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ELLIOT COHEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

AntiFascist 0205wrp opt(Photo: Cristiane Marçal / Flickr)John Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, used the term "conservatives without conscience" to refer to George W. Bush era neoconservative Republicans. Now, an even more callous strain of conservative Republicanism has taken root under the Trump administration. But the Bush era strain appears to have planted the seeds.

The Bush neoconservatives embroiled the U.S. in a bloody war in Iraq in which millions of lives, both American and Iraqi, were lost. Not unlike the Republican attempt to conceal the facts surrounding the Vietnam War during the Nixon Administration (as disclosed in the Pentagon Papers), the Bush administration had the gall to lie to the American people about the reasons for going to war in Iraq. In the immortal words of the Downing Street Memos, a set of official memos of British Secret Intelligence (M16), "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Under the George W. Bush administration, the misnomer of a boundless "War on Terror" was used to justify the systematic whittling away of respect for human rights. Torture was renamed "enhanced interrogation" without due regard for international law, compliments of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a puppet for the Bush administration. Preemptive, simultaneous war was the covert means to spread "American democratic values" even at the expense of quelling the civil liberties of U.S. citizens at home who opposed the war. A new category of "unlawful enemy combatant" was created, pursuant to the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which referred to "an individual engaged in hostilities against the United States who is not a lawful enemy combatant." The term "hostilities" was never defined, and could have, in principle, included journalists critical of the Bush Administration's war policies.  The writ of habeas corpus, so fundamental to the American justice system, was cancelled by this Act for those so branded, only to have this unconstitutional provision overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Published in Editorials
Friday, 02 February 2018 06:43

The CDC's Prescription for Nuclear War

GAR SMITH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Nuke 0202wrp opt(Photo: Dr Case / Flickr)Donald Trump's wrecking-ball approach to governing has left Washington in a shambles. Instead of presiding as a caretaker, Trump has proven to be more comfortable in the role of an undertaker.

One would hope the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be spared. If only. Under Trump, the nation's premiere health protection agency has been given an unsettling new task: to promote acceptance of the greatest looming threat to human life -- nuclear war.

Under Trump, the CDC was recruited to host a January 16 press briefing on the "Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation." The intent appeared to be normalize the prospect of nuclear war by offering US families a checklist they could use to eke out a living in the smoking rubble of a post-nuclear landscape.

As it turned out, this attempt to put a positive spin on the specter of nuclear annihilation didn't happen. Instead, a real-life outbreak of influenza put the plan on hold, and the CDC opted to substitute an event boosting the "Public Health Response to an Influenza Pandemic."

 

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Pumalin 0131wrp optFlowers in Pumalín Park. (Photo: Dan Lundberg / Flickr)Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday to create five new national parks and expand three others, following a pledge made last year with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the president and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to dramatically expand national parkland in the South American country.

More than 10 million acres of new national parklands will be created in Chile, approximately three times the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, or about the size of Switzerland. Bachelet said that would increase national parklands in Chile by 38.5 percent.

The expansion includes 1 million acres of land donated by Tompkins Conservation, in what is believed to be the largest private donation of land ever from a private entity to a country.

The decree included the creation of Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park, the conservation organization's two flagship projects, while expanding others to help create the "Route of Parks," a 17-park route spanning more than 1,500 miles from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn in the continent's southern tip.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 29 January 2018 07:16

Six Big Losers in Our "Booming" Economy

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Poverty 0129wrp opt(Photo: Bart Everson / Flickr)The Dow Jones Industrial Average skyrocketed from 25,000 to 26,000 in just seven trading days, prompting Donald Trump to bluster, "Our economy is booming, investments and jobs are pouring back into the country...We ARE Making America Great Again." Certainly the richest 1% are feeling great. But the stock market is feeding the nation's runaway inequality, boosting the financial wealth of a privileged few while doing NOTHING for the middle and lower classes. The biggest losers are among the MOST VULNERABLE Americans, the people who seem to be reviled by the Republicans in Congress. 

Children: While Stocks Doubled, 18% More Kids Fell Into Poverty

This is shocking and shameful. The U.S. has taken nearly half of the world's new wealth since the 2008 recession, and the stock market more than doubled from 2008 to 2014 (and tripled by 2017), but the number of children living below the federal poverty threshold increased by 18 percent from 2008 to 2014.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Disco 0126wrp opt(Photo: Hitchster / Flickr)For white Christian conservative evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins, President Donald Trump represents the kind of "muscular" Christianity they've been yearning for. The fact that Trump's bullying and moral turpitude is part of the package doesn't seem to bother them in the least.

In the wake of revelations of the latest Trump sex-related scandal – the pre-2016 election payoff to a porn star involved with Trump to buy her silence -- Graham and Perkins are claiming that Trump is a "changed man," and they're willing to grant him a "mulligan."

Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham, and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,claimed that Trump is a "changed person." Perkins, the head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying group, the Family Research Council told Politico "We kind of gave him— 'Alright, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.'" 

"If this behavior were occurring today, right now, as he is president of the United States, I can assure you that my support and the support of Evangelicals would be dissipating very rapidly," Perkins told CNN. "But we're talking about something that occurred ten years ago, among a number of things that occurred with this president, prior to being president."

Published in Guest Commentary

MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DACA 0124wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Claudia is a teacher and a soccer coach. Jessica works for child protective services. Juan married his childhood sweetheart and now is raising children who will soon have their own sweethearts. Marilu helps people fill out applications and prepare for their interviews for naturalization as US citizens.

Like most everyone else in my community, they have love/hate relationships with their bosses, worry about getting sick (no insurance), but spend more time anticipating possible vacation trips. They consider themselves religious. All of them have pretty good jobs, but small bank accounts. They are my friends and they are lovely and alive, and have been, until recently, mostly hopeful about their lives.

They are also people whose presence in the United States is "unauthorized." They all were brought to the US as children and have been unable to get their immigration status regularized (for a quick view into how crazed a process that is, you might read this article).

The "mostly" qualifier of their hope is, in large part, due to their decision a short time ago to trust the United States of America, and enroll in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 07:28

The Kids the World Forgot

KEN HANNAFORD-RICARDI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

KabulKids 0124 optStreet kids in Kabul. (Photo: Ken Hannaford-Ricardi)I spent much of yesterday with some kids the world forgot. Young, remarkably sturdy and resilient, they can often be naïve and almost willfully gullible. They inhabit a world that delights in tripping them up and watching them fall. They are Kabul’s Street Kids.

Every Friday morning, roughly 100 of these forgotten children sit in noisy – sometimes raucous - groups of seven to ten in a large, unheated classroom, discussing and brainstorming human rights - rights few in the international community seem to acknowledge they enjoy. On this thirty degree Kabul morning, some are in shirtsleeves; few have coats adequate for the weather. They are dirty. They are underfed. They are loved.

These kids are the smallest microcosm of Kabul's estimated 50,000 "street kids", boys and girls who dot the city’s already clogged roads selling balloons, "blessing" cars with incense, or lugging scales on which passers-by are invited to weigh themselves. They perform these demeaning tasks for a meager “fee” which helps their mothers buy food for their families.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 22 January 2018 06:32

Revolution by Drone

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Drone 0122wrp optPhoto: Andrew Turner / Flickr)When average Americans were oppressed in the 18th century, they knew where the plutocrats lived, and they didn't have military-style police forces holding them back. The Stamp Act drove the New York masses to ransack the houses of Governor Cadwallader Colden and the British major who was pointing army artillery toward the local town. Another mob looted the house of pro-English aristocrat Thomas Hutchinson, carrying away his fine furnishings and emptying his wine cellar in part of what the British called a "war of plunder" to take away the "distinction of rich and poor." 

That doesn't happen today. The super-rich are safely ensconced in their gated estates with private security forces and 9-foot walls and surveillance systems and sniper posts. But now they have good reason to fear the future. We all do. The too-rapid evolution of intelligent machines, with the ability to make decisions that can impact human life, is bringing us closer to a man-made epidemic that we won't be able to control. As armed drones become tinier and cheaper and smarter and more readily accessible, they could launch the modern revolution of the undervalued human being.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Trumpy 0119wrp opt(Portrait: DonkeyHotey / Flickr)It's difficult to find any other reasons for President Donald Trump to fire, without explanation, the remaining members of the council advising him on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, other then he is indifferent to the health needs of minority communities, LGBTQ Americans, and that he is once again playing to his white conservative Christian evangelical base.

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA),which was established in 1995, makes national HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations —setting out how health officials should respond to the epidemic.

David Kilmnick, the president of the LGBT Network, criticized the dismissals. "We have finally made significant progress in trying to end the epidemic once and for all and the irrational and immature moves by Trump will only set us back," he said in a statement.

Oddly enough … or maybe not so oddly enough … in September, Trump issued an executive order "continuing 32 advisory committees — including the council on H.I.V. and AIDS — whose operating authorities had been set to expire," The New York Times reported late last year.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Zinke 0117wrp optInterior Secretary Zinke. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)Nearly all members of the National Park Service advisory panel abruptly quit on Monday in protest of the Trump administration's policies, which they say have neglected science, climate change and environmental protections.

"From all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside," the head of the panel, Tony Knowles, wrote in a letter of resignation addressed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees management of the country's national parks and monuments.

The letter was signed by nine of the panel's 12 members. The bipartisan panel was appointed by former President Obama. The terms of the members who quit were due to expire in May.

The advisory board, first authorized in 1935, advises the director of the National Park Service and the interior secretary on matters relating to the National Park Service and the National Park System.

Published in Guest Commentary
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