ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"At the same time, values and ideas which were considered universal, such as cooperation, mutual aid, international social justice and peace as an encompassing paradigm are also becoming irrelevant."
Maybe this piercing observation by Roberto Savio, founder of the news agency Inter Press Service, is the cruelest cut of all. Geopolitically speaking, hope — the official kind, represented, say, by the United Nations in 1945 — feels fainter than I can remember. "We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . ."
I mean, it was never real. Five centuries of European colonialism and global culture-trashing, and the remaking of the world in the economic interests of competing empires, cannot be undone by a single institution and a cluster of lofty ideals.
As Savio notes in an essay called "Ever Wondered Why the World Is a Mess?,": "The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities."
And after the colonial era collapsed, these carved-out political entities, defining swatches of territory without any history of national identity, suddenly became the Third World and floundered in disarray. ". . . it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions."
Whatever noble attempts at eliminating war the powers that be made in the wake of World War II — Europe's near self-annihilation — didn't cut nearly deep enough. These attempts didn't set about undoing five centuries of colonial conquest and genocide. They didn't cut deeper than national interest.
ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTBRANDON BAKER OF
Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, federal fossil fuel subsidies have grown by 45 percent, from $12.7 billion to a current total of $18.5 billion, according to a report from Oil Change International.
Las year alone, U.S. federal and state governments provided $21.6 billion in production and exploration subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries. The increase is a result of oil and gas booms that are rewarded with tax breaks and other incentives. They are essentially rewarded for accelerating climate change, the report concludes.
“Channeling billions of taxpayer dollars to the oil, gas, and coal industries each year is in direct opposition to the urgent demands of climate change,” the report’s executive summary reads. “The U.S. needs to reject its current All of the Above energy strategy that amounts to nothing less than climate denial and live up to its promises to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and usher in a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy.”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a leader of the Moral Mondays movement, recently pronounced: "We're in a time where corporations are treated like people and people are treated like things."
We are witnessing a glaring example of this injustice in Detroit, where water is being cut off to residents who have not been up to date in paying their bills for a basic human survival need: water. The New Scientist recently reported on warnings that this may lead to a public health crisis:
The decision by the bankrupt city of Detroit to cut off the water supply to 80,000 homes with outstanding water bills is a public health disaster in the making, says the largest professional association of nurses in the US.
National Nurses United has called for an immediate moratorium on the shut-offs, and is leading a march in Detroit on Friday to make its demands clear.
The policy has been condemned by the United Nations as an international human rights violation.
"Nurses know the critical link between access to water and public health," said NNU co-president Jean Ross in a statement released by the organisation. "Lack of water, like unsafe sanitation, is a major health disaster that can lead to disease outbreaks and pandemics. The city must end this shut-off now."
A July 15 Truthout Op-Ed, "A National Call: Come to Detroit, Link Arms to Stop the Water Shut Offs and Fight for Democracy," by Ben Ptashnik excoriates the neoliberal attack on the most basic rights of humans:
The pawns in this crisis, the impoverished residents of Detroit, have already suffered the globalization of this rust belt region, as corporations took their production south, and then abroad. They are underemployed and struggling just to feed their families. The last thing they need is to be viciously set upon by the governor and his Darth Vader-like "manager" who now threaten their health by shutting off the water, the essential basis of civilized life. This attack would never see the light of day in an all-white community. The water shut-off preys most viciously on the poor and sick, elderly, children and pregnant women.
While they are being cut off, millions of dollars are still owed to the city water department by a golf course, corporations, businesses and by thousand of homes foreclosed and now owned by banks or corporations. All of these have not been subjected to shut off, even when their bills are months or years overdue. It is obvious that the African-American community is disproportionately targeted by the governor's emergency manager, who has hired a private company (a wrecking crew) to perform the shut-offs, often without notice, of any resident who is overdue 60 days, on as little as $75.
