Certified organic food and personal care products are just about the only things sold in grocery stores these days that can be accurately described as healthy, nutritious, safe and good for the environment. (Beyond organic you can vote for economic justice with your consumer dollars by choosing items that are labeled as Fair Trade or Union-Made.) But constant vigilance is required to prevent unscrupulous companies from driving down organic standards, or exploiting their workers. Family-scale organic dairy farmers are being undermined by factory farm feedlots masquerading as organic, as well as Wal-Mart and other national retail chains driving down farm gate prices. Multi-ingredient organic food processors are cutting costs by using the same supply chain as bottom-of-the-barrel conventional brands, with unfortunate results such as the recent peanut butter food poisoning scandal. And, fake organic imports threaten to flood the domestic organic marketplace.
Under the Bush Administration, the USDA National Organic Program contributed to these problems by being slow to address National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendations, issue definitive regulations and enforce existing ones. Under the new Obama Administration, with Kathleen Merrigan as second-in-command at the USDA, we have an opportunity to prevent corporate greed from corrupting organic standards.
Please send a letter to the USDA
This Week in Scandals: Bailout Moves Threaten to Backfire
Alexandra Andrews reports for ProPublica: "The Obama administration is concocting a plan to sidestep congressionally mandated restrictions on bailout funds, like executive pay caps, in future rescue efforts, the Washington Post reported this week, prompting the House oversight committee to open an investigation. Meanwhile, other aspects of the administration's strategy came under fire for being too risky. The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin concluded that the Federal Reserve's plan to insure 85 percent of the loans investors will use to buy toxic assets (as part of the Treasury's Public-Private Investment Program) will actually add 'more risk, not less, to the system.' And the Post raises the possibility that the administration's plan to ramp up financial oversight will actually spur greater risk-taking. "
Recommended Audio: William K. Black - Sharing the Blame for the Economic Crisis?
Bill Moyers interviews William K. Black on who's to blame for our current economic crisis, "liars' loans" and the Wall Street barons.
How a Green Economy Is an Antidote to Casino Capitalism
Robert Pollin writes for New Labor Forum: "The convergence of a profound economic crisis and the inauguration of Barack Obama as President has created both tremendous challenges and opportunities for progressives in the United States. Two of the overarching economic issues around which progressives will need to struggle are: first, how to build a clean energy economy, creating millions of good jobs in the process; and second, how to create a financial system focused on channeling money toward productive investment as opposed to destabilizing speculation."
America's 20 Percent Unemployment Rate
Carlton Meyer writes for Sanders Research Associates: "Measuring unemployment is an art that can result in widely varied rates. Not surprisingly, the US government uses a method that excludes millions of Americans seeking employment. This lower rate is used to prove that America's economic system is superior to those in Europe. Their higher unemployment rates are blamed on unions and socialism, which guarantee workers health care and paid vacations. The implication is that while many American workers lack such benefits, at least they have jobs. This argument is faulty since unemployment is measured differently."
Jenkins Requests Nearly $70 Million in Earmarks
Jason at Kansas JAckass writes: "I'll start with my obligatory statement saying I have no problem with earmarks. Making sure federal dollars come back to the various states is important, and I think it is the duty of every single Member of Congress to bring home the dough. With that said, I do have to admit I take a certain amount of glee in Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins breaking to high Hell her promises to the people of Kansas regarding earmarks."
Krugman Calls Out GOP Hypocrisy on Job Creation and Defense Cuts
Amanda Trekel writes for Think Progress: "In February, only three Republican senators broke party ranks to vote for the economic recovery package. Zero House Republicans voted for passage. Part of their opposition centered around the belief that an increase in government spending would do nothing to create jobs:"
ObamaNation Wants Taliban Talks, Not Military Escalation, in Afghanistan
Robert Naiman writes for Truthout: "Americans elected President Obama in part based on his promise to put diplomacy and international cooperation, rather than the use and threat of military force, at the center of his foreign policy. With respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan, while there have been some encouraging signals in terms of actually implemented policies, the folks who voted for Obama are not yet getting the 'diplomacy first' that they were promised."
Requiem for the War on Terror
Ira Chernus writes for TomDispatch.com: "This is the way the Global War on Terror (also known, in Bush-era jargon, as GWOT) ends, not with a bang, not with parades and speeches, but with an obscure memo, a few news reports, vague denials, and a seemingly off-handed comment (or was it a carefully calculated declaration?) from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The administration has stopped using the phrase ['war on terror'] and I think that speaks for itself. Obviously."
Torture Is a Crime That Must Be Punished
Eugene Robinson writes for Truthdig: "It’s no longer possible to mince words, or pretend we didn’t know. The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration’s so-called enhanced interrogation methods, used on “high-value” terrorism suspects, plainly constituted torture. The time for euphemisms is over and the time for accountability has arrived."
U.S. Medical Personnel and Interrogations: What Do We Know? What Don’t We Know?
Sheri Fink reports for ProPublica: "This week's posting of a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross report (PDF) about the treatment of 14 'high value detainees' held in secret CIA prisons has again raised a nettlesome question: In exactly what ways were medical personnel involved in abusive detainee interrogations?"
