Guest Commentary (5293)
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"From all of the events of this past year I have a profound concern that the mission of stewardship, protection, and advancement of our National Parks has been set aside," the head of the panel, Tony Knowles, wrote in a letter of resignation addressed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees management of the country's national parks and monuments.
The letter was signed by nine of the panel's 12 members. The bipartisan panel was appointed by former President Obama. The terms of the members who quit were due to expire in May.
The advisory board, first authorized in 1935, advises the director of the National Park Service and the interior secretary on matters relating to the National Park Service and the National Park System.
DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I get to introduce three terrific speakers to you on the topic of Latin America and the Caribbean, but first I'm allowed to say what I'm thinking for five minutes, so I'll do that. I'm thinking that the first European bases on this coast were foreign bases, that they moved west, and that the practice has never paused. I live almost next door to the former home of James Monroe whose Monroe Doctrine, as evolved and abused over the centuries, ought to be buried. The U.S. policy of antidemocratically and often violently seeking to dominate the nations to its south, in the name of preventing some other force from doing so, has seen its shelf-life expire. The communism excuse is gone. The terrorism and drugs excuses are weak and getting weaker.
The United States keeps small numbers of troops in almost every country or territory to its south, with the biggest numbers in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Honduras, and El Salvador, with many more within striking distance in Texas and Florida, where the U.S. maintains a command center that claims to command the hemisphere. The U.S. even has use of an island in the middle of the Atlantic that the British used in the Falklands war. And its bases include one at the tip of South America.
Is Latin America a military threat to the United States or the world? Hardly. The threat perceived by some segment of the U.S. is of an influx of refugees from hardships, including mostly human-created disasters, and most of those created in part by U.S. militarism. Of all the world's big weapons dealers, none are located in Central or South America or the Caribbean. But almost the entire area is sent weapons from the United States. While the U.S. encourages higher military spending in these countries and sets an example by spending over $1 trillion per year itself, Brazil is the only country in the region to spend over 1% of that, or $10 billion. It spends $24 billion. Every nation in this region and on earth spends closer to Costa Rica's $0 than to the United States' $1 trillion.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While Trump continues to dominate mass media coverage with his tweetstorms, thousands of refugees continue to die trying to seek asylum in Europe. It is not a story that can compete with the sensationalism of a president who understands the values of modern corporate media. After all, Trump's outrageous tweets are good for attracting news consumers, and that enhances advertising dollars. Add that to compassion fatigue, and the deaths of those desperate to escape insufferable conditions end up receiving little coverage.
The objective of most European nations has been to work with Libya and other nations to prevent asylum seekers from making the perilous journey to Europe. This strategy, of course, doesn't deal with the root causes of mass emigration. Furthermore, as Al Jazeera News reported toward the end of last year: while the number of refugees has decreased, the percentage of deaths has actually increased. This tragic phenomenon is due to the increased use of the hazardous route from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in many drownings.
As Al Jazeera explains,
At this year's rate, one refugee dies for every 50 who make it to Europe. Last year, one person died for every 90 who safely reached Europe.
BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Thursday, January 11, the sixteenth anniversary of the opening of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was marked by a coalition of 15 human rights organizations gathered in Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in Washington, DC. An interfaith prayer service was followed by a rally featuring song and poetry and addresses by activists from the sponsoring organizations, including attorneys for some of those detained at Guantanamo, few of these charged with any crime and some cleared for release years ago. Despite his declaration that "In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantanamo, we have compromised our most precious values," President Obama failed to fulfill his promise to close the prison and days before his inauguration last year, Donald Trump tweeted, "There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."
I participated in the day’s events as part of the Witness Against Torture community. This was our fourth day of fasting, reflection and action together and many of us wore orange jump suits and black hoods representing the 41 Muslim men still held there. After the rally, WAT performed a simple ritual, serving 41 cups of tea one at a time to "detainees" who each lifted their hood to accept their cup and take a sip before laying it down in a row on the sidewalk. The names of the men were spoken aloud and had been written on each of the styrofoam cups, remembering that drawing and writing on such cups has been one of few outlets for expression for many detainees.
KEN HANNAFORD-RICARDI FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The number of visitors passing through the Afghan Peace Volunteers' (APVs') Borderfree Nonviolence Community Center in Kabul is incredible. Each afternoon, nearly sixty high-school-age students attend free classes to prepare them for the rigorous KanKor test, required of every Afghan desiring to attend public university. By 8:00 this morning, women from neighboring districts had begun arriving on foot, by taxi, or on bicycle, bringing hand-sewn duvets which the young APV's will distribute to the city's poor. There is no sign on the door; the address is not published; there is no central telephone number. And yet they come.
