Keystone Pipeline: The Agenda of the Koch Brothers

(Letter-to-the-Editor) Let’s see if I have this correct. A foreign oil company wants to build a pipeline across American land to transport Canadian tar sands crude to American ports to export it overseas to make money for themselves.
Mitch McConnell stated that building the Keystone XL pipeline is the first item on the Republican agenda.  Why would this pipeline mean so much to the Republican Congress? Let’s look at some facts.
We know the Koch brothers are the largest lease holders in in Alberta.
We also know the oil companies would get to build their pipeline across our land and use American ports, yet we don’t get a drop of that oil without paying for it.
We know the cost of oil is down.
We know the potential damage to our environment is tremendous.
We know we have safer methods of obtaining energy for our country.  We know initially there will be jobs available to build the pipeline, but after completion an estimated 50 permanent jobs will have been created.
So why is Keystone XL so important  to our Republican Congress? To quote  Shakespeare, ” How now? A rat?”.”

Pat Bates
Clarkston, WA

(Lettter-to-the-Editor) The Republican party seems to think that because they are in charge of Congress that they have a mandate from “the people” to pursue their conservative agenda during President Obama’s final two years. Sorry Charlie. Even if they can get past the high hurdle of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, they are nowhere near the number of votes required to overturn a Presidential veto. And it should have been clear to anyone watching the State of the Union address that President Obama is no lame duck. Hey, Party of “no,” meet the President of “not on my watch.”

The Washington State Republican Party is no better off. Many of the WSRP positions (trickle-down voodoo economics of tax cuts for the rich and no minimum wage adjustments, no new taxes, “greed-is-good” deregulation, “climate change has yet to be proven,” opposition to Obamacare, anti-gay marriage, etc.) are unpopular with the majority of Washingtonians and across America. Yet, according to the WSRP web site, Chairman Susan Hutchison expects to build upon the Republican victories of 2014 over the next two years to elect a Republican governor and president.

Oddly enough, the WSRP supports keeping the Electoral College. Perhaps they should study the numbers. There is no Republican candidate that can win the White House in 2016. The Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying and it only takes 270 to win. The Republican base of aging, white, rural voters has been in decline for 20 years nationwide and in Washington State.

The President’s approval rating has returned to the 50 yard line, meaning in the last quarter of his presidency, the Republicans are going to be playing defense again. Not a good position to be in for the 2016 election. Why? Because that is when far more liberal voters will be paying attention. The Party of “no” will be remembered as the party that got nothing done even after gaining nominal control of both houses of Congress.

Basking in the glow of a short-term victory is not a viable long-term strategy. Washington State needs a transportation plan now. Last term, the Democratic-led House passed its version but the Republican-led Senate could not garner enough support for a plan.

The clock is running out on state Republicans. They have less than two years to participate in shaping the next era of our economic future or they will lose to opportunity to participate politically after 2016.

Mike Wright
Yelm, WA

Parental Leave Laws

What’s wrong with the United States? How come we don’t respect our laborers?  Almost every country in the world treats parents who work better than we do.  Thanks Democracy for America for bring attention to this.

What do Swaziland, Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and the United States of America have in common? They’re the only countries in the world that don’t mandate any form of paid parental leave for workers.

That’s right: The world’s richest nation has one of the world’s worst parental leave laws — and American families are suffering as a result. In fact, many U.S.-based companies offer generous paid parental leave programs to overseas employees to comply with foreign laws, then turn around and give the very worst benefits packages possible to their employees here in the US.

The good news is that we can change this. Together with Coworker.org, Democracy for America wants to organize to push profitable companies in the U.S. to offer paid parental leave to their employees. But first, we need more information about the parental leave benefits that different employers offer — and that’s where you come in.

In 2012, just 11% of private sector workers in the U.S. had access to paid family leave. Parental leave is seen as such a low priority here that the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t even publish which employers have paid parental leave programs and which ones don’t.

We want to fight to chip away at a corporate culture that too often leaves families to fend for themselves. But first, we need to know a few things: Which companies currently offer paid parental leave? And how much do they offer?

Since there’s no easy way to access information about employers’ policies regarding paid parental leave, we need your help.

