Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!

STEVE JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

From the Huffington Post, August 26, 2011: "Televangelist Pat Robertson suggested Wednesday that cracks in the Washington Monument caused by the August 23 (Virginia) earthquake could be a sign from God, and the natural disaster 'means that we're closer to the coming of the Lord.' To explain the rare east coast quake, Robertson pointed to the Biblical prophecy of the end of the world, which claims there could be potential devastation from natural disasters leading up to Jesus' return to Earth. On his television show, 'The 700 Club,' Robertson said: 'I don't want to get weird on this, so please take it for what it's worth, but it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America's power. It has been the symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and we say this is one nation under God. Now there's a crack in it. Is that a sign from the Lord? Is that something that has significance, or is it just the result of an earthquake?' " Robertson asked his viewers.

This was rather less definitive than his statement on the Haitian earthquake (and much less definitive than his "it's the fault of the gays" declaration made with the late Jerry Falwell following 9/11).  Maybe he is getting a bit sensitized.  At any rate, consider this one:

"NEW YORK (CBS, 1/12/10) Pat Robertson, the American Christian televangelist and host of 'The 700 Club,' said that Haitians need to have a 'great turning to god' while he was reporting on the devastating 7.0 earthquake that shook the island nation . . .'Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. . . They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.'  True story. And so the devil said, 'OK it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free.  But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.' "

Well, Pat, actually it was not (Louis) Napoleon III (1852-1870) against whom the Haitian slave revolt took place but the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1798-1815).  But when you are making up stuff like you do, what difference do the facts make?  There was a huge amount of controversy, not about him getting his facts wrong, but about the content of what he said.  While many including myself regard what he said as an outrageous slander against the Haitian people, another question occurred to me: how does he know?  How does he know that in fact the Haitian people made a pact with the devil, whenever they did it, and that because of that pact, made however may years ago, they suffered this horrible earthquake now.

And then Michelle Bachmann tells us that Hurricane Irene was the result of God's wrath for too much Federal spending (that is on items that Michelle doesn't like spending on, like repairing bridges like the one that collapsed in her home state a couple of years ago).  She later claimed she was joking, but from I have heard from the likes of her and the Rev. Perry, God is not someone one should joke around with.  We will not here get into the seeming illogic of God punishing the US for Federal overspending by committing an act that requires more spending, actually on matters she really doesn't like money to spent on.  For I assume that as a "Tea Partier," as she likes to tell us even when not looking into the camera --- see, I do pay attention to details even if I don't deign to interfere with them --- she is following the lead of her Tea Party House Majority Leader (and luster after the Speaker's job, but that is another matter).  That is unless you are Rep. Cantor and want to find every possible excuse, including natural disasters, to rip out of the Federal budget spending you happen not to like too.

Published in EditorBlog
Sunday, 11 September 2011 00:51

It's Long Past Time to Get Over 9-11

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

We've wallowed too long in our victimhood

9-11 was indeed a devastating loss of personal life.  Those who died were mostly US citizens, but included people of all nations, such as the wait staff and bus boys at the sky high restaurant in the Twin Towers.  It was a "shared" loss, indicative of the international inclusiveness of America.

But having never experienced a significant mainland attack since the War of 1812 -- as Noam Chomsky points out in his remarkable book, "9-11: Was There an Alternative?" -- we feel ourselves invulnerable as a country. I recall reading an observation of Kurt Vonnegut many years ago -- who survived the allied fire bombing of Dresden in WW II in an underground slaughterhouse for prisoners of war -- commenting that America was distinct among Western allies in never knowing the devastation of cities under siege by bombers, rockets, tanks and mortar attack.

Then there is our national hubris, that American Exceptionalism itself was under attack on September 11, 2001.  Like all powerful empires, we feel invulnerable and crush anyone perceived to have pierced through our bubble of "invincibility."

Chomsky and others call 9-11 a crime, which our government treated as a justification for wars that are still continuing ten years later, draining us of military lives in excess of those lost on 9-11, causing civilian deaths in the hundreds of thousands, and being a central contributing factor to the rise in the American deficit.

Europe, which endured WW II -- in which some 30 million people were killed -- stopped letting the nightmarish loss of life and destruction hamper its reconstruction more quickly than America has let go of 9-11, which it still clings to and wallows in.

