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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hillary 0418wrp opt(Photo: C-SPAN)If, sad to ponder, the presidential election comes down to Hillary Clinton vs. a Republican, we'll be left either way with a business-friendly neocon White House. Given Hillary's past deceits and reversals, it's easy to see why she doesn't inspire trust among the American people.

1. Environment

"I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change." --Hillary Clinton, 11/29/15

Greenpeace estimates that the Clinton campaign has taken $4.5 million from fossil fuel lobbyists and donors, and Naomi Klein and Grist have reported on all the money received from ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips and other oil sources. In response, Hillary explained, rather incoherently, "I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me."

2. War

"Is there really any argument that America must remain a preeminent leader for peace and freedom..?" --Hillary Clinton, 10/31/06

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, an advisor to the United Nations, called Hillary "the candidate of the War Machine." In her book, "Hillary's Choice," author Gail Sheehy claimed it was Hillary who encouraged the president to bomb Kosovo. Then, as Secretary of State in 2011, she strongly supported war in Libya, a country which today is overwhelmed with crime and joblessness and a lack of basic necessities. She backed the escalation of the Afghanistan war, and in 2012, according to Sachs, she was largely responsible for the obstruction of peace efforts in Syria.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hastert 0415wrp opt(Photo: Dennis Hastert)Will former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a confirmed serial child molester, be held to any serious legal accountability? That’s a question that Dennis Hastert himself would have quickly and undoubtedly answered in the affirmative more than a dozen years ago when he was a congressman from Illinois, and then Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

To look back on it now, it was a remarkable series of events:

In December 1998, after then Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned due to, among other things, a series of sexual peccadilloes, and after calling on President Bill Clinton to resign during the impeachment debate, Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) told a stunned House that he himself would not assume the speakership as planned, and would resign his seat in Congress. His resignation came after he was threatened with public disclosure of a series of his sexual peccadilloes. (Ironically, Livingston’s seat was taken by David Vitter, became the first popularly elected Republican U.S. senator from Louisiana and subsequently admitted to having been involved in a prostitution ring run, which only recently finally put the kibosh on his career.)  

Next in line for the speakership was Dennis Hastert, the mild-mannered, occasionally gruff, but seemingly harmless congressman from Illinois. But Hastert had his own major secrets, and it took more than fifteen years for them to see the light of day.

Before revelations that Hastert had sexually abused students while he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, Hastert was all about protecting the children.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TownMeeting 0413wrp opt(Photo: Redjar)In my travels and conversations this year, I've been encouraged that grassroots people of all progressive stripes (populist, labor, liberal, environmental, women, civil libertarian, et al.) are well aware of the slipperiness of "victory" and want Washington to get it right this time. So over and over, Question No. 1 that I encounter is some variation of this: What should we do!?! How do we make Washington govern for all the people? What specific things can my group or I do now?

Thanks for asking. The first thing you can do to bring about change is show up. Think of showing up as a sort of civic action, where you get to choose something that fits your temperament, personal level of activism, available time and energy, etc. The point here is that every one of us can do something — and every bit helps.

Simply being there matters. While progressives have shown up for elections in winning numbers, our movement then tends to fade politely into the shadows, leaving public officials (even those we put in office) free to ignore us and capitulate to ever-present, ever-insistent corporate interests. No more. Grassroots progressives — as individuals and through our groups — must get in the face of power and stay there.

This doesn't require a trip to Washington, though it can. It can be done right where you live — in personal meetings, on the phone, via email and letters, through social media (tweet at the twits!), on petitions, and any additional ways of communication that you and other creative people can invent. Hey, we're citizens, voters, constituents — so we should not hesitate to request in-person appointments to chat with officials back home (these need not be confrontational), attend forums where they'll be (local hearings, town hall sessions, speeches, meet & greets, parades, ribbon-cuttings, receptions, etc). They generally post their public schedules on their websites. Go to their meetings, ask questions, or at least say hello, introduce yourself, and try to achieve this: MAKE THEM LEARN YOUR NAME.

Published in Guest Commentary

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Windmills 0413wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Here’s a headline for climate action advocates to love: Wind and Solar Crushing Fossil Fuels. It’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s summary of the current state of play in global energy markets, and it’s got striking data points to support it.

In 2015, record investment in new wind and solar electricity was twice as high as dwindling capital flowing into gas and coal. More remarkable, for the first time clean energy investment topped oil and gas capital expenditures combined. Because the prices of wind and solar are plummeting, the volume of new energy being constructed grows faster than the dollars being spent: annual wind installations have doubled four times since 2000, solar a stunning seven! New bids for wind in North Africa and solar in Mexico are coming in below $0.04 kwh, half the price of new coal plants with pollution controls that meet modern health standards.

