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Friday, 04 July 2014 18:00

William Rivers Pitt: We Rise

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaa4th(Photo: A.M. Willard)In all the darkness, the teeth-grinding fury, the disgust, and the desperate temptation to surrender to despair, I remember:

That Black people who were brought here in chains won their freedom, and then more freedom, and then equal status under the law. It was a long and horror-filled road, it should never have happened, but we as a nation fixed it, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That women have only had the right to vote for 95 of the years this country has existed, which frankly blows my whole mind. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That growing old used to be a dead-bang guarantee of growing poor. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That 146 people, mostly women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire because as workers, they had no rights. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That marriage rights existed in a state of apartheid, to the exclusion of LGTB people, until the dam broke recently. We as a nation are still fixing that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

The curious thought experiment that is the United States of America is built on a lot of mythology, and a lot of greed, and the machinery of that construction was lubricated with an ocean of Native American and African blood...but it has a lot of soul, too, and an astonishing amount of potential.

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaJesus(Photo: John Singleton Copley)We interrupt the two-part series on "The Significance of Dick Cheney" to deal with the breaking news of the Hobby Lobby decision. For it is as least as significant for the future of our nation as is Dick Cheney, what he stands for, and who he represents (the subject to which we shall return next week). The Hobby Lobby decision has many implications. First, one must agree with Justice Ginsburg that regardless of Justices Alito's caveats, the tide unleashed by the decision of the Right-wing Five is not going to stop at the shoreline of the separation of church and state any time soon. And for the long-range future of the United States, that is the most significant element of the decision.

That is not to say that it also has horrible outcomes for women and their sexual behavior, their private lives, and their private decision-making. As Andy Borowitz so cogently put it, "Supreme Court Majority Calls Case a Dispute between Women and People." Chiming in was everyone's favorite very-far-right GOP Senator Mike Lee of Utah who said that most women who use contraceptives do so for "recreational purposes." Like that's supposed to make a difference on whether or not a public corporation can discriminate against women on their choice of FDA approved contraceptives, on religious grounds. By the way, most folks label Lee as a "Tea Partier," as if such types really differ from "regular Republicans." Well, they do, but not on policy (except perhaps around the edges on immigration policy, which Eric Cantor found to his regret, at least among the 13% of eligible voters in his district who bothered to vote). If you look closely, it is almost always just a matter of style and wording.

There are a variety of other important negative aspects of this decision that are being widely and well dealt with from the Left. In my view, the most important one is how this decision ushers our one further, very big, step down the road to theocracy. For the Supreme Court has held that in matters of legislation, law, and public programs, the religious positions of one person (and of course they have recently reaffirmed the original 1880s railroad-lawyers-Court decision that corporations are people (see "Citizens United"), can outweigh the religious position, or non-religious but ethical/moral position, of another.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaChristianWar(Photo: Douglas Miller)Visions of apocalyptic battles are not only taking place at conferences of far-right organizations, in End Times novels, and on theater and television screens these days. Some in what might be considered mainstream right-wing circles also seem to be cranking up the rhetoric and spoiling for such battles.

In a new piece published by Political Research Associates (PRA), Frederick Clarkson quotes Republican campaign and conservative movement strategist David Lane, who last year wrote on a conservative website: "If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end."

More recently, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the crowd at the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, that he could "sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren."

In his PRA piece titled "Rumblings of Theocratic Violence," Clarkson pointed out that while "such rhetoric" has been "common on the farther reaches of the Right" for many years and could be easily dismissed, "[b]ut something has changed in recent years" as these "disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole."

Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican and former-Senator-turned-Koch-lobbyist. (Photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Don_Nickles.jpg" target="_blank"> via Wikipedia</a>)Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican and former-Senator-turned-Koch-lobbyist. (Photo via Wikipedia)JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Koch boys, Charles and David, live in their own little world. It's a special world, enshrouded in a rarefied atmosphere created by the fumes emanating from their family's enormous stockpiles of wealth.

