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JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Justice 0424wrp(Photo: Themis, Itojyuku)In high school, I had a girlfriend who was involved in student government and all sorts of good works. While she paid attention to all that was happening in those years of the early '60s, she essentially was a moderate — certainly not some movement rebel. Or so we thought... until one lazy, Sunday afternoon. As we aimlessly "cruised the drag" of our small town in a '54 Chevy, we were paused at a red light across from a root beer stand where some teens were hanging out. Suddenly, my "moderate" girlfriend lunged halfway out of the backseat window and shouted "Wake up and piss, kids, the world's on fire!"

I stared at her wide-eyed and whopperjawed, wondering where that came from.

I've thought of that moment recently as I've seen instance after instance of the innate rebelliousness of the American people erupting across the country in surprising ways, unexpected numbers, and with astonishing intensity. No need to wonder where this comes from, however. The outbursts are a spontaneous, rapidly expanding mass rejection of Trumpism.

Our Twitter-president plays to his most frenzied partisans with his daily rata-tat-tat of executive orders and public fulminations — firing at refugees, federal judges, Chuck Schumer, the media, Nordstrom, the EPA, Mexico's president, Elizabeth Warren, laws that protect consumers from Wall Street greed, Sweden, Arnold Schwarzenegger and... no telling who's next. But while some delightedly squeal at his wild moves, many more see Trump as not merely unpresidential, but bull goose bonkers! And dangerous — recklessly using the enormous power of the presidency as a personal cudgel to attack, stigmatize and seriously harm individuals, entire religions and races, the Bill of Rights and our nation's basic values of tolerance, fairness and opportunity for all. In a twist of ironic justice, The Donald's deep darkness has sparked a prairie fire of mass opposition, raging political activism and movement organizing for the long haul.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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

Crop 0421wrp opt(Photo: Hinrich)Dow Chemical, whose CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, is pressuring the administration to throw out a government risk study on several popular pesticides, the Associated Press reported.

The 10,000-page study found that the three pesticides under review—chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion—pose a risk to roughly 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. The evaluations were compiled by federal scientists over the last four years and were expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

But lawyers representing Dow and two other makers of the organophosphates sent letters to the heads of three cabinet agencies last week, asking that the study be "set aside" and saying that the results are flawed.

"Our government's own scientists have already documented the grave danger these chemicals pose to people and endangered species," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unable to win on the facts, Dow is now adopting the same disgraceful tactics honed by the tobacco industry and the climate deniers to try to discredit science and scrap reasonable conservation measures that will protect our most endangered animals and plants."

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Bill 0419wrp(Photo: Karppinen)Women's organizations are excoriating him. Advertisers are bailing on him. The president is defending him. Glenn Beck says he "deserves the benefit of the doubt." Viewers are flocking to him. Religious Right leaders are silent. So it has gone since the beginning of the month when The New York Times' Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported that Bill O'Reilly, the host of the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" – the No. 1 program in cable news – had paid out $13 million to five women "in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him."  

And, to add one more excruciatingly odd factoid to the above, O'Reilly's new book, called Old School, co-authored with Bruce Feirstein, and a defense of traditional family values, is #1 on The New York Times' "Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers" list. The book is also doing quite well at Amazon, where, as of Sunday, April 16th, it is #10 in Books, #1 in Books, "Nationalism," "Public Affairs & Policy," and "Conservatism & Liberalism."

According to The New York Times' Alexandra Alter, Old School: Life in the Sane Lane (Henry Holt and Co.) "includes advice on how men should treat women respectfully, not as sex objects."

The "Product Description" at billoreilly.com, offers the following: "Those crusading against Old School now have a name: Snowflakes. You may have seen them on cable TV whining about social injustice and income inequality. You may have heard them cheering Bernie Sanders as he suggested the government pay for almost everything. The Snowflake movement is proud and loud, and they don't like Old School grads."

Published in Guest Commentary

LAWRENCE WITTNER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

GoldenDawn 0419wrp opt(Photo: Steve Jurvetson)Political parties on the far right are today enjoying a surge of support that they have not experienced since their heyday in the 1930s.

