Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

HARD LABOR II

February 26, 2010
 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spends at least $180 billion per year on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1500 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, as of September 2012, 47.7 million Americans were receiving on average $134.29 per month in food assistance, or $6.4 billion total.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'

Donna Edwards’ No Corporate Monopoly of Elections Amendment by John Nichols February 4, 2010 by The Nation

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards turned to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for guidance in framing the Constitutional amendment she proposed Tuesday as the right and necessary response to the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a high court majority to abandon law and precedent with the purpose of permitting corporations to dominate the political discourse.

Brandeis knew that giving corporations monopoly power over our economic life or our politics would be deadly to democracy.

“The ruling reached by the Roberts’ Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision,” Edwards said Tuesday. “A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens.”

Edwards explains the amendment in a powerful video

Edwards does not stand alone. In addition to an array of public interest groups including Public Citizen, Voter Action, The Center for Corporate Policy and the American Independent Business Alliance, the congresswoman’s proposed amendment is being backed by House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the dean of civil libertarians in Congress.

Here is the text of the legislation proposed by Edwards and Conyers:

JOINT RESOLUTION:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

‘‘ARTICLE—

‘‘SECTION 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

‘‘SECTION 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’

Edwards and Conyers may soon have a Senate sponsor for their amendment proposal.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who chairs the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee declared: “As legislators, we have a duty to carefully consider the constitutional questions raised by legislation.  I urge you to do your duty but not be dissuaded from acting by fear of the Court. This terrible decision deserves as robust a response as possible. Nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake.”  READ MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/04 

“He was the biggest asshole at Goldman Sachs!”

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“Hell of a job, Brownie!”

November 20, 2009

"Hell of a job, Brownie!"

Rising CO2 Will Cause Catastrophic Sea Level Rise Finds Antarctic Study by Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentThe Telegraph/UK

Sea levels could rise by up to six metres if the world fails to get pollution under control, according to the latest study in the Antarctic.

The British Antarctic Survey is the latest research to warn of the consequences of increased greenhouse gases on the Earth’s climate. Carbon dioxide is rising at record rates putting the world on a pathway for a 6C rise in temperature, which will cause a sea level rise of up six metres, threatening coastal cities like London, New York and San Francisco.

The recent studies add pressure on world leaders to agree to an international deal on climate change at a UN summit in Copenhagen this December.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/11/18-6

How Limousine Liberals, Water Oligarchs and Even Sean Hannity Are Hijacking Our Water Supply By Yasha Levine, AlterNet.

A group of water oligarchs engineered a disastrous privatization scheme to make a fortune out of California’s most precious natural resource.

A group of water oligarchs in California have engineered a disastrous deregulation and privatization scheme. And they’ve pulled in hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars without causing much public outrage. The amount of power and control they wield over California’s most precious resource, water, should shock and frighten us — and it would, if more people were aware of it. But here is the scary thing: They are plotting to gain an even larger share of California’s increasingly-scarce, over-tapped water supply, which will surely lead to shortages, higher prices and untold destruction to California’s environment.

California is in year three of a fairly nasty dry spell. And some very powerful forces are not letting this mini-crisis go to waste, fiercely lobbying Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein, paying off corporate shills like Fox News’ Sean Hannity and capitalizing on people’s fear of drought to push a massive waterworks project that will pump more water, build more dams and keep sucking the state’s rivers dry. …This drought hysteria is nothing more than political theatrics, a scare tactic backed by big agribusiness to strong-arm California voters into building a multi-billion dollar system of dams and canals that would not really help small farmers — of which there are very few anyway — but would deliver more water to corporations, subsidize their landholdings, fuel real estate development and enable large-scale water privatization. At its core, it is a war waged for water by California’s megarich on everyone else.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/water/144020/how_limousine_liberals%2C_water_oligarchs_and_even_sean_hannity_are_hijacking_our_water_supply

Rachel Maddow Interview with Former Evangelist Frank Schaeffer: Christian Right Is ‘Trolling for Assassins’ AlterNet.

