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6237645664 cc1ac771a8 z (Photo: Harrisburg U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion)

Trump's proposed $54 billion dollar increase to an already bloated military budget (of approximately $550 billion dollars currently) will have winners and losers. The primary winners will be the entrenched military infrastructure and defense contractors, who will benefit from the windfall of additional expenditures. In addition, the conservative and neoliberal promoters of US hegemony -- with the nation's military serving as global police enforcing US political and economic power -- will see their goal strengthened if the billions in extra budgetary funding is granted.

Among the losers will be those in the US who will be the victims of reduced government safety net programs and foreign aid, which would be cut to pay for the extra military spending. Furthermore, one can predict that the additional military outlay will result in more people dying throughout the world as a result of an increase in US military power. This could happen in ongoing wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in the vaguely defined "war on terror," as well as in multiple other "low-intensity conflicts" throughout the world.

It should not be overlooked that an expanded military will inevitably lead to increased military activity and the resultant deaths and injuries of more military recruits in an age of an all-volunteer army. The dependence of the armed forces on military recruiting to create a sufficient fighting force was emphasized in a recent Truthout Progressive Pick book by Pat Elder, Military Recruiting in the United States.

As Elder told Truthout in an interview posted on February 19,

It's a coerced, recruited Army as much as it is a volunteer Army.


3584139642 f7342c0060 z (Photo: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!)

Keeping watch on the Trump-Pence administration is a dirty job, but it’s a responsibility that we take seriously. Support Truthout and BuzzFlash in this pursuit: Make a tax-deductible donation!

Living-wage jobs are scarce in the United States. The People's Action Institute (PAI), a national organization with the goal of achieving economic, racial, gender and climate justice, just released a study that reinforces the profound need for jobs that pay a wage people can live on. A PAI news release states:

The report shows the gap between job seekers and jobs that pay a living wage. According to the report, Prosperity, Not Poverty, nationally there are seven job seekers for every job opening that pays the national single adult living wage of $17.28 per hour.

In other words, six out of seven job seekers are unlikely to find work that pays enough for a single adult to make ends meet. The odds are much worse for a single parent hoping to be paid enough to support herself and a child....

[Many] communities of color, women, and LGBTQI communities are doubly impacted, by both the lack of wealth-building work available and by living in neglected communities most in need of ... public infrastructure investment.

President Trump is now proposing an infrastructure plan to Congress. We must insist that any infrastructure strategy address the needs of those most impacted by the unavailability of living wage jobs in the US.

"Hiring for new infrastructure jobs must focus on struggling communities, and include strong wage floor requirements," said Allyson Fredericksen, deputy director of research for the People's Action Institute, in a news release about the report. "These same communities must also be the first to benefit from new projects, including clean water and air, access to technology, good roads and bridges. Any plan that would privatize public assets must be rejected."

Friday, 24 February 2017 05:45

The Peril of Nuclear War in the Age of Trump


isaiahploughshareIsaiah: "Let Us Beat Our Swords into Plowshares" (Photo: Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

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The possibility of nuclear war is no longer theoretical.

In an interview with Reuters this week, Donald Trump boasted that the US would ratchet up its nuclear weapons to dominate nuclear capability throughout the world:

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal is at the "top of the pack," saying the United States has fallen behind in its weapons capacity....

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack," Trump said.

Russia has 7,000 warheads and the United States, 6,800, according to the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-nuclear group.

If Trump carried through on this promise, it could mean reneging on the New START Treaty of 2010 signed by President Obama, or perhaps just violating it by expanding the US ability to utilize nuclear weapons. The New START agreement placed definitive limits on US and Russian nuclear delivery systems and bombs, according to Reuters.


6116744005 7edcffd9d3 zBoston Harbor (Photo: Bertrand Duperrin)

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Anyone who reads Truthout reporter Dahr Jamail's work on the deleterious impacts of climate change knows that it is not a theoretical threat. However, we live in a time when the administration of Donald Trump is silencing talk of climate change -- and research about it -- in the federal government. The gap between Jamail's on-site researched reporting and current national public policy is immensely troubling and ominous for the future of the planet and its people.

Although the Earth-altering impact of climate change could become catastrophic, it is not immediately visible to many people. Therefore, it remains an abstract threat to them -- not an immediate concern. However, that has not deterred many states and local communities from preparing for some of the destruction that will likely result from climate change.

That's the case with Boston, which according to The Boston Globe is considering a giant sea barrier to protect the heart of the city from rising water:

As rising sea levels pose a growing threat to Boston’s future, city officials are exploring the feasibility of building a vast sea barrier from Hull to Deer Island, forming a protective arc around Boston Harbor.

The idea, raised in a recent city report on the local risks of climate change, sounds like a pipe dream, a project that could rival the Big Dig in complexity and cost. It’s just one of several options, but the sea wall proposal is now under serious study by a team of some of the region’s top scientists and engineers, who recently received a major grant to pursue their research.


2192681164 90044c30c8 zSoldier working on military drone in Afghanistan. (Photo: The U.S. Army)

The din coming from Washington with the bombastic, pernicious arrival of the Trump spectacle has continued to keep America's longest war in the back pages of the news, if it makes the news at all. However, it is vital that we remember this war that was begun by the US and that has been raging for more than 15 years now. The original impetus was, ostensibly, to punish the Taliban government in the wake the of 9/11 attacks for harboring Al Qaeda. Yet it would be hard to define why we are there now except for the imperatives of US hegemony and military empire.

The war began on October 7, 2001. The US combat mission in the nation was declared at a formal end in 2014, but the US never really withdrew all its advisers and soldiers stationed there for "training" purposes. In addition, military contractors affiliated with the US government likely remained active in the country.

