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BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

For all the griping and nastiness we've seen in Washington over the past year, you wouldn't have known it to watch the State of the Union event yesterday. Oh sure, Obama's speech had some "grow the hell up" moments directed at both sides of the aisle.

The president started out asking his fellow politicians "to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve." At that point, the camera cut to Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) shifting in their seats and scowling at the other side of the aisle.

But when it came to the actual rebuttal speech, the mood was different. From the similarities of the speech Obama gave to the one by the Republicans' chosen rebuttal-giver, newly-minted Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, one would think we're living in a one-party system. Maybe the GOP is actually taking Obama's renewed call for bipartisanship (yeah, he asked for that again) seriously this time.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Before it was even officially released, there was a great deal of giggling about the Declaration of Health Care Independence from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). From "geese farts" to a mocking of her propensity to OVERCAPITALIZE WORDS, Bachmann's attempt to steal the State of the Union limelight was laughed offstage before she even got a chance to reveal it at a press conference this afternoon.

Granted, for something that was "supposed to shed the party of its 'party of no' label" it sure comes off as a Declaration of No, rather than one of independence.

Such is the life of a wanna-be teabagger.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

When Robert Weissman, president of the advocacy organization Public Citizen, told reporters last Thursday that "today is a day to shed a tear for our democracy," hyperbole was not on my mind.

There has been a broad range of reactions to last week's radical Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited corporate money to be spent on political campaigns. Activists are calling for changes to the way elections are financed, an increase in the power of shareholders to regulate the political spending of CEOs and even a Constitutional amendment in order to combat the ruling.

"This will dramatically change the landscape of our politics," said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action, a nonprofit election integrity organization, in last week's press call shortly after the decision was announced.

This quick response was heartening to me, as I gloomily pondered the effect of these new campaign finance rules on the 2010 election cycle. Indeed, the big surprise came from those who had the audacity to argue that not only should corporations be allowed to spend whatever they want on campaigns, but that it really won't make any difference at all on American politics.

Cue spit-take.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

A certain political talk show host has the blogosphere all abuzz this week over his attacks on the White House. But in focusing upon the conflict, did we miss a warning about the beginning of the end of progressive news on cable television?

The remarks of Ed Schultz, host of The Ed Show on MSNBC, at radio station AM950's Blue State Bash in Minneapolis this past weekend have gotten a lot of attention over the past day or two. Of paramount interest is the off-air conversation that Schulz says he had with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during one of two interviews he had with the spokesman on his show last week. He said Gibbs tore into him with obscenities, and that he responded that he was just trying to help the Obama Administration by pointing out that they're losing their base by acquiescing to congressional conservatives. Here's the full address:

Hence, the "Schultz Tells Gibbs He's Full of Sh*t" headlines. Today, Gibbs is accusing Schultz of misleading the public to increase his viewership, so I'm sure we'll get a whole new crop of "full of sh*t"-type headlines for this afternoon.

Thing is, none of this is really "news." Any progressive could have told you that the administration -- especially on the topic of healthcare reform -- is losing clout quickly with the progressive community. In fact, anyone who actually watched the two interviews Schultz had with Gibbs last week could tell that it was exactly what Schultz was driving at.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Football and advertising fans alike will convene in front of television sets around the world to take in the "big game" as well as the festival of consumerism emanating from Miami Feb. 7. Along with the glorious testosterone-fueled competition and the advertising, will viewers also be subject to right-wing propaganda?

According to the Associated Press, the Christian fundamentalist group Focus on the Family has created an anti-abortion ad featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow to run during this year's Superbowl.

The ad's storyline unfolds: While she was pregnant with the Florida Gator-to-be, Tebow's mother Pam fell into a coma due to a bad case of amoebic dysentery while she was working as a missionary in the Philippines. Pam was told by her doctor that the drugs she was given to save her life may have killed her baby. Instead of following her doctor's instructions, Pam opted to spend her last two months of pregnancy in Manila, receiving "around-the-clock care from an American-trained physician." "Timmy" was born healthy and the family lived happily ever after.

Focus on the Family presumably would use this story celebrating the fact that Pam Tebow was given the choice of what to do about her pregnancy as a reason to deny other women that very same choice.  

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

One would think that in a hearing over a merger with one of the largest energy producers in the entire world that Congress would be concerned about market consolidation and monopolies.

Instead, in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment's hearing titled, "The Exxon Mobil-XTO Merger: Impacts on U.S. Energy Markets," Wednesday, lawmakers were much more interested in an little-known technique called fracking.

Short for hydraulic fracturing, the process is a way to extract natural gas (and sometimes oil) from underground shale by injecting a combination of water, air and chemicals below the surface to break the rock formations holding in the energy source. Though the process has been in use for decades, the technique has come under increasing scrutiny for the possible pollution of underground aquifers.

