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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gold 0718wrp opt(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines)Their unspoken goal is a two-class nation, with a heavily armed security force to quell resistance from the more outspoken members of the lower class. It may be somewhat of an unwitting goal, since narcissistic wealth-takers, as they build their fortunes, tend to lose their ability to empathize with others.

Barack Obama said, "We are not as divided as we seem." But those are just feel-good words. A middle class still exists, but in weakened form, as many families from the once-dominant mainstream of society continue to move up or down, mostly down. The conspirators in the breakdown of the middle class have complementary roles that allow them to divide the country as they perpetuate the myth of prosperity for all.

Congress: The Kingpins

Gun control is the most flagrant example of Congressional disdain for the middle class. Over 90% of Americans want background checks, but Congress has failed to act. The House of Representatives even rejected an amendment that would have allowed research into causes of gun violence.

The list goes on and on:

Over 90% favor laws on clean air and water, but Congress has proposed to weaken them. Almost 80% want to increase Social Security benefits. 83% want Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Nearly 90% support mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. About two-thirds of polled Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes. 90% support the protection of public lands.

Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Racehorse 0715wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Kubina)An old cowboy aphorism offers this advice: "Speak the truth. But ride a fast horse."

I relived this truism last weekend in Orlando, Florida, where I spent two hot, muggy days wrangling over policy issues as one of the members of the Democratic Party's national platform committee. Depending on the moment and the issue, the experience was both invigorating and infuriating, with refreshing outbreaks of broad and bold democratic vision, interspersed with too many rigid, Tammany Hall tactics used to dictate corporate-friendly policies. Bernie Sanders' 40-percent minority of platform members (of which I was one) managed to "Bern" the platform with more than two dozen big and very important amendments. As a result, instead of the same old business-as-usual blah-blah of party platforms, Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, are now on public record in support of the most progressive policy agenda in decades.

More about those specific policies in a moment, but first, let's get on that horse.

The worst development at the Orlando meeting was the Clinton campaign's acquiescence to the wet dream of global corporate powers: The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The platform's draft language on this horrendous TPP trade scam actually seemed to endorse it! So Sanders' forces went all out to replace such a pusillanimous surrender with an amendment to flat-out kill TPP.

I sponsored the Sanders alternative, dubbing it "a form of political Viagra to stiffen the spine of our party." Our amendment prompted panicky parliamentary manipulations by Clintonites to doctor their language so it would be a bit less wimpy — and also to block my amendment from even being considered. But Sanders' savvy policy staff outflanked them, so we forced them to debate and vote on our proposal — in view of C-SPAN's national TV audience.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 13 July 2016 15:02

Trump vs. the World on the Climate Crisis

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Glacier 0713wrp opt(Photo: Luca Galuzzi)A groundbreaking study was released today by the Sierra Club Political Committee showing Donald Trump would be the only world leader to deny the science and dangers of climate change if elected president. The data in the report shows that Trump could possibly be the only world leader not calling for urgent climate action.

"Donald Trump's failure to acknowledge basic climate science wouldn't just leave him isolated on the world stage as president, it would undermine our relationships with key allies and threaten our ability to work effectively internationally," Sierra Club Global Climate Policy Director John Coequyt said.

"Trump's climate science denial would make him a global laughingstock if it wasn't so dangerous. Every single leader on Earth—from Germany to India to Somalia to Japan—recognizes that the climate crisis is happening and demands the world's attention, but Trump is sticking his head in the sand while the seas are rising."

The report shows a global consensus on climate change among world leaders and provides comprehensive research that identifies attributable, verifiable statements, quotes and actions from current world leaders, including Heads of State and Heads of Government. They all acknowledge climate science and the need for climate action. Many of the nations mentioned in the report have signed the Paris climate accord and submitted their climate plans to the United Nations.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bullets 0713wrp opt(Photo: Thewellman)“Put those damn weapons down. I'm not going to tell you again, goddamn it. Get those goddamn weapons down.” That was the first command of one of Louisiana’s most revered figures, General Russell Honore, when he arrived in New Orleans in 2005 to direct the military recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The General’s directions have not been followed in Baton Rouge.

Since the police killing of Alton Sterling, thousands of people in Baton Rouge have been non-violently protesting day and night all over the city. There has been no arson in Baton Rouge, no looting, no burning cars, no windows broken, and no people beaten. Police report that a rock or other material was thrown at them but there is no video of such action nor have there been any arrests for such actions.

