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Atlantic Coast Pipeline Is DESTROYING Quality Of Life in WV

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Truth Against The Machine reporter Kevin Gilbert is in West Virginia where several large proposed pipeline projects threaten to cause great health risks to the community. These pipelines seek approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The comment period is still open on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Go to FERC.gov and make your comments by April 6th using docket number CP 15-554 and CP 15-555.

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The Democratic Divide: New Deal Liberalism vs. Neoliberalism

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The Democratic Party has been facing an existential crisis for several months, deciding whether it wants to follow a more liberal populist direction, or continue along the neoliberal path that it has been walking since the late 20th Century. This crisis is causing severe divisions within the party and threatens to create a long-term divide.

When people say that they are a “Democrat” this really doesn’t tell you a great deal. There is a massive gulf between the New Deal positions and the neoliberal positions, and the simple letter D next to your name indicates nothing as to which side of the divide you are on.

New Deal Liberalism

The term “New Deal liberalism” dates back to the 1930s and was coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt to describe his political platform for improving the nation and recovering from the Great Depression. It was a dominant political ideology for decades and only began to fall out of favor in the 70s and 80s, when the entire American political spectrum began to move to the right.

New Deal liberals are essentially social democrats (similar to left-parties in the EU) who believe in a strong social safety net, significant investments in public institutions, tight regulation of industry, and highly redistributive tax schemes. They expect the government to provide these basic services and protections to their citizens and do not typically support privatization or unregulated markets. The believe that the government is more suited to provide key services—including infrastructure, education, health, environmental, and welfare—than the market, and are often very skeptical of corporate power.

Programs implemented by New Deal liberals include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, worker protections programs (e.g. OSHA), and environmental protections programs (e.g. Nader and the EPA).

New Deal Democrats represent the more progressive side of the party. With the losses of Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton and Keith Ellison to Tom Perez, New Deal Democrats currently find themselves outside of leadership positions within the Democratic establishment.

Neoliberalism

The term “neoliberalism” refers to an economic and political movement that began in the late 20th Century and has had great influence over the Democratic Party since the 1980s—neoliberals are also referred to as “Third Way Democrats,” “moderate Democrats,” or “New Democrats.” The neoliberal ideology attempts to use some conservative and pro-market economic policies to achieve some more progressive goals (e.g. better public schools through more choice and innovative charters).   

Neoliberals subscribe to many of the same broad ideals as New Deal liberals—including universal college and healthcare—but have dramatically different policy ideas on how to achieve these goals.  

First, they subscribe to a much more conservative economic ideology, where they believe that the market is much more efficient in providing services than the government. They often support privatization (e.g. private schools), market-solutions to social problems (e.g. cap-and-trade), and the use of subsidies and incentives instead of publicly provided services (e.g. using ObamaCare to give everybody access to private insurance rather than creating a public option).

Second, neoliberals favor less stringent regulatory regimes than New Deal liberals. They believe that the market can regulate itself in many cases and agree with conservatives that “big government” hurts more than it helps.

Third, neoliberals commonly support “free trade deals” and open markets for goods and services across international borders. Neoliberals like Bill Clinton were the driving force behind NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China, and neoliberals in the Obama administration sold the TPP.

Because of their pro-market and pro-corporate stances on many issues, neoliberals have received a great deal of funding from big money donors. In fact the Democratic Leadership Council—which was a key tool that helped neoliberals take over the Democratic Party in the late 20th Century—was founded using money from a variety of conservative groups, including the Koch Brothers, DuPont, AIG, and Verizon.

Policy Fights Between Neoliberals and New Deal Democrats

Despite the fact that both neoliberals and New Deal liberals are described as “liberal,” and often reside within the Democratic Party, they have dramatically different policy proposals.

