Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ousted Administrator Has Doubts About Jindal's Privatization Plan

The privatization bug has bitten the GOP all over the country, as evidenced in the push for charter schools, martial law in Michigan used to takeover local government statutory authority and crush the teacher's union in Detroit, efforts to sell off public utilities to industry in Wisconsin, and many other examples. These efforts are all about making money with state (public) resources and will not in any way benefit citizens. This story details legislation in Louisiana to privatize the state public employees health insurance plan, in what appears to be a gift to industry that will cost both the state and the public in the long run.

Cagey Obama Sets an Election Trap for Paul Ryan and the Koch Bros.

This is an encouraging piece that shows how President Obama has responded to Rep. Ryan's (R-WI) draconian budget bill in recent public comments. It also suggests that Obama's strategy is to aggressively attack destructive political agenda of the Koch brothers in the upcoming election.


Vermont became the first state in the Union to pass universal healthcare legislation with a single payer system that promises to dramatically reduce health costs while guaranteeing all citizens universal access to medical care. This is a historic development and very exciting news indeed.

Oil Prices: Gouge Us Baby One More Time

This link connects to a short piece on the causes of the recent rise in oil prices that have driven gasoline over $4 a gallon, as well as the GritTV video report from Laura Flanders. Good stuff.

Obama: 'Strongly Disapprove' Of Ohio, Wisconsin Union Bills

The President has been largely silent in the wake of at least 18 states introducing legislation to strip collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. Some believe, and I hope, that this is a deliberate policy to allow the GOP to continue its overreach with the result that the public will unleash an electoral backlash on those who support the anti-worker policies. In Ohio there is an effort underway to garner the 231,000 signatures required to put a repeal of the legislation on the ballot.

Daniels to defund Planned Parenthood in Indiana

I haven't heard or read much about citizens standing up against Gov. Daniel's anti-worker and anti-environment agenda and legislation in Indiana and I hope there is a resistance movement building in the state. Now, the governor has said he will sign a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and deprive as many as 22,000 women access to Pap tests, birth control and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

GMO Pesticides Linked to Birth Defects, Disruption of Male Hormones, Cancer

Recent studies have expanded the body of evidence of the dangerous health impact that GMO pesticides such as Roundup have on human health. The new studies and links to previous scientific reports are rarely, if ever, reported in the mainstream media. We should all do our best to get the word out about the public health dangers represented by the biotech industry and realize that the major reason the US has the world's highest cancer rates is the lack of vigilant regulation of the chemical industry that is pervasive in the nation today.

“Inert” Ingredients in Roundup Pesticide Contain Dioxane!

This piece documents that Roundup Super Concentrate Weed and Grass Killer contains dioxane, known to be carcinogenic and to cause damage to liver, kidney, brain and lungs. The story also reports that a new GE maize capable of expressing six different insecticidal toxins is likely to be approved for use in Europe.

What Stanley McChrystal Did to Pat Tillman’s Family

President Obama has apparently appointed General McChrystal to head a new initiative to help military families despite the fact that he covered up Pat Tillman's friendly fire death with a false Silver Star citation and nationally televised ceremony.

Insurers Getting Rich By Not Paying for Care

We pay the most for healthcare in the world and receive the least in return with 50 million uninsured and ever larger co-payments and premium rates. The health insurance industry makes money by denying care and the big seven managed care companies are raking it in despite the hysteria over Obamacare.

Government-backed corn ethanol lurches on, paving a road to nowhere

Ethanol derived from corn is an inefficient alternative to fossil fuel with a nominal impact on greenhouse reduction and is environmentally destructive. We need to stop subsidizing it from the highest levels of government.

Frankenfoods in Your "Natural" Foods Store: Whole Foods or Whole Hypocrisy?