Schaeffer: “There is a crazy fringe [receiving] messages that have been pouring out of FOX News … talking about doing away with Obama, asking God to kill him.”  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/rights/144054/rachel_maddow_interview_with_former_evangelist_frank_schaeffer%3A_christian_right_is_%27trolling_for_assassins%27

Shocking Benefits of Legalizing Pot By Ami Cholia, AlterNet.

There are some pluses to legalization that you probably haven’t heard about.

The war on drugs may be a noble intention, but the illegal growing of marijuana is destroying our environment.

Primarily run by Mexican drug cartels California’s illegal growers aren’t your typical peace-loving hippies of the 70s. These men live illegally on farms all summer, putting tons of waste into the soil and water. Pesticides drain into creeks and enter the food chain, sickening wildlife.  Each plant also uses about 15 gallons of water per day soaking up a large part of the water resources around.

Organized crime groups who cash in on the drug war’s distortion of supply and demand dynamics have little regard for the environment. Even illegal growers of organic marijuana impact the environment by felling trees in national forests to make room for illicit grow sites. The plants are seasonal, but the environmental damage lasts forever.

There is a serious exception to be made. Many medical – legal – marijuana growers are among the most responsible citizens around. They buy soil in bulk, use rat traps instead of poison, water with timers and drip systems. They have very little physical impact on the land.

Outside of the obvious benefits of hemp — bio-diesel, burns cleanly, soil builder, better cheaper paper, etc. — organic and sustainable practices for growing marijuana would bring in tons of revenue for the states, clean up the environment, and save the government $150 billion on policing and courts, since 47.5% of all drug arrests are marijuana-related.

We’re not promoting drug addiction.  The positive benefits to the environment by making marijuana legal definitely seem enough to take action.

Even Glenn Beck seems to think this is worth it.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/environment/144052/world%27s_biggest_polluters_strike_a_deal%3A_u.s._and_china_agree_to_comprehensive_clean_energy_and_climate_plan?page=3

World’s Biggest Polluters Strike a Deal: U.S. and China Agree to Comprehensive Clean Energy and Climate Plan By Joseph Romm, Climate Progress.

The overall plan is much more ambitious in scope and depth than anticipated.

A comprehensive plan for U.S.-China cooperation on clean energy and climate change was announced in Beijing by President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao. The plan contains directives to create various institutions and programs addressing a wide array of cooperation on clean-energy technologies and capacity building, including very important efforts on helping China build a robust, transparent and accurate inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions.

These efforts include cooperation in the following areas:

1.      Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

2.      Joint Clean Energy Research Center. (Factsheet)

3.      Electric Vehicles. (Factsheet)

4.      Energy Efficiency. Building on the Ten Year Framework on Energy and Environment Cooperation, government officials of both countries will “work together (Factsheet)

5.      Renewable Energy. (Factsheet)

6.      21st Century Coal. The two countries will “launch a program of technical cooperation to …develop clean coal and carbon capture and storage technologies.” (Factsheet)

7.      Shale Gas. The U.S. and China will “assess China’s shale gas potential, promote environmentally-sustainable development of shale gas resources, conduct joint technical studies to accelerate development of shale gas resources in China, and promote shale gas investment in China through the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum, study tours, and workshops.” (Factsheet)

8.      Nuclear. The two countries reaffirmed the goals of the Third Executive Committee Meeting of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to promote the peaceful use of civilian nuclear energy, and “agreed to consult with one another in order to explore such approaches—including assurance of fuel supply and cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel management so that countries can access peaceful nuclear power while minimizing the risks of proliferation.”

9.      Public-private partnerships on clean energy. A new U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP) will “leverage private sector resources for project development work in China across a broad array of clean energy projects, to the benefit of both nations.”

The two countries hope that the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen will follow this example and focus as much on bottom-up technological strategies for achieving real reductions in emissions as it will on top-down targets for carbon caps.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/environment/144052/world%27s_biggest_polluters_strike_a_deal%3A_u.s._and_china_agree_to_comprehensive_clean_energy_and_climate_plan?page=3

Push to Curb Credit-Card Rates Fades as Democrats resist consumer outcry by Michael KranishThe Boston Globe

WASHINGTON – Efforts in Congress to cap credit-card interest rates are faltering because of opposition from Democrats and a lack of specific support from the White House, despite growing consumer outrage over a rush by banks to impose rates as high as 30 percent.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama vowed to back a strict limit on credit-card interest rates. But the White House is not yet behind any plan.

