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Updated: 1 day 23 hours ago

'Who Ordered the Shamrock Shake?': L.A. Survives the Great St. Paddy's Day Quake of 2014

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 13:56

I'm told I handled this morning's 6:30am earthquake very well. I remember it, if just barely. Half dream, half decisive action!...Or so I'm told. Then, back to dreaming until waking up later and confirming that it wasn't actually a dream.

Some of the local TV news anchors here, who were on air and on camera during the moment that the 4.4 magnitude temblor struck, handled it better than others.

Here's our local CBS affiliate in action as "disaster" struck...

Contrast the CBS-LA team's fairly calm response with that of the two anchors who were live on Tribune-owned CW affiliate KTLA at the time, particular the award-winningly hilarious reaction of Chris Schauble on the right, caught on tape for all of posterity...

While Schauble's reaction was, in fact, priceless, and worthy of being played over and over (and over) again, in truth, his reaction was more likely the correct one, given that the anchors are hanging out on a set with hundreds of pounds of electrical lights hanging precariously from a grid directly over their heads.

In any case, to those who were wondering, we're all fine here at The BRAD BLOG World News Headquarters. Though we have come across a few reactions on Twitter today that we can both relate to, and, found very funny...

Need an earthquake plan? Just grab the one you love and strike a Pompeii couple frozen-in-ash pose, hold it till it stops. Worked for us.

— alan tudyk (@alan_tudyk) March 17, 2014

Portia and I woke up and all of the furniture was in a different place. Then we remembered we moved. #earthquake

— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 17, 2014

Woke up to earthquake, prayed, went right back to sleep. If only there were constant natural disasters, I'd be the most pious man alive.

— Geoff Tock (@geofftock) March 17, 2014

Who ordered the SHAMROCK SHAKE? #earthquake

— Jerry Jaeger (@jerryjaeger) March 17, 2014

#earthquake Never forget. pic.twitter.com/iSZNB3Bc51

— RagingTeabagger (@RagingTeabagger) March 17, 2014

All fun aside, we're glad that everyone's okay, but the L.A. area has been in a bit of an earthquake hibernation for almost two decades (largely since I moved here, not long after the horrible Northridge Quake of 1994). There have been a number of small aftershocks in the area today (none that I've felt), but the L.A. Times reports that Robert Graves, seismologist from the U.S. Geological Survey, warns that while today's quake was "rather typical", it could be a prelude to a larger one.

"Always the possibility that it's a foreshock," Graves told the paper, explaining that some 5% of earthquakes are followed by an equal or larger shake. He says that if that happens, it would occur within the next several hours.

WATCH THIS SPACE!


Categories: Brad Blog

Sen. Whitehouse Ties Republican Inaction, Denialism on Climate Change to 'Citizens United'

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 17:11

During last Tuesday's Green News Report, we briefly discussed the U.S. Senate "all nighter" on climate change, where 28 Democrats and 1 Republican (Inhofe, the GOP's "Denier-in-Chief" who stuck around long enough to mock the effort) stayed up all night making speeches calling for climate change action in hopes of drawing attention to the issue.

We mocked it ourselves a bit, suggesting that Democrats might have carried out such a stunt during the day, instead of in the middle of the night when most people were asleep, if they really wanted folks to notice. In the meantime, our friend Kenny Pick of Turn Up the Night has been slogging through CSPAN's 17-hour video posting of the session and sends us a clip that caught his eye.

In it, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-sponsor along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the Senate #Up4Climate event, focuses a laser light on the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2010 Citizens United decision as a turning point --- a very bad one --- for climate change denialism, specifically on the flip-flopping by Republicans on an issue they actually did once appear to care about...

Whitehouse has tied the lack of Congressional action on climate change to Citizens United in previous climate-related speeches. He has been making weekly climate change speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate for years now.

"Congress is peculiarly gridlocked because of the evils of Citizens United. Our failure to address climate change is a symptom of things gone wrong in our democracy," Whitehouse said in opening one such speech in late February.

In those remarks, he went on to describe the SCOTUS decision as "one of the worst and most disgraceful decisions ever made by the Supreme Court. Destined," he said, to end up on the "ash heap of judicial infamy."

"But, we're stuck with it now," he added.

This week, during the U.S. Senate's all-nighter for action on global warming, Whitehouse returned to the theme and sharpened his critique, citing how fallout from the ruling resulted in specific, high-profile U.S. House and Senate Republicans who once called for legislative action to curb greenhouse gasses --- some even going so far as to sponsor such bills --- suddenly flip-flopping to become climate change deniers, just after the devastating impacts of the Citizens United case became clear in 2010...

[NOTE: It's almost impossible to isolate the specific clip in CSPAN's 17-hour video. It's at the 11:26:55 mark, if you'd like to try. But here's the audio, about 2 minutes long, courtesy of Kenny Pick, and the text transcript of Whitehouse's remarks. We've added the specific names of the Senators he's referring to.]

[See post to listen to audio]

WHITEHOUSE: I mentioned earlier how we have a former Republican Presidential candidate [John McCain] who campaigned on climate change, how we have a Republican Senator who was a co-sponsor on a climate fee bill [Lindsey Graham], how we have a Republican Senator who voted for Waxman-Markey when he was in the House [Mark Kirk], how we have Republican Senators who have spoken for a carbon fee.

All of that happened before 2010. What happened in 2010 that drove every Republican back underground on this issue?

I'll tell you what happened. The United States Supreme Court decided a case called Citizens United. And the instant they decided Citizens United, the Koch Brothers and the big polluters put enormous amounts of money into elections.

And they didn't just put the money into elections between Republicans and Democrats --- they put money into elections between Republicans and Republicans. They went into primary elections. And they went after Republicans who were not consistent with their orthodoxy on climate change. Unless you were a denier, they either punished you, or threatened you.

And since that time, that's why there's been silence on the Republican side.

It's not because there's not a tradition of Republicans caring about the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was established by a Republican president [Richard Nixon]. Theodore Roosevelt was our greatest conservationist. There is a Republican tradition of this. There's a Republican tradition of standing up to the big money and sticking up for regular people.

But not since Citizens United. Not since that baleful decision cast an absolute avalanche of dark money --- of unlimited money and anonymous money --- into the elections.

