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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

avote(Photo: Theresa Thompson)

After President Obama stated in a speech that the United States would be a more robust democracy if everyone voted - and that it would help to reduce the influence of big money - the voter suppression meme emerged loud and clear at Fox News.

Obama, in a speech at the Cleveland City Club on March 19, stated:

It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything. If everyone voted, it would completely change the political map in this country. Because the people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. And, you know, there are often the folks who are scratching and climbing to get in to the middle class, and they're working hard. There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls, we want to get them into the polls.

Fox's response, of course, didn't explicitly advocate imposing voting obstacles on people of color, the poor and the disabled. Instead, several programs on the network took up the meme that only "informed" voters should exercise their voting rights (clearly implying that certain groups are simply not "qualified" to vote). This idea harkens back to the time that the Constitution was created. Contrary to the glossed-over historical narratives that are taught in most schools, voting, in the early days of the US, was more or less limited to White males with property. Blacks, who were enslaved, couldn't vote. Native Americans couldn't realistically vote; they were being killed in large numbers at the time of the founding of the nation. Women of any color couldn't vote. The list of exclusions goes on.

JEFF BIGGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAppalachiaEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)An escalating series of lawsuits, government rulings, banking decisions and breakthrough health studies has brought the fate of devastating mountaintop removal mining in central Appalachia to the doorstep of state and federal decision-makers this week.

Mountaintop removal is not just on the ropes—it’s down for the count—and several fronts carry the same knockout message: Given the urgent health crisis from the reckless mining operation, the federal government and the states can no longer wait to act.

“The situation here could not be more urgent,” said Vivian Stockman, project coordinator at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Under West Virginia’s program, we’ve seen once-vibrant streams die, devastating floods, and loved ones exposed to toxic blasting dust take ill. Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed communities and threatens to destroy more. We need OSM to take action now.”

First, after witnessing the mounting health crisis and death toll of friends, family members and miners, citizens living in the fallout of the massive strip mining movements have finally prodded West Virginia state officials to review the more than two dozen peered-reviewed health studies on the impacts of mountaintop removal operations, including a recent study that “shows that dust collected from MTR [mountaintop removal] communities promotes lung cancer.”

Second, on the heels of a galvanized “People’s Foot” movement rally at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on Monday, a powerful notice of intent to sue the Obama administration was filed by attorney Patrick C. McGinley, a 40-year titan in coal safety laws and West Virginia University law professor, for its failure to prepare and implement a federal program for West Virginia’s documented oversight and violations of required strip mining regulations.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

rickscottFlorida Governor Rick Scott (Image: DonkeyHotey)

Although cities, beaches and towns on Florida's coast are in danger of permanent flooding due to global warming, Governor Rick Scott has reportedly issued a gag order on state officials, prohibiting them from even mentioning climate change.

According to the Miami Herald, 

DEP [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget....

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.” 

In the Alice-in-corporate-wonderland world of Rick Scott, global warming is a fiction perpetrated by liberals trying to bring down the free-market system.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOCRNLogo(Photo: EcoWatch)Across the country, battles are raging as communities attempt to protect the air, soil and water within their borders and the safety of their residents. These battles are taking the form of debates about whether state regulations can or should erase local home rule.

Colorado and Texas are engaged in such high-profile battles after voters in communities like Denton, Texas and Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins, Colorado, passed fracking bans. That has opened up ongoing maneuvers and lawsuits as state governments work with oil and gas companies to uphold the exploration and extraction interests of the latter despite citizen concerns about environmental pollution, noise, traffic and infrastructure stress.

But with communities and citizens becoming more and more determined to have their say, fossil fuel interests put out one blaze only to find a dozen more flaring up. Many of those communities are using a strategy developed by the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) to address environmental issues: a community bill of rights. Now oil and gas companies are working to suppress those bills of rights.

They were successful in Ohio last week where a judge in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) struck down the community bill of rights passed by suburban Broadview Heights voters by a 2-1 margin n November 2012 to keep additional drilling operations out of their community. The decision is considered significant because it’s the first community bill of rights in Ohio to get a legal review. Judge Michael Astrab found it in conflict with state law. Many other Ohio cities, including Cincinnati, Youngstown, Athens and Mansfield have passed such bills of rights.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBooks2(Photo: Johannes Jansson)If you were forced to read one book written by a potential Republican Party presidential candidate, would it be by Dr. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Rick Perry or Scott Walker?

While none of these books have garnered rave reviews and aren't likely to be particularly memorable, if you chose Dr. Ben Carson's One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future (co-written with his wife Cindy), you will have picked the book that thus far has out sold all the other books combined, and by a huge margin.

Bloomberg News' David Knowles recently pointed out that "The urge to make the leap from politician to author makes sense on a number of levels. Releasing a book can help introduce a regional politician to a national audience, laying the groundwork for a campaign. While the bulk of a first-time effort will be spent on biographical details and formative anecdotes, most eventually veer toward policy positions without actually committing their authors to specifics, giving readers a hint of how he or she might govern without chiseling a platform in stone."

