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JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TaxationFINALIn 1773, a bunch of colonial patriots in Boston got totally pissed off at King George because they were being taxed severely by Britain and yet had no say in the matter. "No taxation without representation!" these brave American colonials cried. And then they dumped several bales of English breakfast tea into the Boston harbor. And the rest is history.

"No taxation without representation," American patriots cried way back then. And now let's fast-forward approximately 300 years ahead -- to see how far we have fallen. There is another Tea Party in America now but these new modern Tea Party guys are currently doing the exact opposite of what the 1773 Tea Party guys did. This new Tea Party is now fighting as hard as it possibly can to get patriotic Americans taxed up the ying-yang instead -- but with NO representation.

"But wait a minute," you might say. "The new Tea Party does have representation. A whole bunch of its members are currently in Congress -- and even the President and the Supreme Court seem to obey their every command." Yeah, but. As the British used to say, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." And if you look closely at all those silver-tongued government "servants" in Washington who now swear all up and down that they are conscientiously representing the hopes and fears of this new 21st-century Tea Party? Well. Then. How come in real life these supposedly-loyal TP representatives actually always seem to be doing the bidding of Wall Street and War Street and huge greedy corporations instead.

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Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 30 May 2013 06:59

The Lever of Social Action

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

PeaceParkFINAL"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."

I think Archimedes was serious. I know we need to be. Now is the time to choose our future, as the Earth Charter declares. This means thinking big: embracing a vision so enormous it overflows our sense of the possible. For instance:

"Beginning with even just a small group united behind a shared vision of how to end war by dismantling the war machine, it will be possible to rally the global community to the vision of a future in which war is no longer something we accept." So Judith Hand wrote recently at the blog A Future Without War.

"I believe," she went on, "the world is actually yearning for such a movement to begin. I also believe that when it does, we will move amazingly swiftly to achieve a worldview shift of epic, stunning, historical magnitude."

Hand's essay is called "Dismantling the War Machine." It is not a topic she discusses hypothetically. She talks about it in the context of previous acts of stunning global leverage: the women's suffrage movement, Gandhi and the movement to end British colonial rule in India, the U.S. civil rights movement. She talks about it with a sense of what one might call looming, just out-of-reach inevitability.

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

DollarFINALThe Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it's actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney's famous 47 percent, the alleged 'takers,' have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It's Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that "inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve," with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 23 May 2013 10:52

Barack Obama: DLC 2.0

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BClintonFINALRemember the "Democratic Leadership Council," the DLC (officially dead, but hardly forgotten)? It was a coming together of right-wing Democrats, beginning in the 1980s, to "lead the party to victory." And under the leadership of the likes of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, they did just that. They turned their backs on that awful "McGovern liberalism" and set the party straight on the path to the White House.

They also set it straight on the path, all under Clinton, to, for example, "ending the era of 'Big Government'" (as Clinton announced in his first State of the Union message), ending aid to families with dependent children, to the massive shipment of capital and jobs overseas that was begun with the North American Free Trade Organization and the creation of the World Trade Organization, to the ending of the separation of commercial from investment banking and the concomitant triumph of finance capitalism, which led directly to the Great Recession that we now currently live in, and so on and so forth.

Clinton also established the modern Democratic Party pattern of not fighting the GOP much on the political side either. Take "Whitewater," for example. There was no there there, from the very beginning, and the Clintons knew it. But they stood silent as the GOP yelled and screamed about it, supported in that one even by the New York Times which at that time had an editor who had hated Clinton ever since he was a local newspaperman in Arkansas. (No, the Times doesn't always get it right. See, e.g., Iraq, Judith Miller, and the non-existent "WMD.")

The whole investigation gave us nothing except, oh yes, Ken Starr and the perjury trap he illegally set for Clinton in the Paula Jones case. But did Clinton fight back through all the years of GOP attacks? Ohhhh no!

Published in Guest Commentary

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CancerFINALMaybe the problem is that rape is an extension of military culture. And it's metastasizing, even as legislation to address it stays trapped in congressional subcommittee.

