Daily Archives: January 13, 2015

As Top Democrats Embrace a Robin Hood Tax, It’s Time for Activists to Go Big

John Nichols on January 12, 2015 – 3:31 PM ET

A Robin Hood Tax was among the demands of Occupy Wall Street Protesters in 2011. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Americans who are serious about addressing income inequality have long recognized that the United States needs a Robin Hood Tax—a charge on financial transactions proposed by campaigners who have argued since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 that “banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector should pay their fair share to clear up the mess they helped create.”

National Nurses United and other unions, along with Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders such as Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, have for a number of years said that the United States should follow the lead of European countries that have developed financial-transactions taxes. Explaining his proposal for an Inclusive Prosperity Act as an alternative to the destructive austerity agenda of Republicans and some centrist Democrats, Ellison said in 2013:

A lot of people in Washington like to talk about reducing the debt and deficits. Well if you really care about reducing the deficit, how about asking Wall Street speculators to pay their fair share? This bill will add a tax of a fraction of a percent on transactions made by the same Wall Street firms and stock traders who crashed our economy in 2008. This tax alone will generate up to $300 billion a year in revenue, stabilizing the deficit and allowing us to invest in the things that matter—education, roads and bridges, and health care for our seniors and veterans.

Unfortunately, that logic tended to be dismissed not just by top Republicans but by top Democrats.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Terrorist Toddlers In The UK?

AJ+

Published on Jan 5, 2015

The British government wants kindergarten teachers to report their toddlers…for potential extremism. Seriously.

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

New trade pacts create secret, pro-corporate tribunals that use their powers to eviscerate our democratic laws

It’s time to knock the Trans-Pacific Partnership off the “Fast Track”

New trade pacts create secret, pro-corporate tribunals that use their powers to eviscerate our democratic laws

When I was just a tyke, my momma warned me not to eat anything unless I knew where it came from. Sensible advice–so good that even Congress has acted on it.

In 2002, responding to public demand, lawmakers decided that you and I have a need and a right to know where the meat sold in supermarkets comes from. Thus, Congress enacted a simple and straightforward law called COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling), requiring meat marketers to tell us right on their packages whether the enclosed steak, pork chops, lamb shanks, chicken wings, etc., are products of the USA, Mexico, China, or Whereintheworldistan.

This is useful information that empowers us consumers. Whether you have health concerns about imported meat or just prefer to have your food dollars go to American farmers and ranchers, COOL lets each of us know the source so we can decide such matters for ourselves. And that is precisely why global agribusiness giants hate it. Foreign meat producers (especially the US food conglomerates that have moved their meat production and slaughtering operations to nations that pay low wages and/or aren’t fussy about health inspections) don’t want you knowing or deciding. They’ve been all over Washington officials, saying they want the #@$&! labeling law repealed.

But who cares what they want? COOL is America’s law, and American courts upheld it when the agribusiness powers tried to strike it down. It’s also solidly supported by our people–a 2013 Consumer’s Union poll found that a whopping 90 percent of Americans favor the right-to-know label! That’s such an overwhelming majority that even the anti-consumer Republicans now in charge of Congress are not about to mess with it. So that’s that.

WARNING: Mind-exploding Outrage Ahead. Unfortunately, that’s not that. Unbeknownst to most people, a cabal of corporate and political elites (including Presidents Clinton, Bush II, and Obama) has stealthfully negotiated international trade deals during the past two-plus decades that have fabricated, piece by piece, what now amounts to a privatized world government. It’s a secretive, autocratic, plutocratic, bureaucratic government of, by, and for multinational corporations. Most astonishingly, it has been empowered [Second
warning: Take a deep breath before reading on]
to eviscerate laws and policies enacted by our own elected officials.

Embedded in these voluminous agreements are rules limiting what our domestic governments are permitted to do, plus new rights and privileges for corporations enforced through supra-national closed-door tribunals. This adds up to a privately gated “government.” A corporation from a foreign country that has signed on to these deals can directly attack the real government in countries where it has a subsidiary. They can demand cash compensation from us taxpayers for any action by our government that they think harms their profit picture.

I realize that this sounds like something from a 007 spy fantasy. When I’ve spoken about it at various events, audiences are incredulous at first, looking at me with expressions that say, “That can’t be true. Can it?”

Alas, it’s all too real. And if the World Trade Organization tribunals like the one that sacked COOL were not bad enough, such trade documents as NAFTA and CAFTA–all approved by our own legislatures in the name of “job creation”–give foreign corporations even more direct power to overturn our laws. The slimy little secret of these trade deals is that they have little to do with trade and everything to do with enhancing corporate sovereignty over public governments and the interests of all other people–including labor, environmentalists, consumers, privacy defenders, et al. Here’s how the privatized government system works:

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

UK could require teachers to report ‘terrorist’ toddlers

Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg / Getty Images

A British proposal would hold educators responsible for the violent ideology of their students – preschoolers included

January 5, 2015 2:00PM ET
by Michael Pizzi @michaelwpizzi

Every educator in the United Kingdom — including teachers of preschool children — would be required to monitor students to prevent them “being drawn into terrorism” if a British Home Office proposal becomes law.

