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Tuesday, 13 October 2015 10:45

Another Tea Party Assault on Democracy


aaaCarlPopeTeaParty(Photo: EcoWatch)The House Freedom Caucus is correct in lamenting that the media have trivialized their true goals by focusing on the personality of the next Speaker of the House. They are wrong to believe that a focus on their deep agenda would help their cause—for that agenda is to restore minority, not democratic, control of the “People’s House.”

The Tea Party wing of the House Republican party is seeking changes in the rules and procedures, changes designed to strip the Speaker of the ability to assemble a majority within the House and enable that majority to govern. They cloak their demands in the language of bottom-up democracy—let members offer whatever amendments they desire, let committees choose their own chairs, deny the Speaker the ability manage the flow of legislation on the House floor.

But their complaints about John Boehner’s leadership give away the game. Boehner, they claim, has betrayed conservatism by seeking legislative outcomes like lifting the debt ceiling or funding highways. These bills transparently enjoyed not only the support of a majority of the House, but a support of a majority of the Republican caucus. But to the Freedom Caucus these are treasonous compromises.

What the Freedom Caucus seeks is not more democracy, but a House in which a minority – actually 10 percent—of the House can shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. government—unless in response to this blackmail wildly unpopular policies like defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Affordable Health Care are part of the package.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaAmFlag(Photo: John P. Salvatore)American 'exceptionalism' exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive. 

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees' Wages 

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees. 

Georgescu proclaimed: "This country has given me remarkable opportunities.." In return, he concludes, taxpayers should "provide tax incentives to business." 

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives 

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven't apologized for funding Saudi Arabia's attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, "I no longer love blue skies...The drones do not fly when the skies are gray." 

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that "If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future." But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold'sresearch has shown that "as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase." The military is encouraged to "drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths."

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaAR15MassShootings(Photo: TheAlphaWolf)Shortly after the mass murders at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore., President Obama predictedthe extreme right wing would crank out press releases declaring the nation needs fewer gun control laws and more guns.

The rabid pro-gun lobby didn’t disappoint him.

Shortly after the mass murders in a Charleston, S.C., church in June, NRA board member Charles Cotton, an attorney who fired his first shot when he was four years old, had claimedif the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator “had voted to allow gun owners to carry their own weapons [into churches], eight of his church members  . . . might be alive.” After the shootings in Oregon, Cotton saidhad the students been carrying guns, there would have been no mass murder. “How carefree do you have to be with all of the mass shootings that are going on throughout America to not have something as simple and convenient as a small knife when you go to class, let alone a gun with which to protect yourself?” Cotton asked.

The Republican presidential herd called for even more guns in a culture that has made Americans inured to violence. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, “Stuff happens.”

One absurdity of arming all of America is that there are no requirements that anyone with a gun needs to know how to use that gun. The possibility of any one person with a hand gun being able to react faster than the shooter, be more accurate than the shooter, or not accidentally wounding or killing others is high. Heavily armed police, better trained in weapons than most Americans, did not kill the shooter, who wore body armor; the shooter killed himself.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaGMopesticides(Photo: EcoWatch)As an Episcopal pastor, Dan Hinkle is a man of peace and faith, but the issue of genetically modified foods (GMOs) makes him angry.

“We don’t know the long-term effects of genetic engineering; this is a questionable process,” said Hinkle, who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “We have been force fed something we should not have been. People are being hurt by this technology. If GMOs are so safe and feed the world, why not tell us about it? These issues have gotten me fired up.”

Hinkle’s concern about GMOs led him to become a founding member of GMO Free Lancaster, a non-profit group that is working to ban GMOs and pesticides in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Zoe Swartz, a mother, started the group after the first March Against Monsanto in May 2013.

“There was no one involved in the march in Lancaster so we started organizing,” she said.

Hinkle calls GMO Free Lancaster a “classic American grassroots organization of concerned citizens.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 06:48

Jim Hightower | A Flagrant Liar for President?


aaaCarly(Photo: Gage Skidmore)We've got a new darling in the GOP presidential race: Carly Fiorina!

Being the darling du jour, however, can be dicey — just ask Rick Perry and Scott Walker, two former darlings who are now out of the race, having turned into ugly ducklings by saying stupid things. But Fiorina is smart, sharp-witted, and successful. We know this because she and her PR agents constantly tell us it's so. Be careful about believing anything she says, though, for Darling Fiorina is not only a relentless self-promoter, but also a remorseless liar.

Take her widely hailed performance in the second debate among Republican wannabes, where she touched many viewers with her impassioned and vivid attack on Planned Parenthood. With barely contained outrage, Fiorina described a video that, she said, shows the women's health organization in a depraved act of peddling body parts of an aborted fetus. "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking," said a stone-faced Fiorina, looking straight into the camera, "while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'"

Oh, the horror, the monstrosity of Planned Parenthood! And how moving it was to see and feel the fury of this candidate for president!

Only ... it's not true. Although she dared the audience, President Obama and Hillary Clinton to go watch it, turns out that there is no such video — no fetus with kicking legs and no demonic Planned Parenthood official luridly preparing to harvest a brain.

