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Wages 0409wrp opt(Photo: kyle rw / Flickr)It's starting to happen, as teachers around the country are fighting back against income and wealth inequality. At least 3 of every 4 Americans have been cheated out of a share of U.S. productivity since the 1980s. The approximately one of four Americans who have prospered, especially those in the top 5%, generally don't seem to care much about inequality, and instead hang onto delusions about their own self-worth and the struggles of people who "don't work hard enough." 

From various trusted sources come maddening facts about the relentlessly expanding wealth divide. Inequality is a perversion of human conduct, as most of society's new benefits have derived from automation, and thus from decades of public input, taxpayer funding, and government research. But the beneficiaries are those who are well-connected to the corporate and financial processes exploiting that growth, mainly through stock ownership. 

The rest of America has been left behind, but their voices are getting louder.

Published in Guest Commentary


Jesus 0409wrp opt(Photo: Georgio / Flickr)Is there a crack developing in the close and cozy relationship between conservative evangelical Christians and President Donald Trump? Will the Stormy Daniels story a straw-breaking event? It may have been bad reporting or wishful thinking, but the mainstream media has a history of misunderstanding or totally underestimating the political staying power of Religious Right. Now, in the wake of multiple Trump administration scandals, the mainstream press is reporting that evangelical supporters of Trump are preparing for a June meeting that will presumably allow them to air their grievances. However, don't count on Trump being taken to the woodshed. Politically savvy evangelicals understand that their political agenda is inextricably linked to the political fortunes of the president and a Republican-controlled Congress.

In realty, several conservative evangelical leaders, continue to, as The Advocate's Neal Broverman put it "still love the thrice-married man who bragged about grabbing women's genitals." While support for Trump amongst evangelicals may have slipped in the immediate aftermath of the Stormy Daniels' revelations, that drop-off appears to have dissipated.

Nevertheless, as Paul Weber, President and CEO of the Family Policy Alliance put it in a piece titled, "Perfect Values & Imperfect Leaders": "[I]n these times of division, scandal and seamy exploits by our leaders paraded on television in the form of journalism—it can be particularly painful for our families and for our nation. Never has there been a time where this has been more apparent than with the Trump Presidency."

Published in Guest Commentary


Trophy 0328wrp opt(Photo: Ann Wuyts / Flickr)Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has assembled a new outdoor recreation advisory panel dominated by top executives from the industry.

The 15-member "Made in America" Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee will advise Sec. Zinke on issues surrounding public lands. They include officials that represent fishing, shooting sports, motorized vehicles and hospitality as well as national park concessionaires.

"The Made in America Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee is made up of the private sector's best and brightest to tackle some of our biggest public lands infrastructure and access challenges," Zinke announced Monday.

"The committee's collective experience as entrepreneurs and business leaders provide (sic) unique insight that is often lost in the federal government."

The Washington Post reported that Zinke did not appoint committee nominees offered by the Outdoor Industry Association, which advocates for activities such as mountain climbing, hiking and kayaking. The association has criticized President Trump's decision last year to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

Published in Guest Commentary


Spill 0328wrp opt(Photo: Patrick Luckow / Flickr)An oil spill of approximately 550 barrels (23,100 gallons) has killed more than 2,400 fish, birds and reptiles near the city of Barrancabermeja, Colombia, RCN Radio reported.

Oil started spilling from the Lizama 158 oil field in early March and spread down 15 miles of the Lizama river and 12.4 miles of the Sogamoso river.

According to local media, it took Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol three weeks to respond to the environmental disaster.

Colombia Reports noted that the crude started escaping the oil field on March 3 but it was only this past Saturday that Ecopetrol vowed to send heavy equipment that could stop the spill.

The company said Tuesday that the spill is fully controlled and workers are carrying out environmental monitoring of the rivers. The cause of the spill is currently unclear but an investigation is underway.

Published in Guest Commentary


China 0326wrp optChina Pavilion (Photo: Wojtek Gurak / Flickr)This month, China's National People's Congress, its Communist Party controlled legislature, has passed a new edition of the country's Constitution. Among other amendments, Chinese parliamentarians have almost unanimously approved an amendment to abolish the term limit on the presidency. The press secretary of the parliamentary session, Zhang Yesui, has stated that there is a need to adopt these amendments due to the "revolutionary changes ... especially after the 18th Party Congress," when the affirmation of a "socialism with Chinese characteristics" as a system (zhidu) was first written into the Party constitution, and Xi Jinping was elected a general secretary of the Communist Party and the president of a country. As for such "revolutionary" changes in China, they are, indeed, facing a need to deal with the new challenges -- primarily in the economy.

In 1989, after the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre, China started to develop a unique civilizational path that integrated an authoritarian (nearly totalitarian) political regime with a market economy. Back then, China neglected to choose a path of democratization, having seen its disastrous results for Russia right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the early '90s, Russia tried to adapt a market economy without any necessary preparation and embraced an unlimited market freedom without any government regulation or control whatsoever.

