WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
David M. Jacobson wanted a transcript of a public hearing conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), May 2. The public meeting was to allow persons to discuss a proposal by National Gypsum and En-Tire Logistics to build a tire burner plant in Union County that would burn about 100 million pounds of shredded tires each year, and convert part of that to electricity to benefit National Gypsum, with the rest taken to landfills. Jacobson is a member of Organizations United for the Environment (OUE), which objects to the plant because of the amount of pollutants that would be sent into the atmosphere.
THE DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE PRESS RELEASE ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Denver - Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation that continue the reform of marijuana laws in Colorado set in motion last election by the voters in the state.
Once voters made it clear that marijuana prohibition must end, Hickenlooper established a task force of various stakeholder communities to provide guidance for the general assembly to enact legislation to implement Amendment 64. The task force recommendations became the basis of the work of a select legislative committee that devised the bills signed today by the Governor.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Count the ways that the GOP in Congress is still trying to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). There are so many that you would need a calculator.
Start with the holding up through a -- you got it – yet another "threatened" filibuster of the appointment of Richard Cordray as official head of the agency. Currently, he is only in the position as a recess appointment. This limits his power, term and implementation of the full consumer protection law that was enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank legislation, which the Republicans loathe, as weak as it is.
According to the Washington Post's Mike Konczl, the GOP is using its never-ending intimidation aimed at Harry Reid that they will hold up the Senate's business to block Cordray's official appointment unless, in essence, the agency s gutted through amendatory legislation. Reid, in what now is a tired toothless threat, says that he may end the non-filibuster/filibuster by reducing a closure vote to merely needing a majority and not 60 votes.
But Reid has threatened this for years. His dithering on dropping the "nuclear bomb" of actually making a filibuster a filibuster is either due to his agreement with the corporate status quo or he's just a naïve get along to go along wimp. Some Democrats say changing the filibuster regulation (it is a Senate rule, not a law or constitutional provision) would force the Democrats to lose a leveraging tool if they become the minority in the Senate in 2014 or thereafter. That might make a good argument except the Democrats generally roll over and support Republican bills and federal judicial and executive branch nominees without threatening a filibuster when they are in the minority.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Thom Hartmann recently wrote an extremely widely read article on how the Public Broadcasting Service has evolved into a sometimes self-censored television network, in large part because major donors represent the 1% who would be the subject of discussion when it comes to economic concentration in the hands of a few.
Hartmann entitled his commentary, "The Corporate Dictatorship of PBS and NPR." The primary example Hartmann offers of how critical analysis necessary for formulating public policy is de facto censored concerns how PBS dropped the funding of a documentary called "Citizen Koch."
As Hartmann details,
Public broadcasting institutions now rely more and more on corporate and billionaire cash to operate, which is probably why PBS and NPR now filter what they play on their airwaves, so that they don’t anger their wealthy backers.
This is where the documentary “Citizen Koch” comes in.
“Citizen Koch” is a documentary about money and politics, focusing heavily on the uprising that took place in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012.
It talks about how the Citizens United decision paved the way for secretive political spending by major players, including the Koch Brothers.
As Brendan Fischer over at the Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch points out, the documentary was originally supposed to air on PBS stations nationwide, but its funding was abruptly cut off when, it appears, David Koch was offended.
But why would PBS care if David Koch didn’t like one of their documentaries?
Because, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, David Koch has donated upwards of $23 million to public television. And when you donate $23 million dollars to public television, you get more than just a tote bag or a coffee mug – you get to dictate the on-air programming.
This brings us to the PBS WNET affiliate in NYC, where David Koch recently sat on the board. He was also rumored to be readying a "seven-figure" gift to the Big Apple Public Broadcasting station.
Enter Alex Gibney, who won a 2008 Academy Award for "Taxi To the Dark Side" – his meticulous and compelling exposure of the death by torture of an innocent Afghan taxi driver due to sanctioned torture in Afghanistan. Gibney filmed a documentary for WNET, "Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream" that focused on one of the wealthiest residential buildings in New York City: 740 Park Avenue.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it's actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.
1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009
Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney's famous 47 percent, the alleged 'takers,' have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.
2. It's Even Worse 3 Years Later
Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that "inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve," with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.
WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Memorial Day is set aside to honor America's veterans, those who have served and those who have given what Abraham Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion. Indeed, you will not be able to turn your head today without confronting invocations of honor and duty. While it is all well and good to do this, the reality behind what our veterans endure today obscures these pious platitudes with the hard reek of hypocrisy.
Facts: Average wait time for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans filing their first claim to receive the benefits they earned: between 316 and 327 days. Those filing for the first time in big cities wait up to twice as long: 642 days in New York, 619 days in Los Angeles, and 542 days in Chicago.
The ranks of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits grew from 11,000 in 2009 to 245,000 in December, an increase of more than 2,000%. The VA expected the number of veterans waiting - currently about 900,000 - to continue to increase throughout 2013 and top a million by the end of this past March.
