Sorry, Pope Francis: Reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights are economic issues, too

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/27/sorry_pope_francis_reproductive_justice_and_lgbtq_rights_are_economic_issues_too/

The new pope’s economic justice platform will continue to fall short if it ignores women’s and LGBTQ rights


Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013

Pope Francis issued a mission statement for his papacy on Tuesday that features an incredibly direct indictment of free market economics and growing global inequality. Agnostic or religiously indeterminate progressives of the Internet were suitably excited, as they have been before about the new pope.

Francis doesn’t pull any punches when laying into those who preach the gospel of trickle down, noting in the 84-page document that, “This opinion [about trickle down theories], which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

His critique grows more explicit in the next paragraph, continuing:

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.

Francis, to his great credit, is taking his religiously-grounded critique of capitalism well beyond the bland reassurances of his predecessors (and his many contemporaries in church leadership) that “the poor will inherit the earth,” and into a far more radical, policy-oriented place. He is using the heft of his position to pressure leaders to reform a global system that actively marginalizes billions of people across the globe.

Having the leader of 1.2 billion global Catholics get explicit about holding corporate heads and global leaders accountable for causing widespread poverty and all of its resultant suffering is no small thing. And his recent remarks have made all of the right people angry, which is also worth noting.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/27/sorry_pope_francis_reproductive_justice_and_lgbtq_rights_are_economic_issues_too/

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Pope Francis ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ Calls For Renewal Of Roman Catholic Church, Attacks ‘Idolatry Of Money’

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/pope-francis-evangelii-gaudium_n_4342964.html

By Naomi O’Leary Posted: 11/26/2013

(Reuters) – Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?”

The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy “also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion”.

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/pope-francis-evangelii-gaudium_n_4342964.html

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Meet America’s Biggest Welfare Queens

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One ‘Entitlement’ Really Does Need Trimming

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/24-4

America’s corporate CEOs feel entitled to pensions that pay out $86,000 monthly. To protect their entitlement, they’re attacking ours: Social Security

by Sam Pizzigati

Deck the halls, this holiday season, with scenes of hunger.

Struggling families all across America now have less food on their tables. Budget cuts that kicked into effect November 1 have lowered the nation’s average federal food stamp benefit to less than $1.40 per person per meal.

Austerity American-style is squeezing elsewhere as well. Seventy percent of local agencies that service seniors have had to cut back on Meals on Wheels deliveries. The “sequestration” federal budget cuts that began this past March have also shut out 57,000 preschoolers from Head Start.

More cuts are looming, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill near still another budget deliberation deadline, this one midway through December. The next federal program in the cross-hairs? Maybe the biggest of them all: Social Security.

Average Americans, of course, don’t want Social Security cut. Over three-quarters of Americans, polling shows, oppose any Social Security cutbacks.

If anything, average Americans have become even more committed to keeping Social Security whole — and for good reason. Social Security currently stands as America’s only retirement bedrock.

Not too long ago, pensions also used to deliver real retirement security. But the nation’s biggest corporations have cut back on traditional pensions. In 1980, 89 percent of Fortune 100 companies guaranteed workers a “defined benefit” at retirement. By last year, only 12 percent offered that level of security.

Companies have replaced traditional pensions with 401(k)s, and many giant firms — like Walmart — don’t even offer a guaranteed match on employee 401(k) contributions. The predictable result? Among Americans between 50 and 64, the bottom 75 percent by wealth average just $26,395 in retirement assets.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/11/24-4

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Obama Approves Major Border-Crossing Fracked Gas Pipeline Used to Dilute Tar Sands

From Desmog Blog:   http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/11/26/obama-approves-border-crossing-fracked-gas-pipeline-used-dilute-tar-sands

Steve Horn

Nov. 26, 2013

Although TransCanada’s
Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion’s share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.

Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan’s 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands. 

Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL – which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast – Kinder Morgan’s Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.

“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada’s thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,” explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. “US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/11/26/obama-approves-border-crossing-fracked-gas-pipeline-used-dilute-tar-sands

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A Better Grip on Climate Change: There’s plenty that you can do about it.

From Other Words:  http://otherwords.org/betterer-grip-climate-change/

By and
November 27, 2013

Reposted with Creative Commons permission

Earth to climate change deniers: The vast majority of Americans are worried enough about global warming to want our government to help stop this scourge.

