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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

No fracking way!

According to the Erie-Times News:

Gov. Tom Corbett defended his proposed budget in his first visit to Erie County as the state's chief executive, and said some universities could make up for the loss of state funds by opening their campuses to natural-gas drilling.

Speaking at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania at a conference for the trustees from the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools, Corbett said six universities on the Marcellus shale formation could open to drilling.

BuzzFlash at Truthout has detailed the toxic cocktail stew used in what is called "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing), a likely cancer-causing process that has ended up in the well and stream water of many areas around fracking sites.

As Thom Hartmann writes in a recent review of "Gasland" (available as a documentary DVD with a minimum donation to BuzzFlash/Truthout): "Instead of just recovering gas, the chemicals often seep into water tables - usually with some of the natural gas - leading to some of the most dramatic scenes in the movie where residents of gas country are able to light their tapwater on fire as it's coming out of the tap."

Since BuzzFlash at Truthout first began monitoring fracking, a populist revolt has arisen against it, particularly in the Marcellus Shale drilling basin that include Pennsylvania. Just type "fracking" into a Facebook search and see how many grassroots groups there are in opposition to the process.

Of course, Corbett, who has received much money in contributions from the drilling industry, may have a couple of ulterior motives for turning higher education into a zombie lab chemistry experiment.

For one, according to the Erie-Times News, "Corbett's proposed 2011-12 budget includes a $2 billion decrease in education funding and 50 percent reduction in aid to colleges and universities. That includes $220 million in aid eliminated from PASSHE's state allocation and $182 million cut from the Pennsylvania State University system's allocation."

It appears Corbett is intent on transforming higher education into lower education, where, at frat parties, students can get drunk and light their tap water on fire for cheap thrills.

As far as drinking the water, we hope that Governor Corbett has set up a college chemotherapy fund, despite his cutbacks for education

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Would Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tell hungry people to go without food?

Apparently so, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which provides details of Walker's effort to outsource decision making about who should receive food stamps to a for-profit company.

One online publication, Politicususa, labels this latest radical Walker initiative "his Wisconsin food stamp starvation scheme."

Not only is it ethically appalling to implicitly assert that Wisconsin can save money by, in essence, letting a for-profit company ration food stamps to the hungry, it doesn't appear to even work.

According to the Journal Sentinel,

Federal officials pointed to past problems with privatization deals in other states such as Indiana and Texas. In 2009, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration dropped IBM's $1.4 billion contract to handle intake for residents of that state seeking health coverage and food assistance.

The state ended up suing the company for allegedly failing to live up to the contract and provide adequate service to sick and needy residents, said Marcus Barlow, a spokesman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. The dispute drags on in court.

Furthermore, the Journal Sentinel indicates that Wisconsin will lose money from D.C. if Walker's plan is implemented: "Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to privatize work determining who is eligible for food assistance in the state would violate federal law and could expose the state to a loss of more than $20 million in federal money, federal officials say."

Food stamps have been shown to have a strong positive economic effect, returning more money to the economy than their cost. How is that possible? Because a hungry family that uses food stamps creates jobs for food stores, truck drivers, farmers, food workers, etc.

Walker's rationing of food stamps through a for-profit company is not just callous, it's an economic folly for the taxpayers of the Badger State.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF TRUTHOUT FOR BUZZFLASH

The revolt against authoritarian Republican "Daddy States" continues, as a Michigan election panel gave preliminary approval for a recall effort to proceed against Governor Rick Snyder.

According to the Detroit Free Press the main group behind the initiative, Michigan Citizens United, "would need the signatures of 807,000 registered voters collected within a 90-day period to force an election."

Snyder is being targeted by Michigan residents dissatisfied with several of his actions since assuming office. These include the passing of an "emergency fiscal manager" bill that gives the governor enhanced powers to dissolve local governments, contracts with public employees, and privatize public services from the local to state level.

Most recently, Snyder has faced criticism for cutting $895 million from local aid to schools, while requesting (thus far passed in the Michigan House) a $1.8 billion tax break for businesses. The cut in taxes for businesses will be financed, in large part, by the transfer of school funding into the state's general operating funds.