In the paperwork for the proposed merger, Exxon Mobil stipulated that if Congress were to outlaw fracking or make it commercially nonviable, it can back out of the deal with XTO, a west Texas company that has been in the natural gas business for decades. This small piece of the contract drew the most attention in questioning today, with Republicans insisting that Democrats want to outlaw the practice. Democrats vigorously denied the charge, though many in the environmental community are pushing for an all-out ban.

"This administration and those running Congress will stop at nothing to pursue this radical agenda," said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), adding that the attempt to "hijack our country's energy sector" will "destroy the fabric of our country."

"Does anyone have any knowledge of anyone in Congress or in the Obama Administration calling for the outlawing of hydraulic fracturing?" Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) asked.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Much like the war in Afghanistan became "Obama's war" after he decided upon a surge strategy, so too has the detention center at Guantánamo Bay become a part of President Obama's legacy.

The reasoning behind that has little or nothing to do with the fact that he has failed to live up to his promise of closing Guantánamo by his self-imposed deadline of Jan. 21. Even though recent actions on the part of the White House have slowed such efforts, the reason Gitmo still stands as a symbol of our reckless detention policy is as much of a congressional fault as an executive one. 

No, the reason Guantánamo is Obama's unlawful detention center as much as President Bush's is that his administration appears to be using the same techniques to cover up abuses there. Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in the reaction to a news report about the three Guantánamo suicides in early June 2006.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that the government and military lied about these three "suicides," as well as the very possible insinuation that the military killed these three men before attempting to portray their deaths as suicidal "asymmetrical warfare," Obama's Justice Department didn't flinch a second before defending the clearly flawed Bush-era investigation and its conclusions. The DOJ said Monday that the situation had already been investigated and no evidence of wrongdoing was discovered.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

With each new event and each new coalition, the tea party movement seems to fracture once again. Starting the new year off with a stumble or five, is this the beginning of the end, or do the teabaggers have American political discourse right where they want it?

Many observers are concentrating on the very public fracas over the National Tea Party Convention to be held early next month as evidence of the movement's decline. Yet smaller groups and events appear to be undergoing the same stress tests with similarly factious results.

As I noted earlier this month, one of the tea party movements had planned a National Day of Strike for the one-year anniversary of President Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20. As the day itself approaches, the event has fallen into disarray. Members of the Day of Strike e-mail list received notice yesterday evening that the event, which was never fleshed out to contain any specific plans, was postponed indefinitely.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

My father often tells a story of a chicken dinner he once prepared that involved a "whole fryer." I toddled into the kitchen, perhaps curious as to what Da-da was doing in there. He held the bird that would become our dinner up for to his little daughter to see: pimply skin, strange flipper-looking things and all.

"It looks like a little person!" I cried.

My father was taken aback. Looking down at this shocked little person standing in his kitchen, he wondered how it could be that for every time he had served his little girl fowl, she never realized that it came from the same type of entity depicted as Chicken Little and Foghorn Leghorn.

The thing was, we lived in the city. And though my father's parents had experience farming, my own knowledge of such a place was limited to books and the occasional public school field trip. Sure, trips to historic Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life in St. Paul, MN were cool, but the experience gave us kids the impression that a "farm" was a relic of the past, an inefficient, hardscrabble life we were all happy to abandon.

That was true, for the most part. Farms in the traditional sense, the ones I saw depicted on the fronts of margarine packages growing up, didn't exist anymore outside of museums. The factory farm that took over was certainly no place for children. Of course, we got the offal from such places. I still remember the taste of the greasy rectangles of pizza and tater tots from the "hot lunch" line. And in recent years, school lunchrooms have been a place to dump contaminated meat from abused and sickly cows.

I was one of the fortunate ones, though, because we had a vegetable garden at home.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

It's 2010. Do you know which corporate pocket your representative is in?

There is no better analogy for the outsize influence of corporations upon government than the behavior of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of late. The "world's largest business federation" has transformed itself into a lobbying machine for some of the nation's dirtiest corporate crooks in a series of misleading campaigns against climate change legislation, affordable healthcare, the employee free choice act, campaign spending reform, corporate responsibility, consumer protection, and keeping social security private.

All the more reason to know who they've been wining and dining on the Hill.

Velvet Revolution, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to clean and honest government," issued a statement today announcing they plan to target political candidates who accept contributions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"If a candidate gets support from the Chamber, we are going to call him or her out for accepting tainted money -- money from big business that is not going into creating jobs, providing health care, and cleaning up Wall Street.  We will demand that candidates renounce the Chamber's support, return any funding, and condemn the Chamber’s advertisements and policies. If they do not, we will expose them," said Kevin Zeese, spokesman and attorney for Velvet Revolution in a statement.

Published in Analysis
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