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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGoldWealth(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines)A recent posting detailed how upper middle class Americans are rapidly losing ground to the one-percenters who averaged $5 million in wealth gains over just three years. It also noted that the global 1% has increased their wealth from $100 trillion to $127 trillion in just three years.

The information came from the Credit Suisse 2014 Global Wealth Databook (GWD), which goes on to reveal much more about the disappearing middle class.

1. Each Year Since the Recession, America's Richest 1% Have Made More Than the Cost of All U.S. Social Programs

In effect, a reverse transfer from the poor to the rich. Even as conservatives blame Social Security for being too costly.

Much of the 1% wealth just sits there, accumulating more wealth. The numbers are nearly unfathomable. Depending on the estimate, the 1% took in anywhere from $2.3 trillion to $5.7 trillion per year. (All numeric analysis is detailed here.)

Even the smaller estimate of $2.3 trillion per year is more than the budget for Social Security ($860 billion), Medicare ($524 billion), Medicaid ($304 billion), and the entire safety net ($286 billion for SNAP, WIC [Women, Infants, Children], Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing).

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHalloween(Photo: Toby Ord)For around $300.00, you can purchase your own Halloween Hell House Kit. Back in the day when the Rev. Jerry Falwell was roaming the planet, he hit upon a fantabulous money-making/soul-saving scheme. Why give over Halloween to the hell raisers, candy scavengers and trick or treaters, he thought? Let's get in on the action. And that's precisely what he did.

Churches around the country would set up "Hell Houses," places that young people could visit and get the crap scared out of them.

According to psmag.com's Marc Herman, "New Destiny Christian Center, a Colorado-based evangelical ministry, is the specialist in the programs." Over the years, Hell Houses have become remarkably adaptable to current issues.

While $299.00 will get you the basic kit, a few more bucks will get you "plug-in 'modules,' allowing a particular hell house to address specific sins in one's own neighborhood. The online brochure starts off with a new 'domestic abuse' stage set, moving on to the 'rave scene,' 'drunk driving,' and the 'gay wedding.'"

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 31 October 2014 07:03

Twelve Ways Jim Crow Is Winning in 2014

BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJimCrow(Photo: Ben Shahn)Jim Crow is already the big winner in this year's election.

The corporate elite needs him to gouge the planet, wage perpetual imperial war and rule the rest of us.

So the voting rights of millions of student, elderly, black, Hispanic and other citizens are being lynched.

Which may now decide control of the US Senate, many state legislatures...and the White House in 2016.

The corporate-Christian right has long used the drug war to disenfranchise millions of citizens of youth and color. Gay and reproductive rights, feminism and the politics of hate have mobilized Christian crusaders to flood the polls for the GOP.

But we have turned the corner on the culture war. With the winding down of marijuana prohibition, widespread gay rights victories and more, Republicans now need the outright destruction of democracy itself to win an election...

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaVotingBooth(Photo: Electiontechnology)Democracy! A word, a way of life, our highest ideal: Everyone is equal; no one is marginal.

I still feel the force of this word, though the middle syllable — "mock" — grows increasingly dominant when I hear it, especially now, as election season rolls around again. The enormity of my indifference to this election is balanced by something that feels like grief. The system we live under is . . .

Words fail me. Pardon me while I quote Nietzsche.

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"

Writing is either an act of hope or an act of cynicism, and I have always committed myself to reaching for the former in my commentary on current events, no matter how disturbing the events may be. But in this moment, I feel myself walking the edge of cynicism: The system we live under is a joke, a farce, a calculated lie. I say this as someone who believed in it deeply, who embraced our history of expanding inclusiveness.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Renewable energy may currently make up only a small percentage of U.S. energy generation capacity, but it’s one of the fastest growing sectors.

Renewable energy generation—primarily wind and solar power—provided more than 40 percent of the new energy capacity in the U.S. in the first three quarters of this year, according to the latest U.S. Federation Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) Energy Infrastructure Update. Oil, nuclear and especially coal provided little new capacity, with renewables outstripping them more than 35 times. Only natural gas, driven by the growth of fracking, showed more growth, and many industry observers think its growth potential is finite.

The new installed capacity of natural gas declined compared to the first three quarters of 2013, from 6,643 megawatt (MW) to 5,153. Wind was the big winner, upping its installed capacity from 965 MW to 1,614 in that period. In September, new wind capacity led the way with 367 MW, followed by natural gas with 114. Coal showed no increase in existing capacity so far this year. Overall, new capacity from all forms of energy declined from 11,452 in the first three quarters of last year to 8,860 this year.

Among FERC’s project updates is that Kern County, California’s Techachapi Wind Energy Storage project is now up and running. The South California Edison Project, FERC says, “consists of an 8 MW-four-hour (32 MWh) lithium-ion battery and a smart inverter system, [and] will help store energy from the existing 5,000 wind turbines and any future additions in the Techachapi Wind Resource Area. Housed inside a 6,300 square foot facility, it is the largest battery energy storage in North America.” Such projects bode well for the continued growth of wind power.

Published in Guest Commentary

DAVID SIROTA ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooze(Photo: Chris huh)When Colorado voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana, the state did not merely break new ground in the ongoing battle over narcotics policy. It also bolstered an innovative new political message that compares cannabis to alcohol.

Two years later, that comparison is being deployed in key marijuana-related elections throughout the country, and drug reform advocates are so sure marijuana is safer than alcohol, they are now challenging police to a "drug duel" to prove their point.

The proposal for the duel from David Boyer, an official with the Maine chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, came after South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins announced his opposition to a municipal referendum to legalize marijuana possession.

"Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus it's not even funny," Googins told a local newspaper.

