Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sanborn declares candidacy for state Senate

From the inbox:
Small business owner and proven tax fighter Andy Sanborn announced his candidacy today for the Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s State Senate District 7.

Surrounded by his wife Laurie, family and friends, Andy outlined his priorities: Helping small businesses create jobs for the nearly 53,000 unemployed neighbors in New Hampshire, reducing the runaway 23% increase in spending in the last two budgets, rolling back the 38 recent tax and fee hikes, and curbing an over-zealous Concord regulatory bureaucracy that stifles job growth.

As a 4th generation New Hampshire native, small business owner and husband to the girl of his dreams, Sanborn has been a constant advocate of supporting small business owners and regular working families. He has been fighting to create jobs and push back against the constant barrage of increased taxes and regulation coming from the current leadership in Concord.

“It’s become so obvious the ultra extremist liberal leaders in Concord are showing complete disdain for the majority of the people living and working in the State,” Sanborn was quoted saying to a supporter. “The answer to our job and economic challenges is NOT raising more taxes on working families, or creating a hostile regulatory environment against our small businesses. Today our Government should be bending over backwards FOR the people of this state, creating economic and job opportunities, not constantly standing in the way OF them.”

Sanborn continued, “Runaway spending must end. I will work to restructure state spending so we can balance the budget, reduce taxes and improve the business climate so that employers have incentives and opportunities to create jobs.”

Senate Republican leader Peter Bragdon said, “With New Hampshire facing a $220 million budget deficit right now and a projected $600 million budget shortfall in 2011 we need Senators who have the backbone to make tough choices, set priorities, and cut wasteful spending. Andy’s depth of knowledge of how a budget works and his common sense solutions will be invaluable to turning the State around in this difficult economic time. The current Senator in that seat continues to push for an income tax, and that is not what NH needs.”

Andy ran for the seat in 2008. Although he narrowly lost, Andy remained active and committed to job creation in New Hampshire. When the extremist liberals in Concord passed the job killing LLC Tax in the dead of night without a public hearing, Andy almost singlehandedly mobilized the small business community around the state to fight what has become a staggering 13.5% tax on the personal income of small business owners. Andy’s ability to mobilize business groups, trade associations, and thousands of business owners forced the Governor and Concord tax and spend liberals to admit they were wrong, reverse their position and agree the LLC Tax passed a year ago needs to be repealed.

“As a successful small business owner, Andy brings real world experience and leadership to Concord. His effort to organize the grassroots effort to repeal the job-killing LLC Tax proves how hard Andy will work as a Senator to help small businesses and get New Hampshire citizens back to work.” said Retired Congressman and State Senator Jeb Bradley.

“It’s no accident that as the national unemployment crested in October and has inched downward – New Hampshire’s unemployment rate has continued to climb. High business taxes have made Massachusetts more attractive than New Hampshire to start or grow a business. I will fight to change that,” said Sanborn. “Excessive fees, over regulation and an ineffective government are inhibiting our ability to come out of this recession. We need to clear the way for our great small businesses to be successful, hire our unemployed and pull us out of this economic challenge we’re in. We can do this.”

To find out more about Andy and Laurie Sanborn and their solutions to solve our problems or to stay in touch with them please go to

State Senate District 7 encompass 19 towns in New Hampshire, including Loudon, Canterbury, Northfield, Salisbury, Boscawen, Webster, Warner, Bradford, Henniker, Weare, Hillsborough, Windsor, Deering, Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Hancock, Nelson and Harrisville

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Honor of Doris 'Granny D' Haddock

New Hampshire Citizens Elections Task Force Convenes Campaign Finance Reform Program in Honor of Doris 'Granny D' Haddock

Success of public funding of elections in Connecticut and Maine focus of panel

The New Hampshire Citizens Funded Election Task Force will sponsor a program on Thursday, April 29th at the State House that will highlight the success of public funding of election systems in Connecticut and Maine. The Task Force was created by the New Hampshire Legislature to propose ways to create a system of public funding of elections for the Granite State.

What: Election Reform for a New Century - State and National Perspectives
When: Thursday, April 29th, 1:00 - 3:30 PM
Where: Representatives Hall, The State House, Concord, NH

The program will start with a film tribute to Doris 'Granny D' Haddock and will include a reception in the Executive Council Chambers immediately following the program.

