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EditorBlog (1477)


aaaaaajebtortJeb Bush is nostalgic for the days of Torture Inc. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue)

Jeb Bush apparently has stopped trying to put an inch of distance between himself and his brother, George W. Bush, when it comes to the Middle East. 

First, Jeb blamed the current horrors and chaos in Iraq, including ISIS, on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Then NPR reported in an August 15 article: "Jeb Bush laid out his plan to defeat ISIS this week, calling for a bigger U.S. military presence in the Middle East."

Another one of the George W. Bush administration's pernicious policies also resurfaced recently: Jeb announced that he might reinstitute waterboarding if he were president, according to The New York Times

Jeb Bush said on Thursday that, as president, he would not rule out waterboarding in interrogations, another instance of how his plans to fight Islamic terrorism have drawn comparisons to his brother’s administration.

Enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, which were used by the C.I.A. against Qaeda suspects after Sept. 11 attacks, were prohibited in one of President Obama’s first executive orders in 2009.

Earlier on Thursday, at a forum on national security in Davenport, Iowa, Mr. Bush had declined to commit to preserving that order.

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” he said in the evening when asked by reporters if he would prohibit waterboarding.


aaaaaaaisaac33Since adults continue to accelerate global warming, 21 young people are suing the federal government in an effort to protect their futures on the earth. Isaac Vergun is one of them. (Photo: Our Children's Trust)

Politicians may dither and delay in reducing global warming, but 21 young people in the United States are taking action to try and save the planet from an environmental implosion. They know their future depends on it.

On August 12 - International Youth Day - Our Children's Trust and the Earth Guardians filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Oregon on behalf of these youth. The suit, according to a news release issued jointly by Our Children's Trust and Earth Guardians, charges "that, in causing climate change, the federal government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources."

According to the two organizations that focus on youth advocacy for a sustainable planetary future,

The [legal] complaint alleges the Federal Government is violating the youth’s constitutional rights by promoting the development and use of fossil fuels. These young Plaintiffs are challenging the federal government’s national fossil fuel programs, as well as the proposed Jordan Cove LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] export terminal in Coos Bay, OR. Plaintiffs seek to hold President Obama and various federal agencies responsible for continued fossil fuel exploitation. The Federal Government has known for decades that fossil fuels are destroying the climate system. No less important than in the Civil Rights cases, Plaintiffs seek a court order requiring the President to immediately implement a national plan to decrease atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (“CO2”) to a safe level: 350 ppm by the year 2100....


aaaaacourageStructural racism will only be dismantled by people with the courage to disrupt and demand transformative change. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

It's just a step in the direction of transparency, but California is to be praised for banning grand juries as the entity that decides whether to prosecute police accused of killing individuals. According to the San Jose Mercury News,

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday making California the first state in the nation to ban the use of grand juries to decide whether police officers should face criminal charges when they kill people in the line of duty.

The ban, which will go into effect next year, comes after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, made controversial decisions in secret hearings last year not to bring charges against officers who killed unarmed black men, sparking protests across the country. Calls for transparency also have come amid national concerns about disparate treatment of blacks and other racial minorities when encounters with cops turned deadly in Baltimore, Cincinnati and South Carolina.

"What the governor's decision says is, he gets it - the people don't want secrecy when it comes to officer-involved shootings," said retired judge and former San Jose independent police auditor LaDoris Cordell, the first African-American appointed as a judge in Northern California and a key supporter of the bill.

This change is not a solution to endemic racism among police forces across the United States, but it will prevent states' attorneys - who generally are protective of the police - from secretly stacking the evidence to favor police officers. Now, charges against police officers who kill will have to be presented in open court in California


aaaaaundocWords, such as the use of alien for an undocumented immigrant, stereotype and defame.(Photo: People's World)

As of this week, California has a new law that prohibits the use of the word alien to refer to undocumented immigrants. Here’s the news as reported by the Huffington Post on August 11:

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)signed legislation Monday removing the word "alien" in reference to undocumented immigrants from the state's labor code.

