MSNBC's Krystal Ball. She's never come across to me as much more than a knee-jerk Democratic Party loyalist, willing to join too many others on the cable news net to offer various versions of the same predictable party line.
Yesterday, however, she called for Hilary Clinton to not run for President in 2016, so as to make room for a more progressive candidate, one more appropriate to this moment...such as Elizabeth Warren.
"I've come to a difficult realization," says Ball in the video monologue below. "I don't want Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2016. I do not think that she's the right person for this moment." And good on her for saying as much...especially on MSNBC...
It took awhile. A few years even. But, on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) finally decided he'd had enough.
By a majority vote of 52 to 48, the U.S. Senate changed their rules to partially end the filibuster, invoking what some refer to as the so-called "nuclear option". The rule change, which will permit an up-or-down majority vote on all Presidential nominations for executive and judicial office (with the exception of Supreme Court nominations), is better described as the "democracy option".
The rule change, for now, would have no effect on the use of the filibuster by the minority to block legislation. Three Democrats, Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), voted with Republicans to sustain the previous filibuster rules, last changed in 1975 when the Senate amended their Standing Rules to reduce the number of Senators required for cloture --- to end debate --- from two-thirds to three-fifths.
Although there had been noise, and urging from many quarters, for a dramatic change of the filibuster rules for some time, especially after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) drew the dubious distinction of becoming the first U.S. Senator in history to filibuster his own bill, the impetus became particularly strong over the past several weeks with the outrageous block put on the nominations of every one of President Obama's nominations to the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal, the court which oversees federal regulations.
The result of yesterday's rule change in the U.S. Senate could well be a return, at least in part, to the Constitutionally designed functions of three different branches of government, as envisioned by our founding documents. It may also mark an end to a thirty-year scheme by Republicans to pack the courts with radical, right wing jurists...
Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a former Harvard Law Professor, argued that Senators not only have the right, but a constitutional duty to change the Senate filibuster rules. She argued, in no small part to her fellow Democrats, that the rules were being abused by Republicans as part of a "naked attempt to nullify the results of the last Presidential election [in order] to force us to govern as if President Obama hadn't won the 2012 election."
Her remarks (see video and text transcript below) were made in the wake of the third occasion in which Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of an extraordinarily well-qualified female nominee to the important federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal.
"Republicans now hold the dubious distinction of having filibustered all three women that President Obama nominated to the DC Circuit," she said. "Between them, they have argued an amazing 45 cases before the Supreme Court and have participated in many more. All three have the support of a majority of Senators. So why have they been filibustered?"
"Well, the reason is simple," she explained, answering her own question. "They are caught in a fight over the future of our courts. A fight over whether the courts will be a neutral forum that decides every dispute fairly, or whether the courts will be stacked in favor of the wealthy and the powerful."
Yes. The minority party in the U.S. Senate is blocking these nominations, not because of the qualifications of these very well-qualified women, but because they are continuing a thirty-year Republican effort to "rig the courts", as Warren explains, by packing the U.S. federal bench, particularly the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals...
Speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week, on the third day of the federal government shutdown, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) excoriated Republicans in the House of Representatives as "extremists" and "anarchists", while offering an impassioned case for why "government matters."
[See video and transcript below.]
"When I hear the latest tirades from some of the extremists in the House, I am struck by how vague these complaints are," she said. "The anarchy gang is quick to malign government, but when was the last time anyone called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children’s toys, or for food inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria, or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause deformities in little babies?"
She went on to argue that the American system of governance, though far from infallible, can carry out the will of the people who are positioned to correct it and make it better. "Our democracy is an experiment, and it’s always evolving. We constantly redesign and re-imagine and improve on what we do together."
"You can do your best to make government look like it doesn’t work when you stop it from working. You can do your best to make government look paralyzed when you paralyze it. You can do your best to make government look incompetent through your incompetence, and ineffective through your ineffectiveness. But sooner or later, the government will reopen. Because this is a democracy, and this democracy has already rejected your views," she said, before concluding with a message of optimism.
"Today," Warren said, "a political minority in the House that condemns government and begs for this shutdown has had its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, their day will pass, and our democracy will return to the important work that we have already determined to do together."
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Here's a video of the key section of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's powerful 10/3/2013 remarks on the U.S. Senate floor, (a longer version can be viewed here) followed by a text transcript...
"The TPP is nicknamed 'NAFTA on steroids.'", Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) wrote in a recent email to supporters, explaining what he saw after being allowed to review some of the text of the new, extremely broad, and very classified trade agreement being hammered out behind close doors. "Now that I've read it, I can see why," he added.
His email suggests just how far down the secrecy rabbit hole our nation has traveled, not just in our massive classified surveillance state, parts of which are presently being revealed by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but even in our so-called "free trade agreements" being negotiated, supposedly, on our behalf.
As Grayson warned after reviewing part of the new agreement last month: "There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret...This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests"...
The TPP is a NAFTA-like "free trade" agreement that not only threatens our national sovereignty, but aspires to supplant the sovereignty of all participating nation-states with a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state". The "investor-state" finds its embodiment in the creation of arbitration tribunals which are granted the power to negate the effectiveness of laws passed by individual nation-states.
