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aaaParthenon(Photo: Steve Swayne)Austerity, the tool of neoliberal capitalism, stands up to Greek democracy and stares it down. Oh well.

We’re remarkably comfortable with soulless economics.

Pope Francis, speaking this week in Paraguay, cried to the nations of Planet Earth: “I ask them not to yield to an economic model . . . which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.”

But we have yielded to this economic model, in thought, word and deed:

“At issue,” USA Today informs us, “is whether Greece has taken adequate steps to cut spending and raise taxes to deserve the new three-year, $59 billion infusion of funds it has requested, and whether it can be trusted to follow through on the austerity program it has proposed as the price for new loans.”

The pope’s words haven’t penetrated the pseudo-objective certainties of financial reporting, much less the dark sanctuaries of money and power. But they must. And eventually they will, or human evolution is dead. An allegedly impersonal economic structure, which quietly benefits the infinitesimally few who have far more than they need, is no foundation for our future.

This economic system is a relic of the Industrial Age, or perhaps it’s a relic of the Agricultural Revolution. It’s imbued with deep prejudices — human beings can be bought and sold, the nurturing of human life (women’s work) has no monetary value whatsoever — and reinforces our place outside the circle of life, separated from one another and from our deepest values.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaOilEcoWatch(Photo: Alfonso)Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met behind closed doors with House and Senate Democrats Tuesday to talk about her positions on key issues. According to the members of Congress who attended the lunch, she told them that climate change can be a winning issue for Democrats, especially among younger voters, if they can develop a message to persuade voters that action is essential.

“She was incredible,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. “She really relates [climate change] to the current political communities and how we have to do a better job. We know the policy, but we have to do a better job on the politics.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who co-chairs the House Progressive Caucus, also gave Clinton’s session a favorable review.

“I thought it was pretty solid,” he said. “Some of the progressive issues and members have kind of been crying in the wilderness for a while, and now these issues like climate change, income inequality and the jobs agenda are resonating with the public. The fact that the progressive causes and organizations feel more in touch with and included with Hillary now is a mark that she understands that.”

“You hear issues from her when she’s out on the stump that are pretty much identical with what progressives are saying in the caucus,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

According to the National Journal, “Clinton framed global warming as a pressing and serious threat and touted the climate credentials of John Podesta, the chairman of her 2016 campaign and a former climate adviser to President Obama.”

However, she also went easy on coal, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, who represents the coal mining state of West Virginia. He invited Clinton to tour West Virginia’s coal country.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaGlacier(Photo: Glacier, by Edubucher)After reading Truthout reporter's Dahr Jamail’s The End of the World As We Know It, an interview with Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources and ecology at the University of Arizona, and a climate change expert for 30 years, I stared at my computer screen and questioned whether it was worth writing commentaries when we’re on the brink of mass extinction possibly in this lifetime. It seemed pointless.

Of course, there is something profoundly unacceptable about this conclusion. One’s gut reaction is to deny the inevitable, as if your doctor just told you that you’ve got x amount of years left to live. You want to say, “Nah, this can’t be…this can’t be happening.” Or you think of the zealot on the street corner, Bible in one hand, megaphone in the other, shouting “The end of the world is coming! Get right with Jesus!” Sure, the end of the world is coming in about a million years, but not in my lifetime—so I believed when I was a child.

But it is happening, and rapidly at that. We’re now witnessing the beginning of the end, and it’s happening very rapidly because of all the climate interactions that are going off much like thousands of dominos colliding and collapsing, known as “feedback loops triggered by human-caused climate disruption,” in the words of Professor McPherson, such as the enormous amounts of methane (greenhouse gas) that is being released from Arctic ice-melts, accelerated by Japan’s nuclear Fukushima catastrophe, May 2011 three nuclear power meltdowns, (TEPCO has been releasing tons of radioactive water into the Pacific for the last four years that is literally boiling the ocean,) to name merely two domino effects from many, many more, and so when all those dominoes finally stop falling, there will be nothing left but a deadening silence; and this is all happening in our lifetimes.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaafreegaza(Photo: Ele)

Max Blumenthal is a spot-on, tenacious journalist.