State legislators and program administrators from Connecticut and Maine will describe how public funding of elections works and the benefits that their states have derived by the way that their political leaders are elected. The campaign finance reform panel will include the following participants:
Maine State Representative Les Fosell (R-Alna)
Maine State Representative Alex Cornell De Houx (D-Brunswick)
John Rauh, Americans for Campaign Reform
Shannon Clark Kief, Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission
Jonathan Wayne, Maine Ethics Commission
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner will describe the history of New Hampshire's leadership in campaign finance reform and how it relates to present day debates about the influence of money in politics.

The New Hampshire Citizens Funded Elections Task Force is comprised of the following members: Chair Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, Sen. Sharon Carson, Rep. Kathleen Hoelzel, Rep. Jim Splaine, Rep. Bob Perry, Rob Warner, Peter Spaulding, Jim Rubens, David Allen, Abigail Abrash-Walton and Gorden Allen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Empower the People

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Dear President Obama, Senator Schumer and Senator Shelby:

On the eve of the portentous Senate debate over the extent to which the financial industry is to be so as to avert future megacollapses on the backs of taxpayers, workers and consumers, a great gap has been left unattended.

That gap pertains to the continued powerlessness of the investors and consumers—the people who bear the ultimate brunt of Wall Street’s recklessness, avarice and crimes and who have the greatest interest in strong regulatory enforcement.

Among all the amendments filed for the upcoming Senate debate, only amendment number 29, introduced by Senator Schumer, provides a facility to establish an independent non-governmental non-profit Financial Consumers’ Association (FCA).

Amendment 29 includes the following for funding this unique institution:

“…the financial industry has enjoyed virtually unlimited access to represent its interest before Congress, the courts, and State and Federal regulators, while financial services consumers have had limited representation before Congress and financial regulatory entities;” and

“…the Federal Government has a substantial interest in the creation of a public purpose, democratically controlled, self-funded, nationwide membership association of financial services consumers to enhance their representation and to effectively combat unsound financial practices.”

Anyone modestly familiar with the history of regulatory failures knows that the gross disparity of power and organized advocacy between big business and consumers outside of government leads to an absence of fair standards and law enforcement.

It also leads, as everyone knows, to massive taxpayer bailouts, subsidies and guarantees when these giant banks and other financial firms immolate themselves, after enriching their bosses, while engulfing tens of millions of innocent people in the subsequent economic conflagration.

Given all the privileges and costly rescues for culpable corporations that flow regularly from Washington, D.C., adopting ever so mildly the principle of reciprocity makes a powerful case for facilitating a nationwide Financial Consumers’ Association—one that would be composed of voluntary memberships by consumers who, through their annual dues, will sustain the FCA for an expert place at the table.

Senator Schumer, when he was a Congressman during the savings and loan bailout in the nineteen eighties, introduced such a proposal. But the bankers took the $150 billion bailout and blocked this reciprocal respect for depositors in the House Banking Committee.

Then Representative Schumer and his supporting colleagues on that Committee understood that without the supposed beneficiaries of regulatory authority being organized to make regulation and deterrence work, the Savings and Loan collapse could happen again. And so they became prophetic beyond their wildest nightmares.

Before he died in a plane crash in 2002, Senator Paul Wellstone recognized the need for such a facility, when he introduced the Consumer and Shareholder Protection Association Act.

A key enhancing feature in amendment 29 is a requirement that invitations to membership in the FCA be included in the billing envelopes or electronic communications of financial institutions with their customers. At no expense to these vendors, these notices would ensure that the maximum number of consumers are invited to join and fund such a democratically run, educational and advocacy organization.

In early 2009 I met with Chairman Christopher Dodd and explained the nature and importance of the FCA and Senator Schumer’s earlier role in advancing this civic innovation. He seemed receptive to the idea and urged us to have his colleague Senator Schumer take the lead, which he has done with amendment 29 just a few weeks ago. Senator Shelby and I have also discussed the FCA proposal.

The major valiant but overwhelmed consumer groups, who experience daily this enormous imbalance of power between corporations and consumers, presently stacked by unprecedented amounts of federal funds and bailout facilities for the misbehaving companies, support the creation of a self-funded FCA.

The Federal Government has long paid for facilities in the U.S. Department of Agriculture for agricultural businesses to band together and assess themselves to promote beef, corn, cotton and other commodities to increase their profits. By contrast the FCA, once launched, would be composed of consumers paying their own way to preserve their hard-earned savings from predatory financial speculators.

