TIGHE BERRY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On May 1st, I stood on trial for having "greeted" Jeff Sessions in Congress before the start of his confirmation hearing in January. I was convicted along with my fellow activists, Lenny Bianchi and Desiree Fairooz. We each face up to $2,000 in fines, 12 months in prison, or both. The sentencing will take place on June 21st.
On the day of the confirmation hearing, my colleague, Lenny, and I were dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members, with our white hoods and robes designed to highlight Sessions’ racist history. My performance at the hearing was a parody, but the real joke has become the US Justice Department.
To say that I was appalled that Jeff Sessions was about to become the highest legal authority in our country is an understatement. As an American who loves the constitution and the rule of law, I felt compelled to protest the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions, a man whose history of racist rulings and rhetoric has been well documented and exposed to public scrutiny. His nomination and confirmation as Attorney General make a mockery of our judicial system and our constitution in general. Even though Sessions was only confirmed on February 8th of this year, he is already setting back the progress this country has made in the areas of civil rights and race relations. In three short months, our concerns have been resoundingly validated.
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.)
JOHN LaFORGE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Commercial media recollections of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe almost always minimize its global impact. A New York Times editorial last Dec. described the April 26 explosions and fires as "a volcano of deadly radioactivity that reached Poland and Scandinavia." This picture is both factually true and grossly understated -- because Chernobyl's carcinogenic fallout went far beyond northern Europe and all around the world -- a fact that is easy to verify.
For example, the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded in 2011 that the disaster "Resulted in radioactive material becoming widely dispersed and deposited … throughout the northern hemisphere." Then, hammering the lesson home like a drill sergeant, UNSCEAR's report ("Health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident") repeats the phrase "throughout the northern hemisphere" at least five times. Chernobyl's hemispheric contamination was well known long before the UNSCEAR review, noted in hundreds of books, journals and scientific papers. The March 30, 2005 Oxford Journalsreported, "The releases of radioactive materials were such that contamination of the ground was found to some extent in every country in the Northern Hemisphere." An Environmental History of the World (2002) by Donald Hughes says, "There were measurable amounts throughout the Northern Hemisphere."
Yet trivialization is the mainstream media rule, especially after three simultaneous reactor melt-downs at Fukushima-Daiichi have contaminated the whole of the Pacific Ocean. On April 23, Abu Dhabi's "The National" said about Chernobyl: "Half a million 'liquidators,' mostly military reservists from all over the Soviet Union, tried to clean up the affected area." This is flatly untrue, because no one decontaminated the entire Northern hemisphere. Soviet conscripts worked only the region knows as the "exclusion zone" around Chernobyl reactor No. 4 in Pripyat, Ukraine.
KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published a grim infographic detailing conditions in Yemen where 17 million Yemenis -- or around 60 percent of the population -- are unable to access food. The U.S. and its allies continue to bomb Yemen.Yemen stands as the worst-threatened of four countries where impending famine conditions have been said to comprise the single-worst humanitarian crisis since the founding of the U.N. On May 2nd, 2017, the
Jan Egeland, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), says that seven million Yemeni people are on the brink of famine. "I am shocked to my bones," said Egeland, following a five day visit to Yemen. "The world is letting some 7 million men, women and children slowly but surely be engulfed…" Egeland blames this catastrophe on "men with guns and power in regional and international capitals who undermine every effort to avert an entirely preventable famine, as well as the collapse of health and educational services for millions of children." Egeland and the NRC call on all parties to the conflict, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, the U.S. and the U.K. to negotiate a cease fire. This weekend, the situation stands poised to become dramatically worse with the apparently imminent bombing, by Saudi Arabia, one of the U.S.’ closest allies, of the aid lifeline which is the port of Hodeida.
Egeland stresses the vital importance of keeping humanitarian aid flowing through Hodeida, a port which stands mere days or hours from destruction. "The Saudi-led, Western-backed military coalition has threatened to attack the port," said Egeland, "which would likely destroy it and cut supplies to millions of hungry civilians." U.S. congress people demanding a stay on destruction of the port have as yet won no concessions from the Saudi or U.S governments.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If a political pollster asked whether I consider myself a conservative or a liberal, I'd answer, "No."
Not to be cute — I have a bit of both in me — but because, like most Americans, my beliefs can't be squeezed into either of the tidy little boxes that the establishment provides.
I've observed that the true political spectrum in our society does not range from right to left, but from top to bottom. This is how America's economic and political systems really shake out, with each of us located somewhere high or low that spectrum. Right to left is political theory; top to bottom is the reality we actually experience in our lives every day — and the vast majority of Americans know that they're not even within shouting distance of the moneyed powers that rule from the top of both systems, whether those elites call themselves conservatives or liberals.
