Fracked and Burned: The Tyranny of the Corporate Tea Party

From a letter to the editor of the Record Courier May 20, 2012, from Tom Zawistowski, Founder, President and Executive Director, Portage County TEA Party:

"In short... conservatives, including those in the TEA Party movement, believe in common sense. That 2+2 always equals 4. That you live within your means. That you are responsible for your life and whether you succeed in life. That the only real rights you have are granted by your God, not by man. That you stay out of your neighbor's business and that they stay out of yours. That you take care of your family and friends when they need help. That our job is to be productive and government's job is to stay out of our way. That businesses are good because they produces jobs, economic growth and all tax revenue, and that government's job is to create a safe, business- friendly environment so that can happen.

"That anyone who does not believe as we do does not understand what made America great, does not believe in the Constitution, and should not be involved in our government."

I had to read that last sentence several times: "...anyone who does not believe as we do ... should not be involved in our government."

In one register I can't argue with that: Mr. Zawistowski certainly said it, and I believe he means what he says - that those who don't share his conservative beliefs shouldn't be allowed to vote or participate in our government.

At another level it is certainly a good description of the present political scene. Millions of dollars are being spent to promote legislation to keep segments of our population from voting or having a voice in their own government, or even participating in governance of their local communities. More millions go for legislation to protect the profits of the private sector.

In 2004 the Ohio legislature stripped the right to regulate oil and gas drilling from local community governments. Now residents of Kent and Shalersville are fighting to restore their right to regulate drilling and fracking in their communities. Gwen Fischer of Concerned Citizens Ohio said "We hope [everyone] will learn about the risks of this massive industrialization .... as human beings, we have the right to decide, as a community, whether or not we want our community turned into an industrial zone."

The Ohio Senate this month passed SB 315, a bill to regulate drilling and fracking, that contains the following provisions:

(H)(1) If a medical professional, in order to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with the production operations of a well, requests the exact chemical composition of each product, fluid, or substance and of each chemical component in a product, fluid, or substance that is designated as a trade secret pursuant to division (I) of this section, the person claiming the trade secret protection pursuant to that division shall provide to the medical professional the exact chemical composition of the product, fluid, or substance and of the chemical component in a product, fluid, or substance that is requested.

(2) A medical professional who receives information pursuant to division (H)(1) of this section shall keep the information confidential and shall not disclose the information for any purpose that is not related to the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associate with the production operations of a well.

Paragraph (2) is a gag order on medical professionals: If a patient has been affected by any aspect of the fracking process, while drillers must tell their trade secret chemicals to the physician, the physician is specifically forbidden to disclose the chemicals to the patient or public.

Public Utilities Committee chairman Rep. Peter Stautberg (R) said the House action this week clarified Senate language to make sure that doctors were not barred from performing their professional and ethical duties by sharing proprietary information about chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Meanwhile, in Cuyahoga Falls, the Parks & Recreation Board refuses to offer family rates for its Natatorium swimming pool to a gay couple, Shane & Coty May, legally married in Washington DC. Coty is an injured Iraq war vet who benefits from water therapy.

The Mays are denied family rates not because of lost revenues, which are apparently negligible, but because three people on the Parks & Recreation board believe that (their) God doesn't like gays - and that people who don't believe as they do don't deserve the rights of citizens.

The great dream of a nation with liberty, equality and justice for all - for all -- is already seriously compromised by the Citizens United decision giving moneyed corporations the rights and powers of citizens to be involved in our government.

And now we have the admission that the TEA Party intends to silence and disenfranchise anyone who doesn't believe as they do. And we have a Republican- controlled legislature that will make sure that those who disagree with them will not be heard or allowed to participate in our democracy.

My confidence is unraveling that I live in a rational world of people with sentiments and values like mine, who share some basic assumptions about the way the world works. I don't want to live in a society in which common sense is parsed as belief in someone else's God, and someone else's interpretation of the Constitution is required for participation in the political process.

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