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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Education is necessary for this country to compete in a global economy.  It has been the backbone of our innovations and achievements.  Without educating our children, we would become a country of morons.  Worse, we would go back to the days when companies “owned” your soul.  Most Americans don’t remember the days when companies owned you.  Corporations like coal mines owned the mine, the town, and everything in it including the people.

If you worked in a coal mine, you were forced to “rent’ your house from the coal company.  You were forced to get your food and clothing and furniture from the company owned store.  You were even charged for the tools you used on the job.  As a result of this as well as high costs for everything, you were basically owned by the coal company.  If you lost your job you were screwed.

Unions help bust these monopolies.  But, education was another important factor in breaking from company owned lives.  By getting an education, you had the opportunity to break-away from the company and branch out on your own.  This meant that fewer children from miners were heading down into the mine when they grew up.  More and more simply left for better opportunities.

This worked very well for America, in the 20th century, especially after World War Two.  Between better education and the unions, the middle-class surged.  Even factory workers with High School educations were better off than their fathers.  Things were looking up and America’s economy grew rapidly.

In the 1970s, things started to change.  Unions came under fierce attack.  States started passing “right to work” laws that basically took collective bargaining away from workers and resulted in lower pay.  The worst part was that education was also under attack.  Teachers were being vilified and treated as the enemy.  They found their pay stagnating and they were blamed if students didn’t do well on the standardized tests.

Funding for public education plummeted in certain areas of the country.  Especially in poor areas both urban and rural.  Education fell drastically.  Once having the highest rating for education in the world, we have fallen to about 25th in the world.

The problem is that the current Republican Party seems determined to lower that standing even more.  Republicans are introducing legislation in several states that will halt any real education of our children.  They aren’t even trying to make an argument for these changes either.  They simply want to stop educating our children altogether.

Some Examples:

1)  They have been pushing to get rid of Common Core Standards.  The irony is that they claim that Common Core is too challenging and causes too much stress.  I thought education was supposed to be challenging.  However, their real argument is that the Federal Government is pushing this on local communities.  That is what they don’t like.  By making sure that every child receives basically the same education, we will help ensure that these children can attain their dreams.  One group won’t lag behind others because they didn’t receive the best education possible.

As I wrote once before, I believe that in order to compete in a global economy, we cannot use “local control” when it comes to educating our children.  We need to make sure that all children receive the skills needed to compete in the real world.  That includes math, reading, science and history.  The Republicans want to “dictate” what the children in their states learn, the future be damned.

2) Most Republican controlled states have cut education funding dramatically.  Some states have cut it more than $1 Billion.  Places like Mississippi, which is the lowest funded public school in the country, wants to cut even more.  They don’t care if their children learn anything.  One of their state Representatives Gene Alday even compared education to welfare.  Especially when it comes to teaching black children.  He seems to think that educating black children is a waste of money.

That leads to defunding public education in general.  Meaning that he is very happy with his state being at the bottom of the education ladder.  No one in Mississippi seems to think that is the biggest reason the state ranks dead last in economics for its people.  Mississippi continuously rates as the poorest state in the union.  I will venture that their poor education system is the cause of this continued rating.

3)  There is a major push by Republicans to not teach AP History.  In Oklahoma, a committee voted along party lines 11-4 to outlaw the use of the AP History curriculum.  The reason isn’t because there is anything really wrong with the curriculum, but rather because it actually teaches students our faults as well as our achievements.

The bill’s sponsor, state representative Dan Fisher, argued that the schools should be teaching “American exceptionalism,” and avoiding teaching parts of American history that are less than flattering.  Even the Republican National Committee endorses the idea that AP history courses should teach less strife and present a more rah-rah view of American history.

Earlier in the school year, students in Colorado walked out of classes when that state tried to limit the AP History course.  To some, it may seem like a good idea that we teach only the rah-rah parts of history.  But, by doing so, we are failing our children.  One only need to look back to 1930s Germany to see what happens when governments rewrite history to achieve political agendas.

To paraphrase the book 1984, “To control the future you need to control the past.  You control the past by controlling the present.”  Rewriting history in order to make us look good and present the idea that America can do no wrong, is very dangerous for the future.  Without remembering our weaknesses, we will definitely relive them.

4)  Cutting education funding is not limited to just elementary and high school   Many states, like Wisconsin, are cutting funding to state universities as well.  This is resulting in higher tuition costs.  It also means that fewer students will be able to afford college.

As it is, the average college graduate leaves college with massive student loan debt.  By cutting funding to state universities, that debt will rise even more.  Plus, it will make a lot of people who wish to attend college turn away because they cannot afford the costs.

