Sunday, June 16, 2019

“We are in the midst of a national crisis”—Kurt Bardella

“Thursday, May 2, 2019, felt like the end of checks and balances in America. It was the day that the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee stood by and supported the executive branch’s decision to ignore a lawful subpoena issued by the legislative branch. At this moment in time, we no longer really have co-equal branches of government. And without this system, created with care by the Founding Fathers, we edge ever close to a dictatorship.
“I spent five years working for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee during the Obama administration and I can tell you the level of blatant obstruction we are seeing from Trump and his cronies is on a totally different level from what the GOP was dealing with. At this point, the only real recourse for Democrats is to compel cooperation is to initiate impeachment proceedings and activate broader powers to enforce their subpoenas as Congress did with President Richard Nixon. This executive branch is flagrantly undermining the legislative branch. And it clearly thinks it can get away with it.
“Our entire federal system is predicated on the idea that fidelity to our constitutionally mandated rules of governance supersedes political party. That even in the most partisan of environments, Republicans and Democrats acknowledge and respect the role that the branches of government play in limiting absolute power. But what happens when that respect is obliterated? When one branch of government decides to go rogue and ignore the constitutional authority of another?
“Unfortunately, this is no longer a theoretical exercise to be examined and debated in the safe confines of a civics class. It is happening right now, before our very eyes.
“Democracy is about choice. The people who serve in Congress weren’t installed by decree or birthright, but by a free vote of free people. By ignoring the authority of the Congress, Trump and his followers are ignoring the will of the American people. By shutting out the legislative branch, Trump and his administration are thumbing their noses at the Framers’ framework, and everything it represents.

“If there is a policy this White House does not like, it unilaterally changes it. If there’s a question Trump officials don’t want to answer, they don’t show up, as Attorney General William Barr did. If there’s information they want to keep hidden from the American people, they sue a co-equal branch of government to keep it secret.
“And the problem is just getting worse. Barr, who sounds increasingly like a White House spokesperson and not top law enforcement officials, defied a subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on May 2. The Department of Trump — I mean, Justice — ignored a subpoena deadline to produce to Congress the unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the underlying evidence used to compile it. This prompted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to send a final counteroffer to Barr. But on Monday, Barr again failed to comply with the subpoena; the committee will vote to hold him in contempt on Wednesday.
“Also last week, the White House informed House Democrats that it would not comply with a request for documents related to security clearances. Our Supreme Leader — I mean President, Donald J. Trump — has sued two banks in an effort to block them from complying with subpoenas from the House Oversight Committee related to his and his family’s finances.
“Partisanship and obstruction is sadly not uncommon in America’s political system. But by continuing to push the boundaries, Trump has exposed a flaw within the framework of our political composition. Congress is effectively powerless to make the executive branch do anything. They can issue subpoenas. Those subpoenas can be ignored. They can hold people in contempt. But of course, any U.S. attorney capable of prosecuting contempt can be fired by the attorney general. If they go to court, it’ll take years to get resolved.
“Moreover, when it comes to Trump and Congressional Republicans, there is little good faith left — if any. There certainly isn’t much trust. With the backing of the White House, Republicans believe they can effectively bully Democrats. And Democrats, led by the conventionally cautious wisdom of lawmakers like Rep. Nancy Pelosi, are increasingly trapped by the process. If they remain unwilling to deviate from conventional tactics, they will not be able to gain much progress in these very unconventional times.
“Last November, millions of Americans voted in favor of having a stronger check on power by ushering in a new Democratic majority in the House. They voted to give Democrats the power of the congressional gavel, the power to issue subpoenas, the power to conduct vigorous oversight. That mandate is being ignored by the president and his henchmen. It is up to Democrats to protect and defend the will of the people and they must do so boldly. There is no place for traditional tactics or negotiations. We are in the midst of a national crisis — a real one, not the manufactured one at the southern border. Who will stand up for the Republic?”

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Cancer-Causing Ingredient in Weedkiller Found in Cheerios

Glyphosate is found in the weedkiller Roundup, which is sprayed on oats before harvest.

