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Rush Limbaugh Dropped By Longtime Indianapolis Radio Station

2015 April 20
by chief

From Media Matters for America. Written by Angelo Carusone.

Indianapolis’ WIBC has broadcast Rush Limbaugh’s show for 22 years. Despite this long history, parent company Emmis Communications announced April 13 that they are dropping Limbaugh’s show from WIBC’s lineup.

Charlie Morgan, an executive for Emmis, indicated that the decision to drop Limbaugh was about the “long-term direction of the station,” but also acknowledged that there was a “business element to the decision.” Underscoring the business considerations, Morgan explained to the Indianapolis Business Journal that the absence of Limbaugh could actually help WIBC’s advertiser prospects:

While Morgan expects some WIBC listeners to be “hugely disappointed” by the change, he said losing Limbaugh could open up the station to more advertising opportunities.

There are some–primarily national–advertisers that refuse to air commercials during Limbaugh’s show, Morgan explained. Emmis officials began notifying its advertisers of the change Monday.

“We believe this could open us up to a new group of advertisers,” he said.

Limbaugh’s show has been plagued with woes ever since advertisers began fleeing in the wake of Limbaugh’s multi-day attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. Thousands of local and regional businesses refuse to advertise on Limbaugh’s show and the bulk of national advertisers are now reportedly boycotting his program. The cumulative effect of Limbaugh’s advertiser difficulties has created a problem so substantial that it has actually spilled over and is hurting conservative talk radio as a whole.

The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed the industry-wide damage resulting from Limbaugh’s beleaguered program. According to the report, the exodus of national advertisers has played a significant part in reducing talk radio advertising rates to about half of what it costs to run ads on music stations, even though the two formats have “comparable audience metrics.”

Further, the report also provides a look at the millions of dollars individual stations have lost. The chart below, which was taken from the Journal report, gives a before and after look at the advertising revenue of talker stations in some of the largest markets. Notably, three of the stations that carried Limbaugh originally (KFI, WSB, and WBAP) experienced the greatest losses:

What is happening at the stations identified in the chart is happening at other talk stations, especially those that carry Limbaugh’s program. While it was already reported that major radio companies were hemorrhaging millions of dollars due to Limbaugh’s toxicity, the Journal’s analysis of the effect at the local station level was revealing and may offer some additional insight into WIBC’s decision to drop Limbaugh.

WIBC is just the latest in a string of reminders that Rush Limbaugh is bad for business.

The Journal report also confirmed that advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a tremendous effect.

Onward!

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Fracking Waste Puts Public at Risk, Study Says

2015 April 19
by chief

From InsideClimate News.

Three decades after EPA left regulation to states, they’re still taking a ‘see no evil’ approach to oil-and-gas-waste, Earthworks says.

Drilling waste pit in Pennsylvania. Disposal of oil-and-gas waste has generated little attention, yet it puts people at risk of exposure to chemicals including benzene, which can cause cancer. Credit: Frank Finan/Earthworks

Drilling waste pit in Pennsylvania. Disposal of oil-and-gas waste has generated little attention, yet it puts people at risk of exposure to chemicals including benzene, which can cause cancer. Credit: Frank Finan/Earthworks

By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
Apr 15, 2015

Weakness in state regulations governing hazardous oil-and-gas waste have allowed the leftovers to be disposed of with little regard to the dangers they pose to human health and the environment, according to a recent study by the environmental organization Earthworks.

The report says states disregard the risks because of a decades-old federal regulation that allows oil-and-gas waste to be handled as non-hazardous material. Those rules, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1988, exempted the waste from the stricter disposal requirements required of hazardous substances and allowed the states to establish their own disposal standards.

In its report, “Wasting Away: Four states’ failure to manage gas and oil field waste from the Marcellus and Utica Shale,” Earthworks studied rules governing disposal of the often toxic waste––and the gaps in those regulations in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

The organization, which is often criticized by the industry as being consistently biased, concludes the EPA was wrong when it applied the non-hazardous label to oil-and-gas waste.

“Drilling waste harms the environment and health, even though states have a mandate to protect both,” said Bruce Baizel, co-author of the report and Earthworks’ energy program director.

“Their current ‘see no evil’ approach is part of the reason communities across the country are banning fracking altogether. States have a clear path forward: if the waste is dangerous and hazardous, stop pretending it isn’t and treat it and track it like the problem it is.”

Disposal of oil-and-gas waste has generated little attention, yet it puts people at risk of exposure to chemicals including benzene, which can cause cancer. It has escaped scrutiny as a factor in air and water pollution and a possible contributor to the acceleration of climate change.

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An investigation by InsideClimate News last year disclosed lax regulations of oil-and-gas waste in Texas that left disposal facilities virtually unregulated.

READ: Open Pits Offer Cheap Disposal for Fracking Sludge, but Health Worries Mount

The EPA granted the exemption from federal hazardous-waste laws even though the agency estimated that without the exemption, 10 to 70 percent of oil-and-gas waste could be considered hazardous. The EPA reasoned that states could adequately regulate the waste.

Legislation proposed by Pennsylvania congressman Matt Cartwright in 2013 would remove the industry’s hazardous waste exemption; the bill has languished since its introduction.

The Earthworks study, which focused on the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of the four states, identified what it called shortcomings in existing and proposed state regulations of oil-and-gas waste generated during exploration, development and production.

“In all of the states examined, persistent regulatory and information gaps remain and practices are underway that call into question the adequacy of state oversight,” according to the report.

Some of the examples cited include the practice allowed in Pennsylvania of storing waste in open air pits and the spreading of waste on roads and open land.

