Gordon Smith: Protest in His Home Town

Smith-Gordon As Part Of Statewide Protests, Oregonians In Smith’s Hometown Protest His Corporate Sponsored Opposition To Climate Change Bill

Gordon Smith has become a vending machine for votes. Special interests insert money and Gordon Smith produces any vote they want.

Following earlier protests in Eugene and Medford, Oregonians in Pendleton, U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R-OR) hometown, demanded that Smith stand up to his corporate donors and stop opposing important climate change legislation.

Oregon cannot afford to have a senator whose special interest contributors have bought his opposition to fixing climate change,” said Ben Talley, Pendleton area organizer for the Stop Gordon Smith Campaign. “We can’t let Gordon Smith get away with serving the corporate interests rather than the people’s interests.”

“Why doesn’t Gordon Smith think Climate Change is a problem? Because he’s paid to ignore this crisis,” Talley said. “Smith has taken millions from Big Oil and other special interests who control his votes. In return, Smith has voted twice to keep $5 billion in tax breaks for Big Oil and oppose important climate change legislation.”

Smith’s donors have bought his opposition to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. Oregon’s other U.S. Senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, is a co-sponsor of the bill to combat climate change and the bill has bi-partisan support.

But Smith won’t support this important legislation. Smith has taken millions of dollars from the special interests who oppose this legislation, including hundreds of thousands from Big Oil…

…The bill would be an important step in combating climate change. It would cap greenhouse emissions and make appliances and buildings more energy efficient, according to The Register-Guard.

(The Register-Guard Editorial, 2-28-08)

The Eugene, Medford and Pendleton protests were held outside Smith’s offices. They were organized by the Stop Gordon Smith Campaign.

Goose-stepping Gordon does NOT represent Oregon!  Whether Novick, whom I support, or Merkely wins the Democratic nomination for Senator from Oregon, Gordon’s got to go!

Advertisements

GOP Would Kill Planet to Protect Big Oil Profits

bigoil2 Listen to almost any politician, President Bush included, and you’ll hear that the fight against global warming cannot be won without cleaner technologies that will ease dependence on fossil fuels. Yet these same politicians are on the verge of allowing modest but vital tax credits to expire that are crucial to the future of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

These credits are necessary to attract new investment in renewable sources until they become competitive with cheaper, dirtier fuels like coal. When the credits disappear, investments shrivel. The production tax credit for wind energy has been allowed to expire three times. In each case, new investment dropped by more than 70 percent. The credits for wind and solar expire at the end of this year, so action now is important.

Though there is plenty of blame to go around, Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans bear a heavy burden. The House approved, as part of last year’s energy bill, a multiyear extension of the credits, while insisting — under its pay-as-you-go rules — that they be offset by rescinding an equivalent amount in tax credits for the oil companies. The oil companies (though rolling in profits) screamed, Mr. Bush lofted veto threats, and the Senate, by a one-vote margin, refused to go along.

Senator John McCain — who is far ahead of his party on climate change — missed that crucial vote. He could be a hero if he now rode in off the campaign trail and corralled the Republican votes needed to extend the tax credits; his vote alone might be enough.

The Senate is still trying — but not hard enough. Three weeks ago, it approved a bipartisan measure that would authorize a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind and a multiyear extension of the investment tax credit for solar power.

With other bells and whistles, it would cost $6 billion. The bill still does not rescind any oil company tax credits, so it does not meet the House’s legitimate demand for offsets. Like the House, we believe strongly that Congress must pay as it goes.

So the burden remains with the Senate. And the choice for the senators, in particular the Republicans, is simply this: They can extract a few billion dollars from the ridiculously rich oil companies (Exxon alone made more than $40 billion last year), or they must explain to the American people why protecting the oil companies is more important than protecting the planet. [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

We can always count on the GOP to filibuster any measure that favors the interests of the American people over those of greedy corporations.  The Times did a good job with this, except for one thing.  Their claim that McConJob is far ahead of the rest of his party on this issue just does not hold water.

mccain2 …But since he started running for president last year, McCain has largely downplayed climate change. He hasn’t declared support for a tougher and more detailed bill, proposed by Senators John Warner and McCain ally Joe Lieberman. And his top domestic policy recently suggested that McCain might not even stand by his own weaker bill, telling a reporter: “He wasn’t so much committed to the bill as to an issue.”