Allow one prediction. Even if the ultimate legislation comes out stronger than expected on such matters as derivatives, rating agencies, too big to fail, using depositor funds for speculation, and the consumer financial regulatory bureau, unless the consumer-investor is afforded modest facilities to band together with their experts and advocates, the laws will hardly be enforced with sufficient budgets, personnel and regulatory will power.

Give the consumer a modest round in this prolonged deliberation following the destructive events of 2008.

Ralph Nader

(For more information, see:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

May 2010 Top 30 Noise Chart

Reporting: 13 different radio stations and Internet programs

1. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
2. Pants Yell! – Received Pronunciation
3. White Hinterland – Kairos
4. The Luxury – In The Wake Of What Won't Change
5. Dead Cats Dead Rats – Riff
6. Forest Fires – Hark! ~ and other lost transmissions,
7. Gene Dante & The Future Starlets – “The Love Letter Is Dead”
8. Hallelujah the Hills – Colonial Drones
9. Happy Birthday – Happy Birthday
10. The Hush Now – Constellations
11. Magic Magic – Magic Magic
12. Six Finger Satellite – A Good Year for Hardness
13. Spirit Kid – Spirit Kid
14. Cotton Candy – Top Notch & First Rate
15. Dear Leader – Stay Epic
16. Provocateur – Bad Blood & Brushfire
17. Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents – Keeping Time
18. Corin Ashley & The Chocolate Olivers – “Badfinger Bridge”
19. Jim Healey – Dreams of Odessa
20. Three Day Threshold – Straight Out of the Barrel
21. The Peppermint Patties – One Night Band
22. Choo Choo La Rouge – I’ll Be Out All Night
23. Sodafrog – Hang the Moon
24. Symbion Project – Misery In Soliloquy
25. Michael Tarbox – My Primitive Joy
26. You, Lion – End It on the Bridge EP
27. Dirt Mall – Pacifuego
28. Whistle Jacket – Compliment
29. The Main Drag – You Are Underwater
30. Anarchy Club – The Art of War

Morse says two-state solution in Israeli-Arab conflict dead

From the inbox
Author Chuck Morse, in his timely new book "The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism" released this week by World Net Daily Books, claims the Obama Administration's naive and aggressive push for a two-state solution in the Israel-Arab conflict is threatening the security of Israel and jeopardizes what peace exists today in the Middle East. "The Nazi Connection to Islamic Terrorism" is being released as President Shimon Perez of Israel announced that Syria is supplying to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, SCUD missiles capable of hitting any target in Israel.

Morse's new book shows how the Nazi strain of terrorism infected Arab politics in the 20th century and continues to guide radical Islam and to expand into all sectors of Arab and Islamic society in the 21st century.
Morse's book provides a comprehensive look at World War II events involving the Middle East including the emergence of the Arab leader Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem as a key Nazi collaborator intent on destroying Israel in its fledgling stages.

Morse said President Obama appears to be encouraging Israel's sworn enemies with his remarks and actions towards Israel, and that the Syrian military actions appear to be a direct result of President Obama's indulgence of anti-Israeli elements.

Morse contends that President Obama is the most recent in a long line of well meaning liberal western leaders who mistakenly believe appeasing aggressors leads to peace. Hitler, having been encouraged by liberal British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, worked with the Grand Mufti during the war years in developing the Muslim Brotherhood as a pro-Nazi spy network in the Middle East. Morse's book contends that the Muslim Brotherhood, which has spawned such groups as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, has never been de-Nazified.

Referring to today's radical Islamists and their unwitting supporters, Morse states "their anti-Semitic Utopian world order pretensions and their virulent anti-democratic bias are philosophically in the same place as their Nazi counterparts."

Morse says further that treaties such as the Oslo Peace Initiative delivered to the world by President Clinton in the 1990s did not work and will never work. "I no longer support the Oslo process," says Morse. "It is dead. There will not be another Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.

"There are already twenty four sovereign Arab states, many of them rich in oil and natural resources" said Morse. "The Palestinian Arabs of Israel have legitimate concerns but creating another state within Israel's present borders portends national suicide for Israel. Israel should openly declare that there will be no further withdrawal from any territories in which it now resides and that its borders are set for all time" said Morse.

"Palestinians in Israel should receive dual citizenship in both Israel and their respective regional cantons. Israel should invest in those cantons towards improving the quality of life for the Arab residents. It should be declared openly and unapologetically that Israel is a Jewish state, and that Israel should first and foremost promote and protect its Jewish identity."

