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BISHOP DWAYNE ROYSTER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6096334425 6da6072c3e z opt(Photo: Jason Taellious / Flickr)Today, 60 clergy and faith leaders from a dozen states are descending on Capitol Hill with a single question for their representatives: Will you make a righteous decision for communities of color or will you resign?

Making a righteous decision is making a decision to resist hate. Our nation was built, and has been maintained, on a clear hierarchy of human value. Today, white supremacy shows up in the policies that the Trump administration is pushing, which keep Black and Brown communities down, if not actually out of the country. Between ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for 800,000 Dreamers and putting forth a budget that increases spending for militarization of the border and increased raids, detention and harassment of immigrants by $2.6 billion, President Donald J. Trump is forcing us to choose which of our neighbors can stay: children or their parents. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reinvigorating the war on drugs, which imprisoned African Americans for doing the same things their white peers did.

People from all races and backgrounds benefit from government services, but congressional Republicans and the Trump administration see communities of color as unworthy of the services afforded to others. The House budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act and restructure Medicaid to cut over $1 trillion from health care and give each of the richest 400 families a tax break of $7 million annually. The president's tax plan includes $5.5 trillion in tax breaks for wealthy elites and big corporations -- so that there's little or nothing left for anyone else.

We could go on, but the point is clear. This is what it looks like when those in power perpetuate a system that serves only themselves. People of faith are building a new movement that includes people of all religions, all races and all income levels and sees every person for who they are -- children of God who deserve fair treatment, safety and opportunity, without exceptions.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 11 September 2017 07:12

The Gaping Hole in Trump's Border Wall

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BorderWall 0911wrp optThe US-Mexico border. (Photo: qbac07 / Flickr)How much of our money does Donald Trump want to pour into his xenophobic fantasy of erecting an impenetrable wall on our Mexican border?

The big-businessman-turned-president insists that costs be damned — just build it! That seems to be a very un-businesslike approach — but then, it's not his money, is it? For those of you who do care, one measure of what the total tab might be is that he's now demanding $1.6 billion from Congress to start construction. How much wall will that buy? Seventy-four miles. And how long is the U.S.-Mexican border that he wants to seal off? One thousand, nine-hundred miles long. So, $1.6 billion down, and only 1,826 miles to go!

And let's not even get into the cost overruns, fraudulent billings shoddy materials and other scams that the army of corporate contractors will add to the sticker price of Donald's boondoggle on the border.

All of this reckless spending of our tax dollars for a 1,900-mile barricade of both physical and symbolic ugliness that only an extremist minority of Americans support. Besides being wildly expensive, this Trumpian folly is not needed, won't work, stifles the border economy, crudely tramples on both property rights and sensitive environments, autocratically separates millions of families and communities — and is an insult not only to the people of Mexico, but also to our own people's democratic values.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Fist68 0911wrp opt(Photo: Melbourne Street Art Avantgarde / Flickr)The NFL national anthem protests – which have now included white players supporting their African American teammates -- are variations on a theme that hearken back to one of the most iconic images in the history of sports; the picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising black-gloved fists on the victory stand at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. The third man on the victory stand, Australia's Peter Norman is too often cropped out of the picture.

Many people know that Smith and Carlos, after finishing first and third respectively in the 200-meter dash, paid a tremendous price for having the courage to protest racial inequality in the U.S. while on the victory stand during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Far fewer know that Peter Norman, the Australian runner who won the Silver medal, also paid a heavy price.

Smith and Carlos were sent home by the U.S. Olympic Committee, criticized by a hostile press, received death threats, and was reviled by a good portion of the nation. For years, they had a hard time making a living. Norman, who finished second in the race, also suffered recrimination and punishment back home in Australia for proudly wearing a small badge that read Olympic Project for Human Rights – an organization opposed to racism in sport -- during the medal ceremony.

Norman, who evidently suggested that Smith and Carlos share one pair of black gloves when Carlos couldn't find his pair, was ostracized by the Australian Olympic Committee and punished for decades. Norman was finally given an official apology from the Australian government in 2012; unfortunately it came six years after his death in 2006.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 08 September 2017 06:57

Irma Is No Equal Opportunity Hurricane

ALYCEE J. LANE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

HarveyArt 0908wrp opt(Artwork: Daniel Arrhakis)With winds surpassing 185 mph, Hurricane Irma will leave a path of destruction so widespread that people might be moved to proclaim -- as Slate magazine writer Henry Grabar and others were regarding Hurricane Harvey -- that Irma is "an Equal-Opportunity Disaster." Hurricane Harvey "did not discriminate in its destruction," wrote The Associated Press on this theme, for the storm "raged through neighborhoods rich and poor, black and white, upscale and working class. Across Houston and surrounding communities, no group sidestepped" Harvey's "paralyzing deluges and apocalyptic floods." While "Houston's poor and working class" will likely "struggle most to rebuild," opined Juliet Linderman of KWES NewsWest 9, at least for the time being, Houston residents "of all colors and socio-economic statuses find themselves united in their loss, despair -- and resilience."

