Jun 29, 2013

“Believe It or Not!”13 Mindblowing Facts About America’s Tax-Dodging Corporations

(Photo: Michael Fleshman / Flickr)

By Richard Eskow | June 28, 2013

A judicious writer avoids adjectives like “mindblowing,” especially when covering political or economic issues. But no other word seems to describe the stunning reality of corporate taxation in modern America, which cries out for the italics-heavy, exclamation-point-driven format made famous by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Stylistic overkill? Read these thirteen facts and you may change your mind.

1. We’re told we can’t “afford” full Social Security benefits, even though closing corporate tax-haven loopholes would pay for Obama’s “chained CPI” benefit cut more than ten times over!

Abusive offshore tax havens cost the US $150 billion in lost tax revenue every year (via FACT Coalition). That’s $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

The “chained CPI” cut, proposed by President Obama and supported by Republicans, is projected to “save” a total of $122 billion to $130 billion over the same time period by denying benefits to seniors and disabled people.

It’s true. “Serious” politicians and pundits are demanding that ordinary people sacrifice earned benefits, while at the same time allowing corporations to avoid more than ten times as much in taxes.

2. Corporate tax rates are near their 60-year low, even though profits are at a 60-year high!

Need we say more?

(Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)

3. Wells Fargo got $8 billion in tax breaks, even as executives at its subsidiary Wachovia avoided indictment for laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels!

That’s right. Wells Fargo paid a negative tax rate of -1.4 percent between 2008 and 2010 while Wachovia, a Wells Fargo subsidiary, admitted to laundering more than $378 billion for Mexican drug gangs.

We’re talking about crazed killers like “El Loco” and gangs like “Los Zetas” – gangs who cut people’s heads off and toss them out onto disco dance floors or display them in the town square.

Wachovia bankers ignored repeated warnings from law enforcement officials, and continued to launder money for cartels that have murdered tens of thousands.

And yet no criminal indictments were handed down because, as a Senate investigator toldBloomberg News, “”There’s no capacity to regulate or punish them because they’re too big to be threatened with failure.”

4. Some other huge corporations paid less than nothing, too.

Pepco Holdings (-57.6% tax rate)
General Electric (-45.3%)
DuPont (-3.4%)
Verizon (-2.9%)
Boeing (-1.8%)
Honeywell (-0.7%)

(Source: Citizens for Tax Justice)

5. The amount of money US corporations are holding offshore is an estimated one trillion dollars!

Rather than tax these profits the way other countries do, corporate politicians are promoting a tax “repatriation” break that would let corporations “bring this money home” while paying even less than their currently low rates.

They tried that in 2004 and it didn’t create any jobs. In fact, corporations took the tax break and then fired thousands of people. What “repatriation” did do is line a lot of wealthy investors’ pockets.

So, naturally, they want to do it again.

6. One building in the Cayman Islands is the official location of 18,857 corporations!

According to the Government Accountability Office, a five-story building called “Ugland House” is home to nearly twenty thousand corporations. That’s impressive, especially for such a small edifice. (Perhaps it has supernatural half-floors and space-time defying “mind tunnels” like the office in Being John Malkovich.)

While impressive, Ugland House’s distinction pales next to that of 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware. According to one investigation, that address is home to217,000 corporations.

That’s because Delaware has very generous tax rules – and, as a result, is home to more than half of all the corporate subsidiaries in the United States.That’s startling, since only 1/342th of the nation’s population lives in that state (917,092 residents, out of a national total of 313,914,040, according to the latest census results).

7. Conservatives complain about the “official” corporate tax rate in this country, but corporations actually pay roughly one-third of the official rate in actual taxes.

The official, or “statutory,” corporate tax rate is 35 percent. But the actual rate paid by American corporations is only 12 percent, less than that paid by many middle-class Americans.

(Source: The FACT Coalition.)

In fact, US Corporations pay less tax as a percentage of the GDP than corporations in Canada. Or Japan …

… or South Korea. Or Norway. Or Luxembourg, New Zealand, Israel, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, and Italy.

(Source: OECD StatsExtract interactive database.)

8. Corporations used to pay 30 percent of Federal taxes, and now they pay less than 7 percent!

That’s because the corporate tax rate has plunged since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and is now the lowest it’s been in modern history.

(Source: FACT Coalition.)

9. Big corporations paid $216 million to Congress and got $223 billion in tax breaks!

As Citizens for Tax Justice and USPIRG reported, 280 large and profitable corporations contributed $216 million to Congressional campaigns over four election cycles and got nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in tax breaks.

That’s a terrific investment for them – a return of more than a thousand to one – but it’s a bad deal for the American people.

10. We don’t even know who owns some corporations, even though that makes it easier to evade taxes, dodge creditors, avoid paying alimony or child support, and even fund terrorism!

Here are some examples of investments that might represent a terror threat. Corporate interests are blocking disclosure rules that would help protect our national security.

11. Bank of America committed foreclosure fraud, was bailed out by the government, and then paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in profit!

That’s right. In 2010, while BofA was negotiating a sweet settlement deal for its foreclosure fraud, it paid nothing in taxes. (Source: FACT Coalition.) Zero, on $17.2 billion in offshore earnings. (Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)

Its $4.1 billion tax break came on the heels of the bank’s taxpayer-funded bailout, immunity from prosecution for its criminal employees, and a cushy government settlement for its foreclosure fraud.

