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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

adissent 1(Photo: Glyn Lowe Photoworks)

The unsparingly caustic Charles P. Pierce recently identified the dominant political culture in the United States as one of cruelty. In his Esquire blog on June 20, Pierce zeroed in on the rise of schadenfreude as the current national pastime:

There is a new kind of systematized cruelty in our daily lives, in how we relate to each other, and in how we treat our fellow citizens, and, therefore, there is a new kind of systematized cruelty in our politics as well....

We cheer for cruelty and say that we are asking for personal responsibility among those people who are not us, because the people who are not us do not deserve the same benefits of the political commonwealth that we have. In our politics, we have become masters of camouflage. We practice fiscal cruelty and call it an economy. We practice legal cruelty and call it justice. We practice environmental cruelty and call it opportunity. We practice vicarious cruelty and call it entertainment. We practice rhetorical cruelty and call it debate. We set the best instincts of ourselves in conflict with each other until they tear each other to ribbons, and until they are no longer our best instincts but something dark and bitter and corroborate with itself. And then it fights all the institutions that our best instincts once supported, all the elements of the political commonwealth that we once thought permanent, all the arguments that we once thought settled -- until there is a terrible kind of moral self-destruction that touches those institutions and leaves them soft and fragile and, eventually, evanescent. We do all these things, cruelty running through them like hot blood, and we call it our politics.

A large segment of the public responds to political campaigns that - often in coded language - vilify and blame those who are in economically distressed circumstances. It is the most selfish of cruelties: justifying one's heartlessness and venom by accusing those in need of deserving their condition.

This self-righteous malice is also used to stifle dissent. Take, for instance, the reaction of the North Carolina legislature, which responded to the principled challenge mounted by Moral Mondays - in which crowds seeking to restore compassion to government protested at the state capitol – by passing a prohibition on "imminent disturbances" earlier this year.

At some point this year, Schleswig-Holstein is expected to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/derohlsen/10405943953/in/photolist-nzxXPH-m7BpBi-6B9omY-iusky6-gRxbAM-m7Bz4z-6GvTeA-jyfSb1-8pXWj5-jyeWht-aFN9fx-2bwKpp-6KEmgq-m7CsTK-anWs9S-6KAdva-aiPd5H-2dq1pj-6KAdcM-9wUh24-f4aonT-cUpwxU-9vzsin-arXs4o-arUNk2-5vpQjM-c4dLMf-e53CSf-69Svzx-arXsh5-8WqdQC-fvBHeA-6CQZVJ-arUKMt-arUTu4-arXvwN-arUTpF-arXvru-arXvoh-arXvhm-arUT58-arUT1z-arXv5b-arXuZU-arUSNH-arXuT1-arUSJz-arUSGX-arUSEn-arUSBX" target="_blank">Stephan Ohlsen / Flickr</a>)At some point this year, Schleswig-Holstein is expected to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes. (Photo: Stephan Ohlsen / Flickr)

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

While some countries around the world try to figure out how to deploy more clean energy, one German state is planning on having enough renewables for exportation.

Known as Germany’s windiest area, Schleswig-Holstein believes it could provide 100 percent renewable energy at some point this year, Renewables International reported. Producing as much renewable energy as it consumes in total electricity would go a long way toward Schleswig-Holstein meeting the 300-percent renewable goal the state’s Minister-President Torsten Albig announced at an energy conference two years ago.

