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Attorney in Texas

Attorney in Texas's Journal
Attorney in Texas's Journal
September 28, 2016

U.S. farmer lawsuits over Syngenta GMO corn granted class status

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A St. Louis lawyer has secured the right to proceed with a national class-action lawsuit that could pit more than 440,000 U.S. corn farmers against Switzerland-based seed giant Syngenta.... The legal dispute against Syngenta first emerged in 2014 and is centered on allegations that the company “prematurely and irresponsibly” released new seed varieties that were not approved in China. Eventually those varieties, Agrisure Viptera and Duracade, contaminated U.S. corn exports to China, leading to a trade ban in late 2013. Plaintiffs say the trade ban and China’s continued unwillingness to buy genetically modified corn from the U.S. has resulted in estimated losses of $5 billion to $7 billion for domestic corn growers.

“Once you’ve lost a foreign market, it’s very difficult to get it back because they tend to look to other countries to fill their needs,” Downing said. He explained that China has turned to Ukraine as its primary supplier of corn imports. He says China now also uses imports of milo, a sorghum product, as a feed grain substitute to replace American corn.... “When we lost the Chinese market, it affected the Chicago Board of Trade price for corn,” Downing said. “All farmers across the country were affected on a per-bushel basis, equally.”
“The Court’s ruling will make it easier and less expensive for farmers to pursue their claims against Syngenta,” said Scott Powell, another of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, in a released statement. “Instead of having to retain and pay individual counsel, file their own lawsuit, produce voluminous farm records, sit for a deposition and appear at trial, the Court found that all class members may attempt to prove their claims through a limited number of class representatives. If those class representatives win, all class members win. No individual farmer has to file a lawsuit to seek a recovery.”

Downing ... was the co-lead counsel in a $750 million settlement reached between Bayer and U.S. rice farmers in 2011. In that case, U.S. long-grain rice exports were embargoed after an unapproved, test variety of seed — called LibertyLink 601 — contaminated the domestic rice supply.... He says many in the grain industry warned Syngenta that China’s failure to approve the seed varieties in question presented an unnecessary risk to an important foreign trade partner.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/u-s-farmer-lawsuits-over-syngenta-gmo-corn-granted-class/article_0a0307d3-6a21-5db8-bbb8-57038ca809a7.html

I hope this leads both to economic justice for farmers financially ruined by predatory agribusiness and to greater understanding that the straw-man debate about whether GMOs are safe to eat is a false flag intended to mask the problem of GMOs as a monopolistic business model which is destroying independent farms.
September 12, 2016


The Huffington Post headline "DEMS ON TRACK TO BLOW THE SENATE" should be a wake up call! This is a very well researched and clearly presented premise:

We simulated a Nov. 8 election 100 million times using our state-by-state probabilities. In 13.4 million simulations, Democrats ended up with at least 51 seats. Therefore, we say Democrats have a 13.4 percent chance of gaining control of the Senate.
The 2016 Senate consists of 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats. (The two independent senators caucus with Democrats.) Voters usually re-elect their incumbent senators, but some seats could flip to the other party.

If four Republican Senate seats flip to Democrats and there are no other changes, the 2017 Senate will be split 50-50.
99.0% chance Wisconsin will flip to a Democrat
Russell Feingold (D) won against incumbent Ronald Johnson (R) in 99.9% of our simulations.
81.0% chance Illinois will flip to a Democrat
70.8% chance Nevada will flip to a Republican
Joe Heck (R) won against Catherine Cortez-Masto (D) in 77.5% of our simulations.
53.3% chance Pennsylvania will flip to a Democrat
Kathleen McGinty (D) won against incumbent Patrick Toomey (R) in 63.3% of our simulations.
Toss-up in Indiana
Toss-up in New Hampshire
Incumbent Kelly Ayotte (R) won against Maggie Hassan (D) in 53.2% of our simulations.

We are blowing an opportunity to take control of the Senate by focusing too much on a presidential race that is either already won or unwinnable (if America would elect Trump, we have overestimated America and that cannot be fixed in two months, but I believe America will not elect Trump because we're better than that).