Walker and his staff haven’t really taken many pains to hide that this is rooted in a deeper hostility to the very idea of knowledge itself. “A harbinger of what Walker might face came in an immediate uproar on social media this month after his staff proposed changing the university’s ethereal focus on the pursuit of truth, known as the ‘Wisconsin Idea,’ to a grittier focus on ‘workforce needs.”

Even though there may be some conservative lip smacking about “saving money” Walker backed off recasting higher education as nothing more than job training after his critics pointed out he is a college dropout, but the fact that this wording change was proposed at all shows that the hostility to education is ideological and has little to nothing to do with saving money.

5)  Kansas has taken the spotlight again.  Kansas has become a cesspool of stupid ideas, especially since Brownback took office as Governor.  This state’s legislature wants everyone to know that you should wait for marriage before having sex.  But, that isn’t enough for them.  They want that taught in sex education classes.  They don’t want anything else being taught as “sex education.”  There’s growing support for having teachers fear jail time should they ever hint, during sex education, that sex is a thing people do for pleasure.

Citing a teacher who had used a poster in class that suggested that sex is sometimes used to show affection, Republicans are pushing a bill that would make it a crime for teachers to dare to acknowledge such a thing again.  You read that correctly.  They want to be able to put in jail any teacher who suggests that sex is sometimes used to show affection.

There are other examples as well.  Don’t forget about the conservative push to ban evolution being taught in science classes and replacing it with creationism.  The list goes a whole lot deeper.

The Republican Party has been fighting against education for generations.  This is really nothing new.  Education funding is always one of the first things to be cut in states under their rule.  Teachers are vilified and as you can see in Kansas, criminalized. Why is education under so much attack by Republicans?

You may or may not agree with this, but I believe that the Republican Party wants Americans to be as stupid as possible!  They don’t want us to think for ourselves.  They don’t want us to be able to question their policies.  Basically, they want to return us to the world of company towns again.

When the populace is uneducated, you can get them to believe your crazy ideas much easier.  When you rewrite history, you can make them believe whatever you want.  These are very dangerous philosophies.  We owe a better future to our children.

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Interior Secretary Sally Jewel was in Alaska yesterday.  She went to a small village to see first-hand the effects climate change is having on this village.  She visited Kivalina, a village of 370 on a barrier island just off Alaska’s northwest coast.

For those who don’t know very much about Alaska, savage winter storms can have a devastating effect on coastal areas.  Kivalina was protected in the past from some of these storms because of the ice which created a natural barrier.  However, in the last few decades, this natural barrier hasn’t been as effective because the ice freezes later in the winter than in the past.

As a result, coastal erosion has increased dramatically.  “You can see the impact of coastal erosion in the village,” Jewell said. “You can hear the fear in people’s voices about what’s happening with climate change. Things are changing up here, and that’s part of what I’m on this trip to learn about.”

The erosion has gotten so bad that residents have moved bodies from the village cemetery in order to prevent them from washing away.  Additionally, they report that due to migration route changes, subsistence hunters must travel greater distances to harvest caribou and whales.

The coastal erosion has also resulted in less land on the island.  That means there is less land to build new homes.  As a result, many residents are “cramming” up to 20 people in a 2 or 3 bedroom house.  “Hopefully this session will bring the kind of visibility that you need to Kivalina for the challenges you have with climate change,” Jewell said, pointing to television cameras carried by reporters. “Because you’re on the front lines, right here.”

But, there is another problem in Alaska that is harming villages like Kivalina.  The state budget is tied to the petroleum industry with 90% of its revenue coming from that industry alone.  With oil prices dropping, the state is now facing a multi-billion dollar deficit.

As a result, some of Alaska’s officials followed Jewel on her visit.  However, they didn’t seem to interested in the plight of the village or its population.  Rather, they were only interested in being able to produce more oil.  President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that he would seek wilderness status for the oil-rich coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, and Jewell’s announcement that she would remove five Arctic Ocean areas from future offshore lease sales, prompted protests from Alaska officials.

“I may be an easy target,” Jewell said. “But the reality is oil prices have fallen dramatically, and that’s impacted the state’s budget. We are supporting responsible and safe oil drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve and in the Outer Continental Shelf.”

Residents of Kivalina talked about something other than oil drilling.  “When I was in the village of Kivalina, they didn’t talk with me at all about resource development,” she said. “They talked to me about personal life and safety. They talked about subsistence. They talked about a change in climate, about melting permafrost that’s impacting berry picking and their movement across the landscape.”

U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska said past administrations have always treated Alaska like a “little jewel” without consideration about its residents.  He then went on to say that President Obama was even worse than past administrations.