- Desi Doyen contributed to this report.


Categories: Brad Blog

WI Gov. Scott Walker REALLY Wants Polling Place Photo ID Restrictions in Place This November

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 20:50

Meanwhile...Back up in Wisconsin, where two different courts have already found the Republicans' polling place Photo ID restriction law to be in violation of the state constitution, a decision on an appeal waits at the state Supreme Court.

But, no worries, if that Court also agrees that it's unconstitutional to deny WI voters their right to vote, Gov. Scott Walker is ready to call the state legislature back into an emergency session to try to pass another such law, according to the Journal Sentinel...

Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he would call a special legislative session if courts this spring do not uphold the state's voter ID law, which has been blocked since soon after it was enacted.

Shortly after taking over all of state government in 2011, Republicans passed a law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. In 2012, two Dane County judges blocked the measure.

Those cases are now before the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule by June. Separately, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman is considering two other cases that argue the voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.

Despite the fact that an expert on voter fraud testified during one of the trials last year that there was only one single case of voter impersonation in WI that might have been deterred by such a law over the past 10 years, the Wisconsin State Journal reports that Walker sees this issue as very very urgent --- the only one, in fact, that is urgent enough that he would find it necessary to call for a special session of the legislature, for some reason...

Walker told reporters Tuesday that he sees voter ID as the most "pressing" election-related issue facing Wisconsin, and he would like the requirement to be in place "before the next election."

"The only real thing I thought that was pressing, and it may still continue to be pressing depending on what the courts react on, is voter ID," Walker said.

So why is Walker suddenly so panicked to put in place a voting restriction that could keep tens of thousands of otherwise perfectly legal Wisconsin voters from being able to cast their vote as usual?

Back to the Journal Sentinel for one potential answer...

"If something broke from either the Wisconsin Supreme Court or from Judge Adelman, then if the governor called us into a special, great," [Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott] Fitzgerald said. "I think that'd be appropriate."

He also held open the possibility lawmakers could call themselves back into the session --- rather than having the governor do so --- in what is known as extraordinary session.

Such a move could help ensure the voter ID requirement is in place for the November elections, when Walker will be on the ballot for re-election.

Oh. Got it. In January, Walker's upcoming re-election contest, totally coincidentally, was being described as "a real horse race". This week, Republican polling outfit Rasmussen calls the race "a dead heat".

Cue longtime Rightwing demi-god Paul Weyrich, father of the modern day Republican voter suppression movement...

* * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


Categories: Brad Blog

'Green News Report' - March 13, 2014

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 17:55


 

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Battle lines drawn in contentious U.S. Senate hearing on Keystone XL; Hottest winter on record for California; China is declaring war --- on pollution; Drilling boom creating huge drilling waste problem; PLUS: Secretary of Energy Moniz cites a boom in solar and wind ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
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Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

Link: Embed:

Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Texas: 'cheapest solar power deal ever seen'; Utility death spiral accelerates in Germany; US risks national blackout even in small-scale attack; NJ moves to shut down Tesla; Officials shut down fracking wells due to quakes; 18 Ohio coal plants operating without permits; Is this plant the future of 'clean coal'?; Asian carp eggs found as far north as Wisconsin; State Dept vastly overestimated oil-by-rail in Keystone XL report ... PLUS: Climate science predicted California drought ten years ago ... and much, MUCH more! ...

STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    KPFK 'BradCast': CIA/U.S. Senate Torture Cover- Up and Spying Scandal - A 'Constitutional Crisis'

    Thu, 03/13/2014 - 08:05

    If you didn't happen to see what happened Tuesday on the U.S. Senate floor [full video/transcript here] when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) unleashed a stunning 38-minute speech excoriating the CIA for spying on U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staffers' work on a 6,300-page report detailing torture by the Bush-era CIA, you'll want to listen to this week's BradCast.

    Even if you did see what happened on Tuesday, you should tune in to this week's show, as I suspect you'll get details on the various plots, cover-ups and related schemes that you haven't yet heard. I was joined to discuss the mess with our old friend Marcy Wheeler, the encyclopedic national security expert from Emptywheel.net and now Senior Policy Adviser at The Intercept.

    She's been tracking this since at least 2009, and we went through the remarkable timeline beginning with Bush's "Enhanced Interrogation" torture program just after 9/11, through the CIA's attempted cover-up, shredding of videotapes and removal of documents from the Senate staffer's computers, on up to yesterday's explosive comments from DiFi and the implausible denials from CIA Chief John Brennan (and the calls for criminal charges by both parties) which Wheeler and others are now describing as a bona fide "Constitutional Crisis".

    This is an extraordinary story. It's Spy v. Overseer; CIA v. U.S. Senate; Executive Branch v. Legislative Branch; DiFi v. Brennan; Hypocrisy v. Reality; Torture & Cover-ups v. Rule of Law & Constitution. And it all could, as Mother Jones' David Corn argues, very well "undermine the basis for secret government" itself.

    In the second part of the show, we covered several much more encouraging news items from the past several days, as well as the latest Green News Report. Buckle up and enjoy!

    Download MP3 or listen online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - February 6, 2014

    Tue, 03/11/2014 - 17:48


    ·

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: No end in sight for coal ash waste spill in NC; Sniper attack exposes security vulnerabilities of aging US electrical grid; Fracking depleting water supplies in drought-stricken states; Tesla electric cars, now driving cross-country for free; PLUS: The Great Barrier Reef to become a sacrifice zone for coal ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below):

    ... PLUS:

    ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - March 11, 2014

    Tue, 03/11/2014 - 17:00


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Up all night for climate in the U.S. Senate; Alaska's iconic Iditarod race struggles without snow; California breaks solar power records; PLUS: 3rd anniversary of the meltdown at Fukushima, and the legacy of nuclear disaster ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climatologist who predicted California drought 10 years ago says it may soon be ‘even more dire’; Daylight Savings Time could be costing billions yearly in electricity; Canadian tar sands oil gets new route across US; IEA: wind and solar can carry bulk of energy transformation; New ozone-depleting gases found in atmosphere; Get ready for El Nino...maybe; What slowdown? NASA says long-term warming likely to be significant; Duke CEO: All customers to pay for coal ash cleanup ... PLUS: 'Pollution burden' much higher for California's minority populations ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    Following 2014 Start of 'ObamaCare', Uninsured Rates Lowest Since 2008: Gallup Survey

    Mon, 03/10/2014 - 22:04

    Whatever your feelings about the Affordable Care Act (ACA or 'ObamaCare'), one of its main objectives was to lower the number of Americans without health insurance. According to new data out today from Gallup, the health care insurance law seems to be having precisely that effect...

