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Guest Commentary (4978)

Mutually Assured Destruction is not realism; it's a suicidal standoff, with the certainty that eventually something's going to give.Mutually assured destruction is not realism; it's a suicidal standoff, with the certainty that eventually something's going to give. (Photo: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Follow)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The United States boycotted the U.N. negotiations to ban -- everywhere across Planet Earth -- nuclear weapons. So did eight other countries. Guess which ones?

The international debate over this historic treaty, which became reality a week ago by a margin of 122 to 1, revealed how deeply split the nations of the world are -- not by borders or language or religion or political ideology or control of wealth, but by possession of nuclear weapons and the accompanying belief in their absolute necessity for national security, despite the absolute insecurity they inflict on the whole planet.

Armed equals scared. (And scared equals profitable.)

The nine nations in question, of course, are the nuclear-armed ones: the US, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and . . . what was that other one? Oh yeah, North Korea. Bizarrely, these countries and their short-sighted "interests" are all on the same side, even though each one's possession of nuclear weapons justifies the others' possession of nuclear weapons.

MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ImmigrationRights 0712wrp optAn immigration rights protest march. (Photo: z2amiller)In mid-May, just before the end of the school year, a mother drove to a local grammar school to pick up her three children. As she was parking her truck, a Brownsville police officer, apparently doing traffic duty, asked her for her papers. The woman, however, having suffered an onslaught of news reports about SB4, the Texas "Show Me Your Papers" law, told me that she thought that he meant her immigration documents. The policeman was only asking about her driver's license and proof of insurance.

The woman, shaken, went into the school office to collect her children.

Inside the school, the mother ran into the school secretary. As is the case in many communities, the secretary is considered a reliable source of knowledge. This mom, afraid, pled her case. "But the police have no right to ask me for my papers; they have no right to do that on school property! Who can I complain to?"

The secretary responded, "Ah, but you see, with that new law, SB4, everything has changed. The police can come into the school any time they want and they can take illegal people away. You should be glad that he didn't deport you. But he will be back!"

The mother of three gasped; the secretary went back to answering phones and attending other parents' needs. The mother went home and called her local parish. The priest was able to calm her fears, reminding her that she had the support of her church, and of many others. "I am not sure what exactly we will do as a parish," the priest told me, "But we will come up with something."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pence 0712wrp optMike Pence at CPAC. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Shortly after the November election, The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill observed that while Mike Pence is often seen as the adult in the room, and a "counterbalance" to Donald Trump, "there is every reason to regard him as, if anything, even more terrifying than the president-elect." Scahill called Pence's ascension to vice president "a tremendous coup for the radical religious right."

While many in the nation were celebrating Pride Month – held in June to commemorate the activists who began the modern gay rights movement at the Stonewall Riots -- the White House was silent.

During the same period, Vice President Mike Pence was off singing the praises of Dr. James Dobson, one of America's premier conservative Christian anti-gay political leaders. Pence told a cheering crowd at a celebration in Colorado Springs, Colorado, of the 40th anniversary of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" radio program, that they have "an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump."

Pence said that the passage of President Trump's health care bill will finally "defund Planned Parenthood once and for all," and he added that "the time is now" to re-engage in politics.

Earlier in June, at Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Road to Majority conference, Pence praised Dobson, calling him his "mentor," when the founder of Focus on the Family received the organization's Winston Churchill Lifetime Achievement Award. Pence assured the audience that Trump will "never stop fighting for the values and ideals that make this nation great."

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 07:47

No Such Thing as a Just War

KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Salmon1Benjamin Salmon, conscientious objector. (Photo: Kathy Kelly)Several days a week, Laurie Hasbrook arrives at the Voices office here in Chicago. She often takes off her bicycle helmet, unpins her pant leg, settles into an office chair and then leans back to give us an update on family and neighborhood news. Laurie's two youngest sons are teenagers, and because they are black teenagers in Chicago they are at risk of being assaulted and killed simply for being young black men. Laurie has deep empathy for families trapped in war zones. She also firmly believes in silencing all guns.

Lately, we've been learning about the extraordinary determination shown by Ben Salmon, a conscientious objector during World War I who went to prison rather than enlist in the U.S. military. Salmon is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Carmel Cemetery, on the outskirts of Chicago.

In June, 2017, a small group organized by  "Friends of Franz and Ben" gathered at Salmon's gravesite to commemorate his life.

