Tag Archives: politics

Texans need scientific truth on rising Gulf water levels, not politics – Beaumont Enterprise

If taxpayers along Galveston Bay were looking for straight talk about their future from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, they have been disappointed. The state agency has censored a long-awaited report on rising water levels in the bay because the author referred to global warming.

The writer, John Anderson, a professor of oceanography at Rice University, says state officials edited his report because of political reasons, not scientific ones. “They just went through the document and deleted, deleted, deleted,” he said.

Some conservatives don’t believe that global warming propelled by emissions of greenhouse gases is causing sea levels to rise worldwide. Most scientists believe otherwise – and point to sea levels that have indeed risen.

Property owners along Galveston Bay need the truth about rising water levels, whether it ruffles any political feathers or not. The state’s environmental agency should be leading that quest, not impeding it.

via EDITORIAL: Texans need scientific truth on rising Gulf water levels, not politics – Beaumont Enterprise.


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Is politics from below ‘class warfare’?

The exciting presence and perseverance of protestors on Wall Street (and the spread of the #OccupyWallStreet protests to cities throughout America) is a welcome respite from years of passivity, and not only in relation to the scandalous legal and illegal abuses of comprador capitalists.

In addition, it is a reaction to the prolongations of predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a rising anti-democratic Islamophobic tide, to a shameless reliance on incarceration for harmless activities, to a presidency that seems less willing to confront hedge fund managers than jobless masses, and to a Congress that incredibly represents billionaires while scorning the people that put them in office.

But will this exhilarating presence be sustained in a manner that brings credible hope of restored and renewed democracy that is dedicated to social well-being at home and responsible law-oriented leadership abroad that is no longer drone-driven?

“Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America.”

There is little doubt that this move to the streets of America expresses a deep disillusionment with ordinary politics based on elections and governing institutions. Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America who poured unprecedented enthusiasm into his campaign that promised so much and delivered so little. Perhaps worse than Obama’s failure to deliver, was his refusal to fight for what he claimed to believe, or even to bring into his entourage of advisors a few voices of empathy and mildly progressive outlook.

From his initial appointment of Rahm Emmanuel onwards, it should have been clear that the Obama presidency was intent on playing the same old Washington games waged by special interests. More recently, these interests were further deformed by a Republican Party lurching to the right, by a surging Tea Party intent on pushing the government policy and role to the outer extremes of cruel and irresponsible public policy, by a pathetic Democratic Party that is trying to survive mainly by mimicking Republicans, and by a domineering media that has become largely captive to corporate America.

If such a portrayal of ordinary politics is more or less correct it is a wonder that a more radical sense from the left of America’s future took so long to materialise, if indeed it has. At least #OccupyWall Street is displaying the distress of young urban Americans and sending some warning signals to the bastions of the established power that acute displeasure is rising, and may become threatening to what is, as well as engaging with what might be.

Far right radicals

Of course, radicalism is not absent from the American political scene. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the forces of the right have been riding higher in the United States.

Such an impression is strengthened by the loss of composure by the Democratic party that struggles to show that it is almost as capitalist, pro-military, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and patriotic as its reactionary critics. Its traditional principles of a compassionate state serving the interests of the citizenry have been put in cold storage. Democrats are scared to seem weak, and even more scared to seem to be socialists.

“One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by government to care for the health, education and wellbeing of less advantaged people in the country.”

One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by the government to care for the health, education, and well-being of less advantaged people in the country. Thus the Wall Street protests, if indeed they do have a radical agenda, which is not yet clear, will be to fill this vacuum on the left that has been so disabling during the last twenty years when capitalism had no ideological rival.
One amusing legacy of Cold War anti-Marxism is for the reactionary legions in the country to complain that the protesters are intent on launching ‘class warfare.’ It is one of those post-liberal epithets that gets promiscuously tossed around by ascendant right wing ideologues so as to demonise even those who are reckless enough to propose a modest tax increase on the super-rich in America.

Even Barack Obama who has done his best to please Wall Street 99 per cent of the time, is being charged with waging ‘class warfare’. Liberals are so timid ever since the Berlin Wall fell, and with it fell the possibility of compassionate society, whether capitalist or socialist, the label intimidates. Since then every effort has been made to protect the interests of the exploiting social forces that exult and prosper while marginalised minorities weep and bleed.

