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Kurt 0722wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)In 1988, my then Hyannis Port neighbor the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote a prescient letter to the Earth's planetary citizens of 2088 for Volkswagen's TIME magazine ad campaign. His seven points of advice are perhaps more relevant today than at any time in human history. We should keep this advice in mind this election year and adopt Vonnegut's recommendations while we still can.

Here's his letter:

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:

It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: 'This above all: to thine own self be true'? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come'? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.'

Our century hasn't been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?


2016july22 trumpauthThe triumph of authoritarianism and scapegoating in Cleveland. (Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera )

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Donald Trump asserted in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination that only he can "fix" the violence and terrorism that he says is threatening individuals in the United States. His campaign has largely been based on inciting fear of "the other" among white Americans. Now that he has lit that fire among his supporters and unleashed a hideous bonfire of hate, he is positioning himself as the authoritarian (just call it fascist) solution to the frenzied fear that he has created among his supporters.

In his remarks in Cleveland (see transcript here) Trumped promised:

I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.

The Guardian US observed, as have other news sites and journalists, that Trump is bringing back the Nixonian "law and order" code wording for keeping the nation white through hyper-aggressive policing:

In his warnings of “crime and violence” and his solemn pledge that “I am the law and order candidate," Trump sounded notes eerily similar to Richard Nixon’s campaign rhetoric in 1968.

Then, in the aftermath of consecutive summers of widespread riots across the US, Nixon ran as the candidate of “law and order...."

Thursday, 21 July 2016 11:43

San Diego Bans Plastic Bags


Bag 0721wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and corner markets.

The goal of the new ordinance is to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, decreasing the number of plastic checkout bags used every year. San Diego goest through roughly 700 million plastic bags a year, with only 3 percent of them being recycled, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

"The vast majority of plastic bags we see are entangled in the brushes next to our rivers and streams," said Kristin Kuhn, community engagement manager for San Diego Coastkeeper. "After every rain event, these bags clog and choke our city's already damaged waterways."

The city's ban would require grocery stores and other food retailers to charge at least 10 cents for each paper bag or for a sturdier bag, which often cost more.

"Stakeholders have worked tirelessly with local jurisdictions throughout the state to find a solution that makes sense for both the environment and businesses," said Sophie Barnhorst, policy coordinator for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "A ban on plastic and a charge for paper has the potential to achieve maximal environment gain with minimal business disruption."

San Diego's ban—which drew wide support from advocacy organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego County chapter and San Diego Coastkeeper as well as the chamber of commerce—makes it the 150th municipality in the Golden State.


BlackPower 0821wrp opt(Photo: Angelo Cozzi)A few years ago, in an interview with The New York Times' William Rhoden, National Football League Hall of Famer and longtime political activist Jim Brown said: "I think within the next three or four years, there'll be a major coming together of some Black athletes and entertainers to really have a platform that can bring about a whole different awareness." Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took the stage at the beginning of the recent ESPY Awards ceremony, and made an impassioned call for an end to the violence, perhaps signaling that Black athletes were coming together to speak about racial inequities and social justice, as Brown predicted.

While it unclear what specific issues – other than violence -- the four National Basketball Association stars were talking about, their remarks, coming in the wake of the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the police killing of Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, and the shooting deaths of five police officers at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, their remarks were somber, eloquent, and moving.

"Generations ago, legends like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and countless others, they set a model for what athletes should stand for," said Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers' star point guard. "So we choose to follow in their footsteps."

Dwayne Wade, recently traded from the Miami Heat to his hometown Chicago Bulls said: "The racial profiling has to stop. The shoot-to-kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of black and brown bodies has to stop. But also the retaliation has to stop. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention Orlando, it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough."


2016july20 trumpcolonialThe coronation of Trump as GOP nominee for president has its origins in white settler colonialism. (Photo: Kl801)

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A 21st-century white self-proclaimed billionaire became the official 2016 presidential nominee of the Republican party on Tuesday night. Pundits have relentlessly speculated about how it came to be that a candidate so brazen in his misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, foreign policy ignorance and factlessness could succeed in obtaining the Republican nod to run for president.

There are many factors that resulted in the Trump nomination -- including the savvy use of his celebrity status and understanding of contemporary television (combined with Twitter) as an entertainment medium -- but the fact is, he is a racist carnival barker, and his racism is at the center of his rise to the pinnacle of leadership in the Grand White Party.

I was listening to the Thom Hartmann Program a couple of weeks ago. Hartmann, as I recall, had a guest on who referred to Trump's use of a technique mastered by Dick Nixon, known by the acronym FIBS. FIBS stands for a political strategy based on fear, ignorance, bigotry and sneering. That about sums up Trump, doesn't it?

However, if you had to take one element of "FIBS" and identify it as the key to Trump being crowned the GOP presidential nominee, "bigotry" would lead the list by a long stretch. Of course, bigotry evokes and is reinforced by fear, ignorance and sneering. Still, the pedestal upon which Trump's triumph rests is raw, seething, hateful racism.


Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

2016july17 powerofattorney2

Photo courtesy of Ecowatch

Malta has begun the process of banning glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup.

Malta—the only country to actively vote against the extension of the chemical's use—has already seen 25 localities ban the substance. It would be the first EU country to ban glyphosate nationwide. Though, France is currently considering their own ban.

"Malta's position remains against the use of glyphosate and Malta voted against it without reservations," an environmental ministry spokeswoman told the Times of Malta.

Glyphosate was named a "probable human carcinogen" by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. Since WHO's ruling, the EU has been divided on the subjects of glyphosate's use and safety. Reports from several agencies have added more confusion in respect to the impacts of glyphosate.