The Senate soundly defeated legislation in May introduced by Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont Independent, to cap most credit-card interest rates at 15 percent. Nearly half of the Democratic senators joined Republicans in defeating the measure, 60 to 33.

Consumer groups say the problem of skyrocketing interest rates has worsened since that vote, as banks scramble to boost rates in advance of a new rule scheduled to take effect in February, requiring banks to give consumers a 45-day advance notice of rate increases.

Sanders said many of the credit cards in the hands of American consumers are issued by four banks that received taxpayer bailout money after last year’s economic meltdown: Citigroup, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.

“People are disgusted. We bailed these [companies] out and they then had the gumption to raise interest rates on the American people,” Sanders said in an interview. Sanders said he plans to reintroduce his proposal to cap rates at 15 percent; he predicted it will have more support this time.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/11/18-7

 

DEAD BROKE EMPIRE CROWD

November 3, 2009

Negative Horizon

Our Economy Was a Scam and Now We’re Dead Broke By Joe Bageant, JoeBageant.com.

America is broke. And the easy credit, phantom “growth” economy has been exposed for what it was: a credit scam.

When Barack Obama took office it seemed to some of us that his first job was to get the national silverware out of the pawn shop. Or at least maintain the world’s confidence that it was possible for us to get out of debt. America is dead broke, the easy credit, phantom “growth” economy has been exposed for what it was. A credit scam. Even Hillary Clinton and Obama’s best efforts have not coaxed much more dough out of foreign friends. But at least we again have a few friends abroad.

So now we must jackleg ourselves back into something resembling a productive activity. No matter how you cut it, things will not be as much fun as shopping and speculative “investing” were.

The fiesta is over, the economy as we knew it is dead.

The national money shamans have danced around the carcass of our dead horse economy, chanted the recovery chant and burned fiat currency like Indian sage, enshrouding the carcass in the sacred smoke of burning cash. And indeed, they have managed to prop up the carcass to appear life-like from a distance, if you squint through the smoke just right. But it still stinks here from the inside. Clearly at some point we must find a new horse to ride, and sure as god made little green apples one is broaching the horizon. And it looks exactly like the old horse.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/politics/143521/our_economy_was_a_scam_and_now_we%27re_dead_broke

6 Signs That the American Empire Is Coming to an Early End By Michael T. Klare, Tomdispatch.com.

The day of America’s global pre-eminence is over. We must face the new global realities.Posted October 27, 2009.

Memo to the CIA: You may not be prepared for time-travel, but welcome to 2025 anyway! Your rooms may be a little small, your ability to demand better accommodations may have gone out the window, and the amenities may not be to your taste, but get used to it. It’s going to be your reality from now on.

Okay, now for the serious version of the above: In November 2008, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), an affiliate of the Central Intelligence Agency, issued the latest in a series of futuristic publications intended to guide the incoming Obama administration. Peering into its analytic crystal ball in a report entitled Global Trends 2025, it predicted that America’s global preeminence would gradually disappear over the next 15 years — in conjunction with the rise of new global powerhouses, especially China and India. The report examined many facets of the future strategic environment, but its most startling, and news-making, finding concerned the projected long-term erosion of American dominance and the emergence of new global competitors. “Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor [in 2025],” it stated definitively, the country’s “relative strength — even in the military realm — will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained.”

That, of course, was then; this — some 11 months into the future — is now and how things have changed. Futuristic predictions will just have to catch up to the fast-shifting realities of the present moment. Although published after the onset of the global economic meltdown was underway, the report was written before the crisis reached its full proportions and so emphasized that the decline of American power would be gradual, extending over the assessment’s 15-year time horizon. But the economic crisis and attendant events have radically upset that timetable. As a result of the mammoth economic losses suffered by the United States over the past year and China’s stunning economic recovery, the global power shift the report predicted has accelerated. For all practical purposes, 2025 is here already.  READ MORE:

http://www.alternet.org/world/143514/6_signs_that_the_american_empire_is_coming_to_an_early_end

Apocalypse Soon: Halloween Interview on Overpopulation with Kierán Suckling

Scared of ghosts, goblins, and jack-o-lanterns? None of those are on the Santa Fe Reporter‘s list of the top five environmental horrors. But human overpopulation is. “Apocalypse Soon: Today’s Environmental Horrors Could Lead to a Scary Sci-Fi Future” interviews Center for Biological Diversity director Kierán Suckling. Click below to read the whole article. Here are few excerpts:

“Virtually everything that is destroying wildlife habitat and the environment is driven by overpopulation,” Kierán Suckling, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, says.

