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Wednesday, 20 August 2014 06:44

House Committee: No Benghazi Scandal

2014.8.20.Benghazi.BFRep. Trey Gowdy (R - South Carolina) meets with the other appointed majority members of the Benghazi Select Committee. (Photo: Caleb Smith / Flickr)

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The House Select Committee on Intelligence, following almost a two-year intense investigation, unanimously determined there is no basis for what has become known as the Benghazi Scandal.

The Committee consists of 12 Republicans and 9 Democrats.

The pretend-scandal began September 11, 2012, when terrorists raided the U.S. consulate, and killed the ambassador and three others.

Although there was confusion, and the Obama administration didn't have all the facts when it began to inform the American people about the events and the causes, there was no evidence of anything even remotely linked to a scandal. However, as expected, the blathering mouths of the extreme right-wing media pundits and politicians, and those who blindly parrot their "talking points" in bars, on front porches, and hunting lodges, kept caterwauling about scandal.

2014.8.20.Berkowitz.BFMove America Forward marches on Washington DC. (Screen grab via Move America Forward / YouTube)

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Move America Forward, the pro-Iraq War group that backed George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq to the hilt, has, since its founding in 2004, claimed that it's all about supporting the troops. However, according to a new report by ProPublica, Move America Forward "has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms."

Kim Barker's investigative piece titled "Pro-Troop Charity Misleads Donors While Lining Political Consultants' Pockets," details some of the ethically-challenged practices Move America Forward has used in its fundraising appeals, and how a chunk of the money it has raised has gone, not to support the troops, but to lining the pockets of Republican Party-oriented political consulting firms and Political Action Committees.

Move America Forward (MAF), which claims to be "the nation's largest grassroots pro-troop organization," was the brainchild of Howard Kaloogian, a former California State Assemblyman, and Melanie Morgan, the co-host of a morning drive program on right-wing talk radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Russo Marsh & Rogers, a Sacramento, California-based public relations outfit with longtime close ties to the Republican Party, helped the group get off the ground. Sal Russo, the Russo of Russo Marsh & Rogers, a longtime GOP political consultant," is listed on the 10-year-old charity's tax returns as chief strategist."

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFireThisTime(Photo: Fir0002)The fire this time is about invisibility. Our society expects the police to keep unemployed, poorly educated African-American men out of sight and out of mind. When they suddenly take center stage, illuminated by the flash and flicker of Molotov cocktails, we feign surprise.

The proximate cause of the rioting in Ferguson, Mo., is the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was stopped, a witness has said, by a white policeman for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk. Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown at least six times, according to a private autopsy and, reportedly, one conducted by the county medical examiner. Two of those bullets struck him in the head.

There we have the familiar narrative: another unarmed black man unjustly killed. Brown thus joins a long, sad list -- Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, etc. -- that seems to have no end.

This storyline is unassailable. Anyone who thinks race is not a factor in these fatal encounters should have to cite examples of unarmed young white men being killed by trigger-happy police or self-appointed vigilantes. Names and dates, please.

But the violence in Ferguson tells of a deeper, more fundamental narrative about what African-Americans have done, and what has been done to them, in the decades since the urban riots of the 1960s -- the fire last time.

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDontShoot(Photo: Erinmiran)It's not terribly controversial to note that, in recent years, increased funding to police, across the country has led to what can only be termed a militarization of police activities. And this militarization just doesn't seem to go all that well. The recent debacle in Ferguson, Missouri is just the latest example. There was tear gas, there were arbitrary detentions of journalists, there was a freaking no fly zone. Things finally ended when the governor of Missouri stepped in to order the local police to stand down.

You could call this an isolated incident where things spiraled, very quickly, out of control. You would be wrong. While response to the (mostly) peaceful protests following the shooting of an unarmed, African American, 18 year old was noteworthy for its almost cartoonish excess, similar police actions are not uncommon. A similar, if less excessive, police response occurred in Albuquerque, NM, as protesters marched against APD's killing of an unarmed, mentally ill, homeless man who was in the process of surrendering. These protests, while again, not 100% peaceful, were met with disproportionate force. (And, as a cherry atop the whole thing, the APD wrapped up the night by killing yet another person who may or may not have had a weapon. The APD has an impulse control issue.)