Thanks for joining with us to help working families get the leave they deserve.

- Karli

Karli Wallace Thompson, Campaign Manager
Democracy for America

Thanks to Democracy for America for taking up a labor issue again.  Once again the United States, is in behind on labor issues.

Last week, President Obama issued an executive order on immigration, protecting millions of families from deportation. There’s another action the President can take to help working Americans, without waiting for Congress:

He can direct the Department of Labor to expand the number of workers who can receive overtime pay, putting more money in the pockets of as many as 10 million Americans.

Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer wrote an important piece in Politico last week calling on President Obama and the Department of Labor to make more workers eligible for overtime. Nick and I have joined forces with Democracy for America to launch a petition to the president asking him to raise wages and create jobs by expanding overtime. Below is the email Nick sent to DFA members last week.

I hope you’ll sign Nick’s petition. President Obama is listening. Let’s give him the support he needs to expand eligibility for overtime pay in America.

- Robert

Robert Reich
Former Secretary of Labor

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Nick Hanauer via Democracy for America
Date: Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 10:40 AM
Subject: SIGN MY PETITION: Tell President Obama to restore overtime pay!

bryan –

I’m getting rich and you’re getting screwed. Sorry. But with a stroke of the pen, President Obama can make sure you get what you earned, without any congressional action at all.

If it feels like you’re struggling harder than your parents did, working longer hours for less money, it’s because you are. Meanwhile, a handful of capitalists like me are growing wealthy beyond our parents’ wildest dreams.

What’s changed? Overtime pay.

Your parents got a lot of it, and you don’t. In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried workers earned overtime pay — today, just 11 percent do. That’s because the federal government has allowed the overtime threshold to erode to less than the poverty line for a family four. Earn more than $23,660 a year, and business owners like me can make you work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all.

But to get the country back to the same equitable standards we had in 1975, the Department of Labor would simply have to raise the overtime threshold to $69,000. In other words, if you earn $69,000 or less, the law would require that you be paid time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40 hours a week.

That would mean 10.4 million middle-class Americans with more money in your pockets or more time to spend with friends and family. And if corporate America didn’t want to pay you time and a half, it would need to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to pick up the slack — slashing the unemployment rate and forcing up wages.

President Obama could also expand the ranks of workers eligible for overtime pay by ending the exemption that denies overtime to teachers, doctors, computer professionals, and many others. And he can do all this simply by instructing the Department of Labor to change the rules — immediately putting money into the pockets of millions of American workers.

That’s why I’m joining Democracy for America and Robert Reich in calling on President Obama to do exactly that. Sign our petition to the president: Raise the overtime threshold to give more Americans the overtime pay they’ve earned!

Many of my fellow capitalists will warn you that a higher overtime threshold would be a job killer, but the truth is, we already have more capital than we know what to do with. Corporate profits have doubled over the past 40 years to more than 12 percent of GDP; that’s about a $1 trillion a year in extra profits.

But rather than invest in creating jobs or raising wages, executives like me are mostly spending our windfall profits manipulating the price of our own shares through stock buybacks. In fact, over the past decade, public U.S. corporations have spent an astounding $6.9 trillion buying back shares, reducing the total outstanding, and increasing the value of the remaining shares owned by capitalists like me.

We get richer. You get nothing. Again, sorry. But we’re only playing by the rules — rules that President Obama has the power to change.

President Obama is showing that he isn’t shy about using his executive powers to do good things for the American people. But the White House needs a strong public push — the president needs to hear from as many of you as possible that overtime pay is to the middle class what the minimum wage is to the working poor, and that a stronger middle class is good for business and good for America.

Join me, Robert Reich and Democracy for America in telling President Obama to instruct the Labor Department to expand overtime eligibility. Let’s raise the wage and put more Americans back to work.

Thank you for standing up for the middle class.

- Nick

Vote for Joe Pakootas

(Letter-to-the-editor) So the Republican House of Representatives leadership now wants to sue President Obama over certain executive orders, even though he has made less of them than most other presidents.  But the real ethical, if not legal, offense is that the Republican leadership, including our Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, won’t allow a vote of the full House on the Senate-passed immigration bill S.744 even though it has enough House votes to pass and thus become law with Obama’s promised signature.

