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BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

What is the difference between religious fundamentalists and so-called "strict constructionists"? Actually, they are two sides of the same coin.

First, they both believe that the Constitution and the Bible are divinely granted documents. Secondly, they believe that there is a literal interpretation to both, and that they are the ones who know what that is. Thirdly, anyone who disagrees with them is either a heretic or un-American, or both.

The New York Times makes note of one newly elected Tea Party Republican senator:

Mike Lee, a 39-year-old Republican from Utah, has the most impeccable establishment legal credentials: the son of Rex Lee, a solicitor general under President Reagan, he attended law school at Brigham Young and later clerked for Samuel Alito on the U.S. Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court. But on the campaign trail, especially during his heated primary battle with the three-term Republican incumbent Bob Bennett, Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.

This radical viewpoint is what characterizes the "Repeal Amendment" movement, which I wrote about yesterday. It is the fanatical, cultist viewpoint of those who believe that only they have the divine knowledge to understand "God's word" in the Bible and in the Constitution.

For these extremists, the Constitution is not a document of men and women that threw off the shackles of a Europe still governed by the claim of divinely sanctioned royalty, but rather, like the Ten Commandments (an apt analogy), a manifestation of the will of God - and an exclusive Christian God at that.

"As your U.S. senator," Lee promised during the campaign, according to the Times, "I will not vote for a single bill that I can't justify based on the text and the original understanding of the Constitution, no matter what the court says you can do."

But who is to say that Senator Lee's interpretation of the text and "original understanding of the Constitution" is correct? Isn't that what we have the courts for, and isn't the Constitution a living, breathing document that was written by people who ensured its flexibility through the amendment process and our legislative and legal systems?

Senator Lee has no inherent illuminated knowledge about our Constitution. He embodies the kind of narrow-minded, self-righteous and elitist thinking that the 13 colonies rebelled against.

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

How radical is the Republican leadership in Congress? Let's just say that some of them make anarchists look like "centrists."

Eric Cantor, who was elected incoming house majority leader by the GOP caucus, is backing a plan, according to Talking Points Memo (TPM), "to blow up the Constitutional system and replace it with one that would give state governments veto power over federal laws."

A few years back, such an anti-constitutional notion would have been considered the province of unbalanced individuals and extreme, right-wing cultists. Now, the notion of states overriding the Constitution and federal law has apparently become mainstream for the Republican Party.

Of course, it would take an amendment to the Constitution, called the "Repeal Amendment," to eviscerate the founding document of our nation and our legal system. Cantor, for his part, thinks that this is a good idea, saying: "The Repeal Amendment would provide a check on the ever-expanding federal government, protect against Congressional overreach, and get the government working for the people again, not the other way around. In order to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success, we must reverse course and the Repeal Amendment is a step in that direction."

According to TPM, one of the main goals of the Repeal Amendment is to overturn the 17th Amendment, which allows for the popular election of senators. This is an objective both the Tea Party and Antonin Scalia share, as BuzzFlash pointed out in a recent commentary. This fits in well with the perplexing notion that the "rabble of democracy" is a danger to the Republic!

So, Cantor and the Repeal Amendment will seek to amend the Constitution to "strengthen states' rights" in order to remove amendments that were passed by three-quarters of the states. It certainly makes sense if you have no sense to make.

If a citizen dares to say that there should be a more equitable distribution of wealth in the US, he or she is exiled to a political gulag reserved for "socialist extremists." But it's just fine with the purveyors of conventional wisdom in DC if the next majority leader of the House of Representatives advocates putting a stick of dynamite under the Constitution.

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

If you have enjoyed the excitement, free exchange of thoughts and innovations of the Internet, enjoy them while you can.

Comcast, the voracious Pac-Man of the media conglomerates, is getting ready to bust up the concept of net neutrality that allowed everyone to participate in the ongoing evolution of the Internet. The New York Times just revealed that Comcast is going to start charging Netflix a premium price to stream movies.

Free Press, a consumer organization emphasizing media reform, also just disclosed that Comcast is restricting other companies from offering competitive support products: "Modem manufacturer Zoom Telephonics filed a complaint at the FCC against Comcast, setting out a string of facts which show that the media giant is restricting consumer access to innovative devices by controlling the approval process for cable modems."

