Archives for the month of: February, 2012

Here is the Jewett Town Board’s resolution against using “fracking” brine on local roads:

The Jewett Resolution

The Town Board’s response was made in part because of a post on this site in January, and it’s an important step forward in the fight against environmental damage caused by fracking.

Justice Phillip R. Rumsey of New York’s State Supreme Court said last week that New York municipalities could use their zoning laws to ban oil and natural gas drilling. The ruling was a major setback for the Anschutz Exploration Corporation, which had sued the New York town of Dryden over its use of zoning laws to ban hydrofracking within town borders.

Although pro-fracking forces will continue to fight on, and spend a lot of money doing so, the judge’s ruling was a major victory for the anti-fracking movement. As the New York Times reported, “Officials of natural gas companies voiced concern that such local restrictions could render more areas of the Marcellus Shale off-limits to drillers in a state that is already proposing strict regulation of where the industry will be allowed to operate.”

Let’s hope more New York state towns follow Dryden’s lead. This is excellent news.

At a House Oversight Committee hearing, House Republicans convened a panel on denying access to birth control coverage with five men and no women. As Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney asked, where are the women?

The Republicans have now introduced a bill, apparently supported by Chris Gibson, that would give any and all insurance companies and employers the right to deny birth control coverage for all women for any reason—all they have to do is say they have some moral or ideological objection to providing such coverage—there doesn’t even have to be a religious basis for this.

The water we drink today is the water that the dinosaurs drank!

Our fresh water is not a renewable resource. Once it is contaminated, it is gone forever! The chemicals used in fracking are not biodegradable and contamination is irreversible. Contaminated water can flow for miles underground within the water table and ruin our Greene County streams and wells, even coming from adjacent counties and states.

Fracking in the US and Europe will mean the loss of huge quantities of our finite fresh water supply. Such water is already scarce in many places, leading to social and economic conflicts. Greene County is flush with fresh water that will become a valuable resource/commodity. Let us keep our Greene County water pure by opposing fracking anywhere in New York State and beyond.

President Obama unveiled his 2012 budget proposal yesterday, which was predictably met with howls of derision and protest from the Republican side. In the course of their objections, Republicans used a variety of phrases which appear quite frequently in their rhetoric. As a public service, BlueInGreene will regularly highlight and clarify these phrases throughout the current election season. If you’d like a quick overview, here’s a Republican glossary that’s more than 10 years old but still largely relevant today.

GOP candidate Rick Santorum noted that the President’s budget does not address entitlement reform.

– Entitlement: a government program, such as Social Security, into which most American workers pay throughout the course of their working lives.

– Entitlement reform: the sharp reduction or elimination of such entitlements.

Freshman Senator Mark Rubio (R-FL) said that anti-competitive tax increases will cause more economic uncertainty.

– Anti-competitive tax increases: corporate or personal tax increases which would move the U.S. closer to the mean income tax rate as a percentage of income of countries such as Germany (where the economy is actually doing very well).

– Economic uncertainty: the anxiety felt by the very rich over the possibility of anti-competitive tax increases.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL.) said that the Obama budget proposal would increase taxes on job creators.

– Job creators: the very rich. When the very rich do well, the good fortune “trickles down” to the rest of us in the form of menial, low-paying jobs. You can see this effect in action right here in Greene County, where our young people forgo the generosity of local job creators in favor of seeking opportunity elsewhere.

We’ll save the current definition of class warfare for another day.

This morning it was announced that the federal government and forty-nine state attorneys general (Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt wouldn’t sign on because he doesn’t think banks should see any penalty) reached a $26 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Ally Financial and Citigroup. The settlement could provide at least some relief to nearly two million current and former American homeowners. A federal judge must still sign off on the deal.

Under the plan, officials said, roughly $5 billion would be cash payments to states and federal authorities, $17 billion would be spent on homeowner relief, $3 billion would go for refinancing and a final $1 billion would be paid to the Federal Housing Administration. The intent of the settlement is both to stop the housing market’s downward slide and to hold the banks financially accountable for foreclosure abuses. Bank of America, the nation’s biggest mortgage servicer, would pay the most.

This will not be the end of the housing crisis. The settlement is not large enough, and frankly it lets the five participating banks off too lightly. More needs to be done to bring housing back and achieve a truly fair reckoning. Although $26 billion is a lot of money, it’s only a small fraction of the $700 billion in negative equity that exists in the housing market. It’s a start, but only a start.

Britain already has a tax on share trading. France has just proposed a new tax for every stock trade in their country, excepting bonds. It is time that the US set a miniscule tax on each Wall Street trade, raising tens of billion dollars annually with little impact on actual investment. Such a tax would reduce speculation and outrageous bankers’ bonuses. Only 1/20th of 1% on each Wall Street trade is proposed by the American Dream Movement. The resulting income could then be used toward Main Street job creation, i.e. benefiting the rest of us 99%.

In what has been described as a stunning departure from First Amendment policy, House Republicans directed Capitol Hill police to detain a highly regarded documentary crew that was attempting to film a Wednesday hearing on fracking. Josh Fox, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Gasland, was taken into custody by Capitol Hill police yesterday, along with his crew. Republicans had objected to their presence and ordered the arrest, according to Democratic sources present at the hearing.

The meeting of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment had been taking place in room 2318 of the Rayburn building.

Barring journalists is extremely rare on Capitol Hill. The rules requiring pre-approval for film crews are designed to prevent hearings from being disrupted by hordes of camera operators, but that was not the case for this hearing. Only two cameras requested entrance to the event, which was not crowded.

“It’s an outrageous violation of the First Amendment,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said. “Here we’ve got an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and it’s an important subject and the subject that he did his prior film on for HBO. And they put him in handcuffs and hauled him out of there. This is stunning.”

The hearing was already being filmed by C-SPAN. Josh Fox and crew had only sought to obtain higher-quality video by bringing their own cameras to the event. Fox has been charged with “unlawful entry” and his court date is set for February 15.

BlueInGreene staged a well-attended free screening of Gasland at the Catskill Mountain Foundation last November.

On Monday, we attended the 130th Birthday Party of FDR at Hyde Park. The park even welcomed Occupy New Paltz, who were encouraged to participate in the ceremony and have birthday cake. We were reminded of how differently FDR looked at the problems of his day:

“I see one third of a nation ill housed, ill clad, ill nourished…. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR’s Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937

We should remember his words, since the 33% has not changed.