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tsunamihazardThe Trump administration would imperil people from escaping the devastating effect of tsunamis. (Photo: hansol)

The Trump administration budget proposal would put large numbers of people at risk by reducing funds for Tsunami warnings, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- an advocacy group representing staff members of government agencies that are responsible for preserving the environment. A recent PEER news release states:

Proposed budget cuts by President Trump would compromise the timeliness and accuracy of tsunami forecasting and warnings, thereby putting thousands of coastal residents at needless risk.... The budgetary reductions unveiled last week would also negate key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act which Trump signed into law on April 18th.

According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration experts, the cuts will significantly reduce warning time of an incoming tsunami to coastal populations, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to eliminating over 60% of the staff for the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center (from 40 positions to only 15), the Trump budget would terminate funding for three separate tsunami detection systems:

  • Land-based seismic sensors;

  • Coastal water level sensors; and 

  • Deep-ocean buoys (the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis or DARTs).

A PEER fact sheet details the impact of the proposed reduction in tsunami forecasting and advance alert funds. In particular, it warns against the termination in funding for seismic sensors, noting, "Eliminating these seismic sensors will dramatically decrease the lead time (from about 25minutes on average, to 0) for the most vulnerable Hawaiian, and Alaskan coastal populations,because over 90% of the casual ties occur on the closest coasts to a Tsunamigenic Earthquake."


Scale 0605wrp optA Pan Balance scale with weights. (Photo: Mauro Cateb)The vast inequality that's rending our society is not a natural, inevitable or accidental phenomenon — it's caused intentionally by policy-decisions that corporate and political officials make, often in tandem.

Every now and then, we commoners get a glimpse of inequality in the making, as we did recently when the GOP Boss of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan rammed the awful Trumpcare bill through that chamber. Without allowing any public testimony or even getting an analysis of its cost, Ryan browbeat and cajoled the Republican majority to hold their noses and pass this gob of plutocratic wretchedness. Their bill was so bad that, at most, a mere 17 percent of Americans support it.

The public's distaste for Trumpcare is well-deserved, for it's an inequality machine: It strips at least 23 million people of health coverage; it lets insurance corporations either refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions or to gouge them with extreme price increases; and it lets states eliminate the requirement that insurance policies must at least cover such essential health needs as cancer treatment and maternity care.

And, in a flagrant example of directly widening inequality in America, the Republicans' bill slashes $880 billion out of the Medicaid budget, which provides health care for the poor, the elderly and the disabled. That's not just a cut in dollars, but in people — 14 million needy families would lose their access to healthcare.


Knife 0605wrp optA fixed-blade knife. (Photo: KennethHan)The violent actions of resentful, bitter and hate-filled white men are more than isolated incidents; they are a trend. The rise of white supremacist groups, alt-right groups staging provocative demonstrations, white men stockpiling weapons, hate speech spewed on social media, white nationalist materials spread about college campuses in the dead of night, and unprovoked deadly attacks on Muslims and African Americans are all part of a coming out party for White Supremacists in the age of Trump.  

According to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League titled "A Dark & Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States," there has been "150 right-wing terrorist acts, attempted acts, and plots and conspiracies that took place in the United States during the past 25 years (1993-2017)."

"In March 2017, a white supremacist from Maryland, James Harris Jackson, traveled to New York City with the alleged intention of launching a series of violent attacks on black men to discourage white women from having relationships with black men," the report documented. "After several days, Jackson chose his first victim, a 66-year old black homeless man, Timothy Caughman. Jackson later allegedly admitted that he had stabbed Caughman with a small sword he had brought with him, describing the murder as a 'practice run.'"

Richard Collins III, a student at Bowie State University and a recently commissioned U.S. Army second lieutenant, was stabbed to death just days before his graduation during a recent visit to the University of Maryland at its College Park campus. According to insidehighered.com, "Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student, was … arrested nearby and charged with first-degree murder. ... Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called 'Alt-Reich Nation,' where people shared racist memes."

And, last week in Portland, a racist white man stabbed to death two men, and wounded a third, when those men intervened on behalf of two young women -- one of whom was wearing a hijab -- being unmercifully harassed.