Thus, the two brothers have always felt very special, and they also expect those of us in the down-to-Earth world to treat them special, even heroic. The boys were born rich and right-wing, and they parlayed Daddy Fred Koch's millions into a huge industrial conglomerate that has made each of them uberbillionaires. This has further bloated their sense of self-importance, while also giving them the financial muscle to try transforming our democratic world of egalitarian ideals into their fantasy world of laissez-fairy, social Darwinism, ruled by supermen like ... well, like them, of course.

So, twice a year, the Kochs convene a secret summit of superrich supermen to plot strategy and pledge millions of dollars to their political transformation of America. In June, about 300 of the billionaire brotherhood gathered with Charlie and Dave at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort on the Southern California coast. As investigative reporter Lauren Windsor wrote in The Nation, the Koch confab, which bore the heroic title of "American Courage," took over the entire luxury resort, including its golf course and restaurants, for three days, at the cost of nearly a million bucks — not counting charges for guest rooms.

BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaFireworks(Photo: David Shankbone)Over sixty five million people in the US, perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" promised when the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. They are about twenty percent of our US population. This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the US.

More than two million people are in our jails and prisons making the US the world leader in incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a 500% increase in the last 30 years.

Four million more people are on probation and parole, reports the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

On the night of July 4 and on any given night, over 600,000 people are homeless, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a quarter of which, over 130,000, are children.

Over 4 million people live in homes where each person lives on less than $2 per day (2.8 million are children) according to the National Poverty Center of the University of Michigan. Over 20 million people are living in deep poverty with incomes of less than 50 percent of the already low US poverty lines.

(Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/2809961438" target="_blank">Max Klingensmith / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Max Klingensmith / Flickr)PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Free-market capitalists view education in terms of products and profits. The products, to them, are our children. The profits go to savvy businesspeople who use a "freedom to choose" rallying cry to convince parents that they're somehow being cheated by an equal-opportunity public school system.

Education reformers focus on privatization, public program cutbacks, and plenty of revenue-producing testing. There are at least five truths about education reform that suggest ignorance or delusion among its adherents.

1. Privatized Education Steals from the Poor, Gives to the Rich

Eva Moskowitz makes $72 per student as CEO of the private Success Academy in New York City.

Carmen Farina makes 19 cents per student as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools.

More salary shock: The salaries of eight executives of the K12 chain, which gets over 86 percent of its profits from the taxpayers, went from $10 million to over $21 million in one year.

EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDroneReaper(Photo: Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)In our growing reliance on armed drones as instruments of war, how slippery is the slope we're sliding on? Imagine that Vladimir Putin began using drones to kill Ukrainians who opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea. If Putin claimed the targets were "members of anti-Russian terrorist groups," what credibility would the United States have to condemn such strikes?

This scenario is outlined in a chilling new report released Thursday by a bipartisan panel of military experts. The use of drones against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, begun by the George W. Bush administration and greatly expanded by President Obama, risks becoming "a long-term killing program based on secret rationales," the report warns.

In the hypothetical Ukraine example, the world would demand proof that the individuals killed were indeed terrorists. The report notes that "Russia could simply repeat the words used by U.S. officials defending U.S. targeted killings, asserting that it could not provide any evidence without disclosing sources and methods."

The report was commissioned by the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, and written by a panel that no one would consider a bunch of woolly-headed pacifists. Co-chairs of the group are retired Gen. John Abizaid, the former head of U.S. Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor. Included are former defense and intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Thursday, 26 June 2014 09:25

The Loathsome Legacy of Dick Cheney

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCheneySucks(Photo: Magnus Manske)As I started thinking about what I was going to say about Dick Cheney this time around, I also started thinking about how many times in my time with BuzzFlash have I written about one aspect or another of the man's political and policy being. It added up to quite a few. Indeed I have devoted more column space to Cheney than I have to any other US politician, living or dead. The topics have included the CheneyBush war policy in Iraq, "What Cheney is Really About," "Cheney and the Iraq "Surge," the Dick Cheney Torture Defense, Cheney and "bombing the Constitution," what I called [the pernicious legacy of Cheneyism, the permanence of Permanent War (which is the centrepiece of the Cheney Doctrine), and what I called "The Incredible Lightness of Dick Cheney," that is how cleverly the man has been able to get away with everything he has gotten away with. And there were others too.

