Saturday, January 31, 2015

Something to Know - 31 January

Mike Luckovich

A secret meeting in New York, several international representatives made a deal that is supposed to stimulate and grow trade.  It is called the TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  No one really knows all the details, because they are all secret, and even members of Congress can't find them all out.   Why the secrecy?  I dunno.  However it reeks of the same corrupt set of ethics that settled in the past that prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices with Big Pharma.  The V.A. hospitals negotiate and get less expensive medications....why cannot Medicare?   Well, it is all in the secret stuff that we are not supposed to know about, and what our legislators will be asked to approve.  It sucks big time: 

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Don't Trade Away Our Health


A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.

Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.

Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we're not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs.

The secrecy of the T.P.P. negotiations makes them maddeningly opaque and hard to discuss. But we can get a pretty good idea of what's happening, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks from past meetings (they began in 2010), what we know of American influence in other trade agreements, and what others and myself have gleaned from talking to negotiators.

Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative's office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma's profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.

There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits.

The first is to restrict competition from generics. It's axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.

That's why, since the United States opened up its domestic market to generics in 1984, they have grown from 19 percent of prescriptions to 86 percent, by some accounts saving the United States government, consumers and employers more than $100 billion a year. Drug companies stand to gain handsomely if the T.P.P. limits the sale of generics.

The second strategy is to undermine government regulation of drug prices. More competition is not the only way to keep down the prices of essential goods and services. Governments can also directly restrain prices through law, or effectively restrain them by denying reimbursement to patients for "overpriced" drugs — thus encouraging companies to bring down their prices to approved levels. These regulatory approaches are especially important in markets where competition is limited, as it is in the drug market. If the United States Trade Representative gets its way, the T.P.P. will limit the ability of partner countries to restrict prices. And the pharmaceutical companies surely hope the "standard" they help set in this agreement will become global — for example, by becoming the starting point for United States negotiations with the European Union over the same issues.

Americans might shrug at the prospect of soaring drug prices around the world. After all, the United States already allows drug companies to charge what they want. But that doesn't mean we might not want to change things someday. Here again, the T.P.P. has us cornered: Trade agreements, and in particular individual provisions within them, are typically far more difficult to alter or repeal than domestic laws.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn't so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.
We can't be sure which of these features have made it through this week's negotiations. What's clear is that the overall thrust of the intellectual property section of the T.P.P. is for less competition and higher drug prices. The effects will go beyond the 12 T.P.P. countries. Barriers to generics in the Pacific will put pressure on producers of such drugs in other countries, like India, as well.

The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is the author of "The Price of Inequality."


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Something to Know - 27 January

Rob Rogers

Two guys with lots of money, from an energy empire based on the burning of fossil fuels, inherited from their dad are also in the business of influencing the world of politics. The Brothers Koch just finished their Palm Springs gathering where other wealthy Friends Upholding Conservative Koches United did a meet-and-greet and a beauty pageant where prospective conservative Republican candidates came to the stage and auditioned for money.   Yes, money is the name of the game in politics.  The bottom line, after all arguments and questions of ethics and slime are answered is this:  What does all of this money do for those who get the Koch money?  Yes, it goes for all of those ads on TV and billboards we will see and hear.   That promotes voter educations, right?  You betcha.   But you must remember that this is a quid-pro-quo world in the game of high rollers.   There is enough money in this $889 Million to buy and support each and every Republican who dances and sings to the Koch agenda (which is ironically the game plan for much of the top .01% of the top 1% of our unequal economy).   Is this all fair?    Oh, you betcha, they say.   What say us of the 99%?:


Koch Brothers' Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties' Spending

By JAN. 26, 2015

Charles Koch in 2012. The Kochs and their advisers have built a robust array of political organizations.CreditBo Rader/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.

The spending goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs' annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would require a significant financial commitment from the Kochs and roughly 300 other donors they have recruited over the years, and covers both the presidential and congressional races. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party's two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million.

