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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaarevolvingdoorThe revolving door: The list of financial giants that Holder's Department of Justice - and his Covington & Burling bench team – have treated with kid gloves is exhausting. (Photo: Nick Amoscato)

Eric Holder just rejoined the gilded DC law firm of Covington & Burling, after a few week's of hiatus between his stint as attorney general and his new job, in which he'll cash in on the status gained through his former position.

Covington & Burling - an elite law office that specializes in white-collar defense of banks and corporations – maintained a chokehold on the Department of Justice during Holder's tenure as attorney general. Indeed, when Holder became attorney general, he appointed Covington & Burling law partners to head both the civil and criminal divisions of the Justice Department. When the head of the criminal division, Lanny Breuer, stepped down and returned in early 2013 to Covington & Burling with a salary exceeding $4 million a year, he was replaced by Mythili Raman. Raman, in turn, stepped down from overseeing the DOJ criminal division in 2014 to become a partner at, yes, Covington & Burling. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaabnewsomeconfBree Newsome boldly seized the Confederate flag, taking direct action for freedom. (Image: Reposted with permission of the artist, Rebecca Cohen)

Subsequent to Newsome's arrest when she reached the bottom of the Confederate soldier memorial flagpole on South Carolina capitol state grounds, she released a statement to Blue Nation Review. In part, she wrote:

I realized that now is the time for true courage the morning after the Charleston Massacre shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake in the dead of night. All the ghosts of the past seemed to be rising....

This was real.

This was—this is—still happening....

It is important to remember that our struggle doesn’t end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago. We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren’t still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable.

It is understandable why the July 4th ritual of filling the dark skies with glittering light, exploding sounds and whistles is so exciting to so many. However, watching fireworks is not enough to advance freedom in a nation that is madly in love with so many myths about liberty, instead of actively advancing it.

Thank you, Bree Newsome, for reminding us of that.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaairaqwar55Early 2003 vigil in Washington DC against the Iraq War. (Photo: Elvert Barnes)

One of the most recent destructive legacies of the Bush administration's war with Iraq - launched on the foundation of choreographed lies - is the creation of ISIS. Add to that the implosion of Iraq in sectarian violence, the deaths and displacements of millions of people, and countless more negative consequences of the US invasion.

This autumn, two of the war's key proponents - Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby - will teach a one-week course called "The War in Iraq: A Study in Decision-Making" in late October at the Hertog Foundation in Washington, DC.

According to The Hill, it doesn't seem like Wolfowitz, for one, is about to engage in any mea culpas:

In August [of 2014], Wolfowitz told The Hill the U.S. had 'won' the Iraq War in 2009.

He also said the Obama administration did not try hard enough to secure an agreement with Iraq to leave U.S. forces there after 2011.

It is likely that, in the course, Wolfowitz and Libby will adopt the Dick Cheney posture of blaming the bloody disintegration of Iraq and emergence of ISIS on President Obama for not continuing a large-scale military occupation of the country. 

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaforjulyOn the Fourth of July, celebrate the potential of democracy while acknowledging that the US was founded as an exclusive club of white male voters. (Photo: Bart)

It is July 1, which means that so-called "Independence Day" is just around the corner. It is the season for proponents of "American exceptionalism" to trot out their self-serving, jingoistic rhetoric.

Sure enough, one of my first emails this morning was from an ad hoc group of conservatives promoting an #AmericaProud website and twitter hashtag. Their objective is to "celebrate American exceptionalism" throughout July.

This BuzzFlash commentary could not have been published without the support of readers like you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation and fund more stories like it!

The email sounds a clarion call to rally around a mythical vision of the founding of the United States. It asserts,

While the progressive left is intent on growing government, eroding man’s natural dignity from God as anchored in the Declaration of Independence, and threatening prosperity and sovereignty, this coalition knows that millions of Americans remain committed to the foundations of American exceptionalism....

American Principles Project in Action, Americans for Limited Government, Concerned Women for America, ConservativeHQ, Eagle Forum, Hillsdale College, NumbersUSA, EAGnews, Tea Party Patriots, and The Heritage Foundation are the first members to join this new and growing coalition, representing millions of Americans.

The #AmericaProud coalition of conservative groups is spreading dangerous misinformation.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

breen25Bree Newsome fearlessly takes down the Confederate flag from South Carolina state capitol grounds. (The Tribe/You Tube)

Years ago, BuzzFlash used to present a "Wings of Justice" award every week to a person who had undertaken a recent act of valor. Although those awards are no longer granted, the "wings of justice" have certainly continued to soar in this country, through the acts of fearless individuals and communities.

Bree Newsome, for example, certainly merits recognition for her wings of justice: On June 27, she literally rose to the occasion, climbing a flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol to take down the emblem of the slave states.

As the South Carolina legislature procrastinates in voting to remove the Confederate Flag from the grounds of the capitol, Newsome's courageous act is a shining light in the state in which nine worshippers were murdered at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, by a man driven by white supremacy.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaataxbillion34Billionaires and millionaires should pay their fair share in estate taxes. (Photo: Robin Davies)

The consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen just issued a study that analyzes the efforts of billionaire families to - once again - try to repeal the estate tax. According to a June 25 news release by the organization,

Just nine families could dodge $25.7 billion in taxes, and perhaps as much as $54.7 billion, if the estate tax were repealed. Half of these families have spent more than a million dollars apiece lobbying Congress to repeal the tax between 2012 and the first quarter of 2015....

