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WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaBulletsNRA(Photo: Snowjackal)For awhile, it appeared the NRA leadership committed an act of sanity. But, a few hours later, the pills wore off.

The story begins with a group called Open Carry Texas (OCT). This fringe group rubbed both its brain cells together, wrapped itself in what it erroneously believes is the Second Amendment, and decided it would be great theatre to bring semi-automatic carbines into family restaurants. Waving the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flags, a common sight at Tea Party rallies, OCT members handed out leaflets, proclaimed their rights to carry weapons and confronted citizens who had little desire to be in a place where civilians were carrying weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, any one of which could shred any one of their internal organs.

Openly carrying handguns in Texas is illegal, but the law permits anyone to openly carry long guns, from BB guns to semi-automatic military weapons.

Almost all OCT members are white men, but there are a few white women who also believe in their "right-to-carry." Among them was a woman in Dallas who openly carried her 10-month-old twins and a semi-automatic assault weapon.

When Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, and other coffee shops, restaurants, and department stores told these thugs, who can even make the rural folk of "Deliverance" appear to be civilized, they were welcome to eat, shop, and browse—but leave the weapons at home—Open Carry Texas escalated its public demonstrations.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEmbeddedJournalist(Photo: Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)Close to ten years ago Frank Rich, formerly of The New York Times, presently of New York Magazine, wrote one of the best books on the Bush/Cheney War on Iraq. Entitled The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America, it definitively took the cover off the Bush/Cheney lies that led the United States into what to date has been the most disastrous war the nation has ever been engaged in.

In a recent issue of the New York Magazine, Rich visits the role of the so-called "liberal media" in making the BushCheney initiative a "go." In a side-bar, he summarizes his overview of the initiative: "The massive blunder of Iraq remains the nation's inescapable existential burden two and a half years after our last troops departed." Now, one must say that in terms of Bush/Cheney's true objectives, that is the establishment of permanent war or at least the permanent preparation for permanent war, that objective has been achieved. True, President Obama has announced that most U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2016.

However, one never knows A) what war or wars "of necessity" might pop up in the interim, B) what would happen were a Republican of the neocon persuasion (Ted Cruz, anyone?) were to win the Presidency in 2016. Why there might be just the smallest of gaps in the Permanent War sequence, and certainly the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War would be fully restored. (And even President Obama seems to be moving in the latter direction.) But for our nation as a whole, Rich is right: it was a "massive blunder."

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaNazis(Photo: German Federal Archive)In late May, the BBC reported that "Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France's PM called a 'political earthquake'." Aftershocks from the far-right's European "political earthquake" are being felt in the United States, as America's White supremacists are celebrating like it's 1999.

It takes an experienced researcher and writer with an international perspective to dissect the recent European parliament elections and try and understand what it means to, and for, the far right in the United States. And, Devin Burghart is the perfect person for the job. In a recent post at the website of the Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights (IREHR), Burghart pointed out that for the most part, America's far right is rejoicing over the results of the elections.

"Many on the American far right, from the Tea Party to hardened white nationalists, paid close attention to the European results," Burghart, vice president of IREHR, wrote in a story titled, American Far Right Jubilant Over European Election Results. "Looking at these votes for nationalist, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-European Union political parties — the American hard right saw hope for the future here at home."

Burghart pointed to several emergent themes including: "1) nationalist, anti-globalist arguments in the age of austerity and financial turmoil, 2) anti-immigrant politics as a winning message, and 3) the necessity of a white electoral strategy here at home."

JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPOW(Photo: James Pollock)Last week, President Obama gave an emotionally stirring announcement with Sergeant Bergdahl's grateful parents by his side in the White House Rose Garden concerning the return of their beloved son, Sgt. Bowe Berghahl, who's been held in captivity for five years in Afghanistan. Obama explained that they "made a deal to bring home the longest-held American captive of America's longest war."

It didn't take long for Republicans and the right-wing media to attack President Obama for doing something that was morally right for a change: for taking ethical action that brings us closer to shutting down Guantanamo Bay Prison, as I wrote in my last Buzzflash-Truthout commentary, a prison widely known for its illegal practice of indefinite detention, and for its CIA horrors of physical torture and psychological abuses.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, prosecutor of ethical whistleblowers' Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) and Edward Snowden (whistleblower on NSA's surveillance abuses), joined angry Republicans' crazy John McCain, Ted Cruz, and other moral midgets to instigate a bully attack, insisting that the exchange of the Taliban prisoners for Mr. Bergdahl puts American lives at risk, a statement meant to stir up the pit bulls at the corporate media, to block any hope of shutting down GITMO.

After all, most Republicans think GITMO is a symbol of unlimited power to the world, and most Bush-Cheney Republicans have turned a blind eye to torturing human beings in the most sickening, gruesome ways, including raping males with harsh instruments—at GITMO.

DR DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaOceanTrash(Photo: NOAA)June 8 is World Oceans Day. It's a fitting time to contemplate humanity's evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we've affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we've taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean's surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We're slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean's capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we're losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it's clear they can only handle so much.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJournalism(Photo: Kai Mörk)Too often "the law" is nothing more than prejudice embedded in jargon.

