Why a run by the undeclared frontrunner demands upending the corporate wing of the Democratic Party
by John Atcheson
Recently, Hillary Clinton allowed as how she’s been “thinking” about running for President in 2016.
“Thinking” about it? Even a six year old didn’t buy that.
When a politician says she (or he) is thinking about running, for an office, it’s like an addict saying they are “thinking,” about taking their next fix. They want it with a lust that is all-consuming.
The crowd cheered when she said it; the party seems to be teeing up issues like gender equality to facilitate it; and with the McCutcheon decision, the way seems paved for a DLC Democrat like Hillary to waltz into the nomination. And yes, gender equality is a critical issue, but don’t hold your breath looking for progress from Hillary. She’s likely to do as much for women, as Barack Obama has done for African Americans – which is to say damn little, other than a better brand of rhetoric.
So before we proceed with her coronation, maybe it’s time to think back to the 2004 campaign, and the early days of Barack Obama’s candidacy and Presidency.
Remember “hope and change?” At the time, few thought to ask what exactly we were hoping for and what exactly we were changing to.
And of course, what we got was a great slogan, better speeches, very little change and even less hope.
Here’s what Obama promised:
- Shutting down Gitmo;
- Ending warrantless wiretapping;
- Ending foreign wars;
- An end to trickle down economics;
- Greater regulation of Wall Street and the financial sector;
- A public option for health care;
- Protecting social security, Medicaid and Medicare;
- Serious action on climate change;
- Greater equality in opportunity and more broadly shared prosperity …
Here’s what we got: An administration that set up Goldman Sachs south in the Treasury, doubled down on domestic spying; expanded a drone policy that creates between 40 to 60 new terrorists for every one it kills; health care reform that is better than the status quo, but which rewards corporate insurers as much or more than it does citizens; international trade agreements that favor corporate interests, while eviscerating domestic wages, scuttling environmental performance, and crippling US industrial infrastructure. It’s so bad, they’re trying to negotiate it in secret …
The list goes on and on, and so do the betrayals.
Apologists for the DLC branch of the Democratic Party will say Obama had no choice – he was constrained by Congress. But he practiced a brand of preemptive capitulation that meant we always ended up carrying corporate water, and satisfying military imperialists while ignoring or discounting citizens’ civil rights and welfare.
So now enter Hillary Clinton and the deluded Democrats who jones for her Presidency. Maybe it’s time to ask what, specifically, we will get; what we can hope for, and whether it will usher in changes Americans overwhelmingly want (more about this, in a bit).
And here’s the answer – If we nominate Hillary Clinton we will get another DLC Democrat who mouths progressive values during the campaign, then shifts to the right when (and if) elected. In short, citizens get no real choice.
The problem with this isn’t simply that it’s morally bankrupt; economically bad for 95% of Americans; bad for the economy in general; bad for the environment; bad for US competitiveness; and devastating for our children’s future climate – it’s ultimately bad politics, too.
Here’s the deal – the dirty little secret that plutocrats and corporatists in both Parties don’t want us to know: The vast majority of Americans favor progressive policies. Consider:
— 90% of the citizens support legislation requiring background checks for gun purchase, but Congress can’t pass one.
— 74% of Americans want to end subsidies to big oil – but there’s no chance of it happening;
— The majority of citizens favored allowing tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 to expire, but the best we could do is compromise on $400,000
— 70% of Americans consider climate change to be a high priority issue, yet Congress has taken no action;
— Some 80% of Americans favor shoring up Social Security even if it means higher taxes and a similar number support retaining Medicare as is, but we’ve twice offered cuts to both programs as part of a “grand bargain”;
— Or take this gem … more than 80% of Americans want to clamp down on Wall Street but the best we could get was weak-sister legislation that is being completely eviscerated as it is translated into regulations.
This list could be extended across a broad range of issues. The fact is, the people’s interests aren’t being represented in Washington and they won’t be if Hillary Clinton is elected. Her record is clear. She’s an ardent proponent of trade agreements; she’s consistently supported the interests of Wall Street over Main Street; she’s been hawkish on foreign policy; weak on civil protections; hawkish on the deficit (until very recently) and mum on many other issues that demand a progressive advocate.
