Occasionally --- almost as frequently, if not more so, than actual corporate mainstream news outlets --- The Daily Show produces real journalism.
One such example (among many) was Aasif Mandvi's stinging 2010 report on Nevada's United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union paying temporary non-union workers minimum wage and no benefits to protest Walmart's low wages, lack of benefits and blocking of unions.
Last night on The Daily Show, Mandvi did it again, this time offering a scathing, must-see report on "third-world" health care conditions in...Knoxville, Tennessee...and some stunning Rightwing hypocrisy about it...
On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council voted to join cities like New York and Chicago by banning e-cigarette use in the same public spaces where tobacco use is banned, such as "farmers' markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, indoor workplaces such as bars and nightclubs, outdoor dining areas and other places where lighting up is banned."
On this week's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio I spoke with L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) about why they voted to impose the ban, despite the dearth of evidence that e-cig 'vaping' is harmful to either the user or anyone else, and the evidence (include my own personal story) that vaping is, hands down, the most effective way for smokers to stop smoking. In fact, as I describe during the show, I view it as a "miracle" that will save countless lives and that banning it --- or making it harder to vape in any way, without good reason --- will, quite frankly, result in countless unnecessary deaths.
Even Koretz admitted during my interview that there's a "99% possibility" that vaping is "much safer than smoking".
But he was low-balling it, frankly. As you'll hearing during the show, this is a very personal issue for me. But you can decide for yourself if Koretz makes the case for the L.A. City Council's ban. Either way, the ban will only go into effect if Mayor Eric Garcetti approves it. Garcetti can be contacted here.
My great thanks to Koretz for joining us at the last minute, and for sticking around for tough questioning from both me and callers.
UPDATE 3/7/2014: PandoDaily's David Holmes pulls together a lot of the known (and unknown) information about e-cigs and describes the L.A. City Council's ordinance "to treat e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes" as "irrational and bad policy."
[T]his proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke.
As a former president of the American Lung Association, I have seen how e-cigarettes have become the subject of much confusion and misinformation, which has led to a classic case of guilt by association.
E-cigarettes may deliver nicotine and look like cigarettes. But there the similarities end.
Including e-cigarettes in the city's smoking ban would be a step in the wrong direction. It would send the unintended message to smokers that electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes, locking many smokers into traditional cigarette use. This is a public health outcome we do not want.
E-cigarettes are a fundamentally different product from combustible tobacco cigarettes and should not fall under the same rules and restrictions. Rather, we should encourage current smokers to move down the ladder of risk by implementing regulations that recognize these differences.
As a society, we should continue our laser focus on eliminating tobacco use. But a premature "regulate first, ask questions later" approach that equates e-cigarettes to combustible tobacco cigarettes only serves as an obstacle to that goal. The Los Angeles City Council should pause its campaign against electronic cigarettes until the FDA experts offer guidance on how the product should be regulated. To do otherwise is to ignore an opportunity to save millions of smokers from a lot of harm.
One of the nation's largest coal producers will pay a $27.5 million fine and is set to spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into waterways across five Appalachian states.
The proposed settlement is the largest ever of its kind.
The Associated Press obtained details before the settlement involving Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was filed in court in West Virginia.
The government says the company and its subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times between 2006 and 2013.
The government says they discharged heavy metals harmful to fish and other wildlife directly into rivers and streams.
The companies agreed to take measures to reduce discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 processing plants in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In January of 2011, Alpha Natural Resources, then the third largest coal producer in the U.S., purchased Massey Energy Co. for $7.1 billion to become what Bloomberg News described as "the world’s third-largest metallurgical coal producer" and "the second-largest U.S. coal company by sales, with almost 14,000 employees."
The acquisition happened just months after the horrific April 5th, 2010 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine near Montcoal, West Virginia. 29 people were killed in the explosion, described as "the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years."
As coal and oil families mourned in WV and elsewhere, and as the country watched the unprecedented and unstoppable toxic discharge in the Gulf, it seems that Alpha was quietly poisoning rivers and streams in at least five states and fighting, along with fellow supporters of Big Fossil Fuel, to block the nation's transition to clean, renewable energy.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have been uncharacteristically angered recently by an organized movement of Rightwing shareholders demanding that the company stop its investments in green initiatives. Apple has announced its intention of obtaining 100% of its power for administrative operations from clean, renewable energy sources in the not-too-distant future.
"Since taking the helm at Apple in 2011," the UK Independent reports, "Cook has made notable improvements to the company’s use of renewable energy, increasing the use of solar, wind and geothermal resources used to power Apple’s offices from around a quarter of its total energy use to more than 75 per cent."
The company's sustainability initiative reportedly led the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a self-proclaimed "conservative think tank" to demand that Apple "refrain from putting money in green energy projects that were not profitable," the paper reports.