As has been pointed out by trenchant critics of what is going on, yes, there is class warfare being practiced, not by its victims, but by the very folks that decry class warfare.

The rich have been extraordinarily successful during the last decade or so in redistributing income upward, from the poor to the rich and ultra rich, including from the increasingly worried middle classes to those plump elites sitting comfortably on top of the economic pyramid.

Combined with pro-corporate and pro-bank deregulation, tax holidays, labour-busting tactics, anti-immigrant-fervor, this assault on the citizenry of the country is an inversion of class warfare as delimited in the Marxist tradition.

The ‘new’ class warfare

The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government with the purpose of disenfranchising the citizenry, breaking the social contract of the New Deal, and relying on law enforcement to keep those who object under suspicion. This is a task facilitated by the repressive legislation made plausible by the 9/11 attacks and the curtailment of individual freedoms associated with the rigours of ‘homeland security’.

“The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government.”

Disavowing American party and institutional politics and situating hope with the arousal of progressive forces in civil society is different from concluding that the Wall Street protests are more than a tantalising flash in the pan at this stage.

Even with this cautionary commentary, it is obvious that these events own a large acknowledged debt to Tahrir Square (as well as to a surprising initial push from the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine, Adbusters) – especially the ethos of a nonviolent leaderless, programme-less spontaneous rising that learns day-by-day what it is about, who it is, and what is possible.

Of course, the immediate stakes for the protesters seem much lower than in Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, as there is little present risk of death or physical injury at the hands of the police on American streets. Additionally, however disappointing and abusive the political and economic realities have become, they are not cruelly and corruptly autocratic.

For this reason, the ghouls of Wall Street do not provide quite as potent a unifying target as was the grim personage of Hosni Mubarak, a cruel autocrat in power for more than three decades, and so it may be harder to transform these protests into a sustainable movement.

But in other ways the stakes and risks on Wall Street are higher than they might seem. As long as America is beholden to militarists and right-wing billionaires its shadow negatively affects many ongoing struggles throughout the world.

This America turns away from the needed global cooperation to address climate change, world poverty, severe human rights abuses, nuclear disarmament, and such concrete issues as self-determination for the Palestinian people and peace for Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other outposts of misery.

This America opposes carbon taxes, and refuses to support the establishment of a Global Peoples Parliament or a UN Emergency Peace Force that might encourage global democracy and make the protection of vulnerable people a task for the United Nations rather than a geopolitical maneuver.

The world needs an America that rediscovers its own dream of liberty and justice, and awakens from a long and debilitating nightmare that has silenced its ‘better angels’.

In the end, we all must hope and engage. The beginnings of hope are rooted in the correctness of analysis, and so we can be thankful that this initiative places its focus on the shortcomings of a merely procedural democracy, the deforming impact of financial and corporate practices, and does not look to the reform or even the control of the state as the cure for what ails.

The implicit not so subtle point is that the centre of power over the destinies of the American people has shifted its locus from Washington to New York, and beyond! Underneath the rhetoric is the search for substantive democracy that upholds rights, demands justice and freedom, and allows people to participate in the control of their destinies

via Is politics from below ‘class warfare’? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

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Elizabeth Warren raises $3 million in challenge to Scott Brown

Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren announced Monday that her campaign has raised $3.15 million in her bid to challenge U.S. Senator Scott Brown.

Ms. Warren announced in an e-mail to her supporters that she has raised $3.15 million since entering the race in September. The Massachusetts Democrat announced that her fundraising haul was largely raked in through small-dollar donations. The Warren campaign said 96 percent of her contributions from donors giving less than $100.

Ms. Warren, who helped set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is a favorite candidate among progressives, announced the impressive third-quarter results as polls continue to show support for her candidacy on the rise. An October 2 University of Mass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll found Mr. Brown leading Ms. Warren 41 to 38. A Western New England University poll conducted from September 29 through October 5 found Mr. Brown leading 47 to 42 among registered voters.

Writing in an email to supporters on Monday, Ms. Warren reiterated her campaign pledge to focus on the middle class. “With the big banks and special interests lining up against us, we know it’s going to take a strong, grass-roots campaign to win,” Ms. Warren wrote in the email. “That’s why your support is more important than ever. I need you to help us build the strongest grassroots campaign we can by encouraging your friends and family to join us, too.”