“Whether it’s too many people diverting water out of the Rio Grande or too much wood use leading to the logging of old-growth forests, the bottom line is there are too many people using too many resources to be able to have a healthy environment.”

“It’s great to focus on reducing our carbon footprint, but…unless we start reducing the footprints to begin with, we and other species are not going to survive on this planet.”

“The majority of environmental groups avoid addressing overpopulation like the plague. I think that’s largely because they lack the courage of their convictions. They are fearful that in saying that [we are overpopulated] they will be viewed as being anti-human somehow–as if squalor and overpopulation are somehow pro-human.”  READ MORE:

Read the Santa Fe Reporter interview and learn what the Center’s doing to confront the overpopulation crisis head-on.

Septic Truck

BECK’S CROCODILE TEARS

October 3, 2009

Glenn_beck_retarded_crying

VIDEO: GLENN BECK’S SECRET FOR CRYING ON CUE: Vicks VapoRub Under the Eyes by Adele Stan, AlterNet

A leaked video of a Glenn Beck photo shoot shows the FOX News host having a substance applied under his eyes, which then begin to stream for the camera. It’s one of those great mysteries: How does Glenn Beck, propagandist and D-list actor, get himself to cry on cue? A rogue video making the rounds of the Internet offers an answer: an eye-watering substance applied under the eyes, which Ron Brynaert at The Raw Story suggests to be Vicks VapoRub.

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/143045/video%3A_glenn_beck%27s_secret_for_crying_on_cue%3A_vicks_vaporub_under_the_eyes

The Ann Arbor Chronicle (Michigan)

How to Sustain a Local Economy: From PB&J to Regional Currencies by Mary Morgan

When the Chronicle entered the lower level meeting room of the downtown Ann Arbor library, the first things we noticed were three large trays of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut into bite-sized wedges.  As public forums go, this was an offbeat gnoshing choice.  It turned out that the sandwiches – and apples, soft drinks, potato chips and other food – were all sourced from Michigan, in keeping with the theme of Wednesday night’s event. The panel discussion focused on the state’s economic crisis, and how the community can respond to it.  Buying local products is one example.  Starting a local currency is another possibility – the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is funding a study to look into that. Generating  electricity locally is also an opportunity – Mayor John Hieftje told the group that he didn’t think the dam at Argo Pond would be removed, in part because it might be used for hydropower in the future.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/10/01-6

Reuters

Water Worries Threaten US Push for Natural Gas by Jon Hurdle

PAVILLION, Wyoming – Louis Meeks, a burly 59-year-old alfalfa farmer, fills a metal trough with water from his well and watches an oily sheen form on the surface which gives off a faint odor of paint.  He points to small bubbles that appear in the water, and a thin ring of foam around the edge.  Meeks is convinced that energy companies drilling for natural gas in this central Wyoming farming community have poisoned his water and ruined his health.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/10/01-8

Marijuana in America: More Mainstream Than Ever, More Arrests Than Ever By Tony Newman, AlterNet.

Marijuana’s coming-out party is kicking into high gear across America — but way to many people still are getting cuffed for it. Need more evidence that marijuana has gone mainstream in America? This morning on the Today show, Matt Lauer chatted up a piece on so-called stiletto stoners — educated, professional women with killer careers and enviable social lives who favor marijuana as their intoxicant of choice and are increasingly comfortable admitting it. http://www.alternet.org/rights/143005/marijuana_in_america%3A_more_mainstream_than_ever%2C_more_arrests_than_ever

Senator Sanders and Michael Moore Talk Capitalism

By Robert Greenwald.

