Freedom Foundation protest coverage by the Bellevue Reporter

On September 28, hundreds of people protested the annual dinner of the Freedom Foundation in Bellevue, where the guest speaker was renowned racist Dinesh D’Souza. The Bellevue Reporter print edition had an excellent piece about the protest, including content critical of D’Souza and Trump.

Freedom Foundation protest coverage by Bellevue Reporter

Oddly, though, the Bellevue Reporter website doesn’t, as of the time of this writing, have a link to the article, and an Internet search doesn’t reveal it.

Lawmaker Accountability, please!

Is it unconstitutional or even criminal when our elected leaders give more of our tax money to the rich and corporations than they do in serving and protecting the health and welfare of the American people? Corporate tax breaks are already twice as much than Medicare and Social Security combined, and corporate tax breaks are ten times as much as our three main programs needy families depend upon. Whether or not we elect Clinton or Trump, the multinational corporations have bought both sides to give them more of our tax dollar.
Washington State Supreme Court is on the verge of ruling tax expenditures unconstitutional to make the legislators accountable to the people.

President Obama legacy will show that by bailing out the banks and not closing the six corporate tax loopholes resulted in the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, increasing the number of children living in poverty from 18% to 22%. THIS MUST BE STOPPED.

FACT: Whether Democrat Clinton or Republican Trump, Multinationals Set to Win the Election

FACT: 2015 Corporate Tax Breaks- Expenditures $1.22 Trillion more than the US Budget – Discretionary Spending $1.11 Trillion Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go

FACT: CORPORATE 2013 TAX BREAKS $3 Trillion dollars a year, twice as much as Social Security and Medicare. Tax Avoidance On the Rise: It’s Twice the Amount of Social Security and Medicare

FACT: The President could close Six Egregious Corporate Tax Loopholes Sanders Asks Obama to Close Six Egregious Corporate Tax Loopholes

FACT: 10 Taxpayer Handouts to the Super Rich That Will Make Your Blood Boil

FACT: Global Elite Hiding Up to $32 Trillion in Offshore Accounts

FACT: PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION. The Philanthropy Hustle

TRUTH BOMB – A fact spoken in clear, easy to understand terms and without bias. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TruthBomb/

The Trillion Dollar Death Machine… And What You Can Do to Stop It!

Part 1 The Navy Plan to Turn the Olympic Peninsula into a War Zone

David Spring M. Ed. Director, Washington Environmental Protection Coalition

November 18 2014

 

Everything is connected to everything else…. The health of our State’s economy cannot be separated from the health of our States environment. And the health of our environment cannot be separated from the health of our State’s rivers and streams. And the health of our rivers and streams cannot be separated from the health of our State’s forests.

 

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to summarize the Navy’s trillion dollar plan to turn the Olympic Peninsula into an Electronic Warfare Zone and to provide scientific evidence that two endangered species, Spotted Owls and Marbled Murrelets, would be driven to extinction as a result of this plan. This study is divided into five parts. First, we will review the Navy’s plan to turn the Olympic Mountains into an Electronic Warfare Zone. Second, we will summarize unanswered questions about how this plan might harm humans and wildlife. Third, we will provide a historical summary of past attempts to save the spotted owls. Fourth, we will provide an analysis of current spotted owl population in the Olympic Mountains and evidence of how the war zone plan will destroy this population – which is already on the edge of extinction. If the Navy is allowed to turn the most important remaining habitat of spotted owls into an Electronic Warfare Zone, this will be the final nail in the coffin for one of nature’s most important indicator species. Fifth, we will review what you can do to stop the Navy from destroying the Olympic Peninsula and one of our nation’s last remaining populations of Spotted Owls.

 

01

 

Part 1 The Navy Plan to Turn the Olympic Mountains into a War Zone

The Olympic Peninsula, on the Northwest Corner of Washington State, is critical habitat for two endangered species, spotted owls and marbled murrelets, both of whom rely on rare Old Growth forests for their nests. Numerous environmental organizations have rated the Olympic rain forest as being one of the most important environmental ecosystems in the entire world. More than three million people visit the Olympic Peninsula every year providing more than $300 million in economic activity and tourism related jobs to the local community.

