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Latta: Big Money For Dirty Fossil Fuels, But Only Big Talk For Sustainable Energy

Yesterday, U.S. Representative Robert Latta introduced H. Res. 215, a lopsided congressional resolution on American energy policy. This resolution declares that, “any comprehensive plan to reform our national energy policy must promote the sustainable use of renewable and alternative energy sources; increase our domestic refining capacity; promote conservation and increased energy efficiency; expand research and development, including domestic onshore and offshore exploration; and enhance consumer education”.

A superficial glance at this resoltuon creates the impression that it reflects a balanced energy policy, in which old, unsustainable and dirty energy technologies from early in the last century continue alongside new, sustainable and clean energy technologies. A more careful examination of the text, however, reveals an off-balance approach.

In Robert Latta’s energy policy resolution, sustainable and clean energy technologies receive nothing but talk, with government programs to “promote” them. The dirty, unsustainable energy technologies from the early 20th century, however, receive practical assistance, with the “increase” of oil refineries and programs to “expand” drilling for oil and gas, and mining for coal.

Is it any coincidence that the top contributor to Robert Latta’s campaign committee and political action committee has been Marathon Petroleum?

Circe is Serving Pork In Rhode Island

Circe Restaurant and Bar in Providence, Rhode Island looks very stylish. “Circe” is an edgy kind of name, too.

Hmmm. Let’s look at the menu.

Oh, dear. They serve pork chops and bacon.

Have these people read the Odyssey? Circe was the sorceress who turned human beings into pigs.

Just imagine knowing that, and still ordering the pork chops at the Circe Restaurant.

I wouldn’t want to take my chances.

circe pork chops restaurant

Moral Mondays Return in North Carolina: Assemble in Raleigh on April 29

The Moral Monday movement in North Carolina is still rolling.  With a nod of the hat to DocDawg for the tip, here’s an announcement of the latest demonstration:

WHEN: April 29, 2015 at 5pm – 6pm

WHERE: NC General Assembly
16 W Jones St
Raleigh, NC 27601

“On the anniversary of the first Moral Monday two years ago, we invite the more than 1000 Moral Monday arrestees and other moral witnesses who have stood with the Forward Together Movement to return to Raleigh.

“We have met with legislators and we have made our demands for a people’s agenda that benefits all North Carolinians clear, but the NC General Assembly is still set on a destructive course.

“An avalanche of extreme bills have been proposed. These bills hurt all North Carolinians. They include so called “religious freedom” laws, attempts to strengthen the school to prison pipeline, denial of Medicaid expansion, attacks on the environment, and much more.

“Join us as we shed light on the extreme and regressive agenda of our General Assembly. We will continue to say: forward together, not one step back!

The Moral Monday demonstrations are associated with both the NAACP of North Carolina and the HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) People’s Assembly Coalition HKonJ has a 14-point agenda, and it’s a pretty good one:

1. All Children Need High Quality, Constitutional, Well-Funded, Diverse Public Schools. NC must meet its Constitution’s requirement of adequate and diverse schools by fully funding Leandro with transparent accountability and creating special leadership teams in its failing schools.

Action steps:

Stop trends of resegregation
Fully fund all programs designed to aid at-risk, disadvantaged students
Enact specific reforms targeted at reducing the dropout rate and the number of student suspensions and expulsions by, among other things, implementing fairer student discipline policies and assuring that every at-risk child has a Personal Education Plan.
Provide adequate state appropriations to fully comply with the Leandro guarantee of a sound basic education for all children
Appoint a Joint Legislative Committee on Constitutional Education
Hire Special Leadership Teams of 3-5 experts in each school found in violation of the Constitution to reengage young people and their parents in the educational process
Freeze university tuition rates

2. Livable Wages and Support for Low Income People. NC must provide livable wages, make sure no person goes hungry and ensure that everyone in need has affordable, accessible childcare.