 In this week’s show, director Michael Moore asks Sen. Sanders “what is wrong with American capitalism these days?” Senator Bernie Sanders makes a poignant appearance in Michael Moore’s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, highlighting, as he does in this episode, precisely the deficiencies of the current political and economic climate and the way the American public is getting screwed in the process. Senator Sanders consistently defends the American middle class from the greed and abuse of the insurance companies, the bank lobby, the drug companies and Wall Street who have taken control of the decision-making within our government and our institutions.

http://www.alternet.org/politics/143040

Wamm2

HARD LABOR

September 29, 2009
Hard Labor 
 
CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS:

The federal government spent $167 billion in 1994 on corporate tax breaks and handouts – an average of $1400 per taxpayer (not including subsidies from counties and cities, hazardous waste cleanup costs, or limits on corporate liability).  By contrast, the total price tag for Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps and public housing came to $50 billion, or $400 per taxpayer.

Not many politicians talk about this.  A rare exception is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who said to the Democratic Leadership Council in November 1995 that people are mad because “we are on the way to becoming a two-tiered society composed of a few winners and a larger group left behind.”  Then, he said, “Since we are committed to moving the disadvantaged from welfare to work, why not target corporate welfare as well?”

The White House quickly distanced itself from Reich’s speech, but activists of all kinds picked it up: Perot’s United We Stand-America made it a major target of angry-middle groups; the right-wing Heritage Foundation and libertarian Cato Institute joined Ralph Nader to present a list of corporate pork barrel reforms.  Yet, neither Congress nor the White House makes much of corporate giveaways in budget-balancing plans.

What are the giveaways?  The active variety includes agribusiness, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, and the bailout of the S&Ls, and computer databases.  The rights to lumber and minerals on federal lands are routinely granted for $5 per acre, making the United States the only country in the world that virtually gives away its depletable natural resources!  Drugs developed with taxpayer money are routinely given to drug companies for monopoly marketing with no restraint on price, or royalties returned to the people.  The major television networks get free broadcast licenses with minimal public responsibility or obligation.

Passive corporate giveaways come in the form of tax breaks and loopholes.  Private individuals pay taxes at higher rates than corporations.  The investment tax credit designed to increase economic activity is historically taken as a windfall.  Tax breaks granted to be put back into productive equipment, plants and jobs, are commonly used to buy out other companies, creating no new jobs or wealth.  Subsidies actually debilitate innovation and efficiency.

In the debate over budget deficits, many ask, “How can we take food out of poor kids’ mouths and continue to subsidize the rich?”  Scant legislation has been introduced to rid us of tax loopholes for the rich. There’s been no serious move to initiate cost-benefit analysis of corporate giveaways, in the same way they’ve meticulously reviewed health and safety regulation for years, and assaulted affirmative action and the minimum wage.

One problem is that connections are frequently not made between things that people don’t like and what causes them.  Well-funded corporate lobbies and toadies are too adept at directing people’s anger against government in a massive, daily, Rush Limbaugh-/Lars Larsen-esque hate-your-government drumbeat.  They work to keep the focus away from corporations, which are the dominant institution in our society.

Government has been only a minion, a simply willing agent, for transferring tax dollars to corporate coffers. We are the richest nation in the history of the world and our richest (corporate) citizens behave as if divine providence, rather than selfish market decisions doom the poorest (human) citizens.  However, if the corporate greed issue is connected with people’s deprivation – and we brand-name the greediest corporate kings in the United States – we can turn the tide against the self-interested, compassionless and undemocratic aspects of the corporate institution. Corporations should pay their fair share to the citizens and communities, which enable their success.  That can result in real tax reform, without creating unnecessary hardships for the poor and middle class.

WALL STREET LIES BLAME VICTIMS TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL MELTDOWN by Nomi Prins, Wiley Press.

To hear it from the big financial companies, the big crash started when poor people bought homes they couldn’t afford. But that was at most 1% of the problem.  Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Nomi Prins’ new book, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.

The Second Great Bank Depression has spawned so many lies, it’s hard to keep track of which is the biggest. Possibly the most irksome class of lies, usually spouted by Wall Street hacks and conservative pundits, is that we’re all victims to a bunch of poor people who bought McMansions, or at least homes they had no business living in. If that was really what this crisis was all about, we could have solved it much more cheaply in a couple of days in late 2008, by simply providing borrowers with additional capital to reduce their loan principals. It would have cost about 3 percent of what the entire bailout wound up costing, with comparatively similar risk.