“These are pretty amazing numbers for our first official finance report, raised in a very short period of time, so you can understand why I want to say thanks a million — and more! — for this remarkable support,” Ms. Warren added.

Mr. Brown, who continues to enjoy a solid base of support, has said he remains focused on his job in the U.S. Senate, downplaying speculation that Ms. Warren could unseat him.

via Elizabeth Warren raises $3 million in challenge to Scott Brown | The State Column.

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Politics getting in way of dole plan for poor, says Pimentel | Inquirer News

Politics is getting in the way of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, a promising financial scheme aimed at helping the poor, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Monday.

Pimentel, one of the principal authors of the Local Government Code that devolved services to city and municipal governments, assailed the discretion enjoyed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in disbursing billions of pesos for the program.

“Why is the department heading the program when its task has already been devolved to local government units?” he asked on the sidelines of an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Local Government Code.

“All I can see here, to answer my question, is politics. The government should give [the program’s administration] to LGUs (local government units),” the former senator said.

The DSWD is asking for a P39.4-billion budget in 2012 for the CCT program, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, for distribution to three million families, up from the current 2.3 million.

The poverty reduction program encourages mothers in poor communities to send their children to school and to undergo regular vaccinations, and to have checkups at health centers.

Under the program, each household can get between P800 and P1,400 a month in health and education benefits, depending on the number of children (at most three per family).

Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara on Saturday pushed for reciprocal services from millions of poor families benefiting from the program.

Angara said the families could be tapped in national environmental programs starting at the barangay level to help communities cope with the growing threat of climate change.

“There must be reciprocity in the current conditional cash transfer program to erase criticisms that the program is just another form of dole,” he said.

Angara said able family members should lend their services to activities like tree planting and the cleaning of canals, rivers and other waterways within their respective areas.

Under the proposed P1.816-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2012 which was approved recently by the House of Representatives, the Department of Budget and Management has allotted provisions for the so-called “lifeline to the poor.”

Aside from the P39.5 billion for the CCT, P1.2 billion is allotted for the social pensions of 198,370 poor people aged 75 years and over. They are to receive P500 each monthly.

The proposed amount is 38 percent higher than the 2011 total of P871 million, which covers 138,960 beneficiaries.

Also included in the lifeline program for the poor is P2.9 billion for the DSWD’s supplemental feeding program to help provide nutritious meals to 1.6 million children enrolled in day-care centers nationwide

via Politics getting in way of dole plan for poor, says Pimentel | Inquirer News.

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Deficit Super Committee Struggles To Make Progress As Clock Ticks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The super committee is struggling.

After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer’s budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month.

While the panel members themselves aren’t doing much talking, other lawmakers, aides and lobbyists closely tracking the committee are increasingly skeptical, even pessimistic, that the panel will be able to meet its assigned goal of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years.

The reason? A familiar deadlock over taxes and cuts to major programs like Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.

Democrats won’t go for an agreement that doesn’t include lots of new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently anti-tax. The impasse over revenues means that Democrats won’t agree to cost curbs on popular entitlement programs like Medicare.

“Fairness has to be a prerequisite for it,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “We have just come through passing a bill that was (all spending) cuts, no revenue.” Pelosi was referring to the August debt limit bill, which set tight “caps” on agency budgets but didn’t contain revenue increases pressed by Democrats.

Democrats are more insistent on revenues now.

“There’s been no movement on revenues and I’m not sure the Democrats will agree to anything without revenues,” added a Democratic lobbyist who required anonymity to speak candidly.

Asked last week whether she is confident that the panel can hit its $1.2 trillion goal, co-chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sidestepped the question.

“I am confident that the public is watching us very closely to see if we can show this country that this democracy can work,” Murray told reporters. “I carry that weight on my shoulders every day and so does every member of this committee.”

The two parties have equal strength on the panel, which has until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to submit for up-or-down House and Senate votes in December. That means bipartisan compromise is a prerequisite for a successful result.

Thus far, say aides to panel members and other lawmakers, neither side has demonstrated the required flexibility in the super-secret talks.

The $1.2 trillion target evolved after efforts by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to strike a so-called grand bargain on taxes and spending fell apart in July.

