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2016.20.12 BF Berkowitz(Photo: Gage Skidmore)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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During the Republican Party's primary campaign, Donald Trump proposed the creation of a national registry for America's 3.3 million Muslims. His proposal created quite a stir. Trump supporters were enthusiastic; opponents were horrified. Moral, legal, and ethical questions were raised. Questions were also raised about how such a registry might be built, and who would do the work?

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Talbot pointed out that it will be so "easy to be enrolled" in a registry, that Muslims "won't have to leave their homes or mosques to be signed up by the U.S. government. In fact," he wrote in a piece headlined, "Tech titans, anti-Muslim Trump on same page," "in most cases they won't even know their names and personal information have been entered into a federal data bank."

When Trump convened a technology summit, which included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet's Larry Page, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk as guest -- most of whom did not support his campaign -- the meet-up appeared to conclude quite amiably.


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SolarPlant 1219wrp opt(Photo: Bureau of Land Management)With an incoming presidential administration seemingly hostile towards action on climate change, local solutions are now more important than ever. With or without Donald Trump's help, the North Carolina municipality of Boone is calling on the whole state—and the United States at large—to encourage green jobs and transition to 100 percent clean energy across all energy sectors.

The resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote by Boone Town Council on Thursday. This makes Boone the first town in the country to officially demand that the U.S. completely ditch fossil fuels to "avoid climate catastrophe."

The country's total transition to clean energy is not as far-fetched as it seems. Boone's resolution was inspired in part by the research of renewable energy expert Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor and cofounder of The Solutions Project, a state-by-state roadmap to convert the country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

You might have heard of the project before. In fact, Jacobson stopped by David Letterman's late-night television show in 2013 to explain how the whole world, not just the U.S., can transition to renewables.


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Prudhoe1219 wrp opt(Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)Whatever his voters intended, we can abandon the notion that President-elect Donald Trump is a right-wing populist. Right-wing, yes, authoritarian, probably, demagogue certainly.

But his cabinet gives the lie to populism as part of his character. Wall Street may have paid Hilary Clinton hundreds of thousands of dollars to make speeches; but it is Trump who has given Wall Street four cabinet slots, three of them to Goldman-Sachs alumni. (Imagine the outcry if a President Clinton had done that). There's a clutch of corporate CEOs—sate, labor, small business; a retired military trio—national security advisor, defense and homeland security; Republican senators, governors and congressmen make up the remainder, plus Ben Carson, who had conceded he was not qualified for such a post. So far, we have four billionaires.

Based on his choices Trump doesn't like or respect Hispanics, but admires Russia greatly.

Trump himself just explained that he wanted a cabinet of "people that made a fortune!" His argument—making a fortune is proof that someone is a great negotiator and that's the job of the cabinet. This is hardly the stuff of populism, right or left. His choices reveal some other traits. He leans toward inside financial manipulators, military brass and the businesses that dominated the American economy of his youth—fossil fuels, manufacturing and real estate. He has no interest in the major drivers of the economy of the future—technology, communications, services other than finance. The American "Greatness" he aspires to, as many said during the campaign, is the world as it existed before 1970. This is pure reaction, nostalgia as politics, memory as vision.


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FightTrump 1216wrp opt(Photo: Ben Alexander)If you visit the dark and menacing edges of the internet where the right-wing media dwells, you will find repeated complaints that liberals are trying to “delegitimize” the presidency of Donald Trump. I will resist providing links to these pages, for fear that opening them may cause your computers or other devices to burst into flames. If you are interested, however -- having been duly warned -- just Google “delegitimize” and “Trump,” and page after page of links to such worthies as Fox News, the Washington Examiner, Breitbart and the like will pop into your browser.

To actual liberals there is, of course, considerable irony in this accusation: We would love to see elected Democratic officials and other Democratic leaders go after Trump’s legitimacy with all guns blazing -- in much the way the GOP would be attacking Hillary Clinton, were the roles reversed. But, of course, that’s not happening. It should be, but it’s not, or at least not nearly often enough.

Before getting further into the substance of this, however, there is a critical matter of proper English usage that needs to be addressed. You cannot delegitimize the Trump presidency because, as a matter of simple logic, before you can delegitimize something it must first have been legitimate. You can’t, for example, defang a reptile who never had fangs.


A Tale of Two Story Social Media latino(Image: Institute for Policy Studies)

 On Thursday evening, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a report that concluded that just 100 of the wealthiest CEOs have amassed retirement funds equal to a little more than 40 percent of the US population's retirement savings.

The analysis concluded: "Just 100 CEOs have company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs." Furthermore:

This $4.7 billion total is also equal to the entire retirement savings of the bottom:

  • 59 percent of African-American families

  • 75 percent of Latino families

  • 55 percent of female-headed households

  • 44 percent of white working class households

To put this in perspective, the IPS found that "the top 100 CEO nest eggs are large enough to generate for each of these executives a $253,088 monthly retirement check for the rest of their lives."

Thursday, 15 December 2016 12:08

Politics as Usual Will Not Rescue Planet Earth


The Earth seen from Apollo 17(Photo: Wikipedia )

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As we think about the election — what went wrong, what’s been unleashed and what we should do about it — please, please, let us expand our vision beyond some technical fix or updated “message.”

