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Received this e-mail today from Senator Jeff Merkley (D. OR) regarding his push to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act:
Here's the deal: The next several days are critical if we're going to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act:

Let’s turn up the volume even louder and tell Congress that backroom deals and secret provisions for big special interests are unacceptable.

Get more people involved in our fight to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act: Share this petition right now on Facebook and forward this message to you friends:

Monsanto and their special interest friends are betting their big money and lobbyists can beat our grassroots army.

I have news for them: Our movement is here to stay, and it's growing stronger every day.

This is what democracy looks like.

Senator Jeff Merkley

You can click here to sign Merkley's petition:

By the way, Merkley gained a new ally in his call to stop Monsanto:

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has announced her intent to oppose an extension of the “Monsanto Protection Act,” or “Biotech Rider.” Senator Stabenow announced her opposition in a conversation (“colloquy”) with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on the Senate floor. Senator Merkley had been pushing for a vote on an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have repealed the Biotech Rider, which was surreptitiously added to the House’s 6 month continuing resolution (H.R. 933 -Sec. 735) earlier this year. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who wrote the provision and whose state is home to Monsanto’s headquarters, blocked the Senate’s vote on the measure, and shortly thereafter the Senate moved to end debate on the Farm Bill and move towards final passage. As The Huffington Post reports, all hope is not lost; “While Merkley was unable to get a repeal vote, the colloquy is a significant concession, with Stabenow promising she will oppose any attempt to extend the Monsanto Protection Act in backroom negotiations.” - eNews Park Forest, 6/7/13
In other Merkley-related news, the Senator had some harsh words to say about President Obama's response to the National Security Agency phone and Internet data surveillance programs:

"There are several parts to this that the president glossed over," Merkley told MSNBC after Obama spoke.

The Oregon senator said Obama took the data collection "very lightly." In response to the president's claims that the appropriate Senate Intelligence Committees were briefed on the NSA programs, Merkley said he had to seek out "special permission" to learn about the intelligence initiatives because that information was not freely available.

Merkley then found the NSA intelligence gathering "so out of sync with the law" that he thought it merited public disclosure. - TPM, 6/7/13

Merkley's colleague, Senator Ron Wyden (D. OR), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has long been a critic of FISA, the NSA and the Patriot Act also chimed in:

"The American people have a right to know whether their government thinks that the sweeping, dragnet surveillance that has been alleged in this story is allowed under the law and whether it is actually being conducted," said Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence committee.

The order was granted by a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday. Customers' records were being collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether they were suspected of any wrongdoing, according to the reports.

Verizon listed 121 million customers in its first-quarter earnings report this this year: 98.9 million wireless customers, 11.7 million residential phone lines and about 10 million commercial lines. The court order didn't specify which type of phone customers' records were being tracked.

The phone numbers of both parties on a call are handed over under the terms of the order, as well as location data, call duration, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered, The Guardian reported.

"I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information," Wyden added. "Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy."

He said he hopes the report will force a renewed debate about the government’s domestic surveillance authorities. - KGW, 6/6/13

I hope Senator Wyden is right about renewing the debate and that action will be taken.  However, Merkley pointed out that action cannot be taken until the language of the program has been interpreted correctly:

At the same time, James Clapper said national security required the NSA to collect all the Verizon subscriber data, even if not all the data would be analysed, and regardless of any evidence to link the phone records to crime, foreign espionage or terrorism. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that other telecoms received similar orders from the government for the subscriber data.

“The collection is broad in scope,” Clapper wrote, “because more narrow collection would limit our ability to protect the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it may assist counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities.”

Yet the collection does not need to be tied to terrorism to occur – something that alarmed one Democrat senator, Jeff Merkley. He told the Guardian on Thursday that the sweeping “barn-door” collection appeared to violate the provision of the Patriot Act purportedly authorising it.

“We can't really propose changes to the law unless we know what the words mean as interpreted by the court,” Merkley said.

Clapper reiterated a point the Obama administration made on Thursday in its response to the Guardian’s story: the NSA’s dragnet of Verizon phone records, which the Fisa Court authorised until 19 July, does not include the “content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber”. Yet the so-called “metadata” – phone numbers, duration of calls – can be combined with publicly available information to easily determine subscriber identity. And a second NSA surveillance effort, disclosed by the Guardian on Thursday and codenamed PRISM, collects the content of communications provided through Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and five other large internet companies. - The Guardian, 6/7/13

Merkley's also been listening to his constituents concerns about the future of the middle class and the American Dream:

An Oregon mother of two, describing her family's economic struggles as an example of how the American dream disappeared during the national recession, asked Sen. Jeff Merkley and two of his colleagues Thursday if they know how to live on $15 an hour.
"I do," said Pamela Thatcher, who recalled for the senators some of the daily challenges she faced after her husband lost his job in 2011 and now earns half of what he did.

"How am I going to pay for a roll of toilet paper?"

Thatcher, from Tualatin, was one of three Oregonians Merkley, D-Ore., invited to his first hearing as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy.

Testimony from Thatcher, Diedre Melson, John Cox and several expert witnesses focused on damage suffered by middle-class families during the recession as well as solutions to help them recover.

Despite the sometimes dramatic testimony about lost jobs, home foreclosures, decreases in wages, and the rising cost of college education, Merkley conceded that two Senate floor votes that interrupted the hearing did not bode well for those seeking help from Congress to recover what they lost during the recession.

Those votes failed to break a congressional impasse, making it more likely that higher interest rates will kick in on student loans next month.

After the hearing, Merkley blamed senators for not coming to terms with economic forces still hitting the middle class, adding that he used the hearing to spotlight the experiences of Oregon families. - The Oregonian, 6/6/13

Merkley presented statistics and facts about poverty and even had three Oregon constituents testify about their hardships along with a screening:

Three Oregonians featured in the HBO documentary American Winter joined four public policy experts at the subcommittee’s first hearing, entitled “The State of the American Dream—Economic Policy and the Future of the Middle Class.”

Senator Merkley set the context with some powerful and totally depressing statistics, including that between 1989–2010, hourly productivity grew more than three times as fast as wages did during that time; the bottom 20 percent of wage earners saw their average hourly wages decline by thirty cents; the next lowest 20 percent saw their earnings decline by 4.3 percent. In contrast, over that same period, the top 20 percent of workers enjoyed a nearly 30 percent increase in earnings.

And while middle-class earnings have declined, Senator Merkley noted that “the costs of basic features of the middle class such as public college, rent and utilities, and health expenditures have increased between 41 and 80 percent between 1970 and 2009.”

“The data seems to suggest that ordinary families have been slowly hurting for a while, the financial crisis and recession nearly crushed them and our budget austerity policies are making it even worse,” said the Senator.

Certainly the witnesses from American Winter agreed with his analysis. - The Nation, 6/7/13

Merkley is up for re-election next year and no doubt that right-wing Super PACs and outside shadow money will spend big to try and defeat him.  Lets make sure we give him another term next year:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Koscadia, PDX Metro, Climate Hawks, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Environmental Foodies, Anonymous Dkos, and Daily Kos Oregon.

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