    WASHINGTON (AP) --- With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama's health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down.

    The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months --- or calendar quarter--- of 2013.

    That translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million people [who previously did not have health insurance, now] getting coverage.

    Gallup said the share of Americans who lack coverage is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office.

    The survey found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance, although Hispanics lagged.
    ...
    The Gallup poll is considered authoritative because it combines the scope and depth found in government surveys with the timeliness of media sampling. Pollsters interview 500 people a day, 350 days a year. The latest health care results were based on more than 28,000 interviews, or about 28 times as many as in a standard national poll.

    The survey can be an early indicator of broad shifts in society. Gallup saw a modest decline in the uninsured rate in January, and now two full months of data indicate a trend is taking shape.

    Gallup said the drop coincides with the start of coverage under the health care law on Jan. 1.

    While The BRAD BLOG has been no particular fan of ObamaCare, and has long advocated for a "Medicare for All" type single-payer system, (we've long been loud supporters of a much better and more moral system than that offered by "ObamaCare", and still are) the facts about ACA are the facts.

    In addition to the continuing fall in the number of uninsured Americans, we also noted last November that the rise in the cost of health care has been the flattest in U.S. history during the three years since the passage of the law. And, on a personal note, last December I detailed the ObamaCare "nightmare" I suffered by spending less than an hour on the CA state exchange website to sign up for a new plan with the same health care provider I had previously, and saved $300/month ($3,600/year) in the process.

    Yes, if I was a Republican I'd want to pretend "ObamaCare" was a disaster and do everything possible to repeal it as well.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Maybe Those Kids Could Help at Fox 'News'

    Mon, 03/10/2014 - 20:11

    Too easy. pic.twitter.com/bjxUSTKduA

    — Media Matters (@mmfa) March 10, 2014


    Categories: Brad Blog

    More Evidence America Is Catching on to the GOP Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Scam?

    Mon, 03/10/2014 - 14:33

    Some encouraging news to begin your week, along with apologies to Ian Millhiser for running his short and sweet piece in full, but I'm off the grid for much of today and would like to flag his main point here...

    By a massive 46 point margin, Iowans believe that it is more important that "every eligible, registered voter has the opportunity to vote" than it is to make sure that "no person ineligible to vote slips through the cracks and casts a vote." 71 percent of respondents to a Des Moines Register poll preferred the first option, just 25 percent preferred the later.

    The poll is the second blow in just one week to Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), who campaigned in 2010 on his support for voter ID, a common voter suppression law. Last Wednesday, an Iowa judge permanently struck down Schultz's attempt to purge voters from the voter rolls on suspicion that they could be non-citizens.

    Although voter ID's supporters typically claim that they are necessary to prevent ineligible voters from showing up at the polls, the truth is that this kind of voter fraud is exceedingly rare - one study found that just 0.0023 percent of votes are the product of such fraud. What voter ID laws do accomplish, however, is that they disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters, low-income voters and students - all of whom are groups that tend to prefer Democrats over Republicans.

    The Des Moines Register poll suggests that voters will oppose such an effort once they understand the real impact of voter ID. Indeed, this is exactly what happened in Minnesota in 2012, where support for a voter ID ballot initiative collapsed as voters learned more about it.

    Millhiser may be more bullish on the American people "getting it" than I am. The Rightwing "voter fraud" propaganda has run long and deep, and (unlike The BRAD BLOG) both Democrats and progressives in general took way too long to begin responding to the insidious and very well organized voter suppression strategy by Republicans. Still, I hope he's right and I'm wrong, and that, like so many other issues, the American people will get it right once they truly understand the facts of the long-running and effective GOP scam.

    The data points Millhiser cites are encouraging, however, and are in line with a general anecdotal assessment I offered in January, as based on responses from Reddit commenters to the Pennsylvania court that nixed the Keystone State's disenfranchising and unconstitutional polling place Photo ID restriction law passed into law by Republicans there last year.

    And, one more point, since the piece above discusses Iowa: A reminder that when the GOP in the Hawkeye State were able to run any type of election they wanted (without having to worry about running afoul of state or federal law or Constitutional issues) in their own 2012 GOP Iowa Caucuses, they chose to not require their own voters present Photo ID before participating, despite working very hard in the year prior to require such restrictions for all voters in the general election.

    (In a related point, the Iowa GOP also chose to use hand-counted paper ballots, rather than optical-scan or touch-screen computers in their Presidential caucuses that year as well. Thanks only to that public oversight of the balloting the real winner of the 2012 Iowa GOP Caucus was eventually determined. Without those publicly-counted paper ballots, the man who didn't win, Mitt Romney, who was unofficially declared to be the "winner" on election night in Iowa, would have almost certainly have gone on to become the official "winner" as well, despite receiving fewer votes than Rick Santorum.)

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    In Memoriam: Terry 'BartCop' Coppage

    Fri, 03/07/2014 - 17:58

    The pioneering blogger and indefatigable, uncompromising and unapologetic critic of all things Rightwing, Terry Coppage, better known to the world as "BartCop", has passed away.

    He will be sorely missed --- at least by many of us. "BartCop" has been raising hell, taking names and using the Internet to call out the bad guys longer than the word "blog" even existed, much less became known to the world. He also helped established the concept of political "snark" --- of the most viciously biting kind --- before that word existed either.

    Fellow pseudonymous blogger "Digby" of Hullabaloo emails today to say: "Many of us early bloggers 'met' at Bartcop, including Atrios, Avedon and me. He's one of the creators of the liberal blogosphere."

    In his "Last Word", published today at his site, Coppage asks readers to help "Mrs. Bart" live on...

    RIP, Terry. Thank you for everything.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'If You're Poor, Stop Being Poor': Daily Show Slams 'Third World Health Care'...in Knoxville, TN [VIDEO]

    Fri, 03/07/2014 - 16:27

    Occasionally --- almost as frequently, if not more so, than actual corporate mainstream news outlets --- The Daily Show produces real journalism.

