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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Meat 0918wrp opt(Photo: Shawn Harquail)In the early 1990s, legislation specifically aiming at gagging whistleblowers was introduced in several states. These "ag-gag" laws, initiated by the agricultural-industrial complex, targeted journalists, environmental and animal rights activists, preventing them from taking photographs or video at slaughterhouses and other agricultural operations. As Esquire's Charles P. Pierce recently pointed out, these laws were aimed at "criminaliz[ing] the gathering of evidence regarding environmental pollution on public lands, as well as evidence regarding unsanitary conditions in facilities like slaughterhouses and factory farms."

According to The Humane Society of the United States, "Ag-gag bills seek to make it difficult or impossible for whistleblowing employees or animal advocacy groups to expose animal cruelty or safety issues. These bills can take a variety of forms, but the intent is the same: to punish those who expose patterns of animal abuse or food safety violations on factory farms, and therefore conceal these abuses from the public." 

Recently, ag-gag laws in Utah and Wyoming were ruled unconstitutional. In July, the U.S. District Court of Utah struck down the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

MedAll 0918wrp opt(Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr)Of course, it will pay for itself eventually, with lower administrative costs and savings on medications and provider fees. 

Universal health care is getting closer to reality at the state level, in California. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) has analyzed a proposal for a statewide single-payer health care system that would reduce current costs by at least 8 percent. It would be funded in two ways: (1) a continuation of Medicare and MediCal; and (2) gross receipts and sales taxes, both at 2.3 percent, with exemptions for small businesses, low-income residents, and purchases of basic necessities. Unfortunately, California has postponed the plan, at least until January, 2018. 

At the national level, Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan is forecasted to save $6 trillion over 10 years. It could be funded in part by the elimination of special treatment for capital gains, payroll taxes, and multi-million dollar estates. While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans -- or, rather, groups of Americans -- have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Katrina 0915wrp optHurricane Katrina. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)Dear Fellow Hurricane Survivors:

Our hearts go out to you as you try to return to and fix your homes and lives.  Based on our experiences, here are a few things you should watch out for as you rebuild your communities.

1.  Rents are going to skyrocket and waves of evictions are likely.  With so many houses damaged and so many highly paid contractors coming into your region whose companies will pay anything to house them, landlords are going to start evicting people to make way for higher paying occupants.  Work with local organizations to enact a moratorium on evictions and a freeze on rents to allow working and low income people to come home and have a place to stay.

2.  Rip off contractors and vulture businesses are probably already on the scene.  Don’t give money to anyone unless you know and trust them and do not pay for everything in advance!   

3.   Take pictures of everything that was damaged and hold onto all receipts for all your disaster expenses.  Get a special binder and keep all your papers in it.  Sadly, the process of getting assistance is going to last for years for many people and you will need to prove what damage you have.

4.  Right after a disaster there is an outpouring of compassion, support and solidarity.  Take what you need for your community.  But realize the window of compassion and support shuts much quicker than it should.  Then people will start blaming the victims.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

JS 0913wrp opt(Photo: Sharat Ganapati / Flickr)Come mid-October, representatives from possibly as many as seventy predominantly conservative Christian media organizations will be heading to Israel for a four-day "Christian Media Summit" in Jerusalem. As Ha'aretz's Judy Maltz recently reported, the conference is aimed at further cementing ties between Christian conservatives and the Israeli government.

According to Maltz, the Israeli government -- which is sponsoring the gathering of broadcasters and journalists, and paying for the participant's accommodations – is "hoping to explain the country and its often controversial policies to this new target audience."

While many issues will be discussed at the first-of-its-kind Summit, it is possible that high up on the list is solidifying opposition to those promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

At the February National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) International Christian Media Convention, in Orlando, Florida, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), sharply rebuked Christian supporting BDS. "It is fake theology, like it is fake news!" she said.

Published in Guest Commentary

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
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