For me, the "ism" that best encompasses and addresses this reality is populism. What is it? Essentially, it's the continuation of America's democratic revolution. It encompasses and extends the creation of a government that is us. Instead of a "trickle down" approach to public policy, populism is solidly grounded in a "percolate up" philosophy that springs directly from America's founding principle of the Common Good.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"On the Media's" Bob Garfield recently reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions "signaled his eagerness to rejoin the nation's old-school-style War on Drugs, by hiring a former beat cop, turned federal prosecutor, Stephen H. Cook," who last year, at a criminal justice panel at The Washington Post, maintained that "The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it's working exactly as designed."
In his 2015 book, Chasing the Scream; The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, British writer and journalist Johann Hari dived deeply into the origins of America's War on Drugs, a story that dates back more than a century ago, beginning with the Harrison Act in 1914 -- which banned cocaine and heroin -- and whose origins were steeped in racism: "The main reason given for banning drugs -- the reason obsessing the men who launched this war -- was that the Blacks, Mexicans, and Chinese were using these chemicals, forgetting their place, and menacing white people."
In 1931, the relatively unknown Harry Anslinger, who had been appointed the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics a year earlier, amped up his profile by ordering raids on doctors -- previously exempt from the Harrison Act -- which ultimately put an end to the legal prescription of drugs to addicts in the US. At the time Anslinger took office, Hari writes, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was "a tiny agency, buried in the gray bowels of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.," and may have been on the brink of extinction.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
At the climate rally in Chicago last week, people started drumming in the rain.
Pardon me while I walk uncertain ground here, looking for clues and connections in a smattering of unlikely places. The world is in a fragile, dangerous place. We need to create peace, fairness and sustainability. We need to create a world that doesn’t yet exist, but this is only possible if we look at the world we have with awareness that transcends the limits of our knowing. I don’t know how to do this, but I’m going to try.
And so I listen again to the native drums beating in the rain, in the bitter wind, in the company of several thousand people huddled next to each other in the city’s Federal Plaza, many of them bearing signs that expressed fragments of hope and alarm:
"Defend Our Mother."
"We are the Earth, rising up to defend herself."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Over the years since the financial meltdown of 2008, BuzzFlash has published numerous commentaries about banks being fined for deceptive practices relating to subprime mortgages. Here we are in 2017, and banks are still being fined for illicit activity dating back 10 or more years. A May 3 Reuters article reports:
Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN.S) paid $400 million to settle claims that the Swiss bank sold toxic mortgage securities that contributed to the demise of three federal credit unions, a U.S. regulator said on Wednesday.
The National Credit Union Administration said the settlement resolves the 19th of 20 lawsuits it filed in the last six years against banks over their underwriting or sale of securities to five credit unions that failed in 2009 and 2010.
Including a $445 million accord with UBS Group AG (UBSG.S) announced on Monday, the NCUA said it has recovered roughly $5.1 billion from the banks from these lawsuits.
The collapsed credit unions were persuaded by the banks to invest in high-risk mortgage securities in the years before their demise. In fact, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has successfully argued that the banks' insidious profiteering off of knowingly distressed securities led to the failure of the credit unions.
TOM H. HASTINGS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Trump budget—pure profit for Pentagon corporate contractors. The Trump tax “reform”—massive tax cuts for the rich. Really? We are going to stand for this?
Compared to last year, if his corporations truly paid the going corporate tax rate, Trump would “richly benefit,” in multiple ways when his proposed cuts kick in. His corporate tax burden would be cut by at least 4.9 percent—millions of dollars—and his personal taxes would likely be cut even more massively, although since he alone amongst modern presidents has refused to let the American people see his returns, we cannot pin a number on his projected undeserved gains.
This is the textbook definition of corruption.
Fortunately for him, the Senators are wealthy too and love these ideas, as are most of the members of the House of Representatives. Corrupt Congress, corrupt president—and somehow the white male voters generally suppose this will all work out for them, since a reported 96 percent of his voters say they would vote for him again (and white males voted for him in overwhelming numbers, with white males without a college education voting for him a 72 percent rate).
MICHAEL SEIFERT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
About a month ago I was part of a group of people assaulted by a guy who used the National Anthem as a weapon.
About a hundred of us were standing in line, waiting to offer our testimony before the Texas House of Representatives’ State Affairs’ Committee. We were part of more than a thousand people gathered that day, determined to testify on the multiple ways that Senate Bill 4, the Texas "anti-sanctuary cities" bill, was a curse, a pox, and a bad law. The law would authorize, indeed, would require local police officers to act as immigration agents.
We were chatting easily in the hallway, enjoying the remarkable hospitality of fellow traveller, when an older fellow, an American flag bandana tied around his forehead, swaggered up the hall. His name tag identified him as a member of the Fredericksburg Tea Party. The man stopped about fifteen away, scowled at the group for a long moment, and then launched into the Star-Spangled Banner.
To give him credit, he was brave to attack us with such a clumsy weapon. This is a tune with some impossible high notes -- and it goes on forever and ever. It seems to me that it would be just plain hard to express passionate anger for that long a time, but this guy apparently had a lot of bile to fuel his effort.