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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bannon 0210wrp opt(Photo: Don Irvine)Just as Karl Rove was often referred to as President George W. Bush’s brain, Steven K. Bannon just may be President Donald Trump’s brain on steroids. Were President Donald Trump’s executive order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” – aka the Muslim ban -- and the naming of Bannon, his chief strategist, to the National Security Council, indicative of the first stages of a holy war against Islam?

As The Washington Post’s Frances Stead Sellers and David A. Fahrenthold recently pointed out, “Bannon’s past statements, aired primarily on Breitbart and other conservative platforms, serve as a road map for the controversial agenda that has roiled Washington and shaken the global order during Trump’s first two weeks in office.”

In 2014, before Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker, who at the time was the proprietor of the incendiary white-nationalist Brietbart News, became a household name as Trump’s chief political strategist, he told a Vatican-held Christian conference audience that: "We're now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism."

Speaking at the International Conference on Human Dignity -- the third annual meeting organized by the Rome-based Christian organization Dignitatis Humanae Institute – via Skype, Bannon told the gathering: "We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years."

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dig 0208wrp opt(Photo: US Navy)Monsanto has officially broken ground on a $975 million expansion to its Luling plant in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. The facility will manufacture dicamba, a controversial herbicide used in the company's new XtendiMax weedkiller for GMO soybeans and cotton.

Despite the company's promise to bring 120 new full-time jobs to the area, it seems many locals are unhappy with the project.

Angry online comments have flooded the Times-Picayune's coverage of the Feb. 3 groundbreaking. The newspaper's Facebook post of the story has garnered 433 shares and 114 comments so far, with many people criticizing the new plant as well as the company itself.

"120 jobs isn't worth having this toxic company in your backyard...," the top Facebook comment states. The comment was "Liked" 117 times.

"Diacamba [sic] is bad. California just won the right to label Roundup as cancer causing," a newspaper reader commented. "So excited for Cancer Alley to grow."

Published in Guest Commentary

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Cuffs 0208wrp opt(Photo: Rainerzufall1234)It's staggering to recall that one of Donald Trump's main appeals to many of his voters was a pledge to "drain the swamp" and rid Washington of corruption. In only two weeks he has, instead, begun stocking the swamp with new and poisonous creatures, making it yet more deadly, much as sugar planters did in the Caribbean importing fleur-de-lance and other poisonous snakes to discourage slaves from making new lives for themselves by escaping into the jungle.

Trump's cabinet, of course, may contain as many irreconcilable conflicts of interest as all the cabinets of the 20th century combined. Secretary of State Tillerson cannot do his job without becoming deeply enmeshed in the interest of ExxonMobil. Education Secretary DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Price, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Ross are ensnared with layers of inappropriate investments; Labor Secretary Puzder has made it clear that he wants to use his new position to reduce wages paid by his fast-food companies and only conceded on Feb. 1 that he might have to divest much of his investment portfolio to avoid future conflicts.

Trump's case for himself was "set a thief to catch a thief." He argued that he alone of recent Presidential candidates had been so deeply engaged in manipulating the federal tax code, that he alone knew how to fix it.

Well. If only.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEFANIE SPEAR OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

WindFarm 0206wrp opt(Photo: Leaflet)Lawmakers in the Maryland Senate voted 32-13 Thursday to expand the state's renewable energy target restoring the Clean Energy Jobs Act and overriding Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the measure in May of last year. The bill is now in effect.

The bill increases requirements to use energy sources like wind and solar power to 25 percent by 2020, increased from 20 percent by 2022. The renewable portfolio standard (RPS), according to the Maryland Climate Coalition, will result in an additional 250 megawatts of solar energy in the state and more than 1,000 megawatts of additional renewable energy in the region.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said this bill is a big win for Maryland's economy. Wind power relies on a robust American supply chain that consists of 500 factories across 43 states, the wind energy organization touts, with wind energy already providing $380 million of capital investment in Maryland, and wind turbine lease payments generating up to $1 million a year in the state.

"Making the Clean Energy Jobs Act law is the right decision for Maryland. Renewable energy legislation is pro-growth, pro-business, and means access to more jobs in Maryland," AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said. "From the Free State's population-hubs to majestic shores, this ensures more low-cost, homegrown American wind power reaches homeowners and businesses."

Published in Guest Commentary

BOB FITRAKIS AND HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ballot 0206wrp opt(Photo: Rama)Donald Trump's relentless insistence that three million "aliens" voted for Hillary Clinton and cost him a popular majority in November's presidential election cuts far beyond what the corporate media is willing to report. When it comes to undermining democracy in the US, Trump is once again proving that the best defense is a total attack, even if it relies on "alternative facts."

Trump's Big Lie on voter fraud has been as widely scorned as his fantasies about the size of the turnout at his inauguration. Even the normally restrained New York Times has editorialized that "what once seemed like another harebrained claim by a president with little regard for the truth must now be recognized as a real threat to American democracy."

It seems to be dawning on The Times and others that by claiming so many non-citizens voted more than once, Trump re-loads America's Jim Crow lynch laws against Black people voting. Based on these assertions, we can expect more and more aggressive attacks by the administration against the rights of non-whites and non-millionaires to a fair and honest ballot.  