In Ohio, Earthworks found no public information available on the number, location or use of oil-and-gas waste pits and impoundments. The state doesn’t have specific requirements for the construction and use of pits and impoundments.

Solid oil-and-gas waste in West Virginia does not have to be disposed of in specialized facilities; it can be dumped in municipal landfills.

“Across the Marcellus and Utica shale region, a ‘create now, figure it out later’ view has guided the regulatory and policy response to a growing stream of drilling waste,” according to the report.

The Earthworks report acknowledges the four states have taken some steps to address oil-and-gas waste management through improved regulations, operator practices and data collection. But reform initiatives in the four states continue to be piecemeal and reactive with gaps in regulations and oversight, the report says.

The primary reason for this lack of oversight circles back to operators and regulators treating oil-and-gas waste like other wastes and using existing treatment and disposal systems—rather than developing new ones based on the specific composition of sometimes toxic waste.

To stem risks to air quality, water and soil, Earthworks makes 11 recommendations to mitigate the threats posed by current oil-and-gas waste disposal measures and calls on the states to “take immediate action” to correct the deficiencies in existing regulations.

Among the recommendations:

  • Require treatment and disposal of wastes at specialized facilities designed and equipped to remove chemicals, radioactive elements, metals and other contaminants.

  • Prohibit municipal landfills and wastewater treatment plants from accepting oil-and-gas waste.

  • Mandate operators to conduct comprehensive, consistent testing of waste before it leaves the well site.

This approach to handling oil-and-gas waste is vital now, especially because of the boom in fracking oil-and-gas wells across the country, according to the report.

“Until measures are in place to ensure that these steps are taken, oil-and-gas waste management will continue to be, at its core, an experiment—one with potentially serious consequences for environment and communities both in the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions and nationwide,” it says.

EPATimelineFrackingWaste

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Right-Wing Extremism: Not Just For Radicals Anymore

2015 April 18
by chief

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From National Memo. Written by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

On Sunday, it will be 20 years since the morning a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and took 168 human lives. Nineteen of those lives belonged to children.

Maybe it takes you by surprise that it has been so long. Maybe you wonder where the time went. And maybe you remember…

…the ghastly pictures of that building, the front of it sheared away.

…the firefighter emerging from the rubble, tenderly cradling that dying baby.

…the bloody and lacerated people wandering dazedly from the wreckage.

…the breathless speculation that surely the culprits had to be Muslims.

And maybe you remember, too, that sense of vertiginous shock some people felt when we got our first look at the man who planted the bomb and discovered him to be, not a swarthy Muslim with a heavy beard and hard-to-pronounce name, but a clean-cut, apple pie-faced young white man named Timothy McVeigh. People could not have been more nonplussed if Richie Cunningham had shot up a shopping mall.

But the tragedy was to contain one last surprise. It came when we learned why McVeigh committed his atrocity. It seems he hated the government.

That revelation was our introduction to a world whose very existence most of us had never suspected. Meaning the so-called patriot movement, the armed, radical right-wing extremists who refuse to recognize the authority of the nation’s duly constituted and elected government. Maybe you remember the news reports of how they spent nights and weekends drilling in the woods, playing soldier in anticipation of the day ZOG — the Zionist Occupied Government — ceded the country to the United Nations and soldiers of the New World Order came rappelling down from black helicopters to seize everybody’s guns. Maybe you remember how crazy it all sounded.

But that was then. Twenty years ago, the idea of anti-government resistance seemed confined to a lunatic fringe operating in the shadows beyond the mainstream. Twenty years later, it is the mainstream, the beating heart of the Republican Party. And while certainly no responsible figure on the right advocates or condones what he did, it is just as certain that McVeigh’s violent antipathy toward Washington, his conviction that America’s government is America’s enemy, has bound itself to the very DNA of modern conservatism.

It lives in Grover Norquist’s pledge to shrink government down until “we can drown it in the bathtub,” in Chuck Norris’ musing about the need for “a second American revolution,” in Michele Bachmann’s fear that the census is an evil conspiracy. It lives in dozens of right-wing terror plots documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the 1995 bombing, including last year’s murder of two police officers and a Walmart shopper by two anti-government activists in Las Vegas. It lives in Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with federal officials.

These days, it is an article of faith on the political right that “government” is a faceless, amorphous Other. But this government brought itself into being with three words — “We the people” — and they are neither incidental nor insignificant. Our government may be good, may be bad, may be something in between, but as long as we are a free society, the one thing it always is, is us. Meaning: a manifestation of our common will, a decision a majority of us made. We are allowed to be furious at it, but even in fury, we always have peaceful tools for its overthrow. So there is never a reason to do what McVeigh did.

We all know that, of course. But 20 years after the day they brought babies out of the rubble in pieces would be an excellent time to pause and remind ourselves, just the same.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Photo: Standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, Nevada. Screenshot via YouTube/The Alex Jones Channel

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Bipartisan Agreement Gives Trade Pact A Boost

2015 April 17
by chief

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From National Memo. Written by Don Lee.

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders reached agreement Thursday on a bipartisan bill that should ease passage of a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal, giving a boost to one of President Barack Obama’s top foreign policy goals but putting him in an unusual alliance with Republicans against many in his own party.

The so-called fast-track legislation was seen as a necessary step for the White House to bring to a conclusion the long-delayed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Proponents said the 12-nation trade deal would deliver significant benefits by opening markets and establishing rules on commerce and investment that will help American workers and an array of U.S. industries, including West Coast ports, entertainment companies and drug makers.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the economic centerpiece of Obama’s policy shift toward Asia. He has staked his legacy as the self-proclaimed “first Pacific president” on completing the deal, even at the expense of alienating many Democrats who remain deeply suspicious of claims that free-trade deals are good for American workers.