If Schleswig-Holstein could meet 300-percent renewable energy, it would account for about 8 percent of Germany’s total electricity needs, said Dr. Matthias Lang, who keeps a German energy blog. What’s more, Schleswig-Holstein’s wind growth has taken place in the face of a national energy plan that the state’s energy minister, Robert Habeck, believes isn’t aggressive enough in displacing nuclear power.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/politicalpulse/2800159908/in/photolist-5grxZ7-5gnc7Z-5grxEU-aaAzCA-5g3uwY-5g3pTU-a46PWE-5grxUb-4qziJY-h8vT3E-6tMzEv-7GWScr-8QFXqA-7GWSc4-7GWSd8-yTtoG-mdNPHA-7a1kyg-6LeNbr-5gx8qL-6LeJpr-6LiSz9-6LiTXY-6LiUFE-dqBGf-cDhhgq-cDhfJd-aAjPgj-3ACVWn-5ghYiz-4GnQRy-cDLReb-aAjSbQ-cDLMGy-7a1kRB-4GnQQ7-aAh9XB-6tRHPQ-cDMK3A-cDbKF7-cDhSZ3-cDbML1-cDbMjh-cDMNW5-cDhUch-cDMQcs-cDLZro-cDMSLd-cDMRps-cDMMzq" target="_blank">WEBN-TV / Flickr</a>)(Photo: WEBN-TV / Flickr)

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's check our weaponry: 93,000 machine guns — check! — 533 planes and helicopters — check! 180,000 magazine cartridges — check! 44,000 night-vision goggles — check! 432 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles — check! OK, let's roll!

Only, this is not the U.S. military getting ready to head into battle in a foreign land. It's our local police departments patrolling our cities, towns and college campuses. Remember "Officer Friendly," the beat cops who were known as "peace officers" and were counted on to uphold our domestic laws, detect and investigate crimes, and be a helpful, non-threatening presence in our communities? The friendlies have largely been transformed into militarized forces, literally armed with and garbed in war gear and indoctrinated in military psychology, rather than the ethic of community policing.

From 1776 forward, Americans have wisely opposed having soldiers do police work on our soil, but in recent years, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with police chiefs to circumvent that prohibition. How? Simply by militarizing police departments.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ewarrenporch(Photo: mdfriendofHillary)

Nearly a year ago (on July 11, 2013), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2013, which is described on her Senate website as: 

A bill to reduce risks to the financial system by limiting banks' ability to engage in certain risky activities and limiting conflicts of interest, to reinstate certain Glass-Steagall Act protections that were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and for other purposes.

The purpose of the bill is to restore economic stability to the United States by once again limiting the expansion of banking into high-risk activity and financial areas that create a conflict of interest, as indicated in the bill itself:

(1) to reduce risks to the financial system by limiting banks' ability to engage in activities other than socially valuable core banking activities; 

(2) to protect taxpayers and reduce moral hazard by removing explicit and implicit government guarantees for high-risk activities outside of the core business of banking; and

(3) to eliminate conflicts of interest that arise from banks engaging in activities from which their profits are earned at the expense of their customers or clients.

However, it is nearly a year since Warren (with nine Senate cosponsors and a companion bill in the House) introduced the bill, and it is currently languishing in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 

In a June 13th media alert (via email), Public Citizen pointed out that the Glass-Steagall act protected this nation from egregious financial shenanigans - such as the economic meltdown of 2008 - for a half a century:

Unless you got stinking rich in the run-up to the Great Recession, there’s nothing good you can say about the way Washington tore down the regulatory firewall between commercial and investment banking. The idea to dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which protected our economy so well for 50 years, was a disaster waiting to happen from the start. Had that key financial regulation been left intact, Americans wouldn’t have suffered such enormous loss and hardship to satisfy Wall Street’s insatiable greed.

Monday, June 16, mark[ed] the 81st anniversary of the passage of the original Glass-Steagall law. We need to renew its principles to protect consumers from suffering the consequences when tricky, high-risk financial instruments like derivatives that banksters engineer to increase their profits and personal fortunes go bad.

The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act (S. 1282) sponsored by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is designed to restore the essentials of the original law separating the banking business of high-flying speculators from other banking practices to protect Main Street.  Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of more than 200 organizations on whose executive committee Public Citizen sits, are leading the call to the U.S. Senate to support this critical financial reform. 

