Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

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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Next week the new Congress will take over.  Both the House and the Senate will be controlled by Republicans.  Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.  Republicans in the past were at least willing to compromise and make the government work.  This batch of Republicans have proven over the last six years they are unwilling to compromise and/or govern.

Many people believe that is because they are only interested in “their way or the highway” philosophy.  They wrap themselves in the flag and religion and pretend that they have the will of the American People at heart.  Of course, their policies have proven that the last thing they have at heart is the will of the American People.

Republicans, especially the conservative wing of the party, have been embroiled in defending racism over the last several months.  Their arguments about deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson and New York City have proven that they consider black men as criminals until proven innocent.  They have also shown that they believe the police are right just because they are police.

The tragedy of the shooting deaths of two New York City Police Officers really brought this to a head.  Conservatives are screaming that the protests over the deaths of unarmed men directly are responsible for the deaths of the police officers.  If there were no protests, they argue, then these officers would not have been shot.  We are supposed to rally around the police officers, but we are to say nothing about those others who were killed by police officers.  According to them, we are to blindly follow the instructions of police even if we believe the police are wrong.

This is something called legalism.  Legalism is a notion that we are supposed to blindly follow those in authority simply because they are in authority.  We are supposed to be a nation of laws, so if there is a law we must obey it no matter what the circumstances are.  If a police officer kills an unarmed man, we must assume that the police officer was acting according to the law simply because he is a police officer.

The first recorded case of Legalism rearing its ugly head was in the 3rd century B.C. in China.  Ch’in shih huang-ti was the first king who was able to unify the country.  Ch’in became the first emperor of China.  As a matter of fact, the country got its name from him.  It was what he did after gaining control that records the first case of legalism.

Under Ch’in, Confucian scholars were reportedly buried alive.  Teachings of individualism were contrary to the rule of law that Ch’in wanted to implement.  Under his rule, you were to blindly follow the law as written by Ch’in.  Failure to do so would result in extremely harsh punishment.

It was under Ch’in that the first recorded book burning took place as well.  It wasn’t enough to burry alive the Confucian scholars, he needed to get rid of their teachings as well.  It was through these actions that Ch’in was able to consolidate his empire.

Which brings us back to today.  If you have ever wondered why conservatives are arguing that climate change is a myth, you probably think it is because they are favoring the oil companies.  That is part of it.  But, if you look at the whole picture and their policies, you can see that it is far more reaching than that.

By arguing that 97 percent of scientists are wrong on climate change, they are trying to forge a narrative.  By arguing that women shouldn’t have the same civil rights as men in regards to health care and pay, they are forging a narrative.  By arguing that we citizens must blindly follow every order issued by a police officer, they are forging a narrative.  By arguing that gays and other minorities can’t have the same rights as everyone else because the “bible says-so” they are forging a narrative.

What the conservatives are really trying to do is set up an American form of legalism.  Their form of legalism is laws passed by their groups of favor and not the based on the American People’s wishes.  This is a very necessary part of their agenda.  You cannot take away civil rights from certain portions of the populace without legalism.  By making something illegal, you can justify it through legalism.  Just look at the Jim Crowe laws of our past.

As you can see from the stories of Ch’in, this is not something new in the history of man.  Legalism has been the backdrop of every authoritarian leader in history.  It may have started with Ch’in but it leads to Alexander, Caesar and all the way to Stalan, Hitler, Hussein, and every king or dictator that came before them.

That is what the conservatives really want.  With demographics changing and putting their movement on a death spiral, they need to install legalism to justify their discriminatory policies.  It is the only way they can maintain their political power.  But, as we have seen throughout history, legalism directly leads to authoritarianism.  Societies ruled by one leader making whatever laws they feel like.

Even ploys like trying to change how the Electoral College votes is part of this scheme.  Just because the majority of a state votes for a particular candidate, they don’t believe that candidate should get all of the votes from the Electoral College.  Under their scheme, the loser of a general election can actually become the winner.  But, they justify it through their legalism fantasy.

Their agenda is on full display for anyone who wishes to openly look at it.  Their “War on Christmas”, the bans on same-sex marriages, the battle to incorporate religious artifacts in courthouses, the fight against abortion and birth control are all indications of their true agenda.  They not only want to install legalism as a way of life in our country, they need to install a “Christian Legalism” on everyone else.  But, it must be a “Christian Legalism” based on their definition of Christianity, which is anything but Christian.

