PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In the worst moments of the tragedy in Houston, something remarkable about America burst into view, as government and business and military and especially ordinary citizens put aside thoughts of personal gain and dedicated themselves to the needs of fellow human beings.
People in Texas and around the nation pitched in, through their labors and donations; neighbors and first responders saved lives; the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, including many local churches, brought food and supplies and medicine to hurricane victims; many GoFundMe initiatives were set up; the business community -- especially furniture man Jim McIngvale -- donated their goods and services; government officials remained focused on the people they were elected to represent; even the military contributed with rescue helicopters. No one seemed to care about the skin color or religion or politics of those in need.
The empathy and cooperative spirit -- the SOCIALISM -- that gripped America was delightful to behold. But soon we return to reality.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Suddenly it's possible — indeed, all too easy — to imagine one man starting a nuclear war. What's a little harder to imagine is one human being stopping such a war.
For all time.
The person who came closest to this may have been Tony de Brum, former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, who died last week of cancer at age 72.
He grew up in the South Pacific island chain when it was under "administrative control" of the U.S. government, which meant it was a waste zone absolutely without political or social significance (from the American point of view), and therefore a perfect spot to test nuclear weapons. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 67 such tests — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima blasts every day for 12 years — and for much of the time thereafter ignored and/or lied about the consequences.
As a boy, de Brum was unavoidably a witness to some of these tests, including the one known as Castle Bravo, a 15-megaton blast conducted on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. He and his family lived about 200 miles away, on Likiep Atoll. He was nine years old.
He later described it thus: "No sound, just a flash and then a force, the shock wave . . . as if you were under a glass bowl and someone poured blood over it. Everything turned red: sky, the ocean, the fish, my grandfather's net."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Earlier this year, the Trump administration ordered the National Park Service (NPS) to temporarily stop tweeting. One can assume that this was done, in part, to ensure that the NPS would get the message to stop tweeting anything "controversial' -- like actual facts that might debunk the White House's "alternative facts."
That action was one of the first hints that the executive branch was going to apply its right-wing ideology in administering the National Park Service. That ideological application has grown more apparent with time. One only need look to the growing influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), a key Trump supporter, on the NPS and its parent, the Department of the Interior. In one telling example, the wife of Wayne LaPierre, the longtime head and chief firebrand of the NRA, has been appointed to the National Park Service Foundation board. As National Parks Traveler reported on August 28,
Susan LaPierre, co-chair of the National Rifle Association's Women's Leadership Forum and wife of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, has landed a seat on the National Park Foundation's board of directors.
Mrs. LaPierre was one of four appointments to the board made earlier this year. None of the appointments was announced in a release by either the Interior Department or Park Foundation.
Mrs. LaPierre's appointment by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke leaked out this past week in connection with a story detailing the National Park Service's opposition to a handful of sections in the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, that would impact the Park Service's management of fishing and hunting within the National Park System....
In her bio on NRA Women she called herself "a lifelong outdoorswoman who's always believed in the Second Amendment and the NRA." The Leadership Forum she organized a dozen years ago is a "philanthropic society of women who are dedicated to protecting and defending our Second Amendment."
Secretary Zinke is a lifetime member and zealous advocate of the NRA and its claim of unfettered Second Amendment "gun rights.
JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Just over a year ago, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee voted on whether or not to endorse single-payer Medicare for All, or national health insurance (NHI). It lost by a narrow vote of 7-6, with the no votes coming from delegates chosen by Hillary Clinton, a cautious centrist awash with campaign money from special interests in the for-profit health care industry. That position is in direct opposition to the will of the people, with about 60 percent support of single-payer, and of Democrats, with about 80 percent support.
So what's happening today on this front as the Democratic Party tries to deal with its own split party on this issue? As centrist Democrats such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi take a victory lap in defending (so far) the Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with or without replacement, they are trotting out their so-called Better Deal. While this has some good ideas, they are much too small for the moment and fail to take on the chains of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and the medical-industrial complex. The Better Deal does not come out in favor of single-payer Medicare for All, the only way we can ever achieve universal coverage to health care as a human right for all Americans.
KEVIN ESCUDERO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The future of the Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is once again in jeopardy. While there had been talk of ending DACA earlier in Trump's presidency, this threat is more acute and immediate, given the pending lawsuit by more than 10 state attorneys general pressuring the administration to end the program by September 5.
Around 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school every year, and with the help of DACA, more of those high school graduates are enrolling in and graduating from college. This means that educational institutions, especially colleges and universities, have a key role to play in the debate over the future of DACA. As these schools welcome undocumented and DACA students this fall, it is imperative that they respond to the threats against DACA and devise new, innovative approaches to safeguard the rights of all their community members.
What, exactly, is on the line? The DACA program, announced by President Obama in 2012, provides undocumented young people with the opportunity to obtain a Social Security number, work permit and a two-year stay of deportation, renewable in two-year increments, until age 30. According to a comprehensive, multi-year study conducted by a team of Harvard researchers, the program's success has encouraged undocumented students to pursue higher education and assisted students in finding employment related to their educational training.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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
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
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."
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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.
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.