GOP Congressmen Put Constituents Who Asked Tough Questions On A ‘Watch List’

From Think Progress:

By Marie Diamond
Aug 26, 2011

n recent weeks GOP congressmen have resorted to all sorts of underhanded schemes to avoid interacting with their angry constituents back home over August recess. Now two Republican freshmen, Reps. Daniel Webster (R-FL) and Tim Griffin (R-AZ), are taking this trend one step further, using disturbing intimidation tactics and “watch lists” to discourage constituentsfrom asking them questions:

Rep. Webster’s Winter Garden, Florida district office gave out a “Watch List” of six Floridians who had asked questions at Webster’s previous town halls. The list, with the header “For the Media,” included names, photographs, and questions that members of the media should ask them.

The Watch List itself doesn’t contain any information on who wrote it or where it comes from.The memos surfaced in Arkansas in connection to the office of Rep. Tim Griffin, and were traced back to Rep. Webster’s office.

With black and white photos that resemble police surveillance, some of them pulled from the individuals’ Facebook profiles, the memo is clearly meant to intimidate these six people and anyone else who might stand up and ask a question of their elected representative. At a Griffin town hall, staffers were handing out the Watch List to attendees, calling it their “homework.” Griffin staffers were also spotted taking photos and shooting video of attendees, creating an extra layer of intimidation.

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3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

From Alternet:

Most Americans oppose rule by the corporatocracy but don’t have the tools to fight back. Here are three things we need to create a real people’s movement.

By Bruce E. Levine
August 25, 2011

Transforming the United States into something closer to a democracy requires: 1) knowledge of how we are getting screwed; 2) pragmatic tactics, strategies, and solutions; and 3) the “energy to do battle.”

The majority of Americans oppose the corporatocracy (rule by giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials); however, many of us have given up hope that this tyranny can be defeated. Among those of us who continue to be politically engaged, many focus on only one of the requirements—knowledge of how we are getting screwed. And this singular focus can result in helplessness. It is the two other requirements that can empower, energize, and activate Team Democracy— a team that is currently at the bottom of the standings in the American Political League.

1. Knowledge of How We are Getting Screwed

Harriet Tubman conducted multiple missions as an Underground Railroad conductor, and she also participated in the Union Army’s Combahee River raid that freed more than 700 slaves. Looking back on her career as a freedom fighter, Tubman noted, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” While awareness of the truth of corporatocracy oppression is by itself not sufficient to win freedom and justice, it is absolutely necessary.

We are ruled by so many “industrial complexes”—military, financial, energy, food, pharmaceutical, prison, and so on—that it is almost impossible to stay on top of every way we are getting screwed. The good news is that—either through independent media or our basic common sense—polls show that the majority of Americans know enough about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts, and other corporate welfare to oppose these corporatocracy policies. In the case of the military-industrial complex, most Iraq War polls and Afghanistan War polls show that the majority of Americans know enough to oppose these wars. And when Americans were asked in a CBS New /New York Times survey in January 2011 which of three programs—the military, Medicare or Social Security—to cut so as to deal with the deficit, fully 55 percent chose the military, while only 21 percent chose Medicare and 13 percent chose Social Security.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, “Everybody knows that the deal is rotten.” Well, maybe not everybody, but damn near everybody.

But what doesn’t everybody know?

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Countdown with Keith Olbermann 08-26-2011 – Tough Talk, with Richard Trumka

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For those on the East Coast. Try to Stay Safe and Dry

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Anti-Capitalist Queers Intervene at Montreal Pride

From Infoshop:

Friday, August 26 2011

An autonomous, self-organized group of 25+ raucous queer and trans activists took to the streets during Montreal’s annual Pride Parade to voice their opposition to business as usual in Quebec, Canada, and the world. Playing off Pride’s futuristic year 3011 theme, this rag-tag, post-apocalyptic girl gang angrily proclaimed there is “no future in capitalism” while tearing up Viagra/Pfizer advertisements along the parade route, chanting “No One Is Illegal!” / “Harper You Suck, But Do You Swallow?!?”, and leafleting the crowd. The sassy flyer outlines how the current economic, political and social climate, as well as shifts in global capitalism, compounded by heterosexism, patriarchy, and racism, are endangering queer and trans communities as well as those of people throughout the world.