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/142944/wall_street_lies_blame_victims_to_avoid_responsibility_for_financial_meltdown

ORGANIZED IRRESPONSIBILITY

The Guardian/UK

US DOLLAR SET TO BE ECLIPSED World Bank President Predicts by Heather Stewart

The United States must brace itself for the dollar to be usurped as the world’s reserve currency as American dominance wanes in the wake of the financial crisis, the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, warned yesterday. United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency, says Zoellick. Speaking ahead of the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Istanbul, he said it was time for a “responsible globalisation”, in which decision-making was shared between the old powers and developing countries such as China and India.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/28-7

The Real News Network

CLEAN COAL IS FICTION says Jessy Tolkan: Washington saying coal industry can be “clean” is pure fiction.

Paul Jay speaks to Jessy Tolkan at the Tides Foundations’ Momentum conference in San Francisco. They speak about Tolkan’s coalition on climate change fighting Obama to establish a moratorium on all coal mining. Tolkan says that Washington’s push for “clean coal” is not enough because the coal industry’s and President Obama’s argument that the production of coal can be clean is “an absolute, 100% lie.” She also says that “the science is clear that if we don’t address coal head on, it’s almost “game over” for the planet.”

http://www.commondreams.org/video/2009/09/28

The New York Times

CASSANDRAS OF CLIMATE by Paul Krugman

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-3

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

POLLUTER BORN EVERY MINUTE

gonefishin'

 

 

 

 

AVAAZ – “VOICES”

July 16, 2009

This is a very interesting group.  They’re doing a lot of good and significant things for the right reasons, using positive methods. 

ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva.

Dear friends,

Here’s a quick report back on recent campaigning at Avaaz. Our community has grown like wildfire and is becoming really extraordinary — the pace and impact of our advocacy is intense. In just the last 8 weeks, we’ve run 9 major national and global campaigns on issues ranging from climate change to Iran to Guantanamo. Much more remains to be done on all these issues — but together we’re contributing in powerful ways. Here are some highlights from the last 8 weeks:

Brazilian rainforest – Brazilian Avaaz members made 14000 phone calls and sent 30,000 online messages to President Lula’s office in two days(!) and in the 11th hour successfully reversed a law that would hand over much of the Amazon rainforest to agrobusiness for exploitation – this was a major victory on climate change since the Amazon consumes enormous amounts of the greenhouse gasses that are warming the earth.

G8 Summit – last week 130,000 Avaaz members signed a petition in 48 hours calling for the G8 industrial countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius – focusing on shaming 3 countries who were blocking progress. The petition was delivered at the summit to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (see image at right), along with giant personalized postcards.

Outside the summit, Avaaz members stripped down to green underwear in a humorous theatrical delivery of the campaign’s message that generated substantial media coverage (pictured at right). As Avaaz and partners built pressure in Italy and around the world, the blocking countries relented, and the G8 leaders agreed to the 2 degree goal! However, they failed to agree on specific actions to make the goal a reality — our challenge now is to make sure leaders live up to their rhetorical commitments with a binding global treaty at the UN summit in Copenhagen this December.

Iran Protests – our community rapidly responded to the election crisis in Iran with an opinion poll to gauge the views of ordinary Iranians, a petition to world leaders to withhold recognition of the new President until the crackdown on protests ceased, and a fundraiser to support technology that would allow Iranians to freely access the internet. The rapidly deteriorating security situation has made it difficult to conduct the poll (final word on that coming this week), but the technology fundraiser has raised over a hundred thousand dollars to support the best tools for Iranians to access the internet and communicate freely. The situation in Iran remains uncertain, and we will continue to both support freedom of expression and oppose those who would exploit this crisis to justify military action against Iran.