“What’ll be accomplished? We don’t know,” Young said. “I’m not overly optimistic, because this is not the secretary’s, personally, I don’t think it’s her personal opinion. It’s an environmental group around the president. And the president’s decided to be against fossil fuels.”

His last comment came straight from the Republican and Oil Industry playbook.  He said:  “The idea that global warming is caused by people is the biggest charade ever perpetrated on the people of Alaska.”

Well Mr. Young, what does the State of Alaska plan to do to assist villages like Kivalina?  You never mentioned the plight of these people and their village.  If this continues, it is very possible that Kivalina is going to disappear from the map.  Do you have any plans to help them?

Climate change is very real.  2014 was the warmest the planet has been in history!  As a matter of fact, 13 of the warmest years in history have come since the year 2000.  All over Alaska the permafrost is melting.  The arctic ice is melting.  Sea levels are rising.  And people who live in areas like the little village of Kivalina are paying the price for it.

Still, a Congressman from Alaska has the audacity to claim that the idea of global warming being caused by humans is “the biggest charade” ever perpetrated on the people of Alaska.  If this idea is such a hoax, why has there been more snow on the east coast than in most parts of Alaska this winter?  Why is the temperature in a small village on the northwest coast of Alaska about the same as in Washington, D.C.?

As usual, this is really about economics.  Specifically the oil industry’s economics.  Since oil prices have fallen, something must be done to increase their revenues.  Never mind that a lack of snow in many parts of the west and Rockies have cost ski resorts money.  Never mind that global warming is threatening to wipe out this village in Alaska, and it isn’t the only one either.

For Mr. Young and his cohorts, it is about protecting your donor list.  It has nothing to do with the citizens he is supposed to be representing.  As I see it, Mr. Young considers the plight of the villagers in Kivalina about as much as he does stepping on a bug.  Not at all.  Just keep the money from the oil industry flowing into his coffers and the world will be a wonderful place.

 

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There are a lot of things in the world that threaten us and our very existence.  Ever since the end of WWII we have lived under the umbrella of potential nuclear destruction.  We have lived under the threat of being wiped out by another pandemic.  Human history has had plenty of cases of near extinction through pandemics.  Should a pandemic break out now, the anti-vaxers will probably be first in line for the shot to save their life.  But, when it comes to protecting their children from known diseases, “forget-about-it”.

I know there are valid medical reasons why some children don’t get vaccinated.  Sometimes allergic reactions can kill a child quicker than the disease.  Under these situations, I fully understand why a child may not be vaccinated.  That isn’t being “stupid parents” who refuse the vaccines for stupid reasons.

Through the years, man has worked extremely hard to find cures and preventions for diseases that can spread wildly and wipe us out.  We have seen the miracle of vaccines like polio, measles, mumps, and other diseases that killed our children before they grew up.

Many of these diseases were all but eliminated.  Small Pox for example was unheard of for a full generation.  Measles out breaks were unheard of for over 20 or 30 years.  That is all changing now.  The backwards slide into stupidity has run amuck.  And, no I am not going to pull any punches this time.  Not vaccinating your child against these deadly and highly infections diseases should be a crime.  At the very least it could be considered child neglect and it must stop!

This ultra-stupidity began with the bogus science that surfaced back in the 90s.  During that time, people began to cry that their children were being infected with diseases like autism because they got a vaccine.  It was then, and it still is now total bullshit!  You do not get autism because you get a vaccine!

The worst part of this bogus science is that politicians are willing to comply with spreading its lies!  We all heard Sarah Palin talking about in the 2008 elections.  We heard Michelle Bachman ramble on about this fictitious problem too.  Now we have two Republican politicians who are publicly saying vaccines should be voluntary.

This is all coming up again because of the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in California.  There are now over 100 known cases in several states all connected to the outbreak at Disneyland.  The President said that children should get their vaccines.  But, Chris Christie, while visiting a vaccine laboratory in England said there “should be some measure of choice” on whether shots should be required for children.

But even worse, Ron Paul, who is supposed to be ophthalmologist completely went off the stupid cliff.  He not only said that vaccines should be voluntary, he cited “many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”

Not being satisfied with that, he went further explaining how parents own their children.  “The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul said on CNBC, praising vaccines for their health benefits but insisting that the government should not mandate their use in most cases. “Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.”

I really love the way Republicans use that word “freedom” like it some kind of candy.  If you believe that a rule or law must be forced on everyone who doesn’t believe what you do, like banning abortion, it is your religious freedom that allows you to force these laws on women with different religious beliefs.

