Nel's New Day

February 3, 2015

Keystone Pipeline, Environmental Disaster Instead of Jobs

Before all the hoopla about vaccinations and the president’s budget, the Senate passed the Keystone XL pipeline by 62 to 36 with the support of nine Democrats. It’s not a done deal yet because there has to be a coordination with the House bill, but it’s sure to head for the president’s desk, hopefully for his veto pen. An accurate tweet from Charles Gaba stated that more senators voted to build the pipeline from Canada to Texas than jobs that the completed project would provide. (That’s 35 jobs, if you’ve forgotten.) With the real economic benefits in our neighbor to the north, Josh Green joked that it’s “kind of nuts” that GOP congressional legislators are “fighting for the Canadian economy.

Once again, the objections to the pipeline to transport tar sands oil across the U.S. to be shipped overseas:

  • It is environmentally hazardous. (More about that later.)
  • It has no impact on already low gas prices. (Actually it might raise them.)
  • It won’t help the U.S. unemployment rate.

As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, “This is the only time in the history of the Senate that we have given such a big hug and kiss to a company, any private company, American or foreign.”

Why do Republicans want just that one oil project so much? To them, it’s a symbol. To them it has become The Most Important Project in the World. The GOP has no jobs agenda and no economic vision. Voting on the Keystone pipeline keeps conservatives from noticing that pesky little fact. They spent millions and millions of dollars spent on getting control of the Senate, and all they got so far is the Keystone bill that the president has promised to veto.

Yesterday was the deadline for eight federal agencies to provide feedback to the Department of State about the project. Those officials will take all that stuff to Secretary of State John Kerry who will think about the project and make a recommendation to President Obama who will then think about it for a while before a final decision. The EPA weighed in by writing that there is “no way” that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not have a significant effect on climate.

The nine Democrats who voted for the Keystone pipeline are Sens. Michael Bennet (CO), Tom Carper (DE), Bob Casey (PA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), and Mark Warner (VA). These are the people terrified of being called tree huggers.

The Keystone bill had 43 amendments in the Senate. Six passed, and the others, including one that would require the steel used in the pipeline be made in the United States, failed. That amendment was also a jobs amendment, but the GOP voted it down. The amendment to keep the oil from the pipeline in the United States also failed. As Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “Time and time again Republicans pledge their allegiance to foreign special interests above the American middle class.”

Republicans are also comfortable with a foreign company seizing land in the United States.   In order for the pipeline to cross Nebraska, TransCanada has filed papers to seize property from the 12 percent of holdouts by eminent domain.  Meanwhile Ernie Chambers, a state legislator, has introduced a bill to repeal the pipeline-siting law that would stop the project.

Republicans preened themselves for outdoing the Democrats after an amendment about climate change passed the Senate by 98-1: the 98 agreed that climate exchange exists. Mississippi’s Roger Wicker was the one holdout. Five Senate Republicans were brave enough to vote that humans affect climate change, probably because many of them are from “blue” states. Only two GOP senators, however, were willing to go on the record that humans “significantly” contribute to climate change—Mark Kirk (IL) and Kelly Ayotte (NH). The irony of Republicans voting against any human affect on climate change is that these are the same people who complain about China’s not reducing carbon emissions enough to make any difference in the climate.

What can go wrong with the Keystone pipeline that crosses a huge amount of water necessary for crops, livestock, and people in the United State? Events just this past January show the danger.

For the second time in less than four years, a spill in Montana sent up to 50,000 gallons of Bakken shale crude oil into the Yellowstone River. After the January 17 event, people in Glendive were told not to use any municipal water because it contains high levels of cancer-causing benzene. At least that’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the residents; state officials initially told people that there was no problem with the water. Oil was spotted as far away as Sidney, 60 miles distant. ExxonMobil still hasn’t paid the damages for the 63,000 gallons spilled into the same river in July 2011. The Keystone XL pipeline is scheduled to pass through or near the property belonging to some people impacted by the current spill. A member of the Northern Plains Resource Council said, “The whole question is, should we continue to be having pipelines under aquifers and under surface water? It is not a good idea and not safe. There is no fail-safe pipeline.”

The Yellowstone River empties into the Missouri River. The Keystone XL pipeline would be three times the 12-foot diameter of the breached Bridger pipeline and pump more than 34 million gallons of oil per day through the Dakotas down into Nebraska and into the southern leg in Oklahoma and Texas.