We need to stop the fetishistic obsession on the presidential race and refocus on winning the Senate. Regardless of who is elected president, we will not get shit accomplished with a Senate and House both in Republican control.
August 29, 2016

538: "Down-Ballot Democrats Should Go After Johnson And Stein Voters"

Down-Ballot Democrats Should Go After Johnson And Stein Voters:

The third-party vote is unusually big this year — bigger than in any presidential election since 1992. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein regularly combine for more than 10 percent of the vote in national polls. But despite those relatively strong showings, we know little about the partisan makeup of Johnson’s and Stein’s voters; there are enough of them to be worth tracking but too few to make up a meaningful sample in most individual surveys. Which party these voters favor outside of the presidential race could affect down-ballot races for the U.S. Senate and House.

We can learn a bit more about these voters from new data that Morning Consult has shared with FiveThirtyEight; it’s aggregated from the firm’s national tracking polls from Aug. 1 through Aug. 20. Johnson’s voters are very slightly more favorably disposed toward Republicans. Stein’s voters are overwhelmingly more favorable toward Democrats. If these voters shun the two major parties at the top of the ticket but choose between the two in down-ballot races, they could help Democrats in congressional races.

When respondents were asked which party’s candidate they would back in their district’s U.S. House race, only 53 percent of Johnson backers said the Republican; 46 percent said they would vote for the Democrat. (They were not offered the option of a third-party candidate.)1 That’s a bit surprising — I would guess that a Libertarian candidate would draw support disproportionately from the GOP. But the small Republican edge among Johnson supporters means that, as a group, they would barely affect down-ballot races if they voted for a major-party nominee. Considering that 9 percent of all voters in the Morning Consult data said they were supporting Johnson for president, the 7-point edge in the U.S. House question means that Johnson voters are adding a little less than two-thirds of a percentage point of support to the Republican margin in the national House vote.

Stein supporters, meanwhile, overwhelmingly favor Democratic House candidates (not surprisingly). Democrats win the House ballot among Stein voters 74 percent to 25 percent. That nearly 50-point margin means that although just 4 percent of all voters are backing Stein, they add 2 percentage points to the aggregate Democratic margin in House races.

Great article. Well worth reading (and well worth executing the suggested strategy).
August 9, 2016

We should focus on Congressional battles in AZ, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, MO, NV, NH, NC, OH, PA & WI

Each of these states has a Senate battle that will be a key in determining whether we control the Senate.

While we are in AZ, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, MO, NV, NH, NC, OH, PA and WI winning back control over the Senate, there are also key House races in these same states:

AZ1, AZ2,
FL2, FL7, FL10, FL13, FL18, FL26,
IL3, IL10,
NV3, NV4,

Winning back control over the Senate and as many seats in the House as possible will greatly expand the scope of our achievable legislative goals.

If we can GOTV in AZ, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, MO, NV, NH, NC, OH, PA and WI, there will be ZERO pathways for Trump to win, and Hillary will have the Congressional support she needs to break through the gridlock on our most important goals.

Hillary has a commanding lead, and Trump is imploding.

We must not lose sight of the fact that Hillary cannot achieve our most ambitious goals unless we take the Senate and move the House, too.

PS - We also have important House battles in AK's at large seat and in CA21, CA25, CA49, KS3, ME2, MI6, MI8, MN2, MN3, NJ5, NY1, NY3, NY19, NY21, NY22, NY24, SC5, TX23, UT4 and VA5. I'm not suggesting that we de-emphasize these key races. I'm just suggesting that there are synergies we should be exploiting in the 14 states which are (1) important contests in the presidential race, (2) which also have critical Senate races, and (3) also have pivotal House races. If we GOTV in these 14 front-line battleground states, we win the election from the top of the ballot to the bottom.

August 7, 2016

Ten points of agreement, and why we should seek down-ballot support from Greens and Libertarians

I do not understand how anyone could support Trump, and at least the supporters of Stein-Baraka and Johnson-Weld share our view that Trump is a completely unacceptable candidate.

Still, I nevertheless see a lot of disparagement of Libertarian and Green Party voters here.

