The Citizen Special Session is today! Citizens who want to stop or reroute the pipeline should come to the East Chamber at the State Capitol at noon to discuss what’s happened so far in the special session, find out what you can do, and give your opinions. We hope to see you there. Here’s your Roundup:
Haste and Inexperience: Every federal agency that conducts environmental reviews has professional scientists on staff–except for the bureau that has been reviewing the KXL. In fact, the first stages of the KXL and the entire process for the Keystone I and Alberta Clipper were under the supervision of a foreign service officer with absolutely no scientific background. Some officials say that this could be the reason, rather than corruption, that the KXL review has been so unsatisfactory. The State Dept. has just ordered two new studies: one to look into EPA concerns about greenhouse gases, the other to investigate whether the pipeline is truly necessary. There have also been more staffers assigned to work on the KXL within the State Department. We hope that the review process from here on out will be more reflective of reality, rather than the desires of TransCanada. Read here
Bills are Encouraging: So far the special session has produced five bills that go in the right direction. We won’t accept anything that does not ensure the pipeline is moved out of the Sandhills. TransCanada has been relying on their usual scare tactics to convince Nebraskans that a lawsuit will be coming, but they use different reasons depending on the time of day. In response to the most recent developments, they complain that they can’t just “move the pipeline to avoid the aquifer,” and that Nebraska is taking a stand too late in the game. We say, better late than never, and TC should have included possible risks and setbacks in their business plan. Read here
Senate Gridlock: Both the Democratic and the Republican jobs bills failed in the Senate on Thursday. The Democratic proposal would have funded a $60 billion infrastructure plan with a 0.7% surtax on those making over a million dollars a year, while the Republican proposal would have extended the government’s highway spending authority for the next two years and rolled back some environmental regulations. This is completely unproductive; case in point: “the two sides traded accusations that each was holding votes merely to paint the other as obstructionists.” Read here
Jobs Report: The economy added 80,000 jobs in October, nudging the unemployment rate down to 9 from 9.1. The Times notes that while job gains are better than job losses, these numbers are “barely worth celebrating,” and the additions were just enough to keep up with population growth. We need a bill that addresses unemployment in the United States, and Congress needs to stop extreme bipartisanship that is resulting in foreclosed homes, mounting debt, and poverty, and get something done. Read here
Thursday, November 3
With the Special Session underway, there have already been three bills introduced. Tomorrow, we will hold our own Citizen’s Special Session at noon, we hope to see you there! Here’s your Roundup:
Youth Engagement: The fight against the KXL has brought out a wide array of people, all joining in a common cause. Progressives, conservatives, farmers, businesspeople, authors, and Hollywood favorites have been doing as much as they can to stop or reroute the pipeline. A key group in any movement is the youth, and this one is no different. In an interview with The Democracy Center, two extremely involved youth talk about their experiences. Kate Hamilton, 18, and our very own Tyson Johnson, 21, talk about why they’ve gotten involved, why it is important for the youth to take action, and why we need even more youth to join the fight against the KXL. Read here
Pipeline Bill on a Fast Track: Congress has been working to speed through a bill that will tighten the regulation on pipeline safety. This bill is passing through with bipartisan support, and although officials are saying the bill isn’t related to the KXL, it would apply to the project. Although the bill is a move in a positive direction to improve the safety and accountability of oil companies when their pipes leak, it’s not a bill that really makes significant changes to the way oil companies are allowed to operate in the United States. While it reflects the concerns of concerned citizens, a hopeful sign, it needs more oomph. Read here
Letter to Clinton: Senator Bernie Sanders has received a reply from the State Department to his request that a new review of the KXL project be conducted due to the severe conflicts of interests present in the process so far. The State Department essentially stepped around his request and undermined his reasons for the request by trying to minimize the relationship between TransCanada and the firm it selected to do the review, Cardno-Entrix. In response, Sanders requested a slew of documents from the State Department that, if he is given fully disclosed information, could further prove the corruption behind the process. Read here
Tax Evasion: A study released today reveals the extent that corporations are effectively dodging taxes–it found that 280 of the largest public firms are paying only 18.5% on their profits while their official rate is 35%. The study also showed that while about a quarter of those included did pay the 35% rate, about the same amount paid only 10%. These statistics, based off of corporate regulatory filings, come out as corporations are pushing for a tax decrease as an “incentive to hire more workers.” Read here
Increase in Extreme Poverty: The Brookings Institute released a new study on the concentration of poverty in the United States, which has risen dramatically along with the rise in people living under the official poverty line. The fact that crime rates rise and other factors such as higher high school drop out rates illustrate that poverty isn’t just a lack of income. These statistics alongside the doubling of corporate earnings give the Occupy movement more evidence of a reality they already have brought attention to. Read here
Shocking News: Forty House Republicans joined 60 House Democrats in a letter to the Supercommittee on deficit reduction stating support for “all options” for deficit reduction, including tax increases. It’s a pleasant surprise to see some bipartisan maturity in Congress. Read here
Wednesday, November 2nd
It’s day two of the Special Session. We heard from President Obama yesterday, will we hear from Governor Heineman today? We know its going to start getting cold out, but this is no time for the Governor to go into hibernation. Here’s your Roundup:
We Can Agree: Barack Obama’s poll numbers have taken a small jump recently. While they are nothing to be raving about, the President can still be happy given the comparison to his approval ratings at this time last year. Mr. Obama also fairs well compared to any current candidate in the GOP field. Obama’s decision to finally address the Keystone pipeline while talking to KETV’s Rob McCartney has certainly renewed some of our faith in the President. We only hope he continues to take a stand for Nebraska and the healthy future of our country. Poll review Here, Obama’s KXL comments Here.
