The White House has finally agreed to the dubious maneuver of releasing the country’s strategic petroleum reserves, Perry presidential rumors are gaining substance and Romney supporters are getting serious with a Super PAC. Oh, and if anybody’s interested, apparently there’s a war someplace called Afghanistan, and we’re finally going to start bringing home troops. Here’s your Roundup:
The NRC is Coming to Town: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending Chairman Gregory Jaczko on a visit to Nebraska’s nuclear reactors. This of course is amid assertions that everything is just fine despite two feet of water in the Fort Calhoun plant. And then there’s the claim that even though it takes 4-10 hours to shut down a core, they could do it in 3 seconds, if they so desired. This sort of seems like running a 15 minute mile, and then bragging you could do it in 4, if you wanted. One things seems clear in all this confusion: there is a serious lack of information being released about our nuclear power plants and the recent floods. (Hat tip to reader Ryan Sherwood for making sure this story got in the Roundup.) Read here.
Cain Cries Wolf: A while ago Herman Cain claimed he would refuse to read any bill over three pages long. We even mentioned it here on the Roundup and had a little fun at his expense. Naturally Jon Stewart ran with it as well. Apparently the reason we did that is not because it would be an absurd policy, but because we’re racist. Yep. Cain’s explanation is that he clearly wasn’t serious when he made the claim. We still don’t see the jump to racism but we’ll agree with him that he’s not serious. We also hereby encourage any and everybody to disregard anything you might say on the campaign trail as un-serious, and for dramatic effect only. Like a bad soap opera. Read here.
Undocumented Sources: No, we’re not talking about your high school paper on the Tale of Two Cities. We’re talking about the kind of undocumented source that wins a Pulitzer prize. Jose Antonio Vargas is an award winning journalist and an undocumented immigrant. He publicly and courageously revealed his legal status in a brilliant piece for New York Times Magazine, and his fate has yet to be decided. His situation highlights the complexities of our country’s immigration law and the reality of the “illegal immigrants” that constantly get used as a political football. It especially points to the urgent need to have a mechanism like the DREAM act for naturalizing people who’ve lived and worked here almost their entire lives. Read here.
Mega-Big Industry Wins Big: The GOP gave the Department of Agriculture seven billion dollars less than was requested. Obviously a vast number of programs will suffer as a result of the cuts, but a meager two million dollar withholding is particularly sinister. It would have been used to help enact a rule called GIPSA, which would have helped farmers deal with mega-companies like Tyson. Such a small cut is probably incidental right? Something thrown into a pot of much larger cuts that nobody paid any attention to, right? Legislators wouldn’t actively do something that would help exploit farmers and endanger American consumers with increasingly unsafe food, all for the sake of massive corporations, would they? Well, the meat industry contributed 20% of all donations to the appropriations committee. Just saying… Read here.
Horror Movie: There’s a documentary called “To the Last Drop” about the Alberta tar sands. We’ve seen it, and it gets two thumbs way up. One of the things it looks at is the impact the tar sands have had on communities near the tar fields. And guess what, they’re not doing too well. It seems all sorts of poisons have been leaking into their water supply, causing rare cancers and other diseases in epidemic numbers. Makes a person think this stuff should be kept far from any water supplies, much less pumped right through it. To watch scenes from the movie and read more about the devastated community of Fort Chipewyan, click here.
Detective Murtagh Sez “Break the Law”: A number of environmental activists and, yes, movie stars including Danny Glover, are calling for a series of peaceful civil disobedience actions this summer in Washington D.C. to protest the Keystone XL. We’ll keep you updated on the events as they get closer and we highly recommend at least reading the letter they penned to announce their intention to engage in direct action. It’s pretty angry, pretty thorough and just, well, awesome. Read here.
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Thurs, June 23
A lot is happening today: House Majority Leader Cantor walked out on the bipartisan debt talks over an impasse on taxes, Obama meets with LGBT supporters in New York, and the women of Congress play softball against the Washington Press Corp for charity. Here’s your Roundup:
Feds Halt Private Pipeline Study Funds: The Transportation Secretary said the federal government will prohibit industry groups from funding safety studies of onshore pipelines. This statement follows an investigation that found two-thirds of the 174 pipeline safety studies initiated by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration over the past 10 years received significant funding from pipeline operators or industry-controlled organizations. This was a Bush-era rule that required at least half the funding for safety research to come from outside sources. Wow. All we can say is we’re glad this practice finally has been stopped. The oil industry and pipeline operators do not have the public’s best interests and safety at heart – so it’s time they stopped influencing these studies. Read Here.