A November 2015 report compiled by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) claimed glyphosate is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans." Another study conducted by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WHO's Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) in May 2016 backed EFSA's finding.

The various studies used different criteria for the risk assessment connected to glyphosate. A general consensus on the weed-killing chemical has not been achieved.


Cross 0718wrp opt(Photo: Brest)Despite months of hand wringing, public and private condemnations, expressing support for, and endorsing, other candidates, and a close inspection of his miniscule theological underpinnings, many conservative Christian evangelicals are finding their way back to Donald Trump, as nearly four-fifths of evangelicals are now saying they will vote for Trump. According to the Pew Research Center’s recent survey, “Evangelical voters are rallying strongly in favor of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.”

Examining the results of the Pew survey, The Christian Examiner’s Gregory Tomlin wrote: “Evangelicals aren’t just warming to Trump; they’re on fire for the candidate.” Not everyone has the same view of the survey. In her report, Christianity Today’s Sarah Eekhoff Zyistra maintained that evangelicals will vote for Trump, “But they aren’t happy about it.”

The announcement of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate – which came after the Pew survey was released -- will make it even easier for multitudes of evangelicals to back the ticket. “I think he’s a very safe pick for Mr. Trump and I think he’s someone who will be embraced enthusiastically by conservatives and evangelical Christians,” said Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., an early Trump supporter.

In a somewhat surprising development, evangelical leaders and voters appear to be slightly more supportive of Trump at this point in the campaign then they were four years ago with Mitt Romney. “Now, fully,78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who ‘strongly’ back his campaign.”

Pew pointed out that “White evangelical Protestants make up one-fifth of all registered voters in the U.S. and roughly one-third of all voters who say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.”


Gold 0718wrp opt(Photo: Agnico-Eagle Mines)Their unspoken goal is a two-class nation, with a heavily armed security force to quell resistance from the more outspoken members of the lower class. It may be somewhat of an unwitting goal, since narcissistic wealth-takers, as they build their fortunes, tend to lose their ability to empathize with others.

Barack Obama said, "We are not as divided as we seem." But those are just feel-good words. A middle class still exists, but in weakened form, as many families from the once-dominant mainstream of society continue to move up or down, mostly down. The conspirators in the breakdown of the middle class have complementary roles that allow them to divide the country as they perpetuate the myth of prosperity for all.

Congress: The Kingpins

Gun control is the most flagrant example of Congressional disdain for the middle class. Over 90% of Americans want background checks, but Congress has failed to act. The House of Representatives even rejected an amendment that would have allowed research into causes of gun violence.

The list goes on and on:

Over 90% favor laws on clean air and water, but Congress has proposed to weaken them. Almost 80% want to increase Social Security benefits. 83% want Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Nearly 90% support mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. About two-thirds of polled Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes. 90% support the protection of public lands.

Based on a study of 1,779 policy issues, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page concluded that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."


2016july15 cabbagesCabbages. (Photo: Mike Licht)

On Wednesday, I wrote that "while hunger and poverty persist in the US, half of the edible food is thrown away." That's a shocking statistic for a nation that still indulges in the self-congratulatory -- but obviously false -- myth of being the land of plenty. Those who go hungry in the United States could likely be fed with the overwhelming amount of crops, produce and restaurant food that is thrown away and left to rot. It is a stunning statistic, exemplifying both indifference and social injustice. Over the years, we have even discussed how some cities have taken a punitive attitude toward feeding the homeless, including arresting people who distribute food to those without shelter.

One group concerned about the pressing issue of feeding the hungry -- Food Not Bombs -- is making a dent in the waste of much-needed food through creative redistribution, explaining:

We arrange the collection of produce, bread and other food that can't be sold from grocery stores, bakeries, and produce markets. They put this food to the side and we pick it up at a scheduled time. This way, we build personal relationships with local food providers and are able to collect larger amounts of better quality food with more regularity.

Over the years, Food Not Bombs has been repeatedly harassed by police in a number of cities, including San Francisco, for providing free food to the homeless.


Racehorse 0715wrp opt(Photo: Jeff Kubina)An old cowboy aphorism offers this advice: "Speak the truth. But ride a fast horse."

I relived this truism last weekend in Orlando, Florida, where I spent two hot, muggy days wrangling over policy issues as one of the members of the Democratic Party's national platform committee. Depending on the moment and the issue, the experience was both invigorating and infuriating, with refreshing outbreaks of broad and bold democratic vision, interspersed with too many rigid, Tammany Hall tactics used to dictate corporate-friendly policies. Bernie Sanders' 40-percent minority of platform members (of which I was one) managed to "Bern" the platform with more than two dozen big and very important amendments. As a result, instead of the same old business-as-usual blah-blah of party platforms, Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, are now on public record in support of the most progressive policy agenda in decades.

More about those specific policies in a moment, but first, let's get on that horse.

The worst development at the Orlando meeting was the Clinton campaign's acquiescence to the wet dream of global corporate powers: The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The platform's draft language on this horrendous TPP trade scam actually seemed to endorse it! So Sanders' forces went all out to replace such a pusillanimous surrender with an amendment to flat-out kill TPP.

I sponsored the Sanders alternative, dubbing it "a form of political Viagra to stiffen the spine of our party." Our amendment prompted panicky parliamentary manipulations by Clintonites to doctor their language so it would be a bit less wimpy — and also to block my amendment from even being considered. But Sanders' savvy policy staff outflanked them, so we forced them to debate and vote on our proposal — in view of C-SPAN's national TV audience.

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