While Obama and many businesses lauded the agreement announced Thursday by key House and Senate leaders, Democratic lawmakers, trade unions and environmental groups responded with a flurry of statements and news conferences denouncing the legislation.

The AFL-CIO said it would launch a large-scale campaign to pressure more than 50 Democratic members of Congress who may be on the fence to vote against the bill.

Fast-track authority would let Obama strike a trade agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, including Japan, Canada and Mexico, with the assurance that Congress must approve or reject it with no amendments. The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are in the last stages, but Japan and some other countries have been reluctant to show all their cards, concerned that Congress might alter the final agreement.

The push to pass the bill will trigger a high-stakes political battle. Republican leaders generally favor speeding up the path to a trade agreement and have highlighted the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a rare issue of agreement with the Obama administration.

But the president will need to overcome resistance from many Democrats worried about the trade pact’s impact on U.S. jobs. Some tea party Republicans, particularly in the House, also complain the president has already exceeded his executive authority and should not be given new powers.

The issue also is likely to play a role in the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly for Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton. She will face pressure from unions and progressive Democrats to oppose fast-track authority and the agreement, though it was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who oversaw passage of the last big trade pact, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Obama vowed to take congressional concerns into consideration, but stressed that the trade pact was critical to boosting U.S. exports and responding to the economic threat from China, which would not be part of the agreement. The pact, one of the largest in history, would join countries that make up 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

“It’s no secret that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to their promise, and that’s why I will only sign my name to an agreement that helps ordinary Americans get ahead,” Obama said Thursday.

“At the same time, at a moment when 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we must make sure that we, and not countries like China, are writing the rules for the global economy,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers and opponents of fast-track authority complained that Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have been conducted in secrecy and said it would be a mistake for Congress to give up its ability to change elements of an agreement before voting on it. Liberal Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are expected to launch a fierce legislative push to block the bill.

Opponents also warn the pact will hurt the environment, kill U.S. jobs and benefit mostly large multinational corporations. Hollywood has been lobbying hard for the deal, which promises to bring tighter copyright protections for movie and music companies.

Among critics of the proposed agreement is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

“The ILWU handles containers that represent millions of outsourced and offshore industrial jobs,” said Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman. The agreement is “a grab-bag of goodies for corporate America.”

Thursday’s compromise, aimed at getting enough Senate Democrats to break with their party to support the deal, would require White House trade officials to provide Congress with greater access to the terms of the deal and make updates and full details available to the public before it is signed.

The bill also includes a mechanism that would essentially revoke fast-track authority should U.S. trade negotiators fail to meet certain objectives, including promoting human rights, improving labor conditions and safeguarding the environment, said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Wyden, whose support for fast-track authority was seen as key to bringing along other Democrats, struck the deal with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate panel’s chairman, and Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., head of the House Ways and Means Committee.

In announcing the bill, the three lawmakers issued a joint statement saying that the legislation “establishes concrete rules for international trade negotiations to help the United States deliver strong, high-standard trade agreements that will boost American exports and create new economic opportunities and better jobs for American workers, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.”

Democratic lawmakers, however, said the measure — introduced in the Senate and to be followed in the House — did not include any language to prevent currency manipulation and was no better overall than the previous fast-track legislation that expired in 2007.

“It’s worse than the (previous) version,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who called the legislation a “sellout.”

“Those are noble goals that won’t be enforced in any way,” he said of the provisions on human rights, which were not in the prior fast-track authority.

A separate but similar House version of the legislation could face a tougher test as the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin, D-Mich., and other top Democratic lawmakers are opposed to fast-track. Sherman said he expected House Republicans to try to win a few more Democrats by tacking on sweeteners, such as aid for Africa.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


The ‘Culture War’ – A Battle The GOP Can’t Win

2015 April 16
by chief

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From National Memo. By Leonard Pitts, Jr.

The argument is over and conservatives have lost. Some of them just don’t know it yet.

That’s the takeaway from the remarkable events of last week wherein the states of Indiana and Arkansas executed high-speed U-turns — we’re talking skid marks on the tarmac — on the subject of marriage equality. Legislatures in both states, you will recall, had passed so-called “religious freedom” laws designed to allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. In Indiana, the governor had already signed the bill and was happily dissembling about the discriminatory nature and intent of the new law.

Then reality landed like the Marines at Guadalcanal.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made a fool of himself on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” five times refusing to answer a simple yes or no question about whether the bill would protect a business that refused to serve gay people. Angie’s List, which is headquartered in the state, delayed a planned expansion. NASCAR, the NCAA, the NFL, the NBA, the WNBA, and a host of businesses condemned the law. Conventions pulled out and some states and cities even banned government-funded travel to Indiana.

Down in Arkansas, where similar legislation awaited his signature, Gov. Asa Hutchinson was no doubt watching with interest as Pence was metaphorically shot full of holes. Then he received a tap on the shoulder from a very heavy hand. Walmart, the largest retailer on Earth, born and headquartered in Arkansas, urged a veto, saying the bill “does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.”

Both governors promptly got, ahem, religion. Hutchinson sent the measure back to legislators for revision. Pence signed a measure to “fix” a law whose glories he had spent so much time touting.

And here, a little context might be instructive. Twenty years ago, you recall, we were essentially arguing over the right of gay people to exist. The debate then was over whether they could serve in the military, adopt children, be fired or denied housing because of their sexuality, Ten years ago, public opinion on most of those issues having swung decisively, we were fighting over whether or not they could get married. Ten years later, that point pretty much conceded, we are arguing over who should bake the cake.

The very parameters of the debate have shifted dramatically to the dreaded left. Positions the GOP took proudly just 20 years ago now seem prehistoric and its motivations for doing so, threadbare. This is not about morality, the constitution or faith. It never was.

