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HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Jackson 0425wrp opt(Photo: Paul Boyer)The decision to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill is long overdue. So is the movement to remove the name of Lord Jeffery Amherst from that college town in western Massachusetts. 

Let’s start with Jackson, our most racist major president next to Woodrow Wilson

Jackson was our first president from west of the Alleghenies, and the first to not wear the powdered wigs favored by Virginia plantation owners. 

Andy’s parents were Irish immigrants who died early. He had a brutally impoverished childhood. One of his fourteen duels left a bullet permanently lodged near his heart. (Teddy Roosevelt also had one of those.) 

Jackson is most revered as the “Common Man” who fought Alexander Hamilton’s national bank. He later personally profited from kickbacks paid him by cronies who owned smaller banks that benefitted. 

A vicious racist, Jackson also made a fortune in the slave trade, and from stolen Indian land, leaving him with a slave plantation of his own. 

At the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson enlisted Cherokee warriors to fight their rival Creeks. Then he brutalized his “allies” as well as his defeated enemy. His troops took slices of the dead Creeks’ noses for a body count, and used their skin to make bridles.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GrandCanyon 0422wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Do Charles and David Koch want to mine the Grand Canyon for uranium?

A “dark money” organization tied to the billionaire Koch brothers is allegedly aiding Arizona politicians’ and special-interest groups’ efforts to block a bill that would ban uranium mining around Arizona’s iconic landmark, The Phoenix New Times reports.

According to the Grand Canyon Trust, here’s what Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument Act would do:

  • Protects 1.7 million acres of tribal homeland around the Grand Canyon, including water sources and sacred sites
  • Bans new uranium mining claims (making the current 20-year ban permanent)
  • Still allows hunting, grazing, recreation and other uses to continue under existing law

The proposal, in so many words, deems the area around the Grand Canyon a national monument. The bill is supported by 80 percent of Arizonans as well as a number of environmental organizations and native tribes.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BillNye 0420wrp opt(Photo: Ed Schipul)Bill Nye, an outspoken proponent of man-made climate change, has taken on meteorologist and well-known climate denier Joe Bastardi in a new StarTalk video.

The clip was posted in response to a November 2015 editorial Bastardi wrote for The Patriot Post in which he described Nye as an “agenda-driven zealot [rather] than a man of science.”

The WeatherBell chief forecaster also challenged “The Science Guy” to the following three points:

1. Explain why there’s no linkage in the entire known CO2-temperature history of the planet.

2. Explain the lack of warming in real-time temperature data, and why so far I have been right.

3. Make your forecast. You claim to be a leader yet refuse to take a stand. Instead you sit in the stands and never allow what you are saying to be verified. What kind of science is that?

Nye not only took on Bastardi’s challenge, he’s also putting a total of $20,000 on the line that 2016 will be in the top 10 hottest years ever recorded and that 2010-2020 will be the hottest decade ever recorded.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oil 0422wrp opt(Photo: Marine Photobank)How easy it must be for our political leaders and their war-profiteering friends from the weapon industry to plan for invasions while they’re being served coffee from in the comfort of the White House. How convenient to chart operations, thousands of miles away, with the CIA and the Pentagon, to point out designated bombing targets off satellite maps to go with their coffee and Danish pastries.

How easy it is for Bush-Cheney, followed by President Obama, and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to speak of countries in the abstract: “Iraq is harboring weapons of mass destruction.” “Afghanistan is a home for terrorists.” “Libya and Syria have evil dictators…” as if these countries were floating somewhere in space with no families, no schools, no homes, no children, no pets…merely abstract human targets who must be killed in abstract countries that float in space somewhere absent of aunts, mothers, animals, trees, sewer systems, water, farmlands…

Wait a minute—there is something specific and tangible that both the Bush and Obama war commanders think about in those countries with grave concern worth protecting: oil and gas.

This is what we’ve learned for the last decades from ongoing US military intervention in the Middle East: oil is valued higher than life itself. It’s very real, it’s tangible and it merits the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings because it is the engine of fossil fuel capitalism.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hillary 0418wrp opt(Photo: C-SPAN)If, sad to ponder, the presidential election comes down to Hillary Clinton vs. a Republican, we'll be left either way with a business-friendly neocon White House. Given Hillary's past deceits and reversals, it's easy to see why she doesn't inspire trust among the American people.

1. Environment

"I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change." --Hillary Clinton, 11/29/15

Greenpeace estimates that the Clinton campaign has taken $4.5 million from fossil fuel lobbyists and donors, and Naomi Klein and Grist have reported on all the money received from ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips and other oil sources. In response, Hillary explained, rather incoherently, "I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me."

2. War

"Is there really any argument that America must remain a preeminent leader for peace and freedom..?" --Hillary Clinton, 10/31/06

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, an advisor to the United Nations, called Hillary "the candidate of the War Machine." In her book, "Hillary's Choice," author Gail Sheehy claimed it was Hillary who encouraged the president to bomb Kosovo. Then, as Secretary of State in 2011, she strongly supported war in Libya, a country which today is overwhelmed with crime and joblessness and a lack of basic necessities. She backed the escalation of the Afghanistan war, and in 2012, according to Sachs, she was largely responsible for the obstruction of peace efforts in Syria.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hastert 0415wrp opt(Photo: Dennis Hastert)Will former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a confirmed serial child molester, be held to any serious legal accountability? That’s a question that Dennis Hastert himself would have quickly and undoubtedly answered in the affirmative more than a dozen years ago when he was a congressman from Illinois, and then Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

To look back on it now, it was a remarkable series of events:

In December 1998, after then Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned due to, among other things, a series of sexual peccadilloes, and after calling on President Bill Clinton to resign during the impeachment debate, Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) told a stunned House that he himself would not assume the speakership as planned, and would resign his seat in Congress. His resignation came after he was threatened with public disclosure of a series of his sexual peccadilloes. (Ironically, Livingston’s seat was taken by David Vitter, became the first popularly elected Republican U.S. senator from Louisiana and subsequently admitted to having been involved in a prostitution ring run, which only recently finally put the kibosh on his career.)  