Scandals and outrage come and go, but rape is ever-present. In 2011, a Pentagon report estimated that 19,000 sexual assaults had occurred in the U.S. military, of which barely 3,000 were reported because of the stigma and risk involved in doing so. The "I own you" system of military justice traditionally turns on the victim far more than the accused. That year, in response to the shocking statistics, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would, among other things, remove the investigation of rape cases from the military chain of command, which has far more interest in ignoring the problem than prosecuting it.

Now a new Pentagon report is out, estimating that 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the U.S. military in 2012, with, once again, just over 3,000 incidents reported. And Speier's legislation has been sitting the whole time in the House Armed Services Committee, denied even a hearing.

"The military doesn't want this and the committee tends to be very deferential to what the military wants," Speier told Northern California public TV station KQED. "This is one of those issues where what the military wants is not good enough for all the men and women in the military who want to serve without being jumped by a sexual predator in the night."

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 11:11

Choking on the Benghazi Smoke Screen

WILL DURST FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SmokeFINALUp until about an hour ago, most Americans thought Benghazi was the guy who palled around with John Cassavetes back in the 60s, but now it's obvious we're talking about the foreign policy arm of a multi- ramped tar pit the President has found himself swimming- up to his armpits. Yes, friends, it's pity time at the White House.

After flogging the issue nonstop since September 11, the Fox News Team's persistence finally pushed the story of the Libyan Embassy riot that resulted in the death of 4 Americans over the cliff into the public consciousness. Space available only because both Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty are on hiatus.

The hue and cry from the right is demanding many questions be answered. Was the protest planned or spontaneous? Did the group that initiated the attack have any affiliation with Arab terrorists? Who altered the talking points; the CIA or the State Department? Where were the drones? Queens? Wasps? Chigger mites? How many angels can dance on the head of a bent and broken Romney/ Ryan pin? What would Cheney do?

Having taken all this in, the American people responded with what can only be characterized as even more penetrating questions such as: "Who cares? What difference does it make? Aren't we stuffed to the gills with enough partisan gobbledy goop already? Does anyone really give an albino rat's ass? Isn't there a seafood buffet around here somewhere?"

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

bitumenFINALJulia Trigg Crawford of Direct, Texas, is the manager of a 650-acre farm that her grandfather first bought in 1948. The farm produces mostly corn, wheat, and soy. On its north border is the Red River; to the west is the Bois d'Arc Creek.

TransCanada is an Alberta-based corporation that is building the controversial Keystone Pipeline that will carry bitumen—thicker, more corrosive and toxic, than crude oil—through 36-inch diameter pipes from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast, mostly to be exported. The $2.3 billion southern segment, about 485 miles from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast is nearly complete. With the exception of a 300-mile extension between Cushing and Steele City, Neb., the rest of the $7 billion 1,959 mile pipeline is being held up until President Obama either succumbs to corporate and business pressures or blocks the construction because of environmental and health concerns.

When TransCanada first approached Crawford's father in 2008, and offered to pay about $7,000 for easement rights, he refused, telling the company, "We don't want you here." He said the corporation could reroute the line, just as other pipeline companies in oil-rich Texas had done for decades. TransCanada increased the offer in the following years, but the family still refused. In August 2012, with Dick Crawford's daughter, Julia Trigg Crawford now managing the farm, TransCanada offered $21,626 for an easement—and a threat. "We were given three days to accept their offer," she says, "and if we didn't, they would condemn the land and seize it anyway." She still refused.

And so, TransCanada, a foreign corporation exercised the right of eminent domain to seize two acres of the farm so it could build a pipeline.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

RefFINAL Diogenes was a fifth century BC Greek philosopher, and a rather controversial one at that. Also known as Diogenes the Cynic, it is said that he took a vow of poverty and often lived in a barrel. He was a social critic long before social critics became cool. Everything we know about Diogenes is through anecdote since none of his writings have survived the centuries. He is probably best known for a stunt: carrying a lamp during the day and claiming to be searching for an honest man. Which brings me, some 2400 years later, to strapping on a headlamp and searching for an honest rendering of the IRS "Scandal" that has been monopolizing the news over the past ten days or so.