Though well-intentioned (and perhaps even a much needed narrative after the Nazi hate and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, just weeks before Hurricane Harvey descended on Texas), this "equal opportunity disaster" argument is nevertheless a subtle form of climate change denial that hopefully will not be repeated as Irma churns through the Atlantic. It certainly should not go unchallenged if it is.

How is this argument a form of climate change denial? First of all, it effectively depoliticized Hurricane Harvey by implying that since all races and classes were harmed by the storm's force and floods, then the storm was merely a natural event, as opposed to a political event.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Apocalypse 0906wrp opt(Photo: Steven Guzzardi)Jim Bakker has always been a huckster. These days, Bakker, the disgraced PTL (Praise the Lord) Club televangelist who fleeced and defrauded his audience out of more than $150 millions, got involved in some juicy sex scandals, and served time in prison, has set up an apocalyptic shop in Blue Eye, Missouri. Located in Stone County, about 30 miles southwest of Branson, Missouri, Blue Eye, according to the 2010 census, had 167 people -- 75 households and 48 families. It is in Blue Eye that Bakker is staging his televangelical and entrepreneurial resurrection, at a 700-acre property called Morningside, which is an intentional Christian community.

"A time of trouble is upon us," Bakker -- a huge supporter of President Donald Trump -- warned his audience during one episode of The Jim Bakker Show.

Whether it's the WannaCry ransomware attack; ISIS; terrorist attacks in the homeland; or devastating flooding in Texas, Bakker and his wife Lori, claim to have the right goods: "'Staying Alive' food - buckets full of freeze-dried products apparently capable of sustaining survivors through the Apocalypse," the Daily Mail's Annette Witheridge, who bought a bucket, sampled some of the food, and found it unappetizing but edible, recently reported.

In mid-May, BuzzFeed's Kelsey McKinney reported that the buckets are "the kind … that might be used to feed slop to pigs on a farm, and inside each are 18 dishes in freeze-dried food packets, making up almost 50,000 calories that, according to the purple labels slapped on their sides, have a 25-year shelf life."

Add a little water, sit back, and survive the apocalypse.

Published in Guest Commentary

RAFAEL VIZCAÍNO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Columbus 0906wrp optStatue of Columbus in Ohio. (Photo: Wally Gobetz)As the symbols of the Confederacy have again become the targets of anti-racist social movements since the events in Charlottesville in August, activists are building on the present momentum to call for the removal or replacement of memorials belonging to other controversial figures in US history, from Christopher Columbus to Frank Rizzo. As we approach the 525th anniversary of the so-called "Discovery of America" this October 12, it is an appropriate time to revisit the stakes of what it entails to memorialize the man credited with discovering the existence of another world beyond Europe, Asia and Africa, the so-called "New World."

The key problem raised by the critics of Columbus concerns the uncritical repetition of the colonial mantra that claims Columbus "discovered" this so-called "New World." For not only is it historically documented that Columbus never knew that he had arrived at a landmass that is not "Asia" (Europeans only realized this with Amerigo Vespucci's accounts of his own trips well into the 1500s), but also and more importantly, one should ask oneself what it means to "discover" a region of the world that is not empty, but instead contains several flourishing civilizations in it. The issue is that the mantra that Columbus "discovered" anything presupposes the narrative vantage point of Western European imperialism, at the same time as it invalidates the narrative vantage points of the peoples that were visited upon by these so-called "discoverers" i.e. the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, peoples that far from being ghosts of the past continue to live in the present all around us (70 percent of Native Americans now live in cities, not reservations). If history here is written by the victors, the victims of Columbus have never been fully silenced. The victors simply refuse to hear them.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 01 September 2017 07:10

The Man Who Stood Up to Armageddon

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Tony 0901wrp optTony de Brum (Photo: Humanity House)Suddenly it's possible — indeed, all too easy — to imagine one man starting a nuclear war. What's a little harder to imagine is one human being stopping such a war.

