Unchecked Corporate Power Threatening Right To Sue And The Very Bones Of The Internet

Two kind of totally unrelated stories here but they both illustrate the way corporate power in the U.S. is completely out of hand. 

First up, the pox that calls itself "tort reform" but is really a hugely successful attempt to choke off access to the courts for ordinary citizens. Here's an op-ed by filmmaker Susan Saladoff about her new documentary "Hot Coffee":

Taking away people’s rights to access the courts is not that new for corporations. It has been going on for more than 25 years. It has been done through legislation, judicial elections, contractually and supported by a massive, corporate-funded public relations campaign.

Most Americans, however, have no idea – and, again, don’t seem to care — until something bad happens to them personally. Then, people understand, usually for the first time, how their constitutional rights — which stem from the 7th Amendment — have been taken away.

And after the jump is some info on the new corporate assault on ICANN, the entity that manages top level domain names on the Internet.

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Chuck Grassley Helping Big Telecom Choke Off Broadband Access & Innovation

Wireless For America is trying to get broadband spectrum increased, which the FCC has approved (as did the Obama and Bush Admins). But Senator Chuck Grassley (R- Iowa) is standing on the neck of innovation, choking off any chance of improving America's patheticly low rankings for broadband access.

The US is #15 in Broadband penetration and a pathetic 26th in Broadband speed -- behind Romania, that noted hotbed of innovation. This isn't an accident. Bad service and limited access are very much in the interest of Big Telecom. Underserved neighborhoods in rural and urban areas have broadband access issues, jobs that would be created by growing small telecoms are being stopped by Grassley, Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin) and their buddies, and the rest of us are paying more for crappier service, which is the point of telecom monopoly.

Grassley is in the pocket of the big GPS providers Trimble and John Deere who claim that innovation in the spectrum will distort their signals. Their claims are crap as this letter from FCC chair Julius Genachowski shows (pdf). 

Here's more from the National Journal:

President Obama’s past investment in a LightSquared predecessor has become fodder for Republicans in the media and on Capitol Hill. ...

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who have both received thousands of dollars from groups with GPS ties, have taken the FCC to task for its handling of the LightSquared process.

Don't let the GOP politicize this issue in the interests of their wealthy donors. Write congress today in support of better broadband.

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Something Positive for a Change II

Last year I posted about IBM's Smarter Cities challenge because I thought it was a really clever and positive program. Just wanted to post an update as they're launching their 2nd Smarter Cities Challenge for cities to get them grants for projects that improve transportation, government accountability, sustainability and create infrastructure and jobs.

Triple Pundit has more:

IBM is in the midst of a three-year program that amounts to a gift of technology and assistance to cities that can can make a compelling case for a helping hand.

The data and consulting giant’s Smarter Cities Challenge is a three-year, 100-city, US$50 million grant program in which IBM’s top technical experts and consultants help cities solve vexing problems through data analysis.

IBM opened up the 2012 grant application process last week and cities have until December 16 to apply for a grant. IBM is focusing on urban centers because they’re home to more than half the world’s population and, as IBM describes them, they’re more “economically powerful, politically influential, and technologically advanced than at any time in human history.”

And as anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, urban centers have gargantuan problems managing budgets, safety, transportation infrastructures, and a host of other functions. IBM believes it can provide technological fixes to these problems through its consultation services and resources such as City Forward,  an online trends and statistics tool.

Video after the jump.

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Thom Hartmann Debunks Corporate Personhood On MSNBC

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Fighting Back Against The Polluters

One of the most annoying endangered creatures in the current political environment is the moderate Republican. These are the ones who claim to be somewhat civilized and yet, when push comes to shove, they always vote with the corporate bosses. 

Some environmentalists in New Jersey are attacking the GOP at its most vulnerable point -- moderate congressional districts that strongly favor commen sense environmental solutions. 


Clean Air Ad

Environment New Jersey announced a major online clean air accountability campaign, targeting three of New Jersey’s more moderate Republican Congressman, including Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11), for three recent votes that threaten public health by undermining clean air and allowing more air pollution.

“Everyone should be able to breathe clean air, but this bill puts tens of thousands of lives at risk by blocking the clean-up of deadly air pollution,” said Doug O’Malley, field director for Environment New Jersey. “We want to let New Jersey voters know their Congressman supported out-of-state polluters instead of standing up for New Jersey’s health. New Jerseyans deserve better.”

The size of the online media purchase is described as a significant 5-figure buy and is targeting the state’s largest web-sites – including nj.com – with banners targeting hometown voters in all major newspapers, a homepage takeover of PolitickerNJ, sponsorship of the “Wake Up Call” e-mail newsletter and targeted Google ads. Ads will be running for a week.

The House of Representatives approved the “TRAIN” Act, which would indefinitely delay the clean-up of toxic power plant pollution; another bill (H.R. 2681) that prevents clean air standards that lower mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement plants; and a bill (H.R. 2250) that would prevents standards to reduce toxic pollution from industrial incinerators and boilers at power plants.