But here’s a sobering counter-point, in a forward by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to another report on stunning rates of renewables growth: Sustainable, renewable energy is growing, but not quickly enough to meet expected energy demand. And the BNEF numbers support this worry, showing that by 2040 at least 50 percent of new cars sold will still rely on gasoline or diesel, and that developing countries other than China continue to add more new fossil fired electrical capacity which will either be shut down prematurely or, if fully utilized, blow the world way past acceptable levels of greenhouse pollution.

So what’s the problem? While clean energy is cheaper to buy and operate than fossil, it is requires more capital at the front end—because the benefits of free sun and wind flow over time, while the expenses of turbines, panels and batteries come all at once. That’s not a big problem in industrial nations, where capital is plentiful and cheap—in fact investors are desperate for the kinds of yields clean power can bring. So fossil generation is dropping in Europe and the U.S. And it’s not a problem in China which holds enormous foreign exchange reserves—which is why China appears to be at or close to its peak emissions a full decade before it promised. But in the rest of the developing world capital is scarce or expensive or both, which makes it cheaper to buy a new coal turbine and pay for the fuel over time than to pay the whole cost of a solar or wind farm in advance.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL McKIBBEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Oil 0411wrp opt(Photo: John)This February was the hottest in recorded history, scorching crops and flooding homes all across the planet. Record-breaking temperatures have robbed the Arctic of its winter.

And yet despite this, governments around the world still plan to build massive new coal mines and open new oil and gas fields.

But everywhere they do, something remarkable is happening: resistance. This May, people will be joining hands in a new way to step up that fight on the front lines. This May, we’re breaking free from fossil fuels across the globe.

Next month, from the oil and gas fields of Nigeria and Brazil to the coal fields of Germany and Australia, people have made their intentions clear: they intend to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground and are willing to put their bodies on the line to do it. Even as the ability to freely protest is constrained in many parts of the world—recent violent crackdowns in the Philippines and Bangladesh mark a tragic uptick in a troubling trend—those who can, are standing up. Resistance is not fading away. It’s growing.

That’s what Break Free is about: escalating the global fight to keep fossil fuels underground and accelerating a just transition to the renewable energy driven economy we know is possible.

The good news is that the transition to renewable energy is coming sooner and faster than anyone thought. Ninety percent of the new electricity generation installed last year was renewable, leading to two years running of flat—though still too high—global carbon emissions.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Handcuffs 0411wrp opt(Photo: Skiddie2003)New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter, a former police officer, ruled that seven people awaiting trial in jail without adequate legal defense must be released.  The law is clear.  The US Supreme Court, in their 1963 case Gideon v Wainwright, ruled that everyone who is accused of a crime has a Constitutional right a lawyer at the state’s expense if they cannot afford one.   However, Louisiana, in the middle of big budget problems, has been disregarding the constitutional right of thousands of people facing trial in its most recent statewide public defender meltdown.   Judge Hunter ruled that the Constitution makes it clear: no lawyer, no jail.

In an eleven page ruling, Judge Hunter explained that since Louisiana has failed to adequately fund indigent defense it has violated the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and the Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process of seven men.  The men appearing before Judge Hunter could not be represented by the public defender because of budget cutbacks and private lawyers appointed by the court, who were denied funds for investigation and preparation of the cases, asked that the prosecutions be stopped and their clients released.  Hunter ordered the men released but stayed their release until his order could be reviewed on appeal.   

The Louisiana public defender system appears to be in the worst crisis of any state in the US.  It is a “disaster” according to The Economist, “broken” according to National Public Radio,  in “free fall” according to the New York Times, “dire” according to the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, and facing further cutbacks “on a scale unprecedented in the history of American public defense” according to the American Bar Association.   

While Louisiana incarcerates more of its people than any of the other 50 states, prosecutions across the state are starting to slow down because of inadequate public defense.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Horseman 0408wrp opt(Photo: Gustave Doré)While Donald Trump’s theological underpinnings are as madcap and unstable as the man himself, Ted Cruz believes that not only is America God’s chosen country, but that he has been chosen to guide the country back to its Christian moorings. Ted Cruz is a seven-mountain guy and those mountains have nothing to do with Everest, Kilimanjaro, Whitney or any of the world’s renowned peaks. Cruz’s seven mountains have to do with reclaiming, rebuilding, and reestablishing America as a Christian country, which means Christians taking dominion over seven aspects of culture: family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business and government.