I find that the issue of genetically modified and transgenic food, which is already dominant in the US food market, is particularly hard for people to contemplate and take action on. These foods are so commonplace and most of us have been eating them for the past 15 years without many apparent side effects. Yet allergies and diabetes have skyrocketed over the past two decades, and there are many other aspects of the biotech takeover of our food supply of monumental concern, including increased sterility rates, ADHD and obesity in our society, problems that have been linked in scientific analysis and study to these GM seeds and food products that are engineered as ingredients for virtually every food item you will find in a store. 

There are also serious legal issues in the biotech industry that are centered around the patent protection of GM seeds as intellectual property. This US Supreme Court ruling gave companies like Monsanto the legal wherewithal to prosecute non-participating or compliant farmers with theft of intellectual property, resulting in hundreds of lawsuits. Based on spurious accusations that claim that conventional farmers, whose crops had likely been contaminated with GM seed through naturally occurring pollination, stole Monsanto GM seed (Corn, Soy, Sugar Beets and now, Alfalfa) even though there could be zero incentive for them to do so. Hundreds of farmers have been bankrupted by these suits, that often originate with undercover Monsanto operatives infiltrating the community under false pretenses and even contacting farmers at AA meetings. Several thousand farmers in India have committed suicide as a result of a disastrous investment in the promise of biotech riches. Recent USDA rulings for GM Alfalfa and Sugar Beets threaten to contaminate the certified organic Alfalfa critical to the organic market.

This situation is really bad but it is not hopeless. Even though more than 90% of corn and soy grown in the US is genetically modified, and the dominance of Roundup Ready seed and pesticide presents two formidable corporate adversaries, people still have the ability to push back in a meaningful way. But, we have to pay attention and get in the game!

Here is a link to the OCA action page for those who want to get involved in the fight against GMOs.

Radioactive Rubberstamp - Greenpeace Petition

The NRC is way too cosy with the nuclear industry in the United States and has been pushing nuclear power and its safety despite the catastrophic meltdown in Japan. As we consider energy options for the nation moving forward I strongly believe that nuclear energy, that is so dangerous that the private sector will not invest without government subsidies and limits on liability, is not worth the myriad risks that it presents. Please sign this Greenpeace petition to halt the re-licensing of old reactors in the States. It only takes a moment and collectively we can make a difference by applying pressure to policymakers.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Armed agents invade Maxam Nutraceutics and steal natural health products in shocking FDA raid

It's becoming clear that a war is being waged against natural health remedies as evidenced by the effort to make the growing of medicinal herbs illegal in Europe as I posted a few days ago, and the alarming and unjustified SWAT-style raid and seizures perpetrated against Maxum Nutraceutics recently. It appears in this case that the FDA and FBI are doing the pharmaceutical industry's dirty work.

Median U.S. household income fell 5% between 1999 and 2009. Globalization remains the core problem

An enduring era of stagnant or declining wages has become the reality for most Americans. The numbers and analysis presented here tell much of the distressing story.

All the Reasons Petraeaus Should Not Head the CIA

This is a thoughtful and detailed essay examining how the General's performance as commander in Iraq and Afghanistan presents conflicts with intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, that raise serious concerns about his nomination to head the agency. Very interesting reading.

A More Militarized CIA for a More Militarized America

How Tea Partiers in Congress Are Doing Their Corporate Masters' Bidding

This AlterNet piece from Jim Hightower blows the lid off  Tea Party Republican's populist mythology by illustrating a stream of lobbying pressure and cash that directly translated into the active promotion of the big business agenda.'_bidding/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet_news

‘Daily Show’: Bernie Sanders, No Chaser

Senator Bernie Sanders, the longest serving Independent in Congressional history, with serious straight talk on The Daily Show.

Reuters: Warren associates considered for consumer agency job - Daily Show appearance

Elizabeth Warren is a dynamic plain-spoken law professor and advocate for the financial rights of consumers, fierce Wall Street critic, and a remarkably effective administrator who did a superb job in setting up Obama's new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She faced off gamely against GOP legislators in Congress who want to weaken or kill funding for the bureau, and there is considerable consensus that Warren should be appointed to lead the CFPB.