In fact, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), according to National Public Radio (NPR), confirmed that "There are still more than 13,000 NATO troops -- including 8,400 U.S. service members -- deployed to Afghanistan." McCain's opinion was that there should actually be more troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Now, it appears possible that the US will officially return to combat in Afghanistan, reaffirming that it is a war without an end in sight.


US Capitol west side copy33US Congress (Photo: Martin Falbisoner)

I noted in a January 31 commentary that President Trump signed an executive order that took "two steps backward in public protection regulations." His action requires that executive branch agencies can only create a new regulation by eliminating two existing ones. Many of the regulations that may now be on the chopping block are key protections of civil, human and environmental rights. Furthermore, remember that a new regulation could be pro-corporate, and it might replace two regulations that benefit the public good.

In thinking about regulations in the age of Trump, it is also essential to remember that Congress initiates its own regulations -- and acts of deregulation. Public Citizen, a national advocacy agency for the public good, points out in an email, as one example, that Congress can repeal recently enacted executive branch orders, noting:

As a result of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Americans could lose dozens of important health, safety, pocketbook and environmental protections established during the final six months of the last administration. The CRA allows Congress to strike down recently issued rules -- with limited debate and no possibility of a filibuster -- and blocks agencies from ever again issuing “substantially similar” standards without express authorization from Congress....

Two rules already have been struck down: the stream protection rule and the overseas drilling anti-corruption rule. More are at risk of repeal every week. In practical terms, Congress will have 60 legislative working days – until sometime in May or June – to torpedo rules finalized after June 13, 2016.

In short, that means the Republican-controlled Congress that has made deregulation (with a few pro-corporate exceptions) a priority, and it has nearly half a year to annul many of the important regulations that were put in place during the last six months of the Obama administration.


EWarren 0208wrp opt(Photo: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, by Tim Pierce)Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) refused to allow Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) to criticize Trump Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama). In fact, he invoked a rarely used Senate rule to force Warren to end her remarks prematurely, while she was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King. MSNBC reports:

Warren quoted from a letter that Coretta Scott King wrote in opposition to Sessions, an Alabama Republican, during his attempted confirmation for a federal judgeship 30 years ago.

The letter said that Sessions, who was then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, had used the "the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge."

McConnell and other Republicans said Warren violated Senate rules. The rule, No. 19, says senators cannot "directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator."

MSNBC adds, "The Senate voted along partisan lines, 49-43, to admonish Warren." Thus, Warren was silenced and rebuked for speaking truth to power through the words of a great civil rights leader. In effect, McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate were also sanctioning Coretta Scott King.


2017.7.2 BF Karlin(Photo: Nate Bolt)

In a February 3 article on Truthout, Spencer Sunshine reported on a Trump administration plan that is circulating to roll back the monitoring and prevention of domestic white terrorism:

The Trump administration's reported new plan to change a federal program which combats violent "extremism" into a project focused exclusively on "radical Islam" looks like another step toward demonizing Muslims -- while adding to concerns that the administration will actively empower open white supremacist groups. Reuters reports that multiple inside sources say the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program will be being renamed either "Countering Islamic Extremism" or "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism."

Almost every year, the white supremacist movement is the political movement that kills the most Americans. (In the rare year that they don't come in first, they come in second.) But, for many years now, the federal government has refused to focus resources on violent far-right groups. Instead, efforts have been poured into surveilling the Muslim community at large -- even going so far as to entrap Muslims in order to arrest them.

Sunshine later notes:

Ignoring far-right movements seems to be a longstanding federal strategy


32477520531 9036c96038 z 1Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Plagiarism? (Photo :Victoria Pickering )

Maybe Donald Trump's Secretary of Education appointment Betsy DeVos thought she was just following the Trump inner circle standard.

After all, First Lady Melania Trump gave an inspirational speech at the Republican convention. Unfortunately for Mrs. Trump, her remarks were exposed to be largely the work of Michelle Obama: The remarks were plagiarized in large chunks. Melania Trump, ironically, pulled the words from a speech Michelle Obama gave at another convention: the 2008 Democratic Party gathering in Denver.

Trump surrogates defended Melania Trump at the time of her 2016 speech. According to CNN, Trump staffers twisted common sense into a pretzel to defend the current First Lady's theft of language. CNN quotes the current White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicier -- whose first public act in his position was to lie about the inaugural crowd size -- implausibly defending the plagiarized passages:

Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's chief strategist, [at the time of the 2016 Republican convention] invoked "My Little Pony" in defending the speech in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Melania Trump said, 'the strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them.' Twilight Sparkle from 'My Little Pony' said, 'This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now,' " Spicer said.

Apparently, Betsy DeVos also took up the "My Little Pony" logic, in her responses to senators' questions in the lead-up to her confirmation hearing.


32526771855 f1e4ccf6f8 zDonald Trump signing one of his recent executive orders. (Photo: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann)

 On January 30, President Trump signed an executive order that will make the United States less safe by rolling back regulations that protect the public. The best way to describe Trump's regulatory strategy is one step forward, two steps backward.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, has written an analysis of the action, in which he states:

The idea that two rules should be eliminated for each one adopted has no rational basis. Rules should be considered on their own merits. Existing rules were adopted through a deliberative notice-and-comment process, subject in many cases to challenging litigation. Absent a showing that they are no longer justified, there’s just no rationale for why they should be eliminated to clear the way for new ones.

CNBC notes the appropriate concern of critics of the action:

Critics of Trump's economic and regulatory agenda have raised concerns that his administration will reduce protections for consumers and the environment in an effort to help businesses. Many of the specific regulations Trump has criticized relate to environmental protection.

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