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Monday, 23 April 2018 07:15

Examining the Kochtopus


Koch 0423wrp opt(Photo: Walter Siegmund)Multibillionaires Charles and David Koch want nothing less than to supplant America's core democratic principle of majority rule — the will of The People — with their core plutocratic principle of inviolable property rights, also known as domination by the wealthy minority. Their notion is that "property" (accumulated wealth and the means to get it) is sacrosanct and cannot be restricted by the pesky majority for the Common Good. Cloaking their efforts with layers of dark-money front groups, the Koch brothers have used their enormous assets to mount a far-ranging, ultrasophisticated assault on American democracy.

From their early involvement in The John Birch Society (daddy Fred Koch being an early member), they continued their rightward march, and by the 1970s, both had plunged into the abyss of a laissez-fairyland plutocracy. With the fervor of religious cultists, they've devoted themselves to the cause of "liberty" — by which they mean the government's only proper role is keeping the avaricious pursuits of the wealthy owner class free from any interference by you, me and the democratic "us." They believe that We The People can neither tax the riches of the owner class nor set rules on how it treats workers, consumers, nature ... and society as a whole.


Raza 0423wrp opt(Photo: Nathan Rupert / Flickr)Despite a favorable 2017 court decision, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) school board continues to refuse to abide by a historic ruling against the state of Arizona in regards to the 2010 legislation HB 2281. This Orwellian legislation outlawed the teaching of courses that promoted segregation or race hatred; it fined any Arizona school district that was found to be out of compliance 10 percent of its budget.

The court found that the state was motivated by racial animus in the passage of the anti-Ethnic studies proposition. Rather than abiding with the decision, other school board members are proposing Latino or Hispanic studies in place of Raza or Mexican American studies.

The rumblings coming out of the TUSD school board earlier this year appear to be ignorant not only of the ancient history of this state, but even the history of the past 12 years.


Dick 0420wrp optLauralee and Richard Uihlein. (Photo: Hope for Haiti / Flickr)He's a free-market, anti-regulation, small government, anti-union, homophobic, tax avoiding crusader. He was the fourth largest contributor to outside spending groups in the 2016 election cycle, and he and his wife are among the biggest Republican contributors in this year's midterm elections. He was a top donor to the failed Alabama Senate campaign of the disgraced Roy Moore, and he remains an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump. You wouldn't recognize him at a highway rest stop, and you couldn't pick him out of a line-up. Politico's Maggie Severns called him "one of the most influential, but still little-known, political donors in the country."

Like many mega-wealthy conservatives trying to shape politics, Richard Ellis "Dick" Uihlein would probably tell you that he just wants his point of view to resonate. And, since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, his money is resonating loud and clear, not only in the race for the Senate in Wisconsin, and the battle over the governorship of Illinois, but at conservative organizations across the country.

Wisconsin's senate race has become one of the most hotly contested races this year, and the Illinois-based Uihlein is in the thick of it. According to an email from Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin's campaign, Uihlein has "directed much of his spending" toward defeating Baldwin. In Illinois, Uihlein put $2 million into the campaign chest of state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who recently lost in a close race in the GOP primary, where she challenged Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.


PredatorDronePredator drone. (Photo: Greg Goebel)

Obama personally authorized killer drone strikes from a list that was regularly presented to him. With Trump, the decision-making is being deferred to the operational leadership in the CIA, and there is increased disregard for the "collateral damage" of civilians killed and injured.

In fact, Amnesty International is so concerned about the accelerating drone strikes under Trump that it issued a plea to the European nations that are logistically supporting the US drone program:

As the Trump administration prepares to further expand the USA’s lethal drone program, increasing the risk of civilian casualties and unlawful killings, Amnesty International is calling on four European countries to urgently overhaul the crucial operational and intelligence assistance they provide to the program.

Amnesty International and others have documented cases under successive US administrations where US drone strikes have killed people who were not directly participating in hostilities or posed no imminent threat to life, including children.

Indeed a report that surfaced only recently revealed Trump's willingness to have family members of targets killed.


kris kobachKansas Secretary of State and vote suppressor Kris Kobach (Photo: DonkeyHotey)

On April 18, a federal judge in Kansas held inveterate vote suppressor Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court for failing to enfranchise an estimated 30,000 voters. US District Judge Julie Robinson also found Kobach liable to pay for attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The crux of the ruling invalidates Kobach's efforts to prevent people who do not show proof of citizenship from registering to vote at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices.

According to The Kansas City Star:

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson in Kansas City, Kan., referred repeatedly to Kobach as acting “disingenuously.”

She chastised him for failing to treat the voters affected by the ongoing court case the same as all other registered voters in accordance with a previous court order....

“The term ‘register’ is not ambiguous, nor should there have been any question that these voters were to be treated just like any other registered voter,” Robinson said in her order.