 

Recently, the US Navy submitted an application to the US Forest Service for a Special Use Permit to allow 3 large trucks – fitted with special electromagnetic wave transmitters – to be driven on Forest Service roads in the Olympic National Forest. The public has been given until November 28 2014 to submit written public comments on this project.

 

On August 28, 2014, the Navy issued a 7 page Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) claimed that allowing these three trucks to use Forest Service roads will have “no significant impact” and therefore this project does not require the Navy to submit a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

http://www.navfac.navy.mil/content/dam/navfac/NAVFAC%20Atlantic/NAVFAC%20Northwest/PDFs/About%20Us/Environmental%20Public%20Releases/nw_FONSI_PN_EW_RANGE_1.pdf

 

In September 2014, the Navy issued their final 228 page Environmental Assessment (EA) on this project. Their assessment is available at the following link.

http://www.navfac.navy.mil/content/dam/navfac/NAVFAC%20Atlantic/NAVFAC%20Northwest/PDFs/About%20Us/Environmental%20Public%20Releases/nw_EW_EA_Final_September_2014.pdf

 

However, as the Navy explains in their Environmental Assessment, this project is not merely about having three trucks on Forest Service roads. Instead, the three trucks are an essential component in turning the Olympic Peninsula into an Electronic Warfare Range. In fact, the name of the project on the Forest Service application is Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range Environmental Assessment #42759. The purpose of the project is to build two stationary electronic warfare transmitters and three mobile electronic warfare transmitters to be used in war games simulations by 135 “Growler” jet aircraft scheduled to be stationed at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island in Washington State. If the Special Use Permit is granted by the Forest Service, the three mobile transmitters would be driven to 12 locations on logging roads in the Olympic National Forest and 3 additional locations on forests controlled by the Washington State Department of National Resources (DNR).

 

These mobile transmitters would then be located by and interact with new electronic warfare equipment on the new “Growler” aircraft during more than 3,000 training missions each year – about 11 missions per day 6 days a week or one mission every hour throughout the entire year with each of the 3,000 missions involving an unknown number of Growler jets. The Navy has claimed that the new electronic aircraft would fly at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet above Sea Level and that the new planes and trucks present no danger to humans or wildlife. However, alternate sources indicate that the planes would actually fly as low as 1,200 feet above the surface in the Olympic Mountains and that the new planes are among the loudest planes ever build – measured at up to 150 decibels – enough to cause permanent damage to the human ear and severe stress in humans and wildlife.

 

02

 

The intense sound produced by these new electronic warfare jets is why the airplanes are called “Growler” airplanes. In addition, questions have been raised about the long term health effects of the electromagnetic pulse radiation produced by the Growler aircraft and the Mobile Transmitters. It is believed that this radiation can lead to cancer in humans and wildlife. Here are the locations of the proposed Electronic Warfare sites. Note that all of them are very close to critical habitat for spotted owls and marbled murrelets.

 

Compare the Map for the Proposed Electronic Warfare Range to the Map of Critical Habitat for Spotted Owls and Marbled Murrelets

 

03

 

 

Note that mobile transmission site 12 is next to the Hoh Rain Forest – home of the largest concentration of spotted owls left in Washington State. Below is a map of critical habitat for the Marbled Murrelet (shown in black). This too is next to several mobile transmission sites. http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/lm_hcp_murrelet_ltcs_map.pdf

 

04

 

$300 million in Tourism Losses to Save $5 million in Fuel?

The Navy already conducts electronic warfare games at an electronic warfare range at the Mount Home Air Force base in Idaho. However, the Navy wants to add an electronic warfare range on the western slopes of the Olympic Peninsula in order to save about $5 million in fuel costs. The Navy apparently has failed to consider the fact that turning the Olympic Peninsula into a war zone would cost local residents $300 million in lost economic activity and jobs due to the loss of tourism. The Olympic Peninsula already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. If it is turned into a war zone, it would likely destroy their community. As a consequence, the Forest Service has already received more than 2,500 public comments on the proposal. Over 90% of these comments have opposed the project. However, at a recent informational meeting in Port Angeles Washington, attended by more than 250 angry citizens, the Forest Service improperly stated that “only substantial comments that point out specific errors in the Navy’s Environmental Assessment (EA) will be considered… this is not a popularity contest.” Although required by law to hold an official public hearing on the project, and to manage the forest for the benefit of the public instead of the benefit of special groups like the Navy, Forest Service officials claimed that they do not need to consider the opinion of the public and that they do not have the time or money to hold a public hearing. The 2,500 public comments already submitted can be read at this link.