The Difference is Real: The Occupy movement may accomplish real change and see one of its key demands met with a proposal by Democratic Senators that calls for a constitutional amendment, giving Congress and the States the power to regulate campaign spending. This amendment would effectively overturn Citizens United. Harry Reid has said the GOP is in the pocket of the 1%, will they show this claim to be true and revoke any consideration of the amendment? That seems likely, but the proposal itself is a step in the right direction. Read here
Not Following the US: Herman Cain fears that China may be reaching nuclear capabilities. This of course has been true sense the 60s, what China is really reaching are green standards that would embarrass the United States. The country’s leaders have said it will not allow China to follow the US and reach our per-capita levels of emissions. This would spell disaster given the country’s large population. Still the vice chair of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission recognizes the potential for disaster and laid out a legally binding plan to start cutting Carbon intensity and improving energy efficiency. Read here
A Dismal Record: When it comes to the level of trust we can place in the State Department for the KXL approval process, we’ve continually been disappointed. Now there are questions if the many voices who came out to the hearings five weeks ago will even be heard. Much of the support for the pipeline was bussed in from out of state, but make no mistake about it, the many voices against KXL were Nebraskan. It would be a shame to disregard this. It makes us wonder who the State Department is working for: TransCanada and its selfish allies at Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers or the American people? We know one thing, Entrix is working for the State Department and TransCanada and that continues to disgust us. Read here
The Road Ahead for GOP Candidates: After being accused of sexual harassment as the CEO of the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain gave nearly every answer possible. The New York Times has confirmed that one of the two women who accused Cain of harassment received $35,000, a year’s salary, in severance pay. This spells out a tricky situation for Cain, all on the heels of his recent campaign successes. Meanwhile, Rick Perry and his state will soon face off against the Justice Department. Mr. Obama’s lawyers will decide if the recent redistricting, drawn by the Texan Republican legislature and approved by Perry, discriminates against minorities. This seems to be the case as Texas revisits its sorry historical trend of limiting the voting capabilities of its minorities, especially Hispanics. Cain Here, Perry Here
A Hard Way to Live: Republicans are at it again, trying to cut things necessary for many Americans to eke out a living. Food stamps are a target for Republican led cuts. To fight back and show solidarity with Americans going through hardships, some Congressional Democrats are living on the $4.50 a day that food stamps provide. Nebraska state senators Jeremy Nordquist and Heath Mello might have some advice for them. Read here
Tuesday, November 1st
The special session we have been waiting for starts today at 2pm. We expect real results from this special session that keeps oil pipelines out of the fragile Sandhills, and that force oil companies to operate under the law, just like our hairdressers do. Here’s your Roundup:
SD Wants Stronger KXL Conditions: In light of Nebraska’s recent winnings (though the battle isn’t over), South Dakota’s governor announced Friday that he wants more stringent regulations on the Keystone XL–this comes after South Dakotans have been pleading for protection from the foreign oil company for the past four years. Although South Dakota and Nebraska officials have stepped in late in the game, it’s better late than never. Positive, common sense action can still be made to improve regulations and in Nebraska, move that pipeline out of the Sandhills–we expect these actions to come through the special session starting today.
