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BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaa5bucks(Photo: Slick-o-bot)One:   Seven Nobel Laureates in Economics endorse the higher minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, saying it does not lead to lower fewer jobs.

Two:   Job losses from raising the minimum wage are negligible.  Minimum wage has already been raised 23 times.  Every time it was raised it was opposed by some few who said “it is going to lose jobs and wreck the economy” which is factually untrue as study after study has proven

Three:    It is a myth that small business owners can't afford to pay their workers more, and therefore don't support an increase in the minimum wage.  In fact, a June 2014 survey found that more than 3 out of 5 small business owners support increasing the minimum wage to $10.10.

Four:    The value of the minimum wage has fallen dramatically.   Since the minimum wage was last raised in 2009, the price of apples went up 16%, bacon 67%, cheddar cheese 21%, coffee 27%, ground beef 39%, and milk 21%.  The minimum wage went up 0%.  Plus, in the 1960s the minimum wage was essentially half the average wage.  If that was still the case it would be $12.50 an hour.

Five:   Saying we have a “free market” that will take care of workers is a myth.  No corporations rely on the mythical “free market,” why should workers? Corporations lobby like crazy all the time in Washington DC and before every state and local government for direct and indirect public assistance.  All levels of government provide widespread corporate welfare so why not provide some help to low wage workers?  Examples? The Wall Street bailout cost over $200 billion.  Fifty billionaires received taxpayer funded farm subsidies in past 2 decades.  Corporate jet subsidy is $3 billion a year.  Special tax breaks for hedge fund managers allow them to pay only 15% tax rate, while the people they invest for pay twice that much and their secretaries pay a higher percentage.  The home mortgage deduction is $70 billion a year, with 77% going to people with incomes of over $100,000 per year.  Giving workers more money is small potatoes compared with what corporations and the rich are receiving all the time.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcoWatchWind(Photo: EcoWatch)Wind power is one of the fastest-growing new sources of electrical power in the U.S.—the largest new renewable source of power since 2000. And within 35 years, it could be providing more than a third of the power in the U.S.

That’s according to a new report, Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, released today by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind and Water Power Technologies office. It updates a study released in 2008 under President George W. Bush, taking into account changes that have occurred in the energy industry since then, with improved technologies making wind more reliable and cost-effective. The 286-page report outlines the wind industry’s assets and the challenges it faces in its efforts to increase its share of the total energy portfolio, as well as the positive benefits for the public and the environment of doing so. It provides a key piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

“The wind industry can be characterized by the substantial growth of domestic manufacturing and the level of wind deployment seen in recent years,” says José Zayas, director of the DOE Wind and Water Power Technologies office. “Wind power systems are now seen as a viable and competitive source of electricity across the nation. Wind power’s emerging role is an important option in a portfolio of new energy solutions for future generations.”

Published in Guest Commentary

STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDerpGOP(Photo: Republican Party)Your Republican Party today is some spectacle, is it not? Its House of Representatives dips into foreign policy. As is well known, it invites the Prime Minister of a foreign country to make a speech that serves two purposes: campaigning against the US President's present foreign policy and campaigning for re-election in an increasingly tough battle in his home country. Since he offers no alternatives to the proposed policy of the US President, it cannot serve any purposes other than dual-campaigning.

Its Senate then sends an "Open Letter" to Iran. Since it was not actually sent to anyone in Iran by post or diplomatic pouch (which would have had to go through the State Department and the U.S. "Interest Section" in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, a totally unlikely occurrence), it is actually not a "letter" as such, but rather an Op-Ed piece. Again, it offers no alternatives to the present policy of the President, and it says nothing about how US foreign policy works that any student of it doesn't already know (and there are several of those on the Iranian side in the negotiations). Thus it too is nothing more than part of the Republican campaign against President Obama that began on the evening of President Obama's Inauguration on January 20, 2009. Actually Mitch McConnell had announced in December, 2008 that he "would filibuster any bill I didn't like."

(It is too bad that President Obama has failed for so long to take heed of these very clear announcements of total non-cooperation but continued to press until very recently the failed Democratic Leadership Council [and its "centrist" successors] policy of "finding the middle ground," when clearly none exists, or has ever existed. According to New York magazine's Johnathan Chait, he finally has done so).

The same Mitch McConnell announced just the other day that he "is urging governors to defy President Obama by refusing to implement the administration's global warming regulations." It happens that 12 states with Republican governors have already filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Administration's announced new regulations intended to do at least something about the ongoing tsunami of human-caused global warming/climate change [http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-climate-change-deniers-hall-of-infamy]. But that is not good enough for McConnell. The law be damned. Here is the most senior elected Republican legislator telling (Republican) Governors to just go ahead and defy the law, the EPA, and the President. (Funnily enough, the EPA was originally established by none other than Richard Nixon. And, get this [something I didn't know], he did it by Executive Order [!!!], which was eventually ratified by Congress. Talk about Republicans changing over time.)

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaHotSpot(Photo: Abasaa)The catastrophe that began at Fukushima four years ago today is worse than ever.

But the good news can ultimately transcend the bad—if we make it so.

An angry grassroots movement has kept shut all 54 reactors that once operated in Japan. It’s the largest on-going nuke closure in history. Big industrial windmills installed off the Fukushima coast are now thriving.

Five U.S. reactors have shut since March 11, 2011. The operable fleet is under 100 for the first time in decades.

Ohio’s Davis-Besse, New York’s Ginna, five reactors in Illinois and other decrepit American nukes could shut soon without huge ratepayer bailouts.

Diablo Canyon was retrofitted—probably illegally—with $842 million in replacement parts untested for seismic impact. Already under fire for illegal license manipulations and an avoidable gas explosion that killed eight in San Bruno in 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric has plunged into a legal, economic and political abyss that could soon doom California’s last reactors.

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL BRUNE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEcoWatchTPPtext(Photo: EcoWatch)The U.S. is at the tail end of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a massive trade deal with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Vietnam and seven other countries. The negotiations have been conducted in secret. Now Congress will soon decide whether to grant the Obama administration “fast track” authority to have the “final” pact approved as is—meaning strict limits on Congressional debate and no amendments. That’s a terrible idea for lots of reasons—not least of which is that the TPP could sabotage the ability of the U.S. (and other nations) to respond to the climate crisis.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the problem in an op-ed for the Washington Post “Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?” Here’s a hint: The answer is definitely not “all of the above.”

Multinational corporations—including some of the planet’s biggest polluters—could use the TPP to sue governments, in private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that they claimed would reduce their profits. The implications of this are profound: Corporate profits are more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability, workers’ rights and more.

This isn’t a hypothetical threat. Similar rules in other free trade deals have allowed corporations including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum to bring approximately 600 cases against nearly 100 governments. Increasingly, corporations are using these perverse rules to challenge energy and climate policies, including a moratorium on fracking in Quebec; a nuclear energy phaseout and coal-fired power plant standards in Germany; and a pollution cleanup in Peru. TransCanada has even intimated that it would use similar rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement to challenge a U.S. decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJebCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In 2008, Senator John McCain's campaign recognized that he needed to shore up his credentials with the Religious Right, which was skeptical about his views on critical social issues, his team went all out courting mega-church Pastor John Hagee. And when Hagee agreed to support McCain, it was a major coup. It didn't take long, however, for that coup to blow up in the Senator's face, as video surfaced of Hagee claiming that God had sent Adolph Hitler to hunt the Jews, chase them from Europe, and drive them to Palestine. McCain was forced to dump Hagee. Is Jeb Bush making the same type of McCain-like deal by taking on the unbridled conservatism of Jordan Sekulow?

Unless you're Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum and you don't need a liaison to the Religious Right because you are your own liaison, Republican Party presidential candidates need someone to hook them up. George H.W. Bush had Doug Wead, George W. Bush had Tim Goeglein, and now Jeb Bush's Right to RISE PAC has landed Jordan Sekulow, as a senior adviser. Say goodbye to compassionate conservatism and hello to a hardcore anti-gay, anti-abortion culture warrior.

Jordan Sekulow is the conservative son of the hyper-conservative Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the conservative legal operation founded by Pat Robertson called the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which Jordan is the executive director. In a statement to Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, Sekulow said: "Governor Bush knows how to take bold conservative ideas and put them into action. While we must continue to fight the bad policies and unconstitutional overreaches of the current administration, it is time for conservatives to start talking to all Americans about how we, as a nation, can lead again at home and abroad. I am excited to begin a conversation with conservatives about Governor Bush's pro-life, pro-family, tax-cutting record in Florida and the ideas we need to put into action to give every American a chance to rise up."

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBombTrain(Photo: EcoWatch)Yet another train carrying volatile crude oil from the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota derailed yesterday, this time in northwestern Illinois near the historic tourist area of Galena overlooking the Mississippi River. It follows recent derailments in West Virginia and Ontario. The area in which it occurred was not as remote as the Ontario derailment. However, it did not require as extensive evacuation as the one in West Virginia in which hundreds were forced from their homes in the bitter cold. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, firefighters were allowing the fireball to burn itself out.

The 105-car train included 103 cars loaded with the crude oil, with eight derailing. It’s not known yet if any oil spilled into the Mississippi River.

Residents of the Galena area might be especially uneasy about trains rolling through their area. A month ago, a train carrying ethanol derailed in Dubuque, Iowa 15 miles away, with a dozen cars going off the tracks and several landing on the frozen Mississippi River. That fire burned for a day before it went out.

So far this year, these derailments, followed by explosions and fires, have happened only in unpopulated and sparsely populated areas. But their frequency is alarming to more densely populated communities on the rail paths of these trains with many saying it’s only a matter of time until a derailment causes a disaster like the one that killed 47 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec in July 2013—or worse.

Published in Guest Commentary

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoral(Photo: Brocken Inaglory)Less than 50 years ago, the northeast forests of the Hawaiian Islands, known as the rainy side of the isles of lush tropical valleys, streams and waterfalls were pristine wild lands for thousands of rare birds, flowers, trees and plants.

For example, in Kauai's remote Wainiha Valley, a summit region of Mount Waialeale, was (the operative past tense adverb) one of the wettest areas on earth. Hidden within Hinalele Falls, there were acres of rare, intact ecosystems.

The rugged valley and summit plateau are home to more than 100 plants that exist only in Hawaii, 46 of which are only on the island of Kauai, and rare and endangered Hawaiian forest birds, the 'akikiki, akeke'e, 'apapane, 'amahiki and 'elepaio.

The Hawaiian wetlands and tropical forests are rapidly disappearing from three major causes: global warming (greenhouse gases), overpopulation and the spread of urban development-resorts. All three combined are threatening the precious botanical regions, the wildlife and the ecological balance. The rainforests' sensitive flora and rich diversity of rare plants are vanishing from diminishing rain levels and urban expansion over the last few decades.

On the west side of Kauai, the rivers have already dried up under the relentless, global warming sun. As a depressed resident of Kauai expressed it, "Rivers became streams and then evaporated before my eyes. I watched fish gasp for water until they died. There was nothing I could do. It was too sad to watch."

For some time now, the summits and valleys have been clearly visible; an odd and also heartbreaking phenomenon for the reason that the Wainiha plateaus were always shrouded in clouds. It was exceptional, indeed, when the green summits appeared naked without their majestic robes of white mists and rainbows.

Published in Guest Commentary

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
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