Guest Commentary (4472)
JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Good grief, talk about your hypocrites. For the past eight years, America has been forced to listen to Birthers, the GOP, Fox News and various Tea Party crazies go on and on about how Barack Obama shouldn't be our President because they claim that he was born in Kenya, right? Eight years of odious blather that we can never get back again.
Enter Ted Cruz. "I was born in Canada but I have an American mother," he tells us, "and therefore I am qualified to be President." But wait. Obama had an American mum too, and Obama was born in the United States in Hawaii.
Obama was born in Honolulu. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada. So why does the Tea Party have its knickers all in a twist over Obama's having in their imaginations been born in Kenya -- but doesn't give a flying freak that Cruz was actually born in another nation? Hypocrisy, right?
But Obama and Cruz have somethin in common. For the past eight years Obama has been perfectly okay with Americans like you and me going into deep and endless debt so that the Pentagon could afford to manufacture cause endless death in the Middles East. And Cruz is okay with that policy too, even proposing carpet-bombing ISIS and others in the Middle East.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTGARY WOCKNER AND TERRY ODENDAHL OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
“I read the news today, oh boy.” —John Lennon
Two overlapping news stories in the past few weeks must focus our attention on the need to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and to transition our global economy to a more just and resilient system, especially for the world’s poor and vulnerable peoples.
First, it was widely reported that 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded in human history. Specifically, the global temperature was not just higher than ever, but it rose faster than ever and the 5-year period, 2011-2015, was also the hottest 5-years ever. Climate change is real, is happening right now and seems to be accelerating in speed and intensity with every passing year.
Second, global oil prices continue to collapse, now below $30/barrel. This sent world stock markets down and had a number of negative impacts on human rights issues around the world. A New York Times article last month reported the devastating impact that falling oil prices are having on poor and marginalized people in Russia. Oil is Russia’s biggest export commodity, makes up more than 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and around 50 percent of its federal budget. As oil prices dropped, the Russian government began making cuts to social spending, focusing on cuts to the poorest people first. Retirees, teachers, factory workers—all have seen large cuts to their incomes and struggle to get by.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTKARUNA JAGGAR OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Vice President Biden and I have something in common that I wish we did not share. We have both lost a loved one to brain cancer.
The Vice President’s 46 year old son, Beau Biden, died from the disease earlier this year.
Fifteen years ago, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, enjoying a blissful summer-long reunion with a dear college friend from the Midwest. Her joyful revelry in discovering San Francisco as an outgoing young, butch, queer woman, was occasionally interrupted by severe headaches. We were all shocked when she was diagnosed with brain cancer at the end of the summer. She died 20 months later, five days shy of her 29th birthday. I was heartbroken and still, so many years later, still sometimes lose my breath at the realization that she is no longer here.
My fabulous friend Danielle Drumke was the first person in my inner circle to die of cancer. I wish I could say that she was the last.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
By May, there will be no more elephants in the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus.
The circus management had originally said it would cease using elephants by 2018, but revised its estimate by two years. Management said the cost to retire the elephants to the Ringling Brothers Center for Animal Conservation in Florida is less than it had first anticipated. The 13 Asian elephants on tour will join 30 others at the 200 acre facility, which has a $2.5 million annual budget.
“Our family’s commitment to save the majestic Asian elephants will continue through our breeding program, research and conservation efforts at the Center,” said Alana Feld, executive vice-president of Feld Entertainment.
P.T. Barnum first used an elephant in his circus in 1882, having purchased Jumbo from a London zoo. Since then, most circuses have toured with performing elephants, most of them Asian females because of the difficulty to train male elephants after they reach maturity. (Almost no circuses use the larger African elephants.)
Why Ringling Bros. is removing its elephants from the touring company is because of increasing public pressure and charges of animal cruelty, much of it leveled by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal rights groups.
“We were very pleased that the elephants with Ringling Bros. will no longer suffer a miserable life on the road where they spend a great deal of time in boxcars and perform grueling circus tricks under the threat of punishment,” says Nicole Paquette, HSUS vice-president for wildlife protection. The circus, says Paquette, “had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal abuse, and the imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Americans are feeling the impoverishing effects of the shift from middle-income to low-income jobs. The disappearance -- or, more accurately, downsizing -- of living-wage jobs is documented by numerous reports that reveal the suddenness and the extent of this affront to middle America.
First, the Neoliberal Explanation: It's Not Really Happening
Business writer Robert Samuelson calls the post-recession low-wage recovery a "myth." To support his claim he cites a study from the Economic Policy Institute which, according to Samuelson, proves that "the economy’s employment profile — the split between high- and low-paying jobs — hasn’t changed much since the recession or, indeed, the turn of the century."
But the EPI analysis is based on average wages within industries, rather than on the median, which reflects unequal growth. If the median had kept up with the average over the past 15 years, the current median wage would be $1/hour higher, or about $2,000 per year. The employment profile has actually changed a great deal since the year 2000.
