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WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

Poll 1024wrp opt(Photo: Smithsonian Institution)My wife, Rosemary, a registered Republican, received a black and white poll in the mail. Plastered across the top of the sheet in bold black letters was the title: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” I wonder who that could be.

On to the questions. All she had to do was to check the appropriate box and return the ballot. The survey indicated name, survey number, and a processing code, all with a bar code for identification.  She just had to check the appropriate box beneath a picture of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or “no opinion.” Seemed simple enough.

First question: “Hillary Clinton is working hard to win the White House so she can carry forward Barack Obama’s disastrous policies—including increased taxes—which have been so harmful to our nation’s economy. Donald Trump is dedicated to lowering taxes and instituting responsible reforms that will create jobs, strengthen free enterprise and boost economic growth. Which candidate do you trust more to put America on a secure and prosperous economic path.”

Gee, this is a hard one. Let’s think about it awhile. OK, time’s up. I guess, based upon the question, the demon Clinton wasn’t the right answer. Rosemary needed to check Trump as the one to keep the country moving forward.

There were nine questions, all similar to the first one. The other questions had to do with the federal debt, foreign policy, the nomination of federal judges, immigration, environment, and ObamaCare. The ninth one asked the most vital question: “Are you willing to financially help the Trump Make America Great Again Committee in making sure our nation finally leaves behind the ruinous policies of the past eight years and elects a Republican president who will Make America Great Again?”

Monday, 24 October 2016 07:58

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

Soil 1024wrp(Photo: USDA)An earlier review identified the "Three Big Sins of Charter Schools": fraud, a lack of transparency, and the exclusion of unwanted students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires "increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools." Wrong. As the NAACP affirms, our nation needs "free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children." For all children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: "Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?"

Here are the four big sins of charter schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6621873843 aa27b53de6 zOur primary "national interest" should be nurturing a robust democracy, not engaging in millitarized conflicts around the world. (Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet )

I don't know how many times "the national interest" was mentioned in the three presidential debates, but if I were having one of those drinking contests where you down a shot of alcohol every time a word or phrase is mentioned, I would have ended with more vodka than blood pulsing through my veins.

I've discussed before how disingenuous it is of the pundits and the politicians to utter the words "the national interest" in intonations normally reserved for grave and somber responsibilities. In an officially secular nation, the phrase is often spoken with a sacredness that is reserved for divinities. After all, our democracy -- at least in federal elections -- is supposed to be focused on protecting and enhancing "the national interest"; even though politicians may think that it is the other way around.

That's because the phrase "national interest" is generally code for the sum total of the wealth and comfort of upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans. Keep in mind that the US accounts for more than 40 percent of the world's wealth. And according to a 2010 article in the New York Times, the US and Europe together have amassed 70 percent of the planets' financial assets. That's an important point, when you look at the presidential debates and how significant NATO is in Hillary Clinton's "national interest" worldview. The US "national interest" and European national interests represent not a thirst for spreading democracy, but the replacement of colonial ownership of less-developed countries with the more modern world of global financial dominance. This is essentially colonialism under a new economic framework, with independent governments that are beholden to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and financial subjugation by the West.

Given that "the national interest" of monetary and asset accumulation -- and ensuring, as just one example, the growth of such US mainstays as malls filled with merchandise to make the "haves" feel more prosperous -- is dependent upon a robust military. These forces are deployed around the world to ensure access to raw materials and suppress the emergence of true democracies that challenge US hegemony in the world. Therefore, it is completely understandable that so many candidates for national office link "the national interest" with a military deployment that spans the world. A 2015 article from TomDispatch (reprinted on Truthout) stated it quite succinctly: "The United States probably has more foreign military bases than any other people, nation, or empire in history." Of course, our most "reliable" allies are our partners in dividing the world's assets and cheap labor: European nations who participate in military coalition campaigns with the US. 

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 1021wrp opt(Photo: NASA/Bill Anders)Maybe it's the phrase — "commander in chief" — that best captures the transcendent absurdity and unaddressed horrors of the 2016 election season and the business as usual that will follow.

I don't want to elect anyone commander in chief: not the xenophobic misogynist and egomaniac, not the Henry Kissinger acolyte and Libya hawk. The big hole in this democracy is not the candidates; it's the bedrock, founding belief that the rest of the world is our potential enemy, that war with someone is always inevitable and only a strong military will keep us safe.