    One such example (among many) was Aasif Mandvi's stinging 2010 report on Nevada's United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union paying temporary non-union workers minimum wage and no benefits to protest Walmart's low wages, lack of benefits and blocking of unions.

    Last night on The Daily Show, Mandvi did it again, this time offering a scathing, must-see report on "third-world" health care conditions in...Knoxville, Tennessee...and some stunning Rightwing hypocrisy about it...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - March 6, 2014

    Thu, 03/06/2014 - 19:05


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Record fine for Big Coal company for 6,000 violations over 7 years; Opportunistic rightwingers push nonsense on Keystone XL; Colorado's Republican US Senate candidates pass climate denier litmus test; PLUS: Keystone XL loses another key supporter ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): China declares war - on pollution; Innovation: Transparent colorful solar cells have arrived; Federal Reserve sees severe weather impact throughout US economy; Americans have no idea how much water they waste; US infrastructure, landmarks threatened by rising sea levels; Britain's cars could run on rubbish... PLUS: Drought: California will learn what Texas did: by the time politicians and residents wake up to their wasteful ways, it’s too late ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    KPFK 'BradCast': L.A. City Council Endangers Citizens by Banning E-Cigs in Public Places

    Wed, 03/05/2014 - 20:58

    On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council voted to join cities like New York and Chicago by banning e-cigarette use in the same public spaces where tobacco use is banned, such as "farmers' markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, indoor workplaces such as bars and nightclubs, outdoor dining areas and other places where lighting up is banned."

    On this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio I spoke with L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) about why they voted to impose the ban, despite the dearth of evidence that e-cig 'vaping' is harmful to either the user or anyone else, and the evidence (include my own personal story) that vaping is, hands down, the most effective way for smokers to stop smoking. In fact, as I describe during the show, I view it as a "miracle" that will save countless lives and that banning it --- or making it harder to vape in any way, without good reason --- will, quite frankly, result in countless unnecessary deaths.

    Even Koretz admitted during my interview that there's a "99% possibility" that vaping is "much safer than smoking".

    But he was low-balling it, frankly. As you'll hearing during the show, this is a very personal issue for me. But you can decide for yourself if Koretz makes the case for the L.A. City Council's ban. Either way, the ban will only go into effect if Mayor Eric Garcetti approves it. Garcetti can be contacted here.

    My great thanks to Koretz for joining us at the last minute, and for sticking around for tough questioning from both me and callers.

    ALSO ON THIS WEEK'S SHOW: A few rants on the Ukraine/Russia hysteria; new fines for 'Big Coal'; Desi Doyen and the latest Green News Report and more. Enjoy!

    Download MP3 or listen online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

    [Image: Shutterstock/Gianluca Rasile]

    * * *

    UPDATE 3/7/2014: PandoDaily's David Holmes pulls together a lot of the known (and unknown) information about e-cigs and describes the L.A. City Council's ordinance "to treat e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes" as "irrational and bad policy."

    Holmes also cites Charles D. Connor, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association, who says, in response to L.A.'s plan to ban e-cig use as if they are tobacco products:

    [T]his proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke.

    As a former president of the American Lung Association, I have seen how e-cigarettes have become the subject of much confusion and misinformation, which has led to a classic case of guilt by association.

    E-cigarettes may deliver nicotine and look like cigarettes. But there the similarities end.
    ...
    Including e-cigarettes in the city's smoking ban would be a step in the wrong direction. It would send the unintended message to smokers that electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes, locking many smokers into traditional cigarette use. This is a public health outcome we do not want.
    ...
    E-cigarettes are a fundamentally different product from combustible tobacco cigarettes and should not fall under the same rules and restrictions. Rather, we should encourage current smokers to move down the ladder of risk by implementing regulations that recognize these differences.

    As a society, we should continue our laser focus on eliminating tobacco use. But a premature "regulate first, ask questions later" approach that equates e-cigarettes to combustible tobacco cigarettes only serves as an obstacle to that goal. The Los Angeles City Council should pause its campaign against electronic cigarettes until the FDA experts offer guidance on how the product should be regulated. To do otherwise is to ignore an opportunity to save millions of smokers from a lot of harm.

    Categories: Brad Blog

    AP: Federal Settlement Finds 'Big Coal' Company Polluted Water 6,000 Times in Seven Years

    Wed, 03/05/2014 - 14:38

    Big news on the Big 'Clean Coal' front today, just breaking from AP's Dina Cappiello [emphasis added]...

    One of the nation's largest coal producers will pay a $27.5 million fine and is set to spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into waterways across five Appalachian states.

    The proposed settlement is the largest ever of its kind.

    The Associated Press obtained details before the settlement involving Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was filed in court in West Virginia.

    The government says the company and its subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.

    The government says they discharged heavy metals harmful to fish and other wildlife directly into rivers and streams.

    The companies agreed to take measures to reduce discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 processing plants in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    In January of 2011, Alpha Natural Resources, then the third largest coal producer in the U.S., purchased Massey Energy Co. for $7.1 billion to become what Bloomberg News described as "the world’s third-largest metallurgical coal producer" and "the second-largest U.S. coal company by sales, with almost 14,000 employees."

    The acquisition happened just months after the horrific April 5th, 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine near Montcoal, West Virginia. 29 people were killed in the explosion, described as "the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years."

    The tragedy at the Upper Big Branch mine would be upstaged just 15 days later, on April 20th, when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and dumping some 5 million barrels of crude oil into the water over the next 87 days.

    As coal and oil families mourned in WV and elsewhere, and as the country watched the unprecedented and unstoppable toxic discharge in the Gulf, it seems that Alpha was quietly poisoning rivers and streams in at least five states and fighting, along with fellow supporters of Big Fossil Fuel, to block the nation's transition to clean, renewable energy.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Who Controls the Corporate Media Message?

    Wed, 03/05/2014 - 10:35

    The question I hear time and time again from audiences who see my documentary film, Broadcast Blues is, "Why did you leave your lucrative career in broadcasting to become a media reform activist?"

    The truth is that, once upon a time, I worked in a newsroom where a corporate owner ordered me, a reporter, to skew my reporting to purposely make a man on trial for murder --- look guilty.

