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2015.3.9 Berkowitz(Photo: Steve Snodgrass)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Despite being Biblically challenged; despite his divorces and remarriages; despite his past support for abortion rights Trump is doing reasonably well with Christian evangelicals.

Last week, during an interview with Bloomberg News’ John Heilemann, Donald Trump was uncharacteristically dumbstruck when asked about the Bible, his favorite book. Heilemann asked Trump if he would name his favorite verse: "Well,” a puzzled Trump replied, “I wouldn't want to get into it because to me that's very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it's very personal." Heilemann then asked which he prefers more, the Old Testament or the New Testament. Trump’s response: "Uh, probably equal. I think it's just an incredible - the whole Bible is an incredible - I joke, very much so, they always hold up The Art of the Deal, [Trump’s book] I say it's my second-favorite book of all time. But, uh, I just think the Bible is just something very special."

According to the Wall Street Journal, at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, in July, Trump “surprised many evangelical leaders when said he did not recall ever asking God for forgiveness. ‘I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,’ he told moderator Frank Luntz,” the longtime GOP operative. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”


trumpfinal33For many of his supporters, Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" is a coded way of saying "Make America White Again." (Photo: YouTube)

Okay, Donald Trump is a brash, brazen, bumptious, sexist billionaire who appeals to a bilious, bigoted segment of the US population. Some argue his followers love Trumpism because Trump himself blares out loud the thoughts rattling inside their own heads. Trump, according to this theory, allows the haters who might ordinarily feel inhibited about expressing their intolerance to blatantly bask in feelings of white superiority.

This is coded into Trump's now-iconic campaign slogan that simply says: "Make America Great Again." What a loaded four words those are. Ever since Obama's election, this expression - or variations of it - have been the rallying cry for making America "white again." After all, many Republicans still don't believe Obama was born in the United States. (The "birther" movement was essentially about denying a Black man residence in the White House.) This is the context in which Trumpism and the "Make America Great [White] Again" appeal has spread like wildfire among whites who feel that the United States should be a nation of white governance and privilege. 

September 1 Salon article confirmed the nativist, vile racist support for Trump:

By a significant majority, Trump’s supporters consist of the relatives you’ve been forced to block on Facebook because you’d finally seen enough pictures of President Barack Obama’s face superimposed onto the body of a chimpanzee or suicide bomber. Public Policy Polling’s latest national poll found that 66 percent of Trump’s supporters believe Obama is a Muslim, compared to only 12 percent who believe he’s Christian. (How soon they forget Jeremiah Wright!)

Sixty-one percent of Trump supporters aren’t convinced that the president was born in the United States, which isn’t surprising, given that just last month Trump rekindled his status as one of the "birther" movement’s most prominent advocates, saying that he still doesn’t understand “why [Obama] wouldn’t release his records.” 

2015.3.9 BF KoehlerThe climate crisis is where science and political science meet. (Photo: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Renaming a mountain is better than beheading it.

And the pseudo-uproar from Donald Trump and other Republicans over the presidential renaming of the continent’s highest mountain, Denali — “the great one” — is so much yammering in a cage.

The cage is “Americanism.” The small-mindedness of this concept is suddenly more apparent than ever: Hey, we’re the greatest! Obama’s taking Mount McKinley — our mountain — away from us, giving it back to the Indians . . .

Would that it were true. Would that a sense of earth-reverence had entered the national consciousness through this act of renaming, this acknowledgement that our world isn’t merely the plaything of the American political ego. Would that President Obama meant what he said when, as he began his symbolic, climate-change-awareness trek to Alaska, he declared: “The time to plead ignorance is surely past.”


aaaCoinDebt(Photo: United States Mint)Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional, Louisiana still puts hundreds of people in prison every year just because they are too poor to pay court-ordered fines, court costs and costs of probation, according to a recent investigative report by the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This misuse of the criminal legal system, often called “pay or stay” is flatly illegal. The U.S. Congress outlawed the use of debtors’ prisons — jails for people too poor to pay off their debts — under federal law nearly 200 years ago in 1833.   The U.S. Supreme Court followed suit in 1983.  

