Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Anyone Know How To Run A Country?

Experiencing an evil system? Corrupt government? Regulatory agencies that make it easier for an industry to pollute, exploit and kill? Is anyone in control here? Does anybody care?

That's the theme this week. If nobody but We the People care, then maybe we're the ones who need to take--and be in--control.

Anyone Know How To Run A Country?
by C.A. Matthews

It's a legitimate question. Does anyone know how to run a country? If someone out there does, can we really trust this person to do so in a just and moral manner? Or are Americans just fooling ourselves to think this grand experiment in democracy (begun in 1776) is even possible?

An excellent example of democracy-not-in-action is the recent meeting of the Lucas County (Ohio) Board of Elections. They halted not one, but two citizens initiatives after they were certified to be on the November ballot. That an appointed group of four individuals can tell voters what they can and cannot vote on demonstrates just how sick our version of democracy has become. We've been brainwashed to think a board made up of  well-paid appointees from  the Republican and Democratic Parties somehow equals a "fair and democratic" agency with the public's interests at heart.
The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is a petition that received 10,000+ signatures from voters eager to prosecute the industries actively polluting the drinking water for 11 million and causing toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie. So, how does preventing this measure from getting on the ballot embody "democracy"? If anything, it demonstrates the complete opposite. It shows where the interests of the two parties that make up the Lucas County Board of Elections lies--in pleasing the polluting industries and their lobbyists, not the voters.

One might surmise from the Board's recent actions that "democracy" exists in the US to serve corporate interests alone. One could also conclude the two major parties are pretty much one and the same, since they work together to accomplish the same goals for corporations. Democrats and Republicans are all employees of the corporations, serving them at their beck and call. And on August 28, 2018 in Toledo, Ohio, they did as they were instructed by Big Oil & Gas and Big Agriculture interests.

Well done, Bruce Saferin, Brenda Hill, Joshua Hughes and David Karmol,  good and faithful servants of the Lucas County Board of Elections! (The check is in the mail.)

Government at the service of  corporations is termed fascism. When Democrats and Republicans do as corporate lobbyists tell them to, they are acting as fascists. Some feel that calling politicians who serve Big Oil or Big Agriculture, for example, fascists is a slur. But if their actions fit the definition of fascism, then that's what they are--fascists, plain and simple. There's no need to beat about the bush, is there? 

The two major parties in the US regularly cooperate with corporations and pass laws that support corporations over ordinary people. In the case of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, they cooperated to block a citizen-instigated law from reaching the ballot that could cut into big business's profits at the expense of the environment. Since these two parties support ever increasing profits of corporations over the public's welfare, they can be rightly labeled as supporters of fascism.

I now will address the elephant in the room: "But, but, but... What about there being one evil party and one not-evil party as the campaign rhetoric tells us every election? There's supposed to be just one evil party, right? We then have to vote for the other party, even if we don't like everything they do. There can't be two evil parties because... then who can we trust?"

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no such thing as a lesser evil if you haven't figured that out yet. There is only evil and those who cooperate with it. Sure, they can choose different terminology or styles of cooperation, but it doesn't stop them from cooperating with evil. No one can occupy two positions at once. You either work with evil or you fight against it, and both of the major parties in the US are working with those who would do us and our children harm. Compromising on any instance of harm makes one complicit with the harm, and harm is evil. If deliberately polluting drinking water and covering for the perpetrators of such acts isn't evil, then what is?

If you believe in doing as Big Business/Wall Street tells you to do is acting in the best interests of our country, though, then you believe in fascism. As a fascist, democracy--or the lack of it--isn't something that keeps you awake at night. You believe corporations and their CEOs can run things better than democratically elected (not via rigged primaries, that is) public servants. 

Who cares about civil rights? CEOs don't, so why should you? Go ahead and lock up as many brown, black, red and poor white people as you can. It's good for the for-profit private prison system. Don't forget, incarcerated immigrant children make for a good source of slave labor, too. And the shooting of unarmed persons of color and hiding behind a badge is a sport fascists can really sink their teeth into.

