RWS, Producer Editor, News Director
Brook Hines, Political Commentator & Investigative Journalist
Dr. Margaret Flowers, co-editor of PopularResistance.org which has a campaign to stop the TPP and other job-and-climate-killing international agreements and as a candidate for US Senate in Maryland.
Susan Glickman, Executive Director for the Southern Alliance for Energy
Democratic House Leader Mark Pafford Florida Legislator
Mari-Lynn Evans, Writer Director Producer Blood on the Mountain
1. Sweet Deal
After decades of boosting food prices for American consumers, undermining foreign aid programs and polluting the Everglades, the sugar industry appears to be gumming up a brand-new project.
The U.S. government's sugar-support program — which has made the price of domestic sugar almost double that of the world price — is said to be a sticking point in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The proposed trade deal, potentially affecting 40 percent of the global economy, is stalled in part by “the calls of Australia and other nations for the U.S. to loosen a quota system that protects domestic suppliers while making the product more expensive for consumers,” according to a recent Bloomberg News article.
It's just one more reason to end the support system that began during the Great Depression and is kept alive by the sugar lobby's constant contributions to powerful politicians.
The federal program limits domestic production of cane and beet sugar, restricts foreign imports, places a floor under growers' prices and requires the government to buy crop surpluses — those that the industry can't sell for a profit — which the government then sells at a loss to the ethanol industry.
The program protects the incomes of sugar producers at the expense of consumers and the environment.
The higher domestic price raises the cost of any food containing sugar — from bread to cereal to ketchup — at an overall cost to consumers of an estimated $3.7 billion a year. It also costs thousands of jobs as food manufacturers move jobs to countries where they can pay the lower world price for sugar.
2. SUN BEAMS
Earlier today, backers of a state constitutional amendment that aims to make solar power more affordable for consumers argued their case before the state supreme court.
The court has to approve the language of the amendment — making sure that it does what it says it will do and only that — in order for it to get on the 2016 ballot.
The initiative is called Floridians for Solar Choice. The Solar Choice amendment would embed in the state constitution the ability for solar power companies to install panels on homes and businesses and sell some of the power that's generated back to that home or business. In theory, this makes solar power more affordable for many who can't afford to buy and install their own solar panels.
Florida is one of four states that does not already allow this. Renewable energy advocates will tell you this is so because the system is absolutely rigged; major utilities in the state have an incredible amount of influence over legislators as well as the Public Service Commission, which is supposed to be keeping the industry in check but really isn't.
Advocates for Solar Choice, who come from all parts of the political spectrum, say utilities have monopolies in their service areas, and that needs to change. Supporters have said a constitutional amendment accomplishing this end isn't ideal; they would have preferred to seek expansion of solar power via state lawmakers. But the vast majority of lawmakers, as mentioned above, are beholden to utility companies, and thereby have ignored solar advocates' previous attempts to change the policy.
"[We] believe that voters should decide whether to remove a barrier that currently blocks access to clean, renewable solar power," said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, in a media release on Monday. "This issue has been brought to our legislature many times and has fallen on deaf ears. The citizens of Florida are taking it to the ballot box for much needed action as we await the Court’s decision.”
Meanwhile, the utility and fossil fuel industries have given tons of support, directly or indirectly, to a competing amendment initiative, the Consumers for Smart Solar
proposal, which would literally enshrine the utility-favoring status quo in the constitution. Those pushing this amendment admit their proposal is in direct response to Solar Choice, which they're attempting to characterize as "shady" and a giveaway to "big, out of state solar companies." They claim the proposal will hurt consumers and local government.
Susan Glickman, director of the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said none of this is true.
“The solar choice amendment doesn't require anyone to do anything," she said. "There's no mandates, there's no subsidies. It just allows for the choice, that if someone wants to buy electricity from someone other than their utility, they have that opportunity.”
Glickman told CL last week she doesn't see Consumers for Smart Solar even making it onto the ballot. Despite a slick Web site outlining its arguments, a formidable PR blitz and the enlistment of respected former lawmaker Dick Batchelor, she said, its sole purpose is to confuse and mislead voters, thereby siphoning petition signatures from the Solar Choice effort, which, if approved by the supreme court, would need more than half a million more signatures to get onto the ballot.