Please join me and vote for Joe Pakootas who will represent all of the people with an independent voice rather than simply echo the political leadership.

 

Norm Luther
Spokane, WA

Washington State’s Dental Access Campaign

I received this email regarding Washington State’s Dental Access Campaign.

Hello friends,

[Below] is the story of a young person, Steve, who lost his life because he wasn’t able to access oral health care. As some of you know, I nearly lost my life to infection due to tooth abscess because I was not able to access oral health care.

I have a friend who’s brother died from abscessed tooth infection, like Steve.

I have many friends and neighbors and family members who suffer because they cannot access oral health care.

All of us have friends, neighbors and family members suffering because they cannot access oral health care.

[By Bart Haggin] I am almost reluctant to to send this out because it oversimplifies wealth in the US and in the world.

The real power of the rich resides in families of the wealthy who OWN the country.  They do this with outright purchase or inheritance and by owning controlling interest in private or public corporations.  These are the people who really pull the strings.  Most of these billion ares are just campaign contributors and lobbyists for corporations that they have an interest in.  The real movers and shakers are, largely, out of the public arena.
Locally [here in Eastern Washington], think the Cowles foundation here in Spokane.
Oxfam International, a poverty fighting organization, made news at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year with its report that the world’s 85 richest people own assets with the same value as those owned by the poorer half of the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people (including children). Both groups have  $US 1.7 trillion. That’s $20 billion on average if you are in the first group, and $486 if you are in the second group.
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As a result, by the time Forbes published its 2014 Billionaires List in early March, it took only 67 of the richest peoples’ wealth to match the poorer half of the world. (For the purpose of this blog, I will put aside the conversation about the importance of income inequality versus impoverishment. This has recently been skewing strongly toward recognition of the importance of income distribution and its inequality, most recently with the publication of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.)(Forbes, March 25, 2014)
Valley Hospital Spokane Valley

Photo credit to Harvey Brown

It took long enough to happen.  However, after months of nurses and other medical workers performing their jobs without a contract, the management at Spokane Deaconess Hospital and Spokane Valley Hospital have given a bargaining date to employees. Nurses and other medical workers represented by SEIU local will be negotiating on workplace issues and other matters to agree on a new contract between their collective bargaining unit and Community Health Systems. The quality of patients care at Valley and Deaconess Hospitals and safe staffing levels will be a key part of the talks.

Nurses and other medical workers await a bargaining date for long-awaited contracts with the Deaconess Hospital, Spokane, Wa. and Valley Hospital, Spokane Valley, Wa. Their key demand for more staffing to improve patient health and safety goes unanswered by the hospitals’ for-profit owner Community Health Systems Inc. Read the rest of this entry

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is Over Paid

(Letter-to-the-Editor) Interested in a job for $174,000 a year, all the benefits and only 126 days of work? Cathy McMorris Rodgers has found it’s worked well for her since 2005.

The  House of Representatives‘ work schedule for 2013 was 126 days. For 2014, they  decided to cut it to 113 days. That’s about 50 days of work for $174,000…or $3480.00 per day. For the remainder of 2013, they will work 8 days in November and 8 days in December. They’ve even commented that they might have trouble filling their schedule for all those days. Evidently there is nothing important happening in our country.

As of August 1, 2013, only 22 out of 4315 introduced bills have been enacted into law. (0.5%), making this the least productive Congress ever. That could be because the GOP faction of the House of Representatives has spent their 126 days obstructing our government and the people as much as possible. Maybe it would be money better spent to have them work zero days, and we could take their salaries to help move our country forward. Or, we could get involved and elect people who care for and will work hard for our country .

Patricia Bates

Clarkston, WA

Gasland II: We are all Getting Fracked


Exploding kitchen sinks and contaminated drinking water, that is what happens when you get fracked by the natural gas industry.

I just saw Gasland II by Josh Fox. The showing was hosted by Ron Reed of Pacificad, Spokane, WA.  It is the muckraking expose’ of the petroleum industry’s use of fracking to obtain natural gas from the earth and leaving scraped landscapes, contaminated aquifers, and destroyed communities. Fracking has even caused earthquakes and has put homes at the risk of  exploding.

