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LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Colorado 0810wrp opt(Photo: Hogs555)Two anti-fracking measures are one step closer to appearing on Colorado's Nov. 8 ballot. Local environmental groups have collected at least 98,492 signatures for measures 75 and 78, which will allow voters to decide the fate of oil and gas operations in the state. Now, the petitions only need to pass a validation review by the Secretary of State's office to make it onto the ballot.

As EcoWatch reported, initiative 75 would amend the state constitution to enable local governments the option to enact regulations more protective of health and safety than those required by the state, largely addressing the Colorado Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down local fracking bans approved by voters in the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont. Initiative 78 would create 2,500-foot buffer zones between homes, schools and sensitive areas like playgrounds and water sources, and all new oil and gas development.

Yes For Health and Safety, a coalition of groups pushing the two ballot initiatives, celebrated their achievement.

"I am thrilled that the people of Colorado will have their voices heard," said Tricia Olson, the executive director of Health and Safety Over Fracking. "I am so so grateful to our hundreds and hundreds of Colorado volunteers and to the organizations that stepped forward."

Published in Guest Commentary

J.P. SOTTILE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Neo 0808wrp opt(Photo: White House)What’s a Neocon to do?

Bill Kristol is downright despondent after his failed search for an alternative to Donald Trump. Max Boot is indignant about his “stupid” party’s willingness to ride a bragging bull into a delicate China policy shop. And the leading light of the first family of military interventionism — Robert Kagan — is actually lining up Neoconservatives behind the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

At the same time, the Democrats have become the party of bare-knuckled, full-throated American Exceptionalism. That transformation was announced with a vein-popping zeal by retired general and wannabe motivational screamer John Allen at the Democratic convention in the City of Brotherly Love. During his “speech,” a few plaintive protests of “no more war” were actually drowned-out by Democrats chanting “USA-USA-USA!”

This is the same Democratic Party often criticized by Kagan & Co. as the purveyors of timidity, flaccidity, and moral perfidy.  It’s not that Democrats haven’t dropped bombs, dealt arms, and overturned regimes. They have. And they’ve even got the Peace Prize-winning Obama-dropper to prove it.  But unlike enthusiastically belligerent Republicans, the Dems are supposed to be the party that does it, but doesn’t really like to do it.

But now, they’ve got Hillary Clinton. And she’s weaponized the State Department. She really likes regime change. And her nominating convention not only embraced the military, but it sanctified the very Gold Star families that Neocon-style interventionism creates. It certainly created the pain of the Khan family who lost their son in the illegal war in Iraq. But the Dems didn’t mention that sad fact as they grabbed the flag away from the Republicans.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 08 August 2016 07:32

2020 Vision: Four Steps to Get There

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 0808wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Bernie Sanders started losing the election over 200 years ago, when Alexander Hamilton proclaimed "The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." And when James Madison argued for a republic that would make it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."

Little has changed over two centuries later, as the Democratic National Committee demonstrated when they "criticized and mocked" Senator Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. People with money and power are still appalled by the notion of a popular democracy. But something is different now. The American majority, driven by frustrated workers and well-connected young people, are better able to communicate, and to unify in pursuit of a progressive nation.

The coining of the phrase "2020 Vision" can be attributed to the Democracy Alliance, which focuses on three "key issue areas that form the core of our 2020 Vision – an inclusive economy, a fair democracy, and strong action on climate change."

The vision expounded here, in the four steps to follow, is focused on the cooperative efforts of the great majority of Americans, many of them young and few of them rich, who are beginning to understand the strength of the growing progressive movement.

Published in Guest Commentary

ED RODGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Manatee 0805wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)An illness that might be linked to toxic algae blooms combined with a record number of boat collisions has taken a toll on Florida's manatee population this summer. Since May, eight dead manatees have been found in the Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, a waterway that's been fouled with microscopic toxic algae, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

"We are still narrowing down the cause, but the hypothesis is still that the change of vegetation that the manatees are eating makes them susceptible to complications in their guts," Martine de Wit, lead veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. De Wit said the manatees have been found with little or no seagrass in their stomachs. The animals digestive systems were filled instead with algae commonly known as seaweed. Researchers say the animals succumb to illness so quickly they drown. Videos from residents have documented the manatee's struggle.

The water coming from Lake Okeechobee contains fertilizer, sewage and stormwater, which is flushed into portions of the Indian River, according to the Sentinel. The stretch of the Indian River has been "a killing field" for brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and many species of fish. The microscopic algae has turned waters a greenish, brown color, some spots as thick as guacamole, as previously reported by EcoWatch.

This isn't the only year toxic algae has impacted manatees. More than 150 manatees have died in the past four years, the Sentinel said.

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist 0803wrp opt(Photo: Genusfotografen)What an amazing Democratic primary season it was! And we now have this happy result: WE WON!

"We" being the millions of young people, mad-as-hell working stiffs, independents, deep-rooted progressives, and other "outsiders" who felt The Bern and forged a new, game-changing, populist force of, by, and for grassroots Americans. True, this progressive-populist coalition did not win the White House on its first go 'round behind the feisty Sanders insurgency (which the the smug political establishment had literally laughed at when he began his run). But they are not laughing now, for even they can see the outsider revolt against the power elites won something even more momentous than the 2016 election: The future.

Back in April 2015, when the blunt, democratic socialist from Vermont issued a call for disenchanted voters to join him, not merely in a campaign for the presidency, but in a long-term movement to "revitalize American democracy so that government works for all of us," even his more optimistic backers couldn't have dreamed the movement would come so far so quickly. Let's reflect on some fundamental changes this progressive uprising has achieved in the past 15 months:

- It yanked the national debate out of the hands of the Washington and corporate elites: both devoted for more than 30 years to rigging all the rules to further enrich the 1 percenters at the expense of everyone else — and proved that future success requires Democrats to abandon their effete namby-pambyism and embrace the vision, message, and issues of unabashed populism.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Marcmaron 0803wrp opt(Photo: Sowhat12)In the ever-expanding universe of unique, diverse and extraordinary podcasts, “WTF With Marc Maron” – broadcast from Maron’s garage in Southern California -- stands out. In September 2009, Maron started his WTF podcast and it now garners, according to the WTF website, “more than six-million downloads each month.” While Maron, a longtime and notable comedian, who has appeared on numerous television talk shows and still tours the country on a regular basis doing what his website calls “raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy,” usually sticks to interviewing guests from the entertainment industry, probably his most notable and surprising interview occurred last year when President Barack Obama visited Maron’s garage.

Maron usually begins each episode with some housecleaning; could be a story about his cats; could be a report from one of his performances; could be a tribute to someone who recently passed away; could be extending heartfelt condolences to the families of those slaughtered in Orlando. Although once a politics-slinging voice on the late radio enterprise called Air America, these days, Maron generally stays away from directly discussing politics.

However, in the opening to Episode 729 (an interview with Roseanne Barr) Maron gave a unique, passionate and earnest spiel on what he perceives to be the emptiness and despair that many of the people – obviously including his listeners -- who may be voting for Donald Trump seem to be feeling.

Via email, I asked Maron what motivated his remarks. “Elections are emotional times and sometimes you just have to speak your mind,” Maron said. “I don't talk politics publicly that often anymore but I was trying to make some sense, empathetically, of a phenomenon I am trying to understand. I was thinking out loud. Which is what I do.”

Published in Guest Commentary

KATIE POHLMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wastewater 0801wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Florida regulators voted to approve new water quality standards that would increase the amount of carcinogenic toxins allowed in Florida's waterways.

The Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a proposal by state regulators that would set new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the Sunshine State and revise regulations on 43 toxins, most of which are carcinogenic. State regulators claim the new plan will protect more Floridians than current standards, the Miami Herald reported.

"We have not updated these parameters since 1992," Cari Roth, chairwoman of the commission, told the Miami Herald. "It is more good than harm. The practical effect is, it is not going to increase the amount of toxins going into our waters."

Under the new proposal, acceptable levels of toxins in Florida waters will increase for more than 24 known carcinogens. The acceptable levels would decrease for 13 chemicals that are currently regulated.

The new regulations are based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method the Florida Department of Environmental Protection created, called "Monte Carlo." The method is being criticized by environmental groups, warning the new standards would allow polluters to dump high concentrations of dangerous chemicals into Florida's rivers and streams.

"Monte Carlo gambling with our children's safety is unacceptable," Marty Baum, of Indian Riverkeeper, said.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coin 0801wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like "Income inequality is simply not a significant problem." and "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before."

In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from corporation-funded candidates like Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of an unresponsive, irresponsible mainstream media.

1. Monopolies: Increasing Prices, Cutting Jobs

The Busch/Miller merger is the latest attack on competition, joining the recent surge toward oligopolies in the banking industry, pharmaceuticals and hospitals, wireless companies, and airlines. Contrary to any condescending claims that mergers contribute to price-lowering efficiencies, they have actually led to price increases in 75 percent of examined cases, according to a Northeastern University study. The resulting corporate profits are often used for investor-enriching stock buybacks.