PhotoHundreds of conservative donors recruited by the Kochs gathered over the weekend for three days of issue seminars, strategy sessions and mingling with rising elected officials. These donors represent the largest concentration of political money outside the party establishment, one that has achieved enormous power in Republican circles in recent years.

David Koch in June. The brothers' financial goal, announced on Monday at the annual Koch winter donor retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., effectively transforms the Koch organization into a third major political party. CreditTravis Heying/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

Now the Kochs' network will embark on its largest drive ever to influence legislation and campaigns across the country, leveraging Republican control of Congress and the party's dominance of state capitols to push for deregulation, tax cuts and smaller government. In 2012, the Kochs' network spent just under $400 million, an astonishing sum at the time. The $889 million spending goal for 2016 would put it on track to spend nearly as much as the campaigns of each party's presidential nominee.

The Kochs' efforts will put enormous fund-raising pressure on Democrats and liberal outside groups. Allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appears to be preparing for a likely presidential campaign in 2016, expect that she will need to bring in more money than President Obama, the most successful fund-raiser in presidential history, and a "super PAC" supporting her is seeking to raise as much as $300 million in the coming months.

"It's no wonder the candidates show up when the Koch brothers call," said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama. "That's exponentially more money than any party organization will spend. In many ways, they have superseded the party."

The group's budget, disclosed by a conference attendee, reflects the rising ambition and expanded reach of the Koch operation, which has sought to distinguish itself from other outside groups by emphasizing the role of donors over consultants and political operatives.

While the Koch's expansive network houses groups with discretely political functions — a data and analytics firm, a state-focused issue-advocacy group and affinity groups aimed at young voters and Hispanics — it also includes groups like Freedom Partners, a trade organization overseen by Koch advisers that plans the retreat and helps corral contributions; Americans for Prosperity, a national grass-roots group; and Concerned Veterans for America, which organizes conservative veterans

While almost no Republican Party leaders were invited to the Koch event, it has become a coveted invitation for the party's rising stars, for whom the gathered billionaires and multimillionaires are a potential source of financing for campaigns and super PACs. Officials said this year's conference was the largest ever.

At least five potential presidential candidates were invited this year, and four attended, including Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. On Sunday evening, three of them — Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas — took part in a candidate forum on economic issues.

The two brothers and their aides have begun to take steps to relax the strict secrecy that has long surrounded much of their political efforts. After spending the 2012 campaign as the Democrats' favored punching bags, Charles and David Koch have each granted a series of interviews to explain their views and philosophy. Their privately held firm, Koch Industries, has mounted a soft-focus advertising campaign called "We Are Koch," featuring the company's employees.
The Kochs are longtime opponents of campaign disclosure laws. Unlike the parties, their network is constructed chiefly of nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal donors. That makes it almost impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs — among the wealthiest men in the country — and how much by other donors.

Last summer, Freedom Partners established the network's first super PAC, allowing it to run more openly political advertising in the run-up to the 2014 midterm election. The move also required disclosing some of the network's other donors. Trusts controlled by the Kochs provided about $4 million of the super PAC's $25 million budget.

This year, Koch aides also provided — for the first time — limited access to the winter conference events and allowed reporters to view live video of the candidate forum on Sunday night.

As the three senators addressed the audience of rich donors — effectively an audition for the 2016 primary — they dismissed a question about whether the wealthy had too much influence in politics. At times they seemed to be addressing an audience of two: the Kochs themselves, now among the country's most influential conservative power brokers.

Mr. Cruz gave an impassioned defense of his hosts as job creators and the victims of unfair attacks by Democrats, while Mr. Rubio suggested that only liberals supported campaign finance restrictions, so as to empower what he said were their allies in Hollywood and the news media.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Something to Know - 26 January

It's raining in Southern California.  The is a miserable and blinding blizzard all around New York.  It is cold and stuff in the South.  Where ever this email hits, you are either drying out or warming up.   Perfect time for just one simple and short video:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Something to Know - 24 January

Stuart Carlson

This op-ed piece is being shared to point out one, of several, possible reactions to the violent acts of terrorism.   There is no easy solution, and none is offered here.   To advocate one or an other, a possible dangerous reaction exists with any choice.   With our Bill of Rights in one hand and repressive laws on the other, how or what do we do?:

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Why Tolerate Terrorist Publications?