Those who remember know that the repeal of Glass-Steagall occurred, with the support of the Clinton administration, in 1999. 

 

BRIAN J. TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaColored(Photo: John Vachon)Voting rights was a priority of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The struggle to secure these rights achieved real traction and impact in the early 1960s. While the Jim Crow South was rife with voter suppression, there was no place more in need of voting reforms than Mississippi. Although black Mississippians comprised nearly 50 percent of the state's population in 1960, less than 7 percent of its eligible black constituency was registered to vote, representing the lowest percentage in the union. In some counties, no blacks were registered to vote. Despite ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment ninety years early, terrorist tactics – from fear and intimidation to beatings and lynchings – prevented blacks from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Later, legislation in several states, i.e., the passage of state constitutional amendments beginning in 1890, severely restricted black voter participation – through measures such as poll taxes, background checks and literacy tests. By 1960, the southern black population had been politically disenfranchised for almost a century.

To effect social and political change for equality in voting, civil rights leaders understood that the Movement needed to challenge the status quo of racial intolerance being advanced by groups like the Citizens' Councils, a national network of pro-segregationists formed in 1954 following the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education. The mission of Citizens' Councils was to preserve white power and oppose racial integration. To protect the voting rights of black citizens, the deep-rooted white segregationist and supremacist establishment, which considered African Americans second-class citizens and preserved this racist ideology with violence, had to be confronted directly. It was decided that there was no better place to embark on this monumental task than Mississippi, arguably the country's poorest and most violent and segregated state.

In 1961, building on the service and sacrifice of countless civil rights workers in initiatives aimed at ending racial segregation and unjust voting restrictions, Robert (Bob) Moses, a local field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), became the head of SNCC's voter education and registration operations in the state. Moses' seminal leadership over the next couple of years was instrumental in the formation of strong coalitions among SNCC leaders and other civil rights leaders as well as sympathetic whites. In 1963, Moses and SNCC carried out a mock election called "Freedom Vote," with the intention of demonstrating both the will of black residents to vote and that in the absence of violence and unfair administrative red tape they would be participating in the electoral process. To accommodate interested black Mississippians, organizers opened polling places in black churches and businesses all over the state, including in Jackson, the state capital and final stop of the "Freedom Rides" of 1961. For most, this was the first time in their lives they felt empowered to contribute to a free, democratic institution. Tens of thousands voted.

Erin Brockovich. (Screen grab <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ia5tfgt6iE" target="_blank">via YouTube</a>)Erin Brockovich. (Screen grab via YouTube)BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If the name Erin Brockovich only reminds you of a 2000 feature film starring Julia Roberts, you’ve got some catching up to do.

The Lawrence, KS native is a consumer advocate and environmental activist who took it upon herself to create a national reporting registry map where Americans can keep record of various health concerns and ailments brought on by the environments they live in. She did so simply because the government never made such a comprehensive tool available.

Brockovich, a consultant for Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York-based mesothelioma and asbestos law firm, loves galvanizing people to stand up for their beliefs. She told as much to IAMECO Warrior when the site saw her at the annual Captain Planet Foundation Gala, where she received the Protector of the Earth award.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anamericandream(Photo: marmet553)

Rarely is living in a car in an urban area a decision of choice.

The increasing economic impoverishment and long-term unemployment of people in the United States - as well as the number of people with mental health issues who do not have residences or access to residential facilities - is making a vehicle the residence of last resort.

In Los Angeles, a federal court struck down a municipal ordinance that made it a crime to use a car for overnight shelter. According to The Los Angeles Times:

For the second time in two years, a federal appeals court has struck down a key enforcement tool in Los Angeles' efforts to deal with burgeoning homelessness, declaring a ban on living in vehicles an invitation to discriminate against the poor.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided unanimously Thursday that a city ordinance prohibiting people from living in vehicles was unconstitutionally vague. That ruling followed a 9th Circuit decision in 2012 that prevented Los Angeles from confiscating and destroying possessions that homeless people leave temporarily on sidewalks.