Fracking

Fracking, as you have probably heard, is the practice of injecting water and chemicals into wells to force the natural gas out of the gas bearing shale.  It is called fracking because it fractures the shale to releases the natural gas.  Read the rest of this entry

A volunteer for Eastern Washington Voters wrote a poem lamenting about Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her effort to destroy Medicare and such.  I thought I would share it with you. The full poem can be found here.

Alas, Ms. Rodgers, we fear as a career politician your job is soon going to be over for you.

As the wise and angry people of the 5th district of Washington State clearly see what you do.

Partisan politics and climbing to the top are your goals; representing the people is just not you.

It’s clear that caring or knowing what we want, Ms. Rodgers, you just haven’t got a clue.

 

Like a lemming you blindly follow your party; too self-absorbed, uncaring and blind to see.

That with your personal and political desires the people in the 5th district no longer agree.

We no longer are willing to accept your lies, your hiding from us and spinning what you say.

Eight years of misrepresentation, the people of the 5th district are tired of you being this way.

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Hey Pastor Mark Hamilton, Isn’t Lying a Sin?

Mark Hamilton's Home in question

Someone is lying it appears.  It is either Pastor Mark Hamilton, candidate, for Spokane City Council or it is his handyman.  However, I don’t know what motivation George White would have for lying and a church member vouches for the laborer’s integrity.

Mark Hamilton’s legal problem

What motivation would Republican Mark Hamilton have for lying?  Well, let’s see.  He is running for Spokane City Council and the law is that he must have lived in he City Ward for which he is running to represent for at least one year.  However, as the Spokane Review notes, utility bills and his handyman George White call that into question.   Mark Hamilton is being challenged in court for his right to appear on the ballot.

The story is also being covered at Spokane Watch which can be found here.
Read the rest of this entry

610x(crop)(Letter to the editor) We know Mother’s Day is a day in which we honor women for the good they have done. However, some Congressional folks just don’t agree.  Ironically, one of those Congressional women is Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State’s 5th district.

McMorris Rodger’s has shown her lack of caring of women by : Opposing raising the minimum wage, voting to stop overtime pay for working families and opposing the Lily Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness Act. She was adamantly against the Violence Against Women Act until 10 minutes after her amendment against it was defeated, then voted for it. She is against any background checks for gun purchases.  She supports decreasing funding for Head Start and education as well as supporting the layoff of thousands of teachers, most of whom are women. In healthcare she  opposes the Affordable Care Act and supports decreasing funding for Planned Parenthood.  She solidly supports the sequester, which will cost Americans 750,000 jobs.

We now know what she gave us for Mother’s Day; I wonder what she got?  For more on Rep. McMorris Rodgers, see this website.

Patricia Bates
Clarkston, WA

DAVIDI met  Dr. David Warner while we were both graduate students at Washington State University.  It appears that the assault that left him unconscious and near death was initiated because he tried to do the right thing and “keep the peace” when a fight broke out.  However, I cannot help to wonder.  Was it because David Warner was an out spoken Native American with articulate views on the rights of Native Americans that his attackers beat him as brutally as they did?  Even if (when) the assailants are caught, we may never know.

However, I do know from my experiences with David Warner that he is a peace loving man.  He has strong political views, but I have never seen him do or say anything out of anger.   He is a friendly, ,jovial guy.  Whenever David talks to people about politics, he always does so with a smile and joke along with way. Read the rest of this entry

Washington State Republicans Penalize Workers

Conservatives have been waging class warfare on working class Americans for decades. Here in the State of Washington, they are at it again with bills to lower minimum wage and weaken workers compensation.