Almost immediately following lunch this afternoon, a young university student arrived, bringing unexpected news concerning the recent bombing of a Shia cultural center which had killed 45 people and injured many more. Well-dressed in jeans and warm sweater, he told us that three female relatives had been at the center at the time of the blasts. Two had been killed; the other was expected to recover. A fourth victim, the young man's friend, had also perished.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It is said that the rich and poor will always be among us — but nowhere is it written that the middle class is a sure thing.
Even in this country of grand egalitarian aspirations — where the common yeoman (neither rich nor poor) has been hailed from 1776 forward as America's greatest strength — the U.S. actually had no broad middle class until one was created in the 1930s and '40s. Before then, most Americans either lived in poverty or right next door.
And, yes, "created" is the correct term for how our middle class came to be, with two historic forces of social transformation pushing it. First, the widespread economic devastation of the Great Depression created a grassroots rebellion of labor, farmers, poor people, the elderly and others against the careless moneyed class that caused the crash. These forces produced FDR and his New Deal of Social Security, worker rights and protections, consumer laws, anti-monopoly restraints and other policies that put government on the side of the people, empowering them to counter much of the corporate greed preventing their upward mobility.
Second, the government's national mobilization for World War II created an explosion of new jobs, growth and opportunities for millions who'd long been blocked from sharing in our nation's prosperity. The war effort opened people's eyes, boosted confidence and raised expectations, leading to a post-war rise in unionism, passage of the GI Bill, a housing boom and a doubling of the median family income in only 30 years. In short, by the late 1970s, we had created a middle class that included nearly 60 percent of Americans.
RACHEL BUFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I was in graduate school during the 1990s, I became friends with a Salvadoran refugee who fled his country after being tortured by the police. His name was not Daniel, but I'll call him that in this piece, in the event that he is still alive and prefers anonymity.
Daniel hadn't been politically active back home. But his brother, a union organizer, was murdered by one of the death squads still operating in the country in the long wake of the US-backed "Dirty Wars" there. After his brother's death, Daniel was arrested and tortured. When he got out of jail, he left the country on foot. He walked through Central America to Mexico, crossed the US border, and hopped trains until he wound up in Minnesota. Speaking little English, he had no idea where he was for most of his travels in the US.
Eventually, Daniel attained Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Created in 1990 to respond to "extraordinary and temporary" global conditions, such as hurricane or "ongoing armed conflict," TPS provides short-term harbor -- terms of six to 18 months, renewable at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- for refugees from specifically designated countries: such as hundreds of thousands of people like Daniel.
LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
"I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver," Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke said Tuesday. "As a result of discussion with Governor Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."
President Trump's proposal to massively expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts drew criticism from liberals and conservatives alike, who warn that such operations at sea could expose coastal areas to the risks of blowouts, explosions, catastrophic spills and seismic blasting.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
One would think that when the Department of Justice nabs a terrorist, they would be beaming from ear-to-ear, and, taking pains to let the public know about their success. Perhaps a press release. Maybe a press conference. After all, arrests like that boosts careers. Unfortunately, the Trump Justice Dept., currently under the leadership of Jeff Sessions, is taking cues from the Big Kahuna himself, tending to downplay domestic terrorism. After all, said Trump, after this summer's neo-Nazi, Alt-Right tödlicher Aufruhr (deadly riot in German) in Charlottesville, Virginia, there are "some very fine people" on both sides.
I'm assuming that Trump doesn't think that Taylor Michael Wilson is one of those "very fine people." However, according to the Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly, "The Justice Department didn't do any of [the above] when federal prosecutors unsealed terrorism charges" against Wilson.
"The 26-year-old white supremacist from St. Charles, Missouri, allegedly breached a secure area of an Amtrak train on Oct. 22 while armed with a gun and plenty of backup ammunition," Reilly reported. "He set off the emergency brake, sending passengers lunging as the train cars went 'completely black.'"
The incident, which occurred in late October, received very little play in the media. Reilly point out that at first the case was not treated like a domestic terrorist incident. After all, officials may have assumed, no Muslim involvement, no terrorism. "A subsequent FBI investigation, however, painted a disturbing portrait of an individual who escalated his radical activity in recent years as he built up a massive gun stash, even hiding weapons and extremist propaganda in a secret compartment behind his refrigerator," Reilly noted.
JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The days of having your own doctor and a stable way to access care are rapidly disappearing as the drive to increase corporate mergers of health care giants gains further momentum. Under the guise of bringing patients more convenience in accessing care, we are seeing instead increasing fragmentation of health care as merging giants get even bigger and more profitable.