BuzzFlash at Truthout, publishing since May of 2000, reported and broke stories on the attack on the Twin Towers (and the Pentagon) and the Bush/Cheney administration use of the tragedy to launch military conflicts of empire.  At the time of 9-11, the Bush administration's poll numbers were low and dropping.  All that changed on 9-11, after which the full propaganda strength of the White House and corporate mass media focused on putting US citizens in a state of fear to accomplish strategic military goals to enhance America's superpower status and extend our military footprint.

Yes, BuzzFlash at Truthout focused on verifiable fact that Bush and Rice were warned of likely Al-Qaeda hijackings and how the stenographic DC press let them off the hook on their egregious unintentional or intentional lapse in heightening airport security that might indeed have prevented 9-11.

Rice eventually defended her failed responsibility to protect us by saying something like "but we didn't receive warnings that they would fly them into buildings," which was specious because US intelligence knew for some time of just such a possibility as part of an overall Al-Qaeda strategy.  Bush finally admitted, during his presidency, that they were warned of hijackings, but not of a specific target so his administration didn't take action to protect the World Trade Center.  The corporate press thought those excuses made sense, except for the simple logical fact that if Bush and Rice, among others, had taken increased steps to prevent hijackings, they might have prevented the hijackings that brought down the Twin Towers and blew up part of the Pentagon.

Furthermore, in exclusive reporting by Jason Leopold and Jeff Kaye on Truthout, it is revealed that US intelligence services did indeed know of Al-Qaeda interest in targeting the Twin Towers and the Pentagon: "high-level DoD officials held discussions about DO5's intelligence activities between the summer of 2000 and June 2001 revolving around al-Qaeda's interest in striking the Pentagon, the World Trade Center (WTC), and other targets."

In other words, at least some individuals in the Bush administration were aware that the terrorist organization had set its sights on those structures prior to 9/11 and, apparently, government officials failed to act on those warnings.

And then there are all the lingering threads, still unconnected, of how the CIA and FBI were on to some of the hijackers, not to mention the quickly erased connections of the hijackers to Saudi Arabian backers.  There are so many unanswered questions, even more after a 9-11 commission whitewashed the dirty laundry surrounding the attack.

But this much we know.  The narrative of our government switched on a dime after 9-11, and we were cast into a state of what Chomsky calls "manufactured consent," whipped up by a bombardment of jingoistic rhetoric coming from the federal government and the airwaves.  We were kept in a constant state of fear with crayon-colored alerts.  We were pawns in the great game of empire.

As a result, our nation is on the verge of a double-dip recession.  While nations like Germany forge ahead economically, Osama bin-Laden achieved one of his major goals: crippling America economically.

We are still wallowing in our victimhood.  We had our time to grieve, but we haven't moved on.

After World War II, the US helped rebuild Europe -- with the visionary Marshall Plan that even turned Germany (our former Nazi adversary) -- into thriving democracies and economic engines.

Since Barack Obama was elected, the Republican Party shifted the national narrative from 9-11 to the deficit, which -- as noted earlier -- has been a substantial contributor to our financial shortfall.  But 9-11 has continued to be an albatross around the neck of national progress and the closure of grief and grievance.

That will continue to weigh upon us unnecessarily until we get on with a new narrative of innovation, a belief in the strength of democracy, and an understanding that overextended empire cannot endure indefinitely while undertaking squandered and prolonged military expeditions.

We have appropriately mourned those who died in the attack of 9-11.  It is time that we honor them by advancing as a nation to write the next chapter of the great experiment in democracy known as America.

Published in EditorBlog
Friday, 09 September 2011 15:32

The GOP Position on Health Care is Killing Us

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The GOP position on health care is killing us.

That's a narrative that President Obama should have used when battling for health care reform. His absence of doing so is indicative of his inability - even while giving stirring speeches, as he did on jobs - to instill a larger vision and narrative into his presidency.

The reality is that the current health care system for those with insurance - many of whom opposed the White House's health care reform package - increasingly means that they are paying more and getting less in coverage. This is resulting from escalating deductibles, co-payments, out-of-pocket limits and higher premium co-pays. Ask any American, except for the wealthiest, and this is most likely a growing financial challenge that they are experiencing.