In 1995, before he launched his campaign for a seat in the Illinois Senate, the then unknown Barack Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was published. In 2004, after Obama had won the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Illinois, the book was re-published and was received favorably by numerous critics and writers: It "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," wrote Time columnist Joe Klein. The Guardian's Rob Woodard pointed out that the book "is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years." Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times, described it as "the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ahsbcbank(Photo: Michael Fleshman)

Since the great Wall Street bank and financial firm swindle that led to a crash of the US economy in 2008, BuzzFlash has published many an article about the failure of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to criminally charge banks or executives for practices that led to the economic meltdown.

Yes, the Department of Justice has levied several of the "too big to fail banks" with large fines. But these fines, even if they are over a billion dollars in some cases, are written off by the banks as the cost of doing business - and in many cases, they are literally written off as tax-deductible expenses for the year that they are paid in. Although the Department of Justice has also negotiated companion agreements to curtail harmful banking practices (in addition to the fines), it is not yet clear how vigorously it will enforce them.  

In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has levied fines against Wall Street banks in relation to the economic crash and ongoing violations of banking regulations, but the SEC is limited by law to civil - and not criminal - enforcement.

In short, Wall Street emerged from the 2008 near-collapse of the US economy more profitable than ever as a result of a taxpayer bailout - and then what amounted to a financial slap on the wrist from US government enforcement agencies.

HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGreenTea(Photo: EcoWatch)Four years after the multiple explosions and melt-downs at Fukushima, it seems the scary stories have only just begun to surface.

Given that Japan’s authoritarian regime of Shinzo Abe has cracked down on the information flow from Fukushima with a repressive state secrets act, we cannot know for certain what’s happening at the site.

We do know that 300 tons of radioactive water have been pouring into the Pacific every day. And that spent fuel rods are littered around the site. Tokyo Electric power may or may not have brought down all the fuel rods from Unit Four, but many hundreds almost certainly remain suspended in the air over Units One, Two and Three.

We also know that Abe is pushing refugees to move back into the Fukushima region. Thyroid damage rates—including cancer—have skyrocketed among children in the region. Radiation “hot spots” have been found as far away as Tokyo. According to scientific sources, more than 30 times as much radioactive Cesium was released at Fukushima as was created at the bombing of Hiroshima.

Some of those isotopes turned up in at least 15 tuna caught off the coast of California. But soon after Fukushima, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration stopped testing Pacific fish for radiation. The FDA has never fully explained why.

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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aclimatedenialThings don't go better with Koch. (Image: Wolf Gang)

The Koch Brothers, the most noted billionaires in the crusade to corral US democracy into an oligarchy, are back in the news for their funding of climate-denial flummery. In this case, according to The Guardian, they are making news for not revealing how much money they have invested in trying to debunk the reality of global warming:

The Koch brothers’ conglomerate Koch Industries has refused to comply with an investigation by three Senate Democrats into whether the company has funded groups or researchers who deny or cast doubt on climate change.

In response to a request from senators Barbara Boxer, Edward Markey and Sheldon Whitehouse for information about Koch Industries’ support for scientific research, Koch general counsel Mark Holden invoked the company’s first amendment rights.

Notice how the Koch Brothers attorney stresses "first amendment rights" for Koch Industries. This claim of corporate personhood echoes the plutocratic majority opinion in Citizens United: the opinion that companies have the same rights as individuals in elections. Only in this case, the notion of businesses being persons is applied to the funding of propaganda to elevate climate denial into a scientific theory.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amemorialA memorial to the three men lynched in Duluth, Minnesota, erected in 2003. (Photo: Sharon Mollerus)

The concept that the North of the United States is less racist than the South should be regarded as a relative judgment only. After all, racism afflicts the history of the United States and is institutionalized into its social hierarchy. The US was built on racist cruelty and barbarism - most notably in the near extermination of Native Americans by Whites and the in the ineffably gruesome and ignoble institution of slavery and all the horrors that accompanied it. 

As BuzzFlash has pointed out before, the North was hardly entirely abolitionist during the ante-bellum period. Many lucrative northern businesses - such as textiles and ship building - profited from the processing of cotton picked by slaves and from the illicit transport of slaves (many of whom died in what was known as the "middle passage") from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. Other industries in the North also prospered from slavery, including banks.

The North also shared many racist attitudes with the South, just not always as visibly. Certainly one could easily see racism in action in large Northern cities as most Blacks were confined to living in segregated parts of cities and attending segregated schools, among other denials of rights and economic opportunity.

There is no dearth of historical evidence attesting to racism in the North. One example are the years 1919-20 when racial riots spread across the Northern US (and the South) following WW II. The "red summer" of 1919 carried over into 1920, and on June 15, three Black "roustabouts" for a circus performing in Duluth, Minnesota, were lynched by a White mob estimated in the thousands by the Minnesota Historical Society.

According to the Historical Society: 

In the early morning of June 15th, Duluth Police Chief John Murphy received a call from James Sullivan's father saying six black circus workers had held the pair at gunpoint and then raped Irene Tusken. Little evidence would be found to corroborate these claims. An examination of Tusken that morning by Dr. David Graham, a family physician, showed no physical signs of rape or assault.

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