However, as a fascist politician-puppet, you always have to think about where your next election is coming from. Ordinary Americans don't write many big checks to bankroll your next turn at the feeding trough--I mean, the next time you run for "public" office, do they? So you can ignore them and concentrate on your wealthy donors. What can poor folks do? Your fascist buddies and you control the system, and you're motivated to maintain the status quo no matter what.

But wouldn't you know, some pesky citizens called Toledoans for Safe Water still believe in old-fashioned democracy and not fascism. They want clean drinking water, and they demand the right to live without the fear of toxic algal blooms that have been linked to increasing numbers of ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's cases worldwide. (Watch the film Toxic Puzzle for more on this frightening medical link of cyanobacteria in our algae-filled water and these illnesses.) The supporters of  the Lake Erie Bill of Rights are fighting for both clean water for millions and for the power of restoring democracy to the people. They want citizens to have a say so on protecting their natural resources, not corporations.

Citizens not corporations--is that a good way to run a country? One person, one vote? Not one billion dollars in kickbacks to politicians and the rules are rewritten to help your polluting industry? I don't know anymore. The Lucas County Board of Elections instructed the citizens at the meeting to  "Vote next time for representatives who will represent you." But if we continue to do as the Board told us, and we allow representatives of the two corporate-owned-and-operated parties to appoint people to a board that thwarts democracy without blinking, then we'll get exactly what we deserve: Fascism.

I don't think we deserve it, but unless more of us wake up and fight for democracy, we'll have to live in a country run solely by corporations and learn to like it--toxic algal blooms and all.

Is this the "future to believe in" we've been working toward? If it isn't, then we need to take actions to start building a better one. Today. Join with others fighting for democracy and a better world. Don't let evil win.

"Change Society Now, Don't Wait" is the theme of Lee's opening segment on last Friday's Redacted Tonight. Sometimes activists can't wait to take action--especially when the clock is ticking down on climate change and our chance to survive as a species. We have to act decisively and quickly. Watch and see if you don't agree.  https://youtu.be/yqeMbfh_exE

Some other things to be aware of this week-- 

Big Pharma Family Finds New Way to Cheat (and flood the market with more addicting opioids, of course): https://youtu.be/QXg_iTOadCM

Our good friend from the North, Vegematic, shares stories about activists worldwide that you won't hear much about on mainstream media: https://youtu.be/X6pXDWO4ZKg  

I've lost count of the number of book publishers that Amazon has destroyed in the last couple of years. It's heartbreaking. It's "economic censorship" since these publishers aren't putting out different books and different voices aren't heard. It's the ultimate control mechanism--both financially and psychologically. More people need to #BoycottAmazon and support small businesses, but they'll just whine if you mention all the harm Jeff Bezos has done because Amazon has become their drug of choice. Watch this short video to understand how allowing corporations to rule us is destroying our economy and our world: https://youtu.be/4dnf55cUIV0

Jonathan Pie gives us the low down on Amazon and corporate greed and what they're doing globally in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner.  https://youtu.be/4f1vNr9j5G8

Fight For Freedom! Support Independent Media
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Power to the people and not the corporations!

The National Campaign to End Corporate Personhood and Demand Real Democracy!
Move to Amend
At Move to Amend we have one goal: to help build a democracy movement so deep and so wide that we pass the We the People Amendment (to secure constitutional human rights for natural persons only) and go on to build real, authentic democracy for every living human in the U.S. for the first time in our history.
Unfortunately, far too many Americans believe we can vote ourselves out of this mess. They are wrong, wrong, wrong. 

Our Pledge to Amend campaign drives the Moment to Amend into our elections.

Fundamental flaws have brought us to this point. Constitutional human rights limitations, white supremacy, classism, the two party system, and the Electoral College have all played their role. Equally destructive is an unelected Supreme Court that has created and nurtured "corporate persons" with human rights for 130+ years. We're experiencing corruption writ large!

