Ashley Curtin

News Report

Spawning from the Worldwide Wave of Action comes a new campaign for the 99 percent. A movement aimed at concrete radical reform, the Green Rush is promoting a new economy by and for the 99 percent through monetary reform and marijuana legalization. As they “plant the seeds for a new economy,” the campaign is calling for Occupy organizers to begin organizing around specific needs.According to Occupy.com, the Green Rush calls for “nationalization of the Federal Reserve through the National Emergency Employment Defence Act (NEED)”—a bill initially proposed by Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Congressman, to make the Federal Reserve fall under the U.S. Treasury—along with the legalization of marijuana in New York. Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:  Founded by Harrison Tesoura Schultz and Lorna Shannon, dedicated anarchist activists, the Green Rush’s objective is to build a grassroots movement into a full-fledged political movement aimed to increase congressional support of the NEED Act, which sits stagnant, according to their website, Just Activism. The NEED Act is the official monetary plank of the Green Party, who also support the push to legalize medical and recreational cannabis and industrial hemp as revealed in the People’s First Grassroots Conference on Monetary Policy, which took place in Washington D.C. in March, according to Occupy.com. The goal of Green Rush is to bridge the gap and “welcome politicians and candidates who share [their] values and invite them into the Green Rush coalition.”“This coalition is building and it will continue to define the links between the Green Rush and the Green Party as we force politicians and their bankrollers to talk about ...

Sen. Manchin Defends Law Firm Accused of Concealing Black Lung Medical Evidence
Lee Fang
News Report

Only one day after the Center for Public Integrity’s reporting series on denials of black lung benefits to coal miners was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) defended the controversial law firm at the center of the investigation.As he stepped to the podium of the National Western Mining Convention in Denver on Tuesday, Manchin heaped praise upon Jackson Kelly, a sponsor of the event and the law firm implicated in unethically concealing medical evidence of miners dying of black lung. Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:  “I want to thank my dear friends at Jackson Kelly,” exclaimed the senator. In his remarks, Manchin also noted that his former staffer, Kelly Goes, is now an employee of the firm.In a brief interview with Republic Report after his speech, Manchin was asked about Jackson Kelly’s conduct regarding black lung cases. He brushed aside criticism of the firm.The Center for Public Integrity story revealed that Jackson Kelly has systemically denied coal miner black lung benefit claims by withholding unfavorable evidence and shaping the opinions of doctors called upon in court. CFPI Reporter Chris Hamby’s investigation “suggests that there has been a pattern and practice by lawyers at the Jackson Kelly law firm which has compromised the integrity of the black lung benefits program and potentially tainted numerous decisions adversely affecting coal miners and their survivors,” wrote ...

Jim Hightower
Op-Ed

My guess is that Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s highly touted budget guru, doesn’t have a very tight grip on the concept of irony.Otherwise, why would he choose April Fools’ Day to release the latest version of what the GOP intends to do to federal programs (and to the people who count on them) if it takes total control of Congress? But there he was on April 1, declaring with a straight face that, “We [Republicans] believe that we owe it to the country to offer an alternative to the status quo. It’s just that simple.”Sure it’s simple. He just Xeroxes the same stale budgetary flimflams that he always puts out, even though the public keeps upchucking at the sight of them. Ryan’s “alternative” to the status quo is taking Americans back to the harsh days before there were any programs to help unemployed, elderly, sick, and other people in need.Ryan envisions turning Medicare into a privatized “WeDon’tCare” program. He wants to outright pull the plug on the new health care law that just extended coverage to millions of people, replacing it with, uh, nothing.The Wisconsin Republican’s budget scheme also slashes job training, education, infrastructure repairs, medical research, public broadcasting, the arts, and pretty much anything else that regular people need.Still, he claims that he’s “helping” — in an ideological, Republicany way. For example, Ryan explains that whacking food stamps “empowers recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payrolls.” Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:  What payrolls, you ask? That’s not my problem, says the guy drawing $174,000 a year and a gold package of benefits from the government he pretends to despise.