Now David Dayen reports that the bank has apparently continued to defraud customers in violation of its government settlement. Whistleblowers have stated in affidavits that they were “told to lie” to customers, continued to deceive homeowners before foreclosing on them, and flipped customers to new servicing companies to invalidate previous homeowner agreements.

12. What they call “tax reform” would actually prevent our elected representatives from giving businesses financial incentives to improve our lives!

The word “reform” is an honorable one that’s been put to some dishonorable uses lately. “Entitlement reform,” for example, is merely a euphemism for gutting Social Security and Medicare.

Similarly, corporate-backed politicians are pushing a formula for permanent corporate tax breaks and calling it “tax reform.” They insist their “reform” be “revenue neutral” and say it will “broaden the base while lowering the rate.”

Here’s an English translation: The current, unsustainably low rates for corporations would be made permanent, while eliminating many tax deductions in the name of “simplification.”

Here’s what that really means: The domestic tax credit for creating jobs? Gone. Tax breaks for protecting the environment with clean energy, rather than harming other people’s health and leaving a mess for the rest of us to clean up? Gone.

All in all we’d lose dozens of important policies that make our lives better, while permanently fixing corporate taxes at today’s cushy giveaway rates.

“Reform”? Ripoff is more like it.

13. Despite their greed, mismanagement, and freeloading, tax-dodging corporations are using shell organizations like “Fix the Debt” and “the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” to tell ordinary Americans they have to sacrifice even more to preserve corporate wealth!

These organizations are using the heads of failed banks – people like Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs – to dispense “advice on the economy.” That’s like getting navigation tips from the captain of the Exxon Valdez.

(Tax breaks for Exxon Mobil: $4.1 billion between 2008 and 2010. The company paid no taxes at all in 2009.)

These executives and their paid spokespeople tell the rest of us we need to “sacrifice” and “tighten our belts” so that their party can go on forever. And too often they’re treated as credible sources, rather than as corrupting influences on our public life.

It’s all true – and there are many more astonishing facts to be found in the world of corporate taxation. To fix the economy more people will need to learn about them – and demand that they be changed.

The writer and analyst in me wants to apologize for all the italicizing and all those exclamation points. But the American citizen in me wants to shout the truth out for all the world to hear – believe it or not!
“Believe It or Not!”13 Mindblowing Facts About America’s Tax-Dodging Corporations

Jun 28, 2013

Louie Schwartzberg: The hidden beauty of pollination - YouTube

Pollination: it's vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film "Wings of Life," inspired by the vanishing of one of nature's primary pollinators, the honeybee.

"In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught."--Baba Dioum   <---  Monte

Louie Schwartzberg: The hidden beauty of pollination - YouTube

Chris Anderson: The Future of Farm Drones - FORA.tv

3D Robotics' CEO Chris Anderson: Farm Drones from Maker Faire on FORA.tv

Founder of 3D Robotics and DIY Drones Chris Anderson describes how farmers are using drones to gather data and take precise measurements of crops.

Chris Anderson: The Future of Farm Drones - FORA.tv

Grazing Management Pays Net Profit, Even On Small Farms - Farm Progress

Virginia case study on 22-cow operation shows 50% increase in profits from good grazing management.
Published on: Jun 20, 2013

By Terri Queck-Matzie

Pasture in poor condition can support cattle and sometimes make a profit but that doesn't mean better pasture isn't better.

"The environmental effects of pasture improvement are huge," says Madalene M. Ransom, an economist with NRCS, "but people don't always realize the economic benefits."

Ransom and USDA Grazing Lands Specialist Kevin Ogles have collected data which proves exactly that in work at the East National Technology Support Center in Greensboro, N.C.

Ransom and Ogles define poor grazing land as having 50% ground cover with most of the good vegetation already eaten. Their definition of good grazing includes some rotation with 75% ground cover of grass only. Excellent grazing is 95% ground cover consisting of cover, grass, litter and clover, together with excellent rotation practices.
Best pasture: To create the highest quality pasture one requirement is to plan grazing so plants get plenty of recovery time.

Based on case studies and conversations with extension personnel, Ransom and Ogles show improvements which create excellent pasture conditions, decrease costs over time and increase animal weights and also profits by nearly 50% per pound of animal sold.

"Excellent grazing may cost money up front to install," says Ransom, "but it may be the most profitable by yielding the most benefits." She says many producers fail to factor in lost profit opportunity.

Ransom and Ogles say a case study conducted on a Virginia ranch showed significant advantage. It showed the gross benefits of improved grazing with 22 cows and one bull on 65 acres of improved pasture totaled $11,672. Deduct from that $3,312 in additional costs and they said there was a net annual benefit of $8,359.
Poor pasture: Poorly management pasture can make a profit but not as much as well-managed pasture.

The benefits derived from a combination of increased revenues of just over $7,000 and decreased costs of around $4,500.

Benefits and cost savings included:

* Better herd health due to increased clover and improved water sanitation.

* A 50% reduction in fertilizer and lime.

* Less purchased hay and less rented land to produce it.

* Lower labor and transportation costs for hay.

* A 60% decrease in mowing.

Revenues increased from:

* Higher weight gain from the high-quality forage.

* The rancher in the case study was able to increase his herd from 22 cow/calf pairs to 33 pairs and buy a genetically superior bull due to his improved forage availability.

* Calves from the additional cows brought in an extra $5,100 and existing calves utilized the better genetics and better forage to produce an additional $1,994 in revenue.

The improvements did, however, come at a cost.