https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ReadingRoom?Project=42759

 

05

 

Killing the Canary in the Coal Mine

A primary concern about the Navy Electronic Warfare plan is the potential to destroy endangered species such as spotted owls and marbled murrelets. These birds are “indicator species” of the health of our entire environment. They are the “canaries in the coal mine.” According to E.O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University: “The fundamental truth is that biodiversity matters profoundly to human health in almost every conceivable way. The roles that individual species, and the ecosystems they make up, play in providing food, fuel and unique medicinal compounds; air, water and soil purification services; and natural regulation of infectious disease, to name a few, are critical to our health and survival. The loss of species as a result of human activity and the degradation of ecosystems ongoing around the world lowers the quality of the planet’s natural resources and destabilizes the physical environment… Changes to the environment—be they from pollution, deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, or other causes—ultimately affect the living world. Once we lose a gene, species, or an ecosystem, it is gone forever.”

 

Below is a link to a ten minute YouTube video with a child explaining the importance of saving our spotted owls.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7CevktQyjc#t=89

 

 

06

 

As a sharp contrast to the peace and quiet of an Old Growth forest, we will next look at the monstrous noise levels of the Growler Jets – among the loudest planes ever made!

 

Hear for yourself how much noise these Growler Jets make!

Watch and listen to this video of Growler Jets repeatedly flying over a Little League Baseball Game with the hand held meter registering 112 decibels. This is a five minute YouTube video of the several Growler Jets flying over a Little League baseball game. The decibel rating on the hand held meter reached 112 decibels. “it is not good for the kids… It is not good to anybody.” Note that noise of 85 decibels is enough to cause permanent hearing damage.

 

Navy EA18G Growlers over ballpark, Coupeville WA, harming children’s hearing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwxYpCa09-E

 

07

 

A Navy Auditor found that the noise level of the Growler jets could exceed 150 decibels.

 

08

 

We will next attempt to estimate the total cost of the Navy’s electronic warfare plan. This does not include the cost of the loss of tourism to the Olympic Peninsula. It is merely the hard cost of the planes themselves.

 

What does the Navy Electronic Warfare Program Really Cost?

The Navy recently asked Congress for $2.1 billion to buy an additional 22 Growler jets. From this one might assume that the Growlers cost $100 million each. Every 10 jets cost one billion. So the current inventory of about 100 Growler jets costs $10 billion. But the complete plan is to have 200 Growler jets for a cost of $20 billion. The Growlers would eventually be supplemented by a new electronic warfare jet called the F 35 Lightning. These new jets, the most expensive in history, are initially expected to cost about $400 billion with total eventual cost over one trillion dollars. The Navy plans to purchase 230 F 35 C jets which added to the potential 200 Growlers would make the entire attack force at Whidbey Island more than 400 planes – four times the current number.

http://www.bga-aeroweb.com/Defense/F-35-Lightning-II-JSF.html

 

09

 

“The F-18G, known as the Growler, emits a broader set of electronic warfare frequencies than does the F-35, Rear Adm. Michael Manazir,  told reporters after today’s House Armed Services air and land force subcommittee hearing. The two planes flying together are a much more effective strike package, according to Navy analysis, than either one flying on its own… the Growler generates enough power to blanket the area ahead of the F-35s so they can act in a complementary fashion.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/03/why-the-navy-really-wants-22-more-fa-18gs/

 

Both of these planes would be stationed at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and operate in tandem from the Navy’s fleet of Nimitz class aircraft carriers. The F 18G has two powerful continuous wave transmitters that emit electromagnetic beams towards a potential threat. In 2020, an even more powerful electromagnetic warfare system will be added to the jets. In May 2014, Boeing delivered the 100th Growler to the Navy with a committed for 35 more (4 per year) over the next 10 years. But the eventual plan is for 200 Growlers and 230 F 35 C stealth electromagnetic warfare jets.

