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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldCoin(Photo: United States Mint)Once upon a time in our Good Ol' US-of-A, presidential contenders and their political parties had to raise the funds needed to make the race. How quaint.

But for the 2016 run, this quaint way of selecting our candidates is no longer the case, thanks to the Supreme Court's malicious meddling in the democratic process in its reckless Citizens United decision. In that decision, the five members of the Corporate Cabal decreed that "non-candidate" campaigns can take unlimited sums of money directly from corporations. Therefore a very few wealthy powers can pour money into these murky political operations and gain unwarranted plutocratic power over the election process.

And looking at the fundraising numbers, those wealthy powers have definitely taken charge of the electoral game. These very special interests, who have their own presidential agendas, now put up the vast majority of funds and run their own private campaigns to elect someone who will do their bidding.

So far, of over $400 million raised to back candidates of either party in next year's race, half of the money has come from a pool of only about 400 people — and two-thirds of their cash went not to candidates directly but to corporate-run super PACs. To get a get a grasp at what this looks like, take a peek at the super PACs supporting Ted Cruz. Of the $37 million they have raised, $36 million was pumped in by only three interests — a New York hedge fund manager, a corporate plunderer living in Puerto Rico and the owners of a franking operation who've pocketed billions from the explosive use of this destructive drilling technology.

So while Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and gang are the candidates, the driving forces in this election have names like Robert Mercer, Norman Braman, Diane Hendricks, Dan and Farris Wilks, Toby Neugebauer and Miguel Fernandez.

Published in Guest Commentary

NADIA PRUPIS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEPAEcoWatch2(Photo: EcoWatch)The spill which sent toxic waste from an abandoned mine into a Colorado waterway last week released 3 million gallons of contaminates into the state’s 126-mile Animas River—not 1 million, as previously announced, according to new estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As the orange-hued sludge kept flowing through Colorado and into the San Juan River in New Mexico on Monday, the fallout from the massive accident continued to spread, with communities declaring states of emergency and the Navajo Nation vowing to take action against the EPA, which caused the spill.

The county of La Plata and the city of Durango, both in Colorado, each declared a state of emergency at Noon on Sunday.

La Plata County manager Joe Kerby said in a statement: “This action has been taken due to the serious nature of the incident and to convey the grave concerns that local elected officials have to ensure that all appropriate levels of state and federal resources are brought to bear to assist our community not only in actively managing this tragic incident but also to recover from it.”

Water quality tests along the rivers were still being conducted as of Monday afternoon. According to preliminary data released by the EPA on Sunday, arsenic levels in the Durango area were, at their peak, 300 times higher than normal. Lead was 3,500 times higher than normal. The waste also includes copper, zinc, aluminum and cadmium.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaWillieWeed(Photo: Cannabis Training University)Earlier this year, music legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard teamed up to make a pro-marijuana video titled "It's All Going to Pot."

And, apparently they were right, for I've now learned that even the state fair is going to pot — literally. A press release from the organizers of the DC State Fair exclaims: "It's true! For the first time ever, we're hosting a new contest for local cannabis growers to show off their plants' finest buds." They're not just blowing smoke, for it turns out that Washington, D.C., voters passed a referendum in November to legalize marijuana — even to allow locals to grow up to six plants at their residences.

With the nationwide renaissance in urban agriculture, why not invite the proud cultivators of the happy weed to show off the finest produce from their pot plots? After all, state fairs already have contests for the best ice cream, pickles, homebrew, compost, flower arrangements, crafts and such — so it's not a stretch to see who can win the Marijuana Bud Blue Ribbon. The buds are to be judged on characteristics such as appearance, smell and stickiness, but not such consumer-satisfaction qualities as "duration of high" or "development of mellowness." In fact, contrary to the judging of the Tastiest Tomato category, the entry form for the Best Bud Contest specifies rather sternly that judges "will not sample or consume your submission." That's probably smart, since the whole panel of judges could dissolve into uncontrollable giggles halfway through the sampling.

