Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the category “Tom Rossi”

An Open Letter to Fast Food – Tom Rossi

To whom it may concern at McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc.:

I am writing in support of your armies of workers. The people entrusted with the preparation of people’s food should not be treated nor paid poorly. But that’s exactly what has been going on for decades. Ever since the first McDonald’s was erected, fast food workers have been on a downward spiral.

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I want to know that the preparers of my food have some sense of dignity. I want to know that they take some pride in their work and in making a good product. I want to know that they can afford health care and are not carrying some sickness into work because they can’t afford to take a day off.

When I was 16 years old, I worked at McDonald’s for a few months. It was a lot like I imagine a “sweatshop” to be. The other workers and I were constantly pushed to work harder and faster, and for a tiny paycheck. And contrary to the beliefs of some people, we did not really “choose” this. We all needed money – that’s the cold reality. And there are always more workers than jobs, out there. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, it’s not easy to get a job. That’s the only reason anyone would ever “choose” to work fast food – out of necessity.

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The giant corporations that control fast food always ask if we want to pay more for our hamburgers. I would (and do, at better establishments) pay a little more for a sense of security in the quality of my food. And I certainly wouldn’t mind if there had to be some cuts in massive corporate profits, toward the same purpose.

Fast food workers are human beings and Americans. They don’t deserve to be driven like oxen for starvation wages. And the excuse that a fast food job isn’t meant to be a career doesn’t hold water (nor Coca Cola) either. If a stepping-stone job pays so little and exhausts workers terribly, it becomes a trap. How can a person get ahead or get an education when they can barely pay their rent? Education costs money. Families cost money. Food costs money. Transportation costs money. And fast food jobs leave workers choosing what bills to pay each month – leading them deeper and deeper into debt. That’s no way to get ahead.

It all comes back to money. What I am asking of fast food corporations is that they prioritize human dignity and health over an extra dollar in profit. Here is my pledge: Until these corporations start to treat their employees like human beings, I will not patronize them. They will not persuade me with PR campaigns, telling me how happy are their employees, because I know the truth. I also know the truth about paying rent, and other expenses.

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Having once been a fast food worker myself, I know for a fact that these are real people – not to be treated as inferiors… as if they were just not smart enough, or good enough, to have a better job. America’s greatness will continue to slip away as long as so many of us are treated like beasts of burden. Make a stand with me. Make America great again… for everyone.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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And the Winner Is… Syria! – Tom Rossi

Ryan Seacrest: “And the winner of this year’s Trumped-Up Bullshit Justification for War Award is… Syria! (applause) Here to present the award is well-known fake journalist, Sean Hannity.”

 Hannity: “Congratulations, Syria, on this accomplishment. The question on everyone’s mind is, how did you manage to beat out perennial front-runner Iran?”

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 Syria: “Well, I thought I’d just lay low for a while, then make my move when the other countries got overconfident. Iran had been ‘phoning it in’ for quite a while, riding on its reputation. Iran just started to assume it had the award in the bag. Iran didn’t push through the finish line.”

 Hannity: “Wow. That’s a lesson for young people… and young nations everywhere.”

 Syria: “I like to set a good example.”

 Hannity: “So, how did you manage to overcome the Iraq ‘problem,’ as it has come to be known?”

 Syria: “Uh, by that do you mean the inevitable comparisons with the famous Iraq quagmire? Well, a famous American jazz musician once said, ‘…it’s the notes you DON’T play that are important.’ I paid heed to this advice and didn’t try too hard. I just let the American War… I mean, media machine, do the work for me. They did a beautiful job and I certainly owe half this award to them.”

 Hannity: “Well, speaking for everyone, as I often do, thank you. But could you expand on just how the war… I mean, media machine, helped you in your quest to become the most focused-on ‘rogue nation’ in the world?”

 Syria: “Certainly. They used a… how you say in America… ‘tried and true’ method. They simply repeated, or featured interviews with ‘respected’ officials like John McCain who repeated a sort of mantra – ‘It’s nothing like Iraq. It’s nothing like Iraq. It’s nothing like Iraq.'”