SUNY 0602wrp optA SUNY campus. (Photo: Xakuri)The State University of New York (SUNY)―the largest university in the United States, with nearly 600,000 students located in 64 publicly-funded higher education institutions―has served an important educational function for the people of New York and of the United States. But its recent "partnerships" with private businesses have been far less productive.

In the spring of 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, embarked upon a widely-publicized barnstorming campaign to get the state legislature to adopt a plan he called Tax-Free NY. Under its provisions, most of the SUNY campuses, portions of the City University of New York, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private, profit-making companies that would be exempt from state and local taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of 10 years.

Tax-Free NY, Cuomo announced, was "a game-changing initiative" that would "transform SUNY campuses and university communities across the state." According to the governor, this program would "supercharge" the state's economy and bring job creation to an unprecedented level. Conceding that these tax-free zones wouldn't work without a dramatic "culture shift" in the SUNY system, Cuomo argued that the faculty should "get interested and participate in entrepreneurial activities."

Despite criticism of the program by educators, unions, and even some conservatives, SUNY administrators and local officials fell into line. Reluctant to challenge the governor and oppose this widely-touted jobs creation measure, the state legislature established the program, renamed Start-Up NY and including some private colleges, in June 2013.


parisaccord2The poster above may be the epithet of the Trump administration. (Photo: Victoria Pickering)

Resistance is an imperative response to "Trumpism." However, in addition to pushing back, it is important for individuals, ad hoc advocacy groups, activist organizations and local governments to advance progressive goals in innovative ways.

This week brought us Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord. This makes the United States one of only three nations that did not sign the Accord. (The others are Nicaragua, which did not sign it because the political leaders of that country felt it was not strong enough, and Syria, which was in the midst of civil war and whose leaders were hardly in a position to engage in international talks.) Beyond the wholly understandable outrage, can there be positive progressive action to counter Trump's pernicious abandonment of the people of the planet?

The answer that California, New York and Washington have offered is "yes." Yesterday, the three states announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, which will be composed of states that want to commit to the Paris Accord, bypassing Trump's withdrawal. The alliance was described on the website of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee today announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.

Three Mile Island's owners say without millions more in handouts from Pennsylvania rate payers, the reactor will close in 2019. Meanwhile, coming on line this year, Tesla's Buffalo Billion gigafactory has the power to transform our entire national economy.Three Mile Island's owners say without millions more in handouts from Pennsylvania rate payers, the reactor will close in 2019. Meanwhile, coming on line this year, Tesla's Buffalo Billion gigafactory has the power to transform our entire national economy. (Photo: Raymond Shobe)HARVEY WASSERMAN OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Tuesday's announcement that the Three Mile Island Unit One nuclear plant will close unless it gets massive subsidies has vastly strengthened the case for a totally renewable energy future.

That future is rising in Buffalo, and comes in the form of Tesla's massive job-producing solar shingle factory which will create hundreds of jobs and operate for decades to come.

Three Mile Island, by contrast, joins a wave of commercially dead reactors whose owners are begging state legislatures for huge bailouts. Exelon, the nation's largest nuke owner, recently got nearly $2.5 billion from the Illinois legislature to keep three uncompetitive nukes there on line.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy is begging the legislature for $300 million per year for the money-losing Perry and Davis-Besse reactors, plagued with serious structural problems. That bailout faces an uphill battle in a surprisingly skeptical legislature. FirstEnergy is at the brink of bankruptcy, and says it will sell the reactors anyway.

 democracy is only acceptable if it can be controlled by those already in power, and the essence of this control is to ensure that the conditions benefiting the powerful are not seriously threatened. This condition has not gone away. Democracy is only acceptable if it can be controlled by those already in power, and the essence of this control is to ensure that the conditions benefiting the powerful are not seriously threatened. This condition has not gone away. (Photo: Maryland GovPics)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The wound burst open in November. History, suddenly, could no longer be avoided. Reality could no longer be avoided. American democracy is flawed, polluted, gamed by the oligarchs. It always has been.

But not until the election process whelped Donald Trump did it become so unbearably obvious.

Welcome to The Strip and Flip Disaster of America's Stolen Elections, by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, which was released last year and has been newly updated. What I find invaluable about the book is that, while it meticulously pries open the current election process with all its warts and flaws -- the voter suppression games those in power continue to play, the unverifiability of electronic voting machines -- it also delves deep into this country's history and illuminates the present-day relevance of the worst of it: the history we haven't yet faced.

Whatever else delivered Trump to our doorstep, the most undeniable element in his "victory" was the Electoral College. It's hardly adequate to call this institution obsolete; its existence is the manifestation of racist hell.


wallstreet333The Trump administration continues turning its revolving door to deregulate Wall Street. (Photo: South Bend Voice)

 The Trump administration has been eager to fill the office of comptroller in order to pave the way for easing the regulation of Wall Street. However, if Trump had nominated someone directly, his nominee would no doubt have faced contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate. So, the administration needed a plan to bypass that legislative body for the time being. An article this past month in Vanity Fair presents part of the Trump strategy to accelerate the deregulation of Wall Street:

The story begins here: Donald Trump has promised his friends in the banking industry that he will gut financial regulations. But one thing that’s prevented him from doing so, thus far, has been the head of the Office of the Comptroller, Thomas Curry, who was appointed by Barack Obama and was thus a killjoy who made it his job—because it kind of was his job—to impose tough rules and big fines for wrongdoing in the industry. It was clear, given Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Munchkin's pledge to unshackle Wall Street from financial-crisis-era regulations, that Curry not only had to go, but be replaced by someone with a more friendly relationship with the banks, like [Keith] Noreika.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with the longtime financial services attorney: Noreika, who reportedly worked closely with the same Wall Street companies that are overseen by the O.C.C., would have to be approved by the Senate—a process that would involve airing all of Noreika's financial conflicts of interest. So the Trump administration devised a plan to avoid that particular obstacle.

A ProPublica report details how Noreika successfully fought -- on behalf of Wall Street clients -- many strong pro-consumer state regulations.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017 08:02

What Is Worse Than Being Poor?

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GoldMining 0531wrp optA stripped gold mine. (Photo: AlaskaMining)These are hard times for America's gold miners. They're struggling to haul wealth out of the land, but seeing their pay dropping further and further down.

Take Bob Mercer, who's been a top miner for years, but last year, (which has been described as somewhere between lackluster and catastrophic) even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob's pain?

No, these are not your normal miners. They are hedge fund managers, digging for gold in the Wonderland of Wall Street. If you divided Bob Mercer's pay in his "bad year" among 1,000 real miners doing honest work, they'd consider it a fabulous year. Hedge funds are almost literally gold mines, though they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the uber-rich by promising that they are investment geniuses who will deliver fabulous profits for them. But the scam is that Mercer and his fellow diggers get paid regardless of whether they deliver or not.

Their cushy setup, known as 2-and-20, works like this: Right off the top, they take two percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which the hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep, even if the investments they make are losers; if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits; hedge fund lobbyists have rigged our nation's tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.

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Hammer optA claw hammer (Photo by Evan-Amos)Since its founding in the early 1940s, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has been a mainstay in funding and building conservative institutions, and supporting right-wing projects. A new report by The Center for Media and Democracy’s “Exposed” project, dives into a new “national effort funded by the … foundation to assess and expand right-wing ‘infrastructure’ [in order] to influence policies and politicians in statehouses nationwide.”

According to CMD’s Mary Bottari, documents “linked to one of the Russian hackers alleged to have breached the Democratic National Committee,” were made public in October 2016. They “open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings” of the foundation, which as of June 2016, had $835 million in assets.

For the better part of its existence since its founding in 1942 by the Bradley brothers, Lynde and Harry, the foundation -- a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code – has, unlike the Koch Family Foundations and the Scaife Foundations family foundations, operated out of the spotlight Nevertheless, it has been one of the most influential right-wing foundations in the country.

In the late 1980s, after the brother’s Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee, which developed early resistors for electrical products, was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion, the foundation’s coffers grew immensely, and it hired Michael S. Joyce to run its operations.

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