Guest Commentary (4943)
FARRON COUSINS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent article published in Ars Technica discussed several conservative leaders -- ranging from religious figures to former Republican politicians -- attempting to convince conservatives that climate change was an issue that needed to be addressed by everyone, not just the liberals in the United States. The article discusses various ways that these conservatives are trying to approach the issue, from citing biblical passages about protecting the Earth, to educating conservative voters about the benefits of a carbon tax.
The Ars Technica article touched on a very important subject that is too often left out of discussions on climate change: Why are Republican politicians so successful when it comes to getting voters to vote against protecting the environment?
Polls from recent years have shown that majorities of Republicans, Democrats and those who don't describe themselves as either Republican or Democrat all believe that climate change is real, so we know that there is a general acceptance of climate science among the public. Yet the majority of elected Republicans in Washington, DC -- the party that controls all branches of government at this time -- either outright deny climate change or question the scientific consensus. So how can a party that openly attacks climate science and environmental protections win the support of people who claim to be concerned about the environment?
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The wailing in our country about the "invasion of immigrants" has been long and loud. As one complainant put it, "Few of their children in the country learn English... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages... Unless the stream of the importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."
That's not some diatribe from the alt-right. It's the anxious cry of none other than Ben Franklin, deploring the wave of Germans pouring into the colony of Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Thus, anti-immigrant eruptions are older than the U.S. itself, and they've flared up periodically throughout our history, targeting the Irish, French, Italians and Chinese among others. Even Donald Trump's project to wall off our border is not a new bit of nuttiness — around the time of the nation's founding, John Jay, who later became the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, proposed "a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics."
Luckily for the development and enrichment of our country, these past public frenzies ultimately failed to exclude the teeming masses, and those uproars now appear through the telescope of time to have been some combination of ridiculous panic, political demagoguery and xenophobic ugliness.
In our current national imbroglio over immigration coming from our 2,000-mile shared southern border, our "leaders" have set us up to look down at impoverished working people forced to leave their homeland and risk death in order to help their families escape poverty.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Are Christian conservative evangelicals so desperate for attention and an apocalyptic messenger that they’re turning to a disgraced televangelist to carry their End Times message? Ever in search of an End Times scenario that might resonate with its open-eared supporters, Steve Strang, the Christian conservative evangelical founder of Charisma magazine, and the CEO of Charisma Media, is turning to Jim Bakker for a revelation. And Bakker, the discredited PTL Club (Praise the Lord) televangelist who fleeced his audience, got involved in a juicy sexual scandal, and served time in prison, is claiming that the recent WannaCry "ransomware" cyberattack is a sign that World War III has already started. The early-May attack infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries.
In a podcast interview, Bakker told Strang that the battle would not be fought with traditional weaponry; rather it will be with computers and satellites. And, it may not be a coincidence that on his Jim Bakker Show, he is hustling survivalist supplies to doomsday preppers.
On his show, Bakker made a point of claiming the "spirit of the Antichrist" was living inside of Donald Trump’s opponents.
In a piece titled, "What if Jim Bakker Is Right That the Ransomware Virus Is Part of Fulfilling End-Times Prophecy?" Strang writes that he doesn’t mind "if the secular community makes fun of it or thinks that it is just a lot of superstition," his folks know that "the spiritual realm is where things really happen. We also know that God is in control, that He has a plan and purpose, and that He revealed to the apostle John what would happen in the last days, which John wrote about in the book of Revelation."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria" . . . and "emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia."
Welcome to the last paragraph of a Washington Post story the other day, a loose fragment of news, a homeless child, a cynical trigger. This is the story in which we learn that "President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week" and the let's-be-friends comment was part of the official White House statement about the meeting, the point of which was to dismiss the Post's allegations as false.
And indeed, the statement comes wrapped in cynicism, as though our proto-fascist, race-baiting, bomb-happy president carries the world's hope for peace in his heart. Nonetheless, I feel the need to rescue this paragraph from the rest of the Post's story, which details the latest manifestation of Russiagate in Trumpville.
CLARA HERZBERG FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On May 12, the leaders of Los Angeles' $5 billion bid for the 2024 Olympics wrapped up nearly four days’ worth of courting inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC)Evaluation Commission. Both sides did their best to dazzle, with the committee trumpeting their dinner with stars like Kobe Bryant, and with commission chair Patrick Baumann describing the city's venues as "spectacular." Meanwhile, however, evaluators banned members of the public from attending their meetings and shooed away journalists during the tour. Their secrecy stemmed in part from the fact that the city's bid is running up against growing opposition, spearheaded by the new campaign group, NOlympics LA. The organization, started by the LA chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, aims to bring attention to the negative effects the 2024 Olympics would have on Angelenos -- especially the most vulnerable. Their movement couldn't come at a better moment.