 Hannity: “So, you learned from, well… Iraq!”

 Syria: “Exactly! In the drum-up… er… I mean, lead-up, to the Iraq war, I believe President Bush named it, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ right? During this period, we saw the same comparisons to America’s most famous quagmire, Vietnam. But the American people were simply told, over and over again, how terrible was Saddam Hussein. Then, they started to forget, or simply not to care. But that was much easier. Decades had passed since the Vietnamese conflict – decades of opportunity for the ridicule of the anti-war protesters. Iraq was still a raw memory in the minds of Americans. And, like Iraq, Syria is a desert country. Is it ‘desert,’ or ‘dessert’? I always forget! Ha ha! Anyhoo, even though it had only been ten years, people forgot the propaganda campaign for Iraq. The U.S. government and media repeated exactly the same lines! Can you believe that? People had forgotten the whole thing. And Syria was there to capitalize. That’s what people don’t understand – good preparation makes good luck. If you prepare, you will be ready when the opportunity arises for greatness.”

 Hannity: “Another gem for young Americans. Are you looking forward to the bombings?”

 Syria: “Who wouldn’t be? Hahaha!”

 Hannity chortles.

 Syria: “No, I kid, I kid. That part of it is, how you say… hit or miss?”

 Hannity laughs.

 Syria: “That’s just a part of this process. Syria accepts its role on the world stage, the good, the bad, and the unholy.”

 Hannity: “Ha! You’ve exposed my long hidden sense of humor! Certain people over at ‘The Daily Show’ will certainly be taken by surprise. Thank you, Syria! Enjoy your award. Let’s give the stage back to Ryan Seacrest.”

 Syria: “Thank you so much!” (blowing kisses to the audience)

 Ryan Seacrest: “Isn’t Syria delightful? Next up, after the commercial break, the award for ‘Most Maligned Leader of a Non-Muslim Country. Stick around, everybody!”

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 -Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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RIP, Marian McPartland (1918 – 2013) – Tom Rossi

I don’t think anybody really wants to turn Left Coast Voices into a jazz obituary weekly, but something has to be said about the great Marian McPartland.

No. On second thought, words are all but useless, here.

Just listen, instead…

Marian McPartland, 1955: Poor Little Rich Girl

Avalon – Jimmy and Marion McPartland Jam 1975

Marian McPartland Twilight World

Marian McPartland Trio – Bohemia After Dark

Marian McPartland Castles in the Sand

Marian McPartland, 1955: I Could Write A Book

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite, 2013 – Tom Rossi

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Life on the Rocks

Life on the Rocks

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir - San Francisco's Water Supply

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – San Francisco’s Water Supply

Yes, the car stopped.

Yes, the car stopped.

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Lembert Dome

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Lake Mono

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-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Can I Order some Democracy, Please? – Tom Rossi

Once in a while, we hear, in the news, about a strange, mysterious concept  known as “gerrymandering.” This is the practice whereby politicians make changes to the geographical shapes of political districts in order to give themselves and/or their political party more power. It’s done on an opportunistic basis by whichever party has power in a certain state at the moment and has no shame whatsoever.

However, in recent years the Republican Party has definitely taken the lead. The Dems are certainly not innocent, but they’ve taken a back seat to the recent flood of Republican gerrymandering.

How might it be possible to make more districts elect Republicans even if a majority of voters are Democrats? Here’s how:

First, identify geographic areas where Dems and Reps are concentrated. In other words, find areas that are not divided somewhat evenly, but where voting for one party is clearly dominant. Usually, this is as simple as separating the rich areas from the middle-class and poor neighborhoods. Then, draw new district borders, no matter how convoluted, around the desired areas, and voila’, you have cemented your power for the foreseeable future.

The Great State of Simplificatia

The Great State of Simplificatia

In the deliberately oversimplified diagram above (which is both a schematic and a fake map), you can see how gerrymandering works. The larger blue area (or population) votes Democrat, and the red area votes Republican. But if the Republicans set the districts, they can form one district that contains most of the Democrats, while the other two districts have a Republican majority. This means that, from this imaginary state with three congressional districts and a Democratic majority, one of the representatives that will be sent to Congress will be a Democrat, while two will be Republicans.