The debate over health care financing is a perfect example of a policy fight that demonstrates the real differences between New Deal liberal and neoliberal policies within the Democratic Party:

  • Neoliberals: Health care should be available to everybody, but financing care should remain in the private market and be run primarily through for-profit insurers. The government should regulate these markets where needed and provide subsidies for poor Americans to provide care, but shouldn’t try to replace private insurers or set prices. ObamaCare is an example of this neoliberal policy being implemented.
  • New Deal Liberals: Health care is a right and the government should provide it through implementing a single payer or public option open to all Americans. Tax revenue should pay for universal insurance coverage that is separate from the private market and not run with a profit motive.

Obviously, while both types of liberal have the same stated goals—universal access to care at an affordable price—the actual mechanisms of achieving these goals are dramatically different. This difference stems from the fundamental divide between the two faction as to whether the government or the market should provide services.

In addition to this disparity, Neoliberals often subscribe to a social justice framework that focuses on race and gender, while New Deal liberal focus on class. For example, many neoliberals are fine with CEOs making enormous salaries and worker wages lagging behind, just as long as those CEOs are demographically representative (e.g. 50% female, African American and Hispanic leadership reflecting population numbers, LGBT representation, etc.). Conversely, New Deal liberals tend to support stronger worker protections that cut across demographic groups and also address class disparities (e.g. higher minimum wages, more vacation time etc.).

This disparity in focus between demographics and class was a key distinction in the fight between Hillary (for neoliberalism) and Bernie (for New Deal liberalism). Hillary made women’s pay equality a major plank of her campaign and utilized successful female and minority elites as campaign proxies in an attempt to garner votes—that said, she didn’t support a $15 minimum wage and it appeared that she was more concerned with increasing the diversity of the elite than decreasing the disparity between the elite and the worker. Conversely, Bernie focused a great deal on the minimum wage, which would help all workers and help reduce wage inequality across class lines—this would have had an indirect impact of disproportionately benefiting women because women are more likely than men to be employed at minimum wages.

I am a firm supporter of New Deal Liberalism and personally consider neoliberalism to be a natural byproduct of the right wing moving into the extreme. Neoliberal Democrats hold many of the policy ideals that moderate Republicans did during the late 20th century (e.g. market-centered solutions rather than government services), while New Deal Democrats represent a continuation of the policy traditions of presidents like FDR, JFK, and LBJ.

In a sane political spectrum (i.e. one not including lunatics like Trump, Pence, Ryan, and McConnell), the neoliberals would largely populate the conservative party, where they would act as a counterweight to the more progressive and government-focused New Deal liberals.

Unfortunately, the US political spectrum has gone insane and the neoliberals are grouped together with the New Deal liberals as the people in the room who actually want to look for solutions to real problems, while the GOP simply attempts to tear the government apart. As this is unlikely to change in the near future, it appears that the Democratic Party will continue to be torn between these two factions and forced to navigate between mutually-exclusive ideas of how public services should be provided.

Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird 

As Party Lines Divide Further, Americans Just Want Affordable Healthcare

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While battle lines are drawn and exaggerated between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., average American citizens are coming together on a pressing issue: the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Early Thursday morning, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the controversial replacement for “Obamacare,” while members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee continue to debate.

American citizens from all sides of the political spectrum have been expressing concerns over their healthcare coverage since President Donald Trump was elected into office. While some individuals would like to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, others would rather see it thrown out entirely and replaced with new policies, just as President Trump and GOP lawmakers have promised.

Despite opposing viewpoints on how to reform healthcare, citizens have made it quite clear that they want—and need—certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act to stay. They seem to be united on two major fronts: Medicaid expansion programs and coverage for pre-existing conditions.

While millions of Americans wait to see if they’ll be able to afford their new insurance plans, experts are reporting that the proposed plan will, predictably, benefit drug companies, insurers, and the wealthy.

Before House Republicans even announced the draft of the proposed healthcare bill, constituents were calling their elected officials by the hundreds, and were showing up to local town hall meetings in droves. 