The next two years will be very interesting to be sure.  How Congress acts and how they try to impose their legalism will have a major impact on the country going forward.  If the conservatives win this battle, we may soon see legalism become a reality in the U.S.  That would mean authoritarianism won’t be far behind.

However, legalism cannot win if the people do not fall prey to the conservative ploy of creating fear.  They want you to be afraid of everyone who does not fall into their category of a “real American”.  The problem is that if the only people who pay attention in the next two years are the 34% who voted in the mid-term, legalism may have already won.

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Ever since President Obama was elected back in 2008, the right-wing of the Republican Party has been trying everything it can to “delegitimize” his administration.  This attempt has taken many forms.  With the rise of the Tea Party, one tactic that has gained favor is ignoring federal laws that do not sit well with the right.  Meaning, if a state is controlled by the right-wing, they can simply ignore laws in their state that the Federal Government has passed.

We remember sheriffs saying they would not enforce new gun regulations.  Some states even passed laws that would have sheriffs arrest Federal Agents enforcing Federal Law that they state says they don’t recognize.  All of this in the name of liberty and states rights.  Of course it was all nonsense and Texas in the proving ground for this hypocrisy.

In the last election in November, voters in Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking in their community.  The state that calls itself the oil capital now has a community that has banned fracking.  That must be a real black-eye for Texas and their right-wing state legislature.

But since Texas is the loudest proponent of ignoring Federal Law when it suits their purpose, the Denton law must be upheld, right?  Wrong!  Texas isn’t going to take this lying down.  Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman Christi Craddick, who is responsible for oil and gas regulation said:  “It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s … We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job.”

Then we have Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, who wrote a letter saying, “While we applaud the city’s efforts to promote the welfare of its citizens, we must make sure it is done in a manner consistent with existing state laws … the Legislature has made regulation of underground mineral estates and the methods for producing them a matter of State agency regulation.”

In the vote, the anti-fracking law passed by 59-41 percent.  That is what most people call a landslide.  But, the Republican Party, you know the party that says the state is the perennial foe of everything right-wing people believe in, claims that the people in Denton have no right to such a declaration because the state is the only entity with a say-so in the matter.

The odd thing is that the State of Texas has been in perpetual conflict with the Federal Government saying the Feds don’t have the right to tell a state what to do.  These conflicts have been over voting laws, healthcare and, particularly, environmental regulations.  In 2013, former Texas attorney general and current Gov.-elect Greg Abbott boasted that he sued the Obama administration 25 times for perceived overreaches.

In Texas as well as many other states, they argue that their ban on same-sex marriages is legal because it was passed by a ballot initiative.  Since the people voted for the ban, it is legal and the Federal Government should keep its nose out of the state’s business.  When courts overturned these bans, the states called it government overreach.   Now these same anti-Big Government Republicans are using the State’s Big Government to stomp over the voters of Denton, Texas.

This vote was not something out of the blue either.  There are 272 active wells in the city and another 212 just outside the city limits, so Denton residents ought to know as much as anyone about fracking.  As a result, they voted to ban fracking in their community.

But see, according to the State of Texas, these citizens were “duped”.  David Porter, another leading member of the Texas Railroad Commission suggests, “Denton voters fell prey to scare tactics and mischaracterizations of the truth in passing the hydraulic fracturing ban.”   Mr. Porter sounds more like a PR man for the oil industry rather than a public servant.

This misinformation must have been pretty good.  You see, the main opponents of the ban, energy giants Chevron, Chesapeake Energy and XTO Energy (a subsidiary of Exxon), outspent the pro-ban group, Frack Free Denton, by almost 10-to-1 and still lost.  Either the message from Frack Free Denton was really good, or the people didn’t believe the oil companies.  I am guessing they just didn’t believe the oil companies.

As you know, fracking is the process of shooting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the earth to jostle natural gas loose from shale formations.  This process has proven to be the cause of numerous environmental problems including air and water pollution.

The bevy of chemicals used in fracking and their health effects are just beginning to be documented.  On top of that, many states have laws that says the chemicals used in fracking is “propriety information” and therefore can be kept secret from the public.  Additionally, places where there has been heavy fracking are experiencing earthquake outbreaks that never occurred before.  Finally, property values around fracking sites have plummeted.  So the people in Denton, Texas has said enough is enough.

Commissioner Craddick defended frackers, saying, “Most of them are active in their communities where they’re doing business and trying to give some dollars back.”   That is so weak of an argument it is almost laughable.  Even Craddick admits that Denton residents don’t own the minerals underneath their homes and town, so we know they aren’t getting any money directly from their extraction.