No, this is about using the law to validate the primal sense of “ick” that still afflicts some heterosexuals at the thought of boys who like boys and girls who like girls. And the solution to their problem is three words long: Get over it.

Or, get left behind. Consider again what happened last week: Put aside NASCAR, the NBA and Angie’s List: Walmart is, for better and for worse, the very embodiment of Middle-American values. To rephrase what Lyndon Johnson said of Walter Cronkite under vastly different circumstances, if you have lost Walmart, you have lost the country.

On gay rights, conservatives just lost Wal-Mart.

The adults on the right (there are some) understand that they are out of step with the mainstream, which is why they’d just as soon call a truce in the so-called “culture wars.” The fanatical, id-driven children on the right (there are far too many) would rather drive the GOP off a cliff than concede. Somebody needs to sit them down and explain that when you have taken an execrable stand and been repudiated for it as decisively as the right has been, you only have two options: Change your stand, or shut your mouth.

At this point, either one will do.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Photo: The Searcher via Flickr

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


We need a map out of the nightmare of consumerism

2015 April 16
by chief

From Transition Voice.

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One of the most harrowing challenges of modern American life is navigating through the massive desert of our mindless, materialistic consumerism. It is within this landscape that a soul can become lost and drenched in despair.

From the endless stream of vacant-eyed wraiths who glide down catwalks, to the pervasive advertising that never ceases to demean the values of empathy and compassion and hollow out any meaning associated with human connection, to the entertainment industry which revels in the depths of cruelty it can sink to, the onslaught on the psyche is both constant and merciless.

Seductions subtle and not

The American shopping mall is a reflection of this nightmare of ravenous cupidity and a message of stark disenfranchisement to the ever growing underclass.

Its glossy finishes and plastic displays erect a wall of defense against anything remotely human or sacred. It entices the youngest of our society with the promise of fulfillment and social status through the acquisition of objects, the alteration of their faces and bodies, and the tacit abandonment of any connection with the natural world and all the beings that inhabit it. Concrete and glass monoliths of corporatism drive home the deepest sense of alienation and desolation by design.

It is a fantasy land of the cruelest fakery, replacing the lively, chaotic and thoroughly interactive marketplace with the impersonal, the absurd, and the surreal. Exported around the world to some of the most impoverished nations on the planet, it is a unique, exclusionary and effective form of imperialism.

The Big Box stores, in contrast, make no pretense to that kind of romanticism.

They sit shamelessly on seas of pavement in wetlands, lush meadows or downed forests, scraped and drained clean of their original life and inhabitants. They are a reflection of what America has become; a stark and depersonalized vision of depravity within the setting of a dying ecosystem. Their plastic and glossy objects fill giant bins as they fill our oceans and river systems. Their clothing racks conceal the stain of sweat shop slavery.

Big Box stores exude the callousness of a factory farm, encouraging and cheering on aggression, prodding livestock into its maw of spiraled decadence. This is the architecture of banal cruelty and indifference.

Explains all those vampires

Understanding this landscape it should not come as a surprise that stories about vampires and zombies dominate popular entertainment today. Horror themes perfectly mimic the corporate capitalist economic model which glamorizes and celebrates the ghoulish and the macabre, while it rapaciously feeds upon the most vulnerable and powerless members of society for profit.

The monsters in these tales are almost always fascinating, beautiful or so powerful as to be envied, while their victims are generally bereft of any identity at all. And this is exactly the way the wealthy elite want ordinary people to think of themselves. This ideology may contribute to the emergence of the mass-shooter phenomenon, but it also underlies the mass acceptance of the police-state model which relies on the violence of the state to reinforce the boundaries of class, and to bolster the mythology of the superiority of the powerful and wealthy.

The map out of this nightmare is often masked by the empty promises of having more stuff, altering one’s outer appearance or conforming to socially acceptable shallowness. Advertising, social media and the political class, which sanctify the zombification of modern society, demand we attune and respond to their dictates and Siren song, lest we be banished from the corporate kingdom.

The courage to awake

Of course, exclusion is terrifying to the elite and serf alike. We have been trained to avert our eyes from the homeless, the working poor and the far-flung slaves of our insatiable consuming. But if we dare look, we might see our collective future. We might see exactly how our separateness is a grand deceit, a scam. And in doing so we might indeed shun otherness for the embrace of actual human beings. Free, humanistic or revolutionary thought cannot be tolerated in a corporatocracy where denial, jingoism and conformity are embedded in the liturgy.

Now, we are coming to the end of the illusion, for better and for worse, sooner rather than later. The planet’s ecosystems are wailing from the misery our way of life has inflicted upon human and non-human life alike. Ecosystems are dying. And the humanity that has been enslaved to continue this insanity are beginning to recognize their chains. Mass extinction is fast closing in on us.

All of us will be forced to face this reality whether we want to or not. An industrial, consumerist society, based upon an endless growth economic model on a planet with finite resources, is impossible to sustain. It will eventually collapse.

If there is map out of the cemetery that we have long dug for countless species by our selfish indulgences and out of the wreckage of civilization, that irony of all ironies, it may very well lie in the chance, however remote, that some of us will emerge from the ruins long enough to tell a different story of who we are. Perhaps we will have enough time to honor all that we had and mourn all that was lost. And perhaps future generations, if there are any who survive, will not hate us too much for the brutality we tolerated and the ecocide we caused.

Perhaps.

Read more of his work at Kenn Orphan’s blog.

– Kenn Orphan, Transition Voice

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Religious Freedom Law Endangered The Health of a Georgia Woman

2015 April 15
by chief

From Politicus USA.