At a time when is Los Angeles is already among the most unequal places in the country, the city shouldn't waste close to $5 billion to impress the IOC, but should instead use the generous funds earmarked for the Olympics bid to help the city's most disadvantaged residents. As Jonny Coleman, an organizer with NOlympics LA, said, "LA has no shortage of problems that are more urgent than securing the bid."
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation aiming to eliminate ocean plastic, unveiled Thursday a major design update to its highly vaunted cleanup system and announced that the technology will be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
Boyan Slat, the 22-year-old founder and CEO of the nonprofit, said at a presentation in the Netherlands that a "technological breakthrough" has allowed the project to be cheaper and more effective than originally anticipated.
According to Fast Company, instead of the initial estimates of removing 42 percent of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over 10 years at a cost of $320 million, the young inventor hopes to remove 50 percent of total trash within five years at a cost "significantly less" than $320 million.
The original design involved massive floating barriers fixed to the seabed that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents.
But the new design involves "a fleet of many smaller systems" that will not be attached to the seabed, Slat said. The AFP reports that each of up to 30 smaller barriers will measure about one to two-kilometers in length.
The updated system will be weighed down by specially designed drifting sea anchors.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a recent two-page memo, largely crafted by Steven H. Cook, a veteran drug warrior, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to have morphed into Harry Anslinger, a primary initiator of the decades-long drug wars. In his directive, Sessions has indicated that he is willing to turn back the clock, spend millions of dollars prosecuting drug offenders, push mandatory minimum sentences, exacerbate racial disparities in the justice system, and swell the nation’s federal prison population. Sessions policy could also prove to be a boon to private prison corporations that have federal contracts; with more arrests and convictions, more cells will be needed.
What is still unclear is how Sessions will deal marijuana -- which he has called a “dangerous drug” – in states that have medical marijuana laws, and those states that have voted to legalize marijuana.
“We’ve got too much complacency about drugs,” Sessions said at a summit in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 11, “Too much talking about recreational drugs. It’s the same thing we used to hear in the eighties. That’s what the pro-drug crowd argued then. But we realize the reality, empirical fact -- neighbors, friends, crime -- that this was not a legitimate thing. So we’re going to reverse this trend. I am committed to it. The president is committed to it. … We’re going to come together as a nation and we’re not going to allow this abuse, this threat to our country to erode our capabilities, and destroy good decent people in our country.”
In a pair of recent articles Will New Drug Czar Revive America's Disastrous Drug Wars and Drug Wars 4.0: From Anslinger to Nixon to Reagan to Trump and Sessions, we speculated about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to bring back the drug wars.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Americans with wealth and power don't generally care about the middle and lower classes. Even worse, they are doing real damage to the people they don't care about.
But why? Either these well-positioned people are 100 percent out of touch with the realities of middle-class life in our country, or they're contemptuous of those they consider inferior, or they believe so strongly in individual 'freedom' that even the word 'social' is repugnant to them. Or perhaps they're just not smart enough to see the value of people who are different from them.
The assault continues non-stop: Taking away healthcare, either by disposing of the Affordable Care Act or slashing Medicaid; weakening consumer protection laws; repealing fair wage and workplace safety laws; cutting overtime pay; jeopardizing civil rights in the name of "religious freedom"; putting low-income mothers at risk by cutting their maternity care; increasing penalties for minor drug offenses; giving our public lands -- including the homes of Native Americans -- to oil companies; and even denying kids healthy lunches.
A method can be detected amidst the madness, looking at it from the disdainer's point of view.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Comandante Trump, El Jefe, the gringo strongman!
That's the image our current Commander-in-Chief seems to be cultivating. He has surrounded himself with generals, he cavalierly threatens war with all "bad hombres," he is drastically bulking up military spending and he imperiously slaps foreign leaders, whole ethnic groups, and entire nations with demeaning tweets and public rants. Posing as Patton-on-the-Potomac, President Donald Trump is out to "Make America Feared Again."
How is that working out? Look south, to Mexico. Our bellicose president has repeatedly blasted Mexicans again and again as marauding thieves, murderers and rapists. Adding injury to insult, the smirking Trump pledged that he would immediately seal off Mexico by building a 1,800-mile-long, 30-foot high wall -- which he described as "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful." But the big man and his big wall are crumbling in the face of reality. Start with the cost: $21.6 billion! The congressional leaders of Trump's own party couldn't choke down a number that big, so the interim budget agreement they passed in April provided exactly zero dollars to start building his wall.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
For a journalist -- especially one covering government and politics -- the most suspicious, least trustworthy word in the language ought to be: "classified."
As the drama continues to swirl around Russiagate, or whatever the central controversy of the Trump administration winds up being known as, that word keeps popping up, teasingly, seductively: "It appeared that there was a great deal more (former acting Attorney General Sally) Yates wished she could share," the Washington Post informed us the other day, for instance, "but most of the information surrounding everything that happened remains classified."