Adam Briggle, a University of North Texas assistant professor specializing in bioethics and a leader in Frack Free Denton, says that economic benefits from fracking has very little effect on Denton.  As a matter of fact, he says:  “Royalties paid to the City of Denton account for less than 1 percent of the city budget. Taxes from wells amount to only about 0.5 percent of all city property tax revenues. The biggest beneficiaries from fracking in Denton are out-of-town companies and absentee mineral owners.”

As you can see, the cry from conservatives against “big government” isn’t a fight against big government at all.  It is really a cry against democracy.  Here is a town in a state that cries all of the time against “big government” being swatted down by “big government”.  Why?  Because they had the audacity to vote that their town is more important than out-of-town companies making money by polluting its environment.

Next time your conservative friends talk about the loss of “freedom” and “liberty”, ask them about the people in Denton who tried to express their “freedom” and “liberty” and was stomped on by the State of Texas.  I am sure they will give the same lame excuses as Craddick has given.  To conservatives it isn’t about “freedom” or “liberty”, it is all about how much money their benefactors make on the backs of the “little” people.  That is their true definition of “freedom and liberty.”

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The Republican Party is full of contradictions.  As we know, they claim to be for “the rule of law”.  They claim to support the Constitution.  They claim to be all for the First Amendment.  They always talk about “liberty”, “freedoms”, and “personal rights”.  As we move toward the Republicans controlling the whole Congress in 2015, we are beginning to see just how disingenuous they really are about these claims.

Before the election I wrote that we had a choice between keeping our democracy or moving to an oligarchy.  Most Americans didn’t believe me apparently.  Only about 1 in 3 registered voters voted in the mid-term elections.  That is probably the most pathetic turnout I have seen in my lifetime.  As a result of those numbers, Republicans gained control of the Senate which gives them control of Congress.  As a result, they have the ability to pass legislation that will seriously affect our freedom, liberty, and personal rights.

The Republicans have in their platform a “pro-life” stance.  However, “pro-life” is a misnomer.  They aren’t talking about life in general.  They are only talking about whether or not a woman has the right to determine if she wants to continue with a pregnancy or not.  If they were truly “pro-life” they would be against the death penalty.  They would be all in favor of universal health care because there is nothing more “pro-life” than saving people from disease and death.  But, they are not in favor of health care nor are they against the death penalty.

How can a party be “pro-life” and ignore the devastating effects of global warming?  How can a party be “pro-life” and ignore the devastating effects of pollution to the health of our people?  Yet, they continue to say global warming is a myth.  They continue to fight against pollution control.  They continue to fight against ensuring clean water for everyone.

If Republicans were truly interested in civil liberties, they would be all in favor of fixing our broken immigration system and not fighting any reforms.  They would realize that deporting parents of U.S. Citizens because the parents are not citizens, goes against all of their “family value” rhetoric.  But, since these people aren’t white, they don’t have the same “family values” as we do so they can be punished and their children government made orphans.

The incoming leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is all in favor of passing a law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.  A similar bill passed the House in 2003.  That bill was called the Pain Capable Unborn Protection Plan.  That bill was based on the false pretense that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation.  Of course science has debunked that notion, but as usual science doesn’t exist in the Republican brain so they can ignore it.

But don’t think that will be the end of their attacks.  They are planning attacks on reproductive rights in general.  Especially birth control.  Their lame excuse is that they believe birth control pills should be available over the counter not as a prescription.  Sounds very nice indeed.  However, there are other factors that they fail to mention.  The reason the want “over the counter” accessibility is so their money backers don’t have to provide birth control in health plans.

There is nothing in their articulation of this plan to keep the pill affordable for everyone.  Nor, do they mention the fact that like other medications, it is necessary to monitor the health of the woman taking the pill for possible side effects.  I guess that will be something else that won’t have to be covered in health plans.

On another front, since the courts have overwhelmed the right with their decisions that same-sex marriage should carry all of the same rights as heterosexual marriages and banning them is unconstitutional, there will certainly be legislation trying to rein in those nasty gay people and their marriages too.

See, they get away with all of this in the name of liberty!  They cry that if someone wants to be in a same-sex marriage, those people are taking away the liberties of heterosexual marriages.  They are forcing heterosexual marriages to fail because we all know the “gay agenda” is to make everyone in America gay.  They try to use “tradition” as a means of proving they are right.