There are, on average, 22 veteran suicides a day. "I'm not surprised at the number of us that kill ourselves," Lincoln Capstick, an unemployed Iraq War veteran in Indiana where the average wait on new claims is 612 days, said to Time Magazine.
(Photo: Will Pitt)
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As part of the brash rash of wire-brush scouring on the Teflon coating that routinely seals the Obama Presidency, a large heavy-duty cast-iron deal has been made of the IRS conducting audits on Tea Party-affiliated organizations. But scratch the surface and it makes a sort of perverse sense.
Tea Party and Associates are what you might call… anti-tax. Like meringue is anti-diet. So much so, they eschew the easy road by denying their name was taken from the early tax rebellion, but rather claim it an acronym of “Taxed Enough Already.” These guys are strict.
On the other hand, the IRS is, for lack of a better phrase, less anti-tax. You could go so far as to say the IRS is pro-tax. Although employees undoubtedly consider their task following the letter of the law rather than the grisly art of squeezing blood from 300 million turnips. Type AB Rh negative preferred please.
These ornery combatants are mortal enemies along the lines of the mongoose and the cobra. Sheep and wolf. Electric vehicles and Oklahoma. Sarah Palin & The Learning Channel. Irish skin and Equatorial Guinea. The guy from IT support and everybody else in the fricking office. Panty hose and coffee table corners. Cheese and cat hair.
Nobody wants the government targeting dissenters. Uncomfortably reminiscent of Burma and that doesn’t mean the romantic Pindaya caves either. The 1984 Orwellian nightmare of Winston Smith revisited. But neither should we forget the Tea Party’s stated goal is to shrink the government and get rid of the IRS. Then ostensibly teach the rest of us how to pave our own roads by making mud bricks in our ovens.
(Photo: Fibonacci Blue)
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Remember the "Democratic Leadership Council," the DLC (officially dead, but hardly forgotten)? It was a coming together of right-wing Democrats, beginning in the 1980s, to "lead the party to victory." And under the leadership of the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, they did just that. They turned their backs on that awful "McGovern liberalism" and set the party straight on the path to the White House.
They also set it straight on the path, all under Clinton, to, for example, "ending the era of 'Big Government'" (as Clinton announced in his first State of the Union message), ending aid to families with dependent children, to the massive shipment of capital and jobs overseas that was begun with the North American Free Trade Organization and the creation of the World Trade Organization, to the ending of the separation of commercial from investment banking and the concomitant triumph of finance capitalism, which led directly to the Great Recession that we now currently live in, and so on and so forth.
Clinton also established the modern Democratic Party pattern of not fighting the GOP much on the political side either. Take "Whitewater," for example. There was no there there, from the very beginning, and the Clintons knew it. But they stood silent as the GOP yelled and screamed about it, supported in that one even by the New York Times which at that time had an editor who had hated Clinton ever since he was a local newspaperman in Arkansas. (No, the Times doesn't always get it right. See, e.g., Iraq, Judith Miller, and the non-existent "WMD.")
The whole investigation gave us nothing except, oh yes, Ken Starr and the perjury trap he illegally set for Clinton in the Paula Jones case. But did Clinton fight back through all the years of GOP attacks? Ohhhh no!
MARK KARLIN AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yesterday, BuzzFlash wrote about how the de facto decision to let Alberta tar sands oil flow into the US -- and particularly Texas refineries and ports -- has already been made, beginning with the third segment of the Keystone Pipeline that is almost completed.
After we wrote the commentary, the House passed a bill that is a power grab by the big oil companies, TransCanada pipeline, and Canada to build a fourth more direct Keystone XL pipeline to Steele City, Nebraska. It would increase capacity and profit, but it is not necessary for the tar sands oil to flow in the US; it already is.
As Politico reported on the House vote, "The House approved legislation Wednesday to green-light the Keystone XL oil pipeline (the fourth optional segment), giving Republicans a messaging victory heading into the Memorial Day recess."
It's a symbolic victory -- and an assertion of big oil power -- because Alberta Tar Sands oil is already flowing into the US as revealed by two prominent branch line leaks in Arkansas and Michigan.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Maybe the problem is that rape is an extension of military culture. And it's metastasizing, even as legislation to address it stays trapped in congressional subcommittee.
Scandals and outrage come and go, but rape is ever-present. In 2011, a Pentagon report estimated that 19,000 sexual assaults had occurred in the U.S. military, of which barely 3,000 were reported because of the stigma and risk involved in doing so. The "I own you" system of military justice traditionally turns on the victim far more than the accused. That year, in response to the shocking statistics, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would, among other things, remove the investigation of rape cases from the military chain of command, which has far more interest in ignoring the problem than prosecuting it.
Now a new Pentagon report is out, estimating that 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the U.S. military in 2012, with, once again, just over 3,000 incidents reported. And Speier's legislation has been sitting the whole time in the House Armed Services Committee, denied even a hearing.
"The military doesn't want this and the committee tends to be very deferential to what the military wants," Speier told Northern California public TV station KQED. "This is one of those issues where what the military wants is not good enough for all the men and women in the military who want to serve without being jumped by a sexual predator in the night."