 

These electronic warfare jets also require a Nimitz class aircraft carrier – which are the largest warships ever built – each with a crew of 6,000. Each ship is longer than three football fields. Each of these aircraft carriers can accommodate up to 100 jets. Each of these ships cost about $8.5 billion. The Navy has 10 of these nuclear powered aircraft carriers so the total cost is about $85 billion. This does not include the cost of the 6,000 person crew. Nor does it include the cost of anything else needed to run the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

 

10

 

One can only imagine the few remaining spotted owls on the western slope of the Olympic Mountains – owls that evolved to live in one of the quietest environments on earth – being suddenly attacked by 200 to 400 electronic warfare jets up to 11 times a day or more than 1000 times a year. The shear volume of noise is certain to be deafening. Should the owls and residents of the Olympic Peninsula somehow survive these hourly attacks, they would still have to suffer the long term and possibly deadly harm inflicted by tens of thousands of electromagnetic pulse beams raining down on them like a toxic invisible hailstorm from the sky.

 

11

 

The Stationary Electronic Warfare Transmitter… Also known as the Death Star

 

12

 

So much for hiking along Pacific Beach. The tower would be about 66 feet high and 40 feet wide. The tower would be capable of generating an electromagnetic wave at frequencies ranging from 2 to 18 gigahertz (GHz) and it would be able to emit up to 64 simultaneous signals while transmitting in pulses or a continuous wave. The Navy plans to have the Electronic Warfare project running by September 2015. The Navy still needs permission from the U.S. Forest Service and the state Department of Natural Resources for use of roads in remote areas where the mobile units would travel and set up.

 

The Mobile Electronic Warfare Transmitters… Bringing death to 15 sites in the Olympic Mountains

 

13

 

 

Imagine running into one of these war machines during your next family camping trip! The Navy says that you will be okay as long as you are not near one of these war machines for more than 15 minutes. No worries there. The moment I see one of these things, I am heading the other direction as fast as I can!

 

This is only a small part of the Navy’s New War Plan Against the People and Wildlife of the United States

As of December 2014, the Navy will also be expanding its sonar and explosive activity into waters off Indian Island near Port Townsend, in the Strait of Juan De Fuca, and in the 2,408 square mile Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary, where the Navy says it is exempt from prohibitions. It has, however, said that bombing exercises will take place outside the Sanctuary. At the same time, the Navy is developing plans for two Carrier Strike Groups to train in the Gulf of Alaska just south of Prince William Sound and east of Kodiak Island, using new extremely loud weapons systems and sinking two ships per year, in exercises that the Navy admits will kill or injure 182,000 whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, sea otters and other marine mammals in one five- year period. This is less than the original prediction of 425,000 marine mammals, but still so astonishing it makes one wonder what parts of our biologically rich coasts will not become war zones with high casualty counts, if the Navy gets its way.

 

This concludes our summary of the Navy plan to turn the Olympic Mountains into a war zone. In the next section, we will describe a series of unanswered questions about how this war plan might harm humans and wildlife. We will then review the history of attempts to save our spotted owls. We will then assess the current spotted owl population in the Olympic Mountains – showing that is on the brink of extinction even before this new plan by the Navy to destroy them completely. We will then conclude with a series of ideas on what each of us can do individually and jointly to stop this monstrous assault on the Olympic Peninsula.

 

14

 

For links to all of these studies, visit the Home page of our website:

http://washingtonenvironmentalprotectioncoalition.org/

Plutocracy is comin, to the USA

New, alternative lyrics for Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy is coming, to the USA” (see videos below)


Lyrics © Donald A. Smith
       D               G           D
It's coming from corruption that's profane
             D          A                 D
From Grover Norquist's government-hating brain
       G
It's coming from the spiel 
       G_sus          G
That makes your head reel
    D           G                 D
when you listen to the right wing refrain.

          F#
From the Tea Party crazies
          Bm
From the Chamber of Commerce hacks
          F#
From neocon imperialists
          Bm
From Karl Rove's Super-PAC
 A                    G       D
Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.

---------------------------------
       D               G           D
It's coming from tax cuts for the rich,
       D          A                 D
From the Supreme Court, the 1%'s bitch.
       G
It's coming from evil folk 
       G_sus           G
like David and Charles Koch 
    D                          G                D
and from Bill and Barry's traitorous rightward switch.

          F#
From Citizen United
          Bm
From Clarence Thomas's smut
          F#
From John Robert's smirk 
          Bm
From Anton Scalia's butt
 A                   G        D
Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.