    In an instant, my entire life changed. The trust I'd had in my news organization vanished. And the deeper I looked into the way corporate owners manage the message they want the public to hear, the more disillusioned I became.

    There is more to that story --- so much more --- but you'll have to wait for me to finish my book to get all the chilling details on it.

    But this is the kind of story that many reporters could tell, if only they dared. But when they dare, as Jane Akre and Steve Wilson did, they can get fired for telling the truth. (Who can forget the story of these Fox affiliate investigative reporters who tried to report on Monsanto Bovine Growth Hormone being injected into cattle, only for it to then be found in the milk supply, which experts said could cause cancer? WTVT fired them after Monsanto complained to Fox "News" chief Roger Ailes.) The reporters filed a whistleblower suit, and Akre won. But Fox won in the end, by getting a court order that, legally, news does not have to be true. Akre and Wilson lost not only their jobs, but ended up having to pay Fox' attorney fees. (See my story from Broadcast Blues on this case, including courtroom footage here.)

    This is the kind of information I suspect the FCC was hoping to tease out in their planned "Multi-market Study of Critical Information Needs" [PDF] which, as I wrote last week at The BRAD BLOG, sparked a right wing firestorm in recent weeks when Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai went public with a Wall Street Journal op-ed accusing his colleagues of "meddling with the news" by simply asking voluntary questions of newsrooms. The study was part of the FCC's statutory requirement to report to Congress every three years, as they have for decades, on identifying "barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses."

    The question for reporters from the CIN study that was most disturbing to Pai: "Have you ever suggested coverage of what you consider a story with critical information for your customers that was rejected by management?"...

    From a purely journalistic point of view, having a government agency intrude on the autonomy of a news organization by asking questions about how they decide what to cover does seem improper. But from the reality of corporate driven news agendas, where truth is often obfuscated for reasons of profit or politics, the question is spot on.

    Every news organization does have some kind of bias, and it can be found in the stories they choose (or don't choose) to cover. In response to my earlier piece on this topic, BRAD BLOG commenter "karenfromillinois" asked about a recent Guardian story on the NSA helping "their British counter parts spy on private video chats and capture naked pics of Americans which were then run thru some NSA program....creepy huh?" She noted that she'd only seen MSNBC's Chris Hayes pick up the story briefly, and asked "does a memo go out to ignore something that damaging to the government, or do all reporters just 'know' the msm rules?"

    You have to realize there is a unique culture in every newsroom. Some news organizations, even in the corporate "MSM", work hard to hold government accountable to the public. And most reporters deeply value integrity in journalism. But for every reporter you see on TV, there are hundreds who would love to take that job --- and for less pay. So it's very difficult for reporters to openly challenge management decisions.

    I note that in the two very dramatic cases I cited --- both my own and the Monsanto/Fox story --- the news directors were not at fault; in both cases, they stood up to upper management to defend their reporters. But in both cases, they crumbled under corporate pressure (and, I believe, the need to keep their own jobs.) But many news directors steer their staffs away from stories that reflect poorly on stations' advertisers. And it is not unusual for news managers to make an entire subject off limits for coverage by their reporters.

    As to some memo going out to all news organizations, as issued from somewhere on high, presumably the government (or some other dark force), warning journalists to stay away from a particular story, I'm unaware of any such practice.

    That, of course, doesn't mean they are serving the public interests well. As we learned from the corporate media's response to the CIN study kerfuffle, they would simply prefer not to answer any questions that reveal how poorly they are serving the public interest. And they won't have to. Late last Friday, an FCC spokesperson said the study "will not move forward," and that the agency will "reassess the best way to fulfill its obligation to Congress."

    Score another round for right wing corporate media controlling the message.

    While the government may seek to influence coverage by the media, there is no evidence the FCC was hoping to do so in this case. This was yet another case of the corporate media looking out for its own interests, rather than that of the public.

    * * *

    Sue Wilson is a media activist, director of Public Interest Pictures' Broadcast Blues, and a 22 year veteran of broadcast journalism. Her numerous awards include Emmy, AP, RTNDA, and PRNDI for work at CBS, PBS, FOX, and NPR. She is the editor of the media criticism blog, Sue Wilson Reports and founder of the Media Action Center.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - March 4, 2014

    Tue, 03/04/2014 - 18:30


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Hundreds arrested at White House --- again --- protesting Keystone XL pipeline; EPA moves to block controversial Alaska mine; New smog standards reduce pollution from tailpipes (and save lives, too); Ancient virus resurrected in the Arctic; PLUS: Unrest in Ukraine exposes energy security vulnerability for Europe... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
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    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Energy CEO: Climate change is real, driven by humans; Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada's resource agenda: documents; Flood damage to rise fivefold in Europe; Climate change is preventing ocean heat from escaping in Antarctica; Feds shocked at NC oversight of Duke Energy coal ash ponds; US organic farmers see increasing GMO contamination of their crops; BPA-free plastics may not be any safer for children ... PLUS: Apple CEO's renewable energy 'controversy' underscores need for government mandates ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    Apple's Renewable Energy 'Controversy' Underscores Need for Government Mandates

    Tue, 03/04/2014 - 09:01

    Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have been uncharacteristically angered recently by an organized movement of Rightwing shareholders demanding that the company stop its investments in green initiatives. Apple has announced its intention of obtaining 100% of its power for administrative operations from clean, renewable energy sources in the not-too-distant future.

    "Since taking the helm at Apple in 2011," the UK Independent reports, "Cook has made notable improvements to the company’s use of renewable energy, increasing the use of solar, wind and geothermal resources used to power Apple’s offices from around a quarter of its total energy use to more than 75 per cent."

    The company's sustainability initiative reportedly led the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a self-proclaimed "conservative think tank" to demand that Apple "refrain from putting money in green energy projects that were not profitable," the paper reports.

    Apple does "a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive," Cook reportedly told the shareholders. "We want to leave the world better than we found it."

    "Not everything that Apple does is motivated by money," he said. "If you want me to do things only for ROI [Return on Investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock."

    He is said to have added: "When we work on making our devices accessible to the blind, I don't consider bloody ROI."

