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Wednesday, 03 May 2017 06:58

Trump Kleptocracy Is Robbing Us All

TOM H. HASTINGS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trumpkleptocratKleptocrat-in-Chief Donald Trump. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The Trump budget—pure profit for Pentagon corporate contractors. The Trump tax “reform”—massive tax cuts for the rich. Really? We are going to stand for this?

Compared to last year, if his corporations truly paid the going corporate tax rate, Trump would “richly benefit,” in multiple ways when his proposed cuts kick in. His corporate tax burden would be cut by at least 4.9 percent—millions of dollars—and his personal taxes would likely be cut even more massively, although since he alone amongst modern presidents has refused to let the American people see his returns, we cannot pin a number on his projected undeserved gains.

This is the textbook definition of corruption.

Fortunately for him, the Senators are wealthy too and love these ideas, as are most of the members of the House of Representatives. Corrupt Congress, corrupt president—and somehow the white male voters generally suppose this will all work out for them, since a reported 96 percent of his voters say they would vote for him again (and white males voted for him in overwhelming numbers, with white males without a college education voting for him a 72 percent rate).

Tuesday, 02 May 2017 08:27

Speaking Truth to Power in Texas

I believe that speaking truth to power is a moral imperative, but that it also does shape history, in its own way. But the damage done in the meantime by those in power is considerable. Part of this truth that must be spoken must be directed to the nation, to our state, and to the larger community so that these fellow citizens know full and well what is taking place in their names, in our names, in the names of all of us.Speaking truth to power is a moral imperative. Part of this truth that must be spoken must be directed to the nation, to our state, and to the larger community so that fellow citizens know full and well what is taking place in their names, in our names, in the names of all of us. (Photo: Master Steve Rapport)MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

About a month ago I was part of a group of people assaulted by a guy who used the National Anthem as a weapon.

About a hundred of us were standing in line, waiting to offer our testimony before the Texas House of Representatives’ State Affairs’ Committee. We were part of more than a thousand people gathered that day, determined to testify on the multiple ways that Senate Bill 4, the Texas "anti-sanctuary cities" bill, was a curse, a pox, and a bad law. The law would authorize, indeed, would require local police officers to act as immigration agents.

We were chatting easily in the hallway, enjoying the remarkable hospitality of fellow traveller, when an older fellow, an American flag bandana tied around his forehead, swaggered up the hall. His name tag identified him as a member of the Fredericksburg Tea Party. The man stopped about fifteen away, scowled at the group for a long moment, and then launched into the Star-Spangled Banner.

To give him credit, he was brave to attack us with such a clumsy weapon. This is a tune with some impossible high notes -- and it goes on forever and ever. It seems to me that it would be just plain hard to express passionate anger for that long a time, but this guy apparently had a lot of bile to fuel his effort.

Congress could insist that the US stop supplying the Saudi led coalition with weapons, stop helping Saudi jets to refuel, end diplomatic cover for Saudi Arabia, and stop providing the Saudis with intelligence support. Congress should insist that the US stop supplying the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with weapons, stop helping Saudi jets to refuel, end diplomatic cover for Saudi Arabia, and stop providing the Saudis with intelligence support. (Photo: Defence Images / Flickr)KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On April 26th, 2017, in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah, the Saudi-led coalition which has been waging war in Yemen for the past two years dropped leaflets informing Hodeidah's residents of an impending attack. One leaflet read:

"Our forces of legitimacy are heading to liberate Hodeidah and end the suffering of our gracious Yemeni people. Join your legitimate government in favor of the free and happy Yemen."

And another: "The control of the Hodeidah port by the terrorist Houthi militia will increase famine and hinder the delivery of international relief aid to our gracious Yemeni people."

Certainly the leaflets represent one aspect of a confusing and highly complicated set of battles raging in Yemen. Given alarming reports about near famine conditions in Yemen, it seems the only ethical "side" for outsiders to choose would be that of children and families afflicted by hunger and disease.