Five days later, it was discovered that 3 million gallons of saltwater drilling waste had spilled from a North Dakota pipeline. Officials won’t know what affects the briny spill will have on water sources, land, and wildlife until all the ice melts. Chloride concentrations in one affected creek are much higher than usual, even as it fills with fresh water. The escaped brine that contains heavy metals and radioactive material is possibly 17 times saltier than seawater. Last July’s much smaller spill contaminated soil and killed vegetation. Because the only way to clean up brine spills is flushing them with freshwater, that source becomes depleted. The million-gallon brine spill in 2006 killed fish and forced ranchers to move. The spill has still not been cleaned up. The year 2013 saw over 800 saltwater spills in North Dakota.

west virginia pipeline explodesTen days after the Yellowstone spill, a pipeline in West Virginia near the Ohio River exploded. Two years ago, a report on another West Virginia gas line explosion in the Christian Science Monitor was subtitled “Just a Drop in the Disaster Bucket.” That explosion burned for more than an hour and melted four lanes of I-77. About 80 incidents in 2012 involving natural gas transmission lines may have been worse because of few inspectors. Explosions in gas distribution lines caused nine fatalities and 21 injuries. The 321,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines have funding for just over 100 inspectors who also are responsible for another two million miles of gas distribution pipelines.

That’s the fourth major pipeline incident in just the first month of 2015. The first one was a gas explosion in Mississippi.

Spills from the Keystone pipeline would be much harder to clean up than from the traditional oil or gas pipeline. The thicker, sludgier tar sands oil doesn’t float on top of the water like conventional crude; instead it sinks to the bottom, including the Ogallala aquifer if it spilled into Nebraska’s major source of water. The media largely avoided reporting on any of these disasters while the Keystone XL pipeline was being considered.

These are some of the jobs that the Keystone XL pipeline might provide:  wildlife washers, oil spill cleanup crew members, lawyers, plumbers, fisherpeople for huge mutant fish, water truck delivery drivers to replace tap water, whistleblowers, and genetic engineers to help people survive cancers.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski likes the Keystone vote because it’s good for the spirit of cooperation. It’s just not good for the people in the United States. The House will vote on the Senate bill this next week.

November 14, 2014

Keystone Pipeline Passes House, Goes to Senate

The Keystone XL pipeline passed the House of Representatives today for a ninth time. The vote this time was 252 to 161 with 31 Democrats supporting the measure. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) voted “present.” The proposed 1,660 pipeline from Koch brothers tar sands in Canada to the refineries that will then ship the processed crude overseas has been touted as a jobs effort. President Obama described the project best:

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else.”

The senate plans a vote on this coming Tuesday, November 18. Some Democratic senators think that voting for the pipeline will protect Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) position. On December 6, her state will decide between her and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), lead sponsor of the House bill. Landrieu is the underdog because her two conservative opponents collectively received more votes than she did in the November 4 election.

Newly elected Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the number of jobs created by the project is “stunning.” For once I agree with him. The pipeline will provide only 35 jobs after the two-year construction. Fox and Friends fill-in host Anna Kooiman followed the network’s message of “tens of thousands of jobs created” for the $8 billion pipeline, but the actual number is far fewer than that. The State Department estimates 10,400 seasonal workers for either four or eight months, a total of 3,900 “average annual” jobs over one year. That’s 3,900 full-time jobs each year for building the pipeline, a number which shrinks to 35 after two years when the pipeline is finished. The “related” 26,100 jobs may not add employees because these are in areas already filled—lodging, food, entertainment, health care, etc.

Canada is suffering from the concentration on oil extraction because it makes the economy dependent on the price of oil. Even worse, the oil industry has undermined democracy by insisting that anyone in opposition is unpatriotic. The system works the same in the United States as McConnell insists that this nation is dependent on the pipeline for jobs. In fact, McConnell is dependent on the pipeline for his job.

As in the United States, Canada’s federal conservative caucus is composed largely of politicians who deny climate science. They have slashed financing in that area, closed facilities researching climate change, and silenced government climate scientists.

Energy-East-PipelineA month ago, there was hope that Canada had decided to transport its Alberta tar sands east, avoiding huge aquifers in both the United States and Canada. The plan is to go east near Toronto and end before the Nova Scotia aquifer. The Energy East Pipeline could be effected by converting about 1,800 miles of existing natural gas pipeline to transporting the tar sands crude. Canada could benefit from taking this route because of Russia’s problems with the Ukraine. If the oil were sent east, it could be sold to Europe and Ukraine if Russia pulls its oil from that region.