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There was, and maybe still is, some interest by a few Americans over the rash of so-called ‘religious freedom’ laws sweeping the nation after Indiana garnered national attention for its legalization of discrimination against gays and lesbians. Throughout the brief but intense controversy (Americans suffer short attention spans) over the evangelical edict, few if any Americans paid attention to pundits and commentary that laws like Indiana’s will adversely affect women more than the gay community; likely because Americans have even less concern about the rights of women than they do gays. Indiana’s law, like every other state religious freedom statute, has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with imposing evangelical rules on the rest of the population.  This week a story in Georgia illustrates just how dangerous religious tyranny posing as religious freedom can be to the health of women.

In Milledgeville Georgia, a young woman looking forward to an addition to her family received some incredibly devastating news after a visit to her doctor; she had suffered a miscarriage after only six weeks of pregnancy. According to the woman, Brittany Cartrett, she had a tough decision to make whether to undergo an invasive surgical procedure known as a dilation and curettage (D&C or ‘rape and scrape’), risk a life-threatening infection, or choose an alternative treatment. In a D&C the patient is put under either general anesthetic or given an epidural and then the doctor dilates the cervix and inserts a special instrument (speculum) to scrape the uterine lining to remove tissue to prevent a dangerous infection. No matter how one looks at a D&C, it is an invasive surgical procedure that in Cartrett’s case was not the only or best option for her according to her treating physician.

With her doctor, Cartrett  “made the decision to not do a D&C and to get a medicine instead. So he said I’m going to give you this medicine, you’ll take it, and it will help you to pass naturally so that you don’t have to go the more invasive route.” Sounds reasonable under the circumstances and not only did Cartrett not have to undergo the invasive surgical procedure and deal with the risk of bleeding, the financial cost was substantially less. So the doctor did what doctors do and phoned the Milledgeville Walmart pharmacy to fill the prescription for Cartrett. However, he was told that despite his valid license to practice medicine in Georgia, they would not honor his medical opinion and treatment and did not give a reason why they overruled his choice of medical treatment. The particular drug was Misoprostol which can also be used to induce abortions at an early stage in a pregnancy, but is regularly prescribed as an alternative to a D&C.

Subsequently, Cartrett said the doctor eventually found another pharmacy that acknowledged his medical expertise and would fill the prescription. Cartrett said, “I had to go up there to get another prescription anyway, so when I went up there she (the pharmacist) asked if I had any questions about this prescription. I said no I don’t, but I do have a question about the other one. She looks at my name and says ‘oh, I can’t think of a valid reason why you need this prescription‘.” One would think that a licensed physician phoning in a prescription was reason enough, but according to a Walmart pharmacist who was aware of the situation said that in Georgia, pharmacists “have the ability to turn down prescriptions at their own discretion.”

According to a Mercer University Law Professor, Zac Buck, there has been a religious freedom (conscience clause) law in Georgia for about 15 years that give pharmacists’ personal religious beliefs supremacy over licensed physicians and the professional right to overrule the doctor and “turn down prescriptions” they believe are wrong for the patient without knowledge of the patient’s situation or medical history; religious people are apparently all-knowing according to Georgia law.  A spokesman at Walmart’s corporate office, Brian Nick, said that “Our pharmacists fill prescriptions on a case by case basis every day in our stores throughout the country. We encourage them to exercise their professional judgment in doing so.” Translation; professional judgment is code for religion trumps a physician’s training making the evangelical pharmacist the arbiter of what constitutes necessary medical treatment.

Cartrett said the experience was “very frustrating because who is the pharmacist to make that decision? I’m not going to see that pharmacist, I’m going to see a doctor and if its due to the conscience clause I think it’s called; what other decisions are they making based on our health and our needs by not giving a prescription to someone who needs it?” Cartrett related that since posting her experience on social media she had several people “message her who were in similar situations who had to go to many, up to five, different pharmacies before they could get their medications.” These situations are not unique to Georgia, and with more stringent conscience clause (religious freedom) laws making their way through 23 Republican state legislatures, there will be more stories like Cartrett’s and certainly many will have deadly consequences.

This is just one example of why religious freedom laws are not about a person’s right to worship without government interference; they are about religious tyranny to control the lives, and in Cartrett’s situation her health, of all Americans. In this particular scenario it was about several evangelicals deciding what medication a physician is allowed to prescribe regardless the reason for the prescription. It is also a portent of what the rash of ‘religious freedom‘ laws making their way through 23 different states will mean for millions of Americans; subjection to the will of any number of evangelical service providers from pharmacists to physicians to emergency room staff to first responders to nurses to school personnel.

One hates belaboring a point, but it is noteworthy that none of the so-called ‘religious freedom’ bills making their way through Republican state legislatures ever mention the words discrimination or gay, but they all give free rein to evangelicals to refuse service to anyone on the basis of religion. The religious freedom laws are the ultimate ‘conscience clause‘ edicts that give anyone, whether they are members of a religion or not, legal cover to impose their will on other citizens if they claim their personal beliefs inform their actions; sadly the Papal-5 on the Supreme Court legalized this new form of religious tyranny.

Americans have not yet seen the scope or consequences of ‘religious freedom‘ evangelicals are going to impose on this nation, but they damn sure can rest assured that every American will be impacted at some point in the near future. It is due, in great part, to both apathy in the face of impending theocracy and the abject fear of Americans to condemn what very few citizens still believe will never happen in America; theocratic tyranny under the guise of religious freedom.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Transit Proposals In Congress Threaten Projects, Jobs, Critics Say

2015 April 15
by chief

From National Memo.