ALMOST TWO DOZEN CEREAL and snack products were found to contain glyphosate, the cancer causing ingredient in the weed killer Roundup.
An analysis released today by the Environmental Working Group's Children's Health Initiative found that 21 of General Mills' oat-based cereals and snacks were contaminated with glyphosate and all but four products contained levels higher than what EWG scientists consider safe for children. The nonprofit environmental research organization's benchmark for levels of the ingredient deemed safe for kids is no more than 160 parts per billion.
The product containing the lowest level of glyphosate was Nature Valley's Dark Chocolate & Nut version of Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, which measured at 76 ppb. The highest level of glyphosate, 833 ppb, was found in Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch.
Regular Honey Nut Cheerios contained 147 ppb. Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cheerios contained 729 ppb. Nature Valley's Maple Brown Sugar Crunchy Granola Bars measured glyphosate at 566 ppb, while its Soft-Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Squares measure at 206.
The ingredient used in the weedkiller, which is sprayed on oats before harvest as a drying agent, was classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. It was classified as a known carcinogenic by California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in 2017.
There have been several lawsuits brought against Roundup's manufacturer Bayer-Monsanto alleging that its weedkiller causes cancer and that the company has known about it for years. More than $2.2 billion has been awarded to victims.  

Friday, June 14, 2019

“The Adjunct Underclass”

“How did we discard the idea of college faculty? That is, how did we decide to systematically eliminate an entire class of professionals whom we once trusted to conduct the final distillation of our children into capable, confident adults? How did we come to decide that college teachers didn’t deserve job security, didn’t deserve health insurance, didn’t deserve to make more than convenience-store clerks?

“It wasn’t hard, really.

“We discarded college faculty in the same way that we discarded medical general practitioners: through providing insane rewards to specialists and leaving most care in the hands of paraprofessionals.

“We discarded college faculty in the same way that we discarded cab drivers: by leveling the profession and allowing anyone to participate, as long as they had a minimum credential and didn’t need much money.

“We discarded college faculty in the same way that we discarded magazine and newspaper writers: by relabeling the work “content” and its workers “content providers.”

“We discarded college faculty in the same way that we discarded local auto mechanics: by making all of the systems and regulations so sophisticated that they now require an army of technicians and specialized equipment.

“We discarded college faculty in the same way that we discarded bookkeepers: by finally letting women do it after decades of declaring that impossible, and then immediately reducing the status of the work once it became evident that women could, in fact, do it well.

“Our contemporary religion of innovation has as one of its tenets the following belief: Rather than defeat your competition, make your competitors irrelevant. This is exactly what we see in higher education. College faculty were not defeated after great struggle, after a battle with a winner and a loser. College has simply been redefined, over and over, in ways that make faculty irrelevant. College teaching, as a profession, is being eliminated one small, undetected, definitional drop at a time…

“The problems with the adjunct structure of higher education are not merely quantitative. It’s not just about how badly adjuncts are paid, not just about the inadequate opportunities for our students to build enduring relationships with the faculty who guide them. It’s also about fear, despair, surrender, shame — the messy, hidden human elements that finance and policy always miss.

“The story of the adjunct faculty, of the postdoctoral scholars, of those in ‘alt-careers’ — that story will be incomplete unless we recognize that we are refugees from a nation that would not have us. We have found our way to innumerable continents, but still hold that lost home in our hearts. We still, many of us, in quiet moments, mourn the loss of our community as we make our scattered way across diverse lands.

“The decision to join a community is never solely rational. We discover a way of life we find appealing, learn more about it, start to make friends with others who hold similar values. We shift our vocabulary, our terms of engagement, our enthusiasms. Our calendars are marked by different constraints — rather than birthdays and Thanksgiving, we attune ourselves to semesters, grant-proposal deadlines, the week of our discipline’s national conference.

“We become new people in order to join this new culture. We know that our proposed membership in that community will be subject to great competition. We offer ourselves as contestants in a pageant for people who can’t even describe their own desires. We imagine that with the right costume or the right theme music, we might be chosen. We sniff the air, hoping for a phrase to borrow, to learn this year’s color, to please the taste makers as we pass by in the parade of the damned, hoping for the rare and unpredictable nod that will allow us to move from the slush pile to the long list to the short list to the campus visit to — dare we think it? — an offer of membership.

Some few will get in. Some larger number will not. But the peculiar cruelty of higher education is its third option — the vast purgatory of contingent life, in which we are neither welcomed nor rejected, but merely held adjacent to the mansion, to do the work that our betters would prefer not to do…”

Herb Childress is a partner at Teleidoscope Group, LLC, an ethnography-­based consulting firm. This essay is excerpted from his new book, The Adjunct Underclass: How America’s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission (University of Chicago Press).