From Harper to Charest, the austerity measures affect us all:

  • Social safety nets are being dismantled. The public health care system is under attack. University tuition is being doubled.
  • Canadian companies act with impunity overseas, plundering natural resources and violating human rights. Meanwhile we occupy a foreign nation and continue to sign more “free” trade agreements that privilege corporate interests over working people.
  • Political dissent is being criminalized. Prisons are expanding. And the government responds to social problems with more and longer sentences.
  • Lands are being drilled for oil and shale gas, threatening our ecosystems and rural communities. Le Plan Nord speeds up the colonization and exploitation of indigenous people and lands.
  • The organizations that are the front-line defense for marginalized communities, be they feminist, legal, or cultural, are in a thinly veiled attempt reverse fifty years of advancing economic, cultural and social rights.

As queer and trans folks we should know better than most the importance of community resistance in the face of government attacks and corporate opportunism. We know the damage that results from negligence and lack of social programs. We know the importance of getting out into the streets protesting, speaking with our neighbors, getting involved in our communities, and becoming conscientious objectors in sequins and binders, in high heels and leather boots.

Montreal’s Pride Parade started as a response to police violence and impunity. As a collective voice of a community who had had enough bashing, homophobia, marginalization and criminalization. Who were taking a stand to defend their way of life that was under attack. And it can be again. C’mon Mary. Once more with feeling!

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Why Perry Hates Regulators: They’re Bad for (His) Business

From Truth Dig:

By Joe Conason
Aug 25, 2011

Like so many Republican officials of the tea party persuasion, Rick Perry despises the Environmental Protection Agency—a feeling he has expressed repeatedly in speeches, lawsuits, legislation and even a book titled “Fed Up!” Perhaps that is only natural for the governor of Texas, a “dirty energy” state where the protection of air, water and human health rank well below the defense of oil company profits for most politicians.

But Perry has at least one other reason for smacking down those bureaucrats so eagerly. When environmental regulators do their job properly, that can mean serious trouble for Perry’s largest political donors.

The outstanding example is Harold Simmons, a Dallas mega-billionaire industrialist who has donated well over a million dollars to Perry’s campaign committees recently. With Perry’s eager assistance—and despite warnings from Texas environmental officials—Simmons has gotten approval to build an enormous radioactive waste dump on top of a crucial underground water supply.

“We first had to change the law to where a private company can own a license, and we did that,” Simmons boasted in 2006, after the Texas Legislature and the governor rubber-stamped initial legislation and approvals for the project. “Then we got another law passed that said (the state) can only issue one license. Of course, we were the only ones that applied.”

Most Americans have never heard of Simmons, despite his fantastic wealth, because he wisely keeps his head low, generally refusing press interviews and avoiding media coverage. Last year, a local monthly in his hometown published the headline “Dallas’ Evil Genius” over a scathing and fascinating investigative profile that examined not only the peculiar history of litigation between Simmons and his children (who no longer speak to him), but his political machinations, corporate raiding and continuing corporate penchant for pollution.

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Shark fin ban clears key California Senate committee

I don’t want to hear the “In my culture” argument.  Your freaking culture doesn’t justify driving entire species of wildlife into extinction.

I would seriously criminalize the sale or possession of the body parts of any endangered species with extremely harsh punishment.

From The Los Angeles Times:,0,3042182.story

By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles TimesAugust 26, 2011

A bill to outlaw shark fin, the main ingredient in a traditional Chinese soup, now moves to the California Senate floor, where a vote is expected within the next few weeks.

A bill to outlaw shark fin, the main ingredient in a traditional Chinese soup, cleared a key hurdle Thursday when it passed a state Senate committee.

The bill, which would ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in the state, has been championed by conservation groups as a way to curb their harvest, a practice that has contributed to the sharp decline of shark populations worldwide.

But the measure has divided California’s Chinese American community. For centuries the gelatinous soup prepared with dried shark fins has been served as a pricey Chinese delicacy, and opponents of the bill say banning the ingredient would discriminate against a cultural tradition.

The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 5-2 vote and now moves to the Senate floor, where a vote is expected within the next few weeks.

The Assembly passed the bill in May, 65 to 8, but it ran into opposition in the upper house.

Chinese American restaurateurs and traders have lobbied against the bill and are being backed by several Chinese American lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who voted against the measure Thursday. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has called it “an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine.”

