by Steve Horn

Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State and Secretary John Kerry over the permitting of a controversial border-crossing northern leg of a pipeline system that DeSmogBlog has called Enbridge‘s “Keystone XL Clone.”

The Keystone XL Clone is designed to accomplish the same goal as TransCanada‘s Keystone XL: bringing Alberta’s tar sands to Gulf coast refineries and export market. It consists of three legs: the Alberta Clipper expansion as the northern leg, the Flanagan South middle leg and the Seaway Twin southern leg.

Green groups have called the northern leg an “illegal scheme”because the Enbridge Alberta Clipper expansion proposal didn’t go through the normal State Department approval process. Instead, State allowed Enbridge to add pressure pumps to two separate-but-connected pipelines on each side of the border and send Alberta’s diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) to market.

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by Dave Jamieson

WASHINGTON — With the U.S. Postal Service planning to shut down 82 more plants starting in January, postal worker unions and allies in Congress are pushing for a late-game moratorium on closures they say will weaken the agency and further slow down the mail.

The scheduled shutdowns are part of a consolidation plan the agency put in place in 2011 to help staunch its red ink, much of it the result of pre-funding mandates instituted by Congress. The closures go hand-in-hand with the postal service’s plan to save money by reducing the service standards for certain mail categories, a strategy that’s divided stakeholders in the postal reform debate.

According to the postal service, the plant consolidations would most affect first-class mail. Personal letters, bills and greeting cards that normally reach their destination overnight would take two days after the closures. Priority mail and packages won’t be impacted, the agency said.

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We can get a national holiday for voting, as Bernie Sanders has now proposed.  We can start with just that first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  But it should include the whole four-day weekend.

We can get universal automatic voter registration, universal hand-counted paper ballots and abolition of the Electoral College.

It’s a simple program.  How do we win it?  Well, THAT’s the $64 trillion question.  But we have to find a way or we have nothing even vaguely resembling a democracy.

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by Richard Parker

How dark money and voter disenfranchisement combined in a toxic brew that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in more than 70 years, hampering whatever chance Democrats had to win.

Last Tuesday’s election was, by any measure, a sweeping victory for the Republicans—their second consecutive midterm sweep since Barack Obama took office, by which they’ve now picked up a total 77 seats combined in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House they’ve not had a majority this size since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House—and they control more statehouses now than at any time in the nation’s history. But what does that mean—or more importantly, what does it portend, for Gridlock Nation?

Predictably, Republicans are claiming a mandate, while not a small number of commentators are noisily calling the results a “stunning rebuke” to the president and the Democrats. Yet given the size of their losses, Democrats from the Oval Office on down have remained surprisingly calm—even alarmingly detached, some might say. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, at the moment, look set to retain their leadership posts, and the president so far is talking tough on his plans to use executive powers to govern in his last two years. Meanwhile, they’re all staying brave, it seems, by telling themselves (and anyone who’ll listen) two heartening but simple stories, one backward-looking, the other predictive.

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by Jonathan Zimmerman

A hundred years ago, men who made lewd comments to female passersby were known as “mashers.” In 1913, an Omaha judge drew up a “Masher’s Schedule” of fines against them. The penalty for calling a woman “chicken” was $5; “honey-bunch,” $10; “turtle-dove,” $15; and “baby doll,” $20.
I didn’t hear any of these terms in the viral catcalling video posted by the anti-harassment group Hollaback!, in which actress Shoshana Roberts is accosted by over 100 men during a 10-hour walk through Manhattan. But I also haven’t heard anyone suggest that her tormentors should have been reported to the police, or penalized by the courts.
And that tells you something important about our current moment. On the one hand, we’re shocked — shocked! — by the harassment on the video, which has been viewed by over 30 million people. But we don’t have the legal guts to stop it.
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by Greg Grandin

After the death a few weeks ago of the legendary editor of The Washington Post Ben Bradlee, most obituaries celebrated his willingness to go after Richard Nixon. Charles Pierce at Esquire writes that Bradlee “rode the Watergate story when nobody else wanted it. It’s hard now even to imagine how very far out on the limb Bradlee went on that story.” But Pierce is largely alone in also noting that the Post under Bradlee “ultimately took a dive on Iran-Contra.” Bradlee himself described what he called a “return to deference” on the part of the press corps that took place under Ronald Reagan, saying that his colleagues were responding to a perceived public fatigue with journalists “trying to make a Watergate out of everything.” “We did ease off,” he said.

The Post did more than “ease off.” After Bradlee’s retirement, it went on the offensive, especially in its discrediting of Gary Webb’s reporting, for supposedly overstating the case that the CIA knowingly helped flood Central Los Angeles with cocaine, as part of its illegal support of the anti-Sandinista Contras. And it hasn’t let up. In response to Kill the Messenger, the movie based on Webb’s life and work, the Post published yet another deceptive.

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Exclusive: On Oct. 30, ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern was arrested for trying to attend a public speech by retired Gen. David Petraeus. McGovern had hoped to ask Petraeus a critical question during Q-and-A but was instead trundled off to jail, another sign of a growing hostility toward dissent, McGovern says.

By Ray McGovern

Why, I asked myself, would the New York City police arrest me and put me in The Tombs overnight, simply because a security officer at the 92nd Street Y told them I was “not welcome” and should be denied entry to a talk by retired General David Petraeus? In my hand was a ticket for which I had reluctantly shelled out $50.

I had hoped to hear the photogenic but inept Petraeus explain why the Iraqi troops, which he claimed to have trained so well, had fled northern Iraq leaving their weapons behind at the first whiff of Islamic State militants earlier this year. I even harbored some slight hope that the advertised Q & A might afford hoi polloi like me the chance to ask him a real question.

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by WaltSorg

Ask any football or basketball coach. It’s a lot easier to win if you can write your own rules. Today the shrinking base of the Republican Party holds onto power by writing rules giving it a built-in advantage in elections. And it works.
Michigan Democrats received more votes for Congress and more votes for the state House of Representatives than Republicans. But Republicans, thanks to the aftermath of 2010, changed the rules sufficiently so that they maintained their stranglehold on Michigan government.
The minority party is running the show, and Democrats can’t do much about it. Even a petition drive is fraught with challenges, because Republicans in the Legislature have become masters at gaming the system to prevent citizens from forcing a referendum.

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by Joanna S. Kao

Election turnout is often cited as an indicator of the strength of the mandate of winning candidates, but it can be a misleading statistic: Turnout is usually measured as a proportion of registered voters rather than of those eligible to vote — and census numbers show that more than 70 million U.S. citizens of voting age are not registered voters.

Al Jazeera kept a close watch on voter turnout Tuesday, mindful of the possible impact of new voter ID laws in more than 30 states that critics feared would discourage or prevent voting by poorer Americans.

Turnout proved to be lower than previous years in all but 10 states, but the reasons for that decline are many: Some states lacked competitive races to draw voters to the polls; others cut polling hours or reduced early voting periods. And, in some states, new voter ID laws could have kept some voters away. Public opinion polls such as the one released by Gallup earlier this week suggested that fewer Americans cared about this election than in previous years.

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by Allison Jackson

“There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won.”

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett made that remark more than three years ago and it still holds true today — only the gap between the richest and the poorest has gotten even wider.

Here’s how bad it is: Oxfam now calculates that the 85 richest billionaires on the planet, including the likes of Carlos Slim, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, have as much money as the 3.5 billion poorest people.

And for all the talk about the urgent need to address income inequality, the mega-rich just keep on getting richer.

How much richer?

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