MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, only 12 states permanently disenfranchise persons who have been convicted of felonies, with limited possibilities for appeal. Other states have varying degrees of restoration of voting rights, including two states -- Maine and Vermont -- that allow voting while imprisoned.
Under Republican Governor Rick Scott, Florida is one of the dozen states that have a lifetime ban on voting for persons convicted of felonies, with few exceptions. That is likely due to a desire to keep more than 1.5 million Floridians from voting, most of whom would presumably vote Democratic. In a state where Al Gore lost the presidency in 2000 by a few hundred votes and Scott won his two terms as governor by very small percentages, the current restrictions on voting by persons formerly incarcerated for felonies serve the interests of the Republican Party. It is of particular interest to Scott, who just announced that he is going to run against current Democratic US Senator Bill Nelson in November for a Senate seat.
Scott has been given until April 26 to eliminate the lifetime prohibition on voting by those people convicted of felonies. The order was issued earlier this year by federal US District Judge Mark Walker. Scott and his Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi first tried to receive a stay from complying with the ruling.
JEFF COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
TV news shows are good at getting viewers riled up. Day and night, I hear the anchors on CNN and MSNBC getting us riled up about the schemes of this or that "Russian oligarch with links to the Kremlin." I've heard that phrase incessantly in recent weeks
And plenty of others have heard the "Russian oligarch" phrase. Merriam-Webster.com reported that "oligarch" was one of its most searched-for words on April 5th "following reports that Robert Mueller had questioned Russian businessmen to whom this descriptor applies."
But here's a phrase I haven't heard from any of the purportedly progressive hosts on MSNBC: "A US oligarch with links to Washington."
That avoidance is revealing when one considers an indisputable fact: US oligarchs have done far more to undermine US democracy than any Russian.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's starting to happen, as teachers around the country are fighting back against income and wealth inequality. At least 3 of every 4 Americans have been cheated out of a share of U.S. productivity since the 1980s. The approximately one of four Americans who have prospered, especially those in the top 5%, generally don't seem to care much about inequality, and instead hang onto delusions about their own self-worth and the struggles of people who "don't work hard enough."
From various trusted sources come maddening facts about the relentlessly expanding wealth divide. Inequality is a perversion of human conduct, as most of society's new benefits have derived from automation, and thus from decades of public input, taxpayer funding, and government research. But the beneficiaries are those who are well-connected to the corporate and financial processes exploiting that growth, mainly through stock ownership.
The rest of America has been left behind, but their voices are getting louder.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Is there a crack developing in the close and cozy relationship between conservative evangelical Christians and President Donald Trump? Will the Stormy Daniels story a straw-breaking event? It may have been bad reporting or wishful thinking, but the mainstream media has a history of misunderstanding or totally underestimating the political staying power of Religious Right. Now, in the wake of multiple Trump administration scandals, the mainstream press is reporting that evangelical supporters of Trump are preparing for a June meeting that will presumably allow them to air their grievances. However, don't count on Trump being taken to the woodshed. Politically savvy evangelicals understand that their political agenda is inextricably linked to the political fortunes of the president and a Republican-controlled Congress.
In realty, several conservative evangelical leaders, continue to, as The Advocate's Neal Broverman put it "still love the thrice-married man who bragged about grabbing women's genitals." While support for Trump amongst evangelicals may have slipped in the immediate aftermath of the Stormy Daniels' revelations, that drop-off appears to have dissipated.
Nevertheless, as Paul Weber, President and CEO of the Family Policy Alliance put it in a piece titled, "Perfect Values & Imperfect Leaders": "[I]n these times of division, scandal and seamy exploits by our leaders paraded on television in the form of journalism—it can be particularly painful for our families and for our nation. Never has there been a time where this has been more apparent than with the Trump Presidency."
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There are significantly fewer plastic bags on the seafloor ever since a number of European countries introduced fees on the items, according to a 25-year study from the UK government's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).
Researchers found an estimated 30 percent drop in the number of plastic bags in waters around Norway, Germany, northern France and Ireland.
"It is encouraging to see that efforts by all of society, whether the public, industry, NGOs or government to reduce plastic bags are having an effect," Thomas Maes, Marine Litter Scientist at CEFAS, said in a statement.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Sometimes, it's useful to state the obvious. Here's a fact, for example, that we all know to be true: America's economy is enormous. It's worth saying that out loud and repeating it to ourselves and others, because today's Powers That Be (economic, political and media) are wrongly forcing a regime of austerity on our nation. They're insisting that we hoi polloi must downsize our middle class dreams, claiming that America no longer has the wherewithal to do big things.
