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Fracking 0307wrp optThe aftermath of fracking. (Photo: Simon Fraser University / Flickr)Donald Trump's 13-month tenure (so far) as president of the United States has been an exhausting sprint for onlookers concerned about the state of the global ecosystem and the fate of industrial civilization. Nearly every day begins with a new outrage -- whether Trump's gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, his announcement of the US exit from the Paris climate accord, his selling off of national parks, his opening of coastal waters for offshore drilling, his easing of regulations on fracking, or his seeking subsidies for coal mining and coal power plants.Among my environmentalist friends and colleagues, "Trump fatigue" is a real and common ailment.

But much the same could be said for millions of citizens who are only peripherally interested in environmental issues. They awake each morning to read about the Stormy Daniels scandal, the Rob Porter scandal, the Anthony Scaramucci hiring/firing scandal, the Mike Flynn scandal, the James Comey firing scandal, the Tom Price scandal, the White House nepotism and security clearance scandal. The list could go on and on; who can possibly keep up?


pillsbigpharmaBig Pharma gouges us coming and going. (Photo: Rodrigo Senna)

Amid ongoing uproars over the high cost of life-saving medicine, it is worth remembering that the US government pays for a significant portion of the research funds for new pharmaceuticals. Alexander Zaitchick of the Other98 website notes that a recent study by the Center for Integration of Science and Industry (CISI) came to the conclusion: "No NIH [National Institutes of Health] funds, no new drugs, no patents, no profits, no industry."

Zaitchick reports:

The CISI study, underwritten by the National Biomedical Research Foundation, mapped the relationship between NIH-funded research and every new drug approved by the FDA between 2010 and 2016. The authors found that each of the 210 medicines approved for market came out of research supported by the NIH. Of the $100 billion it spent nationally during this period, more than half of it — $64 billion — ended up helping the development of 84 first-in-class drugs.

But the NIH doesn’t get to use the profits from these drugs to fund more research, the way it might under a model based on developing needed drugs and curing the sick, as opposed to serving Wall Street. Instead, publicly funded labs conduct years of basic research to get to a breakthrough, which is then snatched up, tweaked, and patented (privatized) by companies who turn around and reap billions with 1,000-times-cost mark-ups on drugs developed with taxpayer money.

We, the taxpayers, are providing the money for the initial research on many proprietary drugs, only to see the end results privatized. Furthermore, we become the victims of profiteering after providing government funding to build the basic formulas for the drug companies. Yes, generic drugs may be much less expensive, particularly with some form of insurance, but drugs that are patented can be manipulated in price to become onerous in cost to the point of threatening survival.

Spread on a wool olive drab GI blanket is a reenactor's collection of M1917 revolvers and M1911 semi-automatic pistols. Spread on a wool olive drab GI blanket is a reenactor's collection of M1917 revolvers and M1911 semi-automatic pistols. (Photo: Lyle)PAT ELDER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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A young Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, posted an image of himself posing with an "airsoft" gun on his Instagram account. The date is unknown. The orange tip on the end of the gun signifies he is holding an airsoft gun that fires BB -- like, spherical projectiles that are typically made of plastic. American youth are introduced to these guns at an early age. The lethal weapon Cruz is holding shoots a projectile at 500 feet per second.

The term "air soft" is concocted by the wizards of Madison Avenue who represent the arms industry. The term conveys the idea that these guns are harmless. Remember Ralphie in "Christmas Story"? "You'll shoot your eye out kid!" The BB gun Ralphie got for Christmas, The Daisy Red Ryder, shoots BB's at 350 feet per second.

Airsoft guns represent the starter drug of choice for the American arms industry. It has long been the strategy of this industry and its bankrollers at the Pentagon to wrap as many young fingers around as many triggers as possible – whether those triggers are virtual or real. The intoxicating effects of firearms provide the military a way to exploit the powerful, visceral connection to a child's soul. In this regard, Nikolas Cruz was the victim of a malicious system.