They are continuously saying that America was intended to be a Christian Nation and that secularists and atheists have forced us to abandon that intention of the Founding Fathers.  One example they love to use are the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance.  Most people do not remember or even realize that those words were added in 1954 during the Big Red Scare.  They were not in the original pledge.

The Republicans, and especially the far right-wing of the party, still are living in those days.  Communism is still the biggest bogey man hiding in the shadows.  Fair tax plans where people pay their fair share based on income is Communism to them.  Allowing people to have their own religious beliefs about abortion is Communism to them.  Allowing people the same protections under the law in marriage regardless of sex is Communism to them.  Enforcing the Separation of Church and State as provided for in the First Amendment is Communism to them.

But why would they continue to use the Red Scare to pass these anti-liberty pieces of legislation?  Because their base are the people who lived through those times.  I remember once in Chicago when I was in college a Republican Politician telling the audience that the difference between us and Communist Russia was our religious beliefs.  As the joke of the day went, “Russia is a Communist country so they don’t believe in religion.  That means they have seven days a week to plot our overthrow.  While we here in America use the seventh day to go to church and pray they don’t come up with something.”

Our country has fought through upheavals before.  We have fought very corrupt governments before.  We have fought for civil rights before.  But, as you can see, those fights do not stop.  In order to keep our form of government, we must continue to fight for those rights.

As we move into the fanatics reign of power for the next two years, I only hope we can survive until the next election cycle.  Maybe these two upcoming years will convince the American voters that their votes really do matter.  Then they might actually turn out to get the fanatics out of office.

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In a recent poll, it was reported that 57 percent of the American People believe in Climate Change and that man has a hand in causing it.  That same poll indicated that the majority of the American People wants Congress to do something about cleaning up our carbon emissions.

Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have said time and again that the Republicans only want to listen to the American People.  Congress has listened to the American People.  Not that they intend to act on the people’s wishes if they are in disagreement with the Republican agenda.

On Tuesday, while the Keystone XL Pipeline was going down to defeat in the Senate, Boehner and his Republican cronies were passing a law that would hamper the EPA in doing its mandated job of helping to clean up the environment and protecting public health.  The first law which was passed on Tuesday was framed by Republicans as a play for transparency.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those real troublesome scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.  Sounds reasonable, but…..

The part the Republicans like best is that the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work.  In other words, experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research – which was peer-reviewed.  The Republicans call that a conflict of interest.  But, the inclusion of industry “experts” is not a conflict of interest even though the industry experts are trying to block the EPA from instituting any regulations.

“In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”  The White House has vowed to veto this bill if it ever reaches the President’s desk saying it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

This is just the beginning.  There is another bill called “The Secret Science Reform Act” which would prohibit the EPA from proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.”  As the Huffington Post reports:

While the bill’s language would not require the EPA to wait until its research was verified by an outside source to make recommendations, opponents say the bill’s requirements are murky.

“The bill attacks the mainstays of scientific investigation,” wrote Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) in an email to The Huffington Post. “It would strip away the EPA’s authority to make any rules due to the stringency of the data disclosure requirements.

“The peer review process is the foundation of science inquiry in our society, and is a trusted evaluation of scientific evidence around the world,” he added. “This legislation attempts to dictate how the scientific method is employed,” he added. “The Secret Science Reform Act is an attempt by climate change deniers to stop the EPA from doing its job.”

The irony in all of this is that “industry studies” don’t seem to need the same “transparency” as government-funded studies.  Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) asked why we think it’s okay to question the industry’s motives, but are more willing to trust government-funded studies, insisting that research with industry ties is a good thing.

Eileen Silbergeld, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, testified that the committee was going after the wrong people. “We need more information, and specifically we need more information disclosure from industry,” Silbergeld added. “I call on them to tear down every wall that hides critically important information that is generated and held by industry.”  There is nothing in this bill that would require industry to “tear down that wall” in industry studies.

Opponents argue that the trio of bills in the House are an attempt by  Republicans to effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health. Or as Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill said these bills represent “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

So, as you can see, the Republicans have listened to the American People.  But, what the American People have failed to realize thus far, is when Boehner and McConnell talk about the American People, they really mean their corporate donors.  Not the American People.  They simply believe that the American People are just too stupid to have a real voice.

When they talk about “small government” what they are really saying is that the American People are small and insignificant so our opinions don’t count!

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