“The Court is troubled by Defendant’s failure to take responsibility for violating this Court’s orders, and for failing to ensure compliance over an issue that he explicitly represented to the Court had been accomplished,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson specifically upbraided Kobach for not sending out postcards with confirmation of voter and information about polling places to voters who had registered at DMVs but had not shown papers proving US citizenship. Judge Robinson, appointed by George W. Bush, had in 2016 directed Kobach to send out the standard registration postcards to the DMV voters in limbo, but he only partially complied.


Enzyme 0418wrp opt(Photo: Nayanika Mukherjee / Flickr)Researchers in the UK and the U.S. have inadvertently engineered an enzyme that eats up plastic.

The enzyme is able to digest PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—the same material used in the ubiquitous plastic bottle that's clogging up landfills, coastlines and oceans around the world.

Amazingly, this discovery only happened by chance. Scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were examining the structure of a natural enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis, found in 2016 at a Japanese waste recycling center. This enzyme could already break down PET plastic—it just doesn't do it very quickly.

To understand how Ideonella sakaiensis evolved, the research team "tweaked" the structure of the enzyme by adding some amino acids, according to John McGeehan, a Portsmouth professor who co-led the work. They ended up creating an enzyme that worked even faster than the natural one.


Pruitt 0418wrp opt(Photo: Victoria Pickering / Flickr)Water is the lifeblood of the United States. Last week, American Rivers released findings for their 33rd annual 10 Most-Endangered Rivers report. Those vital waterways are economic drivers at a crossroads, which face existential threats. Notably, they are pivotal resources that could be protected in 2018.

Clean water is being compromised by politicians ostensibly making it a partisan issue when it shouldn't be. The waters industry, not to be confused with the bottled water business, provides drinking water and wastewater services to industrial, residential and commercial sectors of our economy. Public utilities and municipalities rely on low-interest loans from the state revolving loan funds program from Congress. Every US family is thought to be entitled not to be poisoned or killed by water flowing from their taps, regardless of their zip code. While there is no such thing as free government money to invest in water infrastructure, appropriators in the Senate and House of Representatives must strike a shrewd balance.

While it sounds absurd to citizens living outside the Beltway, a partisan class of political appointees disdain their unelected public employee counterparts working at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unrelenting, they scheme to defund budgets -- actions that ultimately prevent them from effectively doing their jobs.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   berkowitz 4 17 2018US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaking at an event for Turning Point USA at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.Gage Skidmore

From Colorado State University where Turning Point USA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, told the audience that "White privilege is a myth and a lie,"toFlorida Atlantic University, where the organization is defending a professor, Marshall DeRosa, with ties to the white nationalist hate group League of the South, Turning Point USAis making its presence felt on the nation’s college campuses.

The stated mission of TPUSA is to "identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government." Or as Splinter’s Katherine Krueger pointed out, the organization that is aiming "to take back America’s colleges from the menace of liberalism -- is best known for the very small but deeply embarrassing spectacles its student members make on their campuses."


PATRICIA JACKSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   syriabombing jackson 4 17 2018British demonstrators protest the bombing of Syria. Alisdare Hickson

Opening our April 14, 2018, morning papers to front page photos of ghostly black sky lit by bursting missiles takes us back to March 19, 2003 -- standing in front of televisions in shock (not awe) staring at a night sky in Iraq ablaze with exploding bombs. A month before, February 15, 2003, millions of people turned out in at least 650 cities around the world to protest the United States' push to invade Iraq. Around the globe we chanted, "Not in our name" and postponed the invasion. The Bush administration manufactured claims and justified the war based on claims of Iraq having "weapons of mass destruction." Gen. Colin Powell presented the United Nations with aerial photos of hidden stockpiles in warehouses as proof. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned us that "mushroom clouds" would soon appear in the skies. Later, these were proven to be lies.



Monday, 16 April 2018 08:40

Equal Pay for Equal Work: It's Time


EPD 0416wrp opt(Photo: SPD-Bundestagsfraktion / Flickr)Since 1996, April 10 has been celebrated as Equal Pay Day annually. It's a day when organizations draw attention to the disparities in pay between women and men doing equal work. On Tuesday, posts that build awareness about how long it takes a woman's pay to catch up to that of white, non-Hispanic men floated across social media platforms. Bottom line: A woman shouldn't have to work for 15 months to make what a man makes in 12.

But that's just what a white woman earns compared to a white man. It takes Black women 18 months to earn as much as a white man does in one year, so to put that into calendar perspective, Equal Pay Day for Black women would be in July. For Latinas, it takes almost two years to catch up -- Equal Pay Day for Latinas would be in November. A 2017 report from the Women's Bureau of the US Department of Labor stated, "In 2015, Hispanic women earned only 56.3 percent of the median weekly earnings of White, non-Hispanic men (the largest group of workers in the labor market), [and] Black women earned 61.2 percent." That significant disparity means the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in wages for women of color, who collectively represent the largest growing sector of working people.

Those are just the cold, hard statistics. How do we actually solve wage inequality?

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