Profits Before People

Toxic-Household-Products-Poisoning-Your-Homes
“Industrial chemicals,” commonly known as everyday household products, are basically never tested for human toxicity.

A few years ago, I was shocked to learn that Congress passed a law in 1976 (The Toxic Substances Control Act) that stripped the EPA’s authority to regulate “industrial chemicals”; a highly deceptive term because this scary category actually includes household products. Under this terrible law, the EPA couldn’t even test a new chemical until it was on the market and people started getting sick, turning us into guinea pigs for the past 40 years.  Given the tens of thousands of potentially harmful chemicals introduced over four decades, God only knows how many toxic cocktails have accumulated in our systems, including asbestos and formaldehyde, and how many years were shaved off innocent people’s lives.  Yes, asbestos.  The United States is the only country on earth where asbestos is still legal under “specific applications” like brake pads, which means if you’ve ever changed your own brakes (like I have), you’ve been exposed.

This law is a perfect example of how Congress allows corporations to put profits before people.  In this case, Congress’ abrogation of its sworn duty to protect the public is particularly flagrant (and unforgiveable), because it violates citizen’s fundamental right not to buy products that kill them.  Worse, it constitutes an active suppression of critical information, which is vital to sound economics.  Consumers need accurate information to make informed purchases, otherwise you get what economists call a “dead-weight” loss.  In this context, the public is literally treated as dead weight.

There are currently tens of thousands of chemicals off limits to EPA scrutiny because of the law, which also mandates that EPA conduct a cost benefit analysis the few times the agency even considers banning a potential toxin.  It was this provision that forbade EPA from outlawing asbestos from American products, because the courts ruled EPA hadn’t accounted for chemical companies’ losses.  Since 1976, only five out of the 85,000 chemicals on the market have been banned under this stringent pro-business standard, while only a small fraction have even been tested.  Add the fact that EPA has been historically underfunded by a Congress hostile to its mission, and we might as well scrap the agency’s oversight of “industrial chemicals” (household products) altogether.

As usual, the lame-stream media was nowhere the past forty years on yet another example of Congress’ unwillingness to protect the public.  Thankfully, the law was finally amended several weeks ago but is still riddled with loopholes, and was only enacted because industry found state bans against suspected toxins inconvenient. However, states have now lost their right to initially ban chemicals under the new federal standard.  As usual, the law is unnecessarily complicated due to carve outs designed to protect profits over people, and, of course, the more complicated legislation is, the harder it is for the public to grasp, and the less likely they’ll pay attention to it.  Complex regulation also creates barriers to entry for small business, which the big guys love.

Of course the chemical industry’s response is that we need “compromise”, otherwise thousands of jobs will be lost, but the first thing our parents taught us was never to compromise on health.  Well, I guess they forgot to add:  “Except in corporate America.”  Yes, the standard fear-mongering about job loss shouldn’t be taken lightly, but therein lies the problem.  Moneyed interests in America have always been fond of embedding systems into our economy that are either under-regulated or never should’ve been allowed in the first place (like slavery).  Then, these nefarious practices get so entrenched we either have to fight a war to snuff them out or suffer seismic economic consequences to disentangle them from the economy.  Examples include:  Our dependence on foreign oil, processed food, cheap imports, standardized tests, for-profit prisons, for-profit colleges, for-profit healthcare, and on and on and on . . .

 

 

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Profits Before People

You Are Not Entering the “No More War” Zone

 

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At the Democratic Convention last week, California and Oregon delegates interrupted former CIA Director/Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s speech several times with chants of “NO MORE WAR!”   Then, after DNC officials dimmed the lights on the Oregon delegation, the protesters activated their flashlight apps and held their phones aloft like little Statues of Liberties to get Panetta’s attention.  Panetta, also a former Congressman, OMB Director and Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton, is a highly seasoned politician, yet he seemed genuinely surprised and somewhat perplexed as to how to handle the anti-war chorus.  All he could do was smile sheepishly and awkwardly soldier on through his speech.  The chants also caught the rest of the delegates off guard, until they started a counter-chant of their own:  “USA! USA! USA!” to drown out their opponents, and that’s when a cold chill ran down my spine.