So the Obama administration, in its attempt to hammer another national security leaker, is directly challenging the right of journalists to protect confidential sources. Administration lawyers, arguing this week before the Supreme Court — which rejected New York Times reporter James Risen's appeal of a Circuit Court decision that could require him to testify in the case against a former CIA officer — asserted, according to the Times, that "reporters have no privilege to refuse to provide direct evidence of criminal wrongdoing by confidential sources."

Wrongdoing is one thing but, wow, "criminal wrongdoing" is quite another. The phrase bristles with righteous fury, summoning a sense of no-nonsense seriousness that sends a tremor to the very foundations of our society. The former CIA guy the administration wants to nail, Jeffrey Sterling, may have passed classified information — this is the government's contention — along to reporter Risen, and therefore endangered the nation's security. Criminal wrongdoing! Same as murder, rape and shoplifting. Freedom of the press doesn't give journalists the privilege to protect people like this.

One problem here is that the discussion of this issue is safely confined to abstract concepts. When we unravel the facts of this matter and put them in a real context of national — indeed, global — security, the legal trumpet-blasting reduces to a kind of weak toot. This is all about nuclear weapons, geopolitics . . . and public relations, specifically, the government's right to orchestrate what the public knows.

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 07:17

The Koch Brothers Will Bankrupt Us

(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/truthout/8432382363/in/photolist-fm3eMM-dR9auP-bJS88n-bu7YWi-aTfYhF" target="_blank">Jared Rodriguez / Truthout</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In the bad old days, medieval German Lords figured out how to pocket some quick coin by charging a toll on the primitive paths meandering across their lands. The money wasn't used to improve the roads or better the lives of the peasants or clean the rivers their pigs pooped in but rather heighten the piles in their treasury. Even back then, you just couldn't have enough pewter candlesticks.

These were the first robber barons. Literally. Rich people whose sole pursuit was to survive to become richer people. A criminal aristocracy. A term history has proved redundant.

During the Gilded Age, the flushest 1% of the country held 1/3 of the national income. In the 1920s, this figure ramped up to 2/5ths. Molehills compared to today's mountainous wealth, where the richest 400 American families control more money than the poorest 165 million of their fellow citizens put together. And if all 165 million were knelt end to end, those 400 families would have footrests from any compass point.

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 06:51

Beware of the RoboBee, Monsanto and DARPA

(Photo <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/freewildebeest/2792283343/in/photolist-6ymBQN-MVPoh-MAkA5-geqSxG-2TydVX-iU8c7m-Mg5AQ-cWvdRG-6n2Do-c9Naw-9RzcyK-aiGJbc-5Qb2e9-b5XiGD-fYoQwk-hjGshs-boJ14q-6hC9pT-8eVkAz-4EKHC-afcm1V-5fKbyg-frYu1p-nEN8u-Mg5eq-nayXg6-8kteGo-6set4x-35Ag5i-2HRHyK-dpmMDk-nwpcWw-49srXM-yjpUJ-3iFtDj-ebpRWf-hfFPDJ-8diYxj-7JRPSB-hbEwUz-6LgGYh-nbQiSA-fNDKuf-9AH1Zn-5GBwXk-eQnHH-cw9zHY-a2RuPi-9WXHfD-cQByi1" target="_blank">Toby Gray / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Toby Gray / Flickr)REV. BILLY TALEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Let's consider for a moment the honey bee and its anticipated replacement, the RoboBee. Let's pay a visit to the frankenbee's parents, Monsanto and DARPA.

The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Microrobotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University. The RoboBee project's Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project's website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.

But something is wrong with this enterprise. While the RoboBee's press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric YouTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can't help but point out that the real life honey bees and bumble bees are plummeting toward extinction.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFukushimaHotspot(Photo: Abasaa)The corporate media silence on Fukushima has been deafening even though the melted-down nuclear power plant's seaborne radiation is now washing up on American beaches.

Ever more radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific.

At least three extremely volatile fuel assemblies are stuck high in the air at Unit 4. Three years after the March 11, 2011, disaster, nobody knows exactly where the melted cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be.

Amid a dicey cleanup infiltrated by organized crime, still more massive radiation releases are a real possibility at any time.

Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.

Meanwhile, children nearby are dying.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalMine2(Photo: Bureau of Land Management)Even for people who don't believe in it, climate change just got real. It's about time.

The Obama administration's proposed new rule for existing power plants -- reducing heat-trapping carbon emissions by up to 30 percent by 2030 -- is ambitious enough to get anyone's attention. No, this one measure will not halt or reverse human-induced warming of the atmosphere. But the rule is necessary in the context of seeking international consensus on solutions -- and also significant in its own right.

Before Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy could announce the new rule Monday, critics were already bellowing about higher energy rates and lost jobs. They pretended not to see that President Obama -- as with health care reform -- is taking what ought to be seen as a Republican-friendly approach.

The rule, which will not become final until next year, gives states great flexibility in how they reach the target. They are not forced to immediately begin shutting down the aging coal-fired power plants that constitute one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution. Rather, each state can take the path that best fits its circumstances -- ramping up the generation of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, for example, or entering regional cap-and-trade agreements.

Ultimately, however, hundreds of those aging, dirty, coal-fired plants will have to close. If the planet could speak, it would say good riddance.

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