CIA to Close Secret Overseas Prisons
Think Progress writes: "Although the CIA stated yesterday that it will decommission overseas prisons where detainees were tortured, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced that he would not punish those who perpetrated the acts. He said officers who committed such acts 'should not be investigated, let alone punished' because the Justice Department under President Bush had assured them that their actions were legal. The New York Times writes that Panetta's move to close the prisons 'underscored the new administration's sharp break with policies' from the Bush administration after 9/11. However, 'a number of CIA officials implicated in the torture program not only remain at the highest levels of the agency, but are also advising Panetta,' writes The Daily Beast's John Sifton. 'Panetta's attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush's policy into the Obama administration's dirty laundry. Indeed, as Salon's Glen Greenwald writes, Panetta's stance reflects an administration 'vigorously shielding criminals from all investigation and accountability.' Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) insists he is still "continuing to explore" the idea of a truth commission-style torture investigation in congress even though he told several of his constituents last week that the political opposition from Republicans may be too great to overcome."
Race and the Obama Administration
Danny Glover comments for Then Nation: "In 2001 I traveled to Durban, South Africa, to join the tens of thousands of people who came to participate in the United Nations-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. More than 2,000 came from the United States, a rainbow of people crossing all lines--racial, ethnic, national, language, immigration status, religious and much more--joining an equally diverse crowd from across the globe. It was an extraordinary opportunity to meet, discuss, argue and strategize over how to rid the world of these longstanding evils. "
The Heritage Foundation Spreads Lies on YouTube About the Employee Free Choice Act
Joseph Palermo writes for the huffington Post: "The Heritage Foundation posted a paid advertisement yesterday on YouTube's homepage claiming that in the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) workers only hear "the union organizer's side." The infomercial tells viewers that worker enthusiasm for union membership drops off from the time of the initial card check to the time of electing a union, but it leaves out the tactics management uses to scare and cajole workers not to join a union in the first place. The Heritage Foundation deployed 21st Century 'new media' technology to make its case for a return to 19th Century labor practices."
Why Unions Matter
Seth Sandronsky writes for Truthout: "Back in the day, my mother took me to a big United Farm Workers rally. Until then, what I knew of large crowds came from sitting with my father at pro baseball games. That thrilled me. By contrast, the protesters and speakers at the lively UFW event totally rocked my world. To be a part of such cohesion changed my vision of what working people could do to improve their lives. This view of human liberation, in which those who toil daily also actively engage with others politically, motivates author Michael D. Yates, a labor economist and educator, and Monthly Review editor."
The Progressive Conscience in Action
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, The Center for American Progress: "A progressive moral vision is deeply connected to the exercise of conscience. But the interface between conscience and policymaking is poorly defined, making the concept of conscience susceptible to hijacking by conservative political forces."
Relax, FOX News: ACORN has other plans on tax day
Julie writes for News Hounds: "Before I forget, I'm gonna do a shout-out to Neil Cavuto and Michelle Malkin for their help in alerting me to a petition that, what was it, Tea Party gate-crasher ACORN is having people sign and is 'misrepresenting as opposition to the Obama agenda?' The Tea Party people are writing about it; I'm sure you masterminds managed to procure a copy. Let's see it. In a moment of self-punishment, I wandered over to FOX Nation and browsed through this article about effective tea party organizing. (Incidentally, the word 'affect' in the headline's subtitle should have been 'effect' – just sayin'). I noted that Fox News Contributor and right-wing darling Michelle Malkin put out the Red Alert against potential saboteurs. 'These tea parties have become a real target and a magnet for folks on the other side who defend all this big spending,' wrote Malkin, adding that protest participants need to be 'happy warriors.'”
REPORT: "Fair and balanced" Fox News Aggressively Promotes "Tea Party" Protests
Media Matters reports: "Despite its repeated insistence that its coverage is 'fair and balanced' and its invitation to viewers to 'say 'no' to biased media,' Fox News has frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with "tea party" protests across the country, which the channel has described as primarily a response to President Obama's fiscal policies. Media Matters has compiled an analysis of Fox News' promotion of these events."
Quiet Push to Recognize Suffrage Site
Peggy Simpson reports for The Women's Media Center: "Virtually unnoticed by the national news media, a Votes for Women Trail in western New York has been authorized to recognize the suffragists who helped transform this country. The trail will be operated by the National Park Service (NPS) if Congress provides follow-up funding for the bill, which passed Congress in late March and was signed into law by President Obama shortly before his European trip."
Activists Expect Swift Action on Hate Crimes
Chris Johnson writes for The Washington Blade: "After languishing in Congress for 12 years, hate crimes legislation is expected to see swift movement due to strong support from lawmakers and a sympathetic president in the White House. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the recent re-introduction of the bill in Congress was “one of the most important factors” in passing the legislation."
UCLA’s Williams Institute Releases New Study Analysing the Economic Impact of Same-Sex Marriage in the District of Columbia
Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law released a new research study on April 7 predicting that same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia would have a positive impact on the local economy, generating $52.2 million in new spending over the next three years. This new spending will generate 700 new jobs and an additional $5.4 million in tax revenues. This study can be accessed at the Williams Institute website, www.law.ucla.edu/