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PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gears 0417wrp opt(Photo: Arthur Clarke)The jobs reports would have us believe our rebound from the recession is almost complete. The reality is very different, and The Economist has some fancy words for it: "Job polarisation," where middle-skill jobs decline while low-skill and high-skill jobs increase, and while the workforce "bifurcates" into two extremes of income. 

Optimists like to bring up the Industrial Revolution, and the return to better jobs afterward. But it took 60years. And job polarization makes the present day very different from two centuries ago, when only the bodies of workers, and not their brains, were superseded by machines. 

Most Workers Today Are Underpaid

Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and health care and personal care and food service. Those industries generally don't pay a living wage. In 2014 over half of American workers made less than $15 per hour, with some of the top employment sectors in the U.S. paying $12 an hour or less.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PP 0414wrp(Photo: S. MiRK)According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump is poised “to sign legislation erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.” It is not the first time the organization, that provides invaluable health services to countless numbers of underserved women, has been in the anti-abortion movement’s crosshairs.

Not to be confused by the facts that only a very small percentage of its work revolves around providing abortion services – offered sans federal funding -- with the White House and Congress firmly controlled by Republicans, there is every indication that Planned Parenthood may be stripped of the $500-+-million a year it receives in government funding.

While the attacks on Planned Parenthood have run the gamut from clinic bombings to threats to clinic staffers, from rabid demonstrations outside clinics to picketing the homes, and leafleting the neighborhoods, of doctors providing abortions, the tool du jour these days is the surreptitious, and thoroughly doctored, video taping of unaware Planned Parenthood staffers.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times’ Jeremy Breningstall, Elizabeth D. Herman and Paige St. John, reported on the activities of David Daleiden “and a small circle of anti-abortion activists [that] went undercover into meetings of abortion providers and women’s health groups. With fake IDs and tiny hidden cameras, they sought to capture Planned Parenthood officials making inflammatory statements.”

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tomahawk 0413wrp opt(Photo: Brad Dillon)A Morning Consult poll winks at me from my inbox: 57 percent of Americans support more airstrikes in Syria.

My eyeballs roll. Hopelessness permeates me, especially because I’m hardly surprised, but still . . . come on. This is nuts. The poll could be about the next move in a Call of Duty video game: 57 percent of Americans say destroy the zombies.

This is American exceptionalism in action. We have the right to be perpetual spectators. We have the right to “have an opinion” about whom the military should bomb next. It means nothing, except to those on the far end of the Great American Video Game, where the results are real.

But painful reality is only news when the media says it’s news. And that means it’s only news when the bad guys perpetrate it. This is because the Orwellian context in which we live is the context of perpetual war — not the old-fashioned kind of war, which required sacrifice and the occasional glorious death of loved ones (not to mention eventual victory or defeat), but modern, abstract war, with smart bombs and spectacular video footage and not much else, except opinion polls. And Trump’s ratings go up when he tosses 59 Tomahawk missiles — about a hundred million dollars’ worth — at a Syrian airfield. Money well spent!

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coins 0413wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)In an insightful song about outlaws, Woody Guthrie wrote this verse: "As through this world I travel/ I see lots of funny men/ Some'll rob you with a 6-gun/ Some with a fountain pen."

The fountain pens are doing the serious stealing these days. For example, while you would get hard time in prison for robbing a bank at gunpoint, bankers who rob customers with a flick of their fountain pens (or a click of their computer mouse) get multimillion-dollar payouts, and they usually escape their crimes unpunished. After all, it's their constant, egregious, gluttonous thievery that has made "banker" a four-letter word in America, synonymous with immoral, self-serving behavior.

Take John Stumpf, for example. The preening, silver-haired, exquisitely-tailored CEO of Wells Fargo was positioned on the top roost of the financial establishment and hailed as a paragon of big-banker virtue... until he suddenly fell off his lofty perch.

It turns out that being "a paragon of big-banker virtue" is not at all the same as being a virtuous human being. Banker elites don't get paid the big bucks by "doing what's right," but by doing what's most profitable — and that means cutting corners on ethics, common decency and the golden rule. Stumpf didn't just cut corners, he crashed through them, driving his big banking machine into the dark realm of immoral profitability by devising a business plan that effectively encouraged Wells Fargo branches to steal from millions of their poorest and most easily deceived customers.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 08:21

Trump Doesn’t Know a Damn Thing About Dams

GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dam 0412wrp opt(Photo: Qurren)Donald Trump finally opened his mouth about dams and hydropower last week. The result is as bad as you can imagine.

Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, tweeted what Trump had to say:

"Hydropower is great, great, form of power—we don't even talk about it, because to get the environmental permits are virtually impossible. It's one of the best things you can do—hydro. But we don't talk about it anymore."

But, once again, Trump is dead wrong.

CASSIE KELLY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Seaweed 0412wrp opt(Photo: Flyingdream)The answer to powering our devices might have been hiding in our sushi all along. An international team of researchers has used seaweed to create a material that can enhance the performance of superconductors, lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells.