Was I watching a rerun of the ‘04 GOP Convention when Code Pink disrupted George II’s coronation at Madison Square Garden and got drowned out by a similar neo-con infused “patriotic” roar?  No. It couldn’t be.  The “LIVE” caption at the bottom of my flatscreen disabused me of that notion.  So I rubbed my eyes and waited patiently for Rod Serling to emerge from the woodwork to reassure us that we had indeed, entered another dimension; some parallel universe where, after 15 years of perpetual war, the Democrats shouted down anti-war protesters with hollow chants of “USA! USA! USA!” while an embodiment of the military-industrial-complex extolled the virtues of a hawkish nominee.

Nope.  No Serling.  This wasn’t the Twilight Zone folks.  It truly was the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  Wow.  History was pivoting on a dime and I was watching it all go down in real time.  I felt privileged.  Then, my shock turned to awe as a realization swept over me:  I was witnessing the conversion of the Democratic Party from a historically tacit Pentagon supporter to an openly militaristic party that shuns any form of dissent when it comes to endless war.  But before I could digest this sea change, I was floored by an equally disturbing development.  PBS commentators, eager to project a glossy picture of party unity after Bernie’s Clinton endorsement, were virtually SILENT on this momentous turn of events.  It’s so very rare to witness a turning point in history crystallized in such dramatic fashion, and yet even on public television, and even with a media STARVED for drama, there was no analysis, no prolonged discussion and NOT ONE QUESTION fielded to Panetta during the ensuing interview regarding the embarrassment he had just suffered through, or, more importantly, the implications thereof.

When I combed through the next morning’s Washington Post (hardcopy), there was also NO MENTION of the disruption ANYWHERE in the ENTIRE NEWSPAPER (apologies if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it was covered). Democracy Now was the only news entity that devoted extensive coverage to the anti-war chant and subsequent “USA” drown-out.  No surprise there.

Fast forward to Thursday night’s acceptance speech:  Once again, protesters’ cries were drowned out with chants of “HILL-AR-Y, HILL-AR-Y, HILL-AR-Y,” which repeatedly interrupted the first woman nominee for President in U.S. history as Bernie supporters chanted more anti-war slogans. Again, the Orwellian media (with the exception of Fox News) was so eager to pander to Clinton, they glossed over the disruption as if we dreamed it or it never happened.

Ladies and gentlemen, this country’s establishment has moved so far right in its unquestioning support for military expansion (and expenditure), that lame-stream media just suppressed coverage of historic anti-war dissent to a surreal degree.  This should all give us pause, and open our eyes to the octopus-like corporate nexus of “news” media, campaign finance, K-Street Congress, and military contractors that dominate our foreign policy discourse.

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Anti-war activist Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone was alive and well at the Dems’ Convention

 

You Are Not Entering the “No More War” Zone

Our Revolution

Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuple
“Onward: Man the Hillary Watch!”

A lot of Berners are upset Sanders is backing Clinton.  Some even feel betrayed. But betrayal is a word that should never be associated with Sanders.  Hero is more like it.  Bernie Sanders is a hero; for his patient, Herculean effort to swing Hillary Clinton left, towards the true lode-star of traditional Democratic values.   After 40 years in the moral wilderness, the Democratic Party may finally be heading home, past the granite cliffs of FDR’s Gibraltar to port at the teeming city of a Brand New Deal, where generations of tired, poor and hungry huddled masses await the Party’s prodigal return.   Or, Hillary may continue to lead the party down Wall Street’s yellow brick road as she courts anti-Trump Republicans, in which case the corporatist Democrats may replace the rapidly disintegrating GOP, leaving an opening for the Green Party to assume the mantle of the New Left.  This is the choice Clinton faces.

In the meantime, we need to acknowledge Sanders’ victory and hope it isn’t Pyrrhic.   After all, he leveraged his base to get Hillary to renounce the TPP in its current form, in addition to Citizens United, while supporting a public option and free college for families making less than 125 grand a year.  Fellow Berners, these big wins should be celebrated, not seen as a sell-out.  Yes, our movement will need to walk not-so-softly and carry a big stick whether Hillary gets amnesia or not.  The stick, of course, would be a 2020 primary challenge against an incumbent president, and/or an alienated mass of millennial voters in November.  I’m sure the threat of her bluff is why Bernie pushed to purge the rigged primary rules at the Convention.