Based on these ten points, which I suspect we all agree upon, I would rather see us reaching out to Greens and Libertarians with regard to their down-ballot votes instead of demonizing the Greens and Libertarians:

1. Trump, Stein and Johnson are all unqualified to be president;
2. Hillary is well qualified to be president;
3. Stein and Johnson have zero chance of being elected;
4. The presidential race is a binary election, but millions will nevertheless vote for a third party;
5. There is a long history of third parties in American democracy so we may as well acknowledge that fact;
6. Control of the Senate is critical to advancing our Democratic agenda;
7. There are many down-ballot races where the Greens or the Libertarians do not even have a candidate;
8. Regardless of their presidential vote, we want down-ballot votes from Greens and Libertarians;
9. Demonizing Libertarians and Greens is not the best strategy to win their down-ballot votes; and
10.Demonizing Libertarians and Greens will not persuade them to switch their presidential preference.

Which of these ten points does anyone here disagree with?

How - exactly - does demonizing Green Party or Libertarian voters help us win the presidency or win back the control of the Senate or win any other down-ballot races?
August 7, 2016

In a democracy, are minority party candidates "bad"? Is Stein-Baraka "bad"? Is Johnson-Weld "bad"?

Was Perot "bad" in 1992 or was he only "bad" in 1996?

Was Anderson "bad" in 1980?

Was T. Roosevelt "bad" in 1912?

Was Lincoln "bad" in 1860?

July 31, 2016

Defending GMOs on grounds that they are not poisonous is like defending manufacturers who exploit

child labor overseas on grounds that the products are indistinguishable from ethically assembled products.

Regardless of whether GMOs are not poison, it is a business practice that seeks to monopolize agribusiness and it recklessly destroys independent farms; here's some interesting reading:

Genetically Modified Crops: Why Cultivation Matters

Induced Nuisance: Holding Patent Owners Liable for GMO Cross-Contamination

Life is Better in the Land Down Under: Australian Treatment of GM Contamination and Why It Should Be Followed in the United States

I prefer non-GMO products for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not the GMOs are poison; I avoid GMOs for ethical reasons, just like I avoid Chick-fil-A, Coors beer, products of apartheid, Walmart, unfairly traded coffee, and conflict diamonds for ethical reasons.

Why are so many progressives opposed to allowing consumers to have information to use as their basis to choose products?

I'm not a vegan, but I certainly have no beef (ha, a pun) with labeling that allows vegans to follow their preferences when choosing food products. Regardless of whether you share my preference to avoid GMOs because I disapprove of the business model that creates them, why can't we agree that I should be entitled to the information necessary for me to exercise my own consumer preference when spending my own money?
July 26, 2016

Embrace Code Pink, Bernie or Bust, Jill Stein and any others who position Hillary-Kaine as centrists

Republicans want to paint Hillary as an out-of-the-mainstream liberal (or socialist).

Hillary could either respond "damn right" or she could respond "you're wrong, my views are mainstream American values."

Had Hillary chosen Warren as her running mate, we might conclude that Hillary had chosen the "damn right" path, but Hillary's choice of Kaine tells us that Hillary is reaching out to the center.

If you want to be perceived as a centrist, you need people who oppose you on your right (the whole Republican Party) and your left (Code Pink and Green Party, etc.). Now that Warren and Sanders are 100% behind Hillary, the Republicans would have more success labeling Hillary as "out of the mainstream" if there was no one pushing back at Hillary from her left.

This is the ideal situation: Hillary has opponents who say she's too far to the right but they are only a small 3% to 5% segment of the vote. Don't just accept this; embrace it because this is a part of the definition of "mainstream."

LBJ had a small group of opponents on his left, Carter had a small group of opponents on his left, Bill had a small group of opponents on his left, Obama had a small group of opponents on his left, and they all did just fine. We live in a democracy. We should foresee and accept that our system of government -- the best system yet invented by the human mind -- will and must encompass a broad range of opinions and competing visions for the role of our government.

We cannot claim to represent the mainstream in one breath and -- in the very next breath -- express outrage and surprise that there are some to our left whose views are outside of our mainstream vision.

Embrace the fact that Hillary has chosen a position where she sits in the center with some few on her left and many others on her right.

July 24, 2016

Love or loather her, you must foresee Wasserman-Schultz gaveling the convention will be a disaster!

You don't need a ouija board to forecast that there will be a shitstorm if she Debbie Wasserman-Schultz gavels in the convention.

I might choose to not to start off the convention that way if it were my choice, but it isn't my choice.