These activist efforts have already been partially successful, as constituents were able to pressure lawmakers to include provisions for individuals with pre-existing conditions. However, specific details regarding affordability for those plans remain unknown.

Experts suggest there will be sharp drops in overall coverage, and if the bill passes, Americans will also see significant cuts to Medicaid, which covered an additional 11 million low-income Americans under Obamacare. Those individuals could potentially lose coverage in 2020.

As Americans fight to keep their healthcare plans, some elected officials aren’t handling the heat they’re receiving from constituents, and have been avoiding town hall meetings.

Some lawmakers are also making it abundantly clear that they are blind to the needs of impoverished Americans. Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) has argued that fewer insured Americans is somehow better for “personal liberty,” while Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS) recently stated, “there is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves”.

However, not all Congressmen, and not even all Republican Congressmen, are supporting the healthcare bill. Four Republican Senators heard their constituents’ pleas and recently voiced their opposition to the proposed bill in a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats and liberals remain mostly unified, standing firmly against the new plan. “Don’t look at the Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare as a health care plan, because it really is not,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“Look at it as a tax plan with $275 billion in tax breaks for the top 2%, people earning $250,000 a year or more, and massive cuts to healthcare for everyone else.” Additionally, they oppose the bill because it promises to defund Planned Parenthood, and eliminates abortion care coverage for low-income patients.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has also criticized the bill, calling it “Obamacare Lite.” On Thursday, he announced that he would be endorsing an alternative Republican-backed healthcare plan, introduced to the House by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). “The Republican Party is unified on Obamacare repeal”, said Paul, who also suggested that a replacement plan can wait until the repeal is finalized.

Heritage Action, a conservative advocacy group founded under the Heritage Foundation, recently voiced opposition to the bill, whose announcement echoed several other conservative entities. “In many ways, the House Republican proposal released last night not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them,” said Michael A. Needham, CEO of Heritage Action.

If the past several weeks are indicative of future activism efforts, constituents from all parties will continue this nationwide discussion in increasing numbers, especially as debates become more heated. They will continue to remind their representatives that they were elected to represent all constituents regardless of wealth—not just the donors who will benefit from making the poor poorer.

Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird

Proposed EPA Budget Cuts Show White House Ignorance

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Last week, a day after a record-high 63.5 degrees in Antarctica, we founds out the proposed 25 percent cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget would specifically target programs on climate change and programs designed to prevent air and water pollution such as lead contamination. The EPA budget is only $8.1 billion to begin with, which amounts to a meager 0.22 percent of the federal budget.

But it doesn’t stop there, according to Reuters, the EPA’s staff would be cut by 20 percent, and state grants would be reduced by 30 percent. Grants that help Native American tribes fight pollution also face a 30 percent reduction. As if it wasn’t obvious enough that Trump—who has invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline—doesn’t give a damn about the rights of Native Americans, or more broadly, anyone outside of his circle of elitist plutocrats.

While the media is fixated on what type of meat Trump ate for dinner, or how many times he said “Putin” in his sleep, the EPA is under siege. There are already a myriad of unreported stories of lead contamination throughout the country. Whether it’s the crisis in Flint, Michigan, or East Chicago, Indiana—people are being poisoned at an alarming rate. And even more importantly, there is absolute silence from the so-called “fourth estate”.

Trump’s attacks on the environment and the scientific community somehow got worse this week. As reported in New Republic, upon Trump’s arrival into office in late January, his staff began changing the language on government websites. Mentions of human-caused climate change, and descriptions of international climate talks, were all eradicated.

On Tuesday, it became more obvious than ever that the White House isn’t even making an attempt to mask their ignorance and blatant affection for the oil and gas industry. The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology, the leaders of developing clean water standards for states, had “science” removed from their website’s mission statement.

A four-page White House budget memo obtained by the Washington Post, shows a 17 percent reduction in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s role is to increase knowledge on climate and weather through satellite data. However, the satellite program would be cut by over half a billion dollars.

