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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.”

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaArchMO(Photo: Moofpocket)Let's paraphrase, and sing along with the late great Robert Preston, playing the fake Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right there, I say, trouble right there in the Show Me State. ... With a capital 'S' and that rhymes with Mess. And a capital 'H' that stands for Hate."

There is a big hateful troubling mess brewing in the Show Me State these days, as two prominent Republicans, one who had declared his intention to run for governor, and other, one of his closest political advisors and friends, committed suicide in a little over a month. And two of the people who may have been most responsible for the clown-suit politics that drove both suicides are a longtime local Republican Party political consultant and strategist who last summer signed onto Team Ted Cruz, and, the current chairman of Missouri's Republican Party.

According to several reports in Missouri newspapers, Jeff Roe, the founder and principal of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Axiom Strategies, was responsible for preparing a radio advertisement aimed at trashing the gubernatorial candidacy of former Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, one of the men who committed suicide.

The Kansas City Star reported that the spot, "labeled Schweich as a weak candidate for governor and pointed out that his political foes would 'squash him like the little bug that he is.' The 60-second radio ad – which also compared Schweich to Barney Fife, the hapless fictional deputy sheriff of Mayberry, on "The Andy Griffith Show" -- aired Feb. 19 and 20 on Kansas City radio station KMBZ-AM during the "Rush Limbaugh" program, shortly before Schweich committed suicide.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

anarmyspecial(Photo: The US Army)

For a "3-Day All Access Pass," it will only cost a defense industry corporate or consulting firm $1795 to attend the Special Operations Summit & Warfighter Expo at Fort Bragg from June 22 to June 24. The expense, of course, can be deducted from a company's taxes because it's the cost of doing business after all.

Of course, the entry ticket to the Army Warfighter Expo is a pittance compared to the potential profit return from meeting government employees who can offer contracts - financed by taxpayer dollars - as part of the trillion dollar plus so-called "war on terror." In fact, federal employees can attend the conference free because they are the financial decision makers who attract the paid attendees who are marketing military wares. The firm sponsoring the conference, the innocuously named Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, promotes that:

All Federal Employees, to include Military Personnel, will be granted free admission to our event. Online pre-registration is required as on-site registration will not be permitted. VIP pass includes entry to all conference sessions (including Focus Day), breakfast, lunch, warfighter expo and cocktail reception.

It would appear from the conference sponsor's website that members of the US Special Operations Command (USSOC) will be in abundant presence. Representing the revolving door between the Defense Department and privatized military contractors is one Command Sergeant Major James C. Faris. Retired from the Army Special Operations division, he is now employed as the liaison to the Special Operations Command, in which he served for 27 years of his 31-year military career.

After all, the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement is itself a profiteer off of warfare dollars. It is a division of the even more elusively named International Quality and Productivity Center - a for-profit company - which describes itself on its website as having "an entrepreneurial edge, leading edge research, and a passion for excellence.

Monday, 06 April 2015 08:55

I Won't Drink No Frackin' Water!

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

afrackingwasFracking wastewater (Photo: Faces of Fracking)

Last Friday, we mentioned the story of Patrick Moore, a science denier who runs a consulting firm whose clients benefit from his false claims. Moore refused to drink a glass of glysophate - the key toxic ingredient of Monsanto's Roundup - after asserting in an interview with French television station Canal+ that "you can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you." 

In fact, he refused to drink the glysophate twice after claiming it was harmless - and then stormed off the television set, last heard proclaiming, "I'm not an idiot" and calling the interviewer "a complete jerk." (You can watch the interview by clicking here.)

It was a bit difficult to understand some of the reader comments over the weekend in response to our piece. One reader reacted to the BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary by pointing out that there is a difference between Roundup being safe for agricultural use (which is scientifically contested in and of itself) and for being safe for drinking.

Is this reader implying that when Moore asserts, "You can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you," he is merely indulging in some sort of bizarre metaphor? Moore's expertise is supposed to be his self-proclaimed knowledge of science, chemicals and the environment. He is not a poet, as far as his biographical details reveal. When he is on a television program, weighing in on whether or not an essential ingredient in the Monsanto herbicide is harmful to humans, he is not offering symbolic statements. When Moore states that "You can drink a whole quart of it [glysophate] and it won't hurt you," there is no wiggle room to take his statement as anything other than a literal assertion by a man who says that he makes conclusions on the basis of "facts."

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