But, if a rule or law say you must vaccinate your children for their protection and the greater good of the public health of the country, they say you should have the “freedom” to say you don’t want to vaccinate your children.  Worse, you believe that once you subject your children to these diseases because you refuse to protect them, they can then go ahead and potentially infect other children in schools, parks, swimming pools, or amusement parks.

That is their definition of “freedom.”  If something is good for “me”, it is called “freedom.”  If something is good for the nation, it is call “government regulation.”  In the meantime hundreds of children are being exposed to measles because some stupid parent believed the false and bogus science that was intended to scare the shit out of parents for no reason at all.

With politicians like Christie and Paul supporting this bogus science and “parental choice” more children will get sick.  Some may even die from their disease.  But, according to Senator Paul, we “own” our children.  So, if we choose to potentially kill them by not vaccinating them against disease, that is our choice and the government can’t do a thing about it.

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Well, the 2016 campaign, at least on the Republican side, is officially on.  Many of the people who think they would make an excellent President went to Iowa last weekend for Rep. Steve King and Citizens United “Freedom Summit.”  This is the Tea Party’s dog-and-pony show for the most Conservative Candidates.  But the party was very limited in scope since Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Bobby Jindal, et al were not present.  As a matter of fact, King called the non-attendees “second stringers.”

One thing that all of the candidates railed against was Common Core.  Yes, they all went on about the “exceptionalism” of America, but they all seem to think that education is not part of that “exceptionalism.”  They are wrong.  Among the candidates were people like Scott Walker who is trying to kill unions in Wisconsin, especially the teacher’s unions.  Then there was Chris Christie who gutted $1 Billion from New Jersey’s education budget and laid-off thousands of teachers.

I believe there is an extreme weakness in the American Education Process.  It is what the right calls “local control” of our schools.  There was a time when I can see that “local control” of the schools was important.  But, as times have changed, local control of schools has actually hurt education more than it has helped.  In fact it my opinion that “local control” is killing education in America.

When America was young, people did not travel around much.  It was an agrarian society.  People went to school for fundamentals, but were expected to work the fields after they graduated.  As we moved into the twentieth century and urban centers more evolved, manufacturing became another place where people were expected to work.  As a result, global economics and even intra-state commerce were never considered in educating children.

Back in the 50s and 60s when I attended school, most people who graduated either went into the fields, factories, fishing boats, or other such occupations.  Yet, most children in those days could point to a map and tell you where Portugal was on it.  We all learned about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but we also learned about science, geography and history.  Everyone received an education that would make them eligible for college if that was their choice.

Many high schools also offered career oriented classes like shop.  If you were disinclined to attend college, you could learn a trade that would pay you a living wage.  Whether people want to believe it or not, there were national standards that had to be mastered.

With today’s global economy, it is not proper to let local communities determine the curricula for the schools anymore.  There are still areas in the country where people who graduate from school are still expected to work the fields, factory, or fishing boats, etc.  They have no concern about the global economy their children will be expected to live and survive in.

“American Exceptionalism” as the right likes to talk about is based on the ability of our citizens to be more productive and, basically, smarter than our competition.  Innovation, research, invention are all items necessary to continue to outpace the competition in the world.  With “local control” of our elementary and high school education, we are losing those competitive advantages.

The primary purpose of education is to prepare our children for the real world.  We must educate them in things like literature, science, math, history, and even geography.  Without these skills, they are at a disadvantage in the real world.  Besides, without these skills, they will never be able to critically think.  Critical thinking is what fosters innovation, research and invention.

It is time we stop the stupidity of “local control” of our education.  It is time that real standards be set so every student, wherever they live, get the same education as everyone else.  Common Core is not a federal government standard.  It is something that was put together by states.  Many states have adopted Common Core.  Many are fighting it tooth and nail.

The real reason this fight is going on is because of the “local control” aspect.  Local communities still believe they know what is best for their children.  But, they use education as a political football instead of something that is necessary.  They use “local control” to change science classes so things like evolution are not taught, but creationism is.  They go further to not teach climate change is real and that it is man-made even though all of the evidence proves them wrong.

But, if you live in an area that relies on coal mining, that is not something that you want your children to learn.  After they graduate, most are expected to work in the mines.  So, you have to teach that there is nothing wrong with coal.  Economically, it is a sound point since the whole economy of the region relies on the mines.  Educationally, it hampers those who decide to go on to college where they will be competing against students who were not hampered in science classes because of ideology.

Of course the biggest argument against Common Core is that the “feds” are running education.  That is always a fear for anyone who really doesn’t like the idea of a federal government.  But, as I mentioned above, Common Core is NOT run by the federal government, nor was it created by the federal government.

