Guest Commentary (5079)
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Neither daily lies, hyperbolic rhetoric, wild tweeting, the Russian scandal, politicizing the Boy Scouts, nor endless White House chaos, has dissuaded Donald Trump’s ultra-loyal conservative Christian evangelical from wholeheartedly embracing the president. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently pointed out, Christian conservatives "have not let religion or values get in the way of their support."
These days, the president’s Christian base are one heck of a happy bunch: Tony Perkins, head of the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, has been a guest at the White House so many times, he might just as well move in; Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, claims he has found the fighter he has been yearning for; and, for Richard Land, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, it’s all about "unprecedented access" and having an "impact on policy."
Last month, about two dozen evangelical leaders, including Perkins, Land, Reed, mega-church preacher John Hagee, "prosperity gospel" preacher and longtime Trump ally Paula White, Gary Bauer, Robert Jeffress, Rodney Howard-Browne, Land, and Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, prayed with Trump during a day-long "listening session" with the Office of Public Liaison. Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice-president at Liberty University, told CBN News that "It shows a substantive relationship between the evangelical community and this administration."
Over the past several weeks, Trump has been feeding his conservative base what they want: an aggressive re-launching of the culture wars. "We’re under siege. You understand that," Trump told the audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual gathering in Washington. "But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever."
REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest. The activism is the purest citizenship. We enter Trump Tower. We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.
We are only doing what tourists do. Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream. Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards. The hanging garden of Trump. Fake plants on gold pillars! We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!
Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare. We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit. We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation. As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous "Other."
Our destination is on the 5th floor. There is a legal never-never-land called a "Privately Owned Public Space" or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public. And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout. We have such a need to re-establish our own body. It is real and direct. We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Inequality is much worse than we're led to believe by a dismissive business media. The numbers are hellish, and they're growing.
1. The Extreme Wealth Gap is Still Expanding
The U.S. has gained $30 trillion in wealth since 2008, about half of it in the stock market, much of the remainder in real estate holdings. Based on prior analyses, data from Credit Suisse and Forbes, and recent work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, it's a rather simple process to estimate the distribution of our nation's wealth over that time period. The following are conservative estimates, since the numbers amount to about $15 trillion, the minimum amount by which financial wealth has increased since the low point of the recession.
-- The richest 400 individuals gained an average of $2,500,000,000 each since the recession.
-- The .01% (12,000 households) gained about $120,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the .1% (120,000 households) gained about $11,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the 1% (1,068,000 households) gained about $2,500,000 each.
-- The 2-5% (4,800,000 households) gained about $900,000 each.
-- The 6-10% (6,000,000 households) gained about $285,000 each.
-- The 11-20% (12,000,000 households) gained about $117,000 each.
-- The Bottom 80% (96,000,000 households) gained about $13,000 each.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The past 24 hours have had an uptick in earthquake numbers, with 8 quakes ranging from 2.6-4.2 magnitude occurring in Oklahoma," USGS tweeted.
USGS described last night's 4.2 quake as "widely felt" in the city of Edmond and northern Oklahoma City.
An earthquake at that magnitude feels like a "heavy truck striking building," the agency explained on its website.
The temblor caused power outages for more than 4,600 electricity customers in north Edmond. The power was completely restored by 11 p.m. local time.
Edmond's police department reported no significant damages from that earthquake, but many locals and households were shaken up.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTLORRAINE CHOW OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Scientists predict that so much pollution is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico this year that it is creating a larger-than-ever "dead zone" in which low to no oxygen can suffocate or kill fish and other marine life.
The Guardian reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to announce this week the largest recorded hypoxic zone in the gulf, an oxygen-depleted swath that's even larger than the New Jersey-sized, 8,185 square-mile dead zone originally predicted for July.
MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
History may record that the planet's climate crisis was avoided thanks to the efforts of three countries: China, Germany, and France. Or not. The preparedness of those three, and the other EU member-states, to follow through on commitments under the Paris Accord despite the US pull-out is key to planetary survival. Chancellor Angela Merkel has made no bones about it, announcing that the Europeans are determined, in the name of Western values, to meet the Paris goal of keeping planetary temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius while also welcoming immigrants and upholding the global trade system.
The Discouraging News
Every expert opinion on climate change includes a dire warning: We haven't got much time. The latest warning comes from a group of scientists and supportive others called Mission 2020. Reporting in Nature, they believe that if greenhouse gas emissions can turn downward by 2020 -- emissions have actually flattened out over the last three years -- we have a chance to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. But if the Paris goals cannot be met, we are on the way to catastrophic decline. The group reminds us that economic growth in many countries is occurring precisely where use of non-carbon renewable sources has increased dramatically.