From the demonization of marijuana to legalization and now to celebration — it's a trajectory of progress that reflects some mellowing in society itself. As the DC State Fair people put it, "Now that it's legal, we wanted a way to highlight this new freedom while also showing off the agricultural talents of the District's people."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNagasakiNukeDeal(Photo: Charles Levy)This summer, there is every possibility that town hall meetings organized to discuss the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran will turn into replays of the crazy Tea Party-dominated 2009 town hall meetings over Obamacare. Christian Zionists are gearing up for a battle where money is no object, facts pose no impediment, and where anti-deal activists will be flooding as many meetings with members of Congress as possible.

Now that Pastor John Hagee has roundly condemned the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, he's ready to put boots on the ground, and his organization's money where his mouth is. The battle over whether the US Congress will support the deal may be, among other things, the first real test of the lobbying power of America's Christian Zionists, as Hagee's newly formed entity, a 501(c)(4) political lobbying group called the CUFI Action Fund is certain to be fully engaged. Headed by veteran Christian Right activist Gary Bauer, the CUFI Action Fund was launched last month at the annual Washington, DC meeting of Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an organization with a $7-+ million dollar budget and one that bills itself as the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States, with over two million members.

"Over the next 60 days, our focus will be the ill-conceived and stunningly bad proposed nuclear agreement with Iran," Bauer told the Christian Post. "We are going to be on Capitol Hill every day, both with lobbyists and we are also going to be in their email box and on their telephones and in their mail delivery and at their town hall meetings with people that are going to press members of Congress in both parties on this."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaIranCrisis2(Photo: Phillip Maiwald)For Christian Zionists and neo-conservatives, the discussion over what to do about Iran is nothing new. If it were up to folks like Michael Evans, Joel Rosenberg and John Bolton, the U.S. would have bombed Iran years ago. These days, however, as the current debate over the Iranian nuclear deal continues going nuclear, conservatives are charging the Obama administration with at best being naive and getting snookered by Iranian negotiators, and at worst, with leading Israelis "to the ovens," and staging a replay (only worse) of Neville Chamberlain's Munich deal with Hitler. Iran can't be trusted is a most commonly heard refrain.

Christian Zionists, who for years have been hankering for the U.S. to exercise a more muscular approach to Iran, are committing tens of millions of dollars to killing the deal. Republicans think they have found the Golden Ticket to finally winning over Jewish voters.

While all the yammering is going on, it is worth stepping back in time to see how we got to where we are with Iran. And for that, there's no better place to turn than to Stephen Kinzer's now twelve-year-old -- but still seminal -- book, All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror.

All The Shah's Men describes the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) maiden coup -- the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. The coup's code name was "Operation Ajax."

Published in Guest Commentary

DIERDRE FULTON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBernieAZ(Photo: EcoWatch)With recent polls showing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders closing the gap with rival Hillary Clinton and out-polling all of the GOP’s leading candidates, progressives nationwide will host coordinated house parties on Wednesday to further fuel the fire of enthusiasm for the self-described democratic socialist.

On July 29, Sanders will address thousands of supporters live via streaming video from a home in Washington, DC. According to his campaign, more than 82,000 people have indicated that they plan to attend one of the more than 3,000 simultaneous local organizing meetings.

“We have a technology available to us that Barack Obama and Howard Dean did not have,” the U.S. senator from Vermont said in an interview with the New York Times‘ First Draft. “And the idea that I can simultaneously be speaking to people located in 1,000 different places is pretty, pretty exciting.” The candidate’s address will be followed by a planning meeting for anyone who wants to stay online and discuss joining his campaign.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vox published Tuesday, Sanders elaborated on this organizing strategy.

“I often make the joke, although it’s not such a joke, that if we can spend half of the time in this country talking about why the middle class is collapsing, as opposed to football or baseball, we would revolutionize what’s going on in America,” Sanders told Vox.

Published in Guest Commentary

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOilBarrels1(Photo: EcoWatch)Advocates of “market-based” climate solutions paint pastel pictures reflecting smoothly adjusting macro-economic models. Competitive markets gradually nudged by carbon pricing glide into a low carbon future in a modestly disruptive fashion, much as sulfur pollution from power plants was scaled back in the 1990’s.

But commodity markets for oil and gas don’t work that way. These real markets are poised to savagely strand assets, upset expectations, overturn long established livelihoods and leave a trail of wreckage behind them—unless climate advocates start owning the fruits of their own success and preparing for the transition. Schumpeter’s destructive engine of capitalism is about to show its ugly side.