So all of that on Dick Cheney. "My-oh-my," I said to myself, "how come so many?" The conclusion that I have come to is that Dick Cheney has in fact been the most important U.S. politician and overall policy-maker of the first 14 years of the 21st century. And just now, once again, he has come to the defense of himself and the policies that he has made in his now-famous diatribe against President Obama published recently. It was entitled "The Collapsing Obama Doctrine: Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

Indeed, rarely has a former Vice-President so bitterly and viciously attacked a sitting US President, a President who just happens to have two very serious foreign policy crises on his hands, in Ukraine and the Middle East. But Cheney is very worried about his legacy. He is very worried about the political future of the one daughter that he has who might, despite her recent bitter loss in Wyoming, be able to carry it on for him. (He is obviously grooming her to be the next Cheney standard bearer on the Republican Right, even to the extent of allowing her to publicly dis her own gay sister and her sister's family.) But most important is what Cheney, as perhaps the most prominent representative of the currently dominant sector of the US ruling class, is so concerned about in terms of national policy. If you want to embody what has become the Military-Industrial-Fossil-Fuels Complex in one person, Cheney is as good as any other. He is fighting very hard to maintain its present hammerlock on the political economy of the United States.

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMarinesIraqKoehler(Photo: Lance Corporal Kevin C. Quihuis Jr.)The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop pop pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it's gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. "Down here! Down here!"

This chaotic excitement is Iraq, the evening's International Hot Spot, brought to us by ABC. It's the news, but it's also reality TV and big league sports, rolled into an entertainment package of shocking cluelessness. OMG, ISIS is on the move. It's winning. Stay tuned!

Iraq, Iraq. This is a disaster stamped "made in USA." Worse than that. It's a bleeding stump of a nation that we destroyed in our pursuit of empire, at the cost of multi-trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million Iraqi lives, and spiritual and physical damage to American troops so profound a new phrase had to be coined: moral injury. And now, our official, moneyed media serve up what's left of Iraq to us as geopolitical entertainment: the moderates (our guys, sort of) vs. the insurgents. Go, U.S.-trained troops! Stand tough and die for American interests, OK?

Of course, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month: "Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city (of Mosul) overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants."

At some point this year, Schleswig-Holstein is expected to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes. (Photo: <a href=" https://www.flickr.com/photos/derohlsen/10405943953/in/photolist-nzxXPH-m7BpBi-6B9omY-iusky6-gRxbAM-m7Bz4z-6GvTeA-jyfSb1-8pXWj5-jyeWht-aFN9fx-2bwKpp-6KEmgq-m7CsTK-anWs9S-6KAdva-aiPd5H-2dq1pj-6KAdcM-9wUh24-f4aonT-cUpwxU-9vzsin-arXs4o-arUNk2-5vpQjM-c4dLMf-e53CSf-69Svzx-arXsh5-8WqdQC-fvBHeA-6CQZVJ-arUKMt-arUTu4-arXvwN-arUTpF-arXvru-arXvoh-arXvhm-arUT58-arUT1z-arXv5b-arXuZU-arUSNH-arXuT1-arUSJz-arUSGX-arUSEn-arUSBX" target="_blank">Stephan Ohlsen / Flickr</a>)At some point this year, Schleswig-Holstein is expected to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes. (Photo: Stephan Ohlsen / Flickr)

BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

While some countries around the world try to figure out how to deploy more clean energy, one German state is planning on having enough renewables for exportation.

Known as Germany’s windiest area, Schleswig-Holstein believes it could provide 100 percent renewable energy at some point this year, Renewables International reported. Producing as much renewable energy as it consumes in total electricity would go a long way toward Schleswig-Holstein meeting the 300-percent renewable goal the state’s Minister-President Torsten Albig announced at an energy conference two years ago.

If Schleswig-Holstein could meet 300-percent renewable energy, it would account for about 8 percent of Germany’s total electricity needs, said Dr. Matthias Lang, who keeps a German energy blog. What’s more, Schleswig-Holstein’s wind growth has taken place in the face of a national energy plan that the state’s energy minister, Robert Habeck, believes isn’t aggressive enough in displacing nuclear power.

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