Watch Elizabeth Warren tell it like it is on The Daily Show - it'll be music to your ears!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

All the WikiLeaks Fit to Print

News organizations are eagerly using the information released by WikiLeaks regarding the Guantanamo Bay Military Tribunal but they are reluctant to credit the organization or defend Private Manning for having the courage to make these documents public.

Could Michigan-style "Martial Law" Be On Its Way to Wisconsin?

It's hard to imagine that Gov. Walker would try to install Michigan-style Emergency Financial Managers in selected Wisconsin towns with power to strip elected officials of statutory authority, but apparently such plans are already in the works. I almost hope they try it because I believe that it would blow up in his face and that people in the state are ready to ramp up the fight for their democratic rights. Still, this is a scary development that strongly reeks of fascism and is in no way how a democracy should conduct its business.

Pennsylvania Official: End Nears For Fracking Wastewater Releases

This would be a positive development in the battle against fracking if Pennsylvania, the only state that allows fracking wastewater to be dumped in rivers, outlaws the practice. Industry is now behind this effort after long denying the problem. Nonetheless, there are a host of other safety issues that remain regarding natural gas fracking and it's threat to water supplies and human health. Few regulations currently exist on this industry and we don't even know the details on many of the over 900 chemicals used in the process that are pumped deep into the ground.

Leader of Utah Recall Group Exposed

PR Watch uncovers another charlatan on the GOP universe, this one coordinating recall attempts against Democrats in Wisconsin from - Utah. It seems the Republican message is so bereft of supporters in Wisconsin that the vast majority of its 'activism' (read propaganda) is imported through out-of-state front groups.

Massachussetts House Votes To Limit Public Employee Collective Bargaining For Health Care

Massachusetts, of all places, has now jumped into the fray in stripping public sector worker's collective bargaining rights. This bill is somewhat more nuanced that Walker's Wisconsin law but nonetheless represents an erosion of workers rights to negotiate benefits, in this case the terms of health insurance.

Wisconsin Democrats start recall elections with large cash advantage

The Democrats currently have a large cash advantage over Republicans in Wisconsin's recall battle, largely due to online support from individual citizens. However, you can expect outside groups such as the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity to pour a great deal of money into these elections.

Little piggies, crawling in the dirt: Minnesota reps behind ag-gag bill have factory-farm ties

Efforts to criminalize the undercover documentation of farm conditions has spread to the state of Minnesota, and have encountered a great deal of negative feedback. It turns out that the proponents of the bill, in this case, are actually in the CAFO business.

Hiding the Truth About Factory Farms

U.S. Nuclear Regulator Lets Industry Help With the Fine Print

The NRC is so concerned with the bottom lines of nuclear power plant operators that they have delayed regulatory action and emergency maintenance issues in deference to the industry. We need an aggressive regulatory body to police the nuclear industry and improve the prospects for public safety.

Chernobyl's Half Lives

A photo essay of life in the Ukraine after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Rainbow Warrior to conduct marine radiation monitoring off Fukushima

Analysis: Banks Play Shell Game with Taxpayer Dollars

While the Fed provided near-zero interest loans to failing banks during the mortgage crisis with the stipulation that the funds be used to stimulate lending to small and mid-sized businesses, the banks instead used the money to buy US government securities that effectively constituted a loan back to the government at higher and profitable interest rates. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has been a tireless advocate for consumers and is one of the rare members of Congress seeking to hold the financial industry accountable for practices that exploit the public and ignore their obligations of corporate citizenship.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann returns June 20, 2011

When the war in Iraq was forced down the throats of the American public on the basis of faulty logic and intelligence, Keith Olbermann incisively reported on the issues every night on his former MSNBC show. When election fraud and voter suppression occurred in the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio, Olbermann shined a light nightly on what should have been a huge national scandal but was largely ignored by the mainstream media. We need advocates for the rights of citizens versus abusive business and government policies and Keith will soon be back on the air to continue the fight on a new network, Current TV.,-2011?utm

5 Reasons to Be Hopeful We Haven't Totally Screwed Ourselves and the Planet ... Yet

We need to ramp up our activism and get everyone we know into the game, but there is cause for hope in developments taking place now within the US. But more people need to get off the couch and into the ring...

