BRUCE A. JACOBS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Donald Trump successively outdoes his own descent into further debasement of the presidency and of human decency itself. The president's recent low on the world stage was his taking a wrecking ball to the 2018 G7 talks, during and after which he hurled personal insults and lies at world leaders and reneged on a negotiated agreement he had agreed to sign. Think Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table at the United Nations, but then imagine him hurling it into the crowd as a device rigged to explode.
In the ruins of Trump's G7, prime ministers and the press staggered amid the flames and debris. "Trump stuns allies, won't sign G7 joint agreement," shouted Politico as it chronicled the details of Trump's latest blitzkrieg. A photo of the Trump-centered chaos at the gathering, released by the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, became an instant icon of Trump's singular talent as a locus of destruction. There sat Trump, alone at the table, arms folded petulantly, at the center of attention as he always demands, surrounded by a group of standing adults, led by Merkel, beseeching him to yield and to allow the class to pick up where it left off before he began throwing things.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Have you heard of QAnon? I hadn’t until I read a piece by Vice’s Justin Caffier titled “A Comprehensive Guide to QAnon, the Final Boss of Conspiracy Theories.” Caffier’s piece opened up a new world of intrigue, secrecy, and huggermuggers beyond even my rather jaded imagination. As he pointed out, “Just asking [about QAnon] sucks you into a world that's like Pizzagate on bath salts, a galaxy-brained, 4chan-bred conspiracy theory that has apparently convinced an alarming number of adults that all kinds of preposterous things are true.”
What do Birthers -- President Obama was not a US citizen; anti-vaxers -- child vaccinations cause autism; Climate Change deniers -- Global warming is a hoax; and, Pizzagaters -- Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were running a sex, trafficking enterprise out a of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor, have in common? They are all relatively recent popular conspiracy theories that have been endorsed by large numbers of ordinary citizens despite being debunked by facts. Conspiracy theories have homes throughout the Internet, on websites, blogs, twitter, and Reddit posts.
While modern day conspiracy theories are not the sole provenance of conservatives -- although right-wing conspiracy theories are de riguer these days -- they are as old as history itself. “Even back in the Roman era, there are prominent examples of conspiracy theories, and these are typically connected to major crisis situations,” Jan-Willem van Prooijen and Karen M. Douglas recently wrote in a paper titled “Conspiracy theories as part of history: The role of societal crisis situations.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As of the end of 2017, Amazon employed 541,900 people worldwide. The number of employees continues to grow, and the company has promised to hire at least 50,000 more of them when it opens its second headquarters -- in a city as yet to be determined -- in the next few years.
Geekwire noted in a February 1 article of the firm's behemoth growth:
For comparison sake, Amazon now employs more people than live in the cities of Albuquerque, N.M., (559,000) or Tucson, Ariz., (530,000) and by next quarter will likely pass Milwaukee, Wisc. (595,000).
Amazon’s total employment is also catching up with Seattle’s total population (704,352), and is now bigger than its home city was in 2000 (564,000).
However, there is miserly side of Amazon and other large companies in Seattle -- including Starbucks. This became clear after the city council passed a levy on companies that earned $20 million or more in gross yearly revenue. These companies, under the ordinance approved last month, would have placed a $275-per-employee tax on large companies to help improve the living conditions of homeless people in Seattle.
However, Amazon led a coalition of big businesses to have the levy rescinded, and it was successful, with the ordinance being negated only a few short weeks after it was passed.
JOSHUA PEARCE FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Americans are concerned that the ongoing trade war with China (and now our allies in Europe and Canada) will hurt the US economy. Trump's tariffs have already scared investors and threatened our retirement accounts, but less obviously, tariffs can also indirectly kill us.
The rapid growth of solar energy in the US, spurred on by the drop in costs for solar technology, has led to low-cost solar cells replacing higher-cost inefficient coal plants. These solar cells are manufactured in China and are being threatened by Trump's tariffs. Ironically, these same Chinese-made solar cells are literally saving American lives because they offset coal-fired pollution. Pollution from coal-fired power plants is a well-known source of human illness and premature death. Thus, anything that stunts solar growth indirectly kills Americans.
How many additional Americans must die?
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
That's just one outlandish example of the job-related hyperbole we've been subjected to. We keep hearing about the low unemployment rate and the "booming" economy. "Economic news has been staggeringly good," said Jared Whitley, associate director in the White House under George W. Bush. More hype comes from CNN Money, which talks about "opportunities for almost everyone"; and the windy Wall Street Journal, which claims that "Americans traditionally left behind...are reaping the benefits.."
The super-capitalists want us to believe that they know what they're talking about. Part of their strategy, based on a neoliberal disdain for any government efforts to provide opportunities for average people, is to perpetuate the myth, as Milton Friedman said, that "the free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people." Part of this myth is a job for everyone, or "full employment," which many economists believe we have attained with an unemployment rate under 4 percent.
