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Monday, 08 August 2016 07:32

2020 Vision: Four Steps to Get There

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 0808wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Bernie Sanders started losing the election over 200 years ago, when Alexander Hamilton proclaimed "The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." And when James Madison argued for a republic that would make it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."

Little has changed over two centuries later, as the Democratic National Committee demonstrated when they "criticized and mocked" Senator Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. People with money and power are still appalled by the notion of a popular democracy. But something is different now. The American majority, driven by frustrated workers and well-connected young people, are better able to communicate, and to unify in pursuit of a progressive nation.

The coining of the phrase "2020 Vision" can be attributed to the Democracy Alliance, which focuses on three "key issue areas that form the core of our 2020 Vision – an inclusive economy, a fair democracy, and strong action on climate change."

The vision expounded here, in the four steps to follow, is focused on the cooperative efforts of the great majority of Americans, many of them young and few of them rich, who are beginning to understand the strength of the growing progressive movement.

ED RODGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Manatee 0805wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)An illness that might be linked to toxic algae blooms combined with a record number of boat collisions has taken a toll on Florida's manatee population this summer. Since May, eight dead manatees have been found in the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, a waterway that's been fouled with microscopic toxic algae, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"We are still narrowing down the cause, but the hypothesis is still that the change of vegetation that the manatees are eating makes them susceptible to complications in their guts," Martine de Wit, lead veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. De Wit said the manatees have been found with little or no seagrass in their stomachs. The animals digestive systems were filled instead with algae commonly known as seaweed. Researchers say the animals succumb to illness so quickly they drown. Videos from residents have documented the manatee's struggle.

The water coming from Lake Okeechobee contains fertilizer, sewage and stormwater, which is flushed into portions of the Indian River, according to the Sentinel. The stretch of the Indian River has been "a killing field" for brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and many species of fish. The microscopic algae has turned waters a greenish, brown color, some spots as thick as guacamole, as previously reported by EcoWatch.

This isn't the only year toxic algae has impacted manatees. More than 150 manatees have died in the past four years, the Sentinel said.

plastic waste from the ocean(Photo: Bo Eide)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

England has cut its plastic bag use by 85 percent ever since a 5 pence (7 cent) charge was introduced last October, according to government figures.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that 6 billion fewer plastic bags were taken home by shoppers in England. The levy also resulted in a £29 million ($38 million) donated to charity and other good causes thanks to the charge.

"This is the equivalent to the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans," DEFRA said about the eliminated bags.

To arrive at the 6 billion figure, officials calculated that the seven main retailers in England (Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) passed out 7.6 billion bags in 2014. However, after the 5 pence charge was enacted, the retailers handed out just over half a billion bags in the first six months.

Trump vs. Hillary caricature(Photo: DonkeyHotey)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What would it take to cause Hillary Clinton to distance herself from the newly launched bombing campaign in Libya? Or call for a congressional debate on it? Or suggest the obvious: that the war on terror isn't working?

Of course it won't happen. But the fact that it sounds so absurd -- almost as fanciful as the notion of movie characters stepping off the screen into real life -- indicates how illusory, how unglued from reality, American democracy is at the presidential level. It's a spectator sport -- mud wrestling, say -- doled out to us as entertainment by the media in sound bites and poll numbers.

Public input couldn't be less relevant to what we actually do as a nation, and as an empire.

And mostly what we do is wage war. Now more than ever. Since 9/11, war has become, in essence, self-authorizing, thanks to the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gives the Executive Branch free rein to fight the war on terror without congressional approval. Thus, according to the New York Times: "By linking the Libya action to the authorization for force, the administration will not have to officially notify Congress. That means that the campaign in Libya can continue indefinitely, or until the administration concludes that the airstrikes have accomplished their objective."

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist 0803wrp opt(Photo: Genusfotografen)What an amazing Democratic primary season it was! And we now have this happy result: WE WON!

"We" being the millions of young people, mad-as-hell working stiffs, independents, deep-rooted progressives, and other "outsiders" who felt The Bern and forged a new, game-changing, populist force of, by, and for grassroots Americans. True, this progressive-populist coalition did not win the White House on its first go 'round behind the feisty Sanders insurgency (which the the smug political establishment had literally laughed at when he began his run). But they are not laughing now, for even they can see the outsider revolt against the power elites won something even more momentous than the 2016 election: The future.

Back in April 2015, when the blunt, democratic socialist from Vermont issued a call for disenchanted voters to join him, not merely in a campaign for the presidency, but in a long-term movement to "revitalize American democracy so that government works for all of us," even his more optimistic backers couldn't have dreamed the movement would come so far so quickly. Let's reflect on some fundamental changes this progressive uprising has achieved in the past 15 months:

- It yanked the national debate out of the hands of the Washington and corporate elites: both devoted for more than 30 years to rigging all the rules to further enrich the 1 percenters at the expense of everyone else — and proved that future success requires Democrats to abandon their effete namby-pambyism and embrace the vision, message, and issues of unabashed populism.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Marcmaron 0803wrp opt(Photo: Sowhat12)In the ever-expanding universe of unique, diverse and extraordinary podcasts, “WTF With Marc Maron” – broadcast from Maron’s garage in Southern California -- stands out. In September 2009, Maron started his WTF podcast and it now garners, according to the WTF website, “more than six-million downloads each month.” While Maron, a longtime and notable comedian, who has appeared on numerous television talk shows and still tours the country on a regular basis doing what his website calls “raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy,” usually sticks to interviewing guests from the entertainment industry, probably his most notable and surprising interview occurred last year when President Barack Obama visited Maron’s garage.