---------------------------------
      D               G           D
It's coming from the wars. Open your eyes.
            D            A                  D
Killed millions. Wasted trillions. Hear the cries.
       G
From the disaster in Vietnam
       G_sus           G
to the debacle of Afghanistan
    D               G         D
to the war in Iraq based on lies.

          F#
From the CIA's dirty deeds
          Bm
From collateral clone attacks
          F#
From targeted assassinations
          Bm
From illegal wire taps
 A                   G        D
Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.

---------------------------------
          A         G
    Bail out, bail out,
         D         G    D
    O sinking Ship of State!
             A
    To the Shores of Greed
             G
    Past the Reefs of Need
             D
    To the Squalls of Hate.
          A      G     D
    Bail out, bail out, bail out.

---------------------------------
      D               G           D
It's coming from your neighbor's SUV
      D               A           D
From the toxins that are killing off the bees.

       G
It's coming from Big Oil,   
       G_sus           G
and the fracking and the spoil
    D                   G        D
and climate change denial fantasies. 

          F#
From ugly suburban sprawl
         Bm
From filthy factory smoke,   
          F#
From the local big box mall
         Bm
From David and Charles Koch
 A                   G        D
Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.

-------------------
      D               G           D
It's coming from right-wing media hosts
            D            A                  D
From the wingnuts with their hate-filled posts.

       G
It's coming from Fox News
       G_sus           G
and its pro-corporate views
    D                    G          D
that are unfair and unbalanced at most.

          F#
From Limbaugh and Glenn Beck
         Bm
From Bill O'Reilly's rants
          F#
From Hannity and Savage's drek
          Bm
From Dennis Miller's cant

 A                   G        D
Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.

---------------------------------

       D            G           D
It's coming from income inequality,
      D                 A         D
From tax loopholes  for Apple and GE.

       G
It's coming from tax havens   
       G_sus           G
and accounting tricks so brazen
    D             G           D
it's a wonder they're not on TV.

          F#
From low capital gain tax rates 
          Bm
From Walmart and Goldman Sachs
          F#
From Boeing and Microsoft
          Bm
From tax enforcement cutbacks.

 A                   G        D
Plutocracy is comin, to the USA.

Here are two versions of Leonard Cohen’s original song.

Not just Republicans are to blame for economic inequality

Oxfam released a report recently about economic inequality, World’s 85 richest people own nearly half of global wealth: Oxfam report. “In the US, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population grabbed 95 per cent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012, while the bottom 90 per cent became poorer.” “Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game.” The report further says that since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 of the 30 countries for which data are available.

This trend is evident in Washington State, which has the most regressive tax system in the nation, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. You pay more in state taxes as a percentage of income than Bill Gates.

And it’s not just the Republicans who have contributed to the problem.  President Obama surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies and continued Bush’s bailouts for billionaires.

Belleuve’s Rep. Ross Hunter, a former executive at Microsoft, negotiated tax breaks for his former employer that allowed it shift income to the tax haven of Nevada.  (Why should Microsoft pay to support public education when they can import workers from overseas?)

And Gov. Inslee recently spearheaded the push to grant Boeing $9 billion in tax breaks — the largest amount any state has granted in history.

Yet the legislature is struggling to pay for education and to fund Metro transit.

Until the people wise up and demand progressive taxes, including a move away from the regressive sales tax, our tax system will continue to serve the 1%.

Additional Sources

Seattle Times Realizes Microsoft’s Running the Legislature “From 1997 to 2010, Microsoft’s Nevada-based tax avoidance operation deprived the state of an estimated $1.51 billion in taxes, interest and penalties. In 2010, Hunter led legislation that granted the company amnesty and redefined the state’s royalty tax to exclude Microsoft’s worldwide licensing revenue.”

Hunter’s Promised Royalty Tax Revenue Never Materialized

Exposing Two Microsoft Scams… The Billion Dollar Tax Avoidance Scam and the HiB Union Busting Scam

Trade Talks Open In Utah, Secrecy Spurs Protests

1TPPSLC70
By Tom Harvey, www.sltrib.com

Above photo: (Jim McAuley | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bill Moyer, executive director of the Backbone Campaign, and Raphael Cordray of the Utah Tar Sands Resistance speak to demonstrators gathered to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.