After two thousand years of exile, the Jewish people have re-established sovereignty in the lands promised to their forefathers in the Bible. The voices of Muslim moderates who have supported the modest and proper aspirations of the Jews of Israel have too often been silenced by radicals.
It's time for Israel along with moderate Muslims to stand up for what is right and what is fair. "The free world is confronted once again with a gathering world struggle for existence that threatens apocalyptic proportions just as it was during the emergence of the Nazis," Morse added.

Chuck Morse is an accomplished author of several books dealing with issues affecting Israel. He is a renowned radio talk show host where he co-hosts "The Fairness Doctrine" along with Dr. Patrick O'Heffernan in his home region of New England and was a candidate for US Congress in the 4th District of Massachusetts in 2004.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

No interest in saving

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Within the burgeoning tonnage of business press—print and electronic—precious little has been written about the near zero interest paid on savings and money market accounts that total trillions of dollars.

The Federal Reserve periodically and proudly announces that it is determined to keep interest rates very low to help lending and the economic recovery.

As Washington’s most powerful regulator of money and interest rates, the Fed has the last word. The Fed’s budget comes from bank fees the Fed is really there to serve its banking patrons. Cheap money for the banks and steep interest rates for their borrowers means big profits for the banks.

Finally, a business columnist—a superior one at that—Floyd Norris of The New York Times has spoken up. He writes: “Aren’t low short-term interest rates wonderful? If you are a bank, the answer is yes….if you are a saver, however, your view might be different.”

Yes, savers of America, your prudence and loyalty to your friendly bank is being “rewarded” with interest rates that range from one-tenth to five-tenths of one percent! That’s less than half a cent per year on every $100 you deposit. I’ll leave it to you to figure what the banks charge to lend you money.

Mr. Norris has a way of driving his points home, to wit: “Chase, the retail operation of JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo were offering 0.05 percent…At that rate, if you wanted to put away enough to produce a retirement income of $50,000 a year, without touching the principal, you would need $100 million on deposit.”

Keep in mind, these and other large banks were bailed out for their reckless, avaricious behavior with your tax dollars. Some gratitude! Especially since the banks are now reporting roaring profits quarter after quarter on the backs of taxpayers and savers.

After putting “a large part of the blame for the mess…on bankers, who made the bad loans and invented all those strange securities that blew up,” Mr. Norris made his central point:

“Meanwhile, with little public attention, those consumers who acted responsibly, the ones who refrained from buying houses they could not afford and did not take out home equity loans to finance consumption, but instead saved their money for a rainy day, must feel like losers…..”

“And if they kept the money in cash, seeking to avoid all risk, this is their reward: 0.05 percent. Now does that sound fair? Of course not.”

This injustice is being felt every week day at the corner of Main and Elm Streets in Everytown U.S.A. Retirees and other Americans of very modest means, who once used interest income to pay some of their bills, now see their savings accounts getting little more than protection from robberies.

The finance bosses and their Washington servants have rigged the system against consumers. The bosses have the lobbyists and the campaign contributions. The small savers have neither.

The savers, however, vastly outnumber their gougers in votes, and their savings add up to quite a bundle of potential financial might. Current Federal Reserve figures put savings accounts at a total of $911 billion, not to mention money market deposit accounts totaling just under $3 trillion.

But without organization, the numbers and dollars of the savers don’t mean political power. How then to organize?

How about a little reciprocity for all the public monies and guarantees we have given to the banking industry? The financial reform legislation is about to reach the Senate floor. An amendment is ready to require banks to provide inserts or online notification inviting savers to band together and join a non-profit Financial Consumers’ Association (FCA) which these savers would fund through modest annual dues. Getting such an insert in your monthly bank statement reaches you when you are most attentive to such matters.

Based on returns with similar voluntary groups of residential utility consumers, several million savers would sign up to have full-time advocates—lawyers, economists, organizers and publicists—representing them before Congress, the regulatory agencies and the courts. Other benefits would include free advice and information to avert traps and reap better returns on savings.

Savers must have a seat at the table with skilled advocates to counteract the always present bankers.

Senator Chuck Schumer (Dem. NY) proposed this FCA back in 1985 during the savings and loan collapse. He supports it now, along, I hope, with Banking Committee Chairman Senator Chris Dodd.

