Independence Day Acrostic

July 4th, 2014

Out of many Equals, one more perfect union.

Out of many Peoples, one nation conceived in liberty.
Out of many Labors, one shared prosperity.
Out of many Urgencies, one fear, of fear itself.
Out of many Rights, one government of, by and for the people to secure them.
Out of many Individuals, one we the people.
Out of many Beauties, one brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
Out of many Unknowns, one first obligation to the truth.
Out of many Strivings, one equal protection of the laws.

Out of many United Nations, one world with freedom of speech, of worship, from want and from fear.
Out of many Needs, one purpose to promote the general welfare.
Out of many Undertakings, one purpose to secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity.
Out of many Movements, one long arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.


Note: An acrostic is a line-by-line piece of writing where the first letter, or other certain letter, in each line forms a message when read from the top - down. In the above piece, read down through the first (boldfaced) letters after "Out of many " to see the message.


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Payback: A Model Bill for ALEC

May 6th, 2014

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a shadow legislature that has given us many lousy laws. Populated by corporate agents and Republican office-holders, ALEC passes "model bills," which its lawmaker members take to their statehouses and push into law. In 2011, news journals dragged ALEC into the light, and later pinned it as the source of the "shoot first" law that helped the killer walk in the Trayvon Martin case. With the bad press, ALEC began losing membership, and disbanded its gun proliferation and voter suppression committee. But, ALEC still drives its evident core mission to shackle democracy, and to unleash big money and mega-corporations, with such laws as those:
Today, ALEC fights against clean energy with its current package of model bills:

For all the lousy model bills-come-law that ALEC has given us, and for those it still seeks to give us, let's give a really good model bill to ALEC. Our model bill does not need a shadow legislature. Like many of its kind, it was written and passed by a real legislature during the "Progressive Era" of the early 20th century. Our model bill does not need the input of corporate agents. It serves only the public interest, and recognizes the profit-taking corporation as a special and powerful corrupting influence on government. In fact, our model bill bans corporations and their agents, outside of narrowly defined and well-lit lobbying channels, from any try at swaying public policy. Under its terms, corporate agents voting in a shadow legislature would face prison time, and the corporation that sent them could face dissolution. From the Wisconsin law book of 1919 -- here is a model bill for ALEC:

No corporation doing business in this state shall pay or contribute, or offer consent or agree to pay or contribute, directly or indirectly, any money, property, free service of its officers or employees or thing of value to any political party, organization, committee or individual for any political purpose whatsoever, or for the purpose of influencing legislation of any kind, or to promote or defeat the candidacy of any person for nomination, appointment or election to any political office.

Penalty: Any officer, employe, agent or attorney or other representative of any corporation, acting for and in behalf of such corporation, who shall violate [this act] shall be punished upon conviction by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of not less than one nor more than five years, or by both ... and if the corporation shall be subject to a penalty then by forfeiture in double the amount of any fine so imposed ... and if a domestic corporation, it may be dissolved, ... and if a foreign or nonresident corporation, its right to do business in this state may be declared forfeited.


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It’s Axiomatic — A Free Press Needs Net Neutrality

March 9th, 2014

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. (Washington, D.C.) (public domain)
Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. A.J. Liebling minted that axiom in the New Yorker magazine in 1960. Later that decade, researchers began work on creating packet-switching networks, and a U.S. government project created a network of networks called ARPANET, the forerunner to the Internet. And with the rise of the Internet came the fall of that axiom. Today news organizations, as well as individual persons, can freely publish, without an expensive printing press, to a wide audience.