Ptashnik's commentary on Truthout covers much more expansive ground than just the inhumane water shut-offs; it witheringly criticizes the neoliberal abandonment of Detroit and the current efforts to make a profit off of destroying the city's neighborhood infrastructure.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is no contesting the fact that high-profile religious right leaders from the United States helped set the table for Uganda's appalling anti-gay laws. Now, emboldened by "victories" in Uganda and the prospect for further discriminatory legislation in other African countries, and Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws in Russia, some elements of the religious right appear to be setting their sights on Ukraine.
Last summer, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report titled "Dangerous Liaisons: The American Religious Right & the Criminalization of Homosexuality in Belize." Although the report focused on a dangerous situation for the LGBT community in Belize, Heidi Beirich, the author of the report and director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, offered an overview: "Many ... American religious-right groups know they have lost the battle against LGBT rights in the United States, ... they're now aiding and abetting anti-LGBT forces in countries where anti-gay violence is prevalent. These groups are pouring fuel on an exceedingly volatile fire."
A recent report-back from a group calling itself the American Pastor's Network (APN), told of attending an International Leadership Summit in Ukraine and "working with and encouraging pastors and elected leaders there who are making a concerted effort to embrace American ideas to restore the country."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yesterday, Thom Hartmann, lamented in a commentary posted on Truthout that the most recent Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement with Citigroup (its second this year, amid other fines levied by the DOJ for criminal behavior against other banks) was an example of the US government coddling banks engaged in illegal activities while leaving most homeowners who were victims of their malfeasance without adequate compensation or assistance.
Of the $7 billion total settlement, $4 billion will be in the form of a civil monetary payment to the Department of Justice, $500 million will go to state attorney's general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and an additional $2.5 billion will go towards "consumer relief."
But make no mistake about it. This agreement is another win for the big banks.
Under the agreement, Citigroup will most likely get a $500 million tax write-off. And in pre-market trading on Monday, Citigroup stocks rose by nearly 4 percent, despite the $7 billion agreement.
This is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for Citigroup; basically a cost of doing business.
And as for the mere $2.5 billion in consumer relief, while it will be going towards loan modifications, principal reduction and refinancing for distressed homeowners, it's nowhere near enough. And there are no guarantees it will make its way into the hands of the people Citigroup victimized, either.
As The New York Times reported on the Citigroup settlement:
Wall Street watchdog groups and housing advocates said the terms of the $7 billion settlement highlight how the federal government has fallen short in its effort to hold banks accountable, noting that neither Citigroup nor any of its executives have been criminally charged for the bank’s mortgage problems.
The bible of the financial industry, The Wall Street Journal - contrary to other reports that only a small tax deduction was included in Citigroup's settlement - posted an article, "Citigroup to Get Tax Silver Lining in $7 Billion Settlement."
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Gas prices at the pump during the July 4th extended weekend were the highest they have been in six years. This, of course, has little to do with supply-and-demand economics. It has everything to do with supply-and-gouge profits.
Over the past decade, the five largest oil companies have earned more than $1 trillion in profits. Last year, the Big Five—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell—earned about $93 billion in profits. Their CEOs last year earned an average of about $20 million. Included within the profits is $2.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies because it's hard to make a living when your hourly wage, assuming you work every hour of every day, is only $2,283.
"We have been subsidizing oil companies for a century. That's long enough," President Obama said more than a year ago. The Senate disagreed. Forty-three Republicans and four Democrats blocked the elimination of subsidies. Although the final vote was 51–47 to end the subsidies, a simple majority was not enough because the Republicans threatened a filibuster that would have required 60 votes to pass the bill. A Think Progress financial analysis revealed that the 47 senators who voted to continue subsidies received almost $23.6 million in career contributions from the oil and gas industry. In contrast, the 51 senators who had voted to repeal the subsidies received only about $5.9 million.