Monsanto and Big Food Losing the GMO and ‘Natural’ Food Fight
Ronnie Cummins
Op-Ed

After 20 years of battling Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, food and farm activists in Vermont, backed by a growing Movement across the country, are on the verge of a monumental victory—mandatory labels on genetically engineered foods and a ban on the routine industry practice of labeling GMO-tainted foods as “natural.” On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed H.112 by a vote of 28-2, following up on the passage of a similar bill in the Vermont House last year. The legislation, which requires all GMO foods sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016, will now pass through a House/Senate conference committee before landing on Governor Peter Shumlin’s desk, for final approval. Strictly speaking, Vermont’s H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law. Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically [engineered, and deceptively labeled as “natural” or “all natural”;] while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets. As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."Proof of this “skull and crossbones” effect is evident in the European Union, where mandatory labeling, in effect since 1997, has all but driven genetically engineered foods and crops off the market. The only significant remaining GMOs in Europe today are imported grains (corn, soy, canola, cotton seed) primarily from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. These grains are used for animal feed, hidden from public view by the fact that meat, dairy and eggs derived from animals fed GMOs do not yet have to be labeled in the EU.Given the imminent passage of the Vermont legislation and the growing strength of America’s anti-GMO and pro-organic Movement, the Gene Giants—Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta—and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), representing Big Food, find themselves in a difficult position. Early polls indicate that Oregon voters will likely pass a ballot initiative on Nov. 4, 2014, to require mandatory labeling of GMOs in Oregon. Meanwhile, momentum for labeling continues to gather speed in other states as well. Connecticut and Maine have already passed GMO labeling laws, but these laws contain “trigger” clauses, which prevent them from going into effect until other states mandate labeling as well. Vermont’s law does not contain a “trigger” clause. As soon as the governor signs it, it will have the force of law.Divisions Between Big Food and the Gene Giants

