LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget will still be slashed by nearly a third, from $8.2 billion to $5.65 billion, under President Trump's fiscal 2018 budget proposal released Tuesday.
The EPA, which has long been targeted by the Trump administration, is the hardest hit federal agency under the new plan. Opponents say it "endangers Americans" and cripples an institution charged with protecting their health and safety.
As detailed by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, notable components of the anticipated budget include a 30 percent cut in federal grants to state and local air pollution control agencies; a 39 percent cut in EPA's Science and Technology budget; a 35 percent cut in EPA's Environmental Program and Management budget (the agency's overall operating budget); and the elimination of funding several regional programs, including restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Puget Sound.
The Washington Post noted that "dozens of other programs also would be zeroed out entirely, including funding for radon detection, lead risk reduction, projects along the U.S.-Mexico border and environmental justice initiatives." Additionally, less money will be allocated to enforcement of environmental crimes and climate change research.
PATRICK T. HILLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Amidst a range of domestic controversies and the pushback against his agenda and actions, President Trump went back to one of his default personas, that of a self-proclaimed dealmaker “strongly protecting American interests.” During his trip to Saudi Arabia, President Trump signed an almost $ 110 billion arms deal supposedly in support of Saudi Arabia’s defense.
A May 20, 2017 press release “Supporting Saudi Arabia’s Defense Needs” from the U.S. State Department outlines the framework. How $110 billion worth of killing machinery such as tanks, artillery, helicopters, combatant ships, and other weapons systems reflect the State Department’s slogan “Diplomacy in Action” is a mythological stretch of imagination. More importantly though, this deal is the continuation of global arms trade practices that are sustained by several myths which are driven by a militarist consensus and acceptance of war profiteering regardless of who is President. With the help of historian Paul Holden and colleagues’ 2016 book Indefensible: Seven myths that sustain the global arms trade, it is now possible to shed new light on what we are led to believe such deals achieve.
The myth of increased security: According to the State Department, this deal supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia in the face of malign Iranian influence and threats. That’s unlikely, given that Holden and colleagues demonstrated that increased weapons spending leads to arms races, increases security threats due to ill-conceived usage, and under-sources important non-military action. Looking at the bloodshed in the region, we now can say with certainty that the continued influx of weapons makes civilians caught in violent conflict less secure.
The myth of a sound national security analysis: More weapons provided by the United States into a volatile region will not only add fuel to the many regional fires, it will also undermine successful diplomatic initiatives such as the Iran Nuclear Deal. It is more likely that such deals are driven by economic considerations – that is, corporate profits or flat out corruption. In fact, the State Department does not hide the fact that this deal presumably expands opportunities for American companies in the region.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The wailing in our country about the "invasion of immigrants" has been long and loud. As one complainant put it, "Few of their children in the country learn English... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages... Unless the stream of the importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."
That's not some diatribe from the alt-right. It's the anxious cry of none other than Ben Franklin, deploring the wave of Germans pouring into the colony of Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Thus, anti-immigrant eruptions are older than the U.S. itself, and they've flared up periodically throughout our history, targeting the Irish, French, Italians and Chinese among others. Even Donald Trump's project to wall off our border is not a new bit of nuttiness — around the time of the nation's founding, John Jay, who later became the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, proposed "a wall of brass around the country for the exclusion of Catholics."
Luckily for the development and enrichment of our country, these past public frenzies ultimately failed to exclude the teeming masses, and those uproars now appear through the telescope of time to have been some combination of ridiculous panic, political demagoguery and xenophobic ugliness.
In our current national imbroglio over immigration coming from our 2,000-mile shared southern border, our "leaders" have set us up to look down at impoverished working people forced to leave their homeland and risk death in order to help their families escape poverty.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A single-payer health care bill passed the New York State Assembly for the fourth time on Tuesday, and is headed for the State Senate. The Senate has turned down the bill before, but according to The Village Voice, its prospects are growing more favorable this year:
Currently, the bill is only two votes shy of passing in the 63-seat state senate. It recently picked up the support of the influential Independent Democratic Conference, buoying its number of supporters to 30.
A special election on May 23 to fill an assembly seat vacated by now-council member Bill Perkins is all but guaranteed to go to real estate developer Brian Benjamin, who has vowed to support the bill, Rivera told the Voice. The only hurdles now include the conversion of just one more holdout — the most likely target is Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans — plus a small pile of procedural battles. Felder, who told the Guardian in April that he had no position on the bill, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails from the Voice.
CLARA HERZBERG FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On May 12, the leaders of Los Angeles' $5 billion bid for the 2024 Olympics wrapped up nearly four days’ worth of courting inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC)Evaluation Commission. Both sides did their best to dazzle, with the committee trumpeting their dinner with stars like Kobe Bryant, and with commission chair Patrick Baumann describing the city's venues as "spectacular." Meanwhile, however, evaluators banned members of the public from attending their meetings and shooed away journalists during the tour. Their secrecy stemmed in part from the fact that the city's bid is running up against growing opposition, spearheaded by the new campaign group, NOlympics LA. The organization, started by the LA chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, aims to bring attention to the negative effects the 2024 Olympics would have on Angelenos -- especially the most vulnerable. Their movement couldn't come at a better moment.
At a time when is Los Angeles is already among the most unequal places in the country, the city shouldn't waste close to $5 billion to impress the IOC, but should instead use the generous funds earmarked for the Olympics bid to help the city's most disadvantaged residents. As Jonny Coleman, an organizer with NOlympics LA, said, "LA has no shortage of problems that are more urgent than securing the bid."