Apple does "a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive," Cook reportedly told the shareholders. "We want to leave the world better than we found it."
"Not everything that Apple does is motivated by money," he said. "If you want me to do things only for ROI [Return on Investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock."
He is said to have added: "When we work on making our devices accessible to the blind, I don't consider bloody ROI."
Good for him. But the episode underscores an important issue and one that is not generally appreciated by well-meaning progressives who would like to see similar actions by more corporate heads. In fact, our particular system of capitalism in this country --- and even the law --- might very well favor the rightwingers from the NCPPR in this argument, rather than Cook and Apple...
The Green Party's candidate for California Secretary of State this year is a strong proponent of Internet Voting. David Curtis, who was also the Green's 2010 candidate for Governor in Nevada, is now running to replace CA's term-limited Democratic Sec. of State Debra Bowen and he's staking out a position that contradicts computer scientists and security experts who warn that online voting cannot be done securely.
Recently, I had a "conversation" with Curtis on Twitter about his advocacy for Internet Voting, after Steven Dorst, an election integrity advocate who follows The BRAD BLOG on Twitter, responded to a tweet of Curtis' declaring his support for an optional "online method of voting".
My enlightening conversation with Curtis follows in full below.
As with electronic touch-screen voting, which is 100% unverifiable in any form, even when done securely --- if there is even a way to measure such things (and virtually all computer security experts have told us for years that there isn't) --- Internet Voting can never been done in such a way that the citizenry can know that its been done securely. Thus, no matter how "secure", Internet Voting is ultimately a threat to confidence in elections and, along with it, representative democracy in the U.S.
Nonetheless, Curtis, like at least one other candidate in this year's SoS race in California, disagrees. He strongly advocates in favor of Internet Voting...
As we discussed during Tuesday's Green News Report, Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of civilization, doesn't mind fracking --- nor the health concerns and property devaluation that come with it --- near your house.
But now he's suing to stop it near his house...or, rather, suing to stop the construction of a 15-story water tower, to be used for fracking, near his $5 million, 83-acre mansion and ranch in Bartonville, Texas.
It will "create a constant and unbearable nuisance to those that live next to it," the lawsuit contends, charging that water used for fracking will lead to "traffic with heavy trucks" that, Tillerson's attorney says, "devalues his property."
After more than 30 years at Mobil (and six months at ExxonMobil under Tillerson, after the two companies merged), Allstadt went on to become a foe of fracking and a vocal proponent of climate change action.
"No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated," Alstadt writes in his letter to Tillerson, who is otherwise a champion of fracking when its not in his own backyard. "You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can't afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations."
Read Alstadt's full letter to Tillerson below. Oh, and thank you for speaking up, Mr. Alstadt...
A federal judge declared a same-sex marriage ban in deeply conservative Texas unconstitutional on Wednesday, but will allow the nation's second-most populous state to enforce the law pending an appeal that will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. His ruling is the latest in a tangled web of lawsuits across the country expected to end up in the Supreme Court next year.
"There've been pro-equality decisions in UT, OK, OH, KY...IL and VA since Windsor. No decisions against equality," Millhiser tweeted, later adding, "Texas decision makes it more likely #SCOTUS will have to hear marriage equality. Will appeal to 5th Circuit, which is severely conservative."
"Before TX," he wrote, "it was possible circuit courts could be unanimous in siding w/ marriage equality. 5th Circuit will probably create circuit split."
I'm less certain about a "severely conservative" court creating a split. If the court really is as conservative as believed, versus simply "activist" Rightwinger Republicans, they are unlikely to find anything in the U.S. Constitution to support Texas, or anybody else, treating some people less equally under the law than others when it comes to marriage. As we've long argued, marriage equality for all is the true conservative position, as true conservatives both here and elsewhere, have also long affirmed.
In his federal ruling on the Texas ban today Judge Garcia seems to agree. "Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution," he wrote, according to AP. "These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex."
Normally, I wouldn't waste your time by covering a story like this. It's a ridiculous wedge issue that extremist Rightwingers are trying to mainstream, and the bill that allows for their hoped for discrimination against gay people in Arizona (which is already allowable under existing law in AZ) isprobably going to be vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) anyway, if reports today are reliable and if she has any interest in taking the advice of some of the most powerful and influential Republicans from the state. Even three of the Republican state Senators who voted for the bill are now asking Brewer to veto it. [Update 2/26/1: Brewer has now vetoed the bill, as expected.]
But given that three-term state Sen. Al Melvin (R) is also running for Governor of AZ in 2014, I suppose it's important to help folks understand how extreme and --- mostly --- stupid this clown really is.
I'd normally ignore this story even on that basis, on the premise that this guy is obviously too stupid to be elected to any office, much less governor of the state.
