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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

epa33Criminal prosecution of corporate pollution is decreasing. (Photo: mccready)

It has been clear since his days as Oklahoma attorney general -- when he filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- that current EPA Director Scott Pruitt values corporate interests over the protection of the environment. He clearly has continued to do so in his current role. One could argue that Pruitt never met a land, water or air pollution regulation that he liked.

Given that context, a recent Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) analysis confirmed that Pruitt is slowing down the agency's process of holding corporations and individuals responsible for criminal pollution. According to a PEER news release:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fewer than half of the criminal special agents on the job than it had a dozen years ago, according to EPA statistics released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These thinning ranks of white collar investigators are opening a shrinking number of anti-pollution cases and obtaining fewer convictions.

EPA figures obtained by PEER through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that –

• The number of special agents inside the EPA Criminal Investigation Division (CID) has dropped by more than half since 2003, with a current total of only 147 agents, well below the minimum of 200 agents required by the U.S. Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990;

• New criminal cases opened by CID have plummeted, falling by nearly two-thirds just since 2012. The current fiscal year is on pace to open just 120 new cases, a modern low; and

• Successful criminal anti-pollution prosecutions are also slumping, down to little more than half of convictions won in 2014.

BRIAN TERRELL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TrumpPresser 0830wrp opt(Photo: Gage Skidmore)On Monday, August 21, President Donald Trump delivered a prime-time speech almost shocking in its ordinariness. It was such an address as either of his immediate predecessors, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, could easily have given over the previous decade and a half. While hinting at nebulous new strategies and ill-defined new metrics to measure success, President Trump announced that the 17 year old war in Afghanistan will go on pretty much as it has. And the establishment breathed a sigh of relief.

Reviews were glowing. While acknowledging how low the bar had been set, on August 25, the Washington journal The Hill opined that "even the most hardened members of the anti-Trump camp must admit that Monday's speech communicated a remarkable amount of humility and self-awareness, particularly for this president." The timing of the president's crowd pleasing speech was duly noted: "Unfortunately, his very presidential announcement of the Afghanistan decision was bookended by Charlottesville and the president's rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night."

Ten days before, in Charlottesville, Virginia, torch bearing white supremacists had marched in a "Unite the Right" rally to protest the planned removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Replete with flags of both the Confederacy and the Nazi Third Reich and traditional fascist chants of "blood and soil," the rally met with resistance from anti-racist activists, one of whom was murdered and others injured when one of the united right used his car as a weapon of terror, driving it into the crowd. There was outrage when Trump responded by condemning the violence "on all sides" and declaring that there are "very fine people" on both sides of the issue.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Hugo 0830wrp optHugo Chavez mural in Venezuela. (Photo: David Hernández)If you've never heard of the Atlas Network, The Intercept's recent story, "Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians are Remaking Latin American Politics," will certainly be an eye opener. The Atlas Network aims to rid Latin America of leftist-led governments, limit the organizing wherewithal of unions, and liberal and progressive movements, and reshape Latin America in ways the Koch Brothers, and like-minded US-based right-wing billionaires support.

The existence, and recent successes, of the Atlas Network might help explain why from seemingly out of nowhere, President Donald Trump recently took time away from taking time away, watching Fox News, and his latest tweet storm threatening North Korea with "fire and fury," to bombastically throw Venezuela into the conversation. "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary," Trump said.

As Lee Fang, the author of The Intercept's piece, recently explained, the Atlas Network is a "libertarian network, which has reshaped political power in country after country, [and] has also operated as a quiet extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-associated think tanks receiving quiet funding from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a critical arm of American soft power."

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 06:18

Corporate Tax Cuts Don't Mean More Jobs

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

ceopayCutting corporate tax cuts do not necessarily translate into increased jobs. (Image: IPS)

A just-released report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) -- a DC think tank providing analysis on peace and economic, racial, and climate justice -- provides evidence that tax cuts for corporations do not necessarily correlate with an increase in jobs. Additionally, increased CEO compensation does not routinely result in increased employment. These are important findings, because the number one rationale that politicians use to justify corporate tax cuts is that the increased business revenue will lead to decreased unemployment.

The IPS report, entitled "Corporate Tax Cuts Boost CEO Pay, Not Jobs," had several key conclusions, including:

  • Tax breaks did not spur job creation

  • Tax-dodging corporations paid their CEOs more than other big firms

  • Job-cutting firms spent tax savings on buybacks, which inflated CEO pay

The August 30 report refutes the claim being made by Trump, who is now formally beginning his "tax reform" campaign, that reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent will result in increased and higher-paying jobs.

Rescue teams from the National Guard evacuate those flooded out by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.Rescue teams from the National Guard evacuate those flooded out by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. (Photo: The National Guard)WIM LAVEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When Donald Trump heads to Texas for his photo ops this week it is a completely selfish act. It is the same after every disaster and it reflects a real bifurcation between expertise on disasters and political expedience. Harvey is no different than Katrina or Sandy in that regard. George W. Bush and Barack Obama both had their pictures taken, and there are many lessons. Trump is aware of the clear lesson: stay away. He has even pledged to hold off until that trip can be made without causing disruption in the wake of the Hurricane, but he won't wait.

Presidential visits can divert critical resources. Trump, for example, has maxed out the Secret Service budget for the year already. Security details are only part of it and, on the whole, such visits require significant logistical planning during normal events and times. In the wake of a disaster, however, resources for the visit are pulled from other details, sometimes life and death operations. George W. Bush identified mistakes he made, and he avoided visiting too early during the aftermath of Katrina because he didn't want to cause disruptions. Barack Obama applied these lessons in the days following Sandy. Flyovers are effective, they don't require the volume of resources, but they don't produce the pictures. Politicians crave the boots-on-the-ground photo with the destruction in the background.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 06:46

Trump's High Tower

Here we were as a country at some of the lowest points in our history, and yet Trump’s coffers continue to be filled, his apparent fame an even greater attraction to the tower. While the US suffers, the private income of this one billionaire continues to profit. His tower. Here it was in broad daylight.As a country, we are at some of the lowest points in our history, and yet Trump’s coffers continue to be filled, his apparent fame an even greater attraction to his tower. While the US suffers, the private income of this one billionaire continues to profit. (Photo: Brad / Flickr)CHRISTINE NGARUIYA FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

It had never occurred to me to visit Trump Tower in New York before he came to power. As a form of defiance, I suppose, I had purposely avoided it as a contester to the majority of his administration's work thereafter. But then, one hazy summer afternoon, there I stood, unexpectedly lulled in by a friend from out of town with an innocent curiosity to explore the place.

I stood at the foot of the tower both metaphorically and tangibly taking in the structure and its surroundings. From a few blocks away, it was easy to spot, helped by the fully decked-out police brigade that lined the streets around it. Like many other aspects of this administration's work, it immediately struck a jarring chord with me. All of this disproportionate support for the one building on the street, serving the one and disregarding the masses.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

workprogramThe Trump administration just cut a promising local hiring program. (Photo: vonderauvisuals)

Next City, a website focusing on urban issues, revealed in an August 28 article that Trump is ending an encouraging jobs program:

His administration announced last week its withdrawal of a proposed rule change, put forth during President Barack Obama’s tenure, that would have allowed state and local governments receiving federal transportation dollars to apply local hiring preferences to contracts awarded using those dollars. The withdrawal reverts the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration back to rules set during the Reagan administration, which prohibited any geographic-based hiring preferences in contracts using federal transportation dollars....

“Local hire has allowed municipalities to use their own money to help employ people directly from their communities. It has been strategic for our elected leaders to say that they’re not going to raise our tax dollars for investments in capital projects without ensuring that persons facing significant barriers to employment get expanded access to good jobs and training opportunities,” said Erik Miller, executive director of Playa Vista Job Opportunities and Business Services.

Capital & Main, an investigative news site, included more criticism of the move in an article about the cancellation of the program:

“Many of these jobs were finally addressing long-term unemployment — many, for people of color,” said Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO of PolicyLink, an economic and social equity think tank. “This is yet another example of the Trump administration not standing up for jobs for the nation’s most vulnerable.”

BURT HALL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Broken 0828wrp opt(Photo: Rachel Knickmeyer / Flickr)The American people are deeply frustrated with not being fairly represented in Congress and with not having a voice in our democracy. They are demanding an end to our great political divide and a return to a working democracy. For years politicians have been well aware of these concerns and the need for the two parties to be civil and work together. And, they know that trust in government has been at an all time low. But the problem persists unabated.

Republicans now control all three branches of government, yet they haven't had an acceptable administration in years. They allowed a preventable 9/11 and two wars to occur, failed two terms in office, and constantly checkmated the other party's success while offering no solutions of their own. There is something fundamentally wrong in our democratic system and it has to be addressed.

Our great political divide began in a big way when, after owning the White House for 12 years, Republicans lost it unexpectedly to the Clinton presidency. They were outraged at the loss, considered his victory illegitimate and believed he had to be driven from office. The political environment that followed has continued to the present day and is best expressed byRepublican George Voinovich. After saving Cleveland from default as mayor and making Ohio number one as governor, he worked across the aisle during two terms in the Senate (winning all 88 Ohio counties) and always had the ear of the president. He confessed at Senate retirement that the attitude of his colleagues was "We're going to get what we want or the country can go to hell."

DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Peace 0828wrp opt(Photo: Bruce Fingerhood)Washington, D.C., needs a three-dimensional, sculptural Guernica dedicated to and with explanatory information about the victims of U.S. bombings in over 30 countries that the United States has bombed.

And it needs such a monument to the victims of wars now, to help move the country away from war. We can't wait to create the monument after having achieved a society willing to make room for it among the war-glorification monstrosities gobbling up more and more space in the U.S. capital.

With land unavailable for peace in the land of war temples, the obvious solution is a rooftop. The Methodist Building across from the Capitol and the Supreme Court, or the nearby FCNL building, or any other prominent building with a roof could radically alter the DC skyline and worldview.

Bureacratic hurdles would have to be cleared, height kept below that of the Capitol dome, etc. But a rooftop could make a monument more visible, not less. An external elevator could take people close-up to view, learn more, and photograph.

Friday, 25 August 2017 07:49

Facing History in the Age of Trump

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TFlag 0825wrp opt(Photo: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera)Tempting as it is to isolate Donald Trump as the worst president in history (and "worst" is putting it mildly . . . more like the most narcissistically infantile, the most Nazi-friendly), doing so achieves nothing beyond a fleeting sense of satisfaction.

Yeah, he's scary. His supporters are scary. But he comes in a context.

Whether or not he's impeached, or removed from office via the 25th Amendment, his effect on the country won't go away. Trump can't be undone, any more than an act of terror — or war — can be undone.

But maybe Trump can be addressed beyond a sense of outrage. Maybe he can foment, in spite of himself, not simply change, but national transformation. Realizing this, and seizing hold of the moment he has created, may be a far more effective way of dealing with his unhinged presidency than merely exuding endless shock.

This, of course, is how the mainstream media is dealing with the situation. Journalism has never been so yellow. Extra! Extra! Trump tweets a whopper! Read all about it!

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