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P2015.13.4 BF Buchheit(Photo: Ian Carroll)AUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

America's wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

Financier and CEO Peter Schiff said, "People don't go hungry in a capitalist economy." The 16 million kids on food stamps know what it's like to go hungry. Perhaps, some in Congress would say, those children should be working. "There is no such thing as a free lunch," insisted Georgia Representative Jack Kingston, even for schoolkids, who should be required to "sweep the floor of the cafeteria" (as they actually do at a charter school in Texas).

The callousness of US political and business leaders is disturbing, shocking. Hunger is just one of the problems of our children. Teacher Sonya Romero-Smith told about the two little homeless girls she adopted: "Getting rid of bedbugs, that took us a while. Night terrors, that took a little while. Hoarding food.."

America Is a 'Leader' in Child Poverty

The US has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. As UNICEF reports, "[Children's] material well-being is highest in the Netherlands and in the four Nordic countries and lowest in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United States."

Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKochBrosEcoWatchSuzuki(Photo: EcoWatch)Brothers Charles and David Koch run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately owned company in the U.S., behind Cargill. They’ve given close to US$70 million to climate change denial front groups, some of which they helped start, including Americans for Prosperity, founded by David Koch and a major force behind the Tea Party movement.

Through their companies, the Kochs are the largest U.S. leaseholder in the Alberta oilsands. They’ve provided funding to Canada’s pro-oil Fraser Institute and are known to fuel the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, which claims a 1992 UN non-binding sustainable development proposal is a plot to remove property rights and other freedoms.

Researchers reveal they’re also behind many anti-transit initiatives in the U.S., in cities and states including Nashville, Indianapolis, Boston, Virginia, Florida and Los Angeles. They spend large amounts of money on campaigns to discredit climate science and the need to reduce greenhouse gases, and they fund sympathetic politicians.

In late January, 50 U.S. anti-government and pro-oil groups—including some tied to the Kochs and the pro-oil, pro-tobacco Heartland Institute—sent Congress a letter opposing a gas tax increase that would help fund public transit, in part because “Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit.”

The letter says “transportation infrastructure has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” an argument similar to one used by opponents of the transportation plan Metro Vancouver residents are currently voting on. Vancouver’s anti-transit campaign is led by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation—a group that doesn’t reveal its funding sources and is on record as denying the existence of human-caused climate change—along with Hamish Marshall, a conservative strategist with ties to Ethical Oil.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDanSavage(Photo: Weebot)If it seems like the Christian Right never runs out of Culture War targets, that's because the Christian Right never tires of the money-making, headline-grabbing Culture Wars. And, it's been a solid few months for the Christian Right with an uptick in activity: they're defending anti-gay laws in Indiana and Arkansas; continued railing against what they see as a coordinated attack on Christians in the U.S.; beseeched the Supreme Court not to make same-sex marriage the law of the land; supported more and more onerous anti-abortion legislation in the states; and doctored Texas text books to force students to view the Bible as an essential document of the Founding Fathers.

And now, they are about savaging Dan Savage!

An AFA Action Alert, posted Wednesday, April 8, is headlined "Disney/ABC Glorify X-Rated Bully Dan Savage In Prime Time Sitcom." The Alert features a Family Research Council "video montage" containing "examples" of Savage's "vitriolic hate speech"; "but be warned, they are extremely graphic and offensive."

To the folks at the American Family Association, Savage is "one of the cruelest, most vile political activists in America," Monica Cole, Director of OneMillionMoms.com, recently wrote in the AFA's The Stand. "A perusal of Dan Savage's work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. We have included examples in the link below, but be warned, they are extremely graphic and offensive."

The AFA's new battle is over a television program just announced by ABC-Disney developed by Savage and "disgustingly titled, 'Family of the Year'" Monica Cole pointed out. (Other reports have the show tentatively named "The Real O'Neals."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

awarrenreagan2Senator Elizabeth Warren (Photo: Edward Kimmel)

Are you old enough to remember the rugged cowboy individualism Madison Avenue creation of the Marlboro Man? The ads became an iconic symbol of the widespread US myth of tough, masculine independence from others in society. 

In many ways, the Marlboro Man merged with the carefully crafted image of Ronald Reagan. Just think about all the photos of him horseback riding on his ranch, for example. This Marlboro Man resonance was captured by BuzzFlash in a photo taken at the entrance to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California (see full text of column), included in a 2008 commentary.

What is ironic, in a tragic way, is how at least three of the men who posed, over the years, as the Marlboro Man died of lung cancer and lung disease, as The Guardian revealed in a 2014 article.

The Marlboro Man ad campaign; the creation of a mythic champion - Ronald Reagan - of a United States where only the individual and wealth counts; and the deaths of millions and millions of people in the US over the years, lured to smoking by the Madison Avenue "Mad Man" image of a virile male who relies on no one but himself: These pieces of the puzzle of US cultural and political history - when assembled together - reveal a tragic narrative that still guides so many people in the US. 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

3003262167 958cc14c22 zHow will you feel if your vote doesn't count in the next presidential election? (Photo: kirstencan)

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by at least 450,000 votes, but lost the election due to an unprecedented Supreme Court decision

The GOP is strategizing on how to ensure the election of a Republican president in 2016, even if he or she receives a minority of the popular vote - but this time through a legal legislative strategy. 

First, here is the background to what legislatures in some key electoral states, such as Michigan, are considering making into law.  It begins with understanding gerrymandering, the creation of congressional districts in states every 10 years.  In 2010, the Republicans, with a strong boost from the Tea Party, swept many state legislatures and governorships. State legislatures, not the federal government, determine congressional districts - and it has always been a highly partisan affair.