While manning the Hillary Watch, we can begin to reform the Democratic Party from within by using Bernie’s new campaign (Our Revolution) to pressure Congress on progressive issues.  We can simultaneously apply party pressure from without by supporting affiliated organizations like Brand New Congress (BNC).  This group will use the Bernie model to back progressive candidates for every seat in the land through small donations, volunteering, and yes, vetting volunteers to run for office (this means you!). So BNC could be the conduit for the Green Party, Progressive Party, Labor Party, or “Whatever” Party to fill the void left by the Democrats if they decide to go AWOL on their promises to Bernie’s revolution.

For the time being, keep in mind that Bernie and his army of grass roots delegates on convention committees have produced “the most progressive Democratic Party platform ever”, including a $15 dollar minimum wage.  It’s entirely possible the Platform Committee only failed to denounce TPP because establishment members didn’t want to damage Obama’s “legacy”, but remember, if it isn’t just lip service, Hillary no longer supports TPP, so it appears she’s not afraid to buck Obama on this.  Who knows?  Maybe Hillary Clinton will do more than make history as the first female President, and, unlike Obama, actually be a great president.  The only way she will achieve this though is to continue to embrace the progressive values our movement has thrust upon her.  The Hillary Watch starts with her acceptance speech tonight.

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Our Revolution

The Perfect Boogie Man

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Boogie Man or Trump Card?

Here he comes  . . . our ace in the hole.

Now that it appears Hillary has finally clinched the nomination, the cries to come together to “stop Trump” will only intensify.  However, I agree with Bernie’s reluctance to concede.  He needs to keep the pressure on Clinton and the DNC until he receives concessions and promises to fundamentally reform the party’s commitments to achieving progressive ideals. Bernie’s meeting with Obama Thursday was a good start.

Meanwhile, the movement can’t succumb to hysterical pleas to “lay aside our differences” (a.k.a. principles), play the usual game, and support the status quo without iron clad proof of Hillary’s commitment to sweeping change.   Ironically, Trump provides the perfect boogie-man for the Democratic establishment to keep our eye off the ball, and the prize.  Once again, the status quo can whip up fear and implore us to choose the lesser of two evils lest we succumb to GOP darkness.  Not that Hillary Clinton is evil, but the system is, and Trump represents a gift for Clinton if she wants to cling to the old way of doing things, because of the fear he incites.

If the Clinton pitch to Berners is only painted in an anti-Trump context, then she’s off the hook, because the focus shifts from policy change to fear of the Boogie Man, which has been the Democratic playbook’s ace in the hole for far too long.  Elizabeth Warren, and even Bernie, are falling into this trap as Democrats begin to “unite” around Clinton with mounting choruses of: “we can’t let Trump be president,” which is a passive statement to begin with.  In fact, this was Warren’s opening salvo when she endorsed Hillary, rather than:  “I’m backing Hillary because she will push Bernie’s agenda.”

Remember, divide and conquer has been a staple of American two-party politics since its founding, and as long as we view elections through a bi-polar lens, Bernie’s platform is doomed.  Bernie’s faction needs to leverage fear of Trump among Hillary’s grassroots and lust for power among party elders to adopt A LOT of Bernie’s big proposals, otherwise, we stay home and let the chips fall where they may.  We need to make Trump OUR ace in the hole, and be truly willing to let those chips fall, without bluffing, unless we get real concessions.  No more statements like:  “I’ll bring my barf bag to the booth when I pick Clinton,” or “I’ll hold my nose and vote for Hillary,” because that’s the trap folks.  We’ve been holding our noses and running for years; running from the Boogie Man instead of standing for something.  Running while Rome burns.

Trump is scary, but how much worse would Trump be than George W. Bush, who presided over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and plunged us into a phony war that killed hundreds of thousands of people?  Who also allowed terrorists to execute the worst attack on American soil in our history, despite being repeatedly warned of an imminent threat.  How much more de-regulatory action on food and consumer product safety would we witness under Trump than we did with Bush?  Or soft-pedaling of civil rights litigation in the Justice Department?  Or political purges of civil servants who deviate from neo-con orthodoxy (remember Valerie Plame?)?  Or Mexican Walls (the first one went up under Bush, remember)? How much more right wing would Trump’s appointed Justices be?  More conservative than Alito and Roberts, the architects of Citizen’s United?  If we had a surplus, would Trump wipe it out any faster than Bush did?  Would military contractors get richer off the blood of American soldiers, or the intelligence community more bloated?  Would Wall Street get regulated any less?  Big Oil?  Would polluters pay less?

