Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.

Friday, July 6th

Some of our neighbors to the south have made a pretty hilarious YouTube video promoting agriculture—by parodying LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” Check out “I’m Farming and I Grow It” for a great start to your weekend. Here’s your Roundup:

The Biggest Tax Hike in History? Not Even Close: Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate is constitutional under Congress’s taxing powers, politicians and the media alike have been going crazy analyzing what the ruling means and trying to gain the political upper hand. Perhaps the most widespread charge coming from Republicans is that the ACA is a giant tax increase on the middle class. The Administration maintains what it always has: the ACA not increase taxes on the middle class; in fact middle class people will be getting a tax cut out of the law. The WaPo decided to feature this rhetorical battle in its FactChecker section, and has found the truth behind the talk. What they found is that Republican claims are false: the CBO estimated that the government will provide $630 in tax credits and subsidies for insurance within the next 11 years, compared to just $54 billion in penalties for uninsured individuals (and the 1% who will pay the penalty will not be in the middle class). When the revenue from all taxes/penalties of the bill are included, the number does exceed the money spent on credits and subsidies by over $100 billion—hence the fact that the ACA does indeed reduce the budget deficit. And again, these taxes not related to the individual mandate will most likely not affect the middle class. While the WaPo has found the truth that the ACA will not in any way be a tax burden on the middle class, the most important thing to remember is that millions more people will have access to lifesaving, affordable healthcare and in turn will be able to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Read here

CCS Not a Solution: The CBO has issued a new report concluding that carbon capture and storage (CCS)—that pie in the sky savior for coal lovers—is too expensive to be viable. In fact, utilizing renewable energy sources like wind is a much more viable alternative for generating electricity while reining in carbon emissions. Given what we already know: 1) that the EPA is regulating coal fired power plants more heavily, 2) those regulations are a good thing both for our public health and environmental concerns, and 3)  Nebraska would be a wind powerhouse if only the political will was there to allow our home grown energy source to reach its full potential; this new information from the CBO confirms and strengthens the case for NPPD to repeal its moratorium on wind development, stop thinking about retrofitting as a solution, and strive for greater development as it plans for our state’s energy future. Read here

A Successful Campaign: In the age where everyone is handing out petitions to sign, people start to get skeptical as to whether petitions are actually effective anymore. An 8th grader recently proved that they definitely can be. Julia Bluhm was tired of hearing her fellow girls in ballet class comment on how fat they were, and she knew how popular Seventeen Magazine is with girls all over the world. She launched a campaign that earned over 80,000 signatures calling on the magazine to stop editing girls’ bodies in the magazine. Seventeen responded by inviting Julia to a meeting, and by announcing that it will be more transparent in its policy to not alter girls’ figures, as well as its intent to start featuring more girls of all sizes. Read here


Thursday, July 5th

We hope you enjoyed your 4th of July! Even though Independence Day is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t still theme your meals around the “Red, White, and Blue.” In fact, these hues happen to offer some of the most nutritious superfoods to keep you healthy and patriotic this July. Here’s your Roundup:  

A Helpful Tax: This week, British Columbia increased its tax on carbon to $30 per metric ton of CO2, up from $25. BC’s carbon tax structure is good in many ways; it makes it more expensive to pollute (good for the environment and public health), and it also is used to reduce taxes for individuals and businesses. The province has been able to lower its corporate tax rate, as well as keeping people’s personal income taxes the lowest in Canada. Support for implementing this same idea in the United States is supported by economists all shades of the political spectrum. Economists know that a tax swap like BC’s can reduce the economic drag created by our current tax system and increase long-run growth by nudging the economy away from consumption and borrowing and toward saving and investment. Furthermore, not taxing carbon means that industries that emit a lot of carbon, like power plants, are not accounting for the true cost of these emissions, like what they cost the public in environmental and health damages. Read here

Let’s Keep the Lights On: Millions of people across the Midwest and Eastern states have faced life without electricity this past week, and many more are still without power. Whenever massive power outages occur, it forces our nation’s attention on our energy infrastructure. Every time the power goes out, life ceases to be “normal” for those few experiencing the outage, and it reminds us how dependent we are on electricity. ThinkProgress notes that we will have to invest in our grid and clean energy like wind to keep our electric system more reliable. Here in Nebraska, we are afforded the opportunity to decide our energy future. NPPD is still taking comments as to what generation investments it will make, and it is up to us to tell them we want to take advantage of Nebraska’s wind energy potential.

