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Bill USA

Profile Information

Member since: Wed Mar 3, 2010, 04:25 PM
Number of posts: 3,763

About Me

Quotes I like: "Prediction is very difficult, especially concerning the future." "There are some things so serious that you have to laugh at them.” __ Niels Bohr Given his contribution to the establishment of quantum mechanics, I guess it's not surprising he had such a quirky of sense of humor. ......................."Deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of another's position is a basic technique of (dis)information processing" __ I said that

Journal Archives

Deforestation: What’s driving it? Oil in the Rainforest

http://www.rainforestfoundation.org/deforestation-what%E2%80%99s-driving-it-oil-rainforest

Each day 80,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed and another 80,000 acres are degraded.

A few years ago, the world watched as the BP disaster unfolded along the Gulf Coast of the US. Yet while this story dominated one news cycle after another, deep in the Amazon’s Ecuadorean Oriente the world’s largest environmental disaster stemming from oil production was unfolding, and was largely ignored. When Texaco entered the Ecuadorean Oriente in 1967, the area was considered the most biodiverse place on Earth, and home to several indigenous groups. Since then, more than 20 billion gallons of toxic drilling waste and 17 million gallons of oil have been dumped into the regions soil and waterways. Where villages of indigenous peoples once lived, roads wind through the landscape; where farms once yielded a bounty of crops, hundreds of waste pits remain. Oil spills within the Amazon are both the most difficult to contain, due to the network of waterways, and the most challenging to clean-up, due to the remote area, and the rugged and varied landscapes. All of this begs the question: why oil?

Why Oil?

Despite all the risks involved in oil drilling in the Amazon, they are negated with one word: money. The monies at stake for both oil companies and governments are so vast that human rights and environmental destruction are merely regrettable necessities en route to enormous profits. Ironically, the indigenous peoples residing on these oil rich lands rarely reap the benefits. If those lands are destroyed, the governments and oil interests who profit are far removed from the disaster and suffer little impact. The Rainforest Foundation has worked beside many indigenous groups to help them gain official title and rights to their ancestral lands. But sadly we find that where rights thwart the “progress” of oil production, rights are simply ignored altogether, or conveniently reinterpreted. Such is the case with the Shuar of Ecuador. After fighting for years to gain title to 700 square miles of their ancestral lands, the Shuar were stunned to discover that just a year later the Ecuadorian government had sold a 100 square-mile concession on their land for oil development. The governments’ justification was that the Shuar’s title to the land extended only to surface rights and not the subsurface.

Right now indigenous peoples are battling oil interests throughout the Amazon.

In Peru, where nearly three quarters of the Amazon rainforest is covered in oil concessions, the Achuar communities have temporarily taken over oil platforms and succeeded in gaining promises to clean up spills and compensate communities. Quechua communities in the Pastaza of Peru, have begun mapping spills and training community leaders in environmental monitoring to prove the existence of spills and demand change. In Ecuador, indigenous organizations are mobilizing against the expansion of oil exploration on their lands in the Southern Amazon. CONAIE, the national federation of indigenous organizations, is organizing a campaign to halt the expansion of oil concessions. In Belize, the Maya recently won two landmark Supreme Court victories that upheld their rights to their land and resources, and specifically forbid the government to issue new concessions on Mayan lands. Yet the government is now appealing the Court’s decision and trying to issue a large oil concession on these lands to the US-based oil Company US Energy.

Click here for a slideshow about the consequences of oil drilling.

Big oil moves into the Amazon rainforest - what's the cost of losing large swaths of the rainforest?

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0806.htm

Some of the world's most promising oil and gas deposits lie deep in tropical rainforests, especially in the Western Amazon. With oil at historically high prices, the incentive to develop oil resources has never been greater.

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The development of oil in the Ecuadorean Amazon is a particularly poignant example, but it is no means unusual for oil projects in rainforests. Typically, an oil company cuts access roads through the forest. These roads are followed by transient settlers who colonize and damage the surrounding forest through slash-and-burn agriculture, the introduction of domestic animals, hunting, and the collection of fuelwood. Oil companies sometimes "flare" or burn natural gas that is a by-product of drilling. The flames, which burn in the open air, contribute both to local air pollution and increase the risk of forest fires.

The oil extraction process can be messy and destructive. Spills result from burst pipelines and toxic drilling by-products may be dumped directly into local creeks and rivers. Some of the more toxic chemicals are stored in open waste pits and may pollute the surrounding lands and waterways. Oil spills can wreak havoc on rivers and aquatic ecosystems, while clean-up efforts are complicated by the complexity of tropical river systems, which may include floating meadows, swamp forest, oxbow lakes, flooded forest, and sand bars.