Another argument against building the pipeline is the dropping cost of oil, down 25 percent from last summer to $74.42 a barrel yesterday. Anything below $65 will make production in Canadian oil sands infeasible.  New projects would require $85 a barrel.

In the United States, the pipeline will most likely drive up gas prices. The oil bypasses Midwest refineries to those in the Gulf, where it will be shipped to more lucrative markets overseas. That means less oil in this country and thus higher prices.

nebraskaAt this time, Nebraska may be the biggest block to the pipeline. In that conservative bastion of the USA, landowners sued to keep Gov. Dave Heineman from unilaterally approving permits and seizing their property through eminent domain. If they succeed in keeping the Keystone out of their state, the pipeline has nowhere to go. [map] Originally Heineman objected to TransCanada’s path through the Sand Hills region in the western part of the state that sits on top of the freshwater Ogallala Aquifer spanning eight states and providing drinking water for 8,000,000 people. A pipeline rupture, which could easily happen considering pipelines’ histories, would irreversibly pollute 30 percent of the U.S. irrigation groundwater for agriculture. The judge’s decision last February put the permits into the hands of Nebraska’s Public Service Commission. The case was argued before the state Supreme Court in early September with no indication of a decision.

Nebraskans are smart to worry about the aquifer. The tar sands crude has a peanut-butter consistency and must be diluted, generally with carcinogenic benzene, for transport. From 2006 to 2008, pipeline spills occurred at least once a month, and each one of these was worse than the oil train disasters that the media has publicized. Those monthly spills are the ones that people discovered, but there is an estimate that 95 percent of the spills are not identified because of no pipeline alarm systems.

In addition to the spills, new pipes are defective with cracks, pinholes, and dents through poorly welded seams. TransCanada had guaranteed that Keystone Phase I, already operational would leak once in seven years—still a disaster—but it had at least 12 leaks in its first year. Keystone leaks would be on some of the most important farms and ranches in the United States as well as freshwater sources.

The State Department reported that a pinhole leak could release enough benzene to contaminate drinking water for 2 million people for 425 days. A leak would cause farmers to lose everything they have. That’s what happened on March 29, 2013 in Mayflower, Arkansas. Lives of Michigan residents near the Kalamazoo River have been disrupted for years with cleanup costs in the billions after the rupture of a 30-inch diameter crude oil pipeline on July 25, 2010. The proposed Keystone XL uses a 36-inch pipe. In both cases the oil companies ignored any problems with the pipes. In the latter, engineers ignored the alarms for 17 hours until an outsider called to complain.

Tar sands oil companies are exempt from any insurance to cover the costs of cleanup. Companies with conventional oil are required to pay a pittance into a fund for cleanup; crude oil is exempt because it is not “conventional oil.” As people learned from the BP disaster, however, corporations never clean up their messes. Studies that try to show that the tar sands are not more likely to cause pipeline ruptures compared it to similar heavy crudes in Canada instead of the lighter oils previously sent through the U.S. pipeline system.”

Another problem with the tar sands crude is the petroleum coke, or pet coke, resulting from the refining process. Used as a cheap substitute for coal, pet coke sends massive amounts of carbon, sulfur, and other pollutants in the air. In Detroit, refineries just piled up pet coke, up to three stories tall and covering a city block. Nothing was done to control for wind and water runoff, and the company had no permits for the storage. The neighbors had their homes tested and found selenium and vanadium, both of which cause serious respiratory disease. No one took action, even when the water runoff went into the Great Lakes watershed until a plume of pet coke dust moved over Canadian territory in Windsor. Within a month, the pet coke moved to Ohio and also at a Koch brothers site in Chicago.

That amount came from one small refinery. Port Arthur (TX) will suffer 30 times that problem if the Keystone pipeline ships its tar sands crude across the United States. That city already has extremely high rates of cancer, asthma, kidney and liver disease, skin disorders, and other serious health issues because of the toxins that they are forced to breathe. Kids can’t even safely play outside.

In the House 221 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted to sicken and kill the people of the United States and pollute the nation’s land, water, and air. The Keystone XL pipeline is an indicator of the future. Either the United States further commits the country to taking every bit of fossil fuels out of the ground or moves forward on renewable energy.