Those discussions and earlier talks led by Vice President Joe Biden identified numerous options for cutting the deficit. They included requiring federal workers to contribute more to their retirement, cutting farm subsidies, auctioning broadcast spectrum and curbing payments to Medicare providers like skilled nursing facilities, rural hospitals and home health care services.

The super committee could scoop up these relatively easy-to-generate savings but still fall short of the $1.2 trillion target. Interest groups like the powerful farm lobby might be willing to accept cuts when everybody else is getting hit, too, but are likely to fight back if they’re among the relative few getting singled out for sacrifice.

“Once you start taking things off the table or you pick a deal that only hits some parts of the budget, then you have some people who get hit who say, `Well, why me? Why not other people?'” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

To be sure, the super committee still has time. And panel members, while divided, earnestly want a result. A more optimistic scenario is that in coming days and weeks, members of the panel will become more flexible as the deadline nears – and as pressure builds from financial markets and credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s, which in August downgraded U.S. debt from its AAA rating.

At the same time, failure to produce a measure would trigger painful across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon budget and a big slice of domestic programs. The idea behind this so-called sequester was to force the two sides to come together because the alternative is too painful.

“I made it clear to the Republican members of the super committee that I expect there will be an outcome, that there has to be an outcome,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a Washington forum on Thursday. “The sequester that was built behind this is ugly, and it was meant to be ugly so that no one would go there. I don’t underestimate how hard it’s going to be to come to an agreement by the so-called super committee, but we have to get to one.”

The across-the-board sequester, however, wouldn’t take effect until the beginning of 2013, which is already fueling speculation that Congress would simply revisit the issue after the elections next year.

via Deficit Super Committee Struggles To Make Progress As Clock Ticks.

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Global protests – The Big Picture – Boston.com

There are many forms of protest, many ways to express an objection to particular events, situations, policies, and even people. Protests can also take many forms – from individual statements to mass demonstrations – both peaceful and violent. In the last 30 days, there have been numerous protests across the globe in many countries. The following post is a collection of only some of those protests, but the images convey a gamut of emotions as citizens stand up for their political, economic, religious and lifestyle rights. — Paula Nelson

via Global protests – The Big Picture – Boston.com.

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Deportation policy changes prompt concerns of scams, immigration, amnesty, immigrants – News – YumaSun

The Obama administration’s plan to reprioritize the nation’s deportation efforts is prompting warnings to immigrants to avoid scammers who approach them with fraudulent offers to help them apply for amnesty.

In August, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to review the cases of 300,000 illegal immigrants to focus deportation efforts on those aliens who are convicted felons. Those who have not committed serious crimes could be allowed to stay in the United States, and critics have said the refocus amounts to amnesty for large groups of immigrants.

But in an advertising campaign launched in Yuma County and around the nation, the American Immigration Lawyers Association is stating emphatically that the change in policy is not the same as amnesty.

The campaign is aimed at aliens it fears will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in what they think are fees to scammers offering to help them apply for legal residency under an amnesty program.

Sharing those concerns is Fernando Quiroz, director of American Beginnings, a Yuma nonprofit organization accredited by the federal government to prepare applications for legal residency and naturalization.

“All the government said was that it is going to review about 300,000 deportation cases that are in the courts to see if they qualify to stay in the country. But it is not an amnesty, and that’s where there’s a risk of people being deceived.”

He said the most serious risk is posed by unscrupulous notary publics who misrepresent themselves as attorneys or as individuals accredited to help immigrants apply for legal residency.

“There are more of them all the time all around the county,” said Quiroz. “We estimate that 50 percent of the people who are helped by them in applying for immigration documents are rejected, and they are charged thousands of dollars for the paperwork.

“We are asking people not to let themselves be deceived, that they seek the advice of an attorney or an accredited immigration attorney, and that they do nothing based on that (DHS) announcement.”

In Arizona, it is a Class 6 felony for a nonaccredited attorney to prepare immigration applications or to provide immigration counseling, but Quiroz said victims of unscrupulous notaries rarely step forward to report them to the authorities.

Quiroz added that part of the problem stems from immigrants’ lack of knowledge about the difference between notaries in this country and Mexico.

“Here any person who is registered with the state can be a notary, while in Mexico to be a notary, you have to be an attorney. So people think that here all notaries are also attorneys.”

via Deportation policy changes prompt concerns of scams, immigration, amnesty, immigrants – News – YumaSun.

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