Donald Trump and the White House are demonstrating nothing short of an abhorrent mixture of ignorance and neglect. Considering Trump’s hand-picked leader of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, doesn’t even believe that carbon emissions cause harm to the environment, it’s easy to imagine he welcomes these budget slashes. This is a guy who has sued the agency 14 times, and has had major energy companies write complaints for him. The oil-garchy is in full swing.

As a whole, these proposals would undoubtedly have an irreversible and ruinous impact on not only the United States, but also the rest of the planet. Climate change already disproportionately affects the poor, who are silenced in this attack on the environment because of the money flowing from major energy companies into the pockets of politicians. At this rate circumstances will seemingly only grow more grim.

Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird 

East Hampton Turns Local Rec Center Into For Profit Gym

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Truth Against The Machine reporter Walker Bragman discusses how a local East Hampton rec center, once a second home for children, is now a for profit gym.

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Wind Power Briefly Becomes Top American Energy Source

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Truth Against The Machine founder Jordan Chariton did a Facebook Live discussing how wind powered more than 50% of Electric demand this past weekend.

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How the NJ Pinelands Commission became a tool of the fossil fuel industry

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The New Jersey Pinelands covers around 20 percent of the state of New Jersey—the largest pristine, mostly-undeveloped patch of land on the East Coast. It also sits on top of a 17 trillion gallon freshwater aquifer. In 1978, the United States passed the Pinelands Protection Act, making the Pinelands the country’s first officially sanctioned nature reserve.

The Pinelands Protection Act created the Pinelands Commission, a bipartisan body containing a board of 15 voting members. As declared in its Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), its one and only purpose is to “preserve, protect, and enhance the resources of the Pinelands”. According to the CMP, the only public infrastructure allowed must be “intended to primarily serve the needs of the Pinelands”.

However, on February 24, 2017, the commission voted 9-5 in favor of building a 15-mile natural gas pipeline through the heart of the Pinelands; a pipeline that almost exclusively benefits the profits of two fossil fuel companies for whom the vast majority of its customers (according to the commission itself, somewhere between 70 and 86 percent) reside outside of the Pinelands region.

The Pinelands Commission justifies this approval by asserting that the only destination of its gas, the BL England plant (BLE), is a facility that is located within the Pinelands, and that this satisfies the requirement that it “primarily serves the needs of the Pinelands”. In fact, they explicitly state that whether or not the gas will serve Pinelands residents is “not necessary to demonstrate CMP conformance”. But while the BLE plant is in the Pinelands, it is outside of the protected area under the commission’s jurisdiction.

What is the gas for? 

The amount of natural gas that can go through the pipeline is potentially significantly more than the power plant could process. There is also another bigger pipeline being proposed to start in the town of Chesterfield, an area just northwest of the Pinelands. This second pipe will run southeast and both it and the Pinelands pipe will end in roughly the same area: relatively close to the New Jersey coastline.

While the Pinelands pipeline primarily defaces the environment, the Chesterfield pipe will be laid under the street in front of many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of homes.  Some of those homes are as close as 50 feet from the pipeline, which has a blast radius of a quarter mile.

The characteristics of these pipes suggest that much or most of the gas will be used, not for domestic energy, but for export. It is not unreasonable to speculate that part of this plan may also be intended as a last ditch effort to save Atlantic City.

What happened to the Pinelands Commission?

In 1995, the United Nations called the Pinelands Protection Act “still perhaps the strongest state land-use legislation in the country.” So what exactly happened that transformed such a successful government environmental enforcer into what is now essentially an arm of the fossil fuel industry?

A substantial part of the answer is that for the past five years, the Chris Christie administration has aggressively replaced members of the commission known to be against the pipeline, with people who do whatever it takes to make it pass. Governor Christie is also suspected to have used numerous vicious acts of retribution.