Published in Guest Commentary


Capitalism 0322wrp opt(Photo: The Hamster Factor / Flickr)Today's captains of corporate capitalism like to think of themselves not as mere businesspeople, but as modern society's genius "innovators."

Sounds positive... until you ask the key question: Innovation for what purpose? After all, some of society's most inventive minds are flimflammers, Ponzi-schemers, gamers and embezzlers. Sure enough, an inordinate amount of the innovation comes out of corporate suites these days, amounting to shameless schemes to dupe and rip off rank and file workers.

The latest of these is a hustle called "gamification," an attempt by such giants as T-Mobile and Walt Disney to give game-like, "psychological" prizes to employees rather than giving pay raises or cash bonuses. As the honchos of United Airlines learned, however, not everyone bites the corporate bait.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 22 March 2018 07:04

Normalizing the United States of Violence


War 0322wrp opt(Photo: Stewart Black / Flickr)Addressing the Parkland shootings last month, and the apparent emergence of a movement for tougher, saner gun laws that has followed, a USA Today article asked: "What has been so different from all the other mass shootings over the years?"

In one sense, this is a reasonable question. Why now? Why didn't it happen after, you know . . . Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Orlando, Charleston, Sandy Hook, Aurora? And the list goes on.

But, come on. Doesn't something stunningly horrifying resonate, however faintly, in these words? How can this phrase — "all the other mass shootings?" — be out there with such matter-of-fact, cheerful neutrality, such ordinariness?

The answer, of course, is that this is a violent — an increasingly violent — country. But I still feel a disbelieving cry echo somewhere deep in my being as I read these words, and refuse to simply push on. It's almost as though the wording in this paragraph contains not just the question but the answer: If the slaughter of innocent people can be folded so neatly into a phrase, "mass shooting," allowing us to categorize one, then another, then another act of senseless carnage and file it away as recent history, then move on with our lives, might that not be a serious cause of the nothing-we-can-do-about-it syndrome gripping America?

Published in Guest Commentary


Cash0321wrp opt(Photo: Jackie / Flickr)Over the past several months, firearms companies and gun dealers are complaining about a "Trump Slump," with several companies reporting disappointing sales. Nevertheless, many states remain economically dependent on the firearms industry.

In a new report titled "2018's States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry," the personal finance website, WalletHub, "compared the economic impact of guns on each of the 50 states to determine which among them leans most heavily on the gun business, both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through ownership."

How heavily does your state depend on the firearms industry? Where does your state stand in relation to the rest of the nation, in terms of gun industry jobs, political contributions from gun advocacy organizations, and gun ownership?

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 21 March 2018 06:58

A Culture of Violence That Starts at the Top


Bell 0321wrp opt(Photo: Bradley Weber / Flickr)When presenting its foreign policy goals, the Trump administration has used particularly shocking language, intensifying a culture of violence in Washington that is spreading fear throughout much of the world.

Over the past year, administration officials have called for "viciousness" in espionage operations, "lethality" in military programs and the "annihilation" of US enemies. Although President Trump recently called on the US people to create a culture that "condemns violence and never glorifies violence," his administration has continuously called for more violent military operations throughout the world.

To some degree, the Trump administration's penchant for violence is nothing new. Both the Bush and Obama administrations embraced violent military interventions as solutions to global problems. All three administrations maintained a continuous war on terror, one that has claimed more than 370,000 lives, according to the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Published in Guest Commentary


AltRight 0319wrp opt(Photo: Blink O'fanaye / Flickr)The alt-right, with its passel of unknown principals, and ultra-active social media platforms, took the mainstream media by surprise. In his book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in The Age of Trump, veteran journalist and right-wing watcher David Neiwert, writes that the mainstream media "largely succumbed to the whitewashed version of the [alt-right] movement peddled by Breitbart.com," by frequently referring to the alt-right as being a collection of provocateurs, whose "goal," as The Washington Post once characterized it, "is often offensiveness for the sake of offensiveness in the way that many young white men embrace."

But the goals of the alt-right have always been more than mere provocation or offensiveness. In 2009, the white nationalist, Richard Spencer, coined the term "alternative right" while an editor at the paleoconservative Taki's Magazine. "Less than year later," Neiwert writes in Alt-America, Spencer "founded his own webzine and named it 'The Alternative Right.' In short order, the nature of Internet discourse at the site shortened the name of the movement it promoted to 'alt-right.' The name stuck."  

With backing from the anti-immigrant polemicist, Peter Brimelow, and the VDare Foundation, Spencer's publication fully embraced "white nationalism as his guiding philosophy, including its conspiracism, its underlying racism, and its anti-Semitism," Neiwert pointed out.

Published in Guest Commentary
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