But beyond the excessive reactions to public protest, let's take a quick look at the actions that people are actually protesting. It seems as though every few days, yet another incident in which a police officer kills a civilian. Often they're minorities. Often they're mentally ill. Rarely does the police action result in much more than a suspension with, of course, pay. And that tends to get people a little worked up, worked up enough to take to the streets, where they are met with police departments exercising their usual restraint.


Monday, 18 August 2014 05:32

The Carnage of Capitalism

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

caplove(Photo: buridan)

Capitalism is expanding like a tumor in the body of American society, spreading further into vital areas of human need like health and education.

Milton Friedman said in 1980: "The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people." The father of the modern neoliberal movement couldn't have been more wrong. Inequality has been growing for 35 years, worsening since the 2008 recession, as a few well-positioned Americans have made millions while the rest of us have gained almost nothing. Now, our college students and medicine-dependent seniors have become the source of new riches for the profitseeking free-marketers.


Higher Education: Administrators Get Most of the Money

College grads took a 19 percent pay cut in the two years after the recession. By 2013 over half of employed black recent college graduates were working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree. For those still in school, tuition has risen much faster than any other living expense, and the average student loan balance has risen 91 percent over the past ten years.

At the other extreme is the winner-take-all free-market version of education, with a steady flow of compensation towards the top. Remarkably, and not coincidentally, as inequality has surged since the 1980s, the number of administrators at private universities has doubled. Administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country.

These administrators are taking the big money. As detailed by Lawrence Wittner, the 25 highest-paid presidents increased their salaries by a third between 2009 and 2012, to nearly a million dollars each. For every million-dollar public university president in 2011, there were fourteen such presidents at private universities, and dozens of lower-level administrators aspiring to be paid like their bosses. At Purdue, for example, the 2012 administrative ranks included a $313,000-a-year acting provost, a $198,000 chief diversity officer, a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief.

 (Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/barclaynix/5787360361/in/photolist-bHBWc4-9PpBxX-hEKDda-9qY26R-8K2BgU-eUAnRY-qMQsf-9PpJBc-aGWtFn-uAjnc-cKdnQm-bZYGp7-4EVu19-nBj5eM-89rFqD-4S9YYV-fPfjJJ-abDDif-78U5HY-cSYs5o-cSYs9A-cSYrHj-cSYrZm-5VyZQv-abANMH-gBMCoe-7pbg8g-gBMdDd-bBYxbq-hnTTc7-cHXXmS-cHXXqW-cHXXsb-cHXXuo-cHXXoA-tPKui-8eFGR5-3PVtPL-5662Cf-4tHj3U-6bBpTh-eUgqys-8jJAan-etGBZM-dxALFf-4EVz4o-7V8Mmz-4FKTnE-5jrKsc-eWpAf" target="_blank"> NixBC / Flickr</a>)(Photo: NixBC / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

You’ve heard about the plastic detritus polluting our oceans. You’ve likely seen plastic bags from grocery stores hanging from trees and telephone poles. Some localities have already banned those single-use plastic bags, including 115 in California. In that state, plastic bags are one of the five most common items littering its beaches, according to Ocean Conservancy’s beach cleanup data.

Now the entire state is moving toward a ban on the bags.

SB 270 proposes a big step toward reducing the use of the bags by prohibiting their use in supermarkets and drugstores by July 1, 2015 and in smaller groceries and convenience stores by July 1, 2016. Paper, reusable and compostable plastic bags would carry a minimum ten cent charge if the bill passes. The bill also includes provisions that encourage manufacturers of one-use bags to transition to reusable bags. If it passes, it would make California the first state to enact a statewide ban on the single-use bags, although Hawaii has bans in all four of its counties.

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCAwaterEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)California is suffering through a record drought. Water is being rationed and its usually fertile agriculture industry is suffering.

Meanwhile, someone in Minnesota or Kentucky or Maryland may be drinking a bit of California’s precious commodityMother Jones reported this week that at least four major bottled water companies—Aquafina, Dasani, Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead—use water from California, either ground (spring) water or tap water. Aquafina and Dasani both bottle and sell treated tap water, while Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead use spring water.

That’s partly because the brands are based or have plants there. In addition, California is the only western state that doesn’t regulate or manage groundwater use.