He has a bevy of enthusiastic supporters, and a host of virulent pro-Israel "no matter what" critics. He has become a lightening rod for conservatives. Is it possible for right-wingers and AIPAC adherents to speak about his work without either blowing a carotid artery; or attacking him personally, huffing and puffing about his being "anti-Semitic," a self-loathing Jew, an anti-Israeli propagandist, and a bullying anti-Zionist? It doesn't appear it is.

That dear readers, is a darn shame, because the work of Max Blumenthal -- a gutsy award-winning journalist whose on-the-ground reporting often shatters the confabulated wisdom of the Mainstream Media Misinformation and Disinformation Complex -- speaks for itself in its insights and fearlessness.

As Mondoweiss pointed out, Blumenthal's last book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel – documenting the growth of radical right-wing politics in Israeli -- did not get reviewed in The New York Times.

Typical of attacks from the pro-Israel media, Petra Marquardt-Bigman, a German-Israeli freelance writer and researcher, takes the slash and burn approach to Blumenthal and his work. In a recent blog post, she maintained that Blumenthal not only has "enthusiasm for Hamas," but that he seems to have an "uncritical acceptance of the terror group's propaganda."

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaChristieCPAC(Photo: Gage Skidmore)When Mitt Romney's campaign was investigating potential choices to be his 2012 running mate, they gave each prospect a fish-themed code name, such as Lake Fish, Filet-O-Fish, etc. Their name for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a tireless self-promoter known for his bloated ego, was Puffer Fish.

The Romneyites determined that the prima donna governor was wholly unqualified to be America's vice president, but the rejection didn't deflate Christie's puffed-up self-esteem one dot, and he has continued to brag, bluster and bully his way into national politics. Having convinced at least himself that he's the can-do, big-idea, forceful leader America needs, the Jersey guv is now offering to be our president and has become No. 14 on the Republican presidential dance card! How exciting is that?

Before accepting, however, you might check with one group of voters who are less than enchanted: the people of New Jersey. With a moribund economy, a state budget mess, a growing pension crisis, the state infrastructure crumbling and his own office caught in a web of scandals, Christie is not faring well with the homefolk, earning a sorry 30 percent approval rating, with most voters saying they dislike "everything about him."

Nationwide, only Donnie Trump is rated lower than Christie by Republican primary voters. But he has found one friend — Maine Gov. Paul LePage has enthusiastically endorsed him! Problem is, LePage is even more insufferable and insolent than Christie, so arrogant and autocratic that he's even alienated fellow Republicans in Maine and is now threatened with impeachment.

Still, if anything, the Puffer Fish's ego is puffier than ever. Asked on Fox News why 65 percent of New Jersey voters say he'd make a poor president and shouldn't run, the vainglorious governor actually said: "They want me to stay. Don't leave to run for president, because we want you to stay."

It's one thing for a politician to say that, but — far scarier — Christie is so out of touch with reality that he actually believes it!

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaLacMeg(Photo: Personalmountains)Monday was the second anniversary of the tragic Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, oil train disaster that killed 47 people. Since then, oil trains continue to derail and explode with five already this year. Four of the derailments occurred within just four weeks.

A coalition of environmental and social justice organizations including Sierra Club, GreenpeaceForestEthics, Oil Change International, Center for Biological Diversity, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and Earthworks, have launched a week of action to call for an end to crude by rail shipments. The coalition has organized more than 80 events across the U.S. and Canada to call for an immediate ban on oil trains.

Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Dirty Fuels campaign made the following statement:

Exploding crude oil trains do not belong on the nation’s rails, and 25 million Americans—most of them people of color—do not deserve to be living in a blast zone. The Department of Transportation needs to take responsibility, and rather than put forward wholly inadequate rules that jeopardize the health and safety of communities along rail lines, the administration should ban bomb trains outright.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaCrossBurn(Photo: Freiindlich)Where did Earl Holt, president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, get the money to make substantial donations to Republican Party politicos? According to Yahoo Finance, the source of Holt's largesse might be coming from his marriage to Katherine Ann Cook, the widow of Irving Falk, a "successful Jewish businessman."

