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Monday, 07 August 2017 07:25

The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower

REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RumpTower 0807wrp opt(Photo: Lorie Shaull)It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.  

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous "Other."

Our destination is on the 5th floor.  There is a legal never-never-land called a "Privately Owned Public Space" or POPS, and the upshot is that in 1979 Trump agreed in exchange for height variances to keep a garden open to the public.  And by the time we get to the glass door of the garden we are ready to shout.  We have such a need to re-establish our own body.  It is real and direct.  We’ve been coming back here a lot since the election, releasing our personal arts in this garden, our songs, outlandish costumes, dancing, lecturing with the lurid statistics of species extinction and climate chaos.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Gold 0807wrp optThe wealth of the few. (Photo: James Mathews)Inequality is much worse than we're led to believe by a dismissive business media. The numbers are hellish, and they're growing.

1. The Extreme Wealth Gap is Still Expanding

The U.S. has gained $30 trillion in wealth since 2008, about half of it in the stock market, much of the remainder in real estate holdings. Based on prior analyses, data from Credit Suisse and Forbes, and recent work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, it's a rather simple process to estimate the distribution of our nation's wealth over that time period. The following are conservative estimates, since the numbers amount to about $15 trillion, the minimum amount by which financial wealth has increased since the low point of the recession.

-- The richest 400 individuals gained an average of $2,500,000,000 each since the recession.
-- The .01% (12,000 households) gained about $120,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the .1% (120,000 households) gained about $11,000,000 each.
-- The rest of the 1% (1,068,000 households) gained about $2,500,000 each.
-- The 2-5% (4,800,000 households) gained about $900,000 each.
-- The 6-10% (6,000,000 households) gained about $285,000 each.
-- The 11-20% (12,000,000 households) gained about $117,000 each.
-- The Bottom 80% (96,000,000 households) gained about $13,000 each.

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

FrackHead 0804wrp optAn abandoned fracking wellhead. (Photo: Joshua Doubek)Several earthquakes have struck Oklahoma this week, including a magnitude 4.2 that hit the central part of the state on Wednesday night.

"The past 24 hours have had an uptick in earthquake numbers, with 8 quakes ranging from 2.6-4.2 magnitude occurring in Oklahoma," USGS tweeted.

USGS described last night's 4.2 quake as "widely felt" in the city of Edmond and northern Oklahoma City.

An earthquake at that magnitude feels like a "heavy truck striking building," the agency explained on its website.

The temblor caused power outages for more than 4,600 electricity customers in north Edmond. The power was completely restored by 11 p.m. local time.

Edmond's police department reported no significant damages from that earthquake, but many locals and households were shaken up.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

medicareforallMedicare-for-All may be closer than many persons think. (Photo: Molly Adams)

Before the establishment of Medicare, many persons more than 65 years of age who weren't wealthy dealt with a harrowing reality. When they became seriously ill or required a costly procedure, they possibly faced bankruptcy due to lack of health insurance or high deductibles and co-pays. Many also confronted having to go without health care because of costs, sometimes leading to a painful death because of the exorbitant price of medical care without insurance. In fact, the lack of a government health insurance program for the elderly led to seniors being among the poorest age groups in the nation.

This past Sunday, Medicare celebrated its 52nd anniversary. National health care coverage in the United States for seniors had been an elusive goal until the program was launched in 1965. For years, efforts to pass Medicare were thwarted by charges that we still hear today against the Affordable Care Act and proposals for single-payer health care. Government health care insurance for the elderly was called "communist" medicine and accused of being "un-American." Despite his ability to get Social Security enacted in 1935 and launch other government-administered New Deal programs, President Franklin Roosevelt was not able to overcome vigorous opposition to government health coverage for seniors, and was unable to get it passed out of Congress.

It took the determined and wily President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in the post-Kennedy assassination environment, to persuade both houses of Congress to make Medicare -- long a seemingly impossible dream of many advocates -- a reality.