Mission 2020 makes a number of specific, entirely doable suggestions on land-use policy, city structures, transportation, and other subjects. But for its ideas to see the light of day, the group emphasizes that we must "use science to guide decisions and set targets. Policies and actions must be based on robust evidence… Those in power must also stand up for science." Its closing observation is well worth heeding: "There will always be those who hide their heads in the sand and ignore the global risks of climate change. But there are many more of us committed to overcoming this inertia. Let us stay optimistic and act boldly together."
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I was a boy, I loved spending time with my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Eula on their small northeast Texas farm. They pulled a frugal living from their 50 acres, raising a little bit of everything. Doing a lot with a little to make ends meet, Ernest and Eula operated on principle of frugality expressed in an old country rhyme: Use it up/ Wear it out/ Make it do/ Or do without.
This meant that when their tractor broke down, they fixed it themselves. Likewise, if their old Zenith console radio went on the fritz, they didn't just order a new one -- they brought out their tool kit and fixed it.
While the media and political powers seem blissfully ignorant of the "lifestyles" of America's commoners, most families are struggling financially and are making do or doing without.For this poor-to-middle-class majority, frugality is not some old-world virtue, but a household necessity, and the "fix-it" ethic is central to their lives. Add to them the millions of do-it-yourselfers who like to tinker or refuse to be a part of the corporate system's throwaway economy.
Today, just about every manufactured product containing software -- from an electric toothbrush to an SUV -- has no-repair clauses and/or digital locks. It's now standard industry practice for manufacturers to insert a spurious claim into their sales agreements that the company retains legal possession of key components of the products they sold to us, and only it can make repairs. To see how insidious this is, let's go back to the farm with Ernest and Eula.
MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Touching down in Washington D.C. Friday night after a peace delegation to South Korea, I saw the devastating news. No, it was not that Reince Priebus had been booted from the dysfunctional White House. It was that North Korea had conducted another intercontinental ballistic missile test, and that the United States and South Korea had responded by further ratcheting up this volatile conflict.
The response was not just the usual tit-for-tat, which did happen. Just hours after the North Korean test, the U.S. and South Korean militaries launched their own ballistic missiles as a show of force. Even more incendiary, however, is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in also responded by reversing his decision to halt deployment of the U.S. weapon system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). President Moon gave his military the green light to add four more launchers to complete the system.
South Korea's new liberal president came into office May 10 on the wave of a remarkable “people power” uprising that had led to the impeachment and jailing of the corrupt President Park Geun-hye. Part of the legacy Moon inherited was an agreement with the U.S. to provide land and support for THAAD, a missile defense system designed to target and intercept short and medium-range missiles fired by North Korea.
ENVIRONEWS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTEMERSON URRY OF
Radioactive particles of uranium, thorium, radium, cesium, strontium, polonium, tellurium and americium are still afloat throughout Northern Japan more than six years after a tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant causing three full-blown nuclear meltdowns. That was the conclusion reached by two of the world’s leading radiation experts after conducting an extensive five-year monitoring project.
Arnie Gundersen and Marco Kaltofen authored the peer reviewed study titled, Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment, published July 27, 2017, in Science of the Total Environment(STOLEN).
Gundersen represents Fairewinds Associates and is a nuclear engineer, former power plant operator and industry executive, turned whistleblower, and was CNN’s play-by-play on-air expert during the 2011 meltdowns. Kaltofen, of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), is a licensed civil engineer and is renowned as a leading experts on radioactive contamination in the environment.
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If war were moral, legal, defensive, beneficial to the spread of freedom, and inexpensive, we would be obliged to make abolishing it our top priority solely because of the destruction that war and preparations for war do as the leading polluters of our natural environment.
I happened to read a report this week from a US environmental think tank that advocates for the US military to blow up trucks full of oil and gas. The trucks belong to ISIS, and the argument is that bombing trucks does less damage than bombing oil wells, and that -- if you add in vague social and economic factors rather ludicrously quantified with numerical pseudo-precision -- bombing trucks does less damage than doing nothing. The option of working nonviolently for peace, disarmament, aid, and environmental protection is not considered.