* Additional fencing was estimated at around $530 per year.

* Concrete watering troughs cost another $184 annually.

* The herd upgrades averaged $1,400 per year.

* Pasture improvements such as soil testing, seed and fertilizer cost the producer nearly $1,200 per year.

That still places the annual cost of improvements at $3,312, well below the realized financial benefits.

"It's too easy, especially for the smaller cow/calf producer with 20 to 30 head and an off-farm income, to call breaking even good enough," says Ogles. "They've covered their costs. But they can do better – for themselves and for the land."

Ransom says her vision is for producers to make pasture improvements because it makes economic sense, in addition to enhancing the environment. "Yes, we want to see environmental improvements, to keep the soil from eroding and disappearing down rivers and streams," she says.

"But it's also good economics and they should consider the economics before they make decisions on changing pasture management."

Just right: Where the lines cross indicates the ideal stage for plant consumption, when digestibility and yield are well balanced.

Pasture by the numbers

Kevin Ogles researches why animal weights might increase and why costs can decrease as pasture management is improved.

The USDA grazing lands specialist explains that he calculates the Forage/Animal Balance by dividing annual forage production times seasonal utilization rate by herd intake per day times length of the growing season.

The utilization rate varies as rotational grazing is implemented. Grazing one pasture continuously results in a 30% utilization rate, while breaking the pasture into 12 paddocks, each grazed two to four days at a time, produces a utilization rate of 65%.

Rotational grazing also affects pasture productivity. "Digestibility is best when plants are small," explains Ogles, "and goes down as plants mature and become more stemmy. But larger plants yield more mass. The trick is to time grazing to maximize yield and digestibility."

For cool-season grasses that is generally when the plants are 10 to 14 inches, depending on the species.

Grazing at the right time is crucial for plant health, and thus, overall pasture health. Once grazed to three to four inches, plants need time for rest and regrowth to optimum grazing height. Ogles says removing 50% of a plant's leaves will start to diminish root growth. At 60% of leaf consumption, 50% of root growth ceases.

"Plants with better root systems withstand drought better and pull minerals from deeper in the soil," he says. "Grazing all the time doesn't give plants a chance to recover. Rotational grazing lets the roots continue to expand, making overall pasture yield higher."

Rotational grazing also increases manure distribution, thus reducing the need for additional fertilizer.

"Animals choose to hang out where there is shade in the heat or where there is water, so that's where the nutrients concentrate," says Ogles, adding that beef animals excrete 65-90% of nutrients they've consumed in manure and urine. "By confining them to a small area at a time, it forces better overall distribution of nutrients."

Further accentuating the value of rotational grazing is its effect on infiltration and run-off. Ogles cites a study by USDA and University of Nebraska which calculates run-off from a three-inch, 90-minute rain on silt loam soil with a 10% slope. He says excellent pasture with 95% ground cover has 15-20% run-off with zero soil loss, while poor pasture with 50% ground cover loses more than four tons of soil per acre with 70% run-off.

He also says in pasture with grass and plant littler present, water infiltrates the ground at more than two inches of water per hour. This compares with poor land where grass and litter has been removed and infiltration is less than one inch per hour.

Better plant health also means reduced soil temperatures, keeping needed moisture and microorganisms in the soil.

Queck-Matzie writes from Fontanelle, Iowa.
Grazing Management Pays Net Profit, Even On Small Farms - Farm Progress

Using Paper Glue Joints for Woodturning Projects - YouTube

Published on Jun 28, 2013

Woodturning expert Ernie Conover demonstrates his technique for creating perfect turnings by using adhesive and a paper grocery bag to create simple glue joints to hold the pieces secure. This allows you to create a number of finished projects without disturbing a single fiber on the wood.
Using Paper Glue Joints for Woodturning Projects - YouTube

Silver Lining for Reform in Farm Bill Failure – NSAC

June 25th, 2013

This week, we are doing a three-part blog series on the House’s failure to pass a farm bill last week. This first post covers the topic of farm program reform, the second post will be an analysis of why the bill failed, and the third will discuss options for moving the bill forward.

Not long before the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (aka the 2013 Farm Bill) went down in shocking defeat last Thursday by a vote of 195-234, the House passed an historic amendment on commodity payment limitation reform by roughly the reverse vote of 230-194. The popularity of the commodity program subsidy reform amendment may hold a key to reviving the farm bill process.

Nearly 70 percent of Democrats and over 40 percent of Republicans voted for the Republican reform amendment offered by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). The amendment also garnered support from the Speaker, and the Majority Leader, Minority Leader, and Minority Whip all voted for it. Over a quarter of the Agriculture Committee voted for the amendment, despite strong opposition by the Committee leadership.

While similar commodity payment limitation reform amendments in previous farm bills have received a majority of votes in the full Senate, the measure has never passed in the House of Representatives. In fact, it hasn’t even come up for a vote in decades.

Given that the identical measure is already part of the Senate farm bill, the positive vote in the House now means that Congress has turned a very important corner on the path to enacting farm program reform. Regardless of when and how this next farm bill becomes law, it now clearly must deal with real payment limit reform.

The comprehensive reform now approved by both the Senate and the House would restore common-sense rules to farm programs by:

creating a hard cap on total commodity payments and benefits so that no farm is eligible to receive more than $250,000 per year in commodity subsidies, rather than the current unlimited amount;
establishing a hard cap on total payments under the new shallow loss and target price program options at $100,000 per year per farm, rather than the nominally limited but effectively unlimited amount for direct payments; and
targeting payments to working farmers and closing existing loopholes that allow the largest and most profitable farming operations to collect far higher payments than current law would otherwise seem to allow.

