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KEN LEVY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

sleepapneatrainUnder the Trump administration, riding a train could be lethal. (Photo: lOaD sToNe0

When you ride a train, be aware that, due to the Trump administration rolling back a key regulation, that a train may be operated by a drowsy engineer who could fall asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, this life-threatening action received little coverage, and was largely drowned out by the ongoing Trump farces. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

U.S. officials are abandoning plans to require sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers, a decision that safety experts say puts millions of lives at risk.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said late last week that they are no longer pursuing the regulation that would require testing for the fatigue-inducing disorder that's been blamed for deadly rail crashes in New York City and New Jersey and several highway crashes.

The agencies argue that it should be up to railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees. One railroad that does test, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found that 11.6 percent of its engineers have sleep apnea.

The article noted the real risks of allowing trains to be driven by sleep-deprived drivers.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

evangelicalberkThe evangelicals cannot get enough of Trump. (Photo: cthoyes)

Neither daily lies, hyperbolic rhetoric, wild tweeting, the Russian scandal, politicizing the Boy Scouts, nor endless White House chaos, has dissuaded Donald Trump’s ultra-loyal conservative Christian evangelical from wholeheartedly embracing the president. As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin recently pointed out, Christian conservatives "have not let religion or values get in the way of their support."

These days, the president’s Christian base are one heck of a happy bunch: Tony Perkins, head of the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, has been a guest at the White House so many times, he might just as well move in; Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, claims he has found the fighter he has been yearning for; and, for Richard Land, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, it’s all about "unprecedented access" and having an "impact on policy."

Last month, about two dozen evangelical leaders, including Perkins, Land, Reed, mega-church preacher John Hagee, "prosperity gospel" preacher and longtime Trump ally Paula White, Gary Bauer, Robert Jeffress, Rodney Howard-Browne, Land, and Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, prayed with Trump during a day-long "listening session" with the Office of Public Liaison. Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice-president at Liberty University, told CBN News that "It shows a substantive relationship between the evangelical community and this administration."

Over the past several weeks, Trump has been feeding his conservative base what they want: an aggressive re-launching of the culture wars. "We’re under siege. You understand that," Trump told the audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual gathering in Washington. "But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever."

Monday, 07 August 2017 07:25

The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

medicareforallMedicare-for-All may be closer than many persons think. (Photo: Molly Adams)

Before the establishment of Medicare, many persons more than 65 years of age who weren't wealthy dealt with a harrowing reality. When they became seriously ill or required a costly procedure, they possibly faced bankruptcy due to lack of health insurance or high deductibles and co-pays. Many also confronted having to go without health care because of costs, sometimes leading to a painful death because of the exorbitant price of medical care without insurance. In fact, the lack of a government health insurance program for the elderly led to seniors being among the poorest age groups in the nation.

This past Sunday, Medicare celebrated its 52nd anniversary. National health care coverage in the United States for seniors had been an elusive goal until the program was launched in 1965. For years, efforts to pass Medicare were thwarted by charges that we still hear today against the Affordable Care Act and proposals for single-payer health care. Government health care insurance for the elderly was called "communist" medicine and accused of being "un-American." Despite his ability to get Social Security enacted in 1935 and launch other government-administered New Deal programs, President Franklin Roosevelt was not able to overcome vigorous opposition to government health coverage for seniors, and was unable to get it passed out of Congress.

It took the determined and wily President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in the post-Kennedy assassination environment, to persuade both houses of Congress to make Medicare -- long a seemingly impossible dream of many advocates -- a reality.

When fertilizer and manure washes off soy and corn fields used to grow feed for livestock, it not only contaminates local drinking water supplies, it flows into larger water bodies and creates toxic algal blooms from the excessive nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. When fertilizer and manure washes off soy and corn fields used to grow feed for livestock, it not only contaminates local drinking water supplies, it flows into larger water bodies and creates toxic algal blooms from the excessive nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. This is now polluting the Gulf of Mexico.(Photo: NASA / Flickr)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Scientists predict that so much pollution is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico this year that it is creating a larger-than-ever "dead zone" in which low to no oxygen can suffocate or kill fish and other marine life.

The Guardian reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to announce this week the largest recorded hypoxic zone in the gulf, an oxygen-depleted swath that's even larger than the New Jersey-sized, 8,185 square-mile dead zone originally predicted for July.

And in a new analysis from environmental group Mighty, the meat industry as well as the country's appetite for meat is much to blame.

So long as Trump is in power, however, we and the planet are going to pay a high price.So long as Trump is in power, we and the planet are going to pay a high price. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

History may record that the planet's climate crisis was avoided thanks to the efforts of three countries: China, Germany, and France.  Or not.  The preparedness of those three, and the other EU member-states, to follow through on commitments under the Paris Accord despite the US pull-out is key to planetary survival.  Chancellor Angela Merkel has made no bones about it, announcing that the Europeans are determined, in the name of Western values, to meet the Paris goal of keeping planetary temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius while also welcoming immigrants and upholding the global trade system.

The Discouraging News

Every expert opinion on climate change includes a dire warning: We haven't got much time.  The latest warning comes from a group of scientists and supportive others called Mission 2020. Reporting in Nature, they believe that if greenhouse gas emissions can turn downward by 2020 -- emissions have actually flattened out over the last three years -- we have a chance to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.  But if the Paris goals cannot be met, we are on the way to catastrophic decline.  The group reminds us that economic growth in many countries is occurring precisely where use of non-carbon renewable sources has increased dramatically.

Mission 2020 makes a number of specific, entirely doable suggestions on land-use policy, city structures, transportation, and other subjects.  But for its ideas to see the light of day, the group emphasizes that we must "use science to guide decisions and set targets. Policies and actions must be based on robust evidence… Those in power must also stand up for science."  Its closing observation is well worth heeding: "There will always be those who hide their heads in the sand and ignore the global risks of climate change. But there are many more of us committed to overcoming this inertia. Let us stay optimistic and act boldly together."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

scalesofjustice33The scales of justice are tipping conservative due to the GOP's fast-paced Senate confirmations of federal judges. (Photo: Chris Potter)

Ever since I founded BuzzFlash in 2000, I have written occasional commentaries on how the Republicans are equally tenacious in appointing right-wing federal judges when they control the Senate process as they are in opposing liberal or moderate nominees when there is a Democratic president.

One can point to the nixing of the Merrick Garland appointment to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) under Obama as an example of GOP obstructionism. With Mitch McConnell as the coordinator of the effort, no hearings were even held on Garland and only a few courtesy calls with a few Republican senators were allowed. Garland, Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is regarded as a moderate and respected by the likes of arch-conservative Orrin Hatch.

However, the Democrats did not shine a spotlight on the unfairness of the Republicans, which led to what would have been Garland's seat going to ultra-right-wing jurist Neil Gorsuch, who was fast-tracked to the SCOTUS in the first months of the Trump administration.

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