In a million ways, we've outgrown this concept, or been pushed beyond it by awareness of global human connectedness and the shared planetary risk of eco-collapse. So whenever I hear someone in the media bring "commander in chief" into the discussion — always superficially and without question — what I hear is boys playing war. Yes, we wage war in a real way as well, but when the public is invited to participate in the process by selecting its next commander in chief, this is pretend war at its most surreal: all glory and greatness and hammering ISIS in Mosul.

"What about our safety here?" Brian Williams asked Gen. Barry McCaffrey on MSNBC the other night, as they were discussing the awfulness of terrorism and the need to bomb the bad guys out of existence. I cringed. How long can they keep selling this?

Our safety is far, far more imperiled by the fact that we have a military at all than by any enemy that military is allegedly fighting, but is, in fact, creating as it churns out endless collateral damage, a.k.a., dead and injured civilians.

DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission of EcoWatch

16677857756 5475fe97a4 z 1A red wolf in the wild. (Photo: Victoria)

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

The same scientists who provided the population viability analysis to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the red wolf have sent a rebuttal to the agency, accusing it of "many alarming misinterpretations" in its justification for removing most of the remaining animals in the wild.

Last month, the USFWS announced that it would recapture 32 of the 45 wolves in the wild and leave only those on federal lands. Currently, there are about 200 red wolves in captive breeding programs in the U.S. as part of the agency's Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The letter, released to the public today, bluntly counters the agency's proposal to recapture 32 wolves and place them in captive breeding programs:

"A singular focus on the SSP will no doubt result in extinction of red wolves in the wild."

On Sept. 29, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a preliminary injunction ordering the USFWS to stop capturing and killing—and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill—members of the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.

"There's no need to capture wild wolves in an effort to save the captive population, which is what the service contends," said Defenders of Wildlife attorney Jason Rylander.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

4122925426 07b8073529 zShould this building be renamed the GOP Supreme Court? (Photo: Matt Wade)

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

For the right wing, Justice Antonin Scalia was to the Supreme Court what Ronald Reagan was to the presidency: St. Anton. Before Scalia's body even got cold, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced that no judge nominated by President Obama to replace "the revered one" would be considered by the Senate. In fact, McConnell refused to hold Senate Judicial Committee hearings on any nominee put forth by Obama, and very few Senate Republicans would even consent to holding a conversation with Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

One doesn't need to fully support Judge Garland -- many progressives consider him a centrist on key issues -- to see how obstructionist the Republicans are being. It is as though they are hoping for some deus ex machina to appear to fill Scalia's vacant Supreme Court seat with another brash right-wing troglodyte: an individual with a masterful ability to make the most egregious defenses of assaults on justice and common sense sound like grandiloquent legalese. I frequently wrote about Scalia during his tenure -- including several commentaries about his role as the ring leader in a cult that stole the presidency and handed it to George W. Bush by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

One of the most gruesome and ludicrous court opinions Scalia wrote concerned Troy Davis, who was eventually executed despite evidence that indicated he was innocent. Scalia wrote in a 2009 dissent on whether Davis should be retried:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged "actual innocence" is constitutionally cognizable.

It's frightening to think that the current Congress won't give the time of day to a judge who is about as centrist as a Democratic president's nominee could be, but lauds a jurist who believes that the US Constitution doesn't outlaw executing a person who is probably innocent.

There is some speculation in the press that Garland may not be confirmed by the Senate even if Hillary Clinton wins the election in November. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) indirectly affirmed this possibility when he proclaimed this week that the GOP would oppose any Clinton nominee, if she becomes president.

DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

KingTide 1019wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Sen. Marco Rubio refused to acknowledge human-caused climate change at a Florida Senate debate Monday even as a foot of water inundated city streets and sewers throughout South Florida, driven by the annual king tide combined with rising seas.

The king tide occurs when a full moon is aligned with the Earth and sun, exerting gravitational forces that are exacerbated by the naturally-occurring high tides. As sea levels around Florida have risen, these king tides have become regular flooding events.

Rubio argued for an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, including oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, and said he favored mitigation strategies, "if in fact sea levels are rising."

Patrick Murphy, Rubio's Democratic challenger, responded in the debate by saying, "Look out your window, right? There's two or three inches of saltwater on the roads right now. They were not built underwater. Go down to the Florida Keys. The reefs are dying from acidification and bleaching."