Prior to floor consideration, NSAC posted a fact sheet on the amendment.

Additional Subsidy Reform Needed

In addition to its direct impact on commodity subsidies, the vote on the Fortenberry amendment also sends an unmistakable message that more subsidy reform is needed to pass a farm bill. Unfortunately, the Rule under which the House debated the farm bill last week did not include a number of filed amendments that would have added payment limits and means testing to crop and revenue insurance subsidies. In the new farm bill, those subsidies will make up two-thirds of total crop subsidies.

For instance, the Rule precluded the House from voting on the most important insurance subsidy amendments, including bipartisan amendments by:
Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Tom Petri (R-WI) to reduce federal crop insurance subsidies by 15 percent for producers whose adjusted gross income exceeds $750,000 per year;
Reps. Petri and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to cap federal crop insurance premium subsidies at $100,000 per year per farm and apply actively engaged rules to limit those subsidies to working farmers; and
Reps. Jacki Speier (D-CA), DeLauro, and David Schweikert (R-AZ) to increase transparency in the crop insurance program by allowing USDA to release payment information to the public.

Instead, the Rule allowed for just one vote on an amendment by Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) that combined multiple crop insurance reform ideas into a single mega amendment. Relative to the Hanna-Pingree-Petri proposal, the Kind amendment included a far lower and more extreme adjusted gross income provision of $250,000, a threshold beyond which all taxpayer support would be lost. The amendment also included a variety of proposals aimed at reducing support for crop insurance companies.

Despite its all-encompassing nature and more extreme provision, the Kind amendment came within just five votes of passing, going down 208-217. A third of Republicans and two-thirds of Democrats supported the measure.

In the face of a very robust three-year campaign by crop insurance advocates inside and outside of Congress to use this farm bill to increase the cost of the program while fending off any and all reform efforts, this vote indicates a strong, popular desire to rein in program costs — including through placing sensible limits on what is currently a completely open-ended entitlement.

Looking at the successful vote on the Fortenberry amendment and the nearly successful vote on the Kind amendment, it is clear that several of the more targeted and nuanced amendments that were killed by the Rules Committee would have prevailed on the House floor. It is no doubt precisely for that reason that congressional champions of the open-ended entitlement worked hard to ensure those more targeted amendments never saw the light of day.

Farm subsidy reform is a hot issue in this farm bill, though not quite as important politically as the debate raging over the SNAP (food stamp) program. Much of the attention over whether and how to bring the farm bill back to life in the House centers on the $20 billion in food stamp cuts included in the House bill, as well as on a series of dramatic, highly partisan policy changes adopted by amendment on the House floor. It is clear that food stamp provisions will need to be changed if there is any chance of reviving the bill.

The growing bipartisan support for farm subsidy reform, however, also points to another critical element of the path forward on a new farm bill. From the 1970s on, Congress adopted a series of measures to place payment limits, conservation requirements, and means-testing on the receipt of commodity program payments. None of those measures currently exists for crop and revenue insurance. Yet the insurance subsidies surpassed the more traditional commodity subsidies in size and scope several years ago, and both the new Senate and House farm bill proposals would further accelerate that shift, increasing the size of insurance subsidies while scaling back a bit on commodity subsidies.

The bill passed by the Senate earlier this month includes two important provisions in this regard. It modestly reduces insurance premium subsidies for millionaires and it re-establishes the link between conservation and receipt of insurance subsidies. These measures do not nearly go far enough, but they are at least a start in the right direction. Unfortunately, the House bill that was defeated last week included neither provision. The refusal to adopt common-sense reforms helped lead to the bill’s demise.

It is time for the policy framework to catch up to the major shift in how subsidies are delivered to commodity crop agriculture. If current trends continue, crop insurance premium subsidies will make up two-thirds of the crop subsidy safety net, and commodity support will make up one-third. Only commodity supports, however, have sensible limits and basic conservation requirements tied to them. Extending those sensible limits to all aspects of the farm safety net is not only good policy, it is good politics. Along with the historic approval in both the House and Senate bills of strong commodity payment limitation reform, those reforms hold one of the keys to returning to broad bipartisan support for farm bills.

Related posts:
Three Senate Democrats flip-flop, leaving farm subsidy reform out of the budget
House Rules Committee Kills Key Farm Bill Amendments
Senate Sets Path to Pass 2013 Farm Bill
Senators Introduce Bill to Reform Farm Payments
For Immediate Release: NSAC Pleased with Senate Farm Bill Amendment Votes
Silver Lining for Reform in Farm Bill Failure – NSAC

“Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” --- The significance of Obama’s cryptic Keystone comments | Grist

By David Roberts

In his climate speech on Tuesday — long since swept away by the news cycle, as I predicted — Obama delivered one big surprise: a passage on the Keystone XL pipeline. Not just that, but an utterly inscrutable passage, one that has proven a kind of Rorschach blot for the energy world.

Here’s what he said:

I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil. And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline. (Applause.)

Now, I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. (Applause.) The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.

Amidst these gnomic utterances, it is possible to find support for any number of interpretations. Naturally I have my own.

First off, contrary to some of my more confident counterparts on both sides, I don’t think it tells us much of anything about whether Obama will approve the pipeline. After all, Keystone’s carbon impact has always been, and remains, a point of contention.

