Despite a deluge of over 100,000 emails and petition signatures from organic consumers and farmers objecting to the appointment of biotech and biofuels booster Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture, the Senate is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings for Vilsack on Wednesday.
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) released the followign statement: "OCA is disappointed in this controversial appointment, and we are calling on our national network and allies to pressure Obama to move beyond "agribusiness as usual" by drafting Jim Riddle to head the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the department that oversees organic food, farming, and standards. Riddle is an organic farmer from Minnesota, former Chair of the National Organic Standards Board, and a longtime advocate for sustainable and organic farming. With Riddle heading up the AMS, farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture, transition to organic programs, and the National Organic Program will finally receive the attention, technical assistance, and funding they deserve."
OCA is proposing to draft Jim Riddle as Secretary of Agriculture. To take part in this effort, click here.
Why Eric Holder Represents What's Wrong with Washington
MotherJones Blog writes: "Eric Holder Jr., by all accounts, is a decent, smart, caring, competent fellow. President-elect Barack Obama's pick to be attorney general had a brilliant career in public service: he graduated from Columbia University law school, worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was a trial attorney at the Justice Department, a Superior Court judge in Washington, DC, a US attorney, and, then deputy attorney general. He has served on various nonprofit boards: George Washington University, the American Constitution Society, Morehouse School of Medicine, Save the Children Foundation, the District of Columbia's Police Foundation, and the Innocence Project. He's been a member of Concerned Black Men for over 25 years. He also, in a way, represents what's wrong with Washington."
Mythbusting the Obama Recovery Package
Sara Robinson writes for The Campaign For America's Future: "Here it is: our moment of economic truth. We're standing at that historic fork in the road where the nation decides, now and for the foreseeable future, whether it's going to hang on to the catastrophic assumptions of the free-market fundamentalists and rely once more on the nostrums that have so far failed to fix the mess, or take a bold step down a new, more progressive path that will finally re-empower the American people to build an economy that works for us all."
Hope and Change for Low-Wage Workers
Rev. William G. Sinkford writes for CommonDreams.org: "On March 18, 1968, two weeks before his murder, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., "It is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis getting part-time income." He said, "A living wage should be the right of all working Americans." What would Dr. King have thought of a $6.55 federal minimum wage in 2009, when the 1968 minimum wage is worth about $10 in today's dollars. What would he have made of a minimum wage that is less adequate for the basic necessities of life than it was 40 years ago?"
Billions Face Food Shortages, Study Warns
Ian Sample reports for The Guardian UK: "Half of the world's population could face severe food shortages by the end of the century as rising temperatures take their toll on farmers' crops, scientists have warned... The worst of the food shortages are expected to hit the poor, densely inhabited regions of the equatorial belt, where demand for food is already soaring because of a rapid growth in population."
Wall Street Robber Barons Ride Again
Robert Scheer writes for Truthdig.com: "Why rush to throw another $350 billion of taxpayer money at the Wall Street bandits and their political cronies who created the biggest financial mess since the Great Depression? And why should we taxpayers be expected to double our debt exposure when the 10 still-secret bailout contracts made in the first round are being kept from the public?"
44 to Reverse 43's Executive Orders
Ben Smith and Lisa Lerer write for Politico.com: "President-elect Barack Obama is expected to move swiftly to reverse executive orders regarding torture of terror suspects, the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and other controversial security policies, sources close to his transition team said, in dramatic gestures aimed at reversing President Bush's accumulation of executive power."
What We Didn't Know Has Hurt Us
Clint Hendler writes for the Columbia Journalism Review: "Advocates for open and transparent government are quick to note that no American presidential administration has, in practice, been enthusiastic about reducing secrecy in the executive branch—for some obvious and sometimes quite legitimate reasons. There are secrets that almost everyone agrees should remain secret. But secrecy must be balanced with the citizens’ right to examine the operations of their government—to learn, to improve, to enforce, and sometimes to shame. That’s especially true when there are political or bureaucratic incentives for secrecy that deserve far less respect than true matters of national security. And despite the bipartisan resistance from those in power, the arc of history has trended, if unevenly, toward openness."
Internal Probe Slams Bush Justice Department for Illegal Hiring
Greg Gordon writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as 'real Americans,' kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday. Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers 'commies' and 'pinkos' and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn't be limited to hiring 'politburo members' who belong to some 'psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,' the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found."
Congress Aims to Take Back Constitutional War Powers
Maya Schenwar reports for Truthout: "As America anticipates the official arrival of the Obama presidency on January 20, the power grabs and ballooning executive privileges of the Bush administration may seem far behind us. However, staving off the normalization of those abuses has remained at the forefront of several Congress members' legislative agendas. Congress took little initiative to rein in Bush's excesses throughout his administration, and now, some members worry that his vast expansion of executive powers could set a dangerous precedent for generations to come. Unless Congress formally rejects Bush's generous interpretation of the role of the president, they say, the system of checks and balances could be permanently disrupted."
