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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpPeace 0817wrp opt(Photo: CPAC)An old saying asserts that falsehoods come in three escalating levels: "Lies, damn lies, and statistics." Now, however, we've been given an even-higher level of intentional deception: Policy speeches by Donald Trump.

Take his recent highly publicized address outlining specific economic policies he would push to benefit hard-hit working families. It's an almost-hilarious compilation of Trumpian fabrications, including his bold, statesmanlike discourse on the rank unfairness of the estate tax: "No family will have to pay the death tax," he solemnly pledged, adopting the right-wing pejorative for a tax assessed on certain properties of the dearly departed. Fine, but next came his slick prevarication: "American workers have paid taxes their whole lives, and they should not be taxed again at death." Workers? The tax exempts the first $5.4 million of any deceased person's estate, meaning 99.8 percent of Americans pay absolutely nothing. So Trump is trying to deceive real workers into thinking he's standing for them, when in fact it's his own wealth he's protecting.

What a maverick! What a shake-'em-up outsider! What an anti-establishment fighter for working stiffs!

Oh, and don't forget this: What a phony!

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 17 August 2016 08:46

Taking the Wind Out of Trump's Energy Policy

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coal 0817wrp opt(Photo: Decumanus)Black letters against a yellow background. Black letters against white. White letters against black. On yard signs. On T-shirts. On baseball caps. All with the same message: “Trump Digs Coal.”

Donald Trump says there are “ridiculous regulations [on coal] that put you out of business and make it impossible to compete.” He says if he is president, he would reduce those regulations. Those regulations that Trump doesn’t like are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect miners and the public.

In speech after speech in the coal-producing states, he has said, “We’re going to get those miners back to work . . . the miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania . . .  [In] Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.”  He also says the voters in coal-rich states “are going to be proud of me.”

As expected, his comments are met by extended cheers. However, other than splashing rhetoric to get votes, he doesn’t say how he plans to put miners back to work, nor does he address the issues of the high cost to create “clean coal,” or that a president doesn’t have absolute power to reduce federal legislation. But his words sound good to the mining industry in Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, the top five states in coal production.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BPat 0815wrp opt(Photo: Bbsrock )y now, one would think that Pat Buchanan would have long ago been relegated to the trash heap of history. Buchanan, a senior advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and who was once considered the go-to guy for paleoconservatives, seemed to have faded in importance from those heady days when he co-hosted CNN’s Crossfire, and gave the rousing and incendiary culture war speech at the 1992 Republican Party convention.

As The Australian’s Nikki Savva recently wrote, Buchanan “ran against the first George Bush for the Republican nomination, promising to build a wall or dig a giant ditch along the border between the US and Mexico. So it’s not a new idea. The same people cheering Trump now applauded Buchanan then — it’s just their numbers have grown.” Now, thanks to Donald Trump’s candidacy, and the band of white nationalists supporting him, Buchanan is in full pundefocating mode.

According to People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, Buchanan, the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority,” is all in with Trump’s claim that if he loses it will be because the election is rigged. And, furthermore, according to Buchanan, Trump’s loss could signal the beginning of a revolution in America.

In a WND column headlined “Yes, The System Is Rigged,” Buchanan – whose column is syndicated in a number of mainstream newspapers -- maintains that if the election “ends with a Clintonite restoration and a ratification of the same old Beltway policies, would that not suggest there is something fraudulent about American democracy, something rotten in the state?”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Woody 0812wrp opt(Photo: Al Aumuller)In 1950, Woody Guthrie signed a lease for an apartment in a Brooklyn building owned by Fred Trump (the father of Donald Trump). Earlier this year, Will Kaufman, a Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Central Lancashire, visited the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Woody Guthrie Archives (http://woodyguthriecenter.org/archives/), to do research.

Kaufman pointed out that “Guthrie’s two-year tenancy in one of Fred Trump’s buildings and his relationship with the real estate mogul of New York’s outer boroughs produced some of Guthrie’s most bitter writings.” Kaufman maintained that Guthrie’s writing -- which haven’t yet been published – “should be, for they clearly pit America’s national balladeer against the racist foundations of the Trump real estate empire.” Particularly in light of Donald Trump declaring last year that his “legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy.”

