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Tuesday, 20 October 2015 07:40

Obama Cancels Arctic Drilling Leases

NIEL LAWRENCE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArcticBears(Photo: Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy)It just keeps getting better and better for the Arctic. First, Shell Oil pulled the plug on its horrific current drilling effort there two weeks ago.

Now the Obama administration has taken its first concrete steps to reduce future threats. Yesterday, it cancelled new lease sales scheduled for next year and 2017 in our Polar Bear Seas—the Chukchi and Beaufort—off the north Alaskan coast. And just said “No” to extension requests from Shell and others holding existing leases in the region.

This is big. Up to now, the federal government has treated Arctic Ocean drilling as a done deal. As recently as last May, the President tweeted: “we can’t prevent oil exploration completely in region.”

His administration focused on excluding some high value areas and saying drilling would be subject to high standards. It tentatively proposed to allow more leasing in the Arctic Ocean (and the Atlantic) after 2017.

But the tide has changed. Shell made a spectacle of itself, rushing to drill. Mother Nature asserted herself. Human error propagated in the harsh conditions.

Kayaktivists spotlighted Arctic drilling as a climate issue—rightly, because huge new investments in dirty fuels can’t be harmonized with accelerating the shift to a clean energy future.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaExxonOilSpill(Photo: Magnus Manske)I’m well aware that with Paris looming it’s time to be hopeful and I’m willing to try. Even amid the record heat and flooding of the present, there are good signs for the future in the rising climate movement and the falling cost of solar.

But before we get to past and present there’s some past to be reckoned with and before we get to hope there’s some deep, blood-red anger.

In the last three weeks, two separate teams of journalists—the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters at the website Inside Climate News and another crew composed of Los Angeles Times veterans and up-and-comers at the Columbia Journalism School—have begun publishing the results of a pair of independent investigations into ExxonMobil.

Though they draw on completely different archives, leaked documents and interviews with ex-employees, they reach the same damning conclusion: Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBushObamaTPP(Photo: Eric Draper)The negotiations and the sales push behind Washington's latest (and biggest) "free trade" agreement amounts to Kabuki theater.

What theater? Kabuki. It's a 17th-century form of Japanese drama, featuring elaborate sets and costuming, rhythmic dialogue and stylized acting and dancing. That does, indeed, nicely sum up the White House's production of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Its negotiations have been set in luxury resorts around the world, covered by elaborate secrecy; insiders wear the costumes of global corporate power; trade officials parrot rhythmic dialogue about high standards and incredible benefits for all. And the president himself is the main actor, dramatically proclaiming that TPP is "the most progressive" trade deal ever, and now he's doing a stylized political dance in hopes of winning congressional approval.

What a phenomenal show!

But it doesn't seem to be selling. Recent polls show broad public opposition to any more of these same old trade schemes, not only among Democrats, but independents and Republicans, too. Ten of the 2016 presidential candidates are against the deal. The counter movement is led by Democratic contender Bernie Sanders, who calls it flat-out "disastrous," and by GOP frontrunner Donnie Trump who dubs it "a horrible deal." Even corporate darling Carly Fiorina is "very uncomfortable with this deal." Congressional opposition is strong, and even Ford Motor Company — which was one of the corporate giants allowed inside the negotiations — has blasted it, calling on Congress to vote no.

Inexplicably, Obama views passage of this democracy-strangling corporate boondoggle as his "legacy-making" achievement, even though the only real support he has for it are Republican congressional leaders and the global corporate establishment. That's not just Kabuki; it's kooky. As the old aphorism puts it: "Tell me with whom you walk, and I'll tell you who you are."

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAdroughtEcoWatch(Photo: Tomas Castelazo)The Center for Investigative Reporting has outed California's biggest residential water users in The Wet Prince of Bel Air: Who Is California's Biggest Water Guzzler? The report, published earlier this month, found 365 California households each used more than 1 million gallons of water from April 2014 to April 2015.

"One million gallons is enough for eight families for a year, according to a 2011 state estimate, and many of California's mega-users pumped far more than that," says The Center for Investigative Reporting. "Of the total, 73 homes used more than 3 million gallons apiece, and another 14 used more than 6 million." The biggest user used a shocking 11.8 million gallons of water. City Lab points out that's as much water as 90 households use in an average year and enough water to fill 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

State officials would not reveal the names or addresses of these users out of privacy concerns. They would only give their zip codes. Bel Air tops the list with four of the five biggest water users in the state. The wealthy LA neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Westwood round out the top 10.

"San Diego's posh La Jolla beachfront community" and the "affluent suburbs of Contra Costa County in the Bay Area" also have a high concentration of what The Center for Investigative Reporting refers to as "mega-users."

Published in Guest Commentary

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaacnndebatesAllowing presidential debates to be the exclusive property of a pay-TV channel is another step toward privatizing democracy. (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay)

CNN aired the first Democratic debate last night, October 13. It also aired two Republican debates (a "main event" and an "undercard" debate) on September 16. On August 6, FOX held the first Republican debates (also televised in separate lower and upper tier candidate - based on polls - segments).

CNN bragged on its CNN Money site that "23 million [viewers] watched [the] GOP debate, a record for CNN." Adweek reported that 24 million viewers watched the first FOX GOP "main event" debate. As CNN Money stated in its article,

Historically the most popular events on TV have been shown by broadcast networks, not cable channels like CNN. According to Nielsen data, Wednesday's debate ranked as the #10 cable program ever, behind 8 college football games on ESPN and the Fox debate last month.

The Democratic debate viewership totals were not in at the time of the writing of this commentary, but an October 14 CNN Money article has already predicted that "preliminary Nielsen ratings indicate that CNN's Tuesday night debate was the highest-rated Democratic debate ever."