Yes Trump is more unpredictable than Dubya, but then Dubya’s “experts” generated 9-11, the Iraq War, and the Great Recession.  How much unpredictability did those three disasters create?  Obviously, we don’t want to even approach this level of incompetence ever again, but the point is that we’ve seen this movie before.  Trump is just another disaster in a different form.  The difference this time though is that the GOP is in disarray, and the Democratic establishment smells blood, which is leverage for us, not the DNC.  For the first time in over 150 years, we could witness the disintegration of a major political party as the GOP goes the way of the Whig.  Their race card is up, and after half a century, the Southern Strategy has finally come home to roost in the face of Boogie Man Trump.  It’s Friday the 13th, and Jason has been unmasked.

So, the DNC just might be the only game in town come January, and that potential for power is intoxicating.  They can taste it, and this is why Bernie must hold Hillary’s feet to the fire and call her bluff.  Otherwise, what will we gain if the Republican Party falls and the Democrats squeeze into their shoes to fill the void? They’ve moved so far to the right the past forty years, it might not be such a bad fit.  Then what would we say to the millions of millennials who held their noses at our behest, and where would they go?  How about away from politics.  Forever . . .  with no young army to fill the yawning chasm on the left.

The stakes are high, but we hold the Trump Card, not the DNC.

boogie man
Watch out kids:  The Boogie Man’s gonna getcha!

“Boogie Man”:  1. Mythical creature used by adults to frighten children into good behavior. This monster has no specific appearance, and conceptions about it vary drastically.

The Perfect Boogie Man

Leading From Behind

Jerome Boger
No more safeties Democrats!

On the California stump Hillary Clinton is spinning that pragmatic politicians don’t “dash hopes” or “frustrate” voters, avoiding bold policies that supposedly won’t pass.  She touts deal making over end-zone plays against the Party of No; grinding it out with short pass plays and runs up the gut to move the chains, one first down at a time.

The problem with this tactic is that Obama tried it and largely failed.  Yes he signed the Affordable Care Act, but he let Congress write it with virtually no guidance, so we got an overly complex, expensive law with a giant donut hole for top-end low-wage earners (among many, many other problems).  Obama didn’t introduce a bold initiative like a public-option or single payer system and force Congress to say no.  Instead, he started in the middle and we ended up with the GOP’s 1993 “exchange”.  Lesson learned:  When Democratic presidents start by giving Republicans what we think they want, we end up way right of center.  In football parlance, that means giving up a safety instead of scoring a touchdown.

But Bernie Sanders realizes that strong presidents stand up for what they believe in.  They lay out bold visions and back ‘em up with bold proposals.  They introduce transformative programs like TR’s Square Deal, FDR’s New Deal, or LBJ’s War on Poverty.  They win hearts and minds.  They use the Bully Pulpit to sell the message and merits of their policies directly to the American People, above the heads of Congress and their lobbyists.  Most important, strong presidents either get the people’s agenda passed or force Congress to vote it DOWN, exposing lawmakers’ real allegiances.  Strong leaders send ’em home to explain their no vote to angry constituents during Congressional “recess”.

So there it is.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Bernie Sanders push real change and see it fail than watch Hillary Kabuki dance around the edges of big problems.  Of course, her “successes” will include ample give-aways to big business; bones thrown in to sweeten the pot, rendering her victories neutral at best, but at least we’d make a few baby steps along the way right?  Maybe not . . .

Obama’s been trying to pass moderate legislation for eight years and what did we get?  The Trans-Pacific trade deal (TPP), which, like Obama-Care, is a GOP bill.  Everything else was blocked, and it’s ironic that Dr. No (Mitch McConnell) is currently plugging a memoir about all the bi-partisan “legislation” he pushed through the Senate during Obama’s tenure.  His favorite accomplishments are two budget bills that halted government shutdowns.  McConnell’s really proud of this.  Thanks Mitch.  Are these the kind of “deals” Hillary’s talking about?

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America is sick of baby-steps Hillary

 

Leading From Behind

No More Next Years:

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Was Brooklyn-born Bernie in the stands with the rest of “dem bums” . . . ?

It’s become increasingly apparent that the most vital plank in the 2016 Democratic Convention Platform will be reforming the entire nomination process.  For starters, Bernie wants to “open up” the primaries to parties of every political persuasion, including Republicans and Independents.  The standard argument against this is that it opens the door for the GOP base to vote for a “weaker” candidate in the primary so they can beat him/her in the general election.   Well what does “weaker” candidate really mean anyway?  Someone who truly represents old school Democratic values?  Someone like Bernie Sanders?

