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ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatoxicWhat if we found the political will to reprioritize the national budget and reclaim the future? (Photo: eek the cat)

Maybe if we declared “war” on poison water, we’d find a way to invest money in its “defeat.”

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, writing at Tom Dispatch this week about what they called “The United States of Flint,” make this point: “The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive. In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable.”

I sit with these words: “No one knows where the money will come from.”

In the president’s latest budget proposal, $7.5 billion is earmarked to “fight ISIS,” an absurd non-threat to the nation’s survival, but no matter. We’re engaged in endless war with whoever the latest enemy happens to be and this war is endlessly funded, no questions asked. Mostly we’re engaged in war preparation, of course (and the containment of the consequences of past wars — at least the ones that can’t be ignored). As usual, the Pentagon and other war-engaged institutions will consume well over half the nation’s discretionary spending, including a $59 billion “slush fund that permits the Pentagon to break through Congress’ legislated budget caps,” according to the National Priorities Project.

Published in Guest Commentary

2016.2.8.BF.BuchheitFor every three homeless children in 2006, there are now five. For every three children on food stamps in 2007, there are now five. And yet spending on children's programs recently declined for the first time in nearly 20 years. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout; Adapted: D Sharon Pruitt, Leo Reynolds, GrungeTextures)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

US plutocrats are afraid of too much change. But it's too late for gradual change. Only a popular uprising against big business greed can restore a semblance of justice to our perversely unequal society.

The election should be about oppression and the economy - but the economy of the 99% in the US, not of establishment wealth. So many in the US are in need of justice, including the following members of the US commons.

Black Americans and Other People of Color in the United States

"I cringed when people would ask me where I lived ... Just to say 'public housing' was basically saying that you're dirty, you're bad, you're dumb, you're lazy, you're a problem." - Shana Griffin, New Orleans activist

Emergency home repairs? Not for Black families. The average African American family had readily available liquid wealth of only $200 in 2011, less than $1 for every $100 owned by whites.

We tend to believe that education is the great equalizer. But a middle-aged Black person with a graduate degree has about the same odds of being a millionaire as a white person with only a high school diploma.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaweatherchristA record warm Christmas is likely on its way. (Photo: Twitter)

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the eastern and central U.S., you can probably keep dreaming. As EcoWatch reported last week, the unseasonably warm weather has set a number of December records.

Many cities in the eastern and central U.S. will see temperatures 10-20 degrees above average this week. If you live in the Eastern or Central U.S., Friday could be “one of the warmest Christmas Days of your lifetime,” The Weather Channel reported Sunday.

“Several cities in the East will likely see their warmest Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on record, adding to the more than 2,600 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 19 days of the month. This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many east of the Rockies.”

“Due to the warming effects of the strong El Niño climate pattern, many places that often have a good chance of seeing snow Christmas Day will miss out this year,” explained AccuWeather. “El Niño has helped to strengthen a west-to-east jet stream that delivers mild Pacific air across the U.S.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 10:26

Why We Must Stop Drinking Bottled Water

ANNIE LEONARD OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

Plastic is displayed on a beach and the word ‘Trash’ is spelt out from golf balls. The wide variety of items shown in this image highlight the diverse range of sources from which the plastics in our oceans originate. This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Alex HoffordPlastic is displayed on a beach and the word ‘”TRASH”’ is spelt out from golf balls. The wide variety of items shown in this image highlight the diverse range of sources from which the plastics in our oceans originate. This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life. Photo credit: © Greenpeace / Alex Hofford

Thursday was Use Less Stuff Day. It was created to inspire us to rethink the stuff we use. All our stuff—cell phones, clothes, cars, disposable chopsticks, and on and on—comes from somewhere and has to go somewhere when we throw it out. That takes a big toll on the planet, so thinking about how to use less is an excellent idea.

I’ve written a bunch about the real need to re-think our approach to the holidays and the mad shopping frenzy that comes with them.

When it comes to how we do spend our dollars, the product that jumps immediately to mind as obscenely wasteful, expensive and easily preventable is bottled water.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into this. It’s true that in some parts of the world the water quality is so poor that it’s unsafe for people to drink. There are definitely some places in the U.S. wherefracking or petrochemical plants have ruined the local water supply, but even then there are better solutions than forcing the community to buy bottled water! For the most part, tap water in the U.S. is clean, readily available and thousands of times cheaper than the bottled stuff.

four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.

Published in Guest Commentary

WENONAH HAUTER OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch.

Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / EPAThe language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. Photo credit: Erik S Lesser / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

The Obama administration released the long-secret text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that would weaken consumer protections, undermine U.S. food safety standards and prevent commonsensefood labeling. The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures. 

The TPP is a giveaway to big agribusiness and food companies that want to use trade deals to attack sensible food safety rules, weaken the inspection of imported food and block efforts to strengthen U.S. food safety standards. The food and agribusiness industries inserted language into the text of the TPP that will undermine U.S. food safety oversight and expose consumers to risky imported foods.