Some 76 percent of Florida's population resides in coastal communities—regions that are highly vulnerable to storm surges, high tides, rising waters and hurricanes. According to a 2010 report prepared by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, "Much of the current infrastructure of coastal Florida will need to be replaced or improved during ongoing sea-level rise." The report puts the cost at $3 trillion by 2030.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016 06:59

When the Election Is Over, It Will Not Be Done

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fire 1019wrp opt(Photo: Fir0002)They're stoked by bitterness, anger, and the unbearable color of others, and they're buying into Donald Trump's trope that the election, indeed society, is rigged against them. At his rallies, they love to wear obscene-laced t-shirts, and when Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned, they come alive with chants of "Lock her up." They revile fact checking and are disgusted, not by Trump's predatory behavior and despicable comments about women, but by the way the media has reported it. And, when the election is over, and Trump has moved on to attempting to build a multi-media empire, or perhaps to an all-expenses-paid Dacha in the Russian countryside, his supporters will be holding a bag of steaming anger.

And the anger of those supporters could make the era of the Tea Party look like, well … a tea party.

A question being batted around these days is: How will the Republican Party deal with its far-right extremists; white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and alt-righters if Trump loses? How will it reckon with the theocratic Christian Right, many of whom – Jerry Falwell, Jr., Dr. James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, to name a few – were all in with their support for Trump, when they start clamoring for an authentic conservative Christian evangelical candidate in 2020?

The commentary you find at BuzzFlash and Truthout can only be published because of readers like you. Click here to join the thousands of people who have donated so far.

In 2013, the Republican Party earnestly issued what was characterized as an "autopsy"; an examination of what wrong in the 2012 presidential election. Party analysts looked at why they lost, and what could be done differently. One of the areas the autopsy focused on was how to improve outreach to minority communities: "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too." Questions about how the GOP could become a more inclusive party were asked and discussed.

State senator Raymond J. Lesniak has introduced a bill that would ban bear baiting and establish trash disposal rules that would reduce access to human food waste, as has been implemented in other areas with high bear populations.State senator Raymond J. Lesniak has introduced a bill that would ban bear baiting and establish trash disposal rules that would reduce access to human food waste, as has been implemented in other areas with high bear populations. (Photo: Jethro Taylor)DAN ZUKOWSKI OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission of EcoWatch

A bow hunter in New Jersey has apparently killed a popular local black bear, Pedals. Wildlife lovers are outraged as the hunter has been reportedly bragging about the kill.

Pedals, the upright-walking bear, which once had 22,000 fans on a now-defunct Facebook page, was just one of 549 bears killed by hunters during a controversial expanded hunting season. Reaction was so negative on both sides of the issue that a Facebook page dedicated to the bear was shut down Saturday night. A new Facebook page, RIP Pedals The Walking Bear, posted a plea to "please be respectful of others."

Anger may have been provoked by the defunct site's post, which read, "The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly three years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the station."

Oil Spill in Dalian(Photo: Peter Ma)JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Eroding US Pipeline Explosions Reported as "Gas Hikes"

There are approximately, hold on to your seat, 185,000 oil spills and pipeline ruptures that happen every single day in the United States, alone. Reports on these daily disasters are deliberately censored. And now, devastating oil spill impacts are being redefined in the media as "gas hike warnings" instead of environmental disasters.

The federal government has not enforced safety regulations; thus when eroding oil pipes rupture, Big Oil's message is: You, Mr. and Mrs. America, will pay the price with gas hikes. Not only is Big Oil responsible for creating the deadly toxic mess by not upgrading their eroding pipelines, they make hard-working Americans pay for the ruptured pipes by raising gas prices. And if that doesn't tick you off, the oil pipeline industry receives billions of your tax dollars in subsidies.

In September 2016, a main oil pipeline ruptured in Alabama that disrupted supply distribution. The corporate news reported it as a "leak." The chosen word "leak" comes directly out of the oil industry's public relations' lexicon. They instruct politicians, the media anchors, and especially the president of the United States, to use the word "pipe leak". For instance, President Obama still characterizes the worst oil catastrophe in history, the 2010 BP Deep Horizon explosion that killed eleven workers and left 3,000 miles of the Gulf of Mexico's ocean floor a permanent dead zone, "a leak".

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