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Sarah Huckabee Sanders screenshot 2(Screen grab: The White House / YouTube)


Not since those early days of President George W. Bush's War on Iraq, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's press briefings were considered must-see television, have we seen press briefings like the ones presided over by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders, who replaced the demoralized and utterly defeated Sean Spicer, personifies the opposite reality of one of Rumsfeld's favorite aphorisms; "known unknowns," as she is a known known.

Known now for her ability to fog up the meaning of just about anything President Donald Trump -- or anyone close to the president -- has said or tweeted, and turn it into hooey gooey fudge, followed by an attack on the press. Comparing Sanders to Sean Spicer, The New York Times' Frank Bruni pointed out in an early November column, that Sanders, "dwells without evident compunction in a gaudier fairyland of grander fictions. There's no panic. No squeak. Just that repulsed expression, as if a foul odor had wafted in and she knew — just knew — that the culprit was CNN."

Bruni called Sanders' press briefings "breathtaking": "Sanders doesn't draw nearly the censure or ridicule that Spicer did, and the reason isn't her," Bruni write. "It's us. More precisely, it's what Trump and his presidency have done to us. Little more than nine months in, we've surrendered any expectation of honesty. We're inured."

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 18 December 2017 07:42

The Great Scamazon


Amazon 1218wrp opt(Photo: simone.brunozzi / Flickr)As you're doing your holiday shopping this season, think about this: While big brand names travel hither, thither and yon to play Milk the Taxpayer, Amazon is totally rewriting the rules of the taxpayer subsidies game, super-sizing their piles of public money without even having to go door to door.

In September, the $136-billion-a-year, multi-tentacled monopolist sparked a prairie fire of excitement among state and local economic development officials when it coyly announced its intention to build a second corporate headquarters in Someplace, North America.

CEO Jeff Bezos baited his location-subsidy trap with red meat, announcing that Amazon "expect[ed] to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs."

Then Bezos & Co. made a bold move: They sat still and waited. Stretching corporate overreach to new lengths, the Amazonian royals bid public officials to approach the Seattle throne with all the jewels, bars of gold, frankincense, myrrh and any other tribute they could muster to show their worthiness for HQ2 (Amazon's name for the proposed co-headquarters). In one stroke, Amazon switched its corporate role from asker to askee and instantly pitted taxpayers, like you and me, across Mexico, Canada and the U.S. against each other in a no-limit bidding war.

Published in Guest Commentary


Jeru 1218wrp optThe Temple Mount (Photo: jaime.silva / Flickr)We were certainly taken aback. There was no conceivable way that the US, an honest powerbroker in the Middle East, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, could ever take sides. But then, out of the wild blue yonder, President Donald Trump chose to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and plans to move the US Embassy there.

While consternation may be the reaction of the Democrat-leaning mainstream media and Democratic politicians, unfortunately there is no reason for such jaw-hanging stupefaction. Though this particular US policy may have now changed, Trump's policy is more of the same.

At least since the 1967 Six Day War, the United States has been Israel's strongest advocate. The US consistently protects Israel's illegal behavior from international condemnation at the United Nations and has provided at least $130 billion in primarily military aid since 1948. Additionally, bipartisan local US politics have recently, in many cases, subordinated the First Amendment to absurd and arguably treasonous "Israel first" laws penalizing supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. In one case, this prevented aid from going to Hurricane Harvey victims in Dickinson, Texas. Oddly enough, those who claim to be fervent far-right adherents of US nationalism (you've heard it, the vapid "America First" slogan) are more than willing to yield their constitutional rights on behalf of another country.

Published in Guest Commentary


Spy 1215wrp opt(Photo: Duncan Hull / Flickr)What could be more exciting for a chickenhawk president who bullies, boasts and brags, then to have his own private spy network at his beck and call? According to The Intercept, that's exactly what Erik Prince is proposing.

Prince's latest proposal, as outlined earlier this month by The Intercept's Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill, is "to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals."

Over the past few weeks, we've been reporting on some of the proposals, projects, and schemes being hatched by Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater private security group (now known as Academi). Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a friend of Steve Bannon, has been on a tear lately, proposing all sorts of big-money projects including the privatization of the war in Afghanistan War, while seizing that country's minerals; forging a partnership with the Chinese to push forward that country's Silk Road project; and, entertain the possibility of running for Senator from Wyoming.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:47

The GOP's Tax Breaks for the Private Jet Set


Jet 1213wrp optOne of 3M's six private Gulfstream 5 jets. (Photo: Alan Light / Flickr)When you think about who benefits from the Republican tax bill the Senate just passed, think of the people who own and ride in private luxury jets.