Mark Scibilla Carver and Jack Gilroy had driven to Chicago from Upstate NY, carrying with them a life size icon bearing an image of Salmon, standing alone in what appeared to be desert sands, wearing a prison-issue uniform that bore his official prison number. Next to the icon was a tall, bare, wooden cross. Rev. Bernie Survil, who organized the vigil at Salmon's grave, implanted a vigil candle in the ground next to the icon. Salmon's grand-niece had come from Moab, Utah, to represent the Salmon family. Facing our group, she said that her family deeply admired Salmon's refusal to cooperate with war. She acknowledged that he had been imprisoned, threatened with execution, sent for a psychiatric evaluation, sentenced to 25 years in prison, a sentence which was eventually commuted, and unable to return to his home in Denver for fear of being killed by antagonists. Charlotte Mates expressed her own determination to try and follow in his footsteps, believing we all have a personal responsibility not to cooperate with wars.

KRISTINA SHULL, PhD AND ALFONZO GONZALEZ, PhD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Prison1 0711wrpSunlight through prison bars. (Photo: Andreas Bohnenstengel)As most of us spend our summer enjoying the outdoors, firing up the barbecue, and spending time with our families – the men and women being held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, operated by the GEO Group, are re-launching a hunger strike to demand their safe release and to protest inhumane conditions.

The recent protest should make us think about the crisis of democracy that we are facing under President Donald Trump.This is now the third hunger strike by detainees at Adelanto. What started off as the #Adelanto9, nine men who were part of a refugee caravan that arrived at the U.S./Mexico border in May seeking political asylum, has gained momentum and now includes roughly 50 strikers. 

The Adelanto 9 first announced their hunger strike on the morning of June 12. Two days later, 33 womenlaunched a hunger strike of their own. Their demands include better medical care, fair bond amounts, to be reunited with their children and families, and to be treated "like humans, not animals."

The Adelanto 9 have been subjected to abusive and arbitrary forms of punishment for exercising the most basic rights that one would expect to have in a democracy. Three deaths have occurred there since the new year, and human rights groups have been tracking ongoing egregious conditions and medical neglect.

The American Civil Rights Union (ACLU) noted that the detainees were cuffed and pepper sprayed for their peaceful protest in a clear act of retaliation. One striker was deported as the remaining eight were separated into four groups; and GEO guards mocked them and threatened to tell the immigration judge about the strike to undermine their cases.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Erin 0710wrp optErin Brockovich (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is helping Oklahoma's Pawnee Nation take on several fracking companies in a lawsuit alleging that damages to its tribal buildings and reservation property was the result of man-made, or induced, earthquakes.

National Geographic reports that the Native American tribe has retained the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, with the aid of Brockovich, to sue Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other oil and gas companies.

In September 2016, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake—the state's largest ever recorded—struck near the town of Pawnee. The tribe alleges that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the record-breaking quake and is seeking damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of "knowingly causing" the tremors and that their actions "constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety."

The case will be heard in tribal court. "The Nation wanted this to be an assertion of their sovereignty," Curt Marshall, counsel for Weitz & Luxenberg representing the Pawnee, told National Geographic. "After all, they are a nation, a sovereign nation: they have jurisdiction, even over non-Indians, on their land."

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Net 0710 optA shredded net. (Photo: Sandstein)The entire 2017 safety net is about $850 billion, compared to over $1.5 trillion for tax expenditures, most of which are for rich Americans

The Unrelenting Wealth Grab by the 1%

The average 1% household increased its wealth by $3 million in 2016. Since much of that was in the form of stock gains, they paid tax on only a small part of their incomes, and then took an average of about $200,000 per household in tax subsidies. When ALL forms of taxes and income and capital gains are considered, the richest 1% pay lower tax rates than the poorest 20% of Americans. 

The Rich Old White Guy's Safety Net: Retirement and Health Care

Wealthy people are living longer, so they're getting much more of the late-life benefits. A Brookings report estimates that lowest-quintile Americans born in 1960 will receive "only 78 percent of the lifetime Medicare benefits received by the top income quintile." A Congressional Research Service report states: "When Social Security benefits are measured on a lifetime basis, low earners, who show little to no gains in life expectancy over time, are projected to receive increasingly lower benefits than those with high earnings." The American Medical Association agrees. The National Institutes of Health agrees. Middle- and upper-income Americans are even grabbing MEDICAID benefits because of the program's accommodating asset-exclusion limits.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Retail 0707wrp optA typical supermarket aisle. (Photo: Lars Frantzen)Excellent news, folks: A decade after Wall Street greed crashed our economy and crushed the working class, jobs are suddenly plentiful!