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

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WASHINGTON — Rail and bus systems across the country could lose nearly half their funding under two proposals in Congress to end federal grants for transit projects.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Representatives Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, also could affect more than 750 companies in 39 states that produce rail and bus transit components, including manufacturers in those two states.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, eliminating federal transit funding would put 66 projects at risk. They include light rail and streetcar projects in Charlotte, N.C.; commuter rail in Fort Worth, Texas; and bus rapid transit in Fresno, California.

Transit advocates are pushing lawmakers to continue federal funding for these projects as part of a long-term transportation bill Congress needs to pass this year.

The American Public Transportation Association reported last month that public transit ridership hit 10.8 billion trips last year, the largest in nearly six decades. The group projects that the Sanford and Massie bills would result in a 43 percent reduction in transit systems’ capital funds.

While some conservatives oppose federal funding for transit because of the perception that it benefits only urban areas, Michael Melaniphy, the American Public Transportation Association’s president and CEO, said that rural areas depend on transit systems and transit manufacturing jobs.

“Without federal investment, there will be negative impacts in towns small and large,” he said.

One of those towns could be Mount Pleasant, S.C., in Sanford’s district, where Hubner, a German company, announced plans in December to expand its manufacturing plant, adding 50 jobs. The plant builds parts for commuter trains, light rail vehicles, and buses.

Proterra Inc., an electric bus manufacturer in Greenville, S.C., has supplied buses to transit systems in Seattle; Worcester, Mass.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville’s system ordered five Proterra buses in February after receiving a $3.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Kentucky also has companies that supply transit systems. Invensys Rail, a subsidiary of Siemens, a German multinational conglomerate, builds signal systems for commuter rail and transit systems and employs more than 500 people in the state.

Since the Reagan administration, 20 percent of the federal Highway Trust Fund has been dedicated to mass transit, or about ten billion dollars a year.

In recent years, however, the highway fund has not been able to cover the cost of annual transportation spending because it relies on a per-gallon federal gasoline tax that Congress hasn’t changed since the Clinton administration.

Rather than raise the tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents a gallon on diesel fuel, the Sanford and Massie bills would eliminate or phase out the transit funding and redirect it to highways. The Sanford bill would phase out the funds over five years.

“The bill removes mass transit from the trust fund over a five-year period in order to give mass transit systems time to find and develop dedicated funding sources,” Sanford said in a statement.

While the idea is popular in conservative circles, Sanford and Massie will not have the support of the Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which they’re members.

Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA), has publicly said he does not support ending federal support for transit. Nor does Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who’s testified on Capitol Hill recently in favor of more transit funding.
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AFFECTED PROJECTS

  • Charlotte, N.C. — CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar Phase 2; Blue Line light rail extension
  • Durham, N.C. — Durham-Orange LRT (light rail) project
  • Fort Worth, Texas — TEX Rail commuter rail
  • Sacramento, Calif. — Sacramento downtown riverfront streetcar
  • Fresno, Calif. — FAX (Fresno Area Express) Blackstone, Kings Canyon bus rapid transit
  • Tacoma, Wash. — Tacoma Link light rail expansion

Photo: Richard Gallagher via Flickr

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Bill Maher terrifies Bill O’Reilly: An athiest has the Fox News host running scared

2015 April 13
by chief

From Salon. Written by Jeffrey Taylor.

ancient-religions

Refuting the likes of Fox News’ popular talk-show host Bill O’Reilly and the razor-tongued television pundit and spewer-out of bestsellers Ann Coulter may seem pointless. They say the same things time and again to Fox’s mostly white, badly informed audience which is in danger of dying off; the median age of O’Reilly’s viewers is seventy-two. However, when it comes to religion, much of what they say reflects tacit anti-rationalist assumptions shared by far too many people from all walks of life – assumptions that must be challenged and refuted.

A case in point: on April 2, O’Reilly opened his show with a segment entitled “The War on Christianity Getting Even Worse.” In it, he provides a distressing video overview of recent terrorist attacks against and executions of Christians in Africa and Pakistan, and declares that “Christians are being slaughtered all over the place.” He segues to the United States, where “verbal attacks against Christians are the headline,” and “some far-left people . . . are smearing Americans who oppose things like abortion and gay marriage,” from which he concludes that “it is open season on Christians.”

The evidence? “Well-known religion hater” Bill Maher (shown calling religions “stupid and dangerous”) has a “free pass to bash people of faith,” with his “vicious behavior toward Christianity largely ignored in the press.”

O’Reilly presents results from an Associated Press – Gallup poll according to which 57 percent of Americans favor letting “wedding-related businesses with religious objections” opt out of serving gay marriages, as well as a Public Religion Research Institute survey showing that 54 percent of Americans believe their religious liberty is under threat. “Most Americans get” what’s going on, he says. Nevertheless, “secular progressives have succeeded in putting people of faith on the defensive,” with a prime example of this being the pizzeria in Walkerton, Indiana, which, in a report aired by a local television channel, declared it would refuse to bake pizzas for a gay wedding.

(The shop’s owner added that “We’re not discriminating against anyone. It’s just that’s our belief, and everybody has the right to believe anything.” Her internally inconsistent statement went unchallenged by the reporter.)

O’Reilly informs us that “all hell descended on the store, as secular zealots threatened all kinds of things.” He then flashes a clip of Newt Gingrich denouncing “lynch mobs.” (No “lynch mobs” besieged the pizzeria, which, following its homophobic proclamation, managed to rake in donations of more than $50,000 from supporters. O’Reilly omits mentioning this.) Who’s to blame for the mounting perils Christianity faces in America? Religious leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, for failing to “push back” against the secular onslaught.