All bits are created equal. That axiom sums up the rule of net neutrality -- that the Internet moves data packets from end to end, blind to their content, and without bias to their origin and destination. That equality came naturally from the plain old telephone system that most persons once used to get on the Internet. Like the telegraph system that came before it, a telephone system is deemed a "common carrier," a public delivery service that treats all cargo -- phone call communications in this case -- equally. By law, the telephone company could not interfere with a phone call, whether dialing Mom or dialing-up one's ISP. The system heeded the rule of net neutrality, which gave us the open playing field for uncensored and inexpensive publishing, and the rapid rise of the Internet to become one of the greatest achievements of humankind.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Today, freedom of press and speech is threatened by the big telecommunications companies. No longer do most persons pick from one of many ISP's to dial-up. Now they must use the only available ISP -- the telecom that owns their DSL, cable or cellular network. And no longer are those telecoms classified "telecommunication services," which are common carriers. During the Bush II administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) instead classified those telecoms as "information services," which are not common carriers. The FCC at that time also issued openness principles that tend towards net neutrality. But in 2010 a federal court, in a case brought by Comcast, ruled against the FCC enforcing those principles for an "information service." So the FCC turned those principles into its Open Internet Order. But just this year a federal court, in Verizon vs. FCC," ruled against the FCC enforcing that order for an "information service." In court, Verizon claimed that it had "editorial discretion" over data that travels on its lines. With that claim, and with the known cases of big telecoms fiddling with data flow, we can foresee a rollback of press freedom, and the rise of an axiom like the old one -- "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own an Internet gateway."

Where there's a will, there's a way. That timeless axiom often runs up against another old one -- "Money talks." Right after the "Verizon vs. FCC" ruling, press and Internet freedom organizations began a campaign to reclassify the telecoms as common carriers. And two weeks later, they delivered a petition with a million signatures urging that to the FCC. But Michael Powell, who headed the FCC when it first freed big telecoms from common carrier responsibilities, and is now the head lobbyist for the telecoms, warned that such an act by the FCC would bring "World War III." And so the battle line is drawn: on one side the will of the masses of Internet users and news organizations, and on the other the big money of a few mega-corporations. So far, Chairman Tom Wheeler has said the FCC will not reclassify, and will pursue new (most likely weaker) rules. And while some Democrats favor making net neutrality the law of the land, such a bill would face a stonewall of virtually all Republicans.

If you want something done right, do it yourself. But the fight for press and Internet freedom goes beyond the FCC and Congress. One way to get around big telecom high prices, low speeds, and their plans to control the Internet, is to have your local government build its own network. Such publicly owned networks and ISP's now operate in cities such as Chattanooga; Bristol, Virginia; and Lafayette, Louisiana. Each of those cities' systems runs on fiber optic lines, offers 1Gbps speed, and serves residential, as well as business, customers. Those customers get much more speed and reliability for their dollar. And they get a connection with net neutrality -- the freedom to read and publish without interference.


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Two Huge New Fake Trade Agreements to Skirt, Stomp Democratic Sovereignty

December 30th, 2013
Corporoo Stomps Justice (Public Citizen)
During the "Progressive Era" of the early 20th century, many states passed laws – up to a complete ban with penalties against officers – to keep corporations from meddling in politics. Today, big corporations warp politics in ways that go beyond meddling. One way is corporate spending for elections. Another way is the legal bribery system of lobbying at political fundraisers and the revolving door between government and corporate lobbies or boardrooms. A third way is through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where corporate agents hand their ready-to-pass bills to Republican lawmakers. And a fourth way is through the "free trade agreement," which might better be called "fake trade agreement" (FTA), because it is less about trade than about skirting and stomping democratic sovereignty. Since NAFTA, the U.S. has signed on to twelve more FTA's, and is now driving talks to wrap up two huge new FTA's, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The way TAFTA and the TPP would skirt democratic sovereignty is by investor-state enforcement. That mechanism lets a foreign corporation skip a member country's courts and sue at an international tribunal for acts by the country's legislature or executive that might have hampered the corporation's planned profits. From such suits under U.S. FTA's, countries have so far paid corporations $400M, much of it for public health and other public interest policies. For instance, S.D. Myers, Inc., got $5.6M from Canada for its ban on exporting PCB's, which the company planned to treat in Ohio. The ban was to comply with the world-wide Basel Convention to control and reduce production of hazardous waste. Today, 15 claims for $14B, all leveled against public health and other public interest policies, are pending. For instance, Lone Pine Resources, Inc., wants $241M from Canada, for Quebec's moratorium on fracking, a gas drilling process that poisons and injects into the ground millions of gallons of water. Lone Pine had permits to frack on 30,000 acres directly beneath the St. Lawrence River. TAFTA and the TPP would offer investor-state enforcement to some 75,000 corporations, and surely bring many more such cases.