In 2010, Christie appointed Nancy Wittenberg as Executive Director, a non-voting staff position. Wittenberg is the former head lobbyist of the NJ Builders Association, who claimed a “passion and commitment for preserving New Jersey’s environment”. Wittenberg’s staff was shown to unethically communicate with both the Christie administration and the fossil fuel company.

At the same time, and at the behest of the Christie administration, an anti-pipeline board member was very questionably forced to recuse himself from a critical vote. Wittenberg has also twice unilaterally approved the pipeline, declaring it was no longer necessary for the board to vote on it, a decision struck down by the courts.

On November 30, 2013, just over one month before the pipeline’s first critical vote, an anti-pipeline commissioner passed away after serving for eight years. His county’s freeholder board appointed a pro-pipeline successor three days before his funeral.

The pipeline’s first vote in January 2014 resulted in its shocking defeat with a 7-7 deadlock. This was despite the recusal and the replacement of the deceased commissioner. Two of the votes against the pipeline were by Christie appointees. Over the next months, and in seeming retribution, Chris Christie decimated the Pinelands Commission.

The board’s chairman was demoted, an 18-year veteran anti-pipeline commissioner was replaced by her county, and Christie himself appointed two new pro-pipeline members. He also, for the first time in the commission’s history, vetoed the minutes from a monthly meeting; minutes which contained a budget giving Wittenberg and her staff their first raise in four years.

Although there have been tensions and fights throughout the history of the Pinelands Commission, until today, the Pinelands has remained generally unscathed. But now, with this 9-5 vote and the five years leading up to it, the Pinelands is experiencing “by far the biggest crisis [it has faced] in 40 years,” according to Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey’s Sierra Club. “It is also a Pandora’s box with lots of bad to follow”.

The original planners and commissioners feared exactly this possibility: that a pipeline would cut entirely through the Pinelands protected area, where the source, destination and beneficiaries of that energy would all be completely outside of the protected region.

Their fear is now a reality.

This is a condensed version of this article, which contains more detail and comprehensive source links.

Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird and Ben Szioli

Jenni Monet Speaks On Being Chased By North Dakota Police

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The resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock has not only been a fight for indigenous treaty rights and the protection of clean water, but a battle against the control that corporations have over our government and law enforcement officials.

North Dakota has committed numerous human rights violations against peaceful protesters and threatened First Amendment rights by targeting and shutting down journalists whose job it is to expose corruption and the abuse of power.

One such journalist is Native American journalist Jenni Monet of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe in New Mexico. She was arrested on February 1st while documenting the construction of Last Child Camp on disputed treaty land. Monet presented her press credentials upon the request of law enforcement and stepped back from the scene where police were arresting a circle of praying water protectors. She was further threatened with arrest if she did not leave. Despite her compliance, the same officer who issued the threats went after her and took her into custody along with 73 other arrestees. She notes that they never go after “the clean cut, white guy”. According to Monet, most of the arrests that were made were indigenous women.

In an interview with TATM, Monet recalls the racist treatment of indigenous women in North Dakota correctional facilities. They were individually stripsearched, what Morton County calls a “visual inspection”, before being thrown into metal cages, essentially industrial dog kennels, in an unheated parking garage. The women were only allowed one layer of clothing and stayed in these cages until they were transferred to indoor cells six hours later.

One black woman repeatedly requested an additional layer, only to be ignored for hours, while a white woman’s request was granted almost immediately by guards. Monet was also alarmed to discover that the white women did not go through the humiliating stripsearch that the native women subjected to.

Monet’s profession as a journalist meant nothing to any of the guards or the jail captain. Like the other native women, she was “pegged as a water protector with no job”, and thus treated as a second-class citizen.

Many water protectors arrested in previous actions were never given their right to a phone call and some were even detained for days before the Legal Collective knew they were missing.