Action steps:

Raise the state minimum wage and index it to inflation
Require state contractors to pay all employees a “living wage” plus benefits
Continue to increase the state earned income tax credit
Dramatically expand Food Stamp outreach and eliminate asset limits for recipients
Provide the funding necessary to eliminate the state childcare waiting list
Ensure that all workers have access to workplace benefits such as paid sick days
Require business incentive recipients to pay a living wage with benefits
Enact improved housing and workplace standards for farm and factory workers
Increase funding for worker training and education programs by 50%

3. Health Care for All. NC must provide its people with health insurance and prescription drugs, while funding public health programs to treat social diseases that plague Black and poor communities including HIV/AIDS, diseases caused by environmental pollution and warming, drugs, domestic violence, mental illness, diabetes and obesity.

Action steps:

Reject efforts to repeal the national health care reform law and fully implement it in NC
Preserve state funding for Medicaid, Health Choice and other essential programs
Act immediately to address the crisis in the treatment and placement for persons with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems
Triple funding for the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities and state HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs

4. Redress Ugly Chapters in N. C.’s Racist History: The overthrow of the bi-racial 1898 Wilmington Government, the sterilization of poor, mainly Black, women from 1947-1977 and the 1979 Greensboro Massacre. NC must implement the 1898 Wilmington Riot Commissionrecommendations, pay damages to the people it forcibly sterilized and confront hate groups that would violate human rights.

Action steps:

Enact recently recommended legislation that would pay $50,000 to each victim of forcible sterilization
Re-constitute the official 1898 Wilmington Riot Commission to oversee the implementation of its 15 recommendations
Construct a Monument Honoring African Americans on the grounds of the state Capitol
Establish a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission for North Carolina” modeled on previous efforts in Greensboro and South Africa
Double state appropriations for the state’s nonprofit, minority community economic development “package”

5. Expand and Improve Same Day Registration and Public Financing of Elections

Action steps:

Defeat discriminatory proposals to mandate photo ID for all people exercising their right to vote
Expand early voting and same day registration hours and locations and improve oversight of voting rights protections
Expand public financing of statewide elections to additional offices and enact a pilot program for selected seats in the General Assembly
6. Lift Every HBCU. NC must financially support our Historically Black Colleges and Universities to develop equitable infrastructure and programs with doctoral-level leadership for today’s challenges.

Action steps:

Reject any proposed tuition hikes
Establish an HBCU Development Commission with staff and a long-term mandate to increase public and private funding for the HBCUs as well for need-based scholarships, higher faculty salaries, better recruitment programs and stronger curricula
Establish the principles of “construction parity,” “salary parity” and “graduate program parity,” for all universities by adequately funding HBCU capital needs and salaries and providing new funding for HBCU doctoral programs
Double need-based financial aid for HBCU’s
Increase and enhance HBCU academic programs to address the critical needs of minority and poor families including high quality teacher education programs for teachers in low wealth schools and cutting edge environmental science programs
Increase funding for capital improvements, maintenance, and recruitment and develop more professional schools at HBCU’s
Protect students of HBCU’s and other institutions of higher learning that serve predominantly poor populations against predatory lenders and others who burden students with high student financial indebtedness

7. Document and Redress 200 years of State Discrimination in Hiring and Contracting.
NC must commission historical documentation of its contracting practices with racial minorities to justify constitutional redress.

Action steps:

Fund an independent study of the state’s historical record in contracting with and hiring racial minorities that will report its findings to the General Assembly and make specific recommendations for remedying past discrimination
Establish special support centers at Community Colleges and HBCU’s throughout the State to help minority-owned businesses and contractors take full advantage of new business opportunities

8. Provide Affordable Housing and Stop Consumer Abuse. NC must adequately fund the state Housing Trust Fund for low-income renters, provide vouchers for veterans who cannot find decent housing, expand tax breaks that keep seniors in their homes, and strengthen protections against predatory lending and foreclosures

Action steps:

Appropriate $50 million to the N.C. Housing Trust Fund
Expand appropriations to the N.C. Home Protection Program
Continue to reject efforts to legalize new high-cost loan products and proposals to allow the garnishment of wages for debt owed to private creditors
Pass the Homeowner and Homebuyer Protection Act (passed August 2010)
Promote fair annexation policies for low-wealth communities
Prohibit mandatory renter’s insurance
Ensure that new public transportation projects do not displace (and are accessible to) low-income people