Wealthy Americans complain about 'entitlements' for the poor, but they keep collecting their own entitlements, to a degree that average Americans can only dream about.Wealthy Americans complain about "entitlements" for the poor, but they keep collecting their own entitlements, to a degree that average Americans can only dream about. (Photo: Pixabay)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Many wealthy Americans complain about the amount of government subsidies going to the poor. Their complaints demonstrate ignorance, or greed, or a total lack of fair-mindedness, or a combination of all those symptoms of entitlement at the top. 

The Rich Get as Much of the Safety Net as the Poor

Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman have calculated that, on average in 2014, the middle class received more of the safety net than the lower class. Specifically, the 40% of American adults with incomes just below the top 10% received more in safety net government transfers (Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps/SNAP, Veterans’ benefits, etc., but excluding Social Security) than the bottom 50% of Americans (Figure 11). 

Even MORE STUNNINGLY, according to the same authors, when Medicare and Social Security are both included the richest 10% on average received approximately as much in government transfers as the poorest 50% (Figure S.13).

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coke 0428wrp optPhoto: The "Drug War" has failed. (Zxc )Meet Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, a member of President Trump’s transition team, and a longtime loyal combatant in the nation’s drug wars.As a prosecutor in Pennsylvania, he steadfastly went after drug offenders, and, if as expected – and as CBS News has reported – Marino is appointed Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy” (ONDCP), it appears we’re headed for more ill-conceived and misguided drug policy initiatives, more wasted money, and greater imprisonment for minor drug offenders.  

As a Congressman, according to the Portland Mercury’s Vince Sliwoski, Marino, who represents Pennsylvania’s rural 10th Congressional District, “voted against the Rohrabacher-Farr amendments, which prohibit the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana actors.”

He also “voted against allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients….[a]nd he opposed measures to ease federal restrictions on hemp and cannabidiol (CBD).”

The Seattle Weekly’s Meagan Angus recently reported that Marino “supports forced inpatient hospitalization for any non-dealer, nonviolent person who pleads guilty to possession to receive constant ‘treatment’ until a doctor thinks they are fit to re-enter society.”

profiteers and plutocratic ideologues constantly put out propaganda like the Post article, castigating the Postal Service as a massive, money-sucking, deteriorating, bureaucratic behemoth.Profiteers and plutocratic ideologues constantly put out propaganda castigating the Postal Service as a massive, money-sucking, deteriorating, bureaucratic behemoth. (Photo: Ron Doke)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support. Make a donation to help us continue publishing insightful, independent journalism.

Journalism, which is supposed to help make sense of our turbulent world, can't seem to make sense of itself.

In addition to "news" (which involves reporting on stuff that's real) we're now getting "fake news" (stuff that's completely made up). But wait -- the barons of corporate news are adding to today's tumultuous state of journalism by putting out feeds of "BS news" (stuff they know is untrue but reported as fact, because it advances their political agenda).

For example, the mighty Washington Post keeps publishing a load of BS to denigrate our US Post Office. The paper's latest pot shot was in an alarmist editorial declaring, "The US Postal Service continues to hemorrhage red ink." Embracing their owner's anti-government ideology, the editors grumped that postal unions have made our mail service outmoded and insolvent, running up "a net loss of $5.6 billion last year."

Thursday, 27 April 2017 06:31

A Public Plan for Peace

something is dangerously loose at the American core: a need for endless war combined with a nuclear recklessness uncontained by public scrutiny.Something is dangerously loose at the American core: a need for endless war combined with a nuclear recklessness uncontained by public scrutiny. (Photo: Terrance Heath)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Help fight back against the corporate media narrative! Support independent news and commentary by making a donation to BuzzFlash and Truthout.

The American will to wage war -- endless war, pointless war, total war -- is, I fear, impervious to public opinion and even political action. It remains alive deep in the underground bunker of American militarism, protected from sanity.

This goes beyond the staying power of our loser generals, who have ever freer rein in the Trump administration to expand the war games of the 21st century. There is a quiet determination among those who serve the god of war -- or so it seems -- to engage in, and presumably win, a nuclear war.

This, at any rate, is the conclusion one could draw from an essay that ran last month in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, by Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie and Theodore A. Postol, who point out how the US military has circumvented the global nuclear disarmament movement by increasing the accuracy -- and thus the "kill power" -- of the missiles it still holds onto, in the process intensifying the threat the United States poses to Russia (as the beloved Cold War returns) and minimizing the security of, oh Lord, mutually assured destruction.