The judge who wrote the opinion - representing a 3-0 appeals court panel ruling - chastised the city of Los Angeles for punishing poverty instead of trying to assist those in need:

"The City of Los Angeles has many options at its disposal to alleviate the plight and suffering of its homeless citizens," wrote Judge Harry Pregerson, who was appointed by President Carter. "Selectively preventing the homeless and the poor from using their vehicles for activities many other citizens also conduct in their cars should not be one of those options."

Protest and support for San Francisco’s Archbishop Cordileone. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/8360718663" target="_blank">Steve Rhodes / Flickr</a>)Protest and support for San Francisco's Archbishop Cordileone. (Photo: Steve Rhodes / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spent Thursday in Washington D.C., at the second annual March for Marriage, speaking to a crowd estimated to have been between 2,000 and 5,000. The event, which was supposed to bring tens of thousands of anti-same-sex marriage activists to Washington, was co-sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage and The Washington Times, who served as the official media sponsor, and had put together a special supplement for the rally.

According to news reports, some of the participants were bussed in from New York under the guise of a "free ride" to the nation's capital to view the monuments. And, as the day progressed, the thin crowd got thinner, perhaps taking the opportunity to visit some of D.C.'s memorials. And while March organizers had hoped for tens of thousands of "traditional marriage" supporters, Slate's J. Bryan Lowder pointed out that Brian Brown, NOM's president, had trouble "get[ting] a chant going."

Despite public opinion having shifted sharply in favor of same-sex marriage, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins had his rose-colored glasses in place. He wrote in his daily Washington Update that "After months of hearing the courts' opinion on marriage, today America heard from the voters those courts trampled. Thousands of people from states all across the country descended on Washington, D.C. to show the nation that we care about protecting marriage and will do anything to stand up and fight for it."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amtrak3(Photo: Wikipedia)

Add this to another adverse side effect of fracking: On some major (and secondary routes), long freight trains filled with fracking oils and extraction supplies allegedly delay Amtrak trains for hours, enraging passengers and likely decreasing Amtrak usage on the affected routes.

Although a quick Google search of Amtrak and fracking reveals that this disruption due to fracking shipments has occurred in various parts of the nation, the most affected route appears to be the Empire Builder, which runs from Seattle to Chicago.  Indeed, the Midwest Amtrak PR representative, Mark Maglari, referred BuzzFlash at Truthout to an Amtrak service alert warning passengers of delays on the Empire Builder route:

Passengers traveling aboard Empire Builder trains can encounter significant delays due to very high volumes of freight train traffic along the route. During the previous weeks in May and June, delays averaged between three and five hours. While delays to the Empire Builder have primarily been occurring west of St. Paul, MN, passengers should anticipate delays in both directions.

Maglari pointed out what is confirmed by other sources: BNSF Railway Company owns the tracks that Amtrak uses in North Dakota. Given that the tracks are the property of BNSF, it decides which trains have de facto priority passage (even though a federal law is supposed to give priority to Amtrak), and it has apparently given fracking and oil container car shipments passage scheduling times that impede the passage of Amtrak passenger trains (and, apparently, trains carrying farm goods that are perishable).

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFrackingPrinceton(Photo: EcoWatch)Pennsylvania already has a fracking problem groups struggle to inspire politicians to address. Now, a Princeton University study shows that hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil wells are adding to the state's pollution.

CO2, Methane, and Brine Leakage through Subsurface Pathways: Exploring Modeling, Measurement and Policy Options is a first-of-its-kind study from Mary Klang that describes how abandoned oil wells serve as leakage pathways for carbon dioxide, methane, brine and more.

Based on records, Kang estimates that between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned wells account for 4 to 13 percent of the state's methane emissions.

Three of the 19 wells measured by the team are considered high emitters. Leakage was found in both plugged and unplugged wells.

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