Their narrow and pessimistic prescription for our future is not only at odds with the American spirit, but also at odds with the facts. The wealth of this nation is naturally huge and expansive -- thanks to such fundamentals as the sheer size and diversity of our land, the breadth and depth of our natural resources and especially the can-do attitude of our enterprising and hardworking people. Far from shrinking down, we have the economic strength today to be spreading the middle class and advancing the historic, egalitarian ideals that were planted at America's founding.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Is the white nationalist/alt-right movement splintering? Is it becoming even more of an online phenomenon than an out and open political movement? Did the alt-right-inspired racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer force the movement to rely even more heavily on the dark corners of the Internet, then on mass rallies and demonstrations?
Over the past several months, news about the white nationalist/alt-right, no longer seems to draw the attention of the mainstream media. Nevertheless, as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Keegan Hankes and Alex Amend pointed out in its recent report titled "The Alt-Right Is Killing People" there have been over 100 people killed or injured by alleged perpetrators influenced by the so-called alt-right.
"[T]here have been at least 13 alt-right related fatal episodes, leaving 43 dead and more than 60 injured," the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported. "Nine of the 12 incidents counted here occurred in 2017 alone, making last year the most violent year for the movement."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It is not hard to connect Donald Trump's recent memorandum to deploy National Guard Troops on the Mexican border with the 2020 census question that will ask if the respondents are citizens. Both efforts, like various forms of Republican voter suppression, are meant to bolster the power of white people in the US at the expense of an inclusive nation.
In fact, Ari Berman of the Nation was recently interviewed on Democracy Now and cited the voter issue as the official reason given for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Berman views this as an ironic justification:
Well, I think if you look at who the request is coming from, it's coming from the Department of Justice, run by Jeff Sessions. And they say they need this question to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which is hysterical, because the Trump Justice Department has no interest in enforcing the Voting Rights Act, and, in fact, is actively trying to subvert the Voting Rights Act. This is a smokescreen to try to depress responses from immigrant communities, so that immigrant communities get far less resources than other communities, with the census.
However, the invocation of the Voting Rights Act raises concerns. One can infer the possibility that the names of those who fill out the census form would no longer be anonymous. This possibility would send a chill through even many citizens, who understandably fear the prospect of their personal information being revealed to government agencies.
MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With the appointments of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser, Donald Trump has signaled his preparedness by the May 12 deadline to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and ramp up pressure on North Korea if it refuses to denuclearize. The two moves would have interactive consequences: casting aside the Iran nuclear deal is likely to be read in Pyongyang as indicating that the US cannot be trusted to keep its commitments. It might also be read as a signal that should nuclear talks with Trump fail, a US attack on North Korea's missile and nuclear sites could be in the offing.
The always precarious state of US relations with Iran, and with the Middle East as a whole, will be blown apart should Trump nix the nuclear deal. Iran is likely to immediately resume production of nuclear-weapon grade materials. US relations with its European allies will be deeply unsettled, another bitter pill will be added to relations with Russia and China (both of which endorsed the nuclear deal), the Israeli far right will be emboldened to join in pressuring (and perhaps attacking) Iran, and the Saudis and others will be encouraged to produce their own nuclear weapons.
ALYCEE LANE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation."
When Martin Luther King Jr. presented this choice to the nation in his powerful speech "Beyond Vietnam" -- a speech he delivered exactly a year before he was assassinated -- he was referring to the Cold War arms race and the possibility that the United States and the Soviet Union would kill us all in a nuclear holocaust. He implored us to choose peace, which for King meant that we needed to address the deep "malady within the American spirit" -- namely, our commitment to the "giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism." This commitment -- this sickness -- not only drove our arms race and the Vietnam War, King contended, but it also made us a nation of people willing to risk annihilation in order to preserve what was fundamentally an unjust way of life. For King, the escalating war in Vietnam, which he believed brought us closer to nuclear war, compelled us to choose -- if we wanted to survive -- a "person-oriented" nonviolent world marked by racial and economic justice over a "thing-oriented" world marked by war, racism and economic inequality.
That choice is still one we must make today.