Brad intvws City Councilman Paul Koretz, who explains why those who 'vape' should be treated like those who smoke - even while calling it 'much safer than smoking'.
UPDATE: Amer Lung Assoc CEO: Ban 'misguided'...
Green Party candidate David Curtis tells us that online voting can be 'secure and verifiable', despite what computer science and e-voting expert say. But he's not alone among 2014 SoS candidates in the Golden State...
As is reflected at right in a 1912 photo taken in Cincinnati, OH, Electric Vehicle (EV) technology has been with us for a very long time.
Underscored in the 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? (see video trailer below), the principle obstacles to the development of practical and affordable Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs, as opposed to PHEVs, or Plug-in Electric Vehicles) have been political and economic, as opposed to technological.
As today is National Plug-in Hybrid Day, a look at the current state of our nation's struggle to realize the massive benefits of truly green automotive technology seems in order --- particularly as the job-creating industry continues to face uphill battles from both fossil fuel-funded obstructionist Republicans in Congress and aggressive attempts by China and other nations to "win" the fight for renewable energy technology at any cost...
Contrary to the Republican Party's recently launched, all-out War on the EPA, the 40-year old Environmental Protection Agency, founded during the Richard Nixon Administration with strong bi-partisan support, is a job creator, according to a newly released report by the Majority Staff of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), the committee's 29-page report [PDF] touts "essential contributions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and landmark environmental laws" contribute towards "protecting public health and promoting economic growth."
It also highlights quotes from radical leftists like George W. Bush's Republican EPA Director, Christie Todd Whitman ("[I]t is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment.") and President Gerald Ford ("Nothing is more essential to the life of every single American than clean air, pure food, and safe drinking water").
The Democrats' report excoriates the deceptive partisan attacks embodied in recently introduced GOP House legislation meant "to weaken EPA's authority to regulate toxic emissions," and concludes by underscoring the EPA's role in promoting both environmental and economic health in the nation...
While both phenomena --- Occupy Wall Street and the "Tea Party" --- have emerged at a time of acute economic distress and a sense of alienation, disenchantment and betrayal brought on by an increasingly authoritarian corporate capitalism, they are as different as night is to day.
Occupy Wall Street is a genuine, organic, knowledge-driven democratic uprising. Its source, as perceptively described by Ben Manski, Executive Director of the Liberty Tree Foundation, is to be found in a profound "contradiction." "The promise of the Unites States is democracy," he writes, yet "The reality is that corporate elites rule."
The American "promise" is embodied in the lofty, egalitarian principles of the Declaration of Independence, in the recognition provided by the U.S. Constitution that the purpose of government is to "promote the general welfare," and in the concept inscribed above the portico of the U.S. Supreme Court --- "EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW." The "reality," as noted by former New York Times reporter, Chris Hedges, is that political power in the U.S. has been seized by a "criminal class" of rapacious oligarchs, whose radical goal is not merely the ability to carry out their criminal pillage of the economy and the environment with impunity, but the decimation of "all impediments to the creation of a neo-feudalistic corporate state."
The goal of Occupy Wall Street, Manski observes, is "to make the promise the new reality." It is, in that sense, a broader movement than both the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, for it is not limited to a rejection of Jim Crow and imperial conquest, but a total rejection of the authoritarian corporate security state that the rapacious oligarchs have erected.
Like the occupiers, the indoctrinated followers of the "Tea Party" are experiencing a profound sense of fear, alienation and betrayal. But what the latter do not realize is that theirs is a misdirected anger --- the product of an Orwellian manipulation by the same reactionary billionaires (aka "economic royalists" per FDR) who, in reality, are the source of their economic insecurity and political oppression.
But, before exploring the Orwellian manipulations of billionaire sociopaths, let's examine the underlying political and economic conditions that have given rise to Occupy Wall Street...
Since taking power in statehouses across the nation in 2010, Republicans have been feverishly implementing new restrictions on democracy in advance of the 2012 Presidential election. A number of those laws, clearly --- and often deceptively --- designed to carve out blatant partisan advantage for the GOP next year, were examined during a recent hearing by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The video of the hearing on "New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot" can be viewed here.
This is the second of our two-part analysis of the hearing.
In Part 1, we covered the subcommittee's examination of new polling place photo ID restrictions designed to make it more difficult for lawfully registered (and disproportionately Democratic-leaning) voters to cast their ballots at the precincts on Election Day. That issue --- which included some devastating cross-examination of long-time GOP "voter fraud" front-man Hans Von Spakovsky by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) --- was the first of three categories, as defined by committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) of new state voting laws covered in the hearings. All of the new voter suppression laws have been recently rammed through Republican-majority statehouses across the country.