Mother Jones senior editorial fellow Julia Lurie reported that while the amount of water used to make bottled water pales in comparison to the 80 percent of California water used in agriculture, the idea that water is being directed away from the drought-stricken state is head-scratching. Even a spokesperson for Arrowhead told her that from an environmental standpoint, “tap water is always the winner.”

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClown(Photo: Graeme Maclean)Ah, August — that time of year when the going gets tough ... and Congress gets going.

On vacation that is. And, to be fair, maybe Congress needs a vacation. All the stress of not passing laws and constantly thwarting any attempt by President Obama to fix America's problems seems to be straining their sanity.

For starters, if you thought that, surely, partisan posturing by far-right congress critters couldn't get any nuttier, you'd be wrong. Last month, the GOP claimed that all the talk about impeaching President Barack Obama is being led by — guess who? — Barack Obama!

If you'll recall, the top Republican leader, John Boehner (having discovered that the larger public is appalled that his party would even consider wasting time on such extremist nonsense) tried to do a political backflip. Impeachment talk, he fumed, is "a scam started by Democrats at the White House." No Republican lawmakers, he barked to the media, are even discussing it.

Boehner, Boehner, Boehner! Apparently he didn't hear Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who's No. 2 on his own GOP leadership team, tell Fox News that he refuses to rule out impeachment. Or Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, exult that "it would be a dream come true" to impeach Obama, and that he has pursued advice from experts on how to proceed. Or Iowa's Rep. Steve King, saying flatly, "We need to bring impeachment hearings immediately." How about Randy Weber of Texas, who put it unequivocally: "The president deserves to be impeached, plain and simple." And Georgia's Jack Kingston confirmed that: "Not a day goes by when people don't talk to us about impeachment."

Conservative televangelist James Robison speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo:<a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/12999696943" target="_blank"> Gage Skidmore / Flickr</a>)Conservative televangelist James Robison speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Not since Oscar hooked up with Felix in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" are we seeing such an unusual pairing: Pope Francis, a man who has expressed deep concern for the poor, the downtrodden, and issues of social inequality, and two controversial televangelists who have rarely seemed interested in anything other than building their ministries into huge money-making empires.

Over the past several months, Pope Francis' outreach efforts have included Protestant evangelicals. In late July, he became the first pope to visit a Pentecostal church in Italy. "Among those who persecuted and denounced Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy people trying to ruin the race, there were also Catholics," Francis said, referencing Mussolini's fascist regime. "I am the pastor of Catholics, and I ask your forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who didn't know and were tempted by the devil."

The attempt at reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants is nothing new, often been fueled by conservative politicians pursuing a right-wing social agenda. During its heyday, Ralph Reed, the executive director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, attempted to launch a Catholic auxiliary. In 1994, conservative Catholics and evangelicals in the U.S. created Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical document signed by leading Evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars in the United States.

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFailTrain(Photo: Epheterson)More fun than fourteen barrels of flunkies watching our elected officials exit Washington like scared rats streaming out of a sewer to escape Godzilla. And really, who can blame them. Anybody who's ever spent a summer in DC can tell you the climate is real similar to Hell. With humidity. Then again, not sure even Hell has winged insects the size of footstools. It's not called Foggy Bottom because that's the first thing that springs to mind when Diane Feinstein walks away, you know.

Funny thing is, this is the same Congress that lies on the verge of breaking all previous records for complete and utter futility. The Zero Zip Zilch Crew. Who have ridden lethargy into the ground and taken loitering to bold new heights. Or is it depths? Folks who would need hydraulic mechanical assists to raise their attitudes from stuporous to torpid. From the lair of the drugged slugs. Debi Does Drowsy.

In essence, they're taking a vacation from nothing. Which is a lot like waking up to take a nap. Topping breakfast off with a sleeping pill. Floating off to a loafing, lay- about layoff. Playing hide and seek with the mirror. And losing.

The 113th Congress is destined to go down in history as the most Do- Nothingest Congress of all time. Accomplishing less than all the other Do- Nothing Congresses combined. Which is saying something, because there were plenty.

"Proud to Put the Nothing in the Do- Nothing Congress." Enshrined as the undisputed heavyweight champion of Indolence. The Friends of Inertia. Slouching towards SlouchVille. The Slacker Congress.

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