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Over-reliance on oil can also impact the government's responsiveness to its citizens. Michael Ross, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Los Angeles, has argued that oil-rich countries do less to help their poor than do countries without oil and are plagued with lower literacy rates, score lower on measures like the UN's "Human Development Index," and have higher child mortality and malnutrition. How is this possible? An article in The Economist explains, "Unlike agriculture, the oil sector employs few unskilled people. The inherent volatility of commodity prices hurts the poor the most, as they are least able to hedge their risks. And because the resource is concentrated, the resulting wealth passes through only a few hands—and so is more susceptible to misdirection." Since oil revenues are sometimes funneled directly to rulers, governments have little need to raise revenues through taxes and be accountable to their citizens.
(more)



There is a new role for biofuels that hasn't been considered before. As oil companies, looking for additional sources of oil, move into the tropical rainforests - in a big way - the role of protecting the rainforests may become as significant a consideration for the increased use of biofuels as it's role in reducing GHG emissions (although in the end they are one in the same). I think people should start considering what will be the impact and costs of losing large swaths of the rainforest as drilling for oil becomes a larger fact of life in the tropical rainforests.


Ethanol (and methanol if we invested in it) by competing with gasoline reduces the price of petroleum/gasoline. If we added methanol to the mix, we could more rapidly replace gasoline as the fuel for light vehicle transportation *. Increased use of biofuels and the decreased demand for gasoline will drive down the price of gas even more than it already has. A decreased price for petroleum would make drilling in the rainforests a less viable business plan. While the benefits of reducing GHG emissions from increased biofuel use by themselves make expanded use of biofuels imperative, the benefits of saving large swaths of the rainforest have not been calculated and could very well be of enormous import to the effort to fight Global Warming. (note: the effects of significant increases in deforestation are not linear. Significantly larger losses of rainforest would most likely have much larger impacts than have been considered so far). --- I am not aware of any studies considering the impacts on the climate of significant losses of tropical rainforest.

Considering the jeopardy the tropical rainforests are in, this makes rejection of non-empirically based, hysterical fables about ethanol and oil industry disinformation on biofuels an eminent imperative.


* Our ethanol supply from plant sources is probably limited to about 15% of our needs for light transportation fuel, barring any considerable improvements in manufacturing processes. Methanol is currently made from natural gas, but can also be made from agricultural and forestry waste in much larger volume than ethanol. We could increase methanol production much more quickly than other alternative fuel sources and blend it with gasoline and ethanol. Increased substitution of methanol for gasoline could reduce our demand for petroleum by an additional 10% in possibly a decade (with a serious commitment to this course) and another 10% to 20% in another decade - achieving a 30% to 40% reduction in our demand for gasoline. A reduction in demand for gasoline of 20% would have a very significant impact on the price of petroleum. A reduction in demand of 30% would have an even larger impact - greater than a linear relationship (between demand and price) would produce. This is without consideration of adaptation of engine designs which take advantage of alcohol's higher octane which could significantly increase engine performance - increasing the reduction in demand for gasoline.

How Nebraska Took Its Energy Out of Corporate Hands and Made It Affordable for Everyone

see: http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1127&pid=80679

Repugnuts ask Loretta Lynch if she will be "a political arm of the White House as attorney general?”

Loretta Lynch assures GOP she is not Eric Holder, again and again
Cornyn, in the same line of questioning ... wondered if Lynch would consider herself “a political arm of the White House as attorney general.”

Lynch answered, diplomatically: “No, Senator, that would be a totally inappropriate view of the position of attorney general,” Lynch said.


Too bad Lynch didn't become quite frank and say:

"Senator the question is outrageous, insulting, and innappropriate .. unless your a fucking ass-hole." (she knows she's talking to a Republican doesn't she?)

No, she wouldn't have said that ... but how about:

"Do you mean in the manner of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who, at the behest of the WH and Karl Rove, dismissed 9 U.S. Attorney's because they did not pursue with sufficient enthusiasm political prosecutions of bogus cases of vote fraud against Democrats? Or in the case of U.S. Attorney, Carol Lam, who nailed corrupt Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and his partners in crime and was replaced by Karen Hewitt who had a résumé with “almost no criminal law experience” and is a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. .. is that the kind of 'political arm of the White House' you are talking about?"



Oh well, in a perfect world, or at least in one where fascists aren't at the throat of our Democracy.