Nowadays, voting is actually pretty far down the list when it comes to a making functioning democracy. As broken as this system is, between organizing and earning a living, vote we must. To effect change, we have to vote -- as a movement!

That's why Pledge to Amend is so important right now. With the passing of Labor Day, the campaign season just got hot. People are starting to really pay attention now, which means your participation in Pledge to Amend is more important than ever before.

Pledge to Amend is the way for candidates to tell us whose side they are on -- do they stand with We the People or with multinational corporations & billionaires?

Vote to Amend is the part of Pledge to Amend that connects YOU, the voter, to the candidate. By taking the Voter Pledge, you are telling candidates that if they Pledge to Amend, YOU will vote for them. Easy peasy!

You do have power. Pledge to Amend has become more influential in every election because more and more voters and candidates participate. It's an integral part of our strategic plan to pass the We the People Amendment by 2026. YOU can make it all happen!

And taking the pledge to Vote to Amend is simple; just add your name to our list! It takes less than 1 minute. So before you close this email, just go for it! And then take 2 more minutes to encourage all your friends to join you!

Move to Amend knows we will win this battle. We will end corporate rule and make the U.S. a real democracy. Will you stand with us? Will you Vote to Amend?

In solidarity,
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap
National Director, Move to Amend Coalition

P.S. Tell candidates that supporting the We the People Amendment is what you need from them if they want your vote!

From Friends of the Earth:
Help send 30,000 comments to the EPA: Don’t slash protections from methane pollution!
This week, Trump and Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler launched another attack on our environment and our communities.
They announced a plan to gut the EPA’s methane pollution standards. If their plan goes through, it would mean polluters would be free to pour even more of this dangerous greenhouse gas into our atmosphere. This would harm our health and bring us further to the brink of climate disaster.
The administration is required to consider public input on this plan before it can go through. So we need you to speak up now!
Methane is one of the biggest drivers of climate change. What’s more, it’s linked to severe public health impacts -- including increasing the risk of asthma and cancer.
The EPA’s restrictions on methane pollution are a common-sense effort to protect our environment and our communities. The only reason the Trump administration wants to roll them back is to help its friends in the fossil fuel industry make more profits.
This is unacceptable. The administration is saddling communities who live near oil and gas facilities with polluted air and health risks, all for the benefit of Big Oil.
This is just the latest in a string of efforts by the Trump administration to hand over our environment to corporate polluters. Trump’s Department of the Interior is also poised to roll back restrictions on methane pollution. And just last week, it advanced its plan to gut the Clean Power Plan.
This is the opposite of what we should be doing. Time is running out to prevent climate chaos. We need stronger action to avoid the worst, not a rollback of our existing rules.
The EPA could halt Trump’s disastrous plan in its tracks -- but it will only act if people like you speak up.
Standing with you,
Ernesto Vargas,
Climate and energy program director,
Friends of the Earth

We're excited to announce our autumn webinar series, starting this September 27. The topics of our upcoming webinars are based on the feedback that we received from our supporters about what most interests you! Details below.

What: Webinar: How War Threatens the Environment
When: Thursday, September 27 at 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Eastern
Where: Your computer or telephone!
One of the most destructive of human behaviors, war is a leading contributor to the growing global environmental crisis. Hear from experts Gar Smith and Tamara Lorincz about the deep ecological impact of the war system.
Register here!

What: Webinar: Global Perspectives on War
When: Wednesday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Eastern
Where: Your computer or telephone!
How do people around the world think about militarism? You won't want to miss this interesting webinar featuring three different global perspectives on the impact of war, featuring David Swanson, Kathy Kelly, and Barry Sweeney.
Sign up!

And stay tuned for a November webinar (date to be announced) celebrating the launch of the 2018-2019 edition of World BEYOND War's book.

RSVP to join us on September 27, to kick off our autumn webinar series!

Greta Zarro
Organizing Director
World BEYOND War

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Stonewalling of Democracy

Amelia was born four years ago during the toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie that caused a three day water ban crisis. She and her mommy don't want to experience another similar incident in their lifetimes. Would you? (Photo by Crystal Jankowski)
Why can't citizens protect their water supply--and those of 11 million of their fellow human beings? Why are short-term profits for private industry more important than safe and healthy water for all? If corporations have "personhood" under the law, why can't bodies of water and rivers? (Watch this great short video on Rights of Nature to see what we mean: https://www.wgrz.com/video/news/world/natures-law-the-rights-of-nature-to-exist/71-8245916) Read on to discover how saving the planet from further environmental harm can actually save the government institutions we hold near and dear.

The Stonewalling of Democracy
by Coast Watcher
(LEBOR press conference photos by A. J. Matthews)

The American Establishment has never met a democratic movement it didn’t hate. It will do anything and everything to prevent such movements from affecting the vast amount of money pouring into its offshore accounts. It will undertake measures ranging from interference – subversive and overt – in other countries’ affairs to union busting within the United States. The latest manifestation of this ugly phenomenon has surfaced in Ohio where citizens initiatives to get measures demanding clean water on the ballot have met with immediate resistance from The Establishment. 

Two bills, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and the Community Bill of Rights for Water, Soil, and Air Protection, follow examples in setting out the rights of natural features to be preserved and protected from pollution and exploitation. In essence, any person or business that pollutes lakes, rivers and creeks that supply the public with water can be required by law to clean up their mess or face heavy fines and/or jail. We the People essentially become We the Guardians of our natural resources. Simple enough. Rights of Nature laws are aimed at preventing  ongoing crises like Flint, Michigan or the now-annual toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie, which caused the ban on municipal drinking water supplies that affected Toledo, Ohio and its surrounding communities in August 2014. 

Over the course of many months, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights petitioners gathered 10,000+ signatures to put the measure before the voters of Toledo, requesting inclusion on the city ballot this November. The petition was accepted, the signatures verified as being more than sufficient, and it was duly approved and forwarded to the Lucas County Board of Elections as procedure dictates to be included on the city ballot as a charter amendment. 

And that's when the trouble began.

The Lucas County Board of Elections is made up of four people, appointed – note that, appointed not elected – by the Ohio Secretary of State. It is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. Note that no other political affiliations or independents are represented. On Tuesday, August 28, 2018, this body flatly refused to include the Lake Erie Bill of Rights on the ballot, citing (erroneously) that the city charter couldn't be amended. 
In other words, the Board of Elections (BoE) exceeded the scope of its authority when it took the powers of the judiciary upon itself to keep the initiative off the ballot. They denied the people of Toledo the chance to decide for themselves if they wanted clean drinking water or not. In a similar episode in Columbus, Ohio a week previous, the Franklin County Board of Elections did exactly the same thing in denying the Community Bill of Rights for Water, Soil, and Air Protection and to Prohibit Gas and Oil Extraction and Related Activities and Projects Ordinance. 

It must be stated that the proposed measures were framed in the correct legal manner by a team of environmental lawyers for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). There is nothing about the intiatives that can be subject to doubt, especially by an appointed body which has no right to assign judicial powers to itself. In the same raucous meeting that Tuesday, the Lucas County BoE also denied another citizens initiative measure protesting the relocation of the downtown jail in Toledo.

CELDF launched an immediate Writ of Mandamus in the Ohio Supreme Court against the Lucas County Board of Elections, namely Chairperson Brenda Hill, Dr. Bruce Saferin, Joshua Hughes, and David Karmol, stating the board exceeded its authority in denying the petition and requesting the court compel the respondents to obey the law. 

In response to this writ, we see the bloated maggots of capitalism emerging into the light. The following organizations issued a Writ of Amicus (friendship and support) to help the Board of Elections defend itself against the will of the people:

Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio Foundation, The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, The Ohio Oil and Gas Association, The Ohio Chemistry Technology Council, The American Petroleum Institute, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Lucas County Farm Bureau, Ohio Soybean Association, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Pork Council, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, and Ohio Agribusiness Association.

