Mar 27, 2011

Can Republican Budget Cuts lead to Another Triangle Fire Disaster?

This week marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Fire in New York City. Two 14 year old girls were among the 146 victims of the deadliest industrial fire in American history.

The workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist garment factory were mostly immigrants, many of whom jumped to their deaths to escape the blaze. The rest burned to death. Images of their charred bodies on the sidewalks of New York should serve as a reminder of how necessary the regulation of industry is, but the lessons learned from the Triangle disaster are quickly being forgotten, as more and more safety regulations are being rolled back.

Over the past two decades, the conservative movement in America has thrust corporate favoritism upon the public. Proponents claim less regulation creates more jobs. However, the number and quality of jobs in the US has declined since the trend began in the 1980’s under the Reagan Administration, and expanded under the George W. Bush Administration, according to reports from  the Congressional Budget Office.

The results of deregulation can be seen in recent disasters, such as the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill,  the death of 29 West Virginia miners in April of 2010, and the collapse of the US financial and housing markets in 2008.

Big business has proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to put public and workers safety before profits. Yet, the US Congress has put legislation on the table that will roll back Environmental Protection Agency powers, and OSHA regulations. For the American labor force, the trend toward union busting may only lead to future economic and safety disasters of Titanic proportion.

The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory were charged with first degree manslaughter in 1911, nine months after the fire that needlessly took 146 lives.
Three years after the Wall Street debacle that crushed the US economy, not one banker has set foot inside a prison. And record profits have been recorded on the books of some of the worst corporate mortgage industry manipulators. BP has yet to be formally charged with criminal negligence after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, took 11 lives, and polluted the Gulf of Mexico with more spilled oil than any other company in US history.

If history holds the truth on which we should base the future, then deregulation has already proven that it will take America nowhere, but down the path to disaster.

Mar 20, 2011

New oil spill spotted in Gulf near BP Macondo well

While there have been no new reports of damaged oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, a massive oil slick has been spotted.

The US Coast Guard has confirmed that there appears to be a massive oil sheen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 20 miles north of the site of the 2010 BP oil spill.

The half-mile wide, hundred mile long oil slick was reported by local residents, who spotted it on Saturday, according to the Times-Picayune.

During the early stages of the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill, there were reports of three leaks at the Macondo well site. One was plugged within a week. The second held the international spotlight, until it was finally capped five months later, after spewing 4.9 million barrels of oil and a million gallons of chemical dispersant into the Gulf.

The third leak was largely ignored by the media.  However, oil industry expert, Matt Simmons claimed in an MSBNC news interview, that the third leak, located about 5 miles from the Macondo well, was the “elephant behind the mouse.”
Simmons died unexpectedly on August 8th, 2010.  The circumstances surrounding his death suggest to some people that he may have been assassinated for being a whistle blower during the BP oil spill.

Mar 18, 2011

Radiation leak from Japan is low risk to US, says Obama

Radiation from Japan’s damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is expected to reach California by Friday. However, President Obama said the levels of radiation are not expected to be high enough to be cause for concern.

"We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories," Obama said at a press conference on Thursday.
Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant was damaged after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake stuck off shore on March 11, 2011. Massive damage from the tsunami that follow has left more than 6,000 reported dead and more than 15,000 remain missing.

There are six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Two were off line when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan last Friday, but are at risk of releasing radiation through spent fuel rods. Explosions have occurred at the other reactors, and  the core in reactor number 3 has “begun to meltdown,” according to the Denver Post.

Mar 15, 2011

Republicans want to cut funding for tsumani warning system

Republicans set on reducing government spending at all costs may be putting the lives of Americans at risk for disaster, disease and even death. Recent budget cut proposals include cutting 30% of the funding for the tsunami warning system, and hundreds of other safety-oriented regulations.

“Republicans' aversion to government regulation is well-known and longstanding. But with the GOP back in charge in the House of Representatives, there's a renewed offensive against the thousands of federal rules that affect how business is done,” according to reports.

Other public safety issues on the GOP cutting table are rollbacks for safe drinking water, ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating air pollution, and block product safety data information.

The GOP claims that rolling back or stopping the enforcement of regulations will create jobs. However, allowing businesses to pollute more and cut corners on public safety is no guarantee that an abundance of good paying jobs will suddenly appear.

"If just getting rid of regulations was the easy way to create jobs, it would've been done. These are very complex issues. . . .It's one thing to have a job, and it's another thing to know that there are regulations in place to make sure that you come home at the end of the day, that you're not harmed, and that American people are kept safe. That's the balance," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- MD) told Common Dreams.

Clean drinking water, clean air, and tsunami disaster warnings may not be a high priority for the Republican Party, however, the American public may disagree.