9. Abolish the Racially-Biased Death Penalty and Mandatory Sentencing Laws; Reform our Prisons.

Action steps:

Reject efforts to repeal the Racial Justice
Pass legislation that would ban executions of persons with severe mental disabilities as a precursor to repealing the death penalty in its entirety
Enact the reform recommendations of the N.C. Sentencing Commission
Fund alternative sentencing programs
Dramatically expand services to prisoners re-entering society
Enact a moratorium on the construction of new prisons
Raise the age for adult prosecution from age 16 to age 18
Establish a joint NAACP/Department of Correction program to promote literacy, strengthen ties between inmates and their families and communities, and aid the re-entry process

10. Promote Environmental Justice. NC must fight all forms of environmental injustice, promote green jobs, and establish an Environmental Job Corps that will employ young people who did not graduate high school and re-engage them in public service.

Action step:

Establish a state “Environmental Justice Youth Board” and fund youth employment in environmental protection
Enact new policies to prohibit the concentration of pollution sources near low-income and minority communities

11. Collective Bargaining for Public Employees and Worker Safety. NC must repeal the state law that prohibits public employee collective bargaining and toughen laws that regulate workplace safety.

Action steps:

Enact legislation to repeal the ban on collective bargaining contained in G.S. 95-98
Expand and improve state regulation of workplace safety – especially in the meatpacking and poultry industries

12. Protect the Rights of Immigrants from Latin America and other Nations. NC must provide immigrants with health care, education, workers rights and protection from discrimination.

Action steps:

Assure that all graduates of North Carolina high schools are eligible for admission to state universities and community colleges at in-state tuition rates
Call on federal lawmakers to adopt responsible, comprehensive immigration reform
End state and local law enforcement participation in the federal 287(g) deportation program and reject the use of local law enforcement to enforce non-criminal immigration violations and/or to deny due process to persons because of their immigration status

13. Organize, Strengthen and Provide Funding For Our Civil Rights Enforcement Agencies and Statutes Now.

Action steps:

Enact a comprehensive N.C. Civil Rights Act that is clear to employers and employees, landlords and tenants, property sellers and buyers, with effective disincentives for proven discrimination
Establish and adequately fund a single, unified state Department of Human Rights that is empowered to investigate, conciliate and adjudicate cases of alleged discrimination

14. Bring Our Troops Home from Iraq Now. NC cannot address injustice at home while we wage an unjust war abroad. (A victory on the Agenda! The President of the US withdrew all troops from Iraq as of December 31, 2011.)

Action steps:

Establish a study commission to examine the mental and physical health care available for returning troops and their families in North Carolina and to make specific recommendations for programmatic changes that will assure the availability of essential services

“Do you like this page?” reads the text at the bottom of the 14-point plan. Yes. I like that page. I like that plan.

Divestment Protests Spread Around The World

fossil fuel divestment factTwo years ago, our writer Jim noted that a movement to pressure colleges and universities to divest from companies that profit from the extraction or sale of fossil fuels had begun… in abstract form. This year, the abstract movement has become concrete, with students organizing a genuine grassroots movement for divestment. We’ve noted protests at Yale and Tulane, but the movement isn’t represented by any single protest, no matter how well orchestrated.

Unlike astroturf campus campaigns, such as The Can Kicks Back and Up To Us, there is a genuine interest in climate change among college students. Whereas old billionaires like Peter G. Peterson are mostly concerned with keeping their own financial investments secure, young Americans see that their future is going to be overwhelmingly defined by the state of the climate, which has been thrown off-balance by the coal-and-oil-heavy investments of the old billionaires.

So, we see that it isn’t just larger organizations in the divestment movement, such as Go Fossil Free and We are Power Shift that are flourishing. Local organizations run by students themselves are coming to the fore.