For a couple of decades, the oil industry blamed the Arabs for not pumping enough oil to export to the United States. But when the Arab oil cartel (of which the major U.S. oil companies have limited partnerships) decided to pump more oil, the Americans had to look elsewhere for their excuses. In rapid succession, they blamed Mexico, England, the Bermuda Triangle, polar bears who were lying about climate change so they could get more ice for their diet drinks, and infertile dinosaurs.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It's not unusual to see headlines in major cities, such as the one in Chicago after the Fourth of July weekend, on the NBC News Windy City website: "More Than 60 Shot Over Fourth of July Weekend."
Politicians, fearing the NRA and having abandoned large areas of urban areas populated by minorities as economic wastelands, often promote putting more people with illegal guns in jail as a solution to what amounts to free-fire zones in poor police-occupied areas of cities. In essence, these are the areas that political leaders (and much of society) have largely discounted as de facto urban reservations for disposable people.
Prison provides a living for a lot of people - for-profit prison corporations, guards, lawyers, judges, the arresting police officers and a whole slew of professional consultants and workers. One thing that it doesn't do is provide economic options for those incarcerated for gun possession charges (or for a myriad of other non-violent technical crimes including drugs) when they are released.
The cost to the taxpayer of keeping an individual in prison is high. The New York Times (NYT) wrote about a 2012 study that found that the average cost for incarceration in the state prisons was $31,286 in the 40 states studied - and federal prisons are even more costly. The NYT reported that New York City spent a whopping $167,731 per prisoner in city jail, the majority probably in jail for nonviolent charges.
ECOWATCH STAFF ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Less than two weeks ago, local communities triumphed over the fracking industry in a precedent-setting case decided by the New York Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas production within municipal borders.
While the court decision is a victory for the two towns, many New Yorkers continue to rally and push for a statewide fracking moratorium. In this vein, Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) today released a major resource to the public, including public officials, researchers and journalists—the Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.
“This compilation of findings brings together data from many fields of study and reveals the diversity of the problems with fracking—from increased flood risks to increased crime risks, from earthquakes to methane leaks,” said Sandra Steingraber, PhD, at a press conference held today. “What this multitude of threats all has in common is the ability to harm public health. That’s our message to Governor Cuomo and Acting Health Commissioner Zucker.”
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On October 26, 1934 Claude Neal, a black man accused of murdering a young white woman in Jackson County, Florida, was dragged from his jail cell to be lynched. The event was rushed into the afternoon newspapers. When an unruly crowd of several thousand people gathered for the spectacle, the six men in the lynching party got nervous and decided to drive Neal to a secluded spot in the woods. There they tortured him in ways that seem impossible for a human being to imagine.
America can rightfully feel better about itself now, having gone beyond such detestable acts of savagery against fellow human beings. But the assault on people deemed inferior continues in another way. Instead of a single shocking act of physical brutality, it is a less visible means of drawn-out terror that destroys dignity and livelihood and slowly breaks down the body. So insidious is this modern form of economic subjugation that many whites barely seem to notice people of color being dragged to the bottom of one of the most unequal societies in the history of the world.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There's no objective need for President Obama to visit the Texas-Mexico border and see the immigration crisis first-hand, but he shouldn't have claimed that "I'm not interested in photo ops."
The line about photo ops was so absurd that it's a good thing he wasn't under oath. Every president since Abraham Lincoln has been interested in photo ops. Posing for the cameras amid artfully chosen people and props is something presidents do every day. Obama is very good at it, and there are times when he actually gives the impression that he enjoys it.
Not all photo ops are created equal, though. It's easy to understand why Obama might dig in his heels over a trip to the border that would do nothing but give a false impression. Pictures of the president among a group of Central American children -- some of the tens of thousands who have entered the country without papers in recent months -- would suggest that our dysfunctional government is serious about addressing what has become a humanitarian crisis. Sadly, this is not true.
Reckless loudmouths such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who blast Obama for "lawlessness" on immigration, are pretending not to understand that the flood of unaccompanied children is primarily caused by Obama's adherence to the law.