The team, from the U.S., the UK, China and Belgium, came up with the idea to mimic Murray's Law, which is a natural process within the structure of a plant's pores that pumps water or air throughout the plant to provide it energy. With Murray's law, the larger the pore, the less energy expended because the pressure is reduced, but it takes different variations in size to create a balancing act across the body of the plant and maximize energy potential. In seaweed's case, the plant has the perfect pore variation for regulating energy in real world applications.

"The introduction of the concept of Murray's Law to industrial processes could revolutionize the design of reactors with highly enhanced efficiency, minimum energy, time and raw material consumption for a sustainable future," said Bao-Lian Su, professor at the University of Cambridge and co-author of the research.

The scientists made the "Murray material" by embedding an extract of the seaweed into multiple layers of nano-fibers of zinc oxide, which created a hierarchy in the size of the pores. They believe the material can be used on rechargeable batteries, high performance gas sensing technology or even to decompose inorganic material in the oceans.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017 08:34

Kentucky Coal Museum Goes Solar

2017.11.4 BF Mcdermott(Photo: Minoru Karamatsu)CHRIS MCDERMOTT OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum will always commemorate the past, but now it's also looking to the future by switching to solar power.

The museum, owned by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, is located in Benham, a once thriving coal town portrayed in the 1976 Oscar-winning documentary Harlan County, USA.

The museum decided to move forward with the solar project after budget cuts pressured the college to reduce operating expenses.

"In the current economic times we're in, any way to save money is always appreciated and helpful," Brandon Robinson, museum communications director, said. "Especially when that's money we put back toward teaching our students.

2017.11.4 BF Jackson(Photo: mrami)PATRICIA JACKSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

My childhood began in World War II, my teenage years framed by the Korean War and the Cold War. My friends and I grew up under fear fueled by McCarthyism and the threat of atom and hydrogen bombs. We learned in school to "duck and cover" as though nuclear fallout could be dissipated by a child's wooden desk. Our lives as young adults became enmeshed with the Vietnam War.

As a woman, I was not subject to the draft. My male friends were "called up" -- an attempt to equate military enlisting with that of a religious calling. I attended draft board hearings as a character witness for friends who objected to serving based on personal or religious beliefs. These often were not accepted. Friends fled to Canada, leaving us behind to protest the war. From growing up with wars as children to our activism protesting them, war dominated my generation's entire existence. A youth born in 2001 has lived an entire lifetime during the war on terror.

CASSIE KELLY OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coal 0410wrp opt(Photo: Rygel, M.C.)This week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which operates more than 200 million acres of public land, made a statement by [temporarily] changing the banner image on their website from a vast mountain range to a massive coal seam in Wyoming—staking an obvious claim in the Trump administration's campaign to bring coal and other industry jobs back to the U.S.

The [rotation came] just days after the president granted his entire salary since being in office, about $78,000, to the National Park Service, which is under the same umbrella as the BLM, both managed by the Department of the Interior. The Sierra Club was quick to point out that this sum was minuscule compared to the budget cuts Trump has proposed on the Interior, which will amount to a 12 percent slash in funding, or about $2 billion overall. [The coal seam image has now been rotated off.]

"If Donald Trump is actually interested in helping our parks, he should stop trying to slash their budgets to historically low levels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "This publicity stunt is a sad consolation prize as Trump tries to stifle America's best idea."

The BLM manages streams and rivers, hiking trails, oil and gas fields, and coal mines. The shift from green mountains to dingy coal on their website might signify, therefore, that the little funding they have left will go to the latter. BLM spokesperson Jeff Krauss said, however, that the new image is simply part of an IT redesign, which allows for rotating photos of the many public lands BLM manages.

CARL POPE OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dow 0410wrp opt(Photo: Amitchell125)Chlorpyrifos belongs to the same family as the nerve gas sarin—suspected of being behind the appalling chemical weapon attack which occurred this week in Syria, provoking appropriate outrage from the administration. But EPA has just decided to allow the continued dousing of America's rural landscapes with a close cousin—a different chemical weapon.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most frequently cited causes of farm-worker pesticide poisoning—but is particularly toxic to young children and the fetus. The pesticide has come across my email screens periodically for over a decade, as organizations like the Nature Resources Defense Council slogged forward, petitioning the EPA to implement a simple requirement of federal pesticide law: that any pesticide must be shown to be safe before use. In 2015 the agency said is intended to ban it—but didn't finalize the decision. Eventually, courts ordered EPA to make a final decision on the ban—and Pruitt decided to ignore the science.

He did not do so because he asserted that chlorpyrifos was safe; he simply said that there were uncertainties, and that in that situation farmers were entitled to continue to use the chemical, exposing farm workers, their children, surrounding communities and consumers of food sprayed with the chemical, to a pesticide whose safety is at best highly dubious—in quantities up to 14,000 times the safe level.

"We need to provide regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment," Pruitt said—not the message you would expect to hear from a pediatrician if you asked him if you should give your kids foods laced with a potent neurotoxin that has been shown to damage their mental development.

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