In this concluding piece, we will cover the two additional categories examined: laws erecting barriers to the ability of individuals and non-partisan, non-governmental organizations to offer convenient registration for new voters and laws imposing significant reductions on early voting periods. Both are likely to restrict the number of voters able to cast their lawful vote in 2012 and, again, each is likely to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning voters.
Finally, We'll also touch upon the status of legal challenges to these new laws by democracy proponents and challenges to the Voting Rights Act itself by operatives on the Right. Moreover, it's impossible to look at any of these issues without drawing inferences about what the combination of new laws in all three categories means, particularly in light of the fact that the models for these new laws were drafted by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)...
A nearly two-hour hearing in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights earlier this month (full video available here), carefully examined the partisan, multi-state effort by the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-fueled GOP effort to enact new state voting laws across the country.
"Our country has not seen such widespread attempts to disenfranchise voters as we have seen this year in more than a century. Inclusive democracy is under attack," she testified, while Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) described the "brazen" GOP attempts to undermine the right to vote.
Subcommittee Chair and Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin (D-IL) broke the new state voting laws into three major categories, and the discussions of each are worth covering here over two different articles. In Part 1 here, we'll cover the first category: Polling place Photo ID laws restricting the ability of lawfully registered voters to cast their ballot on Election Day. The hearing produced several remarkable face-offs, including between Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and long-time GOP "voter fraud" front man Hans von Spakovsky (cue James Bond villain music), as detailed below.
In Part 2, we will cover the discussion of the other two categories at the hearing --- draconian new restrictions on voter registration, and laws which significantly reduce early voting periods --- plus a very troubling event that "reactionaries" have planned for the 2012 election, according to Dianis' testimony [UPDATE: Part 2 is now posted here]...
During the billionaire Koch brothers' secret Summer Seminar near Vail, Colorado, on June 26th, their secret superstar keynote speaker, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, criticized President Barack Obama, charging that he "had failed the fundamental test of leadership, which I believe is to tell the people who hired you the truth, unvarnished truth."
Never mind that until our exposé at Mother Jones last week, based on a complete audio recording of his secret speech, Christie himself had failed to tell the truth to those who had hired him, by concealing the fact that he had flown half way across the country to address the Koch's gathering...just a few months after he had also secretly met with billionaire brother David Koch himself one-on-one, "for about two hours --- just the two of us," as Koch revealed during his introductory remarks, in the oil and chemical magnate's New York City office. That secret meeting took place just prior to a major announcement by Christie to unilaterally withdraw from a Northeast greenhouse gas initiative which Koch had been long advocating against.
So what are the local media obsessed with, given so many of the revelations that suddenly came to light in both our detailed report and its accompanying audio and transcript? Whether or not one of the state's top Democrats, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, should step down from her position!
Naturally. Heckuva job, New Jersey media! (And Democrats!)...
While I may have something else to share with you on this later tonight, for now, just a few very thoughts on today's somber 10th anniversary of 9/11. While my thoughts this afternoon are, naturally, with the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11, they are as much today with those exponentially many more families who have lost loved ones, needlessly, in this nation's childish and/or cynical and/or opportunistic and/or cowardly responses to that horrific day.
I am also thinking of those countless many --- a great number of whom also lost family members on both 9/11 and during our response --- who carried on with exceptional courageousness nonetheless during the course of our lost decade since. To those who were not cowed by the events of 9/11 --- and by our far more damaging responses to it --- I thank you today, again, for your selfless persistence in exercising your freedoms and liberties to do what is right, as opposed to what, no doubt, would have been far easier and far less costly on so many levels.
Beyond that (and beyond the additional thoughts, as noted, I may have later tonight), I suspect you've seen plenty in relation to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 by now. So allow me to offer just a few short links to a few short and sweet articles or clips, all very much worth reading or watching, from over the last several weeks, as they offer a great deal about what now seems to matter most --- even as much of the nation's media choose instead to travel the very same road today as they did back then, and ever since...
• MSNBC: And in additional support of Edmonds' thoughts above, another clip from Day of Destruction, Decade of War, this one on the cynical, systematic, and criminal (if still shamelessly uncharged) use of tactics once known, and prosecuted by our country, as "torture"...
