You are browsing the archive for 2015 May 20.

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Pipeline Spews 21,000 Gallons of Oil Along California Coast

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Anastasia Pantsios, EcoWatch

Four-mile-long oil slick fouls some of the state's most beautiful coastline at Refugio State Beach.

A broken pipeline spewed oil into the Pacific Ocean Tuesday, creating an oil slick four miles long on some of the state’s most beautiful coastline at Refugio State Beach just north of Santa Barbara. An estimated 21,000 gallons of oil spilled, according to an early Coast Guard estimate. Refugio State Beach and area fisheries are closed, and it is unknown when the beach will reopen.

“I’m a surfer, I’m a fisherman—I like sitting out here and breathing it in,” construction worker Josh Marsh, who was part of the clean-up crew, told the Los Angeles Times. “To see it like this, to see it destroyed—it hurts.”

After  people reported a foul smell, Santa Barbara first responders found an onshore pipeline spilling into a culvert and then into a storm drain that empties into the ocean. It was shut off by a Coast Guard crew about three hours after discovery.

“Channelkeeper is sickened to learn of the oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel and is extremely concerned about its inevitable impacts on water quality and marine life,” said Kira Redmond, executive director of the environmental watchdog group Santa Barbara Channelkeeper. “We will be out on the water to investigate the extent and impacts of the spill, monitor the containment efforts, keep the public updated, provide any assistance we can with the clean-up and ultimately ensure that the responsible party cleans up the oil that has marred our precious beaches, ocean and marine life.”

That “responsible party” is Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline. It issued a statement saying, “Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact.”

“Oil spills are never accidents. They are the direct result of substandard oversight of fossil fuel companies who put their profits above human and environmental impacts,” Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said. “Now is the time for our leaders to take responsibility for the oil companies they let run rampant in our country. This doesn’t have to be our future.  If …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Mike Huckabee Wants Everyone to Own Military Grade Weapons

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

But, you know, only if you want.

On Monday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee stopped by a shooting range in Johnston, Iowa to talk about his views on a variety of security-related issues.

At one point, a self-identified grandfather explained to Huckabee that he had concerns about the limits of what firearms citizens should be able to buy. He point-blank asked the former governor if we should be able to have all the same weapons the military has, and Huckabee replied by saying that we should be able to own whatever we want.

MAN: With the way things have gone, now I have arms that I only dreamed about in the past? Do you think the government should come in and limit what type of arms a person a law  abiding person can purchase?

HUCKABEE: No because there's nothing in the Constitution that gives them the authority to do that.

 MAN: We shouldn't have muskets (inaudible) we should have everything the military has?

HUCKABEE: We should have whatever we choose to have. Because it's a citizens right. The government shouldn't tell me what the limitations of my self-protection are. If somebody's  going to break into my house I want to at least be as well-armed as they are if not better armed than they are. My plan is always to have a better arsenal to defend myself than they are going to have to try to attack me. So whatever I must do to do that. And I've been asked on many occasions, well how many firearms do you have. Well, the answer to that is none of your business. It's for me to know and for you to find out. But I'll put it this way I have more than one gun safe and I need them both. Phil Gramm once famously said [...] he said 'I have all the guns I need but not all the guns I want.'

Watch:

It's not surprising for a Republican presidential nominee to posture themselves as “pro-gun,” but it is a little alarming that Huckabee can't reject the idea that average Americans …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Scott Walker Lets Billionaire Donors Know the Outrageous Sum It'll Take to Buy Him Off

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Big money's take over of our democracy has never been more blatant.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has put a pricetag on how much it will cost to join his inner circle, where you can meet with the 2016 GOP presidential candidate and have “dedicated staff contact” to ensure that your agenda will heard and noted.

On Monday, while Walker was making the rounds on Capitol Hill in Washington, his super PAC—the latest campaign finance loophole-contorting tactic—was handing out formal printed invitations to join at the $1 million, $500,000 and $250,000 level that described just what political investors would get for their money.

The million-dollar ticket, making one “an executive board member,” would gain entrance to “Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA), MEMBERS ONLY briefings, Weekly Email Updates, Bi-Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, 2 Private Dinners with VIP Special Guest(s), Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events,” and an “Exclusive Executive Board Pin.”

The bottom of the invitation said it was “Paid for by Unintimidated PAC, Inc.,”  which was followed by “Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee” and had the PAC’s website, UnintimidatedPAC.com. The $500,000 donors get one private dinner with the candidate and the $250,000 donors get none.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper published the super PAC invitation while reporting on Walker's visit to the capitol.