However, first, on the national scale over the last few decades, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer.  The rich used their increased wealth to create the dot.com bubble, real-estate bubble, and Wall Street bubble.  As we all know, those bubbles burst and much of that wealth disappeared from our economy that could have used to build schools, pay for Medicare, or lower the national debt.   Of that wealth which did not go into creating bubbles, the rich loaned much of it back to us in the form of mortgages, credit card debit, and student loans and siphoned even more money from the middle class through high interest rates.  Would not it have been better for the average American for our country to merely leave that money in the hands of working class so they would not have to borrow  so much to pay for homes, consumer items, and college education? I know so. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Early Childhood Education, You Dummies!

p through 12(v.2)Nothing is more important than early childhood education.  Emotionally healthy young children grow up to be happy, loving, responsible adults.  In the end, that is the only thing that really what matters.

I say this in full awareness of all the serious problems that our world faces.  The environment for example.  If we don’t take care of the Earth, we are screwed.  Nuclear weapons is another.  A push of button could make our planet uninhabitable for centuries.  Ya da, ya da.   We are struggling to find solutions to these problems, but actually we already have many ways at our finger tips to solve them.  However, our human failings, our fears, our greed, make those solutions unworkable.  Its our own sanity, our emotional balance that is in short supply.

I do believe that as a race of beings, we humans are making progress in this regard.  Generation by generation we are becoming wiser, more center, more spiritual balanced, and early childhood education is a crucial part of it. Read the rest of this entry

Advice on Spokane Props 1, 2, and 3

The Spokane County Democrats offer this advice on the City of Spokane’s February Special Election on the Tuesday the 12th:  Vote “Yes, No, Yes” on Prop 1, Prop 2, and Prop 3.

“Yes” Vote on Prop 1, a “No” Vote on Prop 2, and a “Yes” Vote on Prop 3

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3   Vote Yes, No, Yes!
Prop 1:
Vote YES for Independent Investigations of Police Conduct!
Give the Office of Police Ombudsman permanent, independent, and investigatory authority – as they are meant to have. Prop 1 would require Spokane to commit to a credible, independent office of police oversight, and create a citizens commission to advise and oversee the office.
Prop 2:
Vote NO to Reject Requiring a 5/7 Majority Vote on any revenue increase or to close tax loopholes at the city level.
We just can’t say enough how devastating this would be for our community.  This Tim Eyman-style measure would cause gridlock on the Spokane City Council and allow as few as 2 members of the council to obstruct legislation or derail the democratic process. Your NO vote would help support efforts on the council to provide funding for firefighters, public safety, and other important community services.  If It Ain’t Broke  by Terry McGregor   Inlander.com
Prop 3:
Vote YES on the Library Levy.
Prevent closing the Hillyard and East Central branches and increase other library branch hours, making vital education services for families & kids more accessible.

Retired General Smedley D. Butler “War is a Racket!”


We are all tools of the machine that we call society.  Most of us do not realize it.  Some of us realize it, and do nothing.  A few of us know it, and do what is trendy among our friends to oppose it.  Then there are the rare few who make the conscious choice to rebel and risk it all regardless of what any of their family, friends, and colleagues, critiques and media may think.  Major General Smedley Darlington Butler of the U.S. Marine Core was one such brave soul.  He declared in 1935 that “War is a Racket,” a bloody racket that kills and cripples young men and makes the rich even richer.   To the right is a video portrayal of Retired Major General Smedley D. Butler by Bart Haggin of Spokane, Wa giving one of his speeches. Read the rest of this entry

Everybody: Social Security Is Secure, So Far!

socialsecurityWritten by Neuropolitician.com 

That is true if the rich and the powerful aren’t able to steal it and the US government doesn’t default!

Social Security is the most successful social program ever invented.  It requires less than two percent overhead expenses.  It covers millions of people besides retirees.  And it is secure financially, under present circumstances, until about 2035 with a surplus until then!   Any other US government programs like that?

Read the rest of this entry

Governor-Elect Jay Inslee’s Inaugural Ball

inslee vicThis was one of the 2012 races that a lot of us felt strongly about.  It is nice to see the race resolved on election day without a controversial recount, and now it is even nicer to see an announcement of  Governor-Elect Jay Inslee’s Inaugural Ball.  I wanted to go to Gov. Gregoire’s second  Inaugural Ball, but it did not fit more my schedule or match my pocket book.  May be this year I will make it.  Congratulations Jay Inslee.  I know you will do a fine job.

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