A lot of people have pointed to the word “significantly” as providing Obama wiggle room, but it’s worth noting that an administration official told Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein point-blank that “the State Department should approve the pipeline only if it will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” is vague and toothless. But “will not lead to a net increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions” is quite specific, and powerful.

Of course, even that more stringent test doesn’t necessarily settle the Keystone question. Pipeline advocates are fond of saying that tar-sands oil will be extracted and burned whether Keystone is built or not. If tar-sands producers can’t pipe it through Keystone, they’ll pipe it through some other pipeline, or by road and rail. One way or another the oil will find a way to market, which means building Keystone won’t raise overall greenhouse gas emissions at all relative to not building it. That’s basically the position of the State Department in its draft Environmental Impact Statement [PDF], which says Keystone is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands.”

All sorts of people, including EPA, have called BS on this. They say State is using clunky models with outdated assumptions that ignore real-world frictions. This Oil Change report [PDF] summarizes the argument pretty well. An in-depth Reuters analysis found that rail may not be a viable substitute for pipelines. The Globe & Mail says, “Without Keystone XL, oil sands face choke point.” Numerous oil industry analysts and executives have said similar things [PDF].

For a comprehensive, fair-minded, and deep-in-the-weeds look at this question, see this post by Jesse Jenkins. He makes the key point that I would reiterate here: Your assessment of the net carbon impact of Keystone will depend entirely on the assumptions and counterfactuals you bring to bear. If you’re keen to get one answer or another, you can.

All of which is to say, Obama’s declaration that net carbon impact will decide Keystone’s fate says nothing about which way he’ll decide. It all depends on whose assumptions and counterfactuals he relies on. If the State Department sticks with its assessment, Obama will have plenty of cover to approve the pipeline if he wants. If he wants to reject it, he can ask State to update its assumptions. We still don’t know what he will do.

So. The significance of his comments is not that he showed his hand. But what is the significance? On that score, I have one question and one point to make.

The question is: Why say anything about Keystone at all? No one expected him to. It’s a politically fraught topic that was bound to distract from the rest of the climate plan. Even the day before the speech, “senior administration officials” (sigh) were strongly indicating that he wouldn’t mention it. It’s obviously something that got added pretty late in the process. But … why?

It seems absolutely insane to me that he would bring it up in a climate speech meant to mollify environmentalists, highlight the salience of climate in the determination, and then … go ahead and approve it. That would be such an own goal. If he plans to approve it, why not just keep quiet about it in a speech targeted to greens?

Does that mean he’s planning to reject it? Oh, hell if I know. Even if he were, there’s still no obvious political logic in dredging it up for the dippy Beltway media and Republicans to focus on, overshadowing his other proposals.

There’s one reason I can think of why Obama would say what he said, and it’s not political, or at least not narrowly tactical. Rather, it’s a statement of principle. This is the key line: “our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

That is, if you stop to think about it, a radical thing to say. To see why, you have to think beyond Keystone. Imagine the same criterion applied to all infrastructure projects, all roads, bridges, airports, trains, electrical grids, sewer systems: If it raises carbon pollution, it is not in our national interest. If that test were taken seriously by the entire federal government (military included) … well, we’d be living in a very different world.

It’s worth noting here that the administration is, in fact, implementingsomething like this, making climate a key part of federal project assessment and approval under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). But even that falls short of the kind of categorical proclamation in the speech.

So anyway, maybe that’s what Obama was up to, doing exactly what his critics on left accuse him of never doing: trying to shift the Overton window, trying to change the long-term frame, trying to push climate pollution to the center of national decisionmaking.

“Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” If Obama can disseminate that perspective throughout the fabric of the federal government, it would be a climate legacy bigger than any single project, policy, or speech.

GREAT ARTICLE: “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” SHOULD BE APPLIED TO EVERY PROJECT - MONTE

Full Article:
The significance of Obama’s cryptic Keystone comments | Grist

Brave Environmental Activist, Tim DeChristopher - David Letterman -- YouTube

Published on Jun 26, 2013
Dave welcomes environmental activist and subject of the new film, "Bidder 70," Tim DeChristopher.


Is the U.S. Corn Boom Ending? | AGWEB.com


By Darrel Good and Scott Irwin, University of Illinois

The U.S. corn industry experienced a significant "growth spurt" beginning in the 2007-08 marketing year that continued through the 2011-12 marketing year. That five-year boom period was characterized by larger consumption, larger production, and higher prices; a combination that demonstrates the strong demand for U.S. corn beginning in 2007-08. The issue moving forward is whether or not demand for U.S. corn has peaked. The answer to the question has important implications for corn prices, farm incomes, land prices, and corn processing and handling industries.

Consumption of U.S. corn averaged 11.045 billion bushels per year from 2004-05 through 2006-07 and 12.688 billion bushels from 2007-08 through 2011-12 (Figure 1). Similarly, U.S. corn production averaged 11.15 billion bushels from 2004 through 2006 and 12.606 billion bushels from 2007 through 2011 (Figure 2). The marketing year farm price averaged $2.37 in the period from 2004-05 through 2006-07 and $5.25 from 2007-08 through 2011-12 (Figure 3). Record high prices have been experienced during the 2012-13 marketing year, but much of that price strength is related to the large shortfall in U.S. production in 2012. The combination of smaller supplies, high prices, and reduced consumption provides a less clear picture about current demand strength. The question of future corn demand requires a look at each of the three major consumption sectors--ethanol, feed, and exports.