Japan climate targets – In Japan, we raised the alarm as the Prime Minister Taro Aso was about to choose a damagingly weak climate targets. Funded by small online donations, Avaaz ran a national opinion poll that showed that 63% of Japanese people wanted strong targets, publicized it in the press, in a full page ad in the country’s largest business newspaper, and one in the Aso’s favourite comic book (see right). Internationally, Avaaz ran a front page ad in the Financial Times, and Avaaz members demonstrated and met with Japanese climate negotiators at summits in Paris and Bonn.

At last, the Prime Minister announced a target stronger than polluting industries had urged — but far from strong enough to stop catastrophic climate change. So we redoubled the pressure with a widely-covered international press conference dubbing the Japanese leader “George W. Aso” — comparing him to Bush for holding back progress on climate change.


Free Burma’s political prisoners
– Over 400,000 of us signed a major petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asking him to make the release of Nobel prize winning political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners his top priority. The petition was delivered in an extended meeting with Moon’s office and in a press conference at the UN in New York. The UN chief issued a strong statement backing the release of Suu Kyi and traveled to Burma to attempt to meet with her, but was rebuffed by Burma’s military junta. International pressure did cause the junta to delay a new show trial to extend Aung San Suu Kyi’s prison sentence, but it will take much more pressure to secure her release.

United States and Torture – A global fundraiser and petition on stopping torture and closing Guantanamo prison allowed Avaaz to secure a giant, 9 story billboard just blocks from the White House in the heart of Washington DC to deliver our message — but at the last minute the company selling the ad space refused, despite members of the US congress offering to help unveil the billboard in a press conference. Avaaz has now secured an alternative option for delivering our edgy message that will have Washington DC buzzing with our call for justice.

UN Climate Summit – At a major summit on climate change in Bonn, Avaaz recruited among members in Germany to help our partners organize a massive 500 person aerial photo spelling out ‘Yes You Can’ as a message to leaders discussing climate targets (see right). It helped raise the profile and urgency of these faltering but urgent talks. Avaaz also sent a 16-person lobbying/activist team to the summit negotiations and members in 10 key countries joined “negotiator tracking teams” that are following and responding to urgent needs to press individual country negotiators at these summits.

Peru – Avaaz arranged with local indigenous and top political allies to deliver a global petition against new laws that would cause massive devastation to the Peruvian rainforest and its people, taking out an ad in the national newspaper (at right). The ad and campaign generated much attention, and the domestic and international pressure worked, for now — the Peruvian congress has revoked the controversial laws!

Israel – As Prime Minister Netanyahu prepared to make a speech responding to Obama’s historic Cairo address and demand that Israel stop illegal settlements of Palestinian land, Avaaz took out a front page ad in a major newspaper – Haaretz – delivering a joint petition from global and Israeli Avaaz members edgily asking Netanyahu to ‘be more like Obama’ and stop the settlements. Netanyahu has so far refused, but we’re helping to build an unprecedented wave of Israeli and global pressure and attention on this issue.

The petitions, fundraisers, rallies, and lobbying campaigns our community is doing are having an incredible impact. Avaaz has grown by 50,000 people a week and is now almost 3.6 million engaged citizens in every country of the world — and we’re truly global – operating in 14 languages our community has 25,000 members in Singapore, 35,000 in South Africa, 130,000 in Italy, 50,000 in Mexico… There hasn’t really been a community like ours before, able to rapidly and effectively mobilize people power all over the world to the greatest needs and concerns of all human beings — it’s a reason for hope.

It’s also an exciting journey — looking forward to taking on the next 8 weeks, and 8 months, and 8 years together!

With hope,
Ricken, Alice, Pascal, Ben, Veronique, Paul, Graziela, Brett, Raluca, Luis, Raj, Milena, Paula, Iain, Taren, Margaret and the whole Avaaz team.

PS – To see some of the highlights of Avaaz campaigning in 2007 and 2008 and leave a comment, click here:
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/report_back_2/

And to check out other recent Avaaz campaigning highlights like our climate victory in Germany, our messages to Obama wall in DC, the delivery of our Swine Flu petition to the WHO, our Green Recovery march at G20 Summit in London, or our support to Tibetan organizations to break the blackout on their communications — visit the Avaaz blog: http://www.avaaz.org/blog/en/.

Click here to learn more about our largest campaigns.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace and Bebo pages! You can also follow Avaaz on Twitter!