Guthrie had dealt with racism and inequality in several songs, recognizing that racism wasn’t only manifested in the South. According to Kaufman, “songs such as ‘The Ferguson Brothers Killing,’ … condemned the out-of-hand police killing of the unarmed Charles and Alfonso Ferguson in Freeport, Long Island, in 1946, after the two young black men had been refused service in a bus terminal cafe.”

The song “Buoy Bells from Trenton,” “denounced the miscarriage of justice in the case of the so-called ‘Trenton Six’ – black men convicted of murder in 1948 by an all-white jury in a trial marred by official perjury and manufactured evidence.”

Guthrie, a strong and active supporter of the great Paul Robeson – an underappreciated African American icon -- “stood shoulder to shoulder with Robeson, Howard Fast and Pete Seeger against the mobs of Peekskill, New York, where American racism at its ugliest had inspired 21 songs from his pen (one of which, ‘My Thirty Thousand,’ was recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco).”

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Chains 0810wrp opt(Photo: André Karwath)Some corporations engage in such abusive consumer rip-offs that they're just plain evil. But then there are some profiteers that dig even deeper into the dark void of their corporate souls to achieve the ultimate status: TRULY EVIL.

Consider the gang of debt collection firms that are thugglishly and lawlessly rampaging across the country ruthlessly abusing consumer rights and common decency. Susan Macharia, a California administrative employee, is one of thousands of middle-income and low-wage workers each year who get robbed by these relentless money grabbers. Out of the blue, she got a rude call in January from a collector demanding she pay $10,000 for a credit card debt she ran up in 2003.

Only, Ms. Macharia had no such debt. In fact, as she told the New York Times, she didn't even have a credit card until 2013. Yet, the collection agency declared that it had a copy of a 2006 court judgement for non-payment filed against her, addressed to her California residence — so, pay up, or else! But wait, she lived in Atlanta in 2006, not California. Nonetheless, ignoring facts, the callous collection outfit got a court to rubber stamp an order to let the creditor garnish Macharia's paycheck, effectively stealing $800 a month from her.

"I couldn't sleep," she told the Times, "and I lost so much weight because I couldn't eat. There was so much stress. And I knew I hadn't done it!" Luckily, however, a group named Public Law Center took her case, went straight to the company she supposedly owed, and showed its executives the obvious errors in the collection agency's debtor file. Embarrassed, the company called off its attack dogs and returned the money it had taken from her paychecks.

Few are so fortunate, however. This collection firm and hundreds like it are still marauding across the land, with some 3,000 people a month filing formal complaints that they're being hounded mercilessly for debts they do not owe. It amounts to legalized highway robbery.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Colorado 0810wrp opt(Photo: Hogs555)Two anti-fracking measures are one step closer to appearing on Colorado's Nov. 8 ballot. Local environmental groups have collected at least 98,492 signatures for measures 75 and 78, which will allow voters to decide the fate of oil and gas operations in the state. Now, the petitions only need to pass a validation review by the Secretary of State's office to make it onto the ballot.

As EcoWatch reported, initiative 75 would amend the state constitution to enable local governments the option to enact regulations more protective of health and safety than those required by the state, largely addressing the Colorado Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down local fracking bans approved by voters in the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont. Initiative 78 would create 2,500-foot buffer zones between homes, schools and sensitive areas like playgrounds and water sources, and all new oil and gas development.

Yes For Health and Safety, a coalition of groups pushing the two ballot initiatives, celebrated their achievement.

"I am thrilled that the people of Colorado will have their voices heard," said Tricia Olson, the executive director of Health and Safety Over Fracking. "I am so so grateful to our hundreds and hundreds of Colorado volunteers and to the organizations that stepped forward."

Published in Guest Commentary

J.P. SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Neo 0808wrp opt(Photo: White House)What’s a Neocon to do?

Bill Kristol is downright despondent after his failed search for an alternative to Donald Trump. Max Boot is indignant about his “stupid” party’s willingness to ride a bragging bull into a delicate China policy shop. And the leading light of the first family of military interventionism — Robert Kagan — is actually lining up Neoconservatives behind the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

At the same time, the Democrats have become the party of bare-knuckled, full-throated American Exceptionalism. That transformation was announced with a vein-popping zeal by retired general and wannabe motivational screamer John Allen at the Democratic convention in the City of Brotherly Love. During his “speech,” a few plaintive protests of “no more war” were actually drowned-out by Democrats chanting “USA-USA-USA!”