When fertilizer and manure washes off soy and corn fields used to grow feed for livestock, it not only contaminates local drinking water supplies, it flows into larger water bodies and creates toxic algal blooms from the excessive nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. When fertilizer and manure washes off soy and corn fields used to grow feed for livestock, it not only contaminates local drinking water supplies, it flows into larger water bodies and creates toxic algal blooms from the excessive nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. This is now polluting the Gulf of Mexico.(Photo: NASA / Flickr)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Scientists predict that so much pollution is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico this year that it is creating a larger-than-ever "dead zone" in which low to no oxygen can suffocate or kill fish and other marine life.

The Guardian reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to announce this week the largest recorded hypoxic zone in the gulf, an oxygen-depleted swath that's even larger than the New Jersey-sized, 8,185 square-mile dead zone originally predicted for July.

And in a new analysis from environmental group Mighty, the meat industry as well as the country's appetite for meat is much to blame.

So long as Trump is in power, however, we and the planet are going to pay a high price.So long as Trump is in power, we and the planet are going to pay a high price. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)MEL GURTOV FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

History may record that the planet's climate crisis was avoided thanks to the efforts of three countries: China, Germany, and France.  Or not.  The preparedness of those three, and the other EU member-states, to follow through on commitments under the Paris Accord despite the US pull-out is key to planetary survival.  Chancellor Angela Merkel has made no bones about it, announcing that the Europeans are determined, in the name of Western values, to meet the Paris goal of keeping planetary temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius while also welcoming immigrants and upholding the global trade system.

The Discouraging News

Every expert opinion on climate change includes a dire warning: We haven't got much time.  The latest warning comes from a group of scientists and supportive others called Mission 2020. Reporting in Nature, they believe that if greenhouse gas emissions can turn downward by 2020 -- emissions have actually flattened out over the last three years -- we have a chance to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.  But if the Paris goals cannot be met, we are on the way to catastrophic decline.  The group reminds us that economic growth in many countries is occurring precisely where use of non-carbon renewable sources has increased dramatically.

Mission 2020 makes a number of specific, entirely doable suggestions on land-use policy, city structures, transportation, and other subjects.  But for its ideas to see the light of day, the group emphasizes that we must "use science to guide decisions and set targets. Policies and actions must be based on robust evidence… Those in power must also stand up for science."  Its closing observation is well worth heeding: "There will always be those who hide their heads in the sand and ignore the global risks of climate change. But there are many more of us committed to overcoming this inertia. Let us stay optimistic and act boldly together."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

scalesofjustice33The scales of justice are tipping conservative due to the GOP's fast-paced Senate confirmations of federal judges. (Photo: Chris Potter)

Ever since I founded BuzzFlash in 2000, I have written occasional commentaries on how the Republicans are equally tenacious in appointing right-wing federal judges when they control the Senate process as they are in opposing liberal or moderate nominees when there is a Democratic president.

One can point to the nixing of the Merrick Garland appointment to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) under Obama as an example of GOP obstructionism. With Mitch McConnell as the coordinator of the effort, no hearings were even held on Garland and only a few courtesy calls with a few Republican senators were allowed. Garland, Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is regarded as a moderate and respected by the likes of arch-conservative Orrin Hatch.

However, the Democrats did not shine a spotlight on the unfairness of the Republicans, which led to what would have been Garland's seat going to ultra-right-wing jurist Neil Gorsuch, who was fast-tracked to the SCOTUS in the first months of the Trump administration.

Deere's claim to have a controlling power over people who own its products is a ridiculous perversion of language, logic and law.John Deere's claim to have a controlling power over people who own its products is a ridiculous perversion of language, logic and law. (Photo: ripperda)

JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

When I was a boy, I loved spending time with my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Eula on their small northeast Texas farm. They pulled a frugal living from their 50 acres, raising a little bit of everything. Doing a lot with a little to make ends meet, Ernest and Eula operated on principle of frugality expressed in an old country rhyme: Use it up/ Wear it out/ Make it do/ Or do without.