Even if we’re talking about the Democratic Party.

James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute and a longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, discussing the Bernie Sanders phenomenon and the future direction of the party, wrote recently: “Many rank and file Democrats had lost confidence in their establishment and were looking for an authentic message that spoke to their needs.”

He was making the case for a progressive takeover of the party and the naming of Keith Ellison as DNC chair. As I read his commentary, however, even though I essentially agreed with him, I couldn’t get past the word “authentic” — especially linked as it was to the word “message,” which made it sound like the Democrat leadership needs to search its soul and come up with a better ad slogan.

And this is American politics — American democracy — as presented for our entertainment and distraction by the corporate media and the custodians of power. “The people” are acknowledged to be participants in the process of governing, which is to say, the process of creating the future, only to the extent that they have a set of limited, specific interests the powerful have to look out for. Jobs, for instance. Or protection from the enemy of the moment.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 07:40

Journalists Are Under Siege Around the World


1408711192 3da176c380 oWill journalism that reveals the truth become a crime in the US?  (Photo: Yan Arief Purwanto)

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As this year winds down, it's clear that it was a frightening one for many journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the numbers of reporters serving prison sentences around the world has climbed to 259 thus far in 2016:

Turkey’s unprecedented crackdown on media brought the total number of jailed journalists worldwide to the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990.

As of December 1, 2016, there were 259 journalists in jail around the world. Turkey had at least 81 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ’s records, the highest number in any one country at a time—and every one of them faces anti-state charges. Dozens of other journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work.

China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to the second spot with 38 journalists in jail. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are third, fourth and fifth worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Combined, the top five countries on CPJ’s census were responsible for jailing more than two-thirds of all journalists in prison worldwide.

Western countries should not feel smug because they have not made the top of the list. As we saw with the arrest of Amy Goodman and other journalists at the Dakota Access pipeline most recently, the US often uses its legal system to harass -- and sometimes rough up -- reporters who are covering protests. These acts by law enforcement do not make the CPJ list because they have not generally resulted in long detentions of reporters. The federal government has occasionally threatened reporters such as New York Times journalist James Risen with prosecution and imprisonment for refusing to testify or to identify a whistleblower, although the legal Department of Justice threats against Risen were eventually dropped after a six-year standoff. (Read my interview with Risen here.)


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FrackEPA 1214wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its widely anticipated final report on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, confirming that the controversial drilling process indeed impacts drinking water "under some circumstances." Notably, the report also removes the EPA's misleading line that fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."

"The report, done at the request of Congress, provides scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources in the United States under some circumstances," the agency stated in a media advisory.

This conclusion is a major reversal from the EPA's June 2015 pro-fracking draft report. That specific "widespread, systemic" line baffled many experts, scientists and landowners who—despite the egregious headlines—saw clear evidence of fracking-related contamination in water samples. Conversely, the EPA's top line encouraged Big Oil and Gas to push for more drilling around the globe.

But as it turns out, a damning exposé from Marketplace and APM Reports revealed last month that top EPA officials made critical, last-minute alterations to the agency's draft report and corresponding press materials to soft-pedal clear evidence of fracking's ill effects on the environment and public health.


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Perry 1214wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)Perk up people - for I bring you tidings of great joy: Gov. "Oops" is back!

Yes, Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who specialized in putting the "goober" in gubernatorial, is being brought back from well-earned obscurity in rural Texas to join the menagerie of characters in "The Donald Show." For us lovers of low political comedy, Perry is literally an early Christmas gift from on high — not from heaven (not that high), but from the dizzying heights of Trump Tower. That's where the orange-haired Impresario-in-chief has been holding tryouts for his Washington cast, and Perry is a slapstick-perfect choice for Trump's bizarre cabinet.

Who can forget Perry's classic "oops moment" during his first failed run for the White House? Campaigning as a far-out, right-wing slasher of government services, he boldly declared in a televised debate that — by gollies — he would eliminate three federal agencies entirely, dramatically reeling off the names of his three victims: The Department of Commerce, Department of Education, and... and... and, alas, as a national TV audience watched in horror, Rick's brain just could not recall the third federal department he planned to kill off.

He was roundly ridiculed as being dumber than a dust bunny. But now — proving once again that being even quasi-smart is not a requirement for getting a high political job — Perry has been hired by Trump to be our next Secretary of Energy. Yes, that is the very agency that was third on the Goober's elimination list! He is actually being appointed to head the $32 billion department he couldn't name during the 2012 presidential race.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China in Donald Trump's Administration, a pick that has some of Big Ag's biggest players celebrating.

Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history with 22 non-consecutive years and going under his belt. During his tenure, he has built significant relationships with Iowa's agribusinesses and has helped spur trade of the state's beef, pork and soy products to Asian consumers, and once struck a $4.3 billion deal with Chinese officials for Iowa's exports.

This past October, China signed a $2.1 billion deal for Iowa soybeans to feed Chinese livestock. In November, less than a week after Trump's presidential win, Branstad traveled to China to promote Iowa beef and pork. It was his seventh such trip to China as governor.

The Republican governor's friendship with Chinese president Xi Jinping goes back three decades after Xi visited rural Iowa in 1985.

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