The paranoia the right-wing has created in this country is killing the very thing they like to crow about, “American Exceptionalism.”  You don’t have to look far to see I am right.  America used to lead the world in educating our children.  It has slipped to about 26th in the world.  If we don’t stop the attack on education by the right, we can see that standing slip even further.

Teachers are not the problem.  Teacher unions are not the problem.  Children are not the problem.  The real problem is “local control” of elementary and high school education.  Look at reality.  How many people on your local school board that determines the curriculum for your child’s education even have a college degree?  I believe that you will be amazed how many school board members never went to college.

Whether we keep Common Core, which I believe we should, or go with another version that is even more strict about standards, something must be done to remove “local control” from our education system.  If not, the only thing that will be “exceptional” about America is that we will be an industrialized nation with a third world education of our children.

Unfortunately, the attack on our education system by the right makes me think that is their true definition of “American Exeptionalism.”  As usual with their agenda, our country and our children are the true losers.

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Yesterday the Senate began their ridiculous debate on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  We heard lie after lie about why this pipeline is so necessary for the U.S.  One Senator said that it would ensure North American Energy Independence.  Another said the usual stupid things about job creation.  None of the Republican Senators said anything about using “Eminent Domain” for private company gain.  Which this pipeline is doing.  I thought that using “Eminent Domain” for private company gain was something that Republicans hated.

As we know, if allowed to go ahead, the pipeline will create about 45,000 temporary jobs to construct it.  After one to two years, those jobs will end and there will be whopping 35 permanent jobs remaining.  Now that is what I call job creation.  On top of all of that, this oil will have no impact on the price of gasoline at the pump.  That is because after it is refined, it is going to be shipped overseas, mostly to China.  How is that “ensuring North American energy independence?”

Being lost in all of this is something that could produce up to 297,000 permanent jobs for American Workers.  It is called “Clean Energy” and it has already created 80,000 American jobs in 2013 alone.  Besides that, these jobs cannot be outsourced to India or China.  But there is a problem.  If we just look at wind power, we can see the political football game that Republicans are playing.

In order to build the wind power system, there is something called Federal Protection Tax Credit (PTC) that allows wind generating companies to take a 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour tax credit to help get the project off the ground.  That is peanuts compared to the billions that oil companies get in tax credits and other subsidies.  Yet, the Republicans won’t make the PTC a permanent tax credit.  They keep letting it expire and then add it back in.  When the PTC is allowed to be given, like in 2013, 80,000 jobs were created.  On the other hand, when it is allowed to lapse, like in 2014, only about 5,000 new jobs were created.

If the PTC were a permanent tax credit for the wind power companies giving them certainity, we would see many more wind generating plants go online, and hundreds of thousands of jobs created.  Of course, that would cut into the oil companies profits.  By having more “clean energy” available to consumers, the need for oil, gas, and coal in the electricity business would be lowered.  Republicans cannot let their big donors like the Koch Brothers lose any profits to clean energy.  As a result, they continue to play political football with the PTC.

As a matter of fact, Koch-affiliated groups like the American Energy Alliance, last November wrote a letter to congressional Republicans urging them to allow the wind PTC to expire.  In their letter they wrote:

“Rejecting efforts to extend the PTC is a meaningful way for this Congress to oppose the president’s climate plan. A vote for extending the PTC is a vote for the president and the majority leader’s agenda.”

So, you can see it is not about creating jobs, but protecting oil company’s profits and subsidies!

In 2009 Congress was talking about a plan that would require utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewables.  Since then, 28 states and the District of Columbia has successfully implemented this plan.  At the time of the talk, a group called the Union of Concerned Scientists said it estimated that a mandate calling for just 25 percent renewables by 2025 could create 297,000 new jobs in manufacturing, construction, operations, maintenance, agriculture, forestry and other industries.  Even so, Republicans in Congress aren’t too interested in making that mandate a law.

Therefore, one can only surmise that the Republican talk about creating jobs is just that, talk.  Renewable, clean energy will create hundreds of thousands of permanent, U.S. jobs in just a few short years.  Yet, all the Republicans in Congress are looking to do is create 35 permanent jobs on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Why not take action on the PTC instead?  Why not create a new electric grid that relies on clean energy?  Because Big Oil Companies and the Koch Brothers are against it.

Finally, if Republicans are really interested in “North American energy independence” clean energy is the best way to go.  We would be able to create an American Industry, well-paying American Jobs, and true American Energy Independence.  Look, I don’t really care if you believe in climate change or not.  I don’t care if you believe in reducing carbon emissions.  What I do care about is creating jobs that American Workers can earn a livable wage at and cannot be outsourced, and real American Energy Independence.  Clean energy is one way to make all of that happen.  So, why are Republicans blocking it?