In Bachmann We Trust: Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi is known for his hilarious, over-the-top writing style and unforgiving profiles of politicians – and his latest piece on GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann showcases the finest of these talents. He calls Bachmann “grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy,” as well as “a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions.” Ironically (or not), a new poll shows Bachmann in the lead among likely primary voters. Read Here.
Gingrich Imploding: Two more staffers left the Gingrich campaign yesterday, following in the footsteps of 16 other staffers who jumped ship on June 9th. Although his campaign continues to produce awesome new blunders literally every day, Newt is vowing to stay focused. “Philosophically, I am very different from normal politicians,” he said, “ and normal consultants found that very hard to deal with.” Read Here.
It’s All A Show: A new article by Al Gore takes a look at the current state of climate change denial, comparing the media’s coverage of the “debate” to a referee calling a cheesy professional wrestling match. The referee isn’t sure if he should try to be impartial or become a part of the show. He’s right; the media doesn’t do enough to call out the buying of pseudo-scientists, lobbyists and politicians by polluters and right-wing ideologues, instead the media is caught up in the entertainment of it all. And as they say, the show must go on. Read Here.
Pottermore?: After the mysterious site www.pottermore.com popped up on the web last week, fans around the world (including me) have been going mad waiting for the news. Today at a news conference in London, J.K. Rowling said Harry Potter will be going digital, with a interactive website to be built around the series. Read Here.
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Wed. June 22
Over a hundred thousand people have signed a petition calling on Clarence Thomas to resign, even more Gingrich staffers have jumped ship and all the GOP candidates are trying to outdo one another with tangential distractions like the Federal Reserve. Here’s your Roundup:
Unbalanced Minds: Huntsman may be trying to pass himself off as a moderate, but we’re not convinced. He’s actually come out in support of the same balanced budget amendment T-Paw was mumbling about weeks ago. While the word “balanced” might connote ideas like being well-adjusted and sane, a balanced budget is actually more on the insane side of the spectrum. You just know it has to be a bad idea because Lee Terry was pushing the same half-baked scheme about a year ago. Mr. Huntsman, if you’re going to try and separate yourself from the gaggle of radical GOP candidates you might at least pretend to have different ideas. Read here.
PR Goon Annoyed by Clean Water: Transcanada’s hired gun Jeff Rauh was in town spreading misinformation yesterday. He explained to the Downtown Lincoln Rotary Club that the pipeline can’t go around the Ogallala aquifer because Nebraska has too many aquifers to make them a concern when routing the pipeline. We’re sorry our clean drinking water and irrigation wells are an inconvenience to you. Oh, and by the way, this pipeline remains “controversial” with more than just a few people. We have petition against the pipeline with over 3,000 signatures and more than 40,000 people told the State Department to say “no” to dirty oil and endangering our fresh water supply. Read here.
ALEC’s Rude Rankings: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has just put out their latest Rich States, Poor States list. You’re probably wondering, what’s ALEC? What sort of list is this? Well, my friend, those are great questions. ALEC is a front group for corporate interests that pretends to be impartial and works to write and pass pro-corporate legislation. “Rich States, Poor States” is basically a “hot or not” analysis of the fifty states. ALEC, we don’t care if you drive a nice a car and think that abolishing minimum wage and cutting social services will make us more attractive. We’ll take the “poor” policies that favor the middle class and keep things like our fire and police departments open and staffed. Read here.
Health care Heist: A man has robbed a bank for the staggering sum of one US dollar. Why? To get health care. Seriously. Remember that school superintendent who wanted to turn his schools into prisons? Maybe he was onto something because almost immediately after being taken into custody, James Verone got what he wanted–a doctor’s appointment. This case highlights just how out of touch all the Tea Party ranting about the health care bill is. The reality is that repealing it will hurt the most vulnerable people in our country, people like the sick and unemployed. Read here.
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Tuesday, June 21
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman officially threw his hat in the ring today. However, there are some major problems for him: he has supported civil unions and caps on greenhouse gas emissions, worked for the Obama administration, hasn’t called Obama a failure like T-Paw or Romney and is a Mormon (a new Gallup poll shows 22% of Americans are hesitant about voting for a Mormon). Here’s your Roundup:
Clinton’s Back, Baby: With 14 million Americans are still out of work, America needs some serious ideas on how to get people back to work. Former President Bill Clinton, who presided over years of economic growth and budget surplus, shares 14 of his own ideas for the American economy, including painting roofs white, providing cash for start-up businesses and enforcing trade agreements. Clinton believes green jobs and energy efficiency are the future for America and that it’s embarrassing to see us fall behind while our elected offices still decide whether climate change is real (here’s to you, GOP). It is still about the economy, stupid. Read Here.