The TPP includes a new provision designed to second-guess the government inspectors who monitor food imports. The so-called Rapid Response Mechanism allows companies to challenge border inspection procedures that companies claim cause unnecessary delay—like holding suspect shipments while awaiting laboratory test results—and demand that a TPP panel of experts review and provide guidance on the inspection. This would create a chilling-effect on rigorous border inspection that would be especially dangerous for problems that are not obvious, like chemical or drug residues that would only appear after more thorough examination and testing.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANNIE LEONARD OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaclimatejusticeClimate Justice means holding big oil companies accountable for being duplicitous about global warming. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

I’m still trying to process recent revelations in the LA Times and the Pulitzer-winning Inside Climate News about the extent to which ExxonMobil has worked to deny climate change. It knew about the threat of a planet warmed by burning fossil fuels as far back as the 70’s, and while publicly denying these risks, built them into its business plans. Wait, what?!

To make matters worse, ExxonMobil‘s climate denialism isn’t just a thing of the past–it’s ongoing.

While deeply shocking, it’s sadly not surprising: Greenpeace has been exposing ExxonMobil’s climate denialism for more than a decade. Yes, it’s outrageous, but now we need to turn that outrage into action to get governments and citizens to hold ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies legally accountable for the damage their activities have caused.

How do we know ExxonMobil is still blocking climate action?

For one, ExxonMobil remains a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This corporate “bill mill” pushes climate-denying legislation on lawmakers through closed-door meetings.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaecinjuFour years after the Occupy uprising, economic inequality in the United States continues to soar. (Photo: Coco Curranski)

 

Bernie Sanders showed his outrage about inequality at the Democratic Debate, and more and more Americans are understanding his message. Indignation is likely to grow with new data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, which reveals the wealthy elite's continuing disdain for the poor, for the middle class, and for people all around the world. 

Some of the most troubling disparities are hidden in the myriad tables of this remarkably comprehensive publication. The purpose here is to translate the numbers into wealth gap realities that victimize the great majority of Americans. Details can be viewed at You Deserve Facts


1. At the Bottom: Of the Half-Billion Poorest Adults in the World, One out of Ten is an American

That seems impossible, with so many extremely poor countries, and it requires a second look at the data, and then a third look. But it's true. In the world's poorest decile (bottom 10%), one out of ten are Americans, many of whom are burdened with so much debt that any remnant of tangible wealth is negated. Other nations have high debt, most notably in Europe, but without an excessive burden on their poorest citizens. 

Incredibly, then, nearly 50 million of America's 243 million adults are part of the world's poorest 10%. In contrast, over 110 million American adults are among the world's richest 10%.  

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 07 September 2015 06:29

Ten Troubling Numbers on Labor Day Week 2015

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

aaaaaaaaaaaaminwageLabor is the economic engine of the United States. (Photo: UUSC)

  • 5.1. The official unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, or 8 million people, according to the US Department of Labor. However, this widely reported “official” number overlooks the millions of people unemployed for more than a year nor does it count those who are working part-time and looking for full-time work. The Department of Labor monthly report which includes people working part-time and looking for full-time work shows the real rate of unemployment is 10.3 percent.
  • 6. It has been 6 years since the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was raised.
  • 8.9. Millions of adults, 8.9 million in fact, work full-time, year round and earn too little to lift their families out of poverty.
Published in Guest Commentary
Sunday, 06 September 2015 15:04

On Labor Day, Why We Need a Guaranteed Income

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaincomeWhen the economy is devastated by avarice, those without jobs deserve a guaranteed income. (Photo: Doran)

A thought for Labor Day: In the not-too-distant future we might wait around for a package delivery, hurry off to class, grab a taxi downtown, meet the family for dinner, and then take the train home. All without being served by a single human being. No delivery person, no teacher, no cab driver, no food server, no train conductor. 

Our jobs are disappearing. The benefits of a half-century of productivity, in which we and our parents all played a role, have largely accrued to the relatively few people who know how to make money by coordinating all the technological components, or by managing the money themselves. 

And despite the relentless optimism of starry-eyed pundits and tech leaders, the great majority of Americans will NOT be prepared to turn new technologies into life-sustaining employment. 


1. Our Jobs Are Disappearing

The jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty -- education, construction, social services, customer service, transportation, administrative support -- have dramatically declined since the recession. Programmers and engineers and financial experts are still in demand. But nine of the ten fastest growingoccupations don't require a college degree

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaacapitalism(Photo: Daniel Lobo)

To followers of Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, and to all the business people who despise government, 'community' is a form of 'communism.' Even taking the trainis too communal for them. Americans have been led to believe that only individuals matter, that every person should fend for him/herself, that "winner-take-all" is the ultimate goal, and that the winners have no responsibility to others. 

To the capitalist, everything is a potential market: education, health care, even the right to water. But with every market failure, it becomes clearer that basic human rights can't be bought and sold like cars and cell phones. The pursuit of profit, when essential needs are part of the product, means that not everyone will be able to pay the price. Some will be denied those essential needs. 

Global Failures

Capitalism hasn't been able to control runaway global inequality. For every $1.00 owned by the world's richest 1% in 2011, they now own $1.27. They own almosthalf the world's wealth. Just 70 of them own as much as 3.5 billion people. 

Capitalism has not been able -- or willing -- to control the "race to the bottom" caused by "free trade," as mid-level jobs continue to be transferred to low-wage countries. 

Nor has capitalism been able to control global environmental degradation, with trillions in subsidies going to polluters that don't even pay their taxes, and with corporations ignoring any semblance of social responsibility as they seek ways toprofit from global warming 

Published in Guest Commentary
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