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Guest Commentary (3896)

2014.11.5.Obamacare.BFPro-Obamacare demonstrators at the US Supreme Court during arguments for and against Obamacare, March 2012. (Photo: majunznk / Flickr)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

For those who may be convinced that Obamacare, aka The Affordable Health Care Act - signed into law of March 23, 2010, and now doing well in most states despite its herky jerky rollout and still somewhat negative polling numbers – will not be overturned even if Republicans win control of the Senate, consider how the conservative movement has dealt with the issue of abortion.

Codified as a right by the US Supreme Court in 1973, opponents of reproductive rights have been slashing away at abortion for more than forty years. And while the anti-abortion movement has spawned its fair share of terrorists - true believers willing to kill abortion providers, harass patients at clinics, threaten and intimidate health care workers, bomb and burn down clinics -- the movement has also hit upon a strategy that is literally stripping women of their right to an abortion.

Over the past few years, state legislatures have come up with more anti-abortion legislation than at any time in the law's forty-one-+-year history. State by state, abortion rights have been abridged through new restrictions including a twenty-four hour waiting period, parental consent, forced face-to-face counseling with an abortion provider, and a ban on the use of Medicaid funding (except in extraordinary cases). Clinics, forced by legislation to retool at the cost of many thousands of dollars, have been closing by the droves. In some states, recent legislation has imposed a requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital; a requirement that the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say is medically unnecessary.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaTonyPerkinsEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Anti-gay activists are sounding increasingly unhinged as marriage equality sweeps the U.S. Climate deniers are sounding increasingly unhinged as evidence piles up that we’ve got to do something about the way we’re ravaging our planet.

Put them together and what do you have? An epic level of head-scratching conspiracy-mongering emanating from the master of that craft, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a man who has been professionally obsessed with LGBT people for years.

According to watchdog group Right Wing Watch, Perkins told a caller to his Washington Watch radio program last week that those who are advocating for action on climate change are behind the push for LGBT rights.

The caller offered him an opening, saying that homosexuality is “promoted” because it doesn’t lead to reproduction and that “there’s this anti-life agenda, there’s a total anti-human, anti-life, human beings are a virus type of mentality.”

Perkins took the opportunity to connect that with people working to stem and reverse climate change.

GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGagEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)The Oct. 30 New York Times ran a story about how the oil and gas industry and its high-priced lobbyist/publicist Richard Berman are personally targeting Colorado activists who are working in anti-fracking campaigns. The story is based on a secretly recorded speech given by Berman and his colleague to industry officials in Colorado Springs in 2014 during which he described how the industry was going hard negative and using personal attacks against activists and how the industry must prepare for an “endless war” against environmentalists about fracking.

I am one of the activists targeted by Berman. If you go to the website Berman highlighted in his speech, BigGreenRadicals.org, then click on “Colorado,” then click on “Gary Wockner,” you’ll see Berman’s hit job (it’s not very accurate or insightful). I’m in good company there, joined by my Congressman Jared Polis, Yoko Ono, Mark Ruffalo and other local Colorado activists with whom I’ve been proud to work over the past couple of years.

A few environmental leaders are taking Berman and industry to task for their tactics targeting me and others. After reading the story in the Times, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “You know climate deniers and big polluters are desperate when they turn to the tired old tactics of the tobacco industry to try and save themselves.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Berman “The Oil Reich’s Minister of Propaganda” in this tweet:

Rick Berman: The Oil Reich's Minister of Propaganda & public information. ?

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldWealth(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines)A recent posting detailed how upper middle class Americans are rapidly losing ground to the one-percenters who averaged $5 million in wealth gains over just three years. It also noted that the global 1% has increased their wealth from $100 trillion to $127 trillion in just three years.

The information came from the Credit Suisse 2014 Global Wealth Databook (GWD), which goes on to reveal much more about the disappearing middle class.

1. Each Year Since the Recession, America's Richest 1% Have Made More Than the Cost of All U.S. Social Programs

In effect, a reverse transfer from the poor to the rich. Even as conservatives blame Social Security for being too costly.

Much of the 1% wealth just sits there, accumulating more wealth. The numbers are nearly unfathomable. Depending on the estimate, the 1% took in anywhere from $2.3 trillion to $5.7 trillion per year. (All numeric analysis is detailed here.)

Even the smaller estimate of $2.3 trillion per year is more than the budget for Social Security ($860 billion), Medicare ($524 billion), Medicaid ($304 billion), and the entire safety net ($286 billion for SNAP, WIC [Women, Infants, Children], Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing).

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHalloween(Photo: Toby Ord)For around $300.00, you can purchase your own Halloween Hell House Kit. Back in the day when the Rev. Jerry Falwell was roaming the planet, he hit upon a fantabulous money-making/soul-saving scheme. Why give over Halloween to the hell raisers, candy scavengers and trick or treaters, he thought? Let's get in on the action. And that's precisely what he did.

Churches around the country would set up "Hell Houses," places that young people could visit and get the crap scared out of them.

According to psmag.com's Marc Herman, "New Destiny Christian Center, a Colorado-based evangelical ministry, is the specialist in the programs." Over the years, Hell Houses have become remarkably adaptable to current issues.