Rob Hager
Op-Ed

Gov. Deval Patrick said in a radio interview on April 15, 2014: “I respect the authority of the Supreme Court to make those decisions,” like McCutcheon.  I write the Governor to clarify his position, and to express opposition to this statement.To “respect” authority in the abuse of its power is to align oneself with and further enable that same abuse.  Experience shows that contesting that authority, especially in the case of the Supreme Court, has the effect of curbing it.Converting a democracy into a plutocracy is a task of constitutional dimensions.  If the Governor does sincerely believe that the Roberts Court legitimately has the power to amend the Constitution for this purpose, I would like to have him point out to me where precisely the Constitution gives that power to five unelected judges?  Article V seems to have a different, much more difficult, process in mind, involving a 2/3 vote of each house of Congress, and then ratification by ¾ of the states.  The elected representatives of both Congress and the states, through their legislative acts, give no sign of agreeing with five judges on the Supreme Court about the constitutional importance of keeping big money out of politics.If the Governor disagrees that the five judges who constitute the Roberts Court have amended the Constitution, over the opposition of the other four judges on the Court, then I would like to have him point out precisely where in the Constitution it says that Congress (and therefore the People) lack the constitutional authority, as the Court ruled in McCutcheon, to prohibit the purchase of influence from, and the resulting systemic corruption of government by, political parties.  There can be no other result from large biennial contributions to parties, and their candidates, of an aggregate amount as high as $3.6 million per plutocrat, as the Solicitor General pointed out in arguing McCutcheon.  Governor Patrick did protest that “I don't think that is what the founders had in mind, I don't think that that is what most Americans have in mind in terms of a healthy democracy, and I don't like the decisions of the Supreme Court.”  Those who wrote the Constitution in fact disliked political parties.  The framers gave parties no rights in the Constitution for the very reason that they anticipated that parties would be used for this very purpose of corruption that McCutcheon has now ruled to be legalized by their Constitution.  Want more? Enter your email for weekly updates:  If not in the contemplation of the founders who wrote the Constitution, nor of the American people, nor of the legislatures and chief executives who enacted and signed the laws repeatedly overthrown by the Roberts 5, nor of prominent representative of the legal profession such as the Governor, then where does the Court get the authority that the Governor contends it has to create such a rule?  Are the Roberts 5, unlike all other politicians, saints incapable of making a mistake?  If so, what about those other four judges who strongly state that the Roberts 5 did make a mistake?  How did they lose their sainthood?  And how did Congress lose its power to check and balance the Court, which it used after the Civil War, for example, to strip the Court of jurisdiction in Ex parte McCardle in order to prevent the Court from overthrowing Reconstruction?If the latest Roberts' rule derives from the three words "freedom of speech," as he claims, perhaps Governor Patrick could explain why other crimes involving speech, like filing a false tax return, is not just as legal as the Court has made influence peddling and public corruption?  If the Governor does not like that example on tax day there are many other examples that would have to be explained, like espionage, forgery, perjury, fraud, conspiracy, procurement (pimping), gambling, libel and slander, copyright violation,  securities violation, false advertising, truth in lending violations, product mislabeling, unregulated health claims, usury or any illegal contract, or any  of the other numerous violations that involve an element of speech. Not to write a monograph here on the subject of the separation of powers for the Governor, who is a Harvard trained lawyer and top attorney who should be familiar with the subject, I will just ask whether he disagrees with President Franklin D. Roosevelt when FDR accused a majority of Supreme Court justices of violating the most venerable rule of constitutional interpretation.The Supreme Court should, Roosevelt quoted, "presume in favor of [a law's] validity until its violation of the Constitution is proved beyond all reasonable doubt."  Roosevelt quoted this particular statement of the rule from the opinion in Ogden v. Saunders (U.S., 1827) of Bushrod Washington, the nephew and heir of George Washington.    This rule was specifically designed to uphold that essential constitutional framework of separated powers.Roosevelt charged that, by violating this rule, “the Court has been acting not as a judicial body, but as a policy-making body.”If you doubt that the McCutcheon opinion reflects the original meaning of the Constitution, the people's general view of the Constitution, your own presumably reasonable view of the correctness of Roberts' decision, while four justices on the Supreme Court also agree with you, how could you think that there exists no “reasonable doubt” about its validity?  If you were a judge, which is not a farfetched hypothetical since you are more than qualified – certainly more than any sitting justice –  except for your opinion on this subject, would you rule that Chief Justice Roberts has “proved beyond all reasonable doubt" to your satisfaction that it violates the Constitution to prohibit plutocrats from paying millions to politicians?  Did we not receive the Constitution from the founders for the very purpose of preserving, not undermining by corruption, our republican form of government?  Or do you think, as Roosevelt did about similar legislating from the bench, that “the Court has been acting not as a judicial body, but as a policy-making body” by inventing such a rule that neither you nor anyone else but the Roberts 5 can find in the Constitution?  If the latter, then how can you at the same time “respect the authority of the Supreme Court” to make such a decision that violates the traditional limits on the scope of its constitutional authority to strike down only those laws that violate the Constitution “beyond all reasonable doubt?”  As a judge would your dissent not argue that the majority lacks authority to make such a decision because it is them, rather than you, four other justices, the framers, and the American people, who are unreasonable in imposing an interpretation of the Constitution that is full of every reasonable doubt?If so, is it not your professional obligation as a prominent attorney, who at the same time has been elected to represent -- as you suggested in the same interview -- the interests of the voters who do not have the money to influence politicians, to speak up like FDR did under similar circumstances?  Do you not have an obligation to resist the Supreme Court's claim to rule the country by illegitimately usurping legislative authority on a matter of such profound importance to the basic survival of the Constitution?  If not you, then who?  You have sworn several times to uphold the Constitution.  By publicly advocating the “authority of the Supreme Court” to "usurp [jurisdiction] which is not given" you instead seem to be suborning what Chief Justice Marshall defined as "treason to the constitution."  Cohens v Virginia, 19 U.S. at 387 (1821).

VOICES FOR CHANGE

Top 6 Pulitzer Prize ‘Traitors’ in American Journalism
Juan Cole
"

The Pulitzer Prize committee’s opinion that Edward Snowden is a public servant rather than a traitor or criminal, as evidenced in its award to The Guardian and The Washington Post for their reporting from his trove of government documents, is a scandal on the American Right.  But it is not a new scandal.  Journalism is about the public’s right to know what our government is up to.  The National Security State is about preventing us from knowing what ...