Afghan Peace Volunteers and friends celebrate the International Day of Peace in Kabul, September 2017. (Photo: Kathy Kelly)Afghan Peace Volunteers and friends celebrate the International Day of Peace in Kabul, September 2017. (Photo: Kathy Kelly)KATHY KELLY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Here in Kabul, as the rising sun begins to warm our chilly rooms, I hear excited laughter from downstairs. Rosemary Morrow, a renowned Australian permaculture expert, has begun teaching thirty-five young students in a month-long course on low-resource farming.

In war-torn Afghanistan, there's a desperate need to rebuild agricultural infrastructure and help people grow their own food. People verging on despair feel encouraged by possibilities of replenishing and repairing their soil.

The night before, over dinner, one of the students discussed news from his home town in Afghanistan's Wardak province about US aerial attacks. "The blasts have become so frequent," he said, "that people can't find spaces to bury their dead."

During breaks in the class, I tell some of the Afghan Peace Volunteer students about the school shootings in the United States, and the remarkable determination of teenagers from Florida to demand that lawmakers take action on gun control.


glockmilitaryFrom the military to the police to civilians, we are a nation awash in guns. (Photo: Jimmy Smith)

It's clear that the militarized culture of the United States' empire is one of the factors that paves the way for a violent culture at home. We glorify violence in the maintenance of a global police force that largely is there to ensure US market share, political enforcement and access to raw materials. From drone attacks, to special operations, to military "trainers" advising pro-capitalist dictatorships and participating in low-intensity warfare, the US takes official pride in inflicting death and injury on its "opponents." This is one part of the puzzle that helps explain why we are a violent domestic culture. It's in our national DNA.

There is an additional important crossover between US gun violence and the military: The arms manufacturers for the Armed Forces and the civilian market are, in large part, the same. This leads to an interdependency that helps keep the gun makers in business, because many of them argue that without a robust commercial market, they would not be able to survive during times when the military is buying fewer small arms. This is particularly true when the increasing Pentagon budget leans more and more toward big ticket, high-tech items.

As a March 1 article in the Socialist Worker documented, the military and gun manufacturers are symbiotic. The need for firearms for soldiers creates factories that produce similar weapons for civilians, such as the AR-15 assault rifle used in the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting. In turn, civilian shooters want to emulate soldiers in the Armed Forces by purchasing and collecting military-style assault weapons and even military handguns.


DT 0305wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)Under Donald Trump, the environment has been the hardest hit of any sector of society, carried out by executive actions, the overturning of Obama-era regulations, and the enactment of new rules via cabinet review. This assault is occurring just as NASA reports that we’ve just had another near-record year of global warming. It’s insanity, and a classic example of willful ignorance. Trump, EPA director Scott Pruitt, and other officials simply choose not to inform themselves lest their position on climate change, which is based entirely on self-interest, be undermined.  Since these people only know what Fox News and the fossil fuel industry tell them, they probably are unfazed about portents such as the three-year drought that has brought Cape Town, South Africa, to "Day Zero" when the water pipes will be shut off and water strictly rationed.

Behind the rules changes lies a telling fact: Trump does not have a science adviser—a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House.  But since he has no interest in science, he evidently sees no reason to learn from or defer to anyone who does. The president’s science adviser typically advises on everything from outbreaks of disease to global warming and nuclear weapons.  By leaving empty a position all previous presidents have filled, Trump is sending a message that he is not merely a climate-change denier but also a science denier.  Only one person sits in the OSTP office: a Silicon Valley financier.


NYC 0305wrp optNew York City. (Photo: kaysha / Flickr)After five years of tireless organizing, the movement to divest NYC public worker pension funds from fossil fuels scored a win.  On January 10th, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City will divest the $5 billion of its pension funds presently invested in fossil fuel stocks. It will also sue the top five fossil fuel corporations—ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips—charging that because they hid the evidence that burning fossil fuels causes climate change, they are responsible for the billions of dollars the city has spent on climate remediation.  