19 Studies Link GMO Foods to Organ Disruption

These reports sound yet another alarm about the potential health hazards of GMOs. The studies cited found organ disruption in lab animals after only 6-9 months. Longer studies have yet to be conducted and there is a fierce reluctance among industry (Monsanto) and regulators (USDA/FDA) to conduct full environmental impact studies and thorough health testing. The article also provides a number of updates on happenings in the GM world and is a terrific reference. Read it and weep. Then get active about combatting these dangerous and invasive food products that are being foisted on us without adequate testing and with no labeling to boot!

The Rent's Too Damn High but It's a Problem With an Easy Solution...If Only

The percentage of gross income that Americans pay for rent has been increasing for three decades, in large part because of stagnant wages for most of the population. The mortgage crisis and subsequent  wave of foreclosures has put even more pressure on the rental market. One remedy, that would allow underwater homeowners to remain in their homes as renters, has been introduced in Congress.. But, alas, the banking industry is fighting it with all its lobbying might.'s_too_damn_high_but_it's_a_problem_with_an_easy_solution..._if_only/?utm

Supreme Court Imposes Limits On Class Actions

This decision from the US Supreme Court is very bad news for the general public. By allowing corporations to limit the ability to mount class action suits by legitimizing legal language to that effect, the Court is opening the door for ever-increasing deception and manipulation by powerful corporate interests in their dealings with average citizens. In essence, this decision gives business a license to continue fleecing the American public.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Students fight to save innovative garden-based public school in Detroit

The mad GOP push for privatization of municipalities and public sector services is raging across the country and particularly in Michigan. Stripping locally elected mayors and officials while invoking Emergency Financial Management power under one administrator is happening in Detroit and Benton Harbor right now. Functional, breakthrough schools are slated to be closed or privatized against the will of local residents who are arrested for protesting to keep the schools open. Public beachfront in Benton Harbor, withheld from development by the local community, may now be seized on the authority of the EFM official against the will of the people. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is trampling over democracy as he works to facilitate lower cost labor and privatization riches for the amoral business community.

Gov. Snyder's Emergency Manager Crushes Student Protest’s-emergency-manager-crushes-student-protest

Citizen's Group Files Petition to Recall Snyder

Michigan Pension Boards File Suit Over Emergency Management Law

Martial Law Now A Reality in Michigan

Monsanto Will Soon Be Allowed To Police Itself

The USDA is abdicating its responsibility to ensure the safety of GM crops by conducting Environmental Impact Statements, choosing instead to allow companies such as Monsanto, who have a vested interest in the promotion of GM seed and Roundup herbicides, to test for safety themselves in a pilot program.

Culture of Complicity Tied to Stricken Nuclear Plant

The only difference between the Japanese nuclear energy program and what we have in the States is that American operators would never have the humility to get own their knees and ask for forgiveness from the people who are suffering because of the cosy, profit-driven relationship between passive regulators and plant operators. This article illustrates that maintenance of plants and safety hazards took a back seat to expedience and cost-cutting at the stricken Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan. BTW, this concept of voluntary reporting and maintenance of sub-standard conditions by industry is an absolute joke. The ONLY way that industry will comply with safety regulations is if there is vigorous oversight and enforcement by regulatory authorities. This NYT piece generally does an excellent job of exposing the culture of promotion between regulators and industry but errs in claiming that the US NRC does not rely on industry to draft proposals and rules to regulate nuclear power. The NRC absolutely does solicit and utilize industry written guidelines in its regulatory capacity.