And the drama continues! And I have yet to hear a mainstream journo challenge or question that word or ask what could be at stake that requires protective secrecy even as the US government seemingly threatens to collapse around Michael Flynn, America's national security advisor for three weeks, and his relationship to Russia. Is there really any there there?
I'm not suggesting that there isn't. Trump and pals are undoubtedly entwined financially with Russian oligarchs, which of course is deeply problematic. And maybe there's more. And maybe some of that "more" is arguably classified for a valid reason, but I want, at the very least, to know why it's classified. What I read and hear feels, instead, like collusion: journalists unquestioningly honoring bureaucratic keep-out signs as objective, even sacred, stopping points. Public knowledge must go no further because . . . you know, national security. But the drama continues!
CAROL L.M. CATON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Congress just passed the AHCA. That’s it! I get it! When is the next demonstration to oppose Trumpcare? I’m in! This week the citizenry again took to the streets, as they have nearly every week since the presidential election of 2016. Now more than ever, I understand the passion that drives us to social activism.
My observations of what makes social change work, however, reminds me of the legal battles in support of homeless people in the 1980’s, when ordinary citizens challenged the government to provide care for the homeless. Back then I was a newly minted social scientist studying the emerging problem of homelessness. With the numbers of street dwellers increasing, and no organized effort by governmental agencies to address the problem of homelessness, the concerns of ordinary citizens erupted into public demonstrations and episodes of civil disobedience. What I recall most vividly of that period are the bold actions of two young New York City lawyers, concerned citizens who did not hold public office, whose hard work and dedication to social justice would dramatically increase the options of people experiencing homelessness to exit street living and embark upon a path to stable housing.
During that time I was directing community studies of people with severe mental illness who had recently been released from mental hospitals. It quickly became apparent that many of our charges did not have a place to live. They spent their days wandering the city streets, sleeping at night in parks, train stations, or other public places. Later in the decade, the ranks of people without homes swelled nationwide with men, women, and children whose housing loss was a casualty of the high unemployment, double-digit inflation, and the scarcity of housing options for people with very low incomes. Public services for homeless people were almost non-existent in the prosperous years following World War II, and most communities were not prepared to cope with the crisis of homelessness. In some cities voluntarism surged, with charitable organizations providing food, clothing, and blankets to people living in public spaces. Church basements and unused public buildings were hastily transformed to house the throngs of people seeking shelter.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The release of hexavalent chromium was 584 times the daily maximum limit allowed under state law, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported, citing the documents. The plant is permitted to release only a maximum of 0.51 pounds daily.
The toxic industrial byproduct was made infamous by the environmental activist and 2000 movie of the same name, "Erin Brockovich."
The leak occurred between April 11 and April 12 and forced the closure of several Lake Michigan beaches and Indiana American Water's intake in Ogden Dunes. Burns Waterway is a tributary that flows into Lake Michigan, a drinking water source for nearby Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
CAROLINE CORNELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Monsanto is at it again. Rather than admitting defeat after California labeled glyphosate (commonly marketed as Roundup) as a carcinogen, the company still claims that the herbicide is completely safe.
Two op-eds published back-to-back in California newspapers -- the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times -- argue that glyphosate is harmless, and that the state "got it wrong" by listing the herbicide under California's Prop 65, which requires warning labels on cancer-causing products.
The Los Angeles Times op-ed -- though not published by Monsanto, it oddly ran on the same day as Monsanto's Sacramento Bee piece -- even trivializes the plight of the more than 700 agricultural laborers and gardeners who allege their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was caused by glyphosate.
"Since [the International Agency for Research on Cancer's] report was published, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto as lawyers in the 'environmental justice' industry seek to profit from so-called glyphosate victims," write Julie Kelly and Henry I. Miller.
TIGHE BERRY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On May 1st, I stood on trial for having "greeted" Jeff Sessions in Congress before the start of his confirmation hearing in January. I was convicted along with my fellow activists, Lenny Bianchi and Desiree Fairooz. We each face up to $2,000 in fines, 12 months in prison, or both. The sentencing will take place on June 21st.
On the day of the confirmation hearing, my colleague, Lenny, and I were dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members, with our white hoods and robes designed to highlight Sessions’ racist history. My performance at the hearing was a parody, but the real joke has become the US Justice Department.
To say that I was appalled that Jeff Sessions was about to become the highest legal authority in our country is an understatement. As an American who loves the constitution and the rule of law, I felt compelled to protest the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, a man whose history of racist rulings and rhetoric has been well documented and exposed to public scrutiny. His nomination and confirmation as Attorney General make a mockery of our judicial system and our constitution in general. Even though Sessions was only confirmed on February 8th of this year, he is already setting back the progress this country has made in the areas of civil rights and race relations. In three short months, our concerns have been resoundingly validated.