It has been proven that big business and elites (that's the top 1% and up to you and me), have independent influence over Congress. The rest of us are ignored. Scientists have reviewed the data to show that across more than 1700 policy issues, Congress doesn't listen to us. They listen to them. The 1%.
Given this result, it can be fairly said that the 1% and only the 1% are writing public policy. Some have even gone so far as to identify the United States an oligarchy, not a democracy. I'm inclined to agree.
There are a few bright spots in Congress, though. Elizabeth Warren is working hard to show the hypocrisy of the conservative right, bought and paid for by Wall Street (I know, some of them are Democrats). Bernie Sanders is running for president and promoting crazy ideas like free education for everyone, a more progressive taxation system and even breaking up banks that are too big to fail. And then there is Rand Paul. He's a nut, but he's doing something I never thought I'd see anyone in Congress do - filibuster a bill to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
I spend far more time arguing on the Internet than can possibly be healthy, and the word I’ve come to loath more than any other is “opinion”. Opinion, or worse “belief”, has become the shield of every poorly-conceived notion that worms its way onto social media.
There’s a common conception that an opinion cannot be wrong. My dad said it. Hell, everyone’s dad probably said it and in the strictest terms it is true. However, before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.
1. Is this actually an opinion?
2. If it is an opinion how informed is it and why do I hold it?
I’ll help you with the first part. An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something. My favorite color is black. I think mint tastes awful. Doctor Who is the best television show. These are all opinions. They may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general population but they all have one thing in common; they cannot be verified outside the fact that I believe them.
Which would be difficult enough to swallow if it were just land at stake. Our public lands are our most economically valuable national asset, responsible for raking billions of dollars directly into the national coffers each year and supporting far more lucrative free market economic activity. We are literally talking about selling off 28% our country. But politicians’ hands have swept mankind’s pockets ever since we outbred the hunter-gatherer clan structure, maybe longer. What’s a few hundred million more acres pilfered from the people? It’s not about the land or the money though. What’s ultimately at stake here is a way of life. Who we are as a nation, how we live as a people and what it means to be American have all sprouted from the public soil of our great republic. Public land is the bedrock on which our national mythology is built. The cowboys, mountain men and pioneers wouldn’t have existed without public land. Huckleberry Finn is a public land story, as are Call of the Wild, Lonesome Dove, and A River Runs Through It. Don’t Fence Me In and America the Beautiful were written about a landscape with equal access for all. Public lands put the Wild in the Wild West. Our spirit of exploration and adventure is inexorably tethered to the distant horizon and predicated on the freedom to cross the ground in between. Without public land, hunting, fishing, hiking and camping are reduced to commercial transactions and restricted to those who can afford them. Are we still American without room in America to roam?
"Mass incarceration makes our entire country worse off, and we need to do something about it." - President Obama in his July 14, 2015 speech to the NAACP annual conference
Fifteen years ago, when I first started working on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues, I never would have imagined these words coming out of the mouth of a sitting U.S. president. But then again, I would never have imagined Barack Obama.
Actually, I might have met Obama by then. I remember shaking his hand after a person told me he was "someone to watch" at a gathering of black state legislators around that time. He was still an Illinois state senator.
But there's no way I would have believed anyone telling me that he would go on to become president. And if you told me that, as president, he would give the speech he did today at the 106th annual conference of the NAACP, I would have found such optimism delusional but endearing.
"For non-violent drug crimes, we need to lower long mandatory minimum sentences -- or get rid of them entirely." - President Obama
In response, he is promising that in 2014 the Met plans “a major step change in the way we deal with cyber crime and fraud in London by establishing what will be a world-leading unit to counter them. We plan to dedicate hundreds more officers solely to these types of crime.”
And while the Met going cap in hand to the banks for funding may be a controversial approach - independent cyber security expert Mark Stollery of PA Consulting told SCMagazineUK.com there are precedents.
Stollery said the City of London Police force Insurance Fraud Department (IFED) is funded by Association of British Insurers members, and the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU) – made up of officers from the City of London and Met Police forces – is fully sponsored by the banking industry.
Stollery told SC: “I can see why the banks may be sucking their teeth and saying this is police work - but the fact is the banks are going to be suffering indirectly because they're having to pick up the pieces of their customers who are going to be suffering. However unjustifiably, they will be risking a bit of reputational damage.”
"Filling up at the pump is often painful in California, where drivers tend to pay more for gasoline than in most other states.
Many industry watchers attribute the high fuel costs to unique forces — chiefly California's clean-burning gasoline formula — that have isolated the market and kept it tightly balanced between supply and demand.
But some consumer advocates and politicians allege that price manipulation by oil refiners is to blame.
This year, price fluctuations were especially surprising. The price of crude oil began falling last summer, with pump prices following."
A much-touted domestic violence law is falling short in the courts as defendants escape convictions in more than 70 percent of the cases closed under two newly created charges — assault and battery on a family member and strangulation or suffocation, a Herald review found.
The new charges added to the books were considered a key ingredient in tightening the state’s domestic violence laws in the wake of the murder case against Jared Remy, who wiggled out of domestic violence charges before killing his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, in August 2013.
But a review of the data compiled by nine of the state’s 11 district attorneys and sent to state lawmakers this week shows:
Here’s something you probably didn’t know happened in California in the last few years, and maybe it’s something you never imagined could happen: In 2011, two high-ranking state regulators were fired from their posts for pissing off the oil industry. No one really disputes the veracity of that statement; not even Governor Jerry Brown. “They were blocking oil exploration in Kern County,” the Sacramento Bee reported Brown announcing at an event six months later. “I fired them, and oil permits for drilling went up 18 percent.”
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, also celebrated without restraint, unconcerned that the people of California might detect her hand guiding the Governor’s pink-slip pen. After the firings, Reheis-Boyd boasted to the Los Angeles Times that her industry once again had a “clear pathway for people to get permits and proceed with drilling in this state. The communications lines are very open.”
While the way in which the media handle the stories that are covered is bad enough, the absence of coverage is even worse. If an issue does not divide the main political parties, it vanishes from view, though the parties now disagree on hardly anything. Another study reveals a near total collapse of environmental coverage on ITV and BBC news: it declined from 2.5% (ITV) and 1.6% (BBC) of total airtime in 2007 to, respectively, 0.2% and 0.3% in 2014. There were as many news stories on these outlets about Madeleine McCann in 2014 – seven years after her disappearance – as there were about all environmental issues put together.
Those entrusted to challenge power are the loyalists of power.
Robert Looks Twice grew up in a trailer with his grandmother, uncle and eight cousins on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Looks Twice, along with two other young Native people from Pine Ridge, was a subject of Diane Sawyer's "Children of the Plains," a special that first aired on ABC in 2011.
For many Americans, "Children of the Plains" was a startling glimpse into the poverty and despair affecting the lives of Native Americans. Five cousins share a single bedroom with a collapsing ceiling. People carry the scars of generations of alcoholism and addiction. They spend their days broken and weeping in the quivering grass of the hills where their ancestors -- Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull -- captured Custer's American flag at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876; where the 7th cavalry massacred the Lakota and poured their bodies into a mass grave at Wounded Knee in 1890. This is what happened to the first peoples of this land. This is the lot left to their children.
Now, from impoverished reservations in the West, to Congress and the White House in the East, there is a growing bipartisan movement to document and address the lack of resources and opportunities in Native communities.
When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn't a coincidence—that this was, like the Elliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at...
The B.C. government plans to subsidize Malaysian gas giant Petronas to the tune of $16 million, in part due to a promise to exclude a significant chunk of the greenhouse gas emissions from the Pacific Northwest LNG project from compliance penalties, DeSmog Canada has learned.
British Columbia’s politicians are in a special summer sitting at the legislature right now to debate Bill 30, the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act, which will allow the government to enter into a $36 billion agreement with Petronas and pave the way for B.C.’s first major liquefied natural gas export plant, located near Prince Rupert.
Under the terms of the 140-page deal, the province would compensate the LNG consortium if future governments raise income tax rates for LNG operations, add carbon taxes that specifically target the industry or make changes to rules on greenhouse gas emissions. That could result in the province paying out $25 million a year or more.
While the compensation clause has commanded the lion’s share of attention, DeSmog Canada has learned that the B.C. government has quietly excluded two sources of Petronas’ emissions from compliance standards, which will result in the province paying out millions of dollars in subsidies.
The Loophole that Will Let Petronas Off the Hook for Emissions
German regulators accused a half-dozen current Deutsche Bank AG executives of failing to stop or tell regulators about years of attempted market manipulation, according to a confidential report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that portrays the German bank as suffering from a badly broken corporate culture.
BaFin, the German financial watchdog, sent the report to Deutsche Bank’s management board May 11, less than a month before the German lender unexpectedly announced that its co-chief executives, Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen, planned to resign. Deutsche Bank officials said in June that the resignations weren’t the result of regulatory pressure.