"[They] have a ton of money that they get from ratepayers to spend to confuse people and argue against the ratepayers' own interests. That's what's happening here. They are busy trying to build power plants and put major assets in their rate base when the cost of solar has come down exponentially,” she said.
She said such an effort to confuse voters "would be laughable if it wasn't so scary."
"They're just doing it to make it harder to gather signatures," Glickman said. "They are paying twice the going rate for petition gatherers and asking people to sign a noncompete. So they're trying to make the process of getting the signatures more difficult...If there's a cynical way to thwart the solar choice initiative that is so popular, they will do that and the utilities have all the money in the world to fund an operation like that and they've done it.”
Sarah Bascom of Bascom LLC, the public relations firm Consumers for Smart Solar hired to respond to such criticisms, denied the effort is a tactical ploy to keep Solar Choice off the ballot, instead calling it an "important policy initiative."
If you have seen the movie Forrest Gump (1994), you probably remember the quote, "life is like a box of chocolates." Actually, the film is a box of propaganda, especially when it comes to how it portrays the antiwar movement.
The movie is populated by caricatures: flag-wearing hippies, militant and sexist Black Panthers and airheaded, would-be feminists. Forrest, a charming simpleton, never has a meaningful or specific discussion of the Vietnam War. But his sideways encounters with antiwar activists leave the distinct impression that the movement was wasteful, annoying, insignificant and possibly unethical. For viewers who will go no further to investigate any other perspective, Forrest Gump serves as a main cultural and political lesson on the 1960s, creating disdain and hostility toward the antiwar movement. It is but one example of a sustained and multipronged effort to do so.
The truth is that the antiwar movement fomented and channeled opposition to the war, both from ordinary people and elites. Over time, the war became the anchor issue for activists, journalists and politicians. Vietnam was the first televised war, but television alone did not create opposition to the war. As Susan Sontag pointed out, the TV showed the war, but TV viewers saw those images through the interpretive lens that the antiwar movement created through their struggles and protests.
Between 1965 and 1968, Lyndon Johnson relied on the draft to build the number of US troops in battle from 100,000 to 500,000. Draft resistance and conscientious objection became a key strategy of antiwar activists. The draft resulted in disproportionate numbers of working-class, Black and Latino men fighting and dying in Vietnam. These inequities further enraged antiwar activists, who then targeted the race and class bias of draft deferments. Richard Nixon lowered overall troop numbers in part to defuse opposition to the draft. In 1973, the draft ended and was replaced by an all-volunteer service.
Working alongside Black people in the civil rights movement in the South provided a crucial learning experience for the young, mostly white university students who would later join the antiwar movement. Hundreds were recruited to join the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project; in their poignant letters home, they describe transformative, eye-opening moments confronting institutionalized white racism and state-sponsored violence. The connections between Jim Crow in the South and the US war in Vietnam were not lost on them. One white project volunteer asked a Justice Department official: "How is it that the government can protect the Vietnamese from the Vietcong, and the same government will not accept the moral responsibility of protecting the people of Mississippi?"
The antiwar movement is generally treated as white turf, yet people of color - Black, Latino/Chicano, Native/Indigenous and Asian - also actively opposed the war. In the late 1950s, leaders including Ella Baker and Bayard Rustin connected US racial justice issues to anticolonial struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Later, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) clarified the links between "the suppression of Blacks' political rights and the continued violence in the South as part of the larger US war against nonwhites, including Vietnam."
In April 1967, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful speech against the war, denouncing the United States as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." A New York Times editorial headlined "Dr. King's Error" denounced the speech. As explained in Death of a King by Tavis Smiley, other establishment figures and institutions piled on. Even some of King's allies thought he was putting the civil rights movement in jeopardy. One year later to the day, he was assassinated. And today the United States is still "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world."
By looking at the Vietnam War as part of an extended arc of US imperialism in Asia, we surface the historic and material connection between US wars and Asian-American populations. Yet many people continue to ignore Asian-American participation in the antiwar movement. Actually, the Vietnam War provided a catalyst for a pan-ethnic Asian-American social consciousness. For example, Philip Vera Cruz was a leader of the Filipino farmworkers, and a key organizer in the Delano grape boycott of 1965. By speaking up at an antiwar rally organized by Asian-American activists, Vera Cruz helped to solidify a feeling of a shared racial bond.