The Republicans have been talking for six very long, tiresome years about creating jobs.  But they have voted down every single jobs bill that has come up.  They continue to play political football with the PTC so the wind power industry cannot grow as fast as we need it, and then claim that the Keystone XL pipeline is “good for America.”

As I said, all we hear from Republicans about creating jobs is lie, after lie, after lie, after lie…..

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Mitch McConnell has announced that the very first thing he wants to do in the new congress is to pass the Keystone XL pipeline.  He is claiming that over 40,000 new jobs will be created by this action.  After the first year or so, the total number of new jobs that are permanent has been totaled at about 35.  Once construction ends, all of the rest of these jobs will be lost.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been under scrutiny for years now.  Most of Americans do not want the pipeline built.  So in keeping with their lie to only do what the American People want, Republicans want it built.  There are a number of people across the Midwest who stand firmly against the pipeline.  There are Nebraska farmers who do not want the pipeline on their property.  The Native Americans don’t want it anywhere near their reservations.  Environmentalists don’t want it built because of two factors.  First, it threatens the largest fresh water aquifer in the country, and the second is that the oil that will be piped through it is the dirtiest possible oil around.

I do not intend to argue about the effects such oil will have on the climate change that is currently underway around the world.  That argument will have no effect on Republicans anyway since they refuse to even talk about it reasonably.  But, there are other questions that should be brought up about the pipeline.

Republicans say that it will “help ensure America’s energy independence” even though the oil is already targeted to be shipped overseas.  Not one drop of this oil will find its way into our infrastructure.  Since oil refineries are already at capacity, if we add this oil to the refinement process, we must ask if that will actually reduce the amount of gas that will be available here at home.  Are we simply going to replace domestic refinement in lieu of shipping gas overseas?  No one has answered that question.

There are some things that really need to be looked at before rushing this pipeline through.  First of all, according to the farmers in Nebraska who are fighting this pipeline tooth-and-nail, the so-called “agreement” they are being forced to sign places almost all of the liability for an oil spill on them!  They claim that TransCanada is placing all of the liability on them if something goes wrong.

For example, a farmer is driving his combine across his fields and crosses the pipeline.  While doing so, a sinkhole opens up over the pipeline which can happen due to loose soil around the pipeline.  As a result the harvester crashes down on the pipe and causes a leak.  According to the “agreement” the farmer is responsible because the “agreement” says the farmer was negligent and caused the spill not TransCanada.  As you can guess, the farmer will be out of business almost immediately since he won’t be able to afford the cleanup.

Another thing to consider.  Republicans are always talking about “property rights” in their speeches.  They claim that the government shouldn’t be allowed to “take away” a person’s property.  Yet, they are willing to allow a foreign company to take away people’s property using eminent domain laws.  Would someone please explain to me how they justify letting a foreign company use eminent domain laws to seize property from individual citizens when they argue the government shouldn’t have the same authority?

What about the argument of the Native Americans?  Remember, the reservations were set up and established by Treaty! In order for these treaties to be changed, the government must enter negotiations with the Native Tribes to get their agreement on the changes.  Yet, no negotiations have taken place with any of the Native Tribes.  The Native Americans are fighting the pipeline over water.  If there is a leak, the water on the reservations will be contaminated.  It will take years, if ever, to clean up the mess.  Yet, the law and order party, the Republicans, are not interested in negotiating with the Native Tribes.

Water is a major reason Nebraska farmers are fighting the pipeline as well.  All pipelines leak!  That is a simple fact!  This pipeline is supposed to run over the largest underground aquifer in the U.S.  This aquifer is under about seven states.  Communities use the aquifer for drinking water.  Farmers use it for irrigating their crops.  If oil from the pipeline leeches into the aquifer, it will pollute it for the foreseeable future.  There is no way, as least that I can find, to clean up an underground aquifer.  That means drinking water for millions of people will be useless, and the price of food will rise drastically because farmers won’t be able to use the water for irrigation.

Finally, it is expensive to refine oil from “tar sands” which is where this oil is coming from and makes it so dirty.  With oil prices falling, how can it be economically viable to refine this oil?  It may have been viable when prices were over $100 per barrel, but at current prices, how can it be viable now?

As I mentioned earlier, American refineries are running at capacity right now.  There hasn’t been a new refinery built in the U.S. in over 40 years!  Since the oil that will come from this pipeline is already earmarked for exportation, how can the refineries justify taking “domestic refinement” away and use it for exports?  Are they trying to raise the price of gasoline in America?