The consumption of corn to produce ethanol grew rapidly from 2004-05 through 2010-11 (Figure 4). Some of that growth stemmed from federal legislation that required minimum and increasing quantities of domestic biofuels consumption. Almost the entire non-advanced portion of those requirements has been met with corn-based ethanol. To date, most ethanol has been consumed in a 10 percent blend with conventional gasoline. As that 10 percent blend wall has now been reached, increased consumption will require consumption of higher ethanol blends--E15 or E85. If consumption of those blends increases enough to meet the entire non-advanced biofuels mandate of14.4 billion gallons in 2014 and 15 billion gallons in 2015 and beyond, corn consumption could grow to 5.14 billion bushels in 2014 and 5.36 billion bushels in 2015 and beyond, assuming zero net trade of ethanol. We recently concluded that consumption of those blends will likely increase slowly over the next two years. If that is the case, corn use for ethanol production may have peaked in the 2010-11 and 2011-12. Ethanol exports could provide a pathway to increased production, but that market will likely be limited by the availability of Brazilian ethanol.

Feed and residual use of U.S. corn has gradually declined since 2007-08 (Figure 5). From a peak of over 6.1 billion bushels in 2004-05 and 2005-06, consumption declined to just over 4.5 billion bushels in 2011-12. The primary reason for the decline was the rapid substitution of distillers grain (a co-product of ethanol production) for whole corn in livestock feed rations. The number of livestock being fed in the U.S., as measured by the USDA's estimate of grain consuming animal units, has been relatively constant since 2004-05 (Figure 6). The USDA projects little change in those numbers for 2013-14. The domestic market for meat and livestock products is mature. Slow population growth and stable per capita meat consumption suggests that feed consumption will also stabilize. Without growth in ethanol production and a resulting increase in production of distillers grain, corn feed consumption would be expected to also stabilize near recent levels. The potential for an increase in livestock production and a related increase in corn feeding probably lies with the potential for an increase in livestock exports. That potential is likely the highest for pork exports to China.

Marketing year exports of U.S. corn from 2004-05 through 2010-11 ranged from 1.8 to 2.4 billion bushels per year, but were not trending higher or lower (Figure 7). However, exports declined to 1.543 billion bushels in 2011-12 and are projected at a 42-year low of 700 million bushels in 2012-13. Some of the recent decline in corn exports has been offset by larger exports of corn in processed form (ethanol, distillers grains, livestock), but that increase is captured in the other categories of corn use. The recent decline in exports of U.S. corn is likely associated with high corn prices that have stimulated production in the rest of the world and also allowed other exporters to sell at prices below the cost of U.S. corn.

As indicated in Figure 8, foreign corn production increased from about 16 billion bushels in 2004-05 to 23 billion bushels in 2012-13 (an increase of 44 percent) and foreign exports grew from about 1.2 billion to near 3 billion bushels (an increase of 150 percent). The larger exports were mainly from Brazil and the Ukraine. Lower corn prices may slow the increase in foreign corn production and also allow U.S. corn to be more competitively priced. However, the production capacity that has been put in place in the rest of the world will likely persist, making it difficult for the U.S. to rebuild exports. Larger U.S. exports than are occurring this year are expected beginning in 2013-14, but returning to annual sales of two billion bushels will likely require more significant growth in foreign consumption than is now being projected. Similar to livestock export prospects, growth in U.S. corn exports may be dependent on Chinese demand.


The recent period of growth in the U.S. corn industry appears to have peaked. The domestic ethanol market has hit the E10 blend wall and will be dependent on consumption of higher blends in order to expand total domestic consumption and to increase corn consumption. The domestic livestock industry is also mature and may require larger exports for production growth. Finally, the corn export market has become a lot more competitive in the past several years as high corn prices have stimulated an increase in world production. If the size of the U.S. corn market has peaked, a period of lower prices and reduced acreage may be required. Lower prices would be beneficial for the livestock industry, at least initially. Lower crop farm incomes might result in some downward pressure on farm land prices, particularly if interest rates continue to increase. Making plans for such an adjustment seems prudent, while at the same time hoping for a surprise development on the demand side.

Is the U.S. Corn Boom Ending? | AGWEB.com

Jun 27, 2013

In Historic Victory for Community Radio, FCC Puts 1,000 Low-Power FM Frequencies Up For Grabs

Published on Jun 20, 2013

http://www.democracynow.org - In a major victory for the community radio movement after a 15-year campaign, the Federal Communications Commission has announced it will soon begin accepting applications for hundreds of new low-power FM radio stations in October. This means nonprofits, labor unions and community groups have a one-time-only chance this year to own a bit of the broadcast airwaves. It is being heralded as "the largest expansion of community radio in United States history." We're joined by two guests: Jeff Rousset, the National Organizer of the Prometheus Radio Project, which has led the campaign to challenge corporate control of the media and open up this space on the dial; and by Ramon Ramirez, the president of PCUN, the largest Latino organization in Oregon. In 2006, Prometheus Radio Project helped PCUN establish the low-power FM station "Movement Radio," which has helped inform farm workers about labor rights, as well as the larger Latino community about immigration reform efforts, health issues, and other community-related topics. The FCC's short application window for new stations will run from October 15 to October 29. "This is a one-shot opportunity," Rousset says. "The work that we do over the next four months will really help shape the course of this country's media landscape for the next 40 years."