This phenomenon is particularly striking in Europe, where massive migration, sluggish economic growth, and terrorism have stirred up virulent nationalism, hatred of immigrants, and Islamophobia. Trumpeting these sentiments, parties like France's National Front (led by Marine Le Pen), Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP, led by Nigel Farage), Netherlands' Party for Freedom (led by Geert Wilders), Italy's Northern League (led by Matteo Salvini), Austria's Freedom Party, Alternative for Germany, and others have become major political players.

Only one of these rising rightwing parties is usually referred to as fascist: Greece's Golden Dawn. Exploiting Greece's economic crisis and, especially, hatred of refugees and other migrants, Golden Dawn has used violent nationalism and the supposed racial superiority of Greeks to become Greece's third-largest party. Its spokesman, Elias Kasidiaris, is known for sporting a swastika on his shoulder and for reading passages from the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to parliament. The party also employs gangs of black-shirted thugs who beat up immigrants.

Although the other far right parties strive for greater respectability, they also provide reminders of past fascist movements. Addressing a Northern League rally, Salvini wore a black shirt while supporters waved neo-Nazi symbols and photos of Benito Mussolini. Alternative for Germany has revived words and phrases once employed by the Nazis.

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JONATHAN D. SIMON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Mitch 0417wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)When Senator Mitch McConnell pushed the button on the "nuclear option" last week, putting an end to the filibuster as a tactic for blocking confirmation of nominees to the US Supreme Court, some may well have wondered whether the Republican majority leader would one day, when the political shoe was on the other foot, come to regret the action. But McConnell -- whose professed devotion to the hallowed traditions of the Senate yielded politely to his unrivalled strategic and tactical acumen in the service of partisan causes -- had little reason for worry.

Here's why. In establishing a bicameral legislative branch, the Founding Fathers devised the Senate as a body of geographic rather than demographic representation. That is, its numbers would reflect equal representation for each state regardless of how disproportional to population that representation might turn out to be. This at-the-time novel (and quite deliberately anti-democratic) concept, which has had various interesting effects throughout our history, is now crystallizing into what may well prove a blow to our democracy more serious than any intended or imagined by the Founders. As Senator McConnell is doubtless aware, half the population of the United States lives in the nine largest states and is represented by 18 senators; the other half gets to elect 82 senators. As McConnell also knows well, the hyper-polarization and lines of division of our era are such that solid "red" states abound, predominating among the lower-population states that elect four-fifths of the Senate. He can therefore rest easy in the knowledge that, unless those fundamental factors of American politics undergo an extremely unlikely sea change, the Democrats will not regain control of a Senate majority during his tenure and probably long after.  

But, one might object, they are so close, needing a pick-up of a mere three seats to turn the trick. This is an illusion. With every advantage in 2016 (the Republicans had to defend 24 seats to the Democrats' 10), the Democrats nonetheless fell short. In 2018 they will be paying the piper, defending 25 seats (including the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats) to the Republicans' eight. Trump's many failings notwithstanding, virtually no analysts see 2018 as a Senate pick-up year for the Democrats. Beyond that, as long as our nation remains starkly divided, both politically and geographically -- as long as Election Night maps flash a great dollop of red fringed with a thin garnish of blue -- the Republicans will be playing with house money in their quest to maintain control of the Senate.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gears 0417wrp opt(Photo: Arthur Clarke)The jobs reports would have us believe our rebound from the recession is almost complete. The reality is very different, and The Economist has some fancy words for it: "Job polarisation," where middle-skill jobs decline while low-skill and high-skill jobs increase, and while the workforce "bifurcates" into two extremes of income. 

Optimists like to bring up the Industrial Revolution, and the return to better jobs afterward. But it took 60years. And job polarization makes the present day very different from two centuries ago, when only the bodies of workers, and not their brains, were superseded by machines. 

Most Workers Today Are Underpaid

Most of our new jobs are in service industries, including retail and health care and personal care and food service. Those industries generally don't pay a living wage. In 2014 over half of American workers made less than $15 per hour, with some of the top employment sectors in the U.S. paying $12 an hour or less.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PP 0414wrp(Photo: S. MiRK)According to the Associated Press, President Donald Trump is poised “to sign legislation erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.” It is not the first time the organization, that provides invaluable health services to countless numbers of underserved women, has been in the anti-abortion movement’s crosshairs.