Yes, she’s beginning to veer to the left in preparation for the primaries, but haven’t we had enough of this?
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a candidate who actually represented the peoples’ interests tackle the usual corporatists who win the Democratic nominations? Not to mention the sycophantic Republicans who so obviously dance to the tunes of the likes of Addelson, the Koch Brothers and Wall Street?
The fact is we can wage and win a war for a progressive candidate, and we have potential candidates who speak for the people. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, the Progressive Congressional Caucus – each offers common sense and popular alternatives to the corrosive forces of corporatism that is eroding our Democracy.
Corporate money can trump everything but the vote. In the age of the Internet, we can take over this Party. We can raise our own money and turn out our own candidates. We can bypass the bought and paid for media and reach people directly with a message they are dying to hear.
Doubt that? Think back to 2011, when income inequality was a non-issue, ignored by the media and candidates alike. Between September 2011 and October 2011, the Occupy movement erupted, making income inequality one of the main issues in the 2012 election.
We must occupy the Democratic Party. Yes, as constructed, it’s little more than Republican lite – answerable to corporate overlords. But we can change that. We can insist on candidates who represent the people.
Take a look at those polling numbers again – if we used the tools of the Internet to raise money and advocate popular progressives, we just might be able to beat back the plutocrats. It’s at least worth a try.
So let’s go for it. Let’s occupy the Democratic Party.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.
Article printed from www.CommonDreams.orgSource URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/04/17
APRIL 21, 2014
WASHINGTON — Justice John Paul Stevens, who turned 94 on Sunday, is a mild man with an even temperament. He has a reverence for the Supreme Court, on which he served for almost 35 years until his retirement in 2010, and he is fond of his former colleagues.
But there was a hint of anger in some of his remarks when I went to see him last week in his Supreme Court chambers. He said the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings.
“The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate,” he said. “It’s really wrong.”
He talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of last month’s big campaign finance ruling. He filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision. And he called for a constitutional amendment to address what he said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. started his controlling opinion with a characteristically crisp and stirring opening sentence: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”
But that was misleading, Justice Stevens said. “The first sentence here,” he said, “is not really about what the case is about.”
The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, had made contributions to 15 candidates in the 2012 election. He sued so he could give money to 12 more. None of the candidates in the second group was running in Alabama.
Mr. McCutcheon was not trying to participate in electing his own leaders, Justice Stevens said. “The opinion is all about a case where the issue was electing somebody else’s representatives,” he said.
“The opinion has the merit of being faithful to the notion that money is speech and that out-of-district money has the same First Amendment protection as in-district money,” he said. “I think that’s an incorrect view of the law myself, but I do think there’s a consistency between that opinion and what went before.”
He was referring to the court’s earlier campaign finance decisions and, notably, to Citizens United. How that case was transformed from a minor, quirky case about a tendentious documentary into a judicial landmark has long been a source of mystery.
For starters, the case was argued twice. The first time was in March 2009, meaning it should have been decided by the end of the term that June. I asked Justice Stevens whether he, as the senior justice among the four dissenters, would have assigned the 2009 dissent.
“I would, and I did,” he said. And he more or less confirmed that the assignment went to Justice David H. Souter, as Jeffrey Toobin has reported in The New Yorker. “He was certainly a logical candidate to write the dissent,” Justice Stevens said of Justice Souter, who retired in 2009.
The draft dissent, which has not been made public, questioned the majority’s attempt to recast a modest case into a blockbuster that would overrule major precedents and allow unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions.The draft dissent caused the majority to pause, Justice Stevens said, thanks to “the strong expression of the feeling among the dissenters that procedurally the case was not in the proper posture to reach the issue that they ultimately decided.”
“I think it persuaded the majority that it would be better to have a re-argument so that they could not be accused of deciding something that had not been adequately argued,” he said. “And I think they were right to do that.”