Two powerful forces are currently driving energy markets and climate outcomes.

Fossil fuel prices are indeed opening the door to climate solutions, but not through the gradual carbon pricing mechanisms so favored by economists (and recently, reluctantly beginning to be explored by conservative thinkers). Instead, the divergence between clean energy price curves, which fall rapidly with market share and fossil fuel prices, which rise with consumption, are about to collide explosively.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaahuckabeeMike Huckabee goes where no Republican has gone before in using the Holocaust opportunistically. (Photo: DonkeyHotey)
Just how far will a Republican Party presidential candidate go in criticizing President Obama and trying to grab a headline or two? To the edge of foolishness, senselessness, and recklessness ... but enough about Donald Trump! Over the weekend, however, former Arkansas governor trumped Trump with a tweet claiming that the Iranian nuclear deal was akin to "marching the Israelis to the door of the oven," an undisguised reference to the Holocaust.

Although roundly criticized by Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Huckabee spokeswoman maintained that Huckabee's statement was in line with his thinking that "the Iran deal is a bad deal, bad for America and bad for Israel."

In an interview with Breitbart News broadcast on Sirius/XM radio Saturday, Huckabee stated that, "He's [Obama] so naive he would trust the Iranians and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven."

"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians," Huckabee said. "By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people," he added.

"Whatever one's views of the nuclear agreement with Iran — and we have been critical of it, noting that there are serious unanswered questions that need to be addressed — comments such as those by Mike Huckabee suggesting the president is leading Israel to another Holocaust are completely out of line and unacceptable," said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaParthenon(Photo: Steve Swayne)Austerity, the tool of neoliberal capitalism, stands up to Greek democracy and stares it down. Oh well.

We’re remarkably comfortable with soulless economics.

Pope Francis, speaking this week in Paraguay, cried to the nations of Planet Earth: “I ask them not to yield to an economic model . . . which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.”

But we have yielded to this economic model, in thought, word and deed:

“At issue,” USA Today informs us, “is whether Greece has taken adequate steps to cut spending and raise taxes to deserve the new three-year, $59 billion infusion of funds it has requested, and whether it can be trusted to follow through on the austerity program it has proposed as the price for new loans.”

The pope’s words haven’t penetrated the pseudo-objective certainties of financial reporting, much less the dark sanctuaries of money and power. But they must. And eventually they will, or human evolution is dead. An allegedly impersonal economic structure, which quietly benefits the infinitesimally few who have far more than they need, is no foundation for our future.

This economic system is a relic of the Industrial Age, or perhaps it’s a relic of the Agricultural Revolution. It’s imbued with deep prejudices — human beings can be bought and sold, the nurturing of human life (women’s work) has no monetary value whatsoever — and reinforces our place outside the circle of life, separated from one another and from our deepest values.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOilEcoWatch(Photo: Alfonso)Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met behind closed doors with House and Senate Democrats Tuesday to talk about her positions on key issues. According to the members of Congress who attended the lunch, she told them that climate change can be a winning issue for Democrats, especially among younger voters, if they can develop a message to persuade voters that action is essential.

“She was incredible,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. “She really relates [climate change] to the current political communities and how we have to do a better job. We know the policy, but we have to do a better job on the politics.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who co-chairs the House Progressive Caucus, also gave Clinton’s session a favorable review.

“I thought it was pretty solid,” he said. “Some of the progressive issues and members have kind of been crying in the wilderness for a while, and now these issues like climate change, income inequality and the jobs agenda are resonating with the public. The fact that the progressive causes and organizations feel more in touch with and included with Hillary now is a mark that she understands that.”

“You hear issues from her when she’s out on the stump that are pretty much identical with what progressives are saying in the caucus,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

According to the National Journal, “Clinton framed global warming as a pressing and serious threat and touted the climate credentials of John Podesta, the chairman of her 2016 campaign and a former climate adviser to President Obama.”

However, she also went easy on coal, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, who represents the coal mining state of West Virginia. He invited Clinton to tour West Virginia’s coal country.

Published in Guest Commentary
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