Due to various factors, people more often elect Republicans at the local level. This has to do with people’s (incorrect) perceptions about job creation, for one thing, but also the fact that many Democrats tend only to come out and vote in the “big” elections, for President of the United States, for example.

As a result, Republicans often end up in key positions of power from which they can control periodic redistricting. Of course, this phenomenon can and has taken place the other way ’round, but this is the dominant trend lately.

And it can be incredibly ugly on a real map:

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A single district in Maryland

What’s really politically beautiful (in reality, ugly) about this is that it provides the opportunity to whine about Democrats’ “making their seats safe,” even while, as I demonstrated in the diagram above, what’s really happening is the snatching of a seat by the Republicans.

For a much more detailed analysis of this problem, please read Sam Wang’s brilliant pieces: “Gerrymanders, Part 1: Busting the both-sides-do-it myth“, and “Part 2: How many voters were disenfranchised?” One conclusion that Wang reaches (with some good math and statistics) is that ten times as many Democrats have been disenfranchised as Republicans.

If it weren’t for this, Democrats would very likely hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. That would mean that talk of austerity measures would die, as would talk of privatizing Social Security.

It would also mean that something might be done to prepare for climate change (that is already upon us) and maybe some steps would even be taken to minimize the amount and pace of climate change.

And get this… If Democrats really controlled the government, there would be less spending.

As Sam Wang suggests, gerrymandering disenfranchises voters. That means a hole in our democracy, and that’s unacceptable, whichever party benefits. With so much talk of “bringing democracy” to Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, and other countries, many are now saying, “Let’s bring democracy to the United States first.

Video: Stephen Colbert: Win, Lose, or Redraw

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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The Many Faces of Terrorism – Tom Rossi

Terrorism is defined in Webster’s as, “The systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.” But Google provides the definition that is closer to the common, popular understanding that also seems to dominate our legal landscape: “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”

The term “terrorism” is now haphazardly applied to anyone and everything whose activities are disliked by those in power, either in governmental or corporate settings. As a result, the term itself is used as a form of terrorism against those who would dissent, including the brave souls who have exposed extreme animal cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses.

Meanwhile, things that might justifiably be called terrorism are ignored, or even praised and rewarded. To illustrate this point, let’s look at a disturbing contrast…

The now infamous Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, performed an act of classic terrorism. They set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring more than 250 – some seriously. They apparently did this as some sort of political statement that they were dissatisfied with America. What they hoped to accomplish I cannot imagine. Whatever their goal may have been, they most certainly (and predictably) failed.

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After the Tsarnaevs were identified as the prime suspects, the city of Boston went to war, eventually “locking down” a huge area of the city and occupying it with all types of police vehicles, including some that resembled military tanks. The expense of this operation in democratic, financial, and economic terms, was immense.

As a result of an act committed by two inept, misguided clowns, we have given up even more of our freedom (both in the short and the long run), we have paid a large bill, and we have embarked on even more spending on security that will live on into the foreseeable future.

But what about the other, more insidious acts of terrorism that affect millions of Americans? What about the pollution of our drinking water and soil with substances that, among other impacts, have negative effects on fetal and child development? If a “terrorist” did that, if a person did it, it would be an outrage. There would be 24-hour television coverage for a week. There would be special logos and titles created by all the major news networks: “Terror at Your Kitchen Sink,” “Are You Safe in Your Own Home?” etc., etc., etc.

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The truth is that the acts of terrorism I’m describing go on every day, have gone on for many years, and are rapidly accelerating. Under the guise (or justification) of increasing or cheapening our food supply or providing ever more cheap energy, untested (or sham-tested) chemicals have been dumped into our environment in incredible amounts. Weird and completely unnecessary chemical ingredients have also been added to our food, and toxic gases have been released into our air.

Regulations have been fought, tooth and nail, by the very terrorists committing these acts. We have been told, many times over, that regulating chemicals or even labeling our foods properly would raise prices or bring about shortages. The people of California were told that labeling genetically modified ingredients in processed foods would raise their grocery bills by $400 per year – a lie, but an effective lie.