Chinese, Japanese and Filipino Americans who served as soldiers in the war saw themselves in the faces of the so-called "enemy." They personally experienced the contradiction between their status as US citizens, and the way their battalions treated them - sometimes as target practice. Indeed, the racism directed against Vietnamese people during the war served as a wake-up call that propelled many Asian Americans - students, intellectuals, laborers and cultural workers - to embrace Vietnam as a symbol of "third world" peoples and struggles all over the world.
Toward the end of the war, at least 2,000 Vietnamese foreign students based on various US campuses organized themselves into the Union of Vietnamese. Their antiwar position crystalized after the 1972 murder of Nguyen Thai Binh, a student of fishery at the University of Washington. On graduation day, Binh walked across the stage, shed his black gown and revealed a demand to stop the war, written in his own blood. He was then deported to South Vietnam. At the airport in Saigon, he was shot dead. His death spurred his peers to hold a memorial for him and to form alliances with other US liberation struggles.
The first large-scale protests organized against the war by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) were triggered by President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1965 air bombing campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder. Like all social movements, this one grew in phases. The phases involved: selecting and framing the issues, establishing decision-making processes, developing expertise, finding a common denominator among many conflicting viewpoints, attacking dominant values and assumptions, and sustaining participation. Sometimes, the goal was to mobilize public opinion about a specific aspect of the war or the draft; at other times, it was to provoke a response from policy makers at the highest levels of the government. Always, the ultimate aim was to stop the bombing, negotiate for peace and end the war.
While the movement is generally portrayed by its protests, there was far more to it than that. This book offers an extensive discussion of the People's Peace Treaty, a remarkable story of people's diplomacy that even Melvin Small - a skeptic when it comes to the achievements of the antiwar movement - describes as "the most innovative approach to ending the war." Fed up with the glacial pace of negotiations led by the older generation, the student organizers of the People's Peace Treaty took matters into their own hands. The simple and direct language they crafted for ending the war came about as they met face-to-face and discussed together across the United States, South Vietnam and North Vietnam. The authors of this section speak from direct experience, a perspective on the People's Peace Treaty that has never been published as far as we know.
As the nation learned more and more about the scope and brutality of military operations - not only in Vietnam but in Laos and Cambodia as well - skepticism, mistrust of the US government's reports on the war and outright opposition grew larger still.
Increasingly, that opposition penetrated the military itself. An accomplished journalist for The Washington Post and author of Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation (2002), Myra MacPherson toured Vietnam in 2013 with five US veterans, ex-soldiers who now live in Vietnam. In Chapter 9, she tells the stories of this "band of brothers in peace" - a poet, an ex-cop, a former gang member, a psychiatric social worker and a former aid to a US senator. Today, each is dedicated in his own way to dealing with the most painful legacies of the war, including widespread contamination from Agent Orange. Their examples shine a new light on the ideals of military service, and on the patriotism and brotherly love that is often touted as a sustaining force among troops in combat in Vietnam.
As the war dragged on, the Vietnamese were so effective on the battlefield and the opposition became so intense within the United States that the US government was compelled to open the formal peace talks that ultimately resulted in the Paris Peace Accords, which was signed in 1973. To some, then and now, it might seem that escalating opposition to the war was some accidental mood shift. The People Make the Peace shows otherwise. Relating their own personal experiences as leaders of the antiwar movement, the authors in this book offer firsthand and concrete examples of innovative strategies and tactics they devised to express public opposition to the war and to challenge the war-makers' version of what the war was about and how well it was going.
4. NEW SFWMD head
Though Gov. Rick Scott's office would not confirm it, South Florida Water Management District chief executive Blake Guillory will be out of the job next week, replaced with the governor's former general counsel, Peter Antonacci.
Daniel DeLisi, the district's $135,000-a-year chief of staff, tendered his resignation or was fired this week. DeLisi, remember, a former SFWMD board member, was hired over 53 other candidates in March 2013, five days after he resigned his board seat.