While $299.00 will get you the basic kit, a few more bucks will get you "plug-in 'modules,' allowing a particular hell house to address specific sins in one's own neighborhood. The online brochure starts off with a new 'domestic abuse' stage set, moving on to the 'rave scene,' 'drunk driving,' and the 'gay wedding.'"

Friday, 31 October 2014 07:03

Twelve Ways Jim Crow Is Winning in 2014

BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJimCrow(Photo: Ben Shahn)Jim Crow is already the big winner in this year's election.

The corporate elite needs him to gouge the planet, wage perpetual imperial war and rule the rest of us.

So the voting rights of millions of student, elderly, black, Hispanic and other citizens are being lynched.

Which may now decide control of the US Senate, many state legislatures...and the White House in 2016.

The corporate-Christian right has long used the drug war to disenfranchise millions of citizens of youth and color. Gay and reproductive rights, feminism and the politics of hate have mobilized Christian crusaders to flood the polls for the GOP.

But we have turned the corner on the culture war. With the winding down of marijuana prohibition, widespread gay rights victories and more, Republicans now need the outright destruction of democracy itself to win an election...

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaVotingBooth(Photo: Electiontechnology)Democracy! A word, a way of life, our highest ideal: Everyone is equal; no one is marginal.

I still feel the force of this word, though the middle syllable — "mock" — grows increasingly dominant when I hear it, especially now, as election season rolls around again. The enormity of my indifference to this election is balanced by something that feels like grief. The system we live under is . . .

Words fail me. Pardon me while I quote Nietzsche.

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"

Writing is either an act of hope or an act of cynicism, and I have always committed myself to reaching for the former in my commentary on current events, no matter how disturbing the events may be. But in this moment, I feel myself walking the edge of cynicism: The system we live under is a joke, a farce, a calculated lie. I say this as someone who believed in it deeply, who embraced our history of expanding inclusiveness.

2014.10.29.Solar.BFThe first Women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Mauritania are installing solar panels in their villages. (Photo: Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

A popular narrative among climate deniers and green energy pooh-poohers is that addressing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change by promoting clean energy sources is a burden on the world’s poorer countries and prevents their citizens from having access to affordable energy. A new report, Climatescope 2014: Mapping the Global Frontier for Clean Energy Investment, undermines that contention, showing that some of the world’s poorest countries are already renewable energy leaders.

According to the report, which evaluated the ability of 55 countries to attract investments in clean energy based on their current and future policies and financing, developing nations are kicking the ass of established economies when it comes to building green economies. It found that emerging markets saw a 143 percent growth in clean energy capacity, compared to 84 percent for wealthier, established economies.

“Clean energy is the low-cost option in a lot of these countries,” said Ethan Zindler, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, one of Climatescope’s developers, along with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the U.K. Government Department for International Development. “The technologies are cost-competitive right now. Not in the future, but right now.”

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Renewable energy may currently make up only a small percentage of U.S. energy generation capacity, but it’s one of the fastest growing sectors.

Renewable energy generation—primarily wind and solar power—provided more than 40 percent of the new energy capacity in the U.S. in the first three quarters of this year, according to the latest U.S. Federation Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) Energy Infrastructure Update. Oil, nuclear and especially coal provided little new capacity, with renewables outstripping them more than 35 times. Only natural gas, driven by the growth of fracking, showed more growth, and many industry observers think its growth potential is finite.

The new installed capacity of natural gas declined compared to the first three quarters of 2013, from 6,643 megawatt (MW) to 5,153. Wind was the big winner, upping its installed capacity from 965 MW to 1,614 in that period. In September, new wind capacity led the way with 367 MW, followed by natural gas with 114. Coal showed no increase in existing capacity so far this year. Overall, new capacity from all forms of energy declined from 11,452 in the first three quarters of last year to 8,860 this year.

Among FERC’s project updates is that Kern County, California’s Techachapi Wind Energy Storage project is now up and running. The South California Edison Project, FERC says, “consists of an 8 MW-four-hour (32 MWh) lithium-ion battery and a smart inverter system, [and] will help store energy from the existing 5,000 wind turbines and any future additions in the Techachapi Wind Resource Area. Housed inside a 6,300 square foot facility, it is the largest battery energy storage in North America.” Such projects bode well for the continued growth of wind power.

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooze(Photo: Chris huh)When Colorado voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana, the state did not merely break new ground in the ongoing battle over narcotics policy. It also bolstered an innovative new political message that compares cannabis to alcohol.

Two years later, that comparison is being deployed in key marijuana-related elections throughout the country, and drug reform advocates are so sure marijuana is safer than alcohol, they are now challenging police to a "drug duel" to prove their point.

The proposal for the duel from David Boyer, an official with the Maine chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, came after South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins announced his opposition to a municipal referendum to legalize marijuana possession.

"Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus it's not even funny," Googins told a local newspaper.

In response, Boyer has challenged the police chief to a "hit for shot" duel — for every shot of alcohol Googins takes, Boyer would take a toke of marijuana, and the public would be able to see who is in worse physical condition in the end.

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