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Thom Hartman and Senator Bernie Sanders

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Since 9/11, Koch Industries has fought against tougher government rules on chemical plants

From PR Watch:

Koch argues that tough restrictions on petrochemicals aren’t necessary because there hasn’t been a terrorist attack here since 9/11

By John Aloysius Farrell, Ben Wieder and Evan Bush
August 25, 2011

Koch Industries, a leader of industry resistance to proposed post-9/11 anti-terrorism safeguards at petrochemical plants, owns 56 facilities using hazardous chemicals that put 4.8 million Americans who live nearby at risk.

Schools, homes, hospitals, office parks, churches, recreation areas, nursing homes and daycare facilities dot the properties that surround the Koch plants.

In the government’s “worst case” scenarios, the millions working or living near the plants could be threatened by explosions, chemical spills or clouds of deadly gas, federal records show. Among the hazardous chemicals stored and used at Koch sites are formaldehyde, chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride.

Koch’s own reports to the U.S. government were reviewed by iWatch News. The records, known as risk management plans, are maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. Access is strictly controlled: members of the press and public can only examine 10 plans per month, under the watchful eye of EPA officials.

A decade after the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Koch insists that its neighbors are safe, and are adequately protected by federal and state regulations.

All chemical firms are “vulnerable to human error, acts of nature, theft and sabotage,” Koch acknowledges. “It is impossible to completely eliminate every threat.”

But “chemicals are at the heart of many of our businesses,” the firm says, in a section titled “Chemical Safety” on Koch’s website. “The ones used in our facilities are handled with care and by trained professionals.”

The Kansas-based conglomerate vows that it “places compliance and safety before profit.”

Koch did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment to this story over a week’s time.

Koch lobbies against stricter rules

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NLRB Rule Requiring Posters In Workplace Infuriates Business Groups

From Huffington Post:


WASHINGTON — The federal labor board announced Thursday that it has finalized a rule requiring employers to post notices in the workplace informing workers of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The poster will be a modest 11 by 17 inches, similar to the Department of Labor notices already posted in workplaces across the country, and it will be provided free by the federal government.

Business groups and their allies are furious. They say that the rule is too onerous, and that it benefits labor unions.

The National Federation of Independent Business, a powerful small-business trade group known to support Republicans, quickly pounced on the “punitive new rule” as another assault by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on independent employers.

“Just when we thought we had seen it all from the NLRB, it has reached a new low in its zeal to punish small-business owners,” Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, said in a statement.

The National Labor Relations Act is a 76-year-old law that outlines workers’ rights to unionize and bargain collectively in most private-sector workplaces. The fact that the board would want Americans aware of these rights is apparently seen by some as catering to labor unions.

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Austerity is Euphemism for Class War Waged by Rich

From Dissident Voice:

Capitalism Is The Crisis: Radical Politics in the Age of Austerity

by Michael Truscello / August 19th, 2011

In a September 20, 1912 article in the New York Times titled “The Age of the Superlative,” a writer admired the fact that a French aviator had achieved an altitude of 18,635 feet and that the new Equitable Life Insurance building, erected on the spot where the old one had just burned down, “is sure to be the biggest in the world.” Nothing could be done about the vast amounts of wealth dedicated to breaking such records. “We know well that there are better kinds of glory,” the writer soberly concluded, “but the age of the superlative must take its course.”

We live in an age of the superlatives as well, ironically being touted as the Age of Austerity by the state-capitalist oligarchs. But the superlative qualities of our age mark a world in decline. Consider some of our superlative achievements:

  • Scientists have renamed this era the Anthropocene, to denote the unprecedented impact humans are having on the planet, an impact that is driving the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet.
  • The US financial “crisis” of 2008 was the largest private sector theft of public money in history, an estimated $16 trillion, followed by an aggressive global “austerity” push that targets the poor, the middle class, and people of colour to pay for the systemic fraud that caused the crisis.
  • The US income disparity gap between rich and poor is the greatest of any industrialized country.
  • For the first time in US history, student debt exceeds consumer debt. Never has a young generation of Americans seen this much debt, and consequently they await a life of serfdom in the capitalist order.
  • The global 2011 Billionaires List recorded a record number of billionaires and combined wealth.
  • There are more slaves today than at any time in human history.
  • Worldwide military spending reached a record high in 2011.

And those are just a few records.

Notice a trend?

The world is dying, and capitalists are making record profits as it dies. There are more slaves and billionaires than ever before. The military-industrial complex is the largest it has ever been.

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