The divestment campaign provides an excellent example of how dedicated organizing, clear demands and strategies, creative tactics, strong coalitions and good luck can come together for a win.  

Divestment Launch

The US Divestment movement was popularized in 2012 through the national "Do The Math" tour, led by 350.org’s Bill McKibben and author Naomi Klein.  Borrowing a page from the successful anti-apartheid divestment campaign directed at South Africa in the 1980’s, 350’s focus was fossil fuel divestment in colleges, universities, foundations and non-profits. While pension funds were on the list, little attention was initially paid to them.


God 0302wrp opt(Photo: altemark / Flickr)Trump, our "Caligula-in-chief's" victory was only the first in a series of new realities we face. "Your Wildest Dreams Come True," is tragically not a reality TV show. And it augurs nothing less than a full-fledged Constitutional and national security crisis of Jovian magnitude.

To anyone who claims the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) (of which I am founder and president) has been crying wolf for asserting that Dominionists are intent on controlling our US military

It's time for your wake up call, wild dreamers.

An influential pack of Dominionist predatory proselytizing worship wolves was howling in Trump's DC hotel February 22-24 2018; the pack's fanatical leaders believe "God sent" Trump to the White House.

Heaven's rule is knock knock knockin' hard on our government's door my friends: it's called Dominionism.

Dominionists are Christian nationalist extremists -- modern iterations of medieval Crusaders. Dominionists are like the radical proponents of Sharia Law, only they champion the Bible and not the Koran. Dominionists dream of a United States ruled by a biblical set of Christian principles and reject the secular US Constitution.

Friday, 02 March 2018 06:06

The Rise of the Billionaire Candidate


zuckerbergWill Mark Zuckerberg be another billionaire running for president? (JD Lasica)

Trump's status as a billionaire was very much part of what propelled him into the White House. In fact, it could be argued that he wouldn't have been a viable candidate had he not cultivated the brand of a billionaire. After all, not every person who wants to run for president receives instant credibility as a contender (beginning with the media), not every person is included in the debates, and not every person can afford the cost of a national race. Furthermore, it was Trump's stint as the hard-as-nails billionaire on The Apprentice television series which gave him the image of leadership in the public eye.

Of course, the most important asset of a billionaire running for high office is money. There is no limit on financing one's own campaign because the Supreme Court has ruled that self-financing a campaign is akin to exercising free speech. We don't know Trump's actual net worth because he has not released his income taxes, but we saw that he was able to pour money into his campaign.

It is a standard complaint of most non-wealthy politicians that they have to spend more time fundraising than working on public policy. A billionaire, on the other hand, just enters a race and then is free to spend personal wealth at will. Plus, to many voters, the very fact of being a billionaire establishes a certain credibility, indicating a type of success that they believe could translate to the political arena.

One doesn't need to be a billionaire to achieve political credibility through wealth; being a multi-millionaire may be sufficient. However, as Michael Bloomberg -- former mayor of New York -- showed, the billionaire imprimatur has its advantages, and the line between wealth and politics becomes increasingly blurred.

Danica Roem is one of many transgender politicians who are rejecting party orthodox.Danica Roem is one of many transgender politicians who are rejecting party orthodoxy. (Photo: VCU CNS)JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

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Last year's grassroots progressive runs for office laid to rest much of the Democratic Party's orthodoxy about who is "electable," and how it's essential that candidates -- in hopes of attracting moderate "swing" voters -- run big-money campaigns on small-bore, middle-of-the-road issues. For example, meet these eight big-issue/low-dollar candidates who rejected party orthodox and won:

-- Danica Roem -- Virginia House of Delegates

-- Andrea Jenkins -- Minneapolis City Council

-- Phillipe Cunningham -- Minneapolis City Council

-- Lisa Middleton -- Palm Springs City Council

-- Stephe Koontz -- Doraville, GA City Council

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