About to acquire NBC, Comcast is racing toward becoming a behemoth multi-platform media empire capable of charging "tolls" throughout its growing network, while restricting content.

This is just what net neutrality is supposed to protect against. The idea of a level playing field is what has made the Internet a welcoming place for innovation, creativity, accessibility and business growth.

Like a bank "too big too fail," Comcast wants to increase profit by reducing competition.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a majority of Democratic commissioners, but it has been hemming and hawing about net neutrality throughout the Obama administration. Now, after many delays, it has scheduled a vote on preserving the open Internet for December 21.

Will American inventiveness and open conversation be allowed to continue to flourish, or will big corporations once again stamp out competition?

Comcast and its allies, including the telecom industry (which has an interest in the mobile Internet), are only concerned about the bottom line.

For many Americans, the bottom line is whether or not capital, power and free speech will continue to be consolidated into a few corporate conglomerates.

Update: According to the Washington Post, the FCC is likely to offer a half of loaf of net neutrality, but due to a previous court ruling, even that half of loaf -- if that is what is offered -- will likely be rejected by the Supreme Court.  That is because the only way to ensure legal control of the Internet is to declare it a common carrier, in the same way telephone companies are treated, but it appears that the FCC -- even with a majority of Democratic commissioners, is not going to go this route.  We hope we're wrong about that.

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

FOX's Freedom Watch - with Judge Andrew Napolitano as the host - is one of the few shows that could tout "the virtue of selfishness" on Thanksgiving, which it did.

Napolitano had a spokesman on from the Ayn Rand Institute exalting the "morality" of not caring about the fate of other people, while Napolitano bemoaned the money that the government "steals" from the well-off to help those less fortunate.

Rand's extremist cult of the ego fits like a glove with unregulated capitalism because the moral high ground is defined by the acquisition of personal wealth without any obligation to society. As a result, Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" touted the "morality of rational self-interest" and what is basically an anarchistic vision of business and individual acquisition of money.

Indeed, at least one powerful Wall Street cheerleader still on the scene - Alan Greenspan - became a Rand acolyte, according to The New York Times . "Mr. Greenspan met Rand when he was 25 and working as an economic forecaster. She was already renowned as the author of 'The Fountainhead,' a novel about an architect true to his principles. Mr. Greenspan had married a member of Rand's inner circle, known as the Collective, that met every Saturday night in her New York apartment. Rand did not pay much attention to Mr. Greenspan until he began praising drafts of 'Atlas,' which she read aloud to her disciples, according to Jeff Britting, the archivist of Ayn Rand's papers. He was attracted, Mr. Britting said, to 'her moral defense of capitalism.'"

Napolitano closed his Ayn Rand Thanksgiving segment with these words: "Only on Freedom Watch can you hear on Thanksgiving Day that selfishness is a virtue."

It takes FOX and a spokesperson for Ayn Rand to turn the season of goodwill into an excuse for indifference, greed and the "anything goes" corruption of Wall Street.

Maybe we will soon see a statue of Ms. Rand go up in front of the Federal Reserve building in New York, no doubt at government expense - because selfishness means you don't have to make sense.

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Thursday, 25 November 2010 23:14

Fiercely Proud to be a Liberal: Thanking JFK

BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

In a personal sense, like many Americans, I have much to be thankful for: family and friends who enrich me, a healthy life, and the comforts of food, clothing and shelter.

Politically, I am thankful for a September 14, 1960 speech by John F. Kennedy in New York, in which he unapologetically and eloquently declared himself a liberal. His words inspire, energize and give us much to be thankful for as we pursue a just society.

So, I thank a martyred president who didn't look to a mythical "center" to guide his politics, but rather summoned his and our better angels.

Here is some of what JFK said in defense of liberalism, as he ran against Richard Nixon in a defining year for America:

But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

*I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith.

*Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring.

*Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose.

Such eloquence reminds us, sadly, how far our nation has been derailed from the promise of innovation, compassion and commitment to the common good. But it also inspires us to act fearlessly on behalf of the promise of America, and to be thankful for our ability to do so.

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

Corporate profits in the US hit their highest in history in the third quarter of 2010, according to The New York Times (NYT). Meanwhile, in Washington, Republicans and conservative Democrats prepare to leave unemployed Americans without benefits at the same time that they will try to extend hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy.

If there appears to be a disconnect here, there is. No longer is the increased profitability of corporations - now often really global companies that happen to be incorporated in the US - tied to a decrease in unemployment in America.

Corporate profitability is now often due to a shuffling of financial papers and a growth in jobs overseas, not on the homefront. It is also tied to Wall Street gambling, greed and corruption, as Charles Ferguson compellingly reveals in his new documentary, "Inside Job."

BuzzFlash interviewed Ferguson in 2007 about his equally eye-opening first film "No End in Sight." That movie documented the staggering incompetence of the Bush administration in overseeing post-invasion Iraq.

In "Inside Job," Ferguson methodically peels away the people, motives and deregulated strategies that led to the near collapse of the American economy. Like "No End in Sight," the individuals and firms responsible for betraying average American citizens, in this case through financial improprieties, were not held responsible. In fact, many of them - from the secretary of the treasury on down - are guiding the Obama economic policies and doing favors for the same financial firms that caused such ruinous damage (and for which many of them have worked.)

Meanwhile, as the Scrooges in Washington are prepared to allow millions of Americans to go without financial support during the holidays, Wall Street, according to The NYT, is celebrating: "But when it comes to personal indulgences, there are signs that the wallets are beginning to open up. Traders and executives say that jobs seem much more secure. Businesses whose fortunes ebb and flow with the financial markets are thriving again."

"Wall Street is back spending as much if not more than before," said one person quoted by The NYT.

Over the past three decades, the opulent, gluttonous fortunes of Wall Street have become largely untethered from the food pantry anxieties of Main Street.

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

No one wants to be groped in order to board an airplane or go through a body scan that will cause exposure to radiation (although the level of danger is subject to a hot debate).

And it doesn't help public opinion that bigwigs like John Boehner, Barack Obama and airline pilots can bypass both - and many of the super rich avoid such intrusive security searches by flying their private or corporate jets. Furthermore, BuzzFlash has documented how the profiteering of former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff played a key role in the government purchase of the euphemistically named "Advanced Imaging Technology."

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the current outrage -- while personally understandable -- against the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) intrusive technology and pat-downs  just happens to fit the anti-government narrative of both the Tea Party and mainstream Republicans in Congress.

The creation of the TSA was held up even under the Bush administration because Tom DeLay was insisting that the security function for airports be privatized. So, it's of little surprise that conservative Republican Congressman John Mica, who will likely become the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is advocating for - you guessed it - the privatization of TSA functions. As a blog entry in Crooks and Liars notes: "Republicans want to use the recent outrage over the aggressive screening tactics being used by the TSA at airports as an excuse to privatize it. As Steve Benen noted this weekend, that of course doesn't solve the problem and just brings with it a whole new set of concerns."

The Bush administration shamelessly used fear as a means of exploiting concerns about flying - and a small group of terrorists are, it appears, interested in bringing down planes. But to blame the government for trying to protect airlines passenger is likely only happening because we have a Democratic president - and it perfectly fits the Republican "intrusive government" narrative.

Perhaps, it is no coincidence that the Federal Labor Relations Authority just gave the green light on November 12 of this year to allow TSA workers to hold a union representation vote, which would likely lead to collective bargaining. This is another motivation for the Republicans and the likes of the Tea Party to gin up anti-TSA hysteria.

There are ample reasons for the TSA to reconsider its unpalatable security procedures, but privatizing the function would just be another anti-government victory and a setback for the labor movement. More importantly, we are likely to be more at risk when we fly if profit is the only motive for "safety in the skies."

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EDITOR'S BLOG FOR BUZZFLASH/TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

When the wealthiest Americans use their excessive tax breaks to invest offshore, they do nothing to create jobs for Americans.

And that appears to be just what many of them are doing.

According to a November 20 article in The New York Times,"Well-heeled American investors have been doing something lately that they resisted for decades - becoming more like their European, Asian and Latin American counterparts and substantially diversifying their portfolios outside their home country."

The Times adds, "The people putting as much as 40 percent of their portfolios into nondollar investments are quite wealthy."

Even if they invest much of their Bush tax cut windfalls in American stocks, bonds, and hedge funds, they are doing little to create jobs, although they are receiving a lot of profit. Much of today's large corporate profitability comes from off shoring jobs to the cheapest labor markets and downsizing American jobs to the maximum amount.

Increasingly, American corporations that do sell goods have them manufactured overseas (the vast majority of consumer electronic technology is made and assembled abroad), making profits from domestic consumer purchase of items produced outside of the United States. In short, increased consumer demand in many economic sectors means more jobs abroad, fewer at home, and increased working- and middle-class debt in America.

The sorry state of the US economy that politicians of neither party will address is stunning. According to an expert quoted by the Times, "the United States contributed 40 percent of global gross domestic product 15 years ago and now contributed 21 percent. He predicted that that figure would fall to 12 percent in another 15 years. Going along with this is the shrinking market capitalization of American stocks compared with global stocks."

By financing tax cuts for the wealthy through a growing deficit, we are just helping to accelerate the decline in American economic power and the net outflow of jobs from the US.

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

 

When it comes to a fresh start on controlling nuclear weapons, the Senate Republicans are putting America's national security at risk.

Even Ronald Reagan - the idol of the right wing - began the START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) negotiations with the then Soviet Union to reduce offensive nuclear arsenals. Eventually, the agreement was fully negotiated and ratified by both nations.

But now, the Republicans, led by Sen. Kyl of Arizona, are vowing to keep a new START agreement from being confirmed in the Senate, even though it has been agreed upon by both the Russians and the White House. It is necessary to the national security of the United States and will prevent a costly renewal of the arms race, but GOP resistance will keep it from getting the two-third's vote it needs in the senate.

The New York Times editorialized against the obstructionism of the Republicans in the Senate this week, particularly since the first START treaty expired last December:

The treaty is so central to this country's national security, and the objections from Mr. Kyl - and apparently the whole Republican leadership - are so absurd that the only explanation is their limitless desire to deny President Obama any legislative success.

The Republicans like to claim that they are the party of national security. We can only hope that other senators in the party will decide that the nation's security interests must trump political maneuvering.

The treaty, the first with Russia in a decade, calls for both sides to reduce their deployed warheads modestly to 1,550 from 2,200. More important, it would restore "verification," inspections and other exchanges of information about the American and Russian arsenals.

According to Think Progress, "Ambassador Richard Burt, who negotiated the original START treaty on behalf of President Reagan, said on PBS this week, 'There are only two governments in the world that wouldn't like to see this treaty ratified, the government in Tehran and the government in North Korea.'"

Those who turned out to vote in 2010 didn't elect Republicans to betray the national interests of the US, but that is just what they are doing - and putting Americans at risk.

 

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BUZZFLASH EDITOR'S BLOG FOR TRUTHOUT BY MARK KARLIN

Early on in John Kerry's campaign for president in 2004, BuzzFlash wrote an editorial advising him to define his opponent or risk being defined as a caricature.

He didn't listen and got Swiftboated upside his head.

The Republicans, with the help of some in the corporate media, created an image of Al Gore as an exaggerator and worse in 2000. He didn't listen either.

Now, Obama appears to have fallen victim to the same lack of savvy and guts on the part of Democrats to go on the offensive and lead public opinion forward. He, too, appears to perennially - with few exceptions - lack the conviction to dispel the lies of the Republicans and attack his opponents with the truth. There seems to be no disciplined message, no understanding of the power of the media to echo key phrases and values.

As BuzzFlash has said many a time, if you repeat a lie five times it becomes the truth. That's the modus operandi at Fox and with the GOP - and it works for at least half the American population. "Reality" consists of falsehoods delivered through coordinated right-wing media shills and Republican politicians until they come to be perceived as "the truth."

That's why it was a breath of fresh air to read about Democrats in Congress who challenged Republicans on the Hill to turn down their government health insurance if they oppose health care reform. Why? Because insurance offered to representatives and senators is taxpayer funded and functions like the exchanges set up under Obama's plan.

Creatively and directly calling out hypocrisy is playing offense on an issue instead of the all too frequent Democratic last stands on the one-yard line. With the "red surge" overtaking the House of Representatives, will the Democrats at long last stop playing virtually all four quarters on defense?

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