But there are many amendments in the Senate debate starting next week. So let your Senator know you are supporting FCA and then let Senators Schumer and Dodd know that you want them to do likewise—now, without delay. (The Congressional telephone is 202-224-3121)

In the meantime, elevate your insistence that your local bank give more to local charities. It is the least the banks can do to compensate for paying you such low interest rates with cheap money.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not socialist - a corporatist ...

Ron Paul gets it ... Barack Obama isn't a Socialist; he is a corporatist. Shockingly loses the Southern Republican Leadership conference to "Multiple Choice" Mitt by 1 vote:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Givin' up the Wal-Mart boycott?

OK, not quite, but I'm beginning to wonder ... ["Wal-Mart Bets on Reduction in Prices"].
I have been to Wal-Mart twice in my life: Once, because it was the only store in southern New Hampshire where I could find a taxi cab mirror for my car (I like to be able to see three or four lanes out the rear window), and the second time, while shopping for big screen TVs (although I just looked, I didn't buy one there. They weren't as cheap as Best Buy and didn't offer financing either). But articles like this that make me wonder.
Question: Is it better to stand up for certain values or have more money in your pocket for other things? I guess we all make those decisions every day. We know corporations make those decisions when they send jobs overseas or cut employees to award higher returns to shareholders.
Locally, the food choices are Market Basket, Shaw's, Hannaford's, Wal-Mart (there are two S&Ss in Manch). I don't know if Wal-Mart can actually beat MB on prices. MB is already pretty low. They easily beat Shaw's and Hannaford's although they don't have the selection. MB also doesn't sell the PAYT bags, which is annoying. But, it might be worth a look at Wal-Mart. Five bucks here, $10 there, before you know it, you're talking real money.
I will say that Wal-Mart's marketing campaigns are pretty good. I particularly like the one that shows people how much they save by cooking at home instead of going out. It is an effective campaign. Most of us knew that already but whatever helps people pay their mortgages and save money is always a good thing. Sure, making nuggets and fries at home is not the same as having them at the 99. But a treat is a treat, and not a regular thing.
So is anyone else considering going to Wal-Mart (or going there now) to get necessities at really low prices or are you just winging it? I'd like to know.

In thinking about the Wal-Mart marketing campaign, I think it might be time for some anti-smoking ads that show the same thing. Most anti-smoking ads that are broadcast on television always emphasize people's health - they scare people about dying, etc. But that clearly isn't working. Cigarette sales have leveled out here in New Hampshire, according to some substance abuse folks I know. But, that's not good enough. Whenever I see folks smoking, I think, There goes $6 ...
I can understand the joy of smoking. It's not unlike the joy of drinking or driving fast. It's dangerous. It can kill you. But, look at the money side of things. If you smoke a pack a day, at $6 a pack, you're going through nearly $2,200 a year. Over five years, that's a low end new car. If you smoke two packs a day, that's a $22,000 car. Would you rather have a new car or ciggies? (New car, of course!)
If you have kids and you're smoking, don't say you don't have money for them. That's a lie. One pack a day is $40 a week you're spending on smokes. Two packs a day is $80 or about what I pay for a family of four food bill each week (Maybe they are driving you to smoke ... but that's another issue ...)
Now, I'm not trying to lecture people here. If they want to smoke, smoke. It's their right. But, be prepared for the consequences and stop complaining about not having money.
I wonder, should there be a rule that anyone who receives government assistance be forced into a smoking cessation program? That, it would seem, would be money well spent. That $40 or $80 a week is better spent feeding and clothing kids than smoking, welfare mamas and papas!
The flip of this is that the government really needs you to smoke.
According to WikiAnswers, state and local governments get about $35 billion from people via some sort of tax or tobacco settlement payment. Those are taxes paid by smokers that, if they all stopped smoking, would disappear. Whatever that $35 billion buys would be put onto the backs of the rest of us. I guess it all evens out since we all pay more for health care because of smokers. But, it all really makes me wonder ...

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Miserable State of Mine Safety

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The tragedy at the Massey Energy Company’s very profitable Upper Big Branch coal mine at Montcoal, West Virginia, which so far has cost 25 miners’ lives, is another reminder of the immense human and environmental cost of this fuel.

More coal miners have lost their lives from cave-ins, explosions and lung disease since 1900 than all the Americans who died in World War II. The devastation extends to chronic sickness from breathing coal dust and to maimed coal miners, often seen walking on crutches in the hollows of Appalachia.

