Texas Gov. Rick Perry: An Opposition Campaign Primer

Ah! Fresh meat!

That's what's on the mind of political pundits this week as they come down off the high of the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames. With nothing to report until–well–something unpredictable happens, or until the Iowa caucuses in January, the media and blogosphere will gush with pedantics about this outsider to the GOP fratricide-fest that has been the 2012 presidential nominating process thus far.

Unless something extraordinary happens, Texas Governor Rick Perry will be the GOP and Tea Party presidential nominee in 2012. He's the darling of the extreme right and can be stomached by party moderates who know Mitt Romney has no chance of winning the top spot on the ticket without flip-flopping on nearly all of his social positions. So, no big deal, we're looking at Rick Perry.

Here is some friendly advice that an opposing campaign should follow–Republican, Democrat or Independent:

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TX Oil Companies Try to Kill CA Clean Energy Legislation

As if the oil companies from Texas – and their allies in the corridors of power – hadn’t done enough harm to our country already (for more, see the late, great Gulf of Mexico), now they are at it once again.  This time, it’s Valero and Tesoro, pouring money into a campaign this election season to undo California’s landmark, clean energy and climate law, AB 32.  On Tuesday, the oil companies’ proposition was certified for the November ballot. The fight, as they say, is on!

Why should you care?  Let us count the ways.

First  and foremost, whether you’re a Californian or not, this campaign should concern you because if the oil companies succeed here, they will try this everywhere – in other states and at the federal level. Mark our words, that’s exactly what they’re up to here.

Second, let’s be absolutely clear about what this proposition says.  As the Stop Dirty Energy website explains, “The Texas oil companies want you to believe it’s simply a “temporary” suspension. However, their deceptive proposition would repeal AB 32 until unemployment reached 5.5% for a full year – a market condition that has only occurred three times in the last 30 years.”  Which means that this proposition is nothing less than “an effective repeal of [California’s] clean energy and clean air laws.”  In sum, they want to kill this landmark law. Period. Don’t let their propaganda fool you into believing anything else.

Third, let’s also be clear who these people are and how utterly deceptive they’re willing to be.  According to the Stop Dirty Energy Facebook page, oil companies including Valero and Tesoro recently “released yet another study bought, sold, and paid for by polluters on the impacts of AB 32.”  The study, for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA) by the California Lutheran University's right-wing economics chief,” is nothing more than “junk economics paid for by polluters that defies the reality that clean tech is the fastest-growing segment of the California economy.”  It gets even worse, with the author of a previous, fallacious study by CMTA attacking AB 32 affiliated with the global-warming-denying Heartland Institute, which receives heavy funding from our friends at Exxon Mobil.  This institute also enjoys holding conferences to downplay and deny climate science.  That’s who we’re dealing with here. That’s who we’re fighting.

Fourth, it’s important to emphasize what’s at stake here. Other than minor matters (ha) like the environment, public health and national security, this is about J-O-B-S.  Specifically, the only sector of job growth in California has been in the clean energy technology development sector.  For more, watch this video and hear how AB 32=Jobs (and, on the flip side, how killing AB 32 will kill those jobs).

Fifth, this proposition will not just hurt California jobs, it will also hurt Californians’ health and ability to breathe clean air.  As the Stop Dirty Energy website points out, this proposition “would create more air pollution in California and threaten public health.” Currently, “California’s air pollution crisis contributes to 19,000 premature deaths, 9,400 hospitalizations, and more than 300,000 respiratory illnesses for California families.”  Just imagine how much worse it will be if the Texas oil companies get their way and gut California’s clean air laws!

Finally, as NRDC wrote in a blog post entitled, “California Crossroads, “The oil companies have chosen California as their battleground to crush the progress the State’s made in moving away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.”   NRDC reported from a media event (see photo above) at “Pier 7 on the city’s embarcadero, overlooking the bay that is the largest and most biologically productive estuary on the West Coast” (and also where “the tanker Cosco Buscan ran aground in 2007, spilling more than 53,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil, killing wildlife and providing a harbinger of the great environmental tragedy now unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico”).  As the NRDC blog post puts it, “We can’t let Texas oil destroy California’s future simply for the purpose of stuffing more cash into their already bulging coffers.”

That’s why we need everyone – not just Californians, but every American who cares about clean energy and our planet’s environment – to join our efforts at stopping this heinous, Texas oil company-funded Dirty Energy Proposition.   Please click here for more information and to join the campaign. Sign up for Stop Dirty Energy Twitter feed, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.  Also, check out the NRDC Action Fund Facebook page, as we will be heavily involved in this campaign.  

