Archive for corporate interests

Radioactive waste a toxic byproduct of fracking, drilling in N. Dakota

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headdesk radioactive waste fracking

Back in May I wrote, Hey Big Oil "pro-lifers": Fossil fuels may be killing babies! Today's Los Angeles Times has an extensive report about how, in North Dakota, fracking may very well be producing radioactive waste. Again, "pro-lifers," the question is: What do you value more, life or profits?

Did I mention that oil drilling and fracking are producing radioactive waste?

So you know how Republicans despise oversight? Because, freedom! Don'tcha wonder if they ever consider their fellow Americans' freedom to keep breathing? Especially those self-proclaimed right-to-lifers. It's hard to fathom that they are actually this okay with exposure to deadly toxins as long as their corporate gods make a buck.

Did I mention that oil drilling and fracking are producing radioactive waste?

Am I repeating myself? I tend to do that when I'm livid. And appalled. And sickened. But I'm not sickened in a way that will potentially kill me. No, that's reserved for the victims of Fracking, Inc. in North Dakota, the second-largest oil-producing state, right after Texas.

Did I mention that North Dakota doesn't have an environmental protection agency?

Did I mention that New Mexico GOP Gov. Susana Martinez weakened her state's rules on hazardous waste last year?

Did I mention that the EPA is not providing adequate oversight? That would be the Environmental PROTECTION Agency.

Did I mention that my head is throbbing from banging it on my desk?

Via the L.A. Times must-read story:

Nearly 1,000 radioactive filters were found last year at the landfill, part of a growing tide of often toxic waste produced by the state's oil and gas rush. Oil field waste includes drill cuttings — rock and earth that come up a well bore — along with drilling fluids and wastewater laced with chemicals used in fracking.

To many local and tribal officials, environmentalists and some industry managers in North Dakota, the dumping of the socks [filters clotted with radioactive dirt] and the proliferation of other waste shows the government falling short in safeguarding the environment against oil field pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency decided during the Reagan era to classify oil field waste as not hazardous, exempting it from tight controls and leaving it to be managed by widely varied state laws. Nationally, no one tracks how many millions of tons of waste the fossil fuel boom generates, or where it ends up.

There's that "leaving it to the states" beast raising its ugly head again. Republican-run states have done so well with the Affordable Care Act and voting rights. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for one thing, North Dakota situating "slop pits" of poison over "known aquifers" could be a teeny tiny problem.

Some of the people quoted in the article requested anonymity because they were afraid of repercussions-- like, you know, getting fired-- for trying to point out things like waste management failures, fear of carcinogens in groundwater, exemptions for radioactive elements being classified as hazardous waste, and for putting frackin' lives in danger. Things like that.

And then there's-- ta-daa!-- Congress:

The EPA says it cannot reclassify oil field waste as hazardous without legislative action, which, with the current Congress, is unlikely.

bangheadSee: "Not a skit! Our actual Congress! Gaaa!"

Not a skit, our actual Congress, gaa! Maddow

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"I don't recall 'if you're comfortable with it' qualifying any of Jesus Christ's commandments."

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what would jesus do

Regular readers know that I'm a big Michael Hiltzik fan, and for good reason. He's good at spreading the-- What's it called again? Oh yeah-- truth. One of his latest columns dealt with the truths regarding the Supreme Court's wrongheaded Hobby Lobby ruling in favor of allowing bosses to make health decisions for women. The consequences of that one were fairly easy to predict. Not only are businesses trying to use their "religious beliefs" against access to contraception, but now the decision is oozing into other areas of discrimination, as in gay and transgender targets. But hey, it's all cool, because it's in the name of Religion, with a capital R. In short: Blame Jesus.

Where's an impartial Supreme Court when you need one?

Which brings us to today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Plaudits to Michael Hiltzik for highlighting how the U.S. Supreme Court's outrageous Hobby Lobby decision may abet religious zealots' discrimination against gays and transgenders in the business world. ("Hobby Lobby's harvest: A religious exemption for LGBT discrimination?," July 16)

Hiltzik's telling parallels with mid-20th century racism ring true. For pious segregationists, the 1896 decision Plessy vs. Ferguson served to keep public schools segregated until Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.

That epic reversal set the stage for civil rights legislation enacted during the next decade, which served to counter persistent racism.