Monet was vocal in demanding she get her phone call. She stood alone. She was hushed by the 18 other women, who were afraid Monet would somehow anger the jail guards and “disrupt the flow of them being booked”.

She pursued her phone call relentlessly and ended up being the first one released the following day. She learned that the phones in the jails are unable to connect to legal numbers, only allowing calls to private numbers of a family member or a friend, rendering the digits of the Legal Collective scrawled on people’s arms useless.

Monet’s story is an example of the disregard Morton County police have towards journalists dedicated to reporting on the indigenous struggles at Standing Rock, and illustrates the ongoing discrimination against and oppressive treatment of indigenous peoples, particularly women.

Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird 

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The Most Important Race Of 2018

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Truth Against The Machine reporter Niko House discusses what he thinks is the most important race of the 2018 election cycle.

Syracuse People’s March Emphasizes Education Equality

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Bitter cold and biting winds were not enough to keep residents and activists from holding a rally for education justice and equality in downtown Syracuse Saturday afternoon—or a small band of Donald Trump supporters from attempting to disrupt it.

For the hundreds of people who gathered in Hanover Square at high noon – and the thousands more participating in the People’s March for Education Justice across New York —the message was clear. If state and federal officials like Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expect children to receive quality education, they better start paying for it.

Consultant and event organizer Lekia Hill, talked about how Saturday’s march was organized in 12 days. But the movement was born out of the Campaign for Fiscal Equality (CFE), an initiative launched by parents and activists in New York City over a decade ago.

In 2006, the CFE took the state to court, arguing that because their schools lacked sufficient funding, their children were being denied access to quality education. The state Court of Appeals agreed with those parents.

As such, the courts ordered the state to pay $5.5 in “foundation aid” to cover the costs of basic operations in districts across New York. The state initially paid out $2.3 billion.

Then came the effects of the great recession which led to the state freezing the foundation aid funding.

Plus, in 2010, the state implemented something called the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is just a fancy way for the state to say, “We’re using your aid to balance our budget, so y’all are just going to have to deal”.

The schools did deal, but just barely. Most schools in New York are heavily reliant on state aid, so while the Gap Elimination Adjustment has been eliminated this year, they still need that funding. That’s why so many are calling on the state to make like the Lannisters and pay their debts.   

One of the event’s first speakers, Marina Macou O’Malley, policy director for the Alliance for Quality Education in Albany, noted there is $4.3 billion owed to the poorest of New York’s public schools.

“Without this funding we cannot have educational justice,” she said. “Without educational justice, our kids don’t have a shot at succeeding.”

Oh, and here’s the kicker: not only has DEMOCRATIC Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doing away with the Foundation Aid formula in his proposed budget this year, his proposal would also give a record-breaking $238 million in funding to private schools, most of which are religious. What the hell?

Another speaker was Dom Donnay, a freshman at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central, which prepares high schoolers in the district for tech-related careers like biotechnology and media communications.

His concerns over the inexperience DeVos brings to the table received a wild round of applause.

“I’m going to speak up on something I feel very strongly about,” he said. “I’m afraid that Betsy DeVos will destroy our public education system and she will leave many students stranded. I’m going to show Betsy DeVos I matter, my education matters, and so does every other student’s.”

While funding is huge, it is just as important to spend that money wisely in the best interest of the entire community. This is important especially in Syracuse, Hill said, where people tend to use labels to divide each other.

That is why even in spite of the brief “interruption”, she viewed her city’s take on the statewide people’s march as a huge success.

“Syracuse is known to be very segregated, they like to bring up a lot of “-isms,” Hill said. “Today that did not matter. Education brings everyone together. This is what democracy looks like.”

People living in and around the Syracuse area interested in advocating for education-related issues should check out the CNY Solidarity Coalition, the group who helped organize the event at www.facebook.com/cnysolidarity/. Lekia Hill is also the creator of the “Powerful Voices” app which residents can use to connect with lawmakers.

 

Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird