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aaaCrossBerk(Photo: Dustin Johnston)As if there weren't enough Christian evangelical groups beating the drums against the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, another one, American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) has joined the fray. Last week, ACLI, a networking project of the U.S. branch of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), sent a petition to the White House railing "against any agreement that does not dismantle Iran's nuclear program," according to an ACLI Press Release. The press release claims that "Some 650 Pastors and Christian leaders representing tens of millions of grassroots Americans have signed onto that letter."

"Through this joint initiative, we want to demonstrate that this is not a partisan issue, nor a Jewish issue, nor only an Israel issue, but it is an American issue, and millions of grassroots Americans are opposed to this disastrous deal," stated Susan Michael, U.S. Director for the ICEJ. "This network of Christian leaders in support of Israel is unprecedented," added Michael, "and reflects the gravity of the situation. We are asking all members of Congress to set aside partisan issues and vote against the agreement."

So while it appears nearly certain that Christian Zionists, along with the conservative pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, the Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have lost the battle over the nuclear deal with Iran, Christian evangelicals are vowing to fight on.


aaaaaaaaaaabarcodesPeople are not bar codes. (Photo: Jason Devaun)

Virtually all of the GOP candidates are desperately trying to jump on the Trump bandwagon of xenophobia toward Mexican migrants. The caravan of "Trumped-up" fear is becoming so unwieldy it may lose a few wheels and crash into the border wall someday soon.

Among the many proposals that Trump's challengers are floating - which range from farcical to terrifying - Chris Christie's idea of processing Mexicans in the US through a Federal Express-like tracking system stands out. It is indistinguishable from a satirical article in The Onion.

On August 29, The New York Times reported details of the New Jersey governor and presidential aspirant's "migrant control" idea:

"At any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is. It’s on the truck. It’s at the station. It’s on the airplane," Mr. Christie told the crowd in Laconia, N.H. "Yet we let people come to this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them."

He added: "We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in."

He said 40 percent of illegal immigrants are allowed into the United States legally with a visa and then stay longer than their visa allows....

Mr. Christie did not say specifically how a system would track people the same way packages are tracked by FedEx, which scans a bar code on the package at each step of its delivery.

Monday, 07 September 2015 06:29

Ten Troubling Numbers on Labor Day Week 2015


aaaaaaaaaaaaminwageLabor is the economic engine of the United States. (Photo: UUSC)

  • 5.1. The official unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, or 8 million people, according to the US Department of Labor. However, this widely reported “official” number overlooks the millions of people unemployed for more than a year nor does it count those who are working part-time and looking for full-time work. The Department of Labor monthly report which includes people working part-time and looking for full-time work shows the real rate of unemployment is 10.3 percent.
  • 6. It has been 6 years since the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was raised.
  • 8.9. Millions of adults, 8.9 million in fact, work full-time, year round and earn too little to lift their families out of poverty.
Sunday, 06 September 2015 15:04

On Labor Day, Why We Need a Guaranteed Income


aaaaaaaaaincomeWhen the economy is devastated by avarice, those without jobs deserve a guaranteed income. (Photo: Doran)

A thought for Labor Day: In the not-too-distant future we might wait around for a package delivery, hurry off to class, grab a taxi downtown, meet the family for dinner, and then take the train home. All without being served by a single human being. No delivery person, no teacher, no cab driver, no food server, no train conductor. 

Our jobs are disappearing. The benefits of a half-century of productivity, in which we and our parents all played a role, have largely accrued to the relatively few people who know how to make money by coordinating all the technological components, or by managing the money themselves. 

And despite the relentless optimism of starry-eyed pundits and tech leaders, the great majority of Americans will NOT be prepared to turn new technologies into life-sustaining employment. 

1. Our Jobs Are Disappearing

The jobs that kept the middle class out of poverty -- education, construction, social services, customer service, transportation, administrative support -- have dramatically declined since the recession. Programmers and engineers and financial experts are still in demand. But nine of the ten fastest growingoccupations don't require a college degree


aaaaaaaa350Is divestment driving down the profitability of coal? (Photo: 350.org)

The campaign around the world to divest from fossil fuels has really heated up this year. Students at SwarthmoreYaleHarvard and University of Washington among many others demanded their institutions put their money where their mouth is and stop investing “in an industry that is actively destabilizing the future that our education is meant to prepare us for,” as one student at Swarthmore put it.

Not all of the campaigns so far this year have been successful, but to date, 397 institutions have at least partially divested—including foundations, faith groups, pension funds, governmental organizations, universities, nonprofits and for-profits. One notable case came from the Norwegian Parliament, which took the unprecedented step of mandating that its sovereign wealth fund (the richest in the world) divest from coal burning and coal producing companies. And, in the past few weeks, there have been some more major divestment victories: 

1. California Assembly votes to divest pension funds from coal California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that requires the state’s two largest pension plans—California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)—to divest their holdings from thermal coal.

“Coal is the fuel of the past and it’s no longer a wise investment for our pensioners,” saidassemblyman Rob Bonta, who presented the bill before the assembly. “I’m pleased that my colleagues agree: it’s time to move on from this dirty energy source.” 


aaaaaaaaaaatrumpletDavid Letterman exposes Trump as hypocrite in 2012 by revealing that the Trump signature line of men's clothes are made in China and other non-US locations. (Video:YouTube)

It's not possible to be an offshore manufacturing profiteer and to simultaneously champion keeping jobs in the US, without being a hypocrite. No one can prove that point better than Donald Trump.