The only people who really want the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built are plutocrats.  Naturally, TransCanada wants it built so they can get it refined.  American Oil Companies want it built so they can make more money exporting it to China.  Maybe, even causing an artificial shortage of gasoline in the U.S. to artificially raise prices at home.  And, the Republicans want it built simply because the President has shown a resistance to it, and the American People don’t want it either.

Anyway you look at it, the plutocrats win again, and the American People lose, again!

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2015 is here!  The Republicans will take over congress next week.  With that, there is a lot of talk in the media about what we can expect from a Republican congress.  Depending on what side of issues you are, some of the talked about things include the DHS Funding battle in February, Immigration Reform and whether or not anything will be done about it, Keystone XL Pipeline, and other “hot topics” Republicans have done nothing about for six years.

I am a little more interested in some other things that could cause real problems for real Americans.  These items are so far under the radar of the national media, that once they raise their ugly head, everyone will wonder where they came from.  What I am talking about is the future of four agencies of our Federal Government.  They are the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Post Office.

All four of these agencies are at the top of the Republican “hit list” of agencies they want to shut down.  They are also four agencies that actually protect and/or serve the American People.  However, since there are business people who hate them for either “regulating” their business or look at something they can take over and make billions of dollars off, Republicans will do everything they can to cripple or eliminate them.

Why not take a look at each department and see why the Republicans want them to go away.

Department of Labor:  The Department of Labor has been a thorn in the sides of Republicans for years.  This Department regulates labor laws and regulations.  Under OSHA, it also regulates safety in the workplace.  When there is a dispute between labor and management, the Department of Labor is the first agency to investigate it.  Since Republicans claim that the Department of Labor usually takes the side of the employee, they don’t want this bothersome agency around anymore.

Without the Department of Labor, they will have a freer hand in attacking the unions even more than they already have.  Especially public Labor Unions like Police, Fire, Teachers, Government Employees, etc.  The head of the New York Police Union has been very critical of the Mayor over the shooting of the two police officers.  But, if the Republicans had their way, his phony-baloney job wouldn’t even exist.  There would be no police officer union.

OSHA has been a thorn in their sides because they regulate safety in the workplace.  If a company is endangering their employee safety, OSHA is the agency that moves in and takes action against the company.  Companies have argued for years that OSHA is too intrusive and is hurting their bottom line.  Never mind about the safety of the workers.  Hazards to their health apparently are simply part of the job.

I predict that there will be additional fights over the Department of Labor.  I also predict that if they can’t do away with the entire Department, OSHA will definitely be in the cross-hairs.  Don’t forget, the Department of Labor was on every Republican Presidential “hit-list” in the 2012 Presidential Election.

Department of Education:  This is something else that Republicans really hate.  They don’t want any Federal Standards that will force schools to actually educate students.  They are against Federal regulations in how to run a school and how to spend the money.  What they don’t hate is the money that comes from the Department of Education to local schools.

What they want to do is spend the money any way they wish.  They always argue over “local control” of Public Schools.  They say that the local community knows best what its students need to learn.  That may all sound great in theory, but in practice, especially in a global economy, that argument is lame at best.  I don’t care if you are going to school in New York City, or some rural area where no one ever leaves the county, you need a first class education in order to compete in a global economy.

There are two battle cries of the right in this battle.  The first is “vouchers” and the second is “charter schools”.  They argue that parents should have a choice where to send their children to school.  But, when it comes to vouchers, what they are really saying is that parents should be able to send their children to private schools at the taxpayers expense.  Vouchers drain the Public School funds, reduce attendance at Public Schools, and help in the “closet” segregation of our education system.  It also helps ensure that children with disabilities or learning disabilities are left behind.

Charter schools are becoming even worse than the voucher system.  These are schools run by organizations and/or companies.  They get all of their funding from the Public School system.  But, they argue that they don’t have to follow the regulations of the Public Schools or the Department of Education.  Again, children with disabilities and learning disabilities are usually left behind and not allowed to enter the charter schools.

Additionally, there have been numerous reports from around the country about fraud and abuse in charter schools.  The fraud has amounted from the thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.  They have become so common that some people in the public are fighting back.  Some areas are even demanding a moratorium on creating more charter schools.

As a result of these two programs that are loved by Republicans, the Public School system in America is in crisis mode.  Poorer students are not being allowed to enter the charter schools, and the private schools of choice say they don’t “measure” up to their educational standards.  As a result, these students are being robbed of a good education because money is being given to “alternative” schools.

Additionally, Republican states are slashing Public Education funding.  Just look at New Jersey where Christie has cut over a billion dollars in Public Education.  Rather than giving Public Schools a fighting chance to actually educate our children, Republicans are trying to shutdown Public Schools.  If the poor and/or disabled cannot get into a private or charter school, well that is just too bad.  Why do they need an education anyway?  They won’t be able to do anything with it.