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In Historic Victory for Community Radio, FCC Puts 1,000 Low-Power FM Frequencies Up For Grabs - YouTube

Lambrecht Chevrolet Auction - Scores of new Chevys stored for decades undriven finally up for sale

Published on Jun 21, 2013

VanDerBrink Auctions, LLC will be conducting the amazing Lambrecht Chevrolet Company Auction 9-28,29th of September 2013 in Piercve, NE. This is ana amazing collection of NEW Chevrolets from the 60's and more along with hundreds of survivor cars. Amazing! See you there!

By Justin Hyde | Motoramic – Tue, Jun 25, 2013

Lambrecht Chevrolet of Pierce, Neb., was like many Midwestern, small-town dealers — owned and operated by a family, with minimal overhead and little need for advertising since most customers were neighbors. Ray and Mildred Lambrecht ran the dealership with just one employee for 50 years before closing up, and later this year the Lambrechts will sell off a trove of 500-odd vehicles they've held onto over the decades — including roughly 50 with less than 10 miles on their odometers. It's less a car sale than a time capsule auction.

While many of the cars in the Lambrecht collection were customer trade-ins that were left outside to rot, the Lambrechts would occasionally take something they couldn't sell and just put it in storage. City folk might find it unthinkable to leave so many vehicles lying around for so many years, but there's always more space in rural Nebraska, and the annual costs fall to zero quickly. I wouldn't call it hoarding, but I know many people who gather old metal like this do form an attachment to their kingdom of rust; every ride has a story, even when there's weeds growing around it. Jeannie Lambrecht Stillwell, the Lambrecht's daughter, says the decision to sell wasn't an easy one for her parents, and that the cars "comprise a lifetime of hard work, tears, and joy."

Fortunately for collectors, the Lambrechts preservation-through-neglect has created the type of barn finds that many search years to discover. Among the dozen low-miles pickups sits a 1956 Chevrolet Cameo pickup with an odometer reading of just over one mile, and a 1964 Chevy Impala with six miles that still has its original window sticker and the plastic sheeting that covered its red leather seats. Although even ardent Corvette fans look askance at the late '70s models, the '78 version here with five miles has an appeal that's grown over time.

The rest of the 500-car list reads like an inventory of popular models from the '50s and '60s — Bel Airs, Corvairs and even a couple of Vegas — which the VanDerBrink Auction company is still documenting ahead of the sale in Pierce on Sept. 28-29, along with dozens of pieces of memorabilia, hubcaps and even a Corvette pedal car.

Bombshell Study Finds Drinking Water Near Fracking Wells Contaminated With Methane

By Matt Kasper, Jun 26, 2013

Ray Kemble pumps water from a truck into his neighbor's tank in Dimock, Pa. (Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Wells used for drinking water near the Marcellus Shale in northeast Pennsylvania have methane concentrations six times higher than wells farther away. That is the finding of a Duke University study published on June 24th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers analyzed 141 drinking water wells (combining data from a previous study of 60 sampled wells in 2011) from the Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven aquifers and a few drinking water wells from the Genesee Formation in Otsego County of New York. Methane was detected in 82 percent of drinking water samples for homes within a kilometer (0.62 miles or 1,093 yards) of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells.

Robert Jackson from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment wrote the report and confirmed that, “the methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water.”

The natural gas boom is happening all across the country. Gas constitutes about 25 percent of total energy consumption. Pennsylvania saw natural gas production increase by 69 percent in 2012.

But this boom has also created many issues: earthquakes, water contamination and scarcity, and leakage. 65 percent of Americans already say more regulations of fracking are needed, despite only a few studies having been conducted on the topic of possible water contamination. This makes the recent Duke study a significant contribution to the ongoing fracking debate.

The study states “the two simplest explanations” for the contamination in drinking water are faulty or inadequate steel casings and imperfections in cement sealings.

Natural gas companies will hopefully work to develop ways to fix the problem of well integrity, but the Duke study shows just how much additional research and investigation into the fracking process is needed, especially by the federal government.

Unfortunately the EPA has decided to drop their investigation of probable water contamination due to fracking in Pavilion, Wyoming. Instead, the agency will support the state’s own investigation into water quality in the area even though EPA originally concluded that “the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing.” Wyoming’s version of the report is set to be released by September 30, 2014.

Even worse, the Bureau of Land Management’s draft rules released in May fail to protect people from harm and instead protect the oil and gas industry from having to follow strong environmental standards. DeSmogBlog also notes that BLM adopted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil.

Even if the engineering problems were fixed, fracking will still allow greenhouse gases to pump into our atmosphere, which is bad for public health and drives global warming.

Published on Jun 26, 2013

Wells used for drinking water near the Marcellus Shale in northeast Pennsylvania have methane concentrations six times higher than wells farther away. That is the finding of a Duke University study published on June 24th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Article source http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013...

Video footage from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwT_H...

Uranium in Groundwater? 'Fracking' Mobilizes Uranium in Marcellus Shale

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Bombshell Study Finds Drinking Water Near Fracking Wells Contaminated With Methane - YouTube

Jun 24, 2013

Floyd Abrams, "Friends of the Court: On The Front Lines with the First Amendment" | Talks at Google - YouTube

Published on Jun 24, 2013

Since 1971, when the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times and furious debate over First Amendment rights ensued, free-speech cases have emerged in rapid succession. Floyd Abrams has been on the front lines of nearly every one of these major cases, which is also to say that, more than any other person, he has forged this country's legal understanding of free speech. Litigating everything from national-security and prior-restraint issues to controversies concerning the law of libel and attempts by local officials to censor art, Abrams has worked devotedly to protect the First Amendment, the "crown jewel" of America's Constitution.