Most important, McCain has not made global warming a rhetorical priority. Since he began his White House run, he hasn’t given a single speech that we’re aware of devoted to the issue, or released an ad that mentions it in any detail. In general, McCain has based his pitch to voters, both before and after clinching the GOP nomination, on his personal biography, his national-security experience (particularly his support for the troop surge in Iraq), and his straight-talking persona. No fair assessment could conclude that global warming, or any other environmental issue, has been “central” to McCain’s campaign… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <CJR>

Were the environment a concern, he would have returned to Washington to vote on that bill.  On the environment, as on virtually every other issue, except 100 years of war, more wars, and bomb bomb Iran, McFlipFlop is squarely positioned on both sides of the issue, attempting to cover-up that he is McSame as Bush.

The Rewards for Killing Our Troops

4KBR In March, House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced that he was investigating the accidental electrocution of troops in Iraq and pressed Defense Secretary Robert Gates for uncensored details on at least a dozen deaths since 2003. Contractor KBR is at the center of the probe, with questions about whether it irresponsibly ignored wiring problems.

Today, The New York Times has more details on this malpractice, including the fact that senior KBR and Pentagon officials repeatedly ignored warnings by KBR electricians:

One electrician warned his KBR bosses in his 2005 letter of resignation that unsafe electrical work was “a disaster waiting to happen.” Another said he witnessed an American soldier in Afghanistan receiving a potentially lethal shock. A third provided e-mail messages and other documents showing that he had complained to KBR and the government that logs were created to make it appear that nonexistent electrical safety systems were properly functioning.

KBR itself told the Pentagon in early 2007 about unsafe electrical wiring at a base near the Baghdad airport, but no repairs were made. Less than a year later, a soldier was electrocuted in a shower there.

John McLain, the electrician who in 2007 told a visiting defense contracting agency official about his concerns over the logs, was fired shortly after the incident. Another employee “said his KBR bosses mocked him for raising safety issues.”

This sort of refusal to acknowledge and correct errors seems to be standard operating procedure within KBR, unfortunately. Former employee Jamie Leigh Jones revealed that after she was gang-raped by co-workers, not only did the company place her “under guard in a shipping container,” but warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she would lose her job. In an opposite situation, a KBR employee who was “busted by the military” for looting in Iraq was “given a promotion.”

Similarly, Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse, who oversaw contracts for the Army Corps of Engineers, told the Senate in 2005, that KBR represented the “most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career.” Reflecting the Pentagon’s efforts to protect KBR, Greenhouse was demoted almost two months to the day after voicing that critique.

Despite all these irresponsible, unethical actions (as well as providing contaminated water to troops and evading millions in taxes), KBR recently announced that it had tripled its first quarter net profits and received new contracts worth up to $150 million for 10 years to provide assistance to the U.S. military overseas.

Inserted from <Think Progress>

There you have it.  If your company kills US troops through fraudulent contracting practices, you will reap the rewards of record profit and more no-bid contracts from the Bush/McBoomBoom/GOP Reich.  This is especially true is a good chunk of those profits end up in the pockets of ChickenHawk Cheney.

How do they get away with it?  Despite many requests for a DOJ investigation into KBR’s illegal activities, the DOJ has ignored all such requests.  This will not go on indefinitely.  With a Democrat in the White House and an honest AG, the investigations will proceed.  Under a statute from WWII, the federal government can sue them for treble damages.  Unfortunately, they have foreseen this.  As I explained on March 12, 2007,  Halliburton relocated their corporate HQ to Dubai to place themselves out of reach of US courts.  In addition, they spun-off KBR, so it is now a subsidiary.  They can raid the KBR for its assets and let it fail should the judgements pile up.

The Reich’s Reading Racket

2readingfirst1 President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

The program, known as Reading First, drew on some of Mr. Bush’s educational experiences as Texas governor, and at his insistence Congress included it in the federal No Child Left Behind legislation that passed by bipartisan majorities in 2001. It has been a subject of dispute almost ever since, however, with the Bush administration and some state officials characterizing the program as beneficial for young students, and Congressional Democrats and federal investigators criticizing conflict of interest among its top advisers.