Noting that someone earning $106,000 a year contributes the same amount as a billionaire, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced his intention to introduce the "Keeping Social Security Promises Act."
The legislation, modeled after a promise President Obama made during his 2008 campaign, would attach the Social Security payroll tax to all incomes over $250,000.
Sanders cited the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, who said that the move would "ensure that Social Security can pay out all benefits for at least the next 75 years."
Receiving a standing ovation from some 3,000 labor leaders at last week's Las Vegas United Steelworkers Convention (see video below), Sanders blasted both Republicans and those Democrats who've called for cuts to Social Security. He noted that as Social Security is funded by the payroll tax and not the U.S. Treasury, it "has not contributed one nickle to the deficit."
"In fact," said Sanders, "according to...the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus."
"When [Social Security] was developed, 50% of seniors lived in poverty," explained Sanders. "Today…that number is 10%. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do….For 75 years…Social Security has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible American."
The Senator went on to tell the union workers in Vegas that he'd "be damned if they're going to cut Social Security."
Video of Sen. Sanders' speech at the United Steelworkers convention follows...
Yesterday, The Post & Courier of Charleston, South Carolina reported that a local "Council of Governments [COG] approved a resolution...asking for the state to audit how its voting machines are working."
The "machines" are the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems.
The Post & Courier not only mentions the fact that state election officials insist that the "iVotronic machines reliably tally votes," but buys into the canard that "increased skepticism" is based upon [emphasis added] "human errors made during last year's elections." It adds that the COG resolution expressed "a concern [that the] voting machines...do not incorporate a 'paper trail' that could facilitate unequivocal confirmation of election results."
If there is any state in the nation that should realize that casting a vote on the ES&S iVotronic amounts to an exercise in blind-faith, with or without a so-called "Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT), it would be South Carolina...
Earlier today, Brad Friedman reported that, despite high unemployment and food stamp usage at an all-time record high, U.S. corporations were experiencing record profits.
Simultaneously, Los Angeles Times reported that Senate leaders have reached an accord to pass three more NAFTA-like "free trade" agreements (Panama, Colombia, and South Korea) when Congress returns from its August recess. The Times stated: "Proponents [e.g.,the U.S. Chamber of Commerce] say the trade agreements...will pump as much as $14 billion into the U.S. economy and add more than 250,000 jobs."
The reality was better captured by Ross Perot during a 1992 Presidential Debate when he warned (video reminder below) that NAFTA would produce "a giant sucking sound of jobs headed South"...
On my Pacifica Radio show on KPFK in Los Angeles today, I interviewed Karen Bernal, chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party (CDP) on their new resolution in support of a primary challenge to President Obama. [Audio posted below.]
I was struck during my conversation this afternoon with Bernal when she mentioned the CDP had actually considered "punishment" for the caucus for, apparently, even daring to suggest such a challenge to Obama, much less for overwhelmingly passing a resolution in favor it by some 75 of their members. While attacking the party's nominee might be in violation of the party's rules, the fact is, to my knowledge, the DNC has yet to nominate a candidate for the 2012 Presidential election.
It seems the CDP might do well to remember what the "D" stands for in their name.
Since today's interview, the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli has posted a column on the matter, including some comments from Bernal and, of more note here, some, uh, colorful comments about the Progressive Caucus resolution and the idea of a primary against the President, by California Democratic Party chair John Burton. It's worth noting, as Garofoli did, that Burton supported the primary challenge against President Jimmy Carter by Sen. Ted Kennedy back in 1980. He's singing a different tune now. Of course, Kennedy didn't win that primary challenge, Carter won the re-nomination and he ended up losing in a landslide to Reagan --- for whatever that comparison may be worth. (Not too much, in my humble opinion.)
Also, progressive author and journalist David Swanson sent me a link to this new website, StopHoping.org, at which you can vote on whether Obama should be primaried and, if so, by whom.
[NOTE: My radio interview today with Karen Bernal, head of the CA Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus, on my KPFK/Pacifica show, about the groups' resolution in support of a Democratic primary challenge to Obama, as detailed below --- and the state party's troubling reaction to it --- is now posted here. - BF]
Nader argued that without a primary challenge and vigorous debate on issues important to the Democratic base, Obama would "be able, for another four years, should he win, which is likely, to turn his back on the liberal progressive base and become Obama/Bush Administration 2. Just look at all the similarities with the Bush Administration."
Host David Shuster challenged Nader by suggesting that "a primary challenge to President Obama would hurt him, cause fissures in the democratic party and possibly impede the party efforts in the the general election."