WHILE most of us would agree that religious fundamentalists, foreign and domestic, sometimes do serious harm to our society, there are other kinds of fundamentalists who are also dangerous: I refer to legal fundamentalists.

More precisely, the tranche of lawyers, academicians, journalists and publishers who, over the years, have developed into First Amendment fundamentalists and have become a powerful influence on our government. Currently, they appear to have persuaded our attorney general that the amendment bars him from taking action against Inspire magazine, published on the Internet by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The organization is a sworn enemy of the United States, and its web publication is available throughout the land. The online magazine proclaims its goals of providing inspiration and justification to inflict harm on the United States as well as Britain, France and other countries, by killing its citizens, preferably in large numbers. It encourages its readers to engage in attacks.

CreditMike McQuade

The magazine has given instructions for building car bombs as well as pressure-cooker bombs using material from a kitchen or a hardware store. Those instructions were followed to the letter by the Tsarnaev brothers, who murdered three and sent 264 to hospitals in the 2013 Boston Marathonbombing.

It also — in its issue this past Christmas Eve — shared a new bomb recipe aimed at bringing down civilian airliners. According to Inspire, the new bomb would not be detected by the Transportation Security Administration metal detectors, only potentially by sniffer machines. But even if detected, the bomb probably wouldn't be discovered, the publication says, without probing into orifices that a T.S.A. officer might be reluctant to visit.

In Britain, possession of the online magazine is a crime. Is this publication protected by our First Amendment? Not on your life!

In 1791, our forebears, anxious lest the new government adopt some of the restrictions that had been imposed by the king, adopted a basic commandment barring the government from making any law "abridging the freedom of speech."

Does that mean what it says? Obviously not, because we have adopted many laws abridging speech, such as in cases of child porn, perjury, false representation, libel and slander, criminal conspiracy, etc. The list is substantial. When it comes to political speech, how do we distinguish the good speech from the bad? We look to bedrock principles.

For example, threats are not protected because they provide no social value. The idea behind the First Amendment, wrote the founders, was that the citizens be free to criticize their government. And over the next several centuries, our courts have developed a great body of law refining and expanding that concept. In the area of national security and politics, there are no wrong ideas, and free speech is indispensable to the disclosure of truth.

The most recent and most expansive Supreme Court decision on protected speech in the context of national security was the Brandenburg case in 1969, which struck down an Ohio law that criminalized advocacy of crime, violence or terrorism as a means of accomplishing political reform. The statute was unconstitutional, the court said, because political speech is protected unless it is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." Because this Ohio statute did not adequately distinguish between abstract advocacy versus true incitement to imminent action, the conviction of Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan leader, was reversed.

In looking at the question of what speech is protected and what is not, courts have always looked to context. For example, every Supreme Court decision on this subject recognizes war as an exception to the First Amendment, even though the Constitution says no such thing. The classic example cited by the older cases is recognition of the government's unfettered right, in time of war, to ban the publication of information revealing the sailing dates of troop transports. Ten years after Brandenburg, a district judge in the United States v. Progressive case enjoined the publication of classified nuclear bomb formulas. The court found that times had changed, war was no longer limited to foot soldiers who travel to battle sites on troop transports, and even though it was not clear that a reader would imminently "build a hydrogen bomb in the basement," the scope of the danger overwhelmed the imminence factor.

The balancing act was succinctly explained by Robert W. Warren, the district court chief judge who, when referring to Patrick Henry's famous liberty-or-death choice, wrote, "in the short run, one cannot enjoy freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom of the press unless one first enjoys the freedom to live."

The balancing test must look at what is real. The measurement of imminence changes when we are talking about detonating a nuclear bomb in New York City as opposed to an unlicensed rally blocking the Brooklyn Bridge.

The federal government should move decisively to block Inspire on the web. It is criminal incitement that has produced lawless action, and no sentient judge would today say otherwise.