Inside Bush’s prosecutor purge
(emphases my own)

Ever since the Bush administration shocked the legal community by dismissing eight U.S. attorneys in December, Justice Department leaders have vigorously denied that the firings were politically motivated. “I would never, ever make a change in the United States attorney position for political reasons,” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in Senate testimony in early January.

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Suspicions about the unusual purge of eight U.S. attorneys in December exploded into the open across the legal community and on Capitol Hill after McNulty conceded in Senate testimony on Feb. 6 that the U.S. attorney in Arkansas, Bud Cummins, was pushed out for no reason other than to give someone else a shot at the job. Using a little-noticed provision in the Patriot Act allowing interim appointments, Gonzales gave the post to Timothy Griffin — who had been both an operative for the Republican National Committee and a deputy to senior White House advisor Karl Rove — in what many believe was a maneuver to sidestep the traditional Senate confirmation process for U.S. attorneys.

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Former officials, legal scholars and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have publicly questioned the administration’s stated rationale for the firings and have suggested troubling theories about the real reasons for the purge, which experts say is without precedent. Some former Justice Department officials say they believe the administration’s moves are a politically driven power grab — aimed not only at a tighter grip on policy from Washington, but also at creating openings with which to reward their friends and build up a bench of conservative loyalists positioned to serve in powerful posts in future administrations.

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Experts see a continuing pattern that began long ago: A Bush White House seizing greater executive power to the detriment of democratic principle.

“No doubt this is a threat to the independent stature that the Justice Department as an institution has enjoyed over the years,” said Sam Buell, an associate professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and a former federal prosecutor under the current President Bush. “It goes against the ‘hands off’ tradition, which has insulated U.S. attorneys from criticisms of politics influencing their choices and handling of cases. This doesn’t look like a decision that’s been made in the best interest of law enforcement.”

Richest 1% Is Likely to Control Half of Global Wealth by 2016 - Oxfam Study

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/19/business/richest-1-percent-likely-to-control-half-of-global-wealth-by-2016-study-finds.html?_r=0
The richest 1 percent are likely to control more than half of the globe’s total wealth by next year, the charity Oxfam reported in a study released on Monday. The warning about deepening global inequality comes just as the world’s business elite prepare to meet this week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The 80 wealthiest people in the world altogether own $1.9 trillion, the report found, nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world’s income scale. (Last year, it took 85 billionaires to equal that figure.) And the richest 1 percent of the population, who number in the millions, control nearly half of the world’s total wealth, a share that is also increasing.

The type of inequality that currently characterizes the world’s economies is unlike anything seen in recent years, the report explained. “Between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world in current U.S. dollars had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of billionaires,” it said. “However since 2010, it has been decreasing over that time.”

Winnie Byanyima, the charity’s executive director, noted in a statement that more than a billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day.
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Employers are Stealing Billions of Dollars from their Workers

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119410/economic-policy-institute-wage-theft-could-total-50-billion-year

As the economy slowly recovers, it’s become increasingly clear that it’s not just unemployed Americans who need help from the government. It’s those that are employed as well.

That’s the main finding of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute on wage theft. What is wage theft? It’s when employers refuse to pay their workers their rightful wages and benefits, such as refusing to pay overtime. It’s a major problem across the United States. One study, which EPI cites, examined three cities (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) and found that two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries had experienced a pay-related offense in any given week in 2008. Those violations cost workers more than $2,600 a year on average—nearly 15 percent of their total earnings. If wage theft is as prevalent in the rest of the United States as it is in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, then it costs workers more than $50 billion a year.

It’s tough to calculate how widespread wage theft is because much of it goes unreported. But not all. The U.S. Department of Labor, state departments of labor, state attorneys general, and private attorneys file cases on behalf of workers to recover lost wages. No single database collects this information so EPI consulted with state labor departments and attorneys general and researched private civil litigation cases to estimate the total amount that workers recovered in wages. In 2012, it totaled at least $933 million. In fact that understates the total since the researchers didn’t receive data from six state departments of labor and five attorneys general.

Remember, the actual amount recovered is only a fraction of the total wage theft. In other words, wage theft totals billions of dollars every year. EPI puts these numbers in perspective to show just the significance of these pay-related offenses. For instance, in 2012, people and companies reported $341 million in lost property from robbery, all forms of it. These are just reported instances of robbery, so that certainly understates the true extent of it. Even so, workers recovered three times as much in stolen wages as Americans lost in reported robberies. That's a massive loss for low-wage workers.
(more)

Strange Object Near Milky Way's Black Hole Stirs Scientific Debate

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/02/strange-object-milky-way-debate_n_6401402.html


Astronomers may be a step closer to solving the mystery of a strange object seen orbiting the massive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

Dubbed G2, the object was first spotted in 2011 and was thought initially to be a gas cloud on the verge of being ripped apart by the black hole, which is known as Sagittarius A*. But when the object stayed intact, some scientists suggested G2 was something else: a pair of binary stars.