As an Associated Press article joyously put it, "The U.S. job market has settled into a sweet spot of steadily solid growth." At long last, the American dream is back for working families, right? Well ... in a word: No. Further down in the article, AP's sweet news turns sour with this little admission: "About all that's still missing [in the jobs market] is a broad acceleration in pay."

In other words, you can find work, but getting paid for it is another matter. And forget about such "luxuries" as health coverage, pension, sick leave, vacation time and having a regular schedule. These are not jobs, they're jobettes! Most are in service work — such as fast food chains, amusement parks, nursing homes, Big Box retailers, car washes, delivery services, supermarkets and call centers. Nearly all are poorly paid, temporary, offer little or no upward mobility and are routinely exploitative.

Ironically, the fact that so many families have been in dire economic straits for so long that they now have to take such onerous, one-sided terms of employment increases the power of low-wage corporations. With hundreds of thousands of people scrambling at once to find jobs, the bosses can effectively conspire to hold pay levels down and get away with treating hires as disposable cogs in the corporate profit machine. Indeed, the phenomenally-bloated profits they've been enjoying are largely extracted from the labor of underpaid workers. And in a double irony, corporations rationalize the obscene salaries and bonuses they give to top executives by pointing to those same profits the executives take out of the workers' paychecks.

Feb 3 protest at Wells Fargo Bank, which has over $400 million invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, part of a multi-national movement putting pressure on all the banks funding genocide to divest from the project immediately.A protest at a Wells Fargo Bank, which has over $400 million invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, on February 3, 2017. The action was part of a multi-national movement putting pressure on all the banks funding genocide to divest from the project immediately. (Photo: Joe Piette)MICHELLE COOK AND OSPREY ORIELLE LAKE OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from Ecowatch

Despite shifts in the terrain of struggle, the courageous and determined Water Protectors of the movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continue to stand strong, gain momentum and mobilize in diverse and effective ways in their work to protect Indigenous rights, water and life in North Dakota and beyond.

From powerful Indigenous and frontline leadership at the 200,000 strong People's Climate March in Washington DC, to ceaseless advocacy and actions in courtrooms, in the streets, in the halls of government, and in the offices of financial institutions that support exploitation and extraction -- the DAPL resistance continues, while also joining together with other communities to face mounting pipeline struggles including Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain, Enbridge's Line 3, TransCanada's Energy East, Sonoco Logistic's Bayou Bridge, the resurrection of TransCanada's Keystone XL and efforts to stop fossil fuel extraction at the source.

 If the United States has the chance to freeze the program that could land one of these missiles on home soil, we should take it. That wasn’t the path President Trump chose last week, however, when he met with Moon Jae-in. If the United States has the chance to freeze the program that could land North Korean missiles on home soil, we should take it. That wasn’t the path President Trump chose last week, however, when he met with Moon Jae-in. (Photo: NASA HQ Photo)RENAE REINTS AND COLE HARRISON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

As Americans celebrated July 4 on Tuesday, North Korean President Kim Jong Un celebrated a frightening success of his own. The northern regime launched their longest-reaching weapon yet -- an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe has the ability to reach Alaska. This missile launch comes just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with President Donald Trump in Washington, DC. The two world leaders discussed the desired denuclearization of mutual threat North Korea, but each argued for a different methodology.

Moon, South Korea’s first progressive president in eight years, has called for a revival of something similar to the 1998 Sunshine Policy, which embraces better relations with North Korea, but was rejected by subsequent conservative governments until Moon was elected in May. The Sunshine Policy aims to open conversation on the peninsula with the eventual goal of having the North Korean government denuclearize itself. With this in mind, Moon hopes to persuade North Korea to freeze their nuclear program.

Trump, however, has thus far chosen the strategy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” increasing sanctions on North Korea and conducting military exercises. The United States has left no room for compromise, demanding only full removal of the weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said negotiations “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction … Only then will we be prepared to engage them in talks.”  Last Thursday, Trump imposed new Chinese sanctions in an attempt to cut off North Korean funding.

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