And jobs are cut. When Merck took over Cubist Pharmaceuticals, the latter's research and development staff was eliminated, ending their studies of other promising medicines.

2. Finance: Now Costing Us More Than the Military

A Roosevelt Institute study estimates that "the financial system will impose an excess cost of as much as $22.7 trillion between 1990 and 2023. That comes to about $660 billion per year, more than the discretionary military budget. That's over $5,000 per U.S. household in excess financial costs.

Banks once spent the majority of their money on business investments; now it's just 15 percent. Rana Foroohar summarizes: "US companies today make more than ever before by simply moving money around."

Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like "Income inequality is simply not a significant problem." and "Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before."

In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from corporation-funded candidates like Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of an unresponsive, irresponsible mainstream media.

Published in Guest Commentary

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

LolaArticle 0729wrp optPhoto: William Rivers PittTo my daughter:

Good morning, little bug! As I write this, you are fast asleep in your room, in all likelihood ensconced in one of your pillow forts on the floor for reasons passing understanding. You'll wake up in a bit and have your breakfast, unaware that you rose to greet a whole new world today. You're only three years old this morning, but if you're reading this, it means you're a booming seven and probably taller than me. I wanted to write this today and give it to you four years from now. Let me explain why.

First of all, again, you're three. Almost all of this would go right over your head, but I figure you'll have the chops to take it all in four years from now. More importantly, however, is the fact that you'll be reading this in an election year, and a woman might be running to remain president of the United States. Even if that isn't the case, the world you awoke to this morning is a profoundly changed place because of what happened last night. You're too young to understand, which is why I am writing this and saving it for you.

The convention itself was a masterpiece of content and passionate argument. The president spoke, the vice president spoke, a former president spoke, the First Lady spoke, the Senator from Massachusetts spoke, and they all knocked the paint off the walls. Very ordinary people also spoke and sang the songs of their lives. There were tears and music, there was dancing and celebration, and in the final act a woman strode forth and promised to lead the way.

Last night, a woman named Hillary Clinton was nominated by the Democratic Party to become the next president. It was the first time a woman won such a nomination in the United States, and the fact of it has changed everything once again. The United States has been around for 240 years, but women have only been allowed to vote for 97 of those years, and they had to fight like hell to get that vote. It is almost indescribably important that as many people in a democracy be allowed to vote as possible. That fight made many good things possible.

Published in Editorials

ELLIOT COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Mouse 0729wrp opt(Photo: Darkone)Trump publically invited the Russians to hack into 30,000 email messages at least three of which were “classified” or “top secret,” and promised the Russians that they would be rewarded by the media. At a press conference, Trump stated, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." Unequivocally, Trump was inviting a foreign power to hack into government email messages. This may be a crime under 18 US Code § 373, “Solicitation to commit a crime of violence” and/or the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Unfortunately, the corporate media have not done their due diligence in covering the criminal implications of Trump’s action. Instead, they have, at their boldest, denounced it as “irresponsible,” “unprecedented,” “stupid,” and “silly.”

According to 18 US Code § 373, “Whoever, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property … solicits, commands, induces, or otherwise endeavors to persuade such other person to engage in such conduct,” is guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment and/or fine not more than one-half of the punishment for the crime solicited. So did Trump solicit or attempt to persuade the Russians to commit a felony?

According to 1030(a) of the CFAA, it is a felony to (1) knowingly access a computer without authorization, (2) obtain national security information, (3) have reason to believe the information could benefit a foreign nation, and (4) attempt to cause the information to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted to any person not entitled to receive it. So, arguably, Trump committed a felony pursuant to 18 US Code § 373 by soliciting the Russians to commit a felony pursuant to the CFAA 1030(a).

According to FBI Director, James Comey, “With respect to the thousands of e-mails we found that were not among those produced to State, agencies have concluded that three of those were classified at the time they were sent or received, one at the Secret level and two at the Confidential level. …” So, Trump attempted to persuade the Russians to hack into email messages some of which are, or were, classified or top secret, which means that they contained “national security information.” He has also expressed reason to believe that the Russians, a foreign power, could benefit from obtaining the information inasmuch as, he has stated “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Finally, Trump “attempted to cause the information to be “communicated, delivered, or transmitted” to the Russians by inviting them to hack into it, and then give it to the press.

Published in Guest Commentary
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