The way these two huge FTA's would stomp democratic sovereignty is by overriding certain current, or banning certain future laws. According to released corporate wish-lists and leaked secret documents, corporate agents seek to stuff these pacts with such goodies as:
  • a rollback of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial law limiting use of federally-insured funds for speculation (the Volcker Rule) (TAFTA-1),
  • a ban on keeping commercial and investment banking separate (like the Glass-Steagall Act did) (TAFTA-1 & TPP-1),
  • a ban on tougher regulations for too-big-to-fail foreign banks (TAFTA-1 & TPP-1),
  • a ban on a financial transaction tax (TAFTA-1),
  • rollbacks of food safety standards (U.S. corps want to push chlorinated chicken, muscle-enhancing drugs in pork, and more pesticide residue; European corps want to push more uncooked meat, less-than-grade A milk, and more tolerance for contaminated food.) (TAFTA-2),
  • a ban on legal fuel efficiency standards for cars (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on buy-green rules in government contracts (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on energy efficiency labels, like "Energy Star" (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on reporting greenhouse gas emissions during fuel production (Such reporting reflects badly on tar sands oil.) (TAFTA-3),
  • overriding car standards, such as for tailpipe emissions, with those made by treaty negotiators (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on including hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in greenhouse gas limits (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on requiring airlines to pay for their carbon emissions (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on tax credits for more climate-friendly fuels (TAFTA-3),
  • a ban on limiting GMO seeds and cultivation, and on labeling GMO products, until actually proven harmful (TAFTA-4),
  • a ban on buy-local rules for governments (TAFTA-5 & TPP-3),
  • a limit on governments negotiating lower drug prices for their health care programs (TAFTA-5),
  • a lowering of patentability standards for medicines, and for surgical and treatment methods (TPP-4),
  • a extension of copyright limits, such as out to 120 years after creation for corporate owned works (TPP-2),
  • a rollback of fair use of copyrighted material for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research (TPP-2), and
  • a mandate that ISP's become copyright enforcers that cut off Internet access (TPP-2).
While the Obama administration does not support all of the corporate goodies, it does reportedly support and insist on many of them, and is pushing for rapid conclusion to these treaties. Resistance has come from Congress, as 151 Democratic and 23 Republican congressmen have signed letters against re-instating the fast-track rule, which would enable ramming-through these FTA's without Congressional debate. And steady resistance comes from freedom and public interest organizations such as Public Citizen, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Progressive Democrats of America.


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Another Global Warming Day

December 22nd, 2013

The Vermilion River (Ohio) 2013-12-22
One day past the Winter Solstice, after 34 hours of rain melted last week's half-foot of snow, the flooding Vermilion River rushes on its winding way to Lake Erie. This seems to be another global warming-type day -- heavy rain, instead of snow at solstice time. Now, I understand that you can't for sure peg any one unusual weather event to global warming. It's the overall increase in number and severity of such events that you can, with certainty, peg to global warming. 300 years ago, before the Industrial Revolution and the keeping of weather records, who can say a very rainy solstice did not occur? And, by the same token, if the Industrial Revolution had never occurred, or if 20 years ago we had begun to steeply ramp down fossil fuel burning, who can say we would not have a flooding river today? But, leaving aside conjecture, the truth is that every day is a global warming day -- because that is the world we live in. And every weather event is a product of our warmer and still-warming planet, as it ruthlessly seeks a new balance.

The Vermilion River rushes and winds on to Lake Erie, 2013-12-22

The Vermilion River over its banks, 2013-12-22


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