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

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