But "jobs for all" is a fantasy, if we're talking about family-sustaining, living-wage jobs, as we should. The facts make that clear.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"Progress is a nice word," said Bobby Kennedy. "But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies." Over the decades, that sobering reality has confronted every group of Americans who've endeavored to advance our society's democratic ideals of fairness, justice and opportunities for all. From the revolutionaries of the 1770s to today's grassroots rebels engaged in multiple struggles for democratic rights, every inch of progress has been vehemently opposed by entrenched enemies of change. Invariably, the upstart activists of democracy movements find themselves trivialized as unworthy and uppity by elite protectors of the status quo — "What is it those people want, anyway?" they ask with dismissive sneers.
In the early 1900s, that question was answered succinctly and eloquently by Samuel Gompers, the founding president of the American Federation of Labor. Union organizers were routinely being oppressed and literally brutalized by rapacious corporate barons, hired thugs and corrupt politicians and judges — yet they kept organizing, protesting and challenging the power structure. Why? Not just for themselves, Gompers explained, but for the Common Good:
"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In an administration of grifters, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt stands out. Pruitt has ripped off taxpayers for personal first-class travel, ordered aides to perform personal tasks, used government connections to try and find a job for his wife, and even asked an assistant to pursue buying a “Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top” mattress from the Trump Hotel in Washington. Pruitt managed to get a lobbyist to charge him a bargain $50 a night to stay at a Capitol Hill condo. Then, to add to the list, at government expense he built a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office. What is stunning is that these actions are only a partial list of Pruitt's benefiting at the taxpayer's expense and his lack of ethics.
Trump has not drained the swamp with Pruitt; he has tolerated a cesspool of corruption.
However, Pruitt's profound harm to Americans is more due to his policies than his personal errant behavior. Take for example two recent developments in his capitulation to the chemical industry.
XAVIER BEST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A Border Patrol agent's brutal killing of Claudia Gómez González last month in Texas is just one in a growing litany of atrocities committed against Central Americans making the treacherous journey north. Still, her fate in particular stands out as a potent symbol of the legal and moral bankruptcy that has informed US immigration policy for decades.
As an Indigenous woman from Guatemala, González's killing is a distant consequence of policies stretching back to the days of the Dwight Eisenhower administration. Back then, in 1954, the CIA organized a military coup against Guatemala's second democratically-elected leader Jacobo Arbenz. After he enacted land redistribution policies designed to empower the country's farmers, the US government, acting on behalf of the United Fruit Company (UFCO), mobilized its agents to depose him and install a military dictatorship.
Writing in his classic study of this period in Guatemalan history, Shattered Hope, renowned Latin American scholar Piero Gleijeses described the UFCO as a "colossus" that expanded its dominion across Central America with "ruthlessness, skill, and ambition," adding that, "UFCO's annual budget was larger than those of the Central American countries in which it operated." Naturally, a corporation with this degree of economic leverage shaped much more than simply what people purchased at the market. United Fruit also determined how people traveled, how information was transmitted and, as in the case of the 1954 coup, who governed them. Fast-forward to 2018, and Guatemala, along with a host of other nations south of the US border, is still wrestling with the horrific legacy of this period.
ANDREW AUSTIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While students and allies march and rally for stricter gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, police departments around the country have joined with school districts to push for more armed officers in schools.
Cops in schools have become an article of faith for law enforcement. Their efforts are being assisted by the National Association of School Resources Officers, which lobbies for more school resource officers (SROs) and touts the occupation as "the fastest-growing area of law enforcement," as well as the National Rifle Association, which represents the firearm and security companies who stand to profit from increased spending on school safety measures.
A SRO is a sworn law enforcement agent who is empowered to make arrests. SROs are usually armed with handcuffs, a loaded gun, an electroshock device, a tearing agent and an inventory of coercive physical techniques to achieve pain compliance.
The phenomenon of the SRO is associated with the appearance of "target hardening" approaches (bars, barriers, fences, hostile planting), surveillance, metal detectors, active-shooter drills and threat assessment training for teachers and administrators.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the midst of a presidential administration and Republican majority in Congress that deny the reality of global warming, factual research continues to indicate the looming disaster of climate change. However, due to the mainstream corporate media focus on the spectacle of Trump, there is little sustained coverage of the peril that awaits us, even though the warning signs are occasionally reported on. Furthermore, the "alternative facts" of the climate deniers stifle intensive coverage of the ruinous future due to relative inaction on reducing carbon and methane emissions.
On June 13 The Washington Post reported on a study that has just been released:
Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.
The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.
The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.
In the period from 2012-2017, Antarctica lost 219 billion tons of ice each year, according to The Post. The article reveals a stunning comparison to that figure: "From 1992 through 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tons of ice annually." That's an increase of 170 billion tons of ice melt.