Guest Commentary (3753)
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Maria Bartiromo was a longtime financial market analyst for CNBC who recently left that channel and transferred over to the Fox Business Network. She appeared occasionally on CNBC's pre-market-opening show, "Squawk Box." On one of those occasions, she was engaged in a discussion about the problems that capitalism is facing. I believe that it was in the context of what one of Squawk Box's co-hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin (also of The New York Times), was saying about the subject. In the course of it, she uttered a quite remarkable phrase, hailing what she termed "the moral imperative of capitalism."
The phrase came to mind in considering the current battle over climate change and what, if anything, to do about it. It is already affecting us. And of course, the degree of potential damage to the Earth as know it, physically, and for many of its species including ours in terms of long-term survival, is accelerating at ever-increasing rate. Indeed, there is a newly discovered major threat, the melting of a significant part of the Antarctic Ice Shelf, about which, apparently, nothing can be done. That is, in this case, even if there were a will, there is no way. For example, major parts of the State of Florida and of New York City, may well eventually be under water. Not fun, I should think. Nevertheless, there are some folks who [view this outcome from different perspective.
Of course, in the United States in particular there is a very large, very well-funded, and therefore very loud chorus that denies that global warming and one of its major consequences, climate change, is even taking place. And if it is taking place, human beings have nothing to do with it, and even if we did, doing anything to moderate the future certain changes, like enacting a "carbon tax" would just "ruin the economy" donchaknow. So where, you might be asking at this point, does the concept of "morality" come into all of this? Well, one kind of behavior that virtually everyone, atheist, theist, and everyone in-between, believes is immoral is stating as fact and truth something that you know to be false. This is where the "tobacco" in the title above comes in.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What's happening in the Republican primaries is less a defeat for the tea party than a surrender by the GOP establishment, which is winning key races by accepting the tea party's radical anti-government philosophy.
Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in convincing the party's activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who easily won his primary this month against a weak tea party challenger, said Tuesday that there isn't "that big a difference between what you all call the tea party and your average conservative Republican. We're against Obamacare, we think taxes are too high, we think the government's too big."
That doesn't sound so crazy. But is it reasonable for Republicans to keep voting to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act -- more than 50 times, so far -- knowing full well that they have zero chance of success? Does it make sense, if taxes are excessive, to refuse President Obama's invitation to begin serious talks about tax reform?
If Boehner wanted to be honest, he'd have said his party is in favor of posturing and opposed to reality.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Europe has a special worry about a broken, uncaring economy.
Things rip apart. More and more people fall into desperation. Some of them decide it's the fault of immigrants. Or homosexuals. Or . . .
"Today, Nazi influences are growing in Europe for the same reasons they did back then. The social safety nets have been torn, and people are left behind. Left alone. The hopelessness is what comes first, then the hatred. It's never the other way around."
A campaign led by Sweden's Social Democratic Party (quoted above), in the run-up to the European Union elections on May 25 — which features Rainer Hoess, grandson of the commandant of Auschwitz, warning people that democracy and human rights can never be taken for granted — is called: NEVER FORGET. TO VOTE. Its point is that far right politics, including a blatant neo-Nazism bent on rekindling the old agenda of "blood purity," racial solidarity and loyalty to the homeland, is spreading across the EU just as unemployment and austerity are spreading and Europe's economy comes to resemble, more and more, the economy of the 1930s.
In other words, malignant racism combined with a bad economy can still foment social poison. Hatred seeks power and power seeks hatred, and they sometimes find each other. And what we call the "social safety net" might better, perhaps, be called the social immune system — because society is a living organism.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.
Santa Cruz County in California triumphed Tuesday to become the state’s first county to ban fracking.
The county’s board of supervisors voted 5-0 to prohibit fracking, as well as gas and oil development within its boundaries.
“We congratulate the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors for their historic vote towards protecting California’s air and water, and for setting a positive example for other counties and Gov. [Jerry] Brown,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch.
Members of Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Environment California, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians Against Fracking, Santa Cruz Sierra Club, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom rallied outside with students from University of California, Santa Cruz and county supervisor John Leopold after the vote to celebrate the victory. The Santa Cruz board voted last September to enact a 10-month moratorium on fracking and all oil and gas drilling. Tuesday’s vote makes that decision permanent.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Not long his appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher", where he acted in his usual smarty-pants manner -- pulling crap out of his ass, as Maher might say -- right-wing author, commentator, and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza "has struck a deal with prosecutors over charges he used straw donors to give $15,000 more to a U.S. Senate campaign than is allowed under campaign finance laws," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Instead of going to trial, which was scheduled for this week in New York, D'Souza, who, a few years ago was forced to resign as president of The King's College in New York over apparent marital infidelity, pleaded guilty and could face up to two years in prison when he is sentenced sometime in early fall.