Hiltzik's apt insights suggest that the 5-4 Hobby Lobby decision won't, like the Plessy ruling, endure for decades. All that's needed is one more high court justice who favors equal rights over faith-based discrimination.

Devra Mindell, Santa Monica

..

On Monday, President Obama issued an executive order barring LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. To protect their organizations from feeling "very uncomfortable" and to perpetuate "diversity of opinion," Pastor Rick Warren and other religious leaders, in a July 1 letter to Obama, argue their right to discriminate against the LGBT community while still receiving federal (taxpayer) funding

There is a disgraceful hypocrisy lurking in a request by Christian church leaders for religious exemption from an anti-discrimination rule. I don't recall "if you're comfortable with it" qualifying any of Jesus Christ's commandments.

Ellen Chavez Kelley, Santa Barbara

..

Hiltzik's excellent column was deficient in only one respect. He failed to ask Warren or Father Larry Snyder where in the fundamental documents of their faith they find their God commanding them to discriminate against LGBT people in terms of employment. Are they discriminating on religious grounds, moral grounds, or do they want to discriminate because they're simply bigoted?

Additionally, if their consciences won't allow them to treat LGBT people equally, they're always free to say "no" to the taxpayers' money.

John Gibson, Los Angeles

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Power play: Hobby Lobby et al. "not happy until their faith has more influence."

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separation of church and state cartoon power

obama tweet birth control women hobby lobby

Link

My Twitter followers often ask me why religious-slash-conservative politicians do what they do despite the potential negative effect on so many Americans. Why, for example, do they persist with their War on Women? Why do they insist that a zygote is a child and force closures of women's health clinics, putting existing lives at risk? Why do they claim they are "pro-life" as they scream their heartless, vicious verbal attacks at-- and put the fear of their god into-- child refugees who are escaping from rape, violent abuse, and death? Why do right wing extremists allow these atrocities to continue? Why are they willing to potentially end lives in the name of their god? My answer is an abbreviated (it is Twitter, after all) one-size-fits-all reply: Power and money.

Power and money are strong motivators. Tossing red meat to rabidly hungry political donors and like-minded voters goes a long way to securing state and federal lawmakers' positions. And by keeping their jobs, they get to extend their influence. It's all about self-interest.

Hypocrisy is an ingredient of Theocratic Stew, too, but that doesn't answer the Why. Besides, some outwardly religious zealots may very well believe their own fevered, ill-conceived blather.

The Hobby Lobby case allows bosses to control and exert their influence over women, women who may hold different beliefs (or disbeliefs) than the corporate "person" that pays them. Rather, they claim it's about their beliefs. Some of us see it differently.

Today on her radio show, Nicole Sandler played an interview with David Silverman. Silverman is the president of AmericanAtheists.org. He was discussing conservatives and their heavy-handed religious policies, but made a very important distinction. To quote Silverman, "It's not conservative, it's theocratic." Bingo.

Which brings me to today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because, believe it or not, our voices matter:

That's rich, a Christian activist law firm calling itself the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom. Equally Orwellian phrasing titles the constitutionally dubious Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the Becket firm has cited to obtain ill-considered U.S. Supreme Court decisions favoring Christianity over sound public policy. ("Law firm in Hobby Lobby win is playing key role in religion cases," July 19)

For truth in advertising, how about "the Becket Fund for Denying Nonbelievers' Rights to Freedom from Religion"?

So what if this firm advocates a Muslim prison inmate's right to grow a beard. That ploy likely will prevail as a bone thrown to non-Christian detractors, but its narrow application betrays the firm's ulterior motive: to set up more far-reaching court rulings to favor the Christian majority.

Edward Alston, Santa Maria

..

The lawyers for Hobby Lobby don't seek religious freedom. As with the recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, they seek the right to extend their religious beliefs to apply to everyone else.

All over the world, it's common for those who practice a particular religion not to be satisfied with their own personal religious freedom. They are not happy until their faith has more influence.

In Iraq, this conflict gets people killed. In the U.S., the Supreme Court allows businesses to force employees to comply with owners' religious beliefs.

The freedom of religion in the 1st Amendment prevents the government from establishing a religion. Once the immense power of government assists one religion, all others suffer.

