Category: Politics

Pic of the Day

A Syrian refugee child
Click to enlargeREUTERS/Alia Haju

A Syrian refugee child eats inside his family’s tent at an informal settlement in Deir al-Ahmar, Bekaa valley, Lebanon, September 16, 2014.

No, I don’t know which side he is on. Does it matter?

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Tens of thousands hit the pavement in New York City for climate march


Click to enlargeJason DeCrow/AP
Demonstrators make their way down Sixth Avenue in New York during the People’s Climate March

An international day of action on climate change brought tens of thousands onto the streets of New York City on Sunday, with organizers predicting the biggest protest on the issue in five years.

Some 100,000 people, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and elected officials from the United States and abroad joined the People’s Climate March, ahead of Tuesday’s United Nations hosted summit in the city to discuss reducing carbon emissions that threaten the environment.

Organizers said some 550 busloads of people had arrived for the rally, which followed similar events in 166 countries including Britain, France, Afghanistan and Bulgaria. Thousands more came by public transportation, walked or traveled in private cars…

A crowd including U.S. senators Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island marched along the city’s Central Park, through midtown Manhattan to Times Square, where they stopped for a moment of silence at 12:58 p.m..

Ban, wearing a T-shirt that read “I’m for climate action” marched arm-in-arm with primatologist Jane Goodall and French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal.

“This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live,” Ban told reporters. “There is no ‘Plan B,’ because we do not have ‘Planet B.'”

Meanwhile, the opportunist creeps in Congress came back to work for 4 days after taking several weeks off for vacation. Then – consistent with being the worst Do-Nothing Congress in the history of Republican obstructionism – they shut down until after the mid-term election in November.

Not that anything meaningful would have been accomplished. We are a nation of obstinate and ignorant sheep, complaining about lack of change, fearing change at the same time. Fence-sitting has become the national pastime.

Unions, like the nation, must confront racism


March on Washington 1963

National AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says that the unrest in Ferguson illustrates the need for a more vigorous national discussion on race and racism…And labor unions, which have had their racial problems, must be part of the conversation, he acknowledged.

Trumka was interviewed after he had addressed Missouri labor leaders at a convention at the downtown Crowne Plaza hotel.

In his speech, which was closed to the press, Trumka noted the labor connections on both sides of the unrest, which began with the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by a Ferguson police officer.

“Union members’ lives have been profoundly damaged in ways that cannot be fixed,” Trumka said, according to a transcript released later. “Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, who works in a grocery store, is our sister, an AFL-CIO union member, and Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, is a union member, too, and he is our brother. Our brother killed our sister’s son and we do not have to wait for the judgment of prosecutors or courts to tell us how terrible this is.”

Trumka emphasized that he was not taking sides on the particulars of the case. “We cannot wash our hands of the issues raised by Michael Brown’s death. That does not mean we prejudge the specifics of Michael Brown’s death or deny Officer Darren Wilson — or any other officer — his or her rights on the job or in the courts,” he said.

“But it does demand that we clearly and openly discuss the reality of racism in American life. We must take responsibility for the past. Racism is part of our inheritance as Americans. Every city, every state and every region of this country has its own deep history with racism. And so does the labor movement…”

In his speech and in the interview, Trumka tied the nation’s longstanding racial troubles to what he viewed as corporate greed and “playing the race card over and over and over again.”

“For years, the very elite and those in control want us to believe that the economy is like the weather,’’ he said. “That no matter what happens, you can’t change it…The economy is not like the weather. The economy is nothing but a set of rules. Those rules decide who wins and who loses.”

“Quite frankly, working people have been losing for years,’’ Trumka added.

Trumka includes some relevant history sharply critical of the history of racism not addressed by trade unions – though they are the only body directly representing working people.

Predictably, NPR in St, Louis is candyass enough to add copy from a separate interview with a right-wing politician from the Republican Party – for the usual reason I imagine. “Look at us, we’re safely in the middle of every issue.” Like every fence-sitter unconcerned about justice.

American trade unions – particularly those that rolled over and played dead during the McCarthy Era – were not only cowards about racism and other bigotries, they embraced it as central to their very existence.

In my lifetime as a proud member of a couple of trade unions, I will never forget – or excuse – one of the biggest I belonged to less than fifty years ago still had a constitutional ban barring Blacks or women from heading the national union.

There was hardly an organization associated with the needs and rights of working people that didn’t support or endorse MLK’s March on Washington in 1963 – with the glaring exception of the AFL-CIO. Many individual unions did participate, especially the UAW and the Hospital Workers’ Union, Local 1199. Not the suits at the top of the American Labor movement.

Thanks, Mike

Real data about same-sex couples instead of homophobe ideology

The US Census Bureau just released information on same-sex couples as part of its release of the 2013 American Community Survey data. Here are some of the highlights from the release.

Same-sex couples are a bit more educated than straight couples. While both married and unmarried gay and lesbian couples are about equally likely to have both partners holding at least a bachelor’s degree, unmarried heterosexual couples are half as likely for this to be the case as married straight couples…

Same sex couples tend to have higher incomes than straight couples….Unmarried straight couples had the lowest average income…

Interracial marriages are more common among same-sex couples than among heterosexual couples…and we know who that pisses off.

RTFA for more demographics. To read the whole report from the Census Bureau – go here.

Why do you think Congress won’t end the NFL’s tax break?

Perhaps the most famous tax break in America is the one bestowed by Congress on the NFL. It’s famous for its seeming illogic — the NFL, hugely profitable, being called a “nonprofit.”

And it’s famous, along with the antitrust exemption for pro football, for the number of times members of Congress have threatened subtly or otherwise to take it away.

The occasions range from the anger of then-Sen. John F. Kerry in 2007 over a blackout of a New England Patriots game to resentment about the name of the Washington, D.C., football team to concern about concussions to anger over what Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King called “tax earmarks…”

Now, in the wake of the domestic abuse controversies in the NFL, the rumbling has started anew. Congress must now investigate the league’s handling of the domestic abuse charges, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California said in a press release, as well as its “tolerance of performance enhancing drugs, the impact of traumatic brain injury on players later in life, and the tax-exempt status the NFL enjoys thanks to a loophole Congress created in the ’60s.”

But don’t count on anything happening — ever — to the exemptions enjoyed by pro sports. The NFL remains a heavy hitter in Washington. Its officials and political action committee donated more than $1.4 million to members of Congress during the past two election cycles, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. It spends millions as well on as many as 26 lobbyists from top-tier Washington firms.

One of the essential perks of being a Congress-critter is free skybox seats to whatever is the hot sports event in town. Given the snug fit between the NFL and the All-American reliance on war games to keep our collective ego inflated – that match is often defined by the National Football League.

Icing on the cake – with the cake being the inevitable contributions to Joe Congressman’s re-election campaign.

Thanks, Mike — who added:

Two new bills have been introduced that would strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status:

1. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation to eliminate the NFL’s tax-exempt status.

2. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation to strip several professional sports leagues, including the NFL, of their tax-exempt status.

Earlier this year, Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the PRO-Sports Act to address this issue on the premise that it is unfair to the American tax-payer.

A tax reform package sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R- Mich.) includes a repeal of tax-exempt status for professional sports leagues. It is languishing in committee.

Sorry, NSA – we’re not able to decrypt user info – Apple

Among the privacy policies outlined by Apple in a new privacy policy webpage on Wednesday is an iOS 8 feature that makes it technically impossible for the company to decrypt a device to harvest user data, even if law enforcement agencies request it…

In a document (PDF link) meant to guide law enforcement officers in requesting user information, Apple notes that it no longer stores encryption keys for devices with iOS 8, meaning agencies are unable to gain access even with a valid search warrant. This includes data store on a physical device protected by a passcode, including photos, call history, contacts and more.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its new webpage dedicated to privacy policies. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

The safeguards do not apply to other services including iCloud, however, meaning any data stored offsite is fair game for government seizure. Still, the security implementation will likely be seen as a step in the right direction, especially given the current political climate following revelations of governmental “snooping” activities.

Overdue. As Edward Snowden suggested, encryption is still one of the best ways to frustrate government snooping. A standard that other tech companies might emulate even if it gets in the way of their monetization of your data.

Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, rule that water ain’t part of the environment

libertyoila

The House passed legislation Tuesday that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing a proposed rule to define its jurisdiction over bodies of water…

The rule, proposed in March, sought to clarify which bodies of water, such as wetlands and streams, are subject to agencies’ authority under the act. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said the rule does not significantly expand the agency’s existing authority.

Republicans said the rule would go too far and subject trivial bodies of water to federal regulation.

What passes for conservatism nowadays believes that wife-beating, lynchings, collateral murder in wherever is this year’s war – are all “trivial”.

Democrats largely dismissed the concerns as hyperbole…”We have departed from reality,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

DeFazio said that halting implementation of the proposed rule would prevent the EPA from simply clarifying which bodies of water are subject to federal regulation.

“Where do we end up if this cockamamie thing passes the House and becomes law, which it won’t?” DeFazio said. “Well, where we end up is back in the earlier era of the 2003 and 2008 guidance.”

The dimbulbs in the House of Representatives want the Army Corp of Engineers to help the develop new regulations on water. Their history along the Mississippi River leading up to the Hurricane Katrina disaster will stand them in good stead.

Who knows, maybe Congress can rehire the clown show inside the old Department of the Interior under George W, Bush that used to party with the Oil Patch Boys. Working for a living probably still doesn’t agree with them.

Thanks, Mike

Feds agree disaster coming to North American birds from climate change

A day after the National Audubon Society released a report saying that about half of North America’s 650 bird species will be threatened by climate change, a report released Tuesday by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies concluded that nearly one-third of American birds are in trouble.

The State of the Birds, a comprehensive study by nearly two dozen government agencies and conservation groups that tracks species loss and the effectiveness of conservation efforts, found species in moderate to steep decline across habitats and ecosystems. But it also highlighted that conservation projects could be successful, as with wetland species, like mallards and blue-winged teals, which saw a 37 percent bump in population since 1968.

“Conservation in one part of the country is not enough,” said Daniel M. Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “We have to see the larger picture of conservation.”

We must have more than one portion of the electorate, more than a coalition of the willing in Congress, coming together with the majority of our nation’s population in a serious effort to combat the effects of climate change.

That won’t begin to happen until a significant number of bought-and-paid-for politicians are removed from office. Most of them Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats. The sort of political hacks who make a career of power and policy directed by the almighty dollar.

I only hope folks will stand up for the world we live in before these greed-driven thugs cause irreparable damage.

Thanks, Mike