However, Arizona is also the state that, remarkably, managed to re-elect the similarly daft Jan Brewer as the state's chief executive. So, I suppose anyone who gives too much credit to the voters of AZ to save themselves (or to have the ability to oversee their own election results determined by computer tabulators instead of human beings) does so at their own peril.
With all of that in mind, please watch the video of his interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper (who deserves credit here) and take note of how unapologetically dumb state Sen. Al Melvin --- candidate for Governor of AZ --- actually is. The only defense I can manufacture in his favor: if he's not incredibly stupid, he's just indescribably dishonest. So, take your pick...
If you'd like to hear my 30 second version/re-enactment of pretty much everything you need to know from David Gregory's shameful Meet the Press climate change "debate" on Sunday's show, listen to yesterday's 5th Anniversary Green News Report.
Now that the East Coast and parts of the southern U.S. have been battered over and again with extreme weather this winter, and while California is in the midst of its worst and longest drought on historical record, the Sunday "news" shows, all at once, decided to cover what they describe as "climate change" --- or, in the words of NBC's Meet the Press host, David Gregory, "The Politics of Weather".
Out of all four of them, just This Week and Face the Nation, bothered to book an actual climate scientist to take part in the conversation with their various bevies of political and journalistic deniers and non-scientists. Only Face the Nation offered a one-on-one with a climate scientist before then bringing on the denier.
Gregory, who Esquire's Charlie Pierce aptly described today as a "noodlebrained bag of useless flesh", tipped his hand last Friday by announcing excitedly via Twitter that MTP would be "Debating Climate change" on this week's show with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), one of Congress' top carbon industry proponents and global warming deniers and Bill Nye "The Science Guy", a mechanical engineer turned TV science personality. No actual climate scientists necessary, apparently, to "debate" climate change in Meet the Press World.
Pierce called the embarrassing exchange "every bit as grim as you can imagine", and it certainly was. Here's just part of his scathing, dead-on-the-money response to it...
From US District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen's ruling [PDF] yesterday, finding that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under federal law (just as both Utah's and Oklahoma's bans were recently found)...
Almost one hundred and fifty four years ago, as Abraham Lincoln approached the cataclysmic rending of our nation over a struggle for other freedoms, a rending that would take his life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, he wrote these words: "It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just. . . the same thing---fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. "
The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with Plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have.
While undoubtedly Virginia's law would have been found unconstitutional and overturned eventually anyway --- just like similar laws in all fifty states will be very shortly --- it arguably will have happened much faster there and (take note, conservatives) with much less cost to the taxpayers, thanks to the results of last November's elections. Yes, as we've been detailing for more than ten years now, elections really do matter.
Oh, and happy Valentines Day, Virginia...and everyone else!
This is what politics now looks like inside the Republican Party, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is staring down the double barrels of a very aggressive "Tea Party" primary challenge from Matt Bevin, and then a very close contest with Democratic general election candidate and Kentucky Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes...
Remember, that ad is by fellow Republicans. In other words, the ridiculous and toxic (if too often effective) tactics they've been using for years against Democrats are now being deployed against each other.
As Josh Marshall said when flagging the ad above, "I guess you make your own bed." Or, perhaps, as the most most haunting movie ad ever said: "The call is coming from inside the house."
Good luck with that, Republicans. You are what you eat.
I've been on Abby Martin's Breaking the Set on RT America a number of times (see here and here), but on Wednesday it was my first time being on the show along with the delightful Desi Doyen, my co-host on the Green News Report.
I've never been particularly impressed with MSNBC's Krystal Ball. She's never come across to me as much more than a knee-jerk Democratic Party loyalist, willing to join too many others on the cable news net to offer various versions of the same predictable party line.
Yesterday, however, she called for Hilary Clinton to not run for President in 2016, so as to make room for a more progressive candidate, one more appropriate to this moment...such as Elizabeth Warren.
"I've come to a difficult realization," says Ball in the video monologue below. "I don't want Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2016. I do not think that she's the right person for this moment." And good on her for saying as much...especially on MSNBC...
On a party-line vote, a Florida county's Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County's voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move - and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.
In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts.
Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections.
Manatee's Supervisor of Elections Bennett, as Israel points out, is no stranger to voter suppression. In fact, he seems to rather love it. While serving as a State Senator in 2011, he endorsed a Republican bill to limit early voting during the 2012 Presidential election by explaining: "I wouldn't have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who's willing to walk 200 miles...This should not be easy."
Hmmm..."That person in Africa". Just a common turn of phrase, apparently.
That 2011 bill was eventually passed, signed by Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott and successfully created hours-long lines for (certain) voters in the Sunshine State in 2012.
Those days of pretending to give a damn about voting rights must be over for some Florida Republicans, however, particularly with Scott up for re-election this year and his polling numbers looking fairly bleak against his likely challenger, former Republican Governor turned Democratic candidate Charlie Crist.
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