Despite these non-violent protests, around 200 people have been arrested and the police have shown a militarized and aggressive response.

When Ferguson police showed a militarized response to protestors, General Honore was again plainspoken. "Any time we have policemen pointing weapons at American citizens, they need to go through retraining." Baton Rouge police, who have a documented history of brutality, clearly need retraining.

After Ferguson, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a scathing report on the police response to protests in Ferguson and they came up with numerous recommendations for law enforcement.   While the police have smartly pulled back from protests at the scene of the Sterling killing, many of the DOJ recommendations are being ignored in other protests around Baton Rouge.

Published in Guest Commentary

GWENDOLYN WU OF TAKEPART ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Styrofoam 0708wrp opt(Photo: Acdx)San Francisco residents will soon have to drink their to-go cups of coffee out of something else, because those soft Styrofoam cups will be no more.

The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a ban last week on the sale of polystyrene foam, popularly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam. Foam packing, cups and mooring buoys will be prohibited starting Jan. 1, 2017.

"I just passed the toughest anti-Styrofoam law in the country and we did it unanimously," Board of Supervisors President London Breed wrote on her Facebook page after the vote. "This is a huge step for our environment and health. San Francisco is on our way to leading the country on environmental policy—again!"

Breed spearheaded the latest ban, extending a 2006 ordinance that ordered prepared-food merchants to stop using all polystyrene containers. Plastic foam products for crafts and insulation will not be affected by the ban.

"The reason why this was passed is that it's not practically recyclable, causes a unique harm in the environment and there were better alternatives," Jack Macy, commercial zero waste senior coordinator for San Francisco's Department of the Environment, told TakePart.

Polystyrene disintegrates slowly in landfills, taking centuries to break down entirely. There are a few polystyrene recycling centers in San Francisco, such as GreenCitizen and Recology, but they can only make a small dent in the 25 billion polystyrene to-go cups Americans throw away annually.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 06 July 2016 14:26

Zero-Waste Markets Hit the US

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fillery 0706wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Zero-waste markets are coming to the U.S. While very popular in Europe, this trend in grocery shopping isn’t as well known in North America.

The Fillery, brainchild of Sarah Metz, is “a place where one fills empty containers with goods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, coffee, tea, spices, oils and the like,” according to the shop’s KickStarter page. Customers can bring their own reusable containers to the shop or purchase compostable ones to place their products in.

“We aim to improve the health of our community in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and the environment by offering alternatives to the plastic entombed, chemical laden options which are ubiquitous in both pantries and landfills worldwide,” reads the KickStarter page.

Metz’s motivation for The Fillery came after a self-realization, she wrote in her KickStarter bio.

After lots of experimenting with recipes from my extensive library of cookbooks (thanks, mom!), I’ve acquired a cabinet full of ingredients that will likely go bad before I finish them. A few days ago, I counted 10 types of flour in my cupboard. I see at least four problems with this: 1. food waste is a huge problem. 2. packaging waste is a huge problem 3. it is expensive, and 4. it takes up too much space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Combine this with my frustration in trying to find conscientiously sourced, responsibly packaged, healthy groceries nearby, and you have my motivation for The Fillery.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Prison 0606wrp(Photo: Andreas Bohnenstengel)Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) and 8 individuals filed a class action voting rights challenge for 70,000 people in Louisiana saying they are illegally prohibited from voting. The VOTE suit charges that the Louisiana legislature wrongfully and unconstitutionally passed a law disallowing people convicted of felonies from voting if they are on probation or parole. 

VOTE’s suit points out that the Louisiana Constitution only prohibits people who are “under an order of imprisonment” from voting and that this was intended only to prohibit people actually in prison or escapees from voting. The VOTE suit further notes that the Louisiana state constitutional convention voted down an attempt to restrict voting for people on probation.  

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 70,000 people in Louisiana who are probation or parole. The US Department of Justice reports over 41,000 people in Louisiana are on probation and over 27,000 are on parole. It was filed in Baton Rouge and names the State of Louisiana, the Governor and the Secretary of State as defendants.

VOTE is an organization that began in 1987 as the Angola Special Civics Project, a group at the Louisiana Penitentiary run by prisoners who had become paralegals. VOTE, now run by Norris Henderson, was officially created in 2003 when it focused on voter registration for pre-trial detainees and people convicted of misdemeanors. Henderson is a nationally recognized expert in human rights for prisoners and ex-offenders.   