With horse racing's Triple Crown no longer up for grabs -- Oxbow defeated Kentucky Derby winner Orb and seven other horses in the Preakness Stakes -- the mainstream media and conservative media and advocacy groups are in search of a whole different kind of Trifecta.

In the spirit of not letting facts get in the way of a good story, the mainstream and conservative media have glommed onto the IRS "Scandal," trying to link it with the Benghazi screw up (but no conspiracy), and the Justice Department's chilling efforts to spy on journalists, and are reveling in calling it Obama's Scandal Trifecta.

While the crux of the scandal is seen as the IRS being overzealous when looking into Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, the real scandal might be how ill-equipped the IRS has been to actually ferret out groups that are have been doing political work, not social welfare work as required by the IRS to receive 501(c)(4) status.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

TeaPartyFINALDarrell Issa appears to be following his stated purpose of opening an investigation a week into sensitive White House matters. At this point it is difficult to determine just what it is he and others are after, except of course pursuing the obvious goal of discrediting the president and the administration. Examining the various talking points, however, takes some doing because they are so often enmeshed in arcane partisan positions. They can nevertheless create stumbling blocks to try the patience of even the most temperate leader.

But to be perfectly frank, Conservatives are far more adept at developing story lines than the other side of the aisle. No matter how they wrap their talking points the result is always the same  - - a partisan blood bath. As the IRS story has unfolded, it has provided chairman Issa with numerous opportunities to exploit right-wing ideology in the guise of "getting to the bottom" of some real or imagined transgression on the part of the administration. It is perhaps a weakness of this president and his team that they failed to pursue the Bush/Chaney stumbles with the intensity that was warranted. And we see now the folly of trying to "play nice" with political opponents for whom ethics and morality have lost all meaning, except as they play out in a destructive form of gamesmanship. Only the most perverse mental gyrations could suggest a comparison between the current "scandals" and Watergate. But we the people are being played for suckers again - - forced to draw conclusions from false premises and partisan rhetoric.

It should be obvious by now that, while it may not be proper to target any group for special attention when they apply for tax-free status, it is just as clear that Tea Party members do not exist simply to educate and provide guidance on constitutional matters. They are in fact as partisan as can be, and the fact that requests for tax-free status among Tea Party faithful increased by an inordinate amount after the recent presidential election was an indication of how the political winds were blowing.  It is probably the case that requests for tax-free status from whatever source should be scrutinized with extreme care. There can be no reason for any group that holds views and supports candidates other taxpayers do not to receive special consideration from the IRS.

Published in Guest Commentary

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

SEALFINALNow that Venezuela’s larger than life Hugo Chávez has vanished from the political landscape, what does the future hold for South America?  Though Venezuela is only a medium-sized country, Chávez was able to skillfully realign geopolitical faultlines through shrewd use of oil largesse and petro populism.  It is unlikely, though, that uncharismatic Chávez successor Nicolás Maduro, who only won his country’s recent presidential election by the slightest of margins, will be as successful as his protégé in maintaining Venezuela’s carefully crafted system of regional alliances.

 

As Venezuela fades, Brazil will naturally assume a greater leadership role, thus paving the path for a somewhat unusual three-way contest between the two South American countries and the United States.  Just what form, precisely, is such competition likely to take and where are new geopolitical rivalries going to be most acutely felt?  For answers, look to Brazil “buffer state” Uruguay, a country rife with diplomatic intrigue.

 

 

Venezuela: Last Hurrah in Southern Cone?

 

Feeling threatened and diminished by recent political reversals, Maduro is doing his utmost to shore up alliances in the Southern Cone.  Shortly after his election, the Venezuelan traveled to Uruguay, a small nation in the region sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil.  Historically, Chávez enjoyed warm ties to Montevideo where former Tupamaro guerrillas hold sway within the leftist Broad Front or Frente Amplio.  

 

In 2005, Uruguay turned to Chávez in an effort to secure vital energy resources from Venezuela.  The populist leader from Caracas was all too willing to oblige, sending oil to Uruguay on preferential terms in exchange for meat and milk.  The ailing Chávez also apparently hoped that Caracas and Montevideo might consolidate military ties: last year, over 200 Venezuelan military personnel traveled to Uruguay to participate in joint exercises.

 

Published in Guest Commentary
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