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How much does every American man, woman, and child pay each year for the “War on Terror?” It’s a difficult question to answer accurately, but a study from Brown University puts the figure at around $1,000 per year. That seems a conservative estimate. How much will our collective acts of terrorism cost in lost resources and lost health? That’s much more difficult, but you can bet it’s a whole lot more.

As a country, we are apparently more than willing to swallow almost limitless costs to fight one type of terrorism but downright intolerant of the very idea of stemming the type that can do far more damage to many more people. The Tsarnaev brothers certainly should have been pursued, caught, and punished (Tamerlan actually got killed trying to get away) for their cruel and idiotically pointless crime. Should we not also pursue and punish, as a society, what could be called “slow terrorism?”

It seems that if terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers had been motivated by profit rather than making a political statement, instead of being hunted down like dogs, they would have been featured in business television shows and magazines. Maybe they would even have a commercial about how cool they are, narrated by a smart-looking woman in a white pants-suit.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Politicians are Uneducated – Tom Rossi

Our politicians are not, generally speaking, morons. Most are actually of above average intelligence, and that’s true regardless of party affiliation. But the backgrounds of most politicians, both educational and experiential, are narrow.

Most politicians are lawyers. Getting a law degree and passing the Bar Exam is no mean feat, but it doesn’t prepare a person to face the types of issues that now bombard politicians at many levels of government – climate change, “super-bugs,” genetically engineered organisms, fracking, etc. These are scientific issues, or issues that at least require a scientific perspective.

In this millennium, politicians who have only been educated in the law and/or business are making decisions on issues they know nothing about, that’s obvious. But what bothers me more is that the education and experiences of politicians have not even given them the intellectual tools necessary to process scientific information.

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The concept here is really not too difficult. Would you want an expert in French impressionism to come over and fix a problem with the electrical wiring in your house? I suppose there might be a French impressionism expert who also once worked as an electrician, but someone like that is probably just a wee bit hard to find. Why would you want an expert in corporate law to make decisions about the food you eat and how it gets to your plate? Why would you want an expert in constitutional law to make decisions about practices that will make a lot of money, but badly pollute our water? Why would you want an expert in franchise and distribution law to make decisions affecting the fate of the entire human race?

Technically, a “moron” is defined as a person whose IQ falls between 51 and 70 points. A moron could hardly pass the bar, nor could he or she easily become a captain of business (the second-leading source of our politicians). But a person can easily be made to look dumb if they are placed in a situation about which they know almost nothing.

Congress occupational makeup

Do you want to see an apparent moron? Ask me to fix your plumbing, or your teeth, or balance the books for your corporation. I can’t do any of these things, despite the fact that I do have the necessary intelligence (my mom sez I is real smart, an’ hansum too!). I have no training in these areas. I haven’t read a book about them or even watched a Youtube instructional video!

This lack of scientific training among our politicians might have been OK (well, not really) 50 or 100 years ago. Here in the third millennium, A.D., our leadership needs to go back to school. Either that or we need to have some scientific prerequisites for our elected officials, well beyond the general education requirements of most colleges.

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Politicians need to know something about the scientific method and about scientific processes. It would also be very helpful for them to have some experience in the debates that go on between scientists, so that they can get an understanding of just what types of disagreements are given validity in the scientific world – the rules are very different from the rules of evidence in a court of law.

This would be government reform with real meaning. Now where’s that television repair person? I need some music lessons.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Zimmerman, Martin, and Legalism – Tom Rossi

The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, as well as the trial and acquittal of Zimmerman have set this country on fire. There are many implications and many causes and contributing factors being discussed in a civilized manner, or shouted with extreme vitriol.

Today, I want to look at one aspect of Zimmerman’s acquittal. Many people are asking how… how could a jury of six people have come to the unanimous conclusion that George Zimmerman had shot Trayvon Martin as an act of self-defense.

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It’s somewhat clear that some of the jurors went into the trial with that opinion. This was not properly vetted by the prosecutors. But that still doesn’t explain the outcome.