" ::
Ryan’s Joke Is on Us
Jim Hightower
"

My guess is that Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s highly touted budget guru, doesn’t have a very tight grip on the concept of irony.Otherwise, why would he choose April Fools’ Day to release the latest version of what the GOP intends to do to federal programs (and to the people who count on them) if it takes total control of Congress? But there he was on April 1, declaring with a straight face that, “We [Republicans] believe that ...

" ::
Ask Not What Your Cat Can Do for You
Froma Harrop
"

A big-selling book, "Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet," helps cat lovers understand what is going on in the hearts and brains of their kitties. Sadly, not nearly so much as they thought and hoped.

" ::
NSA Spying is Here to Stay
Jim Hightower
"

On Monday, April 14, the the Washington Post and the Guardian US newspapers received the Pulitzer for Journalism Public Service for their reports on NSA spying. In light of their hard work, let's recap events of the last year.

" ::
Lessons Not Learned in Boston Bombing
Froma Harrop
"

Airport gift shops throughout New England are piling "Boston Strong" T-shirts in vivid colors. "Boston Strong" became a rallying cry of solidarity after the terrorist bombing last year at the Boston Marathon.

" ::
The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies
Chris Hedges
"

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.Our country is ...

" ::
The Hedge Fund Managers Tax Break: Because Wall Streeters Want Your Money
Dean Baker
"

The coming of tax day provides a great opportunity for everyone to focus on their favorite tax break, and there are many from which to choose. However for all the sneaky and squirrelly ways that the rich use to escape their tax liability, none can beat the hedge fund managers’ tax break. This is the way the rich tell the rest of us, because they are rich and powerful, the law doesn’t apply to them.The hedge fund managers’ tax break, which is ...

" ::
If Jesus had a Wife, Would it Change the GOP War on Women?
Juan Cole
"

This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.A Coptic fragmentary ...

" ::
The Global Banking Game is Rigged and the FDIC is Suing
Ellen Brown
"

Taxpayers are paying billions of dollars for a swindle pulled off by the world’s biggest banks, using a form of derivative called interest-rate swaps; and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has now joined a chorus of litigants suing over it. According to an SEIU report:Derivatives . . . have turned into a ...

" ::
From J.P. Morgan to Jamie Dimon
Nomi Prins
"

(This piece originally appeared in the New York Daily News, April 10, 2014): New York is a wonderful town — if you run a mega bank. Because for over a century, the Big Six banks and ...

" ::

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

Rationality

The right’s new fixation: An angry old white man who thinks freedom means not having to follow the law.

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As a candidate, he touted a proposal to curb the influence of lobbyists and donors. As a senator, he shelved that plan, and accepted contributions from influence peddlers.

President Obama

There is virtually no chance that Congress will advance Obama’s plan in its entirety.

Ukraine News

At least three assailants killed during attack on Mariupol base as top-level talks begin in Geneva over ongoing crisis.

Ukraine News

The alliance’s chief said that more air policing aircraft will fly above the Baltic region and warships will be deployed to the Baltic Sea.

Fracking

A new study examines the potential hazards of natural gas extraction.

Economy

Today, Obama will announce an initiative that deals with training workers for skills they need for open jobs.

Climate Change

A naturally occurring hole over the Pacific Ocean could have implications for global climate change.

Banking Policy

“The power has only been more consolidated,” warns Goldman Sachs veteran Nomi Prins in an interview with Salon

India

Top court recognises existence of third gender that is neither male nor female, months after criminalising gay sex.

Presidential Debate

Inside Ready for Hillary’s campus organizing blitz.

Health

Spending on medicine rose 3.2 percent in the U.S. last year.

Nigerian Bombing

In what is being considered the deadliest attack in Nigeria’s capital in two years, the bomb went off during rush hour killing 71 people at a bus station outside Abuja.

Big Oil

The federal government devoted more than $470 billion to the oil and gas industry.

Climate Change

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows what must be done to slow down global warming.

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