VITO A. MASTRANGELO

 

Attorney at Law

P.O. Box 1253

Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

VitoAMastrangelo@gmail.com

If you want Peace, work for Justice


ISSUES


We do have issues.  Lots of them.  (To read my blog, see VBlog.)


While focusing on the injustices in society might be a turnoff for many, ignoring them makes the problems worse.  On paper, we live in a representative democracy.  In practice, we have an oligarchy--a government run by the few.  And while many Americans do good deeds, there is always room for more.  In order to make progress toward a more just society, Americans must become more vocal, more active in pushing back against the forces that are increasing poverty, increasing unfairness in the distribution of increasingly scarce resources, and decreasing the quality of the environment in which we must live.


There are two concepts that provide my starting points:  Sustainability and Exploitation. 


Sustainability

As a society we must strive for practices that are sustainable for the generations to come, rather than engage in unwise actions that make short-term profit their primary goal.  Any one of us can hope to live a hundred years, at best, on this planet.  We can’t take anything with us when we go, so it only makes sense to live life always keeping in mind how our actions affect the people who are  around us now, the people who come after us, the environment around us now, and the environment in the future.


Exploitation

All too often, the source of an injustice or the reason for a tragedy or other dire circumstance is a human’s exploitation of another human--from the humans who operate corporations with the purpose of maximizing their profits to the humans who take advantage of their neighbors or cheat the government. Many humans in government exploit their positions of power to benefit friends and relatives rather than their constituents.


------------------------------------


My focus currently is on human rights, including the right to clean water, air, and soil and to uncontaminated food.  We--that is, humans as a civilization and Americans in particular--are polluting the water, air, and soil at alarming rates.  In far too many places, drinking water is contaminated with toxic chemicals, the air is unfit to breathe, and the soil is contaminated with chemicals.  These  are not sustainable conditions for life on this planet.  Each of us must become acutely aware of how each action we take affects the ability of the earth to support its residents.


** Climate Change **


This issue must take center stage.  Without fast, decisive action to reduce our use of fossil fuels, the legacy  of human beings on this planet will be one of destruction, tragedy, and extinction.  More here.


Fracking (hydraulic fracturing)


Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” for short) is the epitome of the quest for short-term profit despite the consequence of pollution that cannot be cleaned up.  Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from federal environmental standards by the Bush administration in 2005.  Illinois does not regulate it.  It’s a free-for-all.


Fracking is the process of extracting natural gas or oil by means of inserting chemical fluids and applying pressure to the shale layer, which in Southern Illinois is about 6,000 feet deep.  Recent technological developments have led to a more effective, but far more objectionable method of fracking: high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing.  Horizontal fracking involves drilling first vertically and then horizontally in the shale layer, up to two or three miles in any direction.  Only about 50% of the chemicals inserted into the bores is recovered, which means that thousands of gallons of the chemicals are left underground after the drillers leave the area.


Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing and related operations:


  1. creates air pollution


  1. uses enormous amounts of water, which are typically trucked in


  1. leaves contaminated, very toxic fracking fluid underground uncontained


  1. can trigger earthquakes


  1. risks contaminating large quantities of underground water supplies


  1. stores contaminated, very toxic fracking fluid in injection wells, which leak


  1. can trespass on and under the land of non-consenting landowners


  1. can suck up oil/gas of non-consenting mineral rights owners


So much more is being discovered each day about the negative consequences of fracking that it is difficult to keep up.  There is a group of Southern Illinois citizens, all volunteers, who are trying to educate themselves, and their fellow citizens, about the dangers of fracking.  Please visit this most excellent website:


                                    www.dontfractureillinois.net


My presentation is viewable from the link in the menu at the top of the page.


For more information about fracking, frac sand, and other issues, see this website (there are many good websites about fracking):


https://www.earthworksaction.org/issues


(I recommend scrolling down to “Hydraulic Fracturing” and

“Hydraulic Fracturing 101”.)


For a thorough technical explanation of horizontal fracking, see the following website and view the free DVD available there:


http://frack.mixplex.com/fracking


For examples of how horizontal fracking has had deleterious effects on the health of citizens and wildlife, see the documentary movie “Gasland”, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary of 2011--


http://gaslandthemovie.com


Other movies/documentaries/books:


> Josh Fox’s The Sky is Pink, on the Artists for Fracking website, below)

> Split Estate (movie starring Matt Damon as a landman)

> The Real Cost of Fracking (book), by Michelle Bamberger & Robert Oswald

     (forward by Sandra Steingraber)


Other websites:


>  Artists Against Fracking                http://artistsagainstfracking.com/

>  Food and Water Watch                http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/


Our Government

To provide for national security.

To ensure opportunities for all.


But too often, our government is complicit in the exploitation of its own people.


Witness:


In the 1950s and again in the 1960s, the U.S. Government used it own citizens as guinea pigs in the testing of chemicals as a part of its biological weapons program.  The chemical was zinc cadmium sulfide.  The government admitted this in 1994.  The government did this testing without the knowledge or consent of those citizens.  It happened in a poor neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri.  The chemicals were sprayed from rooftops, down to the men, women, and children below.


See the news story here:

http://news.yahoo.com/secret-cold-war-tests-st-louis-raise-concerns-214608828.html (page last visited 10/6/12_


That has not been the only time the government treated its own citizens as guinea pigs without their knowledge or consent.


The following quotation is from Wikipedia, with footnotes omitted:


    “The Tuskegee syphilis experiment (also known as the Tuskegee syphilis study or Public Health Service syphilis study) was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in poor, rural black men who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.

    The Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began the study in 1932. Investigators enrolled in the study a total of 600 impoverished, African-American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama; 400 who had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 200 without the disease. For participating in the study, the men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance. They were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for "bad blood," a local term used to describe several illnesses, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.

    The 40-year study was controversial for reasons related to ethical standards; primarily because researchers knowingly failed to treat patients appropriately after the 1940s validation of penicillin as an effective cure for the disease they were studying. Revelation of study failures by a whistleblower led to major changes in U.S. law and regulation on the protection of participants in clinical studies. Now studies require informed consent (with exceptions possible for U.S. Federal agencies which can be kept secret by Executive Order), communication of diagnosis, and accurate reporting of test results.”  (Emphasis added.)




Monsanto Company


  1. environmental harm--Agent Orange, dioxin, PCBs, herbicides


  1. unsustainable practices: patents on seeds--genetically modified organisms


  1. unsustainable practices: Monsanto’s genetically modified corn has been shown to contribute to bee colony collapse. 

  2. This concern can’t be understated:  bees pollinate about 30% of the food that we consume!


  3. Monsanto claims to want to feed the world, but how can that be squared with their policy of suing farmers who simply plant the seeds from their crops?  Their answer is a legal one--that it has a patent on the genetically modified seeds that it sells.  How can it be that our society has allowed a nonperson--this corporation--to own life?



Capital Punishment


In Illinois, 20 persons have been released from death row because they did not commit the crimes for which they were imprisoned.  In a nation that claims to be a civilized, Christian nation, there is no place for laws that allow the government to kill its own citizens.  Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011, but the federal government still uses it, and so do many states.


Randy Steidl and Michale Callahan spoke at SIU Law School on April 23, 2012, to tell their stories.  Steidl spent years on death row for a double murder  he did not commit.  He described corruption within the criminal justice system.   Callahan, a Illinois State Police lieutenant who was investigating Steidl’s case, explained that he tried to reopen Steidl’s case five times but was told by his superiors that the case was “too politically sensitive”.



LGBT Rights


We’re seeing folks who, however well-intentioned, are aggressively claiming that the rights of civil society belong only to those who are of particular religious belief system, namely, “traditional marriage”.  The Jefferson County Board, for example, went out of its way to discuss and pass a nonbinding resolution that endorsed a definition of marriage as being limited to one between a man and a woman.  This was an action that divided the community.  And the sponsor of the resolution believes that his responsibility is to speak out only for the “majority” of the people in his district, not acknowledging that he represents everyone in his district.  With actions like this, the board opens itself up to criticism that it is using its position for purely political reasons.  There’s already way too much of that going on.


For more information on this issue with the Jefferson County Board, see www.bethnvito.net/Vito/LGBT-JeffersonCountyBoard.pdf



Gerrymandering


Gerrymandering refers to the process that politicians use, after the federal census, to redraw election districts (political boundaries) to favor candidates or elected officials or voters their choosing.  Although the Illinois Constitution calls for each district to be “compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population” (Ill. Const. 1970, Art. IV, Sec. 3), most any Illinois citizen would be appalled at what the maps of the districts look like--certainly not “compact”.


Illinois map after 2000 census

Illinois map after 2010 census



Miscellaneous


  1. “In 2008, Americans sent nearly 29 million tons of plastic to the dump.”  Sierra, Vol. 97, No. 2 (March/April 2012), at 19.


  1. Since 1980, incredibly large areas of sea ice have disappeared from the Arctic Ocean:  1.4 million square miles, an area equivalent to the all the states of the U.S.A. that are east of Texas.  Sierra, Vol. 97, No. 2 (March/April 2012), at 21.