Walker’s super PAC charade is just the latest example of how 2016 candidates are making a mockery of the little that remains of federal campaign finance law, where the maximum legal contribution from individuals to one candidate is supposed to be $2,700 in the primaries and $2,700 in the general election.

Anybody who has been paying attention to the democracy-destroying role of big money in politics knows that every successive election cycle unearths new ways for the wealthy to buy access and influence with candidates. Does anybody giving $1 milliion to Walker’s super PAC really believe their money will not gain access to Walker’s ear?

This ruse of pretending campaigns are not campaigns, and unannounced candidates are not candidates, has been going …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Infamous Chicago Jail So Overwhelmed with Mentally Ill Prisoners, Sheriff Appoints Psychologist to Lead It

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Sadly, prison has become one of the biggest mental health providers.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has long been frustrated at the lack of adequate mental health care options in his Chicago-area district. He estimates that 25 to 35 percent of the inmates in the Cook County Jail he oversees suffer from mental illness, a situation that has been exacerbated as the recession took its toll on funding for mental health care. He has even gone as far as to say that the jail he oversees is the largest mental health facility in the area, a sad commentary.

So Dart took a radical step. He appointed a clinical psychologist – Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia – to be the jail's executive director, the first time a major jail in the United States has been led by someone from that profession.

“Most of the individuals here if not all of them are still battling social ills. While they may not be identified as mentally ill they have a wealth of issues that continue to need the support of people of my background,” said Jones Tapia. She has been at the Cook Countil Jail for 9 years, when she first arrived as an intern at the psych ward; she also met her future husband, who works as a correctional officer at the facility.

Watch the WGN-TV report on the appointment here.

Related Stories

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Source: ALTERNET

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6 Awesome Things About Bernie Sanders You Might Not Know

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Evan McMurry, AlterNet

Sanders should not be underestimated.

Three weeks ago, a slightly disheveled U.S. senator wandered out to the front lawn of the Capitol Building and declared his campaign for president. Bernie Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist from the small state of Vermont, was in. 

The simplicity and directness of the setting signaled that Sanders wasn’t just another candidate in a crowded race, but a whole different kind of challenger. As Sanders was quick to warn, “People should not underestimate me.” He’s not kidding. As Sanders’ career has demonstrated, he doesn’t just hold policy positions, he acts on them.

1. He’s an Open Socialist

That Sanders is in the Senate at all is somewhat amazing. Sanders is the first Socialist elected in Senate history, no mean feat in the days when neoliberal economic policy rules.

But where it would have been the easiest thing in the world to change the (I) after his name to a (D), Sanders stuck with the affiliation. “I wouldn't deny it,” he said. “Not for one second. I'm a democratic socialist.” (note the “democratic” part; Sanders is quick to distance himself from the autocratic iterations of his philosophy.)

Not only does he not deny it, he flaunts it. New York Times political profilist Mark Leibovich paid the then just-elected socialist a visit in brand new office and noticed the socialist accents were a bit heavy:

But he does little to airbrush the red “S” from his political profile. On the wall of his Congressional office hangs a portrait of Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party presidential candidate of the early 20th century. A poster in a conference room marks Burlington’s sister-city relationship with Puerto Cabeza, Nicaragua — one of a few such alliances he forged with cities in Marxist states during his 10-year stint as mayor of Vermont’s biggest city in the 1980s.

And where Reagan-inflected patriotism is the standard campaign rhetoric, Sanders openly praises Scandinavian socialism. “What's wrong with that?” he asked ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “What's wrong when you have more income and wealth equality? …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Assessing the GOP Candidates' Plans on Poverty

May 20, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

In the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, attention is once again being turned to questions of poverty, and inner-city poverty in particular. Democrats, unsurprisingly, took about 30 seconds to think about the issue before coming up with their favorite solution: spend more money. President Obama, for instance, wants “massive investments in urban communities.” Representative Elijah Cummings, who represents inner-city Baltimore in Congress says, “We have to invest in our cities and our children.” And according to Maryland representative Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, “We’re going to have to as a country invest if we’re going to have the kinds of communities we want.”

Apparently the $22 trillion we’ve spent fighting poverty since 1965 — including just under $1 trillion last year — isn’t enough.

But if Democrats are predictably doubling down on the failed policies of the past, what do Republicans offer as an alternative? Interestingly, for a party with a reputation for indifference toward the poor, the major Republican presidential candidates have actually had quite a bit to say on the issue.

Democrats offer more of the same; Republicans have fresh ideas.”