This meant that when their tractor broke down, they fixed it themselves. Likewise, if their old Zenith console radio went on the fritz, they didn't just order a new one -- they brought out their tool kit and fixed it.

While the media and political powers seem blissfully ignorant of the "lifestyles" of America's commoners, most families are struggling financially and are making do or doing without.For this poor-to-middle-class majority, frugality is not some old-world virtue, but a household necessity, and the "fix-it" ethic is central to their lives. Add to them the millions of do-it-yourselfers who like to tinker or refuse to be a part of the corporate system's throwaway economy.

Today, just about every manufactured product containing software -- from an electric toothbrush to an SUV -- has no-repair clauses and/or digital locks. It's now standard industry practice for manufacturers to insert a spurious claim into their sales agreements that the company retains legal possession of key components of the products they sold to us, and only it can make repairs. To see how insidious this is, let's go back to the farm with Ernest and Eula.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

charterschools32Corporatizing our schools does not improve the educational system. (Photo: Leigh Blackall)

 According to an evaluation conducted by The Boston Globe, the salaries of the top charter school executives in the city are off the charts:

The median pay package for the top leaders of the 16 charter schools in Boston was $170,000 last year, making most of them among the highest-paid public school officials in Boston, according to a Globe review of payroll data.

One charter school leader, Diana Lam of Conservatory Lab, earned more money than Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang, even though she oversaw a school of just 400 students. Lam, who retired in 2016, collected $275,000 in salary and an additional $23,000 for unused personal time off. Chang received $272,000 in total compensation....

The Globe review revealed other big earners: Roger Harris, executive director and senior adviser at Boston Renaissance in Hyde Park, $210,000; Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Academy in Boston and Lynn, $197,500; Owen Stearns, chief executive Excel Academy in East Boston, $193,000; and Karmala Sherwood, executive director of Helen Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, $190,000.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Peggy Wiesenberg, an education advocate who scrutinizes charter-school financing and operations. “These are publicly financed schools and the taxpayers are paying multiple, arguably duplicative top-dollar executive salaries. Will the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Legislature wake up when it comes to financial responsibility here?”

Since the Boston charter schools are not part of the city's public school system, The Globe had to file public records requests with each school to receive the salary information. Although some of the charter school execs earned far less, The Globe article reveals how far the charter school movement has strayed from financial accountability in terms of senior staff.

Part of the legacy Moon inherited was an agreement with the U.S. to provide land and support for THAAD, a missile defense system designed to target and intercept short and medium-range missiles fired by North Korea.Part of the legacy President Moon of South Korea inherited when he took office in May was an agreement with the US to provide land and support for THAAD, a missile defense system designed to target and intercept short and medium-range missiles fired by North Korea. (Photo: Republic of Korea)MEDEA BENJAMIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Touching down in Washington D.C. Friday night after a peace delegation to South Korea, I saw the devastating news. No, it was not that Reince Priebus had been booted from the dysfunctional White House. It was that North Korea had conducted another intercontinental ballistic missile test, and that the United States and South Korea had responded by further ratcheting up this volatile conflict.

The response was not just the usual tit-for-tat, which did happen. Just hours after the North Korean test, the U.S. and South Korean militaries launched their own ballistic missiles as a show of force. Even more incendiary, however, is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in also responded by reversing his decision to halt deployment of the U.S. weapon system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). President Moon gave his military the green light to add four more launchers to complete the system.

South Korea's new liberal president came into office May 10 on the wave of a remarkable “people power” uprising that had led to the impeachment and jailing of the corrupt President Park Geun-hye. Part of the legacy Moon inherited was an agreement with the U.S. to provide land and support for THAAD, a missile defense system designed to target and intercept short and medium-range missiles fired by North Korea.

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