STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
So the Indiana Legislature passes and the Governor signs a law that seems intended to permit persons operating public accommodations and publicly licensed and/or permitted businesses to discriminate against LGBT persons, based on their sexual orientation. Certainly the list of organizations which sponsored the legislation in Indiana (and have done so in many other states) have not been shy about saying that that’s what it is all about. Those organizations include the American Family Association (state and national), “Advance America,” the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Heritage Institute, and the Family Research Council.
Of course, one wonders just how Indiana businesses which want to discriminate against LGBT persons would pick out the discriminatees. Since most LGBT persons look just like everyone else, would there be a law in Indiana requiring the known among them to line up to receive, let us say, a Pink Triangle? Now it is true that that was the insignia the Nazis used to identify homosexuals, starting just after they took power in 1933, two years before they came up with the Yellow Star of David to identify the Jews. So there might a problem in that. Perhaps someone in one of the organizations listed above could give it some thought to come up with a better one.
One does have to admit that the wording of the law is a bit dense and can be confusing. So despite the fact that it was the Republican Right in the Indiana State legislature that made sure that the law went through with language specifically “protecting” potential discriminators who claimed a “religious exemption” from any government action against them; that the above list of known homophobic organizations had lined up behind passage of the law; and that several of their leaders had physically lined up behind Indiana’s Governor Pence when he signed it; with a straight face the governor initially said over-and-over again (at least until the economic pressure began to build) that the law did nothing of the sort, and did not need to be “fixed – a claim he has now backtracked from faced with an economic boycott of the land of Hoosiers.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“Deeply sensible of their solemn duty to promote the welfare of mankind . . .”
What? Were they serious?
I kneel in a sort of gasping awe as I read the words of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty signed in 1928 – by the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and ultimately by every country that then existed. The treaty . . . outlaws war.
“Persuaded that the time has come when a frank renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy should be made . . .”
ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”
ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”
Furthermore, as David Swanson has reminded us in his book When the World Outlawed War, the treaty is still in effect. It has never been rescinded. It’s still, for what this is worth, international law. This is nuts, of course. War rules and everyone knows it. War is our default setting, the ongoing first option for pretty much every disagreement among global neighbors, especially when different religious beliefs and ethnicities are part of the divide.
ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
battle to save the wild and remote Arctic seas from predatory oil and gas companies never ends. Despite court cases finding it had illegally sold oil and gas exploration leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska and despite its own environmental impact study depicting the dangers of drilling there, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has opened the door to selling offshore drilling leases in the Arctic seas again. Currently there are no gas or oil operations in the Arctic seas, and environmental groups would like to keep it that way.It seems like the
But this week the DOI announced that it is re-affirming the 2008 Bush-era leases opening 30 million acres of the Chukchi Sea—an area about the size of Pennsylvania—to oil drilling, even though a court-ordered re-analysis showed that the environmental impacts could be far worse than previously thought.
In 2010, a federal district court in Alaska found the 20o8 lease sales violated the National Environmental Protection Act. The following year the Obama administration re-affirmed the sale. Shell attempted to start drilling operations in 2012 but was plagued with misadventures such as a drilling rig running aground. It abandoned its plans to drill in 2013 and 2014.
The leases were again shot down in court in January 2014 after 14 conservation and Native groups represented by Earthjustice brought a lawsuit against Chukchi Lease Sale 193. The court again found the impact study inadequate and determined that the DOI had only analyzed the best-case scenario that “skews the data toward fewer environmental impacts and thus impedes a full and fair discussion of the potential effects of the project.”
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When an attack by a right-wing antigovernment terrorist occurs, it gets a little ink from the mainstream press, the Internet is abuzz for a New York minute, and, with rare exceptions, the cable news networks report on the event as if it were an isolated incident. Rarely is there an attempt to place those incidents within the context of radical right extremism.
Over the past several years, when the Department of Homeland Security has issued reports focusing on radical-right domestic terrorism, conservative organizations, columnists, radio and talk show hosts, and bloggers, come down on the DHS like a ton of bricks. Such was the case in April 2009, when the DHS issued a confidential report to law enforcement agencies entitled "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."
"In the years since then," the Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported, "the DHS has held up or canceled a number of planned reports on domestic terrorism of various types."
More recently, the right predictably attacked a DHS paper on the danger of the "sovereign citizens" movement; a paper that essentially reiterated a study last year, which found that law enforcement officials across the country were deeply concerned about that movement.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's easy enough to be a journalist, or an advocate for democracy, and write about how money is destroying the electoral process. That can be done without risk of being arrested and tossed into jail.
But a group called 99Rise, with the slogan "together we rise," is dedicated to reversing the Supreme Court decisions and congressional laws that allow for a few people with big money to manufacture the outcome of elections, by putting themselves on the line.
According to an April 1 news release from 99Rise sent via email to the media,
Five members of the grassroots organization 99Rise disrupted the nation's highest Court this morning, issuing a series of statements protesting recent court rulings that facilitate enormous increases in campaign spending by a tiny fraction the wealthiest 1%. Protestors rose one by one to deliver their statements to the Court, demanding they "Reverse McCutcheon and overturn Citizens United," before raising their index finger in the air, a gesture signifying "one person, one vote" political equality. They were detained and arrested by court security.
