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STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)For those of you who might not know (and I should think that most political types would, given the massive publicity on media of all stripes the event gets) something called the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place over this past weekend. It was funny, because when I heard about this year's event I thought "wait a minute; didn't they have one of these of few months ago?" No, I'm not losing it yet. That's just some evidence as to exactly how much the annual shindig is talked about.

And so I looked it up, and came across a Rightist website called The Daily Signal. (Sorry, folks, I am just no longer calling the folks who go to these things and their related media and political figures "conservatives." They ain't. Actually, in terms of wanting to preserve and conserve what is left of the Earth as a result of the depredations of capitalist imperialism, it is we Leftists who are the conservatives. "Reactionary" is a bit old-fashioned, so I'm going with the simple descriptive, "Rightist.") They ran a feature called "25 Takeaways from America's Biggest Conservative (sic) Conference." It is fascinating to see what Rightists take away from a Rightist conference. But for the most part following their order, I thought to note down what I took away, first from parts of their "Top 25," and then from perhaps a few observations of my own.

First, Scott Walker. Although his "trade-unionists are the equivalent of ISIS" remarks was first widely reported as a gaffe, and he may have backed away from it a bit, believe me, deep down inside (which is where the remark came from) this very successful Rightist politician (he won there elections in four years in a supposedly "blue" state) bleeds Koch Brother royal blue from his veins. For the Kochs, that tiny percentage of the US workforce that is still unionized is one of their biggest enemies. And it is Walker's too.

Published in Guest Commentary

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBillyPancaked(Photo: Fred Askew)Since last summer, we have lived through this remarkable movement called Black Lives Matter.

So much is revealed in this movement's beginnings. How did this little township in St. Louis do this? How can it be that a patch of sidewalk in front of a police station in Ferguson, Missouri, would become the stage for the world's conscience? Is it only because local black youth refused to stop shouting there? This is the exhilarating return to the actual magic of free speech.

And now, the future. The outlines of the difficult challenge that we face in the future is shown by the legal (or illegal) end-game of this movement. The police are watching us go back to consumer society, putting wires back in our ears, withdrawing from the streets and parks – and they are attacking the remaining protesters, who now have less protection.

In November we received the disheartening news from Ferguson. Protest leaders were now being taken into custody, assigned a crime, and issued a bail level that was so high that they could not leave prison. It was a Machiavellian tactic to separate the most effective activists from their work out in public space. The human rights advocate Joan Baez helped us send them money.

Since last summer, we have lived through this remarkable movement called Black Lives Matter.

So much is revealed in this movement’s beginnings.  How did this little township in St. Louis do this?  How can it be that a patch of sidewalk in front of a police station in Ferguson, Missouri, would become the stage for the world’s conscience?  Is it only because local black youth refused to stop shouting there?  This is the exhilarating return to the actual magic of free speech.

And now, the future. The outlines of the difficult challenge that we face in the future is shown by the legal (or illegal) end-game of this movement. The police are watching us go back to consumer society, putting wires back in our ears, withdrawing from the streets and parks – and they are attacking the remaining protesters, who now have less protection.

In November we received the disheartening news from Ferguson.  Protest leaders were now being taken into custody, assigned a crime, and issued a bail level that was so high that they could not leave prison.  It was a Machiavellian tactic to separate the most effective activists from their work out in public space. The human rights advocate Joan Baez helped us send them money.

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 13:26

Beyond Keystone XL

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaObamaEcoWatch1(Photo: EcoWatch)President Obama’s veto last week of a Republican bill passed—precisely so that he would veto it—mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline does, indeed, as former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out, serve as “a perfect symbol of Washington’s dysfunction.” Obama made it clear that this veto, at least, was over the process, not the substance, and the Republicans had set the process up so that no self-respecting President could do other than veto.

In their last PR foray before the veto, tar sands proponents offered up an IHS-CERA study which asserted that, facts to the contrary, approving Keystone would increase the reliable supplies of oil for domestic consumers. The study asserted “the overwhelming majority” of oil flowing to refineries in the Gulf Coast would be refined and consumed in the U.S., even after XL is built—which is true, but irrelevant. If I pour a glass of water (Keystone XL) into an already full bucket (Midwest and Gulf Coal oil markets) most of the water stays in the bucket—but the bucket does not hold any more water—the increment just slops on the floor, or in this case gets exported.

The President focused on a more relevant point in his comments in Fargo last week, saying that “I’ve already said I’m happy to look at increasing pipeline production for U.S. oil. But Keystone is for Canadian oil. Sending it down to the Gulf it bypasses the U.S., it estimated to create 250, maybe, 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing on American infrastructure for American jobs for American producers … ”

Keystone is an enormously important environmental symbol. But it is also a commercial struggle. Alberta tar sands oil and North Dakota light shale oil flows into the same markets, have access to the same refineries, and rely on the same pipelines and railroads to get them to the same customers. So it was never terribly plausible that Keystone would be good for the U.S.—it was designed to make Canadian oil more competitive in global markets, which, on balance, is not good for American producers or, since the Canadians want to escape from American markets, American consumers.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCash1(Photo: Colin Brown)Despite raising $13 million dollars, the organization called The National Draft Ben Carson for President “isn’t affiliated with Ben Carson and the small percentage of money it spent on independent expenditures didn’t go to him” More than a few right-wing PACS make “large payments to vendors who were owned by people who worked for the PAC,” and contribute little to causes and candidates it professes to be raising money for.