More significantly, Snyder is giving the tax break to business at the expense of seniors, who would have the taxes on their pensions increased. Furthermore, support for those in poverty would be reduced to underwrite the giveaway to business. According to the Detroit Daily News, a Democratic state representative, Lisa Howze of Detroit, scathingly responded to the concept of taking from seniors and the poor to give to the better off,

"Today it became clear that 'Jobs' is not Job No. 1 for Republicans," she said in a statement. "I'm shocked and appalled that they are supportive of a nearly $2 billion transfer of wealth from our most vulnerable to big business without a guarantee of a single job being created."

"The measures," according to the Daily News, "also eliminate the state's Earned Income Tax Credit that gives an average of more than $400 to 700,000 Michigan families. Critics of the move have said dumping the credit will push 14,000 more children into poverty."

Whether the recall effort moves forward will depend upon whether Governor Snyder succeeds with legal challenges, and whether or not Michigan Citizens United can gather sufficient signatures to initiate a special election.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

If you think the incessant coverage of a reality television star, the repeatedly bankrupt Donald Trump, is proof of the dumbing down of America, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is working hard at making his citizens dumber.

Not only is Walker conducting an assault on public education and teachers - as well as trying to implement plans that would make the highly regarded University of Wisconsin a political football - he's slashing the state budget for libraries.

According to the Madison paper Isthmus,

Under Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget, Wisconsin libraries would see their funding requests cut by more than $18.9 million in 2012 alone, threatening a wide variety of services, including those for job-seekers and the blind....

"Officially? Nobody's saying they're taking retirement, but people are dropping like flies," says Rhonda Puntney, Wisconsin Library Association president.

The cuts come at a particularly bad time, as workers struggle to recover from the recession, says Puntney.

"It's not just books and story times and computer access," she says. "We're helping people look for jobs and learn computer skills, so they can apply for jobs. That's been a really big focus, especially for adult services. A lot of places have really stepped up, especially places like Racine and Beloit, with programs specifically geared toward job hunters."

So, not only will the residents of Wisconsin have less access to library services for education and reading, Walker's cuts will have an impact on the ability of jobless people to utilize them for research and retraining assistance.

When you run an authoritarian "Daddy State," ignorance, for your vassals and jobless, may be bliss.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans, such as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, are implementing antidemocracy "Daddy States."

What happens in a "Daddy State"?

The first rule is that your vote is taken away and "Daddy" decides for you. This applies if you have personally voted, with the majority, a policy into law via the referendum process. It also means that "Daddy" governors, such as Walker, can take away the rights of municipalities to decide regulations that govern their employees.

In Wisconsin, Walker is likely to sign a law that would nullify a 2008 City of Milwaukee referendum mandating paid sick leave for workers. It passed by a margin of 69-31 percent, a landslide by any standard.

"Who are we as a legislative body to question 69 percent of the voters of the City of Milwaukee?" asked Milwaukee Democratic Assemblymember Chris Sinicki.

The Superior Telegram newspaper notes that the law "would also ban similar ordinances from being passed elsewhere in Wisconsin."

So, in Walker's or Snyder's "Daddy State," your vote doesn't count in terms of local and community rule.

"Daddy" decides what's best for you, even if Daddy doesn't know best.

(Special thanks to Mark Crispin Miller for the tip.)

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

With the surprise White House release of the long form version of President Obama's birth certificate (see .pdf of birth certificate here), Obama has finally taken on the alternative reality of the right wing, ambushing the re-emergence of the issue by Donald Trump.

For his entire presidency, Obama has pretty much ignored or downplayed the dangerous and obsessive fantasies promoted by FOX and the right-wing propaganda machine, including the birther movement.  But a recent poll indicated that only about 1/3 of Republicans believed that Obama was born in the US - and that was before the publicity hound from New York used the issue for self-promotion, in the typical Trump egotistical media attention-grabbing fashion.

So Obama, as he indicated in an unscheduled early Wednesday morning White House press appearance devoted to the birther claims and the document that disproves them once and for all, realized that the spectacle-loving press was going to continue to sensationalize the charges of the alternative universe unless he punctured a hole in the psychotic theories.