Next in line for the speakership was Dennis Hastert, the mild-mannered, occasionally gruff, but seemingly harmless congressman from Illinois. But Hastert had his own major secrets, and it took more than fifteen years for them to see the light of day.

Before revelations that Hastert had sexually abused students while he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, Hastert was all about protecting the children.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TownMeeting 0413wrp opt(Photo: Redjar)In my travels and conversations this year, I've been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of "victory" and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?

Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.

Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.

This doesn't require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we're citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they'll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.

Published in Guest Commentary

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Windmills 0413wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Here’s a headline for climate action advocates to love: Wind and Solar Crushing Fossil Fuels. It’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s summary of the current state of play in global energy markets, and it’s got striking data points to support it.

In 2015, record investment in new wind and solar electricity was twice as high as dwindling capital flowing into gas and coal. More remarkable, for the first time clean energy investment topped oil and gas capital expenditures combined. Because the prices of wind and solar are plummeting, the volume of new energy being constructed grows faster than the dollars being spent: annual wind installations have doubled four times since 2000, solar a stunning seven! New bids for wind in North Africa and solar in Mexico are coming in below $0.04 kwh, half the price of new coal plants with pollution controls that meet modern health standards.

But here’s a sobering counter-point, in a forward by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to another report on stunning rates of renewables growth: Sustainable, renewable energy is growing, but not quickly enough to meet expected energy demand. And the BNEF numbers support this worry, showing that by 2040 at least 50 percent of new cars sold will still rely on gasoline or diesel, and that developing countries other than China continue to add more new fossil fired electrical capacity which will either be shut down prematurely or, if fully utilized, blow the world way past acceptable levels of greenhouse pollution.

So what’s the problem? While clean energy is cheaper to buy and operate than fossil, it is requires more capital at the front end—because the benefits of free sun and wind flow over time, while the expenses of turbines, panels and batteries come all at once. That’s not a big problem in industrial nations, where capital is plentiful and cheap—in fact investors are desperate for the kinds of yields clean power can bring. So fossil generation is dropping in Europe and the U.S. And it’s not a problem in China which holds enormous foreign exchange reserves—which is why China appears to be at or close to its peak emissions a full decade before it promised. But in the rest of the developing world capital is scarce or expensive or both, which makes it cheaper to buy a new coal turbine and pay for the fuel over time than to pay the whole cost of a solar or wind farm in advance.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oil 0411wrp opt(Photo: John)This February was the hottest in recorded history, scorching crops and flooding homes all across the planet. Record-breaking temperatures have robbed the Arctic of its winter.

And yet despite this, governments around the world still plan to build massive new coal mines and open new oil and gas fields.

But everywhere they do, something remarkable is happening: resistance. This May, people will be joining hands in a new way to step up that fight on the front lines. This May, we’re breaking free from fossil fuels across the globe.

Next month, from the oil and gas fields of Nigeria and Brazil to the coal fields of Germany and Australia, people have made their intentions clear: they intend to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground and are willing to put their bodies on the line to do it. Even as the ability to freely protest is constrained in many parts of the world—recent violent crackdowns in the Philippines and Bangladesh mark a tragic uptick in a troubling trend—those who can, are standing up. Resistance is not fading away. It’s growing.

That’s what Break Free is about: escalating the global fight to keep fossil fuels underground and accelerating a just transition to the renewable energy driven economy we know is possible.

The good news is that the transition to renewable energy is coming sooner and faster than anyone thought. Ninety percent of the new electricity generation installed last year was renewable, leading to two years running of flat—though still too high—global carbon emissions.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Handcuffs 0411wrp opt(Photo: Skiddie2003)New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter, a former police officer, ruled that seven people awaiting trial in jail without adequate legal defense must be released.  The law is clear.  The US Supreme Court, in their 1963 case Gideon v Wainwright, ruled that everyone who is accused of a crime has a Constitutional right a lawyer at the state’s expense if they cannot afford one.   However, Louisiana, in the middle of big budget problems, has been disregarding the constitutional right of thousands of people facing trial in its most recent statewide public defender meltdown.   Judge Hunter ruled that the Constitution makes it clear: no lawyer, no jail.

In an eleven page ruling, Judge Hunter explained that since Louisiana has failed to adequately fund indigent defense it has violated the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and the Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process of seven men.  The men appearing before Judge Hunter could not be represented by the public defender because of budget cutbacks and private lawyers appointed by the court, who were denied funds for investigation and preparation of the cases, asked that the prosecutions be stopped and their clients released.  Hunter ordered the men released but stayed their release until his order could be reviewed on appeal.   

The Louisiana public defender system appears to be in the worst crisis of any state in the US.  It is a “disaster” according to The Economist, “broken” according to National Public Radio,  in “free fall” according to the New York Times, “dire” according to the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, and facing further cutbacks “on a scale unprecedented in the history of American public defense” according to the American Bar Association.   

While Louisiana incarcerates more of its people than any of the other 50 states, prosecutions across the state are starting to slow down because of inadequate public defense.

Published in Guest Commentary
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