How do I know this? From a whole bunch of unnamed sources, sadly. By Thursday afternoon it had become the worst kept secret in Tallahassee.
Other than Guillory himself, who swore up and down Thursday morning that my phone call was the first he'd heard of his impending dismissal, not a soul would go on the record for this story. Every one of the people I talked to said they feared retribution from the governor's office.
Details nevertheless are consistent to a fault; the story is circulating among the highest level of players in the capital. And as rumors go, consider this the take-it-to-the-bank variety.
Apparently Guillory, 54, is being axed because he failed to sell the governor's tax-cut message to SFWMD board members in July. Members believed in the need for the district's $754 million budget plan.
This is the agency, remember, that collects taxes from 16 counties, guards against South Florida flooding and leads Everglades restoration. It is the largest, busiest and most intricately employed of all five water management districts in Florida. Its budget has been under pressure since 2011, when the district cut nearly 400 employees. And what members did in July is decide they couldn't afford to cut property taxes by 8 percent.
Guillory apparently was supposed to script the July meeting and the vote by preparing board members -- all of them, Scott appointees -- to go the governor's tax-cut way. Only, he didn't do that. Or if he did, it didn't work.
After the vote a Scott office spokesman, sounding a little like Tom Hagen in "The Godfather," told the media, "The governor is very disappointed."
No horse head under the covers for Guillory. But he can expect a pink slip or an invitation to step away of his own volition after a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Well, when something like this happens, you like to hope you're going to get an upgrade. But Gray Robinson's Peter Antonacci -- great lawyer maybe, zero water management creds -- is no upgrade.
Though Antonacci has less water management experience than Guillory had coming in, they do have something in common: Both are accomplished hired guns.
In 2013 Guillory was the executive director of the smaller Southwest Florida Water Management District. His claim to fame there was slashing staff. Even before he started at SFWMD, Guillory had sent two of his deputy executive directors and the agency's longtime attorney packing, and then demoted a third deputy director. He went on to dump another 150 employees.
When Melissa Meeker abruptly resigned as chief exec of the SFWMD, Guillory let the governor know he was available, and voila.
In case you haven't noticed, under Scott, water management district directors have been chosen not on their ability as water managers, but on their willingness to slash and burn budgets and staffs and then sweep the resultant problems under the rug. This, of course, is besides agreeing to take directon from the governor and the Department of Environmenal Protection rather than their boards. It's the bond that Guillory and Antonacci share.
Antonacci can claim a very accomplished legal career in the state capital. He served a number of governors starting with Bob Graham. In 2012, Scott appointed him general counsel to the governor, making him Scott’s primary adviser on the appointment of trial and appellate court judges as well as judicial nominating commissioners throughout the state. It's a position he held until earlier this year.
It was Antonacci in the background pulling the strings for the Scott administration, gutting the St. Johns River Water Management District of senior staff, effecting a purge that left the simultaneous and unexplained departures of four executives from the agency that protects Central Florida's wetlands, rivers and aquifer. If you include the executive director, it was five senior St. Johns River WMD people -- all made gone.
Those are Antonacci's water management credentials.
Without a doubt, the moves weakened the St. Johns region's environmental safeguards, but strengthening them was never his mission.
One more problem with Antonacci: His significant other is Anne Longman, of Lewis, Longman & Walker PA. Longman's firm represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida and does environmental and water law work for SFWMD. It will be interesting to hear how he gets around what looks like conflicts of interest the size of a small canyon.
I did try to get this story -- any part of it -- on the record. Here's how my phone calls went: 1) Guillory denied knowing a thing about his tanking job, even though he's been talking around about Antonacci wanting it for the last two weeks; 2) neither Antonacci nor Longman returned my calls, even after I left a detailed message why I was calling; 3) the governor's office first sent me back to the water management district, which didn't call me back; then Communications Director Jackie Schutz emailed me this statement: "We have no announcements on this board and we will definitely keep you posted when we do."
