FAR FROM OVER: ANTI-LGBT LAWS AND THE NEXT PHASE OF QUEER ACTIVISM

“As of this afternoon, Indiana’s Republican governor Mike Pence has just signed a “religious freedom” bill that would empower private businesses to discriminate against LGBT people if their “conscience” should compel them. The targets of this legislation are clear in spite of the sometimes cloudy language used by politicians to describe it.

One man who was far from circumspect was Eric Miller, a right wing lobbyist who is one of the bill’s fathers. According to CNN: “On his website, Miller highlighted examples of the law’s effect: Christian bakers, florists and photographers won’t have to participate in ‘homosexual marriage,’ he wrote, while Christian businesses won’t be punished for ‘refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom.’” Given the latter slur it’s quite clear who is being targeted here. I myself now feel nervous about attending a conference in Indiana in July.

We are confronted with a backlash against LGBT rights in general. The outbreak of so-called “religious freedom” legislation — like Indiana’s new law and a similar law in Arkansas that overrides local anti-discrimination legislation — is part of a trend toward crowdsourcing anti-gay/anti-trans bigotry in the United States.

What is alarming about these laws is that they empower the worst instincts and prejudices of individuals, compel them to act as surrogates of the state, and ennoble these bigoted tendencies with the sanctity of an inalienable right. Rather than relying on the top-down legislative proposals of a decade past (remember the abortive Constitutional amendment proposal to ban same-sex marriage?), the far right is now coming after LGBT people from the other end, legalizing and empowering private discriminatory practice as a means of rolling back the tide of progress we’ve seen since the turn of the century.

This is the challenge that faces us over the next decade, as the parade of legal victories for same sex marriage becomes the settled law of the land, our right as LGBT people to be free from discrimination is increasingly being eroded. In denying us the protection of the state, these new laws seek to throw us to the wolves of crowdsourced prejudice, obviating the full exercise of our supposedly newfound freedoms.

This map, produced by the Human Rights Campaign, gives some sense of the scale of the problem.”

Read the full piece here

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On Friday, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared the herbicide glyphosate to be a substance that is “probably carcinogenic.” Glyphosate, more commonly known by its commercial name Roundup, is the primary weed killer used by agriculture giant Monsanto. This news is a problem for them. French news channel Canal+ has recently aired a preview of an upcoming documentary featuring Monsanto lobbyist Dr. Patrick Moore arguing that Roundup is definitelynot cancerous. But Moore is unwilling to back up his claims.

"You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you"

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​Monsanto lobbyist claims ‘safe to drink a quart of pesticide’ – but bolts when offered a glass (VIDEO)

When a journalist informed the lobbyist that a cup of the herbicide was prepared for him, Moore bristled, saying: “I’m not stupid.”

Democratic Senators Propose Lifetime Ban on Lobbying

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) “introduced legislation to prevent members of Congress from becoming lobbyists after they retire,” The Hill reports.

"Current law allows senators to become lobbyists two years after leaving office, while House members only have to wait for a year. But Bennet and Tester’s bill would institute a lifetime ban on lobbying for lawmakers."

Excellent idea.

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Consumers, farmers, & activists prepare to fight “Monsanto Protection Act” passed by the U.S. Senate
April 1, 2013

You most likely haven’t seen this story on your nightly news or on the front pages of most mainstream newspapers, but there is a huge battle underway that’s pitting angry consumers, organic farmers, small farmers and the natural food industry and others against bio-tech giant Monsanto and its large agriculture supporters.

The fight is centered around growing outrage over passage in the U.S. Senate of what critics are calling the “Monsanto Protection Act,” which President Obama signed into law on Tuesday. Anthony Gucciardi in piece on naturalsociety.com describes what’s happening this way:

"There truly is no rest for the wicked, and Monsanto is at war once again against health conscious consumers with the latest ‘Monsanto Protection Act‘, managing to sneak wording into the latest Senate legislation that would give them blanket immunity from any USDA action regarding the potential dangers of their genetically modified creations while under review.

The USDA would be unable to act against any and all new GMO crops that were suspected to be wreaking havoc on either human health or the environment….it all started in the late hours of Monday night (March 11), when lobbyists working for the Monsanto-fronted biotechnology industry managed to slide a ‘rider’ (through the deceptively worded Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735) into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill.”

