Over 1 Billion Pounds of Pesticides are Sprayed Each Year in the U.S.

Did You Know

“Testing of pesticides focuses on the active ingredient. But many other “inert” ingredients are added to the pesticide formulation that is actually sold. A new study suggests that these additives can make pesticides more dangerous to cells than current safety testing reveals.

“A team of French scientists has concluded that studies focused solely on the active ingredients of commercially sold pesticides substantially underestimate their potential hazards….

http://www.cornucopia.org/2014/02/pesticides-may-dangerous-testing-reveals-study-finds/

There Are Two Ideas of Government

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William Jennings Bryant

“There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan on July 9, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Perfect statement. Amazing that it was said almost 118 years ago.

This is what a movement looks like! Raleigh, NC, Moral March and Freedom Summer 2014

NC Moral MarchThey came to Raleigh, North Carolina, by the thousands. They were black and white, Latino, Native American, and Asian. Young and old, straight and LGBT, walking and in wheelchairs, they marched to the State House in the largest and most diverse demonstration ever held in the south. We may not ever know exactly how many people attended—but I can tell you that it was a vast sea of determined faces, bonded in pursuit of a unified goal—Justice.

Read the entire post: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/16/1277247/-This-is-what-a-movement-looks-like-Raleigh-NC-Moral-March-and-Freedom-Summer-2014

[ Re-Posted from DailyKos.com ]

What Happened to My America – Part II

Statue of Liberty CryingI am lucky enough to have grown up in America in a time when it was truly the model for the rest of the world of what a freedom-based, democratic country was all about. A country where everyone had the opportunity to live a good life; everyone was provided a good public education; a society that cared about its citizens; health care was available to all; your home was your castle; your privacy and rights were golden and protected; church was what Sunday was all about, where you could go to practice your religion of choice; people were civil to one another; we welcomed freedom-seeking immigrants from other countries with open arms; we had an environment where you felt safe and secure; and we had a government that represented the people and protected all of these freedoms for us.

What happened to my America? – Part II

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When did the demise of our socioeconomic status begin?

I believe the foundation was laid in 1981 when Ronald Reagan became President. He had a concept that he could restore America’s economy by cutting taxes and promoting unrestricted free-market activity (Reaganomics). He claimed that by cutting taxes it would generate more revenue, so he gave massive tax cuts to the wealthy and promised that the benefits would trickle-down to the middle class (“trickle-down theory”).

But it didn’t work. The rich got richer and the promised benefits of his “trickle-down theory” did not happen for middle class Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before, and the poverty rate had actually risen.

Reaganomics smallerPresident Reagan was the one that started cutting the funding for social services for working-class Americans. It was during his presidency that helping the needy and impoverished digressed to ignoring or walking away from them; and homelessness became a growing problem. And President Reagan did little or nothing to stop it.

HomelessThe National Housing Institute underlines that is the Reagan legacy: “The two-term president was no friend to America’s cities or its poor. Reagan came to office in 1981 with a mandate to reduce federal spending. In reality, he increased it through the escalating military budget, all the while slashing funds for domestic programs that assisted working class Americans, particularly the poor.

Why would he do this? The following two quotes by him will tell you what his mindset was all about…

Medicaid Recipients – “…a faceless mass, waiting for handouts.” –Ronald Reagan, 1965.

Unemployment Benefits – “Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.” –California Governor Ronald Reagan, in the Sacramento Bee, April 28, 1966

It was during President Reagan’s tenure that the differences in financial status between the rich and the poor increased dramatically, morphing into the current socioeconomic classes of “haves” and “have nots.”

Obviously, this is still the Republican manner today.

Save Middle ClassThis is my second blog in a series on “What Happened to My America.”

To read my first blog on “What Happened to My America”  https://rationalopinionsblog.com/2014/01/18/what-happened-to-my-america/

I really want to hear your comments on this topic.

What do you think about the status of our country and the direction it’s going?