The suggestion, which is part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill currently before the U.K. parliament, has sparked a firestorm of outrage — and has sent the satirical #ToddlerTerror trending on Twitter — since it was reported over the weekend by The Telegraph.

The bill would call on school administrators to “make sure that staff have training that gives them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimize terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups.”

“They should know where and how to refer children and young people for further help,” the document said.

It is the latest and most significant step in the U.K.’s domestic counterterrorism campaign, which has escalated in response to the alarming rate of British youth who are taking up arms abroad with radicalized groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Infographic: The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus, 114th Congress Edition

by Patrick Smith Posted on January 9, 2015 at 11:00 am
Updated: January 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Infographic: The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus, 114th Congress Edition

Climate change is happening. The overwhelming majority — 97 percent — of scientists have confirmed that human activity is driving global warming, and even though it’s been cold recently in the U.S., 2014 was the hottest year on record globally and 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the 21st century.

Despite the evidence, many of America’s elected officials have chosen to plug their ears and ignore what the science says. A shocking number of Republicans — over 56 percent — in the 114th Congress have expressed doubt about the science behind climate change, according to an analysis by CAP Action. Forty-two states have at least one representative who denies climate change science. Many of their statements reflect that of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who described climate change as a naturally-occurring process just yesterday.

It shouldn’t be surprising that most of these climate denying members are heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry. CAP Action found that 170 deniers in the House and Senate have taken over $63 million from the coal, oil, and gas industries, while the 364 non-deniers received only $35 million in fossil fuel contributions.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus: 114th Congress Edition

by Tiffany Germain – Guest Contributor, Kristen Ellingboe – Guest Contributor, Kiley Kroh, Posted on January 8, 2015 at 10:51 am

The Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus: 114th Congress Edition

This week Congress returns to the nation’s capital with 71 new members in its ranks. Those additions will bring little improvement in the views of congressional Republicans regarding the scientific reality of climate change, however. Over 56 percent of Republicans in the 114th Congress deny or question the science behind human-caused climate change, according to an analysis by CAP Action.

On the heels of what looks to be the warmest year in recorded history, with the global carbon dioxide levels that drive climate change reaching unprecedented levels, 53 percent — 131 members — of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives deny the occurrence of human-caused global warming and 72 percent — 39 members — on the Senate side sing the same tune.

While 97 percent of climate scientists are in agreement that climate change is occurring and is driven by human activity, several new members of the 114th Congress assert the opposite. Just this week, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) rejected the premise that greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, remarking instead that “political correctness took over climate science,” E&E Daily reported Thursday.

During the campaign, several then-candidates sought to paint the conversation around climate change as a scientific debate. “I don’t know the science behind climate change,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). “I can’t say one way or another what is the direct impact, whether it’s man-made or not. I’ve heard arguments from both sides.”

In the Republican primary debate for North Carolina’s Senate seat last year, the moderator asked all four candidates, including the eventual winner Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), “Is climate change a fact?” The question prompted laughter from the audience as well as several snickers from the candidates. All four answered with a simple “no.”

The most memorable refrain from the 2014 election cycle regarding a candidate’s stance on climate change, echoed by prominent congressional Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was undoubtedly “I’m not a scientist.” The response represented a unique form of evasion and prompted significant backlash against the politicians’ refusal to acknowledge scientific fact.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Pressure Mounts On Stanford University To Divest From Fossil Fuels

by Katie Valentine Posted on January 12, 2015 at 8:59 amUpdated: January 12, 2015 at 10:00 am

College students and supporters hold up signs at a rally to support fossil fuel divestment outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Thursday, May 2, 2013.

CREDIT: AP Photo / Jeff Chiu

Hundreds of Stanford professors are urging the university to divest its holdings from fossil fuel companies.

In a letter sent Sunday to the university, 300 Stanford professors, including two Nobel laureates, outlined the threat climate change poses to the earth and how the fossil fuel holdings contribute to that threat. They wrote that the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies have enough fossil fuels in their reserves to release 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide, but scientists recommend that the world cap its carbon dioxide emissions to 565 gigatons over the next 40 years if it wants to keep warming below 2°C.

The Stanford professors say that, in order to do its part in helping curb climate change, Stanford should divest its endowment of all fossil fuel holdings.

“If a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they may achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university simultaneously to invest in the destruction of that future?” The professors write in the letter. “Given that the university has signalled (sic) its awareness of the dangers posed by fossil fuels, what are the implications of Stanford’s making only a partial confrontation with this danger? In working with our students we encourage the clarity necessary to confront complex realities and the drive to carry projects through to completion. For Stanford’s investment policies to be congruent with the clarity and drive in its classrooms, the university must divest from all fossil-­fuel companies.”

Stanford announced in May that it would divest from coal companies, calling the move a “small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.” But, as the Guardian reports, the university invested in three more oil and gas companies a few months after announcing its break from coal. Stanford’s endowment totals $21.4 billion.

Lisa Lapin, a Stanford spokesperson, told the Guardian that a university advisory panel was looking into what further fossil fuel divestment would mean for the university.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice