JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I was at the grocery store a few days ago, I saw a homeless man probably in his 50s, scrubby beard, tattered shoes and a ragged coat that hung from his arms like two bare trees. It’s a common occurrence these days to see homeless men and women of all ages in front of markets. I yanked the cart from the long chain of carts and like so many people that put their blinders on, I turned away.
But then I couldn’t help glancing back as he was rummaging through a trashcan for something to eat.
He, like so many millions in this country, represents the indignity of poverty, the humiliating shamefulness of it: the fact that these individuals are seen as equally disposable as the trash that they rummage through is deplorable. They’re the faceless ones that are ignored in our society because in the United States, humans have no worth unless they’re “productive citizens” that are earning incomes. Yet, we deny them the availablity of jobs, and we don't offer proactive assitance to train people for work or to support them if they cannot enter the labor force for any of a variety of reasons.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There's plenty of evidence to support the work ethic of poor people.
- Almost 63 percent of America's work-eligible poor are working. Many of the remainder are plagued by a real unemployment rate that is two to five times higher than the official rate, as Congress has continually thwarted job creation proposals.
- Immigrants comprise 13 percent of the population, but make up 28 percent of the small business owners.
- Poor families don't waste money. Two-thirds of their income is consumed by housing, food, transportation, health care, and insurance.
- A study of 18 European countries found "increasing employment commitment as social spending gets more generous" -- in other words, dividend payments encourage people to work harder, rather than the other way around.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Donald Trump made a pilgrimage to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Liberty is the largest Christian University in the world, and is now run by his son Jerry Falwell Jr. At Liberty, Trump said that it was an honor to be compared to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and he assured the 13,000 people in attendance that he would "protect Christianity."
"Christianity is under siege," Trump added. "Very bad things are happening ... Somehow we have to unify, we have to band together, we have to do really in a really large version what they've done at Liberty ... You band together, you've created one of the great universities, colleges anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and that's what our country has to do around Christianity."
Raw Story reported that Trump "was ridiculed by some religious leaders after his appearance at Liberty on Monday, during which he tried to shoehorn a Biblical reference into his usual stump speech."
Trump speaking at Liberty University is pretty remarkable given that Trump has never had a close connection to, or even a passing relationship with, the Christian evangelical community. That combined with the fact that back in the day, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was an outspoken critic of Martin Luther King Jr. and what he termed the "so-called freedom movement," certainly made for an unusual cultural moment. To be fair to the late Rev. Falwell, he did eventually repudiate his segregationist past, although he never embraced Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights/freedom struggle during his career.
Trump's appearance at Liberty was followed by his receiving the endorsement of Sarah Palin, which, given her standing in the evangelical Christian community, could nudge a few more evangelical Christians into his column.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It would be easy to dismiss the endorsement of Donald Trump by Sarah Palin as one more segment in a rambunctious satire of a reality TV show. After all, who could possibly take seriously Palin's bizarre, meandering speech this week throwing her support behind Trump? The New York Times felt compelled to post a story with an annotated version of Palin's remarks that highlighted frequent phrasing unanchored in grammar - or even in one case the dictionary, when she created the word "squirmishes."
However, instead of laughing at the endorsement, we need to take its implications seriously. Palin's words were likely, judging from the cheers of the Iowa crowd, understood as a reaffirmation of "values" at the emotional heart of the populist right wing. For examples, consider one of Palin's declarations that The Times analyzed (the following segment includes the interpretation of Times reporter Michael Barbaro in italics):
[Palin:]"And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, 'No, America would apologize as part of the deal,' as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, 'Thank you, enemy.'"
[NYT] It’s a mouthful. But this section, in which Mrs. Palin contrasts Mr. Trump with Mr. Obama, has everything she relishes: Mockery of Mr. Obama’s early years working in Chicago neighborhoods, right-wing accusations that the president has apologized for America, and a crude reference to him as a submissive sissy on foreign policy.
Palin, over the years, has scurrilously targeted President Obama in a coded appeal to racism, as in her regular invoking of his work as a community organizer.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTCOLE MELLINO OF
Article reprinted with permission from Ecowatch
There will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, warned the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in a report published Tuesday. The report,The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics, was produced by the foundation and the World Economic Forum with analytical support from McKinsey & Company.
Every year “at least 8 million tons of plastics leak into the ocean—which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute,” the report finds. “If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.
“In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).”
Plastic production has increased 20-fold since 1964, reaching 311 million tons in 2014, the report says. It is expected to double again in the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050. New plastics will consume 20 percent of all oil production within 35 years, up from an estimated 5 percent today.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Criticism of US government leniency on Wall Street legal transgressions is now being covered widely - even by trade publications such as the National Mortgage Professional Magazine. On January 18, the trade publication ran an article about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) condemning the most recent US government settlement with a "too-big-to-fail" financial firm, in this case Goldman Sachs, for illegal abuse of the mortgage market:
Sen. Warren used her Facebook page to denounce the agreement, noting that the settlement sum was “barely a fraction of the billions investors lost” while arguing that Goldman Sachs was not properly penalized for its actions.
“That’s not justice – it’s a white flag of surrender,” she wrote. “It’s time to end this farce. These companies think they’re above the law – and too many government officials go along with them. A first step would be to pass the bipartisan Truth in Settlements Act to shine more light on these backroom deals. A second step would be to get government officials who have the backbone to fight back.”
Warren’s comments were echoed by the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).
The publication, which is geared toward professionals in the mortgage industry, also tellingly noted, "In announcing the [$5.1 billion] settlement, Goldman Sachs made no admission of guilt or error, and no executive from the New York-based financial giant will face criminal or civil charges."
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”
The president asked the right question in his State of the Union address last week. What if he’d actually answered it – or at least addressed it honestly?
Oh, torn heart, torn citizenship.
I find myself disconnecting from national politics in a profound way, even as the 2016 presidential race continues to transcend the media-controlled same old, same old charade of races past. The Republican presidential free-for-all is a suicidally End Times-esque spectacle the likes of which I’ve never seen. And on the other side of the divide, the Dems, thanks to Bernie Sanders, are daring to wade ankle-deep into progressive values. But it’s not enough. It’s not enough.
I simply can no longer tolerate our political inability to face the obsolescence of war and refuse to keep coddling the military-industrial profiteers and true believers.
“Priority number one,” Obama said in his address, “is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. . . .
“We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. . . . With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.”
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When I crossed paths with a Democratic Party campaign consultant in Austin last March, I suggested he come out to the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall to hear Bernie Sanders, adding that the Vermont senator was pondering a run for the presidency. "You gotta be kiddin' me," the political pro snorted. "Bernie Sanders? Let me tell ya, his chances are slim and none, and Slim don't live in Bernie's precinct. First of all, no one south of Greenwich Village ever heard of him. Second, who's gonna vote for some old senator from a tiny state of Birkenstock-wearers damn near in Canada?"
So that scoffer was a no-show, but we really didn't have room for him anyway. We had expected about 200 people — the capacity of the hall — but nearly 500 Texans showed up that night to hear the undiluted populist message of this senator "no one ever heard of."
Austin was one of the first stops on a cross-country trip that Sanders was taking to assess whether an unabashedly progressive, movement-building presidential campaign could rally any substantial support. If he ran, he intended to go right at the moneyed elites who've thoroughly corrupted our politics and rigged our economy to squeeze the life out of the middle class. But, would anyone follow? Were people really ready to do this, and could a 74-year-old, notoriously brusque Vermonter with a conspicuous Brooklyn accent be the one to spark such a modern-day American revolt? He wasn't sure, and even if it might work, he assumed it would be a slow build.
I was to introduce him at the Austin event, and as we worked our way from the parking lot, waving to an ebullient overflow group gathered outside the union building, shaking hands with people standing all along the hallway and up the stairwell, then squeezing through the jam-packed crowd in the auditorium — I said to him: "Something is happening here." He nodded and said in an astonished whisper, "Something is happening."
COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
DiCaprio was honored along with will.i.am, Yao Chen and Olafur Eliasson for making important contributions to improving the state of the world. He was recognized for his work in tackling climate change through his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and his position as an UN Messenger of Peace.
During his acceptance speech, DiCaprio urged world leaders to do more. “Last month in Paris, world leaders reached a historic agreement that provides a concrete framework to reduce carbon emissions,” he said. “This was an important first step, but we are a long way off from claiming victory in this fight for our future and for the survival of our planet.”
While traveling recently to film a documentary on the impacts of climate change, DiCaprio said he was “astonished to see that ancient glaciers” in Greenland and the Arctic are “rapidly disappearing well ahead of scientific models.” In India, he saw farmers’ fields devastated by unprecedented flooding. He said we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, urged business leaders to divest from fossil fuels and pushed for a rapid transition to renewables.
“We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity. Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied and even covered-up the evidence of our changing climate,” he said. “Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Based on the attacks on Bernie Sanders by the wealthy and corporate sectors, you'd think that his call for the wealthy to pay higher taxes makes him a Communist.
However, as has been pointed out by Sanders himself, the highest marginal income tax rate in the last 65 years was 91 percent, and it was in place under President Eisenhower. In November 2015, PolitiFact reported:
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wouldn’t reveal just how high he’d raise income taxes on the rich during the Iowa presidential debate, but he guaranteed it wouldn’t be as much as it has been in the past.
In order to pay for making college tuition-free for Americans, Sanders said that Wall Street owed the middle class for bailing it out during the recent financial crisis. He said he would demand "that the wealthiest people and the largest corporations, who have gotten away with murder for years, start paying their fair share."
Sanders was asked at the debate how high he might raise the marginal rate on upper bracket Americans? His response was, "We haven’t come up with an exact number yet, but it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was 90 percent."