So the CNN and Fox cable news channels have enhanced their branding, audience and potential advertising and campaign advertising revenue by burnishing their images as "go-to" television political outlets - with the full cooperation of both major political parties who negotiated details of the debates with the two stations. 

Published in EditorBlog
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 10:45

Another Tea Party Assault on Democracy

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCarlPopeTeaParty(Photo: EcoWatch)The House Freedom Caucus is correct in lamenting that the media have trivialized their true goals by focusing on the personality of the next Speaker of the House. They are wrong to believe that a focus on their deep agenda would help their cause—for that agenda is to restore minority, not democratic, control of the “People’s House.”

The Tea Party wing of the House Republican party is seeking changes in the rules and procedures, changes designed to strip the Speaker of the ability to assemble a majority within the House and enable that majority to govern. They cloak their demands in the language of bottom-up democracy—let members offer whatever amendments they desire, let committees choose their own chairs, deny the Speaker the ability manage the flow of legislation on the House floor.

But their complaints about John Boehner’s leadership give away the game. Boehner, they claim, has betrayed conservatism by seeking legislative outcomes like lifting the debt ceiling or funding highways. These bills transparently enjoyed not only the support of a majority of the House, but a support of a majority of the Republican caucus. But to the Freedom Caucus these are treasonous compromises.

What the Freedom Caucus seeks is not more democracy, but a House in which a minority – actually 10 percent—of the House can shut down the government and destroy the full faith and credit of the U.S. government—unless in response to this blackmail wildly unpopular policies like defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Affordable Health Care are part of the package.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmFlag(Photo: John P. Salvatore)American 'exceptionalism' exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive. 

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees' Wages 

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees. 

Georgescu proclaimed: "This country has given me remarkable opportunities.." In return, he concludes, taxpayers should "provide tax incentives to business." 

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives 

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven't apologized for funding Saudi Arabia's attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, "I no longer love blue skies...The drones do not fly when the skies are gray." 

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that "If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future." But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold'sresearch has shown that "as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase." The military is encouraged to "drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths."

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAR15MassShootings(Photo: TheAlphaWolf)Shortly after the mass murders at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore., President Obama predictedthe extreme right wing would crank out press releases declaring the nation needs fewer gun control laws and more guns.

The rabid pro-gun lobby didn’t disappoint him.

Shortly after the mass murders in a Charleston, S.C., church in June, NRA board member Charles Cotton, an attorney who fired his first shot when he was four years old, had claimedif the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator “had voted to allow gun owners to carry their own weapons [into churches], eight of his church members  . . . might be alive.” After the shootings in Oregon, Cotton saidhad the students been carrying guns, there would have been no mass murder. “How carefree do you have to be with all of the mass shootings that are going on throughout America to not have something as simple and convenient as a small knife when you go to class, let alone a gun with which to protect yourself?” Cotton asked.

The Republican presidential herd called for even more guns in a culture that has made Americans inured to violence. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, “Stuff happens.”

One absurdity of arming all of America is that there are no requirements that anyone with a gun needs to know how to use that gun. The possibility of any one person with a hand gun being able to react faster than the shooter, be more accurate than the shooter, or not accidentally wounding or killing others is high. Heavily armed police, better trained in weapons than most Americans, did not kill the shooter, who wore body armor; the shooter killed himself.

Published in Guest Commentary

KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGMopesticides(Photo: EcoWatch)As an Episcopal pastor, Dan Hinkle is a man of peace and faith, but the issue of genetically modified foods (GMOs) makes him angry.

“We don’t know the long-term effects of genetic engineering; this is a questionable process,” said Hinkle, who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “We have been force fed something we should not have been. People are being hurt by this technology. If GMOs are so safe and feed the world, why not tell us about it? These issues have gotten me fired up.”

Hinkle’s concern about GMOs led him to become a founding member of GMO Free Lancaster, a non-profit group that is working to ban GMOs and pesticides in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Zoe Swartz, a mother, started the group after the first March Against Monsanto in May 2013.

“There was no one involved in the march in Lancaster so we started organizing,” she said.

Hinkle calls GMO Free Lancaster a “classic American grassroots organization of concerned citizens.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 06:48

Jim Hightower | A Flagrant Liar for President?

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCarly(Photo: Gage Skidmore)We've got a new darling in the GOP presidential race: Carly Fiorina!

Being the darling du jour, however, can be dicey — just ask Rick Perry and Scott Walker, two former darlings who are now out of the race, having turned into ugly ducklings by saying stupid things. But Fiorina is smart, sharp-witted, and successful. We know this because she and her PR agents constantly tell us it's so. Be careful about believing anything she says, though, for Darling Fiorina is not only a relentless self-promoter, but also a remorseless liar.

Take her widely hailed performance in the second debate among Republican wannabes, where she touched many viewers with her impassioned and vivid attack on Planned Parenthood. With barely contained outrage, Fiorina described a video that, she said, shows the women's health organization in a depraved act of peddling body parts of an aborted fetus. "Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking," said a stone-faced Fiorina, looking straight into the camera, "while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'"

Oh, the horror, the monstrosity of Planned Parenthood! And how moving it was to see and feel the fury of this candidate for president!

Only ... it's not true. Although she dared the audience, President Obama and Hillary Clinton to go watch it, turns out that there is no such video — no fetus with kicking legs and no demonic Planned Parenthood official luridly preparing to harvest a brain.

So did Fiorina make up this big, nasty lie herself, or did her PR team concoct it as a bit of showbiz drama to burnish her right-wing credentials and advance her political ambition? Or maybe she's just spreading a malicious lie she was told by some vicious haters of Planned Parenthood. Either way, there's nothing darling about it, much less presidential.

Published in Guest Commentary
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