The second argument was held in September 2009. When the court finally ruled in January 2010, emotions were still raw. Justice Souter was gone, and this time Justice Stevens assigned the dissent to himself.
“Essentially,” he wrote, “five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”
The new amendment would override the First Amendment and allow Congress and the states to impose “reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”
I asked whether the amendment would allow the government to prohibit newspapers from spending money to publish editorials endorsing candidates. He stared at the text of his proposed amendment for a little while. “The ‘reasonable’ would apply there,” he said, “or might well be construed to apply there.”
Or perhaps not. His tentative answer called to mind an exchange at the first Citizens United argument, when a government lawyer told the court that Congress could in theory ban books urging the election of political candidates.
Justice Stevens said he would not go that far.
“Perhaps you could put a limit on the times of publication or something,” he said. “You certainly couldn’t totally prohibit writing a book.”
His own book has, in addition to the chapter on campaign finance, chapters on gun control, the death penalty, gerrymandering and aspects of state sovereignty. Each concludes with a proposed amendment.
With the exception of his hearing, which has faded a little in recent years, Justice Stevens seemed to show few signs of his age. But he said appearances deceive.
“I’m beginning to feel it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’m getting older.”
He lives in Florida for much of the year, but he recently had to give up a long time routine. “I love to swim in the ocean,” he said. “And this year I have not gone in the ocean unless I had someone on the beach to help me get out. That has been a change, and my ocean swimming is dependent on the availability of handy lifeguards.”
Laurie Guevara-Stone, Rocky Mountain Institute
April 21, 2014
California is known for being a leader in solar energy, but a small county in Northern California has taken things a step further. It has become the first county government in the state to not only zero-out its electric bill with renewable energy, but also to become grid positive. Yolo County (population 200,000), just west of Sacramento County, now produces 152 percent more energy from solar panels than it uses.
Terry Vernon, deputy director of Yolo County General Services, is behind much of the solar success. In 2010, the Yolo County government was facing an annual $1.4 million electric bill. Vernon knew there was a better way. In the 1980s, Vernon helped Stanford University put power back into the grid with a cogeneration plant that heated the entire campus. So he was no stranger to innovative energy solutions, and knew that he could help power Yolo County with renewables. The issue he was facing, however, was that Yolo County was, like the rest of the country, in a recession.
“I had to look for a way to do a zero-capital investment because we didn’t have any capital funding,” Vernon told RMI. “It had to pay for itself the very first day.” Vernon said it took a lot of effort; he had to go to the county board numerous times. Fortunately, the board was extremely supportive of the project. Even before board members knew it would produce a positive cash flow, they saw the potential to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. Once they approved the proposal, the first solar project was under way.
An Innovative Solar Plan
Working with SunPower, Yolo County installed a 1-megawatt solar power system at the Yolo County Justice Campus in the county seat, Woodland. Yolo County owns the system and associated renewable energy credits, and financed the purchase using multiple funding sources, including a $2.5 million loan from the California Energy Commission, and clean renewable energy bonds and qualified energy conservation bonds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The system produced $162,000 the first year of operation, and is predicted to earn the county $10 million over the first 25 years.
With the success of that project under his belt, Vernon decided to do even more. In 2013, the county installed three arrays totaling 5.8 MW of power as part of its County Wide Solar Project. The first array produces .8 MW for three buildings on the county government campus in Woodland, reducing the campus’ electric bill by 75 percent through net energy metering. Two 2.5 MW arrays were installed at Grassland Regional Park in Davis and sell power back to PG&E, the local utility company, through a feed-in-tariff (FiT). These projects also were installed with no upfront capital investment. In partnership with the Yolo County Office of Education, the county secured $23 million in qualified zone academy bonds (QZAB).
The projects not only eliminated the county’s electric bill, but also earned just under $500,000 the first year. The county sells electricity to PG&E for 10-cents/kilowatt hour, although when its 20-year FiT contract is over, that price might rise. The county conservatively predicts it will generate $60 million over the next 35 years and avoid 12,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. “We not only did it with zero upfront capital investment,” Vernon stated, “we eliminated our electrical bill, and we generate cash, which goes into our revenue stream.”