Norwood Price, Burbank

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FCC extends deadline for public comments on #NetNeutrality

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net neutrality FCC cable John Oliver

Back in June, I posted the video below in my post, "Cable company f*ckery: If you want to do something evil, do it inside something boring." Allow me to repeat some of that post to set up this one. The video comes to us courtesy of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in which he blasts the FCC and explains why net neutrality is so important:

John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC.

(www.fcc.gov/comments, for any interested parties)

Oliver:

Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it. It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.

The point is, the Internet in its current form is not broken, and the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.

Ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane...

Consider who would benefit from this change: Cable companies... These companies have Washington in their pockets...

The guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.

Now let's look at what's happened since that broadcast. The first thing is what many of us hoped would happen. Via The Hill: Internet access debate unleashes firestorm. Good! It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a firestorm to raise hell over maintaining net neutrality.

An avalanche of net neutrality comments have been dumped on the Federal Communications Commission, highlighting the passions stirred over whether Internet service providers like Comcast should be allowed to charge companies more money for quicker delivery of their movies and television shows.

The 670,000 comments — many of them laced with profanity — are about half the number of complaints the FCC received when Janet Jackson’s breast flashed across tens of millions of televisions on Super Bowl Sunday.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency is “mining through” the submissions from lawmakers, content providers, public interest groups and citizens who have seen fit to tell the FCC what is on their mind.

The Hill published a second article about Senate Democrats pushing the FCC to regulate the Internets like telephones:

A group of 11 senators are pressuring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider the way it regulates Internet providers.

The FCC should reclassify Internet providers to treat them like more heavily-regulated phone companies rather than proceed with Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules, the lawmakers said in a letter to Wheeler Tuesday.

Wheeler’s proposal — which critics say would allow Internet providers to charge websites for better access to users — “would end the Internet as we know it,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Tuesday, unveiling the letter.

Other signatories include Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (R-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Nice.

I also received an email from DemandProgress.org that included:

Just wanted to make sure you saw this. There's been such an overwhelming response to the FCC's net neutrality proceeding that their website that's supposed to receive comments has CRASHED.

Where's my bell? Ah, here it is:

ding ding dingAnd just as I finished reading that email, this one came in via Politico:

The FCC is extending the deadline for initial public comments on Chairman Tom Wheeler's controversial net neutrality proposal because of trouble with the commission's online comment system, the agency announced Tuesday. The deadline was set for midnight.

See what happens when we use our voices?

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Hey climate change deniers: State emission cuts have NOT brought economic ruin.

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another talking point bites the dust

map climate change emission cuts

Climate deniers-- hey you, over there on the right, I'm talkin' to you-- wail and moan about regulating carbon emissions because, tyranny!!!! and Armageddon!!!! and economic disaster!!!! That sound you hear is the coal industry shaking cash from their enormous wallets to buy their way out of cleaner air and water standards. Because, tyranny!!!! and Armageddon!!!! and economic disaster!!!!

Well, they're wrong. And there is proof that cutting emissions will not bring economic ruin to America. Sweartogod.

Via the New York Times:

The cries of protest have been fierce, warning that President Obama’s plan to cut greenhouse gases from power plants will bring soaring electricity bills and even plunge the nation into blackouts. By the time the administration is finished, one prominent critic said, “millions of Americans will be freezing in the dark.”

OMG 1

That sounds positively terrifying! Oh em gee! We will become a nation of freeze-dried citizens! All in the ironic name of saving lives!

Just a sec... hold that thought. I'm hearing through my imaginary news anchor earpiece that at least 10 states have already achieved emission cuts by the amount the president has fecklessly Kenyan-dictated-- some in excess of that-- and more states will make similar progress before the deadline of 2030.

Don't those tree-hugging, green-tinged fools realize their Kenyan-dictated, feckless, reckless actions will bring economic ruin?!

[T]heir strides so far have not brought economic ruin. In New England, a region that has made some of the biggest cuts in emissions, residential electricity bills fell 7 percent from 2005 to 2012, adjusted for inflation. And economic growth in the region ran slightly ahead of the national average.

Oh.

Via onamatopoeia.wordpress.com

Yet another Republican talking point bites the dust. Imagine that. Quel surprise.

Over in Europe, they're headed toward a 43 percent emission cut from power plants and "other energy-intensive industries" by the same year. That makes our measly 30% cuts look pretty... feckless.