VOTE has registered thousands of people to vote. It educates the public about the collateral consequences of convictions that inhibit successful reentry. VOTE has partnered with Tulane Medical School to provide medical care for people leaving prison and has partnered with other organizations to win several recent victories including Ban the Box and a new public housing policy.

Published in Guest Commentary

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Louisiana 0629wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Residents of a Louisiana island are among the first American climate refugees. Encroaching water is forcing them off the land they have lived on for generations.

Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, has been inhabited by tribal communities since the Trail of Tears era. The island, which used to be the size of Manhattan, has lost 98 percent of its land over the last 60 years, MSNBC reported.

“We had our gardens, we had our cattle, we had our chickens, so we had all our livestock here, we had all of our vegetation so we were good,” Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe said. “We were self sufficient in this little community here.”

Now residents can’t farm on the land. The two-lane road connecting the island to terra firma often floods during storms, isolating the island for various lengths of time, sometimes years. When the road isn’t flooded, the water is lapping at the shoulders of the road.

Many Isle de Jean Charles residents have already relocated, but about 70 still remain. They now have to decide between staying or relocating as their island quickly disappears.

But Isle de Jean Charles don’t have to relocate on their own.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Kochs 0629wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch are reaching into their deep pockets to fund Republican candidates in the tight Senate races in Ohio and Nevada, two states that have seen powerful political and corporate interests block progress in renewable energy.

According to NBC News, the Koch Super PAC Freedom Partners Action Fund has announced it will buy $2.7 million television and digital ads to help Ohio Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman defeat Democrat Ted Strickland in the key swing state. The candidates are currently locked in a dead heat with each polling at 42 percent.

This news comes after the Super PAC’s announcement last week that it is spending $1.2 million on advertising to boost Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck’s race against Democrat and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to replace Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. That race is also pretty much tied.

The Koch brothers have notoriously dumped wild sums of money on conservative causes and campaigns, with more than $88 million in traceable funding to groups attacking climate change science, policy and regulation. According to NBC News, the two latest $3.7 million ad buy brings the Super PAC’s spending to $19.3 million in an effort to control the Senate.

So who are the Koch-approved Senate choices for Ohio on Nevada?

Rob Portman, who has been in office since 2011, is a pro-business conservative who has a prominent track record of choosing fossil fuel interests over environmental protection. As Cinncinati.com reported, he was a vocal opponent to the Obama administration’s regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and has introduced an amendment that would let states opt out of those clean power rules.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eye 0627wrp opt(Photo: Alexageev)This year's freakish presidential election has now devolved into an ethnic brouhaha between two foreigners: A Mexican and a German.

The "Mexican" is Gonzalo Curiel. He's a federal judge who was actually born in Indiana, raised and educated as a Hoosier, and is presently presiding over a U.S. district court in San Diego. The German is Donald Drumpf, soon to be the Republican nominee for America's highest office. Drumpf has had fraud cases against him by former students of his Trump U (U as in "university"). These students who paid tens of thousands of dollars say they were conned out of their hard-earned money by Trump U. The judge presiding over this case is Gonzalo Curiel, and Trump the candidate recently became unhinged over the idea that "a foreigner" would be allowed to pass judgment on an upstanding American citizen like himself.

But, wait — Curiel is a full-blooded American citizen! No he's not, cried The Donald, he's "a Mexican," pointing to the jurist's family heritage. But, wait again — Donnie himself is not pure-blood Americano (only Native Americans can claim that). In fact, The Donald's forbearers have been in our country for only about 120 years. His grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf, immigrated to the U.S. from Kallstadt, Germany, about 120 years ago and Anglicized his name from Drumpf to Trump.

Still, the GOP's nativist and racist 2016 flag bearer insists that even though we Americans are proud to be a nation of immigrants, an American with Mexican genes should be disqualified from overseeing the fraud trials, for he'd inherently be biased against the candidate who has promised to "build a wall" between the U.S. and Mexico. So, does his screwy, self-serving claim that one's background trumps one's commitment to fairness also mean that a Muslim -American judge should also be disqualified from any trial of his wrongdoings, since the GOP presidential wannabe says he intends to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S.? "Absolutely," he said flatly.

Published in Guest Commentary
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