History of the Hijack

Back in ’72, George McGovern got blown out by the incumbent (Nixon) because the economy seemed strong and Vietnam was winding down, yet McGovern’s loss is commonly cited as a rationale for the Democrats current super-delegate system.  Question:  Is this when the Democratic Party lost its way, selling out instead of taking one on the chin and regrouping?  Apparently, party leaders couldn’t swallow such a bitter pill, namely Tricky Dick winning in ’68 with the Southern Strategy and in ‘72 by dumping the Gold Standard, which saved jobs in time for the election but bred inflation for Ford and austerity for Carter.  Pretty clever huh?

Then Reagan beat Carter in ’80 with more Southern strategy, tax-cuts for the rich and deregulation, but this time with the incumbent battling both a brutal recession (thanks to Nixon’s fuzzy math) and a Ted Kennedy primary.  That’s a triple whammy folks, and maybe Carter pulls it out if Ted waits his turn, but, typical of politicians faced with losing power, party panic set in.  Instead of reframing, rebranding, and offering alternatives to Reaganomics, these self-appointed super-delegates inherited dictatorial powers while silently shifting Right.

Rather than saving fast-fading unions, they scattered to every K-Street corner, rattling their tin cups at the well-heeled boots of a vast lobbyist army marching on Capitol Hill.  Presto!  The stage was set and the road paved with gold for the “New” Democrats, Republican Lite, Blue Dogs and Purple People-eaters to hijack the Party.  Big Business never had it so good, and the rest is history.

Clinton Coronation

Fast forward to 2016:  Now the super-delegates have morphed into a gigantic Coronation Committee for Clinton, even after she loses primary after primary down the stretch and polls half as high as Bernie vs. Trump.  This is anti-democratic (and counter-intuitive), yet the lame-stream media continues to serve as an echo-chamber for the Clinton campaign by refusing to acknowledge Sander’s momentum.  Of course, it all makes sense when you consider that television, radio and print media were gobbled up and consolidated by corporations around the same time Democrats sold us out thirty years ago.  Do you really think some talking head will expose the charade and risk losing star status, a 1% income, and a really cool job over truth?  Think again.

Bernie’s Big Fix

So here’s the bottom line:  Bernie’s call to trash the super-delegate system targets the Achilles Heel of the Democratic Party, namely, its inability to differentiate from Republicans.  It forces the Party to return to its roots by opening up the primaries, the platform and nomination process to outside campaigns fueled by small donations, not corporate capture.  Otherwise, the system will continue to operate like a modern day Tammany Hall; a churning, burning, old fashioned political machine where instead of passing bags of money around, Party Bosses nurture a complex system of legalized corruption.

Bernie’s political revolution is the antidote to this grand illusion; this Matrix where the appearance of change cons us into believing it’s right around the corner, when in reality the base is teased like Brooklyn Dodger fans (“dem bums!”) every cycle with front office promises of: “Wait ‘til next year!” Meanwhile the bank-rolled Bronx Bombers (a Wall Street dynasty) keep winning, year, after year, after year . . . and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, year, after year, after year, and the middle class disappears, year, after year, after year . . . and the climate gets hotter and health care more costly, year, after year, after year . . .

No More Next Years

Well guess what?  Berners aren’t waiting ‘til next year, next week, or even tomorrow.  We want real, big, bold, change NOW!  And like it or not, the party powerful WILL hear our VOICE at the Convention in June, because we’re sick of the con, and because, most important of all:  We are the real Democrats.

FDR
Fellow “bums” . . . I mean Democrats:  You have nothing to fear but fear itself!  Sooooo . . . squash those pesky Super-delegates and return to your ROOTS!

 

No More Next Years:

The Lenoir Voice Endorses Bernie Sanders for President

The youth movement of the 1960’s ended Vietnam and pushed Civil Rights over the goal line, ushering in a long, steady march towards social equality, culminating with the landmark same-sex marriage ruling last year. The youth movement of the 2010’s will end the endless War on Terror and win ECONOMIC equality for every American: White, black, Latino, Asian, straight and gay.

The Lenoir Voice Endorses Bernie Sanders for President