It is one thing for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to excuse the journalist James Risen from revealing a book source, and quite another to permit virulent enemies to recruit, train and support those who would destroy our country. If we sanction this kind of so-called freedom, we risk horrible consequences. The Paris killings are small stuff compared with what would happen if our civilian airline system were crippled. I fear that in response to more terrorism, we would see repression on a terrifying scale.

Correction: January 24, 2015 

An earlier version of this article inaccurately described recent events in Paris in one reference. They were killings, not a bombing.

Martin London, of counsel to the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, has litigated First Amendment issues.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Something to Know - 23 January

Jeff Danziger

Time to reflect on a recurring issue; the Death Penalty.  The American fixation that you need to kill somebody to obtain closure and justice is absolutely shameless on one hand, and a ridiculous expense to taxpayers on the other hand.  If you firmly believe that is morally right to kill, then fixate on this.   It costs just a ton of money to put someone on death row, and then expose the case to years of litigation.  I think you can get the idea that fees paid for lawyers, law enforcement officials, medical experts, judges, etc...and the list goes on and on sucks up money out of the public treasury that could be better spent elsewhere (schools, roads, etc.).   Facts show that it cheaper to just lock someone up, and incarcerate with no chance of parole, than to go down the long and expensive road of death row.    Georgia's case here, is an example.   Proving that a person with a proven IQ of around 70 is mentally competent to be executed by the state is costing millions.   When is this going to change?:

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

Georgia, Back in the Death-Penalty Spotlight

By JAN. 23, 2015

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The modern American death penalty is beset with endless complications and contradictions, and over the years no state has embodied the full range of these as consistently as Georgia.

Death sentences handed down by Georgia provided the basis for both the Supreme Court's 1972 moratorium on capital punishment and its lifting of that moratorium four years later. In 1987, the court upheld another Georgia death sentence — of a black man convicted of murdering a white police officer — despite statistical evidence showing that the death penalty there was applied far more often when the victim was white rather than black.

Now Georgia is in the spotlight again, as it prepares to execute Warren Lee Hill Jr. Mr. Hill was serving a life sentence for killing his girlfriend when he was convicted of the murder of a fellow inmate in 1991. He is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Jan. 27.

Mr. Hill was scheduled to die in 2012 and 2013, but both times his execution was stayed. In 2013, a state judge stopped it because of constitutional concerns over a new law making the source and composition of Georgia's lethal-injection drugs a state secret. Mr. Hill has long claimed he is intellectually disabled, with an average I.Q. score of 70. Seven mental health experts have all agreed with him. Three of them, all hired by the state, originally testified that he was competent, but later recanted.

This alone should make Mr. Hill ineligible for the death penalty under a2002 decision by the Supreme Court, which barred the execution of those with intellectual disabilities.

But the court left it to states to decide who was intellectually disabled, and Georgia has essentially circumvented that principle by requiring defendants to prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt — an absurdly difficult standard to meet. Only one capital defendant in Georgia has ever satisfied the test.

The Georgia standard has survived until now, but perhaps it will not survive much longer. Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a similarly rigid and unscientific law in Florida that made it nearly impossible for defendants to prove an intellectual disability. "The States are laboratories for experimentation," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court in Hall v. Florida, "but those experiments may not deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects."

So far, nothing has changed for Mr. Hill. On Jan. 20 the Georgia Supreme Court denied his request for a stay in light of the ruling in the Florida case; he has appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court. He faces a final clemency hearing on Monday.

Mr. Hill's case is a catalog of everything that is wrong with the death penalty. It also provides the Supreme Court with an opportunity to give meaning to the logic of its decisions.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Something to Know - 22 January

Tom Toles

Continuing with a past subject regarding the cost of being poor, here is another op-ed opinion from Charles Blow of the NY Times.    It is almost a universal fact that those in the world who are regarded as the poorest also live in the least desirable real estate.   Landfills, waste treatment and disposal, plain old dumps, and industrial stink are not places anyone likes to live by.  However, people do, and the subject of this story is about them.  Now, it can be debated if the people live there because this is the most affordable housing, or because the ordinances are easier to pass that allow for the development of toxic centers to be built.   That is not the subject here.   The fact is that the health cost in exposure to the toxicity is higher than other locations.  People may not be able to afford to move away, but the cost in a lower quality of life and a shorter life is a reality.  However, as the toxic cloud grows larger, and moves with the wind, we all suffer:

Inequality in the Air We Breathe?