During our struggle in the late sixties and seventies to get Congress to authorize the federal government to regulate these pugnacious corporations, and protect among the most defenseless workers in our country (try working 700 to 1800 feet underground six days a week), coal company executives perpetuated a culture tolerant of safety violations. Coal companies are known for greasing their way with political campaign contributions, gross underpayments of property taxes and intimidation of people in poor coal mining country who had few alternative employment opportunities.

Safety and health improvements finally came from the forces of the law (especially the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969) and from an awakened United Mine Workers union. The safety efforts have had to overcome industry lawyers, lobbyists, corporate cover-ups, refusals to pay fines and other misbehavior stemming from unaccountable corporate bosses sitting in fancy offices far from the coal fields.

Half of the nation’s coal companies were fined a modest total of $7 million under the first Bush Administration for faking coal dust samples in 847 underground mines. This is just a cost of doing business instead of a serious deterrent to an epidemic of deadly coal miners pneumoconiosis.

Until new leadership came under Joseph Main in 2009 to run the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Richard L. Trumka, former coal miner and head of the United States Mine Workers (UMW) union and now president of the AFL-CIO, said that George W. Bush converted “MSHA from an enforcement agency to a business consulting group” to King Coal.

With the sharp decline of UMW workers, as non-union strip-mining expands, studies have shown a consistently better safety record of unionized coal mines. The devastated Massey mine was non-union.

The media, which rushes to the scene of mining disasters while ignoring interim warning reports such as ours in 2008, knew who to interview. He was Massey’s defiant, outspoken, arrogant CEO Don Blankenship, whose Montcoal mine was cited by MSHA over 500 times in 2009-2010 for safety violations, including the kinds of violations suspected in the explosion on April 5th. Two citations came on the very day of the calamity. The paltry $1 million in fines covered more than 50 “unwarrantable failure” violations. Among the most serious were citations for problems with escape routes and air quality ventilation.

In 2006 another Massey mine, Aracoma Alma No. 1, was recommended for shutdown by a government inspector, who was over-ruled. The subsequent fatal fire killed two miners and led to a guilty plea for 10 criminal mine safety violations, a $2.5 million fine. Massey also paid the federal government $20 million to settle charges of violating water pollution controls in 2008.

J. Davitt McAteer, the former MSHA Administrator, called the Massey conglomerate “certainly one of the worst in the industry” from a safety standpoint. CEO Blankenship, of course, denies McAteer’s and other workers and inspectors’ assessments. “Violations are unfortunately a normal part of the mining process. There are violations at every coal mine in America.”

Tell that to the grieving families, some of whom yelled at Blankenship while twelve protective police officers were whisking him away from the mine site.

People in West Virginia fear Blankenship not just because of his verbal belligerence, his intimidation of critics and workers, and his sway with campaign financed politicians and judges, but also because they believe he can get away with abuses of power, that he is beyond the reach of the law.

This time, however, the combative, anti-regulatory Blankenship is in a tight spot what with Massey’s stock dropping and his carefully cultivated image of tough guy sometime-philanthropist increasingly tarnished under a national media spotlight he cannot control or bully.

West Virginia law defines “involuntary manslaughter” as “the accidental causing of death of another person, although unintended, which death is the proximate result of negligence so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”

In the last month, MSHA has filed a dozen citations specifically alleging the mines failure to properly ventilate the lethal, highly volatile methane gas. That is why affected people are wondering whether any district attorneys will have the will and an adequate budget to charge Massey officials with “involuntary manslaughter”, should the findings of the completed investigation meet the statutory definition. For if Blankenship, who really should resign, has anything, he has a battalion of lawyers and accommodating judges with whom to fight back. Time will tell.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Corporate scientists in danger

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Why would Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, so mistreat and silence one of their top molecular biologists that a federal jury in Connecticut awarded her $1.37 million in damages last week?

The unraveling answer promises to tear open the curtain covering hazards confronting tens of thousands of scientists and assistants in corporate and university labs doing genetic engineering work with viruses and bacteria.

Becky McClain’s lawsuit against Pfizer claimed that the company’s sloppiness in 2002-03 exposed her to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus related to one that could lead to immune deficiencies. Pfizer denied any connection between its lab practices and Ms. McClain’s recurring paralysis and other illnesses.

Back and forth over three years came the scientist’s claims and Pfizer’s denials during which she had to leave her job amidst the increasing retaliatory behavior of her ten-year employer.