But in a survey of six weeks of court records from last year, the ACLU found that hundreds of people in Louisiana were given pay-or-stay sentences and well over a hundred people were jailed for unpaid fines or court costs. If this many people were wrongly sentenced and jailed in just six weeks, that means thousands have been illegally jailed annually.

The report tells the story of Dianne Jones, a grandmother of three, who was arrested in New Orleans for possession of marijuana. She was given the choice of six months’ probation and paying $834 in fines and costs, at a rate of $150 per month, or spending every weekend in jail for six months. She protested that she did not earn enough to pay off $150 a month. Ultimately she had to accept the payment plan anyway because she was helping care for her grandchildren on the weekends so her daughter could work. Unable to pay off the last $148 of her $834 because of unanticipated moving costs, she was arrested and jailed under a $20,000 bond.   She stayed in jail until a community group took up a collection to pay off the remaining $148.


aaaaaaamarriageKentucky Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is denying same-sex marriages such as this one (which was issued in Seattle) because of alleged divine mandates. (Photo: 12121stMarriageLicense182)

In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis continues to defy the law of the land by refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses - despite the Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear her appeal. Actually, Davis is not issuing any marriage licenses at all in her county right now, while her attorneys are assisting her in legally appealing a federal court order. This is a weak, cynical and mean-spirited legal tactic to deny same-sex marriage licenses.

September 1 New York Times article describes Davis's adamant refusal to comply with a legal mandate:

It was an unlikely scene for this rural county in northeast Kentucky and for Ms. Davis, a 49-year-old mother of four and a worshiper at Solid Rock Apostolic Church. But she said she had no choice.

“I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me,” she wrote in a statement issued by Liberty Counsel, a conservative group that is representing her in federal court. She added: “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of a marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”

Ms. Davis grew up in Rowan County and has never lived anywhere else. It is hilly Appalachian country, with a nearly all-white population, home to sawmills, lumber companies and mobile homes. Morehead, the county seat, is full of churches and fast-food restaurants. The poverty rate is just below 29 percent. And a steady government salary is a prized thing.

The New York Times quotes Davis as claiming that she is "acting under God's authority."

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 13:55

What the World Would Look Like Without Humans


aaaElephantEcowatch(Photo: EcoWatch)Researchers out of Denmark have found that without humans, the world would have a lot more large mammals roaming around. “In a world without humans, most of northern Europe would probably now be home to not only wolves, Eurasian elk (moose) and bears, but also animals such as elephants and rhinoceroses,” researchers said in a statement.

Yes, you read that right. Northern Europe would be home to elephants and rhinoceroses. The study, conducted by researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, investigated “what the natural worldwide diversity patterns of mammals would be like in the absence of past and present human impacts, based on estimates of the natural distribution of each species according to its ecology, biogeography and the current natural environmental template.”

And it’s not just northern Europe that has seen a dramatic decrease in mammal diversity. “In most places, there’s a very large deficit in mammal diversity relative to what it would naturally have been,” said Professor Jens-Christian Svenning, one of the coauthors of the study.

The report is a follow up to a previous analysis which found that the expansion of Homo sapiens across the planet and not a changing climate was to blame for the mass extinction of large mammals in the last 100,000 years.

The current world map of mammal diversity shows that Africa is virtually the only place with a high diversity of large mammals. There’s been a dramatic decrease in North and South America, which historically had very high levels of large mammal diversity.


aaaBibleKoch(Photo: Kevin Eng)David Koch’s claim that he is socially liberal is belied by the fact that his political entities have funneled millions of dollars to Christian Right organizations, including more than $375,000 to Family Research Council Action, formally headed by Josh Duggar.

There was quite a bit of pomp when the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based so-called traditional values lobbying outfit, announced that Josh Duggar would become Executive Director of Family Research Council Action, a 501(c)(4) political and lobbying arm of the FRC. During his brief tenure with the FRC, the organization boasted about Duggar’s relationships with several prominent GOP politicians, listed him as a featured speaker at its annual pro-life conference called ProLifeCon, and touted its “Values Bus Tour,” which Josh, his parents, sisters, and brothers participated in.