JAN. 21, 2015

I grew up in the small town of Gibsland, in northern Louisiana. It is dirt poor, but proud. And it's an overwhelmingly African-American community.

(There are fewer than 1,000 people in Gibsland; more than 80 percent of them are black; the median household income is $27,292, little over half the national average of $51,939; and the poverty rate is 28 percent, compared with the national rate of 15 percent.)

My mother, one of my brothers and a raft of relatives still live in Gibsland. Another brother moved to the next town over, Minden, a big city relatively speaking (it has 13,000 people), where he is a high school teacher. Minden, just west of Gibsland, is also majority African-American and relatively poor — 55 percent of the residents are black, the median household income is $30,411 and 24 percent of the residents are poor.

But wait, it gets worse.
For years, one of the largest employers in that area was the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant, about four miles from Minden. The Environmental Protection Agency eventually listed the plant as a Superfund site because for more than 40 years "untreated explosives-laden wastewater from industrial operations was collected in concrete sumps at each of the various load line areas," and emptied into "16 one-acre pink water lagoons." It was determined that the toxic contamination in soil and sediments from the lagoons was a "major contributor" to toxic groundwater contamination.

When the plant ceased production, as The Times-Picayune of New Orleans pointed out, "the Army awarded now-bankrupt Explo Systems a contract in 2010 to 'demilitarize' the propellant charges for artillery rounds" on the site. The company conducted "operations" there "until a 2012 explosion sent a mushroom cloud 7,000 feet high and broke windows a mile away in Doyline," another small community in the area.

But wait, it gets worse.

According to The Shreveport Times, "investigation by state police found the millions of pounds of propellant stored in 98 bunkers scattered around" the site. It turned out that when Explo went bankrupt, it simply abandoned the explosives, known as M6. Now there was a risk of even more explosions, so there was need for a plan to get rid of the M6, and quickly.

But wait, it gets worse.
(By the way, Shreveport is the largest city near the site, and it, too, is majority black, has a median household income well below the national average and a poverty rate well above it.)

According to the website Truthout:

"After months of bureaucratic disputes between the Army and state and federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) recently announced an emergency plan to burn 15 million pounds of M6 — up to 80,000 pounds a day over the course of a year — on open 'burn trays' at Camp Minden, a disposal process that environmental advocates say is outdated and has been outlawed in other countries. The operation would be one of the largest open munitions burn in U.S. history."

Indeed, Robert Flournoy, an environmental toxicologist and former Louisiana Tech professor, wrote in The Shreveport Times this week:

"The E.P.A. says this is a safe way to destroy the propellant. I strongly disagree with their decision and their safety statement. I have over 42 years of environmental experience and can say without a doubt the open-tray method is not safe. The E.P.A. has produced no data to the safety of such a burn and repeatedly ignores requests for such data from media, citizens, state officials and environmental professionals. In addition to the air contamination risk, we have three other issues: explosive detonation, groundwater contamination and soil contamination."

And yes, again, it gets worse.

A local television news station, KTBS in Shreveport, pointed out last week:

"It's expected to be the nation's largest open burn in history. And now, it seems there's even more explosive material at Camp Minden than we all previously thought. We've all heard the number 15 million pounds of explosives, but documents from the E.P.A. show there's millions more pounds."

This week, a group of "71 social and environmental justice organizations" across the country sent a letter of protest to the E.P.A.'s assistant administrator Cynthia Giles, saying in part:



"By definition, open burning has no emissions controls and will result in the uncontrolled release of toxic emissions and respirable particulates to the environment."

Feeling the pressure from local citizen and environmentalist rightly concerned about the immediate and long-term health implications, the E.P.A. recently delayed the burn by 90 days to allow the state's department of environmental quality and the National Guard to "select their own alternative for disposing of the explosive material," according to The Times-Picayune.

