BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
As many of the pre-Reagan era Religious Right leaders retire and/or die off, beware of the new breed. Lou Engle is one of the new breed. Although Engle has been kicking around for more than a decade, it is only in the past few years that he and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the charismatic evangelical political and religious movement that he has come to personify, has made such a splash that it threatens to drown out the more traditional voices of the Christian Right.
In 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that George W. Bush would be president, Lou Engle saw it as the answer to his prayers. A few months before the election, Engle had held an all-day prayer event in Washington, D.C., that drew approximately 400,000. Although Engle's prayer rally wasn't as magnetic or media buzz-worthy as when the Promise Keepers drew nearly one million to the nation's capital three years earlier, it could be seen as Engle's coming out party.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Having failed to secure diplomatic protection in China and Russia, fugitive Edward Snowden faces a dwindling number of options. Nevertheless, Snowden is steadily gaining a following in Western Europe and has acquired some sympathizers [in a late breaking development, it has also been reported that Iceland's Pirate Party has proposed a bill in the local parliament which would grant Snowden asylum, though it's unlikely that the measure will be considered any time soon since legislators are currently off on summer break].
Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a growing backlash in South America following the outlandish blocking of Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane from French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese airspace. Earlier, Morales had been in Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin and there was speculation that Bolivia would provide Snowden with protection. It seems likely that Washington may have suspected that Snowden was on board Morales' plane en route from Russia to La Paz, and pressured European nations to force the Bolivian President's plane to touch down in Vienna.
Much to the chagrin of the Obama administration, the unlikely incident has made Washington look like an international bully. In Germany, there are growing calls to assist Snowden and meanwhile South America may prove more receptive to the young whistle-blower. If Snowden winds up going to Venezuela or Bolivia, it certainly would mark a dramatic reversal of circumstances. Indeed, just a few days ago Snowden's search for South American diplomatic asylum was looking bleak.
PUBLIC CITIZEN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The movement to get money out of politics and establish that constitutional rights are for people, not corporations, is gaining ground by the day. Today, the Oregon Legislature passed House Joint Memorial 6 (HJM 6), becoming the 16th state to call on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The bipartisan measure passed the state House by a 48-11 margin, with 14 Republican votes (the majority of state House Republicans), and the state Senate by a 17-13 margin, with one Republican, Senator Betsy Close (R-Albany), voting in favor.
We're thankful for Oregonians for Restoring Constitutional Democracy; this huge win for campaign finance reform could not have happened without them and the amazing grassroots effort by the coalition, which includes Common Cause Oregon, Move to Amend, Main Street Alliance and the Democracy Alliance.
That effort paid off: Lincoln County and Eugene have both passed ballot initiatives calling for an overturn of Citizens United, and Newport, Port Orford, Portland, West Linn and Yachats town or city councils have passed resolutions calling for an amendment. These cities and towns in Oregon are among the nearly 500 municipalities around the country that have called for a constitutional amendment. They all recognize that Citizens United, which gave corporations a green light to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections, is corrosive to democracy because it gives people less power and corporations even more sway over policies that affect us all.
Oregon joins four other states – Delaware, Maine, West Virginia and Illinois – that have called for a constitutional amendment over just the past two months. All of the resolutions this year have passed with bipartisan support in at least one chamber. This is an issue that affects every American, regardless of political affiliation.
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On July 4, 1776, over fifty people signed the Declaration of Independence. They were openly resisting the legal authority of the King of England. Thousands joined them. They were outlaws. They were breaking the laws of England and risked capture, prison and even death for their belief in independence, equality, unalienable rights, and liberty. They were far from perfect as slavery, the slaughter and removal of Native Americans and the exclusion of women demonstrated. But they did resist their globally powerful government.
Who are the true patriots of today? Not the flag-wrapped politicians who send other people's children off to be killed or disabled in wars to make the world safe for big businesses. Not the flag-waving profiteers who view their successes as their due. Not the crowds who chant USA, USA, USA, upon learning of death of Osama bin Laden. Not the religious hypocrites who worship this nation and its flag as yet another one of their gods.
The true patriots are people like Rosa Parks. People who courageously resist illegal and unjust actions of government. They are who should be celebrated today.
Here are a dozen of the thousands who are courageously resisting illegal and unjust government actions. They risk their freedom to challenge the state for freedom and truth and justice. They are the true patriots.
WALTER AND ROSEMARY BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Under Senate rules, senators can filibuster any legislation. They can just stand up and start talking. They can talk about anything they wish. They can read from telephone books, or even take bathroom breaks. They can also yield the floor to like-minded senators.
Even a threat of a filibuster—it doesn't have to be carried out—is enough to stop legislation.
Senate rules require that 60 percent of the senate must vote to stop a filibuster. Knowing this, the Republicans, a minority party in the Senate, have consistently blocked legislation just by threatening to filibuster anything they didn't agree with—not even allowing it to come to the floor for discussion.
Almost 70 percent of all filibuster threats occurred since 2000.
Now, let's travel to Texas. That state has the most restrictive rules on filibusters in the nation. A senator who filibusters legislation must be the only one. She or he must stay on topic and not take any bathroom breaks.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
America, America . . .
Certainly Edward Snowden's crime is one of public relations. In this day and age, power ain't just jackboots, tanks and missiles. What he did by outing the NSA and its gargantuan surveillance operation was mess hugely with the American image — the American brand — with its irresistible combination of might and right.
