Regular readers of this space are well aware by now of the joy I take in highlighting and underscoring the bottomless vat of genuine entertainment to be found in the foibles, follies and gut-busting failures provided on a daily basis by this country's far-right fringe. From hilariously misspelled and misapprehended protest signs - "Respect Are Country - Speak English" and "Keep Government Out Of My Medicare" leap to mind - to bottomless calamities like the "Operation American Spring" in DC this past weekend, to the "patriots" at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada pointing their guns at each other over a rumor that Eric Holder was sending a drone to kill them all, these people are well and truly the gift that keeps on giving.
The problem is that some of these brain donors are actually in charge of stuff, as evidenced by the latest doings in North Carolina on the subject of fracking.
Fracking, for those not in the know, is the process of injecting chemical-laden water at high speed into the ground, so as to extract the last vestiges of useable hydrocarbons from a particular site. Bully for those who turn whatever is extracted into folding green, but the neighbors have a tendency to find their tap water undrinkable and/or flammable thanks to the chemicals being injected into the ground, and folks in places like Oklahoma, Texas and California will tell you all about the earthquakes that happen near active fracking sites.
The state fathers of the North Carolina General Assembly, it seems, do not want you or anyone else to know the precise composition of the poisons being injected into the ground in order to lap up whatever mouthfuls of gas and oil there are to be had. Three Republican senators from that august chamber have coughed up a bill that would make it a felony to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process.
Not for nothing, and try to contain your shock, but the three North Carolina state senators pushing this bill have each received lavish campaign contributions from a lobbying firm called McGuire Woods, which represents gas and oil companies like Koch Industries and Halliburton. Far be it from me to wave the bloody shirt, but it strikes me as singularly obnoxious that elected officials are seeking to criminalize providing information to the public about why the water they drink is probably killing them because of the crud being pumped into their groundwater by the companies doling out money to keep it secret.
I know, I know, it's just the price of doing business. Just Republicans being Republicans, right? Screw the people, because all that matters is the wealth-weighted paymasters lurking just out of sight.
Speaking of which, have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? It's this massive multi-nation trade deal that President Obama is just wild about. The thing is, the deal is being negotiated in secret between a few government officials and a few hundred corporate representatives. The only reason we know anything about it at all is because Wikileaks got hold of a few documents pertaining to the deal and was kind enough to share them with the world by way of the internet.
The little we know: TPP would paint some 40 percent of the world's economy with NAFTA-style rules that would, among other things, ship American jobs overseas, subsume our judicial system with corporate arguments that their rights to profit are more important than the standing laws of the land, and forever alter the free exchange of information on the internet. The price of medicines will skyrocket, US companies will no longer be able to pitch their wares under the "Buy American" banner, genetically-altered life forms will be able to be patented, tobacco companies will be let off the our-product-will-kill-you leash, and Wall Street - the biggest TPP fan of all - will make a killing.
And that's just what we know about this thing that is being pushed like mad by the Democrat in the White House.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the last honest humans left in modern American politics, spoke last week at the annual Public Citizen's gathering, and underscored the impending nightmare of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal:
From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, why are the trade talks secret? You'll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me "They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed."
Think about that. Real people, people whose jobs are at stake, small-business owners who don't want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day - those people, people without an army of lobbyists - they would be opposed. I believe if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then maybe that trade agreement should not happen.
Just the price of doing business, right?
So, yeah, here's the funny part: Republicans in North Carolina want to make it a crime to disclose the chemicals that the people they purport to represent are being exposed to. Meanwhile, the Democrat in the White House wants to sell you and everyone you know out to massive corporate and financial interests, and in an ancillary twist of the knife, that same Democrat's administration is trying to make it harder for you to find out about these things by warping the nature of the internet into a pay-for-play cash cow...and you know what? All of these Republican and Democratic secrets are going to make the same small group of rich people even richer.
I am mortally sick of secrets.