We know that the benefits of tax bill are skewed to the very wealthy and a handful of global corporations. Republicans have been rushing this bill fully aware that the more people learn, the less they will like it.

As Edward Kleinbard, the esteemed tax economist and former head of the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, observed: "We are squandering a giant sum of money" in this tax bill. "It's not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class."

Kleinbard's donor class aren't people that write $100 checks to candidates. He's talking about billionaires who donate to a wide range of campaign organizations, some with their identity obscured, to move a larger agenda.

Published in Guest Commentary


Wealth 1211wrp(Photo: Ashish Shah / Flickr)America's super-rich are taking not only from their own nation, but also from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (GWD: Table 2-4) and various war reports help to explain why we're alienating people outside our borders. 

From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and U.S. wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years. Based on their dominant share of U.S. wealth, America's richest 10% -- much less than 1% of the world's adult population -- took over HALF the world's wealth gain in the past five years.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 08 December 2017 06:28

The Democratic Values of Net Neutrality


Net 1208wrp opt(Photo: Vision Planet Media / Flickr)We're told by politicos, pundits and internet providers themselves that access to the net is crucial to our educational achievement, future prosperity and ability to be self-governing. Yet, while this digital highway is deemed vital to our nation's well-being, access to it is not offered as a public service — i.e., an investment in the common good. Instead, it is treated as just another profit center for a few corporations — so few that selling broadband access to the world wide web has become a very lucrative source of what economists call "monopoly rents," the ability of corporations in a non-competitive market to extract excess profits from customers.

Even with the monopoly rents, the great virtue of the internet is that no one controls its content. This digital communication technology has been so spectacularly successful and so socially valuable because it is a wide-open, democratic forum, accessible on equal terms to all who want to put information, images, opinions, etc. on it or to download any of the same from it. Since its invention, the guiding principle behind the use of this liberating technology has been that no corporation, government, religion or other controlling power should be its gatekeeper, impeding the free and equal flow of communication to and from those who use it (yes, there is some censorship around the world, as well as here at home, but clever users commonly find their way around it).


Published in Guest Commentary


TeslaBat 1206wrp optA Tesla battery pack. (Photo: Amy Robinson / Flickr)After deploying a solar and battery system to a children's hospital in San Juan this October, Tesla has installed six more similar systems to help power the hurricane-wrecked islands of Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Governor Ricardo Rossello's office said that Tesla installed the new units as "a humanitarian effort."

More than two months have passed since Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico's already weakened electric grid. Restoration of power has been set back by frequent outages and mired in controversy (i.e. Whitefish Energy). Electric capacity is only at 68 percent after the Sept. 20 storm hit.

As reported by Electrek, Tesla's Powerpack systems on Vieques and Culebra will act as microgrids until the main grid connected via underwater cables switches back on.

The packs will help provide the 8,825 people in Vieques and 1,797 in Culebra with reliable and renewable energy. The systems are installed at key areas, including a sanitary sewer treatment plant, the Arcadia water pumping station, the Ciudad Dorada elderly community, the Susan Centeno hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club of Vieques.

Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority executive Elí Díaz Atienza told Electrek that each system has a capacity of 250kW/500kWh and they can run "the Vieques facility 70 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity and the installation of Culebra 100 percent of the time at 100 percent capacity."

Published in Guest Commentary


CAfire 1206wrp opt(Photo: Doc Searls / Flickr)California is burning again. A massive wildfire fueled by powerful Santa Ana winds has spread some 31,000 acres in Southern California, destroying 150 structures and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate.

The outbreak comes not long after October's string of devastating wildfires in Northern California that killed 44 people—the deadliest in state history.

The Thomas Fire started Monday night in Santa Paula and has burned into the city limits of Ventura, just north of Los Angeles, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. Five-hundred fire fighters are on site with additional fire resources en-route.

Published in Guest Commentary


Escalante 1205wrp optThe Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (Photo: Bureau of Land Management / Flickr)Only hours after Donald Trump announced his administration would be significantly shrinking the boundaries for much of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah, environmental groups filed a lawsuit, naming President Donald J. Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Brian Steed as the culprits, for what they say was an "unlawful" act.

On December 4, 2017, the President made the announcement official by signing two proclamations at a speech at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, rescinding protections for nearly two million acres of federal land, in what USA Today called "the largest rollback of national monument designations in history."

The move effectively eliminates Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and replaces it with three non-contiguous units called, "Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits, and Escalante Canyons." One of the proclamations also rolled back protections on Bears Ears National Monument — a pristine area harboring many tribal artifacts and other indigenous ruins, designated by Barack Obama at the end of his presidency.

Published in Guest Commentary
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