Prior to Wednesday, June 17, Holt was going about his business in relative anonymity. Except for being on the radar of a few watchdog organizations that monitor, and write about right-wing movements, Holt spewed a fair amount of racist venom on the Internet, but it was clearly outside of the public's eye. Then, along came Dylann Roof's white nationalist-inspired rampage at a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which resulted in the deaths of nine African Americans. As a result of Roof's action, Earl Holt III suddenly was thrust into the media's spotlight.

In Dylan Roof's manifesto, he specifically cited the website of the St. Louis, Missouri-based Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which was founded in 1985 by a man named Gordon Lee Baum, as a major source of information and inspiration. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the CCC is the "modern day reincarnation" of White Citizens Councils. It describes the group as "a virulently racist group whose website has referred to blacks as 'a retrograde species of humanity.'"

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaEcoWatchSeafood(Photo: EcoWatch)Pink salmon—the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific salmon species, and a supper table mainstay in many parts of the world—may be swimming towards trouble.

And they are not the only dish likely to disappear from the menu. Mussels, oysters, clam and scallop could all become scarcer and more expensive as the seas become more acid. And as the world’s waters warm, fish will start to migrate away from their normal grounds at an ever-increasing rate.

New research shows that as the world’s waters acidify because of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) could become smaller and less likely to survive.

Potentially Problematic

Previous studies have repeatedly and consistently explored potentially problematic consequences of change in the pH value of the world’s oceans. The higher the carbon dioxide concentrations in the air as a consequence of the burning of fossil fuels, the greater the change in oceanic acidity levels.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaCubaObama(Photo: Raul Castro and President Obama, photo by US Government)I’ll never forget that image of President Ronald Reagan on Wall Street, holding a large pair of scissors over a symbolic pile of papers representing hard-won laws over the last century that restricted corporate monopolies, banks, unfair labor conditions and pollution. We also had important FDA regulations to protect the public from contaminated food and unsafe drugs.

Hundreds of protective laws have been sent to the slaughterhouse, compliments of the U.S. government with congressional assurance that they will never rise up to interfere with profitable industrial gains again.

Looking beyond President Obama’s persuasive speech to “chart a new course in US relations with Cuba that will engage and empower the Cuban people,” what does Obama really have in mind behind closed doors? This is the question.

President Obama is the master of giving impressive speeches, but his executive decisions, that have benefited industrial profits at our expense, speak louder than his words.

Published in Guest Commentary


aaaNeilYoungPope(Photo: EcoWatch)I imagine top executives at Monsanto are not huge fans right now of Neil Young or Pope Francis. The two might seem to lead very disparate lives. One is a life-long Canadian rocker and the other leads a flock of 1.2 billion Catholics. But lately the two have drawn the ire of corporate giants, particularly Monsanto, all over the world.

Neil Young’s album, The Monsanto Years, was released June 29 and it’s already causing quite a stir. Ahead of the album’s release, Monsanto issued a statement criticizing Neil Young for perpetuating myths about the company.

According to Pitchfork, the album “fixes its crosshairs on the GMO-pimping agribusiness behemoth that has a stranglehold on the world’s seed (and, by extension, food) supply, forcing farmers to comply their strict terms or be litigated into destitution.” To be fair, Young doesn’t just single out Monsanto. He takes on Wal-Mart, Chevron, Citizens United and Starbucks, just to name a few.

Last fall, Young made a very public boycott of Starbucks over its (and Monsanto’s) alleged support of the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s lawsuit to prevent Vermont from accurately labeling food. In April, a judge upheld Vermont’s GMO-labeling law while the case continues.

And unless you’ve been living in an off-grid community in the middle of nowhere (if so, that’s awesome), then you are probably aware that Pope Francis released an encyclical earlier this month. In that encyclical, the religious leader did not mince words when it came to the dire need for immediate action on climate change.

Published in Guest Commentary
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