This good news for people who believe science should drive our climate policy comes from a series of surveys conducted by Stanford University. Even in so-called “red states,” a clear majority of Americans said government action was needed to stop man-made climate change — regardless of what other countries might do about it.

Another poll, which contrasted responses from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, found that two-thirds of Americans believe in climate change. That includes half of Republicans, up from only one-third of them in 2009.

It’s about time. Several of the worst wildfires in U.S. history have ravaged swathes of California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico since 2011, stressing out those super-bad climate radicals: insurance companies.

In early October, India was forced to evacuate 900,000 for Cyclone Phailin, which devastated that country’s whole east coast. A month later, the worst tropical storm in recorded history struck the Philippines. Then, 200-mile-an-hour winds leveled Washington, Illinois as fierce tornadoes killed eight people in the Midwest.

No single extreme weather event can be tied to climate change, but unless we stop climate change, it’s pretty clear that devastating storms and wildfires will become increasingly common. Yet less than 5 percent of TV or newspaper coverage in the six days following Super Typhoon Haiyan made a serious connection between the Philippines’ true climate catastrophe and the world’s belching power plants, swarming autos, leaking gas wells, or clear-cut forests.

Many politicians are trying hard not to connect the dots either. Lawmakers representing fossil fuel states seem to think that they risk all if they call for the kinds of changes that would shrink our carbon footprint.

If the latest polls aren’t evidence enough that voters may actually reward action to avert a climate crisis, maybe it’s time they got organized.

You know, the West Virginians would seek to limit natural gas, the Pennsylvanians would demean oil, and the Texans would clobber coal. But that’s not how it works.

So now President Barack Obama and the EPA are stuck trying to reduce emissions without any help from Congress. But they’ll need a hand from the courts too. Tons of lawsuits have been ambling through the system to the Supreme Court, which in October issues a mixed ruling that gave the fossil fuel boosters another shot.

What can you do? Some options are obvious: Use less energy. Walk more. Start a carpool if you can. Recycle. Compost. Choose more energy-efficient light bulbs, refrigerators, and vehicles.

You can take action that goes deeper, too. Do you have any savings invested in stocks and bonds? Clean up your portfolio by divesting any oil, gas, and coal assets you might own. Even if you aren’t an investor, you can join the fossil fuel divestment movement and encourage your university or town to get out of that dirty business and invest in renewable alternatives instead.

So far, Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and at least 18 other cities have announced that they’re going this route. Student campaigns at hundreds of colleges and universities are gaining steam too, as counties, foundations, religious institutions and other organizations join the movement to make their investments fossil-fuel free.

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New Rules Would Rein In Nonprofits’ Political Role

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

By
Published: November 26, 2013

he Obama administration on Tuesday moved to curb political activity by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, with potentially major ramifications for some of the biggest and most secretive spenders in American politics.

New rules proposed by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would clarify both how the I.R.S. defines political activity and how much nonprofits are allowed to spend on it. The proposal covers not just television advertising, but bread-and-butter political work like candidate forums and get-out-the-vote drives.

Long demanded by government watchdogs and Democrats who say the flow of money through tax-exempt groups is corrupting the political system, the changes would be the first wholesale shift in a generation in the regulations governing political activity by nonprofits.

The move follows years of legal and regulatory shifts, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, that have steadily loosened the rules governing political spending, particularly by those with the biggest bank accounts: corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.

But the proposal also thrusts the I.R.S. into what is sure to be a polarizing regulatory battle, with some Republicans immediately criticizing the proposal on Tuesday as an attack on free speech and a ploy to undermine congressional investigations into the agency’s handling of applications from Tea Party groups.

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first,” said Representative David Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Political spending by tax-exempt groups — from Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, to the League of Conservation Voters — skyrocketed to more than $300 million in 2012 from less than $5.2 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Much of the money has been funneled through chains of interlinked nonprofit groups, making it even harder to determine the original source.

And unlike political parties and “super PACs,” political nonprofits are permitted to keep the names of donors confidential, making them the vehicle of choice for deep-pocketed donors seeking to influence campaigns in secret.

The new rules would not prohibit political activity by nonprofits.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

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