So did Fiorina make up this big, nasty lie herself, or did her PR team concoct it as a bit of showbiz drama to burnish her right-wing credentials and advance her political ambition? Or maybe she's just spreading a malicious lie she was told by some vicious haters of Planned Parenthood. Either way, there's nothing darling about it, much less presidential.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaMonsantoWheat(Photo: USDA)EcoWatch can exclusively confirm that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has ended its corporate partnership with Monsanto following the efforts of a group with surprising clout: Mom bloggers.

It appears that the severing between the divisive biotech company and the pediatricians association was spearheaded by Mamavation founder and “food activist” Leah Segedie, who confronted the AAP’s public affairs team after learning about this “unholy alliance,” according to a Mamavation blog post which first announced news of the split.

“I reached out to the AAP behind the scenes to discuss the negative impacts a company like Monsanto could have on their image,” Segedie told EcoWatch via email. “It was a very logical decision for them. I think it may have felt like breaking up with a bad boyfriend that never calls.”

A few months after Segedie first made contact, the AAP’s public affairs team informed her that the organizations had decided to cut ties.

EcoWatch contacted the AAP and confirmed that the academy will not renew its corporate partnership with Monsanto. According to a source at the organization familiar with the decision, the AAP regularly reviews its partnerships to make sure these companies have values that “align with what the Academy believes is in the best interest of children’s health.”

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaOKC(Photo: Leonard Brakebill)In late-September, Thomas David Deegan, a man described by authorities as an anti-government sovereign citizen, was arrested and accused "of plotting to overthrow the state government in West Virginia, hoping to establish a prototype for extremists to follow in other states," the Southern Poverty Law Center reported. At the same time, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, issued a report "advising contractors, property inspectors, Section 8 housing administrators and Realtors how to recognize antigovernment sovereign citizens occupying vacant properties or using false deeds to support leasing."

In just seven years, the Sovereign Citizen movement, a movement that most Americans know little about, has vaulted to the top of the list of terrorist threats to the homeland according to a survey of law enforcement officials. Sovereign citizens has leaped over such better-known entities as local militias/patriots, environmental extremists, animal rights extremists, racist skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Islamic extremists, to grab the number one spot in a survey conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

According to vox.com's Zack Beauchamp, "In a 2014 survey, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) surveyed hundreds of law enforcement personnel at the state and local level, all of whom had training in intelligence gathering or counterterrorism. They were presented with a list of radical groups and asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 4, how much they agreed that this group posed a terrorist threat to the US."

Given that the report was done last year before ISIS started grabbing headlines and before several mass shootings by homegrown white males, the list might look different today.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaCoalMinersDon Blankenship’s, the former CEO of Massey Energy Co., trial started yesterday in what NBC News describes as “the biggest corporate accountability case in years.” Blankenship resigned as CEO eight months after one of its mines exploded in West Virginia in 2010, killing 29 miners.

Last November, a federal grand jury indicted Blankenship on charges that he deliberately flouted safety standards leading to the death of the 29 miners at Upper Big Branch Mine (UBB). He has been accused of “having tipped off managers about federal safety inspections ahead of time before the explosion and of having tried to cover up the company’s mismanagement after the explosion,” according to NBC News.

“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment said. “Yet he fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws and make more money.”

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation in 2011 revealed that “broken equipment failed to douse a small methane gas fire, which ignited coal dust in a giant blast that ended up as the deadliest U.S. mine accident in more than 40 years.” Blankenship, to this day, denies any wrongdoing.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaGoldCoinKoch(Photo: Benedetto Pistrucci)Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and “a coalition of deep-pocketed liberal groups, including a pair of super PACs backing Hillary Clinton” have been holding strategic meetings for months “examining the 2016 map and plotting attacks against the powerful Koch brothers‘ network,” according to Politico.

A key organizer of the effort, David Brock will present his findings tomorrow, using polling and research, to the Senate Democratic Caucus. The Koch brothers network of conservative mega-donors plans to spend a staggering $889 million for the 2016 presidential race.

Brock believes that highlighting the “massive political spending” of the Koch brothers network is a “critical component” of boosting Democratic candidates, including Clinton, in 2016.

In August, the billionaire brothers held a donor conference in California, in which several of the top presidential candidates—former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (who has now withdrawn from the race) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina—flocked to the event to seek donations. This led Donald Trump to call these candidates “puppets” of the Koch brothers.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaPesticides(Photo: Doc James)Two separate U.S. agricultural workers have slapped lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that Roundup—the agribusiness giant’s flagship herbicide—caused their cancers, and that the company “falsified data” and “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince the public, farm workers and government agencies about the safety of the product.

The first suit, Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, comes from Enrique Rubio, a 58-year-old former field worker who worked in California, Texas and Oregon. According to Reuters, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and believes it stemmed from exposure to Monsanto’s widely popular weedkiller and other pesticides that he sprayed on cucumber, onion and other vegetable crops. Rubio’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.

That same day, a similar lawsuit, Fitzgerald v. Monsanto Company, was filed in federal court in New York by 64-year-old Judi Fitzgerald, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. She claims that her exposure to Roundup at the horticultural products company she worked for in the 1990s led to her diagnosis.

The plaintiffs have accused the company of falsifying the safety of the product and putting people at risk.

Published in Guest Commentary
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