Note: The negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership thought they would go to Salt Lake City, UT and not find protesters. Well, they were wrong about that.  A strong crowd came out to the hotel where the negotiators are meeting, putting forth a clear message of opposition to the TPP and the secret negotiations that produced it.   Those coming out against the TPP included labor, environment, Internet and justice activists; including the popular former mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson. Protests are planned all week.

TPP protest Salt Lake posterPerhaps the most hilarious and embarrassing comment in the article below came from Carol Guthrie, the senior adviser for media affairs of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, who said the treaty had been negotiated with “unprecedented transparency.” Ms. Guthrie showed the world today that the US Trade Reps office cannot be trusted.  

The TPP is actually the most secret negotiation ever in the history of trade agreements. Today, Bloomberg News editorialized that Obama’s secrecy is destroying the trade agreement.  They have even classified the text so that members of Congress, who go through the process of seeing the text, cannot discuss it with their constituents. Members cannot even bring staff to see it, take notes or bring a computer or camera.  Ms. Guthrie calls that “unprecedented transparency.”  Does she think anyone will believe anything she says in the future?

The Washington Post, normally a very pro-trade agreement newspaper, wrote this week about the Wikileaks disclosure that “it is obvious why the USTR and the Obama administration have insisted on secrecy. From this text it appears that the U.S. administration is negotiating for intellectual property provisions that it knows it could not achieve through an open democratic process.”  

Note to Ms. Guthrie — everyone knows this is a secret agreement.  When you try to mislead us with such obvious lies you destroy not only your credibility but the credibility of the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Note to others, if the US Trade Representative needs to tell such obvious lies it is a sign of their desperation and insecurity. They have good reason to be insecure. If they really want to be open they should do as previous administrations have done and publish the text. In addition they should publish the positions the Obama administration is putting forward on our behalf. The US Trade Rep. tells the media this is a “high quality” agreement, yet they keep it secret.

There will be a week of protests ending with a funeral for the TPP on Friday.  This is an apt finale as the TPP is struggling on its death bed.  Three-quarters of Democrats wrote President Obama this week telling him they were opposed to granting Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority to him.  And Republicans — including moderates, conservatives and Tea Party members – also sent a letter opposing Fast Track. Without Fast Track the Administration will be unable to pass any trade agreement.  

The message: scrap the TPP and the Atlantic agreement, TAFTA, and start all over with a transparent process that includes civil society and Congress in the process, and works for Fair Trade that puts people and planet before profits. The TPP is running into a dead end and the Administration should stop wasting time pursuing this failed global corporate coup.

The article below is from the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Pacific Rim Representatives from 12 nations begin new round of negotiations; Joined by protesters opposed to TPP

Outside Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel on Tuesday, the rains fell, the speakers rose, the marchers chanted.

Outside the hotel where the negotiations are being held in Salt Lake City, UT

Outside the hotel where the negotiations are being held in Salt Lake City, UT

Inside, top trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations perhaps discussed imports and exports, profits and products, prices and patents. The exact topics aren’t known. The talks were closed.

And that concerns critics most of all as parties from the Trans-Pacific Partnership launched a 19th round of negotiations — this time in Utah — in search of a sweeping free-trade agreement.

Tuesday’s rally, organized by a coalition called the Citizens Trade Campaign, of Washington, D.C., drew 100 or so protesters, who worry that the high-level talks have been conducted behind closed doors with only multinational corporations given access to proposed provisions.

Watched over by a small contingent of Salt Lake City police and other security officers, demonstrators carried various signs on the lawn and sidewalk in front of the hotel. Among them: “Protect Us From Corporate Protectionism,” “Obama: Exorcise Your Corporate Demons” and “Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance.”

Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign speaks outside of TPP negotiations.

Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign speaks outside of TPP negotiations.

One group held a U.S. flag, with the stars replaced by corporate logos such as those for McDonald’s, CBS, Coca-Cola and Microsoft.

Among Utahns who spoke were Dale Cox, president of the state AFL-CIO; Wayne Holland, a United Steelworkers Union representative; and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Cox pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement as a model for the proposed Pacific accord, which he warned would lead to the loss of more U.S. jobs.

“They’re here to take jobs from us to other countries,” Cox said.

Holland echoed those remarks, saying, “We cannot allow NAFTA in the Pacific.”