Keystone Kochs: As the Nebraska legislature meets for a special session to consider the pipeline bill, the group Americans for Prosperity is urging state residents to contact their state senators and tell them to throw their support behind the Keystone XL project. The group writes, “While there are many well-intentioned Nebraskans concerned about the environmental impact of a pipeline, the truth is there are many out-of-state special interests, such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and other extremist groups that do not care about the pipeline’s route – they simply want to ‘stop the pipeline.’” Do we really need to state the facts that AFP is a nationally-based group, and that the Koch-backed group has special interests (i.e. lots of money and stocks) in the oil industry? We urge you to contact your state senators, and tell them to pass common sense laws that will protect our state.
Deadline Drawing Near, Preparing for Fall: The supercommittee that was created to deal with the U.S. debt must come forward with its results in 22 days, but lawmakers are already planning for it to be a massive fail. Social Security, previously untouchable, is on the table while Republicans on the committee continue to refuse tax revenues (on the extremely rich) as part of the deal, and Democrats try to compromise. But this compromising strategy, if it results in cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will not win many points in the broader Democratic caucus. Sen. Bernie Sanders stated, “Millions and millions of people are hurting. And we do not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly or the sick. You ask the rich and large corporations to start paying their fair share in taxes. End of discussion.” Read here
Acknowledgement: Occupiers are already making progress in getting their message taken seriously by elected officials, many of whom originally discredited the movement as coming from radicals with no clear ideas. The movement used the right tactics to get attention for their demands, as national media continues to cover them everyday–this has shifted the discussion in politics and amongst voters away from debt fears and toward a more constructive conversation about inequality and unemployment. Read here
An Unwelcome Surprise: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou shocked the Euro Zone and markets overseas by declaring that citizens of Greece would be voting on a referendum which would (if the majority votes “yes”) signify that Greeks will take extreme austerity measures in return for foreign aid to ensure the country doesn’t default. If the majority of Greeks vote no, however, Greece will take the default, and early elections will be held to get Papandreou out of office. Other European leaders are unhappy with the announcement as they thought it was already a done deal. Read here
The Omaha-World Herald stepped up their game on Sunday in an editorial calling on Nebraska senators to end oil pipelines’ free pass in our state and implement common sense regulations.
Monday, October 31st
Happy Halloween to all! We encourage you to visit your state senator’s home and ask for a vote to reroute the pipeline. Here’s your Roundup:
One Large Milestone: And a somewhat worrisome milestone it is. The world is expected to reach 7 billion human inhabitants today. Great concerns should be brought up as the 7 billionth baby is born. Food and water shortages may became a harsh reality, and the entire world must begin to think about how to be better stewards of our home. The situation will only become more dire as we irresponsibly consume more resources at such a dirty cost. In India, where many expect the baby to be born, the crowded conditions make the threat of water shortages more serious. In northeast Delhi, women share beds in a maternity ward to make room for the 52 babies born every minutes. Not the most pleasant way for the worlds 7 billionth human to join the world. Read here
Class Warfare: Is it amongst us? In the most technical sense, no. But some scholars are arguing that we have never left of state of class and social injustice since the 70s. Regardless what you think about the Occupy protesters, they are forcing the nation to more strongly consider startling realities, such as America’s poor income-disparity ranking and the vast gains in income by the rich while the middle class and poor have stayed relatively stagnant. These are problems that need to be addressed. Because of that we say speak, camp, and march on Occupy protesters. We hear you. Read here
Streets not for you?: If you prefer to protest in a less attention-grabbing manner but still want to contribute to the movement, there are other ways to get involved less directly. A new video surfaced on the internet explaining a creative way to get the attention of the banks that oversaw the economy as they dragged it into the ground. Get creative and watch here.
Unexpected alliances: There are many things that some leaders like Heineman and Johanns have done while in office that make our skin boil. That being said, their stance on the pipeline has been welcome, and Governor Heineman’s decision to call a special session was as commendable as it was shocking. We like to think a reason for such strange agreements like labor unions and Americans for Prosperity are due to the incredibly misleading information TransCanada continues to release. Case in point: the pipeline will create 20,000 jobs for Nebraska. We’ve long known this to be untrue and exaggerated. Furthermore, these jobs are in no way guaranteed for Nebraskans. Read here
All Tricks, No Treets: Oh, Senator Janssen, you caused quite the firestorm when you introduced your anti-immigration bill. The public sentiment may be focused on the pipeline now, but it appears some people haven’t forgotten. This year for Halloween it appears it’s all tricks and no treats for you. So please everyone, visit CharlieJanssen.com.