Still, these little places in the woods aren't yet out of the woods. It's still not clear what will eventually happen with the explosives.

We have to stop and ask: How was this allowed to come to such a pass in the first place? How could this plant have been allowed to contaminate the groundwater for 40 years? How could the explosives have been left at the site in the first place? How is it that there doesn't seem to be the money or the will to more safely remove them? Can we imagine anyone, with a straight face, proposing to openly burn millions of pounds of explosives near Manhattan or Seattle?

This is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of "environmental racism," in which disproportionately low-income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities.

There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity.

Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Bullard published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. In it, he pointed out that nearly 60 percent of the nation's hazardous-waste landfill capacity was in "five Southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas)," and that "four landfills in minority ZIP codes areas represented 63 percent of the South's total hazardous-waste capacity" although "blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South's total population."

More recently, in 2012, a study by researchers at Yale found that "The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe."

Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe.

I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Something to Know - 21 January

Jeff Danziger

The presidential hopeful Republicans are going to a race.    The race (the contest, not the ethnic game) is going to be in Palm Springs.   They contestants are vying for the Koch Brother's checkbook.   Money, yes money from the elite of the wealthy of this nation is what drives these contestants to compete.   They will fawn (to give a servile display of exaggerated flattery or affection, typically in order to gain favor or advantage) at whatever gets attention and the nod from the Brothers Koch.  This is the driver of the morality and direction of the GeeOpie.  Interesting that Mitt Romney is not invited to this party - but then again he has his own money to play with:

'Koch Primary' Tests Hopefuls In the G.O.P.

By JAN. 20, 2015

Senator Rand Paul, center, at a rally for Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, left, and Senator Pat Roberts in Wichita last year. CreditJaime Green/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — When Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky went to Kansas last year to campaign for Gov. Sam Brownback, he quietly requested a private meeting with the oil billionaire Charles G. Koch in his Wichita headquarters.

The senator's pitch: Of all the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates, he best reflects the views of Mr. Koch and his younger brother,David H. Koch.

Similarly, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas popped through Wichita in October for an audience he had requested, and he told the elder Mr. Koch that theRepublican Party needed a grass-roots conservative like him to take back the White House.

And Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has worked to cultivate a relationship with the younger Mr. Koch, stopping by his Manhattan office, calling him to talk politics and socializing with him, their wives included.

"What they've built is incredibly impressive," said Phil Cox, who has worked for the Koch-affiliated group Americans for Prosperity and recently served as executive director of the Republican Governors Association under Mr. Christie as chairman. "The invitation to the seminar is a big deal. It's important entree to those donors and potential donors, and having Charles or David or other leaders in the network say good things about any particularly candidate at one of these seminars is a big deal."Perhaps no organization commands more deference in Republican politics nowadays than the sprawling operation established by the Koch brothers. And this week, the intense competition among Republicans for their embrace and attention will break out into the open. An invitation-only group of 2016 hopefuls will travel to a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., for the Koch brothers' annual winter seminar, kicking off the so-called Koch primary.

Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida have all received invitations to the event and are expected to attend. Other invited Republicans include Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who is not expected to make it because of a scheduling conflict.

Unlike groups on the left like the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Kochs do not hand out traditional endorsements. But their network spans roughly 300 donors, many of whom are wealthy business owners and entrepreneurs, and allows candidates to tap individuals who are conservative but not part of the traditional Republican donor establishment. In 2012, Americans for Prosperity spent more than $120 million in an effort to defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats.

Of course, the Koch network is hardly unified behind a single candidate, with donors preferring a wide range of personalities and issues. "It would be a mistake to view our donors as monolithic," said Marc Short, president ofFreedom Partners, an umbrella organization for donors allied with the Kochs. "They come from different geographic regions, but they are all committed to free markets and advancing a free society."

The network is still debating just how far into the Republican primary process to venture. Most likely, the Kochs and their affiliated groups will opt for an approach similar to the one they took in 2014; they will largely stay out of specific races and instead work to shape the Republican landscape to ensure that their core issues — fighting the Affordable Care Act, rolling back various energy and environmental regulations, and overhauling government spending and the tax code — rise to the top of the candidates' agendas.