"Well, it's just the reverse," Nader countered. "It will challenge him, bring the best out of him and there's nothing worse for a candidate in terms of lessening the enthusiastic level for him than to go through an unchallenged routine of repetitious primaries."
The former Green and then independent Presidential candidate discussed a soon-to-emerge, campaign by Democratic progressives to organize an initiative in the coming days "not designed to defeat [Obama], in the Democratic Primary, but designed to generate a robust debate, and put the liberal progressive issues on domestic policies, including job production and foreign and military policy, on the national Presidential agenda in 2012."
He said that without such a challenge, Obama would be allowed to continue serving little more than just "the corporate warlords and corporate barons of Wall Street."
By the way, in an article last January, Canning called on Nader himself to register as a Democrat and consider exactly such a primary challenge to Obama.
Nader is not the only high profile figure to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to the President. Vermont's extremely popular Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said on Thom Hartmann's radio show the Friday before last that he thought "it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."
Then, over this past weekend, as word of the debt ceiling "deal" brokered between Obama and the Republicans, featuring historic spending cuts but no increases in revenue, leaked out, word came in that some 75 Progressive Caucus members of the California Democratic Party (CDP) had passed a controversial resolution in support of, you guessed it, a Democratic primary challenge to Barack Obama.
According to a statement posted with their resolution at WarisaCrime.org: "Gathering in Anaheim during an Executive Board meeting of the CDP, the group overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution following a discussion on the importance of not only challenging the far-right agenda of unmitigated corporate greed but also the current administration's willingness to slash 650-billion dollars from Social Security and Medicare."
Anti-war sentiments today are strikingly similar to what they had been in March 1968 when Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) challenged fellow Democrat and incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. In March 1968 only 41% of Americans said "no" when asked whether we made a mistake in sending troops to Vietnam. Today six out of every ten Americans surveyed (70% of Democrats) favor an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan. Another 59% oppose our involvement in Libya.
While opposition to war is similar, the "democracy deficit" --- what Prof. Noam Chomsky refers to in Failed States as the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- is much wider today than it had been in 1968.
Medicare, the centerpiece of President Johnson's Great Society, like Social Security, the centerpiece of FDR's New Deal, remains immensely popular with the American people. As revealed by a recent Washington Post poll, 78% of Americans oppose cutting Medicare. 72% favor raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 and only 17% oppose raising taxes on those making more than $250,000.
Yet, the political elites of both major parties, operating, as they did during the Wall Street bailout of 2008, under a contrived crisis mode, are advancing alternative deficit reduction proposals that will, in the words of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (see video below) "do just the opposite of what the American people want."
While third parties are an option, today we sorely need an option that was available in 1968: a Eugene McCarthy...
"Over the past several decades, Republican methods for winning national power have come to resemble CIA techniques for destabilizing an enemy country --- through the use of black propaganda, political skullduggery and economic disruptions," Parry argues rather convincingly in his article which is also cross-posted at Alternet under the title, "The GOP's CIA Playbook: Destabilize Country to Sweep Back into Power".
So with the GOP doing what they've done now for years, placing party far ahead of country --- and, as Parry explains, mirroring strategies used in the past to take down foreign nations like Chile --- who is really to blame for the destruction they continue to wreak? Them? The media for enabling them? The Democrats for having no apparent strategy to counter them? Or the American public, for being gullible enough to fall for it time and time again?
My conversation with Parry today on all of the above (and a few words about Obama's "draw down" from Afghanistan), follows below.
Republicans in state after state across the country today, Memorial Day 2011, are remembering those who fought and died to protect our democracy by celebrating recent victories in their renewed effort to remove the right to vote for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of legal American voters.
Both of them, as opponents have documented over and over again, will serve to do little more than to disenfranchise far more legal (largely Democratic-leaning) voters than those who will be kept from fraudulently impersonating other voters at the polling place, which, as even most proponents admit when forced, happens almost never --- if it all.
Thankfully in at least one instance since our last report, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) of MN vetoed a photo ID measure passed by Republicans in his state. So there is one case, at least, where the memories of our fallen soldiers might be appropriately honored this weekend, as one governor has remembered to protect the very thing that so many of them died for.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the enactment of Indiana's photo ID law in Crawford vs. Marion County Election Bd. (2008), both the new WI photo ID law, which may cost WI taxpayers $7 million to implement, and both the SC and TX photo ID laws, which do not even recognize student photo IDs, may be subject to significant legal challenges...