Here are some recent examples of this fast-moving trend:
As the largest health insurer in the U. S. by market share and the largest health care company in the world by revenue, UnitedHealth Group has been moving aggressively into the direct delivery of health care by buying up doctors' groups and clinics across the country. UnitedHealth already had a roster of some 30,000 physicians across more than 230 urgent care centers and 200 surgery centers as well as its pharmacy benefit manager serving 65 million people. Within its broader goal of building a larger ambulatory care business, it recently bought the DaVita Medical Group for about $4.9 billion. That purchase added about 280 clinics offering primary and specialist care, together with 35 urgent care centers and 6 outpatient surgery centers. Its longer-term goal is to provide primary care and ambulatory services in 75 markets, representing about two-thirds of the U. S. population. (Mathews, AW. UnitedHealth to Buy Large Doctor Group for $4.9 Billion. Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2017: B3)
KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
People living now in Yemen's third largest city, Ta'iz, have endured unimaginable circumstances for the past three years. Civilians fear to go outside lest they be shot by a sniper or step on a land mine. Both sides of a worsening civil war use Howitzers, Kaytushas, mortars and other missiles to shell the city. Residents say no neighborhood is safer than another, and human rights groups report appalling violations, including torture of captives. Two days ago, a Saudi-led coalition bomber killed 54 people in a crowded market place.
Before the civil war developed, the city was regarded as the official cultural capital of Yemen, a place where authors and academics, artists and poets chose to live. Ta'iz was home to a vibrant, creative youth movement during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Young men and women organized massive demonstrations to protest the enrichment of entrenched elites as ordinary people struggled to survive.
The young people were exposing the roots of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Forgotten Man," writes, "you will find [Rothbard's name] scrawled on the seamy underbelly of the web, in the message boards of the alt-right, where fewer voices are more in the air than Rothbard's."The name may not ring a bell, but Murray Rothbard may be one the most influential figures in the modern history of right-wing populism, the alt-right, and Trumpism itself. Although relatively unknown, John Ganz, in an essay in The Baffler titled "
Rothbard was born in the Bronx to immigrant Jewish parents from Eastern Europe. He was an economist, philosopher, political theorist, and historian who joyfully went to war against the elite conservative establishment. He helped establish libertarianism as a viable political entity, and convinced Charles Koch to pony up money to establish the Cato Institute, the nation's premier libertarian think tank.
He was "contemptuous and hostile" of the civil rights and women's suffrage movement, according to Michael O'Malley, Associate Professor of History at George Mason University. He called for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the overturning of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. He was an advocate of unleashing the police to "clear the streets of bums and vagrants," and "allow [the police] to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error." And, he repeatedly expressed admiration for David Duke, Roy Cohn and Senator Joseph McCarthy.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
That's not hyperbole. There is ample evidence for a growing inability of people around the world to maintain the basic human needs of physical health and mental stability and a living wage and a desire to live in peace.
Most of us recognize the need for some semblance of equality in our relationships with others. But a smallish group of shockingly wealthy households around the world -- especially in America -- is gaining more and more power along with their wealth. They're making it nearly impossible to reverse the deadly effects of an unnaturally unequal society, in part because they're no longer connected to the world beyond their estates. They police us, they starve our public institutions, they abhor any form of social cooperation, they blame the poor for being poor. The means to restore some balance is steadily slipping away.
The Richest .01% Are Wealth-Obese
In the United States, where wealth inequality is extreme and getting worse (see analysis here):
-- The richest 12,600 households (the .01%) have an average of over $800,000,000 in wealth (mostly financial)
-- The poorest 63,000,000 households (the bottom 50%) have an average of about $16,000 in wealth (mostly housing)
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Inequality doesn't just come out of the blue; it's intentionally created by decisions that elites make — usually behind closed doors, so those knocked down don't know what (or who) hit them.
Take America's 4 million fast-food workers, whose average pay hovers around a miserly $300 a week before taxes.
With the labor market tightening, why don't they just hop down the street to another franchise offering a better deal? Many try that, only to be rejected again and again, unaware that most fast-food chains have hidden within their franchising contracts "no-hire agreements," prohibiting one franchisee from hiring another's employees.
In a landmark study this year, two prominent labor economists at Princeton found that these secret bans on wage competition are used by more than 70,000 chain restaurants, including Burger King, Carl's Jr., Domino's and Pizza Hut.. By colluding to prevent millions of Americans from switching jobs to increase their incomes and opportunities, these giants have artificially kept the pay of fast-food workers and many other franchise employees stuck at poverty levels. That's one place inequality comes from — and it's downright un-American.