MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I was a boy, I loved spending time with my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Eula on their small northeast Texas farm. They pulled a frugal living from their 50 acres, raising a little bit of everything. Doing a lot with a little to make ends meet, Ernest and Eula operated on principle of frugality expressed in an old country rhyme: Use it up/ Wear it out/ Make it do/ Or do without.
This meant that when their tractor broke down, they fixed it themselves. Likewise, if their old Zenith console radio went on the fritz, they didn't just order a new one -- they brought out their tool kit and fixed it.
While the media and political powers seem blissfully ignorant of the "lifestyles" of America's commoners, most families are struggling financially and are making do or doing without.For this poor-to-middle-class majority, frugality is not some old-world virtue, but a household necessity, and the "fix-it" ethic is central to their lives. Add to them the millions of do-it-yourselfers who like to tinker or refuse to be a part of the corporate system's throwaway economy.
Today, just about every manufactured product containing software -- from an electric toothbrush to an SUV -- has no-repair clauses and/or digital locks. It's now standard industry practice for manufacturers to insert a spurious claim into their sales agreements that the company retains legal possession of key components of the products they sold to us, and only it can make repairs. To see how insidious this is, let's go back to the farm with Ernest and Eula.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
According to an evaluation conducted by The Boston Globe, the salaries of the top charter school executives in the city are off the charts:
The median pay package for the top leaders of the 16 charter schools in Boston was $170,000 last year, making most of them among the highest-paid public school officials in Boston, according to a Globe review of payroll data.
One charter school leader, Diana Lam of Conservatory Lab, earned more money than Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang, even though she oversaw a school of just 400 students. Lam, who retired in 2016, collected $275,000 in salary and an additional $23,000 for unused personal time off. Chang received $272,000 in total compensation....
The Globe review revealed other big earners: Roger Harris, executive director and senior adviser at Boston Renaissance in Hyde Park, $210,000; Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Academy in Boston and Lynn, $197,500; Owen Stearns, chief executive Excel Academy in East Boston, $193,000; and Karmala Sherwood, executive director of Helen Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, $190,000.
“It’s extraordinary,” said Peggy Wiesenberg, an education advocate who scrutinizes charter-school financing and operations. “These are publicly financed schools and the taxpayers are paying multiple, arguably duplicative top-dollar executive salaries. Will the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Legislature wake up when it comes to financial responsibility here?”
Since the Boston charter schools are not part of the city's public school system, The Globe had to file public records requests with each school to receive the salary information. Although some of the charter school execs earned far less, The Globe article reveals how far the charter school movement has strayed from financial accountability in terms of senior staff.
MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Touching down in Washington D.C. Friday night after a peace delegation to South Korea, I saw the devastating news. No, it was not that Reince Priebus had been booted from the dysfunctional White House. It was that North Korea had conducted another intercontinental ballistic missile test, and that the United States and South Korea had responded by further ratcheting up this volatile conflict.
The response was not just the usual tit-for-tat, which did happen. Just hours after the North Korean test, the U.S. and South Korean militaries launched their own ballistic missiles as a show of force. Even more incendiary, however, is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in also responded by reversing his decision to halt deployment of the U.S. weapon system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). President Moon gave his military the green light to add four more launchers to complete the system.
South Korea's new liberal president came into office May 10 on the wave of a remarkable “people power” uprising that had led to the impeachment and jailing of the corrupt President Park Geun-hye. Part of the legacy Moon inherited was an agreement with the U.S. to provide land and support for THAAD, a missile defense system designed to target and intercept short and medium-range missiles fired by North Korea.
ENVIRONEWS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTEMERSON URRY OF
Radioactive particles of uranium, thorium, radium, cesium, strontium, polonium, tellurium and americium are still afloat throughout Northern Japan more than six years after a tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant causing three full-blown nuclear meltdowns. That was the conclusion reached by two of the world’s leading radiation experts after conducting an extensive five-year monitoring project.
Arnie Gundersen and Marco Kaltofen authored the peer reviewed study titled, Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment, published July 27, 2017, in Science of the Total Environment(STOLEN).
Gundersen represents Fairewinds Associates and is a nuclear engineer, former power plant operator and industry executive, turned whistleblower, and was CNN’s play-by-play on-air expert during the 2011 meltdowns. Kaltofen, of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), is a licensed civil engineer and is renowned as a leading experts on radioactive contamination in the environment.
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If war were moral, legal, defensive, beneficial to the spread of freedom, and inexpensive, we would be obliged to make abolishing it our top priority solely because of the destruction that war and preparations for war do as the leading polluters of our natural environment.
I happened to read a report this week from a US environmental think tank that advocates for the US military to blow up trucks full of oil and gas. The trucks belong to ISIS, and the argument is that bombing trucks does less damage than bombing oil wells, and that -- if you add in vague social and economic factors rather ludicrously quantified with numerical pseudo-precision -- bombing trucks does less damage than doing nothing. The option of working nonviolently for peace, disarmament, aid, and environmental protection is not considered.