For all time.

The person who came closest to this may have been Tony de Brum, former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, who died last week of cancer at age 72.

He grew up in the South Pacific island chain when it was under "administrative control" of the U.S. government, which meant it was a waste zone absolutely without political or social significance (from the American point of view), and therefore a perfect spot to test nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 such tests — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima blasts every day for 12 years — and for much of the time thereafter ignored and/or lied about the consequences.

As a boy, de Brum was unavoidably a witness to some of these tests, including the one known as Castle Bravo, a 15-megaton blast conducted on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. He and his family lived about 200 miles away, on Likiep Atoll. He was nine years old.

He later described it thus: "No sound, just a flash and then a force, the shock wave . . . as if you were under a glass bowl and someone poured blood over it. Everything turned red: sky, the ocean, the fish, my grandfather's net."

Published in Guest Commentary

BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpPresser 0830wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)On Monday, August 21, President Donald Trump delivered a prime-time speech almost shocking in its ordinariness. It was such an address as either of his immediate predecessors, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, could easily have given over the previous decade and a half. While hinting at nebulous new strategies and ill-defined new metrics to measure success, President Trump announced that the 17 year old war in Afghanistan will go on pretty much as it has. And the establishment breathed a sigh of relief.

Reviews were glowing. While acknowledging how low the bar had been set, on August 25, the Washington journal The Hill opined that "even the most hardened members of the anti-Trump camp must admit that Monday's speech communicated a remarkable amount of humility and self-awareness, particularly for this president." The timing of the president's crowd pleasing speech was duly noted: "Unfortunately, his very presidential announcement of the Afghanistan decision was bookended by Charlottesville and the president's rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night."

Ten days before, in Charlottesville, Virginia, torch bearing white supremacists had marched in a "Unite the Right" rally to protest the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Replete with flags of both the Confederacy and the Nazi Third Reich and traditional fascist chants of "blood and soil," the rally met with resistance from anti-racist activists, one of whom was murdered and others injured when one of the united right used his car as a weapon of terror, driving it into the crowd. There was outrage when Trump responded by condemning the violence "on all sides" and declaring that there are "very fine people" on both sides of the issue.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hugo 0830wrp optHugo Chavez mural in Venezuela. (Photo: David Hernández)If you've never heard of the Atlas Network, The Intercept's recent story, "Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians are Remaking Latin American Politics," will certainly be an eye opener. The Atlas Network aims to rid Latin America of leftist-led governments, limit the organizing wherewithal of unions, and liberal and progressive movements, and reshape Latin America in ways the Koch Brothers, and like-minded US-based right-wing billionaires support.

The existence, and recent successes, of the Atlas Network might help explain why from seemingly out of nowhere, President Donald Trump recently took time away from taking time away, watching Fox News, and his latest tweet storm threatening North Korea with "fire and fury," to bombastically throw Venezuela into the conversation. "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary," Trump said.

As Lee Fang, the author of The Intercept's piece, recently explained, the Atlas Network is a "libertarian network, which has reshaped political power in country after country, [and] has also operated as a quiet extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-associated think tanks receiving quiet funding from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a critical arm of American soft power."

Published in Guest Commentary

BURT HALL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Broken 0828wrp opt(Photo: Rachel Knickmeyer / Flickr)The American people are deeply frustrated with not being fairly represented in Congress and with not having a voice in our democracy. They are demanding an end to our great political divide and a return to a working democracy. For years politicians have been well aware of these concerns and the need for the two parties to be civil and work together. And, they know that trust in government has been at an all time low. But the problem persists unabated.

Republicans now control all three branches of government, yet they haven't had an acceptable administration in years. They allowed a preventable 9/11 and two wars to occur, failed two terms in office, and constantly checkmated the other party's success while offering no solutions of their own. There is something fundamentally wrong in our democratic system and it has to be addressed.

Our great political divide began in a big way when, after owning the White House for 12 years, Republicans lost it unexpectedly to the Clinton presidency. They were outraged at the loss, considered his victory illegitimate and believed he had to be driven from office. The political environment that followed has continued to the present day and is best expressed byRepublican George Voinovich. After saving Cleveland from default as mayor and making Ohio number one as governor, he worked across the aisle during two terms in the Senate (winning all 88 Ohio counties) and always had the ear of the president. He confessed at Senate retirement that the attitude of his colleagues was "We're going to get what we want or the country can go to hell."

Published in Guest Commentary
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