In fairness to everyone involved, a word of explanation:
Water management districts are not state agencies and until 2010 enjoyed autonomy with their governing boards and the Department of Environmental Protection overseeing them. Then along came the Charlie Crist/U.S. Sugar deal, when the SFWMD board members of the day were throwing around land purchase money, proposing expenditures in never-been-heard-of-before amounts. The Legislature and governor panicked. My point is, the state's overreach we see today is a direct outgrowth of that one broken "deal."
But let me make myself clear. Florida's water management districts -- particularly SFWMD, biggest and most complex -- need to be run by real water managers, managers who know how to hire and inspire and keep good staff, who won't "economize away" the brightest and best. It grieves me to see how many outstanding, knowledgeable staff have left SFWMD particularly in the last year.
Meanwhile, those problems getting swept under the rug don't go away. The health and safety of millions of Floridians -- let alone the successful completion of Everglades restoration -- are all at issue.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
5. Fukushima leaks hundreds of tons of radioactive water after Typhoon Etau busts drainage system | 11 Sept 2015 | Flooding from Typhoon Etau has caused new leaks of contaminatedradiation-tainted water to flow from the Fukushima nuclear power station into the ocean. The incident came after a rush of water overwhelmed the site's drainage pumps. Tokyo Electric Power CO. (TEPCO) informed the public today that hundreds of tons of radioactive water had leaked from the facility, but maintained that the incident posed no risk to the environment. [?!?]
6. Tropical storm causes a river to burst its banks in Japan, flushing radiation water from Fukushima into the sea | 10 Sept 2015 | More than 100,000 people have been evacuated and thousands of properties destroyed, after rare torrential rains saw a major river burst its banks north of Tokyo in Japan on Thursday. A further 800,000 people across eastern Japan have been advised to evacuate after officials issued pre-dawn warnings of unusually harsh rainfall to 5 million people. Dramatic footage shows people being plucked from their homes minutes before a tsunami-like wall of muddy water gushing from the Kinugawa river in Joso, carry their houses downstream. The huge rains also exacerbated a contaminated radioactive water problem at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant as it overwhelmed the site's drainage pumps, sending radiation-tainted water into the ocean.
7. Nuclear 'regulators' drop cancer risk study | 08 Sept 2015 | Federal nuclear energy regulators [sic] have decided to end a study they had started to determine the risks of cancer near nuclear power plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which had hired the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the study, said Tuesday that it determined that the cost and time of the second phase of its research would be too high given the agency's budget restraints.
8. French court confirms Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning | 10 Sept 2015 | A French court upheld on Thursday a 2012 ruling in which Monsanto was found guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, who says he suffered neurological problems after inhaling the U.S. company's Lasso weedkiller. The decision by an appeal court in Lyon, southeast France, confirmed the initial judgment, the first such case heard in court in France, that ruled Monsanto was "responsible" for the intoxication and ordered the company to "fully compensate" grain grower Paul Francois. Monsanto's lawyer said the U.S. biotech company [eco-terrorists] would take the case to France's highest appeal court.
9. WikiLeaks' Assange: 'US empire' planned to overthrow Syrian govt years before uprising | 09 Sept 2015 | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has opened up about his new book, 'The WikiLeaks Files,' speaking about the 'US empire' and telling RT's 'Going Underground' program that Washington had plans to overthrow Syria's government long before the 2011 uprising began. Speaking to RT, Assange referred to the chapter on Syria, which goes back to 2006. In that chapter is a cable from US Ambassador William Roebuck, who was stationed in Damascus, which apparently discusses a plan for the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria.
PNN Voices in the Sun
News Director Rick Spisak welcomes Political Commentator Brook Hines brings her latest Investigative Report.
We will have a special appearance by Florida Democratic Leader Mark Pafford on recent Legislative Activity.
We welcome Political Activist and Physician Dr. Margaret Flowers co-editor of PopularResistance.org which has a campaign to stop the TPP and other job-and-climate-killing international agreements and as a candidate for US Senate in Maryland.
Then we'll talk with Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on the latest twist in the Solar Power Question in FL.
We will also hear from Mari-Lynn Evans on the premiere of her new film, Blood on the Mountain a film about the impact of the Coal Industry in Appalachia
TUNE IN Sunday 9/13/15 - 7pm - 9pm (Eastern)
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