One juror (so far) went straight to video – Anderson Cooper, that is. She said, among other juicy tidbits of insight, that the jurors looked really hard into the law, and just couldn’t find a way to convict Zimmerman, even on manslaughter charges.

From this juror’s description of the deliberations, it’s clear to me that legalism has not only reared its ugly head, but it has taken over the thinking of the average American. What do I mean by legalism? Dictionary.com gives this definition of legalism, which applies here: “strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit (my emphasis).”

This most likely comes from the constant flood of courtroom dramas on TV. Most of these shows, and even at least one Shakespeare play, feature some tiny technicality – and it’s usually employed by the “good guys.” The good guys are the heroes for either freeing an innocent defendant where there is circumstantial evidence against him, or jailing a guilty defendant who has a great alibi. These would both be good things, of course, but the way this is accomplished in these shows glorifies nitpicking and subverts the intent of the law.

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What’s the intent of the law? Generally, “Don’t hurt people.” That’s it. End of story. That means, don’t kill, don’t beat up, don’t steal, don’t kidnap, don’t embezzle, don’t deprive people of their rights, don’t poison, etc., etc., etc.

But it has become an acceptable defense to say, “Well, the law allows us an average of 30 insect fragments per 100 grams of peanut butter, and our average is 29.95, so legally, we’re not hurting anybody.” At the moment that Zimmerman shot Martin, Zimmerman was afraid. If you look at that moment, legalistically, that fear was justification to shoot. It didn’t matter that Zimmerman had caused the entire scene to take place. It didn’t matter that he ignored police instructions to stand down. It didn’t matter that he had pursued and confronted an innocent teenager for no reason.

Ironically (or maybe not) if Trayvon Martin had been carrying a gun, and George Zimmerman had followed him, chased him, and approached him belligerently (just like he did), Martin would have been justifiably in fear for his life and could have shot Zimmerman. Of course, there’s the whole race issue, but this is the way the law reads.

If juries (and judges) would pay more attention to the spirit or intent of the law, and less attention to nitpicking little details that lawmakers couldn’t possibly have anticipated, we might actually approach something resembling a just society.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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esaeleR sserP adirolF – issoR moT

From Satirificated Press Wire:

.drawrof gnivom si etats taerg siht taht desaelp si tnemnrevog adirolF ruoY

.etsaw ot enog ,gnol os rof ,evah secruoser niatrec taht dezingocer evah eW

.secruoser eseht ezilitu ot redro ni seicilop gnitnemelpmi era ew ,yhw si tahT

.sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS rof sesnecil gnitnuh gniussi nigeb noos lliw adirolF

“.elpoep kcalb” sa ot derrefer ylremrof erew sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS

.tsep a deredisnoc gnol seiceps a fo gnitsevrah eht wolla lliw sihT

.4102 ni detnemelpmi eb lliw ,yrevals sa nwonk ,margorp wen a ,noitidda nI

.ytilitu dessecca-nu ylremrof fo erutpac eht rof wolla lliw siht ,niagA

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.snoisiced truoc suoirav yb elbissop edam erew segnahc esehT

.gnitov no noisiced truoC emerpuS eht saw eseht fo tnatropmi tsoM

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.snoitcele ni etov sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS tel ot deriuqer regnol on si adirolF

.srezilitu laitnetop sserppo regnol on nac sisnacirfa sunamuhbuS ,eroferehT

.elbissop stimrep gnitnuh edam snaidirolF sikamibab sunamuhimeS xis ,oslA

.ssecorp eht detidepxe tsael ta yeht ,rO

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.snur selttikS egavas fo raef ni evil ot decrof eb regnol on lliw snaidirolF

.sgniht rehto gnomA

.erehwyreve snaidirolF rof modeerf drawot pets taerg a si sihT

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Fracking Psycho Judy – Tom Rossi

The new movie, “Gasland part II” premiered last night on HBO and it repeats this afternoon, July 9, 2013 at different times, depending on time zone. Of course I didn’t see it last night because we don’t have HBO. But I’ll see Gasland 2 soon enough, even if I have to wait till it comes out on Netflix.