The Afghan Scam: The Untold Story of Why the US Is Bound to Fail in Afghanistan
Ann Jones writes for TomDispatch.com: "The Bush administration perpetrated a scam. It used the system it set up to dispense reconstruction aid to both the countries it 'liberated,' Afghanistan and Iraq, to transfer American taxpayer dollars from the national treasury directly into the pockets of private war profiteers. Think of Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater in Iraq; Louis Berger Group, Bearing Point and DynCorp International in Afghanistan. They're all in it together. So far, the Bush administration has bamboozled Americans about its shady aid program. Nobody talks about it. Yet the aid scam, which would be a scandal if it weren't so profitable for so many, explains far more than does troop strength about why, today, we are on the verge of watching the whole Afghan enterprise go belly up."
Liz Langley writes for AlterNet.org: "There was a time in this country when smart people were considered cool -- well not cool, but they did things like build ships and pyramids and they even went in the moon ... I believe that time can come again. That's an abridged quote from Idiocracy, the 2006 scarily spot-on parody film about what life will be like on Earth in 500 years if we don't throw a Stop Stick under the tires of the dumbing-down process. Written and directed by Mike Judge ("Beavis and Butthead," "King of the Hill") in Judge's world of tomorrow, the top TV show is "Ow! My Balls!" on the Violence Channel, and the U.S. president is an ex-porn star and pro-wrestler."
Obama Must Seize Opportunity From Crisis
Jeremy Ben-Ami writes for The Jewish Week: "Whatever faint hope President-elect Barack Obama's national security team may have held of pushing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the back burner went up in smoke in recent days. As ever, 'the conflict,' now focused on Gaza, is squarely front and center on a new American president's plate. My hope is that the president-elect will seize this crisis and its aftermath as an opportunity to set a bold new course for America in the Middle East."
Gaza: An Ongoing Challenge for the Media
Oliver Luft writes from the Guardian UK: "The blockade of Gaza by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) preventing reporters entering the besieged territory has created a series of operational headaches for British news organisations. Several hundred journalists from across the globe have now gathered on the Israeli side of the Erez crossing from Israel into Gaza seeking news from inside the territory."
Sebelieus Budget Unveiled, Prevents Cuts to Public Education
KansasJackass writes: "See, Republicans? All you had to do was sit tight and wait- Governor Kathleen Sebelius has delivered her budget just as you always knew she would. It isn't pretty and won't likely make, well, anyone anywhere in the whole state happy. Potentially the biggest news from the budget is that Sebelius has managed to balance the state budget without cutting funding to public schools."
A Wake-Up Call for Science Education
Alan I. Leshner reports for The Boston Globe: "The United States is once again missing from the list of top-10 science and math education countries. A new Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study confirmed that America lags behind many other industrialized countries at the task of preparing tomorrow's labor force. Long-term economic growth depends on a fully competent talent pool, including workers who can excel in a technology-based economy. But young people in many less-developed countries now outperform their American counterparts in both science and math."
Women's Liberation Through Submission: An Evangelical Anti-Feminism Is Born
Kathryn Joyce, Religion Dispatches: "This October, more than 6,000 women gathered in Chicago for the True Woman Conference ’08: a stadium-style event to promote what its proponents call 'biblical womanhood,' 'complementarianism,' or—most bluntly—'the patriarchy movement.' Women gathering to support the patriarchy movement? It’s evangelical counterculture at its most contrarian."
Obama Will End "Don't Ask" Policy, Aide Says
Matthew B. Stannard reports for The San Francisco Chronicle: "President Obama will end the 15-year-old 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that has prevented homosexual and bisexual men and women from serving openly within the U.S. military, a spokesman for the president-elect said."
Equality Matters Launches Online March for LGBT Equality
Gaypolitics.com reports that the first Online March for Equality will be held on Facebook and other social-networking sites from Jan. 18 to 24, the week of the presidential inauguration. The event, which is being organized by LGBT-rights group Equality Matters, has garnered more than than 40,000 Facebook registrants who are pledging to replace their profile photos with one of several "badges" representing the inability to file joint taxes, handle medical decisions for a partner and other rights not available to LGBT Americans.
Beware of Bogus National Broadband Plans
Karl Bode writes for Broadband Reports: "Obama's team is supposedly considering a plan to expand broadband, centered largely around providing tax breaks to companies willing to extend broadband where it isn't available. Remember that many of these companies already spent millions trying to keep under-served areas from wiring themselves. Should they be rewarded?"
Report: Public Broadcasting and Public Affairs
Pat Aufderheide and Jessica Clark, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, issue a new report looking at public broadcasting's resources and assets are valuable and hold great potential value for tomorrow's nonprofit online media sector. The sector will have to transform to fulfill that potential -- the question is how. Scenarios include going local, going national, partnering up, or fighting it out. (PDF download)