Not to be confused by the facts that only a very small percentage of its work revolves around providing abortion services – offered sans federal funding -- with the White House and Congress firmly controlled by Republicans, there is every indication that Planned Parenthood may be stripped of the $500-+-million a year it receives in government funding.

While the attacks on Planned Parenthood have run the gamut from clinic bombings to threats to clinic staffers, from rabid demonstrations outside clinics to picketing the homes, and leafleting the neighborhoods, of doctors providing abortions, the tool du jour these days is the surreptitious, and thoroughly doctored, video taping of unaware Planned Parenthood staffers.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times’ Jeremy Breningstall, Elizabeth D. Herman and Paige St. John, reported on the activities of David Daleiden “and a small circle of anti-abortion activists [that] went undercover into meetings of abortion providers and women’s health groups. With fake IDs and tiny hidden cameras, they sought to capture Planned Parenthood officials making inflammatory statements.”

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tomahawk 0413wrp opt(Photo: Brad Dillon)A Morning Consult poll winks at me from my inbox: 57 percent of Americans support more airstrikes in Syria.

My eyeballs roll. Hopelessness permeates me, especially because I’m hardly surprised, but still . . . come on. This is nuts. The poll could be about the next move in a Call of Duty video game: 57 percent of Americans say destroy the zombies.

This is American exceptionalism in action. We have the right to be perpetual spectators. We have the right to “have an opinion” about whom the military should bomb next. It means nothing, except to those on the far end of the Great American Video Game, where the results are real.

But painful reality is only news when the media says it’s news. And that means it’s only news when the bad guys perpetrate it. This is because the Orwellian context in which we live is the context of perpetual war — not the old-fashioned kind of war, which required sacrifice and the occasional glorious death of loved ones (not to mention eventual victory or defeat), but modern, abstract war, with smart bombs and spectacular video footage and not much else, except opinion polls. And Trump’s ratings go up when he tosses 59 Tomahawk missiles — about a hundred million dollars’ worth — at a Syrian airfield. Money well spent!

Published in Guest Commentary

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Coins 0413wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Belmonte)In an insightful song about outlaws, Woody Guthrie wrote this verse: "As through this world I travel/ I see lots of funny men/ Some'll rob you with a 6-gun/ Some with a fountain pen."

The fountain pens are doing the serious stealing these days. For example, while you would get hard time in prison for robbing a bank at gunpoint, bankers who rob customers with a flick of their fountain pens (or a click of their computer mouse) get multimillion-dollar payouts, and they usually escape their crimes unpunished. After all, it's their constant, egregious, gluttonous thievery that has made "banker" a four-letter word in America, synonymous with immoral, self-serving behavior.

Take John Stumpf, for example. The preening, silver-haired, exquisitely-tailored CEO of Wells Fargo was positioned on the top roost of the financial establishment and hailed as a paragon of big-banker virtue... until he suddenly fell off his lofty perch.

It turns out that being "a paragon of big-banker virtue" is not at all the same as being a virtuous human being. Banker elites don't get paid the big bucks by "doing what's right," but by doing what's most profitable — and that means cutting corners on ethics, common decency and the golden rule. Stumpf didn't just cut corners, he crashed through them, driving his big banking machine into the dark realm of immoral profitability by devising a business plan that effectively encouraged Wells Fargo branches to steal from millions of their poorest and most easily deceived customers.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 08:21

Trump Doesn’t Know a Damn Thing About Dams

GARY WOCKNER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Dam 0412wrp opt(Photo: Qurren)Donald Trump finally opened his mouth about dams and hydropower last week. The result is as bad as you can imagine.

Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, tweeted what Trump had to say:

"Hydropower is great, great, form of power—we don't even talk about it, because to get the environmental permits are virtually impossible. It's one of the best things you can do—hydro. But we don't talk about it anymore."

But, once again, Trump is dead wrong.

Published in Guest Commentary
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