Author Archives: Betty Miller

Memo: Justice Department Won’t Meddle With States That Legalize Marijuana

Mother Jones

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Mary Jane made a new friend today: an old bearded hippie named Uncle Sam.

In a memo released this afternoon, the Department of Justice signaled that it will not meddle with state efforts to legalize and regulate the consumption and sale of pot. “Basically what it says is that the federal government is waving a white flag,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Today’s announcement is a major historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition.”

The federal government typically hasn’t prosecuted individual pot smokers, but the memo breaks new ground by applying a similarly permissive approach to marijuana dispensaries, which have often been the targets of federal raids. Under the new policy, the DOJ will leave recreational and medical pot dispensaries alone in states that it believes are regulating them adequately.

Prosecutors “should continue to review marijuana cases on a case-by-case basis,” the memo says, “and weigh all available information and evidence, including, but not limited to, whether the operation is demonstrably in compliance with a strong and effective state regulatory system.”

The DOJ signaled that it will allow Colorado and Washington to proceed with legalizing and regulating the sale and recreational consumption of marijuana so long as they can prevent:

Cannabis from being sold to minors
Pot revenue from going to criminal enterprises
Legally purchased marijuana from being diverted to states where it’s illegal
State-authorized pot businesses from being used as legal cover for drug trafficking
Violence related to drug cultivation
Stoned driving
The cultivation of marijuana on public lands
Marijuana possession on federal property

“Those are all reasons we’ve cited for why we should tax and regulate marijuana,” the MPP’s Riffle points out.

But other pro-marijuana activists are concerned that the memo gives federal prosecutors too much leeway. In particular, it’s not clear whether the feds will stop prosecuting pot dispensaries in California. Unlike Colorado and Washington, California provides little state-level oversight of its medical pot industry, relying instead on a patchwork of local laws.

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Memo: Justice Department Won’t Meddle With States That Legalize Marijuana

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How To Assess The Field Of Choices In Hiring Your Solar Panel Contractor

In the case that your home or your business suffers damage during a natural disaster or some other occurrence, you need to find someone who can assess the damage and perform repairs fast. Or maybe you’re finally going ahead with a renovation you’ve planned for years. Either way, following our helpful guidelines can help you find the right solar panel installation contractor to get the job done to your satisfaction.

Deal fairly with your solar panel installation contractor; he/she will of course want to earn profit out of the project. Try keeping yourself in contractor’s shoes and encourage win-win situation.

Verify that the contract you sign includes a clause that financially penalizes a solar panel installation contractor for missing deadlines or getting off schedule. Be specific about the amounts, and if necessary, assign different penalty amounts for greater delays. But don’t be too harsh about it! Errors happen, delays happen through no fault of the contractor’s, and a contractor will be reluctant to work for you if they think they’re going to lose the shirt off their back for making a simple time-management mistake.

Together with the pricing, verify you get a stage-wise delivery plan in writing too. Once it is in black and white, it becomes difficult for the solar panel installation contractor to deviate away from it. If the contractor refuses to give a delivery schedule, it should warning bells and you might be better off by not hiring him.

Unless you are fully satisfied with the kind of work the solar panel installation contractor has done in your project do not sign an affidavit of final release of payment. This is very crucial for if you fail, chances of a lien being placed on your property are very high and it is very likely that you will pay an extra amount than whatever you anticipated.

In many states a solar panel installation contractor is usually required to offer up a limited time warranty on their work. If you’ve come across a contractor charging extra for the warranty then they might be running a scam. Check your state’s laws before agreeing to the extra charge.

Making a large up-front payment can make it difficult to fire a solar panel installation contractor should the need arise. This is why you should not pay a large deposit beforehand.

There are many aspects that go into most projects that require a solar panel installation contractor’s license to oversee. Understand that the contractor you choose will have a big job on their hands and may not have the time to chat with you for long periods of time if you show up on the job site.

