BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Are Christian conservative evangelicals so desperate for attention and an apocalyptic messenger that they’re turning to a disgraced televangelist to carry their End Times message? Ever in search of an End Times scenario that might resonate with its open-eared supporters, Steve Strang, the Christian conservative evangelical founder of Charisma magazine, and the CEO of Charisma Media, is turning to Jim Bakker for a revelation. And Bakker, the discredited PTL Club (Praise the Lord) televangelist who fleeced his audience, got involved in a juicy sexual scandal, and served time in prison, is claiming that the recent WannaCry "ransomware" cyberattack is a sign that World War III has already started. The early-May attack infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries.
In a podcast interview, Bakker told Strang that the battle would not be fought with traditional weaponry; rather it will be with computers and satellites. And, it may not be a coincidence that on his Jim Bakker Show, he is hustling survivalist supplies to doomsday preppers.
On his show, Bakker made a point of claiming the "spirit of the Antichrist" was living inside of Donald Trump’s opponents.
In a piece titled, "What if Jim Bakker Is Right That the Ransomware Virus Is Part of Fulfilling End-Times Prophecy?" Strang writes that he doesn’t mind "if the secular community makes fun of it or thinks that it is just a lot of superstition," his folks know that "the spiritual realm is where things really happen. We also know that God is in control, that He has a plan and purpose, and that He revealed to the apostle John what would happen in the last days, which John wrote about in the book of Revelation."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria" . . . and "emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia."
Welcome to the last paragraph of a Washington Post story the other day, a loose fragment of news, a homeless child, a cynical trigger. This is the story in which we learn that "President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week" and the let's-be-friends comment was part of the official White House statement about the meeting, the point of which was to dismiss the Post's allegations as false.
And indeed, the statement comes wrapped in cynicism, as though our proto-fascist, race-baiting, bomb-happy president carries the world's hope for peace in his heart. Nonetheless, I feel the need to rescue this paragraph from the rest of the Post's story, which details the latest manifestation of Russiagate in Trumpville.
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.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In a recent two-page memo, largely crafted by Steven H. Cook, a veteran drug warrior, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to have morphed into Harry Anslinger, a primary initiator of the decades-long drug wars. In his directive, Sessions has indicated that he is willing to turn back the clock, spend millions of dollars prosecuting drug offenders, push mandatory minimum sentences, exacerbate racial disparities in the justice system, and swell the nation’s federal prison population. Sessions policy could also prove to be a boon to private prison corporations that have federal contracts; with more arrests and convictions, more cells will be needed.
What is still unclear is how Sessions will deal marijuana -- which he has called a “dangerous drug” – in states that have medical marijuana laws, and those states that have voted to legalize marijuana.
“We’ve got too much complacency about drugs,” Sessions said at a summit in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 11, “Too much talking about recreational drugs. It’s the same thing we used to hear in the eighties. That’s what the pro-drug crowd argued then. But we realize the reality, empirical fact -- neighbors, friends, crime -- that this was not a legitimate thing. So we’re going to reverse this trend. I am committed to it. The president is committed to it. … We’re going to come together as a nation and we’re not going to allow this abuse, this threat to our country to erode our capabilities, and destroy good decent people in our country.”
In a pair of recent articles Will New Drug Czar Revive America's Disastrous Drug Wars and Drug Wars 4.0: From Anslinger to Nixon to Reagan to Trump and Sessions, we speculated about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to bring back the drug wars.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Americans with wealth and power don't generally care about the middle and lower classes. Even worse, they are doing real damage to the people they don't care about.
But why? Either these well-positioned people are 100 percent out of touch with the realities of middle-class life in our country, or they're contemptuous of those they consider inferior, or they believe so strongly in individual 'freedom' that even the word 'social' is repugnant to them. Or perhaps they're just not smart enough to see the value of people who are different from them.
The assault continues non-stop: Taking away healthcare, either by disposing of the Affordable Care Act or slashing Medicaid; weakening consumer protection laws; repealing fair wage and workplace safety laws; cutting overtime pay; jeopardizing civil rights in the name of "religious freedom"; putting low-income mothers at risk by cutting their maternity care; increasing penalties for minor drug offenses; giving our public lands -- including the homes of Native Americans -- to oil companies; and even denying kids healthy lunches.
A method can be detected amidst the madness, looking at it from the disdainer's point of view.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Comandante Trump, El Jefe, the gringo strongman!
That's the image our current Commander-in-Chief seems to be cultivating. He has surrounded himself with generals, he cavalierly threatens war with all "bad hombres," he is drastically bulking up military spending and he imperiously slaps foreign leaders, whole ethnic groups, and entire nations with demeaning tweets and public rants. Posing as Patton-on-the-Potomac, President Donald Trump is out to "Make America Feared Again."
How is that working out? Look south, to Mexico. Our bellicose president has repeatedly blasted Mexicans again and again as marauding thieves, murderers and rapists. Adding injury to insult, the smirking Trump pledged that he would immediately seal off Mexico by building a 1,800-mile-long, 30-foot high wall -- which he described as "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful." But the big man and his big wall are crumbling in the face of reality. Start with the cost: $21.6 billion! The congressional leaders of Trump's own party couldn't choke down a number that big, so the interim budget agreement they passed in April provided exactly zero dollars to start building his wall.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
For a journalist -- especially one covering government and politics -- the most suspicious, least trustworthy word in the language ought to be: "classified."
As the drama continues to swirl around Russiagate, or whatever the central controversy of the Trump administration winds up being known as, that word keeps popping up, teasingly, seductively: "It appeared that there was a great deal more (former acting Attorney General Sally) Yates wished she could share," the Washington Post informed us the other day, for instance, "but most of the information surrounding everything that happened remains classified."
And the drama continues! And I have yet to hear a mainstream journo challenge or question that word or ask what could be at stake that requires protective secrecy even as the US government seemingly threatens to collapse around Michael Flynn, America's national security advisor for three weeks, and his relationship to Russia. Is there really any there there?
I'm not suggesting that there isn't. Trump and pals are undoubtedly entwined financially with Russian oligarchs, which of course is deeply problematic. And maybe there's more. And maybe some of that "more" is arguably classified for a valid reason, but I want, at the very least, to know why it's classified. What I read and hear feels, instead, like collusion: journalists unquestioningly honoring bureaucratic keep-out signs as objective, even sacred, stopping points. Public knowledge must go no further because . . . you know, national security. But the drama continues!