If we don't start considering new options, we're going to run out of options entirely. The roughly $1 trillion that the United States puts into militarism each year is the number one way in which war kills and the source of an infinity of not-yet-considered options. Tiny fractions of US military spending could end hunger, the lack of clean water, and various diseases globally. While converting to clean energy could pay for itself in healthcare savings, the funds with which to do it are there, many times over, in the US military budget. One airplane program, the F-35, could be canceled and the funds used to convert every home in the United States to clean energy.
KALPANA KRISHNAMURTHY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Last week my seven year old son got chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for our family included a doctor visit to get IV chemo, a spinal tap, a twice daily steroid (and managing its side effects), and once day chemo pill.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the US Senate included multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to take away his health insurance.
Let's look at it side by side.
Into the late hours of the night last week, US Senators voted time and again on proposals to replace, repeal in full or partially repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In the late hours of the night last week, my son struggled to stay asleep because he gets insomnia from the medicines he takes, because his medicines make him hungry and he needs to eat at night.
For breakfast, some U.S. senators ate in the private Senate dining room — a place where my son and most of us will never eat, even though our tax dollars pay for it.
DAVID NIOSE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It has taken years, but I’ve finally come to terms with one of the most glaring inconsistencies in my own life. Though I hold myself out as a proud progressive, cognitive dissonance has allowed me to enjoy an activity that, in all honesty, directly conflicts with my core beliefs and values. After justifying and rationalizing this activity year after year, knowing deep down inside that it is indefensible, I’m finally ready to confront it:
I can no longer be a fan of the National Football League.
This decision results from an uncomfortable truth that has become increasingly undeniable to me: The NFL, because of the values it fosters on such a grand scale, is arguably the most influential reactionary force in the United States today.
If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider the facts. The NFL’s appeal and cultural influence are vast, with loyal followers, young and old, all over the country who willingly devote large amounts of time and attention to it. Yet the values it propagates are antithetical to a progressive life stance. Militarism, nationalism, corporatism, excessive consumption, and even conservative religion and anti-intellectualism -- all are nurtured, directly or indirectly, with a sprinkling of sexism for good measure, by the league and its activities.
This was not an easy truth for me to face. I’ve followed the NFL longer than I’ve called myself a progressive, since the glory days of Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. And as a New Englander, I suffered decades of disappointment as a Patriots fan before watching the team become a dynasty in the Belichick-Brady era. The Pats just won their fifth Super Bowl, but I’ve come to realize that the NFL, overtly and covertly, stands firmly opposed to my own progressive values. I’m walking away, knowing without a doubt I’m doing the right thing.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Wednesday, July 26, Team Trump carried out an anti-gay trifecta: the president banned transgender Americans from the military; the Justice department filed a brief defending discrimination against gays in the workplace; and, the president nominated a clearly anti-gay partisan to become the ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. Unfortunately, when Donald Trump told the Republican National Convention that he would do all he could “to protect our LGBT citizens,” he apparently was talking about only protecting them from Islamic terrorists, not from himself, or conservative evangelical Christians.
Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender Americans from the military is not the first shot he’s fired in culture wars battles against the LGBT community.
The bringing of Mike Pence, an avowedly anti-gay partisan, onto the ticket, the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch were all signals to evangelical Christians that he has their back.
Now, the seemingly out-of-nowhere tweet regarding transsexual citizens also appears to be aimed at keeping conservative evangelicals locked into the Trumposphere at a time when talk of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angered many of them.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many countries continue to move away from war-on-drugs politics. Contrast the Trump Department of Justice's return to failed anti-drug policies with what occurred in Uruguay this week. It became the first nation in the world to begin the countrywide retail sale of marijuana on July 19. According to the HuffPo,
[Last] Wednesday, Uruguay began sales of legal marijuana for adult residents....
Uruguay’s model will look quite different from the eight U.S. states that have legalized marijuana. Since there is no one-size-fits-all marijuana legalization system, it’s important for each jurisdiction to tailor marijuana regulation to their local needs and contexts, providing the world with different models to learn from.
The Uruguayan model allows four forms of access to marijuana: medical marijuana through the Ministry of Public Health; domestic cultivation of up to six plants per household; membership clubs where up to 45 members can collectively produce up to 99 plants; and licensed sale in pharmacies to adult residents. Regulation will be overseen by the government’s Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA).
The Drug Policy Alliance took note. Hannah Hetzer, the senior international policy manager at the Alliance, said in a press statement:
This is a historic moment. In recent years, Latin American leaders have decried the staggering human, environmental and financial costs of the war on drugs in their region. Uruguay is boldly demonstrating that concrete alternatives to failed prohibitionist policies are possible.