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Wednesday, 16 August 2017 05:15

How War Pollutes the Potomac River

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Flotilla 0816wrpPeace flotilla. (Photo: David Swanson)The Pentagon's impact on the river on whose bank it sits is not simply the diffuse impact of global warming and rising oceans contributed to by the U.S. military's massive oil consumption. The U.S. military also directly poisons the Potomac River in more ways than almost anyone would imagine.

Let's take a cruise down the Potomac from its source in the mountains of West Virginia to its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay. The journey down this mighty waterway details six EPA Superfund sites created by the Pentagon's reckless disregard for the fragile ecosystem of the Potomac River watershed.

The U.S. Navy's Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, West Virginia, 130 miles north of Washington, is a critical source of contamination in the Potomac River. The on-site disposal of explosive metals and solvent wastes contaminates soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. The groundwater and soil along the river are laced with explosives, dioxins, volatile organic compounds, acids, laboratory and industrial wastes, bottom sludge from solvent recovery, metal plating pretreatment sludge, paints, and thinners. The site also has a beryllium landfill. An active burning area is still used for waste disposal, sprinkling chemical dust over the river. It's not good.


Published in Guest Commentary


James0814 wrp optJames O'Keefe (Artwork: Donkey Hotey)James O'Keefe, the discredited purveyor of criminal activities and pseudo journalism, who has been involved in undercover stings of ACORN, Democratic politicians, and other progressive/leftist enclaves, may be at it again. In a recent email, Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), pointed out that "a group of right-wing imposters … assumed fake identities to attempt a 'sting' operation on our staff." While the undercover operation has O'Keefe's Modus Operandi written all over it, and two of the stingers have longtime ties to O'Keefe, it is unclear as of this writing whether the right-wing provocateur is involved.

The elaborate sting against LCV appears to indicate that merely denying climate change is not enough for right-wing groups; targeting environmental groups hoping to bait staffers into some inappropriate and scandal-worthy revelations is the latest tactic.

In a Press Release dated August 9, and titled "LCV TARGETED BY RIGHT WING OPERATIVES USING FAKE IDENTITIES" (their caps) the organization explained that it "recently discovered" it had been targeted by "extreme right-wing groups [that] used fake identities in order to meet with LCV staff and supporters–presumably in an effort to bait them into statements that could be doctored or taken out of context to undermine our work."

The League of Conservation Voters "has filed a complaint against three individuals who infiltrated its operations, at least two of whom, the group alleges, 'could be associated with' O'Keefe and have past ties to him, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer recently reported.

Published in Guest Commentary


REV0814 wrp optThe writing on the wall. (Photo: Alan Levine)Some anniversaries are widely observed in the West: Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Holocaust Memorial Day, the September 11 atrocities, and so on. Yet there are other undesirable anniversaries that have been largely disappeared.

1. US-backed forces overthrow Goulart in Brazil (1964)

Considering its vast size and abundant natural resources, Brazil should long have been one of Latin America's richest countries. Instead, it has been something of a horror story, as Brazilians have been repressed and brutalized across decades by military dictatorships. Brazil's plight strikes a common theme across a region of the world in which the great superpower, the United States, has sought to continually control. Brazil had especially come under the unblinking eye of the empire during the 1960s. US president Lyndon B. Johnson was hell-bent in ensuring such a massive country did not become "the China of the 1960s". Johnson was referring indiscreetly to Mao Zedong, a Communist revolutionary whose influence in China continued to rise.

US concern about Brazilian sympathies increased in the early part of that decade. In September 1961, left-wing nationalist Joao Goulart became the nation's democratically elected president, spreading panic in the liberal Kennedy administration. Goulart began implementing structural reforms in the South American country, that would help integrate the general population into society. The United States was loathe to sit helplessly by as this movement came within "our hemisphere", as President John F. Kennedy described it.

Published in Guest Commentary


Dollar 0811wrp optAlan LevineThe self-described "Geniuses of Wall Street" are being stupid. Again.

In 2007, their stupid schemes and frauds crashed our economy, destroying middle-class jobs, wealth and opportunities. Far from getting punishment, however, these financial scofflaws were bailed out by their Washington enablers — so the moral lesson they learned was clear: Stupid pays!

Sure enough, only a decade later, here they come again! Rather than investing America's capital in real businesses to generate grassroots jobs and shared prosperity, Wall Street is siphoning billions of investment dollars into speculative nonsense — such as high-profit securities "secured" only by rickety bundles of subprime auto loans.

Car dealers, eager to goose up sales, have been hawking new vehicles to lower-income people, offering quick credit approval. Banks — eager to hook more people on monthly car payments — have been approving these subprime car loans without verifying the buyer's ability to pay. Then, a Wall Street bank's investment house buys up thousands of these iffy individual loans, bundles them into multimillion-dollar "debt securities," and sells them to wealthy global speculators. Last year alone, banks sold $26 billion-worth of these explosive bundles of car loans.

This is just another paper-shuffling con game, a repeat of Wall Street's subprime mortgage scam a decade ago. It generates fast, easy money at the start for superrich speculators and greedy banksters — but as more and more low-income buyers are unable to make their car payments, defaults build up and the whole financial bubble pops.