    Good for him. But the episode underscores an important issue and one that is not generally appreciated by well-meaning progressives who would like to see similar actions by more corporate heads. In fact, our particular system of capitalism in this country --- and even the law --- might very well favor the rightwingers from the NCPPR in this argument, rather than Cook and Apple...

    With very few exceptions, large, publicly held corporations are not going to simply "do the right thing" just for the purpose of doing the right thing... whether it's better wages and working conditions for employees, less pollution in company operations, or a more responsible and cleaner use of energy.

    That's where government must come in.

    Publicly held corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for shareholders. However, as University of Chicago's M. Todd Henderson observes, "Shareholder wealth maximization is a standard of conduct for officers and directors, not a legal mandate."

    Still, the core foundation of corporate responsibility to maximize profit for shareholders generally seems to go all the way back to 1916's Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., a shareholder lawsuit resulting in the Michigan Supreme Court finding, as Wikipedia describes it, that "Henry Ford owed a duty to the shareholders of the Ford Motor Company to operate his business to profit his shareholders, rather than the community as a whole or employees."

    Ford had decided to stop paying special dividends to shareholders, choosing instead to lower prices on cars, hire more workers and expand production. "My ambition is to employ still more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes," Ford said at the time. "To do this we are putting the greatest share of our profits back in the business."

    Setting aside whatever might have been Ford's real motives (and his other questionable politics, which, as coincidence would have it, we managed to opportunistically and brutally satirize at some length last Christmas), that's the altruism that Ford testified to in court when he was sued by the Dodge brothers, who were minority shareholders in the company, for cutting off the special dividends.

    Ford lost the case --- at least on the main point. The court found:

    A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end...

    The court, while ordering Ford to pay the special dividends to the Dodges and other shareholders, also held that Ford had the right to exercise his "business judgment" in expanding his operations and lower prices for customers as he saw fit. Had he more forcefully argued that the changes to his company were made in the cause of improving long-term profits, rather than for altruistic purposes, he might have been more successful in the case over all.

    While "Dodge is often misread or mistaught as setting a legal rule of shareholder wealth maximization," according to Henderson, "This was not and is not the law." Still, the basic idea that corporate directors have a fiduciary duty to maximize profits for the corporation's shareholders, if not a mandate, is still at the core of our capitalistic system. It also helps explain (if not excuse) both why efforts to do the right thing when it comes to clean energy and climate change are so rare among the corporate elite, and why government mandates are otherwise needed in order to force companies to take actions that might not otherwise immediately benefit shareholders.

    Yes, in many cases, green initiatives --- such as less waste --- may lead to short-term profits (less waste, more profit), but, in general, even the best-intentioned CEOs may not be willing to foot the cost and face down shareholders and potential lawsuits over sustainability initiatives.

    In other words, CEOs are not necessarily going to do the right thing just because they are swell. If we'd like to live in a country where those who work for a living receive a salary they can live on, or on a planet that human beings can actually survive upon, it requires that government set certain minimum standards for corporations licensed to do business here --- whether it's for a minimum wage, healthcare for all, or limits on the amount of carbon pollution that companies are allowed to dump for "free" into the atmosphere.

    The fact is, even well-meaning corporate directors can have a very difficult time, and face huge legal obstacles, towards doing the right thing for society and for their corporate shareholders without a government that sets clear and strong standards requiring them to do so.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    David Curtis, Green Party Candidate for CA Sec. of State, Strongly Supports Internet Voting

    Mon, 03/03/2014 - 11:35

    The Green Party's candidate for California Secretary of State this year is a strong proponent of Internet Voting. David Curtis, who was also the Green's 2010 candidate for Governor in Nevada, is now running to replace CA's term-limited Democratic Sec. of State Debra Bowen and he's staking out a position that contradicts computer scientists and security experts who warn that online voting cannot be done securely.

    Recently, I had a "conversation" with Curtis on Twitter about his advocacy for Internet Voting, after Steven Dorst, an election integrity advocate who follows The BRAD BLOG on Twitter, responded to a tweet of Curtis' declaring his support for an optional "online method of voting".

    My enlightening conversation with Curtis follows in full below.

    The BRAD BLOG has long been on record documenting the many dangers of Internet elections. While the ease of hacking such elections is certainly a major concern (among many others), the over-arching problem with Internet Voting is that, after voting is complete, it is 100% impossible for citizens to oversee their own election results in order to determine that any vote has been tallied as per any voter's intent.

    As with electronic touch-screen voting, which is 100% unverifiable in any form, even when done securely --- if there is even a way to measure such things (and virtually all computer security experts have told us for years that there isn't) --- Internet Voting can never been done in such a way that the citizenry can know that its been done securely. Thus, no matter how "secure", Internet Voting is ultimately a threat to confidence in elections and, along with it, representative democracy in the U.S.

    Nonetheless, Curtis, like at least one other candidate in this year's SoS race in California, disagrees. He strongly advocates in favor of Internet Voting...

    Curtis suggested, during our conversation on Twitter, that voting online can be both "secure and verifiable" with votes printed out onto PDFs or "other paper-like substance" and by allowing individual voters to check a database with a Personal Identification Number (PIN) after an election to see if their own vote was recorded accurately. That option presents a number of problems, such as the possibility of buying and selling votes, as I mentioned during the conversation. More importantly, it misses the point that an electronic database available to a voter can show the voter one thing, while the actual recorded and reported result can be entirely different. Unless every single Internet Voter in the state checks their results and then reports it publicly somehow (thus, violating their right to a secret ballot), such a method of "verifying" ones own personal vote offers no way for all voters to know that all electronic votes were accurately recorded and counted as cast.

    The Green Party candidate is not alone among California Secretary of State candidates in advocating for Internet Voting. Democratic candidate and state Sen. Leland Yee, voiced strong support for Internet Voting upon declaring his candidacy, though he has largely (or, at least, publicly) backed off his advocacy after being informed of the many concerns about IV from computer science, security and e-voting experts.

    Democratic candidate and state Senator Alex Padilla, believed to be the front-running among the pack of SoS candidates to date, has not explicitly endorsed Internet Voting schemes to my knowledge. Though, as we reported last year, Padilla has been less than forthright concerning his advocacy for unverifiable electronic voting systems. He misleadingly shepherded a radical new election reform bill (SB 360) into law last year which ended the long-standing requirement for federal testing of new e-voting systems in California and granted unprecedented power to the Secretary of State to approve new e-voting systems for use in "a legally binding election" even without testing by state authorities either.