There's more. The EPI analyst claims that "jobs are being added relatively in proportion to their share." But she only considers one year's data, after much of the damage had already been done. Even so, the EPI figures show that the percentage of middle-wage jobs added in 2014 was 6.3 percent less than the overall percentage of middle-wage jobs (42.7% to 40%) -- a rather dramatic change for a single year.
COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Erin Brockovich appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about the Flint water crisis. Brockovich said members of the Flint community reached out to her a year ago because they were concerned about how their water looked, tasted and smelled. She sent a team of experts to Flint to investigate and even drafted a protocol for how the city should deal with the problem.Environmental activist
She explained to the audience what went wrong in Flint and what the city needs to do to provide residents with potable water. Colbert then asked Brockovich if Flint was the tip of the “leadberg.” Are there other communities facing similar problems?, he asked.
Brockovich answered with a resounding yes. “I can tell you that Flint, Michigan is the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “I can tell you for certain that this is a national crisis that we are not getting ready to face. The crisis is already here. Even since Flint has hit the national stage, we’ve found out that Sebring, Ohio has the same problem … The same thing is happening in Louisiana, and we’re just now hearing rumors—I haven’t verified it before I came out—we’re having the same situation in Wisconsin.”
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I want to believe that the US is a democracy — indeed, to feel so deeply this is so that my soul trembles — I turn to Martin Luther King, who gave his life for it.
He cried out for something so much more than a process: a game of winners and losers. He reached for humanity’s deepest yearning, for the connectedness of all people, for the transcendence of hatred and the demonization of “the other.” He spoke — half a century ago — the words that those in power couldn’t bear to hear, because his truths cut too deep and disrupted too much business as usual.
But what else is a democracy than that?
“Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. . . .”
Uh oh. This ain’t politics as usual. This is King standing in the oval office, staring directly into the eyes of LBJ, declaring that civil rights legislation isn’t a political favor but merely the beginning of a nation’s moral atonement.
“If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
With less than a week to go before the Iowa caucus, evangelical Christian leaders are facing a huge dilemma. Should they endorse the candidate they feel has faith at the center of their lives, or should they go with someone they think can defeat either Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders. The two leading Republican Party presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have been duking it out for endorsements by Religious Right leaders for the past few months. One week after speaking at Liberty University on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Trump received the endorsement of Liberty’s president Jerry Falwell Jr., who has stated that Trump “reminds me so much of my father.” At just about the same time, Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, has personally endorsed Cruz.
Although Florida Senator Marco Rubio appears to be a non-factor in Iowa, oddly enough, while some of the bigger names in evangelical Christian politics are endorsing Trump or Cruz, Rubio has, according to a report in The Christian Post, “the support of more than 70 percent of evangelical leaders and influencers, and remains their top presidential pick for the seventh month in a row, according to WORLD magazine's monthly surveys.”
COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Flint, Michigan water crisis, experts warned that what’s happening in Flint could happen elsewhere. And now it appears it already has. The town of Sebring, Ohio outside of Youngstown learned Thursday that high levels of lead were detected in some residents’ water last summer.Amid the
Residents are now demanding to know why they have been left in the dark for months. According to the AP, schools have been closed for three days, children are being tested for lead poisoning, bottled water is being handed out and state regulators are calling for a criminal investigation of the town’s water plant manager.
“How long has this been going on and how much did we drink it?” Sebring resident Nina McIlvain asked. “I’m sure there’s more to it than we know.”
According to AP, last summer, seven of 20 homes where the water is routinely tested showed excessive levels of lead. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the manager of the small water system failed to notify the public within the required 60 days and submitted “misleading, inaccurate or false reports.” Plant manager James Bates said the allegations were an “outright lie.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In 1996, the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, then only twelve years old, launched a revolutionary project called PolicyFax, which combined conservative advocacy with then state-of-the-art technology to become one of the right’s leading information clearinghouses. In the environmental section of PolicyFax’s 300-page paper catalogue, hundreds of articles were listed, covering a broad range of issues including: air quality, chemicals, endangered species, energy, environmental justice, forestry, free-market environmentalism, global climate change, ozone depletion, regulatory reform, and sustainable development.
PolicyFax was accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and was absolutely free to every elected official in the United States (regardless of position), every significant media worker, and researchers from many other think tanks. Heartland’s complete set of resources would be delivered directly to their desks. In many ways, Heartland’s PolicyFax helped seed the conservative movement’s long-lived project denying global warming; a project that continues unabated to this day.
A report prepared in 2000 – covering the period from 1990-1997 -- titled Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims, “was the first comprehensive look at how conservative think tanks were trying to shape the conversation on climate,” Heather Smith recently reported in Grist, the very essential online environmental magazine.
According to the report -- prepared by Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlop, two Washington State University sociologists – information about global warming on the web sites of major conservative think tanks centered around three points: “the evidentiary basis of global warming [w]as weak, if not entirely wrong: if global warming exists, it could “have substantial benefits”; and, “the movement warned that proposed action to ameliorate global warming would do more harm then good.”