Those are a few of the revelations a researcher uncovered after he was hired by John Hawkins to investigate how a number of conservative organizations were spending the millions of dollars in donations they raised from their supporters.

John Hawkins is profoundly conservative. His right-wing credentials are impeccable. He runs a website called Right Wing News, which posts stories from a who’s who of conservative columnists and bloggers. He has authored numerous liberal-bashing articles including: “5 Reasons Liberals Hate Soldiers Like Chris Kyle,” “15 Statistics That Destroy Liberal Narratives,” “Refuting 7 Lies Liberals Have Told Millennials About Conservatives,” and “On Behalf of the Patriarchy, Liberal Feminists Can Kiss Off.”

While recognizing that “Reports about sleazy activities by conservative groups have not exactly been in short supply over the last couple of years, … pop[ing] up in the Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Washington Post, the Politico and at the Daily Caller among other outlets,” many conservatives were pre-disposed to write them off as liberal “hit pieces,” Hawkins wrote in a February 20 Right Wing News piece headlined, “50 Million Down The Tubes: How 17 Conservative PACs Are Spending Their Money.”

Published in Guest Commentary

MARCUS ERIKSEN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPlasticPollution(Photo: EcoWatch)The idea that there are “patches” of trash in the oceans is a myth created 15 years ago that should be abandoned in favor of “plastic smog,” like massive clouds of microplastics that emanate out of the five subtropical gyres. My recent publication in the journal Plos One, estimates 269,000 tons of plastic from 5.25 trillion particles, but more alarming than that is it’s mostly microplastic (>92 percent in our study) and most of the plastic in the ocean is likely not on the sea surface.

Recent research has shown microplastics in ice cores, across the seafloor, vertically throughout the ocean and on every beach worldwide.  The little stuff is everywhere.

If you follow the life of plastic in the oceans, as we have done for 50,000 miles since 2009, you find the large items leaving coastlines in droves, then it rapidly shreds as it migrates toward the calmer waters of the subtropical gyres where sunlight, waves and nibbling fish rip it to micro-size particles smaller than a grain of rice. Microplastic then flow through the bodies of billions of organisms, making their way out of the gyres to deeper currents, and ultimately the seafloor. That’s the end-life of plastic.

Visualize the problem as “plastic smog” much like the way you can look up and visualize clouds of air pollution over cities. It’s very similar. We solved the air pollution problem by stopping the source with better emission controls on cars and power plants. There were people that suggested sucking air pollution out of the sky, but because people could look up and see the problem they understood that only stopping the source would work. The exact same logic applies to microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Because there are only a handful of scientists that understand ocean plastic pollution, and the public largely relies on the media for information, there’s an unusual amount of attention given to ideas to suck up plastic from the sea.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCrossified(Photo: Herrad of Landsberg)By recently unveiling its "Bigotry Map," which exposes "Anti-Christian Bigotry in America," the American Family Association, apparently tired of being monitored, tracked, and vilified, has decided to turn the tables on "anti-Christian bigots" in the United States, and do some tracking of its own.

On its website, a newly developed interactive map of the United States is marked by symbols identifying "groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith." You can do a state-by-state search to discover which of these groups reside in your neck of the woods.

The symbols designate whether the group identified is part of the "Homosexual Agenda" – "Advocates for the legalization and promotion of same-sex marriage and viciously attacks Christians who exercise their First Amendment right to voice support for God's plan for marriage as between one man and one woman -- is out-and-out "Anti-Christian" – "Actively engages in the complete eradication of the Christian faith from society, government and private commerce. These groups file lawsuits and use intimidation to silence any reference to Christianity from the public square" -- is "Atheist" – "Does not believe in God and is critical of those who express their faith in public" – or "Humanist" – "Believes critical thinking and physical evidence are the sole basis for beliefs. Humanists believe science triumphs faith in issues of morality and decision-making."

The website also singles out four organizations, two of which deal directly with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. They are the Human Rights Campaign; GLSEN; the Freedom From Religion Foundation; and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has been a particular thorn in the side of the AFA ever since the SPLC labeled the AFA a hate group.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 26 February 2015 06:49

Peace Behind Barbed Wire: The Far Side of Fear

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBarbWire(Photo: Logan King)As media ownership converges and technology “unites” us, the concept of national identity grows ever easier to exploit — and therefore, I fear, increasingly, and dangerously, simplistic.

This is the war on terror. This is the war on crime. They march on, despite the magnitude of their failures. They march on . . . because America is tough. America is exceptional.

If our news and mass-entertainment outlets valued complexity and expansion of the national IQ, we wouldn’t go to war. We’d be building our lives on the far side of fear and the far side of cynicism, which is the only place where peace is possible.