The families behind the eight companies pushing to repeal the tax include the Mars, Wegman, Cox, Taylor, Van Andel, DeVos, Bass, Schwab and Hall families. The Mars and Wegman families alone, who have a combined net worth of more than $63 billion, spent more than $3.5 million to lobby solely for the repeal of the estate tax during the time period studied. 

The avaricious effort is being undertaken even though the minimum tax exemption for the estate tax has risen over the years. It is now over $5 million for an individual. For a couple, the estate tax does not kick in for an inheritance of less than $10.5 million. Most of the wealthiest people in the US do not pay a tax when their wealth is distributed to heirs. According to the Public Citizen study, "Only an estimated 0.2 percent of American estates are subject to the federal estate tax."

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaconfedThe barbaric legacy of the Confederacy should be confined to a museum, not as active racism in the US in 2105. (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain)

Spare me the ongoing justification of the Confederate flag as a symbol of the "virtues" of the South. The excuses for revering the Confederate flag are sentimental claptrap that distracts from the evil of slavery.

Why is the historical bombast about the Confederate flag representing "a way of life" - including chivalry, God and mint juleps (among other respectable-sounding pastimes and habits) - such a ruse? Quite simply, because the South - in the wake of colonization - would have remained a series of hamlets of rural settlers if not for slavery producing profitable agricultural products, particularly cotton.

Although there were other sources of income in the South - banking, retail shops, etc. - the economic engine of the region was slavery. The "way of life" being romanticized among whites was built upon the foundation of treating people as chattel: buying them, brutalizing them, splitting up families, and killing those who sought their freedom or were defiant, in the most fundamental violation of human rights and liberty. 

Slavery - along with the slave trade, which included perhaps millions of Black people dying during transport from Africa to the US - was a grisly, horrifying practice that played out like passages in Dante's Inferno.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaindianprideLeonard Peltier should be able to enjoy freedom. (Photo: Hamner_Fotos)

Leonard Peltier is still imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida, under harsh scrutiny. To what end?

Who or what is served by Peltier's incarceration? Quite simply, it is the United States government, and this country's deeply embedded racism toward its Indigenous population, bound up with settler colonialism and "Manifest Destiny"-driven expansion across the continent. The incident at Oglala occurred on a reservation, land onto which the survivors of the attempted genocide of Native Americans were forced.

When I interviewed Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United Statesin 2014, she dispelled our grammar-school narratives of prominent US historical figures being great emancipators. She documented how Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman and Andrew Jackson - among many other "benevolent" US leaders and cultural icons - were proponents of Indigenous genocide.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaatorturekilling34(Photo: Justin Norman) 

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to ban the use of torture by the United States military and intelligence agencies. Many of us were befuddled by this development. After all, wasn't the argument for holding Bush administration officials accountable for authorizing torture based on the premise it was illegal at the time?

The answer is yes: It was illegal, but apparently a majority of senators believed that there were loopholes that the Bush White House employed to justify the use of torture. The new bill attempts to eliminate any ambiguity by only allowing interrogation techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual.

An article in Slate by staff writer Joshua Keating, however, points out that even the recently passed bill has, well, loopholes:

The legislation won’t end the debate over interrogation. For one thing, critics, including a U.N. panel that U.S. officials testified before last December, have suggested that the field manual itself may not be up to the standards of international law....

There is also increasing alarm over "proxy detention," the practice of handing detainees over to the custody of third party countries with more permissive detainee treatment laws. Detainees have been subjected to brutal treatment in Afghanistan,Iraq, and Somalia while those countries’ governments were cooperating with the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts. CIA Director John Brennan affirmed in March that "There are places throughout the world where CIA has worked with other intelligence services and has been able to bring people into custody and engage in the debriefings of these individuals," raising concerns that the agency has not so much stopped using "enhanced interrogation" as it has outsourced it.

Yes, extraditing "detainees" to other nations who employ torture, who then share their interrogations with the CIA, means that torture still remains effectively legal.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 aaaacorny24Don't let the smiley face of Big Agriculture fool you. (Photo: David Clow)

Bigger is not always better. As Wall Street banks and big box stores such as Walmart have shown, bigger is often worse. The list of industries that have consolidated into national and global cartels is long and growing, and so is their collateral damage.

In general, this trend - accelerated by trade agreements such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership - means an increase in the exploitation of labor. It also means an expansion of unregulated practices that lead to global warming, and an elimination of small businesses. (For example, think about the elimination of local pharmacies, office supply stores, banks and bakeries.)

In the case of the financial industry, the consolidation of the money supply in the hands of a few institutions has reverberating global impacts. These institutions engage in predatory lending policies toward individuals and underdeveloped nations. They thrive in these efforts through minimal regulation (in the US and most other G-20 nations), and are abetted by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This pattern is repeated in other industries, such as agriculture. A column this spring in Dollars & Sense details how Big Agriculture - which includes ancillary industries, such as pesticides and seeds - sells itself as a route to creating more and safer food for a growing population.

Published in EditorBlog
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