But now a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany have sparked new debate, offering more evidence to support the gas cloud theory.

For their research, the team used a computer model to compare the orbit of G2 to that of G1, another object observed near Sagittarius A* a decade ago.

“We explored the connection between G1 and G2 and find an astonishing similarity in both orbits,” team member Dr. Stefan Gillessen said in a written statement.
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The Economy in 2014 -

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/12/16/economy-2014

The U.S. economic recovery took a major step forward in 2014, achieving a number of important milestones. American businesses set a new record for the most consecutive months of job growth: now 57 straight months and counting. By November, the economy had already added more jobs than in any full calendar year since the 1990s. And crucially, the pickup in job growth during 2014 occurred primarily in higher-paying industries, while nearly all of the employment gains have been in full-time positions. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell below 6 percent for the first time since 2008.

(click on image to see slideshow)
click on image to see slideshow


Despite this progress, it is still too hard for many families to get ahead. Further reductions in long-term unemployment and faster wage growth are still needed, but the data from 2014 show that trends are clearly moving in the right direction.

The President’s policies have contributed to this progress in a number of ways, including setting the stage for the recovery in 2009 and taking further steps to accelerate several favorable underlying economic trends. Some critical policies include:

•The Recovery Act and Subsequent Fiscal Measures: The United States has come further in its recovery than most other advanced economies around the world, in part because of the President’s aggressive policy response that included the Recovery Act, the payroll tax cut, and about a dozen additional fiscal measures. Indeed, since 2010 the increase in employment in the United States exceeds that in Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.

•Response to the Financial Crisis: Even when it was not popular, the President took steps to rescue the auto industry, implement historic consumer protections, recapitalize the financial sector, and institute strict new rules for Wall Street. The President’s policies have also helped millions of families stay in their homes and weather the storm, and today we are seeing rising home prices lift millions back above water on their mortgages.

•Affordable Care Act: Changes in the health care system, in part due to the Affordable Care Act, are creating major savings for households, businesses, and the Federal government. In 2014, employer health insurance premiums grew at a rate tied for the lowest on record, reflecting in part the lowest health care price inflation in nearly half a century.

•All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy: The United States is leading the world in both oil and natural gas production, contributing to a roughly 40 percent drop in oil prices over the second half of 2014, which means lower gas prices for families. At the same time, solar energy is up tenfold since 2008, while wind energy is up threefold. In addition to this energy boom, the United States has also made great strides in energy efficiency, contributing to a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2007 to 2013 -- the largest absolute emissions reduction of any country in the world. These developments signal that the President’s All-of-the-Above energy strategy is having a key impact.

•Catalyzing Technological Innovation: The United States is the most innovative economy in the world, and to continue this tradition into the 21st century, the President signed into law the most sweeping patent reform in decades, made significant investments in research and development, and will nearly double the amount of wireless spectrum available for mobile broadband. Indeed, we are currently seeing the most successful wireless spectrum auction ever, a sign of the tremendous potential that stands to be unleashed as a result of these steps.

•Reducing the Deficit: The Budget Control Act, the Affordable Care Act, and returning to Clinton-era tax rates for upper-income households will contribute to nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. Reflecting these policies, the additional revenues associated with an improving economy, and the aforementioned slowdown in health care costs, the deficit in fiscal year 2014 fell to 2.8 percent of GDP, below its average for the past forty years and down by about two-thirds from its peak. A shrinking deficit has boosted national saving and set the stage for more sustainable and balanced growth in the coming years.

To build on this progress, the President will continue to push for steps that support further growth of middle-class jobs and reward those who work hard and play by the rules, including investments in infrastructure, reforms to the business tax code and immigration system, expanded overseas markets for America’s goods and services, and an increase in the minimum wage.

Take an in-depth look at the progress our economy made in 2014 here.

Good page for historical economic data - pertaining to Gov (e.g. revenues/Recpts as % of GDP) - it

enables you to downloas Excel SSs of the data.


http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals

for example:

Table 1.2—Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-) as Percentages of GDP: 1930–2019

(note: Excel file download symbol will appear at bottom of window. Click on it to call Excel to open file)







If interested in tracking political contributions by various industries/sectors here's a good

summary .... shows totals and % to each party...

http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/
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