GERALD E. SCORSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
More than 20 years ago, long before the experts caught on, the writers Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman zeroed in on the upward redistribution of income in the United States. They called it "wealthfare," and used the term to open their 1996 book Take the Rich Off Welfare. Here's the first sentence: "Wealthfare -- the money we hand out to corporations and wealthy individuals -- costs us at least $448 billion a year."
It's no exaggeration to say that the book predicted the US's fortune (or, more accurately, misfortune). Government actions to make the rich richer have become standard fare. There's more allegiance to corporate profits than there is to the common good. "Wealthfare" is the ruling national ethos -- economically, politically, even in the courts; at bottom, Citizens United is a Supreme surrender to the supremacy of money.
Let's explore the first "wealthfare" total of $448 billion in "subsidies, handouts, tax breaks, loopholes, rip-offs and scams." To begin with, the number looks almost puny today. Total tax expenditures (a.k.a. tax breaks) in fiscal year 2018 are expected to cost the federal government more than $1.5 trillion; most Americans will get at least a dollop, but the lion's share by far will line the pockets of people whose pockets are already bulging.
That $1.5 trillion easily tops what the country spends for any other single purpose. In fiscal 2015, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, tax breaks on the federal income tax alone "cost more than Social Security, or the combined cost of Medicare and Medicaid, or defense or non-defense discretionary spending."
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch foundation aiming to eliminate ocean plastic, unveiled Thursday a major design update to its highly vaunted cleanup system and announced that the technology will be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018, two years ahead of schedule.
Boyan Slat, the 22-year-old founder and CEO of the nonprofit, said at a presentation in the Netherlands that a "technological breakthrough" has allowed the project to be cheaper and more effective than originally anticipated.
According to Fast Company, instead of the initial estimates of removing 42 percent of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over 10 years at a cost of $320 million, the young inventor hopes to remove 50 percent of total trash within five years at a cost "significantly less" than $320 million.
The original design involved massive floating barriers fixed to the seabed that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents.
But the new design involves "a fleet of many smaller systems" that will not be attached to the seabed, Slat said. The AFP reports that each of up to 30 smaller barriers will measure about one to two-kilometers in length.
The updated system will be weighed down by specially designed drifting sea anchors.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reported yesterday about an egregious example of the criminalization of journalists performing their job in the age of Trump:
West Virginia state police arrested Dan Heyman, a veteran reporter with Public News Service, for repeatedly asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether being a target of domestic violence would be considered a "pre-existing condition," allowing health insurance to be denied, under the new Republican healthcare bill.
The charge: "willful disruption of governmental processes."
Capitol police "decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me," Heyman told reporters (The Hill, 5/9/17). "First time I've ever been arrested for asking a question. First time I've ever heard of someone getting arrested for asking a question."
It's not surprising that this would eventually happen, and likely not coincidental that it involved two senior officials in the Trump campaign. After all, the media was a primary target of Trump's during both the primary campaign and the general election season. Trump openly mocked, derided and berated journalists and news outlets that he felt were unfavorable to him. His campaign generally kept the press in pens at campaign events for two reasons: First, to keep them from asking questions of Trump backers that might prove embarrassing to the campaign. Secondly, to serve as an easy target for Trump, as he threw red meat to his followers by attacking the press and pointing to where reporters were confined during campaign rallies. Then, of course, there are his infamous ongoing tweets against specific journalists and news outlets.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent email from the Courage Campaign, a California citizens advocacy group, reveals that Nestlé is still pumping spring water out of public land, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service:
For 38 years, Nestlé has used an expired permit to pump millions of gallons of water a year out of California's San Bernardino National Forest virtually free of charge....
We sued to stop this outrageous water grab, but even though the law is on our side, going up against Nestlé's army of lawyers is a huge fight.
The latest input from our attorneys is that this case could drag on for another two years or more.
The Courage Campaign warns that Nestlé is benefitting from the fact that deep corporate pockets are outlasting citizen advocacy legal funds in court:
In 2015, Courage Campaign joined with our allies at Story of Stuff and Center for Biological Diversity in a lawsuit to stop Nestlé's water grab in the San Bernardino National Forest. And ever since, Nestlé's army of lawyers has used an endless series of delay tactics and frivolous motions to drag the case out.
Their strategy is obvious: to drive up our legal bills in hopes that eventually we'll give up. But because of you, our members, their strategy hasn't worked yet and it never will.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There Trump goes again, continuing his mission to deregulate Wall Street. As The Washington Post reported on May 2:
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nomination of Jay Clayton, a Wall Street lawyer with decades of experience helping companies to weather regulatory scrutiny, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As chairman of the SEC, Clayton will police many of the same large banks that he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays. He also would play a key role in President Trump's efforts to roll back the 2010 financial reform legislation known as the Dodd-Frank Act....
Clayton’s nomination continues Trump's track record of nominating Wall Street insiders for high-level positions, despite Trump's criticism of the industry during the presidential campaign.
As for Clayton's credentials to head the agency that is in charge of implementing many Wall Street regulations -- including major sections of the Dodd-Frank Act that modestly increased reporting requirements and transaction regulations -- The Post notes:
Clayton, who made more than $7 million last year, is also among six people with ties to Goldman Sachs chosen by Trump to serve in his administration. Clayton's 15-year relationship with the bank includes advising Goldman during some of its most troubled moments. (He is also married to a Goldman Sachs wealth manager.)