    Among the leading Democratic candidates, only former Common Cause official Derek Cressman has avoided vocal support for Internet Voting or other electronic voting tabulation schemes, focusing his candidacy instead largely on campaign finance reform and related government transparency issues in the wake of Citizens United.

    On the Republican side, neither Pete Peterson nor Dan Schnur, a former GOP strategist and spokesperson who is running this year as an independent, are on record in regard to Internet Voting at all, to my knowledge.

    Thanks to California's new "Top Two" primary system, the two leading vote-getters from any party --- including from the same party --- during this year's statewide primary on June 3rd, will go on to face each other in the General Election this November.

    * * *

    My Twitter conversation about Internet Voting with the Green Party's Curtis --- and with Dorst, who helped kick off the discussion --- follows below.

    PLEASE NOTE that each remark is not always directly responsive to the one before it, since the conversation went off in several different directions at a time, as various tweets were replied to even as comments were made in regard to a different response, etc. It's impossible to perfectly translate that "three-dimensional" conversation into an absolutely linear narrative here, but I have tried to order the conversation below with as much accurate context as possible. Moreover, to make the conversation a bit easier to follow, I've taken the liberty of lightly editing some of the tweets to remove necessary Twitter abbreviations and/or to clarify what each person was responding to. The original tweets, in any case, are each linked along with each remark. Any misleading ordering or edits are unintentional and would be solely my fault, where and if they exist.

    DAVID CURTIS: I support multiple modes of voting. I would support an (optional) online method of voting that is secure and verifiable.

    STEVEN DORST: And there's the rub. I have grave doubts that online voting can ever be both secure AND verifiable. And Auditable. And Recountable.

    CURTIS: I think it can be done, we can set up voter accounts with PINs. Just like a credit union account.

    DORST: That doesn't address the Auditable or Recountable criteria. And if I vote that way, how can I know my vote was counted as I intended?

    DORST: Check out @TheBradBlog. He's convinced me that paper ballots, marked by hand & counted in public, in precinct, is necessary.

    CURTIS: Your account would show your votes 24/7. The SOS database would report from the accounts.

    BRAD FRIEDMAN: Nice. So I could buy or sell my votes 24/7 under that plan as well?

    CURTIS: No, but you could save the 30 minutes in line. SO there would be a "savings".

    FRIEDMAN: If my vote is "verifiable" online, what stops me from selling it? OR showing it to my boss so I don't get fired?

    CURTIS: Selling it to whom?

    FRIEDMAN: I can offer $ to folks who can prove they vote how I wanted them to. I can beat my wife if she doesn't.

    DORST: And if your vote is anonymized to allow recounts, how do you verify it was anonymized correctly?

    CURTIS: Same way the credit unions do it, partial account number of receipt, or could be random generated code id.

    CURTIS: Paper would still be an option, online voting would be an optional mode, like with registration.

    FRIEDMAN: So only SOME votes would be 100% unverifiable then?

    CURTIS: Do you bank online?

    CURTIS: Is the money in your credit union verifiable or unverifiable?

    FRIEDMAN: Sounds like you haven't studied elections enough to understand the difference between banking and voting. Secret ballot makes voting totally different.

    FRIEDMAN: Online banking is totally different. All transactions are 100% overseeable forever by all parties. Secret ballots are totally different entities.

    [For more details on this point than I was able to make in 140 characters, please see Dr. David Jefferson's "If I can shop and bank online, why can't I vote online?" (PDF). Jefferson is a computer scientist at Livermore National Laboratory, as well as the Chairman of the Verified Voting Foundation and a longtime voting systems adviser to both Republican and Democratic California Secretaries of State.]

    CURTIS: In order to have an online transaction an alternate mode would be required.

    CURTIS: The blocks to online voting are based on current statutes, and would have to be modified to allow online voting.

    CURTIS: If an online vote was created it would have an opt in that included new statutory language.

    FRIEDMAN: There are reasons (good ones!) for the statutes you want to change. Among them: Security, Overseeability, Buying/Selling votes.

    CURTIS: The existing modes of voting stay, it would be an additional optional mode.

    FRIEDMAN: "Optional mode" for whom? Do I get the option of deciding whether 100% unverifiable votes are cast my election??

    CURTIS: If a voter opts in and it is viewable only by them via PIN, it is not equal to being viewable by everyone.

    FRIEDMAN: So when I "opt in" and my boss requires I show him how I voted, what's your plan for that intimidation?

    FRIEDMAN: When I, as a citizen, want to oversee the tally, how can I EVER know that any online vote was registered as cast?

    CURTIS: Secret code, like when grades are posted publicly.

    CURTIS: The SOS [Secretary of State] would have the tally just like now.

    FRIEDMAN: "The SOS would have the tally just like now" --- The SoS doesn't "have the tally". It's tallied locally and sent to the SoS. Who counts the BALLOTS in your plan for Internet voting?

    DORST: Moreover, how do you REcount the (nonexistent) ballots?

    CURTIS: It would be a database, with a back up.

    DORST: A database only allows the election to be re-tallied, not re-counted.

    CURTIS: The transaction would generate a PDF (or other paper-like substance.)

    FRIEDMAN: Please speak to ANY of the EXPERTS in Internet Voting so they can explain the MYRIAD reaons we don't/shouldn't/can't do it.

    CURTIS: Online voting would also address accessibility issues.

    FRIEDMAN: What "accessibility issues" are you referring to?

    CURTIS: I did an online vote for the CC [Green Party Central Committee] in Nevada.

    FRIEDMAN: What do you man, "did an online vote"?

    CURTIS: I facilitated an e-vote for the Green Party of Nevada. They elected their executive council, online, with Ranked Choice Voting.

    [Ed Note: I didn't even respond to Curtis' reference to Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) --- also sometimes known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) --- which is something long supported by the Green Party, despite the legendary complications it presents to citizen oversight of vote counting. When applied to actual public elections it makes it virtually impossible for precinct-based counting to take place, since it usually requires several rounds of counting to take into consideration the voters' 1st choice, 2nd choice, etc. for candidates. The tallying process is also very difficult for both voters and candidates to even understand, much less oversee, which is why many RCV/IRV tallying schemes have been abandoned in localities after they have tried to use them. The Green Party and other "third-parties" often support RCV/IRV under the generally well-intentioned (if arguably misguided) belief that it allows for such parties to have a better shot at breaking the two-party duopoly that exists in most U.S. localities. It was for that reason that, years ago, we supported the general notion of IRV, until investigating further and discovering all of the complications and dangers, only some of which I mentioned above, that go with it.]