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"Cable company f*ckery: If you want to do something evil, do it inside something boring"

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net neutrality cable John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Cable companies are trying to create an unequal playing field for internet speeds, but they're doing it so boringly that most news outlets aren't covering it.

John Oliver explains the controversy and lets viewers know how they can voice their displeasure to the FCC.

(www.fcc.gov/comments, for any interested parties)

Oliver knocked it out of the park on "Last Week Tonight." He outdid himself in a killer segment about net neutrality, a must-watch. Here are a few excerpts of how he blasted cable companies, monopolies, and those foxes who are looking after our Internet hen house:

Net neutrality. The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are, "featuring Sting.”

I would rather listen to a pair of Dockers tell me about the weird dream it had.

Net neutrality is actually hugely important. Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who creates it. It's why the Internet is a weirdly level playing field.

The point is, the Internet in its current form is not broken, and the FCC is currently taking steps to fix that.

Ending net neutrality would allow big companies to buy their way into the fast lane, leaving everyone else in the slow lane...

Recently Comcast was negotiating with Netflix. This graph shows Netflix download speeds on various providers:

net neutrality graph comcast netflix

That black line plummeting downwards was their speed on Comcast during the negotiation. See if you can guess when Netflix agreed to Comcast demands.... That has all the ingredients of a mob shakedown.

Consider who would benefit from this change: Cable companies... These companies have Washington in their pockets...

The guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now running the agency tasked with regulating it. That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.

... Cable companies are basically monopolies now. ... You could not describe a monopoly more clearly if you were wearing a metal top hat, and driving a metal car, after winning second prize in a beauty contest.

net neutrality cable John Oliver monopoly

The cable companies have found out the great truth of America: If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring...

That's why advocates should not be talking about protecting net neutrality. They shouldn't even use that phrase. They should call it, "preventing cable company fuckery," because that is what it is.

net neutralitypreventing cable company fuckery john oliver

The Big Finale was right up my Twitter alley: Oliver reminded us that "there might be actually something you can still do" about all of this: leave a public comment on the FCC site. He put out the word to Internet trolls everywhere to do their thing.

"Good evening Monsters. THIS may be the moment you've spent your whole lives training for."

Indeed.

net neutrality cable fcc comments John Oliver

And if anyone can vouch for familiar trolly comments like this one...

net neutrality cable John Oliver troll comment

... 'tis yours truly. John Oliver is on to something. I never thought I'd say this, but, "Go trolls!"

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Justice Alito said what again? "New, unwise turn" in law relies on "private professional associations"

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justice alito shakes head at SOTU smallerJustice Alito Shakes Head When Obama Criticizes Campaign Finance Decision

Wait, what? Isn't this the Supreme Court that has a corporation fetish? Isn't Justice Alito one of the conservative members who believes in privatization, corporate personhood, and equating money with free speech? As in Citizens United and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission?

Think Progress: And he’s a strong supporter of “forced arbitration,” a practice which allows employers to shunt discrimination lawsuits into a secretive and privatized arbitration system rather than allowing those cases to be heard by a real court.

Respriv.org: For Alito, and the rest of the Court’s right-wing majority, the severity of Bartlett’s injury proved inconsequential when measured against Big Pharma’s bottom line and their interest in selling generic drugs, which account for 75% of the prescription drugs sold in the U.S.

StopTheCap.com: Justice Samuel Alito was forced to recuse himself from nearly six dozen cases brought to the Supreme Court in the last 10 months because the Alito family owns stock in many of the corporations involved in litigation.

In light of the above examples, I found the following passages ironically amusing. Via the Los Angeles Times article, Supreme Court says IQ cannot determine mental fitness in capital cases:

In dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. faulted the majority for a "new and unwise turn" in the law by relying on "private professional associations" to establish constitutional values.

In the past, he said, the court had looked to states and to public opinion to judge American values. "Now the court strikes down a state law based on the evolving standards of professional societies, most notably the American Psychiatric Assn.," he said. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with him.

Whatsa matter, Judge A. and company, don't you love "private professional associations" as much as you used to? Should they feel jilted? Doesn't the NRA "unwisely" influence (read: pressure) the "constitutional values" of Congress members so heavily that they shun common sense gun laws that public opinion supports by a landslide? What do you have to say now?

crickets

Oh, but I kid Justice Alito.

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