Pfizer is known for playing hardball and violating laws. Last year it had to pay the Justice Department one of the largest fines – half civil, half criminal – for illegal promotion of its drugs for unapproved uses. The fine -- $2.4 billion – avoided criminal charges and prosecution, either of the company or officials, and became just another cost of doing business.

Just last week, soon after buying Wyeth Labs for $68 billion, Pfizer’s CEO, Jeffrey B. Kindler, told a reporter for The New York Times that his company has “invented too few drugs and left its reputation in disrepair after two criminal cases.”

That record does not diminish Pfizer’s advantage over its imperiled lab workers, which is built on the absence of any available risk assessments, the very nature of possible latent, silent violence, and the cruel refusal to give afflicted employees their own exposure records on the grounds that they are company trade secrets.

Pfizer offered Ms. McClain a paltry sum with a gag order, which she promptly refused. She wanted her freedom of speech and her whistle-blowing rights under federal law. Her lawsuit was filed in 2006 in Hartford.

By dismissing the third count, which might be appealed, in her complaint alleging Pfizer’s wanton misconduct, U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant ruled that the plaintiff did not have available the evidence of causality and it was a worker’s compensation matter anyway. Herein started the chicken-egg problem. How could Ms. McClain obtain the evidence in order to prove her case when Pfizer said it was proprietary and secret?

The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG), started by Harvard and MIT scientists, does not believe laboratory exposure records of workers should be trade secrets. Life, health and remedial rights should trump any such alleged, bizarre property right.

Becky McClain has already exhausted any remedies or assistance from the woeful Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This agency has been without any regulations or disclosure requirements about biohazards in laboratories. This inertness might change with the appointment of David Michaels to head OSHA, which should bring the agency closer to its mission of preventing or diminishing tens of thousands of fatalities and injuries each year.

Mr. Michaels told the Times that “new biological materials, nanomaterials, there are many things where we don’t have adequate information, and we think workers need to have protection.” He indicated that OSHA will take another look at the McClain case.

Both Jeremy Gruber, president of CRG, and Steve Zeltzer, chair of the California Coalition for Workers Memorial Day, believe the McClain case will lead to broader scrutiny of biologic laboratories, where research is expanding rapidly with heavy federal funding.

It is well known that workers in these labs are inhibited from speaking out, either inside or outside their workplace, for fear of losing their jobs. OSHA has long known that companies in old and new industries often do not come close to fully reporting cases of their injuries and sickness either to their insurers or to state or federal job safety agencies. Some have been found to keep two sets of books.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data are not at all comprehensive. Under-reporting can hide half or three-fourths of the actual traumatic injuries.

Mr. Zeltzer has denounced what he calls “the failure of top company officials to even report to OSHA and other government agencies that many workers were getting sick numerous times in their laboratories although this is required by the law.” He called on the US Attorney in Hartford to begin a criminal investigation. (see

As for Becky McClain, this is just the end of the beginning. She says she has lost her career, her health and her health insurance. But she recognizes her case is in the vanguard of many other cases and worker protests to come before enforceable and openly accessible standards and practices become the way of doing business for these labs.

For when it comes to developing materials that are inherently latent, subvisible forms of silent violence, business as usual can become cruel and unusual punishment for innocent, defenseless scientists, lab technicians and other workers.

Such is the weighty responsibility of David Michaels and the new managers of the long moribund, underfunded OSHA in the coming months.

Insane ... searching a private home without a warrant ...

Gotta love the bail bondsman ... "I don't need a warrant ..." and saying the federal government allows him to bust into a woman's house ... Wow. OK Democrats, what happened to getting our rights back after Bush-Cheney?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

If Petraeus runs and wins, the coup will be completed

So it's Easter morning and I wake up early, after nearly 10 hours of sleep, noodle around facebook and then decide to check out some headlines. This one struck me, below the fold, on Drudge: ["David Petraeus for President: Run General, run"].
Now, you might want to ask why I am even at Drudge at all. I do tend to check that, and other sites like Common Dreams, at least once a day. I have always found that it is important to look at both types of aggregates for news. But I'm also, now more than ever, steering completely away from political sites. In many ways it is the political sites, with their extreme views on both sides of the aisle, that are taking the fun out of being a political junkie. They are all liars and truth-tellers at the same time. And I just don't have any use for them any more. Sad, indeed, more later.

Super Secret Project

By now, everyone has probably seen this NH parody: It's worth posting though because it's pretty funny.