This is the same Democratic Party often criticized by Kagan & Co. as the purveyors of timidity, flaccidity, and moral perfidy.  It’s not that Democrats haven’t dropped bombs, dealt arms, and overturned regimes. They have. And they’ve even got the Peace Prize-winning Obama-dropper to prove it.  But unlike enthusiastically belligerent Republicans, the Dems are supposed to be the party that does it, but doesn’t really like to do it.

But now, they’ve got Hillary Clinton. And she’s weaponized the State Department. She really likes regime change. And her nominating convention not only embraced the military, but it sanctified the very Gold Star families that Neocon-style interventionism creates. It certainly created the pain of the Khan family who lost their son in the illegal war in Iraq. But the Dems didn’t mention that sad fact as they grabbed the flag away from the Republicans.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 08 August 2016 07:32

2020 Vision: Four Steps to Get There

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 0808wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Bernie Sanders started losing the election over 200 years ago, when Alexander Hamilton proclaimed "The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." And when James Madison argued for a republic that would make it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."

Little has changed over two centuries later, as the Democratic National Committee demonstrated when they "criticized and mocked" Senator Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. People with money and power are still appalled by the notion of a popular democracy. But something is different now. The American majority, driven by frustrated workers and well-connected young people, are better able to communicate, and to unify in pursuit of a progressive nation.

The coining of the phrase "2020 Vision" can be attributed to the Democracy Alliance, which focuses on three "key issue areas that form the core of our 2020 Vision – an inclusive economy, a fair democracy, and strong action on climate change."

The vision expounded here, in the four steps to follow, is focused on the cooperative efforts of the great majority of Americans, many of them young and few of them rich, who are beginning to understand the strength of the growing progressive movement.

Published in Guest Commentary

ED RODGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Manatee 0805wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)An illness that might be linked to toxic algae blooms combined with a record number of boat collisions has taken a toll on Florida's manatee population this summer. Since May, eight dead manatees have been found in the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, a waterway that's been fouled with microscopic toxic algae, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"We are still narrowing down the cause, but the hypothesis is still that the change of vegetation that the manatees are eating makes them susceptible to complications in their guts," Martine de Wit, lead veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. De Wit said the manatees have been found with little or no seagrass in their stomachs. The animals digestive systems were filled instead with algae commonly known as seaweed. Researchers say the animals succumb to illness so quickly they drown. Videos from residents have documented the manatee's struggle.

The water coming from Lake Okeechobee contains fertilizer, sewage and stormwater, which is flushed into portions of the Indian River, according to the Sentinel. The stretch of the Indian River has been "a killing field" for brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and many species of fish. The microscopic algae has turned waters a greenish, brown color, some spots as thick as guacamole, as previously reported by EcoWatch.

This isn't the only year toxic algae has impacted manatees. More than 150 manatees have died in the past four years, the Sentinel said.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist 0803wrp opt(Photo: Genusfotografen)What an amazing Democratic primary season it was! And we now have this happy result: WE WON!

"We" being the millions of young people, mad-as-hell working stiffs, independents, deep-rooted progressives, and other "outsiders" who felt The Bern and forged a new, game-changing, populist force of, by, and for grassroots Americans. True, this progressive-populist coalition did not win the White House on its first go 'round behind the feisty Sanders insurgency (which the the smug political establishment had literally laughed at when he began his run). But they are not laughing now, for even they can see the outsider revolt against the power elites won something even more momentous than the 2016 election: The future.

Back in April 2015, when the blunt, democratic socialist from Vermont issued a call for disenchanted voters to join him, not merely in a campaign for the presidency, but in a long-term movement to "revitalize American democracy so that government works for all of us," even his more optimistic backers couldn't have dreamed the movement would come so far so quickly. Let's reflect on some fundamental changes this progressive uprising has achieved in the past 15 months:

- It yanked the national debate out of the hands of the Washington and corporate elites: both devoted for more than 30 years to rigging all the rules to further enrich the 1 percenters at the expense of everyone else — and proved that future success requires Democrats to abandon their effete namby-pambyism and embrace the vision, message, and issues of unabashed populism.

Published in Guest Commentary
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