Raphael Cordray, of Utah Tar Sands Resistance, said her group fears a final agreement would allow foreign corporations to sue local or state governments that pass laws affecting businesses’ profits.

Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and former Justice Party presidential candidate opposes the TPP.

Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and former Justice Party presidential candidate opposes the TPP.

“That’s what people don’t understand about these trade agreements,” Cordray said in an interview. ” … They can actually take away some of the sovereignty that we have in our local communities.”

Carol Guthrie, senior adviser for media affairs of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is negotiating for the United States, said her office had worked hard to introduce “unprecedented transparency” into the negotiations. She also touted the importance of foreign trade to Utah jobs.

“More than 100,000 jobs in Utah alone are supported by trade,” Guthrie said. “Twenty percent of Utah’s manufacturing jobs are supported by trade. Twenty percent of Utah’s exports go to the region represented by the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Besides the United States, nations belonging to the Trans-Pacific Partnership are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

Groups plan to protest throughout the week, with the talks set to last through Sunday.

Originally published at PopularResistance.org

Dollarocracy: John Nichols and Robert McChesney speak at Seattle Town Hall

Monday evening I went to a great Town Hall in Seattle with John Nichols and Robert McChesney.  The topic was Dollarocracy: how money has corrupted politics.

Dollarocracy is their name for what’s become of America’s democracy.   Instead of one person, one vote, we now have one dollar, one vote.  Jimmy Carter was overheard saying that the US no longer has a functioning democracy.  On an international rating of countries for the strength of their democracies, the US was rated at 8.1; anything below 8 is considered no longer to be democratic.

47% of Americans are now low-income or in poverty.

McChesney recalled the Powell Memorandum, written confidentially for the US Chamber of Commerce, that launched the plutocrats’ attack on the New Deal reforms.  Lewis Powell was a tobacco industry lawyer and later a justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by  Nixon.    Powell should be considered the architect of dollarocracy.  The plutocrats lamented that the US had too much democracy.   McChesney said that Powell was  obsessed with allowing corporate spending on elections. The Wikipedia article says:

This memo foreshadowed a number of Powell’s most notable[neutrality is disputed] court opinions, especially First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, which shifted the direction of First Amendment law by declaring that corporate financial influence of elections through independent expenditures should be protected with the same vigor as individual political speech. Much of the future Court opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission relied on the same arguments raised in Bellotti.

In the 2012 election close to $11 billion was spent.  A lot of it was “dark money” whose source is hidden.   More money, better elections?  Nah.   Germany spends 1/34 the amount of money per capita as the US on campaigns.

McChesney said that $6 billion of the $11 billion was spent on (TV) ads.  90% of the ads were negative ads. Unfortunately, negative ads work. Those ads are illegal in most countries.

Media corporations benefit tremendously from spending on political ads.  15% – 45% of their revenue (profit?) comes from such spending.

While TV and radio stations receive a lot of money on campaign ads, they’ve cut back spending on journalism and analysis. There’s little objective campaign coverage. There’s been a “free fall collapse of real journalism.”    Journalism has been replaced by propaganda.  (McChesney paused and asked, “Are you depressed yet?”)   Aside from that, the Republicans engage in vote suppression.

In the US voter turnout  was 57.5 % during the 2012 presidential elections. In Germany it’s 72%.  In Norway it’s 79%.

Still, McChesney said he’s the second most optimistic person in America. The most optimistic person he introduced: John Nichols.

Nichols gave the defeat of the GMO labeling initiative as an example of the workings of Dollarocracy.   Democracy in the USA is in crisis. This country was founded with the original sin of slavery.  Back then even most whites weren’t allowed to vote.  Senators weren’t elected by the people.  Nor were women allowed to vote. (Hard to imagine that women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920.) Only the monied white guys could vote.  Even Tom Paine got turned away from the vote.

We don’t want to be a monarchy. We wanted a democracy. Monarchies tend to be inbred. We don’t want to be ruled by the idiot son of an idiot. (laughter, cause guess who he was referring to?)

Nichols called on the audience to support the effort to amend the Constitution to declare that money is not speech and corporations are not people.  Sixteen states have already formally called  for such an amendment, and 500 communities.   Even in Montana and Colorado 75% of voters voted for amendment.

The Constitution was not handed down from God to Michelle Bachmann. It was meant to be amended and we can do it again.