U.S. Nuclear Regulator Lets Industry Help With the Fine Print

Response to PA Gas Well Accident Took 13 Hours Despite State Plan for Quick Action

Too much deference to the natural gas industry, an ongoing push to lessen enforcement of existing regulations and aggressive efforts to discourage additional measures to protect public safety in Pennsylvania have tremendous consequences in the battle to ensure safe and responsible gas drilling. Gov. Corbett is a major advocate of fracking in PA and seems to have little interest in protecting the water supply, environment and long-term health of his constituents, preferring to curry favor with proponents of the gas drilling boom that is sweeping across the country. In the case of a recent large accident and spill emergency response teams were flown in from Texas as responders, allowing nearby rivers and land to be contaminated by waste products and escaping methane.

Why I’ve avoided commenting on Nisbet’s ‘Climate Shift’ report

Dave Roberts is a vigilant investigative reporter from Grist who regularly covers environmental issues on that site. This column refers to a analytically flawed Climate Shift report that falsely claims that the environmental lobby spends more than industry in the debate on climate issues. Roberts preference is to write about solutions but he felt compelled to comment on the hullaballoo over this report and the misinformation that it's authors, aligned with the Breakthrough Group, promote in the report. It's very interesting and detailed reading on the internal workings of the environmental movement.

Supreme Court Weighs Whether To Limit Data Mining

The suit, resulting from a law to protect privacy information on behalf doctors in Vermont, addresses the issue of whether MD's prescribing habits can be mined and sold to the pharmaceutical industry without the approval of the doctors themselves.

Preserving the Future: Indigenous Women in the U.S. and Canada are Taking on Big Oil — and Winning

As humans and wildlife in the Arctic and Canada increasingly get sick with cancers and other maladies directly related to oil and gas extraction, indigenous communities are fighting back.—_and_winning?page=1

Mark Ruffalo and Food & Water Watch Rally Against Fracking

New York State's Attorney General demands that the Delaware River Basin Commission conduct a full environmental impact study before allowing natural gas fracking in the region, or he will sue on behalf of the 15 million people on the basin for drinking water.

The Vermont Senate Passes Bill Establishing A Single Payer Health Care System In The State

Vermont's action is an inspiring testament to the possibilities in a democracy when the electorate is animated and organized around issues they care deeply about. Other states present more obstacles to like-minded reforms and policy but Vermont's momentous legislation should remind us all that dramatic change is possible. Nonetheless, the law will be challenged and it remains to be seen whether a single-payer system will, in fact, be implemented.

Astroturfing Wall Street reform: Corporate lobbyists behind 'Tea Party' repeal effort

The astroturf lobbyists behind recent Dodd-Frank Exposed propaganda have produced an outrageously hyped scare video to combat reforms of the financial industry with misinformation.

Open thread for night owls: Traditional media ignore The People's Budget

Despite the myriad problems facing the country, the mainstream media gave virtually no exposure to The People's Budget created by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last month.

The labor movement finally takes a stand

The International Association of Firefighters became the first major union to freeze political contributions to  federal candidates, signaling to Democrats that they will no longer provide easy money for a party that repeatedly has sold out labor's interests. The focus of the Firefighters political support will now be directed to state level candidates.

What YUM! Inc. Doesn't Want You to Know

Greenpeace is keeping an eye on corporate responsibility and has found that the largest fast-food company in the world, YUM!, has been encouraging rainforest destruction in its packaging business.

Governor Christie Goes to War on Working Families

The New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, is wielding a heavy hammer as he refuses to tax millionaires over seniors, subverts collective bargaining law, and decries draconian budget cuts including more than $1 billion in education. That cut may well be ruled in violation of federal education standards in a lawsuit brought by the Education Law Center.

Non-Draft Military Means More Military Influence -- and More Americans out of Touch with Military Decisions

There is irony that we might well be better off with a military draft because it would force the country as a whole to reckon the loss of life and limbs from American wars. The percentage of families with connections to the military has decreased dramatically since the inception of the volunteer army. It is now possible for the US to fight long wars (Afghanistan 10, Iraq 8, Libya?) with very little public scrutiny and compliant media coverage on the ground.