It’s not like we aren’t doing that anyway, to a certain extent. But it only becomes news when visionary journalists — peace journalists — declare that it is, which is why, every year for the last seven years now, I have written about and celebrated Chicago’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which showcases extraordinary films that step beyond the simplistic myth of good vs. evil, us vs. them. This year the festival is scheduled for March 19-22 at the Chicago Cultural Center; as always, it’s free of charge.

“I was a thief, I was a manipulator, I was a con. I had lost all contact with my heart.”

So it is in this context that I reflect on the words of Lisandro Martinez, quoted above, and the words of a dozen other prisoners and ex-prisoners at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas, who were among the participants in a class at the prison run by volunteers and called, of all things, Inner Peace. It almost doesn’t sound possible — a class like this at a place where we corral bad guys, “offenders,” criminals — much less that it could be effective.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDiabloNuke(Photo: EcoWatch)New revelations about earthquake dangers have shaken the future of California’s Diablo Canyon nukes.

In a rare move, Washington DC’s Federal U.S. Court of Appeals will hear a landmark challenge to their continued operation.

The suit says Diablo’s owners illegally conspired with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken seismic standards. “This is a big victory,” says Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth. “The public has a right to know what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric won’t admit—hundreds of thousands of people are put at immediate risk by earthquake danger at Diablo Canyon.”

Diablo is also vulnerable on state and federal water quality regulations, economic concerns and more. Citizen activism has also shut operating reactors at Humboldt, Rancho Seco and San Onofre. Proposed projects have been cancelled at Bodega Bay and Bakersfield.

California’s two remaining reactors are surrounded by more than a dozen seismic fault lines. The Shoreline fault runs within 600-700 yards of the Diablo cores, which also sit just 45 miles from the massive San Andreas fault—half Fukushima’s distance from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGod(Photo: Cima da Conegliano)It was in 1832 that the first Nullification Crisis occurred. Oddly enough, it was not about slavery, but rather about money. In 1828 and 1832 Congress had passed two acts establishing protective tariffs, which benefitted the manufacturers of the North and harmed the agricultural interests of the South. South Carolina was the state that was most upset about this state of affairs.

The leading politician in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun actually resigned the Vice-Presidency so that he could more effectively lead the opposition to the tariff legislation. The South Carolina legislature passed a law that if the objectionable tariffs were not reduced further (they had been reduced between the 1828 act and the one of 1832) South Carolina would resist their collection by force of arms. The President was Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner to Calhoun and a slave-owner. He would have none of it and got Congress to pass a law authorizing him to use force if South Carolina did the same. In the end, the tariffs were reduced a bit further, both sides backed down, and violence was averted.

The next nullification crisis, in 1861, led to the First Civil War. This one was not over something that the Federal government had actually done, but what it, under Lincoln, the Federal government might do. Lincoln was a strong opponent of the expansion of slavery to the Territories (although he had made a clear pledge not to interfere with slavery in those states in which it existed at the time). Nevertheless, as is well-known, well before Lincoln was inaugurated, led by South Carolina, 11 states seceded and . . . . Other attempts at nullification or one sort or another took place in the South around the issue of school integration (see Gov. Faubus in Arkansas and Gov. Wallace in Alabama).

Now we are faced with another act of nullification by an organ of state government, the State’s Supreme Court in the person of its Chief Justice, against the Federal judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular. Interestingly enough, the issue this time around is neither money nor slavery but rather the role of theism in making both Federal and state law.

Published in Guest Commentary

KEN JOHNSON OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSolarPanels(Photo: EcoWatch)Mark Twain said it best, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” It’s hard to tell which is which after closely reviewing the latest hatchet job on solar energy by the Koch brothers’ front group, The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).

Aside from spelling solar correctly, much of the report, Filling the Solar Sinkhole, is untrue or misleading—including its basic assertion that the U.S. solar industry receives $39 billion in annual subsidies. Seriously? How can that be? How can an industry with a U.S. market value of $15 billion receive $39 billion in annual subsidies? The answer: it doesn’t. This is fuzzy math, and dirty tricks, at their very worst. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The purpose of this report isn’t to inform or educate. The purpose is to incite activists and generate scandalous headlines, when, in fact, no scandal exists.

According to PV-Tech’s John Parnell, who did a thoughtful analysis, “The report doesn’t make it clear how it arrived at the $39 billion figure. Of the 26 references cited in the report, 16 of them are from organizations that were either founded by the Koch brothers, or have received funding from them.”

Enough is enough. If clean energy critics want a bare knuckle brawl, then they’re going to get one. This type of guerrilla warfare simply isn’t going to work. Americans overwhelmingly support clean, renewable solar energy—and that scares the hell out of the Koch brothers and their lackeys. Here’s the dirty little truth: few industries benefit more from the U.S. tax code than carbon-rich big oil. By their own estimates, oil and gas tax breaks amount to a staggering $100 billion over 10 years. So how do the Koch brothers divert attention away from this? They prod conservative groups, many of which they fund directly or indirectly, to attack clean energy. If it served their purposes, they would portray Snow White as an adulteress, a deadbeat and a crack queen.

Published in Guest Commentary
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