Nichols said he wants to hear no whining about the difficulty of doing this. As Leonard Cohen said, democracy is coming to the USA.

There was time for questions. I had wanted to ask, “Can the needed change come without bloodshed that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War?”

After recalling all the depressing ways our political system is corrupted by money, the speakers said that they are optimistic.   John Nichols did a good imitation of Martin Luther King, peppering his speech with phrases like “Brothers and sisters.” Inspiring!  At the end, Nichols got a standing ovation, during which he documented the event by taking photos with his smartphone.

Their talk is part of their speaking tour for the book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.  During the talk, while one of the authors was speaking to the audience, the other was checking his smartphone. At one point they mentioned that their book is #2 on the Amazon list of top-sellers in politics.

Boeing demands, and gets, more tax breaks

The Seattle Times is reporting: “Gov. Jay Inslee has asked state legislators to pass a package of bills that include granting Boeing after 2024 estimated state tax savings of $8.7 billion.”  They’re also asking for $10 billion in transportation funding, and for concessions from the unions.

Boeing threatens that unless the state and unions give those concessions, they’ll build the 777X elsewhere.

I say: let them go. Call their bluff.  The state needs to pay for education and other services. We can’t engage in a race to the bottom with other states.

As Luke Held says on the Washington State Progressive Caucus facebook page, “Why does the press not call this hostage taking? I’ll never know (or I should say understand).”     And Sarajane Siegfriedt says, “Boeing already got $2.3B over 20 years (2003) from we the people. An excellent Seattle Times analysis this week says manufacturing it anywhere else is uneconomical and risky.”

Happy Halloween: right-wing fog machine miring America

Recently, western Washington (the genuine one here in the Pacific Northwest, not that other Washington back east where it seems to be the “trick” side of Halloween every doggone day) muddled through a long period of dense fog. Unusual for this time of year in this neck of the woods, where autumn generally finds us alternating between drenching rain, howling wind, and occasional bursts of beauty when the sun shines brightly, the changing leaves put on a dazzling display, and the air is so crisp you just want to take a big bite out of it and let the yummy juice dribble down your chin.

Come to think of it, the whole country has been fogged in ever since the fall of 2010, when corporate bigwigs decided to attempt a government coup from within by inventing the bizarre phenomenon known as the Tea Party. While the nation slumbered, assuming that those crazies depicting our President as Hitler, Stalin, or some hideous hybrid thereof were simply a passing nightmare, billionaires bent on privatizing just about everything in America for their own personal profit bought themselves a government. Or rather, an anti-government.
They paid for luridly painted buses that brought professional speakers to expensive venues to whip anti-government sentiment into a mindless frenzy. They paid for zillions of yard signs proclaiming “We the People.” Countless pocket-size copies of the Constitution were printed up and distributed to legions of angry followers who were then told how to interpret the document. “Grassroots” candidates with little or no experience in government received lavish contributions to run vapid campaigns against creeping “Socialism” and in support of the “Free Market.”

Lies were shouted by right-wing pundits so loud and long that they morphed into accepted debating points. Obama’s a Muslim. From Kenya. Just cut taxes and the “Job Creators” will save our economy. Unions are evil and workers have no rights. Neither do women. Or gays. Or immigrants. White men and the white women who follow them should run the country. Preferably white men with large bank accounts. White men with large overseas bank accounts. God forbid they should feel compelled to support the United States of America in any way. That would be Socialist coercion, right?

So now our ship of state is mired in a dense fog of corporate malfeasance, right-wing demagoguery, disastrous economic austerity, and a dumbed-down media machine that accepts lies without challenge and embraces punditry without credentials or attribution.
Bills promoting family-wage jobs, American-made products and workers’ rights remain mired in Congress. The Republicans refuse to even bring them up for a vote. After all, when they shout so loudly about protecting the Middle Class and creating jobs, why would they want to actually be on the public record actively trying to kill both?
When will this fog lift? Probably not until America removes the choking stranglehold of money from its political innards.
Corporations are not people. Money is not speech. On those two simple principles we can build a lighthouse to cut through this malicious mist.

Until then, we are all ruled by a tiny minority of religious zealots and anti-government fear mongers on a crusade to turn over control of this country from We the People over to Them the Corporations.
Happy Halloween.

Originally published at Examiner.com