Reading First did not improve students’ reading comprehension,” concluded the report, which was mandated by Congress and carried out by the Department of Education’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

One would think a program like this would be a great idea, until examining the reasons it failed:

2readingfirst2 The Bush Administration has been using the Reading First program to reward political cronies and ideological allies, ignoring a legal mandate to make funding decisions that reflect “scientifically based research,” according to federal investigators. These and other findings are detailed in a report by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education, released on 22 September 2006.

As a result of favoritism and conflicts of interest, the IG found, states were pressured to approve materials from only a handful of preferred publishers. Virtually all others were excluded from participating in the Reading First program, which has provided $4.8 billion in grants to states and school districts since 2002.

The disclosures brought calls to hold Bush Administration appointees accountable for the alleged abuses. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, charged that Reading First officials had “wasted taxpayer dollars on an inferior reading curriculum for kids that was developed by a company headed by a Bush friend and campaign contributor. Instead of putting children first, they chose to put their cronies first.” Miller asked the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Institute for Language and Education Policy>

Bush, McConJob and the GOP love to strip worthwhile educational programs of their value to taxpayers in order to use the programs as fronts for No Millionaire Left Behind. Here’s an example of what I mean:

By Walter F. Roche, Jr.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

2readingfirst3 A company headed by President Bush’s brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush’s company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.

At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president’s signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite’s portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math.
But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Institute for Language and Education Policy>

Is it any wonder that so many kids can’t get a decent education in this country. Bush and the GOP have done everything possible to dismantle education in the US while their feckless relatives and cronies reap the profits.

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

McCain: Economic Warfare Through Healthcare

mccain_bush_hug Yesterday Arizona Sen. John McCain delivered what his handlers were hyping as a major address on health care. McCain’s plan is a dangerous fraud.

He wants voters to think he is going after health care cost inflation. In reality, he wants to dismantle the employer-provided system that now covers over 60 percent (or about 158 million) of non-elderly Americans, forcing millions of us who now get fairly decent health insurance on the job to instead buy whatever they can find on the individual market controlled by unregulated and predatory insurance companies. And he would drive health care costs upward, not downward.

This is truly amazing: McCain and his handlers knew they had to say something about health care.

So they turned to their friends (and financial supporters) in the health care industry and the conservative think tanks. And they have adopted the most extreme right-wing ideological approach, premised on the idea that the big problem in health care is that Americans have too much insurance – in their words, we don’t have enough “skin in the game” – and that only when we have to buy health care with money that comes directly out of our own pockets will consumers force doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to become more efficient.

So that’s the theory. But it is contradicted by the facts. Most of us already pay part of our premiums out of our own pockets, and we increasingly have to shell out for co-pays in order to get to see a doctor. The result–in practice–is that most people, even those with good insurance, now think twice or three times about even getting regular preventive health checkups. Having lots of “skin in the game” has meant that millions of Americans don’t get health care they need–and that’s one of the big problems in U.S. health care driving costs up, not down.

But McCain, like George Bush, pays more attention to ultra-conservative theory than he does to the facts. So McCain wants to tax workers’ health care premiums that are paid for by employers. Ask any expert, conservative or liberal, and they will tell you the result will be companies will stop providing health care as an employee benefit. Fortune Magazine quotes one of their experts on the impact of McCain’s plan: “I predict that most companies would stop paying for health care in three to four years,” says Robert Laszewski, a consultant who works with corporate benefits managers.

Now keep this in mind: McCain and his corporate advisers don’t dispute this. The massive upheaval that would result – millions of families losing their health coverage on the job and then having to try to find an insurance company that would sell them a new policy that would cover their families–that’s not an unintended consequence of his proposal. That chaotic loss of health security is exactly what McCain intends to happen. He wants us all to buy insurance not as part of a group–like an employee group or a co-op–that can negotiate for better coverage at lower premiums, but as individuals, at the mercy of the private insurance companies.

And get this: McCain wants to abolish the regulations that currently exist in most states that require companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions, provide benefits that don’t exclude some medical conditions, and prevent them from charging huge premiums for crumby benefits. How would he do this? By “giving people the freedom” to buy insurance in other states with weaker regulations. You can bet that most of the big insurance companies are now shopping around for the state that wants to become the corporate headquarters state for the new deregulated health insurance industry – if President McCain wins. Delaware? Mississippi? Arizona?