If we don't start considering new options, we're going to run out of options entirely. The roughly $1 trillion that the United States puts into militarism each year is the number one way in which war kills and the source of an infinity of not-yet-considered options. Tiny fractions of US military spending could end hunger, the lack of clean water, and various diseases globally. While converting to clean energy could pay for itself in healthcare savings, the funds with which to do it are there, many times over, in the US military budget. One airplane program, the F-35, could be canceled and the funds used to convert every home in the United States to clean energy.
KALPANA KRISHNAMURTHY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last week my seven year old son got chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for our family included a doctor visit to get IV chemo, a spinal tap, a twice daily steroid (and managing its side effects), and once day chemo pill.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the US Senate included multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to take away his health insurance.
Let's look at it side by side.
Into the late hours of the night last week, US Senators voted time and again on proposals to replace, repeal in full or partially repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In the late hours of the night last week, my son struggled to stay asleep because he gets insomnia from the medicines he takes, because his medicines make him hungry and he needs to eat at night.
For breakfast, some U.S. senators ate in the private Senate dining room — a place where my son and most of us will never eat, even though our tax dollars pay for it.
DAVID NIOSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It has taken years, but I’ve finally come to terms with one of the most glaring inconsistencies in my own life. Though I hold myself out as a proud progressive, cognitive dissonance has allowed me to enjoy an activity that, in all honesty, directly conflicts with my core beliefs and values. After justifying and rationalizing this activity year after year, knowing deep down inside that it is indefensible, I’m finally ready to confront it:
I can no longer be a fan of the National Football League.
This decision results from an uncomfortable truth that has become increasingly undeniable to me: The NFL, because of the values it fosters on such a grand scale, is arguably the most influential reactionary force in the United States today.
If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider the facts. The NFL’s appeal and cultural influence are vast, with loyal followers, young and old, all over the country who willingly devote large amounts of time and attention to it. Yet the values it propagates are antithetical to a progressive life stance. Militarism, nationalism, corporatism, excessive consumption, and even conservative religion and anti-intellectualism -- all are nurtured, directly or indirectly, with a sprinkling of sexism for good measure, by the league and its activities.
This was not an easy truth for me to face. I’ve followed the NFL longer than I’ve called myself a progressive, since the glory days of Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. And as a New Englander, I suffered decades of disappointment as a Patriots fan before watching the team become a dynasty in the Belichick-Brady era. The Pats just won their fifth Super Bowl, but I’ve come to realize that the NFL, overtly and covertly, stands firmly opposed to my own progressive values. I’m walking away, knowing without a doubt I’m doing the right thing.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Wednesday, July 26, Team Trump carried out an anti-gay trifecta: the president banned transgender Americans from the military; the Justice department filed a brief defending discrimination against gays in the workplace; and, the president nominated a clearly anti-gay partisan to become the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Unfortunately, when Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention that he would do all he could “to protect our LGBT citizens,” he apparently was talking about only protecting them from Islamic terrorists, not from himself, or conservative evangelical Christians.
Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender Americans from the military is not the first shot he’s fired in culture wars battles against the LGBT community.
The bringing of Mike Pence, an avowedly anti-gay partisan, onto the ticket, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch were all signals to evangelical Christians that he has their back.
Now, the seemingly out-of-nowhere tweet regarding transsexual citizens also appears to be aimed at keeping conservative evangelicals locked into the Trumposphere at a time when talk of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angered many of them.
WINSLOW MEYERS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Like many citizens for whom the daily headlines are an invitation to ponder the mental health of our political leaders, it is hard not to wonder from time to time about the risk of slipping into yet another war to end all wars -- especially when the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki roll around, on August 6th and 9th, year after passing year.
In this context Stanley Kramer's 1959 film, On the Beach is still worth a look. The screenplay was adapted from a novel of the same name by the English writer, Nevil Shute, who spent his later years in Australia, where both novel and film are set.
The plot provides a coolly understated take on the end of the world. Radioactivity from all-out nuclear war, both between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. and the Soviets and the Chinese, has done in anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who might have survived the initial blasts and fires. Australia is still in one piece, but it is only a matter of months before the great cycles of upper atmosphere winds bring a fatal plague of radiation southward, making it game over for our species. A laconic Gregory Peck, stoically repressing his knowledge that his wife and children had been long since annihilated in the initial nuclear exchange, plays a submarine captain whose vessel survived by being underwater. He takes his loyal crew on a futile exploratory voyage from Melbourne across to the California coast, both to test the intensity of atmospheric radiation and to confirm that no one has survived beyond the Australian continent.