Wrong Way Jon: I can spot a faker when I see one. And so can cartoonist Paul Fell. Yesterday, Paul wrote a blog post about GOP Senate candidate Jon Bruning and his quest to prove his conservative credentials by seeking the endorsement of as many Tea Party organizations as he can find. This month, Bruning signed the “Contract from America” in which he pledges to defund health care reform, stop earmarks and reduce regulation on the oil industry. Paul sees this as pure pandering–another way Bruning shows himself to be a sheer opportunist because, as we’ve pointed out, he was actually a progressive not long ago. Read Here.
EPA Authority Reaffirmed/Under Attack: Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously shut down a huge global-warming lawsuit in which states asked the federal courts to regulate polluting power plants. The justices said that is a job for the Environmental Protection Agency, designated by Congress under the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, the EPA is under renewed attack from Repubs, who passed a bill to strip the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming gases. Also, States are taking a hit as a result of the 16% cut in EPA funding that was a part of the deal congressional Repubs made with Obama in April. State governments are already strapped for funds and are now out millions of dollars to enforce federal air- and water-quality laws and pollution controls. Read Here.
Always A Maverick: John McCain is “puzzled” to why there is a controversy surrounding his false comments about illegal immigrants starting wildfires in his state. On the Today show, he tried to talk himself out of it, saying “we all know” that “sometimes, some of” these fires are started by migrants. Watch Here.
Tea Party, Inc.: Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol, will soon be trademarked.
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Monday, June 20
A compromise on ethanol subsidies (aka the real, made-in-America fuel) is in the works, the GOP presidential battle royale is only getting more vicious and Senate Dems are hard at work to roll out a jobs plan before the next election. Here’s your Roundup:
Thomas Toes the Line: The wife of Justice Clarence Thomas is being paid lot of money to get the Affordable Care Act repealed. Naturally, this has led to mounting pressure on Mr. Thomas to recuse himself if and when the Act does come before the Supreme Court. So far, he’s been rather arrogantly dismissive of such pressure. But this isn’t the only ethical gray area Thomas is comfortable wading around in. Thomas also has an uber-rich friend who happens to fund a number of pet projects close to the justice’s heart. There is, at the very least, the appearance of serious impropriety here. Mr. Justice, we know you’re not bound by the federal code of conduct, but you might at least pretend you’re aware such standards do exist somewhere for some people. Read here.
Firefighters Fighting Layoffs: Grand Island’s fire department is fighting tooth and nail to stay afloat. I can’t imagine things are made easier by the state leg eliminating aid to municipalities. So who suffers when we attack budget deficits with a “cuts only” mentality? Our firefighters, the elderly and anyone who (God forbid) needs an ambulance. Read here.
Voter ID Laws: The Tea Party thinks government regulations are undermining America, right? Well, that depends. If the regulations are theoretically going to diminish the corporate bottom line, then they’re bad. But if the regulations will work to disenfranchise and discourage certain segments of the population from voting, well then, the integrity of America depends on them. The latest trend in conservative hypocrisy is a number of voter ID laws emerging all over the country. We’ve already had to battle one here in NE, courtesy of state Sen. Janssen. This isn’t that surprising from a group with some members who actually want to end the direct election of U.S. senators. Even USA Today, a far from liberal newspaper, thinks these ID laws reek of suppression. Read here.
Rich Execs Unbalancing Country: A recent study has revealed the primary driver of the country’s growing economic imbalance: executive pay. We need to discard the Horatio Alger propaganda used to prop up arguments for lavish CEO salaries and bonuses. The American Dream is not about being a billionaire and owning small countries. It’s about being able to provide for your family without having to choose between sleeping and eating. Most Americans don’t even buy into the Gordon Gecko mythology anyway, supporting a far more equitable look at wealth. Sometimes enough is enough, which is something most common sense, non-billionaire (and even a few billionaires like Mr. Buffett) Americans understand. Read here.
Do You Stand With Randy?: We don’t know if TransCanada’s getting desperate, or if their PR hacks are just really bad at their jobs. In a recent Canadian story on the Keystone XL, one of their execs says the company has the right to use eminent domain in Nebraska because they’re a utility. Well that’s news to us, because they’ve constantly billed themselves as pipeline operators. The story interviews all the major players from landowners like Randy Thompson to our own Jane Kleeb, state Sen. Fulton and the Merrick County Board. The only question we have is this: will our elected officials stand with a foreign company or Randy? Read here.