This collection of Abrams's writings gathers speeches, articles, debates, briefs, oral arguments, and testimony from his entire career. The writings illuminate topics of ongoing import: WikiLeaks, the correctness of the Citizens United case, journalist shield laws, and, not least, the responsibilities of the press. An exceptional writer and a brilliant thinker, Abrams offers a unique perspective on the First Amendment and the unparalleled rights it confers.
Floyd Abrams, "Friends of the Court: On The Front Lines with the First Amendment" | Talks at Google

Experts: More grasslands, wetlands needed to help reduce flooding | The Des Moines Register | desmoinesregister.com

Written by
Perry Beema

State has 'long way to go' on flood prevention, mitigation
Politics dampen flood projects
State has some successes in flood-mitigation efforts

Iowans can’t control the weather, but they could do a lot more to limit how much rainfall runs off into the state’s rivers and streams and heightens flood risks, experts say.

Changes in climate and landscape — including more pavement, row crops and fewer water-absorbing acres of prairie grasses and wetlands — mean more rain and snowmelt are entering Iowa’s waters. That makes conditions ripe for severe floods like those of 2008 and 1993.

Following two devastating floods in the past 20 years, environmentalists and scientists say Iowa needs to act to address what they call the root causes of severe and frequent flooding, including tackling climate change and expanding grasslands and wetlands to absorb rain where it falls.

But state leaders have largely ignored such recommendations. The Des Moines Register’s review of conservation, stream flow and rainfall data suggests that, if anything, the problem is worse now than five years ago.

There have been some notable exceptions.

The Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Iowa’s Louisa County was expanded when the federal government purchased often-flooded acres along the Mississippi River after the 1993 flood.

And U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said recently that overall enrollment in all of the nation’s conservation programs is at a record high.

But participation in the hallmark conservation effort most affecting the Midwest — the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to keep some land in native grasses and out of crop production — has dropped sharply as corn prices rose. And the program faces funding cuts.

In 1993, Iowa had 2.2 million acres in the CRP. That year turned out to be the program’s peak. By 2008, acreage had dipped to 1.8 million. This spring, it stood at just 1.5 million.

“Sadly, it looks as if things are going in the wrong direction right now,” said Craig Cox, the Environmental Working Group’s Iowa-based senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Landowners can’t do much about how hard it rains, but they can do a lot to keep that water from rushing into streams and triggering flooding downstream,” he said. “Conventional conservation practices like no-till, grass buffers and wetlands can keep water on the land just a bit longer — cutting a few inches off a flood peak can keep a damaging flood from becoming a devastating flood.”

Data suggest the threat of flooding will only grow in coming decades.

An ISU study has found that despite some annual fluctuation, rainfall in Iowa has increased steadily over the past century.

Iowa State University scientist Eugene Takle and colleagues predict a 50 percent increase in Iowa’s stream flows by the 2040s as rainfall increases because of climate change.

Jan Glendening, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said her organization is restoring 2,300 acres near the Cedar River north of Columbus Junction as a demonstration project.

Iowa must do more of that if it hopes to keep water from rushing full force into swelling rivers, she said.

“Floods are among the most expensive natural disasters, resulting in billions of dollars of damages in the United States every year,” she said. “We need to stop repeating the mistakes of the past and make a conscious effort to invest in our future.”

Latest Recipes Tried and Liked...!!! Easy Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

See how to make a top-rated apple pie. This interesting twist on the classic treat can be served warm with ice cream or Cheddar cheese, or cooled with whipped cream. Make the easy, impressive latticework crust just before baking, and see how it helps make an unusual, flavorful version of everyone's favorite dessert.

Get the recipe for Apple Pie by Grandma Ople @http://allrecipes.com/recipe/apple-pi...

We just made this... Loved it... over 5000 positive ratings... Monte
How to Make Easy Apple Pie - YouTube

Latest Recipes Tried and Liked...!!! Red Skinned Potato Salad

Get the recipe @ http://allrecipes.com/recipe/red-skin...
Here's a potato salad for the bacon lovers! You'll get bits of bacon in every bite. In this video, you'll see how red potatoes give a wonderfully firm texture to this creamy potato salad. Serve this potato salad nicely chilled as a side at summer picnics, barbeques, and family dinners. 

We just made this...  Loved it... over 1100 positive ratings...   Monte

How to Make Red Skinned Potato Salad

Jun 23, 2013

A Conversation with Richard Dawkins and John Huddleston (College of Charleston) - YouTube

Published on Jun 22, 2013

Recorded at College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina on March 9, 2013. Camera operators: Nick Corbett, Brooks Quinn and Joe Schmidt. Engineer in Charge/Audio: J.J. Corbett. Technical Assist: Shonn Dies. Editing: J. D. Mack.
A Conversation with Richard Dawkins and John Huddleston (College of Charleston) - YouTube

Market to Market (June 21, 2013) - YouTube

Published on Jun 21, 2013

After lengthy debate, House lawmakers reject their version of the Farm Bill. Federal authorities crack down on employers of undocumented workers. And the president proposes a massive trade deal with the European Union. Market analysis with Mark Gold.

View more video from Iowa Public Television at our website:http://www.iptv.org/
Market to Market (June 21, 2013) - YouTube