The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, seeks to modernize the language used in California state law. Brown signed the legislation, SB 432, along with two other bills updating immigration policy on Monday.

“These bills reflect a state that both recognizes and respects the diversity — and contributions — of all Californians,” said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup, according to the Los Angeles Times

There will be, no doubt, those on the right who will charge that Brown's signing of the law is just one more example of "political correctness."

However, words have meaning.


aaaaaatppsecretSensationalist coverage of a presidential election more than 15 months away is crowding out reporting on profoundly important issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Photo: GlobalTradeWatch)

The next election for president of the United States will be held on November 8, 2016. Yes, that is more than 15 months from today. Yet, the mass media ratings-boosted coverage has been in full swing for - it already feels like - eons.

The daily barrage of "who is up and who is down" crowds out substantive public policy coverage and reports on pressing issues of life and death such as the Black Lives Matter movement, in favor of presidential corporate media coverage that overwhelmingly focuses on titillating aspects of candidate personalities, poll rankings and real or unreal improprieties. 

Where candidates stand on issues supersedes reporting on the issues themselves. Furthermore, mass media punditry - particularly on television - emphasizes the perception of how candidates' positions might affect them in the polls rather than the positions themselves. This is like discussing the shadows of issues that clamor for attention rather than the actual needs of the nation and its people, many of them dire.

Yes, Donald Trump has been appropriately singled out for extending his reality TV show persona into a bumptious, bigoted, bombastic presidential run - in which he leads the Republican pack in the much vaunted polls. However, the emphasis on prolonged "reporting" on a presidential race as spectacle detrimentally transforms democracy's challenges into entertainment.


aaaaaacapitolofpuertorico.jpaThe capitol of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in San Juan, where neoliberalism meets the failure of the US colonialist enterprise. (Photo: Jorge Láscar)

Around 300,000 Puerto Ricans are estimated to have left the island in the last ten years to seek jobs on the mainland of the United States. Their destinations are varied, although many relocate to New York and more recently Orlando. This flight from Puerto Rico - which includes mostly young and well-educated people and many professionals such as physicians - is negatively impacting the present and future of the island, a de facto colony of the United States since it was "won" by the US in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Given that Puerto Rico dipped its toes into default on a debt of more than $70 billion this past weekend - and that its population is shrinking from a high of 4 million residents to approximately 3.5 million in 2014 - the exodus of a skilled and educated workforce presents severe challenges to Puerto Rico's economic future. 

In an interview in San Juan on August 5, Carlos Frontera Santana, the adviser on legal and economic issues to the only elected official in the Puerto Rican legislature who represents the Puerto Rican Independence Party - Senator Maria de Lourdes Santiago Negrón - told Buzzflash that the trend "erodes the tax base and contributes to a brain drain." At a time that the bond market, hedge funds and vulture funds are waiting to impose further ruinous austerity on the de facto colony, the flight of Puerto Rico's skilled and professional class, in particular, leads to decreased services (think about fewer doctors and nurses), spiraling unemployment and a shrinking tax base, according to Frontera.

On the one hand, US holders of Puerto Rico's debt are demanding extreme austerity measures in return for any debt relief, just as Germany and the EU did to Greece. Last week, BuzzFlash at Truthout focused on one such suggested requirement in a commentary entitled, "Vulture Hedge Funds Want Education Slashed in Puerto Rico as Condition of Predatory Debt Relief." On the other hand, such requirements accelerate - as Frontera noted - an increased tax burden on a smaller, poorer population that leads to an economic death spiral.


aaaaajeb2000As governor of Florida in 2000, Jeb Bush played a key role in stealing the 2000 presidential election. (DonkeyHotey)

Yes, in the end the 2000 presidential election was decided by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision. That was the only vote that mattered in putting George W. Bush in the White House, despite the fact that he lost the national popular vote to Al Gore by well over a half a million votes.