In response, Boyer has challenged the police chief to a "hit for shot" duel — for every shot of alcohol Googins takes, Boyer would take a toke of marijuana, and the public would be able to see who is in worse physical condition in the end.

Published in Guest Commentary

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBanksyReaper(Photo: Banksy)With a mere 11 days remaining until election day, the news appears grim for the Democratic Party. The general consensus seems to be that it is more likely than not that the Republicans will retake the Senate. And that, Democratic Party diehards argue, would pretty much be the end of the world. Fundraising emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are growing increasingly shrill, frantic, and frequent. The post-electoral circular firing squad has begun to polish its weapons.

Clearly, we are all doomed, they tell us, unless a few Democratic candidates can somehow hold the line. Let’s take a look at some of those brave few, shall we? In Kentucky, we have Allison Grimes, who cannot bring herself to admit whether or not she cast a vote for our center-right president. In Alaska, we have Mark Begich, who can’t get enough of the Keystone Pipeline. In Arkansas we have Mark Pryor, who couldn’t quite bring himself to support limited gun control measures in the wake of Newtown. In Georgia we have Michelle Nunn, who appears to be deeply ambivalent about the Affordable Care Act.

Hmmm. It seems as though a common thread here is that these candidates, all of whom are in tight races, are running as far and as fast from many progressive positions as they can. Yet they want our money and our votes. Because - they tell us - the Republicans will literally bring about the apocalypse and, even if none of these candidates can bring themselves to act like Democrats, they’ve still got that D after their name. Which, of course, is all that matters.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 23 October 2014 11:08

Fracking Threatens Millions of Californians

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDrillingEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)A new report shows that 5.4 million Californians—more than 14 percent of its 38.3 million population—live within a mile of an oil or gas well, and almost four million of those, or nearly 70 percent, are Hispanic, Asian or African-American, according to a new Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report Drilling in California: Who’s at Risk? Non-whites make up slightly more than 40 percent of California’s total population.

“California’s communities of color have long been dumping grounds for industrial pollution—and our analysis shows that fracking is poised to pile on more if the oil and gas industry has its way,” said NRDC senior scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and one of the report’s authors. “From polluted skies to contaminated drinking water and hazardous waste, communities of color in California get way more than their fair share. If the oil and gas industry gets their way, drilling—and the environmental and health threats from fracking, acidizing and other technologies—will be piled onto communities already staggering under smoggy skies and unsafe water. From Los Angeles to the state’s farms and ranches, this industry must not be allowed to poison our people’s health.”

Unfortunately, it already is. Nearly two million of those people close to the wells already live in a community with a disproportionate amount of air, water and soil pollution, due to nearby industrial plants, hazardous waste facilities and toxic clean-up sites as well as transportation corridors. Nearly 92 percent of those residents are non-white, a group at outsized risk for respiratory conditions like asthma.

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMyLai(Photo: Ronald L. Haeberle)“When somebody asks, ‘Why do you do it to a gook, why do you do this to people?’ your answer is, ‘So what, they’re just gooks, they’re not people. It doesn’t make any difference what you do to them; they’re not human.’

“And this thing is built into you,” Cpl. John Geymann testified almost 44 years ago at the Winter Soldier Investigation, held in Detroit, which was sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. “It’s thrust into your head from the moment you wake up in boot camp to the moment you wake up when you’re a civilian.”

The cornerstone of war is dehumanization. This was the lesson of Nam, from Operation Ranch Hand (the dumping of 18 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, on the jungles of Vietnam) to My Lai to the use of napalm to the bombing of Cambodia. And the Winter Soldier Investigation began making the dehumanization process a matter of public knowledge.

It was a stunning and groundbreaking moment in the history of war. Yet — guess what? — the three-day hearing, in which 109 Vietnam veterans and 16 civilians testified about the reality of American operations in Vietnam, doesn’t show up on the “interactive timeline” of the Department of Defense-sponsored website commemorating, as per President Obama’s proclamation, the 50-year anniversary of the war.

Published in Guest Commentary

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHandsUp(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)Over the weekend, while a white riot occurred in New Hampshire over something to do with pumpkins, grand jury deliberations continued in Ferguson, Missouri, in the case of the killing of Michael Brown. A parallel federal civil rights investigation into the shooting continues. Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, has offered his version of the story to both – and his testimony has now been leaked to the press. Unsurprisingly, it contradicts the eyewitness accounts that have thus far emerged in the case, and continues to paint Brown as the an aggressor who had to be killed in the incident.

Wilson claims that it was Brown who lunged through the window of Wilson’s vehicle. That it was Brown who left Wilson with multiple facial injuries. That it was Brown who went for Wilson’s gun. That it was Brown who so terrified Wilson, that the six-year police veteran shot him, leaving blood splattered on the inside of the police car. That it was Brown who, in running away and attempting to surrender, was such a significant threat that Wilson was compelled to shoot him at least five more times as Brown fled.

Wilson’s testimony is consistent with the narrative that the Ferguson police department has been attempting to sell since the day of the incident: Wilson was threatened; Wilson was attacked. Wilson feared for his life; Wilson defended himself with lethal gunfire against a man who stood at least 35 feet away. Parts of that narrative have already been shown to be false. Brown was closer to 100 feet away when Wilson fired the killing shots, far outside the distance at which he could have posed an imminent threat. The facial wounds that Wilson suffered at Brown’s hands? They were so minor that Wilson never even bothered to consult with medics who were on the scene. Piece by piece, the threads of the police narrative are becoming unwoven.

This is, of course, the rankest nonsense, but the fact that it has been leaked to the press suggests that this nonsense might be taken seriously, that the grand jury might actually find it credible that Wilson feared for his life, both in the initial confrontation, and in the seconds that followed. If that is indeed the direction they are leaning, they will ignore Wilson’s accountability for Brown's murder.

Published in Guest Commentary
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