Important Notice: Many internet service providers and social media outlets have sent out notices that your internet may go out on Monday, and the WaPo reports that many Americans still have malware on their computers.  We would hate for you to miss out on Monday’s Roundup, and in case you are at risk and have missed the notices, the WaPo offers information as to how you can check whether your computer is infected. Read here


Wednesday, July 4th

Happy Independence Day BOLD Nebraskans! We hope that you are enjoying your 4th of July with family and friends, and of course, grilling out with beef produced by your neighborhood farmer! Here’s your Roundup: 

Finding Particle Fundamental to All Existence: Check: The big story on every major news feed this morning is the discovery of the Higgs-boson particle. The particle that’s existence has long been hypothetical is now confirmed due to two physicist teams from CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). Their discovery is the culmination of nearly 50 years of work to find the concrete existence of this particle that gives everything in the universe mass and that holds everything together—according to the theory. Scientists aren’t certain yet if this is the Higgs boson as described by the Standard Model (the explanation physicists have developed to describe how the building blocks of the universe are put together), or if it is a variant of the Higgs, or an entirely new subatomic particle. For those of you who are extremely knowledgeable on the topic, good for you. For everyone else, here are some articles that explain the significance of this discovery much more thoroughly than I do. Read here, here, and here

The Next Big Case: Following the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to declare a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, lawyers for the House of Representatives filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. DOMA defines marriage in federal law as being between a man and a woman. The Obama Administration has now thrown its weight behind the appeal, asking that the Supreme Court hear this appeal as well as an appeal from the 9th circuit, which ruled Prop 8 (a passed ballot initiative that also defined marriage as being between a man and a woman) unconstitutional, in its next term. Not only is the administration asking that the Supremes hear the case, but it argues that DOMA should be struck down. We are pleased to see Obama being so proactive recently with his support of equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation. Read here and here

The Good Life: A new study by UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research shows that Omaha has the second-greatest purchasing power out of the 100 most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S. The study shows that while Omahans may not have as high of salaries as their peers in other cities, they also don’t have to pay nearly as much for basic goods and services, making Omaha a pretty darn good place to live. For a state fighting a “brain drain” in recent years, these results should make people think twice about more attractive looking offers elsewhere—they probably won’t get you as big of a bang for the buck. Read here

Don’t miss out on Bill McKibben’s exposure of the biggest hoax in history: that climate change is real! 


Tuesday, July 3rd

Start your day with yet another funny ad for the EPA’s new mileage standards which will allow American families to go further on less gas–meaning man may have a new best friend. Here’s your Roundup:

Fining a Canadian Oil Spill: PHMSA announced yesterday a record fine against Enbridge for its million gallon dilbit spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan, that occurred in 2010. InsideClimateNews released a study last week detailing the extent of the damages and what happened before, during, and after the spill—including the fact that Enbridge had identified a defect in the area where the pipeline eventually ruptured as early as 2005. PHMSA proposed a penalty of $3.7 million and 24 enforcement actions against Enbridge. The company has 30 days to respond. The two largest proposed fines are $1 million each, and both are related to Enbridge’s failure to address corrosion defects on 6B in a timely manner. Read PHMSA’s announcement here