Whether D'Souza will serve any time in prison is anyone's guess, but one thing is absolutely certain: The right has a new martyr on its hands and D'Souza's new film will undoubtedly capitalize on the D'Souza story.
BRANDON BAKER OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Transparency is the least you could hope for if you're against fracking for energy. If North Carolina Republicans get their way, such transparency could result in a felony.
Three state senators introduced a bill late last week that would charge people with a felony if they disclose what chemicals companies are using to extract dirty energy from shale formations. That might even include the officials who respond to the explosions and other emergencies caused by the dangerous process.
"The felony provision is far stricter than most states' provisions in terms of the penalty for violating trade secrets," Hannah Wiseman, a Florida State University assistant law professor who studies fracking regulations, told Mother Jones.
"I think the only penalties to fire chiefs and doctors, if they talked about it at their annual conference, would be the penalties contained in the confidentiality agreement. But [the bill] is so poorly worded, I cannot confirm that if an emergency responder or fire chief discloses that confidential information, they too would not be subject to a felony."
However, Wiseman believes "that appears to be the case" in some sections of the potential legislation.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Finally, an authentic scandal: incompetence and deception at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Given what we know so far, more heads need to roll — and a criminal investigation should be launched.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of so many faux scandals that it's hard to recognize the real thing. Yes, the Internal Revenue Service seems to have given extra scrutiny to conservative organizations, but it gave extra scrutiny to liberal groups, too. Yes, Operation "Fast and Furious" was a mistake, but it wasn't some kind of sinister plot. No, it doesn't matter whether the evil people who took four American lives in Benghazi , Libya, are called terrorists, militants or simply killers.
The VA situation, however, looks more serious day by day. If VA hospitals really are falsifying records to disguise lengthy waiting times — and if veterans are dying as a consequence — then President Obama needs to bring in new management to fix the problems and fast.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, speaking Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," described Obama as "madder than hell" about the VA scandal. By now, we should all be used to the fact that Obama is never what you would call demonstrative with his anger, at least publicly. No frothing, no foaming, no gnashing of teeth. I take McDonough at his word that the president is royally steamed.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many wealthy Americans believe that dysfunctional behavior causes poverty. Their own success, they would insist, derives from good character and a strict work ethic. But they would be missing some of the facts. Ample evidence exists to show a correlation between wealth and unethical behavior, and between wealth and a lack of empathy for others, and between wealth and unproductiveness.
The poor, along with a middle class that is sinking toward them, make up the American meritocracy. Here is some of the evidence.
1. The Poor Don't Cheat As Much
An analysis of seven different psychological studies found that "upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals." A series of experiments showed that upper-class individuals were more likely to break traffic laws, take valued goods from others, lie in a negotiation, and cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize.
And this doesn't even begin to examine the many, many significant cases of fraudulent behavior in the banking industry. Or private equity firms that cheat their investors over 50 percent of the time. Or the many unscrupulous corporate tax avoidance strategies.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Two major stories are happening simultaneously that carry a predictably distinct odor of oil & gas: US control of Nigerian oil, and Ukrainian control of natural gas.
While climate change escalates to an emergency crisis, a growing national security concern, the US OILigarchy-government is on a "search and seize mission" for the very product that is obliterating our earth: Polluting Oil.
The earth is burning up before our eyes from trapped CO2 green house emissions—but that means very little to a government that is literally owned by oil firms. If a country is cursed with having oil, such as Nigeria or Venezuela, expect to see CIA-military intervention, deliberate incitements of violence, arrests of oil opponents, surveillance, PSYOPS,Blackwater (now operating under the new name , Academi LLC,) and drone attacks—all put into practice in the name of either "national security" or "humanitarian efforts."
In addition to South America, the Middle East and Africa, the US is also a new target for oil and gas drilling. With increased production, Americans have become the victims of Obama's "energy independence" agenda, which has produced an unprecedented number of oil and gas disasters that have poisoned our oceans, our rivers, our water supplies, and our agricultural lands due to gross negligence and a lack of regulatory oversight.
If US oil-gas companies have admitted to having former military psychological operations, or PSYOPs, specialists to counter opponents of drilling in the United States, you can be sure that they're applying the same techniques extensively in foreign oil-regions.