That was before revelations surfaced that Duggar’s parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar – stars of the now-cancelled reality television show, “19 Kids and Counting” – covered up their son’s sexual molestation of five young girls, including four of his younger sisters, while he was a teenager. When the story broke, Duggar resigned. The sexual molestation revelations came before hackers of the Ashley Madison site -- the website for folks desiring to cheat on their wives or husbands -- found that among the more than 37 million account-holders, Josh Duggar had at least one, and possibly two, accounts. All of the above was more than enough to toss Duggar onto the ash heap of hypocritical conservative Christians.

But, as the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch recently reported in a story dated August 22, and titled “Josh Duggar-led Group Funded via Koch Brothers Freedom Partners Operation,” after Duggar arrived at FRCA, “funding from the money machine put together by the billionaire Koch Brothers made its way to that group.”


aaaaaaaaapolarbearA Greenpeace activist, in a polar bear costume, draws attention to the impact of global warming on the Arctic region. (Photo: Greenpeace)

According the Guardian, President Obama is using an official visit to Alaska to launch a PR offensive against global warming. Obama will be utilizing evidence of massive glacier and Arctic ice melt-off to emphasize the widespread and large scale impact of climate change:

Shrinking Alaskan glaciers served as a vivid backdrop for Barack Obama’s latest push for action on climate change in Anchorage on Monday night as he warned that the equivalent of 75 blocks of ice the size of the national mall in Washington were melting from the state every year.

The president, who will visit the nearby Seward glacier on Tuesday to see its shrinkage for himself, urged international participants at the Glacier conference to act fast before it was too late to limit the impact not just on the region but the whole world.

"The Arctic is at the leading edge of climate change, a leading indicator of what the entire planet faces," warned Obama, who said new research showed 75 gigatons of ice were disappearing from Alaskan glaciers annually – each gigaton the equivalent of a block stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln memorial and four times as high as the Washington Monument.

"Climate change is no longer some far-off problem," he added. "Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy and infrastructure."

One cannot deny that the president is offering a public education moment, spreading awareness about the ruinous impact of largely unfettered industrialization and fossil fuel use on the planet. However, while Obama is warning against the degradation of the earth, he is taking steps that further its deteriorating condition.

Take, for instance, Obama's authorization of Shell to begin deep-sea oil exploration in the Arctic. Simply put, this will contribute to global warming.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The news last week that the Australian Newcastle city council had voted to divest from fossil fuel stocks was one of those signposts that historians will some day cite to mark the greatest economic transition in human history.

A young councillor, Declan Clausen, was able to grasp the truth that eludes the Australian federal government and indeed so many world leaders: coal—and oil and gas—are not the future and they’re barely the present. We’re suddenly and decisively, in a one-way transition to a renewable future and the only question—perhaps the most important question humans have ever faced—is whether we can make that transition fast enough to save the planet.

You can tell that coal is the past by asking any scientist with a working knowledge of the planet’s climate system. 2015 will be the hottest year in the planet’s recorded history, a landmark that comes with the requisite fire and flood. July was the hottest month ever measured on earth. New data from the most important climate scientist, NASA veteran James Hansen, concludes that on its present emissions trajectory, sea levels could rise 10 feet (three meters) this century.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

The public comment period for the highly controversial US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fracking study ends today. Food & Water Watch, Environmental ActionBreast Cancer Action and other advocacy groups delivered nearly 100,000 comments from Americans asking the US EPA to redo their study with a higher level of scrutiny and oversight.

The study produced significant controversy due to the discrepancy in what the EPA found in its report and what the agency’s news release title said. The study stated that “we did not find evidence” of “widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources,” but the title of the EPA’s news release said, “Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources”—a subtle but significant difference that led to most news coverage having headlines like this one in Forbes, “EPA Fracking Study: Drilling Wins.”

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