    CURTIS: The e-transactions were printed to PDF, so we could do a recount if necessary.

    FRIEDMAN: PDFs are not ballots nor verifiable by voters. Please talk to some e-voting experts and/or read CA Sec. of State Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom" review of state e-voting systems. [Ed note: A 2007 state-sponsored study by world-class computer science and security experts that uncovered innumerable and gaping security issues and flaws in every single e-voting system and computer vote tabulation system used in the state, leading to the decertification of many of those systems in California and elsewhere.]

    CURTIS: Will do. Perhaps what I am not making clear is this mode would require statute language and tech that is not in place.

    FRIEDMAN: No. That was clear. But a VERIFIABLE Internet election also involves TECH that doesn't exist, unless you've got a secret.

    CURTIS: People like to say "no".

    FRIEDMAN: By "people", do you mean world class computer science, security and Internet Voting experts??

    FRIEDMAN: Or by "people" do you mean voters who would like to be able to oversee their own elections?

    CURTIS: All the people of earth, they like free speech.

    FRIEDMAN: Again, the problem is that ALL citizens need to be able to verify and oversee ALL votes, ballots and results in an election. They can't do that with Internet Voting.

    DORST: Sounds like you should invite @dc_us [David Curtis] to be a guest on The BradCast --- WELL before the [June 3, 2014] CA SoS primary!

    FRIEDMAN: Would love to discuss having David on the show.

    CURTIS: Great, thank you. I would appear on your show.

    FRIEDMAN: Great. We'll try to make that happen in the coming weeks, if possible.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Former Mobil Oil VP's Scathing Open Letter to ExxonMobil CEO Who Is Suing to Stop Fracking Water Tank Near His $5 Million Texas Mansion

    Fri, 02/28/2014 - 09:02

    As we discussed during Tuesday's Green News Report, Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of civilization, doesn't mind fracking --- nor the health concerns and property devaluation that come with it --- near your house.

    But now he's suing to stop it near his house...or, rather, suing to stop the construction of a 15-story water tower, to be used for fracking, near his $5 million, 83-acre mansion and ranch in Bartonville, Texas.

    It will "create a constant and unbearable nuisance to those that live next to it," the lawsuit contends, charging that water used for fracking will lead to "traffic with heavy trucks" that, Tillerson's attorney says, "devalues his property."

    "Poor" fellow. Hope he wins the suit.

    But, if not, as former Mobil Oil Corporation Executive Vice President Louis W. Allstadt points out in a scathing open letter to Tillerson sent on Tuesday, he can always afford to move away...unlike most of the less fortunate victims of fracking around the nation.

    After more than 30 years at Mobil (and six months at ExxonMobil under Tillerson, after the two companies merged), Allstadt went on to become a foe of fracking and a vocal proponent of climate change action.

    "No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated," Alstadt writes in his letter to Tillerson, who is otherwise a champion of fracking when its not in his own backyard. "You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can't afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations."

    Read Alstadt's full letter to Tillerson below. Oh, and thank you for speaking up, Mr. Alstadt...

    Open Letter to Rex Tillerson,
    Chairman, ExxonMobil

    From Lou Allstadt

    Dear Rex,

    We have never met, but I worked for your company for six months immediately after the ExxonMobil merger, the implementation of which I coordinated from the Mobil side. That was after thirty years with Mobil Oil Corporation, where just prior to the merger I had been an Executive Vice President and Operating Officer for Exploration and Producing in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. I now live in upstate New York.

    For the past five years, I have been actively trying to keep your company and the rest of the industry from fracking here. I understand from several press articles that you have fracking issues of your own, with a fracking water tower and truck traffic possibly detracting from your view and the value of your home.

    In response to the prospect of fracking ruining our communities, many New York towns have passed zoning laws that prohibit heavy industry, including any activities associated with drilling for oil and gas. Those laws, along with very little prospect for economic gas production in New York, mean that we probably will not have to look at fracking water towers, let alone live next to fracking well pads. I say probably, because your industry is still fighting those zoning laws in the courts.

    Ironically, your reasoning at the Bartonville, Texas town council meetings is virtually identical to the reasoning that I and many other citizens used to convince our local town councils to pass laws that prohibit the very problem you have encountered, plus all of the other infrastructure and waste disposal issues associated with fracking.

    No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated. You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can’t afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations.

    My efforts to prevent fracking started over water --- not the prospect of having to see a water tank from my home, but rather regulations that would allow gas wells near our sources of drinking water, in addition to well pads next to our homes, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. These issues are legitimate, but they are localized. I am now much more concerned with the greenhouse gas impacts of fossil fuels in general, and particularly the huge impact of methane emissions from natural gas production and transportation. These are global problems that local zoning cannot protect against. Only a major shift toward renewable energy sources can begin to mitigate their catastrophic climate impacts.

    Before closing, I should explain why I have referred to ExxonMobil as "your company."

    For several years after retiring I thought of ExxonMobil as "my company." I thought that the company’s rigor and discipline in investing in sound projects was as good as it gets, and ExxonMobil was my largest single investment. I no longer own any shares of ExxonMobil or any other fossil fuel company. I would prefer to be an early investor in alternative energy for the 21st century rather than hanging on to dwindling prospects for investments in 19th and 20th century fossil fuels.

    It is time that ExxonMobil started shifting away from oil and gas, and toward alternatives --- both for environmental reasons and to protect the long-term viability of the company. Many large energy producers and consumers, including ExxonMobil, are building a carbon fee into their long-term planning assumptions. Actively supporting the phase-in of a carbon fee would be one way to move the company into the 21st century. Recognizing that methane emissions disqualify natural gas as a "bridge fuel" is another.

    Good luck with that fracking water tank. I hope you don’t have to move, and also that you will help a lot of other people stay in the homes they love.

    Regards,

    Lou Allstadt

    Categories: Brad Blog