Obama's remarks to the White House press corps singled out the media for ignoring public policy issues and, instead, covering crazy theories - not to mention Barnum and Bailey celebrity camera hogs such as Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not running for president; he is just getting as much air time as he can.  That is what he lives for.  The guy has so many skeletons in his closet, there's no room for his contoured toupee and purple ties, so forget any serious consideration of the presidency by him.

The media loves Trump because he's good press, an outsize New York egomaniac who is a great mass audience draw and therefore increases advertising dollars and profits.  Obama was laying down a marker to the press in his remarks, a point that David Corn of the Nation similarly concludes.

From now on, Obama has called out Orly Taitz, Michele Bachmann, and a large part of the Republican Party which has adopted absurd and dangerous fantasies as the basis of their politics, while the nation faces extraordinary challenges that require serious public policy discussion.

But if the mainstream corporate media - which is now more devoted to the dollars associated with sensationalism and entertainment than the fate of the nation - continues to move in the direction of the National Inquirer, America's ability to function as a nation will be, perhaps, fatally impaired.

It appears now that Obama finally gets it.

Reality counts.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

These are not the glory days that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was envisioning as he assumed his Napoleonic reign.

Walker, for instance, is openly complaining that the apparently successful effort to initiate recall elections for at least five (now six) Republican state senators who have sided with him, well, that such exercises of democracy are making it difficult for him to govern in a "republic."

That may explain why the Wisconsin legislature - otherwise known, perhaps, as the rubber-stamp body of the autocratic ruler of the state of "Walkerstan" - is going to try to make it extremely difficult for university students to vote. Shrink the pro-union and progressive vote and win elections by making sure that older white Republicans get the privilege of casting a ballot.

Walker is also hoping to rely on the Koch brothers and other wealthy sources, such as the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, to keep the public misinformed. As BuzzFlash first reported, the Kochs are putting quite a bankroll into a Facebook campaign to recruit right-wing advocates for "conservative think tanks" around the nation.

And as evidence of the rather suspicious, unsavory and unethical relationships among Walker, David Prosser and Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus continue to mount, Walker has been reduced to taking claim for creating jobs that were already announced by his Democratic predecessor.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on April 24:

Little did anyone know that Gov. Scott Walker was such a huge fan of recycling.

Just look at his latest jobs announcement.

Walker recently took credit in a widely reported press conference for creating 125 jobs at a state manufacturing plant, even though then-Gov. Jim Doyle announced the same new jobs back in December.

About now, Walker may be remembering that he personally can be recalled after a year in office.

You probably won't hear the governor of "Walkerstan" playing Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" any time soon.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Koch brothers are launching a recruiting blitz on Facebook for maintaining the plutocracy.

In the last few days, I have encountered endless paid ads in the right-hand column of Facebook for a program called "Liberty at Work." "Looking for Work?" the ad asks. It then describes positions throughout the country for advancing "conservative and libertarian" causes.

Clicking through the "Liberty at Work" ad brings you to an eponymous Facebook site (see "Welcome" on the Facebook page) that announces, "You no longer have to come to DC to advancing [sic] economic freedom." In the "likes" section on the left-hand side of the page are listed a few of the local right-wing think tanks that an April 25 Mother Jones article discusses: "Inspired by Ronald Reagan and funded by the right's richest donors, a web of [national] free-market think tanks has fueled the nationwide attack on workers' rights."

Many of these institutions are funded by the Koch brothers.

Furthermore, by clicking libertyatwork.org (on the Facebook info page), you are redirected to the Charles G. Koch Foundation Liberty at Work application page.

The Kochs are so brazen that they do not try to hide their effort to beef up and expand local right-wing propaganda. They boast about it. Take a look around the full Koch Foundation web site and see for yourself, beginning at the Liberty at Work program description:

Washington isn't the only city where change happens; important public policy decisions are made everyday in states across the country. From Chicago to Atlanta, the Koch Associate Program has grown to include organizations both in and outside of DC, but the need for effective advocates for liberty continues to expand on the state level. This was the impetus behind the launch of Liberty@WorkTM.

The invasion has begun.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Are natural gas companies "fracking" some Americans to death, thanks to Dick Cheney?