The biggest thing in this fight, of course, is that Republicans want to reintroduce religion into public education.  Not just any religion mind you, their religion even if you disagree with their beliefs.  One could even call it an attempt at “mind control” of our children.  The Department of Education will surely be under attack from the Republican controlled congress.

Environmental Protection Agency:  You know this agency will be the first to be attacked.  In the cromnibus bill that passed the last congress at the end of the year, the EPA took a huge hit to their budget.  Remember, this is the agency that protects our drinking water, land, and air from pollutants that will actually kill you.

Of course by regulating how much pollution companies can actually produce, it is argued these regulations are a direct threat to the bottom line of companies like oil, gas, and coal.  Republicans want these companies to thrive.  Manly because they get millions in contributions to their campaigns from these companies.

Ever since the EPA began, under a Republican President named Richard Nixon, Republicans have complained that the EPA is simply a “job killer” because of the regulations they mandate.  There is no proof that clean air and water have killed jobs, but they still scream about it.

With Republicans claiming that climate change is a hoax, there is no reason to believe that the EPA won’t be under fire even more in 2015.  The one agency we have that can actually help reduce carbon emissions is the one agency the Republicans argue is not necessary.  Nor, do they want the EPA to regulate clean water.  Look at the Duke Energy coal ash dumps in North Carolina.  They still haven’t cleaned up the coal ash, and they aren’t going to be forced to by the state either.  So, that ash with its carcinogenic pollutants will linger at the bottom of the river poisoning the drinking water of communities.

I could probably write pages more about how much the Republicans hate the EPA.  But, there is enough evidence to show that without anymore ink about it.  Just be certain, the EPA is facing a very dangerous time in its existence.  If the Republicans are able to close down the agency, people like the Koch Brothers will have a free hand in polluting our air and water.  If you die from that pollution, oh well.

U.S. Post Office:  In fairness it took me a long time to figure out why the Post Office is such a threat to Republicans.  You would think that an agency which was created in the Constitution would actually be loved by Republicans.  But they hate the Post Office.  One reason they hate the Post Office is because the mail carriers actually have a union.  Republicans have always hated anything involving unions.

Here is the point.  The U.S. Post Office gets no money from the Federal Budget.  It is run as a private company.  You would think that Republicans would be in love with that business model.  But, they hate it so much they are trying to close it down and “privatize” it.  A few years ago, the Republicans came up with a scheme that would guaranty the Post Office would lose money.  They “regulated” that the Post Office must pre-pay the insurance coverage for its retired employees for 75 YEARS and that they must do so in 10 years!

No other government agency, nor any private business, is required to follow this “regulation”.  Remember, Republicans hate “regulation”.  So, why put such a regulation on the Post Office?  There is only one reason.  They want to close it down and give the business to private companies so they can deliver your mail and make billions more in profit.

Last year, the Post Office actually turned a profit.  According to statistics I could find, they made about 1 billion dollars.  However, because of the “regulation” arbitrarily placed on them by the Republicans, they are showing a loss of around 4 billion dollars.  So, a profitable government agency is being forced to lose money and close down sorting centers and post offices because of “regulations” that Republicans placed on them.  The same type of regulations they claim to despise.  The irony is that the areas most hurt by this attack are rural areas where their base lives.

In earlier years, the Post Office was allowed to offer some banking services as well.  If they were allowed to offer these  services to help the poor and rural areas, they would still make money, even with the regulations put upon them.  These services were things like saving accounts and money orders.  Some have even called for them to be able to offer prepaid credit cards or debit cards.  But, that would cut into the big banks business, so it will never happen.

Because of this attack on the Post Office, we are already looking at the mail slowing down.  That Birthday Card you send to your mom across town is more likely to take up to three days now because of the cuts the Post Office is being forced to make.  This is one time where “regulation” is forcing a business to shut down.  But, you won’t hear Republicans saying that.  They will claim that the union forced the closure of our Post Office.

As you can see, every one of these departments or agencies directly serve the needs of the people.  They are also standing in the way of private companies making billions of dollars in new profits off the taxpayers.  Yet, because of these new profits envisioned by Republicans for their business cronies, they are the very agencies they want to shut down.

According to them, our children’s education, our drinking water and air, our safety, our land, even our mail is in jeopardy.  Republicans believe that private companies are the answer to everything.  As Herbert Hoover said, “the business of America is business.”  Remember what happened under his administration?  We wound up with the Great Depression.   And guess what, there were no “government regulations” at the time that hampered the bottom-line!

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