The US Constitution set up an electoral system by which the winner of the election could lose the popular vote and still gain the majority of electoral votes. A presidential election is based on a contest for electoral votes in 50 different states, so a candidate can roll up large popular margins in some states while losing electoral votes to a candidate who won by narrower margins in other states.

A presidential election outcome in which the candidate who lost the national popular vote ended up in the White House has only happened four times. Al Gore was the candidate who received the largest popular vote margin - 544,000 more votes than Bush - who was not sworn in as president.

Recall that the governor of Florida during the 2000 election - who played a key role in creating the scenario that led up to the 5-4 Supreme Court vote for George W. Bush to become president - was Jeb Bush.


aaaaapoliceIn the end, the structural racism that guides Northern policing can be just as deadly as Southern institutional and personal racism. (Photo: Ian Britton)

Recently, Nancy A. Heitzeg wrote a trenchant analysis on Truthout of the racist, destructive policy known as "broken windows policing." While racism in the South tends to be more direct and apparent, in the North it is often wrapped in a blanket of claims to be implementing "good public policy."

In the end, the structural racism that guides Northern policing can be just as deadly as Southern institutional and personal racism; it just has a different veneer.

In New York City, as Heitzeg notes, the implementation of "broken windows policing" reached its zenith - a period of ruthless enforcement, targeting mostly Black and Brown people - under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He counted on NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton (who is today's commissioner, as well) to carry out the devastating strategy.

Not only does "broken windows" policing - which is still in place, although in "reduced" form under Mayor Bill de Blasio - serve as a primary feeder of the mass-incarceration pipeline, it provides a contextual justification for perpetuating a notion among police officers that Black people are "crimes waiting to happen." This racist outlook - championed by the late James Q. Wilson, a professor at Harvard and UCLA who specialized in public policy - represents the framework of US policing in a larger sense. It's built on a notion that Black people are predestined "criminals."



If one looks at the long history of the human species, it has always included plundering, exploitation, slavery and pillaging. Dominance of one group over another, and immense brutality - often through wars or for profiteering - seem to abate only for brief periods of time.

Sometimes we forget how valuable the arts can be in encapsulating political, social and economic realities. Often an art form such as a poem can - with relatively few words - express the fierce urgency of the need for change amid a world that persists in perpetuating injustice.

Take for example, the poem "The Bad Old Days" by Kenneth Rexroth. He begins the poem by describing the narrator's visit to the squalor of the Chicago stockyards, then the central slaughterhouse of the United States, in 1918. It was a little over a decade after Upton Sinclair's book, "The Jungle," had exposed the wretched horror of the meat-processing industry in the US. Rexroth describes the seedy, gloomy streets and slaughterhouse workers who are "Broken and empty, no life," just "Debauched and exhausted faces." 


aaaaaprflagPuerto Rico is being put into an austerity vice by US hedge funds. (Photo of Flag of Puerto Rico: Damian Entwistle)

According to a July 28 article in the Guardian, the financial vultures of the US are circling over Puerto Rico's skyrocketing debt, which totals more than $70 billion dollars. It is an austerity-driven death watch that by now is common practice among predatory "debt distress" consolidators:

Billionaire hedge fund managers have called on Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes.

The hedge funds called for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default - and repay its debts - by collecting more taxes, selling $4bn worth of public buildings and drastically cutting public spending, particularly on education.

The group of 34 hedge funds hired former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis after the island’s governor declared its $72bn debt "unpayable" - paving the way for bankruptcy.

The funds are "distressed debt" specialists, also known as vulture funds, and several have also sought to make money out of crises in Greece and Argentina, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of Co-op Bank in the UK.

Do you see a pattern here? Vulture capitalists, predatory lenders, austerity, hundreds of billions of dollars in interest (profit) made through impoverishing people and cutting public services.

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