Published in Guest Commentary


AltRight 0809wrpFascist pro-Trump grafitti. (Photo: Om1cron)Emboldened by the presidency of Donald Trump, and railing against the removal of memorials to the Confederacy, hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Alt-Rightniks, bloggers, podcasters, shock jocks, militia types, and KKK members are going to gather in Charlottesville, Virginia's Emancipation Park (formerly called Lee Park) for a "Unite the Right" rally, on Saturday, August 12. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called the rally possibly "the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States." David Straughn of Black Lives Matter told a local TV station that "The Unite the Right rally … is just the tip of the iceberg of the white supremacy" movement.

According to Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, "Earlier this year, … the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the statue of Robert E. Lee." White nationalist groups, including the Virginia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, challenged that decision in court, resulting in a circuit court judge issuing a six-month injunction temporarily stopping the removal.

The event is not the first of its kind. According to itsgoingdown.org, "On Saturday, May 13th, a coalition of neo-Nazi groups organized a daytime march in Charlottesville, VA, which essentially was a protest of a local cultural festival."

There are many organizations involved in organizing the event and amongst the most notable speakers listed on a promotional flyer are: Richard Spencer, Matt Heimbach, and Mike Enoch [Peinovich].

Published in Guest Commentary


Escalator1 0809wrpGoing up? (Photo: Degi Hari)Since 1980, the rich have gotten much richer. The top 1 percent earn an average annual income of $1.3 million, which is collectively more than 20 percent of all income, 40 times what the bottom 90 percent earn, and 81 times what the bottom 50 percent earn. Even worse, the top 0.1 percent earn 198 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.

For decades, as the left increasingly protested this obscene inequality, the right shut them down by accusing them of stoking "class warfare" and promoting communistic "redistribution of wealth." Equality of opportunity, they always said, does not guarantee equality of results. In a capitalist system, people more or less get what they deserve. If they choose to work hard, they'll make more; if they choose to be lazy, they'll make less. So stop begrudging the top 1 percent their millions and billions. They just worked -- and still work -- a lot harder than the bottom 99 percent.

There are at least two flaws in this ideology. First is the right's notion that wealth is a reliable result and indicator of merit. While many people are born into wealth, many more people are born into poverty. Likewise, while many lazy, less talented people make high incomes, many more hardworking, highly talented people have to work several low-wage jobs just to get by. What supposed "self-made men" fail to realize is just how significant a role luck played in their -- and everybody else's -- lives.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 07 August 2017 07:25

The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower


RumpTower 0807wrp opt(Photo: Lorie Shaull)It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.  

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous "Other."

Our destination is on the 5th floor.  There is a legal never-never-land called a "Privately Owned Public Space" or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public.  And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout.  We have such a need to re-establish our own body.  It is real and direct.  We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

Published in Guest Commentary


Gold 0807wrp optThe wealth of the few. (Photo: James Mathews)Inequality is much worse than we're led to believe by a dismissive business media. The numbers are hellish, and they're growing.

1. The Extreme Wealth Gap is Still Expanding

The U.S. has gained $30 trillion in wealth since 2008, about half of it in the stock market, much of the remainder in real estate holdings. Based on prior analyses, data from Credit Suisse and Forbes, and recent work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, it's a rather simple process to estimate the distribution of our nation's wealth over that time period. The following are conservative estimates, since the numbers amount to about $15 trillion, the minimum amount by which financial wealth has increased since the low point of the recession.

-- The richest 400 individuals gained an average of $2,500,000,000 each since the recession.
-- The .01% (12,000 households) gained about $120,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the .1% (120,000 households) gained about $11,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the 1% (1,068,000 households) gained about $2,500,000 each.
-- The 2-5% (4,800,000 households) gained about $900,000 each.
-- The 6-10% (6,000,000 households) gained about $285,000 each.
-- The 11-20% (12,000,000 households) gained about $117,000 each.
-- The Bottom 80% (96,000,000 households) gained about $13,000 each.

Published in Guest Commentary


FrackHead 0804wrp optAn abandoned fracking wellhead. (Photo: Joshua Doubek)Several earthquakes have struck Oklahoma this week, including a magnitude 4.2 that hit the central part of the state on Wednesday night.

"The past 24 hours have had an uptick in earthquake numbers, with 8 quakes ranging from 2.6-4.2 magnitude occurring in Oklahoma," USGS tweeted.

USGS described last night's 4.2 quake as "widely felt" in the city of Edmond and northern Oklahoma City.

An earthquake at that magnitude feels like a "heavy truck striking building," the agency explained on its website.

The temblor caused power outages for more than 4,600 electricity customers in north Edmond. The power was completely restored by 11 p.m. local time.

Edmond's police department reported no significant damages from that earthquake, but many locals and households were shaken up.

Published in Guest Commentary


RainbowFlag 0728wrp optA rainbow flag of the LGBTQ movement. (Photo: theodoranian)On Wednesday, July 26, Team Trump carried out an anti-gay trifecta: the president banned transgender Americans from the military; the Justice department filed a brief defending discrimination against gays in the workplace; and, the president nominated a clearly anti-gay partisan to become the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Unfortunately, when Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention that he would do all he could “to protect our LGBT citizens,” he apparently was talking about only protecting them from Islamic terrorists, not from himself, or conservative evangelical Christians.

Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender Americans from the military is not the first shot he’s fired in culture wars battles against the LGBT community.

The bringing of Mike Pence, an avowedly anti-gay partisan, onto the ticket, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch were all signals to evangelical Christians that he has their back.

Now, the seemingly out-of-nowhere tweet regarding transsexual citizens also appears to be aimed at keeping conservative evangelicals locked into the Trumposphere at a time when talk of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angered many of them.

Published in Guest Commentary
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