Friday, February 27, 2015

No. 138 – February 26, 2015 – A Lenten Visit to the Ninth Commandment

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”

Lent is a time to examine our values and how we express these with action. The Ten Commandments have been a tool for examining values for thousands of years. They make a great tool for seeing our own values in new ways. In this first week of Lent I was drawn to consider the Ninth Commandment and what light it can shed on human behavior today.

Bearing false witness means lying about someone. Usually, the lie defames and misrepresents the target, making them vulnerable for further attacks. Bullying often includes bearing false witness. The person who is defamed is less able to defend themselves because many people will draw back from contact, increasing the vulnerability of the individual to more abuse. Others watching may also join in attacking the targeted person. We see this taking place with children today but adults react the same way.

The individual defamed is often bewildered. They may never know what was said about them. And because they do not know they cannot refute the lies and defend themselves. More attacks can then come from unexpected directions instigated either by the original liar or by those drawn in to participate.

So, why do people of all ages accept malicious lies as the truth? There are lots of motives. Participants can experience a sense of false righteousness. It is easy and satisfying to demean someone made vulnerable. All too few pause to question the stories told them.

What do you do when you hear a shocking or unflattering story about someone you know?

Have you ever gone to them and explained what you heard and listened to their response?Most people will not do this, but they should. Have you repeated unsubstantiated stories about others? As we have seen with young teenagers lies can kill and traumatize. It is not true that little harm can be done.

Perhaps you were persuaded by the vehemence and anger exhibited by the slanderer and decided the person slandered did was undeserving of defense. This is equally a sin because we can know the truth if we question the lie and ask the target.

Our Savior told us to love one another. Part of loving is caring enough to hear both sides of the story.

In this Lenten season reflect on each Commandment and check how well you really keep it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

No. 137 – February 19, 2015 – Sonja is worried about bomb trains.

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

My friend, Sonja Loll, mentioned she was noticing lines of tank cars on the railroad lines running through Ashtabula. Sonja is worried, as are a growing number of people across the country who are becoming aware of the hazard posed by the transport of Bakken and Tar Sands across the towns and population centers of America.

In the last two weeks the number of incidents of violent explosions which caused evacuations, injuries, shut down water-treatment plants and sent oil seeping into rivers has sent shock waves through the media into a public which previously ignored the potential for death and destruction.

The cause of these events, marking February of 2015 as a warning to be heeded, is the desire by corporations to optimize profits by ignoring maintenance, the costs of the disasters caused, these paid by ordinary people and by government.

The series of spills began with a toxic event in Igualada, a town in the Spanish province of Catalonia. Residents were told to stay inside until the toxic cloud of noxious material dissipated. 40,000 people were impacted.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency, which cost will be underwritten by the state, including the same taxpayers from two towns forced to flee. The medical impact of residents will, if the company follows its past strategy, will be denied, minimized, and swept under the rug.

Two more derailments occurred in South Carolina.

Another disturbing fact, also now rippling though the public consciousness, is that the tank cars involved in West Virginia were not the widely used older types, known to be vulnerable, but the newer model which were to replace them.

When explosions occur the fire ball can incinerate areas for a long way, as witnessed in Lac Megantic in July of 2013. 47 people are known to have died. The town remains in shock. The corporations involved refuse to accept any responsibility.

Lac Megantic was a small town with a railroad line running through it, not so different from Ashtabula – except here there are far more railroad lines.

Along with the continued threat of bomb trains America also must confront the 2.5 million miles of pipelines, much of it deteriorating. And the Kochs, who are infamous for ignoring maintenance, are determined to spent 900 million to elect a Congress they can most firmly control.

Sonja is right to be worried, we all should be.

Friday, February 13, 2015

No. 136 - February 12, 2015 – Yellowstone – Benzene, Cancer, and Accountability

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Another toxic spill took place into the Yellowstone River on January 17 of this year. It was not the first. An earlier break took place several years ago. 
The break occurred, according to Bridger Pipeline, LLC, at 10a.m. The company shut down the pipeline at 11am.

It is in the first hour after a break the most toxic materials escape. This includes Benzene, a carcinogen which may cause cancer. Bridger announced only 300 – 1,200 oil barrels had been spilled into the riber. State estimates the spill as 50,000 US gallons of spilled oil. Benzene was ten to fifteen parts per billion. An EPA official commented that, "anything above five parts per billion is considered a long-term risk."

It was two days later, January 19th, that 6,000 people from the nearby town of Glendive were told not to use the town's municipal waterdue to the elevated levels of benzene which had percolated through the Yellowstone River and into their tap water. The city supplied bottled water to residents for four days, declaring the municipal water safe on January 23.

Paul Peronard, an employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told residents to open their taps and run the water to flush out residual contamination. Peronard also said, If it doesn’t smell anymore you have cleaned it out, you’re good. Citizens can start drinking it...”