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post wrote a column entitled, "How Health Costs Wiped Out a Full Decade of Income Increases."

Klein notes:

All evidence points to American voters not really caring about rising health care costs. But here's one pretty compelling reason they should: The escalating cost of health care has wiped out nearly all income gains made by the average American family in the past decade....

[Rising health care costs, in the form of increased insurance premiums and co-pays, ate up nearly all of that [increase in wages].

So, instead of emphasizing the larger narrative of rising personal medical insurance costs that threatens most Americans, Obama emphasized the uninsured. The Republicans turned this to their advantage through code words and fear - but mostly through the usual wink and nod that this was some scheme to benefit minorities and dead beats.

Obama lost the battle over this narrative, even though it was his to win, because he all too often is afraid of speaking in terms that reflect the contextual reality of public policy options in plain, homespun terms. Instead, he accepts the debate "frame" of the likes of right-wing think tanks funded by the heavy-hitting Koch brothers' crowd.

The choice was never between "Obamacare" and a system that works. It was between a health care delivery system that is eating away at the wages of all but the wealthiest Americans and a paradigm shift in providing medical care in the US.

Obama avoided the paradigm shift and created a system that will enrich insurance companies that are themselves a key cause of rising health care costs, while managing to provide the Republicans a cudgel with which to hit him over the head.

Without a vision, without resetting the terms of the debate, without bringing the truth to bear down upon the important public policy issues of the day, Obama is a trapped man trying to punch his way out of an alternative universe narrative created by three decades of right-wing propaganda and bullying.

What about that average $1,500 in payroll tax deduction that the president proposed in his new jobs bill? Most of us will be spending it on increased health insurance premiums, deductibles and paying for non-covered services.

President Obama needs to spell out the real narrative of America, not to de facto accept the one forced down our gullets by Fox News.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

On the same day that a ghoulish "gladiator" forum crowd at the Reagan Library cheered the announcement that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had executed 234 people, a man appointed by Perry to chair the Texas Forensic Science Commission, Sam Bassett, accused the governor of covering up the state killing of a likely innocent man.

The executed prisoner, Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted and sentenced on what was likely faulty forensic evidence. Bassett was fired as chairman of the commission, as previously reported in BuzzFlash at Truthout, just before the Forensic Science Commission was about to formally issue a scathing report about the highly flawed "arson" investigation that led to Willingham's conviction.

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Daily News commented about the rousing approval of putting people to death - innocent or not - at the GOP debate: "What you heard echoing in the Reagan Library last night was not reason. It was bloodlust, pure and simple, and it was repulsive."

"It was utterly sickening to watch," Bunch reflects. "When Perry - who recently vetoed a bill that would halt the execution of the mentally ill - told the audience that anyone convicted of murder in the Lone Star State faces 'the ultimate justice,' the applause grew even louder."

As for Perry, he was asked by Brian Williams, the moderator of the NBC/Politico sponsored September 7 debate, "Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?"

Perry adamantly responded, "no, sir. I've never struggled with that at all."

Basset calls the Willingham execution and cover-up of the botched evidence indicative of Perry's character and decision making.

But as BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed out in its previous commentary on the Willingham execution, Perry and his advisers may know exactly what they were doing. In a focus group run by a 2010 Republican primary opponent of Perry, a Texan voter spoke admiringly of Perry going ahead and executing Willingham, saying: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."

Given the response of the GOP faithful at the Reagan Library to Perry having surpassed George W. Bush's record-setting rate of executions when he was Texas governor, it's clear that Perry is going to get the cojones vote, because no "liberal wimp" is going to murder someone who is probably not guilty.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT 

Tony Blair didn't just play godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch's daughters by his third wife. Blair is the godfather.

People generally pick close friends to honor by being a godparent, so Murdoch didn't choose Blair by accident. According to The Guardian UK, "Murdoch's third wife, Wendi Deng, who let slip the information in an interview with Vogue, described Blair as one of Rupert's closest friends."

Meanwhile, the British Parliament has once again begun hearings on the Murdoch News Corp. hacking and bribery scandal. The incestuous relationships of Murdoch with UK governments of both the Labour and Conservative Parties flow seamlessly from one parliamentary majority to another. The current UK Prime Minister, Conservative David Cameron, has been so tight with Murdoch that Cameron's former press secretary was one of Murdoch's infamous tabloid editors.

As Henry Porter scathingly observes in The Guardian UK: "Real political power always works unseen, and that is how Murdoch has pulled the levers in British society. Prime ministers who accept Murdoch's support end up doing his bidding."

Add British Petroleum to the mix, as it is the first- or second-largest company in the UK, depending upon the criteria used - and you have a triumvirate of government/media propaganda and corruption/big oil corporate rule. There is little doubt that BP, for instance, played an enormous role in influencing Blair to back the invasion of Iraq - and it has always figured prominently in relations with Libya.

The result of this chronic triumvirate rule (and add a host of other corporations to join BP in the winner's circle) is that the UK has the semblance of democracy, but the structure of the elite status quo remains basically unchanged under governments of any political party.

If that sounds a lot like how things are in the United States, that's because it is.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If progressives -- who for the most part pretty much advocate for democracy and a level playing field for the economy -- are going to be accused of being radical socialists, why not have at it and restrict individual acquisition of wealth in the US to one billion dollars?

Now, already you can hear the outraged squawking from the right-wing media echo chamber about how treasonous and un-American such a proposal would be. But as a recent commentary pointed out in Mother Jones, the right wing gets away with proposing wholesale changes in the Constitution, the suppression of voting rights, the end of the direct election of senators etc., and the candidates proposing such radical extremist measures are still regarded by the media as "serious" contenders.

Yet, if an American advocates for increased pay for workers and more manufacturing and less Wall Street manipulation of financial "paper," they are labeled as followers of Lenin.

So, take a look at the latest Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. The top ten include Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the Koch brothers, the Walton (Wal-Mart) family and Michael Bloomberg (with a measly $18 billion in net worth).

So, if progressives who simply advocate democracy, compassion and economic fairness are going to be called fringe ideologues - while right-wing John Birchers on steroids are now considered within the mainstream - then maybe it's time to push the edge of the envelope.

Maybe the counterpoint to a Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Eric Cantor is to put on the table limiting individuals to the accumulation of no more than $1 billion in personal assets. Any funds beyond that would be fully taxed and used to underwrite a national infrastructure, job training and an alternative energy development bank run by the US Department of the Treasury.

If Perry can advocate secession for Texas from the US, then it's about time to formally propose that wealth and greed should have its limits in order to help America move forward.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

The right-wing conservatives are betting against America's future.

That's not a speculative observation; it's reality.

When a core part of your political ideology is the denial of science - and science has been at the center of technological and economic advancements that made the US into an innovative and financial power - then you are advocating that the nation move backward.

For those who thought that the Scopes trial settled the issue of evolution, it has been a period of frustrating historical backlash. Those who would cling to the stagnation of creationism are embarked upon a ferocious campaign to cloak the world again in darkness.

As other nations race ahead of America in alternative fuels, scientific research, transportation alternatives and medical advances, the forces of scientific denial in the US are on the march back to the pre-Enlightenment.

A web site devoted to science and its future impact observes:

With a few notable exceptions, most of the contenders for the seat of Republican presidential candidate are outspoken critics of science. They and their supporters refuse to acknowledge the reality of climate change, want science teachers to tell students that human life was created by a spiritual force from beyond space, and suggest that the best way to get out of our debt hole is to cut government funding for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, which allocate money to cancer research and childhood autism treatments.

But based on recent demographics, these Republicans are out of touch with what Americans on both sides of the political spectrum want, which is more jobs in science, health care, engineering, and technology. Far from appealing to the average American, the Republican anti-science stance may alienate the party further from the mainstream.

Faith can be an inspiring force or it can lead to an infatuation with profound ignorance.

For Martin Luther King, belief meant "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

For many of the Bible thumpers on the right, faith just means turning the lights out on progress.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Two freshmen conservative GOP Congressman believe that what Congress needs is more funeral directors.