But it is possible that one or both of the brothers, or a senior official of one of the affiliated groups, would individually endorse candidates, supporting them with money and events. Another option includes using issue-advocacy groups to support candidates they like and attack those they dislike.

Any audience with the Koch network provides Republican politicians with access to a valuable world. Candidates get the opportunity to pitch to the megadonors who can help them survive a grueling primary cycle. And even a subtle nod from the Koch brothers and their network — a high-profile speaking slot at an Americans for Prosperity summit meeting, or an invitation to the brothers' biannual seminars — confers upon prospective candidates a stamp of approval that begets donor support.

At an Americans for Prosperity summit meeting in Dallas in August, both Mr. Paul and Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, asked for and received a private meeting with David Koch. Mr. Christie was unable to make the gathering, but a month later he attended a private dinner with donors at David's duplex on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

"Whether we like it or not, one of the first primaries in either party is the fund-raising primary, and having access to that network helps you," said Greg Mueller, a Republican strategist. "Being before a Koch-like network of prominent conservatives, who have financial resources, helps put you on the path to clear those early primary hurdles."

In a speech Thursday, Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, outlined what he described as the group's "ambitious, steady effort" for the coming election cycle, complete with a "substantial" financial investment. "We're going to be there throughout this year and the next year in 2016 and beyond," Mr. Phillips said.

In many ways, what has made the network so powerful is its evolution into an almost shadow version of the Republican Party, including a top-shelf data and analytics firm, niche organizations targeting groups like Latinos and veterans, and grass-roots activists and staff members around the country.

Still, the most influential figures remain David and Charles Koch, and the 2016 contenders are racing to solidify their personal relationships with them. Several Republicans with ties to the network said that Mr. Paul was considered ideologically close with Charles, while Mr. Christie has long ties to David.

When Mr. Paul met with the elder Mr. Koch in Wichita, the two spoke about foreign policy — where Mr. Paul's less hawkish approach most closely dovetails with the brothers' personal views — and the senator's ideas for overhauling the criminal justice system, another area where he and the libertarian-leaning Kochs align, according to someone with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.

Mr. Paul has also golfed with Charles. ("I remember Rand said Charles had beat him pretty handily," said a friend.) And Mr. Paul also shares a bond with Charles's son, Chase. Once, when Chase introduced Mr. Paul at an event, he began by talking about how he, too, could empathize with the pressures of growing up the son of a prominent libertarian and having to read Hegel and Ludwig von Mises.

Taking the microphone, Mr. Paul joked, "But did you get to read it in English?"

Mr. Christie began reaching out to David during his first run for governor. The two men spoke at least a half-dozen times last year in Mr. Christie's capacity as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. And in November, Mr. Christie and his wife attended a Giants-Cowboys game with Mr. Koch and his wife.

Mr. Pence is another rising Republican star who excites the Koch network. As a Midwestern governor, he is well positioned to run, many in the network believe, able to animate the conservative base but with a tone and a demeanor that also appeal to the party's establishment. And his roots in the Koch community run deep, with many former staff members from his days as a congressman now working within the brothers' network.

Mr. Walker, a fellow governor from the Midwest, has earned favorable reviews for his high-profile fight with unions in Wisconsin, and the Americans for Prosperity chapter in his state is one of the group's most active.

Another prospective presidential candidate who has been popping up at Koch events in recent years is Mr. Rubio. He delivered the closing speech at last year's summer seminar — a high-profile and carefully chosen speaking slot — and has been a frequent speaker at American for Prosperity summit meetings.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who recently said he was considering a third run for the White House, was notably not invited to this year's seminar, although he has not been invited in recent years, either.

For those with strong relationships in the Koch network, this week's gathering in the California desert will provide a critical early test of the race to win the Koch sweepstakes. The seminar, said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, is as much for the candidates as for the donors.

"Everyone is on display," Ms. Krumholz said, "either being courted, or being interviewed for the job."