It hardly takes a journalistic sleuth to ferret out the simultaneously ludicrous and lamentable false equivalency that O’Reilly has drawn here between the horrific, all-too-real massacres of Christians underway in countries afflicted with terrorism abroad, and the barbs, criticisms, and, yes, insults about religion coming from some vocal atheists, including Maher, in the United States. The death toll from the former stands in the hundreds; from the latter: zero. I’m unaware of a single atheist who, motivated by his or her nonbelief, has called for or committed acts of violence against Christians anywhere, at any time. Obviously, nonbelievers possess no “sacred text” with which they could justify harming anyone, let alone people of faith. (NB to those who will take to the comments section and rant about Stalin and Mao. Murderous dictators both, they ordered their atrocities not on account of their atheism, but to “defend the revolution” and secure their power.)

But facts rarely hinder O’Reilly. To deepen his audience’s (mis)understanding of the (non-existent) war on Christianity, he then turns to Ann Coulter. As one might expect, Coulter blames the liberal media and progressives for “hating on” the Christians.

“It’s Christianity that the Left hates most of all,” she says, “because that is the foundation of our country . . . and all of our freedoms come from that, freedom of association, freedom of speech.” In this, “the most consequential nation on earth,” she says, Christians would prefer to change “the bedpans of Ebola patients in Nigeria rather than stand up to the New York Times and stand up against abortion and fight against these bullies.” The dastardly liberals and their media are trying to “tear down the heart of this country by going directly at the heart of America, which is Christianity.”

Where to start here? Nigeria suffered only a handful of Ebola cases and has been free of the hemorrhagic fever for almost six months now; the worst-hit countries have been to its west. Religion as the source of free speech? The three Abrahamic faiths, with their “revealed” truths against which “blasphemy” (that is, any behavior supposedly disrespectful of God) is forbidden (and punishable by death in the Bible), have historically fought against free speech, the most lethal opponent of their bizarre, improbable doctrines. Few need reminding that the Vatican formalized the suppression of free speech with its infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), which included the works of the Enlightenment’s key luminaries and many other intellectual giants, and which was abolished only in 1966.

And Christianity as the “foundation of our country?” Coulter, formerly a constitutional lawyer, could knowingly pronounce such a monstrous untruth only to mislead further the already historically illiterate – that is, Fox’s audience, dumbed-down by watching shows such as O’Reilly’s and taking them seriously. That Christian zealots initiated the mass European migration to North America no one disputes. They did not, however, found the country; the secularist Founding Fathers, who mostly regarded religion with deep suspicion, did. Check no further than Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” and, obviously, the Constitution’s First Amendment (which protects free speech from faith by forbidding Congress from establishing a state religion), as well as the more obscure Article VI, which declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” If Christianity really were the “foundation of our country,” by Coulter’s logic the Founding Fathers would have included an amendment making Bible study mandatory for all aspirants to public office.

O’Reilly then asks Coulter how it is that the 80 percent of Americans who consider themselves Christians “are getting thumped, they’re losing . . . . How did that happen?”

For Coulter, the answer lies in pusillanimous Christian leaders (abetted by spineless Republicans). Their cowardice is, she says, “ridiculous,” because “the one thing every Christian should have is courage. The most important thing in your life, eternity, is already taken care of. Go out and fight. You’re afraid of being sneered at by the New York Times?”

The two banter for a couple of minutes more, during which O’Reilly complains about the lack of Catholic clerics willing “to put themselves out to defend the Christian faith” (something Coulter disputes) while “all these pressure groups” (lobbies for gay, reproductive, and abortion rights) are striving to undermine it. Coulter incriminates the media again. “The ad hominem attacks thrown at Christians in this country” are mostly charges of racism and homophobia, she says, before calling on her fellows in faith to “be courageous and fight for the most consequential nation on earth.” Finis.

All in all, rationalists should applaud O’Reilly and Coulter for having the courage to so boldly air their mendacity, mischaracterizations, and lopsided analogies, which are in fact illuminating. Namely, they both argue from a premise so widely accepted that they leave it unstated: that those who believe, without proof, fantastical, far-reaching propositions about the nature of our cosmos and how we should live our lives have nothing to explain, nothing to account for, while those of us who value convictions based on evidence, reasoned solutions, and rules for living deriving from consensus must ceaselessly justify ourselves and genuflect apologetically for voicing disagreement.

Beneath this unstated premise lies another more insidious notion: that there are two kinds of truth – religious and otherwise. That, say, the assertion that God created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh might not be literally true, but it merits respect as “religious truth” (or, as Reza Aslan puts it, “sacred history”), as a metaphor for some ethereal verity, one so transcendental that boneheaded rationalists obsessed with superfluities like evidence cannot grasp it.

This is sophistry of the most contemptible variety. By such unscrupulous subterfuge the faithful (and their apologists) commit treason against reason, betray honest discourse, and hope to render their (preposterous) dogmas immune to disproof and open to limitless interpretation, depending on their needs of the moment. Either an objective proposition (say, that Jesus was the son of God, or that the Prophet Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse) is true or it is untrue. It cannot be whatever the one advancing it says it is; much less, true for some, but not for others.

O’Reilly himself clings to this New-Age idea that we all have a right to our personal, customized truths. In his 2006 interview with Richard Dawkins, O’Reilly admits that he’s “not positive that Jesus was God,” but he’s “throwin’ in with Jesus, rather than throwin’ in with you guys [atheists], because you guys can’t tell me how it all got here.” A minute or so later, he announces that he’s “stickin’ with Judeo-Christian philosophy and my religion, Roman Catholicism, because it helps me as a person.”

That doesn’t mean it’s true, replies Dawkins.

“Well, it’s true for me,” says O’Reilly. “See, I believe it.”

“You mean true for you is different from true for anybody else? . . . Something’s either got to be true or not.”