We see divestment organizations with heavy student involvement at the University of Montana, the University of Victoria, McGill University, Tufts University, Harvard University, Boston University, Princeton University, the University of California, Simon Fraser University, the University of Oxford, Concordia University, Dalhousie University, the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto, and on and on…

There have been notable successes in the movement. The University of Maine, the University of Dayton, Stanford University, and Syracuse University are just a few among the schools that have already chosen to divest, driving down the stock price of fossil fuel companies. Watch for more to join the list.

Is Safe Pot The Clean Coal Of The Left?

Jill Stein, the strongest Green Party presidential candidate for 2016, has introduced a new idea into her campaign. She now claims that marijuana isn’t really dangerous. “If marijuana is dangerous, it’s only because it’s illegal,” she says.

Does she really believe that, if marijuana were completely legalized, lighting it on fire and inhaling it into the lungs would be safe? Do the lungs sprout flowers when pot is inhaled?

It’s curious to me that many people who once decried the political influence of Big Tobacco now are willfully blind to the growing political influence of Big Pot. Yes, Big Pot. As the legal status of marijuana is growing, pot is getting increasingly corporate.

Given that Jill Stein is a medical doctor, it’s particularly disturbing that she would make a blanket statement that marijuana is only unsafe because it is illegal. Marijuana use among teens is associated with abnormal hippocampus development, problems with long term memory, and problems in the body’s immune system. Marijuana use is also associated with the development of sleep disorders – and sleep is one of the most important mechanisms for maintaining good health.

Yes, there may be therapeutic benefits to the carefully controlled administration of compounds present in marijuana, but every clear-thinking medical doctor knows that substances that are beneficial in one aspect can be harmful in other aspects. The assertion by marijuana legalization advocates that marijuana is perfectly harmless seems to be more of an article of faith than a conclusion reached through clear and careful thinking.

Jill Stein’s use of broad generalizations declaring that marijuana is dangerous only because it is illegal may therefore be a diagnostic indicator of a more serious political pathology.

How Many Members of Congress voting to Repeal Taxes on Mega-Inheritance also support a Minimum Wage Hike?

Number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for H.R. 1105, a bill to repeal all taxes on the inheritance of mega-estates worth $5.34 million or more: two hundred and forty.

Number of estate tax filings in 2013, the last year for which data is available: ten thousand, one hundred and thirty one

Number of those voting for H.R. 1105 who have also signed on in support of H.R. 122, a bill that would increase the minimum wage to a level at which a person working full-time, year-round with no breaks can live above the poverty level: zero.

Number of people working at or below the minimum wage in 2014, the last year for which data is available: two million, nine hundred and ninety two thousand

Chances that a bill to raise the minimum wage will pass through Congress without the support of those who voted to give the ultra-rich another inheritance tax break: zero.

Market Automation Leaves Travelers Hungry In LaGuardia Airport

In the Delta terminal of the LaGuardia airport in New York City, the restaurant Cotto offers a model of what market automation is likely to look like in the near future. The restaurant features an open area of small tables, each of which is equipped with an iPad at which customers can order food without having to talk to a waitress.

cotto market automation problemsNot having to pay a waitress to take orders should enable Cotto to provide its food at a lower cost, but Cotto chooses to take the opposite track. The restaurant charges ten dollars for a serving of french fries, and almost twenty dollars for a small pizza.

Perhaps the automation of the Cotto restaurant could enable its customers to save time, but no, customers are told that they should expect to wait a while for their orders to arrive.

cotto restaurant malfunctionWhat’s more, Cotto’s automated market system doesn’t even work reliably. When I tried it this morning, the restaurant’s credit card system wasn’t initializing properly. A message on the screen came up telling me to contact a human server for assistance, but the message didn’t tell me how to do that. I looked around and couldn’t find a server nearby. The market automation had gotten rid of almost all of them.

Cotto’s example shows how far market automation has to go before it effectively serves anything but itself.