No, this is not an Onion headline; it's from remarks made by a couple of guys who want to strangle the federal government. Maybe then they could make a profit burying it. They were addressing, last March, the National Funeral Directors Association's Advocacy Summit.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout highlighted a video clip of Illinois Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren being unable to answer how the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy could be working if they have resulted in a million jobs being lost over the years that they have been in place.

Hultgren has other things on his mind, such as how more funeral home directors in the Capitol could help America. Along with his fellow frosh, "mortician's kid" Florida Rep. Steve Southerland, Hultgren believes, "We need more funeral directors in Congress."

"If you want to understand a community, then go talk to the funeral director because he understands that community," Hultgren said in the "Memorial Business Journal." "Growing up in a funeral home is a wonderful training ground for serving in Congress - understanding that people are making sacrifices to run businesses to serve the people in your community."

Southerland declared - and we are not making this up: "Everything I learned on how to run for Congress I learned in the lobby of Southerland Family Funeral Homes." He rallied the March gathering of mortuary directors: "What we need in all levels of government - local, state and federal - is you funeral directors to broaden your horizon and your understanding of what you have."

Hultgren and Southerland may not understand the harmful impact of excessive tax cuts for the wealthy on our economy, but they surely will know how to put the federal government six feet under.

 

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

Rick Perry believes that he has earned respect for being a man so brazen that he didn't even blink when confronted with the apparent fact that he executed an innocent man. Indeed, he grew even more defiant as exculpatory evidence grew.

And, then, Perry made sure that the details of his eagerness to kill the "convicted" - but apparently innocent - man, were covered up by dissolving an investigation into the state killing of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Only a man with "guts," who carries a laser-sighted handgun with deadly, hollow-point bullets - even when he jogs with his security detail - could take pride in dismissing the Texas State murder of a man who wasn't likely guilty. As one person in a focus group on Perry, commissioned by a GOP gubernatorial primary opponent, crowed with admiration: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."

A New Yorker article revealed that the investigating commission, before Perry dissolved it, found that the primary evidence against Willingham, "seemed to deny 'rational reasoning' and was more 'characteristic of mystics or psychics.'"

Justin Elliott of Salon believes that Perry's unapologetic execution of Willingham may have actually helped Perry beat Kay Bailey Hutchison when she challenged him in 2010:

Perry went on to cruise to a 20-point victory in the primary and an easy win in the general election.

[It] leaves one wondering, did the controversy actually help him in the GOP primary? If Perry jumps into the presidential contest, don't expect his primary rivals to bring up this old case ...

Some wags have joked that Perry is George W. Bush without a brain. Perhaps, Perry's pride in signing the death warrant for Willingham shows that he is also George W. Bush - who set a record for assembly-line executions in Texas - without a heart.

That's kind of like being Genghis Khan without the compassion.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The creationist crowd does have some proof that Darwin wasn't right about every individual in a species. They are living proof: after all, they haven't evolved.

The other day, a very young boy in New Hampshire got the better of Rick Perry with a question about evolution: Perry responded, "That's a theory that is out there - and it's got some gaps in it."

Perry then went on to assert to the boy: "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution. I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."

Except the US Supreme Court has ruled that it is a violation of the Constitution to teach creationism in schools.

Let's take another example that disproves evolution in the likes of Governor Perry. Texas has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. When queried by an interviewer about why the governor supports taxpayer funding of abstinence education in the Lone Star State when it doesn't work, Perry adamantly defended the program. This is not only a Victorian outlook, it contradicts the right-wing notion that every government program should be judged by its effectiveness.

And then there's Michele Bachmann, who just this week stated that Americans are concerned about the "rise of the Soviet Union." Maybe she was confused because it is the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall being erected. As with most embodiments of creationism, Bachmann's frame of reference moves backward in time, not forward.

BuzzFlash at Truthout noted earlier this year, "a fundamentalist Christian may feel reassured that - at the Creation Museum in Kentucky - a dinosaur wears a saddle to show that all life began simultaneously with a divine spark."

Maybe the Creation Museum should replace the dinosaur with a wax replica of Rick Perry and put a saddle on his back.

Evolution, on its path to the future, just passes some people by.

******

If you'd like to receive these commentaries daily from Truthout/BuzzFlash, click here. You'll get our choice headlines and articles too.

Published in EditorBlog
Page 82 of 136