The level at which Benezene is known to be dangerous is five parts per billion. Most people can smell Benzene at levels of 60,000 parts per billion.

Following Peronard's advice Glendive resident Roseann Koepke ran the taps in her trailer home Thursday after her landlord told her the contamination had been cleared. She turned off the water after the strong smell of oil gave her a headache. Unaware of the facts about Benzene Koepke said, “I ran it for about ten minutes and had to open up the door for five minutes to get the smell out,” she said. “My God, did I end up getting a headache.”

Ms. Koepke said she would try again.

In no instance has an oil company monitored the outpou​ring of deadly gases in the first hour. Under estimating the size of the spill, failing to provide medical services to impacted residents, or even pay for their drinking water is also standard operating procedure for oil companies as is neglecting to provide H​azmat protection for workers. Get the picture?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No. 135 – February 5, 2015 – Questioning all Propaganda

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Today, Andrew Kreig, author of “Presidential Puppetry,” is challenging a 'false flag' from the era of the Vietnam Conflict which slipped into history as an authentic reactions to ongoing events.

On April 19, 1969 80 plus African-American students at Cornell University seized the student center 24 hours after a fire alarms going off resulted in the discovery of a burning cross on campus at Wari House, a cooperative residential unit for black women. Close to a dozen false alarms took place elsewhere on campus but no one was injured.

The building was occupied for 36 hours before the armed protesters emerged. The resulting photos, shocking at the time, entered our collective memory as iconic images of the 1960s era of student protest.

But black students, themselves, burned the cross, invoking a racist symbol where none had existed.

Kreig challenges each of us to decide if creating news by manipulation is to be tolerated. Do we tolerate such incidents if they further the aims of movements when we sympathize? Or do we exact the same standards for everyone?

Kreig covered the story as a student reporter, not then realizing the truth until former Cornell Daily Sun editor-in-chief and Washington Post Alumnus Stan Chess revealed the facts last month for the first time.

The students who planned and carried out the cross burning and then the occupation also woke the parents of students then staying in Willard Straight Hall, the student union. Although the incident ended peacefully it did not end without acrimony. Some faculty, alumni and political commentators were outraged at the leniency of the treatment according the protesters. Some of the supposed radicals who had planned the false flag went on to mainstream careers.

And coverage of the event continued to reverberate.

Kreig himself wrote an essay on the event, as originally understood, which was included as one of the first chapters in a book, titled, A Century At Cornell, published about the University by the Sun. The chapter, “The End of a Bizarre Era ” covered the occupation's historical importance.

Two of Kreig's professors, Walter Berns and Allan Bloom, resigned from the University because of the lenient punishments accorded the student protesters, who had emerged armed from their occupation of the Student Union. Berns and Bloom found careers in politics in what would become the NeoConservative movement.

What do you think? Do we tolerate propaganda, or not?

No. 134 – January 29, 2015 - Wyoming Passes Regulation Freedom Amendment

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
"I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution..... taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing." - Thomas Jefferson

Many are unaware that it was action by 2/3 of the states which helped force Congress to propose, and pass, the Bill of Rights. This exercise of power by the states fell into disuse and America moved toward a Federal government which exercised far more power than originally envisioned by our Founders.

Today, when many are looking for ways to curb Federal power the application of what has already worked has a strongl attraction. Advocates say they are moved by the need to restore accountability and balance in Washington.

Today, 2/3 of the states, if they agree on a specific Amendment could force Congress to propose the “Regulation Freedom” Amendment. Which reads, “Whenever one quarter of the Members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate transmit to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation, it shall require a majority vote of the House and Senate to adopt that regulation.”
Passage by the Wyoming House of Representatives of a bipartisan vote, 51-9, was passed to make the will of the people known to Congress. Wyoming was not the first state to pass the measure, which has also been passed in Arizona, as Regulation Freedom Amendment, SCL 1005, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto. Other states, including Indiana and Georgia have recently passed similar measures.

Governors of two states and more than 200 state legislators plus the 6 million member American Farm Bureau now support the Regulation Freedom Amendment.

Each of these Resolutions urges Congress to propose the "Regulation Freedom Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution to require that Congress approve major new federal regulations. These Resolutions are steps in the process of passage for the proposed Amendment but also open up the political process to more direct control by the people through their state legislatures.

The movement, which includes Regulation Freedom and the Madison Amendment is the brain child of Roman Buhler, an attorney and formerly counsel for the U. S. House of Representatives, from 1989 to 2003.

Buhler has also proposed the Madison Initiative, which gives States the same power as Congress to propose individuals amendments to the United States Constitution. Many view this as the better avenue for cutting back the growth of Federal power, avoiding a new Constitutional Convention.