The growing practice - which has gone unnoticed for years - has led to accusations that officers can effectively be hired for cash. Banks, insurers, car firms and credit card companies are all paying the police to carry out criminal inquiries. Special police units have even been set up entirely paid for by the private sector. The scale of the private payments follows the disclosure that the Metropolitan Police was secretly paid by Virgin Media to investigate a large-scale fraud that was costing Sir Richard Branson's company £144 million a year.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the U.S. Supreme Court has released a flurry of momentous decisions in the last few days covering everything from lethal injection methods to the environment.
The two which drew the most attention were, of course, the rulings which saved the Affordable Care Act, and found that same sex couples have the right to marry everywhere in America.
Listen Listening...3:03 Jack Lessenberry talks about Michigan’s legislative districts are grossly gerrymandered to produce top-heavy Republican majorities. But the court made another tremendous ruling yesterday that, in effect, said we can take back representative democracy in this state if we want to.
The fact is that our legislature is extremely dysfunctional, at least when it comes to doing anything about today’s major issues.
A new report based on information from 34 countries, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, has revealed that “many women globally experience poor treatment during childbirth, including abusive, neglectful or disrespectful care.” The abuses and humiliations these mothers undergo — including being slapped and pinched during labor, yelled at, denied pain medicine, neglected or forced to share beds with other women who just gave birth — could be driving them away from hospitals, undermining international goals of reducing deaths during childbirth. That number now stands at 300,000 per year, and, sadly, most of those deaths, caused by treatable problems like bleeding, infection and high blood pressure, are preventable. Maternal health experts agree that the key to preventing maternal deaths is having women give birth at hospitals rather than at their homes, but this is hampered when women fear being abused at hospitals. “To imagine that women are mistreated during this very special time is truly devastating,” said Meghan A. Bohren, first author of the new report and a research consultant at the World Health Organization.
America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?
It's been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don't know is that they're also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.
Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday it is investigating whether U.S. airlines worked together illegally to keep airfares high by signaling plans to limit flights.
The Justice Department wrote to major U.S. air carriers demanding that they detail decisions to limit the number of seats they offer, and what they've said about those plans to investors, securities analysts and the public.
Airlines contacted have been asked to provide "available seat miles on a regional and system wide basis" back to January 2010 and a raft of other data.
The top four U.S. carriers American Airlines Group Inc , Delta Air Lines Inc , United Continental Holdings Inc and Southwest Airlines Co control some 80 percent of the domestic air travel market.
The four confirmed receipt of the regulator's letter and said they are cooperating fully with the investigation. News of the probe sent the Dow Jones U.S. airlines index down 2 percent.
A quick web search for the world's most famous scientists lists, among others, Galileo, Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alexander Fleming. One of the few women to receive a mention is Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist who basically discovered radiation and helped apply it in the field of X-rays. She won two Nobel Prizes, in physics and chemistry. Yet even so, she was turned down for membership of the prestigious French Academie des Sciences in 1911, the very year she went on to win her second Nobel Prize. The Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt was heavily criticised for his disparaging remarks about women in science last week, which for some raised the issue of where women stood in the scientific community. The larger truth is that women have made big and important discoveries in science - think of Dorothy Hodgkin, the brilliant crystallographer who mapped the structure of penicillin and went on to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 1964.
The following is an excerpt fromOut of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastropheby Erik Loomis (The New Press, 2015):
The new environmental laws of the 1970s proved immediately effective. Between 1972 and 1978, presence of sulfur dioxide in the environment fell 17 percent, carbon monoxide by 35 percent, and lead by 26 percent.15 Americans lauded a future of jobs and health, prosperity and beautiful nature. Unions such as the United Steelworkers of America, who represented many Donora workers, the United Auto Workers, and the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers made alliances with environmentalists and promoted the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other core legislation that protected all Americans, whether members of the working class or wealthy, from the emissions and pollutants of industry. Environmentalists for Full Employment formed in 1975 to “publicize the fact that it is possible simultaneously to create jobs, conserve energy and natural resources and protect the environment.” When Ronald Reagan became president and cut OSHA and EPA funding, the AFL-CIO and Sierra Club created the OSHA/Environmental Network to organize resistance between the two movements. Environmentalists and a Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees local representing tannery workers in Fulton County, New York, overcame past differences and worked together on both the workplace environment of the tannery and tannery-created water pollution. By the late 1990s, workers reporting environmental violations and environmentalists helped the union develop plans to improve working conditions in the plants.
Nearly one in 100 U.S. adults is in prison or jail, often as a result of questionable or biased convictions and subject to living (and dying) under conditions that research reveals as extremely inhumane
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