Support Nebraska Farmers: An opinion article in the WaPo proposes that you not celebrate your 4th of July with a hamburger. Citing that 85% of cattle get slaughtered by just one of four companies, the author points out a big problem for today’s small, family farms—they are able to exercise less and less control over their livelihoods. The concentration in the beef market is not only putting small-time farmers out of business, it’s increasing the prices consumers pay for beef (and a slew of other produce), as well as causing detriment to the environment and often risking human health. It also happens to go completely against the value our nation places in capitalism and market freedom. As has been noted by BOLD contributor Graham Christensen before, a recently struck down law protecting Nebraska farmers from corporate farms is a big reason family farms haven’t been wiped out here like they have been in other states. But the absence of strong laws promoting competition means the American legacy of small farms continues to be diminished, with Nebraska now in the fray. A good way to support family farms in Nebraska is to buy locally, not just for our nation’s independence day, but everyday.  Read here

An Oil Company’s Logic: Shell has a new presence in the Arctic, proceeding on plans to drill off the coast of Alaska. Much as TransCanada has promised to take full responsibility for a spill that would occur, and get it all cleaned up, Shell had promised those concerned about drilling in the Arctic that it would be able to collect as much as 95% of spilled oil. Experts in offshore drilling have commented that this would be laughably impossible to do, as a retired Coast Guard Admiral said, “once oil is in the water, it’s a mess. And we’ve never proven anywhere in the world—let alone in the ice—that we’re very good at picking up more than 3 or 5 or 10 percent of the oil once it’s in the water.” Hence, Shell’s clarification: by “collect,” Shell did not mean clean-up, eradicate, or any other word to define getting spilled oil out of the water. Rather, Shell meant it intends to “encounter” 95% of the oil, which doesn’t mean they intend to do anything with it once they have come across it.  Read here


Monday, July 2nd

While we are fighting KXL, Canadians are fighting another tarsands pipeline, the Northern Gateway pipeline. Check out an artist’s powerful illustrated essay, capturing a world where tarsands extraction makes sense, a world as upside down as Alice’s Wonderland. Here’s your Roundup:

It’s Time to Pay (literally): ALEC, that non-profit organization of billionaires, corporations, and Republican members of Congress, is finally coming under scrutiny for its filed tax status. The organization has so far claimed a status reserved for charitable organizations, while at the same time promoting legislation designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many.  A prominent tax attorney and the former chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s nonprofit corporations division has filed a complaint with the IRS arguing that group’s activities (such as introducing copycat legislation like our own Nebraska Senator Charlie Janssen’s immigration law and voter ID law) has been to benefit businesses, the Republican Party, and legislators—not the public. Read here

At Least One Governor is Putting People First: While our own governor has decided to turn his back on Nebraskans and bend over backwards for TransCanada, North Carolina’s governor has taken the bold step needed to protect her state from another fossil fuel industry. Fracking has caused much concern among residents living near fracking sites, who have seen groundwater contamination ever since the process done to extract natural gas has become a booming industry. NC currently does not allow fracking, and Governor Perdue said she vetoed legislation that would have lifted the ban on fracking not because she is against the entire industry, but because she feels there needs to be greater environmental scrutiny before handing over her state to the industry powers. Read here

The 30+ Year Spill: Bemijdi, Minnesota still has oil in the ground after a pipeline spilled over 450,000 gallons of crude oil into the land. The spill happened in 1979. The oil leaked was normal crude. Scientists are still evaluating the effects this oil has had on the environment and people of the area, and the oil still in the ground is yet another example confirming that pipelines leak, and cleaning up the mess isn’t easy. As we learned last week in “The Dilbit Disaster,” tarsands is much harder than normal crude to clean up. For how long would a spill in the Ogallala Aquifer remain when KXL breaks? Read here

It’s Getting Hot in Here: As wildfires in Colorado continue to burn, storms pummel the east coast’s Mid-Atlantic states. More than 2 million people in the region lost power, and at least four deaths have been reported as a result of the storms and heat. Two deaths have now been reported due to the Colorado wildfires, which have burned through hundreds of square miles before beginning to be contained.   Millions of dollars have already been put into the containment efforts, just as millions will likely be spent recovering the damages caused by the east coast storms. Scientists see this extreme weather as our introduction to the “new normal” in terms of climate in this country, a future that will be even grimmer if we continue on our path of climate warming activities. Read here and here