The “TRAIN” Act alone, if passed, could result in 139,500 lives lost due to smog, soot, and toxic air pollution.* In New Jersey, it could result in over 3,200 lives lost due to air pollution. The health benefits delivered by the incinerator and boiler standards are as high as $54 billion annually, and the health benefits from cement standards will be as high as $18 billion annually.


An Alternative To Teaching To The Test

We've endured the atrocities that George Bush thought constituted "education reform" for almost a decade now and I think it's clear to everyone that "teaching to the test" has just made our already troubled educational system even worse.

I'm happy to say that I came across something that sounds like a promising alternative (via Al Jazeera):

...education expert Dr Steve Edwards, nationally recognised for his leadership of East Hartford High School in Connecticut. During Edwards' tenure, violence at the school has dropped by 50 per cent and dropout rates have fallen below two per cent.

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NRA For States Rights, Except When They're Not

One thing you can say about our friends at the National Rifle Association is that they're intellectually consistent. Ok, so they're not.

Here's the latest crazy-making example:

If the Washington gun lobby and their allies in Congress get their way, your state will no longer be able to make its own decisions about who can legally carry a hidden, loaded gun.

Domestic abusers, drug addicts, stalkers, people with violent arrest records and even people with absolutely no training who have never held a gun before could be granted a concealed gun permit in another state, and your state would have to honor it -- no matter what.

Join Mayors Against Illegal Guns in telling Congress: When it comes to carrying guns in our communities it’s OUR LIVES, so our states should decide OUR LAWS – not Washington politicians.

The U.S. House is planning to hold a hearing to discuss the proposed concealed carry law on September 13th -- and before that happens, they need to hear from you on this crucial issue.

File this under WTF? In the full entry there's a bonus video of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre being a frothing at the mouth wack job.

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How America Is Becoming A Third World Country

The secret: not investing in or even adequately maintaining our infrastructure and when we do invest, we invest in the wrong stuff. 

A survey came out earlier this week that is pretty scarifying:

According to Norman F. Anderson, president and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, the survey paints a dark picture for U.S. infrastructure. “We have conducted this survey around the world, and the overall results for the U.S. are some of the lowest scores that we have seen. U.S. scores are on par with Peru, in terms of the country’s ability to develop infrastructure projects, and well below those of Brazil, India, China, and other countries with which we compete for scarce infrastructure dollars and expertise. Particularly in the wake of President Obama’s jobs plan and call for an infrastructure bank, the survey reveals the need for urgent action and a clear infrastructure strategy for the US.”

Anderson wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that illustrated some of what's wrong with our current approach to infrastructure projects:

The problem is that today in our country it takes an average of 10 years to go from concept to the point at which heavy equipment gets its “notice to proceed.” The Netherlands, not an environmental bandit, faced a similar problem a decade ago, took action and reduced that period to three years. The current process is not deliberate and systematic; it is ponderous, inefficient and deeply dysfunctional.

The 3rd Annual North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum just wrapped up and brought some much-needed attention to these issues. Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Bob Menendez all spoke at the confab which emphasized Anderson's suggestion that new projects focus on jobs:

This is an emergency, so focus on the one statistic that matters, creating jobs. An infrastructure project lasts for 30 to 40 years, so when selecting projects we should score three kinds of job yields:direct jobs, those workers directly employed by the project; indirect jobs, those involved in creating the materials for the work, such as manufacturing steel; and induced jobs, those that the project will eventually produce (such as when a D.C. Metro stop sparks new development nearby or a port project brings new commerce). Infrastructure projects need to be scored — and are scored in other countries — on both jobs created initially, and all the jobs created (and the quality of those jobs) over the lifetime of a project.

A focus on job yield will help the nation prioritize those infrastructure sectors that are most productive in job creation, channeling marginally more resources in that direction. Think about it — project investment would have less to do with congressional districts and political favors and more to do with systematically building our future. Here you could easily argue that the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport would be a better investment than adding a lane to a parallel highway.



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Fix Media Asymmetry: Get The Progressive Info You Need On Your Mobile Phone

It's no secret that we've been waging a long uphill battle against corporate/right-wing control of media. Some outlets like cable news and talk radio may be hopelessly out of whack, but we've long had the edge online. 

Here's a cool new way to expand that progressive info advantage into the mobile realm:

Welcome to Progressive Voices, your progressive media universe designed specifically to perform optimally on your favorite supported smart phone. Catered to your quest for truth and ready to leverage the growing mobile platform.

This first project of the Progressive Voices Institute (a 501(c)(3), nonprofit), the Progressive Voices (PV) App, is the primary portal for all things (text, audio, video, etc.) progressive on the Mobile Internet.

The App puts all progressive media content in your hands, all the time, so you have the content you need on tap whenever you want it. Whether you are on the golf course or sick in bed, the PV App will be there to give you the news, views and information you need – all without having to go through all the trouble of trolling Twitter, Facebook and the MSM just to eek out just enough progressive content to meet your daily fix.

So download it on your smart phone, and support Progressive Voices while also supporting progressive voices.




What If Netanyahu Announced a Peace Deal?

Interesting take on Israel and Palestine. 


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