7 Reasons I Need To Know The Top Los Angeles Art Power Couples

Susan Michals has written an article in ArtNet News listing the 10 Los Angeles Art Power Couples You Need To Know. I had not considered familiarity with any art power couple anywhere to be a necessity, and was prepared simply to dismiss the article, but then I paused to contemplate the possibilities.

The following are the seven reasons I need to know the top 10 Los Angeles art power couples after all:

1. You wouldn’t understand.

2. We’ve been looking for an alternative power source for a generation, and here they are, if not sustainable and clean, then certainly renewable.

3. Who else will introduce LA power art couples to the pleasure of pure, unrefined tap water if I don’t do it?

4. I’m waiting for Godot.

5.

the scribble scream

6. All the other creative types are doing it.

7. At present, I don’t know any LA art power couples at all, and I have yet to have my work featured in the Getty Museum. The causal link is undeniable.

Spring Black Friday, on Two Thursdays and a Sunday

I spotted this sign yesterday outside a Home Depot in Rockland, Maine:

Sign Outside a Home Depot in Rockland, Maine: Spring Black Friday April 9-19 11 Days of Savings

You read that right: “Spring Black Friday” will be held on all days of the week, over eleven days beginning on a Thursday and ending on a Sunday.  And whereas “Black Friday” refers to the traditional day after Thanksgiving when successful retailers can expect to hit their break-even point for the year (moving from debt — in the red — to profit — in the black), there’s nothing “black” about this Home Depot’s bizarre 11-day Friday because it won’t be even close to the day when Home Depot’s sales make it profitable for the year.  It’s not a Black Friday in either a literal or a metaphorical sense. It’s just a bunch of days.

I thought this might just be a silly, whimsical mistake by a local individual — kind of like the “Supper Nail” sign for a salon in Tucson, AZ that always made me chuckle when I’d walk by.  But no — as this press release shows, Home Depot has been trotting out its Spring Black Friday for half a decade now.  Four years ago, it held its “Spring Black Friday” over sixteen days, twelve of which were not on a Friday.

I feel the need to strike back.  Can we declare next week to be Mauve Tuesday?

Is The World Ready For Michael Oatman for President? Is Michael Oatman For President Ready For The World?

michael oatmanIn Tucson, a “computer and internet services consultant” named Michael Oatman ran for President in 2012. You probably missed his campaign while blinking. He ran for the Green Party nomination, but didn’t get close to earning as much support as Jill Stein. Like Jill Stein, Michael Oatman is throwing his hat into the ring again for the 2016 presidential election.

“My platform is about being fiscally conservative and socially progressive,” he writes. “We desperately need massive political reform. I would spend much more on education, less on defense, more on research for developing new technologies which can bring us energy independence, and we can re-tool our manufacturing industries to that end.”

Michael Oatman wasn’t always with the Green Party. In 2008, he ran for President as a Democrat. Who knows what party Oatman will run with this time?

The Libertarian Party seems not to be beyond consideration for Mr. Oatman, who wrote in 2012 that “you are voting against your self-interests if you vote for anyone except Gary Johnson (L) or Jill Stein (G)… Vote Gary Johnson (L) in 2012! I’ll be running again in 2016!”

Roll Call: The Seven Democrats Who Both Voted To Kill The Estate Tax And Voted Against Tax Cuts For Working Americans

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of repealing the Estate Tax – a tax that only applies to estates that are worth more than 5.4 million dollars. The big story was that the Republican Party supported this unjust repeal.

What was almost completely unremarked upon in the corporate press is that the following seven members of Congress joined the Republicans to pass the Estate Tax repeal:

u.s. capitol buildingBrad Ashford
Sanford Bishop
Jim Costa
Henry Cuellar
Collin Peterson
Dutch Ruppersburger
Kyrsten Sinema

These same seven House Democrats were also among those who, just a few weeks ago, helped the Republicans kill the People’s Budget, a progressive budget that would have dramatically cut the deficit and lower the taxes paid by working Americans.

These Democrats support special tax loopholes for the wealthy leisure class, but oppose tax cuts for the majority of hard-working Americans.

Do you think they deserve to be re-elected in 2016?