16,000 Farmers in Brazil Rise Up Against Argribusiness

GMO Brazil Uprising16,000 Farmers Rise Up Against Agribusiness, Face Down Riot Police in Brazil: “Over the past three decades the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) has fought to settle ‘unproductive’ plots of land held by the state, banks or big landowners, putting activists in the vanguard of campaigns against monocultures, genetically modified crops, forest conservation and inequality.” – the Guardian reports.

[ Re-Post from www.gmofreeusa.org ]

Why the First Issue Is Money in Politics

Money and Politics

(AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

Constitutional scholar and activist Lawrence Lessig, whose march through New Hampshire to get money out of politics is featured on our broadcast this week, often says that his crusade is the most urgent in America because it impacts virtually every other issue. From achieving tax reform to fighting climate change to strengthening the social safety net, we will see no progress until the wealthy entities that benefit can no longer buy up politicians to prevent the status quo from changing.

“The people who want to stop reform will pay an enormous amount of money to be able to achieve that,” Lessig told us when we met during his march. “…What this system has done is made the politics of dysfunction incredibly profitable.” Some lobbyists, he noted, even advertise their ability to exploit the system and use legislators to “delay and obstruct” progress in Congress.

“We will never get your issue solved until we fix this issue first,” Lessig said in a TED talk last year. “So it’s not that mine is the most important issue. It’s not. Yours is the most important issue, but mine is the first issue, the issue we have to solve before we get to fix the issues you care about.”

Here are five examples of issues beaten into stasis by a barrage of big money.

Environment

One example Lessig cites — one that motivates many progressives — is climate change.

“If you are a coal company who’s against the idea of climate change legislation, this [political system] is a boon for you,” he said, “because it’s trivial and cheap to be able to leverage your money, to guarantee nothing ever happens to adjust climate change.”

It’s a scenario America has seen play out time and again, most recently in 2009-10, when cap and trade, an idea that originated with the Reagan administration and had Republican support, seemed to have a real chance of working its way through Congress.

But in 2009, thousands of lobbyists representing energy and natural resource extraction companies spent more than they ever had before — over $400 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That record was broken the very next year, when spending reached $450 million.

Is it coincidental that in 2010, cap and trade was declared dead? In proposing climate change legislation that year, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) refused to even discuss cap and trade as a realistic policy suggestion.

It wasn’t until last fall, when President Obama used an executive order to circumvent Congress and cap emissions from coal power plants, that the heaviest polluters faced across-the-board emission restrictions.

A similar story is unfolding right now with the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project that, once operational, would pump more than 800,000 barrels of crude from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast — every day. It has become a defining issue for both the oil industry and environmental activists.

The pipeline’s approval is a decision over which a legacy-conscious Obama has vacillated for five years. Following a year of record spending by the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, and in the face of growing frustration from red state Democratic senators, earlier this month, the State Department released an environmental impact statement claiming that the project would have little impact on global climate emissions. That statement brought the project one step closer to approval, but the Obama administration cautioned that it was still weighing the pros and cons. A 30-day comment period has begun, during which environmental advocates will continue to encourage the administration to stand up to the oil industry, an outcry the oil industry can be expected to counter with another wave of money.

Taxes

Tax reform is one key issue that especially inflames conservative activists. And as Lessig pointed out when we spoke, the problem of legislative paralysis knows no political alignment; it stumps would-be reformers on both the right and the left.

“It’s incredibly naïve to believe that this Congress will ever simplify the tax system, because the complexities in the tax system are fund-raising opportunities,” he told BillMoyers.com. “Every single special benefit is a reason and a target to raise more money.

“So the special Research & Development Tax Credit which Ronald Reagan created in 1981, and which was originally a temporary provision but has been temporary ever since, is temporary because each time it’s about to expire they have a long list of beneficiaries they can go to and say ‘Geez, we need to raise some money to support the idea of extending this temporary tax benefit.’”

In fact, as NPR reported, Congress annually rings in the New Year by letting dozens of tax breaks expire. There immediately follows a healthy round of campaign contributions, as lobbyists for a slew of industries — from overseas financial operators to rum retailers, from movie producers to racetrack operators — scramble to get those tax breaks reinstated.