That's the nature of his "treason." The secret he gave away was pretty much the same one the little boy blurted out in Hans Christian Andersen's tale: "The emperor has no clothes!" That is, the government's security industry isn't devoted, with benevolent righteousness, to protecting the American public. Instead, it's obsessively irrational, bent on accumulating data on every phone call we make. It's a berserk spy machine, seemingly to no sane end. How awkward.
For instance, the government of Hong Kong, in refusing to extradite Snowden as per the Obama administration's request, explained in its refusal letter that it has "formally written to the U.S. Government requesting clarification on reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies. It will follow up on the matter, to protect the legal rights of people of Hong Kong."
In other words, sorry, Naked Empire. We're not going to do what you ask, and by the way, we have some issues with your behavior we'd like to discuss.
NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Talk about irony: it has just been reported that Edward Snowden, the young whistle-blower who turned the mighty National Security Agency inside out, has sought diplomatic asylum with none other than tiny Ecuador. It seems, then, that Snowden will tread the same path as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for some time. Perhaps, it was Assange himself who sought to steer Snowden in Quito's direction: according to The Guardian newspaper, a WikiLeaks associate, Sarah Harrison, accompanied Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Russia. Moscow, however, was simply a way station for Snowden, who now intends to travel on to the Andes.
Flying to Ecuador certainly makes more political sense than staying in the Far East. I have never quite understood Snowden's decision to seek protection in Hong Kong. To be sure, the territory has a better track record on free speech than China, though that isn't saying much. Perhaps, Snowden figured that China was likely to stand up for him, since his sensational disclosures hurt the NSA, an entity which allegedly engages in cyber warfare on Beijing. Whatever the case, Hong Kong seemed like an odd place to choose for a whistle-blower standing up against political repression and freedom of expression. Though Ecuador has its own problems with the media, at least the Andean nation is still an electoral democracy.
WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ear to the ground, everybody. Listen close. You can hear it coming. Could be a while. Might be a bit beat up. Probably won't look like it does now. But eventually those slight puffs of dust in the distance will slide right down Main Street and America will undergo another face- lift. And yes, after its over, the whole country will appear younger and more vital. We might even buy ourselves a red convertible.
Talking about the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which we, the general rabble have come to know as The Immigration Bill. Presently it can be found slogging its way through the Senate on a pace rivaling that of a snail nailed to a 2 x 4 with a railroad spike. Minus the alacrity.
Taking so long because the Senate has to vote on every proposed amendment. And there are hundreds. No, seriously. Hundreds. Jeff Sessions of Alabama wrote 49, but he's playing T- ball in short pants compared to Iowa's Chuck Grassley who offered up 77 amendments. And this past Wednesday the Senate managed to vote on... four. To say it's going take a while is like intimating that surgical decapitation tends to inhibit throwing a sinker on the inside of the plate to a left handed batter. And speaking of the House of Representatives... we kid.
Various amendments deal with border triggers, border fences and border security. Restrictions on access to guns and hospitals and schools and welfare. Back taxes. Same sex couples. Stripping responsibility from Homeland Security and giving it to Congress. Ostensibly, for reasons of expediency due to Congress' nimble bureaucracy. You can't make stuff up like this.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
During its forty-two-plus years of existence, it has become the largest Christian Evangelical University in the world. Despite its founder's life-long anti-government activism, it receives several hundred million dollars annually in federal financial aid money. Its been the center of a number of political controversies over the years, as exemplified by the headline "Big Brother: Chancellor [Jerry] Falwell [Jr.] is Trying to Turn Tax-Exempt Liberty University Into a Partisan Political Machine -- and Dominate Lynchburg Elections. Will the IRS Step in?," in the April 2010 issue of Church & State magazine.
Since it's founding in 1971, the Reverend Jerry Falwell's, Liberty University has weathered several serious financial challenges: It was bailed out of near-financial collapse by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who funneled lifeline funds to a non-profit Forest, Va.-based organization called Christian Heritage Foundation; and, Falwell's death in 2007, provided an insurance windfall that allowed the university to wiggle its way out of yet another financial headlock.
Now a new line of business is helping to grow and stabilize Liberty University. David Swanson's investigative reporting, posted on the Huntington News website and in Sojourners magazine, has revealed that this Christian university has become one of the foremost national training grounds of "pilots who go up in planes and drone pilots who sit behind desks wearing pilot suits."
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, many more people in the US and world-wide are learning about extensive US government surveillance and spying. There are publicly available numbers which show the reality of these problems are bigger than most think and most of this spying is happening with little or no judicial oversight.
Hundreds of Thousands Subject to Government Surveillance
The first reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the US have been subject to government surveillance in each of the last few years. Government surveillance of people in the US is much more widespread than those in power want to admit. In the last three years alone about 5000 requests have been granted for complete electronic surveillance authorized by the secret FISA court. The FBI has authorized another 50,000 surveillance operations with National Security Letters in the last three years.
The government admits that well over 300,000 people have had their phone calls intercepted by state and federal wiretaps in the last year alone. More than 50,000 government requests for internet information are received each year as reported by internet providers. And, remember, these are the publicly reported numbers so you can be confident there is a whole lot more going on which has not been publicly reported.