All of the above are polluters of Ohio’s waterways. They are determined to stonewall the people of Ohio from proposing and passing legislation that will compel polluters to clean up any and all pollution they cause. At present the public not only has to draw water supplies from polluted sources – a process that requires heavy and expensive filtration in order to make drinkable – it also has to pay to clean up industry's wastes that can cause toxic algal blooms.

I cannot emphasize this enough: This is The Establishment in action, coming out in direct opposition to the democratic rights of the American people. The stonewalling action by the Lucas County and Franklin County Boards of Elections is the first defense the status quo takes against those who suffer the most from The Establishment's corporate paymasters’ polluting ways.

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court of Ohio will find in favor of the petitioners. There is legal precedence for it, but courts of law are chancy things. In any case, those of us who love democracy and want to see the will of the ordinary people enforced have cause to be concerned about this outright and flagrant opposition from The Establishment.

BIO: Coast Watcher isn't surprised by The Establishment's profits over people stance. He wants voters to be aware how they're chipping away at the few democratic institutions we have left. Share this information with others who mistakenly believe paid-off politicians only want what's best for the people--and not their offshore bank accounts.
Press Release from TSW
Corporate lobbyists attack the people’s right to vote  on the Lake Erie Bill of Rights initiative

On Friday, several corporate lobbyist groups filed amicus briefs in the fast-moving lawsuit brought by Toledoans for Safe Water to have the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) put to a public vote. The identified supporters include the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, affiliates of the Construction Trades Ohio Foundation, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Oil and Gas Association, Ohio Chemistry Technology Council, and the American Petroleum Institute.

Markie Miller, organizer for Toledoans for Safe Water (TSW), “These groups, who represent some of Ohio's worst polluters, routinely oppose environmental protections, and now we can see that they oppose letting any amount of democracy question their iron grip on public policy. They can't bear to let voters decide -- they prefer to strangle it before it reaches the ballot in order to protect their ability to not only pollute our air and water, but to control our politics.”

The supplemental support offered to the Lucas County BOE by these industry lobbyists reveal the problem LEBOR seeks to remedy. Crystal Jankowski, organizer for TSW added, “the range of profiteers opposing LEBOR is telling of some real nervousness in corporate boardrooms. We hope voters will take a critical look at this list of opponents and feel compelled to stand with us in recognizing the inalienable rights of Lake Erie and the right of the people to protect our drinking water.”
Let there be peace on earth.

The future of the military draft in the United States will be determined, and we can have an impact.

The U.S. National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service is accepting comments until September 30th. 

Here are some ideas for useful comments you might make in your own words:
  1. End required selective service (draft) registration for men.
  2. Do not begin requiring that women register.
  3. If not ended, allow the choice of registering as a conscientious objector.
  4. If there must be non-military service, make sure that its pay and benefits are at least equal to those of military "service."
Submit your comments online.

Or email national.commission.on.service.info@mail.mil
Or mail National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, Attn RFI Comment - Docket 05-2018-01, 2530 Crystal Drive Suite 1000 Room 1029 Arlington VA 22202.

Consider making submission of comments part of any event you're involved in planning in the coming days. Here are other event resources.

World BEYOND War is a global network of volunteers, activists, and allied organizations advocating for the abolition of the very institution of war. Our success is driven by a people-powered movement


From Friends of the Earth:

Donald Trump nominated Scott Hutchins as chief scientist for the USDA. Hutchins spent over 30 years of his career working at Dow AgroSciences, with a focus on pesticides.

Hutchins clearly has deep ties to the pesticide industry. But if he got this USDA job, he’d be responsible for regulating this same industry. This conflict of interest makes him unfit to serve.

The Senate can reject Hutchins' nomination. But we need your help to convince it to act!

If confirmed, Hutchins would be setting the agenda for USDA’s $2.9 billion research budget. He’d be in charge of setting research priorities for nutrition, food safety, crop production and protection, natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems.

As a pesticide industry crony, he could use the agency’s infrastructure and grant making to advance his harmful vision of chemical-intensive agriculture under the guise of ecologically sustainable practices.