Fortunately, the votes in Congress are not binding on the president. Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, the president is the only decider.

February 28, 2014

Conflict of Interest, in the Eye of the Beholder

When is a conflict of interest not a conflict? Today it’s when the State Department says it isn’t. After the agency hired the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) as its consulting firm to review environmental effects of the Keystone XL pipeline, people complained about the connections of the consulting firm, but the agency’s inspector general investigated and found—no problem!

The State Department’s has again reported that the environmental impact study commissioned to ERM regarding the trans-country pipeline found no significant climate impacts. That’s the study from a company listing TransCanada as a client just a year before the Keystone contract while telling the State Department that it had been at least five years since ERM worked with the company building the pipeline. ERM didn’t mention that one of its divisions, ERM West, worked with TransCanada on the Alaska Pipeline Project until last summer—after ERM was hired to write the report.

Until the State Department was asked about the conflict of interest, ERM didn’t say anything about its bidding for contracts in Canada that could include two new TransCanada projects. As recently as 2010, ERM was part of a lobbying group, the International Carbon Black Association, that a subsidiary (Cancarb) of TransCanada owns—a company that includes major Keystone XL proponents and potential beneficiaries. ERM also failed to identify its membership in several trade organizations that support the pipeline, including the Western Energy Alliance, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.

ERM must have understood its conflict of interest when the firm suddenly removed the names of subcontractors formerly working on TransCanada projects from its website. Later the names reappeared without their affiliations to TransCanada.

Although ERM was paid to prepare the environmental impact report, another firm, one that is outright owned by a tar sands developer, actually did the assessment. Jacobs Engineering’s most recent contract was with Canadian oil sands leader Suncor.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has asked the Government Accountability Office to do a separate investigation into State’s process for vetting contractors, and he says the GAO is planning to act on his request. He added that the inspector general’s report focused on “whether the State Department followed its own flawed process for selecting a third-party contractor. The fact that the answer is ‘yes’ doesn’t address any outstanding concerns about the integrity of ERM’s work, the State Department’s in-house ability to evaluate its quality or whether the process itself needs to be reformed.”

Supporters of the Keystone XL think that it will solve their dual needs for jobs and low-cost energy. The short film “Keystone PipeLIES Exposed” explains how the Keystone XL project fails to do either one. Big business has highly inflated the number of jobs created, and most of the smaller number of jobs disappears after construction ends. Even with a rosy view, the State Department concluded that 3,900 direct jobs would be created during pipeline construction; at its completion, there would be 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs.

The pipeline would most likely increase fuel prices in the United States while generating no taxes from TransCanada after it files a “Master Limited Partnership.” Tar sands oil shipped to the Midwest current sells for about $70 per barrel, much less than the $100 a barrel possible on the open market. As the map shows, the oil will move through the U.S., be refined, and then ship off to the international market which has a higher yield than in this country.

pipeline

The United States gets higher fuel prices and almost no jobs, but it does get leaking pipelines across the country that destroy the nation’s water, especially in the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater supply in the middle of the country. As the leaks devastate the U.S. agriculture, taxpayers pay to clean up the spills because tar sands oil is exempt from corporations having to pay into the oil spill liability trust fund.

In its environmental impact, the State Department certified that the pipeline’s additional carbon emissions would be the equivalent of an additional 300,000 cars on the road. The contractor most closely linked to TransCanada reported, however, that this was negligible because TransCanada wouldn’t stop drilling.

So who benefits from the United States destroying its food supply, water, and environment? China, according to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). Now that the Chinese have our manufacturing jobs, they need raw materials and energy. Canada is the most stable country to provide energy, and people in the United States might be willing to let the oil pass through our country into China—all with no benefits for anyone in the U.S. China annually imports about $50 billion in goods from the United States and exports about $350 billion in mostly manufactured goods to the United States. Each year, China also buys about $300 billion in U.S. assets, mostly U.S. Treasuries.

China has put about $30 billion of the trade surplus into Canadian tar sands. All the oil that passes through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has to be sold in the U.S., but the Keystone XL Pipeline is permitted a tax-free zone to provide Chinese energy independence. The Koch brothers, who own the refineries, benefit; the people of the United States don’t.

If people in the United States were intelligent and far-seeing, we would keep the environment clean and sell food to China when they can no longer grow it. Their air pollution is so bad that it is like a nuclear winter. The slowing photosynthesis in plants may greatly decrease the possibility of growing food. This week’s smog in Beijing and large parts of six northern provinces is so bad that the PM 2.5 particles can enter the bloodstream through the lungs. A safe level is 25. Flights are grounded, highways are closed, and tourists are kept at home. Air pollutants adhering to greenhouse surfaces have cut the light inside by 50 percent.

Buildings are seen through thick haze in Guangzhou

In a first for China, a man in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province near Beijing, is suing the local environmental protection bureau for failing to rein in the smog. Li Guixin is also asking for compensation because of economic losses.

The Keystone XL pipeline has received publicity because it goes from one country to another, requiring presidential approval. Within the United States, however, pipeline construction is not inhibited in the same way. In the five years since the first TransCanada application, the 589-mile Flanagan South, moving through about 1,950 wetlands and waterways including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, has been approved because of a loophole allowing companies to fast-track pipeline projects and bypass environmental protection laws. About half the length of Keystone XL, Flanagan South carries tar sands and Bakken crude from Pontiac (IL) to Cushing (OK).

FlanaganSouth

Although each part of the pipeline could not exist without the rest of it, the Army Corps of Engineers allowed each water crossing to be separate for the purpose of permits, thus avoiding any environmental review. A federal judge who heard a lawsuit last week will decide within the next few weeks whether the Sierra Club’s claims have merit. The same loophole was used on the southern half of Keystone XL, which began shipping oil last month despite the pipelines’ leaks.

Enbridge, the company in charge of Flanagan South, was responsible for the 1,000,000-gallon spill in July 2010 when tar sands crude went into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Oil is still being removed from the area after Enbridge missed its EPA deadline to finish cleanup by the end of 2013.

Even conservative Nebraskans understand the danger of pipelines crossing lands vital for agriculture and water. After Gov. Dave Heineman approved the Keystone XL route through the state, a judge struck down his decision because it forced landowners to sell their property. Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled that only the state Public Service Commission can give TransCanada eminent domain powers. The commission was created in the 1890s to stop governors from giving political favors to railroad executives.

Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, said,”TransCanada learned a hard lesson today: Never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water.” We need more Jane Kleebs to protect land and water across the United States.

March 5, 2012

Limbaugh Just Doesn’t Go Away

Why hasn’t the Rush Limbaugh story begun to die? According to media, he apologized on Saturday, and the Republicans are doing their best to avoid the topic. According to Limbaugh and Fox, it’s just the far-left media that have kept the story alive. He’s wrong.

First, his apology wasn’t really an admission of guilt or a request for forgiveness. All he said was that he should have chosen better words than “slut” and “prostitute.” There was nothing about how he should not have attacked Sandra Fluke or that he spoke inappropriately when he said that wanting free birth control was trying to get paid to have sex. (I just heard a TV ad for Viagra which promised the ability of men having sex for several hours: that’s getting paid to have sex.) Then Limbaugh said he had made a mistake by sinking to the level of his opposition.

Unhappy about the way that he has lost advertising (12 companies thus far including AOL) and networks airing his radio program (at least two so far), Limbaugh has taken a different tack.He said that Fluke might not be a slut, but she’s the pawn of a radical leftist conspiracy to infiltrate Georgetown to force the school to provide birth control coverage to students. Limbaugh may not understand that he is losing, that a new Harris poll showed him to be the least liked “news personality” on a list of 26. He’s the only one who made the bottom percentages with all three political groups—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. In fact, Republicans like him less than the other two groups do.

Since Limbaugh felt free to attack women for their medications, whether for contraception or medical conditions, young women across the nation are forced to bear the brunt of his bigotry. One mother wrote about her 16-year-old daughter’s being called a slut, a prostitute, a horny piece of trash that is out to sleep with every guy in school. According to the mother, the harassers told her daughter that their mothers labeled her with these terms; they were just “telling it like it is, you know, like that guy on the radio! The one who isn’t afraid to tell the truth!” In one of the daughter’s classes, the teacher praised Limbaugh.

The daughter is one of many women who take hormones for medical reasons other than birth control. But it doesn’t matter whether she took it for contraception or another medical issue.

Republican David Frum refuted the far-rights complaints about double standards in the media:

Point 1: Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad “word choice.”

Point 2: The cases that conservatives cite as somehow equivalent to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by and large did bring consequences for their authors. David Letterman delivered an abject seven-minute apology on air; Ed Schultz apologized on air before MSNBC suspended him for a week without pay.

Point 3: Limbaugh’s place in American public life is in no way comparable to that of David Letterman, Bill Maher, or Ed Schultz. Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party. A word of criticism from Limbaugh, by contrast, will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh.

Point 4: Most fundamentally, why the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then–if there’s another indecency later–react to that too, and on its own terms? This latest Limbaugh outburst is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.

In a Huffington Post column, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote about the connection between birth control and women’s health. “Birth control protects women from the risk of bearing children before they are ready. Birth control helps to ensure that women do not bear too many children or bear children too soon after their last pregnancy. Birth control is used to relieve symptoms of endometriosis, regulate a cycle, reduce acne, relieve symptoms of depression, reduce migraines, treat polycystic ovary condition, alleviate anemia, and even reduce the risk of some cancers.”

For the people who complain about insurance companies having to pay out all that extra money, Maloney pointed out that employers may save money to provide employees with no co-pay coverage of birth control because it results in fewer unwanted and/or potentially harmful pregnancies preventing huge long-term costs of care related to problem pregnancies and pre-mature births.

Another complaint from anti-birth control people is the use of their taxes for contraceptives because they don’t believe in it. As Maloney says, one of the privileges of living in this society is the use of tax dollars for activities that tax payers don’t support. She uses the example of the death penalty. I would use the example of over $1 trillion for a war that I find inexcusable. My tax dollars went to George W. Bush’s war rather than saving people in this country; others can have their tax dollars used for women’s reproductive rights.

In these difficult economic times, Republicans are exploring women’s bodies to an extent never before seen. Republicans in at least 18 states are pushing bills or ballot initiatives to define “personhood” that would illegalize commonly used forms of birth control. Republicans in seven states have filed lawsuits attacking the provisions in the health care reform act that give women access to contraceptives. Nationally Republicans have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to outlaw many forms of commonly used contraceptives. House Republicans have voted to strip Planned Parenthood of any federal funding to keep poor women from obtaining reproductive health care and contraceptives. Senate Republicans brought legislation to the floor to allow any employer, including for-profit private sector companies, to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives if doing so is contrary to their religious beliefs or “moral convictions.”

Nebraska is proposing a “conscience clause” designed to not only give all health care providers the right to refuse any action based on personal religious beliefs but also allow these providers the right to refuse the request to any other medical professional even in a medical emergency. In Idaho a pharmacist refused to fill a woman’s prescription for a drug meant to stop hemorrhaging, but the patient was able to take the prescription elsewhere. If Nebraska passes this “conscience clause,” the woman could bleed to death, and the pharmacist would be exonerated from any blame. And if Nebraska passes this law, other states will follow them.

Religious groups are determined to impose their own religious views on those who may not share their beliefs and to limit a woman’s access to reproductive health care and contraception. While people are seething with outrage over Limbaugh’s statements or trying to figure out a way to protect him, there are important questions to be asked in relationship to the religious views being forced on people in this country. Does the conservative government have the right to legislate its view of promiscuity, to decide how much sex is “too much,” to stop contraception from being a “sex enabler,” to create consequences for women having sex,” and to state that pregnancy prevention is not a legitimate medical need”?

March is Women’s History Month. Women need to fight this horrific encroachment on our rights. In protest to an Oklahoma “personhood” bill, passed by the Senate and now being addressed by the House, Democratic State Sen. Judy McIntyre, one of only four women in the 48-member Senate, carried a sign that stated, “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d [bleep] a senator.” McIntyre is right. Government needs to get out of our vaginas.

We need to thank the following advertisers who think that Rush Limbaugh has gone too far to sponsor: Sleep Number Beds, The Sleep Train, Legal Zoom, Quicken Loans, Citrix Systems/GoToMeeting, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services, AOL, Carbonite, Bonobos, Sears/Kmart, and Allstate. Tractor maker John Deere, solar panel maker Verengo Solar, and postage website Stamps.com have also reported that they would no longer advertise. Hawaii radio station KPUA, dropped Limbaugh’s show because it “crossed the line of decency,” and another radio station in Pittsfield (MA) plans to no long air Limbaugh’s show.

In the meantime, women of Missouri, contact your House Speaker Steven Tilley, who has commissioned a bust of Rush Limbaugh—paid for with your tax-payer dollars—to be placed in the state capitol.

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