O’Reilly’s “reasoning” would fail to pass muster in a nursery-school yard, yet he presents it shamelessly to an adult audience on national television. He knows most people tend to avoid outright expression of disbelief (and certainly suppress belly laughs) when others begin disclosing their religious beliefs.

Such timidity must stop.

Let me be clear: I’m not denying anyone’s (constitutionally protected) right to profess or practice his or her religion. (Nor am I denying the magnificent literary, artistic, and musical heritage religion has inspired.) What I am contesting is the hushed silence with which many nonbelievers respond to the faith-tainted eructations of the religious, who enjoy undeserved exemptions from ground rules we observe for all other kinds of discourse. If someone were to claim he was Napoleon Bonaparte, we would either assume he was joking, or, if not, dial the insane asylum and request urgent outpatient service. What we would not do is simply nod in assent and move on to another topic. “This is just my religion and I believe in it!” is a frequently stated position, but it offers no valid argument of any kind, and we should give no one a pass on the basis of it.

Why not? Our silence when confronted by religious nonsensicalities (especially in front of children) only helps foster their continuation, and does great damage to our politics. Though atheism is spreading, with a third of all Americans under thirty professing no religious affiliation, eight out of ten do call themselves Christians; what a sizable majority, even a shrinking one, believes has to matter to us all. The very issues Coulter and O’Reilly cite (gay marriage and abortion) would not even be controversial were it not for the malign influence faith has on politics. Examine the intractable problems in our society – and the world as a whole – and you will espy the ghastly gargoyle of religion rearing its misshapen head behind many, if not most, of them. In view of this, speaking out against religion becomes a moral obligation.

That O’Reilly’s faith helps him feel good has no bearing on its truth and certainly cannot stand as an argument in its favor. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw summed it up memorably: “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.”

Consolations based on a false religious premise pose their own problem: what happens when they are exposed as unfounded? The believer, having never matured, having never really advanced beyond the childhood realm of wishful thinking, is suddenly rendered defenseless before the challenges — the terrors, even — of mortal life.

What really flabbergasts O’Reilly and Coulter is that nonbelievers are no longer keeping mum about the rank stupidity embodied in Christianity. A virgin birth? A rib-cum-woman? A man walking on water? The vicarious redemption of “sin” through a cruel and unusual act of human sacrifice? All these fantasticalities offend thinking, sane individuals. No one should expect us to accept the truth of such fantasticalities or to allow dogma arising from them to determine discourse on how we live, which laws pass, and whom we marry, without fierce resistance.

The one thing both O’Reilly and Coulter do get right is that there is a war going on, but it’s not between hapless Christians and “vicious” atheists. It is between rationalists who seek to live in ways they reason to be best, and the faithful cleaving to fatuous fables and Paleolithic preachments inscribed in ancient books that should be pulped, or at best preserved as exhibits for future students majoring in anthropology, with minors in mental derangement.

O’Reilly and Coulter, we who care about doing all we can to make this life better for humanity will continue to speak up against the unreason you propagate.

The gloves are now off.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


The Worst Five Climate Change Truthers In Congress

2015 April 13

From National Memo. Written by Henry Decker.

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Although scientists overwhelmingly agree that human activity has caused the climate to rapidly warm over the past century, the majority of congressional Republicans flatly deny the facts.

Here are five of the most notable climate truthers in the 114th Congress:

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Rep. Smith, a 14-term Republican from Texas, currently serves as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He is also an outspoken climate change truther who seems to believe that scientists and the liberal media are teaming up to mislead Americans about the threat. In November, Smith shrugged off a frightening United Nations report on climate change as “clearly biased,” before acknowledging that he didn’t actually read it.

Despite not having faced a competitive election in nearly two decades, Smith has raised more than $600,000 from the oil and gas industry throughout his career — including $112,050 in the last election cycle alone.

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)
Rep. Weber, chairman of the House Subcommitee on Energy, is a relative newcomer to Congress; he was elected to succeed Rep. Ron Paul in 2012. But he’s quickly become known for his strident refusal to accept the facts on climate change. Most notably, Weber attempted to ridicule White House science advisor John Holdren during a hearing last March, and ended up making a fool of himself.

Weber — who, ironically, owns an air conditioning company — is a favorite of the oil and gas industry; it donated $87,250 to him in the last election cycle, nearly double the total he raised from any other industry.

Shell Oil Shill Gardner

Courtesy www.gardnerpath.com

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Senator Cory Gardner moved up from the House in 2014, when he defeated environmentalist Democrat Mark Udall in a significant upset. Along the way, he refused to answer questions about climate change — a strategy that actually represented a minor step forward from his previous insistence that “I don’t believe humans are causing that change.”

Gardner currently sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — which helps to explain why the oil and gas industry contributed $658,049 to his campaign, second to only Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) among House members.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe is one of the world’s most outspoken climate change deniers. During his tenure in Congress, Inhofe has described global warming as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” compared Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, insisted that climate change is impossible because “God’s still up there,” and attempted to disprove the scientific consensus with a snowball, among other incidents.

Unsurprisingly, Inhofe is also beloved by the oil and gas industry; it contributed $576,250 to him in 2014, and nearly $2 million throughout his career — easily the highest total of any industry.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Senator Cruz chairs the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, which oversees NASA and the National Science Foundation, among other responsibilities.

This is very bad news for NASA and the National Science Foundation, given Cruz’s proud hostility to science. The newly minted presidential candidate is under the mistaken impression that global warming ceased in 1997, and that cold weather disproves climate change altogether. He also appears to believe that his ignorance on the topic makes him a modern-day Galileo.

Over Cruz’s brief four-year career as a federal candidate, he has raised a whopping $1,086,368 from the oil and gas industry.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief