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Beyond the emotional punch in the gut of Troy Davis' execution - and the echoing cheers of a GOP debate audience for Rick Perry killing so many people - it is worth remembering the role of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the Davis affair.

Because it was during an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2009 on behalf of Davis that Scalia - and BuzzFlash is not making this up - actually wrote a dissenting opinion that there was nothing in the Constitution that prevented a state from executing an innocent man (or woman).

How does BuzzFlash at Truthout know this?

Because we did a commentary back then on Scalia's jaw-dropping constitutional assertion when the decision was rendered. (The Supreme Court ordered a Georgia court to allow Davis to present new evidence.)

In that 2009 commentary, we quoted from Scalia's dissent:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged "actual innocence" is constitutionally cognizable.

If the Constitution doesn't protect us from being executed even if we are innocent, then, Houston, we have a fundamental problem of human rights in America.

Scalia is considered by some to be a "brilliant legal mind," but there is nothing brilliant about authorizing the murder of innocent people.


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Consider my future Social Security checks "earned benefits" because I worked toward my retirement. That's true of all Americans who actually labor for a living.

Just yesterday, Paul Ryan - maybe looking for a vice presidential spot - curried some favor with Rick Perry by agreeing with him that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme."

Before dismissing the rhetoric as over the top, it's important to remember that a lie repeated five times becomes perceived as the truth by many people, particularly if they watch Fox for their "news."

So, it was encouraging, while traveling through the jungle of Facebook, to come across someone who proudly proclaimed that Social Security was based on "earned benefits, not entitlements."

After all, "entitlements" best describe what the wealthy and their political advocates believe is due them; the "entitlement" to inherit as much money as possible and to make off with as big a slice of America's economic pie as possible. To argue that you deserve to be gluttonously wealthy because your mommy or daddy made a fortune selling short in the stock market, now that's an "entitlement."

But for 99 percent of the citizens in the United States, we work for our retirement income. We earn the benefits of Social Security; we don't inherit them.

The "Ponzi scheme" took place on Wall Street, not Main Street.


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Recently, the Benton Harbor City Council - governed under the authoritarian emergency financial manager appointed by Tea Party Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder - passed a resolution to honor the US Constitution the week of September 17.

The emergency financial manager for Benton Harbor declared, in the spring, that the Benton Harbor City Council could only do three things: call meetings to order, approve minutes and adjourn meetings. As a result, the state-appointed manager of Benton Harbor declared the city council resolution honoring the US Constitution as null and void.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out in a September 19 commentary, there is a frightening irony in "elected officials not being allowed to honor the Constitution because they've been overruled by an appointed overseer who nobody voted for."

In April of 2011, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote a commentary entitled "Tea Party Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Adopts Soviet-style Authoritarian Powers Over Michigan Cities."

Maybe the emergency financial manager for Benton Harbor will force the Benton Harbor City Council, chosen by the voters, to follow the Politburo books of rules and orders.


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President Obama has just declared that he will veto any deficit reduction bill that does not include taxes on the wealthy.

In response, the Republicans trotted out their main "Friday the 13th" talking point that they have used since the beginning of the Reagan era: "The president is engaging in class warfare."

Anticipating the GOP "round up the usual sound bite when it comes to the wealthy paying their fair share for democracy" strategy, Obama declared, "This is not class warfare: it's math."

Given that the Republican Party - with an infrastructure of think tanks, lobbyists and corporate media supported by corporate America and the likes of the Koch brothers - has been conducting a war of attrition on the US middle class for years, it is hard to digest such brazen hypocrisy.

As Andy Ostroy, who is posted regularly on BuzzFlash at Truthout observes:

It's time the rich stop whining about class warfare and start paying their fair share of taxes to pay for this country's essential services and to help reduce its debt. How about we borrow from Sen. John McCain and piggyback the millionaire's tax with the slogan, "America First." The nation's rich needs to stop thinking about their own pocketbooks for a second and show some concern for the country in which they've amassed their colossal wealth.

If the Obama administration is smart, it will hammer home this millionaire's tax rhetoric until it becomes the sort of highly effective propaganda Republicans have been successfully regurgitating for years.

Dividing up the middle and working classes based on appeals to race, ethnicity and social wedge issues has been a trademark of the Republican Party.

What they fear most is that the great masses of Americans who receive a stagnating hourly wage and more limited benefits each year will rise up and demand their share of the nation's wealth.

Class warfare has been waged on behalf of the wealthiest people and corporations in the US for decades - and on that battlefield, the richest Americans have thus far won.

As Ostroy asks, "To be sure, the rich have never been richer, and the poor have never been poorer. So what are Republicans constantly complaining about?"

What they are complaining about is the concept of workers being fairly compensated for their labor - and that the wealthiest Americans might have to buy one less yacht or home. That's class warfare to them.

Published in EditorBlog


The latest Republican plan to steal a presidential election may just work.

In Pennsylvania, according to Mother Jones, a plan is brewing to allocate the state's electoral votes by Congressional districts. Since Pennsylvania is gerrymandered to favor the election of Republican Congressional representatives, Obama could win the popular vote there, but lose the state in the Electoral College.

Given that the Pennsylvania legislature and the governorship are all controlled by the GOP, this is a law that has good odds of being passed.

With the precedent of Republican-controlled states using pretty much model templates of legislation to put barriers in the way of Democratic voting groups, it is extremely possible that the Pennsylvania electoral delegate plan will be proposed and enacted in other states where the GOP is in charge.

The Democrats have little recourse. "Nor is there anything obviously illegal or unconstitutional about the GOP plan," Mother Jones notes. "'The Constitution is pretty silent on how the electors are chosen in each state,' says Karl Manheim, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles."

After the stolen election of 2000, which led to a lost decade of national decline for America, it is painful to think that a Democrat may win the popular vote but lose the presidency due to political chicanery with the electoral vote allocation.

But this robbery of democracy might just very well occur in plain sight.


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Ron Paul knows something about uninsured men dying without health insurance. Kent Snyder, who was Paul's 2008 presidential campaign manager, died on June 26 of that year without any medical coverage. His hospital bills had accumulated to $400,000 at the time of his passing.

The Washington Post noted in an obituary for Snyder, 49:

Mr. Snyder had been associated with Paul, a Texas Republican with Libertarian leanings, for more than 20 years. He worked as a top aide for Paul in 1988, when the congressman sought the presidency on the Libertarian ticket.

In 2007, Mr. Snyder helped persuade Paul to launch a bid for the Republican nomination and served as chairman of his campaign. Paul raised millions of dollars from online contributors, leading all Republican contenders early in the race. He failed to attract many voters, however, and ended his candidacy in June.

So, an aide who was pivotal to the political fortunes and fundraising for Paul wasn't even given health insurance - in his hour of need - by the libertarian Congressman.

By now, almost all BuzzFlash at Truthout readers know or saw how the bloodlust of the Tea Party roared with approval when Paul said that people without health insurance are taking their own risks, and that is the way it should be.

A Pensito Review article from 2008 noted, "Snyder's death and his lack of health insurance has triggered a behind-the-scenes debate among Paul supporters and libertarian activists over whether or not the Paul campaign should have provided health insurance to its staff."

Actually, Paul was a touch more compassionate then his gladiator fight audience. He said that the churches should provide health care to the uninsured, that "our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it."

That's not how it played itself out with your longtime fundraiser and campaign manager, Kent Snyder, Dr. Paul.

He didn't even get the health coverage he needed from you, nor did you pick up his $400,000 medical care bill after he died.



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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


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


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.


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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.


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