"The Supreme Court is deeply complicit in the corruption of our democracy," said Belinda Rodriguez, who participated in protest. "Their McCutcheon and Citizens United rulings have allowed corporations and billionaires to essentially buy our elections with unlimited sums of campaign cash, silencing the vast majority of voters. We're here to send a message that the American people won't stand for it."
This is not an April's Fool's joke; these are real people who are being swept up into the mass-incarceration system because they feel strongly that a robust democracy - not a sham democracy dictated by plutocrats - must become the norm in the USA.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Justice Department’s recent report on Ferguson, Missouri’s criminal justice system pointed out that African Americans were specifically targeted, seen "less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue." An NPR investigation found that Ferguson collected $2.6 million in fines and fees in 2013, the city’s second largest source of income, a good chunk of which came from minor infractions. While these revelations were shocking to some, they were not particularly surprising to either the majority of Ferguson residents, or to those following recent trends in criminal justice.
Bilking the poor has ushered in an era of offender-financed criminal justice services, a phenomenon that has become a toxic lifeline for many local governments. It has also spurred the growth of private companies whose bottom lines are forged by providing probation services and operating jails and prisons.
Being poor in America has never been easy. Since the advent of poverty programs, stigmatizing poor people -- particularly people of color -- has been a major item in the playbook of conservative politicians. These days, however, the actions of local governments are making being poor that much more difficult.
According to a new Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) report titled, "The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty", “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans.”
“A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time,” Karen Dolan, an IPS Fellow who directs its Criminalization of Poverty Project, and the lead author of the report, and co-author Jodi L. Carr, a research associate at IPS, point out.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Elizabeth Warren is reminding the Democrats to show some backbone and not give in to Wall Street's threats to withhold funding to the Democratic National Committee and some national candidates. Why are the big banks trying to intimidate the Democratic Party? Because the most outspoken senator - Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) - is proposing that the big banks should be broken up.
Her reasoning is simple: The few banks that control most of the nation's money are not, as Obama officials often assert, "too big to fail." Warren argues that actually, they are too big not to fail.
A March 27 article from the Guardian provides the context to the threat:
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with Elizabeth Warren’s call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to SenateDemocrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.
Representatives from Citigroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.
Bank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.
Will the withdrawal of Wall Street political contributions to the Democratic Party seriously impact elections? The answer is probably not. As The Guardian points out, "The amount of money at stake, a maximum of $15,000 per bank, means the gesture is symbolic rather than material."
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The distorted belief that wealthy individuals and corporations are job creators has led to sizeable business subsidies and tax breaks. The biggest giveaway is often overlooked: corporations use our nation's plentiful resources, largely at no cost, to build their profits.
There are several factual and well-established reasons why corporations owe a great debt to the nation that has made them rich.
Our Tax Money Pays for Much of the Research
The majority (57 percent) of basic research, the essential startup work for products that don't yet yield profits, is paid for by our tax dollars. When ALL forms of research are included -- basic, applied, and developmental -- approximately 30 percent comes from public money. In 2009 universities were still receiving ten times more science & engineering funding from government than from industry.
All of our technology, securities trading, medicine, infrastructure, and national security have their roots in public research and development. For a pageful of details look here.
Even the business-minded The Economist, with reference to Mariana Mazzucato's book The Entrepreneurial State, admits that "Ms Mazzucato is right to argue that the state has played a central role in producing game-changing breakthroughs, and that its contribution to the success of technology-based businesses should not be underestimated."
LIZABETH PAULAT OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A recent summit on elephant population and habitat has led to some dire predictions: the African elephant may go extinct within our lifetimes.
Putting the end date at just decades away, the African Elephant Summit, which hosted delegates from various Asian, European and African countries, focused on mitigating poaching and increasing elephant habitats around the continent.
The statistics presented are staggering. In the 1940s, there were thought to be around 3-5 million African elephants in the wild. These days conservation organizations are estimating only 500,000 to 700,000 elephants currently exist. The largest drops came during the 1980′s when the continent saw widespread turbulence. Rather than rising back up from the fall when stability took over much of the region, increased poaching has hastened the elephant’s population decline.
The summit highlighted the link between poverty, infant mortality and poaching, showing a correlation between desperate communities, and how susceptible they can be to engaging in the illegal wildlife trade.
Yet, despite these dire warnings, there is a small beacon of hope in the midst.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you do not know it, payday loan stores are a legalized loan sharking industry that is now a $46 billion dollar industry, according to National Public Radio. The business preys upon the poor by offering relatively small loans based on an individual showing a paycheck stub.
However, the majority of borrowers aren't able to pay the money back when it is due and the small "stores" that look like currency exchanges start to charge interest rates on the loans that can run into the three digits in the many states where they are unregulated. NPR cites these compelling statistics:
In fact, repeat borrowers are the heart of the payday business. Government researchers found that 4 out of 5 payday borrowers had to renew their loans, typically before their next paycheck. And 1 in 5 renewed at least seven times....
The interest for poor borrowers often far exceeds the original loan in just a matter of weeks, while people of extremely limited means who wanted to avoid debt fall deeper into it.
The website SFGate.com offers one egregious, but not uncommon example, of how the usurious practices and deplorable effects of this cycle of debt - which results in enormous profits for the payday loan industry - impacts those of limited economic means.