In July, the EPA recognized Yolo County on its list of green power partners that generate and consume the largest amount of green power on-site, alongside companies such as Walmart and Apple. Although Yolo County came in 14th in the nation (in January, it moved up to 13th) for amount of kWh used on-site (13.5 million), if ordered by the percentage of total electricity use, Yolo County would be first at 152 percent with no other entity even coming close (second place partners only reach 75 percent).
Even before the solar projects were installed, Yolo County was at the forefront of environmental action. In the 1980s, it adopted an energy plan that was the first of its kind, and built a gas-to-energy facility at the county landfill that generates 20 MWh/year and captures 90 percent of methane emissions. From 2002 to 2004, the county enacted the County Wide Energy Conservation Retrofit Project, through which it replaced lights, boilers, HVAC equipment, chillers, fans, water heaters and motors in all major county buildings.
In 2008, Yolo County approved a plan to change the temperature set points in all county office buildings (3 degrees higher in summer, 2 degrees lower in winter), to change air conditioning and lighting system schedules to the minimum hours per day of operation, and to perform retro-commissioning on all building outdoor air economizer systems, among other actions. These actions annually save the county over $200,000 and reduce carbon emissions by more than 1,200 tons. And in 2011, the county passed the Climate Action Plan, designed to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020.
Educating the Younger Generaton
Yolo County officials realized that public education is key to their climate goals. Part of the QZAB education bonds acquired through their partnership with the Yolo County Office of Education, along with a donation from SunPower, financed the construction of seven “solar academies” to bring environmental education to K-12 students. The academies teach school children about climate change, environmental science, renewable energy technologies and energy auditing.
The Qualified Zone Academy Bonds typically are used by K-12 school districts, community college districts and county offices of education to fund capital projects accompanied by an educational component. For Yolo County’s solar projects, the bonds were structured as a lease payable from the county’s general fund with a term of 20 years. In addition, the bonds required a 10 percent match by a private or nonprofit entity, which came from SunPower. The benefit of using these bonds to finance the county’s solar projects is twofold — first, the county benefits from a direct federal subsidy (ability to pay back the bonds at no interest); and second, the County Office of Education benefits from the 10 percent contribution to implement the academies. But “the real winners,” explained Vernon, “are the children of California.”
Santa Clara County and Orange County already are trying to replicate Yolo County’s successes, and Vernon would like to see other counties follow. “Global warming makes me nervous for my children and grandchildren,” Vernon told RMI. “Other counties and municipalities can duplicate a piece of this project and achieve the same results. Even if they only did one megawatt, which most cities can do, it would make a big difference.”
Lead solar panels photo via Yolo County
#MyNYPD (Part I)
via Rising Insurgency
On Tuesday, the French lower house of parliament adopted a law immediately banning cultivation of any GMO corn, due to environmental safety concerns. Recently, they also made a halt decree to prohibit planting the only GM crop allowed in the EU – Monsanto’s MON810 corn, with built-in insect resistance. Jean-Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, said:
“It is essential today to renew a widely shared desire to maintain the French ban. This bill strengthens the decree passed last March by preventing the immediate cultivation of GMO and extending their reach to all transgenic maize varieties.”
Farmers and seed companies are challenging the rule, as they have blocked similar decrees before, viewing safety concerns insufficient. But Le Guen bound the rule so that member state decisions could not be litigated against. The ban heads back to the Senate for final approval – if rejected, the French National Assembly gets to cast the final ruling. Future strains will be banned even if the EU states approve more.
Of course big biotech companies are not satisfied to let bans rest. If companies like Monsanto have any say, they’ll be back. The EU actually wants to give them that final say. Additionally, DuPont and Dow Chemical are poised to crash the EU again, if allowed. They already jointly developed Pioneer 1507 GM corn and most of the member states did not gather enough votes to block it. It appears these companies have money, power and persistence on their side to keep pushing despite wide-spread consumer and safety concerns.
Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/effective-immediately-france-bans-all-gmo-cultivation/#u7at4tlVLOaiQf1W.99
—By Tom Philpott| Wed Apr. 23, 2014
Soybeans are the second-largest US crop after corn, covering about a quarter of US farmland. We grow more soybeans than any other country except Brazil. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called Roundup. Organic production, by contrast, is marginal—it accounts for less than 1 percent of total US acreage devoted to soy. (The remaining 9 percent or so of soybeans are conventionally grown, but not genetically modified.)
Americans don’t eat much of these lime-green legumes directly, but that doesn’t mean we’re not exposed to them. After harvest, the great bulk of soybeans are crushed and divided into two parts: meal, which mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat; and fat, most of which ends up being used as cooking oil or in food products. According to the US Soy Board, soy accounts for 61 percent of American’s vegetable oil consumption.
Given soy’s centrality to our food and agriculture systems, the findings of a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Chemistry are worth pondering. The authors found that Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup Ready soybeans, engineered to withstand its own blockbuster herbicide, contain more herbicide residues than their non-GMO counterparts. The team also found that the GM beans are nutritionally inferior.
In the study, the researchers looked at samples of three kinds of soybeans grown in Iowa: 1) those grown from GM herbicide-tolerant seeds; 2) those grown from non-GM seeds but in a conventional, agrichemical-based farming regime; and 3) organic soybeans, i.e., non-GM and grown without agrichemicals.
They found residues of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and aminomethylphosphonic acid, or AMPA, the compound glyphosate breaks down into as it decays, on all ten of the GM samples—and in none of the non-GM and organic ones.
The GMO soy had total residues averaging 11.9 ppm, with a maximum reading of 20.1 ppm—averages that are are well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit of 20 ppm, a limit shared by the European Union. Yet as the authors note, back in 1999, Monsanto itselfreported that the maximum recorded reading of glyphosate residue found on Roundup Ready soy was 5.6 parts per million—a level it called “extreme,” and “far higher than those typically found.”
So, the researchers found residue levels well below the EPA’s limit, but hovering above a level Monsanto itself has characterized as “extreme.” What to make of it?
As the authors note, the science around the effects of glyphosate at relatively low levels is controversial. By setting the residue limit at 20 parts per million, US and European regulators are endorsing a no-harm view. But some independent research, including a 2012 study (my account here) by University of Pittsburg scientist Rick Relyea, found that Roundup in water at 3 ppm induced morphological changes in frogs. And in a 2012 paper, German researchers subjected various bacterial strains typically found in the guts of poultry to glyphosate at levels of 5 ppm and lower and found that it tended to harm beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, while pathogens like Salmonella Entritidi tended to be “highly resistant” to it. The results suggest that glyphosate can shift the balance of the gut microbiota—hardly comforting, given the surge in research finding that subtle changes to the bacteria in our bodies have a huge impact on our health.
The study also found small but statistically significant differences in the nutritional quality of the soybean types: The organic soybeans had slightly higher protein levels than the other two, and lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids showed no significant difference. Both fats are essential in human diets, but research suggests that US eaters tend to consume a higher ratio of omega-6 acids to omega-3 acids than is healthy.
It’s worth noting that food isn’t glyphosate’s only pathway to our bodies. In a 2011 study, researchers for the US Geological Survey “frequently detected” glyphosate in surface waters, rain, and air in the Mississippi River basin. “The consistent occurrence of glyphosate in streams and air indicates its transport from its point of use into the broader environment,” USGS stated in a press release, adding that “we know very little about its long term effects to the environment.”
Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University researcher who documented the rise in glyphosate use that has accompanied Roundup Ready crops, told me that “human dietary exposure to glyphosate is now probably the highest ever for any pesticide used in the US.” When you consider the additional doses we get through water and air, the chemical stands “in a class by itself” in terms of human exposure. “I sure hope EPA is right in its evaluation of the toxicity of glyphosate,” he said.