You will find some solar panel installation contractors advertising with ‘bonded and insured’ terms. These are contractors who purchase bonds in order to protect their clients from failure to complete the tasks they were hired to. In deed, these types of contractors are the better choice and guarantee satisfaction of you as their client.

Searching for ways to gain your knowledge related to the information presented above? Just type in solar heating solutions when searching online. You can discover some fantastic helpful tips about solar options.

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Democratic Super-PAC Turns Up the Heat on Immigration Reform

Mother Jones

There’s no endgame yet for comprehensive immigration reform, but the lopsided reform ad wars, which are largely focused now on targeting House Republicans in Latino-heavy districts with Spanish-language TV and radio ads, may become central to securing a path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The House Majority PAC, a Democratic super-PAC, continued the ad wars on Thursday with a two-week, $175,000 ad buy targeting three lawmakers who have already faced considerable pressure from pro-reform groups. The Spanish-language TV ads take aim at…

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.): In 2009, Coffman took over the Colorado district formerly represented by Rep. Tom Tancredo, an anti-immigrant hardliner who once called the National Council of La Raza, a pro-reform group, a “Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.” Coffman has his own history that includes warning that President Obama would try to steal the 2012 election by giving amnesty to undocumented immigrants and supporting Arizona’s Draconian immigration laws that the Supreme Court partially struck down last year. But after a 2011 redistricting, Coffman’s Latino constituency doubled, and this February he said he supported legal status for undocumented immigrants and a path to citizenship for those brought into the country as minors.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.): Heck is one of just 15 House Republicans representing a district won by Obama in 2012. His district includes sizable Latino and Asian-American populations that have hammered him on immigration reform, but Heck also faces heavy pressure from the local Republicans opposed to reform who voted him into office. He’s tried to appease both groups, expressing openness to a path to citizenship while voting last month for Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment to deport undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children (Coffman also voted in favor). Recently, Heck’s kept a low profile—the National Journal explained how he uses his Army training to navigate the Capitol’s basement tunnels without being detected by reformers.

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.): Miller represents a district that houses the Inland Empire, a metropolitan area east of Los Angeles that’s more than 40 percent Latino. During his eight terms in the House, he’s suggested deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, whom he’s frequently referred to as “illegals,” and opposed birthright citizenship. Like Coffman, Miller was recently redistricted and now represents many more immigrants, and there are signs he may also be softening his views. He recently purged several anti-immigration videos from his YouTube page, and his office is hedging on where he stands on reform. But Miller, too, voted for King’s deportation amendment last month.

“House Republicans are working on a step-by-step, common-sense approach to fix what has long been a broken system, and these three members in particular are working hard in their districts to listen to the voices of their constituents, especially within the Hispanic community,” Daniel Scarpinato, a National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman, told Politico in response to the ads. “Unfortunately, Democrats ignored the immigration issue when they controlled the House, and Republicans are cleaning up their mess.” Many Republican operatives see immigration reform as vital to the continued relevance of their party, but top Democrats—including President Obama—have made clear that anything less than a bill with a path to citizenship, which House GOP leadership has yet to embrace, is a non-starter.


Democratic Super-PAC Turns Up the Heat on Immigration Reform

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It’s Not Just Kevin Who Rarely Gets "Très Bien"

Mother Jones

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Erik Voeten caught my eye today with a blog post titled “Kevin Rarely Gets ‘Très Bien.'” Well. Apparently students named Kevin are among the worst scorers on the baccalaureat, an exam French students take at the end of high school to qualify for university studies. Voeten uses this to make a point about the naming preferences of various social classes, but something else about the scatterplot below attracted my attention:

The names to the right of the red line are the highest scorers. Notice anything that’s almost entirely missing?

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It’s Not Just Kevin Who Rarely Gets "Très Bien"

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Finding A Great Solar Panel Contractor Can Be Learned The Easy Way

Sure, you can have the solar panel company truck with the fancy signage on the side and box of tools parked in the back and claim to be a solar panel installation contractor. But that doesn’t mean you’re competent, nor does it mean you’re up to the job. Rather than just believing what everyone tells you about what they offer, follow our tips and take the time to find someone who really can promise quality work at the right price.

If you’ve got unique expectations, chances are you will need to drop in every now and then on the work site. Every visit be sure to check if your solar panel installation contractor and crew are acting professional and getting work done. Look out for any trouble and safety hazards you might see, they could cause big problems in the future.

You can sometimes get a discount on your project if you agree to let the solar panel installation contractor show off the work they perform to potential clients. If you agree to this, remember that strangers may stop by in order to inspect the work before hiring the contractor for their project.

Pay unexpected visits to the work site to make sure that workers and crew be persistent in their work. If they would be professional and courteous, it won’t affect them much in fact they would like to discuss things with you.

Once you decide to hire a solar panel installation contractor, use sound practices when it comes to paying him. A deposit may be required for the contractor to get started, but negotiate with him to make this upfront payment as small as possible.

You do not need to pay extra tax for solar panel installation contractors whom you hire. They will pay taxes and you will need to supply them with a 1099 tax form to show the income earned from completing your project.

Insist that all the agreed costs, both for labor, material expenses and other miscellaneous expenses are stated and signed in an agreement. To determine the legitimacy of the solar panel installation contractor, contact his references and let them state whether if they had another chance they would consider hiring this contractor or not. As per to the priorities that the contractor will state, visit the site to ensure he lives up to your expectations.

Make sure all warranties as well as contact information for those covering the warranties are provided for any materials that fall into this category. This could include items such as refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, or other large appliances.

The local trade directories can be a fanatstic source of info on your potential employees. They usually perform background checks so only the reliable and reputable solar panel installation contractors get listed. They can aslo tell if a contractor has a bad record and past jobs.

If you are searching for more suggestions written by professionals, please go to your favorite browser and search for solar panels. You’ll discover some interesting solutions related to solar tucson.

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The Exciting Return of Zero-Based Tax Reform

Mother Jones

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This is from the Washington Post today in a story about congressional efforts to write a tax reform bill:

Aides in both parties acknowledged that a tax bill cannot pass unless President Obama and congressional Republicans resolve their long-standing dispute over the national debt. Obama wants a tax overhaul to generate additional revenue to rein in borrowing; Republicans say they will agree to fresh revenue only if Democrats agree to restrain spending on expensive health and retirement benefits.

Wait. What? Did I miss something? Which Republicans have said they’d agree to new revenue if Democrats rein in entitlement spending? I can think of two or three who have kinda sorta said this was a possibility, but it’s the same two or three who have been saying this for a long time. For the party as a whole, this is still a complete nonstarter. No new revenues, no how, no way.

Right? Does anyone know where this came from?

Anyway, moving on, the gist of the story is something we started to hear about a few days ago: Max Baucus’s plan to do tax reform starting with a “blank slate.” That is, wipe out every tax credit, deduction, subsidy, or tax expenditure, and only include it in the final bill if someone can justify it:

The Senate’s chief tax writers plan to scrap the entire code and start from scratch in their push for tax reform, and on Thursday they gave lawmakers a month to make a case for preserving some of the $1.3 trillion in breaks on the books.

….“We plan to operate from an assumption that all special provisions are out unless there is clear evidence that they: (1) help grow the economy, (2) make the tax code fairer, or (3) effectively promote other important policy objectives.”

I guess this sounds bold and innovative—it got top billing from the Post, anyway—but color me unimpressed. It’s possible that this approach will end up eliminating some of the hundreds of small tax loopholes out there, but the top twenty account for something like 80 or 90 percent of the revenue, and no one will have the slightest trouble justifying those. What really matters isn’t forcing a few lobbyists to write term papers, it’s whether Congress has the political will to stand up to them. So far, I’ve seen zero evidence of that.

Nor have I seen any evidence that the Republican Party will accede to any significant new revenues—and by this I mean actual revenue, not sham revenue based on dynamic scoring fairy tales. Hope springs eternal, I suppose, but the stars sure don’t seem aligned for any real progress on this issue. Is there anyone out there who wants to try to persuade me I’m wrong?

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The Exciting Return of Zero-Based Tax Reform

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America’s Place in the World is Basically Just Fine, Thanks Very Much for Asking

Mother Jones

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Dan Drezner suggests that America’s foreign policy community needs to take a very deep breath:

I suggest a community-wide vacation because, right now, a lot of them are writing a lot of nonsense. The combination of perceived U.S. inaction on Syria and Snowden is leading to a lot of silly talk about how Russia is back and China is back and the U.S. can’t do anything anymore and everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

I don’t mean to go on a rant here, but this is just so much bulls**t.

OK, it’s not all that. Advocates of humanitarian intervention are justifiably upset about inaction on Syria — and they should be even more upset if the administration is actually doing what I think they’re doing in Syria.

That said, there’s not much that’s new in these laments. China and Russia are opposing U.S. interests? Well, blow me down!! I haven’t seen that kind of activity since… since… every year for the last decade. There’s nothing new here.

This is truth. The Middle East has been a festering trouble spot for, oh, about the last five or six decades. Our relations with China and Russia have been tetchy (or worse) for about as long, and are likely to continue that way pretty much forever. Hell, our relations with France are kinda tetchy sometimes. As for all the Snowden hysteria, President Obama has roughly the right attitude: “No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

Our current problems are, in historical context, fairly modest, and America’s place in the world is basically fine. Relatively speaking, it’s almost certain to improve in the medium-term future, not decline. And Obama’s foreign policy, though it’s had the usual share of missteps, has been pretty solid. Dan is right: we need to chill, people.

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America’s Place in the World is Basically Just Fine, Thanks Very Much for Asking

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Study links fracking to drinking water pollution

Study links fracking to drinking water pollution

While the EPA has been dumping and delaying studies of fracking’s effects on drinking water, new academic research reveals that people who live near natural gas wells in Pennsylvania are drinking the same gases that the frackers are pumping out from the shale beneath their feet.

Researchers from Duke University, the University of Rochester, and California State Polytechnic University found dissolved methane, which is the main ingredient in natural gas, in water pumped from 82 percent of drinking water wells sampled in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Methane can occur naturally in the area (that’s what draws frackers there). But the researchers’ study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that levels of the gas were far higher in drinking water wells located close to fracking operations than in other areas.

Here’s a bullet-pointed summary of major findings, for any higher-ups at the EPA who might still care about what fracking is doing to the nation’s water supplies:

Methane concentrations in drinking water were six times higher in wells less than 1,100 yards from a natural gas well than were average concentrations in wells located farther away.
Ethane concentrations were 23 times higher in water pumped less than 1,100 yards from a natural gas well than from other water wells.
Propane was found in 10 water wells located less than 1,100 yards from a natural gas well, but not in any of the wells located farther away.

From the AP:

The contamination from drilling is “not an epidemic. It’s a minority of cases,” said Rob Jackson, a Duke University researcher and co-author of the study released Monday. But he added that the team found serious contamination from bubbly methane is “much more” prevalent in some water wells within one kilometer of gas drilling sites.

Methane is an odorless gas that is not known to be toxic, but in high concentrations it can be explosive and deadly.

Why is so much gas ending up in residents’ water? The researchers have some theories, and they all relate to sloppy safety practices on the part of the fracking industry. From the paper:

The two simplest explanations for the higher dissolved gas concentrations that we observed in drinking water are (i) faulty or inadequate steel casings, which are designed to keep the gas and any water inside the well from leaking into the environment, and (ii) imperfections in the cement sealing of the annulus or gaps between casings and rock that keep fluids from moving up the outside of the well.

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued 90 violations for faulty casing and cementing on 64 Marcellus shale gas wells; 119 similar violations were issued in 2011.