But, but, but . . . I can hear some people saying, McCain does give people refundable tax credits to help pay for health insurance. And that is part of his package. But his whole philosophy is that too many millions of American’s are getting health care benefits that are too rich, and you certainly can’t say that about the level of tax subsidy he would provide–$2,500 per year for individuals and $5,000 for a family, according to the McCain for President website. Last year the average yearly cost of the most popular type of insurance plan offered by employers hit $11,765, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. So the average person with a family would end up paying $11,765 minus the $5,000 tax credit, or $6,765–about double the $3,226 Kaiser tells us the average employee paid for his or her share of premiums.

Again, this is NOT unintentional. McCain and his corporate advisers think it is good for individuals and families to pay more because it makes them think twice before seeking health care, and–in theory–they will shop around for cheaper care. And if they can’t cover the costs of real health insurance with McCain’s tax credit, the insurance industry will sell you lower-cost plans with big holes in coverage or costly co-pays–that is, if you are not already sick and you aren’t too old for them to see you as profitable… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

Add to this that in order to get the full tax credit a family would need to have an adjusted gross income of $33,333.33 or more. which works out to about $45,000 – $50,000 in wages. Families at or near the poverty line would get virtually nothing. That’s fine with McConJob and the GOP. So the net effect of this plan is for those without health coverage now to stay without, for millions more with health coverage through work to lose their coverage, and for those who retain it to pay twice as much for less coverage. Is this a McConJob or what?

All articles cross-posted from Politics Plus

Burma: Rice Matters More Than Rights

30yadana In a report to be released today, a human rights group says that Burmese soldiers guarding a Chevron Corp. pipeline have killed nearby villagers while ordering others to serve as forced labor.

Drawn from interviews with villagers as well as Burmese refugees in Thailand, the report by EarthRights International accuses the Burmese military of terrorizing people who live near the Yadana pipeline. A spokesman for San Ramon’s Chevron called the report’s accusations baseless.

Chevron co-owns the pipeline, along with French oil giant Total and a Burmese company. Total runs the project, while the other companies act mainly as investors. EarthRights does not accuse Chevron or its partners of committing any human rights abuses themselves.

Instead, the EarthRights report calls on the companies to shut down the pipeline as a way of placing pressure on Burma’s military rulers, whose deadly crackdown on pro-democracy activists last year provoked international condemnation.

“No one’s saying Chevron could single-handedly bring human rights and democracy to Burma,” said Marco Simons, EarthRights’ legal director and an author of the report. “But if they’re employing security forces that are committing abuses, they have a moral responsibility to do everything in their power to stop those abuses.”

The report argues that the Yadana project has become the single largest source of income for the Burmese government, bringing in an estimated $969 million each year and undercutting international sanctions designed to isolate the regime.

Chevron came under intense pressure from human rights activists and politicians to pull out of Burma after last year’s crackdown.

A Chevron spokesman said Monday that the company had not received the new report and could not comment on most of its accusations… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <San Francisco Chronicle>

Why has there been no more than lip service from the US over this issue?  The Reich would answer that there are sanctions against Burma in place, and fail to mention the one exception.  I’ve discussed this before on October 4, and the reason remains unchanged.  Athough Yadana provides majority of the junta’s revenue, and shutting it down could bankrupt the Burmese government, Chevron remains the exception to the sanctions.  Why?  Rice matters more than rights, and we’re not talking about food.

30chevronrice Condoleezza Rice was a Chevron Director from 1991 until January 15, 2001 when she was transferred by President George Bush Jr. to National Security Adviser. Previously she was Senior Director, Soviet Affairs, National Security Council, and Special Assistant to President George Bush Sr. from 1989 to 1991.

Another Chevron Corporation giant in the Bush administration is Vice President Dick Cheney. Vice President Cheney was Chairman and Chief Executive of Dallas based Halliburton Corporation, the world’s largest oil field services company with multi-billion dollar contracts with oil corporations including Chevron. Lawrence Eagleburger, a seasoned Bush counselor who held top State Department posts under George Bush Sr., is a director of Halliburton Corporation… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Aztlan.net>

For Bush, McConJob and the GOP, killing innocent villagers and using them as slave labor is fine, ac long as CondiCorp continues to earn record profit.  McConJob has proposed more tax cuts for corporations like this.

Keith on Bushonomics

Yesterday morning Potomac Pinocchio gave a news conference in which he blamed all the nation’s ills on the Democrats in Congress.  Last night on Countdown, Keith Olbermann served fried ChickenHawk.