Adding possible cancer causing contaminants to the environment and weakening disaster warning systems may sound good to republicans, but many Americans may not be willing to trade their health and safety, particularly with no guarantee that a single new job will be created.

Mar 10, 2011

GOP: Union busted in Wisconsin without budget repair

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker removed all doubt as to what his real intentions were regarding his battle with his public unions. On Thursday, state senators removed all budget repair measures from Walker’s “budget repair” bill, and voted only on the part of the bill that revoked the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin public unions. The legislation passed 18 to 1, with one republican voting no.

The 14 democrats that had left the state more than 3 weeks ago in support of Wisconsin workers say the move was illegal, and announced that they intend to file suite with the State Attorney General’s office to stop the measure.

Sixteen petitions to recall state senators have been circulating; 8 against republicans and 8 against democrats. Immediately following the vote, MSNBC reported that angry Wisconsin residents plan to petition to remove Governor Walker from office as soon as the one-year- in-office legal requirement has been met.

Walker made history on Thursday by working around the rules of democracy to force his personal agenda on the people of Wisconsin, despite overwhelming public opposition, according to recent polls.

Some believe that the action republicans took against unions in Wisconsin was more of a move expected from a dictatorship that a democracy. No democrats were present for the vote that stripped Wisconsin unions of their collective bargaining rights.

Mar 9, 2011

Dead fish wash ashore by the millions in California

Millions of dead fish washed up at the King Harbor Marina in Redondo Beach, California on Tuesday. Experts suggest they died of suffocation after getting confused by bad weather. However, the cause of death for the millions of fish has not been officially confirmed.

The California dead fish event raises questions about a possible connection to similar sudden, massive wildlife deaths reported earlier this year in Arkansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, California, Maryland, Illinois, Sweden, New Zealand, Italy, and Brazil.

In addition to dead fish, millions of birds throughout the world have also suddenly died. The worldwide epidemic of unexplained deaths began with a tragedy that involved 5,000 blackbirds in Beebe, Arkansas, on New Year’s Day, 2011.

The mysterious wildlife deaths have been blamed on everything from fireworks to weather. But many believe that suddenly massive fatalities in birds and fish on a worldwide scale are a sign of deeper problems.

“Ecological indicators are useful tools for measuring changes over time, and provide valuable insights into how and why the environment is changing,” according to retired CSU Biological Sciences professor Dr. Roger Lederer. “Birds are excellent indicators because we know so much about their biology and life histories.”

Some people suggest that the recent rash of bird and fish deaths are a sign of prophesy related to the Apocalypse and end of the world. Others believe that it is related to serious ecological disruption through climate change or pollution. Whatever the underlying cause is, it currently remains a mystery to the scientific community.

Mar 5, 2011

Does Glorida Steinem know what the Republicans really want?

On Friday, author and policical activist, Gloria Steinem appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. Her insights into the goals of the Republican Party were insightful and perhaps frightening. Steinem suggests that the GOP, fueled by the recent surge in Tea Party conservatism, is all about selling-off the America piece by piece to corporations.

There is substantial evidence to support her views on the corporate takeover of America. What immediately comes to mind is Social Security. Under the Bush Administration, republicans tried to push through legislation that would have handed over Social Security to Wall Street, as they have done since the 1960’s. And their efforts continue to this day.

In October 2010, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Huffington Post, "Instead of helping seniors, Republicans, backed by their allies on Wall Street, are threatening to privatize and cut Social Security, just as they tried to do under President Bush."

Privatizing Social Security would give the corporations administering the fund the ability to subtract their fees from retirement accounts. According to US Government actuarial data, less than 1% of the money collected currently goes toward administration. If Wall Street took over the program, that number would rise because charging fees are how the corporations would generate their profits, thus reducing the benefits to program recipients. With privatization, every American worker that was paying into Social Security would be forced to pay commissions to the Wall Street firms that were handling the accounts.
The republicans are not likely to explain the details on how privatizing Social Security would really work. The financial collapse of 2008 left most Americans with a highly unfavorable view of Wall Street money management.

As Steinem pointed out, the programs that republicans want to take off the government books, were “bought and paid for by the American taxpayers.”

Giving taxpayer funded programs to Wall Street does not end with Social Security. Every piece of land or national park owned by the federal government that could be opened up to oil drilling or other corporate-profit use would be yet another affront on the rights of Americans to influence the future of their country.

If the republicans fulfilled their entire wish list for America, much of it would be turned over to, run, and owned by corporations.

With labor unions currently under attack in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey and Ohio, and the rollback of safety regulations on the budget-cut table, it may not be long before America is reduced to an oligarchy, and the U.S. Constitution becomes nothing more than a worthless piece of paper.