Florida senator Marco Rubio offers perhaps the most detailed and well-thought-out set of policy proposals. Rubio would consolidate most of the more than 100 current federal anti-poverty programs and send the funding for them back to the states as block grants. Unlike a similar but much smaller plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Rubio’s block grants would come with few strings. States would be free to use the money in any way that they chose, as long as the spending is consistent with the broad purpose of the programs they are replacing. A state could not use the funds to reduce taxes on businesses, for instance. Within those limits, states would be free to be, in Justice Brandeis’s famous phrase, “laboratories of democracy,” experimenting with a wide variety of innovative approaches to fighting poverty. And successful states would be rewarded. If a state reduced its poverty rate, its allocation would not be reduced, and the state could use the money however it wished — for education or infrastructure, for example. Rubio would also revamp the earned-income tax credit (EITC) to make it a better wage enhancement.

Meanwhile, Kentucky senator Rand Paul has also spent a great deal of time talking about disadvantaged communities. While his proposals to fight over-criminalization and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Hank Greenberg's AIG Case Might Not be Open and Shut

May 20, 2015 in Economics

By Thaya Knight

Thaya Knight

The scene is galling. Ousted AIG CEO Hank Greenberg, still stunningly wealthy by any standard, has sued the federal government for saving his company in the midst of a crisis when thousands of Americans were losing their jobs and their homes. It’s hard to feel sympathetic. And yet, it’s a core tenet of our country’s political philosophy that rights are not dependent on sympathy.

Greenberg, through his company, Starr International, claims that the government took 80% of the equity in AIG without paying just compensation, which the Constitution guarantees in the Fifth Amendment’s “takings” clause. The suit also alleges that the government, through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, exceeded its legal authority in the way that it conducted the AIG bailout.

News of the lawsuit sparked outrage. “Ingrate” was perhaps the kindest word lobbed at Greenberg. And no wonder. American taxpayers forked over $182 billion to AIG. Now the very man at the company’s helm when it was making risky bets comes crying that he’s owed $40 billion more, that the government didn’t do a good enough job in rescuing his company. “Unsympathetic” doesn’t even begin to describe him. But in a crucial way, his case is indicative of the rule of law working as it should.

While the Starr case seemed like a longshot when it was filed in 2012, to the point of being called “frivolous,” few still believe the case is open and shut. Although a companion case was quickly dismissed in District Court, this case went all the way to trial this past fall. Judge Thomas Wheeler in the Court of Federal Claims is expected to decide the case soon.

The truth is it is too easy for the government to justify almost any injustice.”

Ultimately, however, the court’s ruling is less important than the fact that this case went to trial. The Fifth Amendment provides both the right against unjust takings by the government and the right to due process before the government can take life, liberty or property. Due process does not mean that no one’s property (or liberty) should be taken, but that the government must provide adequate justification for its action, through a defined and generally applicable process.

The truth is it is too easy for the government to justify almost any injustice. “What could we do?” is the refrain after any given crisis. The democratic …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Hillary Clinton – So Transparent, She Won’t Talk to the Media

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster

Originally published by
Sometimes candidates want to keep their cards close to their chest while they wear a poker face. They do this when they have strategies they don’t want to give out to the public. They especially don’t want their game plan leaked to competitors. Then there’s the self-appointed champion of transparency, Hillary Clinton, who’s not talking to reporters AT ALL.
National Journal and NPR reported that, since launching her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has answered a whopping 13 questions from reporters. The fact that some of these are softball questions is obvious.
Q: “How are you liking Iowa?”
A: “I’m having a great time.”
This is one question that Hillary chose to answer directly, as opposed to questions she’s deflected or dodged altogether.
ABC News’s Cecilia Vega asked Hillary a real question: “Did foreign entities receive any special treatment for making any kind of donations to the foundation or your husband?”
Clinton’s response: “Well, we’re back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distraction and attacks. And I’m ready for that…”
THAT’S NOT A DIRECT ANSWER!
How is that question a distraction, anyway? The American people have a right to know that a potential President hasn’t been using the power of federal office to sell political favors. It’s a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Perhaps I’ve been a Boy Scout way too long, but any answer other than “Hell no!” is unacceptable for someone who wishes to hold the highest office in the land.
Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill calls this the “ramp-up period” of Hillary’s campaign. In this ramp-up phase, Hillary will completely avoid talking to the media and instead she’ll be “engaging in hours of public question and answers sessions,” which are not public but actually closed-door events. NPR’s Tamara Keith has been following the Clinton campaign and attended one of these Q&A sessions with “the public.” Says Keith, “All we saw was the back of her head as she …read more

Source: ZACH FOSTER RANTS