As explained by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, through TPP, U.S. corporations and their K-Street lobbyists seek to by-pass the legislative process and democratic accountability in order to undermine Internet freedom, U.S. environmental laws and regulations and local laws protecting the health and safety of our citizenry. "Many of those corporations that have failed to get what they want from Congress are now getting their way through the secret back door of the TPP," they write. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also issued a warning that Wall Street is attempting to gut Dodd-Frank through trade agreements such as TPP.
But, as government watchdog group Public Citizen observes, TPP --- which is now augmented by a joint U.S./E.U. call for a similar Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement --- threatens not only U.S. sovereignty but the ability of all nations to protect their own citizenry through the expansion of an already "notorious investor-state system". Such a system allows ethically compromised international business arbitration tribunals to compel nation-states to fork over "taxpayer-funded" penalties to predominantly U.S.-based, multinational corporations as the result of "domestic regulatory frameworks concerning nuclear energy and currency stability, revocation of mining and oil licenses (often in response to contract violations), and numerous other government measures affecting public health, financial stability, access to essential services and the environment."
What, you hadn't heard about this? Perhaps because the corporate media, and both major political parties, would prefer you keep your eyes on the shiny, pretend objects (Benghazi "scandal"! IRS "scandal"!) rather than the policies supported by both parties that will actually have a very real impact on your life and our country...
"I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large," Holder testified at the time.
"It has an inhibiting influence --- impact --- on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he continued. "So, the concern that you raise is actually one that I share."
That's what he said in March. But apparently, despite that, he now says, banks are not too big to jail. That's what Holder "very, very, very" much wants us now to believe, according to his testimony in Congress today...
This exchange --- by Congressional committee proxy --- got a bit more buried than it deserved to be amidst a week of important (Rand Paul's drone filibuster) and not so important (Presidential/Congressional dinner dates!) news items last week.
You may have already seen both of these clips. But just in case you haven't, the remarks made during two different Congressional hearings last week illustrate the very heart of the most broken part of our broken government, so I wanted to be sure to at least flag these two short videos here.
The first was Attorney General Eric Holder's remarkable admission last week, when asked about why one the world's largest banks, such as HSBC --- which admitted to some $881 million dollars in drug cartel money laundering and working with regimes in a number of countries around the world in blatant violation of human rights sanctions against them --- have not been brought to trial by the Obama Dept. of Justice...
"The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share," Holder responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE). "I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
"It has an inhibiting influence --- impact --- on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he continued. "So, the concern that you raise is actually one that I share."
With all due respect to AG Holder --- and he is due very, very little --- what he just said is, to the best of my knowledge, complete bullshit. While I'm not an expert in financial law, I am familiar with no clause in any of those laws which offers a "get out of jail free card" to institutions who have become so large that prosecuting them would have "a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy."
I know of no provisions in the criminal code which says that if your corporation has become large enough that facing criminal prosecution might make the world markets jittery, you don't have to face prosecution for those crimes. In fact, we still have anti-trust laws on the books to deal with exactly those situations --- cases in which corporations have become so powerful, have such a monopolistic effect on the market, that they may be broken up by the Dept. of Justice, or even taken over and then sold off piece meal to bring the company back into manageable size again.
The next day, in another U.S. Senate hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), expressed a similar sentiment, in a must-see video clip, absolutely slamming U.S. Treasury regulators for their lack of willingness to take action against some of the most criminal corporations, such as HSBC.
"What does it take to get you to consider shutting down a bank for money laundering?!," she asked the regulators who couldn't respond as to the last time a bank had been prosecuted for this sort of thing. "How many billions of dollars before somebody says we're shutting you down?"...
In a debate, it is not always enough for one candidate to accuse the other of making up numbers from whole cloth --- especially when the opposing candidate presents analysis from highly partisan lobbying groups as "independent" sources on par with the Congressional Budget Office or Office of Management and Budget.
Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) missed the opportunity to highlight the non-independence of the "independent" sources Sen. Scott Brown (R) cited during their first televised debate last week (see video below). He claimed that her policies would raise $3.4 trillion in taxes "on the backs of citizens" and "cut 700,000 jobs nationwide". The numbers were proffered by Brown in response to Warren's criticism of the Republican Senator's votes against three critical jobs bills that she asserted would have been paid for by "a fractional tax on people making more than one million dollars a year."
Warren accused Brown of making up his numbers from whole cloth and drove home her central point --- that Brown is willing to hold middle class taxpayers hostage in order to prevent a restoration of the Clinton level of taxes on the top two percent of Americans.
But she missed the opportunity to call out Brown for his laughably misleading use of statistics from highly partisan lobbying organizations --- specifically the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce --- as coming from "independent groups"...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Elizabeth Warren's U.S. Senate race could decide the environmental future; Fox 'News' Alert!!!: Fox misleads on climate! - Also: Sun rises in East!; Polls show voters vote on climate; PLUS: Marking major milestones: Silent Spring and saving the planet by saving the ozone layer ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Chevy Volt outsells half of US cars; West should expect bigger wildfires, more often; Coal fight looms over Pacific NW; Study ignites furor over GMO corn; MI chemical plant still poisoning town; Tree sitters stop Keystone XL; Romney's energy advisor will profit more from Romney energy policies; Oil poisoning Africa; Nate Silver missteps on climate ... PLUS: What Will Ice-Free Arctic Summers Bring? ... and much, MUCH more! ...