With precision software that can slice districts up in such a way that one party can win a state vote for Congress by a wide margin, gerrymandering allows for concentrating a disproportionate vote of one party in certain districts, while creating other districts where the margin of victory by the other party is smaller, but still virtually assured.

2015.9.4 BF Pantsios(Photo: Rebecca Barray)ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT.

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

The idea that you can make climate change go away by not talking about it is spreading.

One month ago, we heard how officials and staff at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were ordered not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” even when they were discussing the all-too-obvious impacts to their vulnerable state.

Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn. The staff of its Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) has been told they can’t even discuss climate change, no matter what they call it. Staff members aren’t even permitted to respond to emails on the subject, following a vote this week by the three-member panel overseeing the agency. It includes two Republicans and one Democrat and the vote was 2-1.

“It’s not a part of our sole mission, which is to make money for our beneficiaries,” State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican member of the panel, told Bloomberg Business. “That’s what I want our employees working on. That’s it. Managing our trust funds.”

Thursday, 09 April 2015 06:43

The Real Nuclear Threat

2015.9.4 KOEHLER(Photo: Nicolas Raymond)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If war were only “itself” — the violence and horror, the conflagration and death — it would be bad enough, but it’s also an abstraction, a specific language of self-justifying righteousness that allows proponents to contemplate unleashing it not merely in physical but in moral safety.

War, the abstraction, is an instrument of policy, an “option” that can be waged or threatened to get one’s way. It is always contained and sure of itself, limited in its goals and, of course, necessary. Its unintended consequences are minimal and quickly neutralized with an official apology, then forgotten. If we didn’t forget, thenextwar wouldn’t seem like such a viable, enticing option.

The next war that has been gestating for so long now is the one with Iran, and its proponents, I’m sure, will do what they can to dismantle the framework of the agreement recently negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 nations. The incompleteness of the agreement — the fact that only Iran has accountability in the realm of nuclear weapons — raises profound questions about the future of the planet, but this flaw is obscured, certainly in most mainstream coverage, by the “controversy” that the agreement has been reached at all, supplanting the possibility of a military response to Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The interests opposed to the agreement, which wouldn’t be possible without mutual trust, maintain a belief in nothing but one-sided force to achieve their ends: either ongoing sanctions against Iran or military action.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBigB(Photo: EcoWatch)This week, President Obama is launching a slew of new initiatives to focus on how climate change affects community health and how those effects can be better addressed. He kicked it off by declaring April 6-12 National Public Health Week to emphasize the importance of engaging the public health system as well as private companies and local governments to take action to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.

“We know climate change is not a distant threat,” said the White House press release. “We are already seeing impacts in communities across the country. And while most Americans see climate change hitting their communities through extreme weather events—from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves—there are other threats climate change poses to the American people. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries.”

To meet those challenges, the White House is kicking off a series of actions to engage various stakeholders, identify solutions, provide wider access to climate and health data and other significant information and make sure the next generation of medical professionals is trained to address the ways in which climate change is making people sick.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBeggar(Photo: Sidney Paget)At last, America's political leaders indicate that they now hear the voices and feel the pain of the poor and of the millions of working families slipping out of the middle class.

Congress had previously paid no attention to the ever-widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us, but that inequality has recently emerged as a top political topic in the race for such Republican presidential contenders as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. They are publicly lamenting the wealth gap and — by gollies — proposing solutions. Alas, though, the "solution" proposed by each of them is not to provide help for those who've been knocked down, but to offer aid to the same corporate elites who've been enriching themselves by knocking down the middle class and holding down the poor.

Specifically, their solution is to cut taxes on corporations and the rich, do away with environmental and labor protections and cut or privatize government programs — from Head Start to Social Security — that ordinary people count on. For example, Sen. Rubio proposes to kill the food stamp program (even though the need for it is greater than ever) and redirect that money into what he calls a subsidy for low-wage workers. Does he think we have sucker-wrappers around our heads? That's not a subsidy for workers, but for low-wage employers. Why should taxpayers subsidize the poverty pay of profitable giants such as McDonald's, rather than making them pay living wages and cover their own labor costs?

I guess we should count it as progress that Republican candidates are at least having to admit that inequality is a problem, but come on — offering the same old failed, anti-government snake oil is an insult to the American people. Jeb Bush shows how vacuous their flim-flammery is by saying that, to address the ever-widening wealth and income gap, he'll "celebrate success and ... cherish free enterprise." Gosh, what a comfort that'll be to America's hard-hit majority.

It may be futile to hope that the GOP's gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our "Land of Opportunity" — but where are the Democrats?

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOilRig(Photo: VaderSS)Today, six activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza have climbed aboard an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig, the Polar Pioneer, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.

The six volunteers have set up camp on the underside of the Polar Pioneer’s main deck with enough supplies to last for several days. They took this action because last week the U.S. Department of the Interior approved Shell’s drilling lease in the Alaskan Arctic, despite having been previously overruled in court twice for failure to meet environmental regulations. So now, Shell could start drilling in 100 days.

“We’re here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil,” said Johno Smith from New Zealand, one of the six that is aboard the Shell oil rig. “This pristine environment needs protecting for future generations and all life that will call it home. But instead Shell’s actions are exploiting the melting ice to increase a manmade disaster. Climate change is real and already inflicting pain and suffering on my brothers and sisters in the Pacific.

“I believe that shining a light on what Shell is doing will encourage more people to take a strong stand against them and other companies who are seeking to destroy this planet for profit. I’m just one voice out here, but I know I’m not alone, and millions if not billions of voices demanding the right to safe and healthy lives will have a huge chance of changing things.”

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