Indeed, the corporate media has not yet faced the devastation of mass disenfranchisement in 2016. As reported by Greg Palast (www.gregpalast.com) and others, some thirty GOP Secretaries of State across the US used a computer program called Crosscheck to strip thousands of mostly black, Hispanic, Asian-American and Muslim voters from the registration rolls. These mass disenfranchisements could well have made the difference in key swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida that allowed Trump to win in the Electoral College while so thoroughly losing the popular vote.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pruitt 0203wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have suspended their panel's rules to force through Scott Pruitt's nomination to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The maneuver was made only one day after all 10 Democratic members of the committee announced a boycott over President Donald Trump's EPA pick. The boycott was sparked over their serious concerns of the Oklahoma attorney general's stances on climate change, pollution regulation and unanswered requests to provide official documents or emails that would shed light on his ties to the energy industry.

After temporarily suspending the committee's rules—which requires at least two minority members to meet quorum—committee Republicans unanimously approved Pruitt by a 11-0 vote at a Thursday hearing. This means Pruitt's nomination will go to the full GOP-controlled Senate, where he is likely to be approved.

Committee Democrats have called the move today by their Republican colleagues "irresponsible."

"I am disappointed that our majority has decided to ignore our concerns and those of the American people, and break the committee's rules in an effort to expedite Mr. Pruitt's nomination, but we have to stand our ground in our pursuit of the truth and in fulfillment of our Constitutional duty with respect to nominations," ranking member Tom Carper (D-DE) said in a statement.

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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FrackWater 0201wrp opt(Photo: Markus Schweiss)Virginia's House of Delegates voted 59-37 on Monday in favor of a bill that would allow fracking companies to keep their chemical cocktails a secret.

HB 1678 states that "chemical ingredient names, the chemical abstracts number for a chemical ingredient, or the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients used to stimulate a well" are exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, while fracking is not heavily used in Virginia, some energy companies have shown interest. Texas energy company Shore Exploration and Production Corp. has acquired about 86,000 acres of gas and oil leases for Virginia's Taylorsville basin.

The bill was sponsored by Republican delegate Roxann L. Robinson, who introduced a similar bill last year. During Friday's debate of the bill, she argued that "by protecting that actual recipe, it will foster more efficient and more advancements in the fracking industry."

She claimed that HB1678 has since evolved into a "transparency bill" after it was amended to only cover information about chemical concentrations, not the chemicals themselves, according to the Times-Dispatch.

Published in Guest Commentary

Shadow2 0201wrp(Photo: Timitzer)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Stephen Miller is a 31-year-old who appears to have fit seamlessly into the inner circle at President Donald Trump’s White House. If you look closely during Trump’s executive order signing ceremonies, you’ll likely find the pre-maturely balding Miller lurking in the background, sometimes standing next to Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus. He’s one of a cadre of previously unknown ultra-conservative nativist provocateurs whose history includes mentoring by the alt-right’s Richard Spencer, connections to the Breitbart media operation, being communications director for Senator Jeff Sessions, and who, during the presidential campaign was a consistent rev-up-the-crowd guy at Trump rallies. Now, he is the senior adviser to the president for policy, a high-powered position, as evidenced by his significant contribution – along with Steve Bannon -- to the executive order on immigration that resulted in a firestorm of criticism and huge demonstrations at airports across the country.

In what seems like eons ago, in a June 2016 profile of Miller, Politico’s Julia Ioffe maintained that he was “a deeply unsettling figure, even to many in his own party.” “His nine-year career working for some of the most politically fringe figures on the Hill — he also worked for Michele Bachmann and helped David Brat in his primary defeat of Eric Cantor — was preceded by a trail of writings and provocations that go all the way back to high school, one that has raised the eyebrows of even conservative Republicans.”

According to a more recent piece by The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak, Miller “is as versatile as he is polarizing. A consistent theme in his life is knowing how to poke his political opponents in the eye, and he has seemed to revel in the feeling—from his childhood, to his college years, to the presidential-campaign trail.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 30 January 2017 07:27

What It Means to Live in a Breitbart Nation

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bannon 0130wrp opt(Photo: Steve Bannon, by Don Irvine)Steve Bannon's openly declared war on the mainstream media may be the kind of hot-button news that drives headlines, but his new role on the National Security Council gives the former Goldman Sachs executive-turned-head of the ultra-right xenophobic and misogynistic Breitbart News, and the architect of Trumpism, unimaginable power. In an executive order, possibly written by Bannon himself, President Trump made it clear that Bannon could "join the government's most senior members during any meeting of the principal committee, led by national security advisor, Michael Flynn," The New York Daily News reported.  

Bannon, according to Raw Story's David Edwards, "personally overruled a decision by the Department of Homeland Security not to include green card holders in the president's temporary ban on travel from Muslim countries," a ruling that set off a firestorm of protests at airports across the country. 

“Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote. “In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.”

Earlier in the week, Banning pointedly told The New York Times' Michael Grynbaum that: "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Bannon then added, "The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is president of the United States." 

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Davos 0130wrp opt(Photo: Remy Steinegger)In-between cocktail parties at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, billionaires tried to solve global inequality and climate change. Most of the attendees had arrived by private jet, which can burn as much fuel in an hour as an average car does in a year. 

America's actions impact everyone in the world. But that doesn't seem to matter to the super-rich elite who inexplicably get to make our decisions for us. They are not only far removed from ordinary people, but they're also out-of-touch with the world around them, insulating themselves in fortified estates and bubbles of wealth like in Davos. 

Only the most insensitive among us could fail to care about the people in Madagascar described by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:

Published in Guest Commentary
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