The movement is called Seven Mountains Dominionism and its origin comes from Isaiah 2:2: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains.”

And, if you thought the culture wars was a relic of the past, Ted Cruz will fight all of the already-settled culture war battles all over again … and then some. As John Fea recently pointed out in Christianity Today, “Unlike any other candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Cruz has mastered the rhetoric first introduced by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others on the Religious Right.”

Much of Ted Cruz’s early religious development came from his father Rafael, who came to evangelicalism late in life but has been pounding that platform ever since. It is Rafael who once told a Christian group that he believed his son’s campaign is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Published in Guest Commentary

BRIAN TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Islamophobic 0406wrpVeterans For Peace opposes Islamophobia by veterans and others such as displayed in this photo. (Photo: Raphael1)Violence against American Muslims is growing faster than at any time since 9/11, with assaults on Muslim individuals and their places of worship having tripled since the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. A NY Times article published last December cites several examples, which include shootings and vandalism. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), last year set a record for the highest number of incidents targeting U.S. Mosques. As a result of this violence, Muslims across the country, including women and children, have conveyed to the public that they genuinely fear for their safety and security.
 
Hostility toward Muslims because of their religious faith is fundamental to the root and expression of Islamophobia. A 1997 report of the Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as "an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination." The report also identified eight common misconceptions about Islam, such as the religion is inferior, primitive, and barbaric and embodies a political ideology rather than a true religious faith. For these reasons, among others, it can be argued that Islamophobia is a form of racism.
 
The hate propaganda and political demagoguery observed in the current presidential election season has fueled Islamophobia and contributed to the sharp rise in hate crimes. Many public figures, social commentators and members of the media tragically conflate terrorism with Islam, despite the lack of credible evidence pointing to any connection between the two. Sadly, it is quite possible that the anti-Muslim responses to the terror attacks in Brussels from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others may have incited more Islamophobia and put Muslims at greater risk of victimization.
 
There are about 3 million Muslims in the U.S. today and more than 1.6 billion worldwide. They have the same right to religious freedom, freedom from fear, and human dignity as members of any other religion, particularly in a nation that touts itself as a beacon of hope and the "Land of the Free." As citizens, we have a moral responsibility to act to protect and preserve these rights. Accordingly, Islamophobia must be confronted every time it rears its ugly head. There is no room for apathy or complacency on this matter.
Published in Guest Commentary

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ConPipe 0406wrp opt(Photo: Marc Yaggi)Nearly 400 people from across the state of New York and beyond rallied in Albany today asking Gov. Cuomo to stand up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and use the state’s authority under the Clean Water Act to deny the 401 water quality certificate for the Constitution Pipeline.

The Constitution Pipeline, a joint venture between Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas, would run approximately 124 miles from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania to Schoharie County, New York. The pipeline would be 30 inches in diameter, and transport natural gas—the equivalent of 4.68 million gallons of oil per day—from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to New York state.

The rally was organized by Stop the Pipeline, with the support of 60 participating organizations. The event included speeches from prominent environmentalists, including Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a march from the capitol to the headquarters of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. People whose land has already been taken by eminent domain for the construction of the pipeline led the march, followed by “the spirit of the Susquehanna,” symbolizing the water that nourishes all life.

“FERC is a rogue agency that is captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate,” Kennedy said. “We need to reclaim our democracy from corporations that routinely pollute our water, and are now taking people’s land for their profit. Governor Cuomo can continue his environmental leadership by denying this 401 water quality certificate.”

Published in Guest Commentary

MARK RUFFALO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TPP 0404wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Many pundits were caught off-guard by the transpartisan fury over America’s trade policy rocking the presidential primary season. But it’s no surprise to me. I grew up in a working class family in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So I know why Americans have had enough of shiny promises, job-killing trade deals and Wall Street bailouts that propel ordinary people into an economic nose dive.

Hard working Americans of all political stripes recognize when the rules have been rigged against them, because they live day-to-day with the results. No doubt revolutionary change is an appealing alternative.

Since the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization agreements in the mid-1990s, America has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs net. Millions of service sector jobs also have been offshored.

During the NAFTA era, my home state lost 68,000 manufacturing jobs—one out of seven in the state. Just one example: After Chrysler received billions in a 2009 bailout, it shut its Kenosha Engine facility, cut the last 800 jobs and moved operations to Mexico.

The damage extends beyond those who lose their jobs. They compete for non-offshorable service sector jobs, pushing down wages economy-wide, hurting communities coast to coast.

Published in Guest Commentary
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