Why does a national organization like NRDC care about a “California issue?”  Other than the fact that California is an enormous – and enormously important –state, we care because, clearly, the Texas oil companies are attempting to set a national precedent in California against clean energy and climate action, and we can’t let them do that.  

We are convinced that stopping them here, exposing their lies, and deterring others from trying this in the future, is crucial to tackling our largest environmental challenges moving forward.  It’s also crucial, we might add, to fight against these well-funded, powerful, corporate polluters attempting to buy our politicians and our Democracy.  

Thank you for your help.

NRDC Action Fund

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Harkin will hold Senate hearing on exploited disabled workers

Tom Harkin will schedule a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to examine how this scandal occurred:

For 34 years, Henry’s Turkey Service acted as landlord, caretaker and employer for dozens of mentally retarded men sent from Texas to Atalissa [Iowa] to work in West Liberty’s meat-processing plant. The men were housed in a former schoolhouse, known as “the bunkhouse.” Nine days ago, state officials shut down the bunkhouse, describing conditions there as unsafe and “deplorable.”

In return for working 30 to 40 hours per week, the workers received room, board and care in the bunkhouse, plus a salary that, in some cases, averaged 44 cents an hour.

The Des Moines Register quoted Harkin describing the conditions as “pretty close to slavery.”

The company that contracted with Henry’s Turkey Service says it is not to blame:

A West Liberty Foods executive says the company never asked about the wages paid to the mentally retarded men who worked in the corporation’s meat-processing plant.

For years, Henry’s Turkey Service of Texas provided West Liberty Foods with workers in return for a fee. That fee was based on the number of hours worked by the mentally retarded men Henry’s had working in the plant.

West Liberty Foods Vice President Dan Waters said the weekly payments his company made to Henry’s, if divided by the hours worked by the men, were “well in excess of the minimum wage.” He declined to be more specific. […]

Waters said West Liberty Foods never asked how much of the money paid to Henry’s was passed on to the individual workers in the form of salary.


Waters said West Liberty Foods does not have any agreements with other companies to place handicapped workers in its plants. State labor officials say they have subpoenaed West Liberty Foods’ payroll records.

Unfortunately, this may not be an isolated incident:

Curtis Decker of the National Disability Rights Network […] said his organization plans to contact the U.S. Department of Labor and to work on ways to improve oversight of companies that employ the disabled. […]

Decker said many companies provide work for the mentally disabled at less than the prevailing wage. With government approval, they can pay less than the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour in Iowa. That can lead to abuse by unscrupulous employers, Decker said. “There’s very little oversight of all this by the Social Security Administration,” he said.

In the same article, Peter Berns of the advocacy group Arc called for a federal investigation to determine how Henry’s Turkey Service was able to treat its workers in that fashion for decades without being caught by federal, state or local agencies.

The Houston Chronicle reported on February 11,

It is not the first time the bunkhouse or the Henry’s Turkey Service operation has been examined by Iowa officials. State healthcare facility regulators visited the bunkhouse in 2005 and 2001, but on both occasions found the men to be functioning well enough not to be classified as “dependent adults.”

But in the past four years, the men’s conditions and mental states worsened enough to force Iowa officials to remove them.

On Saturday, state fire marshals closed the bunkhouse.

“The state fire marshal’s office did not know this building existed until we got the call,” said Courtney Greene, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, which includes the state fire marshal division.

“All 21 men have mental retardation,” said Roger Munns, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services, which petitioned a court this week that all 21 be classified as “dependent” adults. Arrangements were being made Tuesday to transfer the men from the motel they have been living in since Friday to a facility for the mentally disabled in Waterloo, Iowa.

Attempts were being made to keep all the men together because they consider each other family.

I hope these men will find decent care in the same facility, and I hope there will be a full federal investigation of this exploitation following the Senate hearing.

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March 4 primaries prediction thread

What's going to happen tomorrow?

I think Obama will win Vermont and Texas (popular vote and delegate count), while Clinton will win Ohio and Rhode Island. I don't think Clinton will gain serious ground on Obama.

If she doesn't win the popular vote in Ohio and Texas, I do think Clinton should drop out. If she wins the popular vote in those states, I think it's reasonable for her to continue on to Pennsylvania, even though it would be very hard for her to overtake Obama in the delegate count.

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