As a September 1 Slate article noted, "Donald Trump loves to insult China and Mexico." 

On August 25, CNN quoted Trump saying of China, "They want our people to starve - they're taking our business away. They've taken our jobs away." He also pledged to start a trade war with Beijing.

However, back in 2012, David Letterman presciently decimated Trump's swaggering bluster about restoring US jobs that have been moved to China and other non-US locations. 

2015.3.9 Berkowitz(Photo: Steve Snodgrass)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Despite being Biblically challenged; despite his divorces and remarriages; despite his past support for abortion rights Trump is doing reasonably well with Christian evangelicals.

Last week, during an interview with Bloomberg News’ John Heilemann, Donald Trump was uncharacteristically dumbstruck when asked about the Bible, his favorite book. Heilemann asked Trump if he would name his favorite verse: "Well,” a puzzled Trump replied, “I wouldn't want to get into it because to me that's very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it's very personal." Heilemann then asked which he prefers more, the Old Testament or the New Testament. Trump’s response: "Uh, probably equal. I think it's just an incredible - the whole Bible is an incredible - I joke, very much so, they always hold up The Art of the Deal, [Trump’s book] I say it's my second-favorite book of all time. But, uh, I just think the Bible is just something very special."

According to the Wall Street Journal, at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, in July, Trump “surprised many evangelical leaders when said he did not recall ever asking God for forgiveness. ‘I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,’ he told moderator Frank Luntz,” the longtime GOP operative. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”


trumpfinal33For many of his supporters, Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" is a coded way of saying "Make America White Again." (Photo: YouTube)

Okay, Donald Trump is a brash, brazen, bumptious, sexist billionaire who appeals to a bilious, bigoted segment of the US population. Some argue his followers love Trumpism because Trump himself blares out loud the thoughts rattling inside their own heads. Trump, according to this theory, allows the haters who might ordinarily feel inhibited about expressing their intolerance to blatantly bask in feelings of white superiority.

This is coded into Trump's now-iconic campaign slogan that simply says: "Make America Great Again." What a loaded four words those are. Ever since Obama's election, this expression - or variations of it - have been the rallying cry for making America "white again." After all, many Republicans still don't believe Obama was born in the United States. (The "birther" movement was essentially about denying a Black man residence in the White House.) This is the context in which Trumpism and the "Make America Great [White] Again" appeal has spread like wildfire among whites who feel that the United States should be a nation of white governance and privilege. 

September 1 Salon article confirmed the nativist, vile racist support for Trump:

By a significant majority, Trump’s supporters consist of the relatives you’ve been forced to block on Facebook because you’d finally seen enough pictures of President Barack Obama’s face superimposed onto the body of a chimpanzee or suicide bomber. Public Policy Polling’s latest national poll found that 66 percent of Trump’s supporters believe Obama is a Muslim, compared to only 12 percent who believe he’s Christian. (How soon they forget Jeremiah Wright!)

Sixty-one percent of Trump supporters aren’t convinced that the president was born in the United States, which isn’t surprising, given that just last month Trump rekindled his status as one of the "birther" movement’s most prominent advocates, saying that he still doesn’t understand “why [Obama] wouldn’t release his records.” 

2015.3.9 BF KoehlerThe climate crisis is where science and political science meet. (Photo: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith)ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Renaming a mountain is better than beheading it.

And the pseudo-uproar from Donald Trump and other Republicans over the presidential renaming of the continent’s highest mountain, Denali — “the great one” — is so much yammering in a cage.

The cage is “Americanism.” The small-mindedness of this concept is suddenly more apparent than ever: Hey, we’re the greatest! Obama’s taking Mount McKinley — our mountain — away from us, giving it back to the Indians . . .

Would that it were true. Would that a sense of earth-reverence had entered the national consciousness through this act of renaming, this acknowledgement that our world isn’t merely the plaything of the American political ego. Would that President Obama meant what he said when, as he began his symbolic, climate-change-awareness trek to Alaska, he declared: “The time to plead ignorance is surely past.”


aaaCoinDebt(Photo: United States Mint)Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional, Louisiana still puts hundreds of people in prison every year just because they are too poor to pay court-ordered fines, court costs and costs of probation, according to a recent investigative report by the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This misuse of the criminal legal system, often called “pay or stay” is flatly illegal. The U.S. Congress outlawed the use of debtors’ prisons — jails for people too poor to pay off their debts — under federal law nearly 200 years ago in 1833.   The U.S. Supreme Court followed suit in 1983.  

But in a survey of six weeks of court records from last year, the ACLU found that hundreds of people in Louisiana were given pay-or-stay sentences and well over a hundred people were jailed for unpaid fines or court costs. If this many people were wrongly sentenced and jailed in just six weeks, that means thousands have been illegally jailed annually.

The report tells the story of Dianne Jones, a grandmother of three, who was arrested in New Orleans for possession of marijuana. She was given the choice of six months’ probation and paying $834 in fines and costs, at a rate of $150 per month, or spending every weekend in jail for six months. She protested that she did not earn enough to pay off $150 a month. Ultimately she had to accept the payment plan anyway because she was helping care for her grandchildren on the weekends so her daughter could work. Unable to pay off the last $148 of her $834 because of unanticipated moving costs, she was arrested and jailed under a $20,000 bond.   She stayed in jail until a community group took up a collection to pay off the remaining $148.

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