Remind us again, EPA, why studying this is not more of a priority?

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Study links fracking to drinking water pollution

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The Trough and Crest of Rogue Wave

Mother Jones

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Rogue Wave frontman Zach Rogue (a.k.a. Zach Schwartz) is feeling optimistic about the summer to come. Well, relatively so: “I feel like the forces of nature have tried to kill this band,” he tells me, “but they haven’t succeeded yet.”

He’s referring to the seemingly neverending series of tragedies that has plagued Rogue Wave over the years. Drummer Pat Spurgeon nearly died of kidney failure during the band’s 2006 tour—which became the subject of the PBS documentary D Tour—and the band’s former bassist was killed in a house fire in 2008. Most recently, Zach’s father passed away.

And the band played on. Rogue Wave’s fifth album, Nightingale Floors, which comes out this week, packs more of the rattling, inertia-filled pop songs that characterized the band’s early work; the sorts of songs we heard in abundance on late-2000’s episodes of The O.C., One Tree Hill, and Friday Night Lights. But the music stands out, thanks in no small part to Rogue Wave’s mission: to produce straightforward yet memorable songs that they would want to listen to, songs lacking pretension but not emotion, and using what Rogue calls an “inclusive” approach to songwriting.

Hours before the Rogue Wave’s recent 1 a.m. performance for a packed house at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill—their first official concert in two years—I sat down with Rogue and Spurgeon on the venue’s outdoor patio. Zach lamented the passing of the in-house cat, while Pat grabbed a pint and pulled up his jacket to proudly show off his perfectly worn-in Oakland A’s t-shirt. They were positively giddy for their comeback and eager to talk about their change in direction since their last album, 2010’s Permalight.

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The Trough and Crest of Rogue Wave

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If You Want The Best Solar Panel Contractor Try These Steps!

No matter how hard we try, we cannot find time for all our plans. New goals get lost in the frenzy of the work week, and when you finally make it home, you may lack the energy to start something important. One solution is to hire a professional. Explore the following tips on how to track down the best option.

To avert issues of complications arising when the job being done is small, it is advisable to put everything in writing such that the agreement is signed by both of you. This ensures that the solar panel installation contractor does not take advantage of the situation and does their job diligently and with utmost professionalism.

It is important to get to know your solar panel installation contractor before hiring them for your project. They will be in charge of running your project smoothly and you will want to ensure that they have the proper licenses and will be able to perform a proper job on your project.

Every solar panel installation contractor is different – and the fees that they charge are no exception. But every contractor should be able to give you a detailed estimate of their fees and the total cost of the project prior to getting started. If any changes to the project’s costs come up while the contractor is working, be sure to discuss it in detail with them. Don’t be afraid to be assertive and ask questions – it’s your money!

When firing a solar panel installation contractor, you have to take care not to get yourself into legal trouble. Whether you have a legitimate reason or not, and you should only fire a contractor for legitimate reasons, there are procedures in place to do so properly. You should seek competent legal counsel to help you determine the best way to proceed.

If you use a local bank or credit union, consider asking a banker about solar panel installation contractors that they work with on a regular basis. A contractor who has a good relationship with a bank is often a reputable contractor, because lenders don’t just provide services to them – they also provide services to clients, so it’s in their best interest to work with reliable people on all sides.

Contact each of a potential solar panel installation contractor’s references. Get honest reviews of the contractor and use to help you make your decision on this particular contractor. References will usually always tell you what type of experience they’ve had with the contractor.

Cash is never a good payment method to a solar panel installation contractor. It is unnecessary and usually tells you something bad about the contractor. A contractor should have no problem with taking a check for payment, because banks are so abundant. If a contractor tries to pressure you into paying cash up front, don’t hire him.

Be sure the solar panel installation contractor is aware if you are planning on supplying items for the project yourself such as appliances, this will ensure the contractor provides an accurate bid and that they are comfortable installing items that may be covered by warranty.

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