Whether you love Wasserman-Schultz or loathe her, we are all going to hate the FauxNews gloating when our convention starts off with an epic demonstration of disunity which will make the Ted Cruz speech and the "vote your conscience" floor fight last week seem like a drum circle playing Kumbaya around the campfire.

July 24, 2016

3 upsides to the DNC email leak: (1) Sanders was tight, (2) Discipline was swift, and (3) Tim Canova

gets a moment in the spotlight.

Sanders has reacted with incredible message control on the question of leaked DNC emails. He has refused every media outlet's efforts to bait him into blaming the Democratic Party or the Clinton campaign, and -- every time -- he has been emphatic in his unwavering support for Clinton. This is discipline. This is putting our progressive goals ahead of personal regrets. This is how a movement which is bigger than any single individual candidate pushes forward.

Instead of letting this wound fester and serve as a distraction throughout the convention, our party's self-policing was swift and just. This is how a healthy party deals with an error. Contrast how the Democratic Party addressed this problem in comparison to how the Republican Party mismanaged Milania's plagiarism scandal.

Finally, if this results in Tim Canova getting a second look by some, that is a real silver lining. Tim excites like few other candidates in America today, and having him on the ballot in November will boost Democratic turnout in battleground Florida!

Tim on Reversing Income and Wealth Inequality:

"For the past three decades, I have been speaking out against the growing inequality in income and wealth in the United States – while serving as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, while practicing law in the 1990s, and as a legal scholar ever since. In fact, the distribution of wealth and income is now more top-heavy than anytime since the Gilded Age of the 1890s and the Roaring 1920s. Incredibly, the top one-tenth of one percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And almost 60 percent of all new income since the 2008 financial crash has gone to the top 1 percent. We are now in a New Gilded Age."

Tim on Universal Health Care and Medicare for All:
"The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a monumental achievement. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama signed into law the most important health care reform since Johnson’s Great Society. Through the ACA, millions of Americans have gained access to health insurance that was previously too expensive or otherwise unattainable. It is because of the ACA that insurers can no longer deny coverage because of preexisting conditions, drop policy holders when they get sick, or issue policies with lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits. Simply put, the ACA was a transformational piece of legislation, but I know we can do better. The United States remains the only major developed country that does not provide universal health care to all its citizens. Generations of American leaders – Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, among others - have tried to guarantee health care to all Americans, without success. Despite the reforms of the ACA, tens of millions of Americans still do not have health insurance. Millions more are underinsured, cannot afford high priced deductibles and co-payments, or are forced to declare bankruptcy because they simply cannot afford to pay their medical bills. This should not happen in a fair and just America. I firmly believe that health care is a universal human right and it is because of this that I want to improve upon the Affordable Care Act, by moving to a “Medicare for all” single-payer health care system that would guarantee every citizen health care as a basic right. ... Currently, many seniors struggle to afford the prescriptions medicines they need. That is why when I am elected to Congress I plan on working to create legislation that will allow the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. ... Expanding universal health coverage to all Americans would give us all the peace of mind to know that getting sick will not lead to bankruptcy. We will no longer have to choose between a better job or better health care coverage."

Tim on Tax Policy:

"tax cuts for the wealthy {are} nothing more than “voodoo economics” – as even George H.W. Bush candidly recognized while running in the presidential primary against Ronald Reagan over 30 years ago. Rather than mysteriously “trickle-down” to ordinary working folks, tax cut savings for the very wealthy are more likely to flow out of the U.S. to off-shore tax havens. Unfortunately, proponents of ever-more tax cuts for the wealthy never learned the lesson of history. The trickle-down tax cuts of the 1920s culminated in the Great Depression. Likewise, the Bush tax cuts of the early 2000s culminate in our own Great Recession, the adverse consequences of which are still with us today. Presently, the top bracket has a marginal income tax rate of 39.6 percent, far below the marginal tax rates that prevailed from the 1940s to 1980s, a period when the U.S. enjoyed not just a much more equitable distribution of income and wealth, but also far higher economic growth rates, rising real wages, and stronger labor markets. ... For more than the past 100 years, since the start of the modern tax code in 1913, our country has implemented what is known as a progressive federal income tax, meaning that tax rates get progressively higher as taxable income increases, with a larger percentage of income being paid by high-income groups, a lower percentage of income paid by middle-income groups, and an even lower percentage of income being paid by low-income groups. Cutting top tax rates for the wealthiest families reduces the progressive nature of our federal tax code, and undermines the concept of “ability to pay” and the goal of inherent fairness upon which our system of taxation is supposed to be based. ... I believe there should be more tax brackets at the high end of the income distribution scale, with higher marginal tax rates imposed on those making millions and billions of dollars a year. Otherwise, the tax burden falls too harshly on working families, the middle class, and small- and medium-sized business owners, even those trying to make their first million. We should also put an end to “corporate inversions” and other loopholes that allow corporations and wealthy individuals move their money into offshore tax havens, while taking advantage of federal subsidies and access to the largest consumer market in the world."

Tim on Ending the War on Drugs:

"As an activist and a law professor, I have been involved in the grassroots movement to decriminalize drugs. The goal should be to let adults make their own decisions as long as they are not harming themselves and others, let the States and their voters decide their own drug policies, and treat drug abuse as a public health issue, rather than burdening our criminal justice system. ... In Florida, I supported the 2014 medical marijuana referendum that garnered about 58 percent of the vote state-wide, falling just short of the required 60 percent mark. My opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is a drug warrior who opposed the medical marijuana referendum. ... Certain industries have a special interest in keeping marijuana illegal - for example, the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, both of which view recreational and medicinal use of marijuana as a competitive threat; and the private prison industry, which profits from warehousing people in jails, including for marijuana possession. Not surprisingly, having taken in lots of campaign donations from the alcohol, pharmaceutical, and private prison industries and their political action committees (PACs), Debbie Wasserman Schultz opposes medical marijuana and supports privatized prisons and mass incarceration. Unlike my opponent, I do not take any contributions from these special interests, or from any corporate interests at all. ... An entire private prison industry has arisen that lobbies for harsh drug wars with severe sentencing. The drug war institutionalizes racial, generational, and economic injustice, by disproportionately punishing people of color, young people, and people with lower incomes at far greater rates than the population as a whole. For instance, although surveys show that illicit drug use is no higher among people of color, African-American men are arrested at many times the rate of white men on drug charges in the U.S., and at even higher rates in Florida. ... More than half a million people are languishing behind bars on drug charges in the U.S., breaking up and often irreparably destroying families. ... In Florida and some other states, those convicted of non-violent drug felonies are barred for life from voting, even after they have served their sentences, regardless of whether they are responsibly employed, paying taxes, and raising families. In 2001, I helped spearhead the grassroots lobbying campaign that overturned New Mexico’s felon disenfranchisement law, and worked successfully with a Republican governor to do so. Unfortunately, Florida leads the country in felon disenfranchisement. ... Public opinion surveys show that people across the country, and particularly in South Florida, want to end this misguided drug war. Unfortunately, powerful industries continue to lobby for the drug war – including the same pharmaceutical, alcohol, and private prison companies from which my opponent readily takes large amounts of money. It is time to take corporate money out of politics, end the drug war, and provide legal and healthy alternatives for everyone. ... We don’t need more prisons. We need more jobs and more educational opportunities as alternatives to drug dealing and chronic drug use. And for those who are caught in the grip of the disease of drug addiction, rather than warehouse them in prisons as punishment, we need more treatment programs to provide a better means to help them recover."

Tim on Financial Regulation:

"Financial deregulation has resulted in more income inequality. Big Wall Street banks have been allowed to impose all sorts of fees on low-income customers. They charge high interest rates on predatory and subprime loans. They pay near zero interest to bank customers on their deposits. My opponent, after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks, has co-sponsored a bill to prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFTP) from regulating payday loans and addressing racial discrimination in car loans. This reverses the progress made by President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren in significant parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 - the Obama administration’s main legislative response to the 2008 financial collapse. ... I have spent my entire career opposing financial deregulation for the big banks, and calling for regulation of lending standards. I warned against watering down and then abolishing the Glass-Steagall Act firewalls that had separated commercial banking from investment banking and risky securities markets for decades. And I support breaking up these huge financial institutions that have become too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage."

Tim on Trade Agreements:

"As a law professor, scholar and activist, I opposed ... trade policies, including NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, and China’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) ... that resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Florida. ... I do not take corporate money, period. And I opposed fast-tracking the TPP and I oppose the TPP."

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