Food Stamps

The recent farm bill cut food stamps even further than the already severe cuts implemented in 2013. But it preserves a different sort of safety net: subsidies for big agriculture.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in both 2008 and 2013, the two most recent years that the farm bill has come before Congress (it’s renewed every five years), agribusiness spent more than $145 million on lobbying.

Recipients of food stamps, of course, don’t have the same kind of lobbying muscle to advocate on their own behalf. In a Congress pushing austerity, the programs that help the poor continue to hit the chopping block while recipients of corporate welfare can afford a hearty defense to protect their benefits.

In fact, both in 2008 and in 2013, although legislation to roll back agricultural subsidies had bipartisan support, the effort to do so fell apart.

And even though subsidies were “reformed” this year, The New York Times reports that in practice, these reforms mean little.

“It’s a classic bait-and-switch proposal to protect farm subsidies,” Vincent H. Smith, an economist at Montana State University, told the Times. “They’ve eliminated the politically toxic direct payments program and added the money to a program that will provide farmers with even larger subsidies.”

The 2014 farm bill cuts direct payments to farmers, but puts that money into the farm insurance program. Writing in The New Republic, David Dayen explains why this helps big agriculture even more than previous farm bills:

That’s because the farm bill will expand subsidies for crop insurance, which looks like a private-sector program but which actually hands over virtually the same amount of taxpayer money to farmers, mostly wealthy ones, as the old direct payment program. What’s more, the shift from direct payments to crop insurance ensures that those handouts can be distributed in a hidden, more politically palatable way, making it more difficult to ever dislodge them.

Minimum Wage

The fight over raising the minimum wage is a war of information. Conservative opponents of a proposed increase commission academic studies for use by lobbyists and their front groups. A recent New York Times report illustrates how one of the most prominent think tanks opposing the raise, the Employment Policies Institute, “is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.”

Their strategy has proven effective, with business groups and the mainstream media continuing to cite research claiming that a raise in the minimum wage will hurt the economy.

Recently, the hotel industry, a major employer of low-wage workers, announced it will lead the fight to keep wages low. According to the congressional newspaper The Hill, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a group that includes such major hotel chains as Best Western, Hilton and Hyatt, has plans to “lead the charge to beat back the growing emergence of extreme minimum and living wage initiatives that are proven job-killers and ultimately hurt those who are building successful careers from the entry level.”

Simultaneously, as money continues to pour into Congress to keep a low minimum wage at the federal level, proponents of increasing it are turning to the states and cities, where they are finding some limited success.

Net Neutrality

Last month, a federal appeals court struck down Net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers cannot give favorable treatment to some content over others (e.g., Verizon could not give a faster connection to their own video streaming service than to Netflix).

Tom Wheeler, the new head of the FCC, has not settled on a permanent fix to settle Net neutrality, but says he will announce one soon.

One very easy way for the FCC to reinstate Net neutrality would be to reclassify the Internet under the Federal Communications Act as a telecommunications service, not an information service, giving the agency broader regulatory powers. But if the FCC does that, lobbyists representing Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon, and their Republican allies, will put up a huge fight.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats’ recent attempt to use legislation to preserve Net neutrality until the FCC has time to settle on a permanent fix looks likely to die in the House. It is strongly opposed by industry-backed Republicans. For one, Comcast is the second biggest campaign donor to Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — and he’s chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee. Instead, FCC Chairman Wheeler reportedly is leaning toward not reclassifying the Internet, but promising instead to take rigorous enforcement action against those Internet providers that attempt to use their considerable size and power to monopolize business or abuse consumers.

But Wheeler is a former lobbyist for the companies he’s now supposed to regulate. Add to that Comcast’s considerable lobbying clout and Washington connections, which soon may be magnified by its proposed merger with Time Warner. There’s reason for doubt that Wheeler’s plan would be effective.

[ Re-Post from www.BillMoyers.com | John Light ]