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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

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Marcmaron 0803wrp opt(Photo: Sowhat12)In the ever-expanding universe of unique, diverse and extraordinary podcasts, “WTF With Marc Maron” – broadcast from Maron’s garage in Southern California -- stands out. In September 2009, Maron started his WTF podcast and it now garners, according to the WTF website, “more than six-million downloads each month.” While Maron, a longtime and notable comedian, who has appeared on numerous television talk shows and still tours the country on a regular basis doing what his website calls “raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy,” usually sticks to interviewing guests from the entertainment industry, probably his most notable and surprising interview occurred last year when President Barack Obama visited Maron’s garage.

Maron usually begins each episode with some housecleaning; could be a story about his cats; could be a report from one of his performances; could be a tribute to someone who recently passed away; could be extending heartfelt condolences to the families of those slaughtered in Orlando. Although once a politics-slinging voice on the late radio enterprise called Air America, these days, Maron generally stays away from directly discussing politics.

However, in the opening to Episode 729 (an interview with Roseanne Barr) Maron gave a unique, passionate and earnest spiel on what he perceives to be the emptiness and despair that many of the people – obviously including his listeners -- who may be voting for Donald Trump seem to be feeling.

Via email, I asked Maron what motivated his remarks. “Elections are emotional times and sometimes you just have to speak your mind,” Maron said. “I don't talk politics publicly that often anymore but I was trying to make some sense, empathetically, of a phenomenon I am trying to understand. I was thinking out loud. Which is what I do.”

Published in Guest Commentary

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wastewater 0801wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Florida regulators voted to approve new water quality standards that would increase the amount of carcinogenic toxins allowed in Florida's waterways.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a proposal by state regulators that would set new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the Sunshine State and revise regulations on 43 toxins, most of which are carcinogenic. State regulators claim the new plan will protect more Floridians than current standards, the Miami Herald reported.

"We have not updated these parameters since 1992," Cari Roth, chairwoman of the commission, told the Miami Herald. "It is more good than harm. The practical effect is, it is not going to increase the amount of toxins going into our waters."

Under the new proposal, acceptable levels of toxins in Florida waters will increase for more than 24 known carcinogens. The acceptable levels would decrease for 13 chemicals that are currently regulated.

The new regulations are based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method the Florida Department of Environmental Protection created, called "Monte Carlo." The method is being criticized by environmental groups, warning the new standards would allow polluters to dump high concentrations of dangerous chemicals into Florida's rivers and streams.

"Monte Carlo gambling with our children's safety is unacceptable," Marty Baum, of Indian Riverkeeper, said.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coin 0801wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like "Income inequality is simply not a significant problem." and "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before."

In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from corporation-funded candidates like Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of an unresponsive, irresponsible mainstream media.

1. Monopolies: Increasing Prices, Cutting Jobs

The Busch/Miller merger is the latest attack on competition, joining the recent surge toward oligopolies in the banking industry, pharmaceuticals and hospitals, wireless companies, and airlines. Contrary to any condescending claims that mergers contribute to price-lowering efficiencies, they have actually led to price increases in 75 percent of examined cases, according to a Northeastern University study. The resulting corporate profits are often used for investor-enriching stock buybacks.

And jobs are cut. When Merck took over Cubist Pharmaceuticals, the latter's research and development staff was eliminated, ending their studies of other promising medicines.

2. Finance: Now Costing Us More Than the Military

A Roosevelt Institute study estimates that "the financial system will impose an excess cost of as much as $22.7 trillion between 1990 and 2023. That comes to about $660 billion per year, more than the discretionary military budget. That's over $5,000 per U.S. household in excess financial costs.

Banks once spent the majority of their money on business investments; now it's just 15 percent. Rana Foroohar summarizes: "US companies today make more than ever before by simply moving money around."

Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like "Income inequality is simply not a significant problem." and "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before."

In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from corporation-funded candidates like Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of an unresponsive, irresponsible mainstream media.

Published in Guest Commentary
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