Video: Gasland Trailer

 I just recently (finally) saw the first Gasland movie. In case you’re wondering, it’s really good and mostly interview-based, with real people really affected by fracking. If you haven’t seen the movie, you may have seen some of the scenes where people take a lighter to their garden hose or their kitchen faucet and start a flame-thrower.

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In addition to bringing home flame-throwers to America, the various implements of fracking (the proper name is “hydraulic fracturing“) – drilling rigs and wells, storage tanks, etc., leak a lot of gas and toxic chemicals into the air and into and onto the ground. When I saw this in the movie, I was instantly reminded of a very interesting landlady I once had, who shall forever be known as… Psycho Judy.

 I won’t give Psycho Judy’s last name because she would just love the chance to sue me – with or without merit. I would win the case, but it would still be a big pain. I also won’t go into all the reasons that I, my friends, and many people who have met her called her “psycho,” even before the incident I’m about to describe, because they are irrelevant to the comparison to fracking, which is the topic of the day.

 Psycho Judy, long after I had moved out of a room I had been renting in her house, started up a silicon wafer manufacturing operation. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but the operation was at her tract house, in the garage and the side yard, with neighboring houses only a few feet away.

 She got herself a hardware store gas-mask, some new big garbage bags, emptied out some of the trash cans (that she had stolen from neighbors), and apparently had other equipment in the garage. Then she set up a web page with some semi-impressive pictures that she had just dredged from the net, it looked like. The picture were mostly nondescript, but somehow implying high-tech.

 A friend of mine who lives within eye-shot of Psycho Judy’s house saw her wearing a gas mask and handling garbage cans full of chemicals out in her yard. My friend called the police and they brought the haz-mat (hazardous materials) team. Soon, Psycho Judy’s yard and house looked like a seen from the Sean Connery movie, “Outland.”

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Psycho Judy was arrested, convicted, and went to jail.

 The question is… Why? Okay, the question’s not too hard to answer. She had endangered her neighbors by bringing in and handling hazardous chemicals in a residential neighborhood. These chemicals give off toxic fumes, some of which hug the ground and spread because they are heavier than “normal” air. The fumes that are not heavier than air simply take to the wind and, depending on weather conditions, might go visit near-neighbors or another neighborhood, blocks or even miles away.

 Psycho Judy had put the health of ordinary citizens in jeopardy, and for that, she went to jail. Frackers do the same thing. Fracking operations spread toxic clouds of chemicals, contaminate groundwater, use up and contaminate trucked-in water by the billions of gallons, and pollute an area and the general atmosphere in several other ways, all of which are shocking in their scale. But do frackers get arrested? Do they go to jail? Not a chance.

 The question is… Why not? Unfortunately, that question’s not hard to answer, either.

 Fracking has been “exempted”. Exempted from complying with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. This happened because rich, powerful fracking companies have incredible influence over our government. These companies always have several of their former employees working at regulatory agencies. They also have several current employees who were once elected representatives or senators and, at the time of this exemption, an inside man at nearly the top – Dick Cheney, then Vice-President of the United States.

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 Dick Cheney was the key facilitator in getting fracking companies exempted from environmental laws. Asking if Cheney is pro-energy industry is precisely akin to asking if the Pope is Catholic. Before he became Vice President, he had been CEO of Halliburton, which some would say is the ultimate energy and war profiteering corporation on Earth.

 What are environmental regulations for? What good are they if the worst polluters are simply exempted? It’s not that different from many situations we face here in America where issues of legality or justice are concerned – little crimes get punished, sometimes severely, while huge crimes are ignored.

 I’m glad Psycho Judy was punished. She was a menace to her neighbors in several ways, including some which were very serious. But frackers are endangering us all, and some people are suffering direct, immediate, and very harsh consequences from fracker’s actions. And like Wall Street criminals, they are not considered criminals at all by the U.S. Department of Justice. Frackers can’t even be found in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules – they are above the law.

 But don’t let this make you think you can sneak into a ball game or smoke in a restaurant or something. You’ll probably go to jail for that. You’ll at least be fined.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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