The left-of-center NationOfChange reports that Monanto’s lawyers and lobbyists pulled off a major coups with this rider and right under the eyes of even the most knowledgeable players along The Beltway:

"In the typical slippery nature of Monsanto’s legislation-based actions, the biotech giant is now virtually guaranteed the ability to recklessly plant experimental GM crops without having to worry about the United States government and its subsequent courts. The Monsanto Protection Act buried deep within the budget resolution has passed the Senate, and now nothing short of a presidential veto will put an end to the ruling.

In case you’re not familiar, the Monsanto Protection Act is the name given to what’s known as a legislative rider that was inserted into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. Using the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735, this bill actually grants Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.”

In essence, say the critics, rider gives “backdoor approval” for any new genetically engineered crops that could be potentially harmful to human health or the environment.

A lobbyist monstrosity

The legislation has been described as a, “Lobbyist-created recurring nuisance that has been squashed in previous legislation thanks to outcry from not only grassroots but major organizations. Last time we saw The Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists all come out against the Monsanto Protection Act from the 2012 Farm Bill,” says a report in NationOfChange before Mr. Obama signed the bill into law.

"This time, there was a swift resistance…however sadly the Senate acted so quickly on this and almost entirely ignored the issue that it has now passed despite thousands of fans signing the old petition…the reality is that the bill is actually seen as a positive one by most politicians, which is where Monsanto lobbyists were so deceptive and slippery as to throw in their rider (the actual Monsanto Protection Act into the bill). This makes it very unappealing to veto the bill, but also we must remember that Obama actually promised to immediately label G Mos back in 2007 when running for President," concludes the NationOfChange story.

The rider in the bill allows farmers to plant, harvest and sell “genetically engineered plants” even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavorably in court.

A Center for Food Safety statement called the rider “an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions” and “ a major violation of the separation of powers.”

Yahoo News goes a step further saying this legislation rider, “Threatens the health and well-being of the public by undermining the federal courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops. The rider was slipped into the bill while it sat in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. According to the Center for Food Safety, the committee held no hearings on this controversial biotech rider and many Democrats were unaware of its presence in the larger bill.”

Hidden backroom deals

Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety said in a statement, “In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto…this abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

Food Democracy Now is calling on concerned citizens to call Congress and petition President Obama to remove Section 735 from the Continuing Resolution bill. There is an online petition sponsored by Food Democracy Now located here .

The International Business Times (IBT) says of the Monsanto rider in the bill, “The provision’s language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It’s just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it’s one that could have dire risks for public health in America.”

The IBT says there are “five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision — Section 735 of the spending bill — to get you acquainted with the reasons behind the ongoing uproar.” Those five things can be found here .

More than 100 organizations and businesses have come out against this section of the bill, including the National Farmers Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group, Stonyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, Consumers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Public Citizen.

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Breaking: Pebble Mine project shut down. Mining lobbyists lose millions. Local efforts prevailed. Huge environmental win in Alaska today!

NRDC: “(I)n a historic result against enormous odds, the Save Our Salmon initiative has prevailed.

In the Lake and Peninsula Borough of southwest Alaska, where the massive Pebble Mine is proposed to be sited by a consortium of foreign mining companies, the residents have approved a prohibition against large-scale resource extraction – like the Pebble Mine — that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat in their region. 

And, most remarkably, they did so despite an intense campaign of fear funded by the Pebble Partnership falsely charging that the initiative “will drive Lake and Pen families away to find work, force schools to close and drive up the cost of food and fuel as the local economy shrinks even more.”

Source: NRDC

For background, read/listen to NPR’s report yesterday: Pebble Mine Development Polarizes Alaska.”

See also the Pebble Mine wiki and read about the legal battles, lobby efforts, and salmon habitat issues.

Watch on pantslessprogressive.tumblr.com

Report: Obama Has Weakened More Lobbyist-Opposed Health, Public Safety Regulations Than Bush

A new report shows that despite a campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the Obama White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests more than the Bush administration. The study, “Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment,” examines more than a thousand meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little known regulatory office, then checks to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76 percent of the time, while Bush changed them just 64 percent of the time. EPA rules were changed at a significantly higher rate — 84 percent. [Democracy Now!] spoke to the report’s lead author, Rena Steinzor, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and President of the Center for Progressive Reform.