Maron usually begins each episode with some housecleaning; could be a story about his cats; could be a report from one of his performances; could be a tribute to someone who recently passed away; could be extending heartfelt condolences to the families of those slaughtered in Orlando. Although once a politics-slinging voice on the late radio enterprise called Air America, these days, Maron generally stays away from directly discussing politics.

However, in the opening to Episode 729 (an interview with Roseanne Barr) Maron gave a unique, passionate and earnest spiel on what he perceives to be the emptiness and despair that many of the people – obviously including his listeners -- who may be voting for Donald Trump seem to be feeling.

Via email, I asked Maron what motivated his remarks. “Elections are emotional times and sometimes you just have to speak your mind,” Maron said. “I don't talk politics publicly that often anymore but I was trying to make some sense, empathetically, of a phenomenon I am trying to understand. I was thinking out loud. Which is what I do.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio(Photo: Gage Skidmore)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Florida Senator Marco Rubio appears to be building his Senate reelection campaign on Hillary hatred and the underbelly of anti-gay bigotry, as he's been courting some of Florida's and the nation's most bigoted anti-gay organizations and leaders. After running an unsuccessful/lackluster campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, he is back on the campaign trail, this time, seeking re-election to the Senate. His opponent in the Republican primary is Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County developer.

Rubio is on Twitter ranting about Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, and on the campaign trail "Little Marco" -- as he was dubbed by the now GOP standard-bearer Donald Trump -- is heartily endorsing Trump. And while he is undoubtedly salivating over the possibility of receiving wads of Koch brothers' money, over the past few weeks Rubio has been focusing on solidifying the anti-gay vote.

He recently welcomed the endorsement of John Stemberger, the head of Florida Family Action, and one of the state's most well known anti-gay activists.

GMO Wheat(Photo: Susanne Nilsson)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Monsanto's experimental genetically engineered wheat has been found growing in a field in Washington state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed last week.

This discovery not only raises concerns over GMO contamination, it could be another legal headache for Monsanto, as the agritech giant has paid millions to settle recent lawsuits over illegal GMO wheat.

Reuters reported on Friday that a farmer found 22 unapproved GMO wheat plants in a field that has not been planted since 2015. Federal and state officials are now conducting an investigation.

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wastewater 0801wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Florida regulators voted to approve new water quality standards that would increase the amount of carcinogenic toxins allowed in Florida's waterways.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a proposal by state regulators that would set new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the Sunshine State and revise regulations on 43 toxins, most of which are carcinogenic. State regulators claim the new plan will protect more Floridians than current standards, the Miami Herald reported.

"We have not updated these parameters since 1992," Cari Roth, chairwoman of the commission, told the Miami Herald. "It is more good than harm. The practical effect is, it is not going to increase the amount of toxins going into our waters."

Under the new proposal, acceptable levels of toxins in Florida waters will increase for more than 24 known carcinogens. The acceptable levels would decrease for 13 chemicals that are currently regulated.

The new regulations are based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method the Florida Department of Environmental Protection created, called "Monte Carlo." The method is being criticized by environmental groups, warning the new standards would allow polluters to dump high concentrations of dangerous chemicals into Florida's rivers and streams.

"Monte Carlo gambling with our children's safety is unacceptable," Marty Baum, of Indian Riverkeeper, said.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coin 0801wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like "Income inequality is simply not a significant problem." and "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before."

In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from corporation-funded candidates like Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of an unresponsive, irresponsible mainstream media.

1. Monopolies: Increasing Prices, Cutting Jobs

The Busch/Miller merger is the latest attack on competition, joining the recent surge toward oligopolies in the banking industry, pharmaceuticals and hospitals, wireless companies, and airlines. Contrary to any condescending claims that mergers contribute to price-lowering efficiencies, they have actually led to price increases in 75 percent of examined cases, according to a Northeastern University study. The resulting corporate profits are often used for investor-enriching stock buybacks.

And jobs are cut. When Merck took over Cubist Pharmaceuticals, the latter's research and development staff was eliminated, ending their studies of other promising medicines.

2. Finance: Now Costing Us More Than the Military

A Roosevelt Institute study estimates that "the financial system will impose an excess cost of as much as $22.7 trillion between 1990 and 2023. That comes to about $660 billion per year, more than the discretionary military budget. That's over $5,000 per U.S. household in excess financial costs.

Banks once spent the majority of their money on business investments; now it's just 15 percent. Rana Foroohar summarizes: "US companies today make more than ever before by simply moving money around."

Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like "Income inequality is simply not a significant problem." and "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before."

In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from corporation-funded candidates like Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of an unresponsive, irresponsible mainstream media.

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