If you review a recent report by a Congressional committee and watch the documentary "Gasland," (available as a premium with a minimum contribution to Truthout/BuzzFlash) the answer would appear to be yes.

No, people are not being shot in the middle of the night for deeds to their land or falling into vats of cyanide, but the unregulated process of extracting natural gas from underground rock (formally known as hydraulic fracturing) is leaving a toxic legacy. Thanks to Cheney, a bill was passed when he was vice president that exempted fossil fuel companies engaged in fracking from virtually any oversight - and exempted them from nearly all environmental laws and regulations.

The Cheney legacy includes not requiring the fracking industry to disclose the chemicals that they are using, but have since been revealed to include toxic agents (including "29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens," according to the Congressional report). In the film "Gasland," you actually see several house owners near fracking extraction facilities light their tap water on fire.

This week, Truthout journalist Mike Ludwig reported on a massive toxic spill from fracking in Pennsylvania, highlighting the environmental damage and health hazards caused by the industry.

But the human and environmental toll of fracking is hardly being reported upon in the corporate mainstream press, even though there is vocal and active citizen opposition by public health officials, residents near wells and environmentalists.

For that reason, it is well worth seeing "Gasland." As Thom Hartmann wrote in his review of the film for Truthout/BuzzFlash (soon to be posted in full):

It's a testimony to Fox's [the director] brilliant filmmaking that fracking has become part of our lexicon, Halliburton's and Cheney's crimes are becoming more widely known, and citizens are organizing across the nation to fight back. Another backhand testimony can be seen in all the very clean/beautiful/elegant TV ads - costing the industry millions - to try to make America's natural gas industry so pure, friendly, job-creating and all-American. If Fox hadn't made this movie, they wouldn't have to be spending all this money to green-wash their dirty work.

Support Truthout/BuzzFlash by obtaining "Gasland" with a minimum contribution and you'll quickly become a convert to stopping Americans from being fracked to death.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you live on a street that is full of potholes and the town mayor tells you that the only way that the village can repave the road is to cut taxes on the wealthy - because of a deficit in the local budget - you are caught between a rock and, well, a pothole.

If the community newspaper carries the message of the mayor that only by cutting taxes on the rich and corporations can the street be fixed - and cutting services to the poor, veterans and jobless - it's hard to be cognizant of an alternative.

And that is the lopsided situation we are in right now in the US, where the Republicans have capitalized on a four-decade campaign to sink governments at the federal and local level into massive debt, and then resort to "disaster capitalism" (as Naomi Klein calls it, echoing Milton Friedman) by taking advantage of a misinformed public who only hears, for the most part, about a tax-cutting-for-the-rich and corporations-deficit reduction perspective on budgets.

What's strikingly odd about this "conventional wisdom" of the GOP; right-wing think tanks; the corporate media; and even some Democratic, DC, insiders, is that it is out of sync with the American public when polled on specific policy options.

A recent Washington Post poll revealed that 72 percent of Americans support raising taxes on those with incomes over $250,000. Only 21 percent support cutting spending on Medicare.

A McClatchy-Marist poll was even more eye-opening:

In a McClatchy-Marist poll released this week, 70% of registered voters who identify with the Tea Party opposed making cuts to either Medicare or Medicaid - the government-run health programs for the elderly and the poor - to help reduce the nation's deficit. Meanwhile, only 28% of tea partiers said they'd be willing to cut spending on those two programs.

Yes, that's right, according to this poll, most people associated with the Tea Party oppose cutting government-administered Medicare and Medicaid by a lopsided margin.

On many other progressive issues concerning what President Obama calls "the social contract" with Americans, most US citizens agree with supporting programs for the common good and doing that, in part, by increasing taxes on the rich.

But Washington, DC, and the GOP revolt in the states exist in a bubble of long-term right-wing propaganda that uses pressure and bullying to create a sense of impending doom in order to "shock" the public into allowing the passage of regressive legislation.

Only by clarifying the specifics, as President Obama has begun to do, will there be an honest public debate. But it appears that the jury is in on increasing taxes on the rich and saving the social safety net. The message just hasn't reached DC or some state capitols yet, what with all the lobbyist and Koch brothers' money floating into campaign funds.

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