BuzzFlash and Truthout depend on reader support. Make a donation to help us continue publishing insightful, independent journalism.

ANDREW LICHTERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Missile 0426wrp optA nuclear missile launch (Photo: Dnepr )The U.S. Air Force has announced a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on April 26.

Although such tests are conducted routinely, the timing of this one may not coincidental; the U.S. military sees nuclear delivery system tests as "distinct messaging opportunities". U.S. Air Force, Doctrine Annex 3-72, Nuclear Operations, May 2015. Regardless of the timing, it is clear that the message intended for North Korea (and the rest of the world) is that the United States has nuclear weapons, and is prepared to use them. In the past, U.S. officials have said so outright. Prior to a similar test in early 2016, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told reporters "That's exactly why we do this... We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable. And that is a signal ... that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary." David Alexander, "U.S. test-fires ICBM amid tensions with Russia, North Korea," Reuters, Feb 26, 2016.

It also is hard to see the difference between the intentions behind North Korea's displays of its nuclear and missile capabilities and those of the United States—aside from the fact North Korea has far more to fear, given that the United States has military and nuclear forces that far exceed those of North Korea, and that are exercised frequently close to North Korea's shores. Each of the 400 Minuteman III missiles currently in service carries a nuclear warhead 20 or more times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945. The U.S. also deployed nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers on several occasions following North Korean nuclear or missile tests, even conducting flyovers in South Korea. see Tara Copp, "US sends 3 nuclear stealth bombers to Pacific," Stars and Stripes, March 9, 2016; Choe Sang-Hunjan. "In Show of Alliance, American Forces Fly B-52 Bomber Over South Korea," The New York Times, January 10, 2016.

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BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

School 0426wrpThe students in the system are taking matters in their own hands. (Photo: Blackcatuk )New Orleans is the nation's largest and most complete experiment in charter schools.   After Hurricane Katrina, the State of Louisiana took control of public schools in New Orleans and launched a nearly complete transformation of a public school system into a system of charter schools.  Though there are spots of improvement in the New Orleans charter system, major problems remain. 

Many of these problems were on display in New Orleans when the NAACP, which last year called for a moratorium on charter schools until issues of accountability and transparency were addressed, held a community forum in New Orleans on charters.  The New Orleans hearing, which can be viewed here, featured outraged students, outraged parents, and dismayed community members reciting a litany of the problems created by the massive change to a charter school system.  The single most powerful moment came when a group of students from Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools took the podium and detailed the many ways the system has failed and excluded them from participating in its transformation. 

"We really wanted to share what happens in our schools" writes 18 year old Big Sister Love Rush in an article on the challenges the students face. "How the few permanent teachers we have work so hard for us, how so many classes are ran by short term substitutes, how food runs out at meal times, and how we worry if our school's reputation is good enough to support us in getting into the college or careers we want.  We shared how we face two hour commutes to and from school, are forced to experiment with digital learning with systems like Odyssey, are punished for having the wrong color sweater, or how we worry about being able to attend a school that will give us the education we need."

 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017 08:18

EPA to Shut Down Open Data Service Friday

The US EPA Open Data Service website, which has been publicly available since 2016, provides human- and machine-readable information for more than 4 million EPA-regulated facilities, from dry cleaners to nuclear power plants. The US EPA Open Data Service website, which has been publicly available since 2016, provides human- and machine-readable information for more than 4 million EPA-regulated facilities, from dry cleaners to nuclear power plants. (Photo: Paul A. Fagan)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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Opendata.epa.gov -- the US government's largest civilian-linked data service, storing crucial information on climate change, life cycle assessment, health impact analysis and environmental justice -- could face shut-down this Friday, according to people familiar with the plan.

"Last week, after numerous conversations with the US Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Information (OEI), and various technical contractors who support them, we were notified that funding is not available to continue operation US EPA's flagship Open Data Web service," wrote open data scientist Bernadette Hyland -- the CEO and co-founder of 3 Round Stones, a platform for publishing data on the web -- in a Medium post on Sunday.

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