Hutchins would be the third member of Dow AgroSciences’ Pesticide and Seed Division to hold a high-level position in Trump’s USDA. In short, Trump is trying to hand over our food system to Big Ag.

We can’t depend on a lifetime chemical industry employee to put the best interests of farmers and public health over the profits of pesticide corporations.

Hutchins’ nomination is just the latest example of Trump’s giveaways to Dow. One of his first acts as President was to appoint Dow’s CEO to head up his now-defunct American Manufacturing Council. And his former EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, overturned a ban on Dow’s nerve gas pesticide chlorpyrifos after meeting with Dow executives.

Why is Trump so interested in helping Dow? Maybe because the company donated $1 million to his inaugural committee.

Together, we can stop this dangerous nominee. The last person Trump nominated for this job was Sam Clovis -- a racist, anti-environment extremist with no background in science. And Friends of the Earth members like you played a key role in forcing him to withdraw his nomination.

This shows that if we put enough pressure on the Senate, we can do the same with Scott Hutchins. But his nomination is advancing quickly. So it’s critical that you speak up NOW.

Standing with you,
Tiffany Finck-Haynes,
Senior food futures campaigner,
Friends of the Earth
Lee shows us how simple it would be to solve the problems of world hunger, homelessness, health care, adequate education for all. Just two words explain why these terrible travesties exist. Can you guess what they are?

Bernie Sanders

How does it happen that the wealthiest man in the history of the world, Jeff Bezos, is also one of the largest welfare recipients in America?

It is quite simple, really.

Jeff Bezos and his company, Amazon, make huge profits by paying their employees wages that are so inadequate that many of them need public assistance just to get by. Today in America, thousands of Amazon workers are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and public housing because they can't survive on the wages they receive. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is now worth $158 billion, and his wealth increases by $260 million - every single day. How absurd is that?

And who pays for the public assistance subsidizing Mr. Bezos’ wealth? You do. The middle class subsidizes the wealthiest person in the world, while his workers struggle to put food on the table. That is what the rigged economy is all about. And in my view, that has got to end.

That is why I introduced a piece of legislation that aims to end corporate welfare by establishing a 100 percent tax on corporations with 500 or more employees equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers.

So, if a worker at Amazon receives $1,000 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $1,000 to cover that cost.

The bill gives large, profitable employers a choice: pay your workers a living wage or pay for the public assistance they need to get by. It’s common sense. Now I want you to send a message to my colleagues that it has your support, as well:

Make no mistake about it, Jeff Bezos is not alone in this regard. Some of the most profitable businesses in America sustain their wealth through this kind of corporate welfare.

According to one report, in 2014, Walmart employees received at least $6.2 billion in public aid every year. Walmart is owned by the Walton family, the wealthiest family in the country.

More than half of employees in the fast food industry rely on some kind of public assistance.

McDonald’s workers are actually encouraged to sign up for assistance, and the co-owner of Burger King has a net worth of $25 billion, while his workers receive an estimated $356 million in subsidies each year.

According to a study from the University of California, low wages cost American taxpayers $150 billion every single year.

So let me be as clear as I can be: The government has a moral responsibility to make certain that every man, woman and child in this country has a decent standard of living and that we provide for the vulnerable in this country — our kids, the sick, the elderly and the disabled. It is not acceptable, however, that the American taxpayer is being asked to subsidize the wealth of some of the wealthiest people in the history of the world.

And it must end.

The economic and political systems of this country are stacked against ordinary Americans and in the favor of the most powerful among us.

The rich get richer and use their wealth to buy elections — just recently, it was announced that Jeff Bezos made a $10 million donation to a Super PAC that in one place is running ads supporting a candidate